Decorations All Away Now

January 5, 2018

Is this the twelfth day of Christmas?  I can never work it out exactly but choose to ‘undecorate’ the house when it feels time.  We have had a lovely Christmas and New Year – lots of family, friends, fun, services, concerts, parties and perhaps too much food and drink.

This year we chose Scalpsie Bay for our traditional bracing Christmas Day walk – we did think it would be in the rain but it was dry if a bit grey on the day.


Not many humans about – not even the hardy dog walkers – but we did wish one visitor a Happy Christmas.


Sammy trying to ignore Christmas Day

Our Christmas dinner was delicious in spite of my attempt to incinerate the poor turkey.  I consulted my list of ‘timings’ in a rush and set the oven temperature to the time the bird was to go in – 2.40!!!!!  Fortunately the error was spotted after only an hour.  I am not publishing the photograph of the glorious turkey with its black carbonised skin.  It turned out not too dry, expertly disguised with copious amounts of gravy, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.


In terms of travel arrangements, the weather was kind to us this festive season – no boat disruptions to affect our family comings and goings.  After a quick trip to the mainland for the larger family get together we were soon back enjoying the winter sunshine on Bute.


I certainly get good use of my wellies.

This time we were on the beach at Ettrick Bay.  The sunshine through the clouds was creating lovely patterns and we could see a snow shower approaching Arran.


Giant shadows at Ettrick Bay


I wish all my readers Good Health and Peace in 2018.  The story of the China trip will return soon.


How Did That Happen?

October 9, 2017

I hinted in my last post about the slightly scary feeling that time has been speeding up.  This time warp experience was confirmed in August when it was noticed that we have been married for fifty years.  How can all that time have passed so quickly?  Anyway it was time to celebrate.  I believe in making celebrations last as long as possible so we started with a superb little dinner party at Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery in Glasgow – the food was exquisite, a bit different from gammon steak and pineapple half a century ago at our wedding reception.

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The ladies have moved on from a wee sweet sherry to exotic cocktails.

A few days later was our main party at the Kingarth Hotel on Bute.

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Founder members of the newly formed ‘Stripy Gang’

It was a great night filled with laughter, food, champagne and good friends.

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“On behalf of my husband and myself ……”

As a wonderful gift to us, our two children, plus wife and partner, arranged a family weekend away crammed with very carefully chosen activities to fit with individual and collective tastes and interests.

We were booked into the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey near Skipton – equidistant for the journeys for both the Scottish and English travellers.  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon when we arrived and a joy to stroll down to the ruined abbey.

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The late afternoon sunshine was pouring through the stained glass windows onto the ancient stonework.

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The weather on Saturday was mixed but we managed to avoid the heaviest of the showers and enjoy the sunny spells.  The day’s activities started with a visit to Ingrow Loco Museum & Workshop.  An interesting little place absolutely crammed with steam trains and artefacts and jolly volunteers.

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You are never too old to dream of being a train driver.

Of course the next step had to be a ride on a steam train – on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway from Ingrow to Haworth.

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I think Jane was the most excited of us all, as, strangely, she had never been on a steam train before.

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Hanging out the window in the smoke.

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Very evocative sounds and smells.

Our destination had also been carefully chosen – this one very specifically for me, a visit to the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth.

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The tour group at Haworth Parsonage

The family were very kind and waited quite patiently while I went a lot more slowly than them, soaking up a perfect mixture of history and literature.

Back at the hotel this was the idyllic view from our room as we changed for dinner.  Colin and Keith went out and watched for a bit – a change from a muddy shinty pitch.

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Our meal  in the hotel on Saturday night was an amazing ‘tasting menu’.  Counting in various amuse bouche, it ran to about ten courses, all of them quite small quantities so that we did not feel stuffed.  Similarly the accompanying different wines for each plateful were only a couple of mouthfuls so no one ended up legless.  We are all interested in food and cooking so it was great fun.

