Posted by: christinelaennec | July 29, 2015

Snapshots

Gay has been here for a week, and we have had some very fun times.  Michael took last week off work, and looked after the Dafter, and Gay and I were able to gallivant.  Some snapshots:

It seems to have rained nonstop for the month of July.  We’ve had many, many days like this:

Rain, rain, rain!!!

Rain, rain, rain!!!

But the garden continues to delight:

Two beautiful, and very different poppies from the same batch of seed!

Two beautiful, and very different, poppies from the same batch of seed!

Gay and I had a sunny day for a drive northwards:

The chapel at Scone Palace, with statues of deer made out of twigs.

The chapel at Scone Palace, with statues of deer made out of twigs.

Gay was delighted by the peacocks at Scone Palace.

Gay was delighted by the peacocks at Scone Palace.

Scone Palace employee feeding the peacocks.

Scone Palace employee feeding the peacocks.

The Maiden Stone near Inverurie.

The Maiden Stone near Inverurie.

We also went to see Hill House in Helensburgh:

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House in Helensburgh, with the Clyde River beyond.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh, with the River Clyde beyond.

Gay, who is a very knowledgeable plantswoman and has a degree in landscape design and horticulture, has enjoyed seeing plants on our travels:

Plants in the greenhouse at Hill House.

Plants in the greenhouse at Hill House.

On another pouring wet day, we explored the Kibble Palace here in Glasgow:

Kibble Palace, Glasgow's Botanical Gardens.

Kibble Palace, Glasgow’s Botanical Gardens.

And on another pouring wet afternoon, the House for an Art Lover.

Gay in the garden at the House for an Art Lover, Bellahouston Park, Glasgow.

Gay in the garden at the House for an Art Lover, Bellahouston Park, Glasgow.

This bench at House for an Art Lover made me laugh!  Clever.

This bench at House for an Art Lover made me laugh! “Sabah Ghani loved sitting here… And still does thank to everyone who Stands Up to Cancer.”  Clever.

I am behind with my posts in parallel to Katharine Stewart’s essays, but I haven’t forgotten them.

I hope you are also having some happy and relaxing times this end-of-July!

Posted by: christinelaennec | July 21, 2015

Lots on the go!

Somehow it’s been ten days since I last posted.  Life has been full with one thing and another.  My internet life has been slowed down by computer problems, which are largely sorted now (knock on wood!).  I have several batches of photos from excursions to show you, but haven’t had time to sort them and put them into posts.  I will do, though.

Thank you all for your kind wishes about the Dafter.  She is feeling a bit less rubbish these days, which we are all so grateful for.  I’ve been taking her to appointments, and out to fun activities.  Some room-tidying and cleaning has also been accomplished over the last week.  The garden has given us armfuls of beautiful scented roses:

Roses from the garden!  Mid-July 2015.

Roses from the garden! (and a wet penny) Mid-July 2015.

I have managed to tackle a few of those paperwork jobs that must be done but require a bit of courage.  And I have begun assembling my New Leaf Cardigan, which I began at Christmastime in 2012!  This too has necessitated calm resolve.  It’s not the first time I’ve made a steeked cardigan (I’ve made at least three).  But it’s the most complex I’ve ever attempted.

Steeking...

Steeking… (and jigsaw puzzling)

Making the cut... one of them anyway.

Making the cut… one of them anyway.

Fingers crossed it will eventually turn into a jacket and not a pillow or something like that!  Do any of you knitters have suggestions for how to keep the hem from flaring out so much?  I have blocked the main body already.

The weather has continued mostly cool and rainy.  Sometimes very, very rainy – there were appalling flash floods in Perthshire a few days ago.  My little rain gauge shows we have had nearly 6″ of rain since the first of the month.

Just in the past few days, the garden has been much more green than colourful.  Not only is it quite bedraggled in the rain and the wind – lots of snapped stems – but it’s another in-between time.  The roses have finished their first flush of blossoms, with another set on the way.  Two kinds of poppies, and the nigella, are set to bloom but not yet in flower.  The Japanese anemone and buddleia are also poised to bloom.

Rose, Japanese anemone, miniature buddleia.  21 July 2015.

Fun to come:  rose, Japanese anemone, miniature buddleia. 21 July 2015.

