Posted by: christinelaennec | June 7, 2014

May’s diaries get a fresh airing

About a month ago, our family had a very different kind of afternoon than usual.  A makeup lady and a photographer spent the afternoon with us.  The photographer was extremely kind to the Dafter, showing her the equipment she was using, and explaining things as she worked.  The makeup lady was, to my relief, not interested in making me look like someone else – she didn’t even ask me why I don’t dye my hair!

Makeup lady touching me up!

Makeup lady touching me up!  Photograph by the Dafter, who was making me laugh.

And why all the fuss?  Because a journalist had interviewed me about my great-granny May’s diaries.  You can read more about them by clicking on the tab “May’s Diaries” in the header, or at the top of the sidebar.  There are also links at the top of the sidebar to four pages of photographs. (Or you can rush out and buy a copy of the July Prima magazine, in the UK.)

I’m pleased by how it turned out.  The journalist, Mel Fallowfield, spent a lot of time talking to me, and reading through the piece over the phone before she submitted it.  The photo of me is fine, too.  I think I look recognisably like myself, although as if made up for a party that I’m a little bit frightened of attending!

Prima magazine, July 2014.

Prima magazine, July 2014.

(There’s just one error – May was in Northern California and not North Carolina; I think that might have been a copy editing glitch as Mel was scrupulous about checking the facts.)

I was very pleased to have the chance to tell the story of May’s diaries again.  I think she would be amazed at the coverage they’ve received since I published them four years ago!  The Prima article is really interesting.  As well as the story about me “meeting” my great-granny through her diaries, there’s the story of how a writer used her teen travel diaries to inspire her novel, and about a woman who is keeping diaries about her children, to give them when they are older.

Personally, I’m an incurable diary-writer, and I also love to read other people’s (published!) diaries.  I wonder if keeping a diary is more of a rarity in this day and age?  I know some people keep blogs as a kind of diary, but to me a diary is essentially a safe and private place, where I can be completely honest about anything that I’m thinking, feeling and experiencing.  I do actually go back and re-read my diaries from time to time, as well.  Sometimes I think, “Wow that was an incredibly tough time, how did I ever manage to get through that?!”  Sometimes I’m aware that my point of view has changed, or that I can understand a person or situation better now than I did at the time.  But mostly I just enjoy savouring, once more, happy times with family and friends.

Do any of you keep a diary?  Do tell all!

Posted by: christinelaennec | June 3, 2014

The Roman Baths in Bearsden, Glasgow

I’m happy to tell you that the Dafter’s health is improving!  The other day we were able to leave the wheelchair at the gate and go on foot to explore and photograph the Roman Bath ruins.

The Dafter on her feet!  May 2014.

The Dafter on her feet! May 2014.

These ruins are in a northern suburb of Glasgow called Bearsden.  (I have no idea whether there were ever bears here.)  This bath house served a barracks or fort located along the long wall called the Antonine Wall.  The Antonine Wall was built in about 140 A.D. by Emperor Antoninus Pius, and it marked the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire.  Even on a pleasant day, it’s hard to imagine the Romans not feeling a little bit chilly all the way up here!

Roman ruins, with wheelchair left at the entrance. May 2014.

Roman ruins, with wheelchair left at the entrance. May 2014.

The soldiers weren’t just having cold baths, though – far from it.  The bathhouse was pretty sophisticated, with hot rooms using underfloor heating, a hot and dry room heated by a furnace, a cold room and also a cold bath.  And did I mention a large changing room?  Probably without lockers, though.

Roman ruins, Bearsden, Glasgow.  May 2014.

Roman ruins, Bearsden, Glasgow. May 2014.

We had such a nice time, exploring and trying to imagine Roman soldiers in this place, so very long ago.

The Dafter at the Roman ruins, Bearsden, Glasgow.  May 2014.

The Dafter at the Roman ruins, Bearsden, Glasgow. May 2014.

Below you see the semi-circular cold bath, with a bench running along the side.  It does kind of give me the shivers to think actual, real people like us (or probably not very like us) sat there at one time!

The hot bath??

The cold bath

Historical places do have that somewhat shivery effect on me.  Which is silly, because actually almost every place you can go is a “historical place” insofar as it has some kind of history.

