Friday, 31 October 2014

The natural order of things

I do like to follow the natural order of things.  I was in Edinburgh yesterday and horrified to see The Dome, a huge cafe/bar/restaurant on George Street, festooned with Christmas decorations. Even the window of the Post Office in the village has a Christmas tree, all aglow with Christmas lights.  It's just not right.

The natural world has it right, though.  There is a gentle state of collapse going on in the wood. The bracken is beginning to lean slightly, and the leaves on the sycamore trees have completely flown away in recent gales. The lime trees are turning yellow and the leaves are fluttering to the ground, and there is the delicious, sweet nutty smell of autumn pervading the air. I love it.

At the risk of becoming a little repetitive, I offer a few more photographs of the autumn vegetation in the wood!  The colours are just too good.  The bracken is warm and glowing, especially with the sun shining through it 
I think the unquestionable winner for colour, this year, are the blackberry leaves.  They are positively sumptuous!
Now, before Christmas comes All Hallows Eve.  So I've hollowed out a pumpkin and it was my plan to place it just a little way into the wood, ready to be ghoulish and ghostly for when the children get home from school later this afternoon.  The light will be fading by then - I hope. However the logs I was going to pile up to get a bit of height were so heavy I couldn't tip them over the fence, not without killing myself in the process.  So I have piled them up and put them on the very edge of the garden, hoping for the desired effect later today.  I don't think my pumpkin looks very evil.  I might get a second one this afternoon and place that under the yew tree in the garden, where the light is dim and I will try for something rather more menacing!
Post Script : it would seem that pumpkins have not had a good season, and Tesco had run out, so there was no second jack o'lantern in the garden on Friday.  However the chappie above did the job very well.  He glowed and grimaced ghoulishly in the dark.  And his work is not yet over.  I made a pumpkin pie yesterday.  It's something I've been meaning to do ever since we lived in the Bahamas for a short time almost forty years ago.  Now I know why the Americans use tinned filling for the pie.  It's a pain in the proverbial to make, and I won't be doing it again.  The pie is very good to eat, but a custard tart would do just as well!  

Friday, 24 October 2014

Summer clocking off

The clocks change this weekend, officially recognising the shortening days and lengthening nights.  But the memory of summer lingers on - I found this in the garden today.  Isn't she lovely!

Thursday, 23 October 2014


When I was at school my uniform was grey, so, on principle, I grew up not liking grey.  However, in the last ten years I have finally outgrown that childish opinion!  It's taken a long time to get over the hang-up, but I I love grey now!  I wear it quite a lot.  Complimented with the right colour (and most colours zing quite well with grey), I think it's very wearable, without looking drab. 

In my Monday morning art class, over the last two weeks, we have been mixing spectral greys, using red, blue and a smidge of yellow.  The type of red and blue you start with does dictate the kind of grey you end up with.  I found the exercise quite difficult.  We produced a painting of a still life but I wouldn't dream of showing my effort here.  It's not something I am proud of.   But the whole exercise has made me much more appreciative of grey, so much so that when I was looking out of the window at breakfast time today, all I could see was a multitude of different greys!  I thought they were rather lovely, and very restful.
Wikipedia has a very interesting entry for grey  It's worth a read. And I like checking out quotes for some words.  I had a look online to see if there was anything interesting for grey, and found this, which I enjoyed too!

“When I was a little girl, everything in the world fell into either of these two categories: wrong or right. Black or white. Now that I am an adult, I have put childish things aside and now I know that some things fall into wrong and some things fall into right. Some things are categorized as black and some things are categorized as white. But most things in the world aren't either! Most things in the world aren't black, aren't white, aren't wrong, aren't right, but most of everything is just different. And now I know that there's nothing wrong with different, and that we can let things be different, we don't have to try and make them black or white, we can just let them be grey. And when I was a child, I thought that God was the God who only saw black and white. Now that I am no longer a child, I can see, that God is the God who can see the black and the white and the grey, too, and He dances on the grey! Grey is okay.” 
― C. JoyBell C.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Pizza with a difference!