Saturday was a whole day activity and a totally new experience for us – a trip to York Races.  We had tickets for the County Stand and in advance had discussions about what to wear – did the ladies need hats a la Ladies Day at Ascot?  Fortunately it was Family Day so the dress code was relaxed a bit.  We all scrubbed up well, with the girls in frocks and high heels but no headgear, and the boys with smart casual jackets but no ties.  It was quite a cool blustery day with a few showers which caused all the scantily clad young race goers to stick closely to the bars inside.  Some of the outfits were astounding!

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Studying the Odds

I enjoyed learning a new ‘skill’ and having betting explained to me but I found it all a bit tense, as if I was sitting a test all the time – there was not a lot of time to relax between races.  It was fun but I am too mean to get carried away – I don’t like handing out money and getting nothing back!  I preferred to watch the assorted people and the beautiful horses, and drink more champagne.

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I would have been better off simply choosing my favourite colour than trying to work out odds, starting prices and all the other information available.  It was fun and exciting at times but I am clearly not a natural punter.

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The thunder of hooves.

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First Past the Post

Our Golden Wedding celebrations were all wonderful in their different ways.  We are so blessed  to be surrounded by such loving, caring, and thoughtful family and friends and to have had each other for such a long time no matter how fast or slow time passed.

The End of Another Year

December 27, 2016

It is the few quiet days between Christmas, with its weeks of anticipation and preparation, and Hogmanay with its reflections and shenanigans.  I realise I haven’t blogged as much this year and posted nothing at all in the last three months – no real reason but lots of excuses – so I will, as tradition dictates, finish 2016 with a quick review of September to December.

Three times we had ‘little’ holidays – two within a few hours driving time and one a short haul flight.  When we visit family or friends in the south of England we usually just shoot past the Lake District en route for somewhere else but in late September we stayed on Ullswater for a few days of glorious autumn sunshine.



MV Balmoral

The sister ship of the PS Waverley came to visit in Rothesay, so of course we had a wee sail on a rather chilly, grey day.  A nice ship but in my eyes without the personality of her sister.

Another weekend at the end of October we had reason to visit Pitlochry for a few days  when the autumn colours of the trees was quite spectacular.


In amongst all the trips away life on Bute continued in its fascinating way – the dwindling numbers of tourists and the starting of winter activities underlining this time of transition between the seasons.  There was a good dry spell of weather and the farmers gathered their harvest in.  We celebrated at church with a service and a scrumptious lunch.


He didn’t have to do all the dishes by himself!

At the beginning of November we jetted off seeking some winter sun – and found it very pleasantly warm in the south of Tenerife.  The Hotel Bahia del Duque was beautiful, peaceful and with a choice of restaurants.


The perfect terrace for breakfast and afternoon tea.

There were a number of swimming ‘pools’ scattered down the hillside, all beautifully set in the landscaped gardens.


There never seemed to be anyone in the water when we strolled past en route for our daily amble along the esplanade to the next village along the coast.  It was a very luxurious place and we even had our own wee plunge pool – I could manage three strokes from corner to corner.


The young lady in the next photograph had gone to a lot of trouble to get comfy whilst she sunbathed.


This short break set us up nicely for the whirl of activities that arrive with December.  Each of the organisations we are members of holds a Christmas party or dinner ( I try to avoid turkey until Christmas day, while Colin chooses it every time) – lots of fun and laughter and good company.  There were also concerts and special church services.

The Fundraising Committee at the United Church of Bute held a Cake and Coffee morning in mid December and I helped mount a display of Nativity Sets in the sanctuary at the same time.  It was amazing – 18  depictions of the well known story but each one different and having its own story to tell (bought in different countries, some very old and some fairly new etc).


My sister brought this set from Russia many years ago.


Beautifully carved; hand knitted by various members of the congregation; very old.

The whole church was beautifully decorated.


…. and even some cakes were suitably festive.


Would I be tempting fate by making a New Year Resolution four days before 2017?  I’m not promising but I will try not to leave such long gaps between my blogs next year.

