Saturday, 31 December 2016

The best laid plans...

Oh dear. Poor Shirley and Andy have succumbed to the dreaded lurgy, which was brought up north by their son over Christmas. He was ill the whole time while with them, but at least they had fun with their granddaughter and his girlfriend. But what that means is that our New Year plans are scuppered.

I could, of course, go over there and hold my breath for 2 days in the hope that I don't get sick before I jet off to South Africa in a mere 6 days time, but given that it seemingly takes 3 days for the bug to hit and then the sickness which lasts for well over a week, Shirley and I decided it probably would be an extremely bad idea to even contemplate it. So that's that.

I'm now thinking about joining in with the village New Year and will reveal all in due course.

Apart from all that, I've had some bad news from my dear friends in France and my very close friend in London too and it seems that 2016 is still reaching out it's awfulness and spreading it around the world to affect us all. At least there's just one more day to go and then it'll be 2017 and we can only hope that it'll be a better year.

The only thing is... I have a distinct memory I said that at the end of 2015 and probably 2014, 2013 etc etc too! But we can all live in hope and that's the way I'm playing it.

I wish you all a brilliant year ahead. Roll on 2017!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Home! Phew!

I'm really sorry to admit that I couldn't stay in London until today, so came home yesterday after having lunch with my brother's ex-wife and her boyfriend.

Christmas was as awful as I thought it would be, but there were some very funny moments and I just feel so grateful that my wonderful sons were there to help me through it all.

It started when I got a phone call from my brother to say my mother was complaining that no-one was bothering with her. Meanwhile I had been running up and down the stairs to check on her approximately every half hour from around 7 and when I said she'd been asleep every time I'd been up she said, 'I wasn't asleep, I just had my eyes closed.' Yup... that'll be right!

My mother was alternately weepy, bad tempered and kind and that went on all day. We drank fizz and ate.

She informed me she didn't like nut roast (in spite of having it every time she goes to my brother's for Xmas!) and so I needn't have bothered to make my own and could have had the Sainsburys substitution. Ah well... I enjoyed my own cooking. My mother sat at the Xmas table for all of 5 minutes before declaring she was going to go back to bed and decided she didn't want anything to eat until she did. I'm saying no more.

The boys and I played games and watched Kubo And The Two Strings, a film No. 2 Son had brought with him on his hard drive. It was amazing and I urge you to check it out.

We also went on lots of walks to just get out of the house and have some fresh air. We needed it.

On Boxing Day the boys and I went on a very long walk and then back in the afternoon. My mother was still not feeling well and I made food for her and opened a bottle of fizz. The boys and I made our own dinner and sat in my room on the bed eating as my mother had gone to bed, but then she suddenly appeared and started shouting at us about the mess her kitchen was in. Great!

After getting her back to bed, we cleared up and then relaxed by watching another one of No. 2 Son's movies, Zootopia... another great film, and drank more fizz. As we were sitting there No. 1 Son said, 'There's a mouse.' And sure enough there was. In spite of my mother wanting her house to be clean and perfect, there was still a mouse. I had to laugh. We left it to its own devices.

Yesterday, when I got up I realised I couldn't possibly stay with my mother on my own, so exchanged my ticket home from today to yesterday and it was with huge relief that I got into my house at just before 10 pm.

I should have been in before then, but just one teeny tiny problem is that I dropped my house keys in my car and couldn't find them. No matter I thought, I'll get the spares from their hiding place and get a torch and search, but as I didn't have a torch I couldn't see a thing and didn't find the key. Back to the car and after a rather long look I found them in my open pocket of my bag where they'd dropped when I was fiddling trying to get myself sorted. Gotta laugh!

And that's the end of that. Now I'm looking forward to New Year with my dear friends, Shirley and Andy, which I know will be stress-free and fun. I need it, believe me!


Sunday, 25 December 2016

Happy Xmas!

Here I am, in London, after a stressful couple of days getting everything in order and ready for Xmas Day.

The food I ordered from Sainsburys and was sent to my friend's house had a touch of disaster about it, when they substituted the nut roast I'd ordered for a mushroom and pumpkin wellington. In anyone else's world this would have been fine, but my mother hates mushrooms with a vengeance and so I had to do a last minute rethink.

What actually happened is that I got out my old recipe book and chopped and packeted up my own nut roast to make today. Hopefully, it's all there, but at least the bottle of sparkling Shiraz I bought for myself will go someway to making my day zip by and should ameliorate any stress. I think I'm gonna need it.

Yesterday I got on the train for London to discover that No. 2 Son was on the same train. We had a short conversation before he went back to his seat to sleep and then we met up with No. 1 Son who'd come on a slightly earlier train and had been in Kings Cross half and hour before us. So far so good.

We got to my mother's house to discover she was feeling very unwell. I left the boys to it and went off to my friend's house to collect the meat I'd ordered for them. Managed all of that with little problem and then it was time for us to go out to dinner to the restaurant my mother had booked. She didn't come and we had a lovely evening.

Then it was back to the house for chat and laughs before heading for bed.

So all that remains is for me to wish you a very happy Christmas and I hope yours will be stress-free. I can see that I'm probably going to have to employ pretty much every one of my stress management tips to keep mine that way, but then at least I know them all by heart!

Have a good one!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Results are through

I've now had the results from my biopsy. 

