Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sunday ritual resumed... kind of

My Sunday's always used to be punctuated by listening to The Archers Omnibus at 10 am on Radio 4. But I'm aware over the last quite a long time this hasn't happened. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's the self-indulgence I have of a predilection for staying in bed whilst listening for a full one and a quarter hours, or maybe I just haven't had the time. Well today I thought that would be redressed and, while Mountain Man went off on a Borders Search and Rescue exercise, I put the radio on, but instead of staying in my pit, I got the ironing board out and 'enjoyed' some domestic bliss.

I've been listening to The Archers for my whole life. I'm not sure that my mother listened to the pilot series, put out in May 1950, but I know she has listened since it went to a 5 day format in January 1951, a whole year before I was born, so I have a feeling I've probably been listening to The Archers since my inception. I used to listen daily, but when the Beeb changed the time so that it came on at 2 pm instead of during my lunchtime (at some point many, many years ago),  I began listening to the Sunday Omnibus.

What is great about The Archers is if I don't listen for a while and then I do, it's like I've never been away. I went off to the States in the mid 1970's for 4 years and never listened once, then turned the radio on on my return, and all the characters were still there, doing what they do. Of course there are new ones every now and again, but it's so easy to pick up again. Real easy listening!

It certainly helps with domestic chores too, just something about it's undemandingness I think, so the fight with the sleeves of a particularly interestingly designed shirt, seemed to wash over me no problem.

The only one who was slightly freaked out by this activity was the dog, who looked up in complete disbelief when I trotted off downstairs armed with the iron. And then the look I got when I got back upstairs with the ironing complete was a picture... that Nell does laconic particularly well. Her Sunday ritual... well ok her every single day ritual... of going straight back to sleep as soon as she can, resumed pdq.

Of course, now I'm imagining what's going through Mountain Man's head as he reads this: Got out of bed before 10 on a Sunday? You? Really?... Ironing? No, I'm sorry, I absolutely can't believe that one. The sooner we get back to our 'normal' Sunday ritual the better.

And you know what? I think I agree with him!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

All's quiet

Today my lovely new washing machine was delivered by some very smiley John Lewis van men. Their smiles were soon wiped off their faces when they saw the machine they were taking away. My old Dyson, huge, heavy, beautifully purple, clashed nicely with their red faces as they hauled it out over the steps and onto the trolley to be heaved into the darkness of their van. They said Dyson washing machines were their absolute nightmare, especially if the place they were removing it from was upstairs in a tenement building.

One of the things I hadn't realised was just how much the purple of the Dyson sucked the spaciousness out of our utility room. Our new Bosch, all clean lines and white makes the room look so much bigger.

The other thing I hadn't realised was just how noisy our old machine had become. The new machine is so quiet we hardly know it's on. And on it's certainly been, to cater with the mass laundry pile that's been accumulating over the last week.

Still, now we've got a washing machine that works, I feel my life is back to normal - even if that normal is a lot quieter than it was before.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Away to Holy Isle and home again

I forgot to tell you all I was going away for 5 days on my annual Mindfulness Deepening Retreat on Holy Isle off Arran and here I am back.

It was truly amazing like many of my trips to Holy Isle. It is a very, very magical place. A lot of that is because there's a complete feeling of spaciousness, which comes from being on a very small island.

The animals that live on the island do so without predators. There are Eriskay ponies, wild goats and Soay sheep, sea otters, seals and birds of all kinds. Most of the food that is eaten is grown on the island and there's a real simplicity. Of course the fact that there's limited mobile phone signal and no computer access is a great help to that sense of getting away from it all.

Looking out of the front gate of the Centre towards Arran

Looking out over the Centre towards Arran

A Soay sheep and her very curious lamb

Wild goats enjoying a gorse lunch

Eriskay ponies grazing at the boathouse

Wild goats eating seaweed on the beach
The folk who paid good money to come on the retreat were amazing. I was a bit taken aback at the beginning when two friends told me they'd changed their holiday plans so they could come on the retreat and then another, who'd been saving up all year for a holiday, decided to use her money to be with us on Holy Isle. It felt like such a responsibility. But in the end I'm pleased to report that everyone seemed to get what they wanted, if not more, out of the retreat and the feedback was fantastic. I don't think I could have asked for a better experience.

