Welcome to my blog. Thanks for dropping by. Hope you'll stay and enjoy reading about where I've been and what I've been doing!

I don't mean this to be a replacement for personal emails, but it gives me the chance to put up photos and my scrapbook layouts, so I don't block up your in-boxes, or have to send the same photos and stories to everyone separately!
Thanks, and welcome, to the followers of my blog. I'm very honoured that you enjoy it. Drop me some comments from time to time! It's good to hear what you think about the posts. Come back again soon.

Thanks also to Mary of Mary's Mixes for doing all the work on the blog's heading. You are great, Mary!

Monday, 31 March 2008

No scanner!

Hmmm! There are several photos I want to scan, from photos I took B.D. - Before Digital - but my scanner is playing silly beggers just now and I can't use it! I left it too late to get to the library today to get them scanned and emailed back to me, so I have booked my turn for the scanner for 11 a.m. tomorrow... but it means no scrapbook layouts today, I'm afraid.
The main pictures I wanted for layouts include one of John who died recently, and one of Cyril, brother-in-law of my great friend Edwina and husband of Jean who is also a good friend. Sadly - can you believe it - Cyril died suddenly at the weekend. I can hardly take it in. He, like John, was full of life, full of fun, energetic - larger than life you might say. Since the kids grew up and left home, he and Jean used to go holidaying in their caravan and often used to have weekends here in Peebles where I would join them at the caravan or for a walk round the town and 'refreshments' at one of the local pubs which sold the type of beer he preferred. In fact I had only recently had an email from Jean to say that they were planning another visit here soon, and I was looking forward to seeing them both again.
I first met Cyril and Jean when Edwina was still living in Edinburgh. She and I had met at our local folk pub and got along from the start, and often at weekends we would head off down to East Lothian to see her 'big sister' (who always cooked up lovely dinners for us to enjoy). (Strangely, my 'wee sister' is also called Jean). Cyril was always the clown. He teased the living daylights out of us and in those days in the early 70s when mini skirts were 'in', took great delight in grabbing a knee (one of ours) between knuckle and thumb and squeezing hard! He always seemed to hit the right spot to have us shouting for mercy! Several years before, he had lost the fingers of his right hand in an accident, and even when in pain, as he must have been, I understand he encouraged his colleagues to look for his fingers, joking all the while about Fish Fingers. The fingers couldn't be fixed, but what a strength he built up in his knuckles and thumb! My knees are tensing right now at the memory!
Another strong memory of Cyril was in 1978 when he, a Welshman himself, organised a trip to Cardiff Arms Park to see Wales play Scotland in the rugby international. He hired a minibus and together with several Scots supporters from the village, Edwina, also Welsh, and me, set off down the road. It was a hilarious journey, and once in Wales, Cyril had fun tooting the horn and waving at people as if he knew them! He wanted to demonstrate that people would wave back, thinking they had been recognised by friends... and they did! Unfortunately Wales hammered the Scots, but it didn't stop us all having a great time in the pub after the game with Cyril being in his element among his own countrymen!
After Edwina married and moved south, Jean, Cyril and I continued our friendship and I would see them from time to time either in Peebles or at their home. Cyril kept, and bred cockatiels, lovebirds and quails in an aviary in the garden, so there was often a visit to talk to them, or I would admire the garden itself and sample his strawberries! The last time I saw him was on Boxing Day, when Edwina and Gerard came up to spend Christmas with them both and the kids, Mandy and Susan, Mandy's partner, and her daughter, and I was invited along for the day. It was a lovely day, Cyril still teasing us all and, as ever, pretending we were 'pains in the neck', and although I took photos, the only one I got of Cyril was when he had fallen asleep on the sofa after dinner!
Well, tomorrow I will have a scrapbook page or two to show you, so talk again then. In the meantime, spare a wee thought for Jean and the girls.

Friday, 28 March 2008

A Day's Shopping!

