Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent Wreath - Dunoon version


Creating Advent Wreath
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
The other day, I came upon instructions for making an advent wreath, and thought it was time I offered an insight iinto the creation of the wild and wonderful wreath we have in Holy Trinity Church, Dunoon. So here you are:
1. Pick a dreich day at the end of the week before Advent. If it is raining, it will be a more authentic experience and the greenery will be wonderfully fresh.
2. Equip yourself with a couple of black bin liners and a pair of secateurs. A pal to help is a good idea, and the addition of a third party to hold a bag and keep cave if necessary is a luxury.
3. Head out into the woods. It is best if botanical experimentation in said woods has resulted in an abundant variety of species of evergreen.
4. Cut shapely fronds from as many different trees as you can reach, and stuff them into your bags.
5. In the church, rummage among assorted rusty metal stands till you find the Advent Candle stand which when last seen was doubling as a flower holder. Reassemble at the required height, brushing off the bits of fossilised foliage.
6. Pinch the required quantity of Oasis from the flower-arrangers' stock and jam below where the candles will go. It should be wet: Advent goes on a bit and you don't want it to dry out.
7. Insert the candles. Three purple, one pink, and a white one in the middle. Pay absolutely no attention to anyone who suggests that red is a suitable colour. It isn't.
8. Ram the ends of your tree cuttings into the Oasis, longest and frondiest (I just made that up) at the bottom. Continue to build it up all round, with some gesture in the direction of symmetry. Remember that the priest and servers will have a back view of it - don't neglect its rear.
9. Top it off with several clusters of the wonderful pink berries which look as if they're made of plastic and which the Good Lord in his wisdom caused to grow in the church grounds. On no account use red berries - they will clash hideously with your pink and purple candles (see 7 above)
10. Do not forget to sweep up the mess you have made on the floor, or that the tiles are now very slippy with the wet. It would be injudicious to Take A Fall at this juncture.

There. The Dunoon Advent Wreath. All buckshee but for the candles. Oh - and that hybrid stand.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Skypeing off into the sunset

This crazy photo - not improved by the fact that the photographer had a fit of giggles at the time - is here to illustrate once more the benefits of a bit of technology in the everyday life of a grandmama. Ewan is off on his travels again, taking his family with him, and this was my chance to see them - and especially my granddaughter - before they left today. We were using Skype, with Ewan's built-in webcam; Catriona is by now used to talking to a still photo of me, but I'd love to get my hands on someone's redundant iSight so that we can communicate more actively. (I don't want to upgrade my G$ just yet - it ain't broke, and it works well for me.)

And my point? Simply to reiterate that I'm tired of people consigning computers and so on to the realms of 'toys for the boys' - which I have been assured is what some of my friends do. This is no more a toy than is the telephone - and it's much more fun.

BTW - there's another new poem on frankenstina

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Na zdorovia!


"Take it with flash"
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Just seen the singers of Voskresenije off on the next leg of their current tour. The choir actually varies from year to year; only Jurij Maruk (Musical Director,far left) and Anatoly Artomonov (basso profundo, in the turquoise jacket) remain from the group who first came here in 2002. I find it hard to imagine what it must be like for some of these singers to leave their young children for two months - no wonder they're so keen to get internet contact, see photos and videos and chat.

They sang beautifully. The performance of the Eriskay Love Lilt (arr.McIntosh) was a delight - and their Gaelic flawless, according to a Gael who heard them. There is always someone in the audience who is hearing the group for the first time, and the enthusiasm of the people leaving last night was palpable, despite the horrors of the church drive in the darkness. The physicality of the experience of listening to the choir is something special; there were moments when I felt I had to
close my eyes and lose myself in the sound, both in the surging volume of their fortes and the purity of a pianissimo.

Talking with Jurij over a meal, we reflected on how musicians can be friends despite political difficulties, language barriers and cultural expectations. And when I joked with Pavel the second tenor about his resemblance to Robert de Niro, he pointed out that musicians tend not to earn de Niro's millions. No-one, however, seemed to doubt that it was worth it.

