Sunday, 30 October 2011

And the clocks went back

I thought I'd got the clock change under control, but when I woke up this morning the clock on the Sagem digibox attached to the TV in the bedroom (no comments thank you!) said 6.30 and I thought that meant that it was actually 6.30. Sadly for Mountain Man it turned out to be 5.30 in 'new money'.

I wasn't the only one. Nell, our aged Alsatian, also thought it was time to be getting up and forced MM out of bed to get her breakfast biscuits. He was not amused either by her or me.

I decided on going back to sleep, which turned out to be not such a great idea. I woke up at almost 9, which meant almost 10 in yesterday time, with a headache and absolutely starving. By this time MM had gotten over the early start and very kindly made me a delicious fully cooked Sunday breakfast in bed. I felt truly spoilt.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


There are some things that truly make me giggle and this is one of them.

At the end of my professional emails I have a disclaimer. Actually I have two. One which is slightly lighter in format than the other. So one when I need to be strict and straight down the line and one where I can afford to be a bit softer. I spent quite a long time on the wording for both and quite honestly was pleased when I was happy with them and felt they said what I wanted them to say. Everyone in my profession, as far as I can tell, has one. They are 'dry' as hell, and I do wonder sometimes if anyone actually reads them, but we have them just in case someone receives an email they shouldn't. In other words it covers our arses.

Well here is one, genuine I'm assured, that one bright person puts on their personal emails and I have to say I'm tempted to nick it and put it on mine:

Disclaimer: This is an email. It's like regular mail but without an envelope.  If it isn't addressed to you then you probably shouldn't read it, but since you're reading this it probably doesn't matter now. I treat email like regular mail. It could be months before I get around to answering and, like regular mail, if I find yours boring or unimportant I'll probably throw it away and forget about it or I'll lose the address. As for legal implications, how the hell would I know? I'm not a lawyer.

The only thing that is stopping me is that I know I often whizz an email off without paying total attention as to which disclaimer I've put on, and I try hard not to put them on personal emails anyway. But there's always one or two that get through the system and I don't think I'm ready yet to be quite so 'out there'.

However, it certainly made me smile and I hope it does the same for you.

Friday, 28 October 2011

All at sea

A slight ear infection turned out to be a middle ear and an inner ear infection. The only problem is that one - that is the one in the middle - is painful and treated by antibiotics, while the other - the inner one - is treated differently. I decided that getting rid of the pain was a priority and I'd deal with the feeling of being on a boat later, in the hope that would clear up of its own accord. So antibiotics it was. My GP also decided on a 'massive dose' (at least that was her expression), as by this time my sinuses were also infected. Lovely!

48 hours later and I'm still in throb mode, but it does feel like it's slowly getting better. I managed work yesterday, but decided to cancel my last two clients as concentration was low and I was running out of steam. I hate cancelling people, but given that I didn't feel I could possibly give them more than 50% of my attention let alone the 100% which I feel my job demands, I allowed myself to feel guilty and went home to sleep for a while.

When I woke up I decided to make the effort and go to my Arts Club session, which was on Tony Cragg at The Gallery of Modern Art. We had the head of sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art leading the discussion, which was very interesting, but by the time we finished I had enough energy to go home, crawl into bed and sleep. However, if that show is down your way I highly recommend checking it out.

Then today I was at an all day meeting, having to chair the morning session. I seemed to be all at sea and found it quite difficult to keep focused, but I managed and have to hope it wasn't too awful for those that were there.

So now I'm relaxing at home, wishing the world wouldn't keep lurching from side to side every now and then and that I get to dry land quite soon as I'm getting a bit fed up.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Italy in a nutshell

Back home from Italy.

Apart from having packed totally the wrong clothes (for some reason I thought it would be warm, more fool me), and feeling the cold a lot of the time, the trip was a great success.

Milan - Casa Mia our hotel turned out to be a real find. On the edge of the Giardini Pubblici in the centre of Milan and within walking distance from everything we wanted to see, it was spotlessly clean with a very relaxed atmosphere. I can highly recommend it if you're heading that way.

N and I did all the touristy things, Duomo, Arts Centre, Castello Sforzesco and many more. We ate at a lovely restaurant the first night, a crap one the second, found out that many bars do what's called Happy Hour, which is 100% different from what we expected. When you buy a drink you get as much as you want to eat from salads, to freshly made sandwiches, to crisps, to pasta - in fact you name it as an hors d'oevres and it was probably on offer. The bar we went to, Bar Cin Cin was wonderful. Sadly we went there just before we had our worst meal (at Osteria del Trana - probably great if you like meat, but awful choices for veggies and pescatarians, and our food was not good at all) and I was very abstemious as we were going for dinner. Should have stayed in the bar and ate there. Live and learn!

