Saturday, 31 March 2012


It was the last day of school for the children so the Easter holidays, in this part of the world, have started (2 weeks off). 

So for me, what does this mean?

[1]  Time to have Happy Hour - End of Winter and Start of Holidays - celebratory dinner.  Having just received a consignment of wine from David M. it to be tested; Ishie made the cupcakes with the obligatory "Pink for Girls" icing.  Mairi, Alastair and Iain arrived from the nether regions of work, nursery and garden in that order.


[2] Get out in the garden.  The weather has been absolutely wonderful with clear blue skies but quite cold in he evening.  It is like this over the whole of the U.K. as we can see from the satellite pictures. These seedlings are lupins which do very well and last until the very late days of autumn.

[3]  No piano lessons for 2 weeks as teacher's calendar is tied to school calendar.  So Sevillanas by Albeniz will ... not be put aside but ... take second place to other activities.


 It has been a good winter piano-wise not least for being in sunny Spain since Christmas.  It would appear this Spanish music is "really me". (I like all that modal stuff.)

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


Christina recommended this wonderful book to me: The Elegance of the Hedgehog (L'élégance du Hérisson) by Muriel Barbery, translated by Alison Anderson.  I really liked it! It is about a concierge, Renée, in Paris and how she sees the world, a very ordinary world around her (which is an apartment block in a prosperous part of the city). 

But the book is a whole lot more than that.  A good book is one that has several levels of interest/enjoyment: this one has the relationship of this simple peasant woman with her one close friend, Manuela, and threaded through the story her meeting, and befriending, 2 of the apartment's residents.


Another level operating (besides social commentary on class and observations of human foibles) is the author's philosophical take on what is happening.  Being French both she and her readers would be schooled in philosophy, in this case, aesthetics.

A new resident moves in and she befriends him ... or rather he befriends her ....  He is Japanese and they turn out to have a lot in common with their shared taste in Tolstoy, Proust, Flemish painters and household pets.  On the wall of his apartment is the copy of a the above still life painting by Pieter Claesz.  It becomes part of the beginning of a lovely Platonic friendship.

Renée is an autodidact and reading about her - seeing life through her eyes - was to take a trip back to Greek philosophy and French literature. But at its simplest, and most charming, level it is about life's shared moments over a cup of tea talking about camellias.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


This is our "back yard" as they say in North America. It faces due south so has the sun all day.   Iain and Duncan laid all the Caithness slabs last year.  Now it is time to do some finishing-off planting this year.

I was on the internet looking for ideas about laying out a garden and came across this website.  What I liked best about it was the music in the first 3 minutes of the above video.  It does not give information about it but I reckon if I use this blog as a filing cabinet I will be able to get someone to listen to it and tell me what it is.  I would like to get the music! (I am guessing it is around the time of Bach; maybe was written for a harpischord originally?)

Finally if I can't make up my mind what to do about the planting, I could always make a maze.

Van Dusen  Botanical Garden's Maze in Vancouver courtesy of Wikipedia.

Monday, 19 March 2012


Thanks to the wonders of internet technology we have been kept up-to-date on Baby Indy's next scheduled check-up which was today.  Another 4 weeks has elapsed since his last examination of the right eye to see if there is any further evidence of cancer cells.

Good news - the examination under anaesthetic showed that there are no further cells.  Any suspect cells seen in the past were zapped using laser treatment, another wonder of modern technology.  I would like to think that he is now "out of the woods" as they say in Canada.

A description of Dawn and Alastair's pre-op preparation of the wee fella and their time waiting is here.  That he is healthy, i.e. no sniffles or chest infection, is a credit to the good care he is getting from both mum and dad!  Not easy at the end of winter!  It means he is OK for intubation.  When he comes out, he is, apparently, neither up nor down with the procedure.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


End of winter at Ross Priory, Loch Lomond.  Though still a bit early in the season, there were just the beginnings of the rhodys and spring bulbs coming up.  Everything was dripping as I made a tour  around the garden, umbrella and camera in hand. 

I was there for the soirée - dinner followed by an evening of music; this month with an Irish theme.  Being too wet to spend long in the garden I fairly quickly retreated indoors to the fire and glass of Merlot with the other guests arriving for the evening.

I happily go along to these events on my own; Iain finds himself "otherwise engaged".  Reporting back on the evening I ... well, we both ... chuckle at the recurring pattern: nodding to people (his former colleagues) who, upon seeing me hove into view, always warmly greet me with "Hello-Barbara-And-Tell-Me-How-Is-Iain?" 

Reflections in the area of the walled garden.

 Helibores dripping, dripping, dripping.

Looking on to Ben Lomond in the distant mist and the water of Loch Lomond.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Bearsden Primary held an Open Day at the weekend to celebrate their Centenary year. While I did not go to school there the children did.  So it was a trip down memory lane of school visits in the evening for parents to discuss each children's progress.  All good stuff.

This is the main hall where assembly used, and still does, take place.  The hammer beam ceiling with glass panes in the roof is still looking well.

The bannister with its brass knobs must have deterred many a child!


Mr Bear languishing on top of a jotter cupboard.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


It has been a happily busy week for socializing!  Going out for dinner with friends and having people in for a meal ... or two ... or three!  After months of hibernation everything, or should I say, everyone, is suddenly on the move. Spring must be in the air!

It is always lovely when people bring flowers, especially at this time of year!

Mairi and Ishie brought flowers 2 weeks ago and they are still going strong.


When we had the old neighbours over for dinner Sandra brought hyacinths which have lasted really well too.  They are on the window ledge and that is Iain in a blue jacket working in the garden.


