In the process of filing away my birthday cards for 2020, each one is unique and special, thank you to everyone who took the time to draw, paint or send their good wishes. As I said on the day, this one couldn’t have been more different from the last, but there are very precious memories to be saved. If I were to upload all the cards I’d be way over my bandwidth for the page, so you’ll just have to come and see them when all this is over.
Update 14.05.2020 – Was NO-ONE going to point out the grammatical error in the title?
Biggest surprise of this week though was the delivery of advance vegetables, in advance that is by about a week of when they were expected.
Nothing daunted*, I have been farming out chunks of cabbage and leek, with some lovely recipes (and cakes) passed back in exchange. To date we have had steamed cabbage, pickled cabbage, it’s going in the Scotch Broth, there’s coleslaw en route – and there’s still some left. One chum has passed me a rumbledethumps recipe, another made turkey, leek & cabbage soup, then bubble and squeak. The roast cabbage was a total failure and stank out the house for 24 hours. A bay leaf was added to the steamed version, which successfully contained the odour. There have been roasted carrots, leek mornay, banana breakfasts and clementine conferences.
*I think those who had to listen to me squawking about those vegetables would detect the lie here….
Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) from the French caboche – head, Latin caput.
Flying Crooked – Poem by Robert Graves
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.
04:50 a.m., been awake since 02:40, nothing new there and I may manage to go back to sleep yet. A year ago I had just retired, and was hosting a birthday party in our room at the Kenmore hotel, with Paul, the band, and the folk club. This one couldn’t be more different but hopefully the weather will be decent and the cake will be edible.
As part of the on-going (and why not?) celebrations of our advanced old age, the 59ers hied to the fair environs of Glasgow on Monday, there to partake in an ethical jewellery making session, using reclaimed materials. Led by Stefanie Cheong, we spent a hugely enjoyable day learning how to choose, shape, solder and fashion our own silver rings. The day passed very quickly as we were fully involved in the creative process aided by copious cups of Earl Grey, and a lunch provided by Diana. There may also have been cake. I was genuinely intrigued to see the end products, especially as I have a rep for being fairly maladroit in these situations. My chums have a bit more flair! I’m delighted with mine, every aspect of it was of my choosing.
Once I receive a picture of me I will add one in!
Paul and I had been to Glasgow on Saturday, to see Still Game at the Hydro. We stopped off at the Riverside Museum first, and enjoyed a look round the exhibits, which spark off so many memories. We were there the weekend it opened., back in 2011. I posted pictures about it then and noted that everyone who passed the horse drawn hearse was clapping* the (fake) horses’ heads. Happy to report that the noses of these fine beasts are just about threadbare by now, seems the folk memory of cuddies in the streets runs deep.
*”clapping” is Scottish for showing tactile appreciation of an animal. “Can Ah clap yir dug, mister?”
Everyone who knows us will be aware that we have had a veritable social whirl this summer, with two family weddings and a Diamond Wedding for family friends. I have thought long and hard about putting up pictures of these events, and have decided to refrain. The main players in these events do not have social media profiles, therefore it’s a point of philosophical debate as to whether I am morally entitled to share their images. It’s also really difficult to select just one or two from hundreds. So, I shall thank Nick and Beki for the wedding in Norfolk and Emma and Thierry for the wedding in Brussels. Both days were the occasion of much joy, some tears, and the chance to blether, laugh and catch up. Congratulations also to Eveline and Eddie on a notable anniversary.
North of the Tay and south of the Forth, the weekend saw us in cahoots with Rieko as we visited some old and new haunts. First to Dundee, there to see the V&A, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The exterior is a delight to photograph, especially now that the gardens are flourishing. Next door the RRS Discovery was interesting and if it was a bit chilly, then it only served to remind of the privations experienced on the expedition to Antarctica. After a pit stop at the DCA, we called in at Dundee train station so that the lady herself could make some arrangements. Of course the randomly allocated ticket clerk was bi-lingual and of course her other language was Japanese. That made a potentially protracted transaction simple.
Home via the supermarket for essential supplies, and ginger pork cooked by our guest. Next day, after yet another instance of Kirsty knows best saw us traversing one of West Lothian’s more challenging farm roads, we finally arrived at Hopetoun House. This beautiful mansion, a tourist attraction in its own right, is enjoying a boom due to its being a film location for Outlander. It’s a glorious example of two styles of Scottish led architecture, designed by William Bruce and then altered and extended by William Adam. We had an interesting tour, a chat with the guides, and I was even able to tell them a thing they did not know*, which does not happen often.
There were views of the three bridges from the roof terrace, but for my money the best views are on the return journey, since the road is almost at sea level and the vistas are not occluded.