We were so lucky with the weather as the one full day we were there it was sunny and bright, just right for walking around. On the day we were leaving it became very overcast and apparently had a thunderstorm not long after we left.

View from the top of Duomo

Extraordinary trees in Guardini Repubblica where the branches grow upward

A relaxed trip from Milan to Venice by train and arrived to wet weather. We had no problem finding our hotel, La Residenza, which was between Piazza San Marco and Arsenale in a beautiful, quiet Venetian square. Although lovely, it wasn't nearly as relaxed as our hotel in Milan, and the owner, known to us a Mr Breakfast for his bad mood and inability to serve more than one person at a time at breakfast - we're talking a basket of croissant and roll, a juice and tea or coffee. Not exactly taxing, but he made it an art form for all the wrong reasons!

La Residenza - our room was on the 2nd floor (2 windows from the balcony with the drape) to the left of the photo
Our first day it pissed down and us, along with what seemed like everyone else in Venice that day, decided on a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim collection. A very well worthwhile experience though.

That evening we were joined by the rest of our group (13 of us in all) and the next morning we awoke to incredibly sunny, blue skies. It was cold but joyous.

Then off to the Biennale. We spent the day at the Giardini. Interestingly the pieces I liked the most were the Tintoretto's and not much of the modern stuff at all. The next day we went off to see our Scottish representative, Karla Black. Ok but not really my cup of tea, then to TRA museum. If you get to Venice during the Biennale it is a must visit place. They only open it for the event and is unbelievable. I could have spent the whole day there. This was followed by an afternoon at San Giorgio Maggiore, where the Anish Kapoor offering was housed. I can't really explain it to do it justice, but trust me it was truly wonderful.

Anish Kapoor 'sculpture'
A few of us decided to go up the tower and take in the view, which was magnificent, marred only by the siting of 3 huge liners (each housing over 2,000 people) which had blasted into the city for the day, and were on their way out while we were up there. I can't tell you what it was like seeing these vast floating cities powering their way past Venice, but it reminded me a bit of War of the Worlds.

View from San Giorgio Maggiore tower

one of the 3 liners on it's way out of Venice

San Maggiore from Arsenale
Our last day was spent at Arsenale part of the Biennale and had some fascinating pieces. My 2 favourites were by French photographer Jean-Luc Mylayne, who has only taken approx 150 photos in 30 years. He apparently lives with the birds for years until they trust him implicitly and he then waits for the one photograph. They were truly extraordinary and I know the following photos don't do much for them, but maybe gives you an idea.

And finally, Christian Marclay's The Clock. A film of film clips on the concept of 24 hours, and is done in 'real time' so whatever time of day it is it's depicted in the film. It was mesmerising and in fact won the Golden Lion at this year's festival. I urge you to see both of these two artists and the Anish Kappoor if any of them come your way.

Our last day was hilarious. N and I left our key at the desk with Mr Breakfast when we went to buy rolls for the journey, and when we got back our key had disappeared. Mr B made us empty our pockets and our bags to prove we didn't have the key. It turned out that one of our guides had picked it up by mistake, but this was only found out at the last minute, when she fessed up to her crime. Anyway, we thought it was very amusing. Luckily we'd already paid before the hiatus, so we weren't bothered.

The only thing that marred the trip was coming home to 394 emails. God alone knows how many I'll come back to from South Africa where I head in just over 2 week's time, but I'm trying not to think about that. Oh yes, and I seem to have picked up a slight ear infection, but am off to the docs to get sorted so that I'm up and at'em in time for my next flight.

And I end on a question: can anyone tell me why the sky in Venice is the most unbelievable shade of blue? We have a fab day here in the Borders, but the sky is pale in comparison. Just asking....

Sunday, 16 October 2011


Sunday started well enough, although I still have a horrible cold and cough, made somewhat worse by shouting at the tv whenever the All Blacks kicked the ball in the Rugby World Cup semi- final. I just love to watch them pass the ball and ended up at one point going for a shower as I could bear it no longer. Anyway they won, which was fab (sorry Lizzie!).