The weather has been very wild for the last ten days – storm Barbara followed swiftly by storm Connor.  The inevitable disruption to the ferry services over the whole of the west coast of Scotland has been immense.  We personally were not affected as fortunately none of our family’s comings and goings were scheduled for ‘no service’ days but many folk around us suffered  anxiety and the last minute rearranging of already complex travel arrangements.  I hope my readers have had a joyful and Happy Christmas.


Christmas Day 2016 on Ettrick Bay

Bute Highland Games 2016

August 26, 2016

Before starting to type up this post I have had a read through the words I chose in previous years to describe this wonderful event – this is the eighth time we have visited.  The thing that strikes me instantly is the weather – this is the first year we have been wet! It rained off and on nearly all day, only clearing up in the late afternoon.


Coats on.

Sadly the pipe bands lose a lot of their spectacle when their colourful tartans are carefully protected from the downpours.  Another sad consequence was that the competition for the hundreds of beautiful Highland dancers had to be moved up to the gym hall at the school for safety – it was too slippy on the dancing platforms.


But our hardy visitors stuck it out ……


The competitors stuck it out too, and showed their usual determination and skill in the various competitions.


From young teenage girls sprinting …


… to the all age groups starting off on the 10K Road Run.

I did a double take when I heard that we were moving into the 21st century and that the runners were being ‘micro chipped’ for the first time this year.  Instant vision of the local vet being seconded to attend the Games with his little ‘gun’.  Turns out that it was only the runner’s official vest numbers which were to be tagged, allowing everyone to get an accurate personal race time.


Race officials getting the medals lined up.

We enjoyed very tasty burgers or steak rolls from the Kingarth food tent and were very grateful to have access to the Patrons’ tent for a seat.  While there, our visitors, two Americans and one English (not counting family) were thrilled to meet our friend Len Scoular, Lord Provost of Argyle and Bute, and have a close look at his magnificent chain of office.


Presented with a special ‘wee dram’.

All the time the dancers, throwers, pipers, wrestlers, etc  were beavering away at winning medals and trophies and sometimes small amounts of money.  Mostly they were just having fun and enjoying something they loved doing.


Pipe Major’s Competition

The youngest competitor in the Pipe Major’s competition looked so tiny in the middle of the great space of the arena but she was strutting her stuff with great aplomb.  At the same time some bigger girls were throwing their weight about – and trying to toss the caber.


Wet grass, slippery tree trunk but no disasters.

There is one person who never minds being last – the gentleman from Greenock, who, dressed as a clown, raises large amounts of money for charity as he ambles around the 10K route.


‘Tommy Frae Greenock’

The weather did improve later in the afternoon and by the time of the Grand March down through Rothesay most of the pipers were able to discard their waterproofs and show a welcome splash of colour.


This row of beautiful wee girls from one of the local dance schools got a great cheer as they launched into a sequence of ‘pas de bas’  as they swung round the corner.


You can wait all day for a Pipe Major to come along when all of a sudden you get four in a row.


Kilsyth Thistle Pipe Band

If your Mummy or Daddy plays in a pipe band there is always the chance that you will get to carry a trophy in the Grand March – They take their proud duties very seriously.


This is the second of our two local schools of dancing – they are privileged to have a wee boy in their ranks.  We watched some of the dance competition up at the school earlier and saw a couple of teenage boys – handsome, immaculately turned out and twinkle toed.


The host Pipe Band always comes last in the Grand march – Rothesay and District Pipe Band.


A fast twirling mace.

Bute Jazz Festival 2016

May 6, 2016

The May Bank Holiday weekend saw many visitors hopping onto the island for the annual Jazz Festival.  The weather was mixed to say the least.  The golfing duo of our family tried playing Kingarth course on Thursday morning but gave up after one hole when Jane realised she couldn’t actually stand upright never mind swing a club in the freezing gale force wind, sleet and hail showers.  The rain eventually stopped but the cold wind continued all weekend.  With a house full of people, jobs were allocated.


The G & T production area.

