Friday, 31 December 2010

Hope it's a good one

Happy New Year! Here's hoping it's going to be a good one.

Luckily mine doesn't start until my birthday, so for me tonight isn't as special as it is for others, which is just as well as I managed to put my back out yesterday and am still in quite a bit of pain today. I don't even know how I did it as I was packing my bag to go to Edinburgh for the night and when I stood up, that was it. I think I've trapped a nerve, but quite frankly I don't care what it is I just want it to go away, so at least I have a couple of weeks for it to mend before my true New Year begins.

We had good fun at Shirley and Andy's last night, tho I think the painkillers and the wine didn't mix terribly well and I ended up on every losing team when we were playing Team Trivial Pursuit. Funnily enough I could answer most other people's questions but when it came to mine... blank! Anyway such a good time was had that we are going to have a return match in a few days time, which we're greatly looking forward to.

So folks, enjoy yourselves tonight - or about now for those of you who are in Australia and will just about have had it, and this afternoon for those in Bangkok, this evening for those in South Africa, and early tomorrow morning for those in New York... etc etc

Happy 2011 everyone!

Monday, 27 December 2010

And that's that.

Everyone departed today. Sadly because it snowed last night and this morning, my boys decided that it would be best for them to go too and not to chance the bus but take the train. So my Beloved took everyone off to Berwick station. My mother to go south to London and the boys to go north to Edinburgh. The house is awfully quiet already.

Anyway, I survived!

It was the first visit from my mother for 11 years, and the first xmas visit ever I think. It's one I've pretty much avoided as when I was a child my xmases were awful and punctuated by bad moods and arguments. Still she's 87 and so I thought it would be good to have her here, but of course as she comes from London there'd be no way she could come for the day, so 4 days it was.

I did a lot of disappearing into the kitchen to cook (sometimes it was a bit more Gordon than Nigella) - I noticed No. 2 son accompanied me quite a bit, while my Beloved seemed to have had a lot of work on his computer to do and No. 1 son could be found doing quite a lot of reading. But the Wii was a godsend. She'd never played one before, and apart from one disastrous moment when she smacked her hand off one of our wooden posts in a moment of competitive madness, she absolutely loved it. She also loved the board games and card games we played. And of course the wine helped! She declared it the best Christmas ever and is determined to do it again! Next year it's my brother's turn. Phew!

I'm sad to see the boys go. I felt because my mother was here I never got the chance to spend as much time with them as I would've liked, but never mind. It was lovely to see them, and even though it was more stressful than usual, I think they had fun. They certainly helped me through it all.

So now my Beloved and I are on our own. Only for a day tho as we have friends coming tomorrow night and then we're off to Shirley and Andy's for our annual get together, which we're greatly looking forward to.

But for the rest of today... it's time out. Films to watch, food to eat, wine to be consumed... sounds like Xmas to me!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Arrivals

My boys arrived the other night and it was lovely to have them here. The Xmas games began, though we were all so shattered that the only one we could be bothered with was Whot!

Then we woke up yesterday to even more snow, which I thought might impede my mother's journey north, but no... she phoned to say she was on the train, and as soon as we had that information I went into cleaning overdrive, which proved fatal for the Dyson which collapsed under the pressure and will have to get fixed sometime after the holidays. Thank goodness I have an old Henry.

No. 2 son and I made canapes (which were excellent), while my Beloved and No. 1 son went off to Berwick to pick my mother up. Luckily she was in a good mood when she arrived, but I decided to drink copious quantities of wine just in case her mood changed later.

And so this morning I woke up, slightly worse for wear, and scared in case I have to resort to the same strategy tonight. I'm not sure xmas in a drunken haze is such a great idea.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Old dog, new trick

Well ok, not quite a trick, but after almost 12 years with us our dog, Nell, has acquired a totally new habit and we don't know why.

Nell has always had the strongest of bladders. So much so that it has been a talking point whenever she goes to stay with folk. She has a walk anywhere from 4 - 6 pm and then she has her food and settles down for the evening. Prior to bed around 10 pm she wants her biscuits and then she goes to bed.

Nell was a rescued dog and although 6 months old when she first came to us, we had to house train her, which actually didn't take very long. And for a while we used to open the back door for her to go out last thing. She would take a look out, turn round and come back in as if to say, 'Very nice out there, not sure why you want me to look, but never mind I've done it now, so please can I go to bed.' (Yes, alright I know, lots of anthropomorphising going on!) and never actually go out. So we stopped doing it.

Anyway, last week when I was staying overnight in Edinburgh, my Beloved phoned me to tell me Nell had been staring at the back door after she'd had her biscuits, so he opened it and she went out and had a wee. She then stopped, but has started again this week and has demanded the same every night.

I'm wondering if it's her age, or if it's the cold. No matter, we shall now have to alter our well trodden night time routine and remember to let her out. This might well prove quite hard for us, creatures of habit that we are.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sad news

I heard yesterday that Captain Beefheart died on the 17th December. I have very fond memories of listening to his LP Safe as Milk way back when, and I'm pleased to say I still have my copy albeit a bit on the scratched side. Still it'll be one to transfer from vinyl to my computer. Tracks like 'Sure 'Nuff 'n Yes I Do' and 'Abba Zaba' conjure up some of the crazier things I did in the late 60's. I'd better keep those to myself!

And the snow is back. Drew back the blinds on the velux windows this morning to be greeted by the white stuff completely covering them and so now we're back in the snow bolt hole. Approx an inch and a half so far, so nothing like a couple of weeks ago. But snow is snow and I'm fed up with it. Apparently it's worse in Edinburgh and I'm supposed to head there tomorrow for the work xmas party ... or maybe not. And even worse No. 2 son is supposed to be coming up from Bristol today for his xmas break. He's booked on EasyJet so who knows. Nothing anyone can do about it, but keep fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Police update

I had a phone call from the police re the London incident. They asked me if I wanted to press charges as the guy who'd been spat and rammed by the taxi decided he didn't want to. I have to say I wasn't at all surprised by this, as the poor guy couldn't speak very good English and going to court would have been difficult for him.

My decision was not to go to court. But I also asked that the authorities (taxi ones that is) give the taxi driver a warning. I hope I've done the right thing and the taxi driver never behaves like he did again.

But of course having made the decision I'm now beset with worries that it was the right decision. I know I did the right thing in helping the Turkish guy in the first place, and also that I called the police and reported the incident. But it's difficult to know that decisions are the right ones. But it's made now. Done and dusted.

The only thing I won't do is get into a taxi with the license plate T 273 AGH, and I advise you all to do the same.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's only taken me 9 years

Ok... what's going on? My iPhone wasn't working and then yesterday it suddenly kicked in and started again, downloading emails by the hundred. I did what any self respecting gadget queen would do and looked it up on the web. I came across an MA research paper entitled 'Disruptive effects of electromagnetic interference on communication and electronic systems.' I thought it would give me answers.

Essentially the summary is this, and I quote:  

"As the reliance on wireless data networks and transmission systems increases to include more critical systems, unintentional and intentional interference have the ability to disrupt these systems and cause temporary or permanent failures, which have the ability to cause catastrophic results due to the unavailability of these wireless data links and the information which they carry. The most effective protection against these types of disruptions is to conduct susceptibility assessments and provide measures of protection against known interference sources at the data link design phase and attempt to protect against currently unknown or unanticipated interference sources using measures employed after system deployment."

So effectively, we know that the more we use our phones, we can get disruption from unintentional and intentional sources. And we need protection. Mmmm no flaw in the argument. Only problem is I could have told you that. For once in my life I actually realise the work I did for my Doctorate was actually ok and at least I came out with some interesting research that said something new. And it's only taken me 9 years to realise it. So thank you to my iPhone for not working for a couple of days... I'm still none the wiser as to why, but at least I have a sense of pride!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Fun and games in London

I'm now back from London. An interesting time was had.

First of all my iPhone decided not to get emails and in spite of the helpful guy at the other end of the phone, when you're trying to press buttons and listen at the same time, it just doesn't work. Now I have to take it back to the shop... any shop apparently, iPhone, O2, whatever and it will be dealt with. Hopefully!

Then I was involved in an incident in Oxford Street. Well not me personally, but a poor Turkish trishaw rider who was spat at by a taxi driver, before said driver smashed into the trishaw and sped off in the opposite direction. Racial abuse was involved too. No-one even blinked, let alone went to help, except me. The poor guy had only been in the country 3 weeks, didn't speak incredibly good English and he was pretty shaken up by it all. I phoned the police and waited almost 40 minutes for them to turn up.

What happened was the taxi driver was having a barney with a different trishaw rider who was black. The trishaw rider rode off with the taxi driver shouting abuse at him, then the Turkish guy is riding past minding his own business, when the taxi driver leaned out of his window and spat. This trishaw rider got off to see what was going on, and the taxi driver went for his trishaw. I watched the whole thing, including getting the taxi's reg number. I had to relate my story to this incredibly young cop, including the immortal lines, 'Fucking black cunt' which was what the taxi driver shouted. Apparently the police were more interested in the racial abuse and the spitting, and not the driving into the trishaw, which I have to admit was remarkably robust and hardly had a mark on it. Now I wait to see if I'm needed to give my version again. Might be quite amusing to have to say in court, 'Yes, m'lud, he called him a fucking black cunt.' Time will tell.