After that I tried to get things in order ready for my trip to Italy tomorrow. It started with my iPhone. It wouldn't sync and lost a lot of my details. I wondered if this was to do with the new operating system that my phone downloaded the other day. I hadn't upgraded my laptop so set about doing that. Well, 5 hours later and it's still not downloaded. I'm still waiting impatiently. So far I've had around 7 attempts, but now, at 7.15 pm I'm just under half way there. I now have a phone that doesn't work, a computer that doesn't work, a voice that doesn't work and a nose that keeps dripping... Now that's a great way to head for holiday don't you think?

Still, swamped with Lemsips I've managed to pack. I'm now minus a few details, such as directions to the hotel in Milan, but hey, I've got the name so that's a good start. I wanted to have an early night, but given the problems with downloading OS Lion I think I'm in for the long haul. But that's me folks. And with my phone not working there'll be no updates until I return, when all will be revealed.

Arrivederci one and all.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Saturday rant

A brand new Sainsburys opened on the outskirts of Kelso on Wednesday and apparently they took an extraordinary amount of money on the opening day. I'm not at all surprised at that, given what it was like when I visited yesterday at 11.30 in the morning. It was the slowest supermarket shopping experience I can remember having. The place was humming! We had to form orderly queues and follow each other around as though we were on some invisible conveyor belt. Strictly one direction and no overtaking in the outside lane.

I know that people will find the supermarket helpful, but it also made me feel a bit sad. I rather liked Kelso with it's cobbled streets and it's small specialist shops. Still it had to happen sooner rather than later and at least it's not a Tesco.

I'm not sure why I have such an aversion to Tesco, but I do. It seems like they are hell bent on worldwide dominance and don't want anyone else to have a look in. What's wrong with that? I hear you ask. And aren't Sainsburys or for that matter any supermarket chain after the same thing? Yes, they probably are, but Tesco seem to do it with such aggression. And for me it's all that's wrong with our society. Grasping, money grabbing and greedy. No thought for the greater good, or sense of community, or being satisfied. Just needing to have more all the time.

Reminded me of this fab Dalai Lama quotation that I was directed to recently:

And I think that says it all.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Could someone tell me...?

I know I've mentioned this before, but now I'm really worried. What the hell has happened to 2011? I mean there I was in January with all thoughts of all the things I wanted to accomplish in my last year in my 50's, and before I know where I am, it's mid October, and if I look at my list I've not managed to accomplish very much at all. In fact I seem to lurch from one month to the next without passing 'Go' and collecting my £200.

Take holidays for example:

I've been looking forward to this month as, on Monday, I'm off to the Venice Biennale (with Spin, the arts club I belong to in Edinburgh) via a couple of days in Milan (along with my friend, N). Sounding good? Well I'm sure it will be, but I'm not ready. At the beginning of the year when I booked this I had loads of time to plan and get everything I needed together, but now it's days away. Am I sorted? No. Do I have a clue what I'm going to be doing? No. Have I looked at any travel books? No. And add to this next month. I'm off on a 'trip of a lifetime' to South Africa to meet up with Tracy Mc and go road tripping. Am I sorted? No. Do I have a clue what I'm going to be doing? No. Have I looked at any travel books? No. And when I get back it will be December... oh don't even go there!

So my question is this. Could someone please tell me how we got to October 2011 so quickly?  ... please?!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Trouble at t'Ikea mill?

At last I managed to get a desk organised for my writing room in Edinburgh. I spent at least half an hour in Ikea wondering whether to go for black and white, birch and white, or plain white. It ended up with plain white, which has turned out to be a great choice.

And so a pleasant evening was spent with Mountain man putting together my new desk. Well ok, that is a slight exaggeration. There were tense moments, divorce moments, frustrated moments and one happy moment when it was finally put into place.

What's happened to us? We used to love putting flat-packed furniture together. We've done them all from MFI onwards and even offered our services to others. Maybe age has finally caught up with us and we've realised the stupidity of our ways... and it only took 20 years!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Food and drink

Well who'd have thought that Scarborough is one of the surf capitals of the UK? Certainly not me, and as you can see from the photo, though there were quite a few of them out there, there wasn't much in the way of surf, but maybe in Yorkshire they like to do things differently?

surfing Scarborough style
We had a lovely walk along the very windy beach and a trip on the funicular railway, or perhaps better put that we opted for the lazy approach to getting to and from the beach.

going up
After a quick family catch up, Mountain Man and I went off to lunch in Whitby where we partook in the delights of The Magpie Cafe. Whitby crab salad followed by haddock and chips. Luckily we chose to have a small rather than regular, because Magpie's boast Yorkshire portions, and I'm warning you that if you are ever lucky enough to get there, you need to believe what they say! It's years since I had such fresh fish and chips and it was fantastic. They even had wheat free batter as a matter of course, which surprised me. I can highly recommend it as a place to go, but be prepared to queue.

