Sunday, 29 July 2012

The after show report

I love agricultural shows. I'm not sure if it's about seeing animals looking wonderfully well cared for and at their best, or the rather bizarre things you can see, such as drystone dyke exhibitions and dancing sheep to name a couple. Whatever, when I was asked to help out a friend with her carriage driving classes at the Border Union Show, something I've never done before or had any experience in, I said yes. I was a bit sad that I was already committed on Friday and couldn't get out of it or I would have been in the world of showing Shetlands in-hand, which is my comfort zone.

Luckily the day started well as, unlike the very early start that's demanded for in-hand classes - you have to be there early as judging tends to start at 8 am - I didn't need to be there until 9.30. It also helped that the sky was blue and sunny, though the forecast was threatening heavy showers later on. Still, a good start.

The only problem with taking part in an event I haven't a clue about is that I can't help with the tack. I don't know what goes where or even what it's supposed to look like. What I do know is that usually people take their very best carriages to show, but Anne (the friend I was helping) had had an accident with her youngster, who's just 4, a few weeks ago, where the carriage had turned over. Luckily no-one was hurt, but what it meant was that Daisy, the pony in question, was wary of the carriage, but was totally happy in the dogcart, which is... well a bit battered and bruised and next to all the other carriages at the show looked very scrappy. But far better that Daisy was happy to be there than being wary, as it was her first ever carriage driving show.

Anyway, once we'd got the dogcart and pony together we realised we were being waited for. Not a good thing to keep the judge waiting. We rushed off and got in the ring. I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing, but watched the other grooms and just followed them.

The six competitors went round and then were brought in. As groom I had to stand in front of the pony, keeping her straight. The judge went over the tack before Anne and Daisy had to do their individual show for the judge and immediately we were told we'd missed the curb chain off the tack. Of course in the real world this would be the groom's fault, but I totally absolve myself of guilt. There were other minor tacking misdemeanors to go along with this and by this time we absolutely knew we were bound to come in last. And we were right. However, imagine our surprise when we got our sixth place rosette and then the judge produced a cup. Apparently the first Shetland always gets a cup. I think the judge was as surprised as we were!
Anne with Daisy, the dogcart and the cup
After this we were asked to stay in for the next class to make up the numbers. I rushed off to grab the missing curb chain, we addressed the tacking issues and went back in the ring. Three ponies in this one and we came... third!

In the afternoon Anne took her other pony, Fingle in. He's 18 and bombproof. He's also tiny and was a huge hit with all the children. Sadly, not so with the judge and we came fourth out of four. And just as we were in the ring it poured. That was it for me. I'd had enough and after we'd got the ponies and cart back in the trailer I decided it was time for home.

Still, it was a lovely day and for the most part had been sunny and relatively warm and I had some interesting conversations and a good look round the show. Sadly I didn't get a photo of me with Doddy Weir, the Borders contribution to the Scottish and Lions Rugby teams, who always stewards at the event, as by the time I was finished with my morning pony duties he'd taken himself off somewhere else. I really wanted a pic as this year he had a different pair of tartan trews than the previous 2 years. Oh well, just have to try again next year. But just in case you've forgotten what his previous trews were like I've rehashed my photo from 2010 (I didn't get one last year either).

Don't you just love them trews!

 I thought I'd just end with a bit about the Olympics. I realise one of the things I feel is that I can get to watch sport I'd never usually see. I don't know much about archery, for instance, but watching the Italian men win gold with it all coming down to the last arrow late yesterday afternoon, was truly exciting. And today there's archery, rowing, sailing, swimming and a whole lot more. The only thing I worry about is my fitness. I can watch sport from 9 in the morning onwards and this is not conducive for anything more than high emotion, high blood pressure and slackening muscles. Oh well, as they say, the Olympics only comes round once every four years... so in some ways that's rather a good thing from my point of view.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympic update

I don't usually like Olympic opening ceremonies, though obviously they have to have them. I like the actual sport. I think it's something about the waste of money, resources, ego's etc etc that gets to me. However, last night I did watch it. 

I thought the initial green and pleasant land turns industrial was very clever and well done, but then I switched off (mentally) for a while as people danced and jigged their way through until the countries came on. I was fascinated as to how awful my knowledge of geography was... quite a few I never knew existed I'm ashamed to say.

Then there was the horror of what Team GB were wearing... I don't know who designed those, but they should be put up against a wall and shot in my view.

And the commentator then insisting that David Beckham was carrying the torch... no he wasn't, he was in the boat where someone else was carrying the torch while DB looked on with an inane grin on his face.

