Monthly Archives: March 2010

A nice quiet day

I love the weekends, and the sense of my own time, stretching out. Now I am not so tied to the Big Biography my usual pattern of Saturday has changed. It used to go sleep until 8.30, get up, walk dogs, feed ponies, breakfast over the internet, start work at 10 on the Big Biography, and (and this was the exciting bit) have real coffee and a Kit-kat while still working on the book at 11am. I kind-of miss it. When the house is more sorted, I hope to get back to it.

I was away the last two weekends. Therefore today is to be a nice quite day. All I have to do is: re-plant broad beans (sadly all the autumn sowing died in winter frosts. Next year I need to sow them in mid October as the latest) plant parsnips, plant 50 small willow cuttings which are to provide cut wood for fires in time, and give them an electric fence. Create a small acid garden for my camellias and heathers. Catch up on mucking out the hard standing outside.

Set up the new Henry – I put off buying him because as an economy I bought a Samsung cylinder. Half way round my living room and it needs emptied, and by the end of one room the filter is hopelessly clogged and needs washed, and then dried, which takes a day. Last week I contemplated the coming building upheaval, and decided the path to maturity was to admit a mistake made, and buy an infallible, indestructible Henry. Vacuum at least the living room, dust and tidy, and wash floors. Hopefully quell some of the chaos in the kitchen, which currently also doubles as a storage area until things can be unpacked post-improvements. Catch up on the washing, and take advantage of a good drying day. Tidy summer bedroom, and move back into it, now the worst of the cold weather is over.

Crochet at least two squares for the Amazing Technicolour Dream Blanket, for my shortly-to-arrive grandson. Watch ‘Hamlet’ on DVD.

So you see, a really nice quiet day.


… one more step

I found myself humming the corny, dated and yet, to me, always touching ‘One more step along the world I go’ tonight. This is A Good Sign, as the authors of ‘1066 and All That’ would have said if they had thought of it. When I am really down I can tell because I can’t sing it (Happy Thought: Having it at my funeral, that much planned clergy-torturing event, would be highly appropriate and hopefully wind them up somewhat 😉 )

The reason for this glee was finally sorting out a contract to re-roof the cottage. Yes, gentle reader, finally.

You will remember that a roofer with a face by Rembrandt, came and kindly removed slates from the barn. Warned that nails would be fatal to my horses, he promised to keep them off the ground. Well, I have already picked up over 500 for the area he worked on. So he got ruled out.

I am happy to report that the tin roof man with the face from Durer did a wonderful job. As one would expect from Durer.

I have a quotation from another roofer, who comes recommended, and whose face is by Alan Ramsey, I think. I believe Ramsey is probably to be trusted. It is a huge relief to have found a realistic quotation from a probably reliable roofer. So it’s from the old I travel to the new…

Ideals and realities

Over on Kelvin’s blog we are once again discussing the rights and wrongs of consecrating partnered gay people as bishops. And one of the reactions is: ‘Why cannot we all stop talking about this and instead discuss things more relevant to the daily life of the church?’ Which is a good view.


In principle.

Only by and large, and with honourable exceptions, people don’t. They do not discuss: ‘How to find ways of being of service the the church without getting ordained’ or ‘How to decide what my money ought to be doing this week’ or other topic, or they do not discuss them with much verve and enthusiasm. Whereas a discussion of the ordination or consecration of those in same sex partnerships is usually guaranteed to get a big big list of comments.

With honourable exceptions.

What I think of during the night watches

(or, Chinese howling torture).

I am caring for my two delightful eldest grandchildren. So last night Ted was tortured by his teeth, obdurately boring a hole in his gums to escape the closeted encushioned burial in the jaw into the rooted freedom of his mouth. And Ted, generous soul that he is, shared the torture around. He half-woke, and howled for a few moments. Then he dropped back to sleep. After two am, every twenty minutes or so, he would once again stir, howl, and sleep. This gave one unaccustomed to his sufferings plenty of time to ponder the things one does ponder in the night. Some happy, some sad, some just pondering.

I spent a little time considering my prospective hat for my son’s wedding this summer (to go with the fabric you have seen). I think squares, and the top one buckled by an explosion of corn and leaves from beneath. Would abstract shapes add to or take from this? And what length and style should I make the suit jacket?

I pondered, a little melancholy, why this blog does not manage the kind of heavy weight topics which have made Pluralist and Mad Priest such influential blogs. One reason is that my creativity, such as it is, is reactive – I actually do a heap better commenting on the blogs of others than writing my own.

I pondered what attracts readers to this blog (because modest as it is, it does have readers, as you yourself know.) I never know how many prefer the religious stuff, and how many the domestic. I suppose I never shall know.

I refused point blank to start doing sums calculating the various expenditures needed to restore my house, because that way insomnia lies, if not actual madness.

And I wondered how long it would take me to fall off to sleep when Ted finally shut up, and when that would be. It turned to be (respectively) half an hour and about four a.m.

… fear itself

We all have our bug-bears and mine is, most definitely, fear. The prospect of bad news, or financial difficulty, or being in any kind of trouble with the authorities has me paralysed with fear. I think that what I really dread is not so much the difficulty as the fear. It is the waiting game, the trickle of apprehension.

I had a bad patch of it recently, but suddenly this morning I woke up feeling able to take a real pleasure in surmounting difficulties. I flipped suddenly from cowering in a corner to coming out relishing the challenges ahead. Because the daft thing about the fear is that I am a person who thrives on a good challenge. I rather enjoy having too much to do and too little time to do it in, of having a new skill to master and a short time to accomplish it. It is reported of me that as a toddler, my favourite phrase was ‘Buba (me) do own self’ and I’ve not changed much, though I can now ask effectively for help. The idea that, running short on the dosh, I might need to tackle a difficult job myself does not really upset me at all. I have an insane confidence that I can do it. Sometimes I can – sometimes I have needed to call for urgent help. The last time being when, with a wedding approaching, and the bride’s coat still not completed, I found the dress could not be sewn by machine. I was not nearly upset enough at the hours a good friend spent rescuing the situation with her very superior sewing skills.

