A gorgeous day! And a good one to climb Dumgoyne – the hill that dominates the landscape behind our new home. There’s been snow on the tops of the Munros for about a week now, and it seems to be rapidly creeping down to lower altitudes – so I wanted to get up there before the weather really turns.
The last Autumn colours seemed especially bright and saturated this morning.
Don’t worry, Bruce happily isn’t interested in sheep, and walks to heel when we are about them.
A particularly incredible oak tree, in a landscape full of beautiful deciduous trees:
Climbing upwards, you get a great sense of the shape of the land. We live down there:
With Glasgow to the South and East . . .
. . . and the snow-capped Highlands North and West.
The water you can see in that photograph is Loch Lomond.
A tough descent for my wonky leg – but the first of many fine walks, I’m sure, up and down our local hill.
Winter really felt interminable this year. It seemed that, for weeks I passed the same corner every day looking in vain for the snowdrops that always appear there, heralding Spring. “I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for those” said one of my neighbour-buddies, indicating a single patch of struggling crocuses that provided the only cheer on a particularly grey and grim sub-zero March morning. When we visited New Lanark on April 2nd, there were no wild flowers blooming at all. The only things of colour we saw were the yellow eyelids of the nesting peregrines and the bright red toadstools that Tom struggled through some spiky undergrowth to photograph. After all of this weird nothing, May’s rapid explosion has felt particularly welcome. I began to see primroses and cowslips poking through the brown and grey . . . then the grass pinged green . . . and then there was speedwell, and bluebells, honesty, and dove’s foot geraniums . . .
. . . and then the blossom started to appear . . .
. . .and now the ordinary urban paths that I walk on every day appear like fairy glades.
. . . or rather, large black dog-filled glades.
In many respects, these past few months have felt a little odd. Tom has been living during the week in Glasgow, working really hard at his new job. Meanwhile, I have been managing various health issues with greater or lesser degrees of success, and trying very hard to work around and within my limits. These few months have made Tom and I both realise how reliant we are on each other, and how completely rubbish we are at being apart. The upshot is that we have decided to move from Edinburgh to an as-yet-unknown location close to the Highlands but within commuting distance of Glasgow. The prospect of a garden in which to grow veggies, a few chickens and another dog (or two) is very exciting to me, and I am hopeful of finding a small house or steading out West where this dream can become a reality. Less exciting is the work we have to do to our current abode prior to selling it. Apparently, property purchasers require chilly Edinburgh flats to have more sources of warmth than that which is provided by our solitary living-room wood burner . . . thus, with the help of David and Stevie and Trevor we will be installing shiny new-fangled central heating and making various other “improvements.”
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because life is inevitably going to be disrupted over the next few months. A kind neighbour is allowing me and Bruce to hang out in her flat while Stevie is up here ripping up the floorboards, but I have now lost access to my computer and work-pod during the day, so am less accessible by email. I also have to consider the implications of moving my business as well as my home. We have just a handful of boxes of Colours of Shetland left in my warehouse in Leith. Once these are sold, I will have to allow the book to go out of print until I can make new warehousing arrangements at our new as-yet-unknown locale. So, if you were considering purchasing a print copy of Colours of Shetland, my advice is to do it now, as there are not many left (the digital edition will, of course, continue to be available). I’m still taking wholesale orders (with the number of copies-per-shop limited), but for both retail and trade orders, once the books are gone, they are gone.
So, if anyone is looking to buy a flat in North Edinburgh’s leafiest and friendliest neighbourhood, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled later this Summer. And equally if anyone has suggestions for places to which Tom and I should consider moving please do feel free to make them — we are now conducting recces!
Its all change round here! Tom is about to start a new job. He has worked at the University of Edinburgh for the past decade, so there were an awful lot of payslips to gather up from the desk drawer, and a very hearty whisky-fuelled send-off from his friends and colleagues. It was Tom’s work as an immunologist that first brought us North to Scotland ten years ago . . . an awful lot has happened since then. His new job is in Glasgow, so today Bruce and I helped him move his office contents and cell lines over to Glasgow’s Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, where he will be establishing his own laboratory. I don’t mind admitting that I’m massively proud of Tom — he does really important work (in the field of auto-immunity) and he also works incredibly hard. This is is a very good move for him and his research.
We also had a lovely walk in the park, where Bruce met a wee pug buddy . . .
And then the sun came out, and I tried to take some photographs of the crocuses that are gamely attempting to mark the transition into early Spring.
Bruce is full of the joys of the season, but unfortunately has little respect for floral photography . . . or for flowers, for that matter.
This picture is so hilariously characteristic that I just had to show it to you (with apologies to those who maintain Kelvingrove Park, and to those of you who feel that allowing ones dog to leap through the crocuses is a model of irresponsible canine ownership). But the image is also suggestive of the general mood of excited anticipation around here. Springing forward!
Here’s to the next decade, immunological and otherwise!
On Friday evening, Tom and I went to see Neeme Järvi conducting the RSNO in Shostakovitch’s 7th. I don’t think I have ever seen the Usher Hall so full – there wasn’t a spare seat to be seen – with many emotional Russians among the audience. Personally, I think it is very hard not to be emotional when listening to the Lenigrad symphony – I hear it as a sort of musical equivalent of Hannah Arendt – and its direct context in 900 brutal and evil days is inescapable and terrifying. In all senses, it was a tremendous occasion, heightened for me by what I had been reading about the Leningrad album.
During the siege, there was a massive upswell of support for the people of Leningrad among British women – particularly those of the West of Scotland. In Airdrie and Coatbridge, the women members of the Anglo-Soviet Aid Committee raised a substantial amount of money to support those suffering under the siege. They wrapped this money in a tartan-covered album, prefaced it with a quotation from Burns’s famous song about solidarity, and sent it, together with five thousand signatures and messages of personal support, to the women of Leningrad. The album traveled across Lake Ladoga’s notorious ice road to reach the besieged city, where it and its contents were gratefully received. The women of Leningrad were so touched by the album, that, even in the midst of their hardship, they produced their own gift book to return to their friends in Scotland. This book was bound in gold damask embroidery, and filled with photographs, signatures, and drawings in watercolour and pencil. An inscription on the first page of the album read:
“We have been moved to the depths of our soul by the words of love and greeting from those distanced from us in far-off Scotland. We thank you for the help you are giving us in the struggle with Hitler’s Germany. Our husbands and brothers are cut off from us, our homes are in danger, our children are doomed to destruction or bondage. The women of Leningrad, just like the women of Airdrie and Coatbridge, have risen to the defence of their homes. We are proud that we have such a worthy ally as the people of Great Britain.”
The gift book from the women of Airdrie and Coatbridge is now in the Museum of Leningrad History, while the Leningrad Album is usually housed in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library. However, to accompany the RSNO’s performances of the Leningrad Symphony, it is on display for a few days in the Royal Concert Hall. Manuscript gift-books are a special interest of mine as you may know, and this one is very special indeed. We went over to Glasgow yesterday to see it. I found it incredibly moving. I also found it heartening to be reminded of women’s solidarity on a day like yesterday.
If you are in or near Glasgow, the Leningrad Album is on display in the foyer of the Royal Concert Hall (at the top of the stairs near the gift shop) until tomorrow. If you are not in Glasgow, the RSNO have displayed a selection of pages from the album here.
(Yes, that is me above the jolly mêlée on Buchanan Street. I actually managed to pick my way through that crowd in flat shoes without a stick — at least as challenging for me as any hill. After two days of Leningrad-fueled emotion, I came home feeling quite uplifted).