Friday, 31 August 2012

A message for the house fairy

As the rain set in yet again this afternoon and with half an eye on those fantastic paralympians, who are, without doubt, inspirational, I decided to get up off my arse and clean up a bit.

I started with the huge pile by the side of my bed. Books were put into 'interest' piles (fiction, factual, poetry,  magazines) and notebooks were labelled. Then it was time to move on to the enormous amount of 'stuff' that continually grows on the top of the chests of drawers that inhabit the bedroom.

I threw a whole load of stuff out, put things that were to go to my study in an appropriate place ready to take downstairs and things no longer needed/wanted were put into bags ready to go to the bin outside. Amongst the carefully arranged pile that was to go to my study was my passport, newly stamped with a visa for Nepal and which just hadn't made it back into the drawer where it belongs.

I then grabbed the armful of things that were to go to my study and headed downstairs. When I got there I was putting it all away, but where was my passport? I retraced my steps, but couldn't find it anywhere. I emptied the bags of stuff to throw out and checked, but no, not there. I went back downstairs and searched and searched, but nothing, so back upstairs and searched and searched, but still nothing.

Now I did know that it had to be somewhere in the house and that all things being equal it had to be either in the bedroom, the study or somewhere in between. I was beginning to panic slightly, wondering if by some chance I had the beginnings of dementia and had forgotten that I'd stopped somewhere else on my journey to the study. I checked the kitchen just in case and also the dining table. Still nothing.

I went back down to the study and blow me, but there it was, sitting where I could swear I'd checked not five minutes earlier. Oh yes, and the other thing that turned up was my Mophie Juice Pack for my iPhone that'd gone missing weeks ago. I could've sworn this was last seen in a bag in my bedroom and yet it turned up right next to my passport.

All I can say is, if magic is going to be going on in this house why on earth couldn't it be dealing with the cleaning rather than the disappearance of vital items. I do hope the house fairy reads this blog and responds accordingly.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

More unsportsmanlike behaviour

And, oh dear, this time it was me.

I had arranged to play a bowls tie tonight at 6.30. I started promptly at 6.30 and had finished by 6.50.

It had been pissing down most of the afternoon and then just as I was going to cancel, the sun came out. I went across and the ground was sodden, which I hate and find I can't bowl to save my life when my bowls are wet.

I started the first end ok as my bowls were dry and won by one and then it went downhill from there with my losing 11 shots in 3 ends!

By the end of 4 ends with the sky getting ever darker and the ground like a swimming pool, I'm afraid to say I gave up. I just said to the guy I was playing with, that was it, I gave him the game and left the green.

I'm sure I've contravened every bowls rule in the book by doing that, but quite frankly I don't really care. I think I've only managed to play about 7 times the whole season and I've not enjoyed it much at all.

I scored my name out on the three other ties I was supposed to play before the end of the season too, so that's that... the end of my playing outdoor bowls.

I do kind of wish that I had finished on a better note, but at least I'll have given the village gossips something to talk about. Mostly I feel relieved that I'm not expected to play anymore.

The indoor season starts next week at Tweedbank. All I can hope for is that I enjoy the indoor a whole lot more than I have the outdoor, otherwise I might well have a set of bowls for sale.

Monday, 27 August 2012

It's a small world

There I was at a friend's 60th birthday party in the Borders having a good time when one of the guests told me she was sure she'd met me before. We chatted for a while, but no, she couldn't remember. What was a little weird for me is that I'm usually extremely good at remembering faces... names, no, but faces seem to be a different story. Frankly I couldn't remember her at all.

After a couple of drinks she came back and asked me if I had been on a certain workshop outside of Glasgow about 6 years ago. And blow me, she was right. It was a bit scary that she remembered and even more scary that I didn't.