Apart from all that, it was party time. My first Xmas party of the season and with plenty more to come. I'm now pleased to be back at home before it starts to snow again. I didn't fancy getting stuck in London. 48 hours with my Mum was more than enough for me. It was a practice for when she comes up for Xmas for a whole 4 days!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ageing fast

Today I was sick, and I feel ancient. Two weeks ago someone commented that they thought I was 45, which was very complimentary. On Wednesday I went to my OU group, and the conversation turned to age. A lot of this is because we are quite diverse age-wise, with the youngest being 26 and the oldest being me. Anyway, they thought I was 52. Not quite so complimentary. So I'm really pleased no one has seen me today as I think I look about 70.
Amazing, that means that I have gained 25 years in the space of two weeks. This doesn't bode well for the xmas parties, as old lady clothes are really not my thing.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

All done

Being stuck in Edinburgh has had it's payoffs.

First of all I spent some very productive hours writing the first draft of my next assignment for my OU course. Then I posted it onto the student forum for some feedback, which duly came and was redone. Then more feedback, so was done again, and then redone again, and so now is in its fourth draft and awaiting more feedback. Luckily this doesn't have to be in for a few weeks (we get a week off for xmas) and so will have plenty more time for more rewrites.

Then I decided to go xmas shopping, and now feel much more confident that xmas will be happening in our house as I've now got presents for everyone. This includes my mother, who is the woman who has everything, so it was a huge relief to have found something for her. Not terribly inspirational, but definitely useful. And of course they came from M&S so she can take them back if she doesn't like them. Or knowing her I'll probably get them back next year when she looks through her drawer and picks something she's been given to give to me! She does tend to do this and as I'm a size or so smaller than her, which renders her present giving a little redundant. Still I think the local Charity shop has done rather well over the years.

I also had a leisurely get up this morning for the meeting I needed to be at, so that was great. A good meeting too, and I felt nice and relaxed.

And finally, tonight is another OU meeting across town, which I am going to. I certainly wouldn't have bothered to come up from the Borders but being in Edinburgh means that it's no problem at all.

So all in all a pretty good week.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Hooray for No. 1 son

A few weeks back I ordered a chair for the Edinburgh house. I was phoned yesterday to say that delivery would be today. All fine and good I thought.

And when I got up this morning we had bright weather, no problems at all, so a quick check on the internet and the roads to Edinburgh all seemed clear. So I decided to head off early just in case the delivery was in the morning... yes it was one of those cheap stores that tell you the day, but don't give you a time and you're expected to wait in all day for them to arrive.

I got half way when it was white out conditions. What to do? Turn back or keep going? I decided, and yes, I admit it was pretty stupid to continue, but continue I did. The Edinburgh by-pass was appalling and it got worse from there on in. My usual approx 45 minute journey took over and hour and a half. I felt truly sorry though for those going in the opposite direction as a bus had broken down and there was a queue of cars going back about a mile. At least my side of the road was slow but clear.

The worst bit was actually turning into the mews where the house is. I skidded and swerved but my trusty Honda got me there and almost completely into the parking space. I felt blessed I'd got there in one piece.

I only had to wait 3 hours and my chair turned up. The delivery guys said it was only the second delivery they'd been able to do all day. I really felt for them. However, my chair is great. Huge, squashy and comfortable. It's the kind of chair I can curl up in and I've already decided it's going to be my reading chair. I'm so pleased with it.

Because the whole mews was completely covered in snow and ice, I spent a very active afternoon digging the snow out and trying to make it a bit easier for everyone. Several mews people came out and helped, and we got quite a bit done, but because my No. 1 son is regarded as the snow shoveller supreme I tried to get him to come and help, but he wasn't answering his phone. He was left a message.

When I'd given in because my back was getting a bit sore, and the others were starting to give up, No. 1 son turned up for his stint at shovelling snow. He was a real trouper and, in spite of being left on his own as everyone left him to it, he stayed on and did most of the mews on his own.

What a hero! So consequently he was allowed to be the first visitor to try my new chair. Not sure he appreciated it, but at least I tried.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

It's Saturday again

We managed it! Got to Edinburgh, with the only bit that was a trial was from our house to the main road. Once we'd negotiated that it was black stuff all the way. And it was so worth it. The food was amazing and, because others had had to cry off due to illness, it meant that N didn't need to spend her birthday night all on her own.

One strange thing was that the police station almost opposite the house was cordoned off with a message that said the building was dangerous... I wonder what that could mean? Any more dangerous than any other police station? The building going on the attack? The police inside going bananas over stupid phone calls? Apparently one woman had phoned them up to say thieves had stolen her snowman. She'd put coins in for eyes, and was ranting that it just wasn't on and what were the police going to do about it. Some people really are that stupid!

Anyway, we got home this morning and managed to dig out my car, which was under several feet of snow, and get it moved before the snow from the roof fell on it. If that had happened I don't know when I'd have seen it again. Then luckily a farming neighbour decided to help so his tractor cleared all the snow from the pavement in front of our house and carted it off somewhere. What a hero.

I'm now heading for a hot bath, then getting into my all in one warm suit and sitting, with a glass of wine firmly in hand, ready for the weekly telly fest that is Saturday night.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Big city here we come... well maybe

Today is my friend N's birthday and, after planning this a few weeks ago, we were looking forward to going to Edinburgh this evening for a fun filled jaunt to Sweet Melinda's for our dinner. Because the forecast said no more snow today we felt so positive that I phoned N to tell her in spite of our recent incarceration chez nous, we're going to be there.

We were further encouraged this morning by a Borders snow plough, which had been directed to our village to clear snow from the road and make things a whole lot easier for us, and the guys on board had said something along the lines of once having cleared to the school and up the west end of the village they'd be heading in our direction. They'd ring the bell when they wanted us to move our cars. I did think this was a little ambitious as, in spite of a good hour trying to dig my car out yesterday, it still remains in its snow tomb and moving it looks like an impossible task.

I needn't have worried. They gave up clearing the snow once they'd got to the school and headed off for the bright lights of Earlston. So my car is definitely not going anywhere.

And, guess what? It has just started to snow again. I should've reckoned on that once I'd heard the forecast this morning say 'definitely no more snow' - that was a recipe for it to chuck it down; added to which, Kevin, our next door neighbour's roofing son, came over to clear some of the snow off the roof for us, in the hope that we won't get a leak when the snow eventually melts. I cannot help but feel that this must've been a red rag to the Snow God, who is now getting his/her own back.

So all we can do is wait and see. Decisions will be made at 4 pm.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Out and about

Today I had a taste of freedom, as my Beloved wasn't required for Borders Search and Rescue duty and was able to ferry me to Galashiels for shopping duty. I usually hate shopping, but it was such a relief to get out of the village and out and about that I felt like a small child having a day off school.

The road to Gala was mainly full of 4 x 4's trundling their way and very few ordinary cars. Asda car park was just about ok, but when we decided to call by M&S for a treat for our lunch, it was awful and only parkable with 4 wheel capacity.

My short lived sense of freedom was exactly that, short lived.

Although the way there wasn't too bad, as there were a few snow flurries but bright sunshine, on the way back it was white out in places. So sadly I was rather relieved to get back home to my nice warm house and it looks like I'm not going anywhere for the next 24 hours at least.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Stuck at home

Today we are snowed in, and as you can see from this photo my car is completely buried and I've given in. Even if I could get it out, the road is closed so I'm going nowhere.


I've cancelled my meeting in Edinburgh and am spending the day in what feels like a snowhole. That's one of the joys of living in a house where the upstairs windows are all velux. All I can look forward to it seems is, according to the weather forecast, a week or two of enforced hibernation. A bit boring if you ask me. Even my hairdresser, who lives almost opposite and was supposed to come over about 8 pm tomorrow, has just phoned as she's bored stiff and looking for something to do, so I think the whole village will be having their hair cut this afternoon.

I've started measuring how much snow we have by the amount on the garden table, which as you can see is doing pretty well and it's still snowing.


Still I'm wrapped up warm, with my man and my dog for company, so best not complain too much.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Phew!

Given that we now have approx 12 inches of snow to contend with I'm really pleased that I'm not due to play bowls in Hawick, which would have meant an hour's drive (at least) in dreadful conditions. A lucky escape I think.

I've also had to cancel tomorrow when I was off to a workshop at Samye Ling. The treacherous conditions and the fact that my little car reacts rather like a snowboard whenever we have snow and ice, and my predisposition to wanting to stay alive and not have the excitement of a drive on a skating rink, means it's a non-starter. I would have borrowed my Beloved's 4 wheel truck but he's off on a Borders Search and Rescue training for the weekend and because of aforementioned reasons decided a car swap was not in his best interests.

We were also due to have friends to stay tonight, but I haven't heard from them and doubt whether they will now make it, so that's a bit of a downer. On the bright side means that I don't have to spend the afternoon cooking, which is a bit of a relief as we don't have a whole lot of food in and venturing to the shops is not on my current agenda.