The choir don't have any contacts in Glasgow. It seems silly that they have to pass Glasgow on their tour without performing there. If anyone reading this fancies facilitating a concert, get in contact with me through this blog - or Flickr mail, via the photo.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Waiting for Voskresenije

If it's November, the Russians must be on their way. Actually, they are - our visiting choir from St Petersburg, Voskresenije, are even now on Bute, and will be with us this afternoon for a concert tonight. I have been thrown into a bit of a tizz by the news that there is a married couple among them - the hospitality arrangements have already been made and I foresee problems. And my spies in Oban tell me there might be another liason going on ... maybe they'll just have to do without tonight.

It's a funny thing - all sorts of people asking if I'm looking forward to the concert and all I can think of are cash floats and sandwiches. Actually, something I am very much looking forward to is hearing Mr B's new arrangement of the Eriskay Love Lilt, in which, apparently, the Russian singers make a great job of the Gaelic. This was transmitted to them by Mr B on a CD, after Gaelic consultations with our friend John in Oban. It brought the house down, we are told, on more than one occasion on this tour.

I wonder what the Russian is for "fingers crossed"?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

All change...

This Navajo woman has absolutely nothing to do with my subject today other than her faintly quizzical expression and the fact that she is wearing clothes which go some way to identifying her role - either in life as a whole, or at the moment the photo was taken. You wonder if she wears traditional clothing all the time, or merely when it is a suitable moment so to do. And this brings me to my point.

Are you the kind of person who dresses in the morning in the clothes you will wear till you go to bed? Or do you have activity-specific clothing which will come on and off through the day till your bed is so littered in the day's discarded garments that it takes half an hour to deal with them before sleep is possible?

I have to confess to being the latter type. I used to watch films in which the man of the house would return home from the office or similar place of employ, perhaps remove his jacket, and sit down to dinner/a drink/ whatever. I used to marvel at how uncomfortable this might be, and at the dangers of spilling his soup down his tie when he was not actually dining in a posh restaurant. My father came home from school, disappeared briefly, and returned looking like a genteel tramp in that his jersey frequently had holey elbows which he would refuse to let anyone patch. We were never allowed to sit around in our school uniforms - though I think on some stressful evenings of school orchestra and much homework this rule was relaxed.

Today I have had no need to be particularly respectable. If I had been in Glasgow for the day, or at church, there would have been a decent pair of trousers and a shirt - maybe even a skirt - lying around waiting to be put away. But I have been out twice, soaking the trousers I wore the first time and resorting to my waterproof ones the second. Now I am wearing the ultra-comfy but fairly unspeakable jeans whose forgiving waist will see me through dinner. My fleece has some splodges of dried dough on it - for today was one of intense domesticity - and my shirt has been a favourite for at least 20 years. On my feet I have a pair of bright green Holey Soles. Had today been a swimming day, I would have worn a different set of comfy clothes to haul off and stuff in my locker.

I have a friend who mocks my quick-change tendencies. She has no qualms about wearing new jeans for a muddy dog-walk, and has a waist which does not mind an unchanging waistband from dawn till dusk. She wears, washes, discards. My mother would have had a saying for her:
"Aye at the head of the heap."

See what parents do to you?

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Tale of the Twittering Son

Once upon a time there was a relatively doting mother who did all the cool things like using the internet, sending mails, blogging, surfing, wasting precious hours of her dwindling tale of years wandering Second Life as an absurd avatar, sending text messages, photosharing - even using facebook and Twitter. She read her children's blogs to such an extent that she was able to converse with some semblance of knowing what was going on and she tried not to phone them when they might be tired/grumpy/watching footie/cooking/eating/changing the baby. She admired their photos and sympathised when they had domestic problems like floods or leaks.

