I was fiddling about with some blue gingham material, cotton, attempting to make an apron for William, my grandson. The joins where the halter and waist ties join the body of the garment were messy and I couldn’t seem to resolve this. Also I had appliqued a W in red and this had not worked well. Then I had a bright idea. I would make it double and reversible.

I ditched the blue gingham and chose a plain black cotton and a grey cotton with sailing boats on it in black and gold.

I measured the width of the body of the apron at the top of it, the waist and the hem. I drew on a piece of paper half of the apron, drawing a curbed line from the waist to the top. I had folded the material so I placed this half pattern on the fold and cut it out. Then I cut 3 pieces 4” wide and about 15” long. I cut the black out first; then I cut the other body out of the printed boat material. I did not need to cut out the ties and neck piece in this material, but I cut out a pocket with a boat on it to go on the black apron. I also cut the black side 2” longer than the printed so that there was a black border on the hem of the grey material. It didn’t take a lot of material. I reckon half a yard of each would probably have been sufficient but it depends on the size of the wearer.

Then I sewed down the side of the tie pieces, and sewed one edge; the neck piece could have both ends left unsewn. I sewed a hem on the top edge of the pocket and ironed down the edges. Then pinned it carefully in position and sewed it down. I then placed the two apron sides, right sides together, and put the unfinished edges of the ties  between the sides of the apron and pinned them in place. I then sewed right around the entire body of the apron, leaving a space on one side of about 3 “ through which one can pull the apron and ties so that it is the correct way round. You then sew up that small section by hand.

This makes an attractive apron, thicker than normal to withstand spillages etc.

There should be some link in colour, pattern etc between the two fabrics. It was fun to do.



When my youngest grandson, James Kenneth Sullivan was first put in my arms a day or so after his birth, he never opened his eyes. So long as he was comfortable, safely held, warmly wrapped and with his stomach reasonably full, he seemed content. It did not matter whose arms held hm.

The next time I saw him was when he was maybe 3 weeks old. This time he did open his eyes and took a long, appraising view of me. It was the first glimpse I had got of his eyes which are an indeterminate blue-type colour and we cannot tell yet whether he will be a cool misty grey like his mother and maternal grandfather, or a true and brilliant blue like his paternal grandmother, or brown like his father, brother and other relatives. I would bet on the grey. I saw him stiffen slightly as he thought, this is Not-My-Mother; but I spoke to him warmly and he responds well to the pitch of my voice.

We visited Elisabeth again last week, so James is about 8 weeks old now. He is so tall that he outgrows the measuring device and the nurse shouts at Elisabeth that she cannot be holding him in the right position. She is however and the nurse makes a note on the file and asks Elisabeth to keep visiting the clinic.

Elisabeth is putting James (whom William for some mysterious reason refers to as Bates) for a rest but William starts wailing for something to eat. Elisabeth hands me the baby while she fixes something. To my great surprise, after he has looked at ‘Not-My-Mother’ with interest, he smiles at me – his first smile that I have seen. He makes a few squeaks, blows bubbles, listens to me, smiles again. So expending great energy, he begins to shake and to move his arms so that it almost looks like the dancer’s solo. He smiles at me. I praise his efforts and he coos with delight. I am overwhelmed with joy and pleasure,

He lies before us, like a new country. There is mist among the sunshine and we cannot see clearly but certain features are already outstanding, like mountains in an unknown landscape. I sing to him, the Scottish lullaby, Coulter’s Candy, and then for good measure, You cannie throw your granny aff a bus. He listens and tries a few squeaks of his own.

James Kenneth Sullivan. You have arrived. May you live and prosper.



In my youth, I had an ocelot coat (fake of course) which I had bought when shopping with my mother, in of all unlikely places, Bathgate (a fact I did not reveal to anyone remotely fashionable.) I wore it for about ten years, from approximately aged 19 – 29. It therefore accompanied me through the adventures of my youth and into the first years of my marriage. I had other coats of course: a stone coloured, narrow wool coat with a neat, blonde fur collar; a dark brown maxi coat of Harris tweed; a green anorak that I bought when I met John to walk the dog in; and a red suede coat that was a present from a boyfriend. But the ocelot was my favourite. It attracted pickpockets: I fought them off three times (well, I did not do any actual fighting, but I grimly held on to my bag and made a lot of noise.) Eventually however it would no longer do, and I sadly made the unworn parts into cushions.

For the past 40 years, I’ve been looking for a replacement. There are, in my view, slightly more exacting requirements for a coat than for cushions. Its fabric’s colour and pattern must suit you. Its neckline must be flattering. For me, it should be slim-line and naturally minimalist. It’s buttons must be an appropriate size, shape and colour It must be a style and colour that is suitable.

John goes to Wickes for some DIY tools in Burgess Hill. I elect to go into Miss Mabel’s, a medium sized emporium which has many small sections selling an eccentric collection of stuff.

And there is The Coat. It hangs on a hook, calling to me softly. Beside me in the cafe section, there is tea, fragrant, piping hot in a pretty delicate Chinese patterned cup which doesn’t match. There are gluten free scones – not as good as an exacting scone-maker would prescribe but tasty enough, and I wonder briefly if I should have some first. But I know from experience that in this kind of shopping you have to focus on what you want, and if you see something you want, buy it at once. This is no time for dithering. I go straight to the coat. It is in cool shades of black, white, beige and grey. It is in a style that suits me – straight up and down, no visible pockets or belt. I try it on. It fits. It is very light, warm and comfortable. It is well within my budget and I think, I’ll have it.

