Thursday, 28 April 2011


This morning I received this video [Liptalské slavnosti - Lord of the Dance] that Gregor emailed me. This is the form of Toilet Humour (and we have been getting a lot of that 3 and 4 year stuff lately!) that had me sitting at my computer with tears of laughter streaming down my ... (uhhhh... sorry about this ...) cheeks!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton takes place in 2 days' time. The air is full of preparation. The army, navy and air-force were out at 5 am today for their full dress rehearsal in central London. Friday, the day of the wedding, is a national holiday. Signs are appearing in the shops indicating hours of opening/closing.

Everyone is making plans to either settle in front of the telly for the big event or head out of town to escape for the day.

In keeping with the wedding theme, the children came home from playgroup with very smart crowns they had made. Here is the Little Prince and Princess (who had hours of play with those paper crowns)!

Meanwhile John Lewis's (department store) has a range of funky souvenirs on offer.

Grandma's wee Prince Charming!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


We live adjacent to the earthen Roman wall, called the Antonine Wall, that was built in 140-142 AD across Scotland from the Clyde in the west to the Forth in the east (i.e. the narrowest bit of Scotland). The Roman Emperor Antonius Pius had to built to rival his predecessor, Hadrian.

Today 6 of us - CVD Dramblers - walked the middle section of it going from Auchinstarry to Barhill Fort, Croy and around to Auchinstarry to finish.

Nowadays there is very little evidence of the actual wall but this photo shows the ditch that remains. Apparently if you fly over the area the actual line of the wall is easy to identify.

Remains of a Roman camp with its bath houses, drains and walls are evident here at Barhill.

I particularly enjoyed looking at the area as it reminded me of the time I was chatted up ... some years ago!... in a most intriguing way.

I have to admit that over the years I have had many a one-line opener from men, like ... "Where are YOU from?" (when they hear my accent) to "Would you like to see my etchings fertility goddesses (aka wooden railway molds)?"... but I had never heard "You must see the Roman inscriptions from the Antonine Wall"... in particular, the inscriptions which indicated the distance completed by a legion after their part of the wall was built. There were quite a few along the wall but were removed and put into the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University.

Anyhow what was of real interest was something which can be seen in this illustration:

The letters are:

Translates as " " For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of this country, the Sixth Victorius, Loyal and Faithful Legion (completed the wall) over a distance of 3666 1/2 paces".

My Charming Gentleman drew my attention to the last letter of the inscription: the small 's'. It means "half". So the distance measured "3666 1/2 paces".

[1] What, exactly, is half a pace? Why make such a detailed measurement, why not either one pace or no pace? If half a pace is so important, is a full pace what we think of it being today, i.e. a stride or step when walking and counting out the number taken to give you the total distance.

[2] The small 's' is half. Did they have the notion of a quarter? A tenth? If so, how was it written?

To my knowledge, these questions have never been answered.




[2] Glasgow University's Hunterian Museum website:

Monday, 25 April 2011


I heard a catchy piece of music on the radio this morning. I came in at the end and the section I heard sounded like a Scottish jig by Sir John Clerk of Pennicuik who wrote some lovely ensemble pieces in the late 18th century here in Scotland. I rightly guessed it couldn't possibly be him ... furthermore, the singing was in German.

It turns out it was movement 5 (of 6) called Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen (Rejoice, all ye hearts) from a church cantata, (No. 66) for Easter by Johann Sebastian Bach. The link is here. I never associate church music - any of it - with jigs (or gigues) which are, by definition, jaunty 1-2-3, 1-2-3 rhythms. The full 30 minute work, with its variety of choral, solo and instrumental movements, is on another u-Tube site here.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


Life being what it is, nothing is ever straight-forward. I set out to make some Brownies using my mother's recipe. Half-way through as I was mixing the melted chocolate, sugar and butter with the flour, He-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless came over the horizon stating "I can't find my list". Turning to the task of searching for the Lost List, I returned to the baking bowl to find everything had solidified before I had it poured into the baking tin!

I plonked the hardened dough into the baking tin thinking that the heat of the oven would probably melt everything satisfactorally ... and it did.

Because the top look decidedly lumpy I made some chocolate icing to hide it - Q.E.D. In the background is my mother's recipe card as she had typed it out for me many years ago. I notice that I have written "Double it" on the top corner. That just about sums up my mother's baking! Large tins of whatever it was to be baked always were the order of the day!

Here are my test-kitchen tasters on our day outing at the National Trust Greenbank Gardens in Cathcart, Glasgow. The weather was not great but Mairi had packed a delicious picnic so we tucked into bagels and brownies in the courtyard.

Saturday, 23 April 2011


It's that time of year. Iain and Peter had a non-stop afternoon and into the evening job of scraping the hull and putting on a coat of anit-fouling.

