Saturday, 30 July 2011


Agnes, a neighbour, was over today and joined us for some lemonade as we all took a break from our digging and weeding. Accompanying her was Isabel, a friend who often visits on a Saturday to help her with the garden chores.

We all agreed ... it's wonderful to have help in the garden! "Yes" I said "unlike like the hen in the story of The Little Red Hen." They looked at me blankly. Neither had heard of this children's story.

Of course, I now see that it is a very North American thing. Popular in my youth (I suppose when I was first beginning to read) were the Little Golden Books series of children's books first published in the 1940s. Their most attractive feature was that they had gold foil along the spine!

The Little Golden Book version of The Red Hen is taken from an old folk tale, most likely of Russian origin. These books were written by Harriette Taylor Treadwell and Margaret Free whose aim was to take old fables and adapt them for young readers. It seems that The Little Red Hen marked a transition from "blatant religious and moralistic tales while still emphasizing a clear moral"1. I clearly remember it making a big impression on me! But nowadays they have a new take on it!*

The story:

One day the Little Red Hen found a grain of wheat.
She asked her farm friends, "Who will help me plant this grain of wheat?"
"Not I," said the Goat
"Not I," said the Pig
"Not I," said the Goose
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen.
And she did.

Soon the wheat grew to be tall and strong.
"The wheat is ripe," said the Little Red Hen. "Who will help me cut the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Goat
"Not I," said the Pig
"Not I," said the Goose
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen.
And she did.

When the wheat was cut, the Little Red Hen said,
"Who will help me thresh the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Goat
"Not I," said the Pig
"Not I," said the Goose
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen.
And she did.

When the wheat was threshed, the Little Red Hen said,
"Who will help me take this wheat to the mill?"
"Not I," said the Goat
"Not I," said the Pig
"Not I," said the Goose
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen.
And she did.

She took the wheat to the mill and had it ground into flour.
Then she said, "Who will help me make some bread?"
"Not I," said the Goat
"Not I," said the Pig
"Not I," said the Goose
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen.
And she did.

She made and baked the bread.
Then she said, "Who will help me eat this bread?"
"I will," said the Goat
"I will," said the Pig
"I will," said the Goose
"Oh no you won't!" said the Little Red Hen.
"I will do that."
And she did.

* A current take on it: The farmer claims that the hen is being unfair if she does not share her bread with the other animals and forces her to share her bread with those who would not work for it. This in turn removes the hen's incentive to work resulting in poverty for the entire barnyard. [Wikipedia]

1 Wikipedia: Golden Book version book cover - qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. The text is Wikipedia and modified, i.e. not out of Golden Book.

Friday, 29 July 2011


I love beets so today I made beetroot chutney. Happiness for me is retreating to the kitchen with jars to fill. I use Maggie's recipe and it is simplicity itself.

Maggie's Beetroot Chutney

3 lbs beetroot, boiled, peeled and diced
1 1/2 lb apples, peeled and chopped
2 large onions
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb sugar
1/2 tsp ginger (I omit this)
1 pint cider vinegar

Put everything except beets in pan and boil for 20 minutes. Add beets. Boil for 15 minutes. Put in sterilized jars. QED!

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Summer reading is about summer listening as well. BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour has a gem of a story running just now. It is light-hearted and has lovely accompanying theme music. The radio story is "Martyn Wade's dramatisation of Ada Leverson's The Little Ottleys, a witty and wonderful social comedy... set in Edwardian London".*

Apparently there was a series in April 2011 which I missed. This title is actually a triology: Love's Shadow, Tenterhooks and Love at Second Sight. This is the Virago edition of 1982; 528 pages. The April series is not available on BBC iPlayer any more so I think I'll need to head to the library or Oxfam. I see the Gutenberg Project has them here.

This was used as the Theme Music. It is Forgotten Dreams by Leroy Anderson. I did not know this piece but it is very much of its age, i.e. 1954. It was only when I looked on YouTube at some of the other music by him I was astonished to find I knew most of them because we played them in the school band!

He born in Massachusetts, USA of Swedish parents: his father, Bror Anton Anderson, was from Övarp, Norra Stro, near Kristianstad in Skåne and his mother, Anna Margareta (Johnsson) Anderson was from Stockholm. More information is here.


BBC Radio 4 website here.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


Another glorious summer day and we spent the afternoon sitting under the gazebo with Frances F., Mairi and the children. They played with the hose and we drank fruit punch while catching up on all the news.

Frances was a like a sort of "auntie" when Mairi and Alastair were small. Her mother was our adopted grandma. So the generations move on - lovely to see her again!

