Tuesday, 28 June 2011

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday was awful. Cloudy and heavy for the whole day, with a bit of mizzle thrown in for good measure. Apparently in London the temperature soared into the 80's, whereas in Edinburgh it rained, so I suppose I should be grateful that the Borders were slightly more temperate. I went out with Magic Bob to throw a few bowls in the evening but it was really cold and not nice at all, so we gave it an hour and then left for the warmer climes of our houses.

Then this morning I woke up to the bluest of skies with white fluffy clouds. I'd almost forgotten what June weather is supposed to be like, but today is a picture perfect summer day, so I'm supposing that London will have rain. What a strange summer.

Now all the garden jobs that have been left for a month need doing and I'm not sure the summer will last beyond today, so there's fences to paint, weeds to weed, veggies to plant and a whole lot more... and of course Wimbledon has to be fitted in too. I fear today not as much as I'd like will be achieved, especially because the fence paint seems to have solidified after the frost of the winter, so that means a journey to go get some more which adds to the hours left in the day to actually do things.

I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow and will be there for the rest of the week as I have work to do and singing to accomplish, and my mountain man is off up a mountain somewhere until next Monday so tonight, after he's been climbing with Pat the Police, we'll have to wish each other a fond fairwell. Practice though for his major jaunt to Everest at the end of July, when he leaves me and the dog for a whole three weeks of fun and frolics in the Himalayas, lucky sod.

Meanwhile my singathon is coming along well. I've learned all my songs now, the only thing that needs a bit of perfecting is staying in tune. Also I wish I didn't have the bloody things going round and round in my head all day. I even found myself chopping down nettles to 'Water is Life', which I was singing out loud until I realised I was. The neighbourhood had gone quiet. I retreated indoors to give them a chance to recover and so that I didn't totally ruin what could be our only summer's day for a while.

Monday, 27 June 2011

An expensive day out

On Saturday I headed for Edinburgh as there was a party next door. We had been invited, but as my Beloved was heading off up a hill to tender to the needs of those mad enough to want to run up hills in the dark, I decided not to go on my own and also not to hang around to listen to those partaking in jollities.

The other reason was that my Beloved's daughter and grandson had arranged an assignation at The Royal Highland Show, so had to be in Edinburgh on Sunday morning anyway and it made things easier.

It was difficult to know what to wear as the weather was alternately windy and cloudy and cold, or sunny and balmy and warm. I took my wellies as well just in case. Turned out I was dressed just right, but spent a lot of the day taking my jacket on and off.

I don't know how many of you have been to the Royal Highland, but it cost a fortune. £5 to park the car and £25 each to let us in... yes, you read it right... £25! My step-daughter, her ex (don't ask) and the grandson only stayed just over an hour, so that turned out to be a very expensive jaunt for them. Whereas we stayed for as long as we could.

I love Agricultural shows, though this was the first time at this one. I have to say I much prefer the smaller events and am looking forward to the Border Union show at the end of July where I'm showing a Shetland. The RHS is just too big. You'd have to stay all weekend to be able to see it all, and at the prices they're charging that's a no-no for a start.

Still we watched the heavy horse championship, and then the fox hounds, who if they weren't running round and round in circles were eating as much horse shit as they could get hold of and dispensing it out the other end... lovely! Nathan got a chance to go and pet them which he enjoyed, but not quite so sure his dad did.

When it was time for the cattle parade, the others opted to go for a wander and I was left on my own to watch. I loved it. Here's a pic of the overall champion who was a Short Horn. And very, very handsome he was too.

After the others left to head back to Glasgow, my Beloved and I found a spot in the stands and spent a very happy afternoon watching the pipe bands and the show jumping. Just as we were leaving we bumped into someone from our village who told us there'd been blue, sunny skies in the Borders all day... win some, lose some I guess.

It took us about half an hour to find our car, as the intrepid mountain man, who can find his way round the mountains of Scotland without so much as a compass, totally misjudged where we'd parked the car. He wouldn't believe me when I started in one direction. Turned out I was right. Mountain man was circumspect. I did say 'told ya so', but hey got to get the jollies where one can! Then it took us about another half hour to get out of the car park.

