Friday, 28 March 2014

Mid-week ramble

Tilly and I enjoyed a different walk on Wednesday.  Mr Gaucho dropped us off just west of the village, high on a hill top, and we put our best feet forward in the direction of home.  The views at the start of our walk were magnificent.  We could see across to the hills of Perthshire in the north west, over the Firth of Forth and the full stretch of coastline of the Kingdom of Fife before it turns to head off north towards St Andrews, the Bass Rock, white and gleaming at the mouth of the estuary, and finally all the way round to the Lammermuirs and Traprain Law behind us.  The pimple in the middle of this photograph is North Berwick Law.
Blackthorn blossom, starry and dainty.
And that farm track that rises up ahead of you, with no clue as to what lies beyond.  I love that bit!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Taking it easy!

I think Tilly has decided that now she is 7 (49 in dog years) she is going to chill out more,  embracing the comfort of the armchair and cushions in the increasingly warm Spring sunshine!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Free range

I was driving home from my art class in Portobello this morning and passed this pop-up chicken run, staked out on a lovely sheltered area of rough grass next to the road.  Look at these gorgeous girls, pecking around in the grass, feathers gleaming in the sunshine,
and even posing for the camera!  The hen on the right stood like that for a good five or six seconds while I took my photo!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A thin sapphire line

In fact the blue line, the sea, is so far away you can hardly see it!  This is the beach we have just visited in Northumberland, just north of Lindisfarne, Holy Island.  The dogs had a great time, racing around, and Tilly enjoyed her birthday treat.  

In the distance, we could see the bulk of Bamburgh Castle, and in between the causeway across to Holy Island.  You can just see the poles sticking up out of the sand which mark the Pilgrim route across the sands to the island and a world of history which dates back to 635 AD.  
We drove along the A1 on our little jaunt.  The road follows the coast and on a clear, early Spring day even the cold North Sea can look amazing.

Watching Spring arrive

One of my abiding memories of school life, when I was very young, was the annual arrival, in Spring, of the horse chestnut sticky bud, sitting in a jam jar on the classroom window sill.  The trademark horseshoe scar on the twig, showing where last year's leaf was attached and that lovely fat brown sticky bud waiting to do its thing, slowly but surely.  I thought I would re-visit that experience here.  Between 5 March and today, 23 March the sticky bud has been busy.

 Ta-Da!!!

Another birthday girl!

Tilly is seven today!  She's a grand little companion, loving, predictable, fun, terrier-like (of course), and loyal.  Our lives would not be the same without her.

We are going to take the Birthday Girl and her sidekick, the black Labrador from next door, to a new beach for all of us.  It's down near Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coast - about an hour from here.  The sun is shining and hopefully the girls will enjoy their trip.
Happy Birthday Tills!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Colourful!

We have friends coming for dinner this evening.  I thought curry would make a good change for us - I tend to stick to good French daubes and Dauphinoise rather a lot these days, so time to break out.  I started by finding some little gems in the garden, to try and bring some of the colours of India in to the house.  The tiny rainbows from the sun shining through a prism hanging in the window brings a little more magic to these beauties!  As if they really needed anything extra - I think their colours just makes your heart sing! 
This evening I am hoping the combined fragrance of the spices I have ground up, and the dishes I am going to be preparing today, will help to bring even more of the Indian subcontinent to our dining table!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Happy Birthday Midge!

It's my little Aussie princess's second birthday today.  We sent her a doll and watched her unwrap it on Skype this morning.  She was genuinely delighted with her present and gave it a big hug, and in a trice was pushing it around in a little pink stroller!  Her special word is 'Wow!' and all I can say is "Wow - what a little beauty you are Midgy" and how lucky we are to have you.  

Happy HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Thoroughly spoilt

I have been extremely self-indulgent over the last three weeks.  I have treated myself to a ticket to three concerts to hear some wonderful music.  

The first concert was by Penguin Cafe.  I only became aware of their music last Autumn. My Monday morning art tutor plays some of their very distinctive sound during our lessons.  It's a great way to start the week.  Drawing and painting, very chilled out, interesting music in the background, and always a yummy hunk of tray bake with a cup of coffee half way through the morning.  So very civilised!

So Penguin Cafe - a Bohemian bunch.  This is my favourite piece of theirs (that I have heard so far) called Black Hibiscus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-RNsbJbDhQ and there many other enjoyable quirky pieces.  It was a great evening at the Queens Hall in Edinburgh.  Wall to wall Guardian readers in the audience, and I was one of them (although I do tend to stick to the foodie bits of the newspaper on Saturday and the Observer on Sunday only).  

A week later and I was back again at the Queens Hall, surrounded by a different group of Guardian readers but, like me, fans of the Tord Gustavsen Quartet.  Tord Gustavsen is a Norwegian jazz pianist and composer.  I first heard his music on Late Junction on Radio 3 and I have now been to three of his concerts in Edinburgh.  This piece is from the quartet's latest CD 'Extended Circle', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYnGw_rPT1g.  When they start to play the sound just washes over you in a wonderful soothing wave.  I just love it.

