Tuesday, 15 August 2017


A new book is due out this week:

MacCloud Falls by Alan Jamieson*

The following article by Harry McGrath is in this week's Scottish Review of Books.

The novel is set "in British Columbia [where] he focusses** on the province’s Scottish connections, First Nations’ land rights, illness and Burns." 

The main character is "an antiquarian bookseller from Edinburgh who has taken a Greyhound bus to a small town in interior British Columbia ...." He meets a girl when his flight from Scotland stops over in Calgary.  The above full length article traces how he uses historical people and places to create his narrative.  

Fascinating!  I recognized so much of it! 

The Edinburgh Book Festival is on all month so no doubt the 'Bookshop' tent will have a copy. It's a good job I did not articulate my complaint of that Book Festival!... namely that it is a huge marketing exercise where one can never get a ticket to hear a speaker/meet a writer in the small-audience tents.   Now here I am wanting to get the (very convenient Milngavie to Edinburgh) train simply to make a purchase in their huge-bookstore tent!

It reminds me of Banksy's 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' (which relates to art galleries).  How about 'Enter Through the Book Shop'? Yes, as I recall, it is, indeed, located at the one-entry-point-only entrance of Charlotte Square where the Book Festival is annually held.


*Publisher: Luath Press Ltd   ISBN: 9781912147076  320 pages.

** I would use 'focuses' but never mind!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


Over the years I have observed creeping Americanization in its many forms, e.g. clothing (baseball caps, T shirts) but language is the one that intrigues me the most.  To be fair I have been using American, i.e. North American, turns of phrase for all of my 50 years living in the UK. I use them without thinking. Indeed, nowadays so many of these phrases are global. 

One particular phrase that has become common now is the greeting "Hiya".  It used to be more used by children and is a good example of this cultural change.

However the other day I confess that I was quite taken aback with a brief encounter locally! I had parked my car in a British Rail car park and had gone into the station to hand in some brochures and was returning to my car.  Next to my parked car was a family getting out of their car preparing to head to the train.  As I approached my car the father and his 2 little boys passed by me.  Then behind them came mother. The wee boys were skipping about and my attention was vaguely on them, I suppose.  I was aware of the mother coming towards me but was not looking very high off the ground. When she was shoulder to shoulder with me I heard this cheery greeting .... "Hiya!"  I looked up to respond and only then noticed that she was veiled, wearing what I see is called a 'niqab'.   I found the whole encounter curiously odd, i.e. the juxtaposition of a throwaway familiar greeting from a person who was totally  'unfamiliar'.


It's been wet for the most part this summer.  For sailors that is not a problem; all they want is a fair wind.  To that end Iain has been away with friends for one week sailing.  

Here they are on their return Saturday when I drove to Kip Marina to collect them using Iain’s big ‘sports car’ *.     The couple are Peter and Dilys Macdoanld who live in Gairloch.

The Good News:   they had reasonable weather and fair winds and visited many remote anchorages full of wildlife, feather, fur and fin.

The Bad News: Nearing the end of their week’s holiday Iain fell in the cabin in rough seas and cracked a rib in his back, right side.  It is similar to incidents before…  oh dear!  :-( 

He is fine, except that he is now grounded in base-camp again and forced to take life very gently.  Fortunately, life is quiet at the moment (except for yet another funeral!) so we are at home and sit in the garden when the sun shines.

 Lovely weather for ducks   Photo by Jan Piecha, Flickr

Two weeks ago I headed to Giffnock to visit some friends. It had been raining with sudden heavy showers.  At a point in the road en route to their house, the road dips and rises again.  I came upon a ‘lake’ where the water had collected in the dip in the road.  Cars coming toward me had stopped to consider this flood; it looked like the water level could be up to the underside of one’s car.  With a line of cars behind me and also beside me, all stopped, thinking “Oh hell!  What is to be done here?!”  I took a decision as if I was in deep, or at least, deepening, snow. I put the car into 1st gear, stepped on the accelerator and headed steadily into the water…. a slight pause midway …. kept my nerve and up … up … up and out the other side.   Phew!   I certainly am my father’s daughter when it comes to handling cars!   When I got home I said to Iain that I was very impressed with that VW Golf!  I checked the brakes afterwards… OK.  A very good little car!

Monday, 17 July 2017


Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie! 

I am truly sorry
The roads department left ye
A trap ... of tar
Melting in the hot sunshine
Sludged in the corner
Of a car park.

You alighted on it
And it was your undoing.

A snow-scapper 
From the back of the car
Helped to extricate one foot
Then the other
So you could flap, flap, flutter
To the nearest bush
To die
Shackled in asphalt.