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 31, 2014

Maytime in Glasgow

Here we are at the end of May!  I have been so delighted by the springtime.  Here in Glasgow, the month of May has been what June always meant to me in Aberdeen in terms of when things are in flower.  We’ve had some lovely days, with temperatures in the 60s, which the weatherman says is average, and a few in the low 70s, which is warm for here.  Here are some of the things I’ve enjoyed in May.  Laburnums (we had one in our front garden in Aberdeen):

Laburnum tree, Glasgow.  May 2014.

Laburnum tree, Glasgow. May 2014.

Clematis alongside azaleas:

Clematis & azalea, Glasgow, May 2014.

Clematis & azalea, Glasgow, May 2014.

Lovely rhododendrons:

Rhododendron, Glasgow, May 2014.

Rhododendron, Glasgow, May 2014.

Trees filling out more each day:

Glasgow, May 2014.

Glasgow, May 2014.

And – roses!  Now, in Aberdeen none of my roses (except for Maigold, the yellow rose in the photo below) ever bloomed before the end of June.  More often they bloomed at the beginning of July, and many’s the time I took a bouquet of my garden flowers on holiday to Harris with us because I was determined to enjoy them.  Here in Glasgow, roses have been blooming since mid-May!

Roses in bloom in May.  Glasgow, May 2014.

Roses in bloom in May. Glasgow, May 2014.

Glasgow, May 2014.

Glasgow, May 2014.

The hawthorn trees seem far taller than any I was acquainted with in Aberdeen, and their scent has been delicious.  The few degrees difference from Aberdeen must bring out the scent.

Hawthorn, Glasgow, May 2014.

Hawthorn, Glasgow, May 2014.

And the lilac has been a delight.  White, pink, purple – and also beautifully scented:

Lilac, Glasgow, May 2014.

Lilac, Glasgow, May 2014.

Now at the end of May, the lilacs are fading.  In the park, there is new life.  Ducklings:

Ducklings in the park, Glasgow, end of May 2014.

Ducklings in the park, Glasgow, end of May 2014.

All month long I have been watching the swans nesting in the pond there, and just in the past few days twelve cygnets have hatched.  Yesterday they were guarded by their mother, some next to her and some underneath.  The gulls that inhabit a different part of the pond would gladly have the cygnets as a snack:

Mama swan with cygnets, Glasgow end of May 2014.

Mama swan with cygnets, Glasgow end of May 2014.

Very sadly, Daddy swan was killed a few days ago in an encounter with an unleashed dog.  He was defending his unhatched offspring.  Signs have been put up warning dog owners to keep their dogs away from the pond, and people visiting have been very sad that Mama swan has lost her mate for life.  It is sad, but I’m sure that in the natural world father swans occasionally die defending their broods.  At least our father swan has many mourners besides his immediate family.

I wish you all a great weekend!

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 28, 2014

An hour in Edinburgh, May 2014

Let me continue, in my out-of-order fashion, to tell you about my day in Edinburgh.  In between our special breakfast and meeting up with Aberdeen church friends at Heart & Soul, I found myself with a bonus, totally free hour in Edinburgh.  When you’re a parent-caregiver, such events are rare and very delicious, but it was especially so as we hadn’t been sure we could even go until the night before.  And the weather was perfect as well!

I’d galloped from the restaurant to Waverley Station to see Michael safely on the train back to Glasgow.  From there, I climbed up the Scotsman Steps, which a friend had shown me.  There are many stairways, tiny steep streets and passageways in Edinburgh.  It’s a fascinating city and there is so much to discover.  This stairway is distinct in that it was redone as an art project a few years ago.

View from the Scotland Steps across Waverley Station to the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh.  May 2014.

View from the Scotland Steps across Waverley Station to the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh. May 2014.

The artist Martin Creed clad each step and landing in a different colour of marble:

The Scotsman Steps, Edinburgh.  May 2014.

The Scotsman Steps, Edinburgh. May 2014.

The ironwork and other parts of the stairway were also refurbished:

View from halfway up the Scotsman Steps, Edinburgh.  May 2014.

View from halfway up the Scotsman Steps, Edinburgh. May 2014.