And then, joy of joys, I travelled up to Aberdeen on the train last Saturday afternoon, to go to a concert given by Jan Gabarek and the Hilliard Ensemble.  I have been listening to this incredible combination for many years now.  Their album 'Officium' is probably No. 1 on my Desert Island Disc list.  I found this really great Youtube clip which is an interview with Fiona Talkington (Late Junction), and if you have a few minutes to listen to it I hope you get an idea of the sublime sound Jan Gabarek and the Hilliards make together.  The concert I heard on Saturday was part of the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, more Guardian readers, and from eavesdropping while I was in the queue waiting to go into St Mary's Cathedral, I overhead someone say that this is their last concert tour, so I am very thrilled I managed to hear them live.  It was just wonderful and I will never forget it.  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qfuly2xyC8


Porty phone box!

I spotted another cool phone box today.  I was on my way to my Monday morning art class in Portobello and spied this!
So on my way back I stopped and had a closer look.  It's covered, on three sides, in lots of little painty handprints of local school children.  Great fun!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A good morning's work!

I have spent this glorious, sunny morning building a dry log wall, or three.  The wood delivery came today and getting the logs put away is one of those jobs that needs doing quickly, in case it rains.  It's back-breaking but surprisingly enjoyable and satisfying, stacking logs.
I took a couple of breaks to sit down in the sun.  It's very sheltered in the courtyard, almost tropical today!  
In the wood the snowdrops are almost over.  I hate to see them go, but the daffodils are beginning to bloom so that makes up for the loss of the carpets of white we have been enjoying for so many weeks.
With the sun warm on my face and three or four buzzards mewing high in the blue sky above, there's nowhere I would rather be than here in my garden.

Monday, 10 March 2014

I spy with my little eye ..

an Edinburgh tram!!!!!!!

It was a rare sighting indeed!  A tram on Princes Street, after all these years.  Anyone who knows the city will understand that the sight of a tram in motion on the streets of Edinburgh is almost as unbelievable as seeing a dodo wandering around in Princes Street gardens.  We have spent years and years putting up with massive upheaval in the city centre.  The principal streets of Edinburgh have been dug up, put back and dug up again.  Buses re-routed and then re-routed again.  Routes closed, opened and then closed again.  Shopkeepers put out of business by all the shenanigans, and now finally the project is nearing its completion.

But we won't get too excited yet because the trams are not carrying passengers - just testing!  

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Rhubarb rhubarb

'Rhubarb is a radio idiom for unintelligible background speech. Typically extras would mutter the word over and over to provide ambience for a crowd or party scene. In The Goon Show the cast was usually only the three principals, who would pretend to try to sound like a larger group by repeating "rhubarb" very quickly but clearly, with outbreaks of "Custard!" for good measure.'
With thanks to Wikipedia

The first harvest of the year from my garden.  I've had a stalwart rhubarb plant sitting under a bucket which has been weighted down with a large granite sett to stop the wind blowing it away, and look how rewarded I have been!  The ruby red has now been cooked gently and sits happily mixed into a tub of yoghurt.  No custard.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Swept off our feet - almost!

The wind today is super-strong.  But the sun was shining, weakly, and Tilly's eyebrows were busy pointing in the general direction of the front door, so I thought we would go to Belhaven beach for a walk.  

When we reached the beach the sand was being blown off the dunes and streaming across the big open expanse towards the sea.  The waves weren't big but the tops were also being blown back, creating a white haze above the water.  
Poor Tilly got completely sand-blasted.  Having got her face wet in the sea she was then  plastered with flying sand and could barely see out.  I lifted her up out of the line of fire and we battled our way back to the car via the dunes and the salt marsh.  It was a totally exhausting experience!

On the way home I could see clouds of pink dust billowing over the fields.  The wind is so strong it is blowing the top layer off the deep red soil.  Unlike other parts of the UK we haven't had that much rain in recent weeks and the ground is beginning to dry out, and the wind doesn't help!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A lot going on

On Sunday morning the excited, flushed face of my granddaughter appeared at the sitting room window, beckoning me to come outside and bring my camera.  She had been standing in the garden watching a herd of about 18 deer moving through the wood next to the house.  She was so thrilled and her invitation to come and watch them was irresistible!  They were brilliantly camouflaged by the time they were in amongst the conifers on the edge of the wood. But we could just see them wandering and quietly grazing and then, finally, they were spooked enough to leap over the burn, into the field and away.
I had a little wander round the garden yesterday, just to see what was going on.  The sun was shining and it felt almost springlike.  It would seem that as well as the daylight hours lengthening, things are also stirring in the garden and spring is indeed well on its way.  All the usual suspects are starting to bloom, crocus, primroses and some fabulous hellebores, and also some other special treats.
Yippee!