Thursday, 31 March 2011

Looking forward to the weekend

I'm totally exhausted as have been away from home facilitating a brand new course. This coincided with me deciding to be extra good and not indulge in any alcohol whatsoever so I could be awake and alert, and all that seems to have happened is that I've not slept well and have ended up at 7 pm at night wanting to go to bed. 

This course is the last one for a little while, so that's good as 3 in the space of 4 weeks is enough!

Meanwhile this all coincides with yet another Open University assessment that needs to be in in a couple of weeks, but I've been good with this one and it's already off. These last couple of weeks I knew would be tough and so wanted to be ahead of the game and am pleased to report that I am. I've started on my final piece which is 50% of the course mark, and so has to be in or it's a complete fail and it's that one that seems to be causing me some angst. It's funny really as when I spend anytime in the car I spend the journey mapping the story out, and then promptly forget it all once I get out! I have one more to do before that final one has to be in, but frankly I haven't thought much about it, and as it's only for 20% of the rest of the 50% (all the rest of the assignments apart from the last one), I'm less worried about it, and am off on an Arvon poetry course in a few weeks so am hoping that I'll be able to use something I'll have written there.

So a busy time and hopefully a relaxing and less stressful weekend coming up, which will be good.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Two down - one to go

This afternoon I received a great piece of news... I've been accepted as a restaurant reviewer for the upcoming Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloways Food and Drink Guide 2011!

An email from the secretary of the Borders Writers Forum went round just over a week ago and I emailed the guy involved. He then told me I had a week to write a review and add my personal details and why I think I should be a reviewer. I sent it all off on Saturday and then got my reply today. All very exciting, as it's not that often that two of my favourite pastimes (eating and writing) are combined in a oner... now all it would need would be a restaurant review at an indoor bowls centre and I'd be laughing!

On that note, I've been 'spotted'. One of the guys at the Tweedbank Indoor Bowls club has asked if I'd be interested in joining his team playing in the leagues next season. And of course the answer was a resounding yes.

So now I'm waiting for the third bit of good news!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring things

Today, as the clocks went forward, it felt like Spring had arrived. The weather was good so time was spent in the garden chopping back all the old stalks and dead leaves and hoping that it'll encourage new growth.

Then time to do some housework. Well yes, that's the theory, however in practice I managed to get a wash on and that was it. The rest of the day was spent writing poems and course related activity. Anything in fact so that time was taken up until it felt too late for housework so on to the next planned activity... dying my hair.

The last time I did it I tried John Frieda foaming dye, in what is called Medium Natural Blonde, and it turned out fine. So I bought some more. And now my hair is... well certainly not medium blonde, more quite brown with red bits! Arghh! So in spite of telling myself that I wouldn't drink any wine tonight, I've decided to console myself by having a couple of glasses. So the inside Spring clean will have to wait until tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Coffee news

I was alerted by my friend N that on yesterday's Gardener's Question Time, Bob Flowerdew talked about how he grew a coffee plant from seed to actually getting a cup of coffee. It was an amusing minute's talk which ended in how he had managed eventually to get enough beans for one cup of the vilest tasting coffee he had ever had. All very well, I thought, but nowhere did he mention how long it took to get that vile cup of coffee. So I'm no further informed.

Apparently the reason he grew coffee was because he'd been told it was impossible. This was something that when I started my venture I wasn't aware of ... maybe if I had been I wouldn't be in the position I am, five years on with four reasonably healthy looking plants and not now, nor ever has been a single sign of a flower or a berry.

I feel that I shouldn't try and inform myself but to keep the whole thing a mystery, as who wants to know what the experts say, if even they can't know what they've let themselves in for when they attempt the perilous gardening experience that is coffee growing.

Friday, 25 March 2011

What day is this?

The last 3 days have taken their toll. I have been working 14 hours days teaching a course and, although the feedback was brilliant, I'm now officially very tired indeed. So much so that this morning I woke up convinced it was Saturday and sent a slew of emails wishing people a good weekend.