But all was redeemed by the truly fantastic Olympic torch lighting. What a feat of engineering and we should be rightly proud of that.

And then it fell apart again as Paul McCartney came on. I'm afraid I switched off at that point, it kind of ruined the moment for me.

So come on Team GB. Forget Paul and the crap outfits you were given to wear and focus on the magnificence of the torch. We can get some things right!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Can you believe it?

My husband's ex-business partner, the one who caused untold degrees of stress at the end of last year and beginning of this. The man who, instead of doing the gentlemanly thing and allowing the partnership to finish quickly and painlesslessly, decided to create difficulties, then fell out with his solicitors and ended up acting for himself thereby dragging the whole thing on for further months rather than weeks has done the weirdest thing. He sent me a message last night asking me to connect with him on Linkedin.

Now I don't know about you, but how could anyone possibly think that I would want to have anything, anything at all, remotely to do with a person who did that to my husband? Is he that insane? Sadly I think the answer is 'yes'. I think I'll leave it there!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

No work whatsoever

When I did my Open University Creative Writing course last year I became pally with a few people. An online friendship is lovely, but it's also interesting when you get to meet someone in person. Well earlier in the year I was down in Dumfries for work and called in on one such OU friend who lives not too far from there and was the one who introduced me to the concept of the e-bike.

We've kept in touch and had recently arranged that I would go down and we would do some writing together. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well it would have been fine if we hadn't found so much to talk about.

I arrived at her house just after midday yesterday in the pouring rain to be greeted by her three gorgeous rescued dogs (2 German Shepherds and a Jack Russell) and we then spent over 12 hours (yes, 12!) talking. There was a bit of alcohol involved, a hot tub in the rain and wind, and some lovely food, but basically all we did was talk. Not one pen lifted or even computer keyboard struck in the name of creativity.

Today was no different really. We went for a walk, took my e-bike out for a tiny jaunt, but essentially it was about a lot of talking.

So did it matter that no work was done? I don't think so, but the only thing is I do wonder when we get together again if we will ever get any writing done. I hope so, but I couldn't swear that things will be any different. In fact I think I would pretty much swear that there would be no change at all!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

How will I cope?

As I'm sure most of you know, I'm completely sport mad and what an incredible afternoon this has been for any sports enthusiast with Mark Cavendish's incredible sprint to win the final stage of the Tour de France and Bradley Wiggins fantastic Maillot Jaune triumph. The only problem was that I got so emotional and ended up over-excited and in tears.

Then there was the German Grand Prix. There was Jensen Button in second place and was overtaken by Sebastian Vettel on the last lap, but the overtake was investigated and Jensen Button was moved up to second. Another opportunity to get emotional.

What worries me is that the Olympic Games starts very, very soon. I can just imagine a whole 17 days of me being completely over the top. I'm not sure my emotions will be able to cope... you have been warned!

Friday, 20 July 2012

When will I ever learn?

Whenever I'm feeling low I seem to have the need to 'do something' with my hair. The current weather situation has not helped. And so a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to dye my hair again. I had previously had my hair done at the hairdressers but somehow going to just have my hair dyed doesn't add up in my way of thinking, so off I went and bought a home dye job. Something I've done loads of times before.

Usually I use John Frieda and over the last year have veered towards the blonder end of the range, but my number wasn't available in the shop I ended up in, and because it was raining and I was wet and cold I grabbed the first thing that looked like it was pretty similar, which in this case was a Garnier Nutrisse Foam. It had the same number, a pretty similar picture and that was that.

I used it and it wasn't so bad, it just wasn't so good either and as the days went by and it faded I found myself with what I would call a distinctly 'Essex' colour. Definitely time for a change, which coincided with my need for a cut too, so I was relieved that I could be squeezed in yesterday prior to my monthly arts club meeting and a drinks thing after for someone who was leaving. I thought it would bring my mood up too.

What I really don't understand is that whenever I look at a chart and the colour looks great on there, it never appears quite the same on my head. Craig the hairdresser and I chose what I would call a medium blonde, but he did say that he wanted to put it on when my hair was wet as apparently it softens the colour a bit and he was concerned that it would be too dark. We're talking medium blonde here. Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was right and thank goodness he did put it on wet hair otherwise it'd probably be black! Suffice it to say, it's dark, not blonde at all and what's more important is that I'm not at all sure I like it. Added to which, for some reason that is totally beyond my comprehension, my curly hair has decided that this colour is going to make it curl in a different way. I've lost my corkscrews, which were the only thing I liked about my hair and now it's kind of... well hard to describe really, but not what I was wanting at all.

