Monday, 31 October 2011


To-night is Hallowe'en and the neighbourhood youngsters have been to the door tonight. We listen to their jokes or songs and then, this year, we gave them biscuits from the supermarket. Last year I baked cupcakes but they were not interested in any of them!

This is John's photo of Ishie, Alastair plus a little friend, in a local cave last weekend. Actually it is the entrance to an old mine which is on the edge of the city of Glasgow, near to where we live. I added the cobweb and spider but the waterfall in the background is for real.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


We spent the weekend with friends at Ballachulish, Argyllshire. The weather was misty-moisty but we enjoyed meeting and greeting and getting a long lie-in on Sunday morning as it was the day for putting the clocks back.

While the men headed off for some hill walking in Glencoe Maggie and I dawdled our way home down the coast stopping as and when we pleased. Port Appin caught my eye: it is off the beaten track and a corner I have not visited for many years.

We discovered this lovely place, Druimneil House. On the roadside we spotted an Open Garden sign so, being on our own with no one to tell us we had to be heading down the road, we decided to explore.

After chatting with the owner we learned that this was the last day for being "open" so Maggie and I were privileged to have a walk around the walled garden and grounds. We departed, agreeing that it would be a perfect place - set back from the road in lovely country - for a weekend retreat. Details of their accommodation are here. As it is the owners' home they keep the B&B going throughout the year (though the garden is closed until spring).

The dampness lasted all day but made for atmospheric photos: Connel Bridge with the tide running at the Falls of Lora under the bridge into Loch Etive. In the past we have sailed through these narrows at slack water inching our way under that steel bridge into the placid loch which is out of the picture on the right hand side. Yes, we knew there was a metre of clearance above the mast but it was extremely nerve-wracking as we approached the bridge thinking for sure the top of the mast was going to BANG into the under-deck of the bridge!

Same place but looking left, westwards to the open sea: boats on the winter moorings on the west side of Connel Bridge in wee bay opposite Ards House.

Friday, 28 October 2011


Ishie and Alastair (4 and 3 years) on holiday last week in Perthshire.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


This is what we did not see in Reims, but makes me want to head of to Paris for this "Contraexpérience"!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


As of this month my computer is 6 years old. It is an iMac with a 24 inch screen.

Lately it has been a bit slow and I have been on the internet to see what measures can be taken to either see what is causing this and/or speed things up.

Naturally, my first step is to find a youngster who talks the lingo! U-Tube has lots of videos. This youngster, apart from talking rather quickly, gave a good demonstration (6.21 minutes) of how to speed up your Mac in Five Steps, namely:

1. Install more RAM
2. Keep files and folders to a minimum
3. Use a maintenance tool [App] once a month
4. Remove unwanted System Preference panes from System Preference list
5. Remove unwanted logon items

For the record: until I get around to Number 1 which involves purchasing this stuff (called a module RAM memory) here I can report that Number 4 worked well. He talks about it at 3.34 minutes into the video. He demonstrates the method: go into System Preferences then go to the bottom of the screen where it says "Other" (If it is not there at the bottom of the list showing: Personal, Hardware, Internet & Network, System, then there are none.) To remove them, right click on the icon (having put in your password when asked).

I found that I had a Flash icon there. I removed it and it has made a big difference! When talking to the lad in the Apple store today, he says to me "Flash is memory-hungry". So now I know....

Monday, 24 October 2011


I really like this photo that John took of a deer beside a highland loch. Just look at the light behind!

It reminded me of Edwin Landseer's oil paintig of The Monarch in the Glen painted in 1851. I see from Wikipedia that "The painting was eventually purchased by the Pear's soap company and featured in their advertising. It was sold on to John Dewar and Son's distillery and became their trademark before similarly being used by Glenfiddich. The original is now part of the Diageo collection ...."

That pretty well sums up how this painting is preceived as it has been on every tin of shortbread, tea towel, and coffee cup a well as being the brand image of the firms above.

The season for big displays of these biscuit tins is now upon us. A modern example is Marks & Spencer's simple 4 colour tin pictured here.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Wind farms are springing up everywhere. Hillsides and horizons now have whirling blades dotted all over the place. People are wondering about the effectiveness of this particular type of energy source. Will the contribution to the national grid's energy requirement be of enough significance to merit the cost and impact on the environment?

Iain and his colleagues in the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland (IESIS) believe that an engineering dimension is badly needed to be introduced to the assessment of the adequacy of wind farms. He and Colin Gibson will be giving a talk on this subject at a conference on wind farms in Ayr on 11th November. The website listing the speakers is here. A rather good map showing one area of wind farms in Scotland is on this blog here.

Meanwhile I have taken the liberty of using one of John's photos, taken a week ago, of wee Alastair on the rocks at Kinghorn (east coast of Scotland, across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh). Presently there are no wind generators on the horizon; but this is what it might look like if there were!

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Autumn is truly upon us. When the previous day of constant rain gave way to clear blue skies and sunshine I ran out with the camera to catch the light shining through the last of our flowers in the garden.

A bashed and broken-stemmed poppy still gives splashes of deep red colour in the flower beds.

I planted these seeds from a left-over supply I had in the cupboard which I normally use for making lemon (and poppy seed) loaf or possibly throwing in the mixed seed bread dough.

They are not big, there are not a lot of them but they certainly last well into the autumn season!

Monday, 17 October 2011


Mathematics was never the love of my life but I will say one thing: I was taught very well and it was by this lovely man who has died at his home* in France.

Mr McKie taught me Math in high school. That I got through at all was largely up to him (and Mrs Jeffries).

