Thursday, 31 December 2015

The end is nigh

Well here we are at the end of 2015. This year has gone by so quickly and even though it's held some 'interesting' bits for me, it's also been filled with great joy and lots of fun and laughter.

After Vespa's very bad behaviour on Tuesday, yesterday he was far better behaved. He had his last vet appointment to get his annual jag, where he was much admired and fussed over. Sadly on the way out he pulled at me and the door swung back and I caught my hand in it. There was a momentary sick feeling, but I'm pleased to say that it ended up with nothing more than a scrape and a bit of a bruise. It would not have been a good way to end the year with broken bones!

Storm Frank was in full force by the time we left the vet's, but a walk was needed so we went to Kelso Race Course for a runaround. The wind was so strong that I could hardly walk and was almost blown off my feet on several occasions. Vespa thought it was brilliant. It took so long to walk around the field that the rain started before we finished, so sadly got a bit damp.

Then it was home to dry out and make canapes for a little get-together I was having last night. I have to say they were delicious, all apart from my cheese straws that I managed to burn, but I had plenty of other treats so no problem.

When my friends arrived the champagne was opened and a really lovely evening ensued and I think they enjoyed it as much as I did. Vespa just loved having them here and was in ecstasy with all the attention he got.

So now it's New Year's Eve. I've got plans for tonight, as I'm sure you all have, so all that's left is for me to wish you all a wonderful New Year.

Goodbye 2015 and hello 2016!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Guide dog? Not at this rate!

Every day Vespa and I have our routine. I get up, get a cuppa, feed him, have my breakfast then go upstairs to get myself showered and dressed, while Vespa goes back to sleep.

Today, after having my shower, I heard something strange going on downstairs, so went down to investigate and there was carnage... he'd decimated his bed and was sitting in the corner looking guilty as hell at the stuffing spread all over the kitchen floor! I was not thrilled. Luckily I have another bed in the other corner of the kitchen, so he can sleep on that til it's time to go off next week. I just have to hope that one lasts or he'll be back in his cage for the last few days.

We got ourselves ready for the day and went off to meet up with Freda, one of the lovely people who has boarded Vespa for me when I've been away. She wanted a final cuddle, so we decided on cup of something at Abbotsford. When I got there, Freda was ready and waiting so I got Vespa out of the car and he shot off to greet her by doing all the no-no things like jumping up at her and being really silly. He was determined that she must have a dog in the boot of her car and she even opened it to show him there was nothing and he jumped in to check it out and was most disgruntled when he couldn't  find said dog! It was hysterically funny.

We went for a short walk, where he picked up sticks and all kinds of stuff... another Guide Dog no-no and by the time we actually got our drinks in the cafe he was so hyped he took ages to settle. However, settle he did eventually and Freda and I had a lovely chat, while he slept.

Beginning to settle in Abbotsford cafe

Last pic with Freda

After that Vespa and I went shopping to make sure I've got enough food to see me over the New Year and he was reasonable in the supermarket. Then I decided I'd take him on a walk in the woods as tomorrow we're due awful weather so there won't be much walking done then.

We got there and there was a couple with their dog, who isn't all that keen on Vespa, but would Vespa leave him alone? Of course not! He refused to come when called and just kept running at the dog until I managed to grab him and stick his lead on. I let him off once they were out of sight, but he just turned round and shot off back to try and get the dog to play with him. I was not happy and it was quite embarrassing trying to grab him again and stick him back on the lead. After that, I'm sorry to say, I'd had it and I walked him back to the car in disgrace.

What's going on with my lovely biddable pup? Does he know he's due to go off to proper training and is already putting in his objections? Seems like it to me. It's not going to sound good when they ask me what he's like if I have to say: poor recall, jumps up at people, picks up sticks, takes ages to settle in public places, eats his bedding and can be very silly. No that won't go down well at all.

Vespa being very, very silly!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

My Christmas

I had a really lovely Christmas Day. No. 2 Son did all the cooking (and did it brilliantly). I got some fab presents including a purple hoodie thingy, a candle in the shape of a wine bottle, a snazzy pink, sparkling Christmas wine glass, some real wine to put in it, a notebook in the shape of a V and a book I wanted.