Mairi and I headed off with the children to deliver our car to Rothesay Docks where Seol-na-Mara is based temporarily while she is lifted out of the water for annual hull maintenance. Bought in 1980 this marks the start of her 31st season!

Mairi took this photo on her iPhone. It's a dull morning but just look at the cheery faces!

Friday, 22 April 2011


What is it that they say ? The closer you get to finishing a job, the longer it takes!

Every week we think we are finished. Today men arrived. Materials arrived. (Many a day has passed when there has been one or t'other but never both.) After two men for one hour did some work this morning they were off: "We have not got our tools. They were taken by a friend."

Hey-ho! It is the beginning of a 3 day weekend. I am not holding my breath when they say "Back tomorrow!"

Meanwhile, here is Himself laying out the drills for planting potatoes in the back garden. The previous owner had it has a potato patch and after much de-compacting - after Davie's digger compacted it in the garage excavation - Iain has it prepared for planting.

There is probably one day's work for 3 plastereres left to do. They are Polish lads and show good workmanship. While we wait for their return equipment and mess are everywhere! Our neighbours are still talking to us but, as we all agree, it is long past time this job was finished!

Friday, 15 April 2011


I went looking for fossils in the Victoria Park Fossil Garden today. It is adjacent to the children's nursery so, having never been there before, I went searching in the Fossil Grove. I thought I was looking for things in rocks. No, it is tree trunks. And they are in a shed-type building. And it was closed, due to open in 2 weeks for the season.

No matter. The Parks Department flowers were giving a good show now that the daffodils along the boulevards are starting to go over. All these are taken with my iPhone. Such quality impresses me!

Thursday, 14 April 2011


I have just finished reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Not having read any of his work before - he only wrote one novel and this is it - I found it was like going from black and white reading to technicolour! I have now borrowed John's copy of Wilde's Complete Works and after I re-read Dorian Gray I plan to move on to his plays and poetry.
The book is full of witticisms, repartee and all those quotes you see on postcards and coffee cups:

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.


I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

He is the master of revealing truths through paradox. He states: "The way of paradoxes is the way of truth." Absolutely.

Frank Delany in his James Joyce Re:Joyce at Series No. 42 [see side bar RE:JOYCE] talks about this very thing: "Paradox - statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth."

One example from the book: I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.

Wilde personified the aesthetic movement. His life and writing was all about art for art's sake. He loved beautiful things. His writing reflects this and his life-style did too. It is he who, in the way of things, started the idea of having a "house beautiful" of which there is a whole industry devoted to this now. Every day, he said, he found it harder and harder to live up to his blue china.

There are some great salon conversations in the book about American women vis-à-vis British women, also witty observations on American culture. (We are talking just before 1900.)

A whole century later Gaby Darbyshire of Gawker summarises exactly the same subject (and in the same voice as Wilde) in the February 2011 issue of Tatler magazine:

"The best way I ever heard it put was by a professor at Cambridge…He said that for Americans, the most important thing is to be sincere and the worst is to be pretentious. For the British, the most important thing is to be witty, and the worst is to be boring. But for Americans, English witticisms are pretentious and, for the British, American sincerity is boring."

Photos: Wikipedia and Tatler magazine

Monday, 11 April 2011


Today Ishie and Alastair baked a Spiderman Cake. Well, it started out to be cupcakes but it evolved into a Spiderman Phenomenon.

Ishie is very good at stirring and knows enough not to have everything flung all over the kitchen. She also can find things in the cupboard. "Well, actually (her phrase of the week) ... it should be in the breakfast cupboard."

Alastair gives everything 2 seconds of attention then shouts "Finished!" However he is big on IDEAS (and no doubt is going to grow up to be A Supervisor ... or An Advisor!)

We did a test run on making the actual web for the cake. Here is the result having used chocolate sauce from the squeezy bottle. Dollop 3 concentric circles on top of the cake then run the knife lightly from the centre outwards to make the web.

Ah-h-h ... the best bit of baking is licking the spoon ... or the bowl ... or the plate as the case may be.

Now this is the bit you don't see in the Delia demonstrations! Alastair-fingers gouged out chunks as fast as one could assemble the halves together!

Friday, 8 April 2011


Becoming grandparents again is just as nice as the two previous times! Ishie, aged 4 years old, and Alastair, aged 3 years old, are going to have a new little Vancouver cousin in August. Alastair and Dawn are expecting their first child and we enjoy their regular up-dates on Dawn's pregnancy.

Today Alastair sent an email with an attachment of a video showing a scan taken of the foetus at around 4 months gestation. He said that it might be a boy but still has to be confirmed.

PINK or BLUE? ... a lovely question to keep us going through the spring and early summer!

Last Saturday I took these photos of the cherry blossom across the road from Bruce's apartment. They line King's Park and the very old, very fine adjacent golf course of Stirling Golf Club.

