Category Archives: family

A City Set on a Hill

Recently, much of my spare time has been spent driving a thirty mile road to visit and care for one of my grand children. Thirty miles there, and thirty back. It gets tedious doing a regular commute like that (or it does for me anyhow) and I have amused myself by mentally re-naming sections of the road.

Starting from home there is The Track, up which I live and which due to its bumps needs to be driven with exaggerated caution. Then there is The Road to the Village which is well known and a bit tedious. The Moor Road follows and that ends with Dead Pheasant Run, where, for a few weeks in autumn, the new-released game birds enjoy kamikaze games.

Then it is on to the Town, a big village which makes the half way point of the drive. After that comes The Straight, the last chance to overtake a=or be overtaken for a good while. Everybody knows The Straight, and is lined up ready to sort out precedence there. As to whether I am an overtaker or an overtakee depends in large part on how late I am, and if I am stuck behind a gravel lorry or not.

The Straight ends with Death by Drowning. It is a series of ingenious sharp curves just above a loch. Then there is Small Straight where luck once may again favour overtaking. Then there comes the Bends. These would, on a lesser road, be the principle hazard. On this road, they are just Bends.

Another small village, and then the Hairpins. These are actually the nastiest part of the journey, made more hazardous by the fact that, in summer, visitors are taken by surprise by then and find themselves all over the road.

Then comes another Town, with ingenious traffic calming. On occasion this causes an accident and police and horrid diversions. Usually it is simply navigated. Then I move on to the Uphill Straight. That ends as I sweep under the motorway, and a chance to lose cars tailgating me, or cars I yearn to tailgate.

The next stretch of road has the Centrifugal Corner (watch it, or you get swung too far out) and Right of Way bridge. Now the beautiful market town in whose environs my grand son lives has appeared, a City Set on a Hill. I sweep over the beautiful 18c. Bridge, and head up the last stretch to his home.

I am not a natural driver, and it is not my inclination to love driving, but love of my grandchild has somehow hallowed that drive for me.


Proust in fifteen seconds, nearly.

Oh the memories food brings.  I have just been unwell, in the horrid ‘in the bathroom half the night’ way.  It was a condition which much afflicted my childhood.  As the blessed moment once again came, when I could seize an glass of water and drain it, without disgust or nausea, and once again taste that it was actually almost sweet, I remembered how that moment would so often come in the dead dark of night, or as the first stirrings of dawn were nearly visible to hot eyes seeking the window.

I no longer have any devoted nurse, so today I got up  and considered food, as a way of putting some strength into wobbling legs.  In the end it boiled down to a choice between my grandmother’s stand by of bread-and-milk, or my mother’s chocolate egg custard.  I had forgotten just how delicious chocolate egg custard can be.  I had totally forgotten the crispy bits round the edge of the dish, which are always the best bit.

I am much restored.

Once more, with feeling

In brief as I have said this too too often:

it is commitment that makes a marriage, not the gender of those making the commitment

marriage between LGBT people supports the so-called institution of marriage, and strengthens families, it does not weaken them

I totally agree with Beth and Kelvin on the ill-judged, ill-informed and down right stupid statements from the Scottish hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church these last few days.

The Annual Grump

It has started – the annual grump of those church people who hate Mothering Sunday. I have a certain grudging sympathy with those who dislike the commercialised aspects of the day – I know that some of them will grump in the same way over Christmas, and that all of us will grump over the joyful pagan celebration of Good Friday (Easter eggs scoffed in the supermarket car park while we are fasting). I appreciate many congregations do not want to derail the flow of the lectionary with the one-off Mothering Sunday readings.

No, what gets me is the ‘I had a bad experience as a child and mother and now you will not celebrate’ grump. Because we are all excluded from something. I’m sorry for those who had a bad experience as child and mother, or virtually no experience as both. Really sorry.

My marriage was pretty much a disaster, more especially as its ending seemed to me to retrospectively destroy what had seemed the joyful times of the early days of the relationship. I did not get to take any happy memories away from it. I don’t expect ever to have another romantic relationship that goes further than a shared coffee. Anything to do with weddings and marriage reawakens pain.

But I don’t expect Christian marriage to stop, I don’t WANT it to stop, or Valentine’s Day, just because I think of them with sorrow and guilt.

Please – be glad for me that being a daughter to a beloved mother, and a mother to beloved children made me happy and fulfilled, and that my daughters, too, rejoice in motherhood.

A good week

I have had my fair share of Jonah weeks – weeks when everything that could go wrong did. This week I got the opposite.

The sun shone. The new little keets were able to venture out and enjoy it. They are growing, although it does weigh on their minds that they are delicious. They are very cautious.

Bernadette too is putting on weight. When she arrived she condition scored one (out of five, where five is obese) and now she scored three (which is the ideal weight). It has taken good feeding to get her there. The least said about what it has done to Martha’s condition score the better. They too have been out in an electrified pen enjoying the sun.

I have also been able to see good progress with the plants. The tomato seed my son and son-in-law gave me has turned into nice little plants. So have the aubergines, who turned out to have enchanting purple flowers, and as you can see, the pepper my daughter gave me flowered and then set fruit.

Then the buddlia from last year and the lavender from this year, given by another daughter are both flowering.

And then an agent felt they would like to represent the big biography. A good week.

Ring a ring a memories

So, lunch with my family, and an after-dinner tea with a very dear friend, and the first rumblings of a problem when the sat. nav. denied knowledge of the next port-of-call – the village in Northumbria where my new young guinea fowl were.