The surgeon and I have decided that, as the first free Wednesday (the day he does Moh's surgery - which is the one I want rather than the NHS hatchet job where I lose half my nose), is the day before I go to South Africa on my hols, that won't work. So the date for the actual surgery will be 1st February.

In some ways I'm really pleased to know and get it sorted and, of course, in others I wish I didn't have to go through it. However, as cancers go, this one is minimal. It's just the reconstructive bit that's invasive and that depends on how big the hole is that the surgeon makes - and none of that will be known until the day.

So there you are. Nothing more to report on any of this until beginning of Feb.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

I succumbed

I really don't like all this 'selfie' stuff... multiple pics people seem to take and post. However, I have actually succumbed, after many people telling me I should get one, to getting a selfie stick. Why, I hear you ask?

Well the thing is, I am mostly on my own and very occasionally I want to take a pic with me in it and have discovered that holding my phone at arm's length doesn't actually do much but make my nose look large.

I came across one stick that was reduced to a very reasonable £8.99 on Amazon with no p&p charges. It had pretty good reviews and, although this didn't really matter, it was a rather nice shade of pink, which kind of matches my phone and my life at the moment (!). So I made the decision to go ahead and buy.

I know it will probably stay in the drawer a lot of the time, but I'm going to take it to London with me for Xmas so that I can take some pics of me and my boys together - undoubtedly all making faces as we do - but hopefully will get some nice photos.

And it's worth £8.99 just for that!

Monday, 12 December 2016

An extra day

I had a real blip while in London. I thought I'd booked my ticket for Saturday and was all geared up, case packed and just about to head out of the door when I looked at my ticket and realised it was for Sunday and not Saturday!

Ok, so I had an extra day in London... what to do? I decided I'd take myself to the theatre and really wanted something lively, so picked School of Rock. What a great choice! It was an amazing show. Everything from the sets, to the singing, to the kids was just fantastic. A truly great way to spend an afternoon in a very overcrowded, rainy Central London.

That evening my mother wanted to watch Strictly, so we settled down with a bottle of wine. However, little did I know that, although my mother has been watching it for a long time, she hadn't quite caught on to the concept. The conversation went like this:

Mum: I like that couple. He's a fantastic dancer.
Me: Yes. He won last year I think.
Mum: Well what's he doing back this year?
Me: He's the professional.
Mum: Professional?! That's appalling! Only amateurs are supposed to take part!

There then followed my explaining Strictly. All I can say is, luckily there were only 4 couples taking part and thank goodness for wine!

Apart from that, the office party went very well, with lots of hilarity and was great fun. My catch-ups with friends were also just lovely. Even my meetings with solicitors and accountants went without a hitch. So all in all a good time was had, but I am pleased to be back in the peace and quiet of my own home.

Now I just have to gear myself up for Christmas and going down to London again. I'm already feeling stressed just thinking about it!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

It's Christmas party time!

Today was puppy party time... so much fun!

Chaos reigns!




Try getting 9 puppies to sit and look at the camera is a highway to hell... so much so I didn't bother to take any pics, but left it to others. This one was taken by Susan who is Molly's puppywalker. Molly is the photogenic one at the back on the right, in Susan's husband's arms. Molly was a proper photo diva, staring lovingly at the camera all the time while all around her chaos reigned.

Games were played, prizes given and then the people ate the food we'd all brought while the pups just continued to have fun with each other.

Now I'm packing my gear ready for London tomorrow. I have a party of my own to go to on Friday, but before that there's meetings to attend, mother to deal with and friends to have dinner with. Some things I'm looking forward to more than others!


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Puppy power?

This week has been pretty full-on.

On Monday, Ziggy, a 12-week old Guide Dog puppy came to stay as Alex and Jackie, her Puppy Walkers were off on a jolly. It was supposed to be until Thursday, but sadly on the Tuesday Jackie got taken into hospital with suspected diverticulitis and so Ziggy stayed until today.

I'd forgotten just how exhausting young puppies are... and also how little I get done, but it was so much fun. I also used her stay as an opportunity to brush up on my training skills and, although her sit was pretty good when she came, by the time she left she could sit and wait and down and stay. I was very pleased and Alex was thrilled when he came to pick her up and Ziggy showed off her newfound skills.

Ziggy doing her perfect sit and wait!

On Wednesday I had to go to Glasgow for my biopsy and Ziggy went off to spend the day with Molly (aged 15 weeks) and Folly, (yes that's Guide Dog names for you!), who's a 2 year-old rejected Guide Dog due to her skin allergy. Apparently they had lots of fun. Ziggy was exhausted when she got back.

I was also exhausted as I'd had to drive to Glasgow, get the biopsy done and then drive straight back. There's no news on the biopsy front and won't be for 3 weeks as the doc has gone on his hols. Meanwhile, I have a lovely large scab on my nose, which looks utterly delightful... not! I'm hoping it heals by this coming Wednesday as I have to scoot to London for meetings and Xmas party. I can see me sticking a plaster over the top so I don't frighten the children!

Today has been marketing day. The price of the paperback version of my book, for just one week only, has been discounted to £3.99 ($5.48). I was told it would make a great stocking filler and was charged with taking a pic of Ziggy and the book together... something to do with puppies being able to sell anything. We'll see if that's true or not, but I managed, after not too many attempts to get the perfect pic, as Ziggy's new found down and stay expertise came to the fore.

