Tuesday, 15 August 2017


A new book is due out this week:

MacCloud Falls by Alan Jamieson*

The following article by Harry McGrath is in this week's Scottish Review of Books.

The novel is set "in British Columbia [where] he focusses** on the province’s Scottish connections, First Nations’ land rights, illness and Burns." 

The main character is "an antiquarian bookseller from Edinburgh who has taken a Greyhound bus to a small town in interior British Columbia ...." He meets a girl when his flight from Scotland stops over in Calgary.  The above full length article traces how he uses historical people and places to create his narrative.  

Fascinating!  I recognized so much of it! 

The Edinburgh Book Festival is on all month so no doubt the 'Bookshop' tent will have a copy. It's a good job I did not articulate my complaint of that Book Festival!... namely that it is a huge marketing exercise where one can never get a ticket to hear a speaker/meet a writer in the small-audience tents.   Now here I am wanting to get the (very convenient Milngavie to Edinburgh) train simply to make a purchase in their huge-bookstore tent!

It reminds me of Banksy's 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' (which relates to art galleries).  How about 'Enter Through the Book Shop'? Yes, as I recall, it is, indeed, located at the one-entry-point-only entrance of Charlotte Square where the Book Festival is annually held.


*Publisher: Luath Press Ltd   ISBN: 9781912147076  320 pages.

** I would use 'focuses' but never mind!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


Over the years I have observed creeping Americanization in its many forms, e.g. clothing (baseball caps, T shirts) but language is the one that intrigues me the most.  To be fair I have been using American, i.e. North American, turns of phrase for all of my 50 years living in the UK. I use them without thinking. Indeed, nowadays so many of these phrases are global. 

One particular phrase that has become common now is the greeting "Hiya".  It used to be more used by children and is a good example of this cultural change.

However the other day I confess that I was quite taken aback with a brief encounter locally! I had parked my car in a British Rail car park and had gone into the station to hand in some brochures and was returning to my car.  Next to my parked car was a family getting out of their car preparing to head to the train.  As I approached my car the father and his 2 little boys passed by me.  Then behind them came mother. The wee boys were skipping about and my attention was vaguely on them, I suppose.  I was aware of the mother coming towards me but was not looking very high off the ground. When she was shoulder to shoulder with me I heard this cheery greeting .... "Hiya!"  I looked up to respond and only then noticed that she was veiled, wearing what I see is called a 'niqab'.   I found the whole encounter curiously odd, i.e. the juxtaposition of a throwaway familiar greeting from a person who was totally  'unfamiliar'.


It's been wet for the most part this summer.  For sailors that is not a problem; all they want is a fair wind.  To that end Iain has been away with friends for one week sailing.  

Here they are on their return Saturday when I drove to Kip Marina to collect them using Iain’s big ‘sports car’ *.     The couple are Peter and Dilys Macdoanld who live in Gairloch.

The Good News:   they had reasonable weather and fair winds and visited many remote anchorages full of wildlife, feather, fur and fin.

The Bad News: Nearing the end of their week’s holiday Iain fell in the cabin in rough seas and cracked a rib in his back, right side.  It is similar to incidents before…  oh dear!  :-( 

He is fine, except that he is now grounded in base-camp again and forced to take life very gently.  Fortunately, life is quiet at the moment (except for yet another funeral!) so we are at home and sit in the garden when the sun shines.

 Lovely weather for ducks   Photo by Jan Piecha, Flickr

Two weeks ago I headed to Giffnock to visit some friends. It had been raining with sudden heavy showers.  At a point in the road en route to their house, the road dips and rises again.  I came upon a ‘lake’ where the water had collected in the dip in the road.  Cars coming toward me had stopped to consider this flood; it looked like the water level could be up to the underside of one’s car.  With a line of cars behind me and also beside me, all stopped, thinking “Oh hell!  What is to be done here?!”  I took a decision as if I was in deep, or at least, deepening, snow. I put the car into 1st gear, stepped on the accelerator and headed steadily into the water…. a slight pause midway …. kept my nerve and up … up … up and out the other side.   Phew!   I certainly am my father’s daughter when it comes to handling cars!   When I got home I said to Iain that I was very impressed with that VW Golf!  I checked the brakes afterwards… OK.  A very good little car!

