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Monday, 6 October 2014

Doune again

Hey!  Sorry I have been MIA yet again!  My sister is prodding me.  She's fed up logging in to the same page all the time, so time to do something about it.  Things just fill up my days.....

OK, let's see what I can write about today.  I have lots of photos of things that have been happening, and probably the best thing is my recent visit back to Doune  in Knoydart for the annual lacemaking week!  Yes, that time again!

0005 Gripper.and.GavinWe gathered once again at Mallaig one Saturday afternoon in September; were met  by Gavin, the boatman, and taken over Loch Nevis,in the boat Gripper II and round the coast of Knoydart to a very misty and dark looking Doune.

Always good to be back again, and almost immediately cares and worries seem to melt away, and it’s all peace and tranquility for a whole week.  P512 the lodgeWe all got settled in our respective accommodation: some of us in the wooden lodge in its own little bay round the headland a little, doune stone lodgesand others in the stone lodge rooms right next to the dining room where we, obviously, have our meals, and also make our lace.  P1090768We had time to relax in the lodge sitting room before dinner, and just enjoy being back.  As always, dinner was wonderful and we were to find ourselves being used as guinea pigs for some new recipes!  P1090673Everything that is cooked in the Doune kitchen is so good, that there are never any worries about things not working out!  It was dark by the time we headed back along the path to bed but we are all used to that and are kitted out with torches, as it isn’t just dark, it is  black dark!  The only lights are little pin pricks from the scattered houses P538 Sabhal Morand the Gaelic college across the water on the south end of the Isle of Skye.  Little did I know that three of my friends had individually booked into the college on Gaelic courses!

Next morning we were all ready to start lacemaking.   Out came the pillows, the solid type of cushion things that the lace is made on, the bobbins, threads and pins, and we were off!  Here are some of the lovely things being worked on this year.P397 Joan's lace

P398 Sheila's Lace




Joan and Sheila work on beautifully fine Continental lace – I think this is of the type called Binche (French pronunciation where the IN is a bit of a combination of IN and UN with a nasal N!).  Margaret was working a piece of English lace called Buckinghamshire Point lace (Bucks, for short) and norma's bookmarkNorma was finishing off a bookmark norma's leafbefore starting on a piece of free(hand) lace in the form of a leaf.  I spent a bit of time contemplating how to work a piece of lace I had found in a picture.  I’ll show you a bit of the picture detail but can’t show you the whole thing as it is going to be a present – a surprise one!  That’s it below!P1090842


P1090664Liz, our lovely hostess, was working on a Honiton flower and finished it off this week.  Here it is before she took all the pins out and took it off her pillow.

P1013228Morag was sewing – beautiful panels of pre-printed (by herself) cotton.  This one was inspired by The Book of Nothing that her husband Michael was reading, and here’s another printed sheet below!P1090425

P401 Felted for Marge by MoragP403 Morag's fuchsiasShe made the felted spectacle case, (above) beforehand to give to Marge, via Margaret, and also brought the beautiful fuchsias to show us.

P1013188Lisbet was our “artist in residence” for the week, quite often to be found sitting sketching – us or the outdoors!  She drew a few with me in them so I’ll be vain and show them off!P1090505

We had a lovely American family there for the first half of the week and one day I gave the Mom, Ellie, a lesson in lacemaking, not realising that Liz was quietly sketching us.  Here’s the finished picture!

P499jelly fishThe family were lovely, and the two little boys very well behaved, but just like all little boys ready for some fun, down among the rocks looking for sea anemones, shells, crabs, and jelly fish!  One day Morag and I walked up the hill to the only section of road in Knoydart and were in time to take a ride down to Inverie with Gavin in the Doune minibus where he was collecting the family. P476 view up loch nevis We enjoyed the beautiful views along the routeP479 view to Inverie and had a quick glimpse of Inverie village before everyone piled into the bus for the return journey.P480 Inverie 



P468 doon here At the top of the track back down to Doune is a sign -  a play on words.  Doune is pronounced Doon, which is also the Scots word for Down, so you have Down here to Doune!