We didn’t really attend the musical events – too much eating, drinking, and laughter.  Of course, we watched the Saturday morning Brolly Parade.  This is the first year without the redoubtable Jenny Brown as Parade Marshall – she sadly passed away a few months ago.  Her son, Paul, and his partner Rosie did the honours in her place.



Paul and Rosie with the Winner

This tiny tot had thoroughly enjoyed herself during the judging – mostly marching with great confidence around the circle in the opposite direction to everyone else.  After the formalities (every child taking part got a ‘goody bag’) the parade set off through the town.


Blow that horn, Man, blow that horn.

It is not only the children who are colourful.


The Jazz Parade attracts visitors and locals alike to Guildford Square so the Rotary Club of Rothesay always take the opportunity to fundraise.  The annual bottle stall this year raised the magnificent sum of over £500, which will go to support good causes on the island,  nationally and internationally.


On Sunday morning the Jazz Worship Service was held in the United Church of Bute – great to see the church packed.


In the afternoon the family went for a walk along Ettrick beach – in an eclectic collection of outfits.  Those not wearing wellies  had a choice of methods when it came to crossing streams. Accept a helping hand ….


…. or try jumping ….


…. or use a bridge.


We had to stop here, of course, for a game of Pooh Sticks.  I’m glad my family haven’t grown up yet.  It was a fun filled weekend.  The golfers played 64 (!) holes of golf and now have deposited ‘holiday’ sets of golf clubs in our basement.  This means that they can play even if they have flown up for a quick visit.  The house is empty without all the laughter.

The last two photographs were taken about three weeks ago just as the garden was beginning to notice it is spring. The general consensus locally is that everything is approximately three weeks later than ‘normal’.  I have spent the last two days planting up the tubs but have kept them huddled together just in case they need a fleece blanket some night.  The slate beds at the front are looking absolutely stunning – hard to believe that it is only 14 months since I planted them.



I’m a Fireman, or the Third Celebration

June 21, 2015

…. well I was for a too short time and I’ve gone one better than the Queen by having three Birthdays.  My wonderful children and their partners gave me a box of parcels to open at Birthday number two in Glasgow a few weeks ago – a playing card (the Queen of Spades), a packet of Oxo cubes and a toy fire engine!  Last weekend I really found out what that was all about.

We flew to London and stayed with Jane and Tim.  Saturday was the treat represented by the Playing card.

The Audience with the Queen

The Audience with the Queen

At the Apollo theatre we saw Kristen Scott Thomas as the Queen in The Audience – a wonderfully funny and very slick play.  I loved how the clever costumes could instantly transform the leading lady from a glamorous 25 year old to a thick waisted, dumpy, elderly lady.  It was bang up to date with the Queen having an audience with David Cameron immediately after the recent General Election, complete with witty comments about the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon.

Next came the Oxo cubes which turned out not to involve stock cubes at all but a very fine restaurant, The OXO Tower Restaurant.

The OXO building - just above the red bus.

The OXO building – just above the red bus.

As we walked towards the OXO building we came across a sand artist who had sculpted on the narrow strip of sand on the banks of the Thames.

Bart Simpson

Bart Simpson

The restaurant was very glamorous with stunning views across central London and was a prime people watching place.

Designer Cocktails First

Designer Cocktails First

The food was superb and beautifully served.  Intriguing young female sommelier who tasted every bottle of wine she opened – just a tiny sip, but still ……  The meal finished, of course, with the ubiquitous Birthday ‘cake’.

Chocolate puds, Birthday 'cake' and a glass in each hand!

Chocolate puds, Birthday ‘cake’ and a glass in each hand!

I had had a wonderful day out and in spite of being grossly overexcited managed a bit of sleep ready to face the Sunday event with apprehension, fear and excitement.  My toy fire engine was to be exchanged for a real life full sized one.

Big, red and shiny

Big, red and shiny

I was a bit concerned that although there was no age restriction (just as well) on this adventure there was a lower height limit of 5 feet.  I had practised standing slightly on my toes and wore my thickest trainers in case they would measure me.  There was no problem and I  soon managed to climb up into the cab.  It was a bit disconcerting to find that when seated my feet dangled about six inches above the floor!  The delightful young instructor reckoned that there was no problem as I could reach the pedals and not many people had legs long enough.  So with lights flashing it was into drive and I was off.  Sadly there was no neee naw siren as the neighbours complain about the noise.