Why are they called the Scotsman Steps?  Because they lead up to the Scotsman building.  This is where The Scotsman newspaper used to be published:

The Scotsman building, at the top of the Scotsman steps.  Edinburgh, May 2014.

The Scotsman building, at the top of the Scotsman steps. Edinburgh, May 2014.

From there I walked a wee ways up the Royal Mile.  Do you see the white and black cupola?

Name of this street?

Looking up the Royal Mile, Edinburgh.  May 2014.

That is the Camera Obscura – a most ingenious invention.  We went there years ago when the children were young, and it was great fun.  You can spy on people walking past, a kind of 19th-century CCTV.

Instead of walking further up the Royal Mile towards the castle, I jogged over a bit and went down the beautiful Victoria Street:

Name of this street????

Victoria Street at the top, West Bow at the bottom

This street, which changes its name half-way down to West Bow, is full of interesting shops.  A bookshop:

caption?

bookshop on Victoria Street

The bookshop was closed for lunch when I was there, which may be just as well because I might never have gotten any further!

There was a very attractive shop specialising in mugs and teapots:

Need a new teapot?

Need a new teapot?

And a beautiful shop selling some very modern designs in Harris Tweed:

Shop with interesting tailored Harris Tweed clothing

Shop with interesting tailored Harris Tweed clothing

And lastly – you will be astonished to learn – I just happened to find myself at a knitting shop.  Quelle surprise!

K1 knitting shop, Edinburgh.  May 2014.

K1 knitting shop, Edinburgh. May 2014.

K1 Yarns is a small but lovely knitting shop.  They specialise in Scottish yarns, and it was lovely to see how many different wools are produced in this country.  There was a knitting group meeting and I would have loved to join them.  Did I buy wool?  Well, yes – but not for myself, so that doesn’t count!

It was, as you can see, a beautifully sunny day.  I did notice a cool East Coast breeze that reminded me of Aberdeen in similar weather.  And then it was time for me to grab a bite to eat and head over to meet my friends at Princes Street Gardens.  So that was my bonus hour in Edinburgh:  a lovely, lovely treat.

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 25, 2014

A special breakfast in Edinburgh

Why am I smiling so widely in this photo?

Big smile!

Big smile!

Yes, it’s partly because I love pancakes and maple syrup, with good coffee.  Michael and I had breakfast last Sunday morning at Bistro Moderne in Edinburgh.  It is a very pleasant place, in a former Art Deco-era bank building:

Bistro Moderne by Mark Greenaway, Stockbridge, Edinburgh.

Bistro Moderne by Mark Greenaway, Stockbridge, Edinburgh.

Michael and I weren’t altogether certain, because of the Dafter’s ongoing ME/CFS, whether we would make the trip or not.  But the night before, she said I Will Be Fine! so we left her sleeping, with breakfast ready on a tray, and we caught an early train to Edinburgh.  And look who was helping to prepare my pancakes:  Our Son!

Our Son makes our breakfast!

Our Son makes our breakfast!

Clearly all those Sunday mornings of making waffles and pancakes during his childhood paid off!  Our Son was so happy that we were able to come see him at work.  And we were very proud of him indeed.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, served on beautiful pottery and china.  It’s a very nice restaurant, just a few minutes’ walk from Princes Street.  I’d definitely recommend it.

As we’d come early on a Sunday morning, before the place got really crowded, he was able to slip outside for a couple of photos:

Photo with Dad

Photo with Dad

photo with Mama

photo with Mama

It was fantastic to see him.  After we parted, I galloped back to Waverley Station with Michael, to see him safely on the train back to Glasgow.  I then found myself with an unexpected slice of time before rendezvousing with friends and going to Heart & Soul – but I will tell you about my gift of an hour in Edinburgh in my next post.

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 22, 2014

A Church of Scotland shindig in Edinburgh

Last Sunday, I spent the day in Edinburgh, which is about an hour’s train ride from Glasgow.  One of the things I did that day was to attend a Church of Scotland event in Princes Street Gardens, called Heart & Soul.  I thought some of you might be interested to see it, and to know a bit more about the Church of Scotland.