Anyway, here's a few pictures of champion sheep to keep you all happy.

And here's a pic of the real reason we went to the RHS:

Stylish Blogger Award

On Saturday I received a Stylish Blogger award from Eileen Thornton, who resides at Life's Hard - Wine Helps! Thank you Eileen! So lovely to get an award. I'd also like to thank the world and the universe. And of course my coffee plants without whom this blog would never have happened - *as I leave the stage in tears*!

These are the rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award. (Thanks Eileen)
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 10 - 15 blogs who you think deserve this award.
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award.

1. I don't usually do these round robin things.
2. I'm not very good at following rules.
3. I play bowls and I'm only my 50's - but only just!
4. I live in an old church.
5. I have an elderly Alsatian called Nell.
6. I hate housework (as if you hadn't already guessed).
7. My favourite food is olives. Or is it pickles? Or is it melon? Or... what the heck I give up!

The stylish blogs I'd like to nominate are the following:
(and please note there are only 5 of you - see No. 2 above)


Do go and visit them... they're all very stylish.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

People are strange

Well me actually.

Every Saturday I get the Guardian and the very first thing I do is complete the Sudoku. Don't ask me why, I just do. It makes me feel complete, like I've achieved something. Sometimes I make mistakes (it's always a 'hard' one on a Saturday) and I spend far too much time redoing it on various bits of paper until it's finished. I don't like to leave it undone, as somehow in the depths of my mind it feels unlucky. I try very hard not to be superstitious but I'm afraid the Guardian Sudoku is my undoing on that one.

But, even worse is, once I'm finished I feel almost sad that it's done. And if it's taken me forever to complete it's a mixture of relief that it's finished, sadness that it's finished and frustration at how long it's taken me.

So today I finished it in record time. I've been doing Sudoku for years and today, for some reason I can't quite fathom, I found a new way to do it. Now I feel my usual relieved and sad, but now I also feel frustrated that it's taken me so long to discover my new method, and frustrated that I finished it so quickly that I fear my Saturday's will never be the same.

Yup... totally strange.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Singing on a full stomach

Wednesday night saw my first evening restaurant review for The New Inn in Coldingham. In spite of supposed to be taking a meat eater, because it was such a last minute gig and my Beloved and I hadn't been out together for some time, I chose him as my companion. We had a lovely evening only marred by my having to be very level-headed and not have the bottle of wine that I was offered on the house (I had two glasses instead), and having to ask 'sensible' questions of the very garrulous owner who kept us talking for quite some time after the meal was finished. Coldingham is about 40 minutes away from us, so by the time we got home it was getting pretty late. The rich food did not help my sleep at all, and I was awake for a lot of the night, and wasn't the best way to head to Edinburgh for work yesterday.

Still I kept my mind off my grumbling tummy by immersing myself in singing practice. I've got precisely until next Saturday to learn all the words and music for Scotland Sings For Water, the charity event I'm taking part in, and having an hour in the car singing along with the cd is helping me loads. I think a lot of my fellow commuters were rather pleased that summer is still not with us and it was too cold for me to open my windows so they couldn't actually hear me sing, but they seemed to be quite amused as I got quite a few stares as I gave it my best shot. I don't think the genteel folk of Edinburgh are quite so used to nutters on their own in their cars singing at the top of their voices. Still they were spared on the return journey as the weather had improved immeasurably, but Wimbledon was on Radio 5 live and always takes precedence.

The singing in the car has made me almost word perfect, just another couple of car journeys and I think I'll have it down to a tee. There's still time to donate if you feel like it by following this link.

I'm getting quite excited about the event now, and am praying that the sun shines for the day as it won't be nearly so good an event if we're singing in the rain. I know it worked for Gene Kelly, but somehow 300 sodden Scottish singers in Parliament Square doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Yesterday I had to arrange to have my boiler in Edinburgh serviced through my annual service plan that I have with Scottish and Southern Energy.