I am really pleased with the cerinthe, which I sowed directly in the ground:

Starting at the back:  poppies coming up in between the branches of the rosebush; astrantia; Aberdeenshire poppies; cerinthe / honeywort. 21 July 2015.

Starting near the back:  Aberdeenshire poppies; astrantia; cerinthe / honeywort (purply flowers on grey-green leaves). 21 July 2015.

The bees are still very busy in the garden.  They particularly love the foxgloves, which have reached that rather comical stage of having flowers only on the tops of their spires:

By the pond:  foxgloves coming to an end of their blossoming time; crocosmia; James Galway climbing rose.  21 July 2015.

By the pond: foxgloves coming to an end of their blossoming time; crocosmia; James Galway climbing rose, a daisy plant whose name I can’t remember.  21 July 2015.

I spent a very happy morning doing some music filing for the choirs that I belong to.  I love having that little job.  Unlike so much in life, it is possible to Sort Things Out rather easily!

We have also been preparing for a very special visitor, who arrived safely this morning.  My dear friend Gay will be with us for a month.  I’ve known her since we were 10 and regular readers will remember that she was a lifesaver when I had to deal with the aftermath of my father’s death this past November.  The Dafter adores her, and she is the easiest houseguest ever.  I’m sure we will have some more adventures that I can share with you.

I haven’t forgotten my project to follow the year with Katharine Stewart.  On the 20th of July she wrote a beautiful description of an evening walk in a friend’s garden.  “We reflect on the amazing balance nature has perfected.  The frog, the ladybird, the bee, so many creatures are benefactors in a garden, working away quietly, minding their own business…

Strawberries always do well hereabouts.  Some years ago a Cornishman grew them by the acre, along with raspberries and daffodils.  He has gone but the daffodils survive, to cheer every spring.  We wander past the Himalayan poppies, the Peruvian lilies, yellow loosestrife and blue geranium, which I recognise as old friends from my border, to a path of bark chippings, edged by the most glorious massed deep pink dianthus. …

I gaze into the ravine.  The water foams white as it falls into smooth dark pools.  The giant oaks overhang it with mystery.  Druids must have been here.  Today otters travel up this way to the hill-loch, fox and pine marten have their territories mapped. …  It’s a garden after my own heart, full of sap and vigour, a haven for wild plants as well as wild creatures, with hidden corners and sudden, unexpected flowerings of shrubs and trees – lilac, bird cherry, rowan…  I walk home slowly, breathing in the cool, dusk air.  A few late swallows are flying high, forecasting another bright day.” (90-91)

The swifts (not swallows, a friend told me) were a common summer sight and sound in Aberdeen, but I’m not sure I’ve seen them here.  It has been such a terribly wet summer, perhaps their numbers, as with other birds, are down.  But I am very grateful for the silent workers in our city garden.

I hope you are all having a good week!

Posted by: christinelaennec | July 11, 2015

Sunshine shawl

First of all, thank you to everyone for your very kind comments about my last post!  They meant a lot to me.

And now for more knitting, and weather chat.  Our summer has continued to be cool, even for Scotland.  Mostly we’ve had temperatures between 8 and 16C / in the 50s F.  Two nights ago, it got down 2C / 36F in Tyndrum, in the Highlands.  That same night, Edinburgh had the lowest July temperature ever recorded in Scotland.  And as I write, it is raining…  So it’s just as well that I can have sunshine in knitted form!

Sunshine shawl (Love in a Mist by Boo Knits, using Silky Baby Alpaca sock yarn by Abstract Cat.

Sunshine shawl, photographed in a rare sunny interval.  (The pattern is Love in a Mist by Boo Knits, using Silky Baby Alpaca sock yarn by Abstract Cat).

In the above photo, you can just about see that it has small beads incorporated into the lace border.  (The neighbours must wonder why I occasionally come tearing out of the house, throw knitted garments onto the rose bushes, and start taking photos…)

Sunshine shawl over the clothesline.

Sunshine shawl over the clothesline, on one of our many dull days this summer.

Michael took a photo of me modelling it on Sunday afternoon, when the weather was pretty nice:

Worn with my Sunday-go-to-Meetin' clothes.

Worn with my Sunday-go-to-Meetin’ clothes.

Full details, if you’re interested, are on Ravelry here.

It was a fun project to make, and once again I say:  thank goodness for knitting!  I hope you are all having a very enjoyable weekend.

