Thursday, 30 July 2015

And that's the end of that... well almost

Today is the day I finally retired from my NHS role.

For the last 6 years I've been one of the two co-ordinators of a specialist project for NHS Education For Scotland and it's been brilliant to have been part of it, but now... well it's time for me to go and let someone else bring a different energy in. I'm still going to be doing a bit e.g. we've got a conference coming up and I'm part of the organisation committee and I'll also be doing a transition handover to the new person, but officially... well officially today is the day.

As my last act I went for a meeting in Ayr, which was actually good fun. I chose to go there of all the areas I cover because there are rarely problems there and I wanted to finish with something easy. I know I should have been kind to the new person and let them start off gently, but heck, it was a great way for me to finish.

I went down last night and stayed over at one of the lead people's house. It was a fun evening and the other lead joined us for dinner, which was great. It was full of laughter and ridiculousness and it ended up us watching 3D television, just for the experience. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy, though 'watched' is a misnomer, as we spent the time chatting with the 3D glasses on and checking the TV on occasions to look at the visual effects, but I haven't a clue what the film was about, just that some bits looked great.

Cool dudes!

Our meeting went very well and, as expected, no problems and I got back home this afternoon after a stress free drive.

So that was that... the end of an era for me.

Of course I still have 1/8th of a job left - I reckon it's that anyway - with both my family company and also the bits and pieces of work that I still do, but it'll be interesting to see what happens next.

Watch this space!

Monday, 27 July 2015


There we were, Vespa and I, about to cross the road by George Square in Edinburgh - we'd gone on a work trip - and this guy, who was putting up boarding for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, came leaping over the road and asked me if I needed any help crossing the road.

After the initial shock (and no he wasn't a cute young guy) I very politely told him I wasn't visually impaired and that Vespa was a Guide Dog pup in training. He apologised profusely, but I thought it was just fab that he cared enough to try and help someone he thought was in need.

Proof that there are some very lovely people out there. And proof perhaps that Vespa looked so good he was mistaken for a real Guide Dog? I hope so!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Vespa behaves well

London was exhausting, mentally rather than physically as I had not just my mother to contend with but also the start of my new course.

However, before I get into that, you'll remember that I was quite pleased to be heading South due to the weather and it was lovely to go from rain when I left the house in the Borders to bright blue sky and sunshine, which started just before York. The sky was so amazing with these fluffy white clouds that it made me think I was in the credits of The Simpsons.

The view through the train window.

When I got to London it was great to see people wandering about in their summer gear. I'd managed to layer up so took off my top 2 layers and joined in the general summeriness. I took the bus to Oxford Street and bought myself some food in Selfridges food hall. Those of you who know me will remember that I never eat anything at my mother's because most of the food is so far out of date - e.g. my niece recently found some  prunes that were dated 1998 that were mouldy, but my mother didn't care, she just soaked them and then offered them to my niece. Needless to say she declined.

After Selfridges (and by this time it was around 6.30 pm) I walked across Grosvenor Square, which was full of people enjoying themselves. The council had set up boules, croquet, jenga and all sorts for people to try out in the sunshine and it was lovely to see everyone laughing and having a good time.

Grosvenor Square bathed in sun

And once I got to my mother's house (she was out as I knew she'd be) I ate my food and got my computer out and ready for my online course. When I was at home I'd got it all set up perfectly and it was working a treat, so imagine my horror when 10 minutes before the start of the very first class I found I couldn't log on. I tried and tried and eventually, 5 minutes after the start time, I emailed the powers that be in Iowa to say I was having difficulties. To give them their due, they were amazing and in another 8 minutes I was part of the class.

It was an incredibly scary experience. 24 of us from across the world (e.g. New Zealand, India, Nigeria, Canada) all with our videos on having to say our bit and a chat bit where we could type and a white board where the tutor, Amy Leach, did her presentation. I hate videos of myself and I could feel the sweat building up, but I managed.... just about... though I still feel I sounded like a complete dork.

The class didn't finish til after 10.30 pm and it took a while for my jangling nerves to calm down enough for sleep, but eventually I did manage to drop off.

It's a pretty full on course and we have writing and reading assignments to be completed every week. Our first writing assignment was to go to a public space and hang out for at least 45 minutes with a notebook and note everything down we see and hear and then write up a 750-1000 word essay on what we noticed. I was beginning to panic as to how I'd manage to go to a public space with Vespa in tow (Mountain Man is away all week) without him needing my attention for that length of time, but, as luck would have it, the lunch after the meeting finished early and there I was at Kings Cross Station with an hour to spare. And I've managed to do my written assignment and get it sent off. Job done... well at least for this week!

One of the weirdest things I did notice as soon as I sat down at the station was a ladybird had taken a fancy to my suitcase and it spent the whole hour there. I removed it to a safe place once my train was called as I didn't think it would necessarily like a train ride to Scotland. I've never seen a ladybird in a train station before.

