Thursday, 30 May 2013


As we await the arrival of Mairi and John's third child, it is time to gather some current photos of the both Alastair and Dawn's, and Mairi and John's, offspring.

First, the farthest away is Indy:

Here he is in daddy's trainers.  He is growing into a long and leggy wee boy and seems to be getting red hair.  All parents certainly have their hands full at this age, i.e. coming up for 2 years old but Dawn and Alastair have a particularly "challenging" job.  

Here is a little story of what happened recently; it could be titled "All's well that ends well"!  We speak to Alastair and Indy and Dawn every weekend and Alastair emails us occasionally.   Well we got this email entitled "We've lost Indy's eye".... Oh my goodness!  Indy's prothestic eye is vital to his appearance and, of course, very expensive and so this was a matter of great concern!  They tore the place apart looking for it as he had it in when he went to bed but it wasn't there in the morning.

A couple of weeks went by.  No eye.  Well last week we were up north and when I was sitting at the dinner table waiting while our hostess went to get the dessert, I felt my mobile phone vibrate in my pocket.  (I never keep the sound on.)  I stole a glance at the message title "We've found Indy's eye!".  Well I have had many messages since investing in a mobile phone but that had to be one of the strangest ... and happiest! .... ever!

Yes, it turned up.  Dawn shook out the mattress one last time, really hard and it plopped out.  No he had'nt swallowed it, no it wasn't down the toilet and as Dawn's mum said when they were visiting "When I asked Indy "Where is your eye, Indy?" he said it was in his bed!

Secondly, Alastair and Ishbel today in the park at the back of our house:

This is Alastair today, in the garden.  We were digging for worms. He found an ant and said he thought we had an anthill.  (I think we have some under the slabs.)  However, he found several worms all at once "I found a wormhill!"

Lastly, the little cot awaits the new baby which is due in one week's time.  A boy or a girl?  I expect that our life going to be upside-down for awhile! Just think ... back to nappies and night feeds!

Monday, 27 May 2013


This is a wonderful book and like the American lady said when seeing a play by Shakespeare for the first time, "Gee, it sure has a lot of quotes in it!'
Published in 1944 this book is about a charismatic man and his search for some meaning in his life.  It was written long before gap years when people headed off to India looking for a guru.  The thing about this book is that the author puts himself in as a character and makes a story of this man's comings and goings.  

He is a great social observer and as it's about American and British rich folk moving around their houses and playground in Europe after the Second World War it is full of what they were doing in the the days before "celebrities" - cocktail parties, Parisian bars, Riveria, mansions and country houses.
“American women expect to find in their husbands a perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers.

Juan Gris, Stilleben mit Fruchtschale und Mandoline, 1919 [Wikipedia]

"I like manual labor. Whenever I've got waterlogged with study, I've taken a spell of it and found it spiritually invigorating"

Rij-Rousseau, .Jeu d'échecs.1917 [Wikipedia]

"I never spend more than one hour in a gallery. That is as long as one's power of appreciation persists."

Hermitage Museum [Wikipedia]      

Friday, 24 May 2013


Across this body of water there are 2 ways to get to Orkney with a vehicle: (1) “MV Hamnavoe” which is the larger one run by NorthLink Ferries from Scrabster (mainland near Thurso) to Stromness, Orkney. Journey: 1.5 hours. (2) “MVPentalina” catamaran run by Pentland Ferries from Gills Bay (east of Thurso) to St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney. Journey: 1 hour.

Both ferry companies have comprehensive and well-maintained websites for tariffs, timetables and booking arrangements. 

Due to the “Hamnavoe” service being off we were obliged to use the route from Gills Bay to St Margaret’s Hope, i.e. the less commodious ferry. We were 2 people in a VW Golf car and travelled both there and back in the third week of May (2013). It was absolutely fine, i.e. safe, efficient, ran to time, had an above-deck enclosed seating area, toilets and a small kiosk for snacks. 

