Monday, 30 July 2012

odd things

 Some more pictures of our little break, this time those of a more random nature.

 This one is a view of the Castle Sands from the castle itself. I was hoping to take the kids down there because it's a great beach - plenty of rock-pooling opportunity, a mixture of sand and stones so the chance to find 'treasures' (sea-glass, shells, interesting stones) and a tidal saltwater swimming-pool which I've never actually swum in, not being one of the loonies brave souls who participated in the May dip (swimming at dawn on the 1st of May).  Unfortunately in 2011 there was a landslide by the steep path down to the beach and it's still closed off, awaiting shoring up and the May dip has moved.  It made me notice how much the shoreline and cliffs near the castle are reinforced. There's a reason half the castle is missing after all!

Also from the castle, somebody has decorated the top of a bit of railing with the very distinctive Tunnock's Caramel Wafer wrapper:

 Another blue-sky at the East Sands picture, just because I can:

Sallies Quad (St. Salvator's Quad) - specifically the bit that used to house the anthropology department:
Messing with the kite  on the West Sands:

 Climbing around on the rocks on the beach by the Golf Museum:

Seagull at the St. Andrews Aquarium glaring at the aquarium seals who were being fed:

We left at around lunchtime on Thursday, stopping at the supermarket for some picnic things, parked in Crail just down the coast and ate our picnic in the car. Crail has a very picturesque harbour (by which I mean it's been painted and photographed a gazillion times - try typing 'Crail' into Google images and you'll see what I mean) but we didn't think the kids would be that interested so we skipped that and just ate our lunch. I was very taken with the parasol opposite where we were parked (click on the pic if you can't see it):

It turns out that's a shop called The Old House Interiors and the parasol is there come rain or shine (or, if you follow the link, snow). While were watching, a very dignified grey and white cat stalked out of the garden and sat by the parasol for a bit before wandering off on a sedate adventure up the street.

Something I noticed all over Fife was the number of poppies on the verges - wild flowers generally but the poppies especially, masses of them.   I tried to photograph them but it's not easy when you're moving - honestly there are some in the picture above! After we crossed the bridge (Forth) on the way home I only saw one lonely poppy by the side of the road. In the olden days when I'd get the bus down from St. Andrews to Glasgow every second or third weekend in the summer to go and visit my Beloved who'd gone home for the summer, I'd sometimes see poppies on the way, especially in one field between Cupar and Glenrothes, so I suppose it's a flower I associate with the summer in Fife anyway.  Nice :-).

When we got home I discovered one poppy flowering in our garden - yay!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

"A little city, worn and grey "

Hello! We're back from a couple of completely blissful days in St. Andrews.  Now St. Andrews is a place full of memories for us -  my Beloved and I are a cliché, we're a St. Andrews University couple.  We met there, started going out, graduated and eventually got married.  And this week we took the kids there. Somehow we hadn't been back for years.  I don't know why really - it's not that far. The Boy had been before as a baby but only for a day, and Miss Mouse obviously had never been, so we thought a couple of days of seasidey fun on the drier east coast would be a bit of fun for them and pleasant for us. And it was BLISS!

We arrived at lunchtime on overcast-but-warm Tuesday, went to the castle, then to Jannetta's, the ice-cream shop:
 Bit of an odd expression on Miss Mouse's face there - concentrating on her tub of ice-cream I think!
This was a bit of a treat for me because although I don't like ice-cream I do like sorbet. It's not often that I can get ice-creams for the kids and a sorbet for myself but Jannetta's has a great choice of sorbet flavours. I had the raspberry sorbet (mmmmmmmmmmmm..), and the next day tried the apple sorbet which was a bit odd but also lovely. They also did an Irn Bru flavour sorbet that I really must try next time we're back there, as well as the more usual mango and lemon sorbets and I can't remember what else.

 After dinner we headed down to the beach. This picture was taken at about quarter to eight, so after Miss Mouse's usual bedtime - but normal routines don't apply on holiday! I don't know what she was doing there - being King Canute? Whatever it was, the kids were having a blast.

Then the next day..

..the sun came out! Oh, it was glorious! We headed straight for the beach first thing and packed a whole summer's worth of summeriness into one glorious day.

Splashing in the shallows (naturally!)..

..pottering around in rock-pools and tracking the tide dropping,

... and building sand-castles.. That's Miss Mouse's first effort in slightly-too-waterlogged sand!

And this is what it looked like through my sunglasses! Pah, who needs Instagram when a pair of sunglasses can provide retro sepia fuzziness ;-).  Is it any surprise I was so happy? And I really was. I grew up very close to the sea (and by 'close' I mean a matter of metres) and I miss it. Most of the time I can ignore missing it, but the moment I hear the waves I can feel myself relaxing.. All this was at the East Sands, the smaller beach, but the one we knew the best having lived close to it for two years.

