Saturday, 25 May 2013


After becoming most despondent yesterday at the plummeting temperature (a max of 5 degrees) and putting the central heating back on as well as my winter jumper, I woke this morning to sparkling blue skies with only the odd cumulus cloud wafting it's way across the skyline. The temperature went up to around 18. Time to be outdoors.

A lovely morning spent pottering in the garden in my shorts and vest and after a quick supermarket shop it was back in the sunshine to write a poem, sit and read my book and get some vitamin D for the afternoon.

At last I'm beginning to feel a bit cheerier, which is all to the good as I have 'one of those weeks' coming up.

I have to be in Edinburgh tomorrow and back to the Borders on Monday, Kelso and Edinburgh on Tuesday, Glasgow on Wednesday, Troon on Thursday and Friday, Borders on Saturday and London on Sunday and Monday.

Not all of this is for work, I must add, but it still seems like a bit all over the place, and there is quite a bit of work in there. The one I'm looking forward to the most is Glasgow as it's my interview for volunteering at The Commonwealth Games.

My friend, Sarah, who has already been for her interview has given me a bit of a heads up. She's down for cycling, but apparently the interview she had didn't even mention cycling once. She's opted for being a Team Leader, which sounds scarily like a lot of responsibility.  She told me we won't even be told if we've got the gig until October.

I know I've complained a bit that I've been put down for Press Operations and I don't think I'd go so far as to say I'd want to be a Team Leader, but it would do my pride no good at all if I wasn't accepted. Hopefully all will become clearer on Wednesday.

Though sadly the weather will not, if the forecast is anything to go by. Back to rain by Tuesday. Oh dear, but at least that's me out of housework for tomorrow as I shall just have to spend as much time as I possibly can out in the sunshine.

Well that's my excuse for this week done then!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Nope... still don't understand it

After a week of not doing too much, today I decided I really needed to get on with my course work for my 'Understanding the Weather' OU course.

There's a quiz which I need to do to get a certificate of completion. Well that's all very well, but at the rate I'm going I'm not going to even get that.

One question had a cloudscape and you're supposed to identify the two types of clouds. This would be fine if I could have seen two types of clouds (Mountain Man could only see one lot of cloud too, so I'm not alone in my cloudblindness). You're allowed 3 goes at any question and 3 wrongs you get a yellow dot. I got it wrong 3 times... yellow dot appeared and I still can only see one lot of cloud in the pic.

Then another question asks you to change knots to kilometers per hour, which I did with the aid of a scientific calculator and the web 'knots to kilometers per hour exchange' site. I got it wrong twice.

As I'm now in danger of getting another yellow dot I've sent out an SOS and had to call in the expertise of the OU tutor. I await her answer with ignominy, as last time I asked her a question I felt like a simpleton after I got the answer.

And as to question 10... well I'm not even going there!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Away and home

Well this last week has been nothing if not exhausting.

It started with a 5 am get up on Monday morning so that I could head out to my two days teaching in what I thought was going to be Ayr. Luckily I checked the name of the hotel that'd been booked before I left home. It was the Marine Hotel in Troon and not in Ayr at all!

The journey itself was ok, but I couldn't believe the amount of traffic on the roads so early in the morning. There were already queues on the Edinburgh Bypass and that was before 7. Then I hit snow and whiteout on the M8 going through Glasgow, but arrived in Troon at 8.24 in fairly good fettle.

It was blowing a gale in Troon, so much so it was quite hard to stay on my feet from the car park to the hotel, which I have to say was pretty fancy. I was given room 211 and told it was to the left of the lift on the 2nd floor. As I got out of the lift, directly ahead was room 210. I dutifully turned left to be met by an array of room numbers, which all seemed out of sequence. It turned out room 211 was next to room 215. I was pretty confused, but it was a lovely room. I know it isn't all that easy to see in the following photos as the corridor was too narrow to be able to get a clear pic of both doors, but hopefully you'll see.

The hotel itself had a swimming pool, but the guy who'd organised the teaching didn't tell me that. We're due back there next week, so I'm definitely putting my cozzie in. It was lovely to be somewhere so nice... very different from the NHS hospital premises that I usually train in. There are some perks to the hospitals in Ayrshire not having big enough training rooms! We were apparently given a very special rate and it proved to be wonderful from a teaching point of view as we had loads of room for group work. I'm pleased to say those two days went well and hopefully the last two will go as well and then we'll have 10 new trained Mindfulness teachers in Ayrshire to take the good work forward.

The weather stayed foul so it was nice to be inside in some ways, though I might have been tempted to walk along the beach if it had stopped raining and the gale force winds for long enough, but it didn't deter the golfers. I'm obviously soft!

Hardy golfers in the wind and rain

Wednesday saw me in Edinburgh. I had my poetry class and then had to scoot off to a meeting of the charity that I'm on the board of directors of. It doesn't usually finish much before 8.30 pm and is quite a long haul, so I was pretty tired on Wednesday night. Then I had enough time to do my washing, pack my bag for the next day and get to bed before my early start on Thursday to get the morning train to get to a meeting at 1.15 pm in London.

After the meeting I then went out for dinner with a friend, which was fun and on Friday I spent much of the day at work, but did finish in time to go to Harvey Nicks for a wander. I decided to have a manicure and, as I sat down, one of the extremely glamorous women next to me said she was sure she'd seen me before and was I an interior designer!

I took ages to decide what nail varnish I wanted on my very short nails. In the end I plumped for a colour that matched my rather fetching sparkly ankle wellies (well they've got to match something!), however, what I hadn't bargained for is the 'wow factor' these seemed to cause and I had quite a group of people around me by the end. It all felt a bit freaky being the centre of attention just because of the nail varnish I chose and I still don't know who I'm supposed to look like.

Matching nails and wellies

Then it was out to dinner with my cousin from the States and in the restaurant the waitress asked if she could feel my nails. I don't know what it is about them, but they certainly caused a stir. I even had a couple of people come up to me in a shop in Oxford Street on Saturday, when I was wandering about and ask me where I'd had them done!

Yesterday afternoon was spent at the Barocci exhibition at the National Gallery, which was remarkable. Just the way he played with light and shade was extraordinary. I loved it. My favourite was his self portrait, which he did when he was in his 60's. There was something about his eyes, which resonated pain that caught my attention. Mesmerising.

Barocci's self portrait

Then out for another dinner last night and up early today to get the train back.

It's quite a relief to be home and I shall look forward to a simple meal tonight and a day off tomorrow!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

May coffee plant update

I'm going to be away all this coming week, so as I won't be writing blog matters I thought I'd delight you with a coffee plant update.

On Friday I decided to move the two weaker plants to their summer home on the windowsill up by the skylight. This way they should get lots of sunlight. I say 'should' because we've had only a few hours of sun this past few days as the usual Scottish May seems somewhat lacking this year.

The two weaklings on the windowsill looking out at the rain

For those of you unfamiliar with the Scottish weather, May always seemed to be a great month for sun and warmth, but the last two have been dire. I know we're only part way through this one, but I'm not hopeful. Maybe June will be better?

The smaller of the doing better plants got moved over too, so it could come out from under the shade of the big one and still get a bit of light from the daylight bulb, but I haven't dared move the big one as I don't want it to react badly. You can see the smaller one didn't like the move at all as last night it dropped one of its precious leaves! They are such sensitive things.

Oh dear... there went another leaf!

Tomorrow at the grand hour of 6.30 am I shall be setting off for the delights of Ayr for two days of teaching. Then I'm back to Edinburgh on Wednesday for poetry and a meeting which doesn't finish until 8 pm. And finally I shall be off to London on Thursday for two days of work matters. I am combining work with a bit of social activity as I'm booked in with a friend for dinner on Thursday night and my cousin is over from the States and we're off to dinner after work on Friday night. On Saturday I have booked myself in for the Barocci exhibition at The National Gallery, another dinner out and then back to Scotland on Sunday.

No doubt I shall let you know at least some of what I got up to on my return, but in the meantime I'm hoping there's no more aberrant leaf behaviour from those pesky plants.

Friday, 10 May 2013

A new venture?

Several years ago I got chatting with a woman who was a puppy walker for Guide Dogs For The Blind. It seemed like such a lovely thing to do, but of course having Nell and other pets and working at the time it wasn't going to be for me. But after Nell died and I took retirement of sorts that conversation came back to me and I started researching it and thinking it might be something I'd like to do.

Several phone calls, questionnaires, emails and references later, I had my interview this morning, which lasted over two hours and was pretty in depth. The outcome of all this is that I passed and I'm now considered serious puppy walker material and it's all down to me. I just have to give them a date for a go-ahead!

Initially I was told because Nell was a German Shepherd I might be offered one of those, but actually labs are far easier to train, so I've opted to go down the easy route as a first-timer.

It's going to be quite a commitment, and I'm not even sure that I'll do it this year, but the thought of welcoming a puppy into my home as a job of work that offers so much back to the community brings a huge smile to my face!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A shocking afternoon

After the slight distress of yesterday - when, on my 2nd day of teaching in Perth it was possibly the most beautifully warm, sunny day of the year and I was stuck indoors from 8.17 in the morning until 5.23 in the afternoon (even during my lunchtime when I had to have a meeting) and spent breaks looking with longing outdoors - today, which weather-wise went back to being rubbish, turned out to be epic.

It wasn't due to the roof guys, who were coming to spray a bit of the roof for damp, turning up on time; nor was it due to the meeting I had which went really well; and it wasn't even that I got an email from Mumsnet telling me I'd won a copy of a book.

I don't know if you remember, but on 24th April I told you that I'd been lucky enough to win a bag complete with posters from Nicola Morgan when she was promoting her latest copy of Blame My Brain, but I didn't win a book. Then she put an email out to say her publishers were offering 50 free copies through Mumsnet. For some reason I just thought I'd enter for the hell of it, even though I'm not a member, and I won! How great is that? Great... yes... but not epic.

This afternoon it was time for my poetry class. It's a really energising group of knowledgeable people, who are good fun and very willing to state their points of view, and we often spend most of our time laughing our way through our 2 hours and Jim, our enigmatic leader, is no shrinking violet when it comes to critiquing. So it was with trepidation that, as we had 20 minutes to go before finishing, I heard him say we were going to go over a short poem of mine.

We have to read our own poem and then someone else is invited to read it and then it's free-for-all critiquing time. Well this afternoon, for the first time ever for me, no-one said they could offer anything to make it better and what a wonderful poem it was. I was truly stunned. For all 13 people to say that they love a poem and not have a single thing they'd change is something extraordinary, and for Jim to say how much he liked it and wouldn't change a thing is epic. Truly epic.

And then as I was walking away from the class one of the women came up beside me and said, and I quote, 'I love your poems', and then she strode off.

I'm still in shock.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

My Saturday

Saturday morning was spent in Edinburgh.

I saw the audiologist, who sorted my hearing aid out. Apparently my hearing loss has got worse, so my hearing aid has been turned up. There's nothing more guaranteed to make me feel really old than this... even more so than having varifocal glasses. Still I was pleased that I can now hear easier as it's not great teaching and having to ask people to repeat themselves and I have two lots of 4 days of teaching coming up, so all in all it's a bit of a relief. The fact that I couldn't even hear the audiologist when he rang my phone to say he was waiting for me speaks volumes I think... at least that's what he thought.

Then the garden. It might be small and bijou but it still needs work. I spent time in the sunshine pulling and hacking. One and a half hours later, which included a very short back and sides for one bush, I had 4 bags of garden trash and, with the weather becoming colder by the second, I stopped and called No. 1 Son, who kindly came and took the bags away while I tidied up and then headed on down the road to the Borders.

The afternoon was spent catching up a bit and trying to sort out a biography and short statement for a poetry Human Rights competition I've decided to enter. I wonder sometimes why I bother with these things as I'm not at all sure the paying public, especially those who know a thing or two about Human Rights, let alone poetry, would agree. Still, I've had the help of the wonderful Denise and her very red, red pen and the lovely Larraine, who've tried to keep me right and spur me on to send it off.

The rest of the evening was, because Mountain Man was away working up north and I couldn't be bothered to take out my course work or do anything else remotely sensible, spent having a 'party'. I'm very good at this activity after years and years of practice. It entails closing the curtains, pouring a glass of wine or two, some loud crap music and a bit of dancing round my living room on my own. Not probably the very best use of my time, but it was a great way to get over the disappointment of my hearing and the struggle with my poetry entry and it felt pretty damn good.

Back to my version of normality today as I get myself ready for another busy week of travelling, teaching and poetry.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Tales of the extraordinary

My time away on the beautiful Holy Isle off Arran in the Firth of Clyde was immense. Not just because of the island but also because of the people who chose to come on my retreat. A truly nourishing 5 days.

However, as always in my life, 'interesting' things happen - or at least they were certainly interesting to me... maybe you needed to be there?

The view from my window over to Lamlash on Arran

1. The Battleship
We do quite a lot of mindful walking during our stay. On the first day there I was walking slowly, taking in every blade of grass on the foreshore being blown in the wind and watching the shadow of my body moving, when I heard a thrumming noise. I looked up and there, in the narrow strip of water between Holy Isle and Arran was a battleship going by. It was quite a sight, but what was even more extraordinary was, apart from the thrum from the engine, I could actually hear the voices of the sailors on board being carried over the water to the silence on Holy Isle. Naturally I didn't have my camera on me!

2. The Dreamers
There was another retreat going on at the same time as mine. This one was about Lucid Dreaming in a mindful way - yes... I had to pause and think about that one! Anyway, their retreat demanded that they be up at 4 in the morning to go to sleep/dream together on the floor in the space they were using. This meant that the majority of those on my retreat, including me, also had to be up at 4 because of the clatter they made as they banged doors and chattered away. I don't know how much sleep that retreat got, but they all looked totally shattered at the end, with huge dark circles under their eyes. At least those of us who were in our own beds did get to doze comfortably off again. It made us smile anyway.

Also, there was an amusing moment on the ferry on the way back when one of their number said to me and one of my retreatants that they'd being doing this thing called mindfulness for an hour or so during their retreat. 'You know,' she said in all earnestness, 'it's when you really look around you and you become aware of so much more.' Neither of us liked to tell her that that's what we'd been doing for the whole of our 5 days. We just smiled.

3. The Contact Lenses
I've been having a try at some different contact lenses and I only had 3 pairs left (they're dailies) for the 5 days. I wore one pair on the first day and then thought I'd save the other 2 for the last full day and the journey home. For the other days I used the old dailies that didn't really suit me that well. On the second day we went into silence (that lasts for 48 hours) and I picked up a poem to read at the end of the meditation. I blinked. One of my contact lenses dropped out! Trying to read with my vision all over the place comes under my heading of 'interesting experiences never to be repeated'. Eye strain or what!

4. Soay sheep and the football
On the second day of silence I was walking along the shore and heard some shouting. I realised some of the Lucid Dreaming blokes had found a football and immediately set up a match. I rather like the normality of the find-a-ball-and-make-a-blokey game mentality of young men on retreat! The next day I was walking again and there, quite a distance from where the guys had been playing, was the ball with a Soay sheep bleating and eying it up. Of course the moment it saw me watching it wandered nonchalantly away. I wasn't quick enough with my camera, but it made me smile to think it might have found the ball and taken it to it's chosen place and be calling to its friends to come and set up a find-a-ball-and-make-a-sheepy game.

Blokes being blokes
'Nothing to do with me, guv'
5. Soay lambs, Eriskay ponies and wild goats
As always, going to Holy Isle in Spring is glorious. No matter that the weather was cold and felt more like Autumn, the sheep still had their young lambs and the ponies and goats were wandering about in the total freedom of knowing they won't be harmed by anyone. As I walked along the pathway from one end of the island to the other, ponies poked their heads around the side of the boathouse. Further along the path, and lying right on the path itself a Soay sheep and a couple of seagulls. The sheep couldn't be bothered to move and I had to move round it, but the seagulls swooped off as I approached. I then heard a piteous baa-ing and could see a Soay sheep all on it's own, bleating away. Next thing it bounds off the rock and I see a teeny tiny lamb, obviously very young. So cute.

Soay sheep and lambs
Eriskay ponies at the boathouse
Wild goats on the hillside
'Well I'm not moving...'
'... well we are!'
'Wait for me Mum!'

6. Frisky moments
On the last day I opened my curtains to see two Eriskay ponies hanging around just there for me to see. Then I realised the female was in season and... well... I don't think I need to tell you what they got up to. I was very polite and gave them a bit of privacy.

Eriskay ponies outside my window

As I said, maybe you needed to be there to get the full effect of all these things, but they certainly bring back some very happy memories.