Me wearing my hoodie thing, with my new glass and candle

Vespa had to sleep with me as I didn't dare leave him downstairs for fear of what he might eat overnight. He snores. 'Nuff said!

We watched films, played games and had lovely family time. Can't ask for more on Christmas Day.

Boxing Day I headed home and it was pretty scary out there. There were literally lakes on the road and the rain was unbelievable. I'm incredibly lucky to live in a village that just had water all over the road. Vespa and I went out for a quick walk in the rain and then battened down the hatches and stayed home in the dry and warm.

Today was a complete turnaround. The sun was shining and it was one of those sparkling Scottish winter days that make me feel good to be alive. I took Vespa for a walk in Bowmont Forest and he had a wonderful time jumping in muddy puddles and playing with all the doggy pals he came across. I came home via Kelso town and stopped to take a couple of pics. The Tweed was unbelievably high and sandbags were out in force.

Looking North across the Tweed to Kelso town

Looking South across the Tweed

Meanwhile Vespa has just 9 whole days left with me. I'm starting the countdown and it's not easy. Of course, he hasn't a clue and is just doing what he loves to do, sleep, eat, jump about in puddles and do lots of cuddling and he's getting lots of all of that... apart from the food that is, because ultimately I still have to adhere to Guide Dog rules, but he is allowed the odd bone or two and I've filled several with Marmite and cheese, one of his favourite things.

This probably won't be the last time you hear me say this, but I'm going to miss that dog!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Strange happenings

Here we are on Christmas Eve and I'm getting ready to head on up to Edinburgh to spend the next 48 hours being looked after by the men in my life.

Meanwhile I wanted to report a few of the strange things that have been happening here.

Vespa and I have had the same routine since he was very small. We get up, get our respective breakfasts and then I leave him for about an hour to go and get myself ready for the day while he settles down and waits til I come back down to get himself up and at 'em. The last month or so has seen him settled, but chewing his piece of vet bed that he sleeps on. That was going to go with him to Forfar and I can only hope it lasts the next 2 weeks or I'll have to have a rethink. But the last couple of days, instead of being settled, as well as chewing his vet bed piece, he seems to spend his time flinging his bed across the kitchen. I don't know what's brought this on.

I've also managed to lose my watch. I know it's in the house. In fact I know it's upstairs, but can I find it? Hell no! This house has a habit of swallowing things and then they miraculously show up again at some point. For example, I was given a sample of make-up stuff to try by a friend in South Africa. I knew I'd put it somewhere, but I couldn't find it anywhere. I looked and looked and then emailed her to say how sorry I was that I couldn't give her any feedback on it and then went into the bathroom where I'd searched every nook and cranny over a 2 day period and there it was on the shelf. I only hope it's not too long before I find the watch again as it's strange, given that I've had it for 35 years, to be without it.

And then there's the bottle top. I use a plastic bottle to put my filtered water in to put in the kettle. Ok, I know this sounds a touch complicated, but it works for me. Well last night I took the top off, turned round to fill the kettle, turned back and the top was nowhere to be seen. And I still can't find it.

To be frank, it's all a bit weird and I'm hoping that the house gods, whoever they may be, see fit to return my things to me as soon as possible.

So good people, may I take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas wherever you are in the world. Have fun!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Christmas lights London style

After all that London drama it felt good to be at home, but then I realised it was only a few days til Xmas and I'd done no food shopping at all. So last night, before the Strictly final came on (yeah, Jay won!), I zipped out and I'm pleased to be able to tell you that all is now pretty much done and what a relief that feels.

I thought I'd leave you today with a rather lovely pic of the lights in Bond Street that I took while walking from one drinking establishment to another on Friday night. They were so beautiful and tasteful and the feathery bits actually moved in the breeze like real feathers.

Bond Street Xmas lights

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Key-gate, parking-gate and more

Yesterday was office party time in London and so I left Vespa in the capable hands of Mary and Tim in Kelso on Wednesday while I got myself ready and then headed off early on Thursday morning. And that turned out to be the easy bit.

