I will start by mentioning that Lillias, Fiona’s mother, has passed on, I think she went fairly happily and without any discomfort. She had a good send off and would have been pleased with the service. More on that later.
We visited the Falkirk Wheel which is good for a walk and a view, free car parking and somewhere to get a cup of tea and a flapjack. Good tourist stuff, with big machinery and odd boats, it re-connects the Union canal with the Forth-Clyde.￼
This little tub amused us. Sadly the definition is not very good, my mobile phone photo technology is below standard.
Essentially a small floating caravan, named Enterprise, similar in it’s design and purpose to the rather larger craft on the (Australian) Murray river. Their oddity and similarity is that because the water is a flat calm at all times, there’s no need for freeboard. (the bit that stops the waves from slopping straight in and swamping the boat) There's no real wake, because the craft moves very slowly and the prow is quite blunt.
It’s going to take a few generations of development before this thing goes as fast as its namesake though.
The Falkirk Wheel has a large gift shop where tourists can buy trinkets. Lots of them (trinkets and tourists) were Chinese. It is odd, to me, that we and they both see the other’s home as exotic. The products are all either genuine Scottish, and expensive, or Chinese tat. Apparently the Chinese are now buying stuff in Scotland and the UK generally, so that they can be sure of not getting a Chinese fake. How often they get fooled and still buy a fake from China is not surprisingly unknown. Certainly I tried very hard to get a genuine Harrison’s paint brush for the Red Midge, but I’m fairly sure that what I got in the end, was a fake. Annoying but better than finding that your anti-virals are useless rubbish
There are pleasant trips on the canal, which usually includes a go on the wheel, and you can book a meal on a narrow-boat etc. Best check the website.
Next was a visit to Callendar House, in Falkirk, recommended by another Jim. Free to visit at present, it’s well worthwhile.
It faces the Antonine wall. That was a fortified structure, less dramatic than Hadrian’s but quite impressive at the time anyway. There’s plenty on the internet and a short summary on http://www.antoninewall.org/history.php so I won’t bore you with my opinions of it.
Generally Scotland has a remarkable array of the archaic, partly because there’s no shortage of stone, so ancient sites are more likely to be made of a hard wearing stone and less likely to be robbed out, and because there’s plenty of space. So old sites are less likely to be buried by new sites. The classic example is the Croft where the original house is now a barn, the second house is an extension next to it and, in turn, serving as a second barn, and the newest is separated, being a new, incompatible, building material. In front of each is the remains of the transport of the era. Cart, Austin 10, Land-Rover, Cortina etc, and often the remains of a series of tractors and small boats. Visible Linear History. As time progresses so the choice of site shifts because, for instance, faster transport means you can live further from your work, or better insulation means you can use a site with a better view without freezing in Winter. So the old buildings are just left to decay. The clearances accelerated that considerably, and there are abandoned hamlets and villages everywhere. A sad sort of early Thatcherism where people get treated as things, but like most unpleasant periods of history, great for archaeologists.￼Here’s an example of the linear thing from Mid Yell in Shetland. A croft called Setter which I think is Fiona’s spiritual home. The Johnson Family moved slowly to the left. This was taken when we visited in May 2013. There were blizzards sandwiched between sunshine. I’m getting used to Scotland, but Shetland still catches me out occasionally. It gets a bit windy sometimes which is why there are no trees. Less obviously there are no umbrellas either, as a few Folk Festival-goers found out when we went there earlier this year (2013)
However, returning to the present, or thereabouts, our reason for going to the Wheel and Callendar House was to show Andrew, Fiona’s brother, around a bit. He was here for a fortnight on a visit from Paphos because Lillias, their Mother, passed away at the beginning of October, and the funeral service was the 11th of October.
Writing later, the service went well with a good eulogy and the hymns she had chosen. A bright, dry, if rather chilly day and quite a good ‘turn out’. I think she’d have liked it.
At 92 she had a good run as they say, and seemed quite happy to go. The home she was in (Marian House, Edinburgh) looked after her well for the time when she needed more support, the staff being attentive, understanding and kind. It’s always a bit sad folding somebody’s life up and sorting out the loose ends. I only had to shift a bit of furniture, the rest has been organised by her eldest Daughter. There was less stuff this time as she had been in Marian House for about 3 years, her possessions had been much reduced when she moved previously from the family home near Blackpool. It’ll take me a while to adjust to her absence, she was a lively presence and we went over regularly on Saturday mornings while she was in Edinburgh. As usual of course you find out lots of interesting things about a person, just as they leave, from the family discussions, and 92 years leaves quite a trail. Here she is with her parents, a while ago.
One of Lillias’ symbols is an acorn. One turned up on one of the family doorsteps a couple of days after Lillias had passed on. The house doesn’t have any Oak trees nearby.