I only realised how exhausted I was when I actually got into the house, and then the days of getting up at 6 am and working through til approximately 9 pm every day followed by a 5 hour journey to get back home sank in.

I bought Mountain Man a rather fetching little gift courtesy of the Cal Mac ferry, which took me from Brodick to Ardrossan. It seemed to give him pleasure, though he tells me the ballast is slightly askew. But then cheap as chips presents often come that way!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

An 'interesting' day

This one came in 6 parts:

Part 1: As it was sunny this morning I decided to go out on my own for a quick bike ride. Mountain Man sent me off to do a circuit along country roads. 'It's about 3 miles,' he said. Well that might be 3 miles in his world but in mine it felt like quite a bit further. When I got home he checked. 'Oh sorry,' he said, 'it's actually about 5.' Now 2 miles extra might not seem like a lot to you, but believe me, 5 miles is definitely 5 miles and is certainly a whole lot different from 3 miles. I enjoyed it tho, even if I was out for slightly longer than initially intended, but I'm not sure I'll believe MM quite so readily in the future.

Part 2: A phone call from No. 2 Son to tell me he'd been mugged late last night in Bristol and his face was a mess. The rest of him seemed ok. It's always difficult for a mother to hear her son has been in difficulties, however it seems he'd done all the right things. In my business head injury is always something to be concerned about, but he'd been checked at the hospital and I was relieved to hear that he was alright just battered and bruised. It was a bit of a shock, but obviously not as much as a shock as it was for No. 2 Son. One of the sad (?) things of this is that the bloody 3 people who jumped my boy and his friend didn't gain anything at all except one graphic novel (belonging to No. 2 Son) and a phone and wallet with nothing in it (belonging to his friend). Cards were cancelled, phone was shut down all in minutes and so essentially they got nothing. Nothing except smashing my son's face up. A sad world we live in.

Part 3: A visit to John Lewis to see which washing machine I'd buy. Luckily the sales person just happened to be a supervisor who'd dropped in to do training with the sales force and I felt like I was in expert hands. I've gone for an A+++ rated Bosch, which apparently only uses the amount of water depending on the load and has a 15 minute programme, which sounds like the ideal 'older person's' washing machine to me. The fact that it also had £50 off and £50 cash back so was £100 cheaper than advertised was also a big plus.  Only one slight problem is that the first delivery date is next Thursday. I'm actually away in Edinburgh until tomorrow night and then off facilitating my annual Mindfulness Deepening Retreat on Holy Isle, off Arran and not home until next Tuesday, so the person it affects the most is Mountain Man. Hopefully he'll remember how to do a hand wash. 

Part 4: I started a 10 week poetry course with the Open Learning Unit at Edinburgh University. It was a bit scary to start with as there were only 2 new people out of 14 as all the others had been in the group for quite some time (one person since 2001). Not always easy to be a new girl. It looks like an interesting group and all but one of the ones that have been before are published poets, so hopefully I'll learn a lot from them.

Part 5: No. 1 Son came over for a chin wag. It's always lovely to see him. He came over sporting a new vacuum flask full of his homemade soup. We talked about his brother's mugging of course and it's one of the things I feel really good about myself as a mother, that my boys get on so well. I must've done something right.

Part 6: I had dinner in Edinburgh with my dear friend, N. We went round the corner to El Bar, one of our favourite places. A couple of glasses of wine, some great tapas, good company. A lovely way to spend an evening. Then I went back to N's to help her with her recently acquired iPhone and iPad, but was having difficulties in how both of them worked individually and together. It's in situations like this that I realise I know an awful lot more than I think I do. I managed to get her hooked onto her internet on both and tether them together. I was quite proud to be able to help, and N was pleased to be able to use them both after having had them for almost 3 weeks.

And that's quite enough for one day. Thank goodness tomorrow is a work day, it'll be a relief I think!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Break down

Today was the day that my washing machine decided it had had enough. After some 13 years of loyal service it finally ground to a halt and frankly it's passed repairing, or at least repairing it would be more expensive than buying a new one.