Hi again!
Not that I'm counting the days, you understand, but I have added 'here time' and 'kiwi time' clocks to the left side of the page! Kiwi time is generally 12 hours ahead of us, but at the moment they are +13! That's because they are still on Daylight Saving Time and we aren't - yet! Our clocks go forward an hour tomorrow night - well early hours of Sunday morning.
Today I am having a really lazy day after my shopping trip yesterday! I spent the morning reading my book - nice light reading from Alan Titchmarsh, who as well as being famous as a TV gardener is doing quite well in the literary stakes too! I have read quite a few of his novels, and picked up this one - Love and Dr. Devon - in a charity shop the other day. I'm about two thirds of the way through it now and will probably finish it later.
So! Yesterday! Well, I went up to Edinburgh yesterday morning by car; left it in the outskirts of the city and continued by bus to Princes Street, the main shopping street. Now, I have to tell you I HATE shopping for clothes - always have done - as nothing fits me properly. I have no waist so anything that fits me round the middle is miles too big on the hips and shoulders, and probably just that little bit too tight on the boobs! I tell you, when bodies were being handed out I must have been at the end of the line and got all the bits that were left over! Anyway, I looked in two or three clothes shops, tried on one or two outfits that looked lovely on the hangers, decided they weren't for me and moved on to the next shop! I did buy a few t-shirts though. Then I headed for the station and a train to Dunfermline, an altogether smaller but every bit as good shopping centre. I love travelling by train! "This train is for Cowdenbeath... stopping at Haymarket... South Gyle... Dalmeny... North Queensferry... Inverkeithing... Rosyth... Dunfermline town... Dunfermline Queen Margaret's.... and Cowdenbeath."
It was a beautiful afternoon as the train set off out of the station, along the foot of the castle rock. Looking up at the old castle silhouetted against a clear blue sky was quite a spine-tingling experience!!! Reminded me too of the American tourist who looked up at the castle on top of its craggy volcanic plug and said "Why did they built it so close to the railway line!" The castle only dates back to prehistoric times, although the oldest part of the present complex of buildings only goes back to the 11th century.
Don't know what they were doing but there was a workman abseiling down the rock as we passed, watched by his colleague up on the battlements!
So on we went, through the long tunnel under the west end of Edinburgh, emerging at Haymarket; through the suburbs and small villages to the magnificent Forth Bridge.
When I was little it was so exciting looking up at the bridge from South Queensferry and seeing the puffs of smoke from the steam engines as they pulled their carriages over to Fife and beyond. No steam trains these days, but it was just as exciting trundling over the bridge looking down at the village where in my childhood we would wait by the pier in this old postcard for a ferry to carry our car and us across the Firth of Forth.
On we went through the Fife stations till we entered Dunfermline. I really didn't want to get off the train, I was enjoying the journey so much, but there we were. "This is Dunfermline town." said the announcement, so along with several others I got off at the northbound platform, and headed to the shops!
And I got a dress for the weddings! First one I saw too! It was on a rail just inside the shop door, and I liked it immediately. Tried it on, and though it doesn't look as good on me as it would on a slimmer lady, it was fine! I couldn't believe it when the sales assistant recognised me from the day I went up to Dunf after Leslie died. I had told her I had come up to arrange a funeral and she remembered, asking me if everything had gone well. So, main mission accomplished, I continued just to wander round the other shops including the stationer's and book shop, the health store, and a large store selling clothes, lingerie, shoes, handbags, hair accessories, cheap costume jewellery........ at very reasonable prices! I bought a pack of 7 pairs of cotton socks for just £2 and a pretty necklace and earrings to go with the new dress for £6!!!
Enough was enough though, so it was back to the train then, back across the bridge, and into Edinburgh again, where I was to meet Linda to go out for something to eat. We chose Italian and ate at a nice little restaurant not far from hers, and then, after a mug of hot chocolate at Linda's later, I finally set off for home - quite exhausted, but pleased that I won't have to have another day at the shops before my trip!
Talk again soon.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Ian in France phoned me the other day. He's settling into his new home, but still has lots of work to do to it, and the annexe next door. He has a bicycle and is apparently riding around the countryside getting to know his way about, and waving to all the locals - and they to him! He's not too confident with the language yet, but I think he will do alright. I think he should invite all his neighbours for lunch... or supper! Could be fun!