P1090486The boys were off down the path through the grass and hummocks of heather like the proverbial shot from a gun, and were happily playing in among the stones on the beach when we got back!  P1090638It was a shame we had to say goodbye to them on Tuesday.

I’ll stop just now and write some more next time.  You shouldn’t have to wait too long for that!


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Referendum reflections

It was kind of scary standing in the polling booth on Thursday morning, faced with that piece of paper that starkly read:

"Should Scotland become an independent country?



It was such a momentous decision!  Should I put my cross in the YES box?  Would it be better to cross the NO box?  Do I really want us to go it alone?  I know we could do it!  Don't I?  Will the politicians stick to their promises and give us more powers if we vote NO?   YES.... NO.... YES? …... NO? …...      I have to plump for one or the other..... or I could spoil my paper.....  Plump!    and I did! 

Then you come away after putting your paper in the big black box thinking Did I do the right thing?  Should I have gone with the other side?  Then sense returned as I realised I couldn't do anything more about it!  The deed was done, one way or another!

I really thought it could go either way, and although I voted Yes, as you might have worked out, if I am totally honest I was probably quite relieved, though a little disappointed at the distance between the two results, on Friday morning. I think the late promises made by Cameron swayed a lot of voters who were undecided, or who maybe had been going to vote Yes. They were voting for devo-max which should really have been a choice on the voting paper until Cameron vetoed it. It was panic at the last minute that got the promises and vows to devolve more powers to us - and all FOUR nations should hopefully benefit. I think that the idea of being independent within the UK was really what Alex Salmond wanted, like Australia, NZ, etc. within the Commonwealth. All four nations, and that obviously includes England, could have that and work together as a whole.

I don't think the Tories, or any of the other parties, could just forget about the Scots now.  Anyway, it's not like England owns the other three nations - it's just that the parliament that governs them all is in England. I wonder what it would be like today if James VI of Scotland had said in 1603, "OK, so now I'm not just King of Scots, I've been handed the English throne, so I'll just rule from here in Edinburgh (when in fact he went down to London to rule from there)." or it had been the English parliament that had been in difficulties in 1707 and had been taken on by the Scottish one? I hope now that the Scots have shown the way towards a better UK, and that Westminster will take that on board.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Around Edinburgh

You know that I’ve been following the Paleo way of eating since January?   Well, two of my “gurus” have been Jeremy and Louise Hendon, of websites, PaleoMagazine, and the Ancestral Chef, who just happen to be husband and wife.  Jeremy is American, the one who is more involved in the science side of Paleo, and Louise is of Chinese descent though brought up in England, and she tackles the cooking side of things with many delicious recipes on the website and an ebook or two available on Amazon.  Recently they combined their blogs to become Paleomagazine.com

I was interested recently to see that the two of them were in Edinburgh, so I emailed them saying I would like to meet them.  After a few emails back and forward we had arranged a meeting for last week.  I met them and their Californian friend Jen, at their rented flat in the city, and took them on a tour of some of the places they wouldn’t see on a tour bus. cramond jeremy louise and jen zm So here are the three of them at Cramond on the shores of the River Almond where it meets the Firth of Forth (the estuary of the river Forth).  Jen, with the sunglasses, was visiting from US for a few days, so was surprised to be on an unexpected tour!

cramond me with Louise and jeremyand here are Jeremy, Louise and myself in about the same spot.  Tide’s out!  Way out!  causeway to cramond islandThe causeway out to Cramond Island in the Forth was  clear all the way, but not knowing how long it would be before the tide came back in, we decided not to risk the crossing, though there were a couple of people out there!  The causeway was built during the second world war as a deterrant to boats and potential German submarines from passing on the landward side of the island.  There are far better photos and a bit of history on the website I keep going back to – undiscovered Scotland.  Take a look here.

cramond gallery bistroThe main village of Cramond is facing the river Almond and is now a popular spot with visitors.  Again. looking at this website I learned more than I knew before about the village.  It had quite an industrial past, as well as having had prehistoric and Roman settlements.  I wonder if these buildings were part of the industrial past.  Normally I’d expect a little village on the shore to be a row of single storey cottages!  There’s an upper part to the village too, where the road descends to the shore.  a cramond laneSteps connect the two parts, which may well have been built for workers in the village to reach the ironworks more easily.  Now the white buildings are little galleries and restaurants, though I expect some parts are now residential.

