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Tuesday, 29 December 2009


I know I said I’d be back in the New Year but I have to share this with you, and as 1/3 of the 3 people who have voted in the poll re the length of my postings, think they are too long, I will try not to write  too much, but I do have to show you some photos from my walk along the riverside yesterday.

 bridge icicles  It was a beautiful day, though it started off with freezing fog so I could hardly see across the river.  Eventually that lifted and for the rest of the day, although it was bitterly cold, the sun was bright and the sky blue!   I did my usual walk under Tweed Bridge - looking back at the icicles hanging from the oldest part - cuddy meets tweed2.09past the swimming pool,  and the cauld/weir,  across the bridge over the Cuddy Burn – poor cold ducks! -  alongside the high wall that marks the boundary of Riverside House,



frost on the beech tree to my favourite tree at the bottom of the steps that go up to Hay Lodge Park or to the main road, Old Town.   



I climbed the steps, turned left onto the path past Hay Lodge  and hay lodge park2down more steps to the entrance to the park, then skirted the edge  -  where someone had built a huge snowman - to come out opposite the old Parish Church of St Andrews – now only the tower remaining –

haylodge park gates and st andrews tower  at the top of Old Town.

  From there it is only a few steps to Morag’s house, where I knew I’d get a welcome cup of tea!!!


frost 09 I just couldn’t believe the frost on the trees.  It was so beautiful. 


The grasses and river reflections were pretty stunning too.

frost andf reflections

If only the sun would shine like that more often we perhaps wouldn’t mind the cold of winter half so much.  Today is dull again, and it feels dull too.



Last photo – take a closer look at the frost on this cotoneaster in Morag’s garden.  frost on cotoneaster2Quite amazing!

Snow before Christmas is quite unusual these days, and so it will seem like a very long winter if we get the usual January/February snow on top of this!  Here’s hoping we get a few more days like yesterday to brighten us up just a bit till spring comes again.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas

christmas greetings2 I’ll be back next year with more photos from France and anywhere  else I get to! 

Have a good time over Christmas and New Year.

Talk again soon.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

France again

Ian and I took several drives out to visit different places, several small attractive towns with interesting names, narrow streets, the houses close together or touching, with their main doors opening onto the street, window boxes and plant pots – looking sad and sorry after the  energy the plants put into summer flowering - still sitting on sills or pavement by the doors.  Now there were  Christmas lights, decorationsjarnac christmas

 christmas firand branches of fir





tied to down-pipes at intervals along the streets and adorned with huge shiny paper bows or fans, maybe even hung with faux parcels of the same shiny paper. france sat'day 004 They weren’t sophisticated, but in their way rather attractive.   I gather that the local council  put up the branches and the local residents do the ornamenting.  Nice touch!



In most of the villages there were avenues of trees, pollarded each year, looking like lumpy gnarled fists reaching from solid tree trunks.

france monday tuesday 038

They too looked pretty strung with coloured lights.  Oops, these aren’t pollarded!  Still pretty though!





montmorillon2 We saw churches,often at the highest point of the town overlooking their parishioners,


at Montmorillon


france sunday 032


and Verteuil




 verteuil  and chateaux, large like this one, also at Verteuil,





france thursday 056and smaller but nonetheless imposing ones like Villevert near Confolens ,




cognac hotel de ville impressive town halls as in Cognac…….



and talking of Cognac



we explored the centre of that town and neighbouring Jarnac (twinned with Dalkeith, a town not terribly far from where I live here in Scotland).jarnac courvoisier dalkeith

Here were the famous names of the brandy giants: Courvoisier, 




cognac hennessy and Hennessy, for example.





jarnac fave house I liked Jarnac, and have chosen the wee house I would like, tucked right in beside Courvoisier’s walls with a boat to access the river that runs alongside, and a covered terrasse for sunny days…..

jarnac patissier


the cake shop and chocolatier nearby….


a perfect spot!


france friday 045In fact Ian and I couldn’t believe that we  could actually sit outside a Jarnac cafe bar drinking hot chocolate on  12 December, but it was a beautiful and unusually mild day so we made the most of it..

We weren’t to know it then but temperatures were to plummet a few days later and  scarf, gloves and hat would have been welcome additions to the accessories wardrobe.

In my next post I will show you more photos, but that’s all for today.

Talk again soon.


I had a fabulous week in France, and was really just getting into the swing of things when it was time to come home again!  I’ve threatened Ian I’ll come out for two weeks next time!!

The journey over there  this time took me 13 hours door to door!  Bus to Edinburgh, then out to the airport; some hanging around there before the plane left for Paris; a short time there before catching the TGV (high speed train) down through Poitiers to Angoulême.  It was very comfortable but it was dark by then and I couldn’t see the countryside or appreciate the speed we were doing!