So now I find myself with a colour I don't like and with hair I don't like.

The funny thing is though, last night no one even commented that it looked any different at all, which made me a bit paranoid that it really was that bad. Not helped on waking up this morning, taking one look in the mirror and realising I hated it. Drove home to my man who said something along the lines of 'Oh yes it is darker' and then when I said I didn't like it he then said, 'Well, maybe lighter is better.' A man who really knows how to boost his woman's confidence then!

Oh well, this too shall fade, but I still wonder when I'm ever going to learn that changing my hair colour is pretty much guaranteed to make me feel worse rather than better.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A football virgin

Here goes an admission: I've never been to a football match in my life.

My brother-in-law has been promising me for the last 21 years to take me, but he's never come through with the goods as yet, though every time we meet up he tells me a Liverpool or Sheffield United (don't ask) game is on the cards. I live in hope.

I'd heard of a rather intriguing match that was to take place in some woods outside of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, which is a sport/art event supported by Creative Scotland called Forest Pitch. I'd booked tickets ages ago and was really excited. It was to take place this Saturday.

I got an email late yesterday to tell me that the match has been postponed until August 25th.

I'm not really surprised given the weather and also given my football virgin status and am sure that I've jinxed the project.

Any gamblers out there willing to take a bet that after the 25th August my virgin status will still be alive and well?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The perils of not working

I got all excited for a while yesterday as the sun revealed itself for what felt like the first time in ages in the Scottish Borders. Then last night it just went back to what has seemed the way it is this summer and rained and rained and rained.

It's done pretty much nothing else again today, which I'm finding most depressing. So depressing in fact that I've not been able to get on with too much and I'm realising how easy it is, when not having work to go to every day, to fritter away my time. I have a list of 14 things I'm supposed to be getting on with, but so far I've done just 4. 

I did, however, manage to do one thing that wasn't even on the list, which was to pull out our bed and vacuum under it. I hate to think how long it was since I did that, but suffice it to say it needed it badly. The downside of doing that is that I now feel even more depressed at the thought of having to clean and tidy the rest of the house.

But, as with everything there's always an upside. How amazing to think what I can get done instead of those dreaded 10 things that are still staring at me from my list!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Two good things in one day

There I was sitting minding my own business yesterday afternoon when I got a message on Twitter. I'd won a prize!

When I'd turned my computer on in the morning I'd noticed a Facebook message from Nicola Morgan that asked people to make a comment and be in for a shout for the draw for her latest ebook called 'Dear Agent'. Three names would be randomly selected. I thought I might as well comment. Then I noticed that she was doing the same on her blog, but this time only two would be selected. I decided to give that a go too.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was one of the two who'd been selected from her blog. Ok, well she spelled my name wrong, but it's a free book and, although I don't have anything remotely written that would demand to be put before an agent, I like Nicola's writing and it's free so I can forgive her that.

The book, which isn't out til the end of the month, will be winging it's way to me via email as soon as. How exciting!

A month or so back I was telling you all about Mountain Man having to wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitor that forced him to go sleep in the spare room as the bloody thing was beeping every half hour. The outcome of that was that the GP called him in for a chat a couple of weeks ago and strongly advised that he take blood pressure tablets as his bp was a bit high. He capitulated as these tablets were the least invasive of all the suggestions that have been made.

Well... yesterday for the first time ever, MM's blood pressure was lower than mine. He was delighted.

I'm not so sure I like the fact that my 'Lowest Blood Pressure in the House' status is at risk, but it is all in a good cause and I'm sure I can live with it, as long as the competition doesn't send my bp soaring.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Time away

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday workstuff in Crewe was fine. Nice to connect with people and work was work and Thursday was positively summer like, so time was spent outdoors. Then it was off to Bristol on Friday midday.

I arrived in sunshine and with a little help from the locals managed to find my hotel, The Ramada Bristol City Centre, without getting lost. When I'd booked my room I'd specifically asked for a quiet room and so was surprised to be in a room which looked right onto the main road with traffic whizzing about. I phoned reception and asked if there was another room. No problem it seemed and off I went to my new room. Boys came and after a quick phone call to the balloon company, we discovered that there was to be no ballooning that evening as it was too windy, so we headed out to wander about and go get something to eat.

It might have been too windy, but it was sunny and bright which was nice. I was most taken with this pigeon that was sitting right in the middle of the water in the fountain park, where the fountains weren't working to disturb its peace.