MV Pentalina at ferry terminus in St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay, Orkney
However, here are some observations: 

[1] Book ahead:

This particular ferry services to Orkney functions as one of the arterial routes for both residents, visitors and commerce. Depending of time of day and volume of traffic (particularly commercial vehicles) there can be a lot of vehicles involved in the operation of loading, parking on board, then disembarking whilst the queue for the return journey prepares for the next sailing.

[2] Getting on and off the ferry:

Yes, they pack them in! I was impressed that the man guiding me forward into the open hold. He left exactly (his) one shin’s width between my car and the one in front. Trusting fellow!

On the return journey I had to reverse in, down the ramp into the hold. Large supermarket trailer units had been loaded on first and the cars, vans and motor cycles were (all) tightly arranged in lines for smooth disembarking. Also, it would appear that size of vehicle is a factor as to where you go in the queue. i.e. it may be not be first come, first on.

If you are a visitor queuing up with the trailer section of large lorries, plumbers’ and builders’ vans  consider: can you get your car into a suburban garage with a hand’s width of space on either side? Can you reverse? ... down a ramp?... using just your mirrors? (Obviously someone could do it for you, if necessary.)

This photo shows the cars lined up in the hold.  Because this vessel has only one way of driving on board, i.e. a ramp at the bow end only, vehicles are loaded and arranged such that they can be driven off  the same way as they were driven on. On the lower right of the photo there appears to be one car towing a caravan.

[3] Factor in the weather:

The Pentland Firth is serious bit of water to cross. Ferry companies run every day but sometimes the weather adversely affects sea crossings... so it’s always mindful to have a back-up plan!

Like I was saying ... this is a working vessel!

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Iain and I took the children after school to see some owls which were sitting "on display" outside our local garden centre.  A young man was there with his donation bucket whilst answering questions about these owls the Clyde Valley Birds of Prey people have in captivity.

This Eagle Owl is absolutely huge!  She stands about half the height of Alastair as seen in the photo below ... say about 24 inches.  Her name is "Dakota". 

On the way home I asked the gang in the car "What was the biggest owl's name?"  Didn't know.   I prompted "Well, it is named after one of the American states."

Their reply:  "Ken Tuky?" !!!

This is a barn owl.  Again beautiful colouring.  These photos are "as is" i.e. no Photoshop enhancements ... who needs them?!

Friday, 10 May 2013


Another year, another blog.  I launched this blog on this day in 2007 (here). Yes, I am a year older; probably not any wiser....!

So it has been 6 years since I started this blog!  Amazing!

**** LIFE ROLLS ON ****

I still enjoy a dram ... especially as it's my birthday today.  Age with honour: a good sentiment!

Healthwise: OK.  The varifocal glasses are holding up well. That bright cloth is a sample piece of cleanroom microfiber given to me back in the days when I worked with cleanroom people.

 I am never very far away from the car.  In this case it is the Volkswagen Golf that we bought a few months ago.  The pea green coffee flask is my answer to Alastair's Starbucks coffee jug.  Just fits into the car cup holder.  The yellow container  in the adjacent cup holder is Marks and Spencer hand-cream.  The white Hudson Bay fleece blanket on the passenger seat is from Alastair and Dawn this past Christmas.  The iPhone cable plugs into the state-of-the-art car radio - essential!


I still regularly meet with our Wine and Dine group.  Here is a sample of last Tuesday's evening at The Urban Grill, Glasgow city centre. (South African Pinot Noir, 2009)

I am still playing the piano and continue with music lessons every Wednesday morning.  In fact, I am doubling up this year as I (finally!) found a music teacher who is familiar with the Associated Board's Jazz Syllabus.  Basically I am a classical player and practice diligently. My problem is that I don't "play" about.  So it gets my nose out of the music as I doodle about ... up and down the keyboard.


Iain and I have volunteered to update one of the volumes of the Clyde Crusing Club's Sailing Directions.  To that end we are working on the Orkney and Shetland volume which includes the Northeast coast.  He does the charts; I do the text and take photographs.

