Posted by: christinelaennec | August 29, 2015

Holiday on Harris, part 2

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments.  This past week has been very full.  The Dafter has continued to have ups and downs, but the ups include being able to study for, and pass, two tests.  This is something that she hasn’t been able to do since she fell ill (with ME/CFS) four years ago, so that is a wonderful thing.  I pray her progress continues.  We know very well by now that recovery is a complex process, and never a straight line upwards on a graph.

So here is the rest of our lovely week on Harris.  If you are interested in the islands, you will see more posts from other trips if you click on the Outer Hebrides tag, or Isle of Harris tag.

One evening there was a gorgeous rainbow:

A rainbow on the other side of the sunset. Isle of Harris, 5 August 2015, about 9:30 pm.

A rainbow on the other side of the sunset. Isle of Harris, 5 August 2015, about 9:30 pm.

And to the other side, the sun was setting:

Across from the rainbow, the sunset. Isle of Harris, 5 August 2015.

Across from the rainbow, the sunset. Isle of Harris, 5 August 2015.

It became a very beautiful sunset:

Rainbow colours in the sunset, 5 August 2015.

Rainbow colours in the sunset, 5 August 2015.

I took Gay to see the Stones of Callanish on the Isle of Lewis.  She loved the experience:

Gay at the Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis, 6 August 2015.

Gay at the Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis, 6 August 2015.

On our last morning, as per the Dafter’s request, we went “someplace old” – St. Clement’s Church at Rodel.  Although she has been there many times before throughout her childhood, she was able to appreciate it in a new way:

The Dafter in front of Alexander MacLeod's tomb at St. Clement's Church in Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

The Dafter in front of Alexander MacLeod’s tomb at St. Clement’s Church in Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

The medieval carvings are really something.  Strange to find such a thing on the Outer Hebrides.  I almost feel as if I ought to be in France…

Carving of an angel waving an incense censer on Alexander MacLeod's tomb, St. Clement's church, Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 Harris 2015.

Carving of an angel waving an incense censer on Alexander MacLeod’s tomb, St. Clement’s church, Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 Harris 2015.

The Dafter had had a very happy week.  She’d managed to walk from the car to the beach three times (three different beaches), had only had one day of resting at home, when she did a painting, and had seen her dear friend from Aberdeen, who was also on holiday there with her family.

The Dafter in St. Clement's Church, Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

The Dafter in St. Clement’s Church, Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

We were sorry to have to leave!

View from the tower of St. Clement's Church, Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

View from the tower of St. Clement’s Church, Rodel. Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

The Dafter took some “group selfies” in the churchyard:

family selfie, Rodel.

family selfie, Rodel.

Then we went to a place that is new since our last visit four years ago, the Temple Café in Northton:

The Temple Cafe, Northton, Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

The Temple Cafe, Northton, Isle of Harris, 7 August 2015.

The building used to be the MacGillivray Centre.  The café is so hipster, Gay thought she must be back in Seattle!  Excellent coffee.

The Temple Cafe, Northton, Isle of Harris.

The Temple Cafe, Northton, Isle of Harris.

Gay was fascinated to hear about William MacGillivray, who used to walk from Northton on the Isle of Harris, to Aberdeen to go to university.  He became an ornithologist and a friend of James Audubon.

Gay, relaxed and happy after a week on the islands.

Gay, relaxed and happy after a week on the islands.

It is amazing to think that he walked across Scotland like that on a regular basis.  He also walked to London, I believe.  We meanwhile, pampered 21st century travellers, set off for home in our car.

Near Bridge of Orchy, in the Highlands. 8 August 2015.

Near Bridge of Orchy, in the Highlands. 8 August 2015.

Once again we did the journey in two days, which was much better than 7 hours of driving time, plus 2 1/2 hours on the ferry, crammed into one very long day.  The very last part of our journey was marred by road closures due to a fatal accident on the A82 – we weren’t too surprised to learn afterwards that was a motorcycle accident, having seen many of them roaring past us.  Just awful for the people involved, and obviously the family of the person who died, who may just have been very unlucky, I don’t know the specifics.  It took us two hours to drive 7 miles along a very twisty two-lane road.  I’ve never driven so far in first gear, though we were stopped with the engine off quite a lot of the time.  The poor Dafter and Gay were really suffering, but we managed to get through, and get home.  I was just relieved it hadn’t happened on one of the other driving days, when we were under time pressure to get to the ferry, or to a hotel, by a certain time.

