Friday, 30 October 2015


Today was my final (yes, really!) NHS Education for Scotland piece of work. From now on it's just consultancy and workshops, but no more meetings to attend (well ok, maybe one or two) and is the end of an era for me. I'm now retired (well, mostly). Hooray!

About a year ago, Neil (my co-worker in NES) went to a meeting of the Scottish Mindfulness Network and I didn't go as it wasn't my turn, but we'd arranged to ask the question 'what do you want to see over the next year?' and Neil, Mr Nice Guy that he is, when they replied that they wanted a conference never said 'well who of you is going to organise it?'

And so it was left to him and me to get the conference off the ground. To say I wasn't amused at this state of affairs would be an understatement, but at least we had 2 people who then volunteered their services and the 4 of us have met monthly ever since to make sure that we a) had a conference and b) that it was well organised.

Today was the culmination of that organisation and I can say, with a huge sigh of relief, that it went really well. Everything went smoothly with no hiccups and no problems. From the speakers to the workshops all seemed to go without a hitch and the workshop that Neil and I put on garnered some very positive comments. Of course we have the actual physical feedback forms to look at yet, but as people came up to me after our workshop and asked me if I could put on a longer one for them, I can't think that there'll be a whole lot of negative comments.

I can now go and get ready for my hols feeling positive about all the work I've done on the Mindfulness Project over the last 6 years and then let it go.

The end of an era and a swansong to feel good about. Can't ask for more than that.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Not a great start

This week didn't start too well. I had a scam letter from a company called Free Time. After a bit of investigation it turned out that someone had sold my details to this company and so, after a bit of an 'oh shit' moment and as I didn't know whether it was my credit card or debit card that was used, I cancelled both. It was all such a faff and took most of the morning to get things sorted. Then another long phone call with Action Fraud and that was that.

Then, after a fairly non-problem Tuesday and a lovely morning playing badminton today, Vespa went and ruined everything by finding a rather large amount of fox poo to go and roll in. I was not amused in the slightest. Luckily I carry wet wipes in the car so managed to get the surface of it off, but if you've ever had a dog roll in the stuff you'll know it's pretty hideous and the smell... well put it this way... it lasts!

So off we went straight home, without passing Go or collecting £200, and straight for the shampoo rapidly followed by tomato ketchup. I learned the ketchup trick from other Guide Dog people and it works thank goodness. Vespa wasn't that keen on it, but I didn't care, he got tomato ketchupped until I was sure the smell had gone. Then it was off to the vet for a quick weigh-in (he's heavy but in good condition according to those in the know), a meet-up with a friend and then home to get things ready for tomorrow.

Tomorrow I'm Glasgow-bound to get ready for the conference I'm helping put on on Friday. I'll be so relieved when it's over. The four of us involved in organising can do no more but keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Meantime here's that picture of my coffee plants I've been promising.

The largest one needs repotting, but it'll have to wait until the weekend when I'm back and will have the time. And then I'm going to be organising the watering for when I'm away as I'm off to South Africa next week for almost 3 weeks of sunshine and jollity.

P.S. if you receive a letter from Free Time, don't ignore it and don't phone the premium rate number. Cancel your cards straight away and phone Action Fraud.

Monday, 26 October 2015


One of the extraordinary things about writing a blog is watching what people read/respond to (or not) and I've been fascinated in the last few days.

On the 12th October I wrote an entry entitled 'A perfect end'. I don't know what people expected, but I've had literally hundreds of readers of that post compared to any of the other recent posts and it made me wonder.

Of course, all you folk that have read it know it's about Guide Dog pup Vespa - as a lot of my posts are these days... though there is a coffee plant update in the offing (tempting eh?) - but it seems that there's a whole raft of people out there in the ether who are searching for something and land on a word or phrase and then turn to that blog in the hope of... well what? An answer to a perfect end? An uplifting story? I just don't know, but I could imagine their disappointment when they got there and discovered a dog story, albeit with a rather splendid video of a couple of pups play fighting in a forest!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Vespa doesn't care

Vespa wasn't at all phased by the clocks going back and didn't bother about getting up, which was a whole lot better than me. I was awake at 3.30 (new time) and couldn't get back to sleep. However, I made the decision not to get up and just see if we could seamlessly switch to the extra hour. Of course it'll be interesting tonight when I'll want to go to bed early, but I'll negotiate that one when it comes.

