Coming home

Two years ago I watched as a man lopped branches

from his cypress trees in a neighbouring garden. He removed

two or three branches at a time, leaving six inches

or so for him to stand on to cut the next round.

I was in early labour, and all day I watched this

performance from my bedroom window until

but two of the twelve shaggy conifers were reduced to

jagged poles.


For weeks, a pair of wood pigeons circled and skimmed

the treetops daily. I recalled coming home to another neighbour–

another neighbourhood, another evergreen–drunk and sobbing

about the pigeons he had displaced. ‘I didn’t know’, he swore,

cupping a nest, while its pigeons perched on a shed

roof across the lane.


I had forgotten all that until this morning when

two more wood pigeons landed on top of

one of the remaining trees. This cypress was four fifths de-branched

before the arborist (my spellcheck wants me to write ‘abortionist’)–

on learning the trees were his neighbour’s–aborted his efforts,

leaving a Dr Seuss mop-headed tree. Two years

it has looked like this. A peculiarly perfect place for a nest–

a tree that looks like a full tree, a healthy tree, from the perspective

of home. But on entry, and re-entry, and entry again, they must know that

something is not right.


Three things: Spectra, hummus, and sea moods



This week, for what occasion I remain unaware, the schools in this area had three days off. In spite of it being a very long weekend of chilly weather and passing a tummy bug from one family member to the next, we managed to do some lovely things between laundry loads. Like last year, we attended Aberdeen’s Spectra–a big light festival in the  city. We loved the enormous fluorescent light seesaws that lit up and made very satisfying synthetic seesaw sounds as they tipped. Also like last year, we all loved the storytelling tent and the experience revived storytelling with all the trappings (music, backdrops, costumes) in our household and the bunk beds now double as a storytelling tent.

Finally, after many years of variable results, I have found the perfect recipe for hummus. It is perfect.

A lovely conversation with L. this week:

Me: Look at the sea! Isn’t it amazing?! So stormy!

L: Yes! Is it your favourite kind of sea? What would your favourite kind be?

Me: I don’t know. I guess it depends on what sort of mood I was in…

L.: What about if you were sad?

Me: Probably a grey sea with a grey sky where you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended.

L.: If you were excited?

Me: Blue and green with lots of little waves crashing on the shore very quickly one after the other.

L.: If you were angry… wait… no… full of rage?

Me: Grey and green. Calm-looking on top but with serious undercurrents that could kill.

L.: On your wedding day about to eat cake?

Me: Blue with lots of white caps.

L.: And because this is all in your imagination, perhaps there could be lots of red hearts floating above the caps? Do you think that’s what the sea would be like on your wedding day?  

(I think the sea picture from our vomit-y holiday visit to Balmedie above looks like unrequited love, don’t you?)


Three things: Linen, short stories, and knitting

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On Monday I waited outside a charity shop until it opened so that I could have the first choice of the cones of yarn displayed in the window. A nearby mill donated a few dozen and I was stoked to find these three cones of linen among boucle and mohair.  I have wanted to try knitting with linen after listening to this podcast a few years ago but it has always been a little beyond my budget. Now, for just a few pounds, I have enough yarn to make at least a couple of garments. The only catch is that it is 3ply (fingering) which means any project I take on will be one for the long-term. Wish me luck! And patience. (By the way, that grey wall is my kitchen-painting in progress… I hope the next photo you see, I will have finally painted over that horrible wainscoting with a different calming grey).

For Christmas I received Black Marks On The White Page, edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti, and a few months before that, a friend left behind a collection of Alice Munro’s short stories. Both are amazing collections (thank you Mum+Dad, and Andre!). I used to be able to devour short story after short story without feeling the slightest hangover, but now I can only read one a week. It’s those twists! After reading a story, I might remember or realise the foreshadowing of the traumatic ending, but it always comes as a surprise for me in the initial reading.

Back onto the topic of knitting, I loved this post about why we should engage in creative endeavors. I recently had a(nother) conversation with someone who admired the socks I was knitting, and then went on to say, ‘but I think life is too short to make your own socks’. To that I say, ‘in that case, life is too short for creating anything!’ Indeed, ‘It takes hubris and hope to create’ as Sarah Bessey writes, and I think creating brings about hubris and hope… so knit socks I will! What are you creating at the moment?

I think a lot of people forget about creativity, about making things, because it seems easier to leave it for the professionals. Much like we’ve professionalized being a Christian, we’ve professionalized being creatives. Unless we are getting paid to do it, we’re happy to outsource it or accept a big-box version to fill the spaces – we’ve got bills to pay and laundry to fold and a world to save. Who has time to knit a baby sweater when a store-bought one will suffice? Who bothers writing a book when everything has been written already? Who bothers painting a mountain when thrift stores are stuffed with mountain landscapes? Who dares to write a play while Lin-Manuel Miranda exists? Who sings around the campfire when you could watch The Voice? It takes hubris and hope to create; the good news is that we all have it. It also makes us more human. We are conditioned now to be consumers: it feels good to be a creator in some small capacity.

Three things: Kitchen painting, Robert Burns, and knitting


With my computer still in the shop, I have had lots of time for doing things ‘in the real world’ (sorry unanswered emailers… will get there very soon). Including painting my kitchen. Painting might not sound that impressive, but cleaning the grease off walls that probably were last wiped c. 2000 is definitely worthy of some applause. Thank you. We have an L-shaped kitchen which is large enough for us, but not large enough for cat-swinging, so with the colour scheme we inherited the kitchen felt very small and stressful; We have cabinets that are a burnt red with gold flecks (thank you 1970s), and maple counter tops and trims (thank you 1980s), and–up until this week–we had lemon yellow walls with vermilion wainscoting (no thanks to anyone). It has been like cooking in an inside-out MacDonald’s for the last couple of years, and while I was very used to it, my eyes have found so much relief with this run-of-the-mill grey that I have been applying. I am working in shifts of approximately 1.5 hours (yes, a nap portion) so it is slow, but manageable, and I am hoping that by next Friday I’ll be done. By which point I will have my computer back and will be ready to faff about again during what has actually become rather productive time for me.

We celebrated the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns last night. We were supposed to attend a Burns supper at our church, but we have all been a little poorly this week so we opted to stay at home and heat our own haggis, neeps, and tatties. L. was devastated to be missing the event which has a few formalities that made an impression on him last year, including the Address To A Haggis followed by a knife stabbing into the tasty thing. Here’s a great rendition of that Burns’ poem. L. recited his knowledge of the poet before tucking into tea, informing us that he was one of Scotland’s beloved poets, that he died when he was young (although L. also mentioned that 37 is older than Mum–who is old–and so he too must have actually been old when he died), and he did not have the right medicine for his sickness but used vinegar and brown paper instead. That last bit I have not fact checked, but I like the ring of ‘vinegar and brown paper’ so I will leave it as it is.

Have you seen this AMAZING camouflage knitting?