And so it was, O Best Beloved (sorry, Kipling) that one day, while updating her own Twitter status with some mundane thought, she came upon the news that one of her children was having plumbing issues for the second time in two months. The problem had been in the public domain for all of two days before she had become aware of it. Immediately she was stricken with pangs of guilt - had she been remiss in not Twittering more assiduously? - and irritation. Why had she not been personally informed? Why had her words of wisdom - for she was, after all, a Wise Woman - not been sought instantly?

But being such a Wise Woman she decided that this is the way the world goes. She who does not Twitter constantly is a failure as a mother and deserves to be ignored. And maybe, she ruminated, it was better to have electronic contact with her offspring than have them constantly at her door. After all, she might have ended up waiting in for the plumber.

BTW - there's a second new American experience poem on frankenstina

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The dying business

I read this extract from Le Milieu Divin by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin last night. I thought it was an extraordinary take on the business of dying - or the contemplation of it anyway - and reproduce the extract in its entirety.
It was a joy to me, O God, in the midst of the struggle, to feel that in developing myself I was increasing the hold that you have upon me; it was a joy to me, too, under the inward thrust of life or amid the favourable play of events, to abandon myself to your providence. Now that I have found the joy of utilising all forms of growth to make you, or to let you, grow in me, grant that I may willingly consent to this last phase of communion in the course of which I shall possess you by diminishing in you.

After having perceived you as he who is ‘a greater myself’, grant, when my hour comes, that I may recognise you under the species of each alien or hostile force that seems bent upon destroying or uprooting me. When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind); when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you (provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.

The more deeply and incurably the evil in encrusted in my flesh, the more it will be you that I am harbouring – you as a loving, active principle of purification and detachment. Vouchsafe, therefore, something more precious still than the grace for which all the faithful pray. It is not enough that I shall die while communicating. Teach me to treat my death as an act of communion.
Gosh.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Inspiration

At this time of year, with the afternoon turning dark at 3.45pm (it's turned into a very grey day indeed after a cold, bright morning), I find myself once again contemplating what it is that makes Advent so powerful in this northern outpost of civilisation. I never thought about it when I lived in the city, but looking out at the large sky and the grey sea focuses the mind somewhat.

And it is perhaps this focus that has found me writing four poems in as many weeks, after months of feeling I didn't have poem in my head. Two of them were stirred up from the sediment of memories by my finding notes made in my diary while I was in the States, at moments which especially struck me - sunset in the somehow disturbing surroundings of Fairhope in winter, the wonderful language of the conductor on the Amtrak to New York, which I copied verbatim each time he spoke. Reading them when I should have been checking dates for a Lay Worship Team meeting made me long to be alone, to do something with them, to set down the lines which even then were forming in my head and which I feared I would lose.

The fourth poem was inspired by a photograph in the guardian's excellent Guide to Photography the other weekend. A small monochrome picture of an old woman in a cafe had me instantly reaching for the pencil and the used envelope which are my preferred tools at such a moment. I suppose it was in the same mould as Edwin Morgan's Instamatic Poems. Anyway, I shall not be posting them here, but over on frankenstina, beginning today with "Mobile Bay". Do leave me a comment if you visit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Luddites in the glens

Will there come the day when everyone will regard the use of computers/internet/social software as normal? I deliberately arranged the above in order of provocation, for I find myself wandering in a world of dinosaurs. The other week we even experienced problems meeting someone off the ferry because, although he possesses a mobile phone, he rarely switches it on - out of irritation, it seemed, at mobile phone users.

I am about to embark yet again on part of my crusade to save money by using online technology instead of paper. We've actually managed to discard the paper, but I still have to explain about PDF files and not rushing to print everything rather than read it onscreen. But why is it that I always seem to end up feeling as if I'm somehow out of order because I use what most of my online friends would regard as fairly basic technology? I know I'll be treated as if I'm the misfit - or as if being in possession of a laptop and using a wireless connection qualifies me as devil's spawn.