Posted by: christinelaennec | July 6, 2015

Knowing how to live each season

My title is a loose translation of a comment Annie left on my last post:  “il faut savoir vivre chaque saison”.  She was referring to gardening, but these words apply to so much more in life.  The Dafter has been going through a dip, which is not uncommon with ME/CFS, but it’s always worrying.

Rainclouds, Glasgow, 5 July 2015.

Rainclouds, Glasgow, 5 July 2015.

She had to come home early from a long-planned trip to see friends in Aberdeen, because she was so ill she could hardly walk.  Luckily she managed to get herself onto a train, and also luckily she has not been absolutely floored or discouraged by it.

The weather has been similarly unsettled, with dramatic clouds, downpours and thunderstorms.  We have also had beautiful sunny spells where the air is deliciously soft after the rain.

Green!  Early July 2015, Glasgow.

Green! Early July 2015, Glasgow.

Tall grasses, early July 2015, Glasgow.

Tall grasses, early July 2015, Glasgow.

Recently, I wrote a short story, for the first time in ages.  The Scottish Book Trust wanted stories of journeys, emotional or physical, so I wrote about the Dafter’s and my experiences in the past four years.  It was very good to remind myself of how far the Dafter has come.  The story is online at the moment; it’s called “Through the Valley”. Click here if you would like to have a read of it.

The Dafter celebrates the 4th of July in style!

The Dafter celebrates the 4th of July in style!

She was in great pain on Saturday, but decided to celebrate Independence Day, so got dressed and made up in red-white-and-blue!

The garden has been holding up pretty well in the downpours, so far:

Sunshine after the rain, 5 July 2015, Glasgow.

Sunshine after the rain, 5 July 2015, Glasgow.

It has been full of bees!  They just love the foxglove, and scabiosa / pincushion flower.  In her July 8th essay, Katharine Stewart wrote: “The wind is in the east now, which means a chance… of some sun.  The bees are encouraged, though warily.  They have a feel for the weather more accurate than that recorded by all the technology down south, and a solid instinct for survival.  This means that they’re having to consume most of what they make in order to stay alive.  There might not be much surplus this year, I’m afraid.” (A Garden in the Hills, p. 89)

The garden, Glasgow, early July 2015.

The garden, Glasgow, early July 2015.

I don’t know whether the bees will have a surplus (they mostly seem to be honeybees), but we are just very happy to help them along.

Canterbury bells, my garden, Glasgow, early July 2015.

Canterbury bells, my garden, Glasgow, early July 2015.

I adore the colour of the light blue canterbury bells.  It’s called “Cornish Blue” but seems much lighter than the blue of the Cornish striped pottery at any rate.  In the evening, in certain lights, the white and blue flowers look lit from within.

Brighter days are ahead!

Brighter days are ahead!

Thanks to everyone who has left good wishes for the Dafter.  She’s been managing to leave the house nearly every day, and makes the most of life regardless.  She truly knows how to “live each season” whatever it brings.

I wish you all a good rest of the week!

Posted by: christinelaennec | July 1, 2015

July!

Happy July, everyone!  Today we are finally having a summer’s day, with warm sunshine.  Yesterday it was warm and cloudy.  The Dafter has been going through a hard patch of being even more ill than usual, but I managed to get her out in the car, and we went for a short walk in Mugdock Park, to the north of Glasgow (in the town of Milngavie, pronounced Mul-GUY).  The pond was so still.  The reflections were beautiful:

Mugdock Park, Milngavie, 30 June 2015.

Mugdock Park, Milngavie, 30 June 2015.

In following Katharine Stewart’s A Garden in the Hills, I missed her essay of June 23rd.  It is fascinating, because she describes going for a walk on a midsummer’s evening – and falling asleep outdoors.

“I wander on, all sense of time forgotten, tiredness gone.  The night air is scented with bog myrtle.  Suddenly, there’s the sound so seldom heard these days – the vibrating sound of snipe rising. … It brings back memories of the days when all this ground was alive with birds – with nesting curlew and plover, with redshank, mallard and oyster-catcher and all the small summer birds.  Now the pattern of cultivation has changed so drastically we are deprived of these lives.

