Sunday, 30 June 2013

June coffee plant update

I can hardly believe we're actually at the end of June. How did that happen?

Anyway, I thought I'd give you a coffee plant update as another month has zipped by.

Below are a couple of not such great photos of the two weaker plants. I'm afraid I couldn't be bothered to take them down and arrange them photogenically and it's not that easy to take photos of them where they are.

As you can see there's quite a lot of brown and also the green leaves aren't all that green, but they're both growing, which is a small miracle. They seem to have settled into their summer home quite well and have had quite a bit of growth.

Enjoying life and getting greener

The weakest

And now for the biggest and second biggest. You'll see what a different green they are compared to their windowsill compatriots. The smaller of these two is actually hiding under the rather large, spreading branches of the biggest. I'm almost tempted to put the smaller one here out on the windowsill too for the summer to give it some space, but it hates being moved even an inch.

Little and large

Friday, 28 June 2013

Not so bad after all

Yesterday saw me back at the Borders General Hospital to have my foot checked out. Turns out I may have interdigital neuroma and possibly something else going on too, but all this is actually good news because it's treatable, which I'm mightily relieved about. I have to have an ultrasound to check it out for a 'this is it' and then it's things in shoes and maybe an injection or two to see if that works. Final thing is surgery, but I'm not going there until all other things have been ruled out. Looks like I won't be able to go on the trek I was planning to Bhutan this year though (which was my ambition) but maybe next year if all works out.

Just as I was coming out from my appointment I switched my phone on and found an email from the Human Rights Consortium.

I had sent a poem off to them in May (closing date 15th May) and was told they'd be coming to conclusions about which poems they wanted very soon after the closing date. I hadn't heard anything until yesterday.

The email started 'Thank you very much for submitting your poem to our recent call for submissions for a human rights-themed poetry anthology.' Okay, I thought, well that's that then.

Then I read on, 'We are delighted to let you know that, having read over 600 submissions, we would very much wish to include your poem ‘Kora in Lhasa’ in the anthology.'

I was so freaked out I drove home telling myself I must've misread it. I got home, turned the computer on and no... that's exactly what it said. I phoned the very sensible Denise, my poetry critiquer, and read it to her. She was excited... I was excited... and that was that. My poem really has been accepted.

What's also quite brilliant is, not only does my poem get into the anthology, but I get invited to the Bloomsbury Festival in London in October, which just happens to be when I was thinking of going to Bhutan... so the fact I can't go on the trek has suddenly turned out to be not such a bad thing after all.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A day of rest

After last nights shenanigans I took a day out to rest up. I didn't get to sleep until almost 4 a.m. and was pretty tired this morning. Luckily the tennis was on from 11 so I'm afraid to admit, but apart from doing some OU Weather course work and falling asleep for a bit of the afternoon, I spent my day watching Wimbledon.

So, this if for Lizzie, who has been working hard all day and wanted tennis updates:

Of course the main news today is the amount of people who've pulled out due to injuries, but as that's all over the news I won't bother you with all of that. Instead I watched some truly unbelievable tennis.

Dustin Brown beat Lleyton Hewitt in a truly wonderful match, entertaining and full of great shots. Rather liked the fact that a black guy with dreads won, especially as he's ranked so much lower than Hewitt. Then it was Maria Sharapova and Michelle Larcher De Brita, but I'm afraid they're both screamers of epic proportions, so it might have been a great match, but I couldn't bear it so turned over. Apparently Sharapova was injured and was beaten. Luckily Andy Murray came on and saved the day. He played really well and won in 3 sets against the Chinese player Lu. Then it was Federer's turn. That was, for me, the match of the day. He was playing a guy from Ukraine on Centre Court called Sergiy Stakhovsky. It was unbelievable. Stakhovsky played old-style serve and volley and it was absolutely fantastic. Couldn't believe it when he won. Neither could he. Actually nor could Federer, who didn't, in my view, behave as a total gentleman, but then if I'd just been put out of Wimbledon I'm sure I'd not be able to be as nice as nice.

I didn't feel too guilty about all my tv watching as it was cloudy outside. I'd determined I'd go for a walk, but fell asleep instead and so my day passed.

Tomorrow I have another visit to the BGH, but this time it's for my foot. I hope I'm not going to become a regular there as that wouldn't do. I'm going to see if there's anything that can be done to get my foot sorted so I can go to Bhutan on the trek I want to do. I had a couple of operations on my feet back in 2004. One has been fine, but the other has already had another op and it's not done me much good at all. A little difficult when even walking causes pain, but I'm still hopeful. All will be revealed tomorrow.