Ziggy doing a brilliant job!

If you'd like to buy a copy at this incredibly cheap price then do go to:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

It's just at this price until next Saturday.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Feeling blessed

I had incredible feedback from the Qiqong course I taught over 2 weekends, this last weekend being the the last one. It has made me feel so lucky.

It's also made me count my blessings.

My friends have been so wonderful and supportive over the last year and all that's happened with my book, Vespa, the other Guide Dog pups I've boarded and even the support I've had with my mother has just been incredible.

Thank you!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

No news is... no news

I went to see the surgeon in Glasgow yesterday about my cancer diagnosis and after a quick look and a chat and a laugh about travels in South Africa (he'd just been and I'm off in January) he pronounced that he'd need to do a biopsy. He then marched me out to the desk and told them, in no uncertain terms, to fit me in next Wednesday.

So there we have it. Nothing to report. Just another long journey from the Borders to Glasgow for another short appointment.

At least this weekend I'm teaching a course just outside Glasgow so didn't have to negotiate the road home as, yet again on a Friday the M8 seemed to be the most disastrous place to be travelling. Accidents, slow traffic and freezing temperatures. Hoping for better on Wednesday.


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Secrets and confessions

It's Scottish Book Week and I signed up to give away 25 books. This year's title is 'Secrets and Confessions' and it was lovely to wander down the street and offer free books to folk.

The only problem was that quite a few people thought they were my secrets and confessions!

For example, I took some to badminton today. I gave some to the ladies, who were thrilled and there's a group of men who play at pretty much the same time and today just two of them turned up. I offered them a copy each. Well when they saw the title they said some things that even made me blush! It was hysterical and all in the sports hall collapsed in laughter as I went redder and redder!

Just to set the record straight, I have not, nor ever will, produce a book full of my secrets or confessions, I can promise you that!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A day of strange conversations

Today has been a day of strange conversations.

I have a very old mac laptop that ceased to want to function when I came back from Thailand in July. I kept forgetting to take it into the Apple shop in Edinburgh for it's free check up, but decided I needed to get onto it and today was the day.

A charming guy called Andrea came to help and whilst waiting for my computer to churn into life he asked what I did. There ensued a conversation about writing books and stress and he then asked if I'd like to come and do a talk at the Apple shop to all the people who work there as sometimes they invite people who are interesting. Of course I said yes, so he said to expect an email in a few days. Not sure this will actually come to anything, but it was sure nice to be asked. Oh yes, and it was also nice to know that my computer battery is defunct and not replaceable but the actual computer is functioning just fine, it just needs to be on the power cord the whole time.

After that I went to meet my friend Shirley for lunch, but had a bit of time to kill as she was having her hair done. I went into Jenners and saw some rather lovely Ugg boots that were waterproof and looked rather nice. The first pair I tried on were too small, so an underling was sent off to get larger size and the girl who was serving me started to chat about how much she liked my sparkly ankle wellies. She asked me if they were comfortable and I said 'extremely' and then, as she was looking so longingly at them, I said, 'do you want to try them on?' 'Yes, please,' she said. So there I was in Jenners trying on some boots whilst the sales assistant tried on mine. I didn't buy the Uggs.

Shirley and I had a lovely lunch and after that went shopping and then time to get the bus back to my car. On the bus a rather unkempt looking guy, smelling very strongly of alcohol, sat down next to me and started chatting about the weather and then asked me if I'd just finished work. I told him I was retired and he was incredibly complimentary until I said that I'd become a lady who lunches and had just been out to lunch. 'Had garlic?' he asked. 'Yes,' I replied, feeling somewhat mortified as I popped a mint into my mouth!


Three rather strange conversations all in one day. Hopefully these things just come in threes!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Bad news/good news

Well this has been an 'interesting' week.

The US election was unbelievable and I've been in a slight state of shock ever since. But then given that they voted in George W Bush not once, but twice, well it kind of makes sense that the voting public would go completely off the wall and vote in a (failed?) businessman who hasn't a scoobie about running a country, apart from rhetoricalising all over the place. Oh well... that's what it is and it'll be fascinating to see how things unfold.

The one bit that really worries me is this: apparently Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin get on well. Can you imagine what'll happen the first time one of them disagrees with the other? I'll leave it there I think.

My other bit of news is that I've been diagnosed with a cancerous growth on my nose. I waited almost 8 months for an appointment and now they want to operate next week! I'm off to London and so the op will have to wait. They've given me another for the week after, but I'm thinking of cancelling it until I get back from South Africa at the end of January. I'm not sure I can deal with my mother and Xmas with her in London with half my nose needing to be taken care of too. And then there's flying and being in South Africa. I think I'd rather enjoy myself and have a good time without having to worry about my nose. Luckily it's slow growing and I've had it for a while, so I'm not sure another 3 months will make a huge difference.

But here's some good news to end with: the coffee plants are doing well and also my orchids are flowering again. Hooray! Something good to focus on!

Friday, 4 November 2016

Eye problems

Last night I had my philosophy class in Edinburgh. I packed my things and headed off, but when I arrived I realised I'd left my glasses at home (I wear contacts during the day). I was a bit pissed off as I wanted to read before sleeping. So I left my contact lenses in, but when it came time to take them out I really struggled and I wasn't sure I'd still not got one in my left eye, but I was so tired that I thought I'd just sleep and deal with it in the morning.