Monday, 17 July 2017


Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie! 

I am truly sorry
The roads department left ye
A trap ... of tar
Melting in the hot sunshine
Sludged in the corner
Of a car park.

You alighted on it
And it was your undoing.

A snow-scapper 
From the back of the car
Helped to extricate one foot
Then the other
So you could flap, flap, flutter
To the nearest bush
To die
Shackled in asphalt.

*** With apologies to Robert Burns 'To a Mouse'!!

Friday, 14 July 2017


July is jam-making time and I simply cannot kick the habit! I couldn't go by tubs of jam berries in the supermarket (which are labelled 'Less Than Perfect' and sell for a reduced price)  without buying a couple of tubs plus a bag of sugar (1 kilo bag = 2.2 pounds).  I buy 3 containers which totals about 2.2 pounds and put everything in the stainless steel pressure cooker pot as in photo below, lower left.  Happiness if putting the cooling jam pan on the garden table and spooning the freshly made 'prize' on to some scones.

Iain recalled me doing a similar exercise on the boat about 20 years ago when I took the berries, the pot and the sugar aboard the boat so as not to miss the jam-making season!

One thing I learned today (as I have made several 2.2 pound batches now): don't add pectin.  Just leave the jam in the pot overnight and look at it in the morning.  I had to do this out of necessity... I didn't have any jars!... and the jam in the morning was absolutely fine.  Yes, a little sloppy but gelatinous enough to pass muster as far as I was concerned.  And, of course, the flavour is wonderful.  Scottish berries are very, very tasty.  None of the big, fleshy tasteless ones that get served on high prices desserts with cream that gets scooshed out of a can.

And on my way back to the car with my basket of berries I spotted the local heron, often seen in this location, through the walkway bars!  He looks like he is missing a few wing feathers.

July is also for roses.  Possibly they are at the height of the season just now ... lots of blooms and very showy.

Thursday, 6 July 2017


The summer days continue with a variation of grey sky and no rain to grey sky with rain.  Occasionally the sun comes out so it is a matter of grabbing 'summer' in snatches.

Everything is growing a lot.  In 'snatches' I manage to keep on top of the jobs - quite satisfying.  I also notice that the soil is improving now that a few years have gone by.  

The roses in particular have been big, blousey and abundant.  They are in a sunny corner and have stood up well so far.

Here is a photo of the orchid that appeared in Anne's garden.  I've made several attempts to photograph it but each time the breeze gets up or the sun goes behind a cloud.  I never realized it was so difficult!

Another summer snatch: the day declared itself - steady rain.  I got out the jars and filled them with beet and apple chutney.  Maggie's recipe.

Having burned my potholder on the gas hob I found this funky oven glove in the Oxfam shop.  Harriet will love it.  She's always keen to make something so this will be one for her on our next baking session. 

 * * * * * * * * *
Another candidate for inclusion in my 'Book of Bad Design'  - DYMO KITCHEN SCALES

These are my kitchen scales.  I had to move over to digital as I couldn't find any old fashioned ones (that were robust) when wishing to replace my old weighing scales.

The scales measure in both metric (grams) and avoirdupois (ounces and pounds).  I regularly use both so am always having to change.  The problem with the design of these scales is that it is almost impossible to see the 'unit of measurement' text  (OZ  or GM)  in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

What I do is take the scales to a strong light and tip it so I can read the OZ  or the GM text in the upper right corner.  To change is easy; punch the kg/lb button which operates as a toggle switch.

Sunday, 2 July 2017


Yesterday, July 1st, was Canada Day which marks the anniversary of the formal coming together of Canada's provinces and territories into a 'nation'.  This all happened 150 years ago.

Fifty years ago was the 'Centennial Year', namely 1967.  Yes, it was a big year but it also reminds me that 6 weeks after finishing university I headed east over the Rockies to Montreal Expo and then flew to London and finally on to Glasgow. (These were the days when flying was a big deal - I recall feeling the need to wear smart clothes.)

Fifty years later and I am still here!

 ... which is why I really could not let the day go past without some sort of 'statement'.

I invited some neighbours in simply to raise a glass (Canada Day means absolutely nothing to Brits) and then tuck into some baking using the seasonal bounty from friends' gardens.