So it looks like I'm stuck at home with the dog having a quiet weekend. At least we're warm and cosy.

Bowling update
I did pretty well yesterday and although we lost the first game, we came out with a draw on the second game which was totally down to my last bowl. On the strength of that I was asked if I wanted to join in with the women's league. I said I'd think about it.

Coffee plant update
The scrawny one is still alive, but only just. I'm wondering if, because they are so sensitive, any change in temperature just goes for them, especially if they're weak to start with. Probably rather like a person with a weak immune system, once they start to feel poorly it's hard to get over it.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Spooky or what?

About a couple of hours after posting yesterday I got a message to say that I'm not needed for the competition in Hawick on the weekend. The reason given was something about not having enough teams and so they've cut down on entries and the team I was in has been scratched.

Yeh, some excuse. I think they read my blog and decided they didn't want an outsider, with stickers on her bowls to prove it, who is playing in third position on Friday wandering into the Hawick club and perchance picking up their trophy. That would definitely put the cat among the pigeons so to speak. Or in my dreams might be more appropriate!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A member of the club

Today I went for practice for bowls at Tweedbank Indoor Stadium, where I've become a member. I've actually played there twice before, once a practice session on my own, and the second one I joined in what's called a Hat game, where everyone just gets allotted a team and position on the day. Prior to this I played in Inverness Indoor probably about 8 times in all and that was some years ago.

The Hat game I was in I did ok, in fact after about an hour I was beginning to get the hang of it and the consequence of that was that when I signed up for a competition on this coming Friday, I was put in at 3rd, which is the position for experienced folk! The woman who did this dastardly deed said they all thought I'd played loads from my performance at the Hat. Yeh right... I think they just want a fall guy.

Anyway, I thought I'd better get in a bit of practice and so because I had an hour to spare today I went of to Tweedbank to give it a go. To my horror there was a Scottish game going on and there was only one rink left at the end. The guy who's in charge told me to go and play with no problem in spite of my telling him my prevalence for delivering my bowl on the wrong bias. He just laughed. Well not for long!

Within five minutes I'd had to go and retrieve my bowl a couple of times, so he came and gave me club stickers, so now I'm officially a member of Tweedbank Indoor Bowls Club and have the bowls to prove it.

The only problem is that I'm due to play in a competition in Hawick on Saturday, as one of the Gordon people was short a team player and he's a member of Hawick Indoor Bowls, so I've been allotted honorary Hawicker membership. I'm not sure he'll look very kindly at my new allegiance and my bowls might have to be stripped of their new resplendent red stickers pretty damn quick!

Monday, 22 November 2010

So nice to be right

About 5 years ago there was a really interesting programme on telly at Xmas, it was all about traffic flow, and showed how one person braking first thing in the morning could cause a hold up later in the day. It was absolutely fascinating.

Well my contention is that one policeman can cause complete havoc by trying to help.

Have you ever noticed that when you're caught in a traffic jam, as long as it's not on a motorway, is very often caused by someone directing the traffic? Well today pretty much proved my theory when an accident happened almost right outside our house.

Of course I missed the whole thing and was only alerted to it when my Beloved came home after an afternoon of food shopping to say, 'Didn't you hear it?' Sadly the answer was no. Not sure if this was because I was at the back of the house or that I'm getting even deafer than I already know I am, but no matter. Essentially a car was pretty much totalled by a tractor on the crossroad that is our village. The tractor went on to total the village flower display.

Anyway, I took the dog out for a walk while the ambulance was still hanging about, but all those caught in the accident were standing around smoking fags and so all seemed to be ok. The traffic was flowing, and there was no problem. By the time the dog and I got back to the house, a policeman was in charge of keeping the traffic doing what it was supposed to do and the whole high street was completely blocked in all directions. The policeman was huffing and puffing and waving his arms and seemed to be enjoying his moment in the spotlight. The traffic was at a standstill.

Point proven I think.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Gaming strategy

Yesterday I had a bit of a 'day off'. That meant not doing very much at all apart from a bit of washing and a bit of reading and left the evening for Strictly etc.

In the afternoon I decided I would have a go at Bubble Island (yet again) as I've been trying to finish it with limited success for the past few weeks. The final stage is an absolute bitch, and in order to help you on your way, the game gives you flags and if you use them then you can slow the game down which makes it a whole lot easier. Problem is they cost you. Well they cost 'coins' which you get by playing (minimum coins), by spinning a daily lottery (quite a few coins) or paying (maximum coins).

Well I'm afraid I never pay. Any game that demands payment is not for me. I don't vote on any TV voting thing either as years ago, during the first Big Brother, I voted for someone to win, Anna the ex nun, and she lost. What a waste I thought, and have never voted again. Especially as the phone voting system seems to be just a way of those who don't need it, to make a profit out of those who do, under the guise of giving the masses a choice. Have you ever seen the papers after a final?

Anyway, I made a decision a couple of weeks ago to do the daily spin and amass so many coins that when I went for the win, I'd use them all up in one go and beat the game. And yesterday afternoon, I decided I'd have a go at starting at the beginning of Stage 10 and see how far I got, as I thought I needed to have 20,000 coins to play with to make it easy on myself and I only had just over 15,000.

And so I started, and bizarrely, without having to touch my pot of gold, I actually made it to the end. It now says 'Game Mastered' by my name!

The only problem is I now have all those coins in my amassed collection and nothing to put them to use with. I think the only answer is to play again.... oh noooo.

Friday, 19 November 2010

More from the OU

The alternative forum has, for some reason, disappeared from existence. No-one knows why, no-one knows who, no-one knows where. And so, after 24 hours, another alternative forum was set up and I was extremely relieved to be invited to join. And the same online camaraderie and support is now in action again.

But then, an interesting thing happened on the Student Cafe forum. We were told by our moderators that we wouldn't be allowed to post on that forum from 4.45 pm today until Monday, because both of them are away for the weekend. Which I have to say sounded a little 'parental'.

So one of our number on the alternative forum waited until 4.43 and posted something a little on the subversive side. It remained for all of 10 minutes when the whole thing was deleted, not even blocked. It was very funny in that schoolboy kind of way, you know, getting one over on your teachers, or at least that's what you think and then at the last minute they manage to get their own back.

You can tell what my school days were like.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Banned from the OU

Tonight was an evening with my OU colleagues, held in Inca, a bijou place in Bruntsfield in Edinburgh, where us writers in the supposed making met with our tutor, Ray, who's actually quite a star. Very droll, very dry, and impressively well read and immensely helpful. And then I got home to a message from the OU to say I'd be removed from an online forum.

Now I need to go into a bit of history here: the OU offers us students an online cafe, where we can post our scribblings, our thoughts etc etc. However, about 3 weeks ago there was a post that omitted in the subject line that the content was 'strong'. There was a complaint by one of our number and the transgressor had a virtual wrist slap by the ever vigilant moderators. So the friend of the transgressor decided to start a different cafe. One where you had to ask to go and be accepted and where there were no holds barred. I couldn't bear to be left out so duly asked, and was accepted. It is actually full of extremely erudite, very good writers, and anything goes. And I've found it a place full of online cameraderie and sometimes very funny indeed. And tonight when I got home I was barred from entering and told the guy who'd set it all up had decided that I didn't belong.

My paranoia set in and weirdly found myself feeling rather bereft. Why had I been banned? Hadn't I sworn enough? Hadn't I been rude enough? What was the problem?

It turns out that everyone has been thrown out. A computer glitch or an OU masterplan? More to come on this methinks.

Monday, 15 November 2010

What a bit of kit!

Today I unwrapped my Ion Profile usp turntable which I bought online from a company called Firebox. I know I could probably have got it a bit cheaper but they were so helpful and it was free p&p. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is it is a brilliant bit of kit!

I can now play all my old vinyl, lp's, ep's, 45's and they can be played through the computer sound system or downloaded onto iplayer with one click of a button. It was all so easy that even I managed it. So watch out if you come and stay, you might be forced to listen to all my good old fave's.

Dylan rules... OK!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Home early to some sadness

I arrived home this afternoon as all of us participating in spiritual nourishment decided that leaving during daylight hours would be the most nourishing of all.

It was a very good weekend and I'm now about to spend a bit of time catching up on Strictly so that I can be well informed come the results time tonight. But before I do, I have some sad news.

Although I've been spiritually nourished one of my coffee plants is in the withering stage and definitely in need of something, though I know not what. The poor thing is the weakest since the other weakest one died on me and this one seems to be doing the same. The leaves go brown and start to crumble and then there's a couple left on the top which are green for a while and then they go brown and that seems to be it. I'm at a loss to know what to do, but I fear it's not long for this world. So five might well become four in the very near future. The others are blooming and I'm just hoping that they don't decide to go down the withering route.


Friday, 12 November 2010

A weekend of spiritual nourishment?