I met Norma for our regular cup of tea the other day too. I had her pictures (probably a February blog!) printed out to give her as a belated wedding present, and she loved them! Thank goodness for that! Eventually she came back with me to Peebles to see the exhibition at Joe's Art Gallery. I had told her about the exhibitor who makes silk screen prints of her pictures of wild animals - oh, and Posy the cat! They are just gorgeous! Take a look!

Apart from the cuteness of her animals, I love her use of blank space. The hare, bottom left, is actually looking at a couple of snails that have left pale snail trails (!) on the right of the picture. However the owls are positioned at the top of a long empty canvas, to demonstrate the fact that they are high up, I adore them! I think they are a "must have" as far as I am concerned! (Thank you Leslie.) Catherine has named the owls, Gilbert and Josephine! The hare is Melrose and the hedgehog, bottom right is Evelyn! I'd have called the hedgehog Robin, after my dad, who was nicknamed Hedgehog because of his sometimes prickly chin!
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Back from work now! It was a really quiet night! Of course the pouring rain could have had something to do with it, I suppose!!! A few of the diehards came in for their cigarettes, as they always do, but it wasn't until the last half hour that folk started to drop in for anything else! Typical! It wouldn't matter what time we closed; folk would always leave it till the last minute to come in!!!
Anyway, I have had to phone Qantas airline tonight to change one of my flights, as there wasn't going to be enough time between my flight from New Zealand and the internal flight in Australia. The call was diverted to Australia where I spoke with a young Aussie called Todd who was really interested to be talking to someone in Scotland! He got my flight changed without any bother! Painless, it was!!! So now I have plenty of time between flights - a whole night in fact, so it's to be hoped there's an airport hotel or motel with a room vacant that night! The bride and her family will already be in Adelaide where I'll be joining them in the morning now! I visited Adelaide about 30 years ago but to be honest don't remember much more than the park and a lake that was so dry, the fountain workings, a twisted mass of metal pipes, were quite exposed!
Then I called Margaret, one of my cousins in Auckland (see the layout of 16 March, I think - the one about "just another few layouts"). I think I gave her quite a surprise as I haven't been the best of correspondents over the last few years since we first met. She and the boys haven't really got into the computer thing yet, so mail between us goes by pigeon post - you know, those big JUMBO pigeons! Don't know if they are still 747s or something even bigger, but I'll be finding out before long! It was great to talk with her anyway, and she seems really pleased that I am going to visit! She and the boys are lovely.
I'm on holiday now for 6 days! I had some time to be used up before the end of March, so this is it! I really will have to use the time to get organised properly! Lots of tidying up at home to do too before I set off on my travels. Tomorrow though, I am going up to Edinburgh to look for a dress to wear at the weddings! No black, Sally has asked of her lady guests! Oh dear! Most of the things I wear are black based, perhaps with a coloured pattern! So Edinburgh tomorrow, and perhaps even a trip to the Dunfermline shops! They're not bad there!!! I could go by train! Oh yes, I like that idea! Crossing over the Forth Bridge... great views!
Well, if I'm to make the most of the day, I had better get to bed now! It's actually 1.51 a.m. Thursday now!
Talk again soon!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