I now feel that I'm living in the Twilight Zone and have concocted my own days of the week so that I can live happily with the fact that my weekend seems to have already started... yeh!

My only problem then is that if today is actually my Saturday then do I put my clocks forward tonight instead of tomorrow? Best not eh? Maybe tonight I'll convert back to World Time and enjoy the fact that I will have had two Saturdays whereas all you lot will only have had one!

At this point you may wonder about my sanity, but don't worry I'm sure after a rejuvinating couple of days all will return to normal... only to be possibly repeated next week when the work pattern is repeated only this next course doesn't finish til Friday so god knows what day I'll be on by then.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The proof

I don't know why it's taken me so long to get the photos off my phone and onto my computer, but it has. But I thought I'd share this delightful photo of my Beloved with his new bike - replete with prayer flags for good luck. It was snowing on the day of his birthday, so he decided to ride it round the living room. It's a Ridley, which I'm sure all you bike officianados out there will know all about. Apparently it's already shaved 12 minutes off his 13 mile route and he's very, very pleased with that.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sporting achievements

Yesterday was a women's two bowl pairs competition at Tweedbank Indoor Bowls Centre. My first ever indoor bowls competition and I was paired with last year's president. We had to play a round robin of 3 games, and then whoever won from my draw had to play the winners from the second draw. To cut a long story short, my partner and I won our 3 games and were in the final. Sadly that's where the success ended as we lost to this year's President and her partner.

So what did I get for my stellar performance? lt was £4! Not a lot to shout about, but an almost win is an almost win and money is money and I'm not complaining.

The only thing that wasn't working for me was throwing the jack. I played 48 ends and won a fair few, but could I throw the jack? No! Not for love nor money. Every time I threw it it went off at an angle or into the ditch, apart from 2 ends and I sincerely don't know how I did that. I've now, apparently, become a talking point at the club as no-one (and that includes me) knows how come I can't throw a jack and yet pretty much every time I could get my bowls near to the one my opponent threw. The mystery will have to stay unsolved. And frankly, as my partner said, who cares as long as I was getting my bowls to the right place.

Meanwhile, my Beloved was doing The Mighty Deerstalker. It's one of those mad events that starts at 5.30 pm and goes on well into the night (depending how good you are) and takes you through bogs, and all kinds of obstacles. Last night was a Supermoon, the biggest full moon in 18 years and so the sky should have lit up good and proper for all those poor buggers to run around for a jolly night in the freezing cold. However, this is the Scottish Borders and sadly the beautiful moon was hidden behind cloud, but I am reliably informed that because of the cloud it made the whole thing a bit warmer. And best of all my Beloved had a great time and did the event in 1 hour 43 mins. Not bad for an old timer!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A shameless plug

My friend 'She Who Must Not Be Named' is married to the lovely Russell who has been valiantly battling, along with his fellow cronies, to bring about the photographic masterpiece that is 'Eilean Dubh'. After a bit of a battle with the 'wrong paper' and the 'wrong binding' the masterpiece is now out for public consumption.

For those that might not know Eilean Dubh is the Gaelic name for the Black Isle, which is where I used to live for many a happy year before defecting south to the Scottish Borders.

I'm sadly going to have to wait for my copy as I'm not due up in Inverness until April when I'm on a course, and even then don't know if I'll have time to pick it up, and then it will mean May when our mutual friends, Tracy and Pat are getting wed.

I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

An unwanted gift

I'm feeling a bit miserable as I have a cold. My Beloved had this after coming back from York and has given it to me. Not helped by not such an easy week of dashing about doing a bit of 'firefighting' for others who've had their own set of problems to deal with.

Last night was an impromptu OU meeting with my tutor in a bar in Edinburgh. I did tell them all I had a cold, but they were all ok with it. I wouldn't have gone if I didn't need reassurance that my next assignment was along the right lines.