I reach the woodland by the loch. … I sit down in a natural hide of fallen branches.  The water is calm, reflecting the last tinges of yesterday’s sunlight, as today’s moves imperceptibly round by the north, hardly fading in its slow course. …

There is a certain eerieness about the water, lying there so still in the half light.  Could this be the calm before a storm?  I remember how certain of the older folk were reluctant to pass by the loch after nightfall.  Was there a kelpie lurking there in the peaty depths?  On this particular night the supernatural seems incredibly real.” (p. 85)

Boscobel rose, my back garden in Glasgow, 30 June 2015.

Boscobel rose, my back garden in Glasgow, 30 June 2015.

I know a man, now in his sixties, who says he saw a kelpie, or water-horse, while hill-walking.  Who is to say such things aren’t possible?

Tilly has the same slightly spooked feeling in the garden at 8:30 at night.  Do you see her looking back at me for reassurance?  The rest of the time she peered into the hedge.

Tilly keeps an eye out.  My back garden, Glasgow, 30 June 2015.

Tilly keeps an eye out. My back garden, Glasgow, 30 June 2015.  8:30 pm

Katharine Stewart fell asleep there by the loch.  “I draw a deep breath and close my eyes.  When I open them again the whole sky is suffused with pale pink light.  The water is still dark and smooth but, close at hand, a ripple is emerging.  Moments later a small dark head appears.  A miniature kelpie?  Of course not.  A sleek, dark body scrambles ashore and makes for the sandy patch where a burn enters the loch.  Totally unaware of me, the otter searches about for his breakfast, uttering soft whickering sounds, as though calling to his family.  …   As I reach the house the sun is climbing steadily into a sky that changes almost imperceptibly from pink to pale green, to deeper and deeper blue.  I look at the clock.  In human time it is still only a quarter past five.”  (p. 86)

Peony 'Kansas', my back garden in Glasgow, 30 June 2015.

Peony ‘Kansas’, my back garden in Glasgow, 30 June 2015.

What a beautiful experience to have!  If it were me, sitting out by the loch all night long, I would have been bitten to death by midges.  I am being bitten just out in the garden in Glasgow.  That sometimes happened in Aberdeen too.

Katharine Stewart wrote on the 1st of July, “A glorious morning leads in the month” and it is the same today.  After discussing her vegetable patch, she writes, “One wild flowering I’m missing this year is the white, silky heads of the bog cotton in the damp ground by the loch.  Some years it’s like a huge drift of snow.  A bunch kept in a waterless vase will last two winters through.  In older times the heads were used as stuffing for pillows.”  (p. 88-89)

Maybe it’s as well that every year gives us slightly different gifts, so we can appreciate what we might otherwise not.  The West Coast of Scotland has been so very wet this spring and summer, perhaps there will be plenty of bog cotton?  In another month we are due to go to the Isle of Harris as a family for the first time in four years.  I do very much hope the Dafter’s health will allow us.  Here in Glasgow, my rain gauge tally for the first half of 2015 is at more than 20″.  Is that a lot?

I wish you all a very good start to July.  It’s the full moon today, a propitious time.  Make a wish!

Posted by: christinelaennec | June 29, 2015

A blanket for a wee bairn to come

My yoga teacher is expecting her third child very soon.  When I heard this news, I thought I would try making her a crochet baby blanket.  I don’t normally like working with synthetic yarn, but in the case of a baby, acrylic yarn is a sensible choice.  I’ve always enjoyed looking at Lucy’s blog Attic 24, and I was inspired to order one of her “Lucy Packs” of yarn.

Crochet baby blanket:  The Granny Stripe blanket pattern by Lucy of Attic 24.

Crochet baby blanket: The Granny Stripe blanket pattern by Lucy of Attic 24.

I’m  fairly new to crocheting, and I’ve never made a blanket before either by knitting or crochet, so this was a gentle challenge.  I worked out that I could use half the pack, and have the other half of the yarn for a second blanket, for our little summerhouse or for picnics.  Full details are on Ravelry, here.

I started with a chain of 119; the finished size is about 40" x 40".

The finished size is about 40″ x 40″.

The only thing that was a bit difficult was negotiating the corners of the edging, because you don’t want too much edging and at the same time you have to add stitches so it doesn’t curl up.  I think it’s okay:

Corner.

Corner.

I hope she likes it, and I very much hope she and the baby fare well.

And now I am missing this project so much that I may just start crocheting the other blanket!

