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What do 12 magpies stand for?

Our garden gets a funny mix of birds.  Being not too far from the coast, seagulls are fairly frequent visitors.  The area also has quite a lot of mature trees, so we hear wood pigeons too.  Probably the most noticeable are the magpies, which strut up and down the garden regularly.

You may have come across the nursery rhyme about counting blackbirds in a tree.  The rhyme only goes up to 7, in the version I know, but we’ve regularly seen more than this in one tree.  Our top number was 12…Let us know if you can think up a category for that.

Walks around North Edinburgh

The classic walk option, for us, when you want some access to the sea, is to head down to Granton Harbour. You can walk along the beach, when the tide is down.

However, there is also a sea wall which goes out about half a mile, in an L-shape, and it’s great to get out closer to the sea. The best situation is when the wind is in the right direction, and you get a whiff of seaweed too…perfect for pretending you are on holiday.

Although we used to live just up the road from the Botanic Gardens and Inverleith Park, we can still get to either easily now. The park is a great place from which to watch fireworks, as you get clear views of the Edinburgh skyline. We tend to see more of the park, as it’s open for longer hours than the gardens, but both are good to visit.

There are also lots of cycle paths in the north of Edinburgh. At the start of September this year, we picked a bumper crop of brambles (blackberries to those down south), within half a mile of our flat. It’s possible to walk through much of Edinburgh along these paths.

When Dan and I were still at the ‘just good friends’ stage, we used to walk between our flats through the Grange area of south Edinburgh. North Edinburgh offers Trinity instead, with some of the beautiful houses also having sea views.

Walking around the area of Boswall, also not far away, we can pass under an avenue of trees at the right times of year. We also see urban foxes from time to time. Some months back, returning home quite late, Dan even saw a badger crossing one of the main roads. Not exactly out in the countryside here, but good not to feel it’s too far away.

Urban Foxes and more

Seeing JK Rowling in a cafe…

At least, we think so…Having lunch in a cafe near the University of Edinburgh, on our wedding anniversary back in June, we saw someone writing who looked very like JK Rowling.  When I looked across, she hid behind her hair a bit more.

Given that the final Harry Potter is awaited by lots of people round the world, it would have been rude to interrupt…On the positive side, it seemed nice that someone who started her writing career by writing in cafes is still continuing this.

Edinburgh has been given the title of UNESCO City of Literature in the last couple of years.  We’ve not tried tailing other Edinburgh authors such as Ian Rankin or Alexander McCall Smith, but there’s plenty of good writing going on here.

Our first live rugby international

After a long time of going past the Murrayfield stadium on the train, finally got to see inside…We went to watch Scotland v Australia yesterday, with my mum and dad.  My brother is a rugby teacher, so Dad went to LOTS of matches with him in earlier stages.  Dan and I are no way as knowledgeable, but it seemed a good option for a day out together.

Pipers at Murrayfield

They said that the crowd was the biggest ever for a Scotland – Australia match: over 62000! We could certainly see almost all the seats filled.  The section before the match included a pipe band, anthems etc.  When the Scottish team ran onto the pitch, they let off fireworks at each end (a subtle purple).  They also had black boxes on wheels that blew flames at this point.

Best part of the match: seeing a try scored right at our end in the first 10 minutes.  Seeing Australia win by over 20 points was less good, but it was still a good match to watch.  The crowd was also quite entertaining: at one point, 4 Father Christmases came up the stairs nearest us.  Later on after the interval, only 2 returned…was it something in the pies?

Thankfully we had dry weather all match, and came home to a big pot of stew all ready for us.  It’s not so much the winning as the taking part in eating.

Scotland vs Australia at Murrayfield

Chicken in a school…

Spending time with our friends R and D in Italy is also an opportunity to catch up with their kids’ special phrases.  Their youngest, T (now 2), is fully conversant with Thomas the Tank Engine stories, and these are the phrases we came back with from our October visit this year:

1) “Chicken in a school…” For use when sounding a note of caution.  (Thomas the Tank Engine gets his deliveries wrong one day: the children are delivered to the farm, the chickens to the school etc.) Particularly useful for when grownups are continuing to talk for far too long at the dinner table, and you wish to gain attention.

2) “James happy again!”  When you want to bring a happy ending to a situation.  This is T’s own invention.  It mostly relates to the character James the red engine in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories.  Given that Dan also has a colleague, James, there is potential for expanding its use, particularly if bringing James hot chocolate.

3) “Cinders and ashes!” cried Thomas.  When words fail, it’s good to know that Thomas the Tank Engine has given us an acceptable way out for expressing strong emotion.

4) “What’s that?” (repeat at 10 second intervals) Mainly used when reading a book together.  T knows full well what it is: Thomas a Train, Bertie a Bus, Terence a Tractor etc.  But you volunteered to read to him, after all – he has to let you feel included.

We’ll probably need to devote a separate post to all those great phrases we’ve picked up on previous visits – and from other kids we’ve met.  But at least you can speak fluent Thomas the Tank Engine after reading this.