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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lace-making weekend

joanne morag kitty noreen Every year our group of lace makers books a weekend with a visiting tutor, Kitty, in the turquoise sweater - right - who makes the most exquisite lace herself and also experiments with other materials besides thread, for example, wire, plastic bags, and string!  We were sticking to thread for our masterpieces though, as you will see in the next lot of photos. 

edith There were more than a dozen of us, including invited guests from the Edinburgh Lace Club, and a lady from Teesdale in the north of England, all doing our preferred type of lace – edith's Torchon – below right,

Buckinghamshire Point,  bruges laceBruges flower - below left, Flanders, Binche…..

The last three are types of lace from Belgium which is a country famous for its lace, while the first two are generally made in Britain, but originating from Europe and brought to this country by French Protestants – Huguenots -  fleeing from religious persecution in Roman Catholic continental Europe in the 16th century.  yvonne's Flanders lace and Binche look pretty complicated to me, but the patterns are beautifulpat's.  Pat and Yvonne were working on these, Pat was making edgings for handkerchiefs, and had patterns for each of her grand-daughters, all equally gorgeous.  The patterns are known as ‘prickings’ because before any work begins the pinholes must be pricked through the card with a sharp needle-like point   The markings are a guide to the pattern to be worked.  The one on the right is the one above left.pat's patterns

Then the pricking is fastened to the lace ‘pillow’ – a hard cushion-like board that will hold the pins securely during the work.  The bobbins hold the threads as you can see above right – these are European continental bobbins  - and by flicking the bobbins left and right in a particular order form stitches that are held in place by the pins.  Quite often, the finer the work, the closer the pins so they appear like little forests generally hiding the recent work from view.  As work progresses you can remove pins from further back, and you hope that by removing them you are not going to reveal a glaring mistake.  Oh I’ve done that before, by which time it’s too late to go back and fix it.

marjorie  The bobbins Marjorie – right – and Edith – above, near the top of the page -  are using are Midland (of England) bobbins.  The difference from continental bobbins is that the English bobbins (used also in Scotland) are thin with a ring of beads at the bottom, while the shanks of continental bobbins end in a bulb shape.  The reason for the difference is that in Britain the threads are more highly twisted than in Europe, so need something to stop the twist from unravelling, hence the beads.  They also give a bit of weight to the bobbin to help with tension.yvonne ann

Yvonne and Ann are using the continental bobbins.  Sometimes it gets quite hard to see where you are going when the pins are so close together so you often find a magnifying glass handy.  Ann wears hers!

catherine's mistake   Catherine is also working on a piece of continental lace, and on her working diagram she is pointing out where she made a mistake!  She says that undoing her lace is what she does best!  Don’t believe it!  Actually Catherine was a reluctant lacemaker when she first came for lessons.  She liked and collected the bobbins – Midland type in the beginning – but eventually decided she ought to learn how to use them, and I have to say that she, out of the whole Peeblesshire group, has been the most adventurous, trying out different types of laces and going off on courses to Bruges and other areas to learn more!

edith mairi

Edith and Mairi are fairly new to lacemaking and as they were working on the same piece they helped each other interpret the pricking, and learn how to make the stitch patterns!mairi's  This is Mairi’s, a square worked quarter by quarter, in four triangle shapes.  I think she has done very well.

 I have to show you this picture with the mountain of bobbins fastened into their wooden holders.  lace weekend 020Morag – not my pal Morag from Peebles – actually revealed the piece she has been working on for a year or more, here hidden under cover cloths (to keep it clean), and with only a tightly packed host of pins visible hiding her most recent work.  It was an edging, about 3 inches/8cm wide, a piece of lace that will be sewn onto a piece of fine cotton or linen in due course, and was the most exquisite pattern of a peacock with tail feathers trailing behind shaped like tear drops, and various stitch patterns and embellishments around it.  Each side of her edging will have two peacocks facing each other, so several years to go till it is finished,  We all duly admired her work, quite full of awe really, but I was not permitted to take a photograph of it!  Was I disappointed!  Take my word for it I have never seen a more beautiful piece of lace, and hope that some day she will relent and allow a photo – though I will have to go along to the Edinburgh Lace Club to take it!  Maybe my sister will do it for me!  She’s a member up there!