We ate at a rather interesting place called Zaza Bazaar, which is an all-you-can-eat of a variety of cuisine's. It was fun and the food was good, not 'fine dining' good, but tasty and well cooked with loads of choice. I'd definitely go there again. And then back to my hotel. I was going to drop my bag off and go down and get a glass of wine at the bar, but when I tried to turn the bedside light on it didn't work. Then the bathroom fan didn't work. I went down to reception and was offered another room, this one a twin, and as an apology for having to move they offered me a glass of wine!

On Saturday I woke to.... rain! The boys were off doing boy things and I was left to be a tourist for the day and then go for dinner with them later. I decided on something indoors to start to get out of the rain and set off for the Aquarium. As I stepped out of the hotel I couldn't help but notice what seemed like thousands of police. They were from West Mercia, Birmingham, South Yorkshire and Devon and Cornwall as well as the local Avon and Somerset brigade. I asked what was happening to be told that there was an EDL rally, an Anti EDL rally and Gay Pride. Not great news.

If you look closely you can see loads of police vans
The aquarium was a good choice. Lovely fish and I enjoyed myself. I only felt a little sorry for the octopus that apparently arrived last week as it seemed to be a bit unsettled. We weren't allowed to use flash so the pic isn't that great, but it's suckers were amazing.

Some of the fish looked like they'd had their stripes painted on with Tippex. Here's one that kept coming back to look at me:

When I got out of the aquarium the rain had pretty much stopped. I took a walk by the Gay Pride festival on College Green. It was colourful and the music was good and people were having fun, but I decided I'd head on up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge as I have a thing about bridges. I'm so pleased I did. It was amazing. Great views and totally incredible to think it's been around for so long.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The view from the bridge
I'd heard there was a Foodies Festival going on in Millenium Square and that's were I went next. It was a great way to spend the afternoon sampling food and drink. At about 3.30 I decided I'd had enough and would head somewhere else, but when I got out there was a distinct eerie quiet. The police numbers seemed to have doubled and all was calm... too calm for my liking. Apparently the EDL and Anti EDL rallies were due to end at 4 and they were going marching. The police were expecting difficulties and had blocked off pretty much every road and weren't letting anyone through.

all roads had at least 5 or 6 police blocking the way
That was a bit of a problem as all roads heading for my hotel were the ones that were blocked. I asked a local police officer how I'd get back and she told me I'd have to walk all the way down and some miles out of my way, but as I was walking in that direction I noticed a guy seemed to have persuaded a policeman to let him through. I stopped and very politely said I wanted to get to my hotel. 'Where is your hotel?' 'Just over there,' and I pointed behind him. 'Oh well,' he said, 'You don't look like you're going to cause trouble so off you go' and he let me through. I was mightily relieved. I made it back to the hotel with time to spare and then spent the rest of the afternoon listening to helicopters overhead, sirens, shouting etc. I was pleased I was where I was.

It went quiet as time went on and I headed off to meet up with the boys at their favourite Japanese restaurant, Masa. Great choice, fab food, brilliant company. What more could I ask for? Then it was time to say goodbye to them and go back for my final sleep in Bristol.

Yesterday I travelled back to Edinburgh and my man and I went out for dinner. That meant 3 dinners out in as many nights... but you won't find me complaining.

And so that was it. No ballooning, but some lovely meals and lovely times and great to catch up with both my boys. And now I'm back home in the Borders with lots of washing to do. That's the only problem with travelling, the mundane stuff I come back to.

I thought I'd add a pic of my boys just for the record. I don't know why but they always insist on making faces and doing 'shapes' whenever I take a pic, but I love them just the same!

My boys

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Up, up and away... well maybe

After yesterday's frustrating attempt to comment on other's blogs, get into Twitter and Facebook and all manner of other sites, this morning there was a cyber-change. Apart from a slight problem with a Yahoo group that I moderate and was initially blocked from and this site too, things eventually kind of normalised and I found, with a bit of roundaboutary, I could manage to get most things done.

I'm quite busy this week, where I'm off to Crewe to meet up with the National Network of Mindfulness-based Teacher Trainers for a few days and then onto Bristol for No. 2 Son's 26th birthday on Friday. No. 1 Son will be joining us and, weather permitting, we're off up, up and away in a hot air balloon with champagne. I can tell you already which will be my favourite bit! But I did say 'weather permitting' as given the current state of our summer I'm not so sure we'll be doing anything more than hanging out on the ground clad in waterproofs for the weekend... I'll let you know.