The hilarity started as I drove into Berwick-Upon-Tweed station to park my car when I realised I'd left the keys to my mother's house in my other bag at home. A quick phone call to those in the know (and no, not my mother) and I kept my fingers crossed that something could be sorted, otherwise I'd be searching for a B&B and trying to keep out of the path of my mother's wrath.

The parking meter thingy at Berwick station was in one of it's 'I'm not working with a credit card no matter how much you swear at me' moods so I had to hastily cobble together £10.50 in £1 and 50p coins (the machine refuses to take £2 coins) and eventually it spat out my ticket. The others in line were equally frustrated. So much so, that when I got into the waiting room some poor sod foolishly admitted to being a local councillor and he promptly got it in the neck from several disgruntled folk until he promised he'd take it up at the next council meeting, even though it's not actually the local council that are in charge of the station parking. Those people were after blood and nothing would stop them from berating him. He was lucky the train came and he could escape.

The rest of the journey down to London was very peaceful as I was in the quiet carriage, well that is until my phone went off. I immediately had to make a run for the corridor with several people raising their eyebrows at me to find out that an assignation had been made for me to rendezvous at the drop-off zone outside Kings Cross station with someone who would hand me a key so I could get into my mother's house.

Only problem was, I discovered, once at Kings Cross, is that the police were out in force and wouldn't let anyone stop for more than one minute in the drop-off zone, so after a few frantic phone calls and a new plan, I at last had a key.

Then I had to scoot to North London for another assignation and finally got to my mother's, dropped my bag and then just had time to get ready to go out for dinner. One wonderful Chinese meal later, with lots of laughter and great food and wine, I eventually made it to my bed without any other problems.

Yesterday. The office party and it actually was a real laugh. It's a lunch 'do' and we always meet at midday. My mother was not full of Xmas cheer first thing in the morning, but a glass of champagne when we arrived at the venue seemed to get the mood going and all seemed to be well.

Last year at the lunch my mother had the smoked salmon and then proceeded to castigate the staff because she thought it was too salty. We went to the same place this year and when I saw she'd ordered the salmon again, I knew where this was going... and sadly was right. Ah well, at least I was up the other end of the table and managed to stay well out of it. I thought the salmon starter was delicious by the way.

The food was great, company even better and with lovely wine I had a great time. My mother decided to leave at around 3. I'd asked her earlier if she wanted to go out in the evening, but she told me she thought she'd be too tired. The rest of us stayed on for more drinks and more hilarity. Then others left until it was just down to me and my usual party-buddy to keep the party going and eventually (after another hour or so) move ourselves on to a friendly bar we've both frequented before.

We had a lovely evening, but then I thought I'd better get back, just in case my mother had changed her mind (I know what she's like and also that she likes to eat late) and I arrived back at her's to a completely dark house. So I went upstairs to my room, read for a bit and then, because I had an early start today, thought I'd be a good girl and got myself into my bed. There I was deep asleep when I was woken by my phone buzzing away. I dozily picked it up to find it was my mother calling me. wtf? I switched it on and immediately got the full blast shouting of 'Where are you?'. 'In bed,' I replied. 'I've been so worried I was just about to call the police!'

I went downstairs to more shouting, telling me how stupid I'd been and I should have come in and she wasn't asleep and wanted to go out, 'I called up,' she said, 'Well I was asleep' I replied. I tried pointing out that she hadn't heard me come in and her room was in total darkness (she sleeps with her door open), but realised I was onto a loser, so let her rant some more then went back to my bed and then was aware of all the text messages I'd got in the meantime asking where I was from all the folk my mother had called to find out where I was. So then I had to phone them all to tell them I was perfectly fine. Oh dear!

This morning I got up before my mother and was down having breakfast when she came down with her 'bad mood' face on. She was about to start on me, but I (for once) took control and told her this was the last time I'd see her in 2015 and had no intention of spending it in other than positive interaction and that was it... and unbelievably, it worked a treat! She completely changed and all was aok. Phew!

I left the house as soon as I could  and headed for Kings Cross where I had to make several phone calls to all those I'd spoken to last night to let them know the full story and that I had escaped this morning unscathed, and then all I had to do was get on the train and settle down for an uneventful journey home and the safety and security of my own home.