As for my own lace, I was just beginning a motif in floral Buckinghamshire Point lace, one that I began before but found my thread was too fine.  So with a less fine thread I began again.  It will need 130 bobbins or thereabouts, and I didn’t get too far with it in the two days.  pins I took the photo once I got the first few pins in because I liked the composition rather than the work itself!  Progression  was very slow over the weekend, but  I was quite happy with what I had done. I forgot to take an ‘end of weekend’ picture!  When I go to Knoydart in April I will take another one or two.  Hopefully by then all the pin holes in this picture, and more besides, will have pins in them supporting the threads!

Everyone enjoyed the weekend which passed very quickly – too quickly – but we have already booked Kitty to come back next year.  In the meantime we are left to our own devices!  Hmmm!

Talk again soon.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Well, I’ve just booked a short break… to somewhere I have always wanted to go to… ICELAND!  You’ll know I’m not a sun worshipper, and much prefer cooler climes!  Well I reckon it will be cool, in more senses of the word than one!  It’s just for three days that will be packed with sightseeing.  The nice thing about the journey there is that I fly from Glasgow which is not that far away.  Generally trips abroad/overseas tend to mean a flight from Edinburgh to London, or Amsterdam, or Paris, depending on where you are going.  Going from Scotland to London, only to fly north again seems to me to be a right waste of money and time, but that’s what often happens!  So, if I can’t fly to Iceland from Edinburgh, the next best place is Glasgow!  We’ll be seeing waterfalls, geo-thermal areas, geysers, and volcanoes too, I hope, as well as going on a whale spotting cruise, and a tour of Reykjavik, the capital, which is where we’ll be staying.  I say we, by which I mean me and my travelling companions, whoever they may be, as I am going on my own initially!

However before all that, I will be heading over to Ireland to a weekend of workshops in various aspects of Celtic culture – language, music, dance, story-telling, history…..  That all came about through the college where I attended Gaelic classes in the last couple of years.  A group from the college are going over and I’ve been invited too!  It should be great.  The Irish people are very friendly and the culture related to the Gaelic culture over here!

Every year I try to go on the lace-making week in Knoydart, the large piece of the Scottish mainland opposite the south end of the Isle of Skye, and more particularly in Doune, which I have blogged about for the last few years.  Usually it’s a summer visit but this year is a spring one, and I’ve now written to book my place!!  As we don’t make lace all the time, if the weather is good we should get out and about to enjoy the spring flora and fauna.  It will be interesting to note the differences – foxgloves perhaps, instead of fungi!   Hoping for good weather there – and it will be light well into the evenings too!!

Unfortunately I've had to put my visit to New Zealand on hold, due to this blinking shoulder – frozen shoulder?  cuff rotator syndrome? bursitis? tendonitis?  Who knows! The pain started last summer, and at times I felt like I could happily cut off my right arm!! Physio and also an injection into the muscle hasn’t really helped much, but I think it might be slightly better now than it has been.  At least I don’t feel like cutting the arm off so often!  Anyway, lugging baggage around airports, and driving a lot, just doesn’t appeal just now.  It wouldn’t give my shoulder a chance to recover, so reluctantly I am putting NZ off for a while.  On short trips I can travel light with just a small “cabin case”, and I won’t be doing any driving.

So three short breaks to look forward to, and of course I’ll be sharing them with you through the blog here and my photos!

