Spirit Animal

Spirit AnimalI’ve had the Spirit Animal Blog Award on my back-burner since May while I faffed about with perfected my Tibet series. Apologies Marcia! Anyway, here it is now, though, as is my wont, I haven’t quite stuck to all the rules.

1.) Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their page. Marcia Strykowski is a children’s author and librarian, but she blogs about all sorts of other things too – art, history, music and travel. Sometimes they combine – my favourite recent post is Girls Reading Books, a collection of artworks of (you’ve guessed) girls reading books. So many thanks to Marcia for choosing me, and please check out her blog.

2.) Post the award on your blog. Done!

3.) Write a short paragraph about yourself and what your blog means to you. I don’t want to write too much here because I’ve answered similar questions before. I’m a retired librarian and used to be responsible for buying children’s books, so you can see where Marcia and I find things in common. Basically, my blog serves as my travel diary. I want to look back when I’m 100 (why not have ambition?) and relive my adventures. Well, maybe not the Tibet one.

4.) If you could be an animal, what would it be? Although I would say I’m an animal lover, I’ve only had four pets in my life. Would you like to hear about them? Well, you’re going to anyway!

The budgie:

Boris the Budgie
Boris the Budgie
This is me, aged two. Look carefully on my shoulder and you will see Boris the Budgie. Don’t ask me why he was called Boris, he came already named. A few years later, he fell off his perch and we buried him in a shoebox in the garden. It was my first experience of death and I found the idea of burial very puzzling. Would I like to be a budgie? No, too bird-brained.

The dog:

Fast forward a few years, almost a decade probably, and we got a dog, Mandy, a beautiful Basset Hound. Beautiful, but daft as a brush. Would I like to be a dog? No, too many walkies in the rain.

The cats:

John and I have had two cats, Purdy (grey and white) and Sally (the black one). Cats are fascinating. Their brains are the size of walnuts yet can produce towering – and very different – personalities. There are tales to be told about both these cats! Maybe someday. When Sally died we decided not to replace her to leave us more free for travelling. I sometimes regret that, but eight years later we’re still holding firm. Would I like to be a cat? I think so! You know the saying, dogs have owners but cats have staff. I would be happy lolling around in the sun or on a comfy bed with a tame human to cater to my every need.

Back to the rules:

5.) Pick and notify ten nominees. I never do nominations. However, I like to give shout-outs to blogs that I enjoy on a similar theme. So for animal lovers:

Travels with Choppy. Choppy the dog is the star but she has recently acquired a feline sidekick, Schooner. You won’t believe the things they get up to! Sarah, their human, has a fertile imagination.

Zombie Flamingos. Great title! Emily lives in Victoria, BC, and blogs about all sorts of things. However, rarely does a post end without the most important thing of all: pictures of her kitties.

Brian, Ardbeg and Lily. I don’t have a dog, and don’t intend to get one, so why do I enjoy Alex’s blog about living with, and training, rescue dogs so much? The pictures, yes, but there’s also a lot of wisdom in it. Turns out getting the best from dogs can be very similar to getting the best from people.

So those are my answers. They’ve been fun to write because this is so different from my normal posts. Thanks once again to Marcia for the nomination.

A day in the life

Some time ago (ahem, over two months) Celine at Down the Rabbit Hole nominated me for a “day in the life” challenge – taking a photo every so often throughout the day and blogging about it. Now, Celine’s post documented a day in the South of France so I’ve given up waiting for something to compete with that – however, yesterday was a little bit special so I’ve decided to go for it. Rest assured, although there is some fairly routine stuff in this post, I’ve omitted the dullest parts of my day (believe it or not) – you don’t want to read about me doing laundry, do you?

My kitchen

So this is where my day begins – the kitchen. First thing in the morning is the only time it’s tidy enough to photograph! As a retired lady, I try to avoid anything which starts before 10am so it falls to me to make the breakfast for the working half of the partnership.