After waiting several minutes with musac to keep me amused, I got a very nice guy who took me through security questions. All going ok - well alright I wasn't so amused with the musac, but keeping myself steady.

Then he informs me that I can have any time from 8am to 5pm. Fine I thought... 8 will suit me fine. But no... what he really meant was that I had to wait in all day until the engineer deigned to turn up. I said it wasn't possible. I have to go to work when I'm in Edinburgh.

Then he told me I could have an evening. Anytime from 5pm until 8pm. Sounds good? Well yes, except that for the next month I'm out every night I'm in Edinburgh and so no possibility of that. By this time I'm beginning to lose it slightly, but told him as nicely as I could that although I realised he was being as helpful as possible given the guidelines he had to work with, sadly it wasn't at all helpful to me the customer. He repeated himself. I could feel myself getting tense.

I then asked, as nicely as I could, to speak to a supervisor. I waited 12 minutes and 43 seconds and he came back to me and said he'd spoken to the supervisor and they'd agreed I could have either a morning or afternoon to suit.

By this time I'd been on the phone for almost 22 minutes, and I was far from amused, but hey the engineer is coming out one afternoon I'm actually free in Edinburgh, so perhaps I shouldn't complain.

I can't help wondering what the hell happened to customer service? As in the service is for the customer? Very obviously Scottish and Southern have a different view of how things should be.

Still I was very polite, albeit through gritted teeth, and didn't swear once, which I think is a major achievement under the circumstances.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bad hair day

I decided to colour my hair. I've been doing it for years, but somehow over the last year or so the colour I used to use was coming out way too dark. So this time - after a talk with the local hairdresser, Jackie (£6 a pop and she comes to house), I went for a lighter shade. Jackie said that just going one shade lighter is all I'd needed to do and it wouldn't come out all that different, just a bit lighter.

The one I chose was called 'Radiant Golden Blonde' (which is one colour off the lightest which is called 'Pure Light Blonde' and I thought was a step far too far), and was 2 shades lighter than my previous choice. And from the pictures on the pack of all the glamorous looking women with their varying shades of blonde, it looked just the ticket.

Now my hair is an interesting mix of brown with more than a hint of orange. One (as in my Beloved) might say it looks 'interesting' or someone else (as in me) might call it 'a complete and utter disaster'. And it looks nothing whatsoever like any of the pics on the packet. Whatever, I'm now stuck with it until it tones down a bit.

In a way I'm quite pleased it's raining today as if I were to go out in the sunshine and my hair got bleached a bit, God alone knows what it might look like.

So finally I'm thinking age is catching up with me and perhaps it's about time I stopped dyeing my hair and just leave it to be what it wants to be. I've got a couple of months to go before I finally make up my mind as this one grows out, though I've noticed I'm already being strangely drawn to 'Pure Light Blonde' for some reason. Who knows, but maybe it's because I'm worth it.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Today's the day

It's Wimbledon! The time of year when I am firmly glued to the telly for far too many hours a day. Sadly this year, because my Beloved's new employee will be firmly ensconced in the main part of the house, I think I'll be banned to the bedroom for the next two weeks. Unless I can persuade them that a background of tennis will help boost their concentration. I hae me doots.

Yesterday was pleasant enough. A bit of bowls with Magic Bob and Joyce as my Beloved celebrated Father's Day with cards and phone calls from all those who count. My belly was still in recovery from Saturday's massive lunchtime meal and is only starting to get back to normal today. I think I'm going to have to see if I can get dinner gigs as I'm so not used to eating such big meals at midday. Still I'm enjoying the writing. It certainly is quite something to have to write a mere 210 words to express all I want to and I think it's good practice for me.

One member of the writer's group I belong to (The Borders Writers' Forum) has won the prestigious Neil Gunn prize 2011. Margaret Skea won not just the Adult Prose section, but also the overall prize with her delightful story, Working Away, which is fantastic. That is the writing as well as the fact that she won. She told me she was a bit shell-shocked by the whole thing. I'm just so pleased that someone I know actually won.

