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


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!