We're on to 'life writing' which is biography, autobiography, travel writing etc. and although sounds relatively simple... I mean we've all had a life... it's actually a bit complicated. It still has to contain a story and be entertaining, but we've only got 1500 words. Anyway, I've written mine, which is a small incident from when I was a child, but I wanted to write the same story three times from three different people's perspectives. I wasn't sure if I'd made a huge mistake. Luckily it seems I haven't so it was worth going last night just so's I didn't have to stress myself out and can finish this one up and get on with the next one.

We've actually only got 10 weeks left on the course and have the next two assignments coming up in quite close proximity to each other, with the last one copping a whopping 50% of the marks for the whole course. I've thought a bit about what I'm going to do, but it's still in the thinking stage.

So having a cold isn't helping as my brain's gone into a fog and thinking is the last thing I seem to want to do. Isn't love wonderful? On this occasion I don't think so!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

A success!

We are just back from my Beloved's surprise 60th weekend away. We went to York - the place of his birth - and stayed at the Cedar Court Grand which was fantastic. It used to be the Headquarters of the North Eastern Railways and just happens to be the place my Beloved's grandfather used to work in, as well as being round the corner from the Nursing Home (now no longer a Nursing Home) where he was born.

After getting to the hotel and settling into our lovely room, we headed downstairs to the spa. Great pool, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. I was a touch disappointed as we were to be joined by his sister and brother-in-law for the celebrations, and I had thought it would be brilliant if they could meet us in the steam room to surprise my Beloved as he thought it was just the 2 of us. Sadly my brother-in-law said an emphatic 'no' to that one, and so we had a lovely time a deux and then met up with them in the bar later.

After a champagne cocktail we went off for a fancy, shmancy meal. It was absolutely delicious. We started dinner at 7.30 and we didn't finish until almost 11. It was one of those meals that was unhurried, full of laughter, great food, and all in all something to be remembered fondly. There was just one tiny thing and that was that I'd ordered a cake with sparklers, and it never showed up! I went to reception after and told them and they were very apologetic. Just before we left today the restaurant manager came up and apologised again and offered us a free meal the next time we go there. So that's something to look forward to and we will definitely take that up.

And finally, we had a relaxing massage this morning to finish the whole hotel experience off. Fab!

My brother-in-law headed home this morning, while my sister-in-law joined us for a walk round York, a visit to the Railway Museum, and a lunch at Zizzi's. Then we all headed off to the station for a final fairwell.

It all went very well and my Beloved really enjoyed himself, so as far as I'm concerned job done!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Help wanted

I'm teaching a course in Larbert at the moment... and now all the traffic signs say 'Heavy Snow Forecast for Friday and Saturday'.

This weekend it's my Beloved's 60th and we're due to travel to far flung places - well ok, not that far flung as we have to be back before the weekend is out. It's a secret as to where we're going and I'm not letting on, but it does necessitate travel, and if we get bloody snow that might mean all plans will be on hold.

It was bad enough that I went through all four seasons in my half hour walk for my lift this morning, but at least there wasn't any snow. The thought of yet another lot of the white stuff dumping on us to bring chaos is no joking matter.

I have a feeling I'm going to need all the help I can get so please, please keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Sunday activities Borders style

Yesterday was the Borders Organic Gardeners Potato Day at the Border Union showground in Kelso. How wonderful to call yourself by the acronym BOG... shows Border folk have a sense of humour!

It was an interesting event, with every variety of potato that you could imagine. It started at 11, and sadly we didn't get there til 12.30 by which time all the varieties we'd hoped to purchase were all sold out. I'd particularly fancied growing Anya's, but will have to get in there early next year. We did buy a couple of varieties, Swift, an early cropping variety, and Milva, which should crop slightly later. They won't be put into the main veg garden, but will be grown in pots.