Hair alright?

Hair alright?

I loved every minute of my all too short ride.  The fire engine was not too heavy to steer as there was no water in the tanks and the only other traffic on the airfield was a red London Routemaster and a long bendy-bus being driven by equally grinning novices.

With a Permanent Grin

With a Permanent Grin

I think I was driving at about 90 mph but Colin estimated I perhaps managed 30 or 35 on some circuits.  I had so much adrenalin pumping through my body I could have pushed that fire engine around the track.

Just a wee touch excited.

Just a wee touch excited.

If you haven’t reached there yet I highly recommend being 70 – it is clearly the age to be.  I bet the Queen never gets to have as much fun on her two Birthdays.  I cannot thank my wonderful family enough – Keith, Nicky, Jane and Tim for their imagination and hard work in finding these treats, and, of course, Colin for helping with the logistics and keeping secrets.  Whatever will I do when I am 80?  I haven’t tried sky diving yet.

My Watch Has ‘SAD”

February 5, 2015

Haven’t posted for a while mainly because I would  just have  moaned about the weather – not too much snow but days of unremitting horizontal sleet and many, many ferry ‘disruptions’.  The world looks distinctly brighter in the last few days.  The sun has been shining and the house lights no longer need to be switched on at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  A couple of times last week we walked home from evening events under a starry, frosty sky.

The family visited last weekend and we enjoyed a distinctly bracing walk along Scalpsie beach.

Getting blown along.

Getting blown along.

It was bright and sunny but a bitterly cold, strong north wind.  One brave / foolish (delete as appropriate) member of the party chose to run rather than being wind propelled in one direction and fighting the elements on the way back.  Some of us just watched her.


The next photograph is out of focus because I couldn’t stand still in the wind.


Keith and Nicky had an exciting journey to get here on Saturday.  The ferry had been on ‘amber alert’ for days and when they arrived at Wemyss Bay on Saturday morning they met an unusual situation.  The Argyle was firmly lashed to Rothesay pier and couldn’t get off again because of the wind direction, thus she was blocking the vehicle ramp.  The decision was taken that the Bute would return to Rothesay but as she would have to tie up on the overnight berth she would only take foot passengers and no vehicles.  Keith and Nicky quickly repackaged their luggage, left their car to the side of the marshalling lanes and boarded.

At Rothesay the pier staff took the opportunity to test a brand new gangway which will be needed when all our ferries are diverted to Gourock for 16 weeks starting in March.

Arriving at Rothesay

Arriving at Rothesay

The temporary change of port is due to a planned refurbishment of Wemyss Bay pier – much needed as it is in danger of  falling down.  Most locals are suspicious that the more frequent cancellation of sailings this winter is due to the nervousness of the skippers – not wanting to risk making a ‘hard landing’ and causing more damage.  Everyone is looking forward to having even more excuses to moan about Calmac for 16 weeks (or longer!).

My watch has been suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Towards the end of January it simply stopped working.  As Santa had brought it at Christmas 2013 it is thirteen months old and just out of warranty so with fingers crossed we hoped it just needed a new battery.  At the Watchmaker’s we were acutely embarrassed when he pointed out that being solar powered the watch had no battery.  We had both forgotten this.  Since about last October my watch has been snuggled up under at least two layers of wooly jumper sleeves during the day and peacefully in a dark bedroom for all but the odd half hour the rest of the time.  Poor wee thing suffered in silence and eventually gave up.

This called for some intensive care.  For ten days the watch was kept on the kitchen window ledge if the sun shone for a fleeting few hours and moved to directly under a reading lamp in the evenings.  The second hand restarted but with a sort of ‘limp’ and we thought a defibrillator would be needed but gradually the tlc worked and the SAD was cured.

Clouds over Arran

Clouds over Arran