Tilly was very happy to see us, and we were happy to see her, and the garden:

The garden, with Gay enjoying the summerhouse. 9 August 2015.

The garden, with Gay enjoying the summerhouse. 9 August 2015.

I have been missing Gay’s presence very much, Michael has gone back to work, and I found out that my very sore arm and neck are probably the start of frozen shoulder.  I have a good osteopath who says it is treatable, so I will be seeing her every week for a while (and taking anti-inflammatories, much as I dislike doing so).  If left untreated I could be unable to drive, which would be a disaster for our family as the Dafter relies heavily on me to take her most places in the car (so that she can use what little strength she has for whatever the activity is).  On the plus side, choir practice has begun for the three choirs that I am in, and that is a joy.

The light is very definitely shifting now as the days draw in.  I heard the weatherman point out that between August 21st and September 21st the sunset shifts from 8:30 pm to 6:30 pm in Scotland.  I am still working, very slowly, on putting together my steeked jacket, and I need to make time for this during the day while the light is still fairly strong.

I wish you a great weekend!

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 22, 2015

August with Katharine Stewart

Gosh life has been busy lately!  Which – when I think back to the endless days of the Dafter being bedbound and so terribly ill – is great.  School started on the 13th of August here in Glasgow, and I am delighted to tell you that the Dafter has managed to go (part-time).  She had an amazing experience one day last week.  She was actually able to concentrate, take notes and learn new material for an entire class (1 hour 40 minutes).  She said it was incredible:  “I haven’t experienced that since I fell ill four years ago!”  We know that not every day will have such moments of health and mental clarity – this week she has also had some bad collapses, where she loses the power of movement and speech for a while – but it is wonderful to think and hope that the ME/CFS may be improving a bit.

We were all very sorry to see Gay leave this past week as well.  What a wonderful treat it was to have her here with us.

I will finish showing you about our trip to Harris, but first I’d like to catch up with Katharine Stewart’s A Garden in the Hills, which I had been following on my blog.  In between, I will show you how my garden looked this morning.

Lilies, my back garden. 22 Aug 2015.

Lilies, my back garden. 22 Aug 2015.

On July 26th, Stewart wrote about entertaining some unexpected visitors.  Living as she did in what had been the village schoolhouse, she was happy to welcome those who showed up to revisit old memories.  On this occasion, James and Peggy, who had been at school in Abriachan over 50 years previously, came by.

“I take them to the old schoolrooms.  They are quite overcome with memories.  Peggy disappears into the ‘infants’ room’.  ‘It’s still there,’ she calls in disbelief. ‘What, Peggy?’ ‘The hole in the floorboard where I dropped my slate-pencil.  Come and see.’  Sure enough, there is a hole in the floor, in the corner, by the window. ‘My!  What a row I got!  I can feel it yet.’ ”

Katharine Stewart made them tea, strawberries and cream, oatcakes and crowdie (a kind of homemade cottage cheese), and they ate outside in the garden.  “The noon sun shines on their faces and hands.  The meadow-scent rises from the warmed grass.  Suddenly a curlew swings int the air, above the moorland opposite.  Peggy gasps, stifling a cry. ‘A curlew… oh, I’m sorry, it makes me…’ ‘Now, now, Peggy.  You’re OK.’  She recovers at once.  James looks at me in apology.  ‘It’s so… bonny…here.  She…’  ‘Don’t worry.  I know how she feels.  Have you a garden at home?'” (p. 93)

It transpired that they only had a back court in the city where they lived, and so Katharine Stewart gave them a cutting of the wild thyme in a pot to take home with them, to remind them of Abriachan.  This essay so well explains how nature – birds, a garden, the feel of a place – can tap into our deep memories, and also bring healing.  (It also illustrates the famous British “stiff upper lip” whereby expressions of emotions were to be avoided – this has changed a lot in the past few years, I think.)

"Angels Choir" poppies and nigella "Persian Jewels". My back garden, 22 Aug 2015.

“Angels Choir” poppies and nigella “Persian Jewels”. My back garden, 22 Aug 2015.

In August of that year, Katharine Stewart “committed the unforgivable sin of setting off for a two-week spell”. (p. 95)  I was glad to know that even the most dedicated gardeners go on summer holidays!  And what did she do on holiday?  Visit other gardens!

Overflowing with sweet peas! 22 Aug 2015.

Overflowing with sweet peas! 22 Aug 2015.