And that, I think, was enough drama to last me the whole of Xmas!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Just 3 weeks to go

Yesterday was so startling weather-wise that it was a shock to wake up this morning to what felt like concrete sky.

The view over the Borders from Bowmont Forest yesterday

The all encompassing grey kind of matched my mood as No. 2 Son, who was supposed to be coming for a couple of days, had to cry off due to being really ill. I was so looking forward to seeing him, but would, of course, want him to stay warm and cossetted and to get better asap.

Then Vespa went into total bad behaviour as he went out in the garden and would not come in, no matter how much I called. All he did was sit and look at me over the wall with that 'Go on, make me!' look in his eyes. He was there in the same position for so long I had time to go inside and get my phone to take this pic:

'Go on Mum, make me!'

But still, the lure of food is just too much for the lab part of his brain and a quick rattle of his food bag and he was in like a shot. And this is the dog that's supposed to be a Guide Dog. I despair, I really do.

Once he was in we went off to drop off Xmas cards on our way to shopping in Galashiels and he got to have a lovely play with his labradoodle pal, Amber. He was so pleased. 

And then we went on a lovely walk in the local woods followed by a settling down for an afternoon of writing.

I've got a new pal who's a musician and he wanted some feedback on the words to his songs, so after sorting that out, I spent the rest of the day finishing off a book I've been given to review and then actually writing the review - it's called Shtum by Jem Lester by the way and is due out in April. I thought it was brilliant - and then I got down to some writing of my own. I've got a poem brewing, which is always a bit exhausting as all I seem to do is spend my time with words in my head and angsting about get them down on paper. I'm in for a sleepless night, I'm sure, which doesn't help as last night was spent fairly sleeplessly with one of the songs I was helping with going over and over in my mind.

Tonight I heard the news that Vespa will be leaving me on 6th January. I was already a bit emotional about his leaving and the reality of having a firm date is making me more so, but it had to happen and at least I know.

However it also left me with knowing that I'll be free on my birthday, so I've gone ahead and booked to go to Stobo Castle for a couple of days of pampering and at least that way I can do something to take my mind off Vespa not being here.

And now I have 3 weeks (minus a couple of days at the end of this week when I head off to London for party time) of cuddles to enjoy and enjoy them I will!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Vespa becomes an adult....

.... well according to Guide Dogs that is. According to him he's still a puppy, albeit a big one.

He's had his food changed today from Large Breed Puppy 0-24 months to Large Breed Adult. This is in lieu of his impending departure in approximately 4 weeks time and they want me to get him used to his new adult status, so when he actually gets to the Guide Dog School in Forfar at least his food won't be something else new he has to get used to.

Of course all this is making me feel quite emotional. The two of us have settled into our life together very easily and I know he's going to be really hard to send away.

When Odi went I felt pretty emotional, but there was all that business with her coming and going and anyway I had Vespa to take the pain away as he arrived the day after she left. Of course when she came back that was hard enough for me and then when it was time for her to go again, Vespa was so much part of my life. It doesn't help that he's a bit of a 'mummy's boy' whereas Odi seemed to me to be more self-contained and I think that's making it harder.

Harder still is the fact that I won't be taking on another puppy at least until I get back from Thailand in July as I don't think it'd be fair on a pup to be away for 2 months. I will, however, be a boarder so will take on pups if their Puppy Walkers are off on their hols, but in reality I don't think it'll be that often.

So adult or not, I love having my cuddly boy to curl up next to me of an evening and I'm sure going to miss my great big 'tank'.

Friday, 11 December 2015

It's Christmas!

One of the things I love about this time of year and living in this particular house is when I put up the icicle lights. They just seem to make my house feel all lovely and cosy, which is just as well as I have folk coming round tomorrow.

All my cards are written and posted and presents are now bought.

I'm feeling proper Christmassy!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015


I got home after a busy day of badminton followed by lunch with the lovely badminton ladies to find that the rendering on my neighbour's wall had come apart and fallen down onto my gutters and then the pavement below.

I spoke to her mother (who lives next door to my neighbour) to tell her of the problem and she promised she'd let my neighbour know when she got home.

