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.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


If you go down to the woods today ... no ... if you walk to school on a frosty morning ... you're in for a big surprise!

Two little people heading to school.  Crossing the Stockiemuir Playpark adjacent to Kilmardinny Loch and stopped off to look at the frost of the bears' fur. 

 And here are the Three Bears in the morning sunshine.

Wrong ... there are Four Bears as one has been carved on the bottom of the big tree stump.  His nose and tail end are just sticking out of the bench part of the work.  Clever!

Next day: some kind person had tied Ishie's dropped scarf to a bush.  Grandpa did his Boy Scout untying of knots routine.

Grandma needs to go back to school: there are FIVE bears!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


As a good citizen I regularly buy raffle tickets.  Sometimes I know exactly what is on offer; sometimes not.  Well yesterday there was a message on our answer-machine which Iain picked up.  The caller had been trying several times to get ahold of our number.  I phoned the number back and got the husband who explained that I had won a prize in the raffle that his wife had organised.

Now, in my head I was thinking of the lovely Norwegian triangular biscuit tower that I had, indeed, bought a raffle ... actually several ... ticket for.

The celebratory cake is called Kransekake. It takes the form of a series of concentric rings of cake, layered on top of each other in order to form a steep-sloped cone shape.

He said "Could I collect it from the church?" and I thought "Well Renfield St Stephens Church isn't exactly in my neighbourhood but that would be OK."  We talked on and then he said something about his wife having tried to get ahold of me for several weeks and she had been asking everyone whose the phone number it might be.   M-m-m-m-m.... I thought.... I only bought it on Saturday!

You guessed it; it was a different raffle!  Oh dear!  "Bye, bye Norwegian cake.  Hello bath salts."  

Wrong ... it was a bar of soap!!!

Photos: Wikipedia.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


It's a night for sitting in front of the fire. In fact we've had a few nights like this lately as the weather is now turning distinctly colder.  We've had several nights of frost this past week.

I'm reading Alexander McCall Smith's book "Sunshine on Scotland Street" which is the perfect fireside read with a glass of wine and my feet up.

We enjoyed a bottle of wine several weeks ago to help send off friends who were heading off for a 3 week cruise to Antarctica. This bottle of French wine "Latitude 45" was given to us by French friends who visited us in August.  The candle holders are 2 little glass boats that hold tea-lights.  I bought them in Helensburgh a few years ago.

Our fireplace is a wood burning Aga brand which sits on a plinth Iain erected and covered with  Caithness slabs left over from the garden "sit-ootery" that he and Duncan created.

It's getting dark now earlier and earlier.  What does one do with candles found languishing in the cupboard but light them and place them in the window?

The black wooden candlesticks are ones Iain brought back from Malawii in the 1970s and the brass ones are my  mother's.  She gave them to me some years ago stating "Here ... you have these as you polish things; I don't!"  The lighthouse is a wooden ornament that sits on my bedroom window ledge.  I just like it.

A cup of tea is so much better if it can be kept hot ... and where better?  We recently replaced 6 of our everyday mugs (china ... I insist on this) with new ones all having a bird theme.  Here is the pheasant one.  (Replacing them was A Good Move ... must tackle a few more things that are looking distinctly past their sell-by-date, so to speak.)

This mug is on the coffee table alongside a gift from a Swedish friend, Christine.  It is the Orrefors glass candle holder which she gave us some years ago when she and Inger and Helga were visiting from Stockholm.

Yesterday I bought this candle at the Norwegian Society's Julebazar or Christmas fare in which Inger assists in the sale of crafts and Norwegian food.  It was hand made by Ragne who also knitted the lovely mitts I purchased last year (shown here.)

Saturday, 16 November 2013


Playing in Cairns Church at the Milngavie Music Club, Milngavie (Glasgow) last night were a wonderful quartet from Romania. They are currently on tour in the UK.  Their website is here.

I bought their CD at the end of their quite wonderful concert of chamber music: Beethoven, Janáček and Debussy. (This is my scan of it.)