Some years ago an unusual pheasant with a dramatic white ‘dog collar’ appeared outside our window a few days after John, Fiona’s father, who had been a Church of Scotland Minister, passed on. Probably nothing, makes you think though......
A friend found a wren in her bathroom recently and mentioned it on Facebook. Unrelated to any portents as far as I know, and that reminded me of other visiting wildlife.
Odd, isn't it when nature turns up in your house? We have had a baby rabbit, presumably brought in by the cat but quite unharmed and unconcerned about it's new surroundings. Two large bats of unknown provenance, and several birds, which came in through open windows. Two frogs and a toad. The cats bring in mice occasionally, and leave them around the place for us to catch (which I'm getting quite good at) but they are getting lazy and there aren't so many nowadays. I'm glad to say that the chimney guards are working well, and the starlings have stopped falling down, it always comes as a shock when you open the hatch to find a rather scruffy bird peering at you.
My parents had a particularly awkward starling fall down the farmhouse chimney once, they usually fall into the grate, but this one got stuck behind the back-boiler, flapped about for a while and stopped, so we assumed it had died. The next day it started up again and after a while my father carefully knocked a hole in the chimney breast to let the little beast out. I believe it managed to spread a fair bit of soot about before making its exit. Never said thank-you though. Being a farmer Dad had to maintain the traditional gruff exterior and show little emotion related to animals or the weather. He’s the only one I know of that actually buried a cow because he was so fond of her. Name of Dodo if memory serves, she was quite happy to give us, seen to the right at about that time, rides on her broad, flat, back. She eventually died of old age, having stopped giving milk years before. I’ll stop there before my mother, or anybody else, goes all damp.
I shall instead tell of the old jug.......there should be a roll of distant thunder about there........a very strange and quite unprovable tale.
It starts with the Welsh dresser that my father made, it’s a large structure and designed to withstand earthquakes. In the front of its cavernous interior a family heirloom sat, a large Jug, a flowery, pink and white creation of victorian origin. Waiting out the decades, I guess it got bored..
It was probably part of that ancient triumvirate of Po, (that's short for potty, which was usually found under the bed), wash-basin and water-jug, so popular before the en-suite.
Anyway, one day there were two identical jugs, next to each other, there in Dad’s Welsh (ish) dresser.
Now I’ve no doubt I could find another in some jumble sale or car boot eventually, if I searched for long enough, but I think it would take a good while, and anyway, how did the other one get there?
One was given to my sister, who wasn’t that taken with it really, they are the kind of thing that can get in the way quite easily unless you have a mansion, and I’m sure my sister will forgive me for saying that I have been in bigger houses. In short, some time later, and when her jug was destined for the car boot. The other, still in the dresser, disappeared without a trace.
The fossil (Ma) retrieved the remaining jug with alacrity. It remains, to this day, alone on a corner of the stairs. Waiting perhaps.
Did the jug go through a time loop? Was there a strangely pointless conspiracy? I think it’s unlikely any explanation will ever emerge. Sadly my otherwise intelligent relatives failed to mention the matter until it was over, otherwise I could have given Einstein, Hawking and Schrodinger a run for their money, as the pattern of cracks in the glaze is utterly un-replicable, and would have rewritten our understanding of space and time. Or conspiracies.
Still, one small blessing remains. When found, the jugs were touching. If we do ever manage time travel, it appears that shaking your doppelganger’s hand will not collapse the universe.
So that’s alright then.
On more mundane matters, my mouse has expired, right here on the desk. Curiously it took the last sentence with it. It was called Daffodil, so I have, for now, resurrected the old Logitech which Fiona doesn’t really like. The Logitech is a wireless rollerball type, as is the wireless mac mouse which also works. But both eat batteries.
A short silence will be observed, followed by a crunch as I conduct an examination.
I’ve performed a laparotomy, there's no obvious cause of failure, it looks quite nicely made and seemed reasonably robust, I still don’t understand how they make these things and send them half way around the world for a couple of quid, presumably Amazon, the shippers and the manufacturers all make a profit. Just a pity they don’t make them last longer, it’s such a waste of materials. Meantime the wireless ones will do the work, since I use a desk-top computer the wireless mice just waste batteries, and tend to drain the rechargeable type too quickly. I guess, as problems go, it’s pretty unimportant.
Well that’s enough drivelling for now, I’ll let you get back to what you were doing. I think there might be a drop of The MacAllan calling to me. It’s not a loud call, but penetrating. It’s just about cold enough for a log fire, which will delight the cats, and Fiona, and that always goes well with a whisky (apologies to those who don’t or can’t drink, but cheers anyway)
ps my thanks to my many and varied proofreaders, without whom my script would be unreedibble.