The half term bake off has finished and the grandchildren have all cooked dinner for their parents over the past couple of weeks.  My granddaughter was declared the winner this evening.  She triumphed over her brothers by producing a bit of a winner in the way of a pudding pizza!  A handmade pizza base, cooked off and cooled, and then topped with Nutella and marshmallows, the whole put back in a warm oven to melt the goo, and then dotted with fresh strawberries.

Behold, the winning and completely delicious confection!  

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Final offerings

This is it.  The last of this year's runner beans, purple French beans and sweet peas.  They have been a joy, for which I give thanks.  

The week so far

It's my Scottish grandchildren's half term this week.  The wee one in Melbourne doesn't get these breathers just yet.  "Thank goodness" I hear her parents sigh!

The children here have such a hectic life these days, now that they have to commute into Edinburgh to school every day, that the first few days of this week have been chill out time.  They have spent far too long on their various bits of technology but I have just gone with that.  They needed to be still for a while. The only other thing we have been doing is cooking. Each day one of them has cooked the supper for all six of them to sit down to in the evening, when their parents got home from work.  I have tried to teach them a few skills attached to each dish. Apparently the family have been scoring each meal, and so far the older boy, of the younger set of twins, is in the lead by 5 points.  On Monday they sat down to chicken casserole followed by a mango smoothie for pudding;  On Tuesday, cheesy gougeres with a bacon sauce, followed by an apple and cinnamon round, and yesterday, beef stroganoff and then chocolate brownie and ice cream! Tomorrow it's my granddaughter's turn.  She is rather more experienced than the boys. She loves to bake and gets on with it on her own.  But she is going to make a quiche, so I think she may need some guidance - although she may have other ideas!! 

Yesterday morning was glorious so we took the dogs for a walk, while it was still early.  The sun filtered through the trees and there are some lovely colours to be found amongst the undergrowth in the wood.
The sky was blue and whilst we didn't have a birds eye view of the world, it all seemed pretty good from where I was standing.
One of my favourite moments of the week so far has been my first sighting, in my life, of a coma butterfly.  At first I thought it was just a tatty tortoiseshell butterfly and then yesterday I got a closer look and realised it was something new to me.
I sent this photo to the Countryside Ranger for East Lothian Council.  They are not rare butterflies but apparently this one is a late flier!  So he asked for more details which he has sent on to the Council's butterfly guy!  That must be a nice job!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

BBC Ten Pieces

I find myself listening to Radio 3 more and more.  To keep in touch, I check out the world on the Today programme in the morning, but by and large Radio 3 is my favoured destination these days.  It's not just as an escape from an increasingly distressing world, but a place to learn a lot.  And I love music.  It's a very diverse radio station and I thoroughly enjoy my Radio 3 interludes (except for opera - no thanks, sorry).  

Over the past couple of weeks the BBC has been promoting its Ten Pieces initiative.  It has created a 50 minute film for primary school children, introducing them to ten outstanding, descriptive pieces of classical music.  The film is available for us all to see on BBC iPlayer (  They have also got Ten Pieces ambassadors and on Saturday afternoon the Welsh harpist, Catrin Finch, introduced a programme of wonderful pieces.  There was even a piece by my favourite combination of Jan Gabarek and the Hillard Ensemble.  Following that she played another blissful combination - music performed by herself together with kora player, Seckou Keita, from Mali.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  I was so blown away by the sound I instantly  found their CD, Clychau Dibon, and bought it online.  It arrived yesterday.  It's playing now, and has been ever since I unwrapped it.   You can hear a taster on Saturday Classics, which is still on iPlayer for a few more days.  It's 1 hour and 26 minutes into the programme, unless you would like to hear the Jan Gabarek track before that, in which case it's 1 hour 21 minutes in.  It's unmissable.  Just press play ….. and relax.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Just chilling out on Sunday morning.
It's time to start the mammoth task of putting the garden to bed for winter.  Lavenders to chop back, along with all sorts of other plants.  The trimmings create a lovely fragrant autumn smoke, but I still end up smelling like a kipper! 
A necklace of geese, progressing across the sky.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Autumn tree tops

On a sunny Saturday morning in mid-October, what better thing to do than go for a walk in the countryside with your dog!  Tilly and I had a very happy stroll down the track, round a couple of huge fields, and home again.  