Talk again soon. 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Day out to Fort William

Before I turned up to visit them, Janet and Ray had planned to drive down the Great Glen to Fort William on the Sunday to meet up with her mother, brother and sister-in-law for lunch, so as I at least already know her mother, we  saw no reason to postone the occasion!  I’ve only seen Alasdair once in many years and had never met his wife, so I looked forward to catching up with them.  We took the road to the south of Loch Ness, as a change from the main A82, and had the smaller road almost to ourselves.  loch ness

The views were very pretty, looking down Loch Ness, the home of Nessie – the Loch Ness Monster.  She wasn’t in evidence at least while we were looking down but maybe she managed a sneaky airing elsewhere on the loch out of sight of Nessie-watchers!  I think I have told you before that I saw her once!  I was with my dad, years ago, and having stopped the car for a bit of a leg stretch, he and I walked to the edge of the hilly bit above the loch.  Looking down we saw what appeared to us to be a small boat upside down in the water with the line of the keel very prominent.  However far from just lying in the water, it was moving at a considerable speed leaving a wake behind it!  Dad and I looked at each other in disbelief!  Was this the monster? I believe it was!  She wasn’t a long serpent with humps like arches, as they tended to think in those days, but is now thought to be  like the “upside down boat” we saw, so who knows!! 

loch ceo glais Anyway not only did we have views of Loch Ness but along the way we stopped beside a smaller loch, Loch Ceo Glais, to allow Sasha the dog to jump out for a wee!  loch ceo glais 2

Down by the loch I took a few photos of the ice on the water – yes, it was pretty cold up on the hill! loch ice

Ice makes very pretty patterns!another loch        



As we continued on our way we had several beautiful views.  If I had been driving in my own car, no doubt I would have been screeching to a halt far more often, to take pictures, but you can’t do that when you’re in someone else’s car, can you!  moors and mountainsRay was kind enough to stop a few times, otherwise I’d not have had much to show you of the moors and mountains, lochs and trees. 

Soon we came down into Fort Augustus,at the foot of Loch Ness, and joining the main road, crossed the canal before Loch Oich and again before Loch Lochy and continued on our way to Fort William. well almost to Fort William.  Janet’s family live a couple of miles out, across the bottom end of Neptune’s staircase, a series of locks on the canal, at Corpach, with beautiful views – on a good day – of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. A Ben or a Beinn is Gaelic, and there are many of them in the north and west of Scotland, along with Sgurrs and Stobs, Stucs, Mealls and Carns and a few others, generally representing the shape of the mountain.  In Fort William Ben Nevis is just known as “The Ben”!   The Ben in mist

Sunday wasn’t a good day so this is the view from Alasdair’s and Jane’s living room!  Not a good day and not a good photo either but it gives you the idea!  The arrow is pointing to the Ben hidden in the mist.

We picked up Janet’s mum and continued to “the Fort” – its Gaelic name means “the Garrison”. where we were to meet Alasdair, Jane and son Finlay. at the seafood restaurant where, in my young day, the pier used to be. crannog The railway station was right at the top of the pier too, but has now been consigned to the north of the town, the railway line now being the town centre bypass road.  loch linnhe2

There are reminders that passenger boats once used this pier as you can see in the photo on the left from the red and green gangplank lying unused but decorative.  When I worked in Fort William as a student in the summer, we always used to say  when looking down Loch Linnhe (Linny) that if you could see Ben Keil (Keel) in the distance it was going to rain – and if you couldn’t see it, it was raining!  Ben Keil is the very last faint hill you can see.  It was going to rain!  Nothing more certain!  This area has the highest rainfall in the country!  smiths munros Before we left the restaurant after a nice lunch I took a photo of Janet and Ray with the family.  You’ll note Fergus isn’t there!  He’d decided to go and hang out with a friend instead of being treated to his dinner.inverlochy castle 

After lunch we drove back out to Corpach, detouring by the ruin of Old Inverlochy Castle – not to be confused with the Inverlochy Castle Hotel!  It’s very upmarket!  The family treated their mum to lunch there last summer for her 90th birthday.  The old castle dates back many centuries, and when I was a student working in the town a mile or so away,in the late 1960s, it was a dangerous collapsing building, fenced off and with DANGER signs all over it.  Today it has been restored to its former ruined glory and visitors are encouraged.  Our detour here was really for Sasha who had been cooped up in the car, but I took a quick run round looking at the history boards telling its story, and looking at the square courtyard with a tower at each corner.  inverlochy castle 1300 There would have been wooden buildings inside the stone curtain wall, and would have looked very different in its heyday!  This is an artist’s impression of how it may have looked in 1300.comyn's tower


This is the tower in the far away left corner, Comyn’s Tower, where the lord of Inverlochy had his apartments.  It is the largest tower and the most easily defended, by its position near the river.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at A&J’s house, enjoying a cup of tea, and a blether (conversation).  It turns out that Alasdair and Jane each know people in Peebles, and I know them too!  Amazing!  Normally when people ask if I know such-and-such a person I have to say I don’t, but not this time!