It was like hearing music played from another era where graciousness and elegance were evident in the chambers and salons of the patrons of the arts.  They played beautifully (winners of recent competitions so it stands to reason), and looked beautiful as they smiled, and established eye contact for starts and pauses. Being a young group they brought verve and pizzazz to their playing while being polished and restrained at the same time. They come from a culture that values music and it shows... e.g. all school children learn about their country's music from an early age.

The first violinist, Ana Törö, wore a garnet red gown which highlighted her figure, skin tones, hair colouring and instrument in the soft light of the church.  The men wore black with garnet red bow ties.  As a group they were a joy both to the eye and the ear.

Flowers were at the front and candles were lit at the side of the church which is carpeted in red with red chairs (the pews having been taken out to make the space more versitile.)

So why am I going on about them in this way?  Because I feel they are being very badly served by their marketing people. Their website shows photos taken of them in some grungy location on a wet day.  In all of the photoshoots these 4 talented people are wearing .... it does them no justice.  Is this supposed to be art? Sophisticiation?

To help things along I have taken the liberty of doctoring the CD cover image.    

I have used a photo of flowers that were in the church (about a month ago) which were on on display in the same  location as they played last night.  At least this latest CD cover  has something other than a disused factory, thankfully, but it's only a slight improvement in that they look totally washed out ... which they certainly are not!


Photoshop to the rescue!  

 I rest my case...

Thursday, 14 November 2013


A night out in Glasgow is never dull!  And last night was no exception.  Mairi and I went to the Pavilion Theatre for, as they advertised, "the perfect girly night out", namely a one woman  comedy show called "51 Shades of Maggie".  They warned "Prepare for the funniest, sexiest (and maybe dirtiest) show of 2013."  It's basically a spoof on "50 Shades of Grey".

Well, having enjoyed Calendar Girls some years ago I was up for a night out with a Glasgow audience (always guaranteed to be memorable in some way or other).

I wasn't wrong ... it was quite a night! As someone who only ever attends concerts or the ballet this evening's entertainment was right at the other end of the Spectacle Spectrum.  No it wasn't dire but it certainly was all the R's (actually that is a bit of a pun what with the evening's colourful vocabularly): raw, rauchous, raunchy and ribald.  It's bascially about a really rough sexy mamma who gives as good as she gets. The comedienne, Leah MacRae, had the Glasgow patter going non-stop for 2 hours solid and only one intermission. 

The audience - all women, naturally - was equally the best feature of the night.  You may not like Glasgow audiences but my goodness they are (a) up for it ... whatever "it" is ... and (b) are there for the craic (fun, entertainment, chat) and repartee.  I am here to say this comedienne got full marks for every minute of her fizzy, gyrating performance and that included dealing with idiots in the Gods who were (presumably) drunk and disorderly.  They were 5 seats along from us and it took awhile to get the problem sorted.

For the whole evening she had a theatrefull of women laughing literally non-stop.  Unbelievable! (I confess I missed a lot of it as it was going so fast and being up in the Gods the sound was lost at the end of the punchlines.)

This very professional actress/comedienne had to deal with the whole audience chanting at the beginning of the second half, "Out ... out ...out" when the miscreants along from us made no move to exit themselves.  (The poor theatre male attendants did their best!)  She got a standing ovation at the end of the evening ... definitely well deserved.

Before the theatre filled up I took this photo of the hall and its ornate plasterwork. (I noticed that I have new software on my iPhone. This is the Panorama function .... Wow! It works!)

This show seems to be on lots of places around the country.  I guess each area has its own take on it.   Go and see it?  Not if your a man, frankly.  It is pretty "gross" [rude, offensive in a Billy Connolly sort of way] but to sit in that type of audience (not knowing if things were going to turn nasty - a bit like "mob behaviour") was ... well ... certainly showed a slice of life which had both the elements of theatre one associates with that image of the Shakespearean face masks, namely comedy and tragedy.  On our particular evening it had both, i.e. humour and the ugliness of a potentially volatile and dangerous situation.