This celebration (the first one was in 2011, which I posted about here) takes place on the first Sunday of the week of the General Assembly.  It happens in the building known as the General Assembly Hall, which is on the Mound in Edinburgh.  As you probably know, Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland.  It’s where the Scottish Parliament building is.  While the Parliament building was being built, the Parliament met in the General Assembly Hall (as well as in other parts of the country).  So the General Assembly’s actual location is a central one within Scotland:

Church of Scotland Assembly Hall, on the Mound in Edinburgh.

Church of Scotland Assembly Hall, on the Mound in Edinburgh.

Not far from Edinburgh Castle:

Looking over to the castle.

Looking over to the castle.

I’ve written before about how the Church of Scotland is the national church.  The entire country (and Scotland is a very large country, geographically speaking) is divided up into presbyteries.  Each presbytery is divided up into parishes.  This means that wherever you live, you are within a parish of the Church of Scotland.  It also means that wherever you are, there is a church which (in theory at least – I know there are different interpretations!) you can request to carry out a baptism, a marriage, or a funeral.

Walking down into Princes Street Gardens

Walking down into Princes Street Gardens

While the Kirk isn’t the major cultural force that it once was within Scottish society, it still is a very important national institution.  People are interested in the decisions made at the General Assembly, which is covered every day by the BBC and now broadcast online.  Representatives from churches across the land come to debate various decisions every year.  This year two hot topics of debate are the Independence Referendum in September, and the ordination of gay ministers.

I found it interesting that the Queen herself recognises the influence that the Church has within Scotland.  She wrote a letter to the General Assembly, appealing for it to “heal divisions”.  (BBC report here.)

Heart & Soul 2014, in Princes Street Gardens, below Edinburgh Castle.

Heart & Soul 2014, in Princes Street Gardens, below Edinburgh Castle.

In welcome contrast to the debates and discussions taking place above the Gardens in the General Assembly Hall, the Heart and Soul celebration in Princes Street Gardens was very informal.  In common with the overall work of the General Assembly, there were many different points of view and priorities represented by those attending.

People coming into the East entrance of the event.

People coming into the East entrance of the event.

There were various stalls, giving information about the work that the Church is doing in Scotland and the wider world.  The Church has a very important social care branch, which runs care homes and various programmes throughout the country.  These include initiatives such as centres that help rehabilitate people with addictions, school, workplace and prison chaplains, and much more.  There were also a number of stalls representing intiatives that the Church of Scotland is a partner organisation with.

Kilts on hand!

Kilts on hand!

I was thrilled to see (and smell) the lilacs in bloom, and the setting of the stage area really can’t be rivalled:

The bandstand area of Heart & Soul 2014, below Edinburgh Castle.

The bandstand area of Heart & Soul 2014, below Edinburgh Castle.

There were four different stage areas, and so much to see and hear.  I met up with friends who had come down from Aberdeen, and we went to see the choir of the East Africa Presbyterian church perform.  They even managed to get us all on our feet and singing some African songs!

Singers from East Africa Presbyterian church performing.

Singers from East Africa Presbyterian church performing at St. Cuthbert’s church

We stopped for a “cuppie” and as we left, spotted a special car:

Ultra fancy car and security Land Rover parked by St. Cuthbert's.

Ultra fancy car and security Land Rover parked by St. Cuthbert’s.

Every year, the Queen appoints a representative to come to the General Assembly.  This person is called the Lord High Commissioner.  This year the Queen appointed her son, Prince Edward, as her representative.  I wrote here about the very nonchalant reception Prince Edward had when he came to open the refurbished His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen.  There was a bit more of a buzz at Heart & Soul surrounding his and his wife Sophie’s presence.

He was preceded by a soldier in full regalia (and surrounded by the usual fairly discreet security men):

A man in full regalia (not sure which though).

A man in full regalia (not sure which though).

And he stopped to talk to people as he passed:

Prince Edward, this year's Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly.

Prince Edward, this year’s Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly.

Sophie (the Countess of Wessex to give her her proper title) met some of the children.  One little girl that I know was just home from a holiday in Florida, where she had met lots of princesses at Disneyworld – I wondered whether she understood that this nice, normal-looking lady was a real member of royalty?  Perhaps not!

One church was doing a very funny dance, and my friend Nomie (in purple) joined right along:

Fun and games!  A sing and dance-a-long.