shopping, a phone call and a visit

Yesterday I went shopping for wedding presents for the Aussie girls and their fellas. I don't want to give the game away just yet, but I got them each a very traditional Scottish item which I hope they'll like and be able to use! Earlier in the day I had a call from their dad, Ian, to sort out arrangements for when I arrive in Oz, in a couple of weeks!!!
He is going to drive to the airport to pick me up at half past midnight and take me to Clare's place. After a few hours shut-eye he's back at the airport again to collect the girls' brother Paul, and Sally's fiance Andrew. Then all four of us will head down to the town where the wedding is to take place on the Saturday.
I have to say sorry to the other members of our clan (well family really. We aren't a clan as such in Scotland, though we do have a tartan. - I digress!) as I won't get to see everyone this time. I will be heading for New Zealand a day or two after Clare's wedding, and only getting back in time to fly down to Adelaide - for Sally's wedding - where once again Ian will meet me and take me to the guest house. Again, a day or two after the wedding I'll be heading back home to Scotland. However it won't be long till I see Sally and Andrew again as they are soon to be coming over here to work - albeit in Glasgow - for a couple of years.

The parents of the brides on their last visit over here

I'm looking forward to getting to know the Kiwi rellies a bit better this trip, as well as meeting my nearly cousin in Invercargill and seeing the sights as I head back north again. Did I say it before, that my plan is to hire a car and drive my way up? There's so much I want to see that I didn't see last time, and places I want to visit again.

The forecast was for snow today, and apparently the newspapers are full of it. It seems it's officially a white Easter because they have snow in London - but what am I looking at outside my window just now at 6.30 a.m? A very green Green! Admittedly there is a light covering on the hills beyond the town, but otherwise not a drop of the white stuff! No need to wear the wellies to work, then!

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It's much later in the day now, and I have been to work, and then out for the rest of the day. Because it is Easter Sunday there were lots of visitors in town.... from Northern Ireland - or as they'd say in their accent, Norn Arn - England and other parts of Scotland, including quite a number from the Glasgow area! The accents are the give away! I have to say I enjoyed the shop being so busy with folk looking for last minute Easter eggs and hot cross buns, coughs and cold remedies, bottles of wine, newspapers that aren't published on a Sunday (!), cakes and scones for Easter tea, batteries for TV remote controls, etcetera, etcetera! What wasn't so much fun was that the emergency door was forced open three times by people who thought it was just a hard-to-open regular entrance/exit - despite large notices on both sides that say THIS IS AN EMERGENCY DOOR ONLY, or words to that effect! Michelle told one woman that her friend had just forced the door open (with a baby's pram, no less) and set off the silent alarm to the police. The two of them scarpered off along the road, with pram, before we were inundated with men/women in blue who might want to apprehend them! No we didn't get an invasion of coppers, because Michelle had just spun them a line! No alarm, no police, just a very cross supervisor who was ready to scream at having to secure the door seals for a third time!!

After work I drove up to visit Vina's family, the first time I have seen them since the funeral. I hadn't been able to psyche myself up to visiting, and had to force myself to face it today. To put you in the picture, Barbara and Alistair, and their two kids, Rachael and Ross, live in the main house these days, since Vina and Willie had an extension built to the back of the house to be their "granny flat". Willie was out but daughter Barbara was at home so she made me a mug of tea and we had a long chat about how we each felt about not having Vina around, and about Vina's and Willie's different reactions when the cancer was diagnosed. Vina wanted really not to have treatment, but we both felt she only accepted it for Willie's sake and that of the hospital staff, as they were all so keen for her to have it. Barbara said she felt as if her mother was all the time fighting against the treatment: not wanting to take pills, not drinking the medicine that could have helped her through some of the pain. Barbara regretted in some ways that her mum had agreed to the treatment, but also said that perhaps if she hadn't had it, then we'd all have been wondering now if it might have worked. She expressed anger at her mum for leaving them. They say anger is an emotion you go through when you lose someone. I have only felt great sadness and regret when something has happened that I'd normally have shared with Vina, and things are constantly cropping up, when I say to myself, I must tell Vina.

Vina would love to have heard the news about my trip. Barbara would have wanted to share the great news that Rachael has been selected by the National Youth Theatre, one of only 260 youngsters chosen from the whole of Britain and Northern Ireland, to take part in one of several musical productions to be presented around the country this summer. We are all so proud of her and wish her lots of good fortune! Vina always said, when Rachael was tiny, that she ought to be on the stage, and so it proved to be. She's done well in local theatre, and now it seems likely she could be on her way to big things - on the Edinburgh Festival fringe, no less!!! Go, Rachael, go! So, tonight the family, Willie and I all went out for dinner at a local hotel, where the toast was "Rachael!" I've had another lovely night, when amongst so many other things we talked a lot about Vina, and though sad, were able to laugh a lot too.