Is there such a thing as "good luck"?... because I certainly had "good luck" in the teachers I had at school. I graduated from Salmon Arm Secondary School in 1962 aged 18 years and then stayed on for a year of Senior Matric (which is first year university in British Columbia). In order to get accepted at the University of British Columbia School of Nursing in those days, I was required to have first year university Mathematics. (Yes, honestly! You wouldn't credit it nowadays but that is another subject!) Anyhow, I achieved the necessary qualification and graduated in 1967.

However, what really made an impression on me, in those very formidable years, was his great love of his subject.

For example, one day he put up on the blackboard a pattern of numbers. I now recognize as Pascal's triangle:

At the end of his explanation, he turned to the class and beamed "Isn't that a thing of beauty?!" While I did not share his love of numbers, their patterns and relationships, I could see what he was getting at. It was only many years later I realized he instilled in me what might be called an appreciation of aesthetics.

Furthermore, in 2002 Iain and I (and Marie-Belle T.) visited him and his wife in France at their home. We had 2 wonderful days together and at that time I was able to articulate how his love of his subject made such a big impression on me (and also how grateful I was to have had him as a teacher)! The photo of him above was taken at that time.

I have been unable to find any obituary so far but see that his death is noted on UBC Lowering the Flag website for the passing of a member of the campus community here .

"MCKIE, Professor Doug Mckie, former Associate Dean, Education passed away in France on August 28, 2011. For more information, please contact the Faculty of Education."

* I am in touch with his wife.

Friday, 14 October 2011


Our friend, Willie, is back from the Jura Music Festival. He sails there from Ardfern and drops his anchor for the weekend taking his fiddle ashore for the sessions in the Jura Hotel or village hall.

He mentioned that he met Dougie MacLean who was over for the festival. Now there is a blast from the past! I have never met Dougie MacLean but admire him as being a fine musician.

This song of his, "Caledonia", is still sung a lot; it's a real classic.

Hearing that song again after so many years reminds me of a conversation I had with a young gal on the Greyhound bus in Canada about 20 years ago. I was traveling west from Calgary (having just landed from the UK) and about 4 hours later we stopped in Sicamous at the bus station. This 12 year old girl got on with her pillow and settled down for her trip to Vancouver. As I was getting off at the next stop I had a short chat: "What's your name?" "Caledonia." "Oh really! That's a lovely name for a girl" sez I. "How did you come to be given that name?" "It was the name of my grandparents' farm in Ontario" sez she. "Do you know what it means?" sez I. "No...."! So I told her it was the old name for Scotland. (Actually I see that it is Latin, i.e. the Roman name for Scotland.)

This song turns up from time to time; here it is in this TV advert - good ol' Tennant's lager - and, again, a favourite advert of mine (not sure how long ago...). Whoever made this advert really got the right "feel" ... just watch this guy leaving his office ...

Saturday, 8 October 2011


When the weather is wet outside there is nothing for it but to get the baking tins out.

Alastair spent 2 hours with me this week. It's amazing how much easier it is with one less child! So we got out the cupcake holders and the cake mix from Tesco's.

Since I was in the kitchen and in the mess I decided to make a fruit loaf. However, I found I did not have any butter/margarine and ended up making a fruit loaf from the Scottish Woman's Rural Cookery book of 40 years ago. This, I was told, was a wartime recipe, i.e. a basic fruit cake with no butter and no eggs. Alastair helped me spoon it into the loaf pan.

It was also very easy to make - you just stir everything into the saucepan of boiled raisins and sugar. Come to think of it, there was no sugar either! (It's basically a dumpling I would say, and best eaten warm.)

Well, that white snow on top of the fruitcake batter was not quite what the recipe called for ... and all that dark stuff which freely poured out of the little Lifeboat pepper shaker all added that bit of Je Ne Sais Quoi!

Meanwhile Ishie and I arrived home from school last Thursday afternoon quite wet from the downpour that seems to be its heaviest this week just as children are coming out of school.

Grandpa put the fire on and we enjoyed her batch of cupcakes (made with red colouring so that they are Pink for Girls) in front of the fire with a pot of tea and, for Ishie, many glasses of milk.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


As an Apple Mac user for ... however many ... years I was very sorry to read of the death of Steve Jobs, the fellow behind Apple and all its innovations. I, for one, joined his huge following early on as a user of the iMac and the iPhone. (To put it another way, I long ago eschewed Microsoft and Nokia.)

Working with images is the sort of thing that I chose to do, i.e turn away from typing text, letters, doing spreadsheets and working with databases like names and addresses. So I can genuinely say to people, "No ... I can't do that ... I do not have the software."

This puffin photo is a current example: this wonderful photo came in as an offering to be used for the yachting newletter publication that I edit. I took one look at it on my screen and said "Wow!" Such colour! Such clarity! And taken by an amateur with his digi camera on his sailing holidays.

Well I placed it in the publication and then ... ah-h-h ... it went to "the committee" for checking. Do I need to say more? Yes, it got pulled and an "improvement" photo was offered for replacement. Fine. Off it went to the printers and, indeed, the publication is none for worse for the loss.

But this little puffin and I shed a tear (with the aid of Photoshop).

I offer it up to you (with the permission of John Douglas who took the photo) at this sad time when Apple has lost its ... core.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


A book I was wanting to borrow from the library was not available as it was out on loan so I went on the the UK Amazon site to see if I could get it there. Well ... (apart from having a new one for sale) there were nearly a dozen used books for sale for 1 pence plus £2.80 for postage and packing! I bought one at 1 pence and it came 4 days after I ordered it on line. It actually was postmarked as coming from Dunfermline, a city on the east of Scotland.

What puzzles me is ... what is going on here? One pence! Well, even at £3.00 I can't see how this works.