When I woke up this morning I wasn't sure if it was in or not, but it felt like something was there. I tried to remove it, but no joy so headed home (no contacts in - I'm long sighted and driving isn't a problem) and felt ok, so I put a new set of contacts in. I then went off to meet my friend for a coffee, but part way through it felt like my contact lens was coming out of my left eye, so when I eventually got home I removed both of them, but it still felt not great. I flushed my eyes with sterile saline solution, but it still didn't feel right.

I looked and looked, but decided that as I couldn't see anything in my eye, I'd go to Boots in Galashiels and see the pharmacist for some help, but she sent me to Boots Opticians a little further on in the town.  When I got there I was met by two assistants who looked about 16 and an optician who looked about 18. I had to tell them my idiotic story of what happened and I think it took all their strength not to laugh.

45 minutes later with a clean bill of health, one very sore eye and instructions to come back in 2 days if it still felt bad, I arrived home. Now resting my eye and deciding whether to ameliorate my sore eye with a glass of vino.

I've got a busy weekend with a Mindfulness practice day to facilitate tomorrow, followed by No. 1 Son's 32nd birthday dinner and then on Sunday I'm teaching an all day course outside of Glasgow. I can't afford for my eye not to be working properly, but at least without being able to wear my contact lenses for the next couple of days I'll definitely not forget my glasses!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Puppy mayhem

Today was puppy class and we have 3 gorgeous new pups in The Borders which made the class an absolute riot.

Molly (retriever), Ziggy (lab/retriever cross) and Lawrence (lab) were hysterical as they got to have a run around while the older pups looked on in disgust. For us boarders (3 of us), who just love to have a cuddle from a teeny pup, we were in our element.

Lawrence


Puppy mayhem

Ziggy and Molly having a game

Molly came to me for a cuddle after the fun and games


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Murder!

I did it. I actually 'culled' my coffee plants. I now have two plants. Yes, you read that right... two.

My new light arrived today (at great expense too!) as the other contraption I tried just wasn't going to work so got returned. I eventually found a place (in Germany) that did the proper replacement bulbs for my previous expensive contraption and now all is installed and working.

The only problem was that when I investigated I realised that the smallest one was being swamped by the two medium (very healthy ones) and only had about 5 leaves, so I'm afraid it, and the largest one that kept having very brown leaves and looking poorly, were removed.

After so many years of growing them I felt disloyal getting rid, and yes, I do realise that they are plants and thinning etc is generally good for plants, but still... it's been a long haul.

Let's just hope the last two stay healthy or I shall be the proud owner of one expensive lighting system and that's it!

Two very healthy looking coffee plants




Sunday, 23 October 2016

Back to Guide Dog puppy stuff

I just love having a Guide Dog puppy to stay!

Mercer arrived on Wednesday morning and he's like a smaller more gentle version of Vespa. Though if you look at the pics you'd think they were spitting images, but really, they're not. Vespa wasn't called The Tank for nothing.

Mercer is rather an anxious pup. An absolute sweetie who can't bear to be away from me for more than a second. He doesn't like new things and couldn't deal with the squeaky toys (Vespa's favourites), which I had to remove from the toy box as he was freaked out by them.

But then he absolutely loves a cuddle and wants to sit on me and go to sleep whenever he can, which is ok as I have a leather beanbag (which has been okay'd by the Puppy Supervisor as something pups are allowed to sit on) and we sit together every afternoon when we can and have cuddles. So cute!

The first day he was here we went off to see my Guide Dog friends Susan and Gordon, who adopted their recently withdrawn puppy Folly. Folly has been to stay with me several times, both with Odi and Vespa and Mercer has been to stay with them. In fact they are the reason I've got Mercer as they were supposed to have him this week, but they have a brand new puppy and felt they couldn't look after 3 of them at once. I was very pleased to step in.

Anyway, Mercer and I went over to see them all and meet the new pup, Molly, who's a pure retriever and not quite 8 weeks old. She was so gorgeous! However, she did pee everywhere and I was pleased I was wearing my wellies!

The funniest thing was though that Mercer wasn't the only anxious pup on the block. Molly is super anxious and she kept squeaking every time Mercer went near her. But then he was anxious about her. It was actually quite hysterical as they tried to play but were too anxious to do so and Mercer would come rushing to me and Molly would rush under anyone's legs. Folly just looked on in amazement. However, Susan did take a delightful pic of Mercer and Molly having made friends for all of 2 seconds before the anxiety set in again.

Mercer is with me for the next 2 days and then he'll go back to Edinburgh. I then have Molly coming just for the day on Thursday. I can't wait!

Mercer and Molly make friends for a second!

Mercer looking remarkably like Vespa
Afternoon cuddles

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Better late than never

I'm just back from a couple of days in London.

I was down there for a day long course in Commercial Property Management as part of my role in the family business. It sounds horrendous, but was actually very interesting and the guy who taught it was brilliant. Also, No. 1 Son was at the course too, so it was fun (in a way) to be in the same group as him and we had a few laughs between the 2 of us.

There were 11 of us on the course from all kinds of backgrounds and whose rationale for being on the course differed hugely from people who were going to inherit a portfolio of property and wanted to know what to look for in a management company, to those who were already working in management companies and wanted to know more about what they should be doing and all stages in between. I was the only Commercial Property Company Director there and it was fascinating seeing things from the day to day management perspective.

