We’ve been to Elisabeth’s. All her tests for blood sugar have been OK but one was not conclusive, so on this doubtful evidence her file recorded her as being diabetic, and someone rang up and harassed her at length about her diet; said she had to come in and have an emergency C section or at the very least be induced because in addition to having (they alleged) gestational diabetes, the due date was today (ie Saturday 19 November.) They insisted, it being a large baby, that her dates were a fortnight wrong. Also the baby was breech and they don’t seem to have the skill to organise breeches births. She was less combative than I would have been, though she got a bit upset and anxious. You’re always the best person to know the dates; her last baby was a large baby; his male relatives are all over 6 foot tall and she and his paternal grandmother are also 5’10”. (Everyone in this family is tall except for me!) Anyway, the baby turned round of his own accord; she doesn’t have diabetes; she’s not going to be induced or c sectioned unless there’s overpowering medical evidence why she should. I would guess the baby would be born within 7 – 10 days but not in the next day or two.

I remember [when I was expecting Rory] for the first time during the years when I was pregnant, they offered genetic counselling. Among the questions they asked was one on haemophilia which had been in our family (my mother’s people all married their cousins.) The doctor who discussed matters with me was one I had never seen before (of middle Eastern origin: basically of the-womens-they-know-nothing school.) Looking at his notes and not at me, he announced that they had been unable to determine whether or not I was a carrier, and they required samples of blood from all my relatives, and that they had decided that they would test for the sex of the baby and abort all male children as a precautionary measure. Fortunately my anger overcame any anxieties I might have had. Completely ignoring him, I said to the nurse that I would get dressed now and I would speak with her after that. I sailed past him as though he were a piece of furniture. As I was dressing I could hear her getting on to him about his terrible bedside manner. When I came out he began a somewhat grudging apology which I completely ignored. I spoke pleasantly to the nurse and thanked her for the advice they had given me; I said that I did not wish to pursue genetic counselling any further; I would not be supplying the blood of my relatives; I would not have a test for the sex of my baby, nor would I be having any abortion. Hopefully I would see her next week. She agreed to all of this and I swept out like a grand duchess. My male child was perfectly alright. I never saw that doctor again – I hope they sacked him.

It’s a difficult balancing act in relation to the hospital. You do need their assistance (and in every case once we got to the birthing point, the nurses and entire team were superb. ) Joanna’s team were from Oregon and knew their stuff; Elisabeth’s team were from Ireland and coped well; but the team for Rory were local girls. John said to them, Do you think you can deliver a son, and a Scot​​; is that possible? Everything is possible said the midwife but we can only help out what has been put there already. But all went well. I held the baby in my arms and knew as I looked into his eyes, dark and filmy as a kitten’s that he would be absolutely fine. John took him and said to him ‘Welcome to the world, son.’

Then, I rose with John’s help and disappeared into the bathroom; washed; brushed my hair and my teeth and was just settling down with my son in my arms when the nursing staff came rushing back, terribly anxious because they had abandoned us on our own and not been there had anything happened. Since they were dealing with a lady whose reactions to her various experiences were punctuated by screams and curses of a horrible variety (she clearly was not the middle class lady she posed as) we felt they were quite justified and had enjoyed the half hour to ourselves. They made us tea and toast which tasted to us like nectar and ambrosia.

On that day when my final child was born, I went back to the ward with my lovely baby upon my knee, covered I felt, both of us, in mystery, glory and triumph. I knew that I would not walk this path again. The baby had only opened his eyes once and had taken a long and careful look at me. He did not know that if I had been a meek and obedient to authority kind of woman, he would not be making his way back to the ward and from there home as rapidly as I could arrange it.

But every birth is a triumph in its own right and a miracle too.

Angels and ministers of state attend Elisabeth!



The sun rises in the East, and I am happy that our bedroom faces in this direction. I am most decidedly a morning person, so this arrangement suits me, and now I come to think about it, our bedroom has often caught the morning sun in the various houses where we have lived.