It is always good to have a few back-up activities should there be any squabbling. Nothing is better than shelling peas ... or in this case broad beans. Alastair is very dextrous for a 3 1/2 year and he is also patient. So this proved to be a successful diversion from the hose pipe.

Ishie has only 3 more weeks to go before she starts school. School, in Scotland, starts August 17th. (They break up the end of June.) It means life is going to be easier with one at school and one at home. Life is always easier with one less child, no matter what the number is!

British rosé wine with marscapone and smoked salmon on my own scones. The wine really was not very good but for a hot afternoon it managed to be just passable. No indication of the grape on the label, either.

Broad beans for dinner.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


John passed along this video which is on youtube:

Even better ... put it on full screen. It is 7:43 minutes long and the background music is as good as the Scottish scenery!


It is a lad's cycle trip from Edinburgh to Dunvegan in Skye and is quite amazing! In my day cycling was a means of getting from A to B; now it's an extreme sport or, in this case, a display of skillful acrobatics!

He says this is what the children want to do once they get rid of their stabilizers!


Photo: steps below Walter Scott monument in Edinburgh when I was visiting several years ago. BMX biker sillouette from Wikipedia.

Monday, 25 July 2011


We have all been following, horrified, at the shooting of innocent people by a man with a gun on the island of Utoeya in Norway. We have sailed in Norway; we have Norwegian friends both here in Scotland and over there. Our thoughts are, first and foremost with them, and their families and friends. Being a small country they are bound to know people who know people.

Sadly, if there is one country in the world which can relate to this sort of event it is Scotland. In March 1996 another madman went on a shooting spree killing 16 children and one teacher in a primary school in Dunblaine (40 minutes drive from our home).

Life has never been the same after that. By that I mean security in schools, offices and public places has completely changed with entrance door locks, outside buzzers, sign-in/sign-out forms etc. (And then there was the whole business - legislation, custom and practices - related to dealing with children in community activities, schools, play areas etc etc.)


This is my photo-montage of a flag at half-mast with Dunblaine Cathedral in the background.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


I am not what you would call a "reader". You would never find me curled up on a window seat with a book; even as a child. While there were plenty of books in the house, I was more of a "doer". Still am.

Of course I read when I am forced to sit still as on a long journey or whatever. Curiously it turns out that the books I have enjoyed most over the years have been what other people call "heavy books".

I do read along with a book group on the internet which I find most enjoyable and gets me reading stuff I would never choose and quite often have never heard of.

Anyhow ... a couple of weeks ago Peter McA. was visiting and told me about a book he had just read. He goes to Barcelona regularly to be with his daughter and came across this author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon and one his books called Shadow of the Wind.*

I got it out of the library and have just finished it (400 pages!). It is absolutely wonderful! What do I mean? I reckon there are people who write books and there are people who tell stories. And sometimes you get both, i.e. a story-teller who can write. This man is one. In fact, he tells stories within stories within stories much like a stack of Russian dolls. (Other story-teller authors I would suggest are Emily Bronte e.g. Wuthering Heights and Karen Blixen e.g. Out of Africa.) He has been compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez e.g. Love in the Time of Cholera.

So what is the story about? Well, it's about books, or more exactly, a book and also a bookshop and a library. All good stuff for avid book lovers.

The author's website says:

"Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out LA SOMBRA DEL VIENTO [Shadow of the Wind] by Julian Carax. ... But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find."

And what's more, he says of himself exactly what I had already picked up (as above), namely, "I am in the business of storytelling. I always have been, always will be. It is what I've been doing since I was a kid. Telling stories, making up tales, bringing life to characters, devising plots, visualizing scenes and staging sequences of events, images, words and sounds that tell a story. All in exchange for a penny, a smile or a tear, and a little of your time and attention."

* First published in Britain by Weidenfield & Nicholson, 2004. ISBN 0 753819137.
Translation by Lucia Graves, 2004.

Photo: Hampton Court, wine cellar, June 2011 on my iPhone.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


After dinner this evening I strolled out to the garden with the camera because the sun was showing up the flowers rather nicely. The photos are "as is" i.e. no adjustments made by Photoshop. (I'm actually quite pleased with the outcome of this humble subject matter!)




Gentians at evening time, i.e. closed.


Nasturtiums in full sunlight

Nasturtium in the changing light

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics was born 189 years ago today and is celebrated in a pea-themed Google doodle. He was an Austrian monk and every school child who studies biology learns all about his work in his monastery garden where he studied features of pea plants year after year. He noticed that when second generation plants, i.e. hybrid plants, were crossed with each other or themselves, one type dominated the other, Thus he established the idea of dominance and recessiveness in what we now call genetics.