Suffice it to say I learned a lot and now have an understanding of leases and legal aspects and rent reviews and all kinds of stuff like that. The only embarrassing thing is that I probably should have known a bit more than did, but at least I know it now and No. 1 Son had his eyes opened as to his future potential dealings with the family company.

The saddest bit was it was THE most beautiful day and to spend it inside was a bit of a trial. However, the view was spectacular. We were right by Westminster Abbey. Here's what I was looking at when I wasn't looking at the PowerPoint presentation:

What a view!

The rest of my time was taken up with my mother who'd managed to hurt her thigh somehow. She ended up in A&E while I was on the course, but was released after x-rays showed nothing up and was told to take some co-codamol. Luckily that meant she had an early night which left me time to go out to enjoy a bit of nightlife.

So that's me... home again. Full of leases and rent reviews and the like. Tomorrow I get Mercer the Guide Dog puppy who's coming for a week's visit with me and I'm looking forward to it immensely. At least that's how I feel about it now. Let's see what the reality brings!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Something in the air?

I've just been away for a weekend teaching Qiqong in Beith, in North Ayrshire, which is not too far from Glasgow.

On my down I left at 3.45, thinking that it would take me 1.5 hours (according to AA route planner) and missing all the weekend traffic on the Edinburgh by-pass and the M8. How wrong could I be? Extremely wrong it seems.

I got to the by-pass to be met by a wall of traffic. There'd been an accident, but on the other carriageway. Why was my side held up? Who knows, but it was.

Then the radio informed that there had been accidents on the A9, the M8, the Edinburgh by-pass, a road just off the Edinburgh by-pass, the M73, a road into Beith and a road in Ayr. What the heck was going on?

Anyway, my satnav decided that I needed to get off the M8 and go on the M73. I decided to go 'her' route. It took me precisely 35 minutes to get from the beginning of the slip road from the M8 onto the M73. Big error... or was it? I haven't a clue. But I have to say I felt very blessed when the traffic report reported approximately 5 minutes after I'd managed to get onto the M73 that there was a car fire happening on the slip road from the M8 to the M73. Somehow a 35 minute delay didn't seem so bad.

I got to my destination 1.5 hours later than planned, but all in one piece. Phew!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Coffee plant update!

I've had a problem. The lighting system that I installed 8 years ago has finally given up the ghost. The bulbs went and I'm in the throes of getting a new one. This is not such a simple thing as I'm having trouble locating the same bulb and consequently I'm thinking of changing the lighting system. And that's also proving not quite so easy.

I went ahead and ordered a bulb off Amazon, together with the fittings, but the bulb came and I'm now waiting for the fittings. I don't even know if it'll work, so need it all to come so I can work it out. I'll keep you updated on that score in due course.

The coffee plants themselves are doing ok. The smaller ones are now extremely healthy and have grown a lot since moving to their new location last year. They, like me, obviously are benefiting from my erstwhile husband locating elsewhere!

However, the larger one continues to limp on slightly in distress. The leaves keep turning brown and I'm almost coming to the conclusion that maybe a cull is in order. I think I might have to let the larger one go to make room for it's healthier sibs. It's a weighty decision and I don't like killing things, but for the good of the majority etc etc it may just have to be done.

So here's a couple of pics for you:

The larger one with it's not so healthy looking leaves and spindly branches

On the left and centre you can see the smaller plants with their lovely, healthy, new growth leaves. On the extreme right are some of the leaves from the larger one looking a bit less green and a brown on the edges.



Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Hold up

I've been unwell since I got home from Edinburgh yesterday, so there'll be no coffee plant update until I can be bothered to go and take a pic or two. Sorry!

Monday, 10 October 2016

It's all go

Well that was a busy week!

Wednesday was out at badminton then lunch with some Guide Dog friends and I'm going to help out by having another boarder to stay. He's coming next week and is a year old. Really looking forward to that. Pics will be posted of course!

Thursday was National Poetry Day and I went to a writing workshop in Duns Library, which was quite instructive and then out to dinner in Edinburgh with my colleague that I do workshops with as we had a brand new one called 'Mindfulness in the Consultation' we were running on the Friday for NHS Education For Scotland, so we needed to get together and have a last minute check we were on course.We went to David Bann and had a great meal as well as getting ourselves prepared for the next day.

The workshop went well, but it was quite an exhausting Friday. We'll get the reviews in due course and can only hope it was well received.

Saturday I went to my philosophy course. I'm mixing and matching between Tuesdays and Fridays as I don't seem to have 10 weeks where I'm free on the same day. It went ok, but I think I'm going to be the pain in the arse in the class, as I keep asking questions that nobody seems to be able to give me an answer to. Oh well... maybe my philosophy days are numbered!

In the afternoon I had dance class. However, this week wasn't much fun as I just couldn't coordinate my feet and my brain!

After that I had my embarrassing moment. I had a Daith piercing done in April (you might remember - but if not, well it's to help with headaches and is in a rather difficult place to get to in my ear). I had a bar put in rather than a sleeper. Recently I decided that I'd rather like a sleeper... maybe one with a diamond. I mean if you're going to have something showing then make it very showy. That's my motto anyway. I got to the Tattoo parlour and the lovely Sarah was there. She got out all kinds of rings for me to look at and I decided on a rather blingy one. She put it in my ear, swung me round so I could see it in the mirror and I hated it on sight! She was great. She took it out and put my bar back in and didn't even charge me, which shocked the heck out of me. Still, lesson learnt I think. Leave well alone!!