Talk again soon.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

A night out

Where does the time go? Can't believe my last blog was on Monday!
So what has been happening since then? Well, I was out for supper on Tuesday night! A couple of customers who come regularly to the shop invited me to join them for "food and drinks". It was at Julia's flat, an upstairs apartment in one of the older houses of Peebles. You get to her place through a narrow passage between buildings - what we call a close, or a pend - round to the back, and up a curly outside stair to the front door.
Once inside it was immediately obvious how arty Julia is! The whole place was delightfully "bohemian" with walls painted with brightly coloured naive flowers, mismatched furniture, Indian throws, old painted chairs... in the kitchen diner there were gorgeous old pine cupboards on the walls, shelves full of kitchen stuff and others crammed with ornaments, papier mache fish on the wall, a weirdly shaped overhead lampshade homemade from paper..... and amongst other treasures, a rubber duck - a plucked one! It was wonderful.
Three of Julia's friends were already there, Chris, Ian and Jo, and eventually Cath blew in! We'd already begun to tuck into the cheese and olives, and the bottles were open, the wine flowing! Julia was cooking something that smelled delicious in a large orange casserole, which when dished up WAS absolutely delicious - like paella but made with quinoa (keenwa), with chopped up veggies and prawns. That was followed by a very rich chocolate torte brought by Jo, and all accompanied by, and followed by, copious glasses of vino rosso and rose. They have wonderful names for wine these days, I suppose to encourage young folk to try it. It's not just Chateau this or that any more, but Laid Back Ruby, the Big Chill, etc. I can definitely recommend the Fish Eye rose!
Well, the conversation veered from the intellectually sublime to the completely bawdy ridiculous, and what a great time we had. I think I got home around 1.30 a.m. and feeling remarkably sober for the amount of wine I had consumed!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Just another few layouts for you from the family scrapbook! First Margaret and two of her sons, Chris and Mike, in Auckland. Margaret's late husband had Maori ancestry and the "boys" are fiercely proud of these roots - and rightly so!
Then these are Patricia and her husband Eric, also from Auckland. Patricia grooms dogs for a living, while Eric drives tour buses.
And here are Keriata, Judith and Maureen, playing Scrabble. Of course Maureen won hands down! I don't think any of the rest of us came close!
Hope to see all of these rellies while I'm in New Zealand.
All for today then!
Talk again soon.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Making Plans!

Hello! This blog is going to be dated Friday, but as far as I am concerned it is still Thursday night and I am planning that trip to Australia and New Zealand! Can hardly believe I am actually going! My flights are booked - with Emirates airline - from Glasgow via Dubai and Singapore to Melbourne, for Clare's wedding. That's classed as my stopover, as the ticket includes my flight to Auckland. I have a month in NZ during which time I hope to call on rellies, friends and the mum of one of our customers at the Co-op! He says I remind him of her, so of course I am curious to meet her! Apparently she runs an alternative therapies business, so that should be interesting!

A family photo taken on my last visit to NZ
I still have to book an internal flight in NZ - Auckland to Invercargill - but hopefully that will be done tomorrow! I started to do it today but when it came to paying online I forgot the credit card I was using was no longer valid - and could I find the uptodate one? After I came home from work tonight I started to search and found it very quickly - but as it's a new card it has to be activated, and it was too late to phone tonight! So, tomorrow I'll get that done and hope the flight I was looking at today still has a seat and still costs the same as it quoted today! Less would be even better of course!

