Thursday, August 30, 2007

Trapps and Schmaps

I was quite tickled today to hear that a year on from a request from Schmap, the online map service, to use a photo I'd taken (of Mr B buying kilt socks and shoes) I could at last access the site on my Mac. The photo on the left shows the relevant entry, one of several for attractions, shops etc in Leith.

It made me reflect yet again on the amazing potential of the internet to harness input from anyone using it - and the enormous convenience of having all this at my fingertips. I still don't understand people who say they never use their computers except for the odd email.

But now I'm off on my travels again. Not as far-flung as some of my family, currently soemwhere to the north of Mombasa - just think of me in von Trapp mode for the next wee while. At least I'll not be patting leopards.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Apple Heaven

Apple Heaven 2
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Paid a quick visit to the new Apple mecca in Glasgow today - after walking past it not once but twice! Somehow we failed to notice the big white apple above the doorway. Perhaps it was because in this magnificent building the portico itself is so imposing that the apple seemed merely an addition, perhaps merely because we were blethering - well, what do you expect?

Anyway, it's a lovely space, and this is a much better use for it than the previous occupancy - all candles and kitsch tat. It was delightfully peaceful - more black T-shirts than customers - although I was told that last night it was full of screaming girls and a live band. I had a poke round what is promised for the new OS (coming in October) and told a T shirt I'd be back for it.

And I will.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mingling Granny with bloggy

75%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

I have Ewan to thank for this bit of nonsense - if I'm insufficiently mature for trad grannying, he's not altogether the trad new dad, though I must add that he's doing this job with the same swift efficiency that he displays in other areas of life. But addicted to blogging? I'd say rather that I'm addicted to communication and self-expression, and blogging still does the trick as far as that's concerned. Actually, I had to force myself to publish this post - or any other - because it means pushing Catriona down the page; I must be shifting allegiance!

On the same tack, I felt compelled to submit an entry for the Sunday Herald competition for blog entries on the subject of modern Scotland. I didn't really think the exemplars they gave came across as either blog posts or brilliant, and the topic title was uninspiring and truly uncatchy, but there you are. I was seduced - and that just before my Cursillo weekend.

Writing this has, bizarrely, reminded me that I have a bill to pay - because my competition entry began in the local print shop. I owe them thirty quid. Forget further addiction and get on with it.

And yes: if you do as my heading suggests you get ... groggy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Beautiful, no?
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Yesterday I was grandmothering again. I fear it may become a habit – for it’s very addictive! A look at the photo here should explain all … Up at 5am, off on the 7am ferry (thus neatly avoiding Cowal Games), we had time to shop for such varied items as olives, strawberries and cot sheets before arriving in time for coffee in Leith. And so it was after a very long day indeed that I found myself postponing our departure to have one final cuddle – and ended up singing a lullaby as I lay on the sofa with the baby lying on my diaphragm. What this did for my singing I don’t know, but it was obvious that the vibration as well as the sound had a soporific effect on Catriona. Actually I found it pretty soporific myself, and we left for home a full hour later than we had intended.

I have to note here that “soporific’ was one of my first long and wonderful words – do you recall the opening sentence of The Flopsy Bunnies? (“Lettuces are very soporific”, if you weren’t brought up on BP) But yesterday I was not really singing words, for the original words of the tune would have been in Gaelic. However, it seemed natural in all sorts of ways to sing the wonderful “Christ Child’s Lullaby” – the song Mr B has been working on of late for performance at Christmas in the Albert Hall.

I don’t think I sang lullabies to my own babies. Maybe I was too harassed the first time round; I certainly sang at Ewan, but it was because I had a performance coming up and had to get back in trim after he arrived rather later than anticipated. And so it was that the poor infant Edublogger had to put up with the alto solo from Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb" – the one about the valiant mouse. And soporific it was not.

Maybe that explains a lot …

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Wise Woman moment

All this grandmothering has brought back the experiences of 30 years ago - like riding a bike, these things once learned never really go away. And it's quite challenging to know how much to act the Wise Woman of the tribe and how much to keep my mouth shut. However, the early release from hospital of new mothers and their babies - even with the community backup - means that the environment for learning and making mistakes is considerably more isolated than it was when I had my babies and was kept in for a week without any particular reason other than because that was what they did.

From what I saw on the ward this week, the most trying area for a new mother can be the business of breastfeeding. I remember the harrowing experience of being made to wait till four hours elapsed between feeds, of wondering if I could last that long, let alone the baby, of not getting the angle right, of cramp in the shoulder with the strain of trying. Before I had my second baby, I read a wonderful book Breast is Best and confirmed all I had already learned, so that the whole thing was a piece of cake, but the first time if I hadn't had a determined and lucid mother of my own to help me I'd probably have given up - for that was what was encouraged in 1974.