Fun and games! A sing and dance-a-long.

They were very entertaining!

At 5:00 people gathered around the bandstand for a worship service.  It began by a procession of banners, one from each presbytery in the land.  The Church of Scotland also has presbyteries in England (I think there are two Churches of Scotland there) and in Europe.

Procession of flags from each of the presbyteries in the country at the closing worship.

Procession of flags from each of the presbyteries in the country at the closing worship.

I had to leave early to catch my train, but as I walked up to the top terrace to make my way out of the Gardens, I was surprised at how many people were standing and singing along with the hymns.

Closing worship (I had to leave a bit early!)

Closing worship (I had to leave a bit early!)

So that is a little bit about the Church of Scotland, and about my visit to Heart & Soul 2014.  It was great to see my church friends from Aberdeen there.  This time I was home long before they were, but I’m sure they had some good laughs on the bus trip up the road.

I’ll show you a bit more of my day in Edinburgh in my next post!  I hope your week is going well.

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 17, 2014

And the winner is…

The Dafter helped me with this evening’s giveaway draw.  I made slips of paper all the same size, wrote all the entrants’ names on them, and put them into a bowl:

All ready for the draw!

All ready for the draw!

With great concentration, she chose one of the slips of paper:

picking

And revealed the winner!

We have a winner!

We have a winner!

Congratulations, Deborah!   I will be emailing you very shortly to ask where I should send the little parcel of Harris-related goodies.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  I wish I could send each one of you something!  I hope you’re all having a good weekend.

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 16, 2014

Morning service at Govan Old church, Glasgow

I know not everyone is as keen on church as I am.  But if you are in Glasgow, and the idea of a short morning service (20 minutes) appeals to you, let me recommend Govan Old church.  The services are held in this lovely little side chapel:

Govan Old church, Glasgow.

Govan Old church, Glasgow.

You walk past some of the many amazing carved stones to go into the chapel.  This is the Govan sarcophagus:

Govan Old church, Glasgow.

Govan Old church, Glasgow.

My photos aren’t the best, but you can see the Celtic knotwork:

Govan Old church, Glasgow.

Govan Old church, Glasgow.

Govan Old has been a place of worship for centuries, and I wrote a little bit about the Govan stones here.  As a churchgoer who has some insight into the work involved in putting on a weekly service, I think it’s wonderful that the people of Govan Old hold a short service every weekday morning.  It is (for me) a beautiful service, sometimes taken by the minister, sometimes by others.  There is such a sense of peace in this service.  I find the atmosphere hard to describe.  All are welcome, and you can have a cup of tea afterwards.

By the way, I’ve worked out how they say the Lord’s Prayer so quickly here in Glasgow – a few of the churches actually use a different and shorter version of the one I’m familiar with.  So it isn’t just the speedy Glasgow patter.

There are various ways to get to Govan Old church.  In the summertime, you can take a ferry from the Riverside Museum! The Govan Stones website has a good information page here.

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 13, 2014

Meeting a friend

On the 1st of May, my friend Tina and I met up in Aberdeen.  I was so happy that our planned meetup actually happened, as her father had been very unwell.  I first met Tina in blogland, and then met her In Real Life along with Jill of Land of the Big Sky, at a Bloggers’ Tea Party two years ago.

Tina travelled down from north of Aberdeen, and we converged at Aberdeen Railway Station in the late morning.  I had – unusually! – spent the entire 2 hour and 45 minute journey from Glasgow talking to a man across the table.  He was changing trains at Aberdeen to visit his mother up north, and was very concerned about her.  I knitted and we chatted, and the time flew by.  He mentioned someone that he knew in that corner of the world, and I noted the name – it turned out that this person is someone Tina has known for years!  Small world – or perhaps, a small corner of a small world.

It was very, very cold that morning and I was glad I’d worn my winter coat.  But spring was very much in evidence in Aberdeen:

Back in Aberdeen!  And glad to have my winter coat on.

Back in Aberdeen! And glad to have my winter coat on.

I think the cherry trees were in blossom a few weeks earlier than usual.  It was a treat to see them out.