Whitby proved a tourist haven and was humming with people, even though it was drizzling and windy, the streets were full. We wandered about and bought some cheap crap to take home with us before going back to Scarborough ready for an evening of fun and jollity family style. MM's sister, the brother-in-law, the brother-in-law's sister and brother-in-law (are you keeping up here?) and a friend of MM's sister went out for dinner. Delicious food and good company, and then back to the hotel to sleep it all off and wake up early this morning to head back up the road in time for bowls.

I made it but was 10 minutes late. Pleased I did so as I need the practice. By the end of the session I was actually getting better and began to feel I might retain my place in the league team.

I'm having a chillax time tonight with wine and tv. I've given up giving up drinking, but am still wheat and dairy free, but quite honestly I'm not sure it's made much difference. I'm off to Italy next week (to the Venice Biennale) and the thought of no pasta and no cheese seems a bit much so I'm thinking of at least eating a bit of wheat by the weekend. Yum... no more sawdust for breakfast!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Handbags not quite at dawn

Here we are in not so sunny Scarborough for a weekend of fun and frivolity courtesy of my brother-in-law, who turned 60 last week when he was away in the States.

We arrived in our hotel, which luckily for us was the one where the party was being held, a fact that neither of us could remember and only twigged when we met another couple who were due to attend. We have a nice enough room with a lovely sea view, though so far we haven't partaken of the delights of Scarborough. No, instead we've spent our whole time within the confines of the hotel.

The party was good fun, with much dancing (me) and much chatting to relatives (MM). The live band, friends of my b-i-l, were great and pumped out Stones and ACDC classics. Rather amusing to watch a whole lot of folk, most of whom were around the 60 mark, shaking their different shaped booties to hits of the 70's. In fact the most surreal moment was when, as a joke, a couple of the women put their handbags on the floor and then a few of the men got up and started dancing round them!

We've already partaken of our full on breakfast, which was much needed after the night's activities, and are due to spend the day with family and friends, with hopefully a bit of an explore along the seashore. But quite frankly don't think there will be much to top the 'man bag' situation.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Summer of '69

Dinner and theatrical pursuits were the order of last night.

We went out to see The Sins Of The Father by Tom Murray at The Wynd Theatre in Melrose and decided to go for a bistro dinner before. We chose Marmions because it was round the corner to the theatre and the menu looked good. The place itself was lovely, but the food was just ok. Good to be out together though, as Mountain Man and I have hardly had time to be a deux for what seems like quite a while.

The Wynd Theatre was something else. It reminded me of The Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, Notting Hill in the late 60's, where we would congregate to watch all kinds of films, with 24 hours of Batman and Robin, and Flash Gordon I remember as being favourites. The thing about The Electric was that you could imbibe, smoke or chew any substance of your choice while, prior to the films beginning, sitting back and relaxing to Simeon's light show, which consisted of him putting coloured oil on slides. He was so out of it most of the time that it was lucky if anything actually moved, though one night he went to sleep and the slide started burning. There was a bit of a 'fire' outcry, but no harm was done. All part of the ambience in my hippy days.

When we got to the Wynd, the receptionist wasn't concerned with our electronic tickets, she just wanted our names, which were on a very low tech sheet of paper and after having been ticked it was 'The show tonight lasts 1 hour 10 minutes with no interval, therefore, if you want a drink then you are allowed to take it into the theatre.' So there we were in the back row complete with wine (me) and coffee (MM), with all those around us in very chatty mood. When I say back row there are only 6 rows, so it wasn't like we were far from the stage or anything, and the place was full apart from one seat.

The play itself was very intense and thought provoking. It's about what happens to two people whose lives have been affected by one of them's father having murdered the other one's mother. I shall say no more in case you go and see it for yourselves. But if it comes your way, then I can recommend going to see it, especially if you're in the kind of theatre that likes it's patrons to be happy campers. The wine went down a treat, and although it wasn't an all-nighter, MM and I had a really enjoyable night out.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Back to school and car matters

A while back I was attending a talk on Mindfulness by Maura Sills, co-founder of the Karuna Institute and I met a charming young man, Mr B. It freaked me out a bit to learn he was a teacher at Fettes College because he looked like he was young enough to attend there not teach there! The upshot of that meeting was that I was invited to sit in with a Mindfulness lesson for Year 3's, and that took place yesterday.