Soon it was time to start heading back up the A82 to Inverness.  Alasdair came with us to stay overnight as he had an early appointment up there.  We bade Jane farewell and piled into the car. 

inverness castle Next morning Janet and Alasdair left for town early and later Ray took me down into town for my bus back to Edinburgh.  The weather had perked up again, and I managed to get a picture of Inverness Castle as we drove in alongside the river.  It’s not an ancient castle – not even 200 years old yet - but it does replace several other castles built over the centuries in the area.

My journey home was uneventful, and direct!!  No detours off the A9, and no stops till Perth.  After that there were one or two other drop offs or pick ups but only at designated stops so we returned faster that we went up on Friday.  I met Linda for tea in Edinburgh before catching the Peebles bus home!  What a good weekend!

Talk again soon.

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Well, apparently the weather had been beautiful all week, but Saturday in Inverness was kind of dreich – dreech = dull, damp, miserable weather – so we hung out at home for the morning, eventually piling into the car, Sasha included,  for the drive out past Nairn to Brodie for lunch.  There’s a castle at Brodie -  I saw it once years ago – but lunch was in the cafe of Brodie Countryfayre, a rather splendid retail outlet nearby, with its departments of luxury items from food to clothes and interior decor.  The Cullen Skink wasn’t as good as it could have been!  It was excellent potato soup but somehow the essential flavour of smoked haddock was missing.  Rick Stein’s recipe is a good one, if you fancy tasting it yourself.

After lunch we drove through Nairn and headed for the beach so that Sasha could have a run-about.  beach near NairnThe sand looked lovely, soft, golden and inviting, but the rain had come on again and there was a strong chilling breeze. gulls nairn 

I got out of the car to take a couple or so photographs, but was glad to be back out of the elements again.  Despite our short acquaintance, Sasha had quite taken to me, and as Ray set off along the shore she stood quite still staring at me as if to say “Aren’t you coming too?”  Not this time, chum!sasha and ray 

Nairn fishwife





The coast, east of Inverness, was well settled by folk who made their living from the sea.  The men built their boats – some of my ancestors came from further along the coast and were involved in the boat building trade – and went to sea to “the fishing”.  The women mended nets, collected bait, baited lines, smoked a portion of the fish their men brought home and sold it… all in addition to looking after the home and family .  Above is a monument to the fishwives who carried the fish in wicker creels on their backs, selling round the doors of the local area.

Sasha having had her run, we continued on our way back towards Inverness, detouring once more to look at Fort George, built in the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising of 1745.  It was really too late – and too wet and cold – to visit at that time and we couldn’t see over the walls or through the entrance gate so more pepperpots I contented myself with photos of the pepperpot turrets that quite took my fancy!  fort george pepperpot

There are more pictures and descriptions of the place on the website you’ll find if you click “Fort George” above.  It’s well worth a look.  Our pepperpots were to be found on the upper right corner of the main fort photo.  Janet says they have an annual fair at the fort which is a great event so maybe I’ll try and go up to see that sometime.

Continuing along the coast, we came across these ornamental dolphins!  dolphins

They were beautiful, flying over  their grassy sea!


Back in Inverness, Ray wanted to show me the city’s answer to the Three Graces, a newly refurbished trio of statues, recently set on a new sandstone plinth in the gardens below the 19th century castle. three graces To say he was not best pleased with them was an understatement!   Faith, Hope and Charity had not been cleaned up as he thought they should be, and the sandstone plinth looked wrong with these three old girls standing atop it!  Have to say I would have thought that some of the blackness could still have been removed, and I agree the plinth is not right.  I think I would have had them each standing on their own smaller  plinths at differing heights, like the 1st, 2nd and third prize winners’ podia at a sports stadium, though in a triangle formation.  Oh, but who are we…….!  The ladies stand facing the river Ness , so I took a photo looking downriver to the main road bridge.  river Ness