Tina and I had lunch at a new restaurant I’d read about on Laura’s blog:  Foodstory.  Tina had a salad, and I had spicy Thai lentil soup with huge slabs of homemade bread.  Then we moved on to the Art Gallery, where Tina kindly came with me to visit my favourite painting there:

Tina, next to Winifred Nicholson's Sweetpeas, Honeysuckle.  Aberdeen Art Gallery, May 2014.

Tina, next to Winifred Nicholson’s Honeysuckle and Sweetpeas. Aberdeen Art Gallery, May 2014.

I really love Winifred Nicholson’s paintings, and indeed I find her outlook on life fascinating.  She is best known for her paintings of bouquets of flowers on a windowsill with a view behind.  She regularly travelled to the west coast and islands of Scotland with her friend the poet Kathleen Raine, and like many painters enjoyed the changing light of the landscape.  She continued to be fascinated by light throughout her career, and experimented with prisms towards the end of her life.  She did some amazing paintings of rainbows created by prisms.  She was a deeply spiritual person and chose to stay away from the artistic limelight.  She lived mostly in Cumbria.  She took care of her parents for many years, raised three children by herself, and worked with local women who did rug-hooking.  I feel she was so unfettered by conventional ways of thinking about things!

After Tina caught her train back north, I had a bit of time to myself.  I was happy to see the supply ships all parked in the harbour:

Ships in the harbour, Aberdeen, May 2014.

Ships in the harbour, Aberdeen, May 2014.

I met up with a church friend, and then, fortified by more tea, I was on my way back to Glasgow.  It was a beautiful evening:

North Sea coastline just south of Aberdeen, from the train.  May 2014.

North Sea coastline just south of Aberdeen, from the train. May 2014.

On my trip back I once again had a chatty man sitting across the table.  He landed with a clink, having just come from working offshore and already a bit merry from his tins of drink.  He immediately tried to strike up a conversation, but when  I didn’t readily engage in conversation (in the friendliest possible way), he said, “Don’t worry, I’m harmless!”  I assured him I was too, and returned to my crochet.  After a while he fell asleep, and I relished the time alone, crocheting, looking out the window and just having time to think.

North Sea coastline coming into Lunan Bay.  May 2014.

North Sea coastline, coming around Lunan Bay. May 2014.

How I love this train journey!  Later on there was a spectacular sunset, which I didn’t manage to capture on camera.  The sky looked like an endless cloth of deep magenta flecked with purple, hung across the heavens.

And then I was home again, so happy for having been back in Aberdeen for a little bit, and having reconnected with friends.

I hope you’re all having a happy start to your week!

P.S.  If you haven’t already entered, and would like a chance at a small selection of goodies from the Isle of Harris, I’m doing a draw this Saturday, May 17th, at 7 pm GMT.  Just leave a comment here.

Posted by: christinelaennec | May 11, 2014

Blossom time in Helensburgh

Recently I had the chance to go to Helensburgh, just when the cherry blossoms were at their best:

Cherry trees in Helensburgh, late April 2014.

Cherry trees in Helensburgh, late April 2014.  I believe this is looking up James Street.

Helensburgh is west of Glasgow, on the north side of the River Clyde, which becomes very wide as it flows to the sea.  You can see the town of Greenock on the other side of the Clyde:

Blossoms in Helensburgh, with the River Clyde beyond.  Late April 2014.

Blossoms in Helensburgh, with the River Clyde and Greenock beyond. Late April 2014.  I think this is Colquhoun Street.

It was a warm morning, and such a pleasure to walk along under the beautiful trees:

Argyle Street, Helensburgh.  Late April 2014.

Argyle Street, Helensburgh. Late April 2014.

Argyle Street, Helensburgh.  Late April 2014.

Argyle Street, Helensburgh. Late April 2014.

It felt like being in a fairyland!  When we were still living in Aberdeen, we came to Helensburgh for a long September weekend, and I blogged about that here.  I’d heard that Helensburgh was beautiful at blossom time, and now that we live much nearer, I wanted to see it for myself.  I wasn’t disappointed!

If you’re interested in entering my little Isle of Harris giveaway, you still have nearly a whole week in which to leave a comment.

A Happy Mother’s Day to my American friends, and to everyone, I hope you’ve had (or are having) an excellent weekend.

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