The ladybird on my case

And then it was home to find that Vespa, who'd had a wonderful playing time with Amber, had been limping and Susan was worried, so he came home on Monday night instead of Tuesday morning. They all loved having him and Susan reported that he behaved impeccably and that Amber squeaked for him for an hour or so after he left. Bless!

Vespa and Amber

By Tuesday Vespa also had the runs, so a quick ring to the vet and an appointment was made. By the time we got there the limp had gone of course, but he's now got some antibiotics to see him through his digestive upset. At least Amber's hasn't returned, which is one good thing and the vet didn't seem unduly worried.

Vespa loves having digestive upsets because it means he gets chicken and rice 4 times a day in small portions, rather than his own dried doggy food just twice a day. In fact I'm not sure he doesn't eat disgusting things just to make sure he does get ill so he can benefit. One of his current favourites (apart from my credit card) is hedgehog poo, which our residing hedgehog deposits liberally all over our garden. Vespa loves to roll in it and then have a munch. I do try and pick it all up, but it's like the Forth Road Bridge... I start at one end of the garden and by the time I've cleared that I have to go back to the beginning and start again.

Today was dentist day and off we went to Edinburgh to have my crown fitted. Vespa was incredibly well behaved and sat at the receptionist's desk without stirring at all. They were well impressed. Because he'd been so good we took a trip to The Botanic Gardens for a walk about and to find out we'd missed the lily that only flowers once every 10 years by quite some days... next time I hope I'll catch it in bloom, but a lot can happen in 10 years so who's to know... I may well have missed the only chance I'll get.

Lovely views at The Botanics

Still we did see some squirrels and the walk was lovely and Vespa did great and didn't even make to chase them at all, but I think he was pleased to get home for his portion of chicken and rice, rather than trotting around the gardens doing his Guide Dogging best.

A squirrel looking very cute

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Off again

I've just dropped Vespa off to spend a few days with his pal, Amber, the labradoodle GD pup who was quite sick a couple of weeks ago, but is all better now.

All I can hope is that he behaves himself. I've warned Susan (Amber's puppy walker) to put anything that looks like it could be chewed well out of the way as yesterday, when I left Vespa asleep in the kitchen for about 10 minutes to go upstairs and do a bit of tidying, I came down to find my credit card well and truly crunched.

At least there'd be no problem with identity theft after I'd consigned that to the rubbish bin!

The woman at the Nationwide thought it was hysterically funny and said, 'Well that's a first for me and it's made my day'. Although it's lovely to make someone's day I do wish it hadn't been in quite such a way. The joys of the Labrador part of Vespa's brain I think. I'm hoping the Retriever side will kick in soon.

I'm off to London tomorrow for a meeting on Monday morning and the only thing I'm looking forward to is the weather. Here it's been like Autumn so a bit of sunshine and warmth will be very welcome, but it'll only be a bit as I'll be heading North again on Monday afternoon.

And tomorrow night, while I'm down in London, I'm starting my online course with the International Writing Program at Iowa State Uni. I'm a bit daunted by it right now, but hopefully, once I've managed to negotiate the system they use to deliver classes I'll settle down with it. They've been wonderfully helpful in getting it all up and running, so I've been super impressed with them on that score and am sure the course will be good. Now all I've got to do is my bit!

So that's me for now. I'll be spending my dog-free night vacuuming all those dog hairs just in time for Vespa to come back and deposit more for me to clean, but at least for a few hours when I return my house might be relatively clean.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

From one extreme to the other

This afternoon Vespa and I went and did our bit for the local community.

Friends of Kelso Museum (which is now sadly defunct) were putting on an exhibition about WW1 and how it affected Kelso and I had volunteered our services to sit at the desk and help out. It was a fascinating blend of photos, descriptions and memorabilia and I'm so pleased I went.

I found out all kinds of interesting facts, such as slugs were used to detect gas and poppies started in America first and then were taken up in France before travelling over La Manche. So many interesting things to read and I think I'll have to go back to get another glimpse of it all as I was working and didn't have time to see everything.

Vespa was fantastically well behaved and just lay there doing his job with minimal fuss. I was super proud, which was a little different to this morning when I put my head in my hands with despair when he ran off after another dog on our walk in the woods and wouldn't come back. In the end I had to go and get him, but he was having such a great time and the woman walking her yellow lab with her 6 week old baby strapped to her chest was very welcoming, so we decided to walk back together and let the dogs play. This was actually a good strategy because her dog is usually quite scared of other dogs, but was having a great time leaping about with Vespa, and I wanted to exhaust Vespa so he'd be well behaved this afternoon.