When Iain returned from sailing with John in Skye he brought back zucchini from Roy and Irene's garden in Gairloch and peas from Ilona's polytunnel.  Growing fruit, veg ... anything ... in northwest Scotland requires tenacity so I greatly appreciate what has been brought home hastily stuffed into a sailing bag.

These 'cupcakes' are a variation on carrot cake, i.e. made with zucchini and limes and supposed to have a marscarpone with lime juice icing.  (Note to myself: Stina's recipe)

A neighbour thoughtfully tried to bring a 'national flower of Canada'.  (Is there such a thing?!)  What she had in mind was this:

pasque flower ... which is the provincial flower of Manitoba. Nice... but I had never heard of it!  Not able to locate such a rarity in this part of the world she brought a fuschia which I shall plant in the garden and enjoy seeing from the kitchen window.

 And finally my other neighbour gave me one her gernaiums which was crowding out the bench in her greenhouse.  (Iain hates geraniums ... too many memories of highland homes with front porches lined with pots of geraniums cheek by jowl on the window ledge!)  She knew I liked pink so we can now both doubly enjoy it perched on a low wall in its passionate pink plastic tub.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


It's mid-summer.  The skies are grey but there is colour if you go looking for it.
Harriet and Ellie help to make a Spiderman chocolate cake ... Smarties being a dominant feature.

Raindrops on roses

 Wedgewood Bizarre Clarice Cliff plaates in local Oxfam shop.

 Wooden spoons in Provand's Lordship, Glasgow.

 Anne's Orchid found in the garden ... Lesser Butterfly Orchid? 

VW at local vintage car show

Thursday, 22 June 2017


Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger was a German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter, notable for creating abstract musical animation many decades before the appearance of computer graphics and music videos.

I know this because Google has done a Doodle:

I clicked on it and made my own which is this:


Amazing! I love it!  It's really a 'riff'.

I will call it Flutterings ...  after the pigeons in George Square last week.

 Fischinger image Wikipedia.

Saturday, 17 June 2017


I was in the city centre of Glasgow today.  Absolutely buzzing!

Glasgow Art School's Final Year Show is on.  Here are some eye-catching textile dispalys; names to watch out for.

 Poppy Tuckley
 Katie Connell
Becky Moore

 A sculpture made of reeds.  It's a high heeled shoe... quite clever!

George Square had this crane hoisting a table full of folk.  People were queuing to be seated around the 22 seated 'bar' and were being served something fizzy in tall glasses.  Then once strapped in the whole 'table' was hoisted 100 feet into the air.

Well ... whatever turns you on....

 Apparently it's a pop-up restaurant:

"THE HIGH LIFE Sky restaurant ... is set to welcome first diners this weekend – Punters will be fastened into their seats as they hover above the city while enjoying a selection from some top restaurants." [ Sun newspaper].

The Victorian statues in George Square are oblivious of the sky hoist event...

Clive of India must be turning in his grave

Sunday, 11 June 2017


Cherries (really, any of the soft fruits) can sometimes gives me a problem in my old age living in the UK.  It comes  from growing up on what they call in Britain a "fruit farm'.  We had an orchard.  We grew apples and cherries (in the North Okanagan, British Columbia. It was too far north for peaches, apricots and pears but they were a-plenty in season.)

These seaonsal thoughts come about because I had a recent conversation where I was being 'enlightened' about cherries. I thought to myself "D'ya know... I could write a book about cherries!" 

In fact, it reminds me of  Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blizen's book Out of Africa where her opening line is:

"I had a farm in Africa..."

Yes, I would start the book

"We had an orchard." 

Maybe I should stick to painting ... like this one:  

However here is my treat to myself today:

The first of the season's cherries 'Giant Prime',  very fresh, which came from Spain (don't think about the air miles!). They are not Okanagan, but never mind ...  plus some roses from the garden and a glass of wine courtesy of Mairi.

And here is one of my favourite old photos (early 1970s).  It is our cherry stand on the Trans-Canada Highway. Plywood sides, cardboard containers holding 25 cents a pound fruit and wee new baby Kim in the weighing scales next to the area where we washed and patted dry the cherries before filling each box on the scales.   Would those be my mother's roses in the lower right triangle shape in the photo?  (People used to remark on those roses as much as the fruit, as I recall!)