By this time the wind was even worse and I was starting to get a bit worried. It then started to get dark. A knock on my door and my neighbour was there telling me she wanted to go and deal with it there and then. I was slightly concerned as the wind was incredible and the thought of either of us up a ladder was a bit of a worry, but she was determined she wanted to do it and would be fine.

Luckily she (eventually) believed me that it wasn't a good idea for her to go up a ladder and phoned our local roofer who came round, while she and I held the ladder and watched while he filled a bucket with bits of render.

After all that we decided to have a glass of wine together, so she came round to mine and we spent an extremely pleasant couple of hours drinking wine and putting the world to rights.

It just so happens that both of us are in the same boat ex-husband wise, so we have even more in common.

Sometimes out of adversity comes blessing and in this instance it definitely was a blessing.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

That's my boy!

Vespa was absolutely fantastic today. He had to be.

I'd booked a session at the Genius bar at the Apple store in Prince's Street. My poor old MacBook Pro, when faced with the new upgrade when I got back from South Africa, went into shock and promptly went into a coma. We got there for our 13.30 appointment at 13.15 and we finally left at 16.10.

When I made the appointment I thought I'd be going in, explaining the problem and leaving my laptop. Then I'd go back at some point in the future, pay a fortune and all would be well. Was I ever wrong!

So, what actually happened was: we waited for our appointment to be told by the very lovely Chris that we'd have to wait while it all uploaded. It would take an hour. Of course when he said an hour, he meant an Apple hour, not an earth hour. And of course this was the one day I'd left my book at home.

Vespa and I were allowed out for a quick break with all kinds of lovely Apple people watching over our things while we went walkabout. I even got so bored I almost bought a new iPhone 6, but just as my computer had decided to come to life the thought of staying another 20 minutes while they uploaded all the stuff from my old iPhone 4S to a new phone was just too much to bear. I declined to give them lots of my money and instead just packed up my laptop and asked how much I needed to pay.

'Nothing' the lovely Chris said, 'it's all free.' And then he said, 'You don't need a new phone. What ain't broke don't fix.' I almost kissed him, but managed to refrain.

Vespa was just pleased to get out of there, hop on a bus and get to the car and get on home to his evening meal.

Just to prove that he was behaving well, there was another Guide Dog puppy who came into the store about an hour before we left. A labradoodle whose name I can't remember, but he's 17 months and off to Forfar next Tuesday. Vespa had a look, but for the first time ever didn't go completely bonkers and try and play. Instead he just lay there being perfect. I could've kissed him too (as well as the lovely Chris) but he was slobbering at the time, so thought better of it!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Holiday snaps part 2

We left Cape Town and headed on up the coast to Port Elizabeth. This is a view of Cape Town from on high along the road.

Leaving Cape Town

And then we were off to Hermanus, where we saw whales while having lunch. I don't have any photos because it's so difficult taking a pic of a whale, so you'll have to trust me, but just look at the colour of the water.

Tracy at Hermanus

From there we took the road up to Cape Agulhas, which is the southernmost point of Africa. It was windy and cold, but really spectacular.

At Cape Agulhas, Tracy in the Indian Ocean and me in the Atlantic Ocean

And then, after an overnight stop at Knysna where we had a lovely dinner overlooking the harbour, it was full on to Port Elizabeth.

Knysna harbour at sunset

Getting back to Tracy's house was really special. It's her first ever house and I felt so privileged to be the first person to be invited to stay. I also got to meet the gorgeous Senge, Tracy's Lhasa Apso pup, who's a month older than Vespa. He's really cute.

My first Senge cuddle

Tracy's garden with it's lovely pool.

How lovely is this?

We had a day to settle in, catch up with old friends and then it was time for Tracy to go back to work while I dog sat, read books and went for walks around the neighbourhood. Some mornings, before Tracy went to work, we would get up super early and go for a walk along the beach at PE or if there was time at the end of the day we'd head on down there. After one afternoon walk poor Senge was subjected to the humiliation of a wash. He was not amused!