 I took Sunday as a relax day and today came into Edinburgh for a dance class this evening and I'm staying over for my philosophy class tomorrow. It's all go that's for sure!

Tomorrow I'll update you on what's happening with the coffee plants as there's been a slight disaster, but I'm hoping it might get sorted when I get home and get an Amazon delivery. All will be revealed.


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Back at puppy class

Today was the first Guide Dog puppy class I've attended since April due to all my comings and goings. Part of boarding for GD's means that I'm supposed to go to puppy class and catch up with all that's happening in Guide Dog world. It was amazing to see how those tiny pups have grown and was great fun to watch.

Quite a few of the boys were very badly behaved and it was like watching Vespa when he was there. So naughty - but then I think everyone has been most encouraged by the fact that Vespa actually made it as a Guide Dog, so there's hope for them all yet.

One of the other lovely things is that I've boarded 3 of the pups that were there today and they were all as thrilled to see me as I was to see them. So nice not to be forgotten!


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Home... phew!

It's been a stressful few days, not helped by today's events, but before I tell you about that, a little bit about what else I've been up to.

Monday night saw me at dance class at Dance Base. I'd really like to do an over 60's ballet class, but it's fully subscribed and next term I'm not sure I'll be around enough to be able to justify my booking it. I'll have to wait and see. But at least the class I did was a good one from an exercise perspective. And then on Tuesday I started a philosophy class in Edinburgh. It was actually very interesting. It's a 10 week course on basics of philosophy and I'm sure I'll learn a lot. Then Wednesday was time to go to London.

I met up with the current man in my life, but I'm sorry to say I've decided it's going nowhere, so I've decided the occasional dinner will be fine, but no more. Not sure he agrees.

Thursday my mother arrived back from Sicily. I managed to get her insurance company to pay for the tests for her memory (but sadly she couldn't remember going to the GP to ask for this to take place... oh dear... enough said!). Friday was fairly relaxed with an evening out at a wine bar and then Saturday morning saw the psychiatrist coming to my mother's house for an initial assessment.

It was a fascinating interview, which involved a lot of my mother forgetting things like she'd lost her way recently on a bus and told the psych in no uncertain terms, 'I NEVER take the bus', which turned out to be blatantly untrue according to my brother and our company secretary. But this just goes to add to the ever deteriorating picture of my mother's mental capacity.

Then, after the psych left, my mother asked me, 'who was that woman and what was she doing here?'. I have to say, even I've been impressed by my patience, however, it was a touch tried when my mother offered me a ticket to the English National Opera's dress rehearsal of Tosca. I went to the theatre to find my mother hadn't actually bought a ticket, but as luck would have it they'd just had a free one returned, so I got in free anyway. It was a hugely enjoyable experience too, but tinged with a touch of irritation that nothing my mother says can now be taken as true.

Yesterday I spent a wonderful evening with some of my lovely London friends, who sadly are going through the same experience with their parents and I didn't get to bed until the wee small hours.

Today I managed to get to Kings Cross in good time to get my train and as we were all sitting on it waiting for it to depart there was a message over the tannoy. The train was going nowhere. Nor was any other train on the East Coast line. A train further north had run into some cows on the line.

I had to make my way to Euston, get on a train to Manchester, then get on another to Leeds and then get on another to Berwick. And that is the short version of what proved to be a very long day. I was relieved to get home only 5 hours later than planned and all I could think was about those poor cows. I also met some very lovely people and my journey was made all the lighter because of them. Some clouds do have a silver lining.

It sure is good to be home though.


Sunday, 25 September 2016

Part of the cool crowd?

Yesterday was just one of those amazing days.

It started out with my having to go to Bathgate to interview the person who took my job as she wants me to supervise her. I actually managed to find her place with only one slight detour, which is amazing for me. We had a very good session and will make up our minds over the next week or two. Then I had to zoom into Edinburgh to get ready for a dance class.

I'd booked to do a Mamma Mia dance workshop, which was 1.5 hours of full on dancing and was great fun. By the time that was finished at 4.30 a group of us went out for a cuppa together and I realised it's been a while since I was with such a friendly group of people.

After that it was a quick shower and change for my evening activities. A year ago I did a poetry course through the Poetry School with Ryan Van Winkle as my tutor and consequently I'm on his email list. He emailed me a couple of weeks ago about an event he was hosting called The Golden Hour Presents White. Apparently a few years ago he and his comrades used to put on a monthly thing called The Golden Hour, which was, what they term, a 'literary cabaret', but they stopped it after they felt it had run its course. However, they wanted to try something new and White was it. Anyway, it was only £7 and sounded like it might be interesting so I booked to go.

I arrived at the Leith Theatre to be handed a white, disposable boiler suit and a white garbage bag to put my coat and bag in. I was beginning to wonder what on earth I was in for, but sat down and put on my boiler suit. Sitting next to me was a woman and we started chatting. The upshot of that is that she knew quite a lot of the performers and people there and introduced me to this fascinating guy who runs what he calls 'a salon'. Every 6 months or so he invites musicians, poets and storytellers to come to his house (which is apparently huge) and they do their thing in front of an audience of about 40 people. The thing is though that no-one gets paid, they just do it for the love of performing in a safe space, so it means they can try out new work and get feedback and the audience is really appreciative too.