However, friend and I eventually persuaded the sat. nav. to accept one form of the address, and I set off. I realised that I was, perhaps, going wrong when it directed me off the main roads as soon as Newcastle began to fall to the east, but the way was delightful, and I went with it. I knew I was heading for a village with two streets, and was dis-chuffed when the sat. nav. deposited me outside a solitary cottage in the middle of moorland with the helpful instruction I had arrived at my destination. Er, no. I entered the form of the address I had first tried, and this time it was recognised and I was taken to the remote village, with unexpectedly formal local authority style housing where my twelve little keets were indeed waiting for me. Some pleasant chat, and they went into a cat crate and we set off. I was a little put out by their being a lot younger than I had expected, an accident having befallen the ones I was anticipating, but all the same glad to have them.

Then the seller kindly directed me on another shorter way back to the main road. At first the sat. nav. was sulky and muttered about unknown roads and U turns, and then it settled down. It told me it was taking me home, and it would have me there at 10 pm. This rather dismayed me, as it was not yet six pm, and I was in Northumbria. And I did not propose using a push bike, either.

However as it took me through lanes of ever-diminishing size, I forgave it. I got out and opened gates, drove through, and got out again and shut them. I saw horses, looking at me in astonishment, and passed over becks, and beside venerable trees of diminutive proportions.

It came vividly to mind my mother would always say: ‘Join the Armstrongs and see the world’ as we got merrily lost. In those days holidays were long and carefree. It is so long since I had any experience of that delightful lack of responsibility – days given over to walking, and eating and laughing. Days beside burns with books, followed by days in ancient monuments with travel-guide books. Days spent fruitlessly searching for missing bits of archaeology, only to find other bits nobody had thought to mention, and always that amazing sense of not really needing to DO anything, and having no timetable – eating if hungry, or just ignoring meal times – finding wonderful small cafes, or village shops, or just as likely, not. Intending to visit a stately home and ending up paddling instead. Laughing at others we met though not (I hope) very unkindly.

I was filled with a great urge to spend time unwinding, but of course I could not. Each bump in the road woke up the keets, and they chirruped to each other to make sure everybody was still making reasonably happy noises and was therefore alright.

And meanwhile the sat. nav. was announcing that due to my inability to achieve 60 pmh on single track roads with regular gates, it would now be 10.30 before I got home. And on and on I went. Alarmingly, the little on-screen map showed the path ahead ending soon. And eventually I understood why. I came to a sign showing – that I was a mile away from the keets home village. The sat. nav. had taken me in a circle. It had taken an hour to do so. Presumably, if I continued to follow its directions, I would go round the same loop again. And again.

I turned round, and at the first opportunity, took a road in another direction. And another, and picked every time a larger road.

Suddenly, the sat. nav. woke up and told me I would now be home at nine thirty. It lied, of course. After a stop for petrol, and what passed for food, it was in fact 10 pm – and I still needed to set up a heat lamp, settle the keets, and feed Martha and Bernadette, before finally heading up to bed.

Time to do something new…

or perhaps not.

Gentle reader, this is neither Martha nor Bernadette, but a Soay sheep. A nice sheep, very willing to be fed. She was at a very well run Farm Park. I was offered a choice of being taken by my daughter and her husband with their twins, my grandchildren, to Fountains Abbey, or to the Farm Park. I opted to go and feed animals and a great time was had by all. I fed some very affable pigs, and some personable sheep, a rather domineering and smelly billy goat. There were also some wallabies, and a lama with amazing eyelashes and a pushy personality. In between times, intent on being a good role model, I washed my hands much much more frequently than I would normally do.

My delightful grandchildren were very brave, and Tabitha especially courageous in having food taken from her hand by the very wet rough tongue of a young heifer. It occurs to me that it is symptomatic of my entire life that I chose to feed animals at some expense – I always do. Still, it is nice to know my choices are at least consistent.

Just ordinary

No blog post on here has ever had as many hits as the one of Kenneth and Duncan’s wedding, partly of course because Kelvin linked to it on Inspires on-line. But then he has linked to other of my posts – and never with quite such a specular result.

And I have the feeling that at least some arriving there must have been a tad disappointed. Sure there was more I could have said. The excellence of the trio who played for the occasion might have been remarked on and the fact my little grandchildren, and especially Tabby, were utterly entranced by the live music, demanding ‘More! More! every time they paused. We had sun, and despite my misgivings the flowers I arranged for it were a stonking success with everybody.

And this is just ordinary too. This is the usual stuff of the exciting and unique days of weddings, when people dress up and are happy, and hug and shed happy tears. And, yes, worry over details gone wrong, and then decide they do not matter. And that is the point, really. Just special in the usual way.

Today I took my lap top to show the piccies to the very kind lady in her eighties for whom I clean. I complained that gay couples could not (as yet) actually claim the name of marriage or marry in church. She thought for a bit, and I told her about the vows Kenneth and Duncan had made. She suddenly saw that that was simply what gays wanted – to promise love and faithfulness. Just like everybody. Ordinary.


Cutting a slice of life

Long silence due to the business of a family wedding. On Thursday Duncan and Kenneth tied the knot. After a beautiful and moving ceremony at the Lothian Chambers, in Edinburgh, we went to the ‘Cave’ venue, where they cut a slice out of this beautiful cake, both the cakes and roses (seventy of them) decorating it made by themselves.

It was a lovely, happy family occasion. Enjoy, readers! (but sadly no cake for most of you, and it was delicious too!)


It has been a taxing week, complete with a friend who has gone through a horrible expereince, a sick sheep, and (trivial I know) a dress for my son’s wedding providing traumas of its own.

But there were blessings. A kind and supportive vet. A friend prepared to go to great lengths to sort out the dress, and make her help seem like fun. A cluck of little chicks running round the yard. And although I did have to make a separate journey to have the under-warranty car’s rear-view mirror glued back on, at least they washed the car for me!