Thursday, 27 September 2012

Ready... steady...

This will be the last post before 'go'. Yes, it's holiday time!

I'll be away for a few weeks and won't be writing blogs, emails or anything else as I focus on where I am and what I'm doing.

We're starting in Bhutan, where Mountain Man is taking me on a magical mystery tour. The only thing I know for definite is that this is one of the places we are going:

Tiger's Nest Monastery, Paro
It's approximately a 3 hour walk from base to the top, but because of my knee problems we've got a pony coming along just in case, which I'm mightily relieved about. The thought of being half way up and not being able to go further is a bit of a bummer, so having an 'escape' is allowing me to feel a whole lot more confident.

After Bhutan we're off to Nepal for an amazing trip to Chitwan in the Terai, doing a bit of tiger spotting (we hope), going on an elephant safari, a bit of canoeing to see crocs in the wild and even the possibility of rhino. We've never been there before so that's very exciting. Then we're off to Lumbini and from there to our lovely retreat centre in Pokhara. My suitcase is already full to the brim with requested goodies for them, such as dried herbs, tomato paste and a pepper grinder amongst other things. Then it will be a few days in Kathmandu before coming home.

So, as we leave our house in good hands, I'll 'see' you all when I return, no doubt armed with photos and a long blog to tell you all about it.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

A September coffee plant update

When I was at Kew last week I took a photo of their coffee plant. I couldn't find out was how old it was, but I'm sure you'll admit it looks lovely and healthy. It does live in a wonderful hothouse and not in an old Church, so has a distinct advantage over the ones I'm growing.

Coffee plant at Kew

I don't know if this happens to you, but sometimes I find myself sitting in a singular place in my home and I manage to notice things I've never seen before.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on the stairs, looked over at the coffee plants and realised that the poorest of them all wasn't getting much light from the daylight bulb. I don't know how this had escaped my attention for the past 4 years, but it has. I decided to move it onto a skylight window ledge where it would get maximum sunshine. It will have to be moved back when we go away or else it will have no water (the daylight system also has a water system too - nothing's too much for my babies!).

Below you'll see a picture of the three that are left under the system. The difference between the biggest and healthiest is extraordinary compared to it's siblings and I wish I knew why, but they're all surviving and that's the main thing.

How healthy is this!

And here's a pic of the poorest of them, now all on it's own by the sunniest skylight in my house. It seems to be responding, albeit in it's own slow way, but any response is better than none.

Poor little thing!
It's almost begging me to buy another daylight lamp. I've resisted so far, but we'll see how persuasive it can be!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Last week

London work beckoned.

Last Saturday I was supposed to take the train from Berwick-on-Tweed to Kings Cross, but the powers-that-be decided that last Saturday was to be train track renewal time between Berwick and Newcastle. They very nicely provided comfortable coaches for us, which is just as well as the bloody thing took over 2 hours to get to Newcastle as it needed to make a stop at Morpeth (the high speed train never stops there, but hey). This meant my usual 3hr 40 minute journey turned into a 5hr 30 minute journey. Still there was nothing to do but enjoy the countryside, which was very beautiful and I now know how to go by the back route to Morpeth from Berwick should I ever decide I need to do so.

I arrived in London in the late afternoon and was shocked by the amount of shoppers out and about. The word 'recession' wouldn't have entered your vocabulary if you'd seen them all! It took an age to get to where I was staying and then I went off for drinks with a couple of OU friends.

Sunday I had already decided to go to Kew to see the David Nash exhibition. I know someone who works there and she'd sent me the catalogue, which she'd been working on, so I felt I knew the sculptures before I went, but of course seeing something in a catalogue and then in the real are two completely different things.

Bizarrely, London Transport powers-that-be had decided to upgrade the line from Ealing Broadway all the way out to Richmond. They laid on a bus for us all and so I eventually got to Kew an hour and a half later than planned. It felt a bit like travel deja vu from the day before and felt I was being decidedly 'got at'!