What was slightly even more scary is that it was an Astrology weekend and she still had my chart, even after all these years. I'm sure I never kept hers. I wonder now why she kept mine? The only answer I can come up with is that I gave her a lift to the station on the way back and she told me lots of information all about herself, which included many tears, so maybe she felt it was necessary to arm herself with inside information about my tortured soul just in case we ever met again. And now of course we have. Oh dear!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

My first live football matches

I don't know where this week went, but it ended up with going to my first ever football match, or to be exact two matches all in one day.

Forest Pitch, the brainchild of Edinburgh-based artist Craig Coulthard, where art meets sport meets community, a football pitch in the heart of a forest just outside of Selkirk that yesterday played host to two football matches, one between two women's teams and the other between two men's teams (both amateur). The pitch will now have trees planted along the white lines and will, in time, become a kind of living 'ghost' football pitch tribute.

Mountain Man and I had booked to go to this way back in July when it was cancelled due to the awful weather. Yesterday's weather was better, in the sense that it wasn't bucketing down, but it wasn't the best to go and be in for 6 hours. A grey, dismal, rainy, Border's day that only completely stopped with the waterworks as we queued to get the bus back to the Park and Ride in Newtown St. Boswells at the back of 5 pm.

So, dressed in full wet gear, armed with an umbrella and a packed lunch, we spent our day freezing our arses off all in the name of art. Sadly, we'd not taken our fold-up chairs with us, which was a major error on our part, as the only places to sit were these rather uncomfortable tree stumps.

We met up with our friend, Jules Horne, playwright extraordinaire (and as an aside if you haven't already seen her play, Allotment, which is currently touring the UK, you should. And then hopefully her new play, Thread, which has been on at the Edinburgh Fringe to much acclaim, will be touring at some point and is another I'd recommend), who'd also not brought her fold-up chair either and had to suffer with the tree stumps too.

Mountain Man in his gear and Jules in the background delicately perched on the tree stump seats

To get to the pitch we had to negotiate across a field and then an approximately ten minute walk through the dense woods on a mud-filled path.

Through the woods

We then arrived at this beautifully laid out pitch with lush green grass, and plonked ourselves delicately down on the wood stumps to wait for the first match.

The pitch

The teams were made up of volunteers, many of them had come to Scotland to escape the problems in their own countries. Team names were named after the four locations that made up the Pan Hellenic games and were the inspiration for the modern Olympics : Olympia (men), Delphi (women), Nemea (men) and Corinth (women). Team strips had been designed by Scottish school kids. I think the men got the better deal on this one!

The women got us started. It wasn't the best of matches and I know this sounds a bit mean, but the thing that came to mind for me was that it would've been a good promotion for sports bras. As my first ever live football match it was interesting but a bit one-sided as Delphi beat Corinth conclusively 5-1.

The women in action
There followed a break for lunch and time to move tree stumps to further up the field where we could see both halves of the pitch rather than being up one end, just in case the men's match turned out to be similarly one-sided.

Jules picking a new set of tree stumps to sit on
Then the men started. It was a colourful display, both in team strips and footballing skill and it ended with Nemea beating Olympia 4-3 in a closely fought contest. What struck me most is, how it appears that the team on the momentary up always seem to have more players than the other, and how the ebb and flow changes this strange phenomenon.

The men fight it out
The score board was made up of four pared-down tree trunks stripped of their bark and marked very tastefully with pink paint.

The score board
Then it was time to slog our way back along the muddy woodland path, wait for our bus to take us back to our car and then head home for a hot shower, change our clothes and go next door where they were having their annual summer barbeque party. Strangely we also have another to attend today. No parties for ages then two turn up at once. Typical!

I thought I'd end today's blog entry with my favourite photo, which is of the men warming up. Something about those yellow socks and pinky-mauve shorts that did it for me!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Script resource

When I was on the film scriptwriting course a couple of weeks ago, we were given the web address of this great site where you can read the scripts from many *big* films, such as The Artist. A lot of the scripts are draft copies, which, in my view, makes them even more fascinating.

