Thursday, March 25, 2010

The 'New' VW Beetle

My sister has lent me her car to use while I am here in Dollar. It is a VW Beetle, one of the new Beetles which, having been launched in 1999 and revamped in 1995, are hardly 'new' any more. I could never understand, back in the 1970s, how the original Beetle earned such a cult following. Sluggish, noisy, fuel inefficent and quite a handful to drive when sidewinds prevailed, the rear-engined Beetles seemed to me to have little to commend them. The beetle I have been driving for the past month is something very different; it is a delight to drive and, apart from something vagely familiar about its lines, has no obvious relationship to its ancestor. It is amazingly well balanced and light to drive and, for a car of its size and purpose, has more than adequate performance. It is also a very comfortable car with exellent all round vision. I shall miss this car when I leave here.

Mother II

Yesterday morning I made a visit to Ashley House Care Home to visit my mother. My sister and I have been concerned that too much visiting at this early stage might not help mother to settle into her new home so yesterday's visit was my first since last Friday. Mum was much calmer than she had been during my last visit but seemed very weary. She lay almost corpse like on her bed with closed eyes deeply sunk into darkened sockets but she roused herself well enough to shuffle along to the dining room for lunch. She was quite unaware that I had not visited since Friday or that my sister, who had visited on Sunday, had visited at all. To know that many people are ending their lives in this way disturbs me; to see my own mother in this condition is particularly distressing. I think I know what would make her happy but can do nothing to give it to her. I believe she dreams of going home to a place, filled with long dead friends and family, somewhere between where she lived with her parents and siblings and the place in which she lived with our father when my sister and I were children.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Menstrie, the second of the 'Hillfoots' villages along the road from Stirling to Perth, is dominated today by a huge whisky plant, acres of bonded warehouses and regimented rows of barrack like housing. There is little at Menstrie to encourage a visitor to linger but the village is not entirely devoid of attractions, first among which is the stunning scenic walking to be had in the hills to the north of the town. I spent this afternoon strolling paths following the west side of Menstrie glen to the Lossburn Reservoir, 900' above the village. From there I descended on paths to the east of Menstrie Burn. On the slopes a number of ruined buildings and clearly visible remains of long forgotten fields and their boundaries are evidence of comparatively intensive mixed farming having been practised there in the past. By the mid 18th century there were about 22 farms being worked along the glen but thereafter the farms were enclosed and the land returned to sheep grazing.
The paths were good as were the footbridges over several tributary burns that cascade down the hillside into Menstrie burn. There were spectacular views to the south, over the Forth valley towards the Kincardine and, in the far distance, the Forth bridges.
Late 16th century Menstrie Castle, (A large house rather than a castle.) birthplace of Sir William Alexander, founder of Nova Scotia, is another of Menstrie's attractions.