I'm packing my clothes again today to head off to Samye Ling for a weekend of spiritual nourishment. The sad thing is that my preference would be to stay home, tucked up in the warmth of my 100% polyester, pink slanket watching unending rubbish on telly. I know I shouldn't, but all the unutterable crap that's on right now on Saturday/Sunday nights allows me to shout rude things at the TV and somehow seems to be an antidote for my work situation at present. I know really I should be reading erudite wordy works, but by the time Saturday night comes round I just can't be bothered... so a glass or two of vino and a good spleen venting seems like a good idea.

Of course going to meditate for a weekend means that I'll have to let go of any ideas of alcohol or venting of the spleen and satisfy myself that for this weekend, just this once, I'm going to be a 'good person' and nurture my soul instead.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I'm dreaming of a magic carpet

For all you eagle-eyed folk out there you might have noticed that I put I'd travelled a 261 mile journey... if only! The Borders to Aberdeen was already 164 miles and then the approx 100 from Aberdeen to Inverness would make it 264, so how I managed to get all the way back to the Borders in -3 miles is beyond me... unless of course I have a magic carpet which I don't.

So just for the record it was 361 miles in all and it certainly felt like it!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Social pariah

I'm just home after a strenuous 261 mile journey from the Borders to Aberdeen to Inverness to the Borders, and now I'm officially knackered!

I started out yesterday morning with fear and trepidation re the weather which was supposed to be snow and high winds, and I didn't encounter much at all. The wind picked up around Stonehaven, but apart from that the journey was a doddle. I then had my meeting which went well and then headed off to Inverness to spend the night and be ready for my meeting this morning.

The journey was a bit more tortuous as only the A96 can be, and I was supposed to meet friends in the pub on the outskirts of town. When I got there I switched my mobile phone on to find messages from pretty much everyone to say they couldn't make it for one reason or another, which reminded me of something that happened 39 years ago:

Dave, who I was going out with at the time, was in a band and they'd just got back from being on tour. He and I had talked about everyone coming over to mine for dinner and he'd agreed he'd tell everyone, so I left it to him. I then spent 2 days cooking my socks off on my 2 ring Baby Belling cooker with the pint sized oven, and then glammed myself up for the appointed hour. No-one came. I can remember feeling mortified. When Dave came round the next day he was very blase about the whole thing and said something along the lines of, 'oh well I don't know what you're fussing about, it was only a dinner and I can't help that I forgot,' which was not entirely helpful, and hardly surprisingly our relationship didn't last.

I can remember sitting in my flat in Chalk Farm that night feeling like a social pariah, and obviously the memory has been restirred.

At least last night She Who Must Not Be Named and Sheelagh made it, which was good. Though the arrangement with Sheelagh went slightly askew and SWMNBN and I were starving by the time said Sheelagh turned up. Still a glass of wine and some home made fishcakes made up for it, and it was good to catch up in person rather than over the phone.

And now I'm home. Not for long however. I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow and staying there until Friday, when I head for Samye Ling (about an hour away from home) to take part in a weekend gathering with those who were on a course with me there earlier in the year. There were supposed to be 8 of us, but 2 people have already had to cry off and I've been in charge of the arrangements. Oh dear... I wonder how many more won't be able to make it.

Do you think the universe is trying to tell me something?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Home and away again

Well, my time in Wordsworth country had its good bits and bad bits. The awful memories of last year came flooding back as I sat around the table in the Jerwood Centre surrounded by fantastic first editions of handwritten William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and some very, very good modern day poets who showed their true brilliance by writing off the cuff poems of utter captivation. Mine of course were slightly more on the pedestrian side, but I tried.

I had to leave early as I'm heading off to Aberdeen tomorrow early in the morning and needed to be home to unpack, pack and get back on the road. Having time to do my washing was a blessing. I missed the last workshop, but did have the privilege of a critique of my work. Not great for the old confidence, but needed nevertheless... ah well.

And now it's time to enjoy the last episode of Downton Abbey and a good nights sleep before getting back in my trusty Honda and heading northwards for meetings and greetings back in my old stamping ground.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Glutton for punishment

I'm off again this weekend, but this time to The Wordsworth Centre in Grasmere for a weekend of writing poetry. This is the second year I've done this and last year was in some ways very difficult. Everyone there was a published poet and very good, and then there was me... no comment!

So why have I decided to go back and do the whole thing again? Because in spite of being the worst there and not enjoying it so much, I learnt a huge amount and the participants were really lovely and the same folk are going again.

I'm hoping this year I'll be able to cope with it better and not feel so anxious about my abilities. That's the theory... let's see about the practice!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Things to report

I got my OU assignment back... it was in record time as my tutor took only 3 days after the date it was supposed to be in to mark it, which was a huge relief. I got 72% which was pretty good, and I was pleased... for all of 5 minutes. Of course after that all the 'well why didn't I do better' self talk started and has been going on ever since. Some things just never change.

But the house in Edinburgh is looking good. Still got things all over the floor, but now we have curtains. It was at the second attempt. The first lot I bought from John Lewis were too plain and had to go back, so with much thanks to the curtain assistant who spotted the perfect curtains and then to my friend, Shirley, who persuaded me that they would be great and then, after a lovely birthday lunch (hers) at Harvey Nicks we went back to the house and she helped me hang them. She has obviously done these things a whole lot more than I have and they were done in no time.

And now we're in the process of celebrating No 1 son's 26th birthday a couple of days early as I'm away on the real day (5th November). So lots of love and Happy Birthday son... Christ... 26! How did that happen?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Conspiracy?

Yesterday I had to go to Glasgow for a meeting and then rush back to Edinburgh, pick up the dog and head home to the Borders. So far so good. It was lovely to be in a place that didn't smell of paint and floor oil, and be able to go through the whole house without being faced with piles of furniture. I decided to have a leisurely dinner and would follow that by getting online and to grips with all the emails that had piled up while I was away in the big city.

I tried to log on and couldn't. I did what any self respecting IT no-nothing would do and that is switch it off and switch it on again. Still nothing. So I left it off and then put it on again this morning. It worked fine.

Anyway, my brother phoned me not long ago to tell me that Edinburgh and the North of England had a BT shutdown fault on internet access yesterday... how amazing is that? Doesn't it make you think that there's something going on here that no-one is telling us?

Conspiracy theory alive and well and living in the Scottish Borders!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Another bonus

Yes folks, yet another bonus of living in a house with limited electrical working goods, and that is that according to the meter that tells me how much electricity I'm using by the second and how much it costs per month... well it's now 28p per day! That's pretty good news.

Of course the gas bill will be horrendous as the painter had the heating on full blast to dry the paint quickly, so in a way it's a case of swings and roundabouts.

But yet again, a bonus is a bonus and I'm happy with that!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

There was one bonus

Well folks... the dog and I moved into the Edinburgh house yesterday. No downstairs lights, no TV, no internet access, no landline phone working. So after a complete freak out on my part, I went next door and asked if I could use their internet, which they kindly let me do. At 10.30 I was still sealing the kitchen floor and I still have the bathroom to do tonight.

I managed to enlist the help of No.1 son to join me in sanding the wood floor today and then have oiled it with a first oiling, will have to do it again before the night is out.

The bonus however was that the electrician who helped restore order after my Beloved's DIY skills went slightly awry, managed to leave a vital, and very expensive piece of kit behind. So when he sent his minions round to get it, they were kind enough (for a cash in hand price of course!) to sort the downstairs lighting and tried to sort the TV. Now I can get BBC4, but not much else... not that there's much on anyway, but it would be nice if the bloody thing worked. Still a bonus is a bonus and I am pleased with that.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Update about updates

Well eventually it took me about 8 hours to download the bloody iPhone upgrade. This was because I was getting so fed up with the whole process that I decided to pause it to see if that might get it to hurry up. Now when I see 'pause' I think it means temporarily stop then start again... if only! No such luck. The whole thing just stopped completely and then started all the way from the beginning. I gave up in the end and let it do it's thing.

Then I got a phone call from the painter who said, and I quote, "Don't worry about the paint on the floor, we're going in today to clean the whole thing and it'll be like new." This would've been great news except I'd already done the cleaning. Still at least it should all be finished by now.

And then I got a phone call from the guy who's been overseeing all the renovation works to tell me that when they went in and switched the lights on the whole thing blew and smoke was coming out! His electrician was straight round and discovered that my Beloved had wired the wall lights in but hadn't quite checked that wires weren't touching. I'm relieved I wasn't the one to find that out. And I have to admit at points like that I feel obliged to play the 'girlie card'. Luckily Davy is a good sort and thought the whole thing was rather funny, but did warn me to warn my Beloved not to play electrician again. Not sure how he'll take that news as he prides himself on his DIY abilities.

So now me and my dawg are off to the bright lights of Edinburgh for the next few days. Wish us luck. It'll be like living in a bedsit. I haven't told Nell yet as I don't want to freak her out before she's even got there!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Updates

I was going to take photos and give you all an update today on my coffee plants, a couple of which are doing incredibly well... ok that's a bit of an exaggeration, but they've got offshoots which is spectacular progress... but sadly I'm trying to update my iPhone. I started about an hour ago and now it's informed me it's got another 3 hours to go. I've got so pissed off you'll just have to take my word on the plants and forego the pleasure of a photo. I will take one at some point, but I can't wait around anymore as I have work to get on with.