Maybe it's something to do with my age. Maybe the fact that I exist upsets people of my generation who would rather remain in the 20th century. I get the same vibes as I did when I confessed (note the use of the word) to watching Star Trek. Ladies of a certain age should know their place and wear a twinset. Or maybe, in this neck of the woods, a tweed skirt. But I don't, and I won't, and I'm no longer prepared to make concessions to luddites. If anyone reading this has any tips to share to make the luddites somehow eager to learn/try/get broadband in their remote glens I'd be glad to hear from them. Otherwise, just spare me a kindly thought on Wednesday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A gauntlet ...

I've just been testing my vocabulary (not, I must admit, for the first time) on this site, to which I was directed by Mr W earlier in the week. Childishly, I'm currently engaged in a competition with myself to see how soon I can reach the top possible score of 50. This is not really the point, in a way, as the site donates 10 grains of rice to the UN food program for every work you get correct, so if you keep making mistakes and go on playing, more rice is donated. However, as I still haven't reached the minimum possible time (ie make no mistakes at all) I shall play my part by persevering. The game ups the ante by increasing the difficulty each time you're correct.

I was reasonably pleased with my score today - reaching 50 after 490 grains of rice - and gratified to note how a knowledge of Latin and of Shakespearean English seems to help. I'm sure my erudite and competitively driven readers will soon be telling me how much better they've done - especially if they also know some Greek ...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A visit to Grandmama's


I'll just eat a finger
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
I'm in the middle of remembering one of the potent reasons for having children when you're young. My gorgeous granddaughter decided to pay us a visit this week, and brought her mum along to carry her gear, provide the grub and so on. What a commanding presence a tiny child can be! It's not that she wails a lot - though having recently discovered how to scream she does go in for some vocal exercises which will have her in the first sopranos before long - but she has an entire repertoire of beguiling little noises and smiles of recognition and/or amusement which make it almost impossible to ignore her.

However, that's her away to bed after an exciting day in which she had a walk beside the sea and another one up the Bishop's Glen, coming down in the dusk. As do all our guests on their first visit, she found the fresh air totally soporific and slept from the moment she left the house. This meant that she was also able to stay up and watch East Enders, which apparently she's not allowed to do at home. Grandmas can be such a bad influence ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The midnight hour

This clock - a long-case clock - has for the past two weeks lain in my front room in several pieces, in order to have the hall decorated without covering the clock in cream paint. Now the decorators have gone and the new stair carpet has been laid and some of the dust and chaos have been dealt with. There is still much to be done - it's amazing how much stuff lives in our hall - but this evening, at 11pm, we decided to put the clock back, so to speak.

And in a clock as old as ours, this means rebuilding the thing. Finding the level floorboards, easing the case into position with the wooden batten at the back resting on the wall, pushing the wee bits of wood under the feet to level it - that bit was easy. The scary bit was putting the action back, with me holding the wooden surround (behind the face) while Mr B (not the son of a clockmaker for nothing) re-attached the weights, which he could only hold for about 10 seconds in one hand, and wound the supporting cables round the grooved brass drums which make everything work (I think). Then we had to poke the stem of the pendulum up behind the dangling weights and attach it, set it going, listen to the tick - and move the hands through all the hours till it struck midnight, because the whole process had taken us an hour.

Now the clock seems to be working and I'm a nervous wreck. Something to be said for a wee digital number, perhaps?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Listening in Argyll

Yesterday I was too tired to blog; today I find myself every bit as pleased with the day as I was while driving home through the dark and wet from Oban. I had been attending a day in which the Diocese of Argyll and The Isles attempted to get to grips with the problems still facing gay Christians in our churches - and for some people this was obviously a new area, one they hadn't really ventured into before. One woman bravely admitted to the whole group that what she was learning was so different from her entire upbringing, society, culture - and that she still had much to learn. A priest sitting near me repeated several times how ignorant he felt, and I think we all realised the gaps in understanding when we listened to +Brian (Edinburgh diocese) talking about his visit to Nigeria.