Today, I’m off for a haircut so that I look smart for this evening’s event. My appointment is, guess when? 10am. I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for over 20 years – when we moved into the area, he worked in the nearest salon. I’ve followed him twice since, and for the last few years he’s been in Broomhill, an area of Glasgow about 30 minutes walk away. I don’t drive anywhere unless I absolutely have to – walking is the only exercise I get. This is my street:

It’s a late 20th-century mix of flats (which you can see) and terraced houses (which we live in). However, turning the corner, everything becomes more grand – although many of the houses are now multi-occupancy, they are still imposing. This is Kelvinside.

Broomhill has lots of trees and green space, and a nice little row of shops. I have my haircut and a coffee in a nearby café in which I am almost alone.

So here’s a before and after. Can you tell the difference? Not really, it’s just tidier. In the third picture, I’ve had my lunch, showered and dressed, all ready to go – where? Let’s find out!

I set off again on foot, this time through the Botanic Gardens. There’s some lovely autumn colouring there.

I travel by Subway to Queen Street Station, meet two friends from Glasgow Women’s Library and take the train to Edinburgh – destination Scottish Parliament! This photo is a cheat – one I prepared earlier. It’s dark when we get there and we’re certainly not going to climb Salisbury Crags to get this view.

Scottish Parliament from Salisbury Crags

So why are we here? Some might remember my earlier post about the Women’s Library nominating Glasgow’s Suffragette Oak to be Scotland’s Tree of the Year. We reached the final, and tonight we’ll find out if we’ve won. The evening starts with drinks and canapés, then a few speeches followed by the prizegiving. The six finalists are read out in reverse order – every time it’s not us, we glance at each other. When we get to second – it’s still not us! We’ve won!

We stagger back to the train with the trophy, certificate and rolled up banner. I make it home about 10pm eager to tell John all about it. Thanks to any blog readers who voted for our tree.

Once again, thanks to Celine for nominating me for this challenge. Please visit her at Down the Rabbit Hole if you haven’t already done so. As is my usual habit, I’m not going to pass the challenge on but if you think it’s a good idea, please consider yourself nominated.

Finally, this is the tree that all the fuss is about:

Suffragette Oak

I’d like to think that the Suffragettes who watched it being planted in 1918 would be delighted that it’s now Scotland’s Tree of the Year. Next stop, European Tree of the Year in February….

3 Day Quote #3: Dad

John Mitchell 1929-2015
John Mitchell 1929-2015

To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter. -Euripides, playwright (c. 480-406 BCE)

I subscribe to Anu Garg’s A.Word.A.Day email – every day a new word defined with examples of usage and a (usually unrelated) quote at the end. This one jumped out at me on 15th June. Why? A couple of weeks before, on 31st May, my dear Dad died and I hoped the quote was true. I wanted to pay tribute to him on this blog somehow, and La Sabrosona‘s challenge allows me to do that.

Dad would have been 86 on July 3rd and had been a minister and a preacher for over 60 years. When he gave up preaching a few years ago I started a blog with him, and to mark his birthday I posted his obituary, as written by his friend and colleague Wes Blakey. If you want to know more, head over to John Mitchell – called and sent. But this IS a travel blog, so I thought I’d celebrate Dad’s life with some childhood photos of us having fun at the seaside and in the country. I’m the big sister. And check out our Harry Potter-style Ford Anglia! I can still remember its registration, 823 LPP.

So thank you once again to La Sabrosona for her nomination. I find that these challenges can be valuable if they make you think. They can encourage you to post something you wouldn’t normally write about, or maybe to tackle a subject from a slightly different angle. However, as before, I’m not passing the nomination on to specific bloggers although I encourage anyone who has quotes to share to take part. You are all stars!

3 Day Quote #2: Proverbs

Jordanhill Cartouche
Jordanhill Cartouche

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

It’s day 2 of my 3 Day Quote Challenge, for which I thank La Sabrosona.

For two decades, I looked at this quote almost every day of my working life. The pictured cartouche adorned the gallery of Jordanhill Library where I worked – it wasn’t original to Jordanhill, but came from one of its precursors as a teacher education institution.

Why have I chosen it for this challenge? Three years ago, Jordanhill closed and its courses moved to the main campus of the University of Strathclyde. The university has now announced that the site is ready for sale and will probably be developed for housing. The three red sandstone buildings from the first half of the 20th century will be converted to apartments, and the less attractive 60s and 70s buildings demolished. In the early Spring, I took a walk around to see it as it was for the last time. Except, of course, it wasn’t as it was.