The next destination was new to us, Midhope House, also a filming location for Outlander, derelict but atmospheric. I’m going to have to watch the series now, if only to find out how they erased the telegraph poles from the long shots.
Blackness Castle was brisk and busy, those floors are still made of bedrock and it’s no place for your Manolos, but it offers an insight into medieval life, as viewed from the river. And after a brief call to the farm shop (Blue Murder Cheese, Badger beers) it was home again to beautiful sushi and then an early night.
As ever it’s a grand opportunity to see your own country from the point of view of a tourist, and a foreign visitor. There could be more in the way of multi lingual information, disabled access is not always clearly indicated, some staff assume that you have already read a 16 page induction leaflet on how their premises operate, but mostly it’s endlessly fascinating and of course beauty lurks round the most unexpected corners.
*the roof terrace has been open since the 80s.
…was the best quiz team name, as voted by Julia. We had a weekend away with the 59ers, back to glorious Perthshire, with its trees and bonny flowers. A visit to the ceramics festival at Scone proved a success, I think we all opened our wallets or purses at some point, rain did not stop play. The ospreys at the Loch of the Lowes were on form, as were the cakes in the tea rooms of Dunkeld. But mostly we talked, blethered, chatted, caught up, hung out, and just enjoyed each other’s company, especially round the dining table.
Despite the obvious, including the most appalling lack of prudent and effective leadership on both sides of the pond, leading to who knows what clusterbourach* in 2019, we have had some excellent adventures this year. We have visited places we had never thought to look for previously, as we sought out new horizons, or to be precise, car charging points. Some, like Coldstream, are a delight, with a beautiful park on the river and a cosy pub with log fires right next door. (Soft drinks available). Others may prioritise the functional over the aesthetic, particularly those in multi story car parks, but if they work, and are not already in use, or ICEd***, that’s all that matters, and we can have a blether while we wait. Or not. Other trips with chums and family have been grand fun, catching up and meeting new folks, and if we happened to go to Africa for the first time then we kept really quiet about it. **
Yesterday my school chums and I ate loads of food then went for a walk. That’s a good way to end a year.
*my politics are a mystery, especially to me, but the National reported this, so it gets the credit. A bourach is a mess, clusterbourach references a much ruder term coined, I think, by the American army.
**that is so far from the truth.
***parking space for EV^ taken up by car using fossil fuel, or Internal Combustion Engine.
^Electric vehicle. It’s a whole new world.
To Dundee, thence to meet up with Philip and Jacqui, and to assess at first hand the V&A museum which opened its doors recently, after the usual amount of controversy associated with any groundbreaking arts-led enterprise.
It’s a bold building, with excellent views along the Tay and over to Fife. The Scottish design gallery had some very interesting exhibits and I would like to go back early on in the day, mid week, so that I could see more.
We hope that the hundreds more who will visit, venture out to enjoy what else is on offer in this unique and interesting city. We also made a sideways jump to the McManus Galleries, and again I would like to go back and spend more time there.
I have looked up the deal for the Birds of Africa picture below, the ship Uganda is indeed the same one as I sailed on in 1970. It was an educational cruise and the schoolchildren lived in dormitories. We were not allowed anywhere near the grandeur of the grown ups’ dining rooms and we drank nothing but apple juice for 10 days, which explains why I have been ambivalent about that drink ever since. Had great fun though, even if I was sick as a dog going through the Bay of Biscay.
Well, were we not off on our travels yet again? This time to Durham, in the company of family chums. Stand out moments included an ad hoc napkin party hat event, and someone’s face when his son forgot to buy him a sausage roll from the bakery.
The first three images were not taken by me, photography was forbidden in the Cathedral, so these are from postcards. These are the windows with which I was particularly impresssed. The Cathedral itself is most interesting, it houses the tombs of the Venerable Bede and Saint Cuthbert, but in addition it presents modern art, and an extensive panoply of historical touchpoints. It took us three goes to get in there, but fair play to an institution which has been an active centre of worship for 10 (?) centuries, you have to wait if there are services.
Since, amongst many other goings-on, [Hey! Freshers’ Week!!} it was open doors weekend, we were able to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is quite one of the most affecting, beautiful and simple chapels I have yet visited. Leaving aside any discussion on religion, it was a place of contemplation, with an immediate link to Saint Margaret, well known to Dunfermline.
After that, we enjoyed much silliness over dinner, and if the journey home was made interesting by some appalling lapses of manners on behalf of our fellow travellers, it allowed us to chunter quietly whilst acknowledging that no real damage was done, except perhaps to the reputation of a large country to the west.
Oops, nearly forgot.