Yesterday was full of rugby excitement. South Africa, where I'm off to in a couple of weeks, versus my favourites, New Zealand. It was touch and go for a while, but the All Blacks pulled it off with some magnificent match play and I heaved a sigh of relief.

Poor Vespa didn't really understand my screaming at the telly, but having had a lovely time in Edinburgh, where we went for birthday lunch with my boys - it's No. 1 Son's birthday on 5th November when I'm away and I was also away for No. 2 Son's birthday in July so we decided to just go for a date we could all make - followed by a lovely walk in the woods, he was happy to lie with his head on my shoulder and lick my ear to help me calm down.

We're in for a relaxing Sunday and then a busy week next week, with my final NHS swansong of a conference I'm on the management committee of taking place on Friday. I'll be highly relieved when it's over and can only hope it'll go well.

Meanwhile I have another rugby semi-final to contend with this afternoon first. I've warned Vespa, but he just doesn't seem to care!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Lucky me!

One year ago I woke up (several times during the night actually) to this gorgeous little boy who'd come into my life...

Vespa aged almost 8 weeks

and I woke up this morning (having had a peaceful night's sleep) to this incredible hulk...

Vespa aged almost 14 months

I just can't believe how much he's grown. He really was such a teeny tiny pup and now he's built like the proverbial brick shit house... or as I affectionately like to call him 'The Tank'.

I got back from a really lovely time of socialising, not quite such a nice time of work and a bit of a delayed journey home from London (thanks to a broken down train at York) yesterday to one helluva welcome. It was just amazing that, even though Vespa'd had a fun time with Mary and Tim in Kelso, he was so excited to see me. I was quite lucky not to get a headbutt as he kept trying to leap up at me, but eventually calmed down enough to get in the car and come home.

I think that's the wonderful thing about dogs. You can go round the corner and come back 5 minutes later and be greeted like a long lost friend, but when you do go away and come back after days away, the greeting is unbelievable.

I feel so lucky to have him in my life, even though I seem to be covered in bruises this morning from that effusive greeting!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Biased? Moi?

It was a bit of surreal experience sitting on a train trying to find out the rugby score for Scotland vs Australia on a signal that kept coming and going. And I wasn't alone. The whole of carriage C seemed to be glued to phones/tablets/computers and all of us seemed to be a minute or two behind the real time scores. When it was coming to the end we all looked at each other with grins, which rapidly turned to disbelief as the final score came in. A collective 'oh no!' and that was the end of the Northern Hemisphere's sojourn in a riveting World Cup.

I'm no expert here, but it felt like the ref's last minute decision was out of order and Scotland should've won. However, it was wonderful to see how well Scotland, complete underdogs, did today.

Ok, well that's now 'yesterday's news' and I can now put my full support behind the All Blacks without any compunction whatsoever.

C'mon New Zealand!


I've been meaning to take Vespa on a train for ages, but life has transpired so that we just haven't made it. But yesterday was the day.

I had to go into Galashiels and so decided to take the new train from Tweedbank. It was actually incredibly easy and, although I'd been warned that dogs sometimes don't like the gaps between the train and the platform, Vespa had no problems at all. He trotted onto the train like he'd been doing it all his life and then settled down to see what goodies might be on the floor, before closing his eyes. This all happened in the five minutes between Tweedbank and Galashiels.

A quick grin (or should that be gurn?)....

.... before falling asleep

We spent a happy hour trekking around Gala and doing all we had to do and then got on the train back.

Vespa then spent the afternoon asleep to get over sleeping on the train while I watched the rugby World Cup. I'm was slightly torn between Wales and South Africa as I'm off to South Africa in just 3 weeks, so had no real preference, but it was a different matter in the evening as (after watching Strictly - of course) it was then my favourites New Zealand (sorry Scotland) just because I just love the way they play. Fast, furious and sensational. Who could ask for more.