John pulls back the curtains at 7 am, and I lie, warm and snug under my covers, the back of my bed raised behind me, and I watch the dawn develop. Sometimes (not often in England) the sun rises in a perfect fiery ball and roars its way upwards into the sky. Usually you just glimpse its golden brightness visible through lines of cloud; or the blackness of night gradually seeps away leaving banks of colour, from a liquid gold, fiery or blushing pink, to a pale green… On occasion however it just lightens from impenetrable black into a dull and sullen grey. However in general it is very beautiful, different every day and no two days are ever the same.

Sometimes (again, not often here) there are cloudless skies, but more usually there are clouds forming and moving, of infinite variety. I have always been a cloud- watcher I used to lie on my back on a steeply sloping field next to our house and watch them scudding over, generally in the same direction (from South West to North East I presume). Every so often it would vary in its disciplined propulsion and then I would rush off and say to my mother, Clouds are going in the wrong direction! She never looked as if she was as perturbed as I thought she should have been.

There are trees in our own and our neighbours’ gardens but there is one very large and spreading tree, now bare of leaves in a further away garden. I enjoy watching the birds occupy this tree. They too watch the wind and the clouds for anything useful. They fly off one by one, in different directions. Yesterday there we were seven mirds in the tree; today not a solitary one.

I find ‘MEditation’ incredibly difficult to do – so boring, mind rebels – but it occurs to me that this sitting, peacefully observing the sun rise yet again, and being thankful for this miracle which has happened everyday since the beginning of time, and will continue to happen until the end of time – which day will surely come – only I will not be there by then- is as good a form of meditation as anything.

Lastly, behind the Tree of Seven Birds, so distant that I could not reliably identify them, but biggish so probably crows, a flock of birds filled the sky for a brief moment. A murder of crows, I thought; and then reflected on the probable origin of that unkind and unfair phrase.

For about ten days of the year, the sun strikes a mirror which reflects onto another and shines full on me as I lie in my bed. Although this is entirely a fortuitous event, unplanned by me, I feel as thrilled and delighted as my Celtic ancestor, standing in Maes Howe, the beautifully built tomb on Orkney must have felt when the sun shone down the entry tunnel and illuminated the dark interior.

May the light shine upon us.


I’m remembering that someone (much cleverer than I am) wrote: There is nothing new under the sun.

John and I went with Elisabeth to view the ceiling currently being restored on the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

Greenwich with its proximity to the river and its collection of Christopher Wren buildings is wonderfully calming and restorative. We park and make for the Painted Hall where we are to be met by someone who will guide us through a route suitable for wheelchairs. I am to use a lift; others have to climb 70 stairs. Elisabeth, in the last month of her pregnancy, elects to accompany me!

It is always interesting to be taken through a building in your wheelchair because you see beind the grand showy rooms to the more modest ones where people actually live. When we emerge into the body of the hall, we find that a temporary wooden floor has been made and we see we are – for someone of John’s height – where one could just comfortably examine the art work. The artist was one James Thornhill and his team, working to cover a very large canvas. He was obviously a conventionally competent painter. Apparently the team included specialists in painting things such as flowers.

We were standing on a floor which covered the entire area but one was aware of how difficult working conditions must have been. I imagine a small platform had been hauled up by pulley, and they then had to lie, working above their heads with the awful drop to the floor on all sides of them.

The subject matter shows William and Mary and all their relatives in a ‘heavenly’ setting. Our national vanity and arrogance are quite breathtaking. William of Orange is portrayed as Hercules, and Mary Stewart is shown as the goddess Athene. Being trampled under William’s feet is the tyrant King of France. I thought, there’s nothing new about Brexit.

It was extremely interesting. There was a distortion in the drawing to allow for the viewer being far below at ground level. The colours were quite fresh. There were details in the painting that could not have been seen by any viewer.

I’d like to see it again when the temporary ceiling has been removed.

Then we were escorted back down in the lift, walked through the lovely Christopher Wren buildings, past the Cutty Sark, and on to lunch.