Then it was time for the event. We trooped into the hall, which was totally decorated in white. The walls, floors and tables were covered. I sat with my new mates, my wine in hand and there was a lovely camaraderie amongst everyone. Then the performances began. Singers, poets and groups all did their thing, with 2 intervals so we could go and replenish our drinks. We had some great performers such as poet, Vicki Feaver and I was quite taken with singer/songwriter Lake Montgomery. It finished with the band Withered Hand, who were fantastic, and at that point everyone got up and started dancing. Then all the tables were pushed back and we were given small pots of paint to fling at each other and paint our white overalls. I know it sounds a bit odd, maybe even juvenile, but it was so much fun, it really was. And after the band we continued dancing to a disco. I had such a great time and even better, Chris (the 'salon' guy) has invited me to the next one he's having in December.

I had to go and wash my face before getting the bus back to where I was staying as I was covered in all kinds of colours and didn't want to be stared at.

What a great night it was. I never knew these things happened in Edinburgh. My Scotstralian friend, Jim, had shown me a music side of Edinburgh that I didn't really know went on when he was over earlier in the year, but this was a completely different level. Jim's was far more touristy, this was unutterably cool and a bit more underground.

It's actually made me feel that I'm almost ready, at least mentally, to make that move from village life to city life. I might just end up part of the cool crowd yet!



Sunday, 18 September 2016

Another week goes by

Robbie came and went, London came and went and I've stayed in Edinburgh as well. It's all been in a flurry of speed so I every morning I find myself waking up and wondering which town I'm actually in!

I had a bit of drama returning from London, where the new mobile ticket system (on my phone) showed the flaws in that system, but unusually I got a wonderful response from the ticket office at King's Cross, where a guy called Chris Brown, helped me hugely and restored my faith in human beings.

Prior to that, certain people in my life had caused me to wonder what the hell was going on, but I've decided to blame it on the full moon. Far easier than trying to work out the unworkoutable!

So now I need to settle down for a small window of calm before I have to go back down to London to help my mother transition (yet again) at the end of the month after yet another holiday she's decided to go on. The good news is that my brother has agreed that he'll also become involved in trying to help with my mother, which is a huge relief for me. The next hurdle we have is getting the Power of Attorney sorted out, but given that my mother keeps going away and the solicitor involved is also away a lot it's going to be a while I think before it gets finalised.

The other bit of news is that Odi (now called Poppy) had her 3rd birthday and the people who have her sent me this absolutely lovely pic of her looking so happy. The email I was sent was full of how much Poppy is a loved dog and it makes me feel over the moon to know she's found a brilliant forever home where she can spend her life doing what comes naturally to her, which is just being a dog.

A happy, happy dog!



Sunday, 11 September 2016

Relax? Not much!

Well that's been a hugely busy week!

London was good in some ways. I spent time with the new guy in my life, which is in its early days and not sure how I feel about it all, but it's still going, so that's something. The rest of the time was spent with other friends and with my mother.

My mother was really ill when she got home, but in spite of feeling like that and hardly being able to get out of bed she decided she wanted to go on a planned trip to Northern Ireland with a group of people for a long weekend where they have to be up at 7 and things all day and night. I give up! It's so hard when she just won't do the best for herself, but she's scared of dying and so doesn't want to sit still. She's off to Sicily in a couple of weeks too. However, I've called a family meeting on Wednesday to see what care we can put in place that might be acceptable for her because she really can't cope on her own and I don't want to move to London. You may now call me selfish, but there you go.

So that's me off to London again this week.

Then my music pal, Jim from Australia, turned up at my door on Thursday just after I'd got home. We were talking so much (and I have to say a fair amount of alcohol was involved too) and didn't get to bed til really late. Then on Friday we went to the Linlithgow Folk Festival, where he played and had fun. We also went to see a bluegrass band, but they were just ok so we left at half time, and then we went off to another venue he could impromptu play at. I got bored at that point and left him to it.

On my way back to Edinburgh (where I was staying for the night) I got a call from a friend and we ended up having a great evening at Monpellier's in Bruntsfield and that was another late night.

Saturday saw me having an extended lunch with a friend that lasted for 4 and a half hours! We had a blast. It was at Thai Lemongrass in Bruntsfield, which has good, cheap Thai food.

And then it was home. I was exhausted! So much so I took today off to recuperate from all my activity and get myself ready for this week.

It's starting tomorrow when I've got Robbie the Guide Dog puppy coming for the day and we're going into Edinburgh for some training time and also so I can see my sons. Then Tuesday morning I head off early for London. Hopefully will get home on Thursday when I can take a bit of time out and relax. That would be good!

Unbelievably I now have plans in place for next year right up to October! It's freaking me out a bit, because in some ways, as there's a lot of travel involved, I sound a bit like my mother, which isn't such a good thing, but hilarious to contemplate!


Saturday, 3 September 2016

Tales from Holy Isle and Vespa's birthday pics

The retreat went well and the feedback was very good. I took a picture of my favourite view on Holy Isle, which is looking down the pathway, through the garden and through the gate where you can (just) see Lamlash on Arran in the distance.