So, onward, to South Queensferry to see the Forth Bridge.  It was very busy with visitors even on a Monday.  at forth bridgeHere are Jeremy and Louise posing beside an old Victorian post box, with the Forth Bridge , the railway bridge, in the background.  For a while it was having lots of repairs done to it, but now the “bandages” are off and the old girl is back to her former glory.  I love it!  Once again I turn to Undiscovered Scotland for info and photos.  See herequeensferry towers for third bridgeOf course there’s the other bridge too, the 1964 road bridge, which I watched being built when just a kid, and now you can see beyond it, to the pillars for a third bridge, another road bridge because this one was never expected to have to cope with the amount of traffic there is today!  It is to be called the Queensferry Crossing – the Queen was Queen Margaret, wife of the Scottish King Malcolm Canmore and is how the village got its name.  I remember the old ferry boats before the first road bridge was built.  Here’s a bit of info from the BBC on the progress of the new crossing!queensferry 3 bridges

I had to laugh when I saw the front of this old building, a restaurant and hotel.  lIt used to be “The Two Bridges”  but they’re way ahead and the 2 has already been changed to 3!

queensferry ferry tapWe managed to park the car for a short while  in the village of South Queensferry itself, and took a walk along the main street.  Yet again Undiscovered Scotland comes up with the goods, but here are one or two of my photos too.queensferry and forth bridge

queensferry terraces

We had a giggle looking in through one of the gift shop windows on the terraced walkway.  It purported to be selling “haggis teeth! queensferry fred's shop Now that’s something I haven’t seen before!!!!!  queensferry j.l and j with fredWe had to find out more, and met Fred who showed us the “teeth” he had for sale on leather thongs.  He told us the usual stories we Scots tell of the Haggis, and of how they live a very long life, with their teeth growing all the time.  He showed us long “teeth from a very old haggis” and some shorter ones which were “from a young haggis”!  Can you make out what they are?   haggis toothI zoomed in to my photo of Fred to see if it could appear clearer, but it hasn’t, so I think I am going to have to shatter the illusion that these are actual haggis teeth and tell you that they are tips of deer antlers!  There, I’ve given the game away!  If you see Fred yourself, don’t tell him I told you!  Just enjoy the fun, just as we did!

blackford_arthursOnwards once again with “tea to go” from a Queensferry cafe, for a drive round the outer city – up to the Braid Hills, past the back of the late 19th century Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill (photo by Dave Henniker Edinburgh Photography), and eventually to the hill in the background of Dave’s photo, Arthur Seat, which sits right in the middle of the city that now encompasses so many small villages that were once considered well out of the town.  We drove around the hill on the Queen’s Drive (designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria) , past Holyrood Palace, and round to man-made St Margaret’s  Loch, below the ruin of St Anthony’s chapel.  The Queen’s Drive continues uphill and round to the south of the hill where, once you pass the second artificial loch, Dunsapie Loch (pronounced as if there were two Ps – Dun-sappie), you get wonderful views to south and east. Once more I recommend you  look at the Undiscovered Scotland website for more photos and information here. jeremy louise and jenl.j and j arthur seat looking east

That’s Salisbury Crags in the background of this photo on the left, while on the horizon behind the trio is the Royal Mile.  You can probably see some of the steeples of the Old Town.  The photo on the right is the view to the east, right down to North Berwick in East Lothian, at the point where the Firth of Forth is becoming part of the North Sea.  If we had had time we might have climbed to the top of the hill, but there were tickets for an Edinburgh Festival Fringe show in Louise’s wallet, and time was getting on.