I think it'll be some years before I'm brave enough to enter such a renowned comp. Better stick to what I know I can do, like write about delicious food, and enjoy the fact that I too am in print.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Full up

Another day another food review. This one was in Duns, at The Black Bull Hotel and very, very good the food was too. A delicious, fresh, Eyemouth dressed crab (I could have actually eaten this for my starter, main and pud it was that good) and then seabass with fennel and lemon butter. I was so full I opted for a tiny portion of lemon sorbet, which was delicious. I also had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. In this restaurant the wine wasn't free, but who cares. The whole meal was fantastic.

My companion was my friend's husband. I had hoped she might have been able to come, but she's tied up with work things and so said her hubby would be happy to be my meat eater. He only just got the gig as I was about to phone my next on the list. He opted for a Waldorf salad and then rump of Border lamb. His dessert was a lovely looking raspberry cranachan, and apparently was delicious. We had interesting talk about his stint on jury duty in Selkirk, and it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Especially as it was raining.

Meanwhile my poor man was up a mountain outside of Callender on the Rob Roy Challenge where I think he will have spent the day being deluged. Apparently there were over 700 brave folk doing it.  Still he should be home later tonight, as long as they all finish and there's no disasters.

I've been so full from my lunch I couldn't face anything to eat tonight. I'm pleased I don't have very many of these gigs to do, as I fear putting on weight could come very easily.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Time to boogie?

My man has been invited back to the Rowchester Festival. Last year he was stopped in the street by the guy who runs it, one Leonard Harper-Gow, who's as eccentric as his name suggests, and asked if he'd like to have a stall. Not quite as random as you'd think because Mr H-G had seen the Beloved's monster truck which sports his business on the side and they had a 'meaningful' conversation. And on the strength of that was invited. The only problem was my Beloved was away that weekend and yours truly was stuck with the task of selling items of jewellery and the like for two days of fun and frolics.

Mr H-G was passing the other day and stopped again. He wants a repeat performance, which is good news. And even better is that my man is actually going to be about that weekend and will be running the stall himself, ably aided and abetted by his glamorous side-kick, moi. So that should be fun.

I'd rather thought I was past music festival activity. Especially as for the first four years of the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival I was asked to be in charge of the 'Lost Property' tent. This essentially meant that people who didn't want to look after their children abandoned them in my care while they went off and had a good time for a few hours. Oh yes, and the amount of car keys that were lost was amazing. I'm surprised that some people actually made it out of the grounds in the end. Anyway, as to the children, I was, on several occasions, tempted to call Social Services. Luckily I moved to the Borders and could happily refuse to do the job anymore as I was too far away.

The reason I got to do the gig in the first place was because the charity I worked for was supported by Joe Gibbs the man at the heart of Belladrum. The first year he did it, all three of us who worked for the charity were roped in to help, and Joe asked me to take charge of the Lost Property. Sadly Joe thought I was so good at it I never managed to do another job and consequently most of my festival time each year was spent in the company of those that were absolutely not rock and roll. Because it was such a chore I vowed I wouldn't work at another festival. But then when my man asked me to help last year I could hardly refuse.

Luckily Rowchester is a whole lot smaller and friendlier than Belladrum, and even though I was stuck behind a stall last year, I had a great view of the stage and was able to feel part of the festivities. I'm hoping it hasn't changed too much this year. And you never know, because my Beloved will be running the stall, I might just have time to idiot dance along with the rest of them.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A productive day

Today was very productive.

I spent the morning practising my bowls with Magic Bob and his wife, Joyce. Then home for tennis, which I'm so pleased Andy Murray won, and then followed by my knocking out a 1750 word short story. It was supposed to come in between 1500 and 1700 so had to do a bit of adjustment, but was very pleased with myself.

I got the idea from one of the people on my OU forum who has entered a short story competition which gave the following guidelines: Steve is a twenty-year-old delivery van driver. Julia is a 36-year-old college lecturer. You might think they make an unlikely couple, but they are the two characters about whom you are invited to write a story for this month’s subscribers-only free-entry short story competition. The story just came to me while I was out driving the other day and wanted to get it down before I totally forgot it. I'm not a subscriber to the magazine, but you never know, if I decide it's good enough I might just become one, but I'll need to leave it a couple of days to 'mature'. Actually I take that back, I might just subscribe anyway as they have monthly competitions and it'll give me a focus for my writing.