I had a lovely afternoon not just sitting in class listening to Mr B teach Mindfulness, but I also went to a PSE class on Fettes approach to bullying. As part of that talk Mr B went through the problems with Facebook and the web in general, and I was amazed at how much I didn't know. For example, did you know that if you apply to University, they check your Facebook page and other network sites to see what idiotic things you get up to? I certainly didn't.

I also had a visit to the Deputy Head's office. This brought back some not so pleasant memories for me and even though she was welcome personified I was pleased to escape.

The morning was taken up with sitting in the garage waiting on new tyres being fitted to my car. Actually it was lovely to sit and read and drink coffee in nice comfy seats. I could've done with it not being quite so expensive, but they did give me a discount of a whole 3p. I had to stop myself laughing at the idea of them thinking that giving me 3p was going to persuade me of their generosity, but hey a discount is a discount. And I did manage to get them to give me a bigger reduction on a couple of winter tyres (£6 per tyre). So I shall be heading back to the garage at some point in the not too distant future to take up their kind offer. Actually given the way the weather is that is probably going to be sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Things can only get better

New beginnings:
1. My new leg brace. It doesn't feel nearly as stable as my old one. I think it's because it's so much lighter and I'm just not used to something not heavy and large that goes from the middle of my thigh all the way down to my mid calf. It also makes my leg quite sore. The consultant told me to wear it for short periods to start with, so a full on Zumba hour was not on the cards. I decided to see how it went and I managed just over half an hour, which wasn't bad. I think the whole experience wasn't helped by new Zumba shoes, which are also very light. Two lots of light in one day seemed just a bit much.

2. My first outing with my league bowls team. This was the most embarrassing game of all. I managed to totally disgrace myself and if I don't pick up it could well be that I'm off the team before I've even really started. Out of 12 ends I managed to get 4 bowls reasonably close, 2 of which won 2 ends, but that was it. Oh ****!

Monday, 3 October 2011

London happenings

Just back from a hectic few days in London. I had a couple of rather remarkable things happen, one of which wasn't that I thought the workshop I went to was all that great.

Wembley proved the absolute nightmare to get to that I thought it would, and on top of that it was sunny and very, very hot, so spending all day inside for two days apart from lunch time seemed a bit of a waste. But at least when I did get out summer had descended and all was right with the world... which I gather was a whole lot better than it was in the Scottish Borders, where storm clouds had gathered and autumn/winter was back with a vengeance.

Saturday travelling wasn't quite so bad as Sunday. There were lots of buses and trains, but come Sunday I started out by trying to get a bus from Marble Arch to Marylebone Station. I waited and waited for a bus to come - and no, 3 didn't come along at once, at least not while I was there. In fact none came along in 20 minutes of waiting so I opted for a cab as there was just the one train from Marylebone to Wembley that would get me there on time for the start. I found myself with a lovely lady cab driver and we chatted away and when we got to the station she undercharged me. And she meant to do so. It was still on the expensive side as only London cabs are, but I don't think I've ever been asked not to pay the full fare before.

I decided to leave the workshop in the afternoon tea break as, apart from not enjoying myself that much and having to get to Waterloo for a meet up with the OU London crew for 7 (the workshop officially finished at 6), I knew the trains would be awful on the way back. And I was spot on there. Just one train every 1hour 20mins. They'd cancelled all the rest in their wisdom. So I had to wait almost an hour for a train, but at least I got back to my mother's with enough time to change my shoes and head to Waterloo.

Ok... so next... I got on a tube at Green Park for the two stops to Waterloo. The tube was unbelievably crowded. Apparently they were only running a train every 15-20 minutes, so when I got on it was standing room only. Then the most amazing thing happened... a guy offered me his seat! I can't remember when, if ever, that's happened before. I declined as it was only 2 stops, but as I got off I tweeted that it had happened, and the next thing I know is that RealLondonTube have become my follower on Twitter. How bizarre is that? Does this mean that someone sits and goes through every tweet there is looking for a mention of London tube and then clicks the follow button? Sadly I think the answer is yes... what a strange world we live in.

I had a lovely meet up with my OU friends. And in spite of the fact that I spent the evening alcohol free, it was a lot of fun and a really enjoyable evening.

And now? Well I'm back home in the depths of windy, rainy Scotland. Good to be home, but I'm missing the heat already.