I like the Google Doodle! Peas enjoy.


We had Canadian visitors here last weekend: Jack B with Christie and Scott plus John and Debbie. The weather was really hot but showery so, as is our habit of years gone past, out comes some sort of makeshift umbrella.

When we had our 60 and 65th birthday garden party 7 years ago we had exactly the same weather watch. Only at that time we got out a huge plastic sheet (maybe it had been draped over the boat at one time?) and strung it up from the roof of the house joining it to the fence (of our other house). I recall water collecting in the corners like big saucers which then overflowed.

Not so this time. We purchased this gazebo several months ago so that Iain and Duncan could do building work in the rain. It has proved a wonderful structure and the following pictures show how we have simply left it up and rain or shine - and it is doing both - we are covered. (Believe it nor, it can get incredibly hot in that corner!)

See that table? That is another design feature of many, many years. I would not thank you for a plastic table and plastic chairs for a hundred reasons. Nowadays, the main one is storage. We, by that I mean, "I", am really, really touchy about gathering clutter. It is now a simple fact that we do not have anywhere to put such stuff! The good news is that we do have space ... and there CONTINUES to be space! ... in our garage ... for ... wait for it ... the car! It is heaven, absolute heaven. I will say no more.

Where was I? Yes, the table. It is 2 saw-horses with a piece of plywood on top. QED! It is stable for the occasions when little people (or big people, for that matter) bump it. It takes heavy weights like a big dish of potatoes.

Last weekend for our party of 11 I covered it with a large tartan plaid that I keep for covering tables for e.g. church/community hall teas, raffle prize table. (It is actually a piper's plaid - you know the kind they wrap around and pin at the shoulder - that I bought in the Barra's. Actually I bought 3 of them...probably ex-stock from some military band.)

Anyhow, where was I? Yes, the tablecloth. Well Mairi arrived and we had a cup of tea while the children played in the garden. I am here to say "The System is Working"! Furthermore, she had the bright idea of going out to buy a length of oilcloth from the local DIY store (a 2 minute drive away). Done! Her gift to us for the Granny and Grandpa sitting! And she got one for herself. Both turquoise with white polka dots.

And to top off the day there was amazing light about 9 pm when I was out planting some stuff I had been bringing on in crockery pots. The photo is "as is": light coming from the west with dark clouds on every other point of the compass.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Opposition is a beautiful Classic Yacht and was moored at James Watt Dock at the Tall Ships event last week. She's a boat with an interesting history mainly because she used to be known as Morning Cloud (actually she was Morning Cloud II) which was the name of Ted Heath's yacht. (Actually that should be plural; he had four others.) She's a 12 metre wooden yacht built in 1971. She had a "complete restoration" in 2008.

There are some interesting sites on the web which tell of her history. One is here and another is here. I picked out a couple of stories from the second reference. It is the 2008 Obituary of Owen Parker, the man who was "Sir Edward Heath's sailing master, one of the best-known yachtsmen of his generation and managed all of Heath's Morning Cloud yachts and their crews."

"Attending the recent relaunch of Morning Cloud II, now named Opposition, at the Clare Lallow yard in Cowes that had built the yacht, Parker recounted how Heath had woken him during the Sydney-Hobart yacht race saying that the boat was surrounded by killer whales. "What should I do?" he asked. Parker answered "Pray, sir, pray", then rolled over and went back to sleep. Parker wrote about his experiences sailing with Heath in his book Tack Now Skipper (1979)."

"Parker remained as Heath's right-hand sailing man for the next 12 years, [after the tail end of the 1969 racing season] taking responsibility for his five Morning Cloud yachts and crews. When Heath became Prime Minister, Parker was given the task of liaising with the Security Services to work out a way of repatriating Heath should a government emergency arise. When a helicopter airlift was discussed, Parker asked: "What the hell are we supposed to do when all this is going on?" When told that the crew would be required to take down the sails and heave-to, he answered: "What? And lose precious seconds? Not bloody likely! If you want the skipper, we'll push him off in a dinghy and you can pick him up from there while we continue racing."

Friday, 15 July 2011


These are recent photos of the family. The weather has been very summery so we have all been out in the garden.
Ishie with Grandma MacLeod's midnight blue felt hat found in the loft. It is quite stunning on Ishie; definitely her colour.
Alastair on the garden swing.

Iseabail and kids in the garden. Potatoes coming along nicely in the vegetable patch. That white thing on a black stick is a Canada Goose wind sock.

This gives an idea of how the sit-ootery is looking. Just needs to have some final grouting done and then give it a general tidy up.