Knowing some of what the Christian church in Nigeria has to contend with was an eye-opener, giving some understanding of what many of us see as outrageous behaviour. However, I came away from this session more than ever convinced that the time has come for us to abandon the Anglican Communion if it is to provide the shackles that bind us to such very different societal norms. I cannot see that any loose federation of churches - and for most of us, I bet, it is loose - is more important than justice. Similarly, when someone in the group whose discussion I was facilitating opined that the church surely had more important things to consider, like global poverty and climate change, I was struck by what seemed like an obvious point: How can we be an effective voice in the world if we cannot look after our own? Why would anyone listen to us?

But an overriding impression stayed with me. This felt like the Body of Christ in action. The facilitators (one of whom was my pal Alison) ran things so smoothly that we were able to concentrate on the issues and on the pain of some present with us. People had travelled huge distances to be there - though it was a pity that some who live much closer to Oban didn't show. Now I'd like to see the experience being repeated in every charge in the diocese. I'd like to go considerably further - but that's for another post. Let's just say that the church on show yesterday was the one I want to belong to.

There's a poem for Remembrance Day over on Frankenstina

Friday, November 09, 2007

Growing in Second Life

A few more thoughts on Second Life, prompted by a conversation with Ewan, whom I have never yet managed to meet in SL and who - perhaps as a consequence - has vanished from my list of contacts. I have, however, met some interesting people and attended a church service - though it has to be said that the service times at the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life are very inconvenient for someone sleeping and eating in GMT time zone. Perhaps as a result of my taking my laptop to the kitchen, I didn't really get the full benefit of the service, with several breaks in transmission and a frozen screen. However, I was able to experience the actuality of the event (before I had to cook) and was interested at the feeling of being part of a congregation (we all sat in the pews, just like Holy T on a quiet morning and the sermon was well worth listening to). Quite apart from services, I actually find the location for them a good place to be - the visuals are pleasing, the sounds soothing and I meet people who are friendly and helpful - just as I would hope to if I were in any Christian community.

Apart from that, I've visited Edunation several times and spoken with someone from the US (using voice - great hilarity over my accent) and Glasgow ( typing - but a real kindred spirit). I've seen some thoughtful exhibition work, and used the links provided to check out background info. It seems to me that Ewan was right when he suggested that a real drawback was the need to be there at the same time as the people you want to see - unlike the Facebook or blogging experience - but in a way I enjoy the randomness of the meetings and the opportunity afforded simply to start chatting to a stranger and find them interesting. However, large tracts of SL are empty when I go there, so that I wander alone through lovely landscapes or empty lecture rooms. If there is to be any real contact and use of the medium, it's necessary to use Group Notices. These turn up in your email as well as in little blue screens in SL, and tend to set SL times for meetings so that you can work out if you can attend.

That said, so far it's the church use of SL which impresses me most. It's much easier to drop in on a service in a virtual environment and sample what's going on than it is physically to get yourself to a church and then feel you want to walk out again - and evangelising is easier too, in a strange way. The problem will always be how to make the first contact - but in the meantime I'd settle for meeting a few more of my friends and rellies!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Superlative sourdough

I made another batch of sourdough bread the other day, and found that the memory lapse which led me to abandon the loaves at the final rising stage was entirely beneficial. Last time I made this recipe - Kimberly's - I followed it religiously (well, you would, wouldn't you?), allowing the full twelve hours for the sponge to develop, and letting the dough rise in the bowl for a generous time after hand-kneading it. This time, I bunged the sponge and the flour and so on into the breadmaker on "dough" program, thereby avoiding the sticky-fingers-when-the-phone-rings syndrome, and let it all fit in with what I was doing rather than the other way about. And then I left the formed loaves to rise all night - 12 hours - before I baked them.