By early evening yesterday the rain had returned and it seemed the perfect time to watch a Hollywood Blockbuster and luckily Raiders of the Lost Ark was on. I went onto the IMSDb site and found a draft script so I could read along as I watched the film.

It was intriguing to see the changes that had been made in the script to get the film to the screen. From the bits that had been totally left out to the lines of dialogue handed to a different character, it was all there. And what's more, the site and reading the scripts are completely free.

What a fab resource.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

I challenge you

On a beautiful Saturday summer afternoon, Mountain Man and I decided to go for a walk along the Earlston Woodland pathway beside the River Leader. Sound good so far?

We took the car to Leaderfoot and then walked about a mile along. At that point we had a choice to make, either go completely round for 6 miles, go back the way we came, or split up and MM would go back and get the car and I would go the 2.2 miles to Earlston and meet him there. We decided on the latter. Our parting words were:

Me: the path is marked, right?
MM: yes, you can't miss it.
Me: I don't have my phone.
MM: me neither.

From that short exchange we should have realised that this was a mistake in the making. Quite how I managed to get lost on a well-marked pathway is beyond me, but get lost I did. I found myself wandering in an extremely muddy circle and, given that I'd taken no water with me, was just beginning to panic slightly when I found the pathway again. Phew!

MM was, by this time, also beginning to panic and having all kinds of visions of calling out his pals in the Borders Search and Rescue. Apparently he had been along the path I should have taken for well past a mile looking for me. Me? I don't have a clue. I tried to explain the way I went, but he looked at me blankly.

Thank goodness for the Co-op in Earlston and also for the fact that I always have a purse with some meter money in the car. After downing a litre of water I felt a bit better and we headed for home and the washing machine to get my completely mud covered jeans washed asap.

So here's the challenge. Can you go on a path that's well marked, well trodden and everyone knows and get yourself completely lost? I thought not!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The problem with alcohol...

... is that I seem to do stupid things. I only had one glass of wine last night with my dinner, well alright I will admit it was a very large glass of wine and very delicious it was too, but the problem was with my contact lenses.

I have a little container which has two compartments marked L and R, so that I know which contact lens goes in which eye. When I came to put them in this morning I couldn't work out what the problem was. I could see, but not in the usual way. It took til I was on the bus going to work before it dawned on me! I then had to go to Boots and buy some saline solution so that I could rinse each one before swapping them over. But once I had, all was restored.

I'm amazed that it took me at least an hour and a half to think what the problem could be, but then again... maybe not!

An easy choice

As my friend Shirley and I wandered across to Festival activities yesterday, we were accosted by the usual several people telling us we had to see their shows. One of those was called 'Shirley and Shirley Unleashed'. We felt we were destined to see it.

Apparently James Corden said they were 'two of the freshest and most energetic performers in Edinburgh this year'. Of course if you read it, it doesn't actually say they were any good. My verdict? They were ok. Both Shirley and I were relieved we'd chosen to sit 3 rows back and against a wall where we were out of reach of either of the two girls. We were very lucky!

After the show we hung out for a while and then decided on dinner. Sweet Melinda's, which I've written about before, was our choice and I'm so pleased it was.

Our afternoon was rapidly forgotten in a fantastic concoction of shrimp, samphire and parmesan, followed by hake with a chive mash. Yum!

So my advice, for what it's worth and with no disrespect to my friend Shirley, is, if you're in Edinburgh the Shirley's might well not be your first choice of things to see/do, but Sweet Melinda's... well now you're talking!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A lovely evening

There's something rather wonderful about the Edinburgh Fringe and all the other festivals the city is host to. You can rock up to the city and hang out for a while as a huge amount of folk come up and give you the lowdown on the shows they're promoting, giving leaflets, offering two for one and generally creating a lovely atmosphere. Of course it helps when it's sunny and warm.