It could have timed it better as I'd just put a wash on and there was all my clothing sitting in a machine full of water and I couldn't open the door. However, I discovered if I put my finger on the 'on' button and didn't move it, the machine would work. I decided that I couldn't do that for too long, so did away with a full wash and went for a rinse and spin. Then Mountain Man and I took turns to stand with our finger on the button for about 5 minutes at a time until the cycle came to a finish.

It was with some relief that I retrieved my clothes at the end with no more than a sore digit.

There are some things a gal just can't do without, and a washing machine is definitely in that bracket, so it's off to John Lewis tomorrow to see what we can find and hopefully have it delivered pdq.

Monday, 16 April 2012

It arrived!

Here's a pic of me having just ridden my new bike for 7 miles. Yes, you read that right... 7 miles!

In the last 30 years I must've borrowed Mountain Man's bike once or twice to go on the flat for half a mile or so up the road with the boys when they were young, but that's it. I can't honestly even remember getting on one in the last 20 years (apart from when I was at Mari's last Tuesday) and yet there I was today, riding along with himself, without even breaking sweat or my legs feeling tired. It was fantastic.

There were two highlights: the first when we went up a very, very steep hill for about quarter of a mile and I was zooming along while MM was out of the saddle effing and blinding at how effortless it was for me. The second was when we passed two ladies from the village walking their dogs, who said, as I went past, how fit I was. MM, who was lagging behind at this point and not at all impressed by this, enlightened them in a rather belittling tone that I wasn't at all fit and that I had some electric help - I can see I'm going to have to watch that tone!

Next to MM's racing bike it does look rather pedestrian, but who cares as long as it goes like a racing bike and the thought that we can actually go for bike rides together and I can keep up is great, even if it is cheating slightly.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A worthwhile experience

After having my snow tyres actually taken off my car the other day it didn't surprise me at all to open the blinds yesterday morning to see white flakes falling. Typical! Luckily it didn't lie too much and Mountain Man and I went off to Edinburgh, where it didn't seem to have snowed at all, to drop Nell off with No. 1 son while we headed to Glasgow for the afternoon.

The reason for this journey was that I was due to take part in the procession of an Open University Graduate Ceremony taking place in The Royal Concert Hall and Mountain Man decided to tag along so that he could rendezvous with his daughter and grandson, who live in Glasgow.

The train from Edinburgh to Glasgow is very good value (£8 return with our old people passes) and so much less stressful than taking the car.

Being part of the 'in-crowd' for the ceremony was so much more civilised that when I actually got my BSc Hons through the OU many, many, many years ago, or even my Doctorate at Edinburgh many years ago. We had help with our robes and then were given tea and coffee and comfy chairs to sit around in while we waited our turn to line up for the procession.

Me in the procession's robing room
We made our way through the concert hall and, because I was in the back row of three on the stage, I was second going in the procession, which meant that on the way out I was second last out. That bit was quite fun.

The whole thing started with a quick speech by the Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean. Then followed by a conferment of an Honorary Doctorate to Dr Jack Dunnett, a world renowned potato expert from Caithness. Sadly, his speech was marked by his inability to remember either what he'd just said or what he wanted to say, so that one was a bit embarrassing, but then 23 higher degrees were awarded with much clapping and that was followed by yet another Honorary Doctorate to Peter Syme, a leading light in the OU, whose speech was very good.

And then it was 223 graduates who needed clapping and cheering loudly for their achievements. What was truly wonderful was that the Vice-Chancellor literally spoke to each and every one. In my day all they did was shake hands with most and only talked to very, very few. I was actually one of those spoken to, basically because my friends and family shouted so loudly when my name was called and it certainly made it a memorable experience for me. I'm sure Martin Bean's enthusiasm and the way he carried out his job will have made it the same for yesterday's graduands. 

After clapping for what seemed like hours, the procession traipsed out and back upstairs where I de-robed and then rushed off to meet up with my man in the coffee shop on Sauchihall Street before getting the train back to Edinburgh, pick up the dog and get home.

I'm pleased I agreed to be part of the procession. It felt like a privilege and I'd certainly do it again if I was asked.

Friday, 13 April 2012

I despair...

... I really do. I'm such an impulse buyer. I try not to be, but it seems to just whack me on the back of my head and wham... there you go.