Then this evening I was out at bowls again, but this time for club night. After the last few days of torrential rain it was lovely to be out in a reasonably warm night with actual sunshine. Still an 11 degree summer evening and I'm out wearing 3 layers of clothing and use hand warmers to keep my hands from freezing, is not what I was hoping for this summer.

Coffee plant update: The plants are doing their usual, which is not much and dropping leaves. But I'm pleased to report that all of them have baby leaves growing, which is a very good sign.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

I hate housework

Unutterably disappointed of the Scottish Borders. That's been me today. I couldn't believe they cancelled Queen's Club tennis today and are putting it on tomorrow, which means my plans for tomorrow will have to change.

I was intending to do loads of exercise and writing, but instead I shall have to be glued to the telly watching the tennis until the final is over. Or as my Beloved would say, any excuse to sit on my arse and watch sport.

I was so disappointed at the tennis cancellation that I actually cleaned out my clothes cupboard, and even vacuumed in there and I have to be almost distraught to do something like that. I also washed the bathroom floor and, was so upset that I went for cleaning behind the sink. Yup, that's how upset I've been.

But now is time for Formula 1, which is in Canada this week. The commentators have spent over half an hour waffling about nothing much and I wish they'd just get on with it. Still at least on the Jacques Villeneuve track there's a chance for overtaking so it should be quite exciting. And at least it means I won't have to do anymore housework today!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Practice makes perfect

Today has felt like Noah should be around the corner. It has rained and rained and rained all day, and I'm not talking drizzle here, it's been chucking it down.

After a slow get up and a Skype session with my friend Tracy in South Africa, we took ourselves off down to the village hall where there's an exhibition of its 100 years anniversary. It had photos and memorabilia and was quite fascinating. The original bill from the architect was for £25 and all the wooden benches and tables cost £35 1shilling and 6pence. I love old stuff like that. There were some lovely pics of our house too - which was built in 1843 - and is quite a village feature.

When we got home it was still so miserable out, we cancelled our plans and decided to stay put and watch the tennis from Queen's Club. Great to see Andy Murray playing brilliantly against Andy Roddick, but the match was so short if you blinked you'd probably have missed it, and then the other semi between James Ward and Jo Wilfried Tsonga was not so scintillating and JWT didn't look like he was going to lose. I'm looking forward to the final tho, which because of the expected deluge in London tomorrow is starting an hour and half earlier than advertised.

So it seems that our weather is heading south and good riddance. Tho of course if it's sunny tomorrow I shall feel a bit guilty sitting watching the tennis, whereas today it seemed like just the thing to be doing. Still I don't care. Tennis is tennis and I've got to practice for Wimbledon which is coming up in just over a week. Yeh!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Ladies who lunch

Today I did my very first restaurant review. I went to The Library in The Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course and it was fantastic. The place is absolutely stunning and the meal was pretty good too.

I started with sweet potato soup, followed by fillet of halibut, herb butter asparagus spears, black olive and garlic crushed new potatoes and finally finished with apple tatin with cinnamon ice cream. As some of you know I'm not really into puddings at all, and so bought back a doggie bag for my Beloved with half the tatin (obviously minus the ice cream). I think I did rather well ordering a pud at all, but I suppose suffering for one's art is par for the course and the rest of the meal was very yum. All of it was washed down with a rather nice glass of complementary pinot grigio so can't really complain.

Because I needed to take a meat eater, and I really had short notice for this one, I took my Beloved's new employee. It was good as it gave us a chance to get to know each other in relaxed surroundings and she was helping me out big time, otherwise I might well have lost the gig. I think she enjoyed it too. A chance for us both to get dressed up and be ladies that lunch.

The only problem is that I had to write 210 words (with a 15 word leeway) and had to include all sorts, from what the manager told me about the place to what I'd experienced myself.  I managed it in 214 words, which was quite a feat I can tell you.