But now I recall these vital tips - the basics of successful feeding: Feed when either of you feels like it - the baby or you. If you're lucky, you'll coincide. If not, tough. Feed anyway. Otherwise you'll feel you might burst and in the end the back pressure will diminish the supply of milk. And make sure the baby takes enough of you into her mouth - or she won't create the right kind of pressure and will swallow air and you'll get sore - to say nothing of the baby's insides! And if she sleeps when you want her to get a move on, tickle the soles of her feet, or pat them.

And relax and enjoy it. It doesn't go on for very long in the grand scheme of things, and you should aim to get the most out of it yourself. It's not often that you can indulge in something so pleasureable which is actually doing good for someone!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Blethering already

Don't you think? A definite moment of communication! But what do you say, confronted by the really big events in your life? I can write about trivia to a band playing, can even waste yards of text on such trifles as pew leaflets, but right now I feel a tad lost for words. This totally tiny person, who wasn't known to anyone except her mother a week ago and who already has a perfect little face and a personality and perfect pianist's hands and is smaller than either her father or her uncle ever were - she's a miracle.

And yesterday we took her, and her mother and father, and a carload of balloons, teddies, flowers, clothes as well as all our luggage, home. A terrifying responsibility, driving this precious load through rush-hour Edinburgh, with buses looming irresponsibly close and impatient white van drivers irritated because we were accelerating with extreme caution. But we made it, and now we're on one side of the country and Catriona (and her parents) are on t'other side. But the eminently missable Cowal Games are about to start, and they bring a plethora of ferries on the Saturday. All full coming this way, all empty going back.

Except for us. We're off to Leith!

Monday, August 20, 2007

We are ...

We are a Grandmother! This will be the only time I quote the Blessed Margaret in a blog post - trust me on this. But after pacing about the floor of long-suffering friends in Edinburgh, we've just had a call from Ewan to announce the arrival of his daughter. I don't see him blogging this tonight, but I'll leave the details to him - at least till the morning.

Apparently today - no; it's yesterday now - was a very auspicious day, being the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's day, a day in which you carve the name of the beloved on melon. At least, this is what the Bishop of Edinburgh told us at Spiky Mike's, aka St Michael and All Saints, Tollcross, in the morning. Presumably he knew what he was talking about.

Which is more than I do, after a day which began with a speeding drive through Edinburgh at 5.30am. I shall lay off the bubbly till tomorrow. Goodnight!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Second try...

I don't really like the way these frames spread themselves over the page, but think this set of pics - from the bin the bomb march in Glasgow earlier this year - works better with this treatment. And it didn't take me so long this time ...

First steps on video

A rather rushed shot on Animoto after being seduced by Ewan's post this morning.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guide me ...

One of the charges levelled at Cursillo - usually as a reason for not going on a weekend - is that of manipulation. And of course there is a structure, a structure which, coming under the terms of the licence agreement, is strictly adhered to. This means that at any time on a Cursillo weekend, anyone who has been on one will know what the participants are doing at that moment. And yes, these activities are carefully structured in mood and intensity, and yes, they work. And people tend to feel empowered and more confident as a result - and often exuberantly so.

I was discussing this today with an old friend whom I see less often than I would like. I was telling her what happens on a Cursillo weekend, and why. But I barely needed to. "We do that!" she exclaimed. And we realised that much of what she does mirrors what I've been doing these past weeks and months, and I found that she understood the power and the purpose of Cursillo better than anyone I've spoken to who has not actually experienced a weekend.

And this friend is not a church person, not a Christian. She is a Guide leader, heavily involved in providing a worthwhile framework for girls to grow in. I wonder how far the Guiding movement is seen as manipulative?

And I reflected on the apparent Christianity of my non-Christian friend, and was glad we had shared a coffee today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Teaching, Jim, but not as we know it.

I was chatting at the shallow end this morning - we have an excellent pool in Dunoon - with the former heidie of one of the local primary schools. The sun was lighting up the green water inside and the blue water of the Clyde outside, and we agreed that it was wonderful not to be in school on such a day - for today was the first day of term here. But it struck me that I'd just spent a weekend using the skills I'd accumulated over all these years in the classroom - skills that I never thought about, but which non-teachers seem to find impressive; skills such as being able to command a room without speaking, see what is happening in one corner while apparently looking in another, engage with a roomful of people confidently.

Do we ever consider these attributes, I wonder, while we're being called to exercise them day in , day out? I don't know that I did - there was so much going on, and latterly we tended to engage in other forms of interaction with pupils and in fact might not have been up there in front as often as in the past. But I have to say that it's the old-fashioned leading from the front that is most useful in life beyond school, and as I stepped up (being a bit of a short-arse, I had to use a step) to the lectern for the first time in that conference room I felt quite a frisson of enjoyment - and of recognition. But there was another aspect to enjoy. There was no-one trying to stick a pencil into their neighbour, and no-one writing obscenities in their jotter. Everyone was looking at me with every appearance of wanting to hear what I was going to say.