The result was wonderful. Huge airholes in the chewy inside of the loaf made for a much less dense bread and fabby toast on the second day. I shall be practising benign neglect from now on.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Examining the past

I've just been watching this extraordinarily gripping film, Taking Sides, which recreates the interrogation of Dr Wilhem Furtwangler during the post-war de-Nazification of Germany. Furtwangler is considered by some to have been the most outstanding conductor of the 20th century, but his role in continuing to provide music for the Nazi regime meant that he was a target for thorough questioning by the occupying Allies.

In the movie, Furtwangler (Stellan Skarsgard) is interrogated by a tough-talking American major (Harvey Keitel), and it is this interrogation which takes up most of the film. The confrontation brings the role of the artist in an evil regime into the limelight, along with all the other moral ambiguities and issues emerging from World War 2. I was fascinated by my own reaction to all this: here was a musician who apparently shook hands with Hitler, directed concerts for him, seemed to be at ease with the regime - and yet, along with the sensitive Jewish American soldier assisting Keitel, I felt outraged at the bullying of the quietly-spoken Furtwangler by this brash soldier. Against the soundtrack of Beethoven and the images of concentration camp atrocities, I found myself wondering what any of us would have done in the circumstances. And in a telling newsreel clip, saved for the closing title sequence, we could see the actual handshake of which Keitel made so much in the interrogation. After bending from the podium to shake the Fuhrer's hand, Furtwangler - the real Furtwangler - clearly transferred a tightly-balled handkerchief from his left hand to his right, as if to wipe it clean.

Not a comfortable film, and not entertainment in the usual sense - but I feel I need to watch it again.

Monday, November 05, 2007

New wheels


The new wheels
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
The more devoted among my readers may recall that way back before the summer (I know. What summer?) I enthused here about our ordering a new car. Turns out it was so new that Renault had to make it for us; they sent us chatty letters telling us of its progress and at last it's come. (This reminds me, always, of my copy of The Sleeping Beauty, in which the first words of the awakened Beauty were "Ah, my Prince, at last you've come!")

As I remarked before, buying a car in Inveraray is not like going to your average city dealer. We drove our old car into the workshop at Semple's, the owner drove the new one into position outside and left the engine running "to warm it up for you" (the temperature had by this time dropped to 5ÂșC and there was a snell wind), and we popped into the office to deal with the paperwork and the small matter of payment (Haven't done that yet: he knows where we live...) The boss then came with us for a wee spin down the road beside the loch - just to make sure that everything was all right/we knew what we were doing with the automatic handbrake - and then it was ours.

The ride is great - firmer and more butch-feeling than other models we've driven - and the engine does that exciting dig in your back when you accelerate (rapidly) to 50mph. The steering-wheel seems pleasantly low, rather like driving a van - I don't feel I'm peering over it - and the high seat position means you can see so much more. As well as being called a Renault Megane, it is also named "Conquest", and it conquered our Somme-like back lane with ease and no scrapes. It has that lovely new smell and a flat-loading boot.

And the seatbelts are orange.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Premature

Oh dear. I feel a weensie grump coming on - a sort of Victoria Meldrew moment. As I drove home today, bemoaning the darkness at 6pm, knowing that while I'd walked soaking in the mist the sun had been splitting the sky just down the river at Ayr, I passed the shop which sells real Christmas trees in the season. And as an early rocket lit up the sky I noticed them. Christmas trees, real ones, cut and ready for sale. It's not even the 5th of November yet and they're selling trees. And I bet someone will buy them, and presumably put them up and they'll be shedding their needles all over someone's centrally-heated carpet before the month is out.

Some people moan about their trees: about the mess, and about how they're glad to see the back of them - around New Year, or even earlier. If they've bought them in November then I'm hardly surprised. But I feel there's an enormous dilution of the significance of any festival when it's spread out and anticipated in this manner. Just as I recall the excitement of waiting for the first rocket to be let off after dark on the evening of November 5th and the flicker of the first flames on the huge bonfire we'd all watched growing over the past weeks, I associate the smell of the newly-erected tree with the week just before Christmas, when the anticipation grew with the carefully-timed rituals. Now they all seem to merge messily - pumpkins and peanuts and Christmas trees and fireworks. We'll be having the hot cross buns soon.