You'll be pleased to know that I posted my first OU assignment on Friday, a mere week early, but for me that's like cutting it fine. In the end I managed it all just about ok, but I misread part 3 and thought it demanded 750 words, which I managed no problem and then realised it said 300! That meant a lot of Friday afternoon was spent trying to get it down to the wordcount, and of course it ended up not at all how I wanted, but realised I could spend the next year trying to make it perfect so sent it off and then spent the next day thinking of all the things I could've done to make it better. Ahh well. OU don't you just love it!

My pied-a-terre in Edinburgh has been being done up. New kitchen, new tiles in the bathrooms, and a paint job throughout. So yesterday my Beloved and I spent the whole day cleaning and tidying. Sadly I don't quite know how, but the painter had managed to spray bits of paint all over the wooden floors, which is quite unlike him, but it took a lot of the day to get the bits off. He's supposed to be finishing up tomorrow so I hope he's going to be a bit more careful.

My Beloved is off to the hills for a week to do his Mountain Leader Training and so the dog and I are going to have to stay in the Edinburgh house for 4 days so that I can go to work and No 1 son can look after the dog for me. This is going to be a bit of a trial as we won't be able to use the living room, as the floor needs to be waxed before I put the furniture back, and the spare room is off limits waiting for the new carpet so had to have all furniture removed -  and that's not happening for another week. Still at least we can use the kitchen and the bedroom and bathroom, so not all bad.

So good luck to my Beloved. I hope he doesn't freeze up there in them thar hills, and gets back to civilization with his certificate firmly under his belt.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Comparisons

Yesterday when I left the house to go to work it was -1. Today it was +3, and it felt so warm in comparison I almost wondered if summer was making a reappearance!

But the weirdest thing. It usually takes me 55 minutes to drive from my house to my work near Haymarket Station in Edinburgh, so when I set out this morning I was a bit taken aback to discover every large lorry possible seemed to be on the A697, which is the road that runs from Coldstream to Carfraemill. The road from Gordon, our village, cuts into this road and my normal journey it takes me 12-15 minutes to get from our house to Carfraemill. At 30 mph it takes considerably longer. But then usually when I hit the Edinburgh By-pass it is a bit slow and then it gets slower as I head into Edinburgh centre. However, this morning it was clear all the way through  from the By-pass and bizarrely it took me just 57 minutes door to door, a mere 2 minutes longer than normal.

I discovered that the police had closed the A1 due to "investigations into an accident" according to the radio (which word on the street has it was actually a shooting) and the road was shut from the middle of the night right through to midday today, hence all traffic was being diverted along the 'scenic route' which meant it took them about 1.5 hours longer to get to Edinburgh than they might have hoped. Poor sods. Still being stuck behind a whole lot of them and not being able to overtake as they were too wide for the narrow roads was no joke.

I've only just realised that I have a rather strange way of passing the time when driving, which is to work out how long it's going to take me to get anywhere. Oh well, better than listening to the depressing news of spending cuts... or is it?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A waste of time?

Yesterday I was supposed to be getting on an doing my first assignment for the Open University Creative Writing course I've taken on. I don't know what my problem is, but the mere mention of tutors and marking seems to have had the most debilitating effect on me. Previously I've been writing away, even getting up at 5.30 am to do my morning pages before I go to work, but the moment something has to be marked, well that's a different story. I went into mindblock meltdown. I managed to write one paragraph about twenty times in different formats and then junked the whole lot.

However, there was a mention in the core text that some writers use repetitive things like playing Solitaire to get them in the mood, and I decided I'd give that a try to see if I could manufacture a cognitive shift. So, I started back playing Bubble Island on Facebook.

I did really well and even managed to get past the Mountain region of stage 9 and onto the Volcano of stage 10 thereby beating She Who Must Not Be Named and my beloved in one fell swoop.

Writing? Nada - Kudos? Loads!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Whew!

Family visits... always an opportunity for fraughtness! Luckily on this occasion it all went pretty well. Just a slight hiccup when my sister-in-law proudly mentioned that her son has just secured a job as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. My beloved and I managed to stifle any words of disapproval with a raised eyebrow to one another on that one, though I did bring into the equation a book I'd just bought by John Lanchester called 'Whoops! Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay' but that was pretty much ignored.

Sadly I couldn't do the same when we were out to dinner last night and my sister-in-law said she liked and admired Maggie Thatcher. That was just a step too far and I did speak up. Luckily the waiter intervened with pudding so I didn't get embroiled in too much of a contretemps, but it was a close run thing.

And now they've gone and we're back to the peace and quiet of a Sunday. Lots to do before Strictly Come Dancing tonight and will need to watch the recording of what happened last night so I'm firmly in the loop.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Back from across the sea

I got home last night totally exhausted after 5 days of full-on work from 6am until 9pm every day. So now I'm in recovery.

After all the emails I had got prior to going to Holy Isle to warn of high winds and whipped up seas, when I arrived in Brodick it seemed like the weather predictions were all coming to fruition. However it was a complete surprise when after a quick bus ride over the top of Arran and down the other side to Lamlash, it was no longer Autumn, but still Summer. The weather was glorious. Warm, sunny, blue skies, sparkling sea, basking sharks swimming around and seals playing close to the shore.

Consequently I was totally inappropriately dressed and by the time I alighted at Holy Isle I was decidedly hot and sweaty and very uncomfortable. Even more so when I realised I didn't have a single short sleeved t-shirt, but did have woolly hat, vests, jumper and extra warm socks ready for the Winter onslaught I'd been promised!

The weather did get a little colder especially in the early mornings but really was very temperate. On our last morning when we were out doing our Tai Chi on the beach at 7 am we were joined by several of the wild ponies and a host of midges. The ponies weren't terribly impressed and wandered off fairly soon after we started, however the midges hung around so after half an hour and many bites later we left them to it and retreated indoors.

So now I'm home I'm getting ready for the fraternal visit tomorrow. It's my sister-in-law's birthday so have had to make a bit of a song and dance about it all. Shopping done - check, cleaning done - check, beds made - check, smile fixed to the face - a work in progress!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Goodbye til next week

I'm off to Holy Isle today, and so will be incommunicado with the rest of the world until I get home next Wednesday. Not only is there no internet access, there's no mobile phone access, and anyway I'm supposed to be facilitating a retreat so really need to get my head down and get on with it and eschew the delights of the modern world while I spend my days in contemplation.

Which was better than I was last night. Earlier in the evening I'd had a chat with my friend 'She Who Must Not Be Named' where she told me about the delights of a game called Bubble Island on Facebook. So against my better judgment I decided to take a peak. Was that ever a mistake! I then spent the rest of the evening battling bubbles to see how many stages I could overcome - half way through Stage 9 is the answer - but had to give up at 11.15 ish as my Beloved had already gone to bed and the dog was looking mournfully at me as she wanted to go but decided she had to wait for me. If not for that I think I should still be playing this morning.

SWMNBN'd said that she found it quite meditative. I'm not sure I agree I think the word is competitive rather than meditative. I came away with stiff shoulders and what feels distinctly like repetitive strain injury. Thank goodness I've got a few days sitting on my backside contemplating my navel so that I can get over my injuries and no doubt start all over again once I get home.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Getting organised

Here I am getting organised for another trip to Holy Isle off Arran on Friday, where I'm co-facilitating another retreat. Once again the weather is interfering and that's before I've even got there! I got a message from Adam the Manager, who told me that we had to make the earlier ferry from Lamlash to Holy Isle as the winds were going to pick up and the tide was going to be down. Luckily my co-facilitator and I had already planned to take the earlier ferry so that was a bit of luck, so our plans are not, as yet, scuppered.

Meanwhile the week seems to be getting busy. I don't know if that's because I'm working right up to the moment I go, or because getting up in the dark and wet is making me feel tired and flustered and so work seems to be taking it's toll and all I want to do when I get home is slob in front of the telly, but as I was stupid enough to take on an OU course, which needs constant study I'm obliged to leave my slobbing until much much later.

The course started on Saturday, but I'd already started about 3 weeks ago as I'm going to be away for a week and needed to get myself into a position to be able to write my first assessment as soon as I come back, so needed to get a month under my belt asap.

I've also got a tutorial the Saturday after this one when I'm just home from Holy Isle, which also happens to coincide with my brother and his wife coming to stay. So the stress of the tutorial will be ameliorated by going out for posh nosh with family. On the other hand maybe the stress of going out for posh nosh with family will be ameliorated by the tutorial... who knows?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A night on the town

Unbelievably yesterday was cracking weather. Friday and today, pissing down, but yesterday it was blue sky and sunshine, warm and lovely. Which was just as well as it was the last bowls day of the season, and to celebrate it they had an open pairs competition to celebrate.

Apparently Gordon Bowls club was the very last club in the area not to have shut for the season, so there were folk from across the Borders and beyond come to take advantage of an extra days bowls. My friend, JT, decided to come and accompany me and it was fun to have another game with him as my partner. And another game was all we could manage... absolutely slaughtered by our opponents in the first round. Still because the weather was so good, we hung around watching the others and then left at the quarter final stage.