We headed on down to the street  called The Pleasance where the show was taking place in one of the University theatres.  I managed to get a ticket to join them at “The Only Way is Downton”, a one-man show based on the characters of the TV series Downton Abbey.  There’s a revue and clip from the show on this website.  Luke Kempner was very funny in all the parts - The Dowager Duchess, Lord Grantham, Cora, Mary, Matthew, Miss O’Brien, nasty Thomas, Mr Bates, Mrs Patmore and Daisy – holding conversations with himself from different angles, depending on who he was at any one point!

To finish off the evening we all went for a meal at the Mosque Kitchen – a lovely curry with kebab, mostly Paleo but with rice which we don’t eat too often.  It had been a lovely day, and as I dropped the three off at their flat, I felt I had made three new friends that day.  Hopefully we‘ll meet again before they head off back to the US.  Louise did suggest they might come down to look at Peebles when Jeremy’s mother comes to visit.  Now which of our lovely tearooms will I take them to?

Talk again soon.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Norma’s garden

I was visiting my friend Norma in a village not far from Edinburgh the other day.  She has the most gorgeous garden, which I love to walk around.  There is always something at every season to admire.  At this time of year the herbaceous plants are still looking great, and I just had to take lots of photos!

norma's troughLooking from the back door you see ahead of you the garden shed, with this beautiful trough in front of it.  norma's meercats 03Turn to your right and the garden opens up in front of you, guarded by these guys…………………….

The large flowerbed is comparatively recent.  norma's back gardenThere was a large tree in the corner of the lawn, that had to be cut down so Norma’s husband created this bed around the old tree stump.  norma's..norma's toadstool

IMG_2395 Here are some of the plants and more of the quirky little ornaments around the whole garden.norma's                     

The butterflies hadn’t  appeared yet to flit around the buddleia, but the bumble bees were buzzing around instead.norma's bee2

norma's bumble bee





and this baby robin came to perch on the old tree stump, and allowed me to take several photos of it! norma's baby robin  No red breast yet, just a speckled brown.  He was so cute! norma's baby robin7norma's honeysuckle


The honeysuckle too was in bloom winding up over the old washing line pole.  The scent was delicious!

Looking across the large flowerbed are Norma’s two greenhouses, or as she says, her greenhouse and her detached conservatory!norma's greenhouses from arge bednorma's greenhouses and pond 

One is a working greenhouse where she grows seeds and plants cuttings, while the other has chairs and a table where she and Malcolm sit with their cups of tea to admire the garden.norma's fuchsia  Pots of fuchsia also sit in the sitooterie ( a place to sit out), norma's raspberry ripplealong with this geranium with the delicious name of Raspberry Ripple.norma's sitooterie





IMG_2377Here’s the view to the large flowerbed from the greenhouse.  IMG_2382There are tomatoes too, still green, but accompanied by three large wooden toadstools!

norma's wild gardenTo the left of the greenhouses at the back of the garden is a thin wild stretch where poppies had been blooming not long before.  The petals had fallen leaving just the pepper pot seedpods.IMG_2402  The Himalayan balsam is very pretty but has the habit of spreading its seeds in an explosion of the seed pods.  However, Norma has it kept well under control.norma's buddleia

Soon the butterflies will have hatched out and be covering the buddleia.  I saw one in my own garden yesterday.Norma's01

norma's pondIn front of the greenhouse is the pond, probably full of frogs, along with flag irises and reeds.  Norma's treeNorma has a lot of little garden ornaments in the rockery behind the pond, and hanging from the wiggly branched tree.  There she also hangs bird feeders.

norma's hydrangea corner

In the corner behind the kitchen are the most gorgeous hydrangeas.  IMG_2367You can’t grow them in Peebles apparently but here they do extremely well.  More buddleias and some grasses help to adorn this charming corner. norma's bonsi Then there are Norma’s bonsai trees, with their smaller than normal leaves.  The five fingered horse chestnut leaves here are probably six inches across whereas a fully grown tree would have leaves three times the size.

I hope you  enjoyed the tour of Norma’s garden as much as I did.  Next time I will be right in the centre of Edinburgh at night!  I wonder what you make of that!

Talk again soon.