Posted by: christinelaennec | June 26, 2015

The Glasgow Necropolis

I began writing this post nearly two months ago, but have hesitated to post it because I’ve felt there’s been such a lot of sad news, close to home and far away.  I know from previous posts that I’m not the only one who finds graveyards fascinating and thought-provoking.  They make me aware of how precious my life is, problems and all.  But if you really don’t need a post about cemeteries, come back in a couple of days for a cheerful post about a crochet baby blanket!

At the beginning of May, I had the chance to visit the Glasgow Necropolis with a friend.  It’s a fascinating place, and even a couple of dozen photographs don’t begin to do it justice.  I have quoted from Ronnie Scott’s book Death by Design:  The True Story of the Glasgow Necropolis.  I’ll try to keep text to a minimum as I share with you what I saw:

Entrance gate

Entrance gate. Notice the Glasgow City coat of arms in the middle of the globe.

The Glasgow Necropolis was opened in 1833.  The Greek name “necropolis” (City of the Dead) reflects the Greek Revival fashion that was all the rage at the time.  Once through the entrance gates, you walk down a path past the Cathedral.

Walking down the path, past the Cathedral.

Walking down the path, past the Cathedral.  They cut the stone wall open in places so that those going to the cemetery would have a visual link “to the heritage and values of the ancient High Church”. (Ronnie Scott, Death by Design, p. 35)

The path takes you across a bridge.  The bridge now crosses a road, but in former times the Molendinar Burn ran down the valley (very similarly to the Denburn Valley next to Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen).   Scott writes:  “The journey over the Molendinar reminded many Christians of the River Jordan, which separates the wilderness of the world from the Promised Land.” (p. 36)

Glasgow Cathedral on the right, the bridge leading across to the hill where the Necropolis is situated.

Glasgow Cathedral on the right, and if you look closely you can see the bridge leading across to the steep hill where the Necropolis is situated.  Trees are planted either side of the bridge.

The hill the Necropolis is on is very steep indeed.  Looking up:

Wending our way up the hill.

Wending our way up the hill.

We walked past the grave of the man who composed “Wee Willie Winkie”.  He died penniless but his friends and admirers raised this monument to him (Scott, p. 49):

Gravestone of the writer of "Wee Willie Winkie".

Gravestone of William Miller (1810-72), the writer of “Wee Willie Winkie”.  The harp carved on the top of the memorial signifies that he was a poet.

Looking across to the side of the Cathedral.

Looking across to the side of the Cathedral.  You can see the road that lies over where the Molendinar Burn once flowed (or perhaps still flows underground).

The very first grave was that of Joseph Levi, who was buried in the Jewish part of the cemetery in 1832.  The Jewish community had bought this part of the cemetery in 1830. The Necropolis was designed from the beginning to accommodate those of all faiths, but its layout “can be seen to mirror the social or class distinction of the city in the nineteenth century.  Only the truly elite were allowed to be buried on the summit of the hill, near to the monument of John Knox.” (Scott, p. 6)  It is significant that the Jewish plot is at the very bottom of the hill.

Looking down towards the Jewish part of the cemetery.

Looking down towards the Jewish part of the cemetery.

We came to an amazing and famous grave, that of the Queen of the Gipsies:

Gravestone of Corinna Lee, Queen of the Gipsies.

Gravestone of Corlinda Lee, Queen of the Gipsies.

Inscription

The bronze plaque has been stolen from the monument.  The inscription reads:  Corlinda Lee, Queen of the Gipsies, Beloved Wife of George Smith, who died at 42 New City Road, Glasgow on the 28th March 1900 aged 68 years, and lies here beside her beloved son Ernest.  Her love for her children was great, and she was charitable to the poor.  Wherever she pitched her tent, she was loved and respected by all.”

Scott says nothing more is known about her.  He also doesn’t mention or explain the many coins shoved into the cracks of her monument:

Coins placed in the cracks of the monument to the Queen of the Gipsies.

Coins placed in the cracks of the monument to the Queen of the Gipsies.

Not all the coins are old, or British.  A few shiny 5 p pieces.

Not all the coins are old, or British. A few shiny 5 p pieces.

I would be very curious to know what that is all about!

Looking towards the statue of John Knox at the top of the hill; ivy.

Looking towards the statue of John Knox at the top of the hill; ivy.

Going further up the hill, you reach a kind of avenue of family crypts.  People were understandably worried about grave-diggers and robbers, and wealthy families could afford to build locked crypts for their deceased loved ones:

Starting to walk up an avenue of family crypts.