And there wasn't a spit-ball in sight.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Drunk? or just daft?

You ever been to a party where you're the only person who is entirely sober? Perhaps you're the driver for a cheerfully inebriated partner, or stricken by some lurgie which requires you to take antibiotics which suddenly turn lethal - or simply ineffectual - with the addition of alcohol. Perhaps you simply don't drink. Whatever the reason, you suddenly realise that just about everyone else seems to be on another planet, leaving you with your feet firmly on the ground. And you find their hilarity not only hard to enter but also downright irritating.

I guess this is how it was at Pentecost, when the disciples of Jesus were thought to have drunk "new wine" - the only explanation their listeners could arrive at to make sense of their exuberant joy in proclaiming the Gospel. And it's a bit like what people must feel when they meet my companions on last weekend's Cursillo in Perth - puzzled, excluded and somewhat irritated. How can perfectly sensible and sober people of mature years go off to a monastery for a few days and come back so inexplicably cheerful?

Now, you'd think that I'd be in a position to explain, wouldn't you? I mean, I was running the weekend - in charge of the team, making decisions about how things would be done, watching the weekend unfold. And yet when it comes down to it I can't tell you what happened, exactly. All I know is that these very different people arrived looking tense or uncertain and left transformed, smiling and joyful. As if they had enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine, in fact. And though I had a wonderful team of people working under me - people who also were unfailingly cheerful despite being worked off their feet - I am unable to put my finger on any one human contribution which would have brought about this transformation.

Of course, experiences like this are considerably more than the sum of their parts, and the team - paying to come and work and perhaps deliver a talk that they've sweated blood over - are motivated by something way beyond the ordinary. And the shared joy at the end of it is enviable - and in the end inexplicable. It just is.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Daily Prayer - once a week?

As part of my preparation for a Cursillo weekend, one for which I am actually responsible this time, I've been working on finding prayers and meditations for Morning and Evening Prayer. I'm already thinking of which ones I shall read and which delegate - and realising how much I enjoy doing this kind of thing. And yet, other than when I'm in a retreat-type situation, where I can more or less fall out of bed and into the chapel, I don't ever join in such services. When I go to church, it's for the Eucharist. Kimberly has just posted an interesting question about church practice: why one congregation will be content to have matins when there is no priest present, while another will administer the Reserved Sacrament and continue to have a Eucharist.

And it was while attempting to analyse my response to the question that I realised how alien it would now seem to have a non-Eucharistic service as the main Sunday diet of worship. It seems such a sterile exercise without the music traditionally associated with the service, and such a torment with anything but a seriously good choir. And then there's the difficulty of finding one's way around the Scottish Daily Prayer book, and the innate Englishness of the Book of Common Prayer...

And I end up thinking there'd be no focus. It'd be like the C of S services I grew up with, only without the 40 minute sermon. Perhaps these services only work as the beginning and ending of a day - not something done once a week but a routine self-dedication of the kind that few of us actually manage. But I'm about to enjoy four days of just that - and a great deal of hard work in between!

Saturday, August 04, 2007


A wonderful coincidence this morning - one which gladdened the heart of Mr B in the midst of much preparation for a busy week. Radio 3 was on, playing an excerpt from Mahler's 1st Symphony. At a passage from the first movement which includes bird-calls, our clock, which rings on F#, struck in a perfectly-timed counterpoint. If you have played in an orchestra, or even if you ever consider the complexity of such a piece, you will realise how amazing was this coincidence - not just the note being in tune, but also in time. Symphony indeed.

And we realised that the clock had been striking these chimes since long before Mahler was born - over 60 years before. Good, eh?

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Autumn Leaves 01
Originally uploaded by derek overy.
Rather strangely, in view of the torrents that have fallen on England in the past few weeks, I've welcomed the overnight rain this week. It seems astonishing that in this patchy summer Argyll of all places should be showing the effects of low rainfall, but that's what's happened. Several evenings I've suddenly remembered a wilting pot of lobelias (bought for me to turn over my failures by) or the ill-advised Kimarnock Willow at the back door and have found myself at midnight pouring cans - or even bottles - of water one them so they'll last the night.

And it's not just the garden which is showing the effects of drought (drought! I ask you..) The other day, on the shores of Loch Long, I noticed that the bramble leaves were already turning red and brown, and the leaves on the taller trees were dry and turning autumnal. In July. I'm beginning to wonder what happens to the undeveloped brambles if they don't get enough rain - do they just stay wee and hard?

Now that would be sad.

Note: there is a hidden literary reference in here, if you're up for it...