Meanwhile I'll be watching for the first fairy lights out there ...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Remembering

Yesterday we celebrated All Souls in Holy Trinity. A handful of worshippers - it was in the morning - but a host of remembered souls. It was an electrifying service. Everything came together in - yes - a wonderful exchange: prayers, music, our own singing. It was as if the memory of our loved, absent ones spurred us on to sing with the care and sensitivity of a trained choir. (Some of us are indeed trained choristers but it doesn't always sound like that.) And at times such as this we know we are not alone, not forgotten, but a part already of the hosts of Heaven.

And yesterday was too close to the moment to write about it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ghosts


First papering of hall
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
We live in an oldish house. We know this every time there's a leak in the roof, or a chimney head has to be removed because the stone has grown porous. We know this because we've thrown money at the building for the past 30-odd years. We know this because there's a sone-carved date over the centre of the block: 1897. And now we've seen the writing on the wall - literally. The photo shows the earliest decorators' record of their work. "Papered by D. Fraser, G. Morton 1898".

Our hall is large in that it takes 27 rolls of wallpaper to cover it. We are having it decorated for the first time since Charles married Diana - I can remember the painter singing along with the hymns on the telly. That wallpaper, which we've just removed, had become dark and stained and altogether depressing. The paper which preceded it was even worse - grey with a vertical pattern in black and maroon. And I suspect the layer under it may be the one put up by one R. Borland on 27 July 1956 - as I recall, it had a distinctly 50s look to it. But I can't imagine what the first paper was like. I know the woodwork was varnished dark brown - you can still see traces round the door-frames - but was it as dark and lugubrious as I suspect?

I'd love to have a window in time - to go back and see if anyone slept in the bed which appears to have been housed in our bedroom cupboard, to see what it was like when there were only two houses in the block for the ten years or so before they were subdivided into four, to see who lived here then with the range in the back room and some kind of scullery out the back. And the loo was, I think, at the end of the garden. These long-dead decorators have stirred the ghosts for me, and made me feel like a sojourner in my own house.

And I'm having the hall painted cream - though right now it has a yellowish look ....

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Randomly, on All Saints'.

One of the questions in a recent survey to discover the degree of one's addiction to blogging was this: do you look at life in terms of bloggability? (Actually I made that last word up - the original question, lacking it, was much more long-winded). And I had to admit to the second top indicator in that area. But sometimes the blog comes as an afterthought, a sort of coda to a series of events, as it were, and that's today. The astute reader may have noted a lack of blog fervour on my part over the last week; this was due to a horrific bout of what has now been identified as Campylobacter infection - big on Google if you really want the details. But what bothered me a bit was the length of time it took to identify the cause - from my submitting the required specimen on the Wednesday morning to the phone call from the surgery on the following Tuesday. Mercifully, I've had this before and knew that starvation and rehydration lessened the impact - but it did affect the treatment and it'd have been good to have known for sure by the end of the week. I'm better now, and the 4 lbs I lost in as many days have, sadly, re-established themselves.

And yesterday served as a sad reminder of what we do to ourselves. A fatal pile-up on the M8, closing the road for 7 hours, a diversion via Grangemouth, the sudden malfunction of our own car's engine somewhere near Moodiesburn (horror) and the effect of her first injections on a smiley, tranquil baby all made me want to hide in a corner rather than blog, actually. And we have the decorators in the hall and all life is covered in dust.

And if you want to find out more about what drives a blogger, have a look here - a link for which I am indebted to Neil, whose revamped blog is happily enticing him to post on it more frequently. And with that little bit of nepotism, I shall leave it for today.