Contrary to the weather forecast, yesterday was a blinder. Mountain Man and I arrived in the afternoon and headed for The Pleasance, but there was nothing that took our fancy happening in our afternoon time-frame, so we headed off to Bristo Square and were bombarded with all kinds of promising looking shows. We plumped for 'Man 1, Bank 0', which was a true story about Patrick Combs who deposited a junk cheque, worth over $95,000 in a bank in the US as a joke and actually beat the bank system. What's not to like? It turned out to be a great way to spend an hour of our time, especially as it was on a buy-one-get-one-free offer. And a fascinating story it was too.

After that we headed back to the house to meet up with our Southern friends and then for dinner at Bonsai, our local Japanese, and from there to the 'One Man Star Wars Trilogy', which was fantastic. I only wish I'd taken No. 2 Son's advice and watched the films again before I went as there were bits I'd forgotten and it all went by so fast (it was a Trilogy in one hour), that I felt I missed some things, but all in all a very good, clever show.

Then back to the house to sit in the garden in the balmy Edinburgh summer air at 10.30 pm and drink wine, chat with our friends and generally enjoy ourselves thoroughly. Bed beckoned sometime well after midnight.

This morning we had to get back to the Borders to be greeted by an almighty thunderstorm and a distinctly heavy shower. Back to normal for this summer then. I mean it wouldn't do to spoil ourselves with too much sunshine, would it?

Monday, 13 August 2012

That was that

I woke up this morning and realised, after all the excitement and thrilling achievements of all those fab sporting people, there was to be no more Olympics today. That means my ever growing list of 'things that should have been done two weeks ago' and 'things that must be done' and just plain ole 'things to do' might actually get done, or at least started. Well that is until the Paralympics begins!

The closing ceremony was ok. I found I could easily do a Sudoku puzzle or several and glance up at the tv every now and again. There were quite a few who rocked it like Jessie J, Tinie Tempeh and Taio Cruz and then Jessie J's stint with Queen was another triumph. I loved the John Lennon ending and Queen beginning. And finishing with The Who was brilliant. The rest slightly washed over me. What struck me though, was it was probably one of those parties that you needed to be there to fully appreciate, whereas sitting on my bed in the Scottish Borders listening to the rain outside probably coloured it slightly.

Today it's time to turn my attention to the Edinburgh Fringe and get to enjoy some of what the capital has to offer. Tonight we have tickets for 'One Man Star Wars Trilogy' with Charles Ross , which I'm assured by No. 2 son is very well worth it. We have friends from Darn Sarf staying for a couple of days, so prior to our evening experience there's some socialising to do.

So that's me, off to get some of those things done that need doing so I can enjoy myself tonight with a (relatively) clear conscience.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

My August birthday

I didn't really celebrate my June birthday because of Nell's death, and then in July I was on retreat. So it was lovely to wake up yesterday morning to a card, a hug and a 'shall we go out tonight?'. However, because it was the last night of Olympic sport, we decided to stay in and enjoy it all.

Now here's where I have an admission to make. I actually never got up properly yesterday. I know you're going to think how incredibly lazy I was, and in some ways you'd be absolutely right. But I got some work out that needed doing and then the sport came on. And then suddenly the day was gone.

The only thing was, I expended a huge amount of energy. I mean, if you've been diving, modern pentathaloning, handballing, walked 20k, run a 5000 metres, an 800 metres, a 4x400 metres (all 1600 metres of it), a 4x100 metres (all 400 metres of it), boxing and finishing up with another session of diving, then you'd be pretty exhausted too. Or maybe you did?!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

It's been a good week

Funny how when you're immersed in something a week can seemingly fly by. Well that's how this last week has been.

From a blank sheet of paper (and some may say a blank mind too) I ended up with a whole short film, written up and critiqued and had time to write a second draft. I'm amazed!

I loved the course. Twelve of us worked hard, discussed hard, put our all into it and then went out for a quick drink last night in George Square to seal our friendship. That's what hard work also does, I think, has the capacity to bring people together.

