Monday, 30 December 2013


As the next front of stormy, wet weather moves across the country we have decided there is really only one antidote: drink....

It's New Year tomorrow and while it is Ishie's 7th birthday (we never forget her arrival into the world!) we have decided to share our delightful fire (which has been on every day since before Christmas with me firmly in front of it) with our equally delightful neighbours.

They are a mixed bunch but are indicative of the settled community, indeed, the settled society, namely post-war Britain, that we live in.  I am looking forward to hearing a bit more about them as they all have stories to tell; none more so than the couple of octe-geraniums that surround us.

Having people in is easy these days.  Since we down-sized the simple matter of hoovering and dusting has ... well not quite gone in a cloud ... but certainly requires much less time than past years!  Less square feet; less work.

Time to get out the good glasses, by that I mean tumblers for the whisky. If Dawn's parents were here we'd buy some whiskey just to even things up.  Our problem is that we are awash with the stuff!  Iain is given a bottle when (a) he plays the pipes (b) fixes the neighbour's greenhouse or erects a handrail (c) speaks at a dinner (d) doesn't speak at a dinner ... (only joking).

It wouldn't be a problem if he drank the stuff; he does not.  I'm the one who does ... so I tough it out.  No, I don't take a bucket but I do enjoy "one finger" [measurement of height in a glass by putting your finger sideways, parallel to the table surface, adjacent to the base of the glass] or, like Iain's father, calling for a second drink: "make it two fingers".  I recall him saying after a second dram,  "Now that is me back to par!"  I reckon I fall into that category: 2 drams are lovely; after that I fall asleep or can't think straight!

So ... if the rain stops lashing the window next to my computer, I will venture out for a few hours.


Friday, 27 December 2013


 Ishbel, 6 years old, with her 7th birthday coming up on New Year's Eve

Alastair, 5 years old and will be 6 in 5 weeks.

John holding Harriet who is 6 months old.

Guess who stole the show?!

Monday, 23 December 2013


I inadvertently made a hit with Ishbel when I baked a special festive creation by way of a dry run for Christmas dinner.

Every Christmas my mother made dinner rolls, actually I think they were bridge rolls, i.e. little rolls she made when ladies came for a bridge evening.  I recall Parkerhouse Rolls being the name for these but thought they were more butterfly half circle in shape.   (I have just looked up Parkerhouse Rolls and, indeed, it seems the name is used for both flattened half circle and ball shapes.)

Anyhow .... I thought I would make a wreath and use something in the middle for dipping or spreading on the bread.  Wouldn't you know it ... I walked into Marks and Spencer locally and found the very thing.  In fact I found 2 candidates and bought both.  I tried this one in the photo: Welsh Rarebit in a ceramic dish.  (The second which I will use on Christmas Day is French Brie cheese in a wooden box which is OK for the oven. It cooks at the same time as the rolls - buns if your American -  and ends up bubbly and gooey.)

I used a basic bread recipe and the whole thing gets baked together.  They are, of course, a yeast based dinner roll and I think they are supposed to be fairly rich, i.e. up the amount of fat and use milk in the liquid.

I am quite delighted with the result mainly because this is something the kids will eat along with everyone else before we head to the table for dinner.

I made the extra dough into three little balls per muffin tin section .... which is what I recall my mother doing as another variation in her bridge rolls. These rolls turn out like trefoils which are very easy to break open from its position on your side plate at the dinner table.

Sunday, 22 December 2013


While Ishie was busy in the living room decorating our tree - a real tree, naturally - I managed to keep Alastair occupied for 20 whole minutes decorating our "other" tree.  This gem of a tree I purchased in IKEA last year.  It is exactly 2 metres in length, cut from a big bolt of cotton cloth,  with the picture of a fir tree, presumably Swedish, printed on it.

In our (only) spare room I have a pulley where Alastair and I pinned the fabric thus creating a wall hanging ... well, a pulley hanging, actually.

Digging around in our Christmas Decoration Box I found the stockings to be hung. Using safety pins, again, we ... that is ... he pinned each stocking on the tree. We later added Advent buckets and a Swedish felt angel at the very top.