Then as a final final celebration, there was karaoke in the evening. I wasn't going to go, but thought better of it and so my man and I went across at about 7.30 to be faced with a fairly drunken rabble intent on making as much noise as possible. It was hilariously funny and we managed to leave before being forced into having to sing. Though it was difficult to stop the onslaught of drinks being bought and had to make a quick exit before another round wended its way to our table, with the genuine excuse that my man was needed for Borders Search and Rescue operations today and had to leave at 7 am, so a late night was out of the question. Whew, got away with that one then.

Friday, 1 October 2010

The end

As a lot of you know I am a Scrabble addict. I've been playing Scrabble since I was a very young child, and it has featured in my life quite a lot. I won a Scrabble set off a friend after playing religiously for 3 years at Art School, I've played in competitions, though only local, and won my fair share, and I've coerced my kids and partner to play with me at Christmas on a kind of one game of Scrabble equals one game for each of them that they want to play basis. So when my friend, Tracy, told me about Scrabble on Facebook and that you can play across the web, I of course signed up immediately and was quite happy playing away with various friends across time and space.

That is until about a month or so ago. I turned my Scrabble on and there, horror of horrors, was an overscreen that said that it was some advertising promotion from a sponsor and that I would be returned to the Scrabble screen in 15 seconds. Now I'm the kind of person that whenever there are adverts on the telly, I flick between channels to avoid them. A dreadful habit I know, but there you are, so being faced with adverts was a bit much. But hey, 15 seconds. Ok I can wait.

After about a week, the overscreen was still there and now it said I would be returned to my Scrabble screen in 20 seconds. And from there each week it went up until it was 30 seconds. And that's when I knew that I just did not want to be part of it anymore. The very idea of being 'forced' to watch adverts was complete anathema.

So, it is with sadness that I have now ended all games of Scrabble on Facebook and will refuse to return until advertising is withdrawn. I feel I have a very long wait ahead of me.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What a difference a week makes

We have one of those automatic lights that you can set to come on. This is partly so that those up to no good will think that we're home, but also because it's so nice to come into a house that has a light on (ok I know this is a waste of electricity - but it is an eco friendly bulb).

Well last night I was sitting watching TV around 6.30 and couldn't work out why it was so dark in the living area, and thought the light wasn't working. But then was informed that the light wasn't due to come on until 7. It made me realise that the nights are drawing in now.

However, having not had to go to work for almost a week and leaving at my usual time of 6.45 am, I was particularly shocked this morning to find that it was dark out there. So it's not just the nights, but the mornings too.

It's not going to be too long before I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Oh joy of joys.

Monday, 27 September 2010

On a losing streak

Yesterday was a bit of a loser's day.

I had the last club bowls competition of the season, and the idea is that you turn up and get picked out of a hat to play with a partner. Only 4 of us turned up so we decided to go ahead and play anyway, and yes... I lost again. Actually I didn't play all that badly and neither did my partner, it's just that we couldn't co-ordinate our good play. Still the weather was fine and it was nice to be outside.

Then my beloved and I went to a pub quiz at The Fisherman's Arms in Birgham in the evening to generate money in aid of The Borders Search and Rescue Unit. We had lovely fish and chips with the best tartare sauce I've had for a while. We joined together with a couple who had just moved into the village, and we managed to not do too well there either, coming around 6th out of about 10 with the grand score of 67 out of 100. The winners got 96, so we weren't even close.

Will my losing streak ever end?

Friday, 24 September 2010

A whole new beginning?

I took the momentous decision to give up my work as I know it and plunge myself into the unknown territory of not doing what I've been doing! Of course this will bring a lot of changes, and also of course these things don't happen overnight, so I still have to work in my current position for another month but after that it's all change. What we've decided is that I'll still work there but only on 'special projects'... though of course these are unknown and in all probability don't actually exist, but at least I leave on friendly terms or I suppose you could say that I leave but I don't leave. All very exciting.

Just one slight fly in the ointment and that is my secretary told me I had loads of holiday still to take, but on questionning it, it was discovered that because no-one had updated my annual leave entitlement when I dropped a day, so it now turns out that I probably owe them rather than the other way round. Though I have to say it doesn't feel like I've had any holiday time, and that's because in order to do the other jobs I do I've taken leave from this one. So effectively all my holiday time has been spent working, apart from my lovely week in France... ah well.

Anyway, that currently leaves me with only 3 jobs, all of them part-time. Wah hey... it's the good life for me then!

Monday, 20 September 2010

A visit to the dentist

Today I had a visit to my dentist, the Delightful Chris, who as far as dentists go is the nicest, kindest, most gentle one that I've been to. I've been going to him ever since moving south and he came highly recommended by my friend N. Whenever she recommends someone I always pay attention as she's no pushover that's for sure.

Previously the Delightful Chris was housed in the bowels of Optical Express on George Street, Edinburgh. It somewhat worried me that a dentist who spends his whole day underground without so much as a peak at a window, and one who's housed in an opticians at that, would most probably suffer with some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder and would then take it out on me. So I was pleasantly surprised at just how normal the Delightful Chris always seemed.

And now he's moved to very deluxe premises in Dublin Street, conveniently placed down the road from Harvey Nicks in a lovely building, with light streaming in from the windows and I think has gone some way to prove my theory re SAD and underground dentists as he was unbelievably bouncy and up. To add to the general cheeriness he even offered me discount on a new night time device to stop me grinding my teeth.

I decided to accept the offer just in case my theory's wrong and by the next time he's back to being gentle and kind without the bounciness and the discount.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wasting resources

A great weekend of doing not much at all. My beloved is away and not due back until later tonight, so I've been walking the dog, exercising and getting on with the ubiquitous cleaning. I've also had the guilty pleasure of having the heating on, which I know is a bit of a waste of resources but autumn is almost upon us and it has definitely gotten colder. So I'm currently luxuriating in a lovely warm house.

I've also been wasting my brain resources too as I've been playing a stupid game on my iPhone which is totally addictive. It's called Lineup and it was only when I realised I'd been playing for well over half and hour that I realised it was time to stop. It's an absolutely ridiculous waste of time, but it's my current favourite.

Luckily my boredom threshold is pretty low, so this one won't last too long.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Home again

Back home after a hectic, but fruitful time in London.

Meetings went without too much of a hitch, and the Mindfulness workshop I did with my friend Jenny had good feedback. We did the workshop in Syon House, which belongs to the Duke of Northumberland and is, I think, his London pied-a-terre. As you can see from the photo, if he has friends to stay I doubt there will be a need for anyone to sleep on the couch.


Magnificent eh?

But somewhat quirkily I found something that I thought was even more magnificent. I was wandering around Mayfair and spotted a full size horse sculpture standing in the window of what looked like another rather fancy pad. I did wonder why they decided not to draw the curtains as all and sundry could look in, but maybe it's because they wanted to show off their masterpiece.


Not a great photo, but this was taken around 9.30 pm after a rather delicious dinner at Miyama my favourite Japanese restaurant which included 2 sake martinis. So under the circumstances I think I did pretty well.

After our workshop Jenny and I decided to treat ourselves and go for a drink.  We ended up in Trader Vic's on Park Lane and splashed the cash on a couple of Raffles Bar Gin Slings, which are a fab concoction of gin, lime, liqueurs and ginger beer. They went down rather well, but thank goodness Jenny had to get back to where she was staying otherwise we might have been tempted to have more.

And finally, I played the bowls handicap final today and even with a 6 point start I lost 17-21. I was very disappointed as I thought I actually had a bit of a chance, but having not played for a couple of weeks I was really off form. Never mind will just have to try again next year. My fear is that having got through to the final I'll have points taken away next year, and let's face it, I need all the help I can get.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Off again

No grandchild appeared yesterday, which was a bit disappointing. However, the good news is that we managed to clean up a bit and we now have a clean house. We also had a lovely walk down by the river when the sun was shining and followed by a relaxing evening a deux.

Today I'm off to the Big Smoke for a week's worth of work, catching up with family and friends, and eating and drinking too much too no doubt. I do like visiting London but only for short periods of time, but as the weather is not terribly good here and it promises to be several degrees warmer there, I feel good about going.

Meanwhile my coffee plants seem to be flourishing, and although there has been a bit of shedding so far the mass shed hasn't happened... I'm just hoping I haven't jinxed it by mentioning it. But I am pleased about a couple of things. Having spent so much money to get the lamp and the automatic watering set up for them, it now feels worthwhile. I can go away without so much as a thought about them and know that all will be fine.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Grandson alert!

Last night I received a phone call from my beloved's daughter to say that she, her man, Gerry, and Nathan, the grandson, might call round tomorrow. They're out seeking the warmer spots of Scotland (they live in Glasgow) and have spent the last few weekends heading west to the beach as the weather has been lovely out that way. Apparently tomorrow the sun is heading for Kelso and its surrounds, hence them coming in this direction.

This left me in a bit of a panic. Most of the phone call was spent telling me how much Nathan has grown and how he has his hands into everything. I took one look around the house and realised how completely child unfriendly we've become. When they were last here we had a picnic in the garden and Nathan was just walking, so much of his energy was spent doing that. But now he's 'into things' in a big way.