My favourite view

One of the most amazing things we did was go on an evening boat trip around the island. We never go round to the east of the island as it's a nature reserve, but the offer of seeing it from the water was too much for all of us. Grant, who's the manager on Holy Isle, was debating with me whether to call it a cruise or not. I said that if it was a cruise I'd expect cocktails and dancing. Well, the funniest thing was that, when we got on the boat, the boatman gave us all crisps and nibbles. Grant looked at me and we had such a laugh... I really was expecting cocktails to come next. They didn't, it stopped at the crisps, but it was a funny moment. Or maybe you just had to be there to see the humour!!

However, one of the other things about Holy Isle is that you can be guaranteed to find heart-shaped stones on the beach. There's heaps of them. But when we were round the east side of the island, there in the hillside, was a heart-shaped formation. It was such a surprise. Sadly, because my hands were so cold, it took me too long to get my camera to work on my phone, so I didn't get the best picture, but I do hope you can see it well enough. And it's not man-made.

Heart on the hillside

The day I got back was Vespa's 2nd birthday and I got a wonderful set of pics of him from his new person and his wife. It was just so lovely.


Vespa at 2

As a payback for their kindness I put together an album of Vespa's time with me and here's one of the first pics I took of him.


Vespa on 21st October 2014

He was so teeny tiny that it's hard to believe he grew to be the 32 kg tank he was when he left!

Vespa at Forfar on 8th April 2016

I'm now off to London as my mother is coming back from the Isle of Wight where she's been for the whole of August and being ill and in bed. I'm going to see her transition to her home in London and make sure there's food and generally checking on things for her. I'm hoping it's only going to be 4 days, but at least while I'm there I get to go to dinners with friends, which I'm looking forward to.

Hopefully be back at the end of the week.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Talk about stress!

This last week has been incredibly stressful.

My mother was taken into hospital, taken out again, been near to collapse and feeling great... so the whole gamut of being an elderly human all in the space of one week.

My younger son was in a production of The Mikado at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Talk about stressed... and that was both him and me! Luckily I can report that the show was incredible and he was absolutely fantastic. Phew! Relief, relief, relief!

I had a great couple of days going to things at the Edinburgh Festival, which included some very intellectual events about Compassion and also Philosophy and some music things too.

I've now got the lovely Folly, an ex-Guide Dog pup (who was withdrawn for skin problems and not for bad behaviour). She's incredibly easy to have as a house guest. She came here before when just a wee puppy and Odi was here. It's so great to have a dog here again even if it's only for 24 hours.

Odi and Folly when she was about 12 weeks old

Folly all grown up

Susan and Gordon (Folly's owners) are also boarding Meg, a 17 week old lab/retriever cross who is absolutely adorable. I even got a cuddle!

A cuddle with Meg

Next I'm off on a retreat, which I'm facilitating, on Holy Isle. The second one this year and the last one of it's kind that I'm running. Next year will be all change as I'm preparing a new 7 day retreat.

I have a bit of work today, creating a workshop for GP's I'm doing in October, and then it'll be full steam ahead for retreat organisation with a quick trip back up to Edinburgh tonight for a final Festival fling.

So hopefully there'll be no more stressful events this week... but who can tell!


Monday, 15 August 2016

Trouble with technology?

As some of you may know, I'm not all that fond of sweet things. However, when I was in Thailand there was a coconut and tapioca flour cake that was really delicious. They gave me the recipe and when I got home I made a batch, which tasted great.

I came across a coconut today and decided I'd make some more, so got out my trusty food processor and managed to slice my thumb in the process by forgetting that the grater blade is double sided and also has a slicer on the other side. I found out the slicer was pretty sharp!

Having got through 3 plasters as the wound wouldn't stop bleeding I needed to use my iPhone. I've become so accustomed to using my thumb print as ID to sign in rather than numbers that I'd almost forgotten what my numbers were!

Then I had a phone conversation with my friend Shirley and was bemoaning that I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to use my thumb print again as there'll be a scar, when she enlightened me that I can have more than one fingerprint - in fact I can have as many as I want.

I'm now back at being able to let the numbers go and can fingerprint my way in.

Good thing someone's read the iPhone instructions!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Dog pics

My holiday is now officially over. Work has had to be done in London today and again tomorrow and I'm finding it hard to engage my brain!

I promised some pics of Sara's dogs, so here's some for you:

Me with Clarence trying to be a lap dog and Myrtle getting jealous

Myrtle manages to displace Clarence!

Clarence displaces everyone!

Clarence is exactly the same age as Vespa, to the day. So he's going to be 2 on 30th August. He currently weighs in at over 70 kg and is still growing! Myrtle is only 14 months old and so she has an awful lot of growing to do.... it'll be interesting when I go back next year to see by how much.

And here's a pic of the house. It's right in the middle of farmland and is incredibly picturesque. They have loads of outhouses and stables both to the right and left of the house and many acres too. Just lovely.

The house from the front gate


 
The early morning view from my bedroom window looking out over the garden to the fields beyond



Friday, 5 August 2016

Summer hols in France

I've been in France for the last 6 days and having a wonderful and very restful time. The weather hasn't been brilliant (although is getting better daily), but spending time with my friends, Sara (who I've known for over 50 years) and her husband Kzryztof, brings with it the joy of them not expecting anything more