Starting to walk up an avenue of family crypts.

Some of these have been restored, and the ironwork repainted:

Beautifully painted grillwork on a Neo-classical crypt.

Beautifully painted grillwork on a Neo-classical crypt.

More interesting ironwork.

More interesting ironwork.

My friend and I peered into one; you can see us reflected in the granite.  It reminded me of the scene in The Sound of Music where the Von Trapps hide in a crypt!

Looking into one of the crypts.

Looking into one of the crypts.

I really liked this monument to an actor.  It depicts a theatre in the middle, with Comedy on the left (though the statue has been taken away) and Tragedy on the right:

Monument to an actor.

Monument to John Henry Alexander, actor and theatre manager.

The inscription is touching, and I think reflects what we often say now when a public person dies, namely that their most important role was as a friend and family member:

Inscription.

Inscription on the monument of John Henry Alexander.

The views from the Necropolis are pretty stunning.  You can see in almost all directions:

Amazing views out across the south side of Glasgow.

Amazing views out across the south side of Glasgow.

Necropolis.

Necropolis, looking west again (green roof the Cathedral and its spire visible).

My friend explained to me some of the symbols that the Victorians – so fond of symbolism! – used on graves. A broken column and an upside-down torch both signified that the person had died before their time:

An upside-down torch apparently signified a life cut short too soon.

An upside-down torch apparently signified a life cut short too soon.

Most of the large monuments were to men, but this one to Agnes Shaw caught my attention, because I didn’t see any others with the likeness of a woman on it:

A woman's gravestone with her likeness - I didn't see any other likenesses of women on my walk.

Agnes Shaw’s gravestone with her likeness.

As is usual in Scottish graveyards, women are identified by their maiden names.  I’m told that a few generations back, women were known to each other by their maiden names long after marriage.

Vandalism was in evidence in some sad ways throughout the Necropolis, as in all cemeteries.  Neglect and vegetation are taking their toll.  Ronnie Scott describes the various agendas that people have concerning cemeteries, from the family history buffs who come to read the names and inscriptions, to the nature-lovers who want to make sure habitats are protected. “People with an overriding interest in health and safety would like to see all the monuments laid flat so that no one can be injured by falling stones.” (p. 27)  This may sound ridiculous, but very sadly a boy was killed recently by a toppled gravestone here in Glasgow (albeit not in the Necropolis).

I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m glad it isn’t my responsibility!  But I was amused by this graffiti:

Appropriate graffiti:  "And life goes on."

Appropriate graffiti: “And life goes on.”

When I’m wandering around a graveyard, I often think of a story told by Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking.  A very unhappy man came to see him, convinced that his troubles were insurmountable and the worst in the world.  To give him some perspective, Peale asked if he would like to go to a place where no-one had problems.  He said indeed he would!  Well, of course that place was the cemetery.

I will end with a quote from Ronnie Scott’s book that involves graffiti.  On a gravestone is carved:  “Remember, man, as you pass by, / As you are now, so once was I: / As I am now, so you must be / Therefore prepare to follow me”.  Beneath, in chalk, someone had written:  “To follow you, I’m not content / Until I know which way you went.” (p. ix)  Typical Glasgwegian banter!

References are to Ronnie Scott, Death by Design:  The True Story of the Glasgow Necropolis, Black and White Publishing, 2005.

Posted by: christinelaennec | June 22, 2015

Summer solstice, and Father’s Day

We had a lovely week in April, and a lovely week earlier this month (by lovely, I mean temperatures reaching the low 70sF / 22C – nice and warm for here).  But the past week has been very chilly, cloudy and damp.  I made the mistake last Thursday (June 18) of wearing mid-calf jeans to go on an errand across town.  I had shoes and socks on, about two inches of bare leg exposed, a wool cardigan, a wool/silk scarf, and my hooded jacket. By the time I got home I was so chilled that I had to warm up with plenty of blankets and a hot water bottle!  So everyone has been complaining about the autumnal weather.

Yesterday was the summer solstice, which, given the swings of light that we have here in Scotland, is very meaningful to people.  “Soon the days will be on the turn again” you hear.  Many people have been feeling a bit cheated of our mid-summer, as we have had very few summer nights where the sky is clear and you can sit outside.

The back garden is flowering despite chilly weather.  21 June 2015.  Photo taken about 9 pm I think.