Later on we went to the West Sands where I took the classic iconic St. Andrews skyline photo - where 'classic' and 'iconic' mean 'that bit at the start of Chariots of Fire'. The trouble with the West Sands though is that it's windy and, dare I say it, a bit boring... I mean it's just a big expanse of sand. Very dramatic though. We did fly a kite for a bit but the kids got a bit fed-up so we headed back to the East Sands and then went for a wee walk around the harbour and along the pier.

Another St. Andrews photographic cliché :-D.

To complete the seaside vibe we got our dinner from the chip shop and ate it sitting on a bench on Market St (outside the Buchanan building where I used to have painful 1st-year French classes and art history lectures, and my brother did an entire German degree). Fish and chips on a sunny evening in St. Andrews, and no need to do a French translation ever again - perfect.

Buckets and spades, sandcastles, kites, ice-cream, fish and chips - see what I mean? An entire summer in one day.

We were staying in a hall of residence (pictures on my 354 blog) - it's used for bed & breakfast guests during the summer break. In fact I worked there as a chamber-maid in the summer before my final year and the summer I graduated. The hall (unimaginatively named 'New Hall', though they've finally got round to finding a proper name for it apparently - when it'll actually get changed I don't know) was new then, in fact it was still being built the first summer I worked there. So it was odd staying there as a guest. I can remember cleaning the room we stayed in!

But it was lovely.  Most of the other guests were golfers, mostly American, mostly older than us - of the kind my Californian friend Kelly described as 'Howards and Marthas' (i.e. the archetypal sweet enthusiastic elderly American tourists) during her JYA year in St. Andrews. I only saw one child apart from our own, but didn't feel they had to be on best behaviour or anything (though they were really good). It was all very laid back and in any case golfers are very absorbed in the topic of golf!

I can't wait to go back!

Oh right, the poem the title quote is from:

Almae Matres - Andrew Lang
(St Andrews, 1862. Oxford, 1865)

St. Andrews by the Northern Sea,
   A haunted town it is to me!

A little city, worn and grey.
   The grey North Ocean girds it round,
And o'er the rocks, and up the bay,
   The long sea-rollers surge and sound.
And still the thin and biting spray
   Drives down the melancholy street,
And still endure, and still decay,
   Towers that the salt winds vainly beat.
Ghost-like and shadowy they stand
   Dim mirrored in the wet sea-sand.

St. Leonard's chapel, long ago
   We loitered idly where the tall
Fresh-budded mountain ashes blow
   Within thy desecrated wall:
The tough roots rent the tomb below,
   The April birds sang clamorous,
We did not dream, we could not know
   How hardly Fate would deal with us!

O, broken minster, looking forth
   Beyond the bay, above the town,
O, winter of the kindly North,
   O, college of the scarlet gown,
And shining sands beside the sea,
   And stretch of links beyond the sand,
Once more I watch you, and to me
   It is as if I touched his hand!

And therefore art thou yet more dear,
   O, little city, grey and sere,
Though shrunken from thine ancient pride
   And lonely by thy lonely sea,
Than these fair halls on Isis' side,
   Where Youth an hour came back to me!

A land of waters green and clear,
   Of willows and of poplars tall,
And, in the spring-time of the year,
   The white may breaking over all,
And Pleasure quick to come at call.
   And summer rides by marsh and wold,
And Autumn with her crimson pall
   About the towers of Magdalen rolled;
And strange enchantments from the past,
   And memories of the friends of old,
And strong Tradition, binding fast
   The 'flying terms' with bands of gold,—
All these hath Oxford: all are dear,
   But dearer far the little town,
The drifting surge, the wintry year,
   The college of the scarlet gown.
St. Andrews by the Northern Sea,
   That is a haunted town to me!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Two dry days

 Two consecutive dry days, that is - which means....
..we got the grass cut at last! The garden looks so much bigger when the grass is short (I know it's only relative - that picture above pretty much shows the full extent of the garden). There were sunny spells today; you could practically hear the plants cheering.

 Can you spot the cat lurking?

The wind was getting up and she was skulking around the garden before hiding under a bush, twitching every time something rattled in the wind.

Did you see my wool on the washing-line in the top picture? I did a dye yesterday with dandelion leaves (as there is no shortage of the flamin' things in my garden), but the results were deeply bland as you can see. So this afternoon I got out all the red onion skins I'd collected:

And topped up the dandelion beige with a quick red onion skin soak.