(NB No ocelots were harmed during the making of this coat or this story; except perhaps that it reinforces the idea of fur being acceptable to wear, though both of these coats were of course artificial. )


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.


As a Scot and a Brit, you’d expect me to like ‘weather’ – and I do. In Scotland, there is nearly always a wind blowing, which can vary from a light zephyr that just stirs the leaves, to a ferocious gale that whips the trees round in great circles. When we left Scotland, I kept wondering what I was missing until I figured out it was the sound of the wind. I used to love when we would be out on bicycle in Banffshire and would leave our bikes in the ditch and venture into a pine wood and sit there to eat our lunch, surrounded by the lovely pine scent, and the creaking of the trees as they were buffeted by the wind.

I like rain. There’s the refreshing smell when a shower falls on a parched and thirsty landscape – of dust and heat and then a green refreshment (all the lovelier because the necessary hot dry spell first is rare where I come from). There’s the washed clean feel of the landscape after rain. There’s the strange exhilaration when you’ve been caught in a downpour and you’re soaked to the skin, so you can’t possibly get any wetter, and you feel as if you’ve been set free. There are the beautiful rainbows that come after rain, sometimes doublers with strange light, that make you remember the scripture: ‘And I will set my bow in the clouds, and make an everlasting covenant with thee…’

I like mist and fog. The East Cast ‘haar’ – a cold, thick, grey fog that can linger all day – is not very pleasant, but the thin layer of cloud that will descend over a mountain can be like a bridal veil, concealing the treasures within. What had been a prosaic view becomes shadowy and mysterious -possibly slightly sinister, when previously its mood had been quite different.

I like snow. I love how when you look up into the dancing flakes you feel slightly drunk and disoriented. How silence falls swiftly, and the world is transformed into somewhere else, white, magical and beautiful.

I don’t like heat that makes entering a sunlit room feel like going into an oven. How you lie at night in a slick of sweat unable to breathe and how doing anything at all feels like far too much effort.

If you went out for a walk, and you sat down in the lea of a gorse bush so that you are sheltered from the wind, but the sun still shone on you and it was warm enough there that you thought: Maybe I should take my cardigan off – but decided against it – that’s the kind of warm day I like!


We woke this morning to a Towering Inferno incident where a high rise, heavily populated tower block in Notting Hill burned swiftly and fiercely. It is obvious that there will be heart rending tales of families trapped and dying on the upper floors, Somehow it seems to reflect our country’s present misfortunes. We watch while we burn but cannot help ourselves, except to salvage what we can and comfort one another.

Once again we were abroad when the General Election results were being called and listening to the outcome on our phones and laptops.

Looking at the mess and shambles left by the General Election, I wonder why political strategists (and politicians) get matters so horribly wrong. You would think they would understand the mindset of the public – it’s their profession to do so.

Firstly, one felt mild irritation that a General Election was called at all when the Prime Minister had said repeatedly that she would NOT call one. But, the British electorate being tolerant and reasonable, once it is called we resolve to play our part, to listen and decide.

Theresa May then takes that goodwill which she has been enjoying, which is extended to every in coming Prime Minister, and proceeds to throw it away more decisively and rapidly than I have seen any Prime Minister so far. She is arrogant and condescending. She employs the christian names of interviewers as if they were an unsatisfactory pupil and she the head-mistress. She does not bother to explain her Brexit strategy to us – we are too stupid to be involved in such weighty matters and we should be content to let her decide on our behalf. Indeed she does not seem to feel there is much need to persuade us, and on the Debate night, she does not deign to turn up. All she says is – repeated ad nauseum – that we have to choose between herself with strong and stable government, and Jeremy Corbyn, whom she rubbishes incessantly. Here is where I wonder about the intellectual capacity of her advisors. To my knowledge, whenever any politician has addressed the country saying, Who would you rather have running the country, Me or – (in Heath’s case The Miners), we have responded either by choosing the other party, or at the very least by stating, Not You. Also the British genuinely desire justice and fair play, and they do NOT like negative campaigning.

As for Corbyn, I found myself obliged to vote for him. I do not believe this election was about Brexit, the economy etc. I think in the end it came down to the moral stature of the candidates. Jeremy Corbyn had been threatened and humiliated by the Labour party’s disgraceful behaviour. Who did they think they were, to reject a leader who had been lawfully elected? Corbyn did not abandon his post; he did not give in to despair; he endured the isolation and rejection. He never lost his temper. He spoke his truth sincerely and I didn’t take exception to anything he said. In spite of the many nasty (and untrue) things she said about him, Jeremy Corbyn did not make any personal attacks on Theresa May. I am doubtful whether Corbyn would make a successful prime minister (though he is certainly more fit than those who opposed him.) It is quite likely that his policies would not be in my best interests. Yet I gave him my vote and could not in all consciousness have done anything else. It must have been a great comfort to him that in the latter part of the election every time he came out to speak, vast crowds had come to hear him.

As for personal integrity (or lack of same) consider George Osbourne. He was so ungentlemanly as to kick Theresa May when she was down and wounded; and he betrayed his party for a newspaper headline. We knew he was a shit; but we did not know to the full extent the kind of shit he actually was.

Theresa May does not appear to have learnt anything since the election. She only apologised to Tory MPs who have lost their seats when forced to, and she appears to see no necessity for apologising to us, for wasting our time and money on what was just a vanity and for being over taken up with her own image. As for going to bed with the DUP – that’s a dangerous game to play. She has returned Gove to her cabinet. Has she actually looked at him recently?

But I do not know why I am surprised that Theresa May has not exhibited more taste and judgement. This woman first came to our attention by wearing leopard skin shoes!