The concrete block to the right of the two spires is a modern “shops and office block” in the centre of the Victorian city.  In fact Inverness is a bit of a hotch potch of styles, which don’t really fit happily together.  Apparently there have been ideas to regenerate the city centre, but there has never been a definitive plan, resulting in what seems to be a series of rather disastrous mistakes being made, with for example, a  classic old library building lost behind the bus station, when there could have been a beautiful park to enhance the Georgian columns, and the bus station sited nearer the railway station… Ray says a recently refurbished shopping mall is to be rethought and probably pulled down to start all over again!  Such a shame that it wasn’t all planned out at the beginning as an ongoing scheme.  Anyway, that’s city planners for you!

Talk again soon.  

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A weekend in Innerneesh!

That’s how they pronounce Inverness in Gaelic!  As I will have said before, it’s a Gaelic name and means mouth of the river Ness.  Jackie, our choir conductor, hails from here and calls it Inversnecky – which is apparently a colloquial term for the city -and was where I was visiting at the weekend.  My friends Janet and Ray are going on holiday at the end of May, and had asked me if I would cat-sit for the time they are away.  “Come up sometime and we’ll discuss it!” Janet emailed me.  So on Friday afternoon, I caught the  bus from Peebles to Edinburgh, and there transferred to the Inverness bus.  I had decided not to take my car, but use my bus-pass, which is a great perk of being 60 plus!  We get free travel by bus all over Scotland!

It was a long journey, with the bus calling at various small places en route, meaning several detours off the main road north, the A9 …. and the heating was ferocious!  I thought it was just me – my personal thermostat not working again – but no!  Another passenger eventually came forward to ask the driver to turn the heating down.  (“Down?” he questioned in obvious disbelief!He did, but it really didn’t make much difference!

It was around 7.30 in the evening when we finally pulled off the A9 for Inverness city centre.  Janet and Ray were waiting for me at the bus station, where I was to meet a decidedly suspicious Sasha, the latest addition to the Smith household, a cross between a Labrador and an Alsatian, I’d say, who tested me out with a few loud and meant-to-be-intimidating barks!  By the time we got home though, we were good friends!  Her bark was very much worse than her bite! (not that she bites anyway!)

First though we  went to try out a new restaurant that had once been what they would have called “a family hotel” when I was growing up.  The last time I was there was for the “tea” after my cousin Moira’s funeral a few years ago now, but since then the whole building - except for the front facade -  has been demolished and rebuilt.  It had only been open again for three days, and being near Janet’s and Ray’s house, was a logical choice.  To be honest I can’t recall what I ate,  but I know Janet had to send her food back to the kitchen!  Oops!  Not a good start!

So the evening ended back at home chez Smith with a glass or two of Pinot Grigio, a catch-up on news and a discussion on what to do over the weekend.

Just a couple of photos today, but I’ll have a fewinverness 005 more tomorrow!  This is Sasha chewing a rubber ball to pieces (right), and (below) Janet with Pickles, the grand old lady I have agreed to look after at the beginning of Juneinverness 009.   

Talk again soon.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A Photo a day - January

Well, January’s over – and I’ve completed my first month of a photo a day!  There were only two days that I didn’t get a picture for, but otherwise, there’s something for each day. January calendar Large e-mail view

Sometimes it’s just a reminder of something new - New shoes - new battery charger.  (I charged up the camera battery overnight last Saturday; went to take a photo the next day, and found the battery hadn’t charged at all.  Luckily I was sent a copy of a photo someone else took that day – the old school friends, so I was able to put in the photo I would have taken.)

Others are commemorative -  ‘lighter later’ reminds me that the evenings are drawing out again already, and ‘first snowdrops’ will tell me something next year when I look back!  ‘Six inch daffodils’ will probably tell me even more!  They’ve got quite confused this year with such a mild spell of weather.  Normally they don’t begin to poke their shoots above the earth till well into February!