Being at the exhibition proved that the strategy worked, though I'm now going to have to spend some time working on his recall. But I suppose the thing is he's just a pup and he just wanted to be off doing puppy things and not being a well behaved Guide Dog puppy. And the compliments we got this afternoon when everyone was saying what an incredibly well behaved dog he was did make up for it.

Swings and roundabouts. I do wish they didn't swing quite so much nor go round so quickly though!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Blatent advert

Dear Friends
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Given that it only costs £1.99 - and let's face it there's not much you can buy for that price these days - do give it a go. Here's a bit of blurb to get you in the groove:  

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So go on... go on... go on... you know you want to...

Tales from Holy Isle

The retreat came and went and I was, as always, pretty exhausted by the time I got home yesterday. Everyone seemed to have had a very good time in spite of only a few hours of warm sunshine... for the rest of the time it felt like Autumn.

I did actually manage to watch a bit of the Wimbledon Men's Final as, after we'd come out of silence on the Sunday, I was asked to go to the office and the guys in there got me a cuppa and insisted I stayed and watched until I needed to go back to my work. I watched the first set and then up to the rain break in the second, so that was something.

Because I had quite a few people on the waiting list and all the people from this year said they wanted to come again I was left with a dilemma. I only ever have a max of 10 and at that rate some people would be disappointed, so, after careful consideration, I've decided to do the retreat twice next year, once in April and again in August. Luckily my co-facilitator is keen to come, so that's a weight off my shoulders. You'll also notice that I've managed to avoid any nearness to Wimbledon, so I won't have that problem again.

Sunday was the day with sunshine and after lunch I took off for a walk along the shoreline. I came across something I've never seen before. A pony dreaming. It was lying on the ground with it's pal standing guard and then it was snorting and whinnying and it's legs were going, just like dogs do when they're dreaming. I've been around ponies and horses for a lot of my life and had my own for many years, but I've never experienced that before.

A pic of the dreaming pony... you'll have to trust me on this one!
I thought I'd also take a couple of pics so you can see how beautiful it is on Holy Isle:

The view across to Arran

The centre where I facilitate my retreat with a wonderful bit of garden to walk around

I don't know if you're aware, but you can visit Holy Isle just for the day and if you're ever on Arran I highly recommend it as a day trip. You won't be allowed in the centre as it's off limits to day visitors, but the island is just fab. There are wild Eriskay ponies, Soay sheep and goats and, because there's no predators on the island you can walk amongst them with no problem.

I also saw what looked like a very young foal (I'd say a day or so), who was wanting to play with the sheep, who just weren't interested, but he was charging up to them and running away again... hilarious! I also saw a fabulous blue butterfly.

After I got home in the late afternoon yesterday I had to rush up to Edinburgh to pick up Vespa, who sadly has picked up an injury on his foreleg. It doesn't seem too bad and we have a vet appointment arranged for tomorrow to check it out. The person he was staying with was very reluctant to give him back to me... she fell in love with him and she was almost in tears saying goodbye to him. Apparently he was very well behaved, so that's a relief.

And now we're settling back into our normal lives, though Mountain Man is away on his Eurocities event and only due home for one night next week before he turns around and heads off to work on a London to Paris event. Meanwhile I have to go to London on Sunday for a meeting on Monday morning, so Vespa will be off again to stay (hopefully) with Amber, who seems to have made a full recovery from her illness. It's all go here!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Bad planning

As most of you know, I facilitate a retreat annually. I usually manage to get my timing right and have good weather and not arrange it so it interferes with Wimbledon. This year I seem to have managed neither.

Tomorrow I'm off to Holy Isle off Arran for 5 days with what the Met Office determines as 'mixed weather'... as this is the West Coast of Scotland it means that the only predictable thing will be the midges, which no doubt will be out in force.

Meanwhile Mountain Man is off on work duties around the UK and then off to Europe to route mark an inter-city bike ride and I think the only predictable thing on his horizon is chaos at Calais.

We had booked Vespa in with a friend in the Borders who has Amber, a 6 month old Labradoodle pup. Sadly Amber became ill over the weekend and so all those arrangements went out the window and we had to phone Edinburgh GD HQ to find an emergency replacement. Luckily late last night a person was found and Vespa is going off to a boarder in Edinburgh until my return on Monday evening.

Then, just to add to the planning chaos, one of my retreatants has had to pull out due to her husband's rapidly deteriorating health. The odd thing is, I did have someone get in touch a week or so back asking if there were any last minute places. All the others on the waiting list couldn't manage at this late time and so with many emails and phone calls I think we're all arranged for this new person to come.

And finally, the course I'm supposed to be doing with the International Writing Program at Iowa State Uni sent an email saying there was a compulsory pre-course seminar which is taking place this weekend. I thought this spelled doom and gloom for the course for me, but the organisers have been wonderful and made exceptions for me. I'm mightily relieved.