The 6 red felt stockings with names go back to 1966 when I made the first one for Iain (and 3 of his mates who lived together in a house on West 13th Avenue in Vancouver).  I recall that I was supposed to be studying for exams which were being held the following morning and I just couldn't get the energy up for the work of it!  (That was probably the first time I did something I should have learned years earlier ... give it a rest; you are never going to learn anything the night before an exam!)

Anyhow, where was I?  The next red stockings were made over the years as the dramatis personae unfolded for subsequent family Christmases:  Mairi, Grandma, (Auntie) Iseabail and lastly Alastair.

These mukluks (Eskimo skin boots)  pinned to the bottom of the tree are a treasure of mine from the early 60s.  I think they were purchased in Calgary probably at the Hudson's Bay department store as there were no specialty shops and I wore them when I was in high-school ... not in the snow but more as jazzy slippers.  (Sheesh!  To think that I have had those in a cupboard all these years!)  I still love them!  Let's say they are for wee Ishie and wee Ali.

Lastly I purchased this lovely Christmas stocking at the Norwegian Ladies Craft Sale a couple of weeks ago.  It was knitted by Ragna and is an absolute joy to the eye!  Look at the colour, the detail and the intricate work of the pattern!  How about if we make that for John?!

Heavens!  I nearly forgot Baby Harriet's!

Her stocking hangs on her pram but is temporarily pinned on the top of the tree.

Here she is this afternoon ... full of the cold and full of blethers!

Saturday, 14 December 2013


There is a lot on at this time of year!  Several pantomines in city theatres, school concerts, and various choirs' concerts.  Then there are office parties, people meeting up for lunch, work deadlines to meet before things stop for the holidays (pretty well from Christmas to the Monday after New Year's Day in this part of the world.)

I took myself off to Aberdeen last week and joined friends for a birthday party.  Iain was away in the mountains at a Club Annual Dinner.  This photo is of Queen Street Station in Glasgow, the one in the city that serves the north and east of the country.  The Christmas tree was up and the trains were running to time despite storm damage the previous day.

The lunchtime party last Saturday was held in an Italian restaurant in Aberdeen.  Excellent food, and good company (20 of us).  After a few glasses of this lovely wine above I was fair enjoying myself ... except for one things: it got noiser and noiser with office Christmas parties filling up the other tables.  Oh dear ... shrill women's voices, raucous laughter combined with Christmas crackers popping really started to get to me! 

Mid-afternoon I headed off to the train back to Glasgow ... very busy but I had a good book to read thankfully.  Mind you, I spent more time just watching the gals boarding en route: Perth, Stirling and Dunblane.  They were dressed up for a night at the Glasgow disco clubs.  By that I mean short flimsy tops, leggings, loadsa jewellery and maybe a fake fur garment that passed for a jacket.  Several sat the whole journey with compact cases out adjusting their mascara etc.  Compacts!!! Sheesh ... I though that went out in the 1950s.

Anyhow... where was I?  I eventually arrived home using our suburban train and was quite glad to fall into my own bed.

The next day, Sunday, Mairi, had purchased tickets for the Pinocchio Pantomime at the Pavillion Theatre.  She was bringing 2 little friends for Ishie and Alastair.  John stayed at home with Baby Harriet. 

What I did not know was that, after collecting all the Little People, we were going to Macdonald's for a meal before the panto.

I was up for that. It's probably been 10 years since I was in a Macdonalds (and it was in Stockholm) but I was amazed when I walked in. (We were in the Maryhill Macdonalds - not the most salubrious of locations in the city.)  The place was bright and cheerful and spotlessly clean!  It was pleasantly quiet with folk dotted about the tables.

I ordered a Festive Beefburger and an Americano coffee. The burger was absolutely delicious and tasted of real beef (or 'hamburger' if you are North Amercian).  And the coffee tasted of plain ordinary, fully flavoured coffee beans. 

Hats Off for Macdonalds!

Thursday, 12 December 2013


Mairi and I had a wee smile this morning....  When I arrived to walk Ishbel and Alastair to school they were very engrossed in writing their Christmas cards.

Ishie is  very good and quite quick at printing ... though not the tidiest worker!

Alastair, on the floor, diligently prints out his cards.  He, too, makes sure each child in the class gets a card.

Alastair is clearly following the teacher's instruction when it comes to getting things correct ... quite right too!

Meanwhile in the background Mairi and I keep our heads down with the chores to be done!