Her first stop was Glasgow’s own Botanic Gardens.  She writes:  “A deep breath of grass-scented air and a chat with friendly gardeners and the chaos of the streets is distanced.  The great glass-houses with their displays of exotic plants are really not for me, but I find quite fascinating a bed showing the dates, back to the sixteenth century, when various flowers were introduced to this country.

Glasgow, the ‘dear, green place,’ has many little unexpected oases of greenery.  A ptach of grass, some flowering shrubs, a seat where, perhaps, a house had stood. … The gardens of Kelvingrove, [i.e. the Botanics] with the river running through, the pond, the glorious trees and the grass and the huge herbaceous borders make a place to spend at least one summer’s day.” (p. 96-97)

Foxgloves setting seed.

Foxgloves setting seed. I ping them over areas where I want foxgloves in bloom two years from now!

The next week, Stewart went to a place I have never managed to visit:  the Island of Gigha, off the Kintyre Peninsula on the West Coast.  Years ago, on a visit to Argyllshire, we drove down to catch the ferry, but we had just missed it and the next one didn’t arrive in time to see the famous gardens there.  Stewart explains:

“In Gigha, Sir James Horlick, fifty years ago [i.e. circa 1942], created the famous Achamore (Big Field) Gardens, to which I make instant pilgrimage.  His greatest passion was for rhododendrons.  These and other flowering shrubs are, of course, best seen in spring, when people from all over the world come to visit.  Thanks to the drift of the Gulf Stream and the shelter of mature trees many plants of all kinds grow happily here.

Borage and crocosmia by the pond.

Borage and crocosmia by the pond, with a few James Galway blooms off in the distance.

Once again shunning the exotica, I linger in the walled gardens; take shelter from the rain, with a friendly tabby, in a little old greenhouse.  When the sky clears I climb up to the viewpoint, where the hills of Islay and Jura and even the coastline of Ireland stand out miraculously blue across the blue water.  A memorable moment!

Back down the steeply winding path, where I hear busy bees foraging, I explore the named parts of the gardens – the Hospital Garden, not, as I first thought, a place for growing medicinal herbs, but a place where sickly plants are cared for, in the shelter of cypress hedges…” (p. 97)

Well, although most of my little back garden has been happy during this cold, wet summer, I have a few sickly plants as well.  You could call this my “Hospital Garden”:

"Falstaff" roses afflicted by mildew but blooming nonetheless.

“Falstaff” roses afflicted by mildew but blooming nonetheless.

When I realised that they were succumbing, I chopped back the plants in front of them, but perhaps for lack of sunshine this rose hasn’t really recovered.  I shall have to try to be more alert next year.  Still, it is undeterred in blooming!

On August 14th, Stewart was back to her garden in Abriachan.  “Weeds, weeds, weeds, of couse, have been having things their own way…. “The robin gives me a short burst of song – a lovely sound, but with a tinge of sadness, for it signifies the turning of the year.”  (p. 98)  It’s very true – and I discovered this a long time ago in my 23 years of living in Scotland – that the first signs of autumn come in mid-August.  For one thing, the nights begin to draw in.  At the summer solstice, June 21st, the sun sets about 11 pm at night or so.  But by the Autumn Equinox, September 21st, the sun will set about 6 pm.  It isn’t until mid-August that our long nights shorten noticeably every evening.

Some cerinthe blooming now that the lupin is finished and cut back.

Some cerinthe blooming now that the lupin is finished and cut back.

Here in Glasgow, some trees are already beginning to turn.  Most notably, the rowan trees.  Stewart wrote that her own rowan trees, that year, were bereft of berries.  “There is no shine of scarlet berries.  No rowan jelly, no rowan wine?  It’s unthinkable.” (p. 99)  That is an unusual occurrence.  This year, even our young rowan has berries – though the ones at the top of the tree have already been stripped by the birds.

Rowan berries on the tree.

Rowan berries on the tree.