Then there was Colin’s visit, the two Burns Suppers, frost, the theatre visit to ‘The King & I’, meeting Katrina in Edinburgh – some of the things I have blogged about.

Most are about things I do regularly – lace group, choir, lunch at Pam’s tearoom, a walk along the riverside, eating out with friends…

It’s actually quite hard to get a photo for every day, so missing only two wasn’t bad!   I’ve got a picture for today, the first for February.  Here’s a wee preview!cal knitted bluetit  It’s a bluetit!  Knitted by my friend Norma.  Pretty cute!  Norma’s well into knitting right now, dolls, teddies, baby clothes, socks, flowers – I have an anemone brooch she made – and now bluetits!  Well maybe she’ll do a variation on a theme and turn the bluetit into a robin or a blackbird!!  If she does I might put it onto the calendar too!

Well, here’s hoping I can keep up the photographs for the next 28 days.  Leap year this year too!  Do you know the custom that on 29th February a woman can ask a man to marry her ?  Do you know that if he refuses he has to buy her a pair of gloves?!!!  That custom must go back a long way!  I don’t wear gloves all that often, and I have a pair already, so I don’t think I’ll bother asking anyone to marry me on 29th.

Talk again soon.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Tweed Walk

How many times have you done this walk with me, I wonder?  It’s my favourite walk and so handy for me living where I do, practically on the river bank.  cauldI walked up the north side of the river, as I would if I was going to the Doctor’s or to Morag’s, past the cauld and up to the bridge that crosses the Cuddy Burn, where gulls, ducks and goosanders tend to congregate.bridge







This is one of the goosanders, with his pointy brown crest very evident.  A bit further on I looked back again towards Tweed bridge with Lee Pen in the distance.  It was a bit of a grey day, but I still love that view.bridge and lee pen hay lodge






Then there’s the long stretch that leads to the steps, and the old tree with rocks from the tumbledown wall in its trunk.  At the top of the steps, the path turns left – you can just see the gap on the right of the picture – in front of the old Lodge belonging once to the Hay family, and down again to the river bank.  clump of snowdropsThere are masses of snowdrops along the next bit. I snapped just one clump!

tree roots

Continuing along the river bank in the park now, I could see ahead of me the huge stump of a very old tree that must have been cut down a while ago.  fungi 4 The roots made an interesting pattern, and on closer inspection I found various fungi growing in amongst the little crevices.  They’re quite beautiful!fotheringham bridge

 I wasn’t going to cross the footbridge yet but continue on.  jedder burn

The end of the park is marked by the Jedder Burn.  Cross the bridge and a little way ahead are the Dookits, a rocky outcrop being the spot where a diving board was once fixed.  cal the dookits To dook, in Scots, is to go bathing – well, it does in this context, hence the name of this part of the river.  It wouldn’t be safe to dive here now as the river has silted up, but I am sure kids still come here to play and swim. dog

Dogs and their owners do too.  This dog was having fun chasing stones thrown for him.  I walked on, feeling quite capable today of reaching Neidpath Castle, but the path had got rather mucky beyond the Dookits and I didn’t want to slip  and have to walk home with a muddy backside! neidpath I took a photo of the castle which seemed to merge with the background on a day like today, and began to walk back to the Dookits, rope swing

passing, at a bit of a height, a rope swing hanging over the water.  I expect a beautiful summer’s day will find the youth of Peebles having the time of their lives here – or maybe not, in these days of “health and safety”!  How did the human race survive this long, I wonder, before health and safety rules came along!

Back to the footbridge then and this time I did cross it, to head back to Peebles on the south bank.  On New Year’s day I took a picture from the bridge of the church tower and the different layers of grey.  from Fotheringham bridge Today I took the same picture in brighter conditions, with a late ray of sun hitting the hillside.


I mentioned last time I walked this way that I wouldn’t mind ending up in a wee retirement flat here at Riverside!  I think the middle floor, the bay window on the left…. What do you think? bridge lamp   So back to Tweed Bridge – aren’t these lamps great?  – cross the road for a view of Tweed Green,from bridge

across the bridge

over the bridge; turn right and I was home!

Not a twinge in the hip or knee today!  Great!

Talk again soon.