A not very happy Lhasa Apso

It was lovely to have some downtime after the hecticness of Cape Town and there was sunshine to enjoy, friends to see and all in all had a wonderful time.

Then on the Saturday, on the one and only rainy, windy, grey day, Tracy and I went off to Kragga Kamma Game Park, which is in Port Elizabeth. It was a great way to spend such a not nice weatherwise day. We saw rhino (including a baby, but you'd never know it from this photo.

A rhino family, including a baby

A couple of waterbuck

A giraffe

5 cheetah caught in the drive-through gates

Kragga Kamma is such a good place to go to see wildlife as it's relatively small and so doesn't take all that long to drive around. We did have the unusual spectacle of 5 of the park's 6 cheetah caught between the drive-through gates (to keep them away from all the other wildlife) and we had to call the ranger to get them moved. The guy had to borrow Tracy's steering lock to bang on the gates to get them to move, as they were determined they were going to stay put.

After that we went to a bonsai exhibition and had to vote for our favourite. This was mine:

And then spent a pleasant afternoon at Tracy's great friend Sharon's house, which was lovely.

The next day the sun shone again and it helped with our plan to head off to Addo Elephant National Park, which is about an hour outside of PE, but before we did that we had my last walk on the beach.

Me with Senge on the beach

Addo is one of those places that can either be spectacular or disappointing on the ele spotting front. We started out for the first half hour driving around and all we spotted was a tortoise wandering along the road and a dung beetle.

A wandering tortoise

A dung beetle getting on with business

And just as we were about to give up hope, we suddenly spotted 2 young bull elephants having a bit of a mock fight.

And from there we headed for a waterhole, where we stayed for about 2 hours just watching several ele families coming and going. Spectacular!

We also spotted this gorgeous blue heron

this magnificent bird of prey

and many rather wonderful cloud formations

We also saw many kudu and various other kinds of antelope, zebra, warthog, but sadly no lions. It was a fab day out.

And the next day it was time to pack my case and get to the airport, where we had time for a quick bite and a selfie before it was time to get on my plane and leave South Africa.

A final selfie

It was truly one of the best holidays I've ever had!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

In between

Uploading pics is a tedious business on this site, I can't drag and drop and it takes ages, so I thought I'd give you a quick update of this week's activities so far before I upload a second lot:

Monday came and went in a flurry of DIY that saw my door handle fixed, a transformer fixed so that the lights in my guest shower now actually work and a loo handle in the utility room loo that had to be taken back from whence it came and a completely new one ordered. Apart from that it was catching up with mail and email and getting myself back in the groove.

Tuesday was puppy class day and exhausting for both Vespa and I. It was our December class and all those going didn't want an Xmas party, but our Puppy Supervisor still wanted us to do games, so we had to do a doggy version of musical chairs without the music or the chairs. So what happened was that the 8 pups and puppy walkers had to walk round and then when she shouted out the instruction e.g. 'sit' all pups had to sit on command and the last one to do it was out. We started with the 'sit' and Vespa came 4th. But then we had an absolute triumph in 'down' and won! And after that, much to my surprise, we came 2nd in the 'stand'. Vespa was so exhausted by all this activity that he slept for a solid 7 hours after! Actually, if I'm honest I'd have liked to have slept for 7 hours too as I was just as exhausted, but had too much to get on with.

Wednesday was a frustrating day of bad weather and people supposed to be calling who didn't. I ended up having to make phone calls I'd have preferred not to make and going out for a walk in deep mud... something else I'd have preferred not to do. Ah well.

Then today. Well I had a great day. I had a lovely lunch with No. 2 Son and then went off to see a client and then back home to messages from people I wanted to hear from.

So it feels like the week is looking up, which isn't (quite frankly) compensation for this dreadful weather and my missing the South African sunshine. So hard to believe that such a short time ago I was hanging about in vest tops and shorts... well ok, bra and knickers for the most part in the last week to be honest, as I hung by Tracy's pool behind the walls that enclose her property... and now I'm wearing 4 layers of clothes and watching wall to wall grey skies zip by my windows in the high winds. At least so far we haven't had snow where I live, but I don't hold out much hope for that lasting for long.

I'll try to post the last of my holiday snaps this weekend.