Lastly here is a card from Mairi.  It made me laugh and laugh.  This is a parody of my neighbour, Dot, and I who share a fence and garden strip between our houses.  If the truth be told, we simply leap over the fence as no one is there to stop us!

And so back to the garden ... these petunias fell off in the last rain.  They are in a little glass beside a candle that Linda B gave me last Christmas.  They perch on the window ledge at the back of this computer.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Yesterday, May 8th, Google made an outstanding Google Doodle.  It is a tribute to a man in the film industry who make the bit of the movie which takes to do with the titles at the beginning of the film. His name is  Saul Bass. He is 93 years old.

This short video creates the Google logo in the style of of Bass using the following movies'  introductory title sequences:

The Man with the Golden Arm
West Side Story
North by Northwest
Anatomy of a Murder
Ocean's 11
Around the World in Eighty Days

As you watch the Google Doodle you will recognise the film artwork as they are done in the order above.

I can't decide if I like the film references  (I can recognize them all!) or the theme music which is Dave Brubeck's Unsquare Dance.

Love it!

Monday, 6 May 2013


If you live on the west coast of Scotland you know about MacBrayne's.  This is ferry boat operator who plies the water of, not just the Clyde, but all of the islands.  They are a monopoly and have been around for 106 years.

Portree, Skye, 2007

Everyone has stories about using these ferries: some good, some not. The fact remains they are simply part of the the landscape, or should that be seascape?... on the Scottish west coast.

To that end, I bought Iain a book of their history for his birthday this past week.

It is published by Birlinn and details are available on their website here. As they say in their blurb, the book "tells the story of David MacBrayne, his ships and his company, his predecessors, rivals and successors.  It explores the world of the early steamships, their successes and failures, as well as their contribution to the ever-changing social fabric of the Highlands and Islands.  Emigrants, tourists, ordinary travellers and crew members, from engineers to pursers, speak of the ships and their impact on their world. "

The title comes from a common ditty that describes them:

The earth belongs unto the Lord
And all that it contains
Except the Western Islands
And the Kingdom of MacBrayne's

Apparently it is a parody of the opening verse of Metrical Psalm 24. It seems this version a misquote but that 's the way I've always known it.

The Arran ferry at Ardrossan pier

Their official name is Caledonian MacBrayne but are always referred to as CalMac,. Their website is here.

CalMac ferry heading out of Ullapool to Stornoway, Lewis.  Photo taken from Jessie's front window on May 18, 2013 at 6 pm.

Sunday, 5 May 2013


It was Alastair's turn to show us around his school room and look at his work in Primary One at Mosshead School in Bearsden. The theme was museum visit to see Teddy Bears.

After assembly we were taken on a tour by the 5 year old museum guides.

Here are Grandpa and Alastair looking at his worksheet.

The project work is on the board.  The stories about the museum visit are expressed in one sentence with a coloured drawing to illustrate.  Here Alastair is talking about an elephant.

On display were the childrens' own bears they had brought in for the project. This bear caught my eye from across the room.  It has been nearly 40 years since I had seen him!  This Teddy was given to Mairi by Iain's mother when she was born but had been played with by Alastair.  I looked at the duffle coat and recognized the buttons but do not recall sewing it ... which I clearly did as I can tell by the zig-zag stitching and hand sewing in not-quite-matching thread!

I liked the concept of 4 different levels of "vocies" in the room. I am going to adopt that policy in the house the next time things get a bit boisterous!

* * * * * * *

 Post script:  


One day after school Alastair was in the house and said to me: "I like Lego. Will you get me some for Christmas?"  So I said (knowing he can now print and sound out words) "Why don't you write 'LEGO' on a piece of paper for me so I won't forget?"

So off he went to the kitchen table where the paper and pencil were.  This is the result "Batman" (the "b X a t m a n" means the second letter was an error and is crossed out ... fair enough).

Now I looked at this and thought ... What IS it about the male mind? You ask them to do one thing and they go off and do something completely different.

And here we have the 3rd generation ... Hey ho .....  plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!