Sunday 4 July 2021

The Scottish Summer

Blogging at last. If I take a long hiatus from this site, the reasons are one or more of the following: I am all written out for the week; I am spending more time on languages; my right arm hurts too much; both my arms hurt too much. 

With that, hello! It is summer in Scotland, which means that we have the occasional day of truly warm weather. The sun beams on us in delight, we bask in garden chairs or on benches in snazzy Stockbridge, we go for walks so long my left ankle aches for days afterwards, my broad beans present us with green pods of deliciousness. There is beauty everywhere, and we do not want to be anywhere else unless the weather turns. On colder grey days, we would rather be in Italy or Poland. 

Since I last blogged, the sitting-room has turned a lovely shade of green. Painting its walls was our first DIY project that wasn't making alcoholic beverages.  It took us the better part of a day (plus the time beforehand washing the walls, putting masking tape around the woodwork and shoving the furniture into the middle of the room), and it cost £166.44 in paint and equipment. We have about 2 litres of paint left over, so we won't trust the how-much-do-I-need? calculations from paint companies again. On the bright side, we now know we won't need more than 5 litres to paint the bedroom. 

Benedict Ambrose, who has hitherto never painted a wall, says he loves to sit in the sitting-room and bask in the green. He doesn't get as much satisfaction out of the thought that we did it ourselves as I do. When tempted just to phone a decorator, I factored in the good memories that were likely to come out of our shared project. Good call.

My parents are very good at DIY and have saved umpteen Canadian dollars by doing all (or almost all) of their own painting, wallpapering, tiling, flooring, and deck-building over the years. My father is 80, but he has not tired of repairing the wooden decking on top of his garage. Really, they are inspirational. It's good to have inspirational parents. At the same time, I now know enough about home ownership to find the thought of caring for a big family house rather daunting. Last month we spent £288 on the roof and rhones (i.e. what Canadians call eavestroughs and Americans gutters), and we live in a wee flat.  

I discovered yesterday that a goodly number of other people in the UK have recently indulged in painting and other forms of home improvement. It's humbling to realise that our actions, which we think are spontaneous, are shared by so many other people. For example, I began our vegetable garden during the pandemic when millions of other women in Britain turned to vegetable gardening for solace. Yesterday, B.A. and I went to a cocktail lounge for the first time in ages, and I suspect many other people in Scotland did, too.  (In England they had football to think about.) The difference may be that I carefully recorded how much we spent in our budget book. 

We went to a place called "Lady Libertine", which I had passed on my way to the bus station and teaching writing to my homeschoolers. I was not anticipating needing a drink after teaching; I just thought it would be nice to have a proper bar date with B.A.  My first choice was the Voodoo Rooms, but they didn't have space.  "Lady Libertine" turns out to have a very 1930s decor and reasonably priced cocktails, so we enjoyed ourselves very much.  

My homeschoolers are done with writing lessons for the summer, but they will continue working on their novel together--a personal project they came up with on their own. I am greatly pleased. To further rub in the realities of the writing life, I will canvass them for short stories to send to the annual children's historical fiction contest, in which they will not place because they don't write like this:

"Life is a vast, screaming disappointment. At first these words appeared in letters shaped by bladderwrack on the stony Scottish beaches, then they appeared in discarded disposable barbecues further up in the sand and sedge. I watch as the bored children dig crumbling pits, their white helplessness burning to red under the fickle, seductive sun."

They prefer exciting plots to  sloshing about artistically in gloomy predictability. My own prediction is that they will one day write cracking novels that turn a real profit and not the sort of beautifully and fashionably wrought  stuff supported by government grants.  

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