The back garden is flowering despite chilly weather. 21 June 2015. Photo taken about 9 pm I think.

Of course it has been light late, but because of the clouds it hasn’t been light as late as we would like, or with that magical quality of light that is so special here.  However, we can’t have it all our way, and if every summer solstice were reliably bright, we would never appreciate it when that does happen.

About 20 years ago there was a Midsummer celebration in Abriachan.  Katharine Stewart writes about young people from Scandinavia building “the christianised version of the maypole”.  (p. 82, A Garden in the Hills)  She writes, “I remember how wise the early chistianisers were to take over pre-christian customs – the veneration of wells, for instance – and this, the acknowledgement of the power of the sun to bring out life in everything on earth – humans, animals, plants.  In northern lands in particular the warmth and light of the sun are valued above all else.  …

Now… the light is at its zenith.  In the Scottish Highlands the sun was venerated well into Christian times.  It is said that, even barely a hundred years ago, old men in the Islands would uncover their heads when they first saw the sun in the morning.  In the evening, at sunset, they would again remove their head-covering and bow their heads to the ground, and say a prayer –

I am in hope, in its proper time,
That the great and gracious God
Will not put out for me the light of grace
Even as thou dost leave me this night.

… [that evening] To the music of fiddle and pipe we dance round the garlanded pole, holding hands and singing.  The words may be Swedish or Danish, Norwegian or Scots.  We all follow the gist and the tune.  Some of the children do an action song. … Song after song and dance after dance we do, till the sky miraculously clears and the sun gives us a farewell gleam, almost as though on cue.  The western sky will scarcely have faded when the east will begin to shine.” (p 82-83)

Father's Day bouquet, 21 June 2015.

Father’s Day bouquet, 21 June 2015.

As well as being the summer solstice, it was Father’s Day.  I was able to make a nice bouquet for Michael, with our roses, some catmint and astrantia.  He enjoyed his cards and presents, and we were glad to thank him for all he does.  Later he and the Dafter went on a bike ride!  She is at school this morning, with achey legs but at least achey in a good way rather than from ME pain.  School finishes this week, for six weeks.  And then, regardless of the weather, it really will be summer!

I wish you all a good start to your week.

Posted by: christinelaennec | June 15, 2015

For the love of bees

Katharine Stewart began her June 15th essay by remarking:  “Another summer day to celebrate!”  And we have been doing the same.  Last week was really glorious, til about Friday lunchtime when it got a bit chilly again.  But we have had lovely hours of summer weather over the weekend, and certainly the warmth has brought things into bloom.  Even with a chilly spring, Glasgow is ahead of Aberdeen.  I don’t think I ever had a rose bloom before the very end of June in Aberdeen.

"A Shropshire Lad" rose, Glasgow,14 June 2015.

“A Shropshire Lad” rose, Glasgow, 14 June 2015.

Most of her June 15th essay Stewart devotes to bees, and how precious they are to her.  She wrote:  “Every day I walk up … to inspect the hive.  Every day I hope to find the happy, busy flying of bees in and out.  There are bees flying, but not in the numbers expected at this time.  They won’t be swarming, that’s one thing sure.  A swarm in June is ‘worth a silver spoon,’ the old saying goes.” (A Garden in the Hills, p. 81)

A busy bee!  14 June 2015, Glasgow.

A busy bee! 14 June 2015, Glasgow.  (I’m not sure what kind of bee this is.  Not a bumblebee I don’t think?)

She writes, “Some years ago I had several hives and could happily give swarms to neighbours.  Today the important thing is to keep my few precius bees alive.  I remember the time when they died, unbelievably, in early summer.  To work about the garden with no humming of bees brought such a sense of unreality and loss that I scoured the countryside looking for someone’s surplus hive, begging for a swarm.  Eventually I found a beekeeper with a nucleus for sale. … They’ve adapted and built themselves into a resonable colony now and are a most precious asset.  I’ll slip another chunk of last year’s honey into the hive to make sure they don’t starve.  It seems absurd to be feeding bees in the summer, but the weather has been so unpredictable – snow in May and gales and heavy bursts of rain – that the good has been largely washed out of the flowers.  The late flowering plants may have escaped and the heather is still to come.  So we still hope there may be a little surplus honey for our winter toast.” (p. 81)

"Guinée" rose, Glasgow, 15 June 2015.