Ian was at  Angoulême station to meet me and we had a 45 minute drive back to his village, where a reviving cup of tea was very welcome!  Purdee, the little black and white cat, a stray who adopted Ian last year, had come out to meet us, but I was upset to hear that CC  the other cat went missing a few months ago.  I only hope she found a new home with nice folk to look after her.  As for Purdee, I have never met a cat with so much lick!  He could lick layers of skin off your hands, face and neck!!!   france Tues 012 He’s a fluffy and needless to say, very affectionate cat, and very pretty too, so you really want to think of him as SHE, but I eventually got into the way of referring to him as HE!

Anyway, after much catching up, we finally gave in to tiredness and went to bed.  My room had changed a bit since last year, with new built- in wardrobes making it necessary to change the position of furniture.   The room is a quirky shape and the new cupboards improve the proportions without losing the quirkiness.  Ian's houseI love his house!

Next morning after breakfast I was able to see lots of other changes since my last visit.  france Tues 011 Of course the night before I had seen the lovely new kitchen – not quite finished yet –





france Tues 008 and the living room – still a way to go -

but this time we had an outside tour of “the estate”! 


france Tues 008Ian has bought some of the derelict cottages behind his own place and is full of ideas for them!  At first they were going to be holiday lets, but while one is well on its way to being just that,  kn 039now he has the

idea of turning the others into an Arts Centre, with Gallery, workshop and studios, perhaps even a cafe, while an old barn around the corner that he could rent, if not buy, could be turned into a small theatre and cinema, once the building is made weatherproof!  It’s all a bit tumbledown at the moment – needs a new roof for starters. 

There was an old building on Ian’s property that was beyond saving which has now been knocked down and the plan is to turn that area into a garden with a pergola, tables and chairs, that could also be used for an outdoor music venue.  We explored some more of the buildings and looked at the others Ian would like to buy to complete his gallery plans, then headed off “round the block” to see more land that belongs to him  france Tues 015 (accompanied by Purdee most of the way, until about 3/4 0f the way round when some neighbours’ dogs began to bark at us, and he took off, returning home  presumably along  the route we had come!)  Although it sounds like Ian must have spent a fortune in the village, prices have been very reasonable and all he owns now, cost considerably less than the house he left in England a couple of years ago!

So, it all sounds tremendously exciting!  Ideas are flowing thick and fast, and he has already used one of the cottages for a photography project, which turned out extremely well.  One of his friends modelled for him and though she had never done that sort of thing before, she was a natural (in my humble opinion!).    I am really looking forward to hearing how the whole thing progresses.

In Civray, a village we visited in the afternoon we visited another Gallery that has inspired Ian.  It too is run by Brits but, I am glad to say, is frequented by French as well as British visitors.  The gallery area there is divided into small areas where artists, sculptors, photographers, and  various craft workers can display and sell their work, and there’s a large studio where workshops can be held, as well as a cafe serving light snacks, hot drinks and cakes.   Ian says it has developed from just a coffee machine and home-baking.  It’s all he would need at  his place!

A new gallery run by a French couple in Charroux was also inspirational with a range of rather unusual crafts, and we each bought something there.  I loved, but had to leave, the paintings by Thierry Landon, a Charente-born painter living and working  just south of Poitiers.  They are more abstract than the type of pictures I used to prefer, but not so abstract that one struggles to see how the picture relates to its title!  Though Thierry  generally uses a lot of reds and blues in his paintings my favourite was one with no red or blue in it at all.  It was mostly yellows, of  a gorgeous little cat!  (Surprise, surprise!)  What a shame it isn’t on his website.

Ian’s idea is to link up with other galleries to provide a tour-guide for interested visitors, and it would certainly put his village on the map!  In itself it is a small village with no real reason for visitors to take notice of it, but music, theatre and all the other ideas would really make it worth more than a cursory glance!

france monday tuesday 025We found several nice shops, galleries and craft stalls during the week, and I think Ian will end up networking with a good few people in the next year, in order to get his own project underway. 




confolens He also has friends in Confolens, Nick and Mary,  who have renovated a couple of old buildings near the old bridge, and who also plan to open an Arts Centre to work alongside their Chambres d’hôte  (Bed and Breakfast).   I saw the building last year as they were working on it and I think it must be fabulous now.

kn 069One day we visited Stess’s house – a lovely old Charentais farmhouse with lots of  animals milling around outside – including a chicken called Shakespeare  -  to talk about a project some of the group are planning for next year.  They are  putting on a play next summer, to be performed by 30 to 40 French youngsters,

france sat'day 027 at a nearby  ruined castle. It was fun to have to converse in French as Florence  - she’s the blonde girl in the photo above - doesn’t speak much English – but then, why should she?  It’s her country after all!   Stess is a fluent French speaker but Ian and I  acquitted ourselves pretty well, I thought!  The play , being written by Stess, sounds rather intriguing, bringing in various historical French characters as well as some present day ones!  I would love to go back over for that!  We’ll see!