The new mum's family are looking forward to their first grand-child so it is all very exciting! Here is a photo for the new Grandpa-to-Be who is a keen golfer. That's the players out in their golf buggies in the far (centre) distance. Stirling Castle is just out of site on the right.

Meanwhile the new dad, Alastair, signed off his email saying that Dawn and babe are doing well but "I, on the other hand have gained some weight, am having trouble sleeping and am constantly craving pickles. On the bright side, my hair seems to be growing again :)"

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


When Iain and I attended the Royal Society of Edinburgh conference marking the 200th anniversary of the building of the Bell Rock Lighthouse (more here when I talked about the actual lighthouse) the second topic that caught my interest was Andrew Walker's talk on the optics of the actual lighthouse light.

I had not realized how the light was designed. So I read up on it and made an attempt to describe it in our yachting organisation's newsletter.

The lenses used to focus the beam from lighthhouse lamps are called Fresnel lenses. They take their name from the man who invented them in the early nineteenth century: Augustin-Jean Fresnel (pronounced fray nell), a French commissioner of lighthouses.

Professor Walker showed an image illustrating the idea of how they got their shape. I used Photoshop to make a drawing below. The resolution here is low but I have archived the original high resolution image.

The diagram shows how a spherical glass lens is formed into concentric rings which are actually an array of separate prisms that convert the light into a parallel beam. To retain the rings’ ability to create the beam, the slope of each ring’s angled face is different. The rings are stacked together to form the Fresnel lens.

These lenses are less bulky, flatter and can capture more light which means that the light can be visible over longer distances.

Lismore lighthouse, west of Scotland.


Photograph of Fresnel light is Wikipedia. Stunning images are on Ian Cowe's Flickr website here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


I just can't get enough of this season's daffs. Everyone remarks that they seem to have bigger heads and are more colourful than other years. Perhaps it was something to do with all that cold weather we had in December and January.

The graveyard outside Stirling Castle, at the back of Holyrood Church (Church of Scotland) had them in profusion. The tourist hoards have not arrived yet so it was very pleasant just wandering around the graveyard reading the stones and enjoying the flowers.

While there are many large headstones and monuments in this graveyard the ones that caught my eye were these two. The lettering below the carved angel above is " .... AANDREA" which I think is probably "ALEXANNDREA". I don't know the story here.

This appears to be a very old headstone. I am guessing that is an angel at the top, a shaft of a spade on the left and I don't know the right-hand shape.

Meanwhile back in Glasgow today I noticed these daffs inserted into the bas-relief sculpture which is on the base of the Duke of Wellington's statue outside the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Queen Street. This statue with the traffic cone on his head is one of my favourite Glasgow "icons" (well... everybody else uses that word...).

I spent a couple of hours in GoMA chilling out after a session of music page turning. (More on this anon.) Upon leaving at 4 pm I took this photo (2 up) of his Lordship - the Duke of Wellington - on his horse accompanied by a couple of Glasgow pigeons.

In order to make him harmonize (well, I had been with Mozart and Brahms for 2 hours....) with his plinth I gave him a bunch of daffs to hold!

Monday, 4 April 2011


A wet Monday is greatly improved by tackling chores in the kitchen whilst listening to the radio. Invariably I find myself arrested mid-chore as a particular topic unfolds.

Today it was Mary Berry talking about making a Simnel Cake. I love marzipan and it gave me the idea of making one. This lovely lady reminds me of my days in the 1980s working at the Greater Glasgow Health Board. Popular at that time was the Star Wars culture. Characters like Darth Vador and ChewBacca are names I always associate with Mary Berry!

She had a suggestion for a wet day: take all the cake tins out of your cupboard, get a felt pen and mark their sizes on the bottom. The ruler in the photo is one I have had since age 10! Part of baking on a wet morning is having a visit with all those things: tatty recipe cards, spattered cook-books, bits and pieces still being used!

As the program was ending Jane Garvey read out an email from a listener: an 80 year old lady recounted the time she was traveling to Italy with her Simnel Cake and was pulled aside at the security check. "Ah... it will be a cake, I'll bet you anything!" says the security man to her. Yes, it was. She had her cake confiscated because marzipan going through the scanning machine looks like Semtex! Later: apparently it smells like marzipan too!

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Iain and I drove through to Stirling yesterday to spend the day with Iseabail and Bruce. The daffodils, planted by Stirling District Council parks department, were out in profusion. It really marks the end of winter when their lovely yellow heads line the roadsides, the bank below Stirling Castle and all along the edge of the park and golf course.

I spent my time wandering around drinking in the yellow colour! You would think I would get my fill of wonderful spring colour ... but no. When I got all the photos downloaded off my digi at home I found I had a delightful dilemma of daffodil 'over-dose'. So I had a go at creating some psychedelic arty stuff!