I've tried to tidy up and put things out of the way, but frankly I've given up. I've decided that we'll just have to distract him and hope for the best!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Season of mists

What a drive into work today. Thick mist, which suddenly dissipated and in it's place was bright, bright sunshine, and then back into pockets of thick mist. This was all the way into Edinburgh and was just fantastic.

Makes me pleased to be alive!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Another win

Today I was at work in my office in Edinburgh when I happened to notice a box that had my name on it on my secretary's desk. When I asked her about it she apologised profusely and said it was my prize as part of the winning team in our annual away day event. We had had to produce a newspaper front page for which there were events that were going on all day and each team had to take photos and write up the bizarre happenings. Contrary to my thoughts about my team's efforts, we won. However, as I had to go to France very early the next day, I left before the dinner and no-one told me how well my team had done, and I was blissfully unaware of the whole thing.

Anyway, I was thrilled to receive a mug (no comments thank you!) as my competitiveness will out no matter what the task or the prize.




Now I just have the final of the Gordon bowls handicap to play. I wonder if I can make it another win, but maybe that's a wonder too far!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Nothing to do with me

Well folks, not only did the weather stay fine for the bowls competition, but we got through to the semi finals! We also won £20 between the two of us for the honour which was just as much a shock for me as getting through to the semis.

Sadly I have to admit that I played pretty badly and it was only thanks to JT that we did as well as we did. There's another competition coming up on October 2nd, and I just have to hope that I haven't put him off totally and he finds something better to do on that day. He was saying he wasn't playing well today, but from where I was standing it was very good and I only wish I could play as well.

Still something to work towards.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Better late than never

After my last post summer arrived, and we have had 3 fantastically sunny, warm days. Heating has gone off, shorts have gone on, and all is well in the world.

I'm so hoping that this lasts until Sunday as I have a bowls competition. An old friend of mine who is actually a brilliant player said he wanted to come down and play in a competition with me, and this weekend is it. I think he just wants to have a bit of a laugh. He's played at the Scottish finals before now, though he reliably informs me that this year he's playing crap. So that's ok as I have a feeling his crap is in a totally different league from mine. I play really badly in the rain, and he says he does too, so please do some kind of sun dance to keep the sun around, or at least the rain at bay... that way we might have a chance of having a bit of fun.

Meanwhile my beloved went off to Ireland at 5am this morning. He has an event in Ireland to medic at, and will return home on Monday and then will have to scoot down to Bristol as he's moving No. 2 son's things to his new home down there and Monday and Tuesday are pretty much the only days going free for about 3 weeks.

So my youngest has finally flown the Scottish nest and has headed south of the Border to start a new life in England. He's going to uni to study Philosophy and it's taken him several years to come to the conclusion of what he really wants to do. I'm very happy for him of course, but having him so far away is a real wrench. No more cosy lunches in Edinburgh's less salubrious spots, no more cosy chats in the student style doss house, no more arguments/disagreements (at least not face to face for a while). But the good news is that it's No. 1 son's birthday in November and No. 2 has promised to return, and Christmas (I can't believe I've mentioned it!) will see another return of the prodigal.

Lots to look forward to then.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The great scottish summer

I've had to put the central heating on! It's bloody freezing and we're still in August. I'm not sure if a week in France actually helped as, although cloudy quite a bit, it was lovely and warm. Real T-shirt weather and at least 10C warmer than here.

I started today in as much clothing as I could put on without looking totally ridiculous, but once I thought about putting my gloves on to sit and type at the computer... well that was it... on the heating went.

And of course now my tan is fading fast, so by the time I get back to work no-one will even guess that I've been away. What with that and the loads of emails I came back to and all the work that's ensued from there, I'm now in severe need of a holiday.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Une semaine en France

Here we are, home again, after a really lovely time in France. Good friends, good food, good wine, not such good weather (but certainly warmer than in Scotland), and I came back feeling quite rested. Sadly it has already gone by the board as I've realised all the stuff that needs to get done and I'm tired just thinking about it!

A quick resume:

After a disastrous start after picking up our hire car, which entailed negotiating a very long queue at Europcar, getting out of Charles de Gaulle - a trial in itself - and travelling 10k down the road to find a warning light flickering away at us, so we had to find somewhere to turn - another trial - head back to the airport and stand in another queue. But after a bit of cajoling we got an upgrade to an automatic which was a whole lot more comfortable and easier to drive, but more importantly it didn't have any faults, and we once again headed out towards Normandy.

We discovered that pretty much the whole of Normandy was on holiday until 29th August and so the hotel we wanted to stay at in Mortagne-au-Perche, which looked very good and had a great write up in the Rough Guide, was closed, so we headed down the road to Alencon where we ended up in a bit of a dive. Still on a scout around the town (for the restaurant recommended in the Guide which was closed!) we found a rather nice Pizza place. Although not in the Guide this turned out to be a real find. Not only good food, but we got picked up by a charming French couple, Christine and Eric, who were sitting on the table next to us and insisted on giving us a guided tour after dinner, which proved utterly fascinating.

The rest of our days were spent in Sara and Krzysztof's idyllic farmhouse, with their 3 great danes (one just a 9 month puppy), 2 donkeys, 1 pony, 2 cats, umpteen chickens and guinea pigs and a few giant spiders to add into the mix. A couple of other friends were there when we arrived and it was really fun to spend time going over our teen years and reliving the past.

We did a few trips out to the countryside: one to a village fete, which was a bit like a mini agricultural show in Scotland, complete with a welcoming straw castle.


And one rather fascinating one to Camembert, which is a tiny village of maybe 5 houses, and two farms supplying the cheese for the world.

Apart from that we walked the dogs in the glorious forest nearby


and drove around looking at the sights when we weren't eating or feeding animals.

Our last full day we said goodbye and wended our way to the Normandy Beaches, which were a very moving and emotional experience. And then our final destination, Compeigne, which took hours to get to, partly because we hadn't realised just how far it was and also, to add to the mix, a storm descended complete with thunder and lightening, and the traffic round Rouen was a nightmare, but it left us with just an hour's drive to the airport on Friday. And of course because we'd negotiated the airport a couple of times at the start we managed to get the car back in record time.

We didn't bring a whole lot back with us, just some cheap flexi bakeware (don't ask), some garlic in a grinder, some spicy couscous, and my piece de resistance - a rather tacky glass bottle in the shape of a horse which contains apple brandy (!)


And that folks, as they say, is that. Holiday over. Back to normality!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Gone, going, going

Sadly the bat had gone by this morning, and there was no sign it had even been with us.

But here we are about to head off on our holiday to Normandy, and are going to see Reginald D Hunter tonight as a bonus gift before we fly tomorrow. The flight is really early and will entail getting a cab to the airport at the ungodly hour of 4.45 am, and is the only bit I'm not looking forward to. Still sun beckons and needs must.

So that's it until I return. Au revoir mes amies!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Unexpected visitor

What a surprise for me today, when my beloved emailed me at work to tell me we had a visitor. It turned up in our porch and was spotted on dog walking duties this morning, and my beloved and Jenny, my friend who was an expected visitor who came to stay the night last night, spent some time trying to identify exactly what it is.




The answer is a long-eared bat. And given the amount of moths and insects that seem to be having a party on our porch walls, it has a ready made snack bar. It was still there when I got home, and very cute it is too. Now just need to see how long it remains with us.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Blogs have their uses!

My beloved actually reads my blog... does this suggest there's something amiss in our communication? You might well think so, especially as having read my piece about Reginald D Hunter he then presented me with tickets to the show. And then after my request for visitors so that the cupboard door that he started and was lying in all kinds of pieces together with the tool kit strewn around... no problem. Finished in record time.

Mmmm what else do I want?!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Less than a week

It's not long to go now before we head for La Belle France for a week's r&r.... I can't wait. I'm hoping it's summer over there, because it sure as hell isn't here. On Thursday I got up to go to work and I had to put the blower on my windscreen. It won't be long now and I'll have to get the ice scraper out. The joys! Still at least it's not raining today, which is a blessing.

Oh yes, we get to go as long as those wonderful people at BAA who want to strike don't do it while we're in transit, otherwise we're stuck on the costa del Borders to freeze along with the rest of you lucky folk. Of course there's always the Edinburgh Festival if we're really stuck, so whichever way you look at it, it will be a break I suppose.

Talking of the Edinburgh Festival, we went to see The Moira Monologues the other night, which is a one woman show with Alan Bissett. It's only on until the 21st August and well worth going to for a good laugh. Not sure how much else I'll get to go to. There was some mention of Reginald D Hunter, but not sure whether that's still in the planning stage or if it's matured into a reality. I have a vague recollection about being asked several times if I wanted to go, and as far as I'm aware I've said 'yes' on each occasion, but will have to wait and see what happens.