The tree tops, against a lovely autumn sky, were looking good!
The silver birch and conifer below had Clematis vitalba running through it.  Old man's beard, or travellers' joy, is a wild clematis which runs wild over my native Hampshire.  All over the south of England actually!  I have hardly seen it anywhere in Scotland, until this year!  It seems to have popped up in odd places and I couldn't be more delighted!  It's a plant of my childhood, of late summer/early autumn, and I love it.
I did a double take here.  Blue sky and leggy, airy branches of a gum tree - I could have been back in Australia!!  It was unexpected, but rather wonderful,  
 and all that's missing is a cuddly koala, dozing in the crook of those branches!
The hollies in this part of the world are dripping with ripening berries - all ready for Christmas!
I was talking to a couple of East Lothian's countryside rangers recently and I asked them if there had been any reports of ash die-back.  Nothing so far, which is fantastic news.  Long may that last.  The ash tree in the photo below is certainly looking very healthy, and its leaves gently turning a soft buttery gold for autumn.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Surf's up!

Tilly and I had a walk on the east beach at North Berwick this morning.  The wind was whipping up the surf and the waves were fabulous!
The Bass Rock was just a faint blob, sitting out in the middle of the iron grey sea.
Turning round, and looking south, North Berwick law was clothed in wisps of cloud.
By lunchtime the sun was out again!

Friday, 3 October 2014

A fine week of weather

We have had a run of fine weather this week.  It's been warm, sunny, and the temperatures have been pretty well perfect for walking, gardening, and a spot of just sitting!

Tilly and I have seen some lovely things on our walks in the last few days.  We have walked around the perimeter of a nearby field.  It is a huge field, probably as a result of digging out hedgerows in years gone by.  Along the field edge we passed two very statuesque stands of wild fennel and teasels.

The autumn colours are now golden and glowing in the sunshine, which still has considerable warmth in it.  I can feel it, comforting, on my back. 
The weather forecast indicated that yesterday was going to be the last day before the wind and rain set in, as it has today.  So Mr Gaucho dropped Tilly and me near the law in North Berwick and we walked home from there.  

I have been wanting to make rose hip syrup for donkeys years.  This is the year!  I went armed with my folding secateurs and a bag to gather some berries.  This hedgerow, a few fields south of North Berwick law, was full of them.  Beautiful red berries, just ripe for the picking!  The blood drawn by the thorns was red too.  A painful crop to harvest!
Further on we walked passed a large sweet chestnut tree.  Along with shiny, mahogany conkers, I think sweet chestnuts and their fuzzy, spiky casings, are the essence of autumn.  Chestnuts taste good too.  There are lots of ways to cook with them.
At the moment many of the fields in East Lothian are a sea of cabbages.  These are brussel sprouts - a nightmare crop for children at Christmas, but handsome plants!

 Red cabbage plants are as beautiful as any flower.  
I have taken lots of photographs of this field.  The colours are seductive but they tease.  They change with the light.  One minute it is a sea of lavender and, as you watch, it changes to navy blue, as a cloud crosses the sun.
This painting is entitled 'A Cabbage Garden', painted in 1877, by one of the Glasgow Boys, Arthur Melville.  He was born in East Lothian, and I like the notion that the landscape he enjoyed would still be reasonably recognisable to him now - just on a bigger scale.  These day the fields can hardly be referred to as gardens!
The last field Tilly and I walked across yesterday had an encouraging mini-crop of wild heartsease, growing between the rows of stubble.  It is a member of the viola family and has a delightful, tiny flower.  To see it growing there did ease my heart.  It meant that the farmer hadn't blitzed his field with chemicals and the wild flowers, so vital for bio-diversity, have been allowed grow.  Hooray!