I entered by the front gate where the Principal’s house still peeps through the trees. Less welcoming was the gate across the drive and the overflowing, smelly bin – the campus is obviously still attractive to dog walkers. Eurgh!

The original teaching building, named after 19th century educationalist David Stow, is still beautiful from any angle.

The Henry Wood Building, which housed the library, isn’t – and never was!

The student residences will certainly scrub up well, and they have a beautiful outlook.

The Crawfurd Building looks not too bad from a distance, but its sunken garden is sadly overgrown.

Worst of all is the Smith Building at the back gate – but look! There are still bulbs coming through.

In the old days, the campus would have been a sea of colour with well-tended flower beds, but it’s still pleasantly green and I hope you can see what a lovely place it was to work. But my message is – never go back. The important things carry on – generations of teachers learned to train up a child in the way s/he should go, and they are still learning that today. In the end, that matters far more than the place.

3 Day Quote #1: Nature

Inscribed bench
Inscribed bench by River Earn

The tumbling bridge and fallow field; Once deeply scarred by soot and steel; Now nature has crept back to heal

These lovely words run along the back of this unusual bench which sits alongside the River Earn near Crieff. (The path goes through a beautiful avenue of trees, parallel to an old railway embankment.) I’ve chosen them as my first entry in the 3 Day Quote Challenge. What is that, I hear you cry? Quite simple!

  1. Post a quote for three consecutive days (one down, two to go).
  2. Thank the person who nominated you. With pleasure! Thanks to La Sabrosona of  my spanglish familia – laugh and cry, as I do, with her tales of a Mexican / Canadian family bilingual in Spanish and English.
  3. Pass the challenge on to three more people. Hmm, as has been my recent practice, I’ll skip this bit and just say you are all nominated if you have quotes you want to share.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the walk, the River Earn and Laggan Hill circuit. It starts and finishes at Glenturret Distillery, with its statue to the famous mouser, Towser. (As a bonus, the café here has recently been upgraded and serves an excellent lunch.)

We found more benches by the river (this one has an inscription about salmon leaping), and a sort of fairy house in a tree trunk!

Finally, the views from Laggan Hill are lovely:

I do believe I can enter this post in two more challenges! Jo’s Monday Walks and Jude’s Bench Series, which in July is looking for benches with unusual details. Bingo! Click on both links to see what other bloggers have been up to this week.

A real neat road-trip?

Post A-to-Z Road TripI’m killing two birds with one stone here. First of all, I’ve decided to sign up for the Post A to Z Challenge Road Trip. This just means that I continue to explore the blogs on the list, but at a more leisurely pace than during the challenge itself. I’m wary of committing myself to targets but maybe, just maybe, I could visit a few new blogs each week and occasionally give shout-outs to my favourite discoveries. You will note the vagueness of all those terms! My first discovery is beautiful flower photographs on Letters from the Land of Cherry Blossoms.

real-neat-blog-awardSecondly, I’ve been nominated for the Real Neat Blog Award. Thank you so much to Discovering Home who was kind enough to say that my blog is “wonderful, informative and attractive”.  Can I suggest that you pop over to Discovering Home for a visit and start at Z is for Zest? The recipe for Zesty Lemon Filled Choux Puffs is amazing! After you’ve salivated for a while, turn your attention back to the Real Neat Blog Award. The idea is to answer a set of questions, then pass the award on. As with last week’s Five Photos Five Stories challenge, I’m not going to make any official nominations, but I have answered Discovering Home’s questions:

  1. When did you last feel courageous? Describe the circumstances and if/how it changed you, even if it impacted you just a little. I’m going to relate these questions to travel where I can, so I’ll take this as physical courage. I think the most courageous travel feat I’ve achieved is climbing Mount Kinabalu a few years ago. One day, a full account will appear on this blog. How did it change me? It made me determined never to do anything as daft again!
  2. Sweet or savoury – and why? Bonus Points for sharing your favourite recipe. Savoury, definitely. I’m fond of chocolate, and I do eat desserts sometimes, but I’d almost always choose two savoury courses over a savoury and a sweet. Mind you, often I’ve eaten so much by the time I get to the sweet course that I couldn’t fit any more in anyway! When traveling, we always like to try out local food – the spicier the better.
  3. When did you first begin blogging? Which early post (or posts) would you most want people to read? In 2007/8 I started a children’s literature blog which was aimed at students going on placement (I was then a librarian in a Faculty which educated teachers).  I wanted them to know about new authors because it seemed to me they were taking books into school from their own childhoods, their lecturers’ childhoods or even my childhood! The blog still exists, but it’s mainly noted for tumbleweed these days so I’m not going to recommend you go off and read it. This travel blog has been going since 2011.
  4. Create your very own word, complete with definition, and use it in a sentence. I like accidental words that rhyme. The child who told her parents she was making them the gift of a wasterpaster at school (turned out to be a waste-paper basket). The politician in our recent election who invented the word fundilymundily (he meant to say fundamentally – I think). How can I compete with those? I’m trying to think of a travel word and failing dismally. Anybody help?
  5. And for the sake of tradition – if you could have one super power … nope, let’s make this a generous question … if you could keep two superpowers and give one duplicate power to a friend, what would they be and who would get which powers? I’d like the Seven League Boots of folklore so that I could stride the world and never have to use airports again – and my husband would have to have a pair too so that he could come with me. Invisibility would also be good for jumping queues and getting into museums for free. (Ooh, shocking, can’t believe I just wrote that!)

Thank you once again to Discovering Home. I had fun answering your questions (even though I realise I didn’t quite answer some of them!)

Five Photos, Five Stories: Day 5

I’ve been invited to take part in the “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge by Jude of Travel Words. The challenge is quite simply to “post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge”.

My five photos are from our recent Lake District holiday. The weather wasn’t very good so we visited a lot of houses. I’ve taken them in chronological order and asked “Who lived there?”

Blackwell – who lived there?


Blackwell is a beautiful Arts and Crafts house which was completed in 1901 as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy brewer who was twice Lord Mayor of Manchester, his wife Elizabeth, and their five children. (No doubt it would not be much of a holiday home for the six or seven servants required to look after them!) After their eldest son died in the First World War, the Holts used Blackwell less and less and, like some of the other properties I’ve written about, it has had a variety of uses – for example, during the Second World War it became a school. It’s the only one of my five houses not to be owned by the National Trust – it was bought by the Lakeland Arts Trust in 1999 and opened to the public two years later. I’ve been here several times (the great café is an added attraction) and it reminds me very much of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh. Perhaps I’ll give you a peek at the interiors another time….

So that’s the last of my Lake District houses – Sizergh, Townend, Allan Bank, Wray and now Blackwell. Which is my favourite? Aesthetically, it has to be Blackwell, but to get a real sense of the people who lived there I would vote for the modest little farmhouse, Townend. Which would you like to visit?

For the final day I’m featuring Helen of Travels With Benches who has recently started blogging to document her walk along the Pennine Way. I so admire that! And of course, last but not least, Jude herself who nominated me for this challenge. Her link has been at the top of every post so you might already have investigated Travel Words – but she has another blog of beautiful flowers and gardens The Earth Laughs in Flowers. Jude also runs a monthly Bench Challenge which, given Helen’s title, she might be interested in. On that note of blogging matchmaking I end my Five Photos, Five Stories challenge! Many thanks, Jude, I’ve enjoyed it.

Five Photos, Five Stories: Day 4

I’ve been invited to take part in the “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge by Jude of Travel Words. The challenge is quite simply to “post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge”.

My five photos are from our recent Lake District holiday. The weather wasn’t very good so we visited a lot of houses. I’m taking them in chronological order and asking “Who lived there?”

Wray Castle – who lived there?

Wray Castle

This neo-Gothic pile, believe it or not, was built in the 1830s as a retirement home for just two people, James and Margaret Dawson, a wealthy couple from Liverpool – and their army of servants, of course. Although very different from Allan Bank, Wray Castle has several things in common with it – famous tenants (after the Dawsons died it became a holiday let and was rented by Beatrix Potter’s family); acquisition by the National Trust (1929) followed by a chequered pattern of use; and being opened to the public without contents or period decoration. My favourite part was the old servants’ quarters where I learned that the laurel hedge outside was built to screen the formal lawns so that James and Margaret and their guests could not be seen by mere servants, and the windows in the maidservants’ bedrooms were originally only 3 or 4 inches wide for the same reason. I don’t think I’d have liked James and Margaret very much.