And that, folks, is it for today. Hope yours was good.

A bit of a drama

Last night was the opening of Complete Health Borders in Galashiels, which boasted of champagne and nibbles. I was invited by my friend Laura who's doing some work there. I arrived at 6.30 pm dressed in a skirt and summer top (well gotta do something to persuade myself it's summer) and Laura and her husband (who was running the bar) got me a drink - soft because I was driving.

Speeches had just finished and I was talking to another friend who was there who said it was ok for me to have just one champagne. So there I was sipping my glass of champers when a lovely lady carrying a tray of nibbles comes up and offers me one. They looked delicious. A prawn and olive sitting atop of what looked like a bit of smoked salmon pate. I took one and smelled it. Smelled mmmm. It was delicious, so took another.

The person standing next to me and I were remarking how lovely they were and I was just about to take another when the person next to me asked the lady with the tray what they were. 'Oh that's my homemade mackerel pate, so pleased you like it.' At which point I put my glass down and grabbed my bag and rushed over to Laura.

You see I'm only allergic to one thing, and that one thing is mackerel. Well ok I know it's odd, but I can't help that. I had a throat closing experience in 1978 and was told never to eat it again. On the advice of my doctor I used to carry an epipen, but realised that mackerel is one of those things that really can be avoided, so never renewed it when it ran out.

Laura was a bit shocked when I told her and suggested I should go to Tesco as the pharmacy was open and was only down the road. I dashed over there, but the pharmacist told me she wouldn't treat me and I should get to A&E at the Borders General Hospital asap and if I was having problems breathing to pull over and dial 999.

Luckily the BGH was only a short drive away, car park spaces were remarkably free and I dashed into A&E to be met by a very nice receptionist. There were quite a lot of people waiting and by this time my wrists were beginning to go red and lumpy and my throat was feeling quite odd.

A&E were wonderful. I bypassed everyone and got rushed into a cubicle, had my clothes ripped off and was strapped into the obs machine. They got me some meds and me and my bed were wheeled off to a room to wait. An hour and half later all had righted itself and the doc came and gave me the ok, but insisted that I had some steroids if I was going to be going home as I'm totally on my own this week. The thought of staying in hospital was enough to get me to down those suckers as fast as I could.

Now, of course, I'm buzzing. The steroids apparently will probably keep me awake most of the night, which is why I'm writing this at almost 1 a.m. with no sight of feeling tired at all. Still a small price to pay for the relief that the NHS can really do it's thing when it counts.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Drowned in

Yesterday I had all kinds of things planned, things that involved being outside. Well the weather had other plans for me as it absolutely tipped it down and there was nothing for it but to turn my attentions indoors.

I could have done some housework, I could have done some coursework, I could even have written a poem, but none of those things got done and instead I spent the majority of my day reading a Ruth Rendell novel that my mother had given me a while back and watching films on the telly.

Now, of course, Wimbledon has started and my annual tennis-fest has begun. Sometimes being drowned in isn't such a bad thing after all!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Not doing much?

I don't know why, but I thought I wasn't really doing anything much this week, but it turned out a little different.

Monday was a chiropractor appointment. I don't think I've told you about this, but Mountain Man had a free examination and had treatment, which seemed to be helping and he got me a free examination appointment too. So I too have been having treatment for the last couple of weeks. Both of us, so it happened, had an appointment at much the same time, so we decided to go out for dinner in Edinburgh afterwards. We went to Bonsai, which was very good. Then we went home as MM had to pack for his second London to Paris bike ride of the year. He went off on Tuesday.

I spent a day mainly pottering and tidying and the on the work front, I had to go to an evening talk in Edinburgh. Ages ago I'd been invited to this and also, at that time, was told there'd be a dinner to go to too. But that was the last I heard of the dinner bit in spite of many reminders of the talk and so assumed there'd be no dinner. I was wrong. Because I needed to drive home and not stay in Edinburgh that night I was very good and drank water and, after a lovely meal at Kalpna (a veggie Indian) I dashed home to catch up with all the things I'd planned for that night.

Wednesday saw another dash up the road as I had my last poetry session of the current term. There were quite a few missing due to holidays, so only 8 of us were there, but it was still a good laugh. After we went for a drink to celebrate 'school's out' and because it was a beautiful sunny day, we sat outside. How great to be sitting in Edinburgh sunshine having a glass of lager and chilling.

End of term drinks
Then it was another chiropractor appointment followed by another meal out, but this time with No. 2 Son. We went to Red Box Noodle Bar, where you can eat and enjoy for around £5. Lovely. Then we went back to the house and sat outside chatting until it got a bit cold. By that time all I was ready to do was sit and watch The Apprentice followed by bed.

Today I have yet another chiropractor appointment this morning and then I'm off for lunch with my friend Shirley who I haven't caught up with for ages, followed by a work meeting.

I'm quite enjoying this mix of work and pleasure. I'm not sure where the chiropractor fits in with either of those as it's certainly not work and it's certainly not pleasure, but hopefully in the end it might lead to feeling good. I have another 4 appointments to go before I make a decision to continue or not. I'll let you know.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Hanging out at Ruskin's

I was feeling less than enthusiastic when it came to the time to leave Denise's and go off to Brantwood for my weekend of poetry. The few other weekend workshop's I've attended rushed into my mind and told me of my folly for attempting such a thing. I needn't have worried.

Brantwood itself is amazing. Looking out over Coniston Water, John Ruskin's home (the one where he spent the last part of his life) and the gardens he created are spectacular. He planted all sorts, even a swathe of blue, Himalayan poppies... one of my favourites... and the views were to die for.

A view from Brantwood

Ruskin's jetty

Blue poppies in the garden


We, that is me and the other 3 participants, were housed in The Lodge. It had been newly refurbished last year and was a lovely place to relax. Geraldine (our tutor) was lucky enough to be staying up at the house in what's known as The Eyrie. Our place of work... the old schoolroom... was up there too and a wonderful place to sit and contemplate and write.

The Lodge in the foreground and Brantwood behind

At work in the schoolroom

And I did write. As did the other 3. We gelled immediately, no matter that there were two more experienced poets (one extremely so) and then us other two. The atmosphere was supportive and kind and above all filled with laughter and friendship. We had a good time, all of us.

Evenings were spent eating, drinking wine, telling stories and reading poetry. It really was a lovely weekend. One of the highlights for me though was totally unexpected.

In one of the bathrooms sat this enormous bath encased in wood. Geraldine had said for us to go and relax and suggested having a bath. Well usually I'm the kind of person who sits in a very small amount of water and I'm in and out. I like the water hot and it never stays hot enough for me to soak in, but it looked so inviting. It took me about 3 minutes to work out how the plug system worked, and after that a wait while it filled up and then in.

It was probably the longest bath I've ever had. Just the best. When I got out, John, one of the experienced poets asked me how it was and when I told him, he told me it was actually John Ruskin's bath as he rushed off to experience it for himself. We glowed that evening after our post Ruskin bathing!

Ruskin's bath

A 'moment':
John, who is such a serious poet that he has many pamphlets and books and collections to his name, and I got talking. He was saying about his anxieties and in a glib moment I said, 'Well you should buy my book.' He insisted we swapped. I think I've got the better end of this deal as he gave me a great poetry pamphlet he wrote about the cinema. Anyway, the next evening we were talking about self-publishing and I admitted that mine was really as Mr Bassman, a friend, had published the second edition for me and given me an ISDN number. Then yesterday morning as I got to the schoolroom, Geraldine, our tutor, said to me, 'Can we swap pamphlets?' I was a bit nonplussed. 'I don't have a pamphlet' I replied. 'You know the one you're giving John,' she said. When I told her it was a stress management book she insisted on swapping anyway!

I was sad to leave. I felt I wrote some ok poems, though all need work. I'm so pleased I went and I would definitely go back and experience another weekend there.

Stone steps

The view from Ruskin's bedroom tower over Coniston

Friday, 14 June 2013

Happy times

I arrived in Dumfries and Galloway yesterday afternoon to spend some time with Denise.

We had a lovely afternoon chatting away and then, after what was probably the best pizza ever (but this was after we'd shared a bottle of Prosecco), it was time for the hot-tub.

The cattle in the field next door decided to come and have a nosy, which called for a photo moment....

Me in the hot-tub with cattle voyeurs

Then the dogs decided to get involved (Denise has 3: Tess, Chico and Rolf) but Tess was down the side of the tub so you can't see her:

Chico gets in on the action
Rolf and me 'chatting'

After 2 hours and skins like prunes, we braved the freezing cold to run to the house and get warmed up.

It was a fun evening.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Yes to retirement

I'm in a bit of a haze. My long-time friend and art school 'comrade in arms' of some 40 years has been and gone.

Lovely weather saw us lazing about doing not much at all but walking (a bit), talking (a lot), gardening (a little) and drinking wine (I leave that to your imagination).

Five days have come and gone and now things are back to a bit of rushing about... though this week it's mainly for pleasure and not work.

I'm in Edinburgh tomorrow for a meeting, Wednesday is poetry and then Thursday I'm off to near Dumfries to see the lovely Denise for hot-tubbing and camaraderie before I head off to Brantwood - John Ruskin's old homestead - for a weekend of poetry and I hope good times.

At last I'm feeling like my retirement is actually working out!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

More please!

This morning saw me washing floors... and no, I'd prefer not to have more of that... followed by a 7 mile jaunt on my bike.

It's the first time I've been on it for ages. So much so as I took it out on the road and switched the switch to engage the battery, it wasn't working. After a brief OMG, I realised I was just being a bit stupid. I hadn't put the key in to switch it on! It worked just fine after I'd managed to locate the key in the drawer it had been put in for safe keeping so many months ago.

What a fine day to go for a bike ride. Absolutely gorgeous. After my *ahem* exertions, I did a bit of weeding and then sat reading my book in the sun and moving to the shade when it got too hot - yes, really, it actually got too hot.

Tomorrow it looks like it's going to be a bit cloudy but warm and then, hooray, it cheers up after that for a couple of days and looks like we're in for a good deal more sunshine. Just fab!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Been there, done that

London that is. Been. Done.

I arrived yesterday in time to make it to meet up with my friend Suky, who I haven't seen in a while. We had a lovely dinner and talked from 7 until well past 11.30 and I didn't get to bed til gone midnight. Then it was a reasonably not too early rise this morning and a meeting from 9.30 til 11.30 and then back to King's Cross to get back on the train north.

Mountain Man and I have hardly seen each other at all these past few weeks as either I've been away working or he has. Today was typical... I arrived at King's Cross at the back of 12 to catch my 1 pm train. Meanwhile MM was on a train south, with an expected arrival of 2 pm on his way to route marking for the rest of this week on a London to Paris bike ride.

And what do I have on tomorrow? N-o-t-h-i-n-g.

That's a bit more like it!

Saturday, 1 June 2013


Today I have a 'nothing to do day'... well apart from tidying and housework and all the things that haven't got done this week!

Wednesday saw me in Glasgow for my Commonwealth Games interview.

After an argument with my iPhone, which insisted on getting me to the venue in the most roundabout way possible so that I lost my way completely, I eventually made it there with minutes to spare and got immediately shoved in front of a computer for the obligatory awful photo.

There were quite a lot of us who were being interviewed for Press Operations and the people in charge were trying, in a very 'jolly hockey-sticks' way, to make us feel this would be the very best job of the whole Games. We watched an inspiring little film about volunteering at the Games, then we had a not very inspiring talk about Press Ops to persuade us how wonderful it would be and finally to the interview itself.

I was interviewed by a rather elderly lady who was rather keen on spending much of my 20 minute interview telling me about herself and encouraging me to gift her a few of the sayings I like (she apparently collects sayings in a book)... I obliged of course.

There was one awkward moment when she was blathering on about collecting things and shoved a list of things that I didn't realise said 'we don't want'... one of them being pin badge collectors... and I was telling her about my collection when I realised exactly what it said and swallowed my words. I don't think she heard me, but now I'm wondering if they taped the whole thing!

She also told me I would be put down as a team leader in spite of my protestations. I won't find out whether I've got the gig until October, which will probably be just enough time for me to forget the experience.

Thursday and Friday saw me in Troon. I had a final 2 days of teaching there, back in The Marine Hotel. This time I took my swimsuit and, after the first day's teaching, I headed down to the pool for a relaxing swim and jacuzzi, but was met by what felt like hundreds of screaming kids having swimming lessons. I lasted about 10 minutes and left for the peace and quiet of my room.

The weather was ok and there were some lovely skyscapes to admire, especially along the beach. I'd been given a room with a view over the Firth of Clyde, which was rather nice.

The view along the beach to the town

An evening skyscape from my bedroom window

Although today feels like respite from the rush of the week I actually have to pack my bag ready for a 24 hour stint to London tomorrow.

After that things really do calm down as I have a relaxing week coming up which will be filled with poetry, my weather course and my friend Su, who's over from Australia for a few months and is coming to stay for 5 days. We've been friends since our art school days in 1970 and then went off to the States together and got up to things that are best not written about in blogs.

We will be left to our own devices as Mountain Man is off cycling to Paris so it's probably just as well that I live in a small village and there's not that much to get up to here!