So have a good week everyone and 'see' you when I get back.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Blogger problems

Have you heard about the malware problem which means that apparently thousands of computers were due to be shut down by the FBI today? I was alerted to this yesterday just as I was trying to leave a comment on two other blogs to find that Blogger wasn't letting me and I began to wonder if my computer was infected. 

It was an immense relief to wake up this morning to find that my computer was working and that no FBI interference, as far as I could tell, had happened. However, Blogger is still not working properly and unfortunately I still haven't been able to leave the comments I wanted on the two friend's blogs, which is very frustrating.

So I have decided to leave my comments here instead just in case they swing by for a read:

To Phil at The Venice Project:
Be thankful you're not in Scotland, where heatwave is something so far from our experience of summer that 30+ and 90% humidity sounds just wonderful... tho the pants situation might be a step too far even for us poor summer starved folk!

To Karen at The Curate's Egg :
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David was my undoing. I couldn't get on with it at all and admit to only getting half way through it even though it was for my reading group. Luckily the weather intervened and I couldn't go to the meeting! Maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time and I should try again?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

I had a dream

It was that Andy Murray won the Wimbledon Men's Singles, that Jenson Button won the British Grand Prix and that Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France. Only one of those hopes is still alive, sadly.

I really felt if Andy Murray had served a whole lot better then the match would have been different. He must have served about 40% first serves in, if not less, which is something that no-one can do against a player of Roger Federer's magnitude and win. I'm saying nothing about Jensen Button, who seems to be having a dreadful season. Bradley Wiggins on the other hand....

The moment you've been waiting for...

The coffee plant update of course!

And as you can see from today's photo, the hardy one is very hardy indeed and has grown... well, for a coffee plant, hugely. The two pale ones I'm quite worried about, but they're still growing and the small darker one is still the small darker one.

I've been thinking about swapping them around under the lights, but then I would fear the large one might protest and as it's the healthiest of them all it's probably best to leave them as is.

I have to be honest, if someone had told me just how difficult and frustrating it is to grow coffee plants I might well not have started this venture. My idea of a plantation was let go of many years ago and now I just breathe a sigh of relief when I look at them and realise that, so far this year, there have been no coffee deaths... but I'm not hopeful on that score.

I also breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when Jonny Marray became the first Briton since 1936 to win a Wimbledon men's doubles final. It was a thrilling match where Jonny and his partner Freddie Neilson from Denmark, who were wildcard rank outsiders, came through in 5 sets to win spectacularly. Jonny Marray was my man of the match and it was absolutely fitting that he served it out in the final set. Brilliant stuff. I can only hope and keep everything crossed that Andy Murray might do the same today... or do you think he'll be rather like my yellowing coffee plants, where it's just too much of a struggle?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A toe update

I'm pleased to report that after a day with cold compresses, gel, pain killers, elevation and a whole lot of tender loving care from my other half, my poor toes are now in a much better state than yesterday. I can now categorically say that they are bruised and not broken and are far less painful today. I am so relieved.

The other thing that was great today was to open the blinds to ... no rain! I'm not hopeful that it will stay like that all day, but at least the start was so much better than the last few days.

Right, no time for hanging about. Got to go do some work today, so me and my toes are off to Edinburgh for a meeting.

Watch out for the next post, which I promise will be a coffee plant update. New leaves, sad leaves and a whole lot more. Bet you can't wait!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

No change

For some rather odd reason I seem to be one of those people who only have weird accidents, which sadly, on the whole, have had a devastating effect. I'm sincerely hoping my latest isn't one of those.

There I was getting myself ready to go out food shopping when I tripped on the stairs. Now I'm sure you'll be thinking, 'Well, so what? That's not much to be worried about.' And if you weren't me you'd be right. You see several years ago I had to have my toes straightened, so they don't bend at all and when I tripped I caught my toes and found myself in intense agony. I hobbled around for a while but knew I had to go shopping as my man is due home tonight and the fridge and cupboard were bare. So I put on the softest shoes I could manage and drove to Kelso, which wasn't too bad. Walking round the supermarket was a different story!

I got home and instead of doing all the tidying and stuff I was supposed to do I took to my bed and have been watching stupid films on TV and reading instead.

Oh well, the house was a mess when Mountain Man left and so he probably won't notice much difference. And given that when he left last Monday I was still in bed, I shall be in exactly the same position when he comes home tonight... I'll bet he'll feel like he's never been away!