It's been one of those weeks of extreme ups and downs and I'm hoping it's all done and dusted now and calmness will ensue. But there's no harm in you sending positive vibes to help it all along if you can.

Next year I'm going to start off by seeing if I can manage to organise the retreat at least not to be during Wimbledon fortnight... and I'll leave the weather, dogs, courses etc to fortune and hope that it smiles.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Lost in the forest

Yesterday morning, with the sun shining and lovely blue sky, I made the decision to forgo my usual Sunday lazy morning listening to the radio and head on out there before it got too hot to take a dog anywhere.

We went to the gorgeous Bowmont Forest, just south of Kelso and had a wonderful walk. It got extended by quite a bit because I managed to get lost trying to get back to my car. It was rather funny and, as you can see from the photo above, Vespa didn't care in the slightest. We ended up down a very well groomed road on the edge of the forest and luckily came across a house with a woman putting on her riding boots. She just smiled when I asked her the way to the car park. It turns out we'd walked about a mile in the wrong direction!

Sadly my prediction for the weather was as bad as my navigation skills and as we got to the car the sky started to darken. From then on we had a day of sun, then super heavy showers. Boy was I ever pleased I'd decided to go on a walk in the morning. And was I even more pleased we'd managed to find a human to set us on the right path!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Bad mood rising

And home....

It was fantastic to walk around London in the heat and enjoy some really hot sunshine this week. So much so I walked for miles instead of taking the bus. I also had some lovely 'friend-time' and it's always so great to catch up with people. One particular friend, Suky, I've known for over 30 years from when we were pregnant with our No. 1 Sons and every time I see her it's like that was all yesterday. Both of us can't believe we have 30 year old children.

Mountain Man who was holding the fort at home had an emergency call to come and work on a gig in London over the weekend, so I had to curtail my visit - I was going to come back today - and came back yesterday to be on dog-duty. I had to cancel a couple of things... another dinner out and drinks with my beer-buddy from Thailand, but such is life.

The only thing I was pleased to leave London for was my mother. She was on true negative bitch form and spent as much time as possible criticising everyone and everything she could.

It started when I was travelling to London to go to my brother's retirement party at Edmonton County Court (he was a judge there) and just as I was coming towards London where all the tunnels interfere with any chance of phone calls my mother phoned me. I couldn't pick it up. Next I got a text from MM to tell me my mother had been on the phone to him asking where I was. Apparently I was expected at her house. Given that I was coming in to Kings Cross and going North to Edmonton and staying with my brother in Hertfordshire (something I'd discussed with my mother a few months ago) I couldn't for the life of me think why my mother would think I would be going to her house in Central London. I texted MM back and asked him to let her know.

I arrived at the court in good time and was enjoying my glass of chilled white wine, when my mother stormed in. She was not pleased at being late and her poor chauffeur had got it in the neck. I also got it in the neck for not telling her any of my arrangements (wtf?) and the rest of the family got it in the neck for various complaints.... in other words, she was in a foul mood.

The mood stayed and she failed to say goodbye to anyone but me, but I got a 'well I'll see you this year, next year, sometime, never' complete with a head toss (wtf? x2) and she swept out of the party.

My brother, his wife, two of my nieces and my brother's neighbours and I all went out for a Chinese dinner, which was fine. Just one faux pas on my part when I joked with my brother about his growing stomach and my sister-in-law pointedly turned to her neighbours and told them how like my mother I was. For yet another time that day I thought wtf?, but I let it go as didn't want to be the cause any more negativity and managed to get through the whole event pretty much unscathed.

I arrived at my mother's house the next afternoon to be met by an even worse mood. We sat and watched Heather Watson play Daniela Hantuchova and my mother spent the whole match denigrating Heather Watson, British tennis, my brother, my nieces, me and on and on. I was pleased to get out and meet up with a friend for drinks. Anything to be away. I got back late as I knew she'd be asleep.

The next day I had fun doing a bit of work and research and then back home to my mother's to be met by an even larger wall of bad mood. This time she started in on my boys and I'd had enough so told her I wouldn't listen to criticism of my children and left her to the tennis on her own while I got on with my own stuff. When she came to say she was going out she seemed to have calmed down, but no apology. I let it go as I refuse to let it get to me these days. And then I went out and had a great time, getting in late again so I didn't have to interact.

Yesterday morning while I was cooking my eggs for breakfast my mother came in and started criticising the way I boil eggs because I put the lid on the pan. Apparently this is so wrong and I'm the only person who does this. She turned to Bob, her chauffeur, and asked him how he boiled his eggs. 'With the lid on,' he replied. I couldn't help but smile!

So, it was a distinct relief to leave my mother's house and head home even if it did mean I had to curtail my socialising.

I'm looking forward to a restful weekend with my hairy monster and some good tennis and can only hope that by the time I go back down to London on the 19th July for work on 20th that her mood will have improved. I can but hope!