But it was totally worth it. The weather was unbelievably good and gardens and sculptures were just incredible. I'd forgotten how lovely Kew is and I'll definitely be going back. There's only a few more days left to see the exhibition however, so if you're around there do go and have a look. I shall be fascinated to hear how they intend to move them all and also where on earth are they going to go?

My favourite David Nash sculpture 'Cork Mound'

Fish in the Temperate House

A lovely Kew view

A tree with a skirt!

The world's oldest pot plant

A Fiji Fan Palm

In the Waterlily House

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were work days. I was out every evening with American cousins who were over, my mother and friends (separately!) and then home to rain and cold.

However, I did have an extraordinary train journey back. I was settling into my seat in the Quiet carriage on the East Coast train when in came a rather loud, glamorous woman followed by a small, Eastern looking man. She sat down opposite me and he next to me.

I don't think I've had such 'exotic' company on a train before. It turned out she had been a model in the late 60's early 70's and was telling us all about her adventures. She'd met Michael Caine and Terence Stamp, who I did know had shared a flat in the King's Road, so nothing she said on that score was surprising. She's been in the fashion industry all her adult life and is now the Sales Director of an upmarket dress agency just off Oxford Street and she gave me a personal invitation to go to her agency's very prestigious fashion sample sales that they hold twice a year. Whoohoo!

The guy (who was nothing to do with her whatsoever and was equally as fascinated by her as I was) turned out to be a Gurkha Welfare Officer, and although he'd lived here for years was actually from Nepal. We had an interesting conversation all about my travels there and his recollections. He gave me his card to be in touch. After he got off at Darlington, I got regaled with some pretty hairy stories regarding such notables as Cherie Blair and Carole Caplin among others, but I'm not going to relate any of it in case I get had up for libel!

All I can say is that my journey home seemed to pass remarkably quickly, but I was quite pleased to get off at Berwick and leave her to her own devices as I wasn't at all sure what on earth she was going to come out with next. I'm sure she'll have plenty to entertain the good folk of Aviemore, where she was headed for the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow will be coffee update news, which will be limited as always!

Friday, 21 September 2012


Before I tell you what I've been up to all week, which I'll be writing about tomorrow, I thought I'd let you know some absolutely fantastic news.

The lovely person who published my book (Russell Turner aka Bassman) also published one of his own (along with a couple of compatriots) and I urged you back in May to vote for this to win the Scottish Nature Book 2012 and I'm absolutely thrilled to tell you all that it won!

I think it's brilliant that someone I know won something so fab. I also think it's brilliant that a book that absolutely deserved to win won and it couldn't have gone to a nicer bunch of talented guys. And finally, I think it's brilliant that my vote actually counted for something. So if you voted for it to win, then you'll know that your vote counted too, so well done you too!

And if you haven't bought one yet, then for goodness sake do. It's a fantastic representation of all the wonderful sights you can see of where I used to live and it won a prize... what more can you ask for?

Tomorrow I'll let you know what I've been up to for the past week, which involves a lovely time at Kew and a whacky train journey accompanied by a Gurkha Welfare Officer and a top model from the 60's ... well that was her story anyway!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My September birthday

First of all the book I won by Chris Nickson arrived, signed by the author to me personally, which is a lovely touch. It's called The Broken Token and is the first in his series of Richard Nottingham books. It's set in 1740's Leeds and on reading the first few chapters, seems very good. Easy to read and manages to capture the time and place exceptionally well. I'm looking forward to the rest of it now.

The morning was spent in Jedburgh, on a gorgeously sunny, blue-skied Borders day. We started off by picking up my rabbit brooch, which I'd made on the craft weekend there. I think it looks great after having the verdigris treatment.

Then No. 2 Son and I found a perfect spot to stand while waiting for the Tour of Britain's Stage 3 to start. It was right on a corner, so we could see the start and then they were due to go down the road opposite us and came back up the High Street right in front of us.

No. 2 Son with flag waiting in the sunshine

An hour later, with a flag in hand (given to me by a local rotary club person) and after much neighbourly chat with all those standing around with us, a flurry of police motorcycles went by, then they went by again, then some local kids and adults on bikes went by, then the motorcycles came again and then the 94 pro riders swept by in a matter of a couple of minutes... and that was it!