On the 19th of August, Stewart travelled again.  This time she went to the coast (an inland firth) to gather seaweed for her garden – bladderwrack.  “My thoughts go back to the days of the ‘kelping’.  In the middle of the eighteenth century it was discovered thta the calcinated ash of the seaweed known as ‘tangle’ was rich in alkali, which was used for bleaching linen, an important crop at the time, and in the manufacture of soap…. It was extremely hard work and led to much suffering – rheumatism and pneumonia brought on by exposure to the cold and wet.  After the end of the Napoleonic wars cheaper sources of alkali were importaed from Spain and the kelp industry collapsed.” (p. 101)

The kelp she gathered would be put to use as fertilizer:  “The seaweed will be stacked, for digging in next winter.  I’ll chop some up to make activator for the compost heaps….  Out there, nearly covered now by the rising tide, is the outline of a crannog, a little man-made island where people once lived in happy retreat from the dangers of the world.  They probably ate the seaweed…  I must try a dish of it myself.” (p. 101)

Quaking grasses and daylilies by the summerhouse.

Quaking grasses and daylilies by the summerhouse.

On the 23rd of August, Stewart wrote about the “rain still falling relentlessly”.  That has, as you know, been the story of our summer in Scotland this year.  Unable to work outside, she plans to visit the garden centre in a nearby town.  She knows she will feel very overwhelmed by the many plants, seeds and tools.  “I shall wander around the outside section, looking quite longingly at flowering shrubs priced a long way out of my reach, consoling myself with the thought that they probably wouldn’t like the move anyway, repair to the café for a hot drink and come home loaded with catalogues to browse through and discard.” (p. 104)

And there we shall leave Katharine Stewart, and indeed my own little back garden, at what really feels like the end of summer – but there is autumn to look forwards to!  I hope you’re all having a great weekend.

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 15, 2015

Holiday on Harris, part 1

This was our first trip back to Harris after an absence of four years (the Dafter fell ill with ME/CFS just after we went in August 2011).  Prior to that we had been every year since 1996.  In the past, when we lived in Aberdeen, we used to leave very early and travel all day in order to reach the cottage by the evening.  The Dafter finds car travel very difficult now, so we’d decided to break up our journey into two days each way.  As it turned out, Gay has arthritis in her hips, and so this arrangement was far better for her, too.

After a night in the lovely Kintail Lodge Hotel, we took the afternoon ferry from Uig in Skye to Tarbert, on the Isle of Harris:

On the ferry from Uig, Skye, to Tarbert, in Harris. 2 August 2015.

Harris on the horizon!  On the ferry from Uig, Skye, to Tarbert, in Harris. 2 August 2015.

Michael took this great photo of the lighthouse on Scalpay – which I walked to on my solo trip in April.

Eilean Glas lighthouse on the Isle of Scalpay, seen from the ferry.

Eilean Glas lighthouse on the Isle of Scalpay, seen from the ferry.

The Dafter was deeply happy to return to her old haunts, and immediately reclaimed her usual bed at the cottage.  The next day we set out:

Sheep on the West Side of Harris, 3 August 2015.

Sheep on the West Side of Harris, 3 August 2015.

We had a wonderful time doing all the things we always enjoyed doing, starting with going to the beach.  The Dafter took her art supplies, and Gay and I did some shell-hunting.

Michael, with Isabel doing a pastel drawing. Traigh Iar, Isle of Harris, 3 August 2015.

Michael, with the Dafter doing a pastel drawing. Traigh Iar, Isle of Harris, 3 August 2015.  The standing stone on the hill was once the meeting place of Clan MacLeod.

The weather was a mix of sun, showers, mist, rainbows – all of it constantly shifting and changing.  (As the photos from Monday the 3rd show.) Gay was absolutely entranced by the colours of Harris:

Rain over Taransay, Traigh an Iar, Isle of Harris. 3 August 2015.

Rain over Taransay, Traigh Iar, Isle of Harris. 3 August 2015.

We had a beautiful afternoon at Rodel, where Donnie at the Rodel Hotel recognised us and was happy to see us again.  The chef kindly made chips for the Dafter!

The Dafter at Rodel Pier, Isle of Harris. 3 August 2015.

The Dafter at Rodel Pier, Isle of Harris. 3 August 2015.

Driving back up the West Coast, this viewpoint is the one we are lucky enough to have a Willie Fulton painting of:

Looking out past Seilebost beach to Luskentyre, with the hills of North Harris beyond. 3 August 2015.

Looking out past Seilebost beach to Luskentyre, with the hills of North Harris beyond. 3 August 2015.

After a rest, the Dafter was well enough to come back out to another beloved beach, Luskentyre:

Luskentyre beach, about 10 pm, 3 August 2015.

Luskentyre beach, about 10 pm, 3 August 2015.