It is amazing how much play you can get from the garden hose! We won't talk about the mud getting everywhere.....

Thursday, 14 July 2011


Today is the day to think of all things French as it is Bastille Day. Iain has been with a group of French students all week and said that they produced a French flag to put on the desk at the front of the lecture theatre.

Me? I have been working in the garden. But as far as thinking French this article highlights how much the French value their trees be it forest or woodland.

John's photo

Dunira arboretum in early spring - John's photo

It is the International Year of the Forest. The article talks about how people in Europe have "a genuine desire to re connect with forests and trees". Furthermore, "French schoolchildren are being bussed out to Forests to ensure the next generation will experience and connect with trees and introduced to the fact that forests are as vital to health and life as the blood within them or food at their table.

There is a strong belief and indeed envy by many French, which has a truthful base that the British continue to have an unparalleled connection with nature and landscapes. This belief has been upheld for many years by the domineering presence of British academics and scientists, continuing a trend of several centuries, within pan-European circles.

Famous British tree men are regularly quoted in France, particularly Richard St. Barbe Baker, Ebenezer Howard & Oliver Rackham, despite their names being somewhat hazy at best in the minds of the average Englander." [by which they mean British-er"]

Loch Ossian - John's photo

Duncryne Hill looking north to the south end of Loch Lomond - John's photo

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Another lovely day! The 60 Tall Ships in the Clyde departed from Greenock at noon. I started out the day by attending a funeral at the Cathedral of the Isles, Millport, on the island of Cumbrae in the Clyde. I got the ferry back to Largs, picked up my car in the car park across from Nardini's (still selling ice-cream) and headed up the Clyde on the coast road to Greenock to see if I could catch the ships coming down.

Millport Bay

Millport Bay with a cruise liner away in the far distance.

Well my attempts to get photos of these three masted ships was not very successful. First of all, they sailed down the far side of the Clyde. Here is one in the distance with mountains of Arran in the background. It was rather hazy so I came away somewhat empty-handed.

But I have to confess that I was sharp-eyed earlier in the day when I departed on the ferry from the Isle of Cumbrae over to the mainland i.e. Largs (a 10 minute journey). I suddenly spotted these fellas in the sky! I shouted to the other passengers to look up... whoosh ... they flew by in a Diamond Nine formation, did a flip still keeping the diamond shape (gasp!) and roared on up the Clyde out of sight!

Wow! It was the best bit of the day! Who are they?

They are The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team and are the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force.

Their trademark is the diamond nine formation that I mentioned. The plane is a BAE Hawk trainer.

But best of all is this video (7 minutes) of them with Freddie Mercury singing Don't Stop Me Now. Great stuff!

Monday, 11 July 2011


On the spur of the moment I decided to pay another visit to the Tall Ships lying at Greenock. They head off tomorrow at midday; I hope I will be able to see them leave the Clyde as I am going to be "doon the watter" in Millport for a funeral.

I had a great time going on board the various sail training ships. Crews were arriving late afternoon on all the boats. They were all starting to do their safety drills and being shown how to wear a life preserver.

This is the bowsprit of the Polish ship Dar Mlodziezy.

Tonight there is is to be fireworks and a big party ashore for all the crews. The plan is that they are all going to cruise up the west coast and end up in Lerwick, Shetland Isles at the end of July. Then they head to Norway; some cruise and some race. There are in the region of 60 boats taking part.

This is the large flag of the Mir from Russia and the smaller flags on the left are part of their collection of courtesy flags of other countries.

There were signs up on the dock telling a bit about the ships. One ship (Europa) says "no experience necessary". Another (De Gallant) was looking for "trainees" to fill vacancies. I am certainly tempted but think I would like to see the bunk arrangement first, i.e. cabins can be very claustrophobic!

The ship from Columbia, the Gloria, was a naval vessel and was very smart, i.e. lots of wood paneling and brasswork on deck.

The crew on the Columbian ship Gloria were young, clean-shaven and very smart in their naval uniforms. The doors to their quarters (or working areas?) were equally impressive!

Saturday, 9 July 2011


It's gala time for folk on the Clyde. The tall ships are in for nearly a week and so everyone is paying a visit to Greenock to see them moored in the James Watt dock or outside along the outer dockside. Many are sail training ships including one specially made for handicapped people (The Lord Nelson).

This yacht in the foreground is Ted Heath's boat which at the time he owned her was called Morning Cloud. The present owner calls her Opposition. Maggie and I got chatting to the owner and another gentleman who works on boats in which he builds and repairs bits and pieces for the owners. We were shown a fine set of wooden steps on Opposition which he had designed and built to hang over the side so you can get on to the pontoon.