Saturday, 10 March 2012


March is here and the days are definitely getting longer. We have all kept clear of coughs and cold so far but we know that there are a good 4 to 6 weeks to go before it gets noticeably warmer.  So to keep us all smiling in these shoulder months of the year here are Grandma's 3 little rays of sunshine.

Alastair, now 4 years old, makes us smile with his "Alastair-isms".  One sunny, blue sky day we looked up at the sun and commented that we were so glad to see it!  It seems to be smiling down on us at which point Alastair looks up and says "Say 'CHEESE' Sun!"

Sometimes we drop into Anne B's house and have our picnic lunch at her kitchen table. She enjoys a chatty 4 year old as it makes a change from her home-caring role of nearly 10 years now.  Outside in the garden Alastair was standing in a bunch of snowdrops under maple tree. He shouts up to us on the front steps, "Look at me in the raindrops!"

This week Ishie helped me make Shepherd's Pie for dinner.  Does she like Shepherd's Pie?  "No".  But ... a transformation ... after doing all the mashing and spreading and taking out of the oven, she ate her way through a plateful and enjoyed it!

And finally every week we speak to Alastair and Dawn and get to see Baby Indy on Skype.  They are all well too and wee Indy is coming on a treat.  Here he is again where you can see what a beautiful pair of eyes he has! Can you tell which one is the artificial eye?!  Every time I tell people about how he now a growing boy with the prosthesis in his left eye we all agree that the fitting of it, especially the fact that it has 60 degrees rotation, is quite amazing! Like us, they were simply unaware of how, these days,  there is such wonderful treatment available for people (in the Western world) who lose an eye.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012


I have successfully managed to upgrade the software for my Mac (OS X) which I purchased 6 years ago.   What I have proved is that it is, indeed, do-able.  With a fair amount of searching on the internet every time I came across a hurdle - and there were a few - I found solutions on the internet simply by googling my question enough times using various keywords.

As I found my searches very helpful I wish to pass on some information that might help the next person in my position.  Update:  I continue to come across odd (small) things which have been changed i.e. behave differently.  As I successfully sort them, I post the problem and the outcome or workaround at the end of this post.

This shows the type of machine I have which is an iMac. This website helps to identify the type of computer you have. 

I upgraded from Tiger to Leopard and then to Snow Leopard.  Now all was well, i.e. didn't affect anything negatively, i.e. speed was better but no files or software were affected.

Then I upgraded to Lion.  Now I was told ahead of time, and there is lots on the net about this, you lose certain types of software, i.e. "we [Mac] do not support this software" message comes up.  This is a shock if you are not prepared.  I used the desktop publishing software Quarkxpress 6.2 and it gave me 7 days' notice to say "You will no longer be able to use this software."  Too right.  A big Do Not Enter sign is across the icon.  End of the line!  (I replaced it, for £20.00, with iPages which is good enough for the type of work that I do.) 

Worse, was that the same happened for Photoshop CS2 that I was using but no 7 days' notice. Again the reasons are all on the net in various discussion sites.

The good news, however, is that it is possible to upgrade to Photoshop CS5.1 and I did this successfully.  Because I had the old software CD with the serial number I signed into the the Apple Account using this serial number, bought the Upgrade (I did not have to buy the whole new suite) and it accepted it with no difficulty.  I downloaded it off the net as opposed to buying the boxed CD and it was fine.  Well ... nearly fine.  The only thing to say is that their instruction run scheme doesn't quite match what you see on the screen but by guessing what they mean it worked.  And yes, I am very happy with the final "functionality"!

So the moral of the story is: probably best to upgrade sooner rather than later.  My stuff was 5 years old and, I guess, that is pretty old for today's software!

March 15, 2012: NO SOUND (after upgrading to Lion).  Solved this way: Mac System Preferences,  clicked the "sound" icon.  There are 3 tabs in Sound which are "sound effects", "output" and "input." Click "output".  The Mute box was ticked; untick it.  That sorted the problem.

April 3, 2012:  SCANNER WON'T WORK.  My scanner is a HP Photosmart C3180.  Now Apple and the Hewlett Packard websites have addressed this problem and eventually I was able to scan.  My workaround:  Turn scanner on (and you get error saying not connected).  Go into the Mac System Preference - Print/Scan - Open Scanner.

April 15, 2012:  WHEN CURSOR  TOUCHES TOP LEFT CORNER OF SCREEN THE SCREEN DISAPPEARS AND "DASHBOARD" SCREEN APPEARS: You need to know the jargon here: this is a manifestation of HOT CORNERS.  What's that?  When the cursor touches (accidentally, in my case)  the upper left corner of the screen it caused the aforesaid action and doing it again toggled the action (i.e. went back to the way it was).  Solution: Click on Apple - System Preferences - (Personal) Mission Control - Hot Corners (bottom, lower left). This shows "Active Screen Corners" Deactivate ( " - " ) or change. Done!

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Today was lovely with the sun shining but as it was too cold too sit outside I sat inside, with the sun basking through the window, enjoying Julian Barnes' book Flaubert's Parrot [Vintage, 2009]

A blue sky! 

"Novelists should thank Flaubert the way poets thank spring; it all begins again with him. There really is a time before Flaubert and a time after him. Flaubert decisively established what most readers and writers think of as modern realist narration, and his influence is almost too familiar to be visible. We hardly remark of good prose that it favors the telling of brilliant detail; that it privileges a high degree of visual noticing; that it maintains an unsentimental composure and knows how to withdraw, like a good valet, from superfluous commentary; that it judges good and bad neutrally; that it seeks out the truth, even at the cost of repelling us; and that the author's fingerprints on all this are paradoxically, traceable but not visible.”
—Critic James Wood in How Fiction Works (2008)

A single iris in the spring sunshine.