Below is the result, still wet, draped over the kitchen tap, drip-drying.  It's a funny colour - the picture doesn't really do it justice. It's sort of rust coloured with a greenish tinge. Impossible to describe and very odd, but very definitely not beige! I did once get a really pleasant rich brown from red onion skins but I've never managed to recreate it. Still, it'll be interesting to see what this one is like when it's properly dry.

And now for a bit of gratuitous colour:
The Boy and I decided to make some jelly. He enjoyed the way the cubes dissolve so quickly in the boiling water. I've got to admit it was quicker than I remembered. I keep buying packets of jelly and not getting round to making them up so I haven't actually made any for several years.  But now that we have a slightly bigger fridge we have more space for the chilling stage. I'm not very good at waiting for it to set! It's almost set now. Mmmm, raspberry jelly for pud tomorrow!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Dyer's chamomile

Now that it's dry, this is how the wool turned out. As ever, I find it very hard to photograph yellow wool, but trust me, it's lovely!

It hardly looks yellow at all in the close-up does it?

Anyway, a big thumbs up for anthemis tinctoria!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A pot full of yellow

 Dyer's chamomile (anthemis tinctoria), mostly leaves and stems with a few flowers chucked in too.

 After simmering for a bit.

And drying on the washing-line in the sunshine - sunshine! Woohoo!

There was actual laundry drying on the line too, and it mostly dried! It was quite breezy as well as sunny, so a great drying day.  It's a bit of a sad thing to get excited about but we've had very few decent drying days this year and I love the smell of line-dried washing.

And I wasn't the only one enjoying the sunshine:

Basking bee.
(Mum, this is a picture I took while we were on the 'phone).

All this was possible because My Beloved took the kids out for a bit. I love them to bits, but oh my, peace and quiet....  Bliss.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Making Monday

Yes, I know it's Tuesday - it's the school holidays, days are fluid (or to put it another way, I didn't have the time/energy to post last night. The first week of the holidays is always a bit intense*).

So here's yesterday's making:


Miss Mouse quite likes making things but even so I was quite surprised at how she took to this. I had to untangle it for her a couple of times but she did very well. She loved choosing the colours (purple, orange, green, blue, cream and brown - she works on the 'more is more' principle) and was very pleased with the result.

Mine was the one that looks like poached egg. Love that yellow..

I can't remember the last time I made a pompom like this but it must be a couple of decades ago at least. It's very relaxing - I even sat through a couple of episodes of Fireman Sam without muttering about the inordinate number of crises they seem to have in Pontypandy.

I do have a plastic pompom maker gadget but it's absolute rubbish (it doesn't work) compared with the classic two wonky rings of cardboard. Yes, cereal box - well it's traditional! I associate making pompoms with being in Primary Five - my teacher had a big bag of leftover wool and we always seemed to have pompoms on the go, filling in any odd times. Finished maths exercise and there's only five minutes 'til the bell goes? Pompom!  My brother had the same teacher when he was in P5 and the big bag of wool was still on the go then - he made loads of pompoms.

I hadn't even thought of teaching the kids to make pompoms until it struck me that the Boy is going into P5 after the holidays and the association was made. Not that he paid much attention, but there you go.

 * By 'intense' I mean there's a lot of bickering, and bedtime can't come soon enough.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


I'm going for the World's Dullest Post here!

Our new fridge arrived today. The cats were very excited:

"What's going on? Things are happening! I want to see! Why won't you let me through to see? What's that noise?"

We are very pleased.

Note cat up on work-top where he knows full well he's not supposed to be.

To put this into perspective our old fridge was slightly and annoyingly smaller than average. It was in the house when we moved in six years ago and we have no idea how old it was then (Not New anyway). Part of the top shelf in the door fell out last year and I bodged it with duct tape. Naturally. New Fridge is about 5cm wider which doesn't sound much but makes a difference to the volume and, joy of joys, bottles of unhealthy fizzy things fit in the door!

(For Mrs Micawber and others possibly not familiar with Scotland's national drinks, that incredibly orange fizzy stuff is Irn Bru or rather 'Iron Brew', a cheap supermarket version of it).

We are such saddos we've spent all day exclaiming about how great the new fridge is, and why didn't we get a new one ages ago?

In other news, I did a horsetail dye yesterday and here's the result:

Looks like nothing doesn't it? It's a very pale yellow, paler than the horsetail dye I did last year with similar quantities of plants (pan stuff full with it, water poured into the gaps). I wonder if it depends on the time of year, how old the growth is, anything like that.

I'll end with a picture of My Beloved noticing that his mallet is made by the Thor Hammer Company Ltd.  Doesn't it go well with his beard?

Right, I'm off up the Rainbow Bridge to bed. All that excitement has fair worn me out...