We were an interesting bunch. From a retired accountant, to a boy who'd just finished his highers, to a Spanish news reader (who came all the way from Spain for the course) and all stops in between, which added a richness to our discussions, all guided by our ever-generous tutor, Douglas, who made time for each of us.

Of course our actual films were pretty raw and need a lot of work, if not to be put in a drawer and never to see the light of day. But each of us came out with something and a promise to send our work so we can each critique them and learn from each other. Douglas will give us written feedback on what we ended up with. And that folks, he's doing in his own time, which I think is pretty damn good.

Oh yes, and for those of you interested in free software to help you in your scriptwriting or novel writing or even comic book writing you could do no better than go to Celtx.

If you ignore all the calls to buy anything (you do have to sign up though) and at the top it has a box for Cloud, Desktop, Mobile and guides, click on Desktop. From there travel down to a bit that says 'free download' but is quite small - and when I say small I mean small and is easy to miss, download to your desktop and there you have the most wonderfully easy tool for creating scripts for radio, theatre and film, novel layout and all sorts. It takes a little playing with to understand what it can do - we were lucky as Douglas took us through it - but it's not rocket science. And you can download this to your mobile device too. Yup, writing scripts on your phone...mmm well maybe not! But definitely a great tool and worth a bit of effort to find it.

Well that's that. It certainly got my creative juices flowing and is a very interesting way of writing. I'm now deciding if I want to take this further and sign up for the year-long course. I'm going to let the dust settle and give myself a bit of time before I make any big decisions, but I'm so pleased I decided to give it a go.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Nightmares to come

I've now done 2 days on my Screen Writing course with Douglas Dougan, who certainly has the credentials to teach, but not all people who have good credentials are good teachers... luckily Douglas is very good indeed.

The past 48 hours have been spent looking at what makes a good short film, thinking up a 10 minute film, talking about how to make it do the trick and watching loads of world class short films. It's fired me up so much that I woke up at 5 this morning and wrote and wrote, which is something I haven't done for quite a while. It's good to be back doing that.

The only thing I wasn't keen on was watching a horror film at midday today. Especially because it was a 'good' one and has therefore stuck in my mind, which I wish it hadn't done. I came home to watch Olympic cycling and I'm hoping Laura Trott's and Chris Hoy's gold medals will erase the memory of 'Ten Steps', but my record for bad dreams after watching horror is not the best.

I know an artist has to struggle for their art, but nowhere did it say bad dreams would be par for the course!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The problem with ageing

All the way to Drumnadrochit, near Inverness for a ceilidh last night. Danced my little socks off, got to bed around midnight, got up early this morning (feeling slightly worse for wear, I have to admit), got home in time to watch Andy Murray play a brilliant match against Roger Federer to win his first ever gold and then a silver with Laura Robson in the mixed doubles against the Belarussian No. 1 seeds, by which time I was totally exhausted; and so the Theatrical party that I was invited to attend tonight was just beyond me. I decided to stay home and get myself ready for my week-long Screen Writing course at the Edinburgh University Office of Lifelong Learning which starts tomorrow.

What strikes me with all this is that even five years ago I wouldn't have had any problem doing all that and going to a party, but I just don't have the stamina anymore. And that, I'm afraid, makes me quite sad.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Time to party

On being lucky enough to get an invitation to go the dress rehearsal of Jules Horne's new play, 'Thread', which is being put on by Nutshell Theatre as their piece for the Edinburgh Fringe this year, Mountain Man and I tore ourselves away from the Olympics late yesterday afternoon and drove off to the city.

We started off with a Thai meal at Spirit of Thai, just opposite The Usher Hall and very near to the location for the production. I've been there quite a few times before, though a few years ago, and luckily it hasn't really changed. I seemed to have forgotten about the portion sizes and we ordered far too much food and found ourselves with a doggy bag to drag to the theatre with us. It was a lovely meal though and we finished in good time.