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Posted in haste ... I'm out getting a life....

Monday, 2 December 2013


Today is Monday and life moves on. Mairi returns to work after her maternity leave so that means the routine will change a bit.  Harriet starts at Nursery today.  She is 6 months old and will go to the Nursery at Mairi's work.

Here is Iain with her last week. 

She's as bright as a button and keeps us all enchanted with her little ways. She's an easy baby and likes to be "in the body of the kirk" as they say here.

After Mairi went to work this morning I sat at the dining room table in their house while we waited for the appointed time to walk to school.  I bought the Glasgow Herald to read about the developments of the helicopter crash on Friday.  Here we are at the table this morning.  

I said to the kids "Gosh it's quiet without Harriet.  I miss her!"  Without looking up Alastair replied "I really miss her 'cause I love her so much!"  

While it was a bit spooky without the Wee Person about the place, I can tell you things have been even spookier ....

It transpires that Mairi was just along the street from where this helicopter (above - getting lifted out of the Clutha Vaults today) dropped from the sky killing 9 people.  See my previous blog 2 day's ago.  She had gone out of the event she was attending and was departing in her car only to find the first of the ambulances were arriving ... and only learning later what had happened.

Now that the helicopter has been lifted out there is hope that the missing people can be recovered ... and the business of funerals can begin.  In the meantime people are laying flowers at the site of the accident and, like us, getting on with the day to day business of life.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Because of the Clutha Vaults incident yesterday (see post) I did not post my prepared material.  So here it is today.

I was greatly taken with Google's Doodle yesterday which celebrated Scotland's St Andrew's Day. I thought it was quite clever with the waving flags and pretty well got it right with all their little bits of artwork including the colour of blue, i.e. St Andrew's blue.

What colour is St Andrew's Blue anyhow.?  Fascinating subject!  Here is one discussion but ... like the energy crisis ... I will not get started on that particular debate!  Be that as it may here are 2 versions I got off the internet:
 This is Pantone 300
 This is Hex  #0072C6.

  St Andrew's blue is not the dark navy blue often seen in the flags people make.

Does the blue come the colour of the sky at this latitude?  I don't know ... but here are some examples below - take your pick!

Loch Earn in August 2013. This is in front of the Four Seasons Hotel where we had our family reunion for Indy's 2nd birthday this summer.

Crinan on the west end of Crinan Canal.  The weather vane on top of the house at the sea lock.

Cromarty lighthouse.  East coast of Scotland, facing the North Sea.

Robert Burns on top of pedestal in George Square, Glasgow city centre.

Seol na Mara on west coast of Scotland this summer. (Iain's photo)

 Wind turbine in forest in Caithness en route to Thurso this summer.

 Weather vane on top of office building in Glasgow city centre showing Victorian red sandstone architecture.

Edinburgh sky taken at Grey Friar's pub (and Bobby) looking north.

Saturday, 30 November 2013


It is St Andrew's Day and it falls 9 months before Scotland is going to decide about Independence.  All thoughts of this vanished as we awoke to news this morning of a terrible accident in the city centre.

Eye witnesses spoke of a (presumably) Police helicopter falling like a stone from the sky.

Rescue services and the general public have been praised for reacting quickly when the roof came in on the Clutha Vaults pub which was full of people on a busy Friday night (at the end of the  month). This is Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister for Scotland describing how people helped each other out of the pub and also came in from the street to assist.  Glasgow has 5 large hospitals and apparently a much rehearsed disaster rescue plan in place.  Not for the first time has it had to be used.  See my blog here about the terrorist attack in Glasgow International Airport in July 30, 2007.

Rescue operations are still going on as masonry is lifted using a crane.  Flags are at half mast.

Football games observed a minute's silence. Concerts are being cancelled.

A couple of doors along from the Clutha Vaults pub on Clyde Street is the Catholic Cathedra of St Andrew's.  They have opened their doors for people to use the building as a place of quiet and reflection. (I was sitting in one of those pews less than a week ago when I attended a charity concert there. It is a beautiful building which has recently been refurbished.)

I do know the Clutha Vaults as when I was involved with the Glasgow Fiddle Workshop we would adjourn there after our Wednesday night fiddle classes. It always was, and still is, a focus for live music.

However life goes on.  Here is the Milngavie Pipe Band on the precinct today.