As before, if you’d like to do 5 Photos 5 Stories let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an “official” nomination.

I’m continuing to feature other British-based bloggers instead of nominations: two today, both newish and both writing about Scotland. Paul at Through the Lens seems to visit the same places that I do. One of these days, we’ll walk past each other. Maybe we already have! The same goes for Scott at Great Glasgow Architecture – if I ever do another A-Z Challenge on Glasgow his posts will be a source of inspiration.

Last day tomorrow!

Five Photos, Five Stories: Day 3

I’ve been invited to take part in the “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge by Jude of Travel Words. The challenge is to “post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph, and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge”.

My five photos are from our recent Lake District holiday. The weather wasn’t very good so we visited a lot of houses. I’m taking them in chronological order and asking “Who lived there?”

Allan Bank – who lived there?

Allan Bank, Grasmere

Allan Bank in Grasmere was built in 1805/6 by John Gregory Crump. In 1808, he let it out to some very famous tenants – William Wordsworth and his family who lived there until 1811. This was despite William having referred to it as “a temple of abomination” during construction! The house was bought by Thomas Dawson in 1834 and then by Canon Rawnsley, founder of the National Trust in 1915. He died in 1920 and left it to the Trust with a lifelong interest for his wife, Eleanor, who lived until 1959. After that, there were more tenants (including a 1970s commune) until 2011 when a fire damaged part of the house. It has now been partially restored and opened to the public in 2012. It hasn’t been decorated yet, and there is no original furniture, which makes it a very relaxed place to visit – you can sit anywhere with a cup of tea and read something from the library, create a painting in the art room, or just watch the world go round and admire the view. I loved it.

As before, I’m not making a specific nomination, but if you’d like to do 5 Photos 5 Stories let me know in the comments.

Today’s featured blogger is Jessica at Diverting Journeys. She’s an American living in London who loves visiting museums – and reports on them in, well, a highly diverting way. I love her irreverent style. Her latest is Montacute House – head over to her blog for the low-down on that.

Five Photos, Five Stories: Day 2

I’ve been invited to take part in the “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge by Jude of Travel Words. The challenge is to “post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph, and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge”.

My five photos are from our recent Lake District holiday. The weather wasn’t very good so we visited a lot of houses. I’m taking them in chronological order and asking “Who lived there?”

Townend – who lived there?

Townend, Troutbeck

Townend in Troutbeck has two things in common with yesterday’s house – it’s owned by the National Trust and it was home to the same family for centuries. But unlike the Stricklands of Sizergh, the Brownes, who lived here from the seventeenth century till 1948, were an ordinary family of farmers. I find the stories of every day people much more appealing than those of aristocrats, and Townend teems with characters. For example, Elizabeth Birkett married Ben Browne in 1703 and kept a commonplace book of recipes which still exists. I bought a little booklet of extracts and might try her bean cakes or apricot paste – but perhaps not some of her remedies such as “to stop bleeding at the nose: take the blood of the patient and therewith write on his brow the words consummatum est.” Another interesting inhabitant was George Browne who lived at Townend in Victorian times. By the time he owned the estate the family had made enough money for him to retire from farming at the age of 40. He turned his attention to his hobbies which included gardening, local history and wood carving. Much of the (quite quirky) furniture in the house was made or added to by George. I love all these details – so much so that I’ve now visited the house three times.

As yesterday, I’m not making any specific nominations, but if you’d like to do 5 Photos 5 Stories let me know in the comments and I’ll make it “official”. I’m also continuing to feature other bloggers who write about Britain. (These features are not nominations unless the recipients wish them to be.) Today it’s Joy Loves Travel. Her recent posts have made me wonder why I haven’t been to Wales for over 20 years, and why I’ve never been to Northern Ireland. However, at the moment Joy is exploring Hampton Court’s Gorgeous Gardens and Grounds. Well worth a visit!