With this one I did do lots of research. Well ok then just this last few days, but that does include at least 4 phone calls to different folk, a long talk with Mountain Man, and hours and hours of surfing the web, looking at so many sites and so much info until I was almost frazzled.

So this week's gigantically, huge purchase is (*drum roll please*) an e-bike! Yes, the Gadget Queen is still alive and still living in The Scottish Borders. It's coming on Monday and I'm uber-excited!

I had booked in to try out several at a shop in Edinburgh, but when it came down to it, I wasn't quite so keen on the ones they had. They then said they'd get me one to try out which looked great, but so it should be at the price they wanted. I then went back to one on the web that had caught my eye and did a bit more research and that was it. What is quite good is that I get it on a week's trial and can send it back free of charge if I don't like it for any reason and get a full refund. What's not quite so good is that I'm away on retreat from next Friday until the middle of the next week, but I'll at least have had it for four days and hopefully that will show me whether or not I should keep it. Oh yes and the guy threw in a couple of freebees for me e.g. a light and a bag for it. I did tell you it was a fold-up didn't I? No... well now you know!

I'm not giving you a glimpse of it until I get it on Monday so no links I'm afraid, you'll just have to wait until then when I post a photo.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The April birthday meal

For my April birthday we had dinner at Tom Kitchin's in Edinburgh, which was wonderful. I even got a card from him!

An expensive meal? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. But best of all Mountain Man and I got to have an almost three hour meal just the two of us... talking, holding hands, sharing food. Now that's what I call a birthday treat.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Of meetings and my April birthday

Yesterday I spent two hours driving to Dumfries for a one hour meeting. And worthwhile or not, the thought of immediately turning round after the meeting and driving for another two hours to get home didn't seem like a great use of my time. So instead of coming straight home I headed for the lovely Mari's house, which is about 25 minutes outside of Dumfries.

Mari is one of my OU connections. Someone who I'd never actually met in person until yesterday, but we've had quite a bit of forum and email contact and I felt like I knew her anyway and that's exactly how it felt when I was with her.

I was only going to spend an hour at her place, but time just zipped along and I found myself three hours later wishing I didn't have to make that two hour journey home and that I could've stayed longer, but I needed to get back.

Mari has several things going for her, three of which you can see in this photo:

Chico, Tess and Rolf
She also has some gorgeous chickens (which are rescued battery hens), two horses, better known as 'the girls' but who were down at the stables and because we chatted for so long there wasn't time in the end to get down there. As well as all that Mari has an incredible talent as a poet and I was lucky enough to get to read some of her work.

However, the piece de resistance was her e-bike. No that's not a computer bike, but one that when you start to pedal a little electric motor kicks in and takes all the effort out of bike riding.

I'm not supposed to ride a bike because it puts too much pressure on my dodgy knee, but when I tried this one, well it opened up a world of possibilities, it really did. I was completely hooked in seconds and I want one! And as today just happens to be my April birthday, I'm now looking into the possibility of buying myself a little (?!) present to celebrate.

Mountain Man bought me a DVD of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron for this birthday. It's a bit of a family joke, but there's a lovely line from that film that we use a lot (or rather I do), which is 'Run, run like the wind'. But of course if I got myself an e-bike... well need I say more?

Monday, 9 April 2012

Some films just shouldn't be seen

There are some movies that just aren't worth the bother. Mirror, Mirror is one of those. And apparently we weren't the only ones to think so.

I booked tickets thinking that on a cold, windy, rainy Easter Monday, the cinema would be crowded out. How wrong could I be! Ten minutes before the movie started and Mountain Man and I were the only ones in the cinema.

If you look carefully you can see the back of my head

Then an elderly woman on her own came in and sat at the back and, just before the main feature, a man with his two children arrived and sat 4 rows behind us. And that was it.

The film itself deserved an empty cinema. Slow, badly acted, not great plot... was there anything I liked about it? Well yes, Julia Roberts was her usual beautiful self, but apart from that there was nothing to recommend it.