I did, however, manage to capture a pic of Bradley Wiggins who was at the back of the field as they started out. Not that you'd guess it was him in a million years, so you'll have to take my word for it.

This is Bradley Wiggins at the back of the field at the very start

The Peloton
We left pretty smartly and back home for lunch, then out in the afternoon to find a tiny second hand bookshop in the middle of nowhere just outside of Kelso, called Found It At Last. They had quite a selection but not sure how they actually make any money. Definitely somewhere to go back to when my bedside To Be Read pile is barely there.

When we got home my son had a go on my e-bike and then we settled down for another evening of films. We started with 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs', which I thoroughly enjoyed, and then moved on to 'Treasure Planet', which was ok, but not one I'd watch again. We finished with 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou', but I'm sorry to say I couldn't stay awake til the end, so we'll finish that one today before going to Edinburgh to catch up with No. 1 Son tonight and work tomorrow.

All in all a very good birthday and even better for having shared it with one of my boys.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Missing ships

After a lovely day with No. 2 Son, late last night we settled down to watch the US Open between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

Mountain Man, who has to head for Ireland today to route mark an across Ireland cycle ride for what are now known as Mamils (hating to admit that he's one himself!), went to bed at the end of the first set as he had to be up early. So, with Andy Murray winning the tie break 12-10 and heading into a comfortable double break in the second, No. 2 Son and I settled down on the sofa, under a pink blanket for warmth, to bite our nails as Andy Murray then lost his serve twice, but just managed to win that set 7-5. Then Andy took a dip in play and Novak Djokovic won the third 6-2, by which time it was half past midnight and I could take no more. I went to bed knowing that Andy Murray was down 0-1 in the fourth.

What a relief it was to turn my computer on when I woke up at 6.30 this morning, unable to think about anything else than what had happened at the US Open, to be greeted by the headlines telling me that after 76 long, long years, a Brit (and that Brit being a Scot no less) had won!

And what a relief to know that my gut feelings had been right!

Today, is actually my September birthday and to celebrate my son and I are going out to Jedburgh to watch the start of Stage 3 of the Tour of Britain and then hang out together while my husband is off doing his thing for the rest of the week. Then in spite of my getting into retirement, I have work on Thursday and Friday and then more in London for the first part of next week, so MM and I will be ships that don't even pass in the night. Oh well, it'll make for a sweeter catch up when we do eventually get together next Wednesday night.

Monday, 10 September 2012

And now it is almost over

That is the fantastic summer of sport.

I've so enjoyed every moment of the Olympics and the Paralympics. I love watching sport of any kind and the last month has afforded me the luxury of watching pretty much any kind of sport and I've found myself pretty emotional at times at the achievements of some incredible people.

Today there's the outside chance that Andy Murray might win the US Open. I hope the 'feelings in my water' (what a hateful expression!) that he will win are correct. I'll know by tomorrow whether I can trust them or not. And then tomorrow we have the Tour of Britain starting it's South of Scotland leg in Jedburgh at 11.00, which I'm going to go to - luckily it coincides with my having to pick up the rabbit brooch I made at a Saturday craft day there a couple of weeks ago, so that's good.

Best of all is that No. 2 Son has come for a short visit. He arrived yesterday and I'm not sure whether he'll be here for tomorrow or whether he's got to head off up North, but it is lovely to have him here. He's not at all interested in sport, but he does bring with him some interesting films and games. Last night we watched Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris which was fantastic. We also played King of Tokyo, a rather simple, but enjoyable board game that I first played when I visited No. 2 Son in Bristol a couple of months ago. I think the reason I like it is because I've won every game I've played so far, so as resident champion it's bound to be a favourite.

Strange now to put the TV on and find there's no sport to cheer at, but at least I shall become a bit more active again. I think I've had the most inactive summer I've had for a long time, which is quite scary.

