Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Sunday Post.


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

by William Henry Davies

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Sunday post

See these hands folded now,
Hands that wrought for so many,
Tended and tidied a family,
Soothed them and calmed them,
Fed, clothed and reared them
Almost on nothing.

See these hands resting
That in the old hard days
Picked blackberries for pennies
And gathered dry sticks in bundles,
In dim March days I scarcely remember
When beech woods were a mystery
And fox cubs played among daffodils.

See these hands resting,
That raked hay in the fields
Of a summer coloured with butterflies,
That brought tea and sandwiches
To tired men at harvest,
And scattered wheat and Argentinian maize
To hungry hens.

See these hands, hands never still,
Hands they have folded now,
Hands that are resting,
That will never be active again,
Long though I kneel for their blessing.

Frank Mansell.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.

I wonder what she was thinking?

It's nice when visitors come to stay. Sometimes in fact, it's brilliant!

Passports please!

We recently had our Swiss niece Julia come to stay. While we were on holiday in Switzerland during the summer we visited the lovely G’s cousins and while there 12-year-old Julia had asked if she could come to stay with us in her October holidays. We said it would be fine as long as her parents were happy and they replied that they would be quite relaxed about it as long as Julia realised that for the first time she would be travelling completely on her own, which is no small thing when taking an international flight from a major airport. Her parents were confident that arrangements could be made to ensure that Julia could be escorted and kept watch over during the journey to make sure that she was okay, if we could make sure that she was met off the plane in Edinburgh.

Unusual sheds, Lindisfarne.

Over the following weeks flights were investigated and arrangements made to make sure everyone was happy and, after what seemed like no time at all, the time arrived for Julia's visit. The lovely G and I had just returned from holiday in France the day before and luckily the forecast weather for the week of Julia stay looked promising for the most part. Numerous texts flew back and forwards between us and Switzerland making sure that we knew of Julia's progress with her parents to the airport, on to the departure gates, then onto the flight and that the flight had departed on time. We arrived at the airport in good time and make sure that the lovely G was in place to meet her with all the proper required documentation to ensure that the airline would relinquish their charge into her hands. This done, Julia was free to enjoy her holiday with us.

What goes up must come down and get wet feet

Julia had been to the house before, on holiday with her parents and her older brother couple of years ago and had loved being in a place so different from her home. That holiday introduced Julia to the nearby beaches, coves and coastline of East Lothian, something that was entirely new to a wee girl from a completely landlocked European country. Julia had probably never seen the sea before, only beautiful Swiss lakes. She was amazed to look out to sea and not see land on the far shore, in fact she was amazed not to see a shore at all. Much of the hot summer fortnight spent with us back then was spent on beaches and in particular on rocky shorelines investigating rock pools at low tide or watching breakers crash down onto the shore in front of them. These things, ordinary to us, completely fascinated Julia and she soon amassed a collection of shell's and stones as well was the odd empty crab shell or claw which were carefully packed to be taken home as treasured possessions.


Two years later Julia was just as excited at the prospect of spending time by the sea. As young girls do, she had prepared an itinerary for her holiday which covered almost all the available time with things she hoped to do. Many of those meant being by the water – not necessarily the best place to be in Scotland in October. Luckily for Julia (and for us) the forecast good weather came as scheduled and even managed to crank up the temperature a notch or two above expectations. This gave us the opportunity to spend lots of time with Julia outside doing the things she hoped to do, as well as gave us the chance to do things she hadn't thought of and show her places she hadn't been before. There was plenty of time to indulge her fascination with rock pools, investigating seaweed draped corners and carefully turning over stones to investigate the wildlife hiding underneath. Julia and I spent hours on the nearby coast scrambling across rocky shorelines in the hunt for the perfect pool as we collected and examined shrimps, hermit crabs, starfish and all the other creatures that can be found on the local coastline. As I trundled across seaweed draped rocks, slipping and sliding at almost every step, she skipped like an elf sure-footedly across wet rocks and water filled channels, fearless and unaware in her excitement. More than once I'd to call her back closer to me so that I felt more in control, or to remind her of how quickly incoming tides can come in and the dangers of being left stranded on rocks, especially when accompanied only by an overweight middle-aged man, no matter how proud that same man may be of his junior Lifesavers badge earned 40 years ago in a lovely, heated indoor swimming pool.

......... and wildlife

Julia's gone back home now. A week goes very quickly.. If I was a curmudgeon I could mutter on about how nice it is now to be able to get into the bathroom when I want, to have a shower without checking where our guest is, or to be able to walk around the house without switching off lights as I go, but I won't because those things are unimportant. I miss her smiles and the dozen grateful hugs I received across each day of her holiday. I miss her frantic energy and her enthusiasm. But - I don't miss the responsibilty of being a parent - no matter how temporary it's been.

To busy to pose for photo's

Sweetheart! Should we take her to the doctor??

It's good to have visitors. Sometimes in fact, it's brilliant!

Thanks Julia.

see you later.

Listening to

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Sunday Post


 She was a small dog, neat and fluid –
even her conversation was tiny:
she greeted you with a bow, never a bow-wow.

Her sons stood monumentally over her
but did what she told them. Each grew grizzled
till it seemed he was his own mother's grandfather.

Once, gathering sheep on a showery day,
I remarked how dry she was. Pollochan said, ‘Ah,
it would take a very accurate drop to hit Lassie.’

She sailed in the dingy like a proper sea dog.
Where’s a burn? – She's first on the other side.
She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind

But suddenly she was old and sick and crippled....
I grieved for Pollochan when he took her a stroll
and put his gun to the back of her head.

Norman MacCaig
January 1974

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Gentlemen Take Polaroids?