“Guinée” rose, Glasgow, 15 June 2015.

I do garden with the bees in mind, although my English roses are not much use to them.  But I encourage the foxglove, and other open-petalled blossoms such as the native calendula.  I’ve planted a cotoneaster, which is still small but which bees love.  And of course, we’ve planted clover in our lawn for them.

The Dafter and Michael have become interested in bees.  A few years ago in Aberdeen, when I was tending the church garden, there was a nest of bumblebees inside the tool shed.  The Bumblebee Conservation Trust told us how to move them to a place that was safer for them and us.  Michael did the job, as I was too nervous.  We didn’t have any specialist equipment, we just tucked his jeans into his socks and covered him as well as we could.  He picked up their nest with a shovel, oh so gently, and transported it to a safer spot.  The bees were all around, but never stung him.  He just loved it!  He said – and he is not one given to using New Agey phrases – that they had “a lovely energy”.

The Dafter has been wanting to get a bee house for the garden, possibly one for solitary bees.  We will have to find out a bit more about it – where to put such a thing, for example.  Do share your expertise with us! (Carin!)

Guinée indoors.

Guinée indoors.

In my garden in Glasgow, I have planted eight English roses, kept two old tea roses, and I planted one old climbing rose, Guinée.  This deep red rose has a scent that is just out of this world.  I wish I could make a smell file for you!  It was bred in 1938 in France, and apparently is attractive to bees.  Why did I choose this rose?  Because there is one in a garden I’ve known for years in Aberdeen, the much-loved garden of a dear friend.  So it’s a little bit of Aberdeen in my garden, a link to a part of my life that has continued on, in different ways, in this new place.

I wish you all a good start to the week.  And I wish a Happy Birthday to my Granny tomorrow, bless her.

Posted by: christinelaennec | June 11, 2015

A lovely afternoon in Pollok Park

Thank you for the kind comments on my St. Columba’s Day post.  It is bedtime and I ought not to be blogging, but I just couldn’t resist showing you what a gorgeous afternoon it was today here in Glasgow.  After so much cold weather, we have been favoured with several days of sun and warmth.  It made the news this evening in fact!  They said the top temperature in Glasgow was 22C/72F but our car said 24C.

The Dafter didn’t have school today, a welcome rest for her.  In the afternoon we visited the enormous Pollok Country Park.  It is so big (361 acres) that, although you are right in the middle of the city, you can’t tell.  We walked along the river that flows behind Pollok House:

The Dafter taking photos of the river.  Pollok Park, Glasgow, 11 June 2015.

The Dafter taking photos of the river. Pollok Park, Glasgow, 11 June 2015.

It was great to see her able to enjoy the cool shade of the trees and the beautiful river, without the wheelchair or the walking stick:

Photographer at work.

Photographer at work.

A weir, Pollok Park, Glasgow.  11 June 2015.

A weir, Pollok Park, Glasgow. 11 June 2015.

Such clear water!

Such clear water!

We both find old graffiti very touching:

Names carved in trees along the path.

Names carved in trees along the path.

Everyone was out enjoying the weather – babies and grannies and all in between:

River running through Pollok Park, just beyond the end of Pollok House garden.  Glasgow, 11 June 2015.

River running through Pollok Park, just beyond the end of Pollok House garden. Glasgow, 11 June 2015.

The house, which belongs to the National Trust for Scotland, was built in 1752:

Pollok House, Pollok Park, Glasgow.  11 June 2015.

Pollok House, Pollok Park, Glasgow. 11 June 2015.

If you walk down these steps, you are just by the river and the bridge.  Beyond lie acres of land:

The Dafter standing on the bridge you see two photos up.

The Dafter standing on the bridge you see two photos up.

Before we left to come home, the Dafter suggested we take a selfie together:

Mother-daughter selfie in front of a wall of clematis.  Pollok House, Pollok Park, Glasgow.  11 June 2015.

Mother-daughter selfie in front of a wall of clematis. Pollok House, Pollok Park, Glasgow. 11 June 2015.

She is still quite pale compared to her weather-beaten old mother, but not as pale as she was when she was mostly bedbound and housebound just over a year ago.  We both reflected on how the silver lining to the cloud of her illness has been the happy times that we get to spend together.  She has a much better balance in her life these days, because she has friends and activities of her own now, but we still enjoy our jaunts and chats together.

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