I'm pleased with what I ended up with and am hopeful that it'll be good enough for them to offer me more. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sporting activities

My man arrived home very late on Sunday night, tired but exhilerated after his efforts route marking for the London to Paris cycle ride and has been catching up with 'real life' ever since. That is the hundreds of emails that were floating in the system. I think he's almost thinking that going away for a week wasn't such a great idea. Good to have him home.

I had a great night at bowls last night and shocked everyone, including myself, with the way I played. My new village pal (who goes by the wonderful name of Magic Bob) and I went for a practice in the morning and because we both have physical problems of varying sorts, we have both had to alter the way we play to accommodate our bodies. And both of us felt we were getting somewhere. So actually playing last night and seeming to have our practice efforts paying off, made us both feel good. Can't say the club acolytes felt the same. They seemed to be quite taken aback. Now comes the difficult bit and that is to keep it going.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Lazy, hazy days of summer

Since my Beloved has been away, on the days when I'm not working I seem to have slid into a rather strange schedule. For instance, last night I was up until just before 2 am. I decided to watch 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' which I'd downloaded onto my iPad, and taking all things into consideration was probably not the best thing to watch when thinking about going to sleep. Consequently, I didn't get to sleep until it was almost getting light and then that made for a late get up today. I'm really lucky to have a dog that doesn't actually care what time I get up and some mornings she doesn't even bother to come down for her breakfast biscuits first thing, or in today's case, second or even third thing. And then that put me later than I'd planned to 'get things done'.

'Getting things done' seems to be an ongoing saga for me. And one that never seems to be completed. I walked the dog, fed the birds, watered the garden and cleaned the bathroom and kitchen and that was pretty much it. When I'd been out walking the dog I'd missed a call to bowls from my village pals, so after lunch I took a wander over to practice on my own for a while. After not quite an hour, I called it a day as it was hot out there, and my cheeks were doing a passable impression of beetroot.

So what have I actually done today? Not much I think. Never mind, we don't have a long summer so have to make the best of it while we can... so no visitors please or I shall have to get into 'big clean' mode and I really can't be bothered.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Maybe tomorrow

Today was the complete opposite of yesterday... it was beautiful and warm, dare I say hot even? My car said it was 20, and it certainly felt like it. But of course I was at work all day. Yes, inside an office. A quick going out to get my lunch, but that was it. So all I could do was look longingly out of the window at the rest of Edinburgh walking by in their T-shirts and short sleeves. Still tomorrow is a no work day and so will hopefully spend some of it outside. That will be so good.

Meanwhile my Beloved, who's currently in Compiegne, not too far from Paris, has been enjoying a very hot day in the French sunshine. Apparently his Birthday Bike is doing the trick and he's managing to cycle at speed, which he's enjoying hugely. When he was leaving London he went so fast he managed to set off a speed camera, which is some going. I think it made him very proud.

Another piece of good news is we have a new dogminder. She's actually my Beloved's new employee who stays just outside of the village, which will make our life a whole lot easier. Nell spent a trial night there on Friday, and last night was the first real night. No problems at all. I'm mightily relieved as my Beloved has a busy summer of activities coming up which makes my working life a bit complicated, so the fact that someone can look after Nell takes a lot off my mind.

So only three days left now til my Beloved gets home. Skype is great as we've been able to see each other every day and catch up on whatever has been going on, but sometimes technology lets us down. Tonight we had to connect/reconnect 4 times and in the end gave up. I'm hoping, like the weather, I'll be able to enjoy it better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Flaming June

Flaming bloody freezing June that's what!

I couldn't believe how cold it was this morning when I woke up. I was almost tempted to put the heating back on, but decided on thermal top instead. Can you believe that? Thermals in June! Where's a bit of global warming when you need it? I think Scotland got the bum end of the deal with that one.

Someone in the village told me on Monday that the weather was going to get better as it got towards the end of the week. I'm now wondering when the 'towards' bit will start. I want some sunshine, I really do. I'm totally fed up.