Early Morn, Villa 'Les Rosiers', Aude, Languedoc.

{Post title is a vague reference to a track by 'Japan' in case you're trying to make a connection.}

Well, that's the final holiday of the year over and the sad return to cold, damp, rainy Scotland happened on Sunday afternoon. We had a great week of good weather in the Languedoc, with temperatures in the high twenties and low thirties each day apart from the last couple before we flew back. In some ways this actually helped us prepare for coming back to the weather that we heard was covering Scotland in rain and windy conditions.

It was great to be back in the Languedoc again. It's an area we've been to a couple of times now and always felt completely at home there, so much so that we have looked at buying a house in the area (should the finances ever allow) at sometime in the future. For now though we have to make do with renting a holiday home, which this time was in the village of Trauss, just to the north of Carcassonne. The house is owned by a British couple, one of two gites attached to their own house, which they bought when they moved to live in France permanently four years ago. {lucky people}

The house was lovely. A typically French affair with shuttered windows, open beams and exposed stone walls, well kitted out with all mod cons and comfortable furniture. Having a nice pool was a definite bonus, despite advice that it would probably be too cold to go swimming as the temperatures now were a lot cooler than the summer temperatures of a few weeks ago. Of course with temperatures at 30 degrees, hotter than the normal Scottish summer, that advice was largely ignored and I was often grateful to have a cooling dip after a long day out on a hot day, especially if that day had involved a long drive or hoof up a mountain to explore a castle or two.


Distant Queribus

We spent our time returning to old haunts, exploring new ones and finding those wonderful, unexpectedly amazing restaurants you sometimes find in the farthest corner of the smallest village. We had some amazing meals at bargain prices and certainly didn't lose any weight while we were there, despite doing plenty of walking. We walked through picturesque villages, drove mountain roads covered in fallen chestnuts whose spiny shells carpeted the road as far as you could see. We were amazed by the incredible colours of autumn that were beginning to come to the fore despite the heat and were mesmerised throughout one unforgettable drive through the montaigne noir which lay close behind the village we were living in.


Alet les Bains

We spent time in the World Heritage site of Carcassonne old city with its incredible mediaeval walls and soaring towers, glad that the crush of summer tourists had gone leaving space for everyone and time to take photographs undisturbed. We spent the final night of our holiday in a hotel in the old city and I had the amazing buzz of being able to drive through the narrowest streets to get to our hotel at six p.m. when the curfew on cars was lifted, something I've repeated again in the early hours of Sunday morning when we left to go to the airport. An absolutely unforgettable experience.

One of the entrances to La Citie, Carcassonne.

There's always a cat!

or two!

Although the week didn't seem to go too quickly it was over far too soon and it did rekindle our love affair with the area and make us determined to come back more regularly in the future, to explore the area even more thoroughly and perhaps to look further afield at some of the other areas around the Languedoc too.

Cloudy day, Rennes le Chateau 

La Tour Magdala

See you later.

Listening to.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Sunday Post


I don't like this, being carried sideways
through the night. I feel wrong and helpless – like
a timber broadside in a fast stream.

Such a way of moving may suit
that odd snake the Sidewinder
in Arizona: but not to me in Perthshire.

I feel at right angles to everything,
a crossgrain in existence. – It scrapes
the top of my head and my foot soles.

To forget outside is no help either –
then I become a blockage
in the long gut of the train.

I try to think I'm an Alice in Wonderland
mountaineer bivouacked
on a ledge 5 feet high.

It's no good. I go sidelong.
I rock sideways... I draw in my feet
to let Aviemore pass.

Norman MacCaig.
May 1966.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

On being quiet this week

Sh........don't tell anyone

It's because I'm sunning it up in LangueD'oc in the South of France with my Lovely G. The promosed wifi at our gite has not been forthcoming.


Normal service will resume on Monday!

See you later!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Sunday Post

Three men are pulling
at the starboard oar,
the man I am and was
and the man I'll be.

The boat sails
to a blind horizon.
Who's pulling on the port side oar
that keeps our course straight?

Pull as we may
We’re kept from turning
to port or starboard by that
invisible oarsman.

'Crew' by Norman MacCaig.
August 1985

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Hullo ma wee blog,

We live in strange days: natural disasters: economic chaos: political upheaval: terrorism: Scotland warmer than Mexico in the last week of September. Things that can’t be forecast or satisfactorily explained; complicated, unfathomable, such things are mysteries of life, the universe and everything. Living in times like this you become accepting, used to them, somehow inoculated against their effects to continue with your own world-weary view until eventually something truly earthshattering arrives.

Like this morning.
It's early, we're still in bed. On the bedside unit my wife's mobile phone beeps a signal that a text message has arrived. Groggily, she reaches out and picks up the phone squinting at it through sleep drenched eyes. Who could be texting at this time on a Saturday morning?

“Thanks so much for the birthday present. I'll buy something nice with it. We're going to have a birthday meal for the family after the holiday, so hopefully we'll see you there. Thanks again.”

Now you might be thinking that this isn't really an earth shattering experience, but you'd be wrong. This is a thank you text from a teenager. Before lunchtime on a Saturday morning. It's not in text speak and therefore I can clearly understand it. And it's from an 18 year old boy!

There are things in the world which are mysteries and there are things in the world which just should not be. These confuse and confound me, warp my understanding, skew perception and shake my grasp on reality. I've spent 52 years coming to terms with the world, fixing it to a structure so I can see more clearly, so it can fit my expectations and let me announce my occasional weighty, profound and illuminating critiques.

Happenings like this morning make me feel like I know absolutely nothing.

This has got to be against the laws of nature!

Blooming teenagers!

See you later.

Listening to:

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...