Friday, 29 November 2013


Last week was the Clyde Cruising Club's Annual Prizegiving and Dinner Dance for 2013.  It is a "Black Tie and Carriages at 1 am" sort of affair.  These are my photos with the exception of the one of myself that was taken by C. Reeves.

Prizes are given in the form of trophies given by various people over many, many years.... 103 years to be exact!

Iain has the Ogg Cup for his log on his summer cruise with all his pals. An excellent photo if I do say so myself!

I was given the decanter and 2 wine glasses which I can keep. Like all trophies awarded they go back after one year.  I accidentally dropped the blue box and one of the wine glasses rolled out and smashed on the floor as I returned to the dinner table.  Blush ... the snib came open on the side of the blue box holding them.

Here is our trophy shelf now with my one remaining (rather large) wine glass.  The whole display fairly raises the tone of our living room!  The little quaich on the left is one that Iain was awarded as a keeper some years ago.

The men in all their finery really add to the glamorous evening!  Tartan trews were also in evidence!

Sunday, 24 November 2013


I have just finished a book which I really enjoyed.  It is a Penguin Classic (2006 edition) called The Pillow Book by a Japanese court gentlewoman, Sei Shonagon.  Apparently it is one of the great works of Japanese literature.  (I had never heard of it.)

As a ponderous reader who is always looking for new ways of looking at things this book ticked all the boxes! I read it from cover to cover taking my time to look up the notes at the back (which is a third of the thickness of the book).

What is the book about?  Well it is NOT what it sounds i.e. something out of Playboy magazine.  Far from it; it is basically about Japanese aesthetics.  Written about 1000 years ago it is the observations of a well-born Japanese lady whose life at court is recorded in her musings.  So it is rather a female collection of what she finds beautiful or delightful.

Japanese bowl left to Iain by his Auntie Ruth.

The very end of the books explains exactly how she was handed sheaves of paper by Her Majesty and simply used them up with all her day to day notes -  a bit like a diary or a blog.  A better title (and less mis-leading) might have been Sei’s Book of Delights.

It is not in diary form but rather the writer uses headings of categories (or if you were mathematically inclined you might say “sets”) such as “Things Which .....” Only on rare occasions does she look at life’s opposites e.g. “Things Which Irritate Me” sort of topics. (I laughed at her example of “Things Which Are Cocky” ... 3 year olds!)

The translator, Meredith McKinney, makes the book come alive.  The subject matter is often taken up with with poems Sei composes or uses in witty exchanges. The more I read of her ability to use words in speech or writing  e.g. repartee, quickly compose a poem on her inkstone and also how she enjoyed high status in the courtly inner circle, the more it reminded me of Shakespearean plays where 2 actors bantered back and forth using puns which the audience would understand and find delightful.

So given that the book is about all those things that she finds “delightful” I have gathered a few of the categories together and placed them below.  I used a photo to illustrate an example or two.

A few categories of "delight" might be:

DELIGHT TO THE EYE: Himalayan Poppies in the garden

BEAUTIFUL WORKMANSHIP: Ropework on a Tall Ship

CHARMING: Ishie in her summer dress aged 3 years old

MAKE YOU SMILE: Alastair on the beach in Orkney, aged 5 years old

ELEGANCE: The glass staircase in the Glasgow Apple Store

TRULY SPLENDID: The Scottish Exhibition Centre Hydro Arena and the Finneston Crane.  I took the photo a couple of days ago.  There is a man just left of centre who is kneeling down putting the finishing touches to the paving (as part of the final "snagging" of the construction project.)

Another TRULY SPENDID: Alastair and Indy on the beach on the west coast of Islay in August.

UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER:  On walking around Hampton Court, London, I came upon this figure leaning against the wall.  It's a "sculpture" and it made me laugh.

Another UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER:  I took this photo on Saturday in Edinburgh.  I had been at a lecture and listening to one very good, then one very bad, presentation. I just had to escape into the fresh air as there had been no interval and lunch was another 1 1/2 hours off.  I walked across the street and there before me was this little fellow, Grey Friar's Bobby!  The shiny bit on his nose is where everyone reaches up high and rubs it as well as reading the plague of his story.

SATISFYING: Results of visiting distilleries in Islay while on holiday.