The Dafter has begun using cuff crutches as a mobility aid, and these have been of some help.  She had worried she wouldn’t be able to do much on Harris, but although she needed to rest every day, and spent one full day in the cottage painting and resting, she was delighted to have the strength to walk to the beaches and to take other types of excursions with us.

Gay, who is a plantswoman, was astounded at the wildflowers on the machair.  Our first evening at the cottage, I mentioned to her that there were wild orchids near the sea, so she went for a little walk, and came back gasping with excitement at seeing three different varieties, “just right there!”

Wildflowers on the machair, Isle of Harris, August 2015.

Wildflowers on the machair, Isle of Harris, August 2015.

One afternoon we were able to visit Willie Fulton at Ardbuidhe Cottage Gallery.  He was sorry that the Dafter has had such a rough four years, but was very encouraging to her about her art and life in general.  She was happy to see him (and his wonderful studio) again, and Gay thought his and Moira’s work captured the beauty of Harris very well.

The Dafter and Gay in front of Willie Fulton's gallery, Ardbuidhe Cottage Gallery, Drinishader, Isle of Harris. 5 August 2015.

The Dafter and Gay in front of Willie Fulton’s gallery, Ardbuidhe Cottage Gallery, Drinishader, Isle of Harris. 5 August 2015.

We had quite a social few days at the cottage:  friends to tea, other friends to lunch, a friend of the Dafter’s came to stay overnight, and we had visits from and (for Gay and I) to our friend Catriona, whom I have written about before.  She’s now 80 and full of wonderful stories.  Gay found her absolutely delightful.

Boat of flowers, Tarbert, Isle of Harris. August 2015.

Boat of flowers, Tarbert, Isle of Harris. August 2015.

I’ll finish showing and telling you about our lovely holiday in Harris in my next post.

It’s been a busy week back in Glasgow, with various appointments, piles of laundry to do of course, and then Friday was the Dafter’s first day back at school.  She managed to stay for three hours, which is great.  Fingers crossed she can achieve her objective of studying two subjects this year (the rest of Art, plus Photography) – we shall see.  We’ve learned by now that health must come first, second and third, before anything else.

For Katharine Stewart fans, I apologise for being about a month behind in following her Garden in the Hills – I will return to that project.

I hope you’re all having a good weekend!

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 9, 2015

Floral blow-out!

We are not long back from a fantastic week on the Isle of Harris.  The Dafter was able to come with us, as well as Gay, and we all had a great time.  I will show you some photos once I get them – and the laundry – sorted out.  A few days before we left on holiday, the sun came out for a few hours in the morning.  It was incredible – and warm too!  About 18C/ high 60sF for a while.  I made the most of it in the garden.  The poppies have continued to bloom, both pink frills and purple ones:

Poppies! end of July 2015.

Poppies! end of July 2015.

The “Angel’s Choir” poppies are also blossoming, growing up through the Boscobel rose and the nigellas, which aren’t yet flowering:

"Angels Choir" poppies (with nigella not yet in flower).

“Angels Choir” poppies (with nigella not yet in flower).

Over by the summerhouse, the Crocosmia Lucifer is adding a splash of colour:

Crocosmia "Lucifer" by the birch-bark cherry; a low-growing daisy plant.

Crocosmia “Lucifer” by the birch-bark cherry.

All of it was so beautiful in the sun, so heady, that I went a bit wild and made three bouquets for the house:

Bringing the garden into the house!

Bringing the garden into the house!  Roses, sweet peas, carnations, marigolds.  So beautifully scented and enjoyable.  (Volunteer daisy plant in the background.)

I was very glad that I had done so, because by lunchtime the temperature had dropped back into the 50s, it was pouring again, and I had two sweaters, a shawl, and wool socks on.

Despite all the rain, the hydrangea in the front garden is giving us some lovely blossoms:

Lovely lacecap hydrangea in the front garden.  End of July 2015, Glasgow.

Lovely lacecap hydrangea in the front garden. End of July 2015, Glasgow.

The bees really love this plant.  It might provide me with flowers for the house during the winter – I remember my mother drying hydrangea and making bouquets from the dried blossoms.  Of course she had a dry basement to hang them upside down in, but perhaps I could find a way to do so here.  Hmm, I must give that some thought!  If you have tips on drying hydrangeas, please let me know.

Happy August to you all!  I hope you are making the most of your summer (for those fellow Northern Hemisphere dwellers), regardless of the weather.

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!

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 400 other followers

%d bloggers like this: