Thursday, 29 May 2014

And there went another month

After a lovely lunch on Sunday with my pal Laura it was time to get back to work. I've been running a Mindfulness Teacher Development Course for Health Professionals in Lothian, which has gone reasonably well, but I have to say it takes its toll when I'm mentoring someone through the process as well as teaching. I have another 2 days to do in a couple of weeks and I'll be pleased when this one is over. Partly I think it's because the person I'm working with isn't the greatest timekeeper and, as those of you who know me will know, I'm an absolute stickler for time and consequently all that seemed to happen on this course was that I took the role of timekeeping police. Very wearing.

I also had the first online chat of my poetry course run through The Poetry School on Tuesday night. There are 12 of us and it was a bit of a free-for-all and 2 hours of complete bonkersness. We all resorted to wine by the end and I think that probably tells you all you need to know.

Once again the week is slipping by at a helluva rate and, apart from facilitating a group on Saturday, I've got a relatively easy weekend where all I have to do is write a poem and get myself ready to go to London on Monday for more work.

The only other thing I have to report is that Odi has managed to kill a plant - not a coffee one I'm pleased to say. She did it rather surreptitiously by taking off the odd branch and leaving it lying so it looked like it was still growing, but we then realised her passion for soil got the better of her and said plant was found strewn on the floor and Odi's nose was covered in earth, so there was no getting away from who the culprit was. Not that I thought for a second that Mountain Man would've done such a thing!

So here we are... frighteningly it's almost the end of May. I'd love to know when warmer weather is going to arrive because I'm a sick of slab grey skies and feeling cold and I'm sincerely hoping this isn't a year like we had 2 years ago when it was wall to wall grey month in month out. A very depressing thought.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

A good morning

I got up this morning to the most tremendous hello from Odi. She'd totally forgotten her strop of yesterday when I took her away from her Doggy Party at Susan's with her pals Cathy and Folly and I was definitely flavour of the month. I even got an upside down cuddle when she sat on my lap (on the cushion on the floor) and did what she used to do before she became a big girl, which is cuddle up then go on her back and grin at me inanely. It was just lovely!

My copy of The Eildon Tree came through the letter box complete with one of my poems and also a book review I'd been asked to do. It's actually a very good literary mag if you're interested in that kind of thing. Poetry, stories, reviews... what's not to like? It's downloadable too, but I have to say the hard copy is just lovely.

Anyway, not long after The Eildon Tree plopped on the mat, one of the editors came knocking on my door and told me the powers-that-be had been so impressed with my book review that they've asked if I'd like to do another for the next issue. The book is the latest children's novel by the rather well-known (at least in Scottish Borders terms) Oliver Eade. I was extremely flattered and of course accepted. I think they must've spotted the everlasting child in me as the last review was in the Young Adult category... still I'm not complaining. I get a free copy and another bit of writing that'll be in print so can add it to my not terribly impressive writing cv.

Then it was off to the supermarket in Kelso for Odi and me where we spent about 20 minutes shopping and about 30 minutes talking to folk interested in the Guide Dog puppy walking experience. So interested was one of them that he was off home to get onto the internet and sign up straight away. Odi was incredibly patient and batted her eyelids at all-comers and wagged her tail at appropriate moments.

It really was a good morning!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Things don't go according to plan

I don't know if you find this, but for me some days things just go right and then on others things just seem to go a bit pearshaped. Well the last three days have felt distinctly the latter.

On Wednesday I was geared to go off to Glasgow to meet up with my step-daughter and grandson, have a leisurely lunch and then go and pick up my Commonwealth Games uniform. Mountain Man was going off to work early on Thursday, so Odi was all planned to go and spend a couple of days in Tweedbank with Lynne and her gorgeous new pup, Tweedy.

I started my day with a massage for both my back and my ankle I'd damaged a while back and has taken an age to feel ok and then went off to Edinburgh, parked my car and trotted off to Waverley, but as I was walking down I went over on said ankle... not the best of starts. I gritted my teeth and got to Waverley, picked up my tickets for that journey and also directions and tickets for Thursday (I had to get to Hampden Park) and sat, with immense relief on the train.

Then I got a phone call from Lynne. But the problem was I couldn't pick it up as the phone signal was variable. I did start to wonder what was going on.

I arrived in Glasgow and met up with Emma, who informed me that Nathan (aged 5) who was due back on the bus from Aberdeen with his Gran was going to be late as the bus driver hadn't filled the bus up and they'd got as far as Dundee and were running out of fuel... you honestly couldn't write this stuff!... we were told they'd be an hour late, so Emma and I went for a coffee and a catch up. Then another phone call. They apparently can't fill the bus with fuel if it's got passengers on so all the passengers had to get off and take their bags off then put them all on again. They were now going to be almost 2 hours late.

Meanwhile I managed to get hold of Lynne. A problem. Poor Tweedy had been attacked at puppy class and had to be taken off to the vet, so she couldn't take Odi, but hasty phone calls between MM and other puppy walkers and Odi was all sorted. She was going to Susan's. Susan currently has both Cathy and Folly. Folly is Odi's dog-dolly so would be fine with her, and also has stayed over with Cathy and gets on well with her... but the 3 of them together? Oh well, I was in Glasgow, so not much I could do.

The bus from Aberdeen eventually arrived and I had precisely 12 minutes in Nathan's company as he and his mum walked me from the bus station to Buchanan Street so that I could get a subway to Kelvin Hall to pick up my Games uniform. Actually that bit went pretty smoothly and I got myself all the way back to Edinburgh complete with my accreditation, which has the most hideous pic of me on it, and my kit, which is quite nice really and will be very wearable afterwards. Apart from the hat that is!

A quick trip to the pharmacy to pick up some cold spray for my poor sore ankle and then out for dinner with No. 2 Son, which was lovely.

Thursday I had to get up at 5.45 am to make it to Hampden on time to find out what I was supposed to be doing for my stint at the Games. I managed to get there without getting lost once. Quite a feat for me!

We had a fun couple of hours as a big group learning about Press Operations general info and Health and Safety and then we were split into our role specific groups. I'm a Mixed Zone member. What does this mean?

Ok... well here we go. My thoughts were that I'd be making cups of tea and getting the press to their computers and making sure they'd be ok... after all I'd had an email that told me 'Press Ops: computers, desks and lots of buzz'... How far from the truth can you get? Pretty damn far, is the answer!

Mixed Zone is the bit where the athletes, having finished their sporting achievements have to get through to get to their changing rooms. And here they meet the members of the press who thrust dictaphones in their faces and ask for quotes.

My job is to make sure the press stay in their places, don't get over the barriers, don't take photos and get to talk to the athletes they want. It's high pressured and stressy and kind of like being a bouncer for journalists while keeping a smile on my face... oh yes, and some athletes, having performed to their highest are prone to vomiting in the Mixed Zone we were told. Luckily (I suppose) my job isn't to clean it up, but to call some other poor bugger to come and do that bit. Ah well, at least I get to go to the Games and get up close and very personal with the athletes and the press. I'm now praying for badminton and not cycling (never thought I'd say that) as I'm not sure being in charge of a sick bucket is really me and I know the badminton crew wouldn't do anything like that... would they?

Getting over the shock of my role, I managed to negotiate my way back to Edinburgh, rush to pick up my car and zoom back to the Borders just in time to change my top, grab something from the fridge and get back in my car and zoom to Galashiels to see the National Theatre Live production of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'. For some reason when I'd booked it I thought I'd have loads of time to get there. Anyway, it was unutterably brilliant from start to finish and I urge you to go see it if you can. It's doing a national tour later in the year so get your tickets, it'll be worth it I promise you.

I finally got home at 10.30 and crept into bed and of course couldn't get to sleep for hours. At which point I remembered that Thursday was voting day and I'd completely forgotten. That's the first time since I was allowed to vote that I haven't.

This morning I woke at 5 and sorted out all the things that had appeared in the couple of days I was away, then phoned Lynne in the hope of seeing her and Tweedy before picking up Odi. But disaster of disasters, he'd managed to pull out the catheter at his tear duct so was back off to the vet, so no visiting required.

I went to Susan's where I was studiously ignored by Odi and she wasn't at all happy at coming away from her pals where she'd had a great time. The 3 of them got on really well, though I think Susan and Gordon were rather relieved to see the back of her as 3 dogs - one about 16 weeks, another 8 months and another a year old - is quite an undertaking.

When we got home Odi sulked most of the day and only perked up when I took her for a walk where we met up with a neighbour walking her dog and that seemed to make Odi feel better.

Now all I'm looking forward to is a nice, quiet weekend where I can do the work I need to do for the poetry course I'm doing and for the course I'm teaching next week. Oh yes, and rest my ankle... that'd be a good start!

Sunday, 18 May 2014


Today Odi and I went off to Kelso to the Border Vintage Agricultural Show to walk around and take in some sights and sounds. It was actually a toss-up as to whether to go there or to the Floors Castle British Equestrian Eventing weekend, but in the end I decided on the BVAS as I knew there'd be lots of different things for Odi to take in.

When we arrived we were allowed free entry, which was lovely, and then walked around in the sunshine looking at all the tractors and cars. Loads of dogs were there and it was a good training exercise for Odi, who just wanted to play, but was told in no uncertain terms that that wasn't going to happen.

Part way round we spotted another Guide Dog puppy and it turned out to be Emily with the amazing Miss Betty Brown. You can read about Betty in this article that was written in 2008. Emily is Betty's 50th Guide dog puppy! Sadly, Miss Alison Brown, Betty's sister, is unwell having had a stroke and so can't puppy walk anymore. We walked and chatted together and it was great for both the dogs. We even came across some people shooting at targets and both Emily and Odi behaved very well in spite of the loud bangs very nearby.

What a beauty!
On the way home we were passing Floors Castle so I thought 'why not?' so we did. It was cross country day at the eventing and it was nice to wander about in the sunshine watching the horses do their thing.

The view across the River Tweed

An eventer doing their thing
Odi behaved impeccably even with horses galloping and jumping nearby and loads of dogs for her not to play with. After around half an hour or so I decided that was enough for her for the day and time to go home.

Odi then spent the rest of the afternoon out sparkers while I sat and tried to write my poem for the latest course I'm doing with The Poetry School. Sometimes you just have to slog it out with a poem, especially if there's a deadline and Tuesday is it.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Off to the theatre

6 puppies turned up at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh at just after 1 pm for an afternoon of sitting in the stalls and having their own personal light and sound show. But before all that it was a photo call.

I hate having my photo taken and so, although happy to have my photo taken as part of the group, when it came to 3 volunteers to step forward, Odi and I took a step back and let the others fight among themselves. The Evening News, the King's Theatre staff and all kinds of promotional photo's were taken and the dogs were all quite restless by the end, so it was nice to eventually get into the theatre.

We all wandered about and then took our seats (anywhere we wanted), the lights were dimmed and the show began.

All kinds of special effects were thrown at the dogs for about 20 minutes. Explosions, light rays, firework-type things were let off and the only thing that the dogs paid the most attention to was when they heard the sound of a dog barking. Behaviour was exemplary. Then we all headed off upstairs to have a cuppa and a chat. The dogs got bowls of water which most of them slopped all over the floor. Luckily I don't think they have a production tonight so at least the carpet will have time to dry!

The theatre staff were wonderful and very interested in how pups become Guide Dogs and we sat and chatted for about an hour and then it was time to head off back to the Borders. We arrived home just after 4 pm, so it was quite a long afternoon and both Odi and I seemed very happy to be back in our house for a bit of peace and quiet.

This Guide Dog puppy training certainly gets us to do some rather strange and surreal things and I do think today's efforts were up there with the best of them.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A busy week?

Well, here I am back again. Actually I've been back since late Tuesday but have been rather knackered so haven't been on my computer that much. Actually I think it was the 100's of emails I got on my return that made me feel even more tired than I really was and put me off using my computer, but I've braved the email glut and all is in order now.

The retreat went really well with absolutely amazing feedback. I'd never held one at Lendrick Lodge before, or even been to anything there, but as they'd given me a special deal I thought I'd give it a go as my usual retreat space on Holy Isle off Arran wasn't available on the dates I could do. It was a lovely space right in the heart of the Trossachs, but we all felt it was a bit like going to a B&B place rather than a retreat centre. Still, it wouldn't put me off going back, but next year we're booked into Holy Isle again so it'll be back on familiar territory.

Part of the grounds at Lendrick Lodge

After walking up the hill this was the view

This is the River Retreat where our group were

I got home to an Odi welcome of labrador-type curling around and around my legs. She has an extremely expressive face and seemed to have a huge grin. It was lovely to be back. She seems to have grown up a lot in the time I've been away as her season had finished and she seems far more settled. Of course it could've been due to the attentions of the dog minder, but whatever, there's still been a change.

Yesterday morning I got up early to have a fab massage with Dorthe from the next village who's been sorting my back for me. A great way to start the day. Then, in the afternoon, Odi and I went into Edinburgh to go to the solicitors and sort out some details and from there on to a meeting of the charity that I'm on the Board of Directors of. Odi behaved wonderfully, but after about an hour she did get a bit antsy so I gave her a hide bone, which she chewed enthusiastically... and very loudly! It was actually quite funny. Still I was pleased with her and the rest of the Board were very impressed.

Whilst I was away I had a message on the answer machine from the Puppy Supervisor who asked me to bring Odi into Cameron Toll shopping centre in Edinburgh today. I thought she said it was for training purposes and to go round the shops with her best friend Nancy. Although Alec (Nancy's puppy walker) had offered me a lift I had to make another visit to the solicitor to sign some papers so went separately.

We were a touch late and arrived to not just the PS and Nancy and Alec, but also an assessor. Apparently today was the day that Odi was to be assessed to see if she could pass the first stage to become a brood bitch for Guide Dogs.

The only problem was that the moment Odi saw Nancy she completely forgot that she'd become settled and grown up and instead went absolutely mental and pulled me so hard I slipped and fell down at the feet of the PS, the assessor and also the stall that's at the shopping centre offering people assistance if they've had an injury. There was nothing much but a bruised hand, a bruised thigh and a bruised pride, but not the best way to engage with an assessor and absolutely not the way to impress the PS. I was surprised the guys on the stall didn't rush to give me assistance and a card, but they didn't.

Still, we came away with the nod that Odi's to go onto the next stage and she did eventually settle down and walked sensibly.

Then it was off to the solicitor's. It's quite amazing really... Odi has a great memory and totally knew the door and led me straight there. I can only hope the blind person that gets her (if she passes) won't live in Edinburgh or they might well find themselves dragged to my solicitor's office, let alone the shops I visit. The solicitor seemed quite pleased with the whole idea!

We had to rush home because Lynne, who puppy walked Teddy (who's now gone to Guide Dog big school) was coming over with her new puppy Tweedy. I'd actually got the wrong time written down and so was a little taken by surprise as I was sipping my soup when the doorbell went. It was lovely to see them and Odi had a great time rushing about with Tweedy.

Odi and Tweedy

Tomorrow Odi and I are off to the King's Theatre in Edinburgh as they've arranged a visit for Guide Dogs and I think there are 6 going. Nancy's going too, so Alec and I have arranged for them to get together for play before heading to Edinburgh in the hope that they calm down a bit and behave reasonably. I'll let you know.

So, it's been quite a week. And now I sit nursing my right hand and hoping the bruising isn't too bad. In some ways I think I was lucky I didn't break anything. Have to look on the bright side I think!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Back to basics

I have been aware, as well as having it pointed out (thank you Lizzie!), that this blog has turned into one about the trials and tribulations of being a Guide Dog puppy walker rather than being about the trials and tribulations of growing coffee plants. But the problem is that the coffee plants don't do a lot whereas Odi certainly does and if I wrote purely about the plants I'd probably write about 4 blog posts per year. The other thing is that I write this partially to keep me writing when I really don't feel like writing much else and, as my writing recently has been fairly non-existent, this blog serves its purpose well.

However, having said all that, the coffee plants seemed to have been stirred into action recently and the teeniest tiniest little leaves have started to appear on them. It's not all that easy to take a photo that shows the growth at it's best, but here are a couple.

One of the smaller plants

The top of the biggest plant

It'll be a bit like 'Where's Wally' looking for the tiny leaves - though you'll be looking for extremely small bright green bits and not red and white stripes obviously - but they are there, I promise you.

Sadly there's the usual winter brown bits too, but I've never got to the bottom of why that happens, it just does.

Well that's that then. A May coffee plant update. The next one will probably happen in a few months so don't hold your breath and in the meantime there'll be lots more Guide Dog news for sure.

I'm actually off to facilitate my retreat until next Tuesday, so see you back here then.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The dog-doll

Odi loved having Folly to stay. It was like she had her very own dog-doll to play with. First thing in the morning she cleaned her, then she played with her, then she fought with her, then they slept and then it started all over again.

Folly's a real cutie, but also a real rascal. She managed to get herself behind the shed (where Odi's never been allowed, but somehow Folly found a way) and scavenged all kinds of rubbish. I couldn't leave her alone for a second!

The first night she was here she cried at 1 in the morning. I let her out but she didn't want to do anything so she was put back in her cage. She didn't like that one bit and cried again. I took her out again, but no... she didn't want to do anything so she was put back in her cage. She didn't like that one bit and cried again. Are you getting the picture?

Then Odi barked, so I went to sit with her and we waited for Folly to quiet down, which she eventually did and I went back to bed. Only problem was I couldn't get back to sleep, so after a mere 3 hours of kip I was pretty exhausted on Friday.

Folly was better on nights 2 and 3.

On Sunday Mountain Man came back from the 24 hour event he'd been working on up in the Highlands and on his way through Edinburgh picked up No. 2 Son who came to stay for the night. It was lovely to have him here and the dogs really enjoyed his company too. He went back yesterday as did Folly, who's people came to pick her up around 5.

And suddenly our house was quiet!

Me with Folly at her best

It's love

Sleeping baby

Sitting on No. 2 Son's knee