I give it 2 out of 10 and that's being generous.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Saturday night at the movies

How lovely to be invited on a date by my husband. He decided that we should have a Saturday night at the movies to see 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', complemented by a large bucket of popcorn and a diet coke. You'll notice the irony of having, on one hand, something lathered in oil to shove in, while on the other there's something diet to ameliorate it's effects, but we don't care, it's our usual cinema fare and we don't like to deviate from our norm.

The film was a real 'feel good' movie and we both enjoyed it, though I thought it was a bit schmaltzy and predictable. It certainly captured the sights and sounds of India and had some great laugh out loud moments. Mountain Man gave it a 9/10, whereas I gave it a 7/10, but I'm far more critical than he is.

We enjoyed ourselves so much we've decided on doing another cinema visit tomorrow (Easter Monday) and we've booked to see Mirror Mirror. I just hope my rather delicate digestive system can cope with a second input of unnutritious food and drink in such a short space of time.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Sometimes it pays to lose

Easter is one of those times at Tweedbank Indoor Bowls Club where we get to play a competition all morning and then follow it up with a soup and roll lunch and a raffle thrown in for good measure. And because it's Easter there's also an Easter Bonnet competition.

Late yesterday I decided that I should at least make the effort to dress up for the occasion and do some kind of Easter hat just for a laugh. And so it was that I decided to go in my rabbit hat and I would decorate it with five tiny Cadbury's creme eggs. So far, so good.

my rabbit hat
Actually decorating it was a nightmare. I bought a cheap velvet type alice band and tried to stick the eggs on with super glue. Yes, that's the super glue that's supposed to be able to stick anything to anything, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't work with Cadbury's creme eggs and velvet type material. But undeterred, I then tried blue tack stuck on to the alice band and then the eggs stuck on the blue tack. But still no luck. Then my final effort was blue tack stuck with super glue on the alice band and then stuck the eggs onto the blue tack. Well that worked... sort of. It was an extremely delicate and precarious object. But hey, at least I tried.

Won one and lost one at bowls. Not a single sniff at a raffle prize. But I'm pleased to report that my hat efforts paid off. Only one other person (out of 40) had actually bothered to make any attempt at an Easter hat and hers was completely handmade and was, if you like that kind of thing, very good, so she got the prize. But, because there were only the 2 of us the Club President felt sorry for me and I ended up with a prize too. The person who won got an Easter egg, and me? I got a half bottle of wine. I'm so pleased I came second!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Needs must

A snowy, blowy Edinburgh day and I spent a very constructive morning - literally constructive - as I decided to put my Ikea Expedit shelving unit together.

As I'm sure many of you who've had the pleasure of Ikea furniture know, it's not always quite so simple as it looks. But I'm very pleased to say that I managed it all by myself, even the lifting it into place. The instructions say you should have a man or two to put it in place (at least that's what the pictures looked like - not a woman in sight), but needs must.

This reminded me of many years ago, when my sons were quite small and my ex-husband had just become my ex, and my current husband was at that point unmet. I had bought some bunks for them and decided to put them together myself. I remember being really proud of heaving one on top of the other without having to call for either help or an ambulance. Though when it came to selling them and having to take them apart I truly wondered how I'd managed.

Anyway, now I have a rather good looking unit where it should be, with only one minor scratch and a dent (that's the unit, not me) when I was slightly over-zealous with trying to get the wrapping off and then slightly losing it with a hammer, but you'd not know unless I showed you.

Oh yes, and my snow tyres? They're staying firmly put until I can be sure this winter is well and truly over.

Monday, 2 April 2012

It's all in the timing

After an agonising weekend of doing not much at all, I'm now up and about again (albeit slowly and carefully for the next week or two) which is a huge relief.

However, what has thrown me totally this morning is a weather report that said it's going to snow this week. I can hear you all saying 'so what? we've had snow in April before' - and this is true, but not on the very day that I've arranged to have my snow tyres removed from my car and replaced with the non-snow ones.

It makes me wonder if someone somewhere is having a laugh at my expense, or rather at the expense I went to to get snow tyres in the first place that then weren't used for the whole winter using more fuel than my car would if it had it's normal tyres on (apparently) and then the very day my car is due to go in (tomorrow) snow is announced. There must be something prophetic in that. Maybe I should offer my services as a weather forecaster? Surely I can't do a worse job than the met office can I?