Today Vespa went off to Mary and Tim's in Kelso while I go to London for 3 days of meeting, dinner, meeting, dinner and the odd lunch, art exhibition and social life thrown in to boot. Busy times.

Monday, 12 October 2015

A perfect end

Vespa did incredibly well for Guide Dog week and he and his pals raised over £600 on Saturday at Specsavers in Galashiels, which, added to the over £500 that the pups raised at Tesco last week and time spent on the Guide Dog information table at Tesco on Thursday, where more was raised, was pretty amazing. The fundraisers were very pleased.

Of course Vespa couldn't really have cared less. What he loved was being allowed to be petted and spoken to and he seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on his back with his legs waving in the air trying to entice his pals to play with him. The paying public just thought he was cute!

Because of having spent the week having to do his fundraising bit and having to behave, we went to Bowmont Forest yesterday to have a runabout with his pal, Zappa. The dogs had a wonderful time and did boy dog play fighting and rolling over and over in muddy puddles, which was fine for Vespa as he's black, but Zappa looked decidedly filthy by the end of the hour.

What was great is that both dogs then spent the whole afternoon and evening asleep.

A perfect end to a pretty good week.

Friday, 9 October 2015


A few weeks ago I realised the grout in my guest shower room was coming out from between the tiles and I knew I needed to get it sorted. Well on Wednesday I was walking past the village notice board when I saw sign that said 'specialising in plastering, decorating, tiling, plumbing and joinery'. So I thought the least I could do was to give the guy a ring and get him to give me a quote.

That evening Steven from round the corner turned up and, after telling me he was blown away by how beautiful my house was, he quoted me what I thought was a fair price, but, even better, he said he was free at the end of this week and it so happened that today I had nothing on. At 9.30 this morning he turned up and just got on with the job.

In between waiting for the grout to dry so he could put the sealant around the edges, we got talking and he really can turn his hand to anything, which is great as there are certain things e.g. plumbing stuff that I can't do and decorating, which I can, but don't like doing woodwork and as I'm probably going to be putting the house on the market next year this was music to my ears as there are definitely some decorating bits and pieces that need doing and I can always do with a helping hand for odd jobs.

But then he asked me how many bedrooms I have. When I told him his eyes lit up. I showed him around and he was very taken with the place. He then said that it was a shame it didn't have a garage, but then added that the place he's in now has a garage, but it's too small for a car and he'd need somewhere to put his tools. We then went outside to the garden and I showed him the shed. At this point he was already talking 'man cave' and where he'd put his telly!

I ended up saying that of course if he was going to buy the place then I wouldn't be hiring him to paint the woodwork that needs a coat of paint. We both laughed at that one.

I'm not sure he'd actually buy the house, but I have to say that it was lovely to know that, as someone who works on houses a lot, he thought so much of my home and the best bit is I've got help just around the corner should I need it.

I'm so pleased I stopped to look at that village notice board!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Big mistake

Wednesday is Old Lady Badminton and I leave Vespa all alone for a couple of hours with a chew and head off for a workout.

I have to say he's been very good and doesn't seem to mind at all, though when I get home I have to do lots of cuddles and strokes to make up for leaving him.

Anyway, today I played four games in the hour, but made the error of saying yes to playing a game of singles. I won, but it was a tight squeeze and I was absolutely exhausted by the end. So much so that by the time I got home I was still reeling from the shock of all that effort and spent a good ten minutes sitting on the floor with a bottle of water in hand before I could even go and get my shower.

Vespa was rather pleased at this outcome as he came to sit on me and demand my attention while I just sat there in a bit of a daze.

I don't think I'll be going down the singles route again. At least not until my fitness levels have gone up by a good bit. Christine, who I was playing against didn't even attempt another game until after she'd had a coffee. I think both of us will steer clear of making that same mistake next week!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

As promised

Here are some pics of Vespa doing his start turn with Ben Fogle. These were taken on Friday by the Hiheejuns at Guide Dogs Edinburgh:

Ben and Vespa outside The Main Street Trading Co Bookshop

And another

Freda and Zappa and me and Vespa

Vespa looking slightly like he could be a Guide Dog

Both Ben and Vespa with smiles on their faces!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

All by myself

The waterbutt that resides out back had completely silted up. It was supposed to be one of those things that Mountain Man was supposed to have fixed but never had and I hadn't been able to get any water out of it at all this year.