So why, given that the actual situation does not terrify me, does the waiting game of fear paralyse me? It is plain the opposite of fear is not confidence. Perhaps it is faith? (Genuine question!)


Really, there is never stasis. One season rolls imperceptibly into another. Every day sees an added joy or a beauty lost. Only this year, spring has been put on indefinite hold – you might say: has been put into cold storage. We are now in mid March, and the snowdrops are in full flower. The crocuses are barely out. There is hardly a sign of the daffs.

Usually, the spring rolls in almost a day at a time. One sees nearly imperceptible changes. One day, looking towards woodland, one sees that the different colours of bark are vivid now. Why this should happen I’ve never been sure, but it does. One day, quite suddenly, and before it greens up, woodland changes colour. Looking in one seed greys and reds and blacks and almost whites, where before there was a wood coloured average. This has not yet happened in up country Ayrshire. Still less has there been the sudden flush of green in the worn yellow velvet of the fields. Nor have the hedgerows kindled as a little green flame licks along the branches.

And in the air there is a cold bite, not just the chill of the March winds, always bitter, but a still, dry, waiting cold. The lowland sheep are lambing, and there is nothing in the fields for them. The up land sheep are waiting on hill sides where only old rushes stand. It feels as if we are all holding out breaths for something kindly and promising, which only the growing light gives. Not the full warmth of spring but boisterous winds with a hint of sea in them. Warm winds which blow through you and make you cold, but not marrow-chilled, as long as you play with them by keeping moving.

But yesterday there was a glimmer of hope for all the battered countryside. Yesterday a curlew cried. Yes, moving, still, to more comfortable pastures, but still, a curlew, bubbling in the night.

A degree of change

The weather has taken a turn for the better – it has not suddenly become spring or anything joyous like that, but it is warming up during the days, and it is once again nice to be outside if suitably dressed. You feel that it will soon be spring, that things cannot be put off much longer. I would love to tell you how much warmer it is, but I can’t.

During the exceptionally cold weather I thought it would be fun to keep an eye on the outside temperatures. I looked around and saw that a firm on ebay was selling old fashioned looking maximum and minimum thermometers. I ordered one.

Now these thermometers depend a little bit of metal which sits on top of the measuring material which expands and contracts, thus leaving the metal bit at the highest point in the cycle – maximum one side and minimum the other. You can then go back and see how cold it was at three am and one pm. In happy far off days this substance was mercury, and the metal was a flat headed pin. When my new thermometer arrived, not only was the substance some kind of alcohol, but the metal was a naff straight bit of metal. On the minimum side it had got stuck in the bulb so it was only a maximum thermometer. I reported this and the nice company sent me out another one, telling me to keep the old one.

The new one had the alcohol stuck behind the maximum marker. So it was a minimum marker. I put the two outside in a good place out of direct sun. It then became plain from comparison with my car’s internal thermometer that the minimum was far too optimistic. And then the daytime temperature rose above five, and engulfed the inadequate metal bit on the ‘good maximum thermometer, distorting the maximum temperature reading by an unknown factor.

So, gentle reader, I cannot tell you how much warmer it is by day, nor yet how cold by night.


After church I had lunch with one of my friends who sews. We just popped into an Asian fabric shop to see what they had. Fifteen minutes later, I exited, over-excited, with the fabulous fabric you can see above. It is a jacquard weave between black and russet with the beads and sequins, and will make a shift dress, and the plain will make a jacket to go over it. The whole lot for less than the cost of a jacket from Next. I just hope my son was not secretly hoping I would turn up in a down-played outfit. I hope it will be both elegant and drop dead spectacular. I know it will resist small sticky fingers, as it is virtually uncrushable.


It is a strange experience revisiting a poet who used to mean a lot to you, and who you have not thought of for years.

A few days ago, a friend was speaking of her fears for the world where we have global warming, and declining educational standards, and a plethora of officious bullying people with no sensitivity at all. She is (in the expressive Scotticism) not wrong. But I found Yeat’s Lapis Lazuli running in my head for the first time in many years ‘then they and their wisdom went to rack … all things fall, and are built again, and those that build them again are gay.’

Then I fell into contemplating a friend’s friend, and Yeat’s sixty year old smiling public man was there before me.

What a power the poets have to interpret our experiences, and to form them. Strange that after, oh thirty years, I could remember Lapis Lazuli almost word for word. I suppose those convictions which make me ‘really religious’ are a wall formed of many stones of hope and experience and the writings of others, and it is the stones which make (pace Yeats) the centre hold. Because it does hold. Despite all my doubts, I find I believe the centre of things is wholesome and true. It is to be approached with caution (I don’t think it is tame and I am not sure it is ‘safe’ in any sense that we understand it) but I am certain it is true and sound and joyous. And I don’t think it is out to do us down.

But that is not to say the world is not infinitely tragic – so much so that it cannot grow by an inch or an ounce. So I have come back to wonder that my seventeen year old self could have seen that and lived it for so long. Yeats for the canon, anybody?

Really religious

When a girl posted asking for prayers for her aunt, she wanted them despite the fact she was not ‘really religious’ which has had those of us who are almost certainly within the category wondering just what she meant.

What, dear readers, makes you think somebody is ‘really religious’ – which beliefs, or practises?