I also won a major coup over my Beloved. We are not a couple that argue a lot, probably down to the fact that we can't be bothered to expend a huge amount of energy on point scoring. However, the other night we were out for dinner with our friends, Sarah and JT (my bowls partner from Perthshire), and we were talking about how the Borders is a great place for events. They have all kinds of weird and wonderful things to celebrate. I was talking about the snowdrop festival at Mellerstain House and my Beloved told me in no uncertain terms that I was wrong... it was a daffodil festival. I let it go as he seemed so certain, so imagine my 'see I was right' smirk on my face when we passed the turnoff to Mellerstain on our way to see potatoes and there it was, a large sign that said 'Snowdrop Festival'.

No problem on the point scoring then.... definitely one to me!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

World Book Night - the aftermath

World Book Night was a great success... at least in my village. Most people were extremely grateful to get Seamus Heaney and I had a lot of delightful conversations, the highlight being the very last book given away to an old Borders farmer out tending to his horse. He told me he loved Keats and didn't like Byron, and there was I thinking he would think I was mad trying to give him a poetry book... how wrong can I be!

There were a few people who were a bit nonplussed with the whole thing, but accepted a book anyway, and then there were a few others who said an outright 'no' saying they never read books. I did have particular success with three young teenagers who I stopped in the street and they immediately accepted books and seemed happy to do so.

Just one problem that I can see, and that is each book had, as said in a previous post, its own unique number and people are supposed to go to a website and record that number so that the organisers can track each book. Good idea I thought. Until I realised that at least 20% of people I gave books to don't have a computer. I'll be interested to see what the organisers will say about that one, and it certainly made me realise how many assumptions we, as a society, make. Interestingly, a lot of those people were the ones who were the most enthusiastic to receive. Maybe this says something?

Friday, 4 March 2011


A couple of months ago I applied to be a giver for World Book Night which is this Saturday. I was chosen which was very exciting. From then on things have taken on a bit of a nightmarish quality.

I went to pick up my 48 books (Collected Poems by Seamus Heaney) from a bookseller in Kelso, to be told by him that he was furious as he hadn't been told about this and he objected to books being given away while he was trying to sell them. I spent some time talking to him in my best professional tone to calm the troubled waters and eventually walked away with him carrying my box of books to my car, so felt I'd done quite well. I emailed the organisers to say that I didn't think it was such a great idea to not have participating booksellers on board before trying to foist them into a role they didn't want. I got a lovely email back to say they had spoken to said bookseller and all was aok.

When I opened my box of books, there they all were. Lovely, pristine, specially printed with a special cover for the night. Imagine my horror though when I looked at the inside back cover to discover there should have been a special number  to identify each book and there were no instructions whatsoever in the box. I emailed the organisers. What numbers? And I also realised I was supposed to write my name and where the book was to be given as well. This was turning into a lot more work than I had expected.

Last night, just as I was settling down, I got an email. It said, here are your special 10 digit numbers and please write them in each book. Ok 10 x 48 = 480 numbers. It took me an hour.

Now I'm getting worried about giving the books out tomorrow night. I can only hope the good folk of Gordon appreciate all the hard work I've done on their behalf and enjoy the poetry. I'm now thinking I'd have been better off with a novel!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

It can be done

Today I heard that someone on my OU course on the alternative forum had achieved 100% for their poetry TMA. And before you ask... it wasn't me! I was pleased enough with my 80%, and that came as quite a shock as I'd convinced myself that I'd got a mere pass. 

However, it's also interesting to contemplate that 100% is achievable. I always thought it wasn't on a creative course which comes from when I was at Art School in 1970 where our head of college said no-one ever got 100%, as he went on to tread on our art work or worse tear it up! Suffice it to say we were all terrified of Stan and our monthly crits. I think the most he ever gave anyone was around 85%.

Although I'm competitive, and there's no doubt about it I'd love to get 100%, I just don't think it's going to be possible for me on this course. That is, not if I want to keep my husband, who I think I'm driving mad with reading my work to him every time I change a word... but there is an upside to this for him, as I feel I'm helping him with his work where he has to be very, very patient, so he's getting lots of practice!