Anyway, more about France soon.  I just must say now that it snowed quite a bit today!  Not that it was the first time this winter as it snowed enough to cover the Green a couple of days ago - see my Peebles blog here -  but today I looked out the window, and realised that the snow was melting quite quickly.  peebles high street snow Hmm!  I went up the street to do some shopping and next thing there’s these huge great flakes of snow swirling about again.  In about twenty minutes we had about an inch of the stuff!  The temperature dropped again this evening so it will have frozen now! 

 peebles snow 009


The town’s Christmas tree looks pretty nice under snow though.  A white Christmas this year?  I’ll let you know!

Talk again soon.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A trip to France coming up!

I'm going to give my blog a rest for a couple of weeks as I am going off to France on Monday to visit my -dare I say - old friend, Ian. He's actually only 3 weeks older than me, but we have known each other for about 43 years, so in that sense, old! We're just recycled teenagers otherwise! Anyway I hope to have lots to tell when I get back! We have to celebrate our 60ths together - a bit overdue, but at least before either of us reaches 61 - visit some Christmas markets, drink some wine, do some exploring and maybe even wave a paintbrush or two over a wall or two of his house! I'll get to see the pussycats, and the changes he has made in the house since my last visit, and we might even celebrate Christmas early too!

The photo is of Ian with his son, CC the cat, daughter and grandson outside his house in the summer. I can see differences already!

So, take care for now and I'll talk with you again around 17th/18th!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A rather special wedding

I went to a wedding last Saturday.  The bride was Mandy, daughter of my friend Jean, and the groom was Richard, Mandy’s partner of the last five years.  They had decided that they wanted to commit to each other enough to take that next step into marriage.

oops. where's the paperworkAfter a small hitch when it was realised no-one had brought the necessary paperwork, the ceremony eventually took place in a local hotel in the village where Mandy was brought up, and was conducted by Juliet, a celebrant of the Humanist Society of Scotland.  I think it was one of the loveliest wedding ceremonies I have ever witnessed – I say witnessed,  because we, the friends and relations of the couple, were all called upon by Juliet to stand as witnesses to Mandy’s and Richard’s commitment to each other.

Instead of religious readings or hymns, Juliet spoke about Mandy and Richard, how they met, what had brought them together, how they had come to love and respect each other, and how they had decided they wanted to commit to spending their lives together by getting married.  She had also asked them beforehand what they loved about each other and incorporated the funny stories they had told. 

Interspersed with Juliet’s words, Mandy’s mum read out Rules for a Great Marriage;  the little bridesmaid read the poem The Owl and the Pussycat, and one of Richard’s groomsmen read another poem about marriage.   Then Mandy and Richard made their vows to each other in their own words celebrant mandy and richardfollowed by the perennial “I, Richard, take you, Amanda, to be my lawful wedded wife…..” and “I, Amanda, take you, Richard…. “ before Juliet finally pronounced “I declare Richard and Amanda are MAN and WIFE!”  Everyone clapped and cheered!  It was that kind of occasion!  All the way through, cameras had been clicking but unfortunately mine weren’t too great – it was the light from the window behind the wedding party!    mr1 Some of the better “bad”ones I played with and added filters to, to produce something a little better.  After the register had been signed by Mandy, Richard, and their official witnesses, we followed outside to take more photos.




susan mandy ashleigh and ellie

Mandy and her bridesmaids - Her sister, Susan, daughter, Ashleigh, and a young cousin, ellie.

mandy and richard montague 


 the mums with mandy and richard



With mums, Jean and Carol



the boys with richard and mandy


with Richard’s friends




3 generations


Mandy with daughter Ashleigh and mum, Jean




jean and mima


Then it was time for champagne and canapés back inside - and more photos.  These are Jean and her sister, Edwina,  Auntie Mima to Mandy and her sister.


edwina and mandy


Auntie Mima and Mandy




ellie and dad's buttonhole

Ellie had never encountered Sea Holly before – a popular thistle-like flower often used in Scottish buttonholes – and took a great interest in its prickliness!


mandy and richard 058

This is a nice picture of Ellie.

So then the party moved on to North Berwick and the pub the bride and groom run, where there was a lovely dinner waiting for us.  The usual speeches were made and toasts drunk to the bride and groom. cutting the cake The cake was cut in the usual ceremonial way and…

the jigging






…as soon as the tables had been rearranged after dinner and the disco set up, for the rest of the night we bopped!

Mandy. Richard.     Wishing you both lots of happy times ahead in the years to come, and thank you for inviting me to share your wonderful day.

Talk again soon.