Reading the comments of folk who have been:  they loved it e.g. "it was knicker elastic fantastic"!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


Many people in Glasgow are very het up at the moment.  It is to do with the news that the City Fathers want to raise the height of the plinth of the Duke of Wellington's statue in the city centre so that miscreants cannot climb up and place a traffic cone on his worthy head. "It's disrespectfull!"

That is true ... but over and above that, it is so very Glasgow!  It is just another manifestation of how people in Glasgow are very quick to see through pretension... whether in private conversation or in public places.  Does that make this statue, which is a very fine example of ART, pretentious?

Well, they say Art should engage people and, my goodness, this horse and his rider certainly do. This photo above I took several years ago.  It made me laugh!

So I go back occasionally and have a look when I am in city centre. For example,  I took this shot last month.  I thought, "Ah yes... all is right with the world; the Chooky's still got his Hat on!" In fact, now that I look at it, there are actually 2 cones.  I guess it is like Ladies of the West End ... they wear hats (or used to) to functions. As I recall, one lady had a plastic fold-out rain hat tied over her colourful felt hat she was wearing.

On the plinth the bas-relief on one side of the base had an additional feature which one doesn't normally see.

These 2 shots were taken recently.  It shows the statue looking outwards (east) along Ingram Street  Queen Street Station is on the left.

In the name of progress, here is the Duke watching the demolition of the building opposite him on his left hand side (taken in September, I think).

Some of the newspaper headlines are really funny.  A Glasgow expression often heard is to do with one person asking another (say a wife saying to her husband who has moved the beach towel up the beach) "Ya Gonny No Do That?"!!   So one headline is (by the newspaper targeting the City Fathers), "Ya Coney No Do That?"! 

And ... in the end ... I see in the papers today:  they have withdrawn their plan.  

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


When trawling through some photos on my computer today I found a photo of Ishie taken 6.5 years ago.  I was struck how she looks like Harriet at the same age that Harriet is now (5  months). Both also have the same ... or similar ... character, i.e. like to be included in the chat, like to blether!

So which is which?

ANSWER:  Harriet is the top photo, taken today; Ishie's the bottom taken in the garden about May 2007.

Monday, 11 November 2013


Today is Remembrance Day.  A friend reminded today of a story of a violin that came my way some years ago.

Back in the days when I played the fiddle, I befriended an elderly gentleman who also played the fiddle. He used to work for the Glasgow Herald newspaper as a shorthand writer.  One day when we were practicing I made the mistake of picking up his fiddle instead of my own (after we had had a break for a cup of coffee). I asked him about his fiddle and he told me his story:

He was in the British Armed Forces unit at the end of the war en route to the interrogation of the imprisoned Camp Commandant at Bergen-Belsen.  Reference here:  The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945 by the British 11th Armoured Division. These interrogations were the job of the  Judge Advocate General (the legal advisor for the Armed Forces). I talk about it a bit here.

It was very bad weather and the truck in which they were riding (in the back, sitting under a tarpaulin cover trying to keep out of the rain) was struck by a tree branch which tore the cover.

He told me how they were diverted in the journey in order to take refuge in what turned out to be a girls' school.  He entered what looked like a music room but it has a mess.  Apparently the Allied forces had been through and wrecked the place, e.g. cupboards overturned, instruments and music in pieces everywhere.  He lifted one of the overturned cupboards and to his surprise found a violin case underneath, undamaged.  He decided to "rescue" it and took it under his arm back to the truck ... and eventually home to Glasgow.

And that was the violin he was playing and, indeed, the one he left me in his will. (I was told it was  "a Saxony violin of no particular value" when I had it valued some years later.)

Bill, for that was his name, told me how he was heckled by some wags as he prepared to board the ship home after they completed the work gathering statements for evidence of war crimes.  He said that he was walking along the quayside with this violin case under his arm (it was like a small wooden coffin in shape and had a brass handle on the top centre) when someone on the top deck shouted out for all to hear, "Here comes Orpheus and his Loot"!