And now to a bowls update: I made the final of the women's handicap! In the semi I had to play the president's girlfriend, who has only been playing since last year and I'm embarrassed to say, was put on the same handicap points as me... which is 6 the most you can get. And even more embarrassing, I only beat her by one point at the end. Still I'm using the excuse that I had a migraine for most of the day, and so wasn't at my best. Though of course because I couldn't think straight, this might have actually helped me. Anyway, I won and that's that.

And finally: my coffee plants seem to be shedding leaves again. I'm not sure why. I'm beginning to wonder if they're taking lessons from the dog, and think that it's de rigeur in this house to shed at all costs... more on this when it becomes clearer.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Saving some money?

When I was in Pittenweem I bought a sculpture. Actually to be fair, although I took it away, it was my friend, N, who very kindly subbed me as I didn't have my cheque book and the guy didn't do cards... so effectively it was she who bought the sculpture. Anyway, it was lovely. A piece of elm that stood about 3ft high and had a beautiful glass insert. I was very taken with it. However, the reality was that it was too big and didn't go anywhere where there was natural light in my house, and it didn't look the same with a light bulb behind it. Luckily I had it on appro, and so back it went last night. Even luckier was that the sculptor's brother happens to live in Galashiels, so a trip of around 3 hours all the way to Pittenweem and back was avoided and I dropped it off a mere 24 minutes from where I live. Sad to see it go, but such is life.

Then I had to make sure that N's cheque was to be returned to her, and eventually got hold of N herself to check all was fine for her. She is such a star and has a wonderful way of putting things. I was telling her all about the fact that I'm changing my work arrangements around and that potentially it might mean a bit of belt tightening on my part, when she reminded me that I've already saved loads by taking the sculpture back and by not buying any paintings this year. Made me smile, until I remembered all the purchases that have been made recently... I currently think the deficit might outweigh the credit on this one, but at least it made me laugh!

Monday, 9 August 2010

A lovely time


Pittenweem was just lovely. There was a moment of jollity on the Friday night, as right on cue at 6.30 when the opening night started, it began to rain, just like last year. Luckily this year though, the rain stopped pretty soon after it started and so didn't dampen anything much, as last year it was brollies to the fore. However, the weather was mixed with most of it a bit on the grey side, which, when looking back at the village from the harbour in the above photo, makes it seem quite East Neuk austere.



The flowers were in full bloom and the whole place was alive with art. Some of it very good and some, well put it this way, there's something for all tastes! If you've never been it really is an experience. There are some 90+ art venues displaying extraordinary diverse tastes and on the opening night it was hard to move in some venues. The festival goes on for a whole week, but some seemed to have almost sold all their wares on the first night. It's interesting to see what sells and what doesn't and there was one poor lady who's venue I visited on Saturday afternoon, with about 50 paintings and not one had a red dot. There's installations, paintings, drawings, jewelery, in fact if you can think about it it's probably somewhere in Pittenweem right this moment.


And we had a great evening on Saturday night. Originally N told me that her friends who were coming to dinner had decided that we should have some music to dance to and have a kind of rave for the 60's generation. We spent some time trying to hook my iPod up to her system as I have my 60's singles compilation that N and I had put together in the 80's on it, but couldn't get it to work. Luckily N found her tape of it and so we reverted to the good old tape machine. However, after a delicious meal and some interesting chat, the music was completely forgotten and it was only when the friends left that N put the music on and whilst I went off to bed, she danced the night away and virtuously washed up all at the same time. A real multi-tasker at work... and unsurprisingly she didn't rise til well past sunrise the next day!

Meanwhile Coldstream's last ride out of the season was entirely uneventful, so my beloved spent the weekend starting all kinds of jobs around the house, which sadly will probably take some time to get finished. I'm hoping we'll get visitors soon as that always seems to spur him on to finish the DIY tasks that he's started... please?... anybody?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Off for the weekend

Don't the weekend's seem to come around fast? It only seems like yesterday that it was Saturday and I was waiting at Selkirk Rugby Club for my beloved to finish his marathon bike ride round the Borders, and yet here we are and it's Friday! I can't think what happened to this week, but it certainly came and went pretty damn quick.

This weekend I'm off to the 27th  Pittenweem Arts Festival in the East Neuk of Fife to spend some fun time with my oldest friend, N, and our arty friends. N hosts a very select annual dinner, and in past years she has always cooked the main and the pud and I do the starter. However, for some obscure reason that eludes me right now, I offered to do the main course. So I have spent this morning chopping and making sure that all that is needed to make the splendid centre piece of my offering is packed away in the cool bag and ready to be transported to her country abode, which goes by the lovely name of Sunny Cottage.

Meanwhile my beloved is spending his weekend doing his bit for Borders Search and Rescue, as they stand ready for the last day of the Coldstream Civic Week. The Borders has this rather intriguing custom of having what they call Common Ridings, where a lot of enthusiasts take part in a unique range of spectacular rides. Of course this also means that some of those enthusiasts come spectacularly unstuck and they, poor souls, end up at the mercy of Borders Search and Rescue.

So I shall eventually arrive home from artistic pursuits to find out what kind deeds my beloved has been performing for the good Borders folk. What an angel!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Triumphs

As promised yesterday, here's a photo of Anne, Bridge and me with our winnings:


Also, after my beloved doing the honours for me, I did the honours for him and Nell and I were there to greet him yesterday at the end of his 95 mile Sportive bike race round the Borders. He was a little slower than he wanted to be, but at least he finished in one piece, looked pretty ok, and wasn't last.


 Then it was off the bike and into a seat with a large slice of cake to eat - that's my beloved I mean and not the dog though from this photo you might be hard pressed to see who was eating it!



Miraculously this morning no-one would've guessed at the previous day's activities, as my beloved wasn't stiff at all and we went off into Edinburgh to celebrate my youngest son's birthday a mere 3 weeks late with a lunch at Mother India. We hadn't been able to go for a birthday meal before due to all kinds of things that got in the way of us all being in one place at one time.

I can certainly recommend the restaurant. They serve Indian tapas and it was absolutely delicious. Good choice from No. 2 son!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

The long and the short of it

It was so great being back showing a pony again. I realised that it had been a couple of years since I'd done any showing and I've missed it. There's something about being out with livestock at their peak condition, with like minded people, that's very engaging.

The first bit of good news is that by the morning the weather forecast had changed totally. No rain was due til the afternoon, so by the time we arrived at the showground the sun was shining, and it was not too hot for the animals, with hardly any wind at all. In other words perfect conditions for showing.

Then the steward directing us turned out to be none other than Doddy Weir, Scotland's Rugby Union lock, who was such a warm smiley person. He was dressed up in some rather natty tartan trews and was head and shoulders taller than anyone else there. He insisted on having his photo taken with me, before wishing us luck.


We spent a pleasant half hour tarting Bridge (full name Bridge of Transy) up, til she was looking good from head to hoof.



Our class was pretty small with 3 Exmoor ponies and 4 Shetlands. We came 3rd after a rather handsome Exmoor stallion and a lovely Exmoor mare, who had the loveliest eye. But because we came ahead of all the other Shetlands we were awarded the Shetland prize and were put forward for the Shetland championship.

After an hour we went forward again, and we won! So we were Shetland overall champion and we got the Transy Cup, which had been donated by The Transy Stud... all very prophetic given that Bridge is a Transy pony. Her name was already engraved on it as she had won it back in 2007, and Anne was delighted. As, I have to say, was I.

And that's where the good luck ended. We went in for the overall show championship but we didn't even get a look in. It was won by a Welsh Section B mare with a foal at foot. And very showy she was too, so well deserved. Still we did pretty well I think.

So we came away with our winnings of £5 for a third prize, some nice rosettes, and a cup, all done in lovely sunny weather. By the time we finished the wind had picked up and the rain had started, so we really were very lucky indeed.

I will post some pics of Bridge with her prizes when my beloved has managed to download them for me, as they're on his iPhone. He just happens to have a busy day doing a 95 mile (yes, I said 95 mile!) bike race round the Borders today, so I will have to do my supporter's bit for him as he did for me yesterday.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

An early start

Tomorrow is the annual Border Union Agricultural Show, and it's my first one. I'm taking my friend Anne's Shetland pony, who I took to the Black Isle Show a couple of years back and did rather well.

I became friends with Anne when I sold her my first ever foal; a gorgeous chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, who was also a bit of a rogue. We called him Arnie, after Arnold Swarzenegger, because just after he stood up for the first time, he came bold as brass and shoved his face in our faces. He never showed any fear of humans and was hardly shy and retiring. Anne renamed him Charlie for some reason that totally eludes me.

Whenever Anne would come up North to work, she would bring Arnie/Charlie and her other pony to stay with me, so I would do what I called 'pony bed and breakfast' for a couple of months, which was always fun. And then she bought Bridge (the one I'm taking tomorrow) for a stay too, hence my taking her to the Black Isle Show.

Then we moved to the Borders and realised that in Borders terms Anne lives just around the corner (about 15 miles away) in Duns, and I've been out with her and the cart with Arnie/Charlie in the drive shaft, which was great fun.

Fingers crossed that we do well tomorrow, as rain is expected. Nothing worse than standing in the wet and not getting anything as a reward, especially as I have to get up at 5.30 am just for the pleasure.