When we were invited, we were asked to bring a piece of 'Troc' with us and for me it was hard to choose what I would take. My mother has the habit of buying us pretty awful souvenirs when she travels, which she does about 3 times a year. What I do is put the piece to one side and then after a couple of years I take it to the Charity shop. Out of the three pieces that immediately came to hand I chose a rather distasteful ashtray made from a tin can that had been cut and pared down to make it look "pretty", which I'm sure my mother bought somewhere in North Africa, but I can't be sure ... there's really no accounting for taste, but I'm sure someone somewhere will have thought this was a delightful gift! Anyway, Kate, the Director was suitably grateful.

Last year at the Festival I saw Jules's last play, also put on by Nutshell, called Allotment, which went on to win a prize. I loved it and wrote a tiny bit about it on this blog (which if you're interested you can read here). Both that play and this make the audience feel part of the play itself, as though we are integral and the action almost couldn't take place without us, which is an interesting theatrical device and works well.

Thread starts with a Beetle Drive and we, the audience, were split into teams to play. MM and I were paired with two, lovely young girls, both rather on the theatrical side (!), and surprise, surprise one of them was also called Vee! Anyway, we won. I was thrilled we didn't win back the hideous tin ashtray my mother had given us, and instead were given a Teddy, which the other Vee immediately decided was her's and to which the rest of us were quite happy to relinquish any claim.

I'm not going to tell you too much about the play in case you decide to go yourself, but suffice it to say although it begins with much hilarity, we get drawn into the complexity of the three characters interwoven lives and it is very poignant, to the extent I was almost brought to tears in places. It's on at Venue 175 in case you're wondering.

At the end, Young Vee came up and gave me an invite to a party on Sunday night. The company she's working for are putting something on at the Fringe, but they're having a 'do' to celebrate the start. A 'theatrical' party... oh yes!

And now it's time to hit the road. Mountain Man and I are off to Drumnadrochit, near Inverness, for a ceilidh party tonight. We were asked to wear a bit of tartan and it just so happens that while I was out in Edinburgh the other day I spotted a pair of very cheap, purple tartan trews, which I do realise are more than a 'bit of tartan' but I've never been one to hold back! At least they should be comfortable to swing around in and I'm sure you'll agree are very fetching. My only worry is that people will think I've gone in my pj's!

My new purple tartan trews

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Unsportsmanlike behaviour at the Olympics

There I was watching a game of badminton the other night and was quite bemused at the boos and cat calls going on for a game on a court in the same hall, but not being shown. It was a bit confusing when the commentator was saying how disgusting it was. What was? No-one was enlightening us so Mountain Man and I had to turn to the online coverage to find out.

I have to say I would have been furious if I'd paid to go and see the game and had to watch world class players playing like some of us used to do in our village halls. The only difference being we were trying our hearts out and I think we would have struggled to flick a shuttle into the net or over a line on purpose as we had enough difficulty keeping the damn thing in.

However, as a former badminton coach I know that the game has a 'chess-like' quality, so no matter how wrong I feel this kind of play is, I can see how players might be tempted to try and manipulate the game they're playing in order to get a better chance of winning. The fact that this is played out in view of the world outside of badminton has, in my view, a great deal to do with those involved being banned. And I'm so pleased they have been.

Far better that this was out in the open and dealt with, which I have to say is more than can be said for the boxing. Last night I was watching the super-heavyweights in action and noticed that the Belarussian stood on the Ecuadorian's foot as he battered the poor guy, who couldn't move. This apparently wasn't seen by the ref, but the commentators saw it. Then he did the same again and again, which the commentators seemed to ignore and the ref was still blind to. I was incensed!

I really dislike seeing great sportspeople behaving in such a way. Definitely the ugly side of sport and so unnecessary and it does bring into question the whole ethic of the Olympic Games where it becomes clear that for some it's not the taking part, but the winning that matters.