Monday, 21 November 2011

Windows and Wallflowers


   I have been off dissecting accordions with a group of old gentlemen and strolling the back lanes in the dark.  I have sold raffle tickets (and won a mouth harp!), and drunk free whisky that made my arms go numb at an art show I contributed a couple of things to.  I have been practising old tunes on the concertina around sunset these days.  I have spent some lovely evenings in the homes of people who have thrown open their doors to me.  In short, I think the anxious blues of the past months have been chased away, and we are settling into another winter.  Now that absolutely all of our plans have fallen through, I can safely say that we are staying here in Aberdeen for a little while yet.  I think it will be lovely.   

Two very, very late or very, very early crocuses from the other day.

We will be heading down to Edinburgh later on this week, so I thought I'd share an old photo of some stained glass windows there that I always enjoy looking at when they are lit up at night.  The whole matter of "nobody watching" is a little bit funny with all the crazy surveillance in the UK.  But it does make me think of my grandparents and the strange joy they seemed to derive from keeping tabs on the neighbours. 

"My mother knew everybody in this street.  She could reel off the occupants of every single house; everybody could once upon a time.  Now they come and they go.  That's why these tragedies happen; nobody watching.  If they knew they were being watched they might behave." (Click to enlarge)

Update:  I'm back from Edinburgh with more info about the image above. The window displays are still in place, though they weren't lit up when I passed by the other night.  On further, closer inspection it appears that they are not stained glass windows, but skillfully done papercuts with coloured tissue paper added.  I was also able to find out that the artist is Astrid Jaekel and she has done other delightful installations like this one, which can be seen on her website.


  1. Dissecting accordions?!
    Tell me more! :) ...

  2. What wonderful windows. A concertina? An admirable use of those long winter evenings. Your plans fell through because fate has something totally better in store for you. Believe.

  3. It sounds like your winter will be wonderful.

    I love those windows. Do you know the name of the street they're on? I visit my sister in Edinburgh every few months and I'd love to go and find them.

  4. Rima,
    A week or so ago I was helping out at a "button box and moothie (harmonica)" festival in town here. As part of that, a man who fixes and restores accordions was teaching a few interested people about accordion repair. Since concertinas work in pretty much the same way as accordions (and some less expensive concertinas, like mine, even have accordion reeds inside) I went along. I have a bad reed that's been trouble for a while now, but I've been too afraid to open up the instrument and mess around inside. It was great fun peeking into really old boxes, but I still think I wouldn't mess around with them too much!

    Yeah... I started playing a while ago now, but sort of gave it up for a little while when we were living in Paris. Somehow people here found out about that and got on my case, so now I'm trying to remember, relearn, and then improve! Let's hope there are good things in store for all of us.

    The windows are on Victoria Street, right near George IV Bridge (where the National Library of Scotland is)... so they're very central. I know they've definitely been there since the spring, but I'm not sure if they were there before that I and just didn't notice them because I only passed them during the day or if they are new. I hope you get to see them soon, they are lots of fun.

  5. oooh, i want to know more about these accordions!! i still have done nothing about that fascination... photos?

    beautiful post, and i'm glad you're glad to stay in aberdeen. it's been lovely discovering it here. and i love those windows! maybe it's the idea of people who really care what you're doing and will get super-involved.
    ...we're always 'watched' in some sense, yes...but i always imagine the guys behind the cameras are really checking their facebook pages :D

  6. It's good to read you stay there, because I've always seen you're happy and inspired there.

  7. I'm happy to hear that you are feeling more settled. About the crocus: we do have autumn crocuses as well as spring ones. I think they are a different variety, but it is normal for them to flower at this time of year. It always seems a bit weird to me too, though!

  8. It's good to know, whether staying or going. Now you can settle into what pleases you to do again. I hope that wonderful plans will emerge and ripen, now that others have failed. Margaret Lambert

  9. Zoe, sorry I left my camera at home that day. Accordions are crazy though, all you have to do is pull out the 4 bellows pins and the bellows just fall off and you are inside! My concertina, on the other hand, has 12 screws holding the bellows onto the ends.
    Reeds seem very logical, and you can tune them by scraping away at them to make them lighter so they sound higher, or add weight on to them to make them heavier which gives a lower sound. Still, I doubt that I'd ever start down that path myself, because I think once you change one reed you might end up having to change all of them. I could be like when you give yourself a haircut and too much evening out of things becomes a drastic new look instead of the trim you were hoping for.

    Barbara, yes I think it will be good. And now that I'm ready for them, the super short winter days won't be such a shock this year either!

    Dancing, thanks for letting me know about the crocuses... you learn something new everyday I guess! It's good to know too; I felt sort of sorry for the poor confused little flowers.

    Thanks for the good wishes Margaret. It's true that I am feeling a lot better these days... it was terrible not knowing!