Now time to get back to my transition from fully working person to retired person, which starts with a fantastic holiday to Bhutan and Nepal which is coming up very quickly indeed and which I'll need to be relatively fit for. Mountain Man assures me that the amount of proprioceptive movement that I do while watching sport means that by the end of a sporting day I've exercised pretty much every single muscle in some way or another.

So maybe this Summer of Sport will mean that I'm actually quite fit? Mmmm thought that might be stretching it a bit far!

Friday, 7 September 2012

It's over

After a marathon crocheting session, I'm pleased to report that well ahead of my Christmas deadline, I managed to put my crocheted blanket together. It is, I'm sorry to say, rather on the hideous side, but in some ways I rather like it and at least it's finished.

I'm afraid I couldn't crochet any more squares or I'd have gone completely barmy, so it's enough for a single bed and not a double. My fault for making the squares so big that each one took me what seemed an age to do. I'm also pretty sure that anyone who's into crochet would see lots of mistakes, but who cares, it's now not sitting in pieces in a plastic bag hidden in a corner, but is garishly brightening up my bed before it gets removed to the spare room, which is where it was made for in the beginning.

Now... what's next?

A winning streak

In July I won a book by Nicola Morgan just for putting a comment on her blog. I rarely win things and was very excited, so when Sally Zigmond, another writer whose blog I follow, was giving away a novel by Chris Nickson, I thought 'what the hell I'll enter' and who'd have thought it, but I won!

These kind of competitions are just up my street. They're not the ones where you have to think up something witty or do anything dramatic, they're the ones where you put a comment and your name is picked out at random. What's not to like?

The other thing is, I always wondered about these... you know the kind of questions: is this for real? is it rigged? is someone going to win? So it's lovely to be able to say, yes, it is for real, no it's not rigged and I WON!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Serious miscalculation

After my post about my crocheting activities the other day I decided to get out the 88 squares I'd already done and see if I could put them together to work out how many more squares needed making so it actually looks like a reasonable blanket and not just a big scarf.

I'm unutterably disappointed. I don't know where I thought 6 more would suffice, but they won't. It's more like another 22, which will take me forever unless I make a concerted effort to get it finished. I've now set my deadline at Christmas and am going to try my very best.

I'm not even sure I like the damn thing at all, which doesn't help, but that'll teach me to 1) not start things that are going to take forever to finish, and 2) if I am going to start this kind of endeavour, to start off by calculating correctly!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A crafty Saturday

Every year in the Scottish Borders there's an Art Trail called Crossing Borders. It's a fantastic way to see local artists and craftspeople and some of them offer workshops. Yesterday I went to Gallery In The Alley in Jedburgh to catch up with the incredibly patient Linda Lovett, who makes brooches. Her website shows you what she can do with bits of copper, broken china and a bit of welding.

This is what I made yesterday:

I was the only one there at the time, which was lucky as I had Linda's full attention for a time-consuming and very fiddly job. Linda's going to verdigris it for me and I can pick it up next week and I'll post another pic when I do. I was rather pleased with it in the end, in spite of the slight mistake with one of the leaves, which I'm sure you eagle-eyed people will have spotted already.

I'm undecided whether I'll actually wear it as a brooch or whether I'll frame it. Maybe I'll frame it in a frame which can be undone so I can wear it too? I'll make my mind up once my rabbit eventually comes home.

Saturday, 1 September 2012


During yesterday's big clean out I found a bag containing many crochet squares that I'd started about 18 months ago when there was an ad on telly about crocheting. I used to crochet quite a lot years and years ago and 18 months ago, in a fit of winter blues, decided to crochet a blanket.

Whilst watching the paralympics there was exactly the same advert that'd been on 18 months ago and, as a seemingly complete subliminal victim of the ad, I started crocheting a square last night. I think crocheting is a bit like riding a bike as I had no problem at all remembering how to do it. Getting it into a square was a deal more challenging.

I also managed to remember why it had languished in a bag for so long. My god, it's boring, and what's worse is, if I want to finish the damn thing then I have another six squares to go. I think this might all go back in the bag to be taken out when that bleeping advert comes around again in another 18 months!