My next door neighbour and his son had both put their hands on their chins, shaken their heads and said they'd think about how it could be cleaned. The lovely Hamish also had put his hand on his chin and said he'd think about it. The problem was how to get the lid off  because the downpipe was positioned right through the hole in the top of the butt and it was impossible to get the lid off and get a bucket in, empty it and clean it out.

Actually, with the aid of a bit of thought and my new cordless screwdriver (a gift to myself for being on my own) it turned out to be surprisingly easy. I had to unscrew the down pipe and then take it off and after that I could get the cover of the waterbutt off. Then it was a question of emptying it, which took a while, bucket by bucket and then taking it away from it's perch and cleaning it out. It was at this point that I had to fix yet another one of those things that was supposed to have been fixed.

The hose connection to the outside tap just wouldn't stay on. MM had bought a new one (the old one having broken) and when I asked MM about it he told me it had never worked properly and always leaked. But no matter how much I tried to attach the hose and get water out of it, all that happened was I got sprayed with water from the tap and nothing came out of the hose.

I took the connection down to the garden centre and looked at all the Hozelock connections and it turned out that MM (like the man who lived here before us) had bought the wrong size connection - yes, it really was that simple!

Armed with the new connection, which fits the tap like a dream, I was able to clean out the waterbutt and put it back on its brick perch, put the down pipe back up, screw it in and voila... Bob's yer uncle... it was fixed!

And what felt really good was I managed to fix it all by myself. Super proud? I should say so!

One fixed waterbutt courtesy of moi!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Star turn

We started our day today by going to Tesco in Galashiels to do our bit for Guide Dog fundraising. This was supposed to mean that Vespa sat around looking gorgeous and people coming up to stroke him and put some money in the pot. What it actually meant was Vespa spending most of the time on his back, waving his legs in the air trying to tempt his pal Zappa (a gorgeous, 15 month old,  reddy coloured lab/retriever cross) to come and play with him. Freda, who's the Border's border for Guide Dog pups was with Zappa and she and I had quite a laugh. Apparently Vespa's antics were quite a crowd pleaser and Vespa earned quite a lot of 'tips' in the form of £5 notes being put in the bucket. The fundraiser people were very pleased and said he should give up thoughts of becoming a Guide Dog and go for a full time fundraiser role.

We then went off to have lunch with a Clinical Psychology pal who I've met again after some years and that was fun, but we had to leave on time to go to our next event.

At 2 pm we could be found, along with Freda and Zappa, in The Main Street Trading Company, which is an independent bookstore in St Boswells, ready for a photocall with none other than Ben Fogle, who has a new book out called Labrador. Ben was absolutely lovely and is just like I've always seen him. Humble, but fun and very smiley. Sadly Vespa and Zappa decided it was time to have round 2 of the play stakes which meant that a table full of coffees almost went flying. Luckily we managed to separate them and then go out for photos. I'm not sure exactly where these pics will be placed, but they will be used on the Guide Dog website.

We then all went down to the village hall for an hour's worth of Ben talking about Labradors, which actually was incredibly interesting. At the end we got lots of folk coming up to ask questions and pet the dogs, who by this time had calmed down considerably. One of the guys from Guide Dogs was doing the interviewing and he'd got a copy of the book, which he very kindly gave me. It's signed by Ben and is also full of sentences highlighted in green highlighter pen, but hey... a free book is a free book and I was very grateful for it.

I don't have any pics of any of the day as I was concentrating on Vespa not being too much of a handful, but I'm hoping to get to see some of the ones the professional took and I'll post one if and when they arrive.

Meanwhile after all that excitement, Vespa has collapsed for the evening and is currently ensconced next to me on the cushion on the floor snoring his head off. I think that's going to be him for the rest of the evening.

It's hard work being a star turn!