I am late publishing my blog this month, as I’ve been away to a spa hotel with my Sister to celebrate her birthday. Not something we’ve ever done before, so I was ridiculously excited. We had a lovely time, reading, relaxing, enjoying excellent meals, painting our nails, swimming, walking, sitting in the sun, and talking, talking, talking about family history, health and everything else, from tattoos to unisex toilets.
Last week we celebrated WeeBoy’s birthday, noticing how well he copes with social encounters even after months of lockdown. His Aunt made him an amazing Lego cake. With chocolate or vanilla sponge inside it tasted wonderful. He and friends had noisy fun hitting each other with caterpillar balloons. It reminded me of Son’s birthday at the same age when fencing with rolled up newspapers was the big event of the party.
My randomly selected Tarot card for this month is The Star. A guiding force, the naked figure pours water to nourish the seeds which lie dormant. The stars are an image of wholeness. In this calm, natural setting there is space to grow. This ties in nicely with my theme of gardens and the sense that things are coming back to life after months of deprivation.
Cannyrob and I had our first proper campervan trip of the year, heading to a site in Dingwall for a few days. We paid a visit to J and R, friends from university days, having not seen one another for two decades. J and I both studied Drama – her with Psychology, me with English. J became an Educational Psychologist, moving up north. I taught Drama in Fife then became a Dramatherapist. It was reassuring to find we still have lots in common, agreeing on politics and sharing a passion for gardening and grandchildren. Like us, they are doing second time around decorating of their Victorian house.
My childhood summers were spent in our caravan at Dornoch. We spent three days travelling up, stopping off in Pitlochry and Nairn. As we drove through Dingwall, we always looked out for ‘The House with the Beautiful Garden’. On a corner of the main road, lawns mown in perfect stripes swept down to the road, bordered by colourful plants and shrubs. My Sister and I collected Britains’ Miniature Gardens – lawns, crazy paving, flowerbeds with a special planting tool for gladioli, lupins, tulips and more. This garden was the real-life version.
When my Sister heard we were going to Dingwall she asked if I could look out for the garden. It seemed unlikely that it would still exist, but Cannyrob and I kept looking on our walks around the town. I mentioned it to the friends we visited. Surprisingly, R immediately identified the garden as belonging to the former home of Willie Logan, engineer of the Tay Road Bridge and founder of Loganair. An online search found a house name and address: Parklea, 1 Woodlands Road, Dingwall. The unusual Art Deco style house is still there, but the garden in its original form is long gone. Logan had the house built to his own design in the 1950’s and the showpiece garden was much admired. On a corner of the main road, we would have passed it on our journeys north in the 50’s and early 60’s. However, after Logan’s death in a plane crash in 1966, his wife, unable to cope with the upkeep, sold part of the garden as a building plot.
In 1990, Helen Logan died and the house was sold. Historic Scotland took photographs recording some of the features of the architecturally significant property but I have only managed to access a few of these. Of course, I had to go and have a look at Parklea for myself. I took some photographs, through and over hedges, Cannyrob discouraging me while looking out for security cameras. There are glimpses of grass and shrubs which remain, but the garden we remembered from childhood is gone. I was disappointed not to find any contemporary photographs of the garden. A volunteer I spoke to at the museum said he had seen some in black and white but couldn’t recall where. I’d be very grateful if anyone can tell me any more. If so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As usual, I’ve been reading quite a bit. Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother has a lot to say about family dynamics and food. Catriona Ward has been added to my Gothic horror list with Rawblood and Little Eve. The Last House on Needless Street is still to be read. Compelling, scary and haunting, her stories stay with you. Minette Walters’ novels set in the time of the black death, Turn of Midnight and The Last Hours sound dark and horrific, but are actually the heartwarming story of a courageous woman fighting to save her community.
I’ve got through a few audiobooks including three Nicci French psychological thrillers I read years ago and had forgotten sufficiently to enjoy listening to them: The Land of the The Living, The Safe House and The Memory Game (beautifully narrated by Harriet Walter).
I realise how grim some of these sound. Why do I gravitate to the dark side? Maybe it’s a means of escape from my relatively comfortable life…I’ve just begun Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, a murder mystery set in 18th C London. On my Kindle I am reading Bellman and Black, a Victorian ghost story by Diane Setter.
Television for me has been wiped out lately by the Euros, although I did enjoy the final of the Great British Sewing Bee on BBC1. The Handmaid’s Tale has returned, dark and dramatic to Channel 4. Together, with James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan was an uncomfortable unpicking of a relationship in lockdown, a BBC2 film.
The Royal Academy Sketch Club (on Zoom) continued to give focus to my Saturday mornings. I was ready at 10.30 with my A3 sketch pad. The teaching was variable, but mostly good with sound quality and camera angles improving over the eight sessions. You can still watch recordings of the classes (free) on YouTube. Search for RASketchClub. I particularly enjoyed the life drawing sessions. Here is some of my recent work.
I’ve been enjoying the garden. After the cold Spring, everything is catching up. Cannyrob’s care of the roses is paying off and time spent in the greenhouse is productive. Tomato plants are healthy and salad leaves and rocket have been quick to germinate. Got soaked as usual cleaning the glass roof with the hose. A reclining chair gives me a place to relax even when it’s overcast
Alarming Covid figures in Scotland tonight. Just when we think it’s safe to get out and about and the streets here are thronged with holidaymakers, people are getting ill, in spite of the vaccine. How worried should we be? Will we make plans anyway? Do share your thoughts and concerns in whatever way suits you. Meantime, enjoy summer while it’s here!