*** With apologies to Robert Burns 'To a Mouse'!!

Friday, 14 July 2017


July is jam-making time and I simply cannot kick the habit! I couldn't go by tubs of jam berries in the supermarket (which are labelled 'Less Than Perfect' and sell for a reduced price)  without buying a couple of tubs plus a bag of sugar (1 kilo bag = 2.2 pounds).  I buy 3 containers which totals about 2.2 pounds and put everything in the stainless steel pressure cooker pot as in photo below, lower left.  Happiness if putting the cooling jam pan on the garden table and spooning the freshly made 'prize' on to some scones.

Iain recalled me doing a similar exercise on the boat about 20 years ago when I took the berries, the pot and the sugar aboard the boat so as not to miss the jam-making season!

One thing I learned today (as I have made several 2.2 pound batches now): don't add pectin.  Just leave the jam in the pot overnight and look at it in the morning.  I had to do this out of necessity... I didn't have any jars!... and the jam in the morning was absolutely fine.  Yes, a little sloppy but gelatinous enough to pass muster as far as I was concerned.  And, of course, the flavour is wonderful.  Scottish berries are very, very tasty.  None of the big, fleshy tasteless ones that get served on high prices desserts with cream that gets scooshed out of a can.

And on my way back to the car with my basket of berries I spotted the local heron, often seen in this location, through the walkway bars!  He looks like he is missing a few wing feathers.

July is also for roses.  Possibly they are at the height of the season just now ... lots of blooms and very showy.

Thursday, 6 July 2017


The summer days continue with a variation of grey sky and no rain to grey sky with rain.  Occasionally the sun comes out so it is a matter of grabbing 'summer' in snatches.

Everything is growing a lot.  In 'snatches' I manage to keep on top of the jobs - quite satisfying.  I also notice that the soil is improving now that a few years have gone by.  

The roses in particular have been big, blousey and abundant.  They are in a sunny corner and have stood up well so far.

Here is a photo of the orchid that appeared in Anne's garden.  I've made several attempts to photograph it but each time the breeze gets up or the sun goes behind a cloud.  I never realized it was so difficult!

Another summer snatch: the day declared itself - steady rain.  I got out the jars and filled them with beet and apple chutney.  Maggie's recipe.

Having burned my potholder on the gas hob I found this funky oven glove in the Oxfam shop.  Harriet will love it.  She's always keen to make something so this will be one for her on our next baking session. 

 * * * * * * * * *
Another candidate for inclusion in my 'Book of Bad Design'  - DYMO KITCHEN SCALES

These are my kitchen scales.  I had to move over to digital as I couldn't find any old fashioned ones (that were robust) when wishing to replace my old weighing scales.

The scales measure in both metric (grams) and avoirdupois (ounces and pounds).  I regularly use both so am always having to change.  The problem with the design of these scales is that it is almost impossible to see the 'unit of measurement' text  (OZ  or GM)  in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

What I do is take the scales to a strong light and tip it so I can read the OZ  or the GM text in the upper right corner.  To change is easy; punch the kg/lb button which operates as a toggle switch.

Sunday, 2 July 2017


Yesterday, July 1st, was Canada Day which marks the anniversary of the formal coming together of Canada's provinces and territories into a 'nation'.  This all happened 150 years ago.

Fifty years ago was the 'Centennial Year', namely 1967.  Yes, it was a big year but it also reminds me that 6 weeks after finishing university I headed east over the Rockies to Montreal Expo and then flew to London and finally on to Glasgow. (These were the days when flying was a big deal - I recall feeling the need to wear smart clothes.)

Fifty years later and I am still here!

 ... which is why I really could not let the day go past without some sort of 'statement'.

I invited some neighbours in simply to raise a glass (Canada Day means absolutely nothing to Brits) and then tuck into some baking using the seasonal bounty from friends' gardens.

When Iain returned from sailing with John in Skye he brought back zucchini from Roy and Irene's garden in Gairloch and peas from Ilona's polytunnel.  Growing fruit, veg ... anything ... in northwest Scotland requires tenacity so I greatly appreciate what has been brought home hastily stuffed into a sailing bag.

These 'cupcakes' are a variation on carrot cake, i.e. made with zucchini and limes and supposed to have a marscarpone with lime juice icing.  (Note to myself: Stina's recipe)

A neighbour thoughtfully tried to bring a 'national flower of Canada'.  (Is there such a thing?!)  What she had in mind was this:

pasque flower ... which is the provincial flower of Manitoba. Nice... but I had never heard of it!  Not able to locate such a rarity in this part of the world she brought a fuschia which I shall plant in the garden and enjoy seeing from the kitchen window.

 And finally my other neighbour gave me one her gernaiums which was crowding out the bench in her greenhouse.  (Iain hates geraniums ... too many memories of highland homes with front porches lined with pots of geraniums cheek by jowl on the window ledge!)  She knew I liked pink so we can now both doubly enjoy it perched on a low wall in its passionate pink plastic tub.