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Now it's really Friday! I've been to bed and got up again! Credit card activated; flight from Auckland to Invercargill booked, and some emails sent. Now for the snailmail! I have to play with an itinerary from Invercargill back to Auckland. What fun! This is almost as enjoyable as the trip itself! The places I want to see! Wonder if I could do the equivalent of John o'Groats to Lands End, by doing Reinga to Bluff - well, the other way round. Bluff is just south of Invercargill, not the southernmost point of NZ, but then John o'Groats isn't the most northerly point of Britain! Last time Jan and I drove down the west coast of South Island in the pouring rain and mist, so saw nothing of the scenery - only waterfalls and gushing water from every rocky cleft you could imagine! That in itself was fantastic and actually driving through some of these falls was quite an experience, but this time I want to drive up the west coast so keep your fingers crossed for good weather. Queenstown, the view of Mount Cook from Lake Matheson, the glaciers, Pancake Rocks (!!!!!)....... Again in North Island I'll stick to the west side to see Taranaki or Mt. Egmont, the NZ Mt.Fuji, in particular. In 1999 Jan and I came down the east side.

Hope to be able to take a tour from Auckland to the north, Cape Reinga, as I didn't get that far last time. I'd also like to revisit Rotorua. That volcanic area was just amazing! I felt a couple of small earthquakes while we were there! What a strange sensation! The ground just rippled!

Anyway I fly back to Melbourne about the middle of May for Sally's wedding, and then home a few days after. Not sure how many of the rellies I'll get to see while I'm there, but hopefully a few at least! It's getting closer. Only a matter of weeks now!

Sweet dreams! Talk again soon.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Hello again

Feeling a bit better now, though I keep coming upon things I want to tell Vina, and it is still something of a shock to realise I won't be able to do that any more.

Anyway, I never did get round to saying anything about the lacemaking weekend our group held recently. We had a visiting tutor, Kitty, from Edinburgh, who comes at least once a year to help us improve our skills. When I first started up the group I told everyone that I could only teach them so much, and after that they were on their own. I had learned the basics while in Yorkshire for a few years, and on returning to Scotland, finding no group nearer than Edinburgh, decided to start my own! We have now been going for almost 20 years I should think, and I think we have all branched out in different directions, tackling different types of techniques in different types of lace!

Here's a little history of lacemaking - a very little history! It goes at least as far back as the Egyptians as they say there were pieces of a net type fabric found in the Pyramid tombs, but little is known about it really till about the 15th century. Different countries of the world have evolved their own variety of lacemaking, many using the wooden stick-like things we call bobbins on which the thread is stored and fastened. Each variety is quite recognisable as coming from Russia, Malta, Italy, France, Belgium etc. The 'pillows' on which the work is done are also distinctive of an area or a type of lace. They are solid enough to stick pins into to hold the thread, woven with the bobbins, in position till the work has progressed to a point when they can be removed safely without allowing the work to be pulled out of shape.

Lacemaking came to England with the Huguenots, who fled from the Continent (of Europe) from religious persecution. Bringing their lace with them they settled in different areas of the south of England and were able to continue to make a small living for themselves. In turn they must have passed on their knowledge, and girls continued to make lace for the rich, earning a mere pittance from the dealers who bought their work on 'cut-off' days each year. Lace was sold at vast profit and highly prized by its rich owners. A great show of lace on garments, etc, was to show how rich you were.

Eventually, during the industrial revolution, it was discovered how to replicate the lace patterns by machines, and gradually machine-made lace became more widely available. By the mid 1800s, machines were capable of copying all the kinds of lace made in this country, and handmade lace became quite unprofitable so that no-one bothered to pass on the skills any more. I read somewhere that at some point, in Belgium there was only one lacemaker left. She was eventually persuaded to teach others to work the beautiful patterns as a pastime, and so it was not lost. Similarly in Britain and other countries, ladies and young girls were taught to make lace, and during the 20th century there was quite a revival in interest as a hobby. It is totally impractical to make a living from lacemaking but we all enjoy making gifts for friends and family. Brides' wedding veils, garters and lace edged hankies are among the popular items worked nowadays. Then when the babies come along, lace decorated Christening robes are being presented for handing down through the family.