Happy Days!

Saturday, 10 June 2017


The end of an eventful week. The election is over and we can all get back to normal... whatever that means.

Time to look on the bright side ... which means getting a laugh from the wee ones. i.e. the 2 Munchkins.
Harriet (4) and Ellie (2) were here this week for a few hours.  They are quite close and will stand up for each other if scolded by me.   They made me laugh:

Harriet must have been trying to get Ellie to do something without a lot of success and was getting exasperated:  "C'mon Ellie!  Make an effort!" in a Mummy tone of voice!

When we visited Alastair in New Jersey last month he was proudly showing us his new 'toy'.  It was a 3D printer.  He demonstrated the technology by printing us a house number from the plastic raw material which gets squirted out on to a platform located in a large printer box unit.

So Iain got them mounted today.

Talking of printers we both headed out to the local retail park to purchase a new printer.  It is one we are going to share. 

The young lady assistant was very helpful e.g. pointed out that I will now be able to print out images straight from my iPhone. 

While waiting for the card to process the purchase she asked, by way of conversation,  "Are you up to much today?"

I had to chuckle to myself as we live a very quiet life and I am sure most folk would answer along the lines of "We're going to do some more shopping" or whatever.  I just replied that we were heading home for a quiet afternoon in the garden.

However  I got thinking about that phrase.   I think I only ever use it in the  negative form, i.e. "I've not been up to much these days."  I don't think I have ever used it the other way around.  M-m-m-m ... but, yes, here is another way I would use it, also in the past tense:

"Been up to much lately?!

Pair of Mandarin Ducksy by Baresi Franco, Wikipedia


Friday, 9 June 2017


Iain and I were saddened to hear from Alice that Dick had died (May 23, 2017). He was a legend in his own lifetime.  We both have memories of him which I have grouped into several categories: photos, stories, poetry.

The images are high res and all are in my possession (UBC memorbilia and Christmas cards).

[1] Some photos ...

 Christmas card 1972

  Christmas card 1971

 Christmas card 1969  "Steck & Hagen Waddington in winter"

Christmas card 1971 "Mt Augusta St Elias Range"

[2] The stories ...

When Iain came to Vancouver from Scotland in 1966 he lived with Bob Cuthbert and mates on West 11th.   There were lots of stories of climbing, climbing with Dick and also of Dick's 'first ascents'.

Iain recalls the fellows lamenting at that time that there were only a few 'first ascents' left that could be done from Vancouver in a weekend!  

Around about 1968 or 1969 we visited Dick and family in Alberta.  On that occasion Dick told us a story about when he had had a confrontation with a grizzly.  He had a gun and used it.  Iain then asked Dick "Do you still carry a gun?"   "No. I lie down behind a log (or whatever) and play dead."

The next day we were sitting in the airport awaiting our flight east when a fellow sitting back to back with us got up and came around to say hello.  It was Ian Stirling (VOC).  He was getting on the same flight east.  We sat together in a 3 seater row and Ian told us stories of his work with polar bears and, yes, he had had also had an encounter with a grizzly bear.  And, yes, he echoed Dick's strategy (play dead behind a log) and ... was alive to tell the tale.  

[3] The poetry ...

I was in awe of Dick from my very first meeting of him in the VOC hut on a Thursday (in the period 1963-67).   I recall being impressed that he had written a book [Climber's Guide to the Coastal Ranges of British Columbia which came out in 1965].  I had never met anyone who had written a book and was very struck by the brain of the man!

Over the years he was back and forth to the house on West 4th.  One memory I have is being on the phone one night anxious about their return from a night 'adventure'.  Let's just say it involved a concrete structure ?North Shore (as opposed to a campus building)!

In 1966 I offered to be the VOC Journal Editor.  Either Dick offered or I asked (can't recall which) but we got talking about the fact that he wrote poetry. I was mightily impressed, again, with the brain of the man!... a very 'deep' person, I remember concluding.

And that is how his poems went into that 1965-66 VOC Journal.  Those were the days when one (by that I mean me) typed every page.

He eventually had a collection published in 2009 and this is my copy as given to Iain and I when we visited him on the Sunshine Coast around that date.  He signed it with a nod to "The Good Old Days"!