Edgings involve a great deal of repetition and are not for me, being a somewhat impatient lacemaker! I like to make motifs, such as the one I am working on just now. Time to put in my pictures of the weekend with Kitty.....

Kitty is in the bottom centre picture , demonstrating to Marjorie a technique she will be using in her piece of Honiton lace. Noreen, Helen and Marjorie are lacemaking, while Alwyn is studying a lace book. Perhaps she's thinking of having a go at Honiton lace. The photo of Catherine with her mug of tea was caught over tea and cake - a very important part of the weekend!! My lace motif is top right. A robin redbreast is emerging from that forest of pins! The bits of thread ends will eventually be trimmed - my motif will get a 'haircut'. Pat's beautiful piece of Continental lace - I'm not sure which type - is on her pillow, bottom left, and close-up in the centre. That is hours and hours worth of work! This is not a hobby that can be rushed!!!

I decided to do layouts of a couple of the lacemakers as well. First, here is Noreen, and her piece of Bruges flower lace. This kind of lace is worked in sections so there are always lots of threads to be trimmed at the end when the pins come out and the completed lace is lifted off the pillow.

In contrast, Ann's lace is continuous, in that the pattern is worked continuously from beginning to end. If you wind enough thread onto the bobbins to begin with you may not need to add in new threads but if a bobbin runs out you can wind more thread on and join it into the work!

I really must finish my robin motif soon. It has been on the pillow for ages. Kitty took one look at what I'd brought to the weekend and said "Oh, have I seen this one before!" I almost took her seriously! However just in time I realised she was teasing me. I must have started it several courses ago, but then I haven't been doing too much lacemaking recently. Scrapbooking has taken me over!
So, with that, I must bid you goodnight!
Talk again soon.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

A difficult day

Well! If I felt like I'd been dragged through a hedge backwards before, by the end of yesterday I felt completely washed out! It's a wonder my eyes are still where they belong after all the tears I cried at the funeral, I had been holding out pretty well until we all entered the crematorium and were handed hymn sheets and the order of service. On the front was a picture of a happy, healthy Vina, on holiday somewhere, raising a glass of wine in a toast! That got me. I suddenly realised I had only been remembering Vina as she had been in the last 6 months, frail and gaunt, but that picture was the real Vina, and it all came home to me. I cried and cried! Then I happened to look at the back page of the sheet and that made me worse! It was a poem - one that could have been written just for Vina. It was called God's garden. I'm going to copy it out here as I think it is so beautiful.

God looked around his garden
And he found an empty place
And then he looked down upon the earth
And saw your tired face.

He put his arms around you,
And lifted you to rest.
God's garden must be beautiful.
He always takes the best.

He knew that you were suffering.
He knew you were in pain.
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.

He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb,
So he closed your weary eyelids
And whispered "Peace be thine."

It broke our hearts to lose you,
But you didn't go alone
For part of us went with you,
The day God called you home.

The poet is unknown, but Vina's daughter found it on the internet and decided it was just perfect for the occasion. The service was beautiful. Calum, the minister of Vina's church, has the gift of being able to collect snippets of information and stories from family and friends, and talk about the person whose funeral he is conducting, as if he knew them personally during their whole life.

Vina's sister read a poem sent by their brother in South Africa, and her two granchildren were going to sing a song until poor Rachael, aged 16, dissolved in tears of grief and couldn't continue.

Afterwards friends and family all gathered for soup and sandwiches, to talk with each other about Vina principally, and, as you do at these occasions, greet people you have not seen for long enough. Rachael also managed to sing her song, accompanied by her brother on guitar. They are so good. Their granny would have been so proud of them.

So, it has been a long and fraught two weeks, and I hope now that things can begin to get back onto an even keel. I now have something to look forward to in the trip to Australia and New Zealand, because yes, I CAN go to the ball! Leslie has left me a nice legacy so I have decided to take the opportunity to go to Clare's wedding in April and to her sister Sally's in May. In between times I will go to New Zealand to see my Kiwi rellies and explore some of the country I didn't get to last time in 1999. I am also going to celebrate my birthday and that of my friend Eunice in Invercargill. Her birthday is the day after mine so when I'm here and she's there, we have half our day that coincides! This time we'll celebrate in NZ, together! I am going to take some unpaid leave from work, but our manager is happy to let me do that. It seems so strange now to be saying I am going, as on previous trips I have had months to prepare! This time I have a matter of weeks! Now what can I wear to those weddings? I think a shopping trip is on the cards!!! I know what I am going to get for the girls' wedding presents - big secret for now, just in case they read this - and I think I know of just the thing for Eunice. Luckily I can get all those locally, but the clothes will be a different story. Off to Galashiels or even Edinburgh I think!
Talk again soon!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Back again with some memories.....

Well, as my mother might have said, I feel like I've been pulled through a hedge backwards! What a week! Leslie's funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon, and was very nice, with just a few invited friends, my sister, and Christine, who had cared for Leslie over the years at the nursing home. Ann, the minister, made it a celebration of Leslie's life, and spoke very caringly about her. The service was at the crematorium, and in a few weeks we will go back to disperse her ashes in the beautiful gardens. Erwin, a German fellow who Jim and Leslie took under their wing on a trip he made as a youngster about 40 years ago, wasn't able to come over for the funeral but would like to come over later for the scattering of the ashes. He was the nearest Leslie and her husband came to having a son of their own, and their friendship lasted all these years.

My friend Colin in Yorkshire, went to John's funeral on Tuesday morning. He said there was a huge turnout of John's friends at the church to say their goodbyes. Colin had felt quite emotional at the ceremony, and like me, said he was glad we had seen John, last autumn, and that our last memory of him had been of the jolly, happy-faced guy he always was, so surprised and pleased to see us both after quite a few years.
And then...... on Thursday when I saw Vina - well I wrote about that the last time I blogged - she was conscious and although she had little energy to join in conversations, she followed our faces and indicated what she was thinking by great movements of her eyebrows. She was not doing well at all though, and by Friday had fallen into a deep sleep which actually lasted over the weekend, until Tuesday, when finally, with her family round her, she slipped away.

I don't think it really has hit me yet. It will take the funeral to do that, I think. Friday at midday. Even the notice in the newspaper yesterday didn't seem real, like it was some other Vina, but Friday will bring it home. What a great friend she was. I'll never forget the first time I met her and Willie. It was on the day I moved into the house next door to them, 20 years ago, and they came to my door to introduce themselves and to welcome me to the house. We soon became great friends. We did so much together, and learned from each other too. She used to say I was the first "normal" neighbour she'd ever had, by which she meant that where most of her other former neighbours would call a man in to do a DIY job, I, like her, would tackle it myself! We had such a laugh wallpapering ceilings together in both our houses, hanging doors, fixing broken sash cords on windows, putting up a partition wall in my attic room.......

We joined the WRI, and the country dancing. We went for days out in the car when the B&B allowed - she followed me into the B&B - and what times we had! We were both into the genealogy thing, and I think I got to know her family history almost as well as my own. We'd discuss our "brick walls" and think of ways to maybe break those down - sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't. She would tell me about the plants in my garden and make sure I cut them all back at the right times of the year. I soon learned the names of the plants - Latin ones too - and gradually learned how to love and care for them. We awaited with anticipation the arrivals of her grandchildren. We cried together when her mum died. We "slimmed" together too, though Vina always had so much more willpower than me, keeping the weight steady while I yo-yoed up and down, and it was only when I realised she was losing more weight than she should that I nagged her into going to the doctor. By this stage she wasn't feeling 100% and wasn't eating a lot at all, so I suspect the illness had already taken hold.

Forgive me for putting in this scrapbook page again, but it's for Vina, my great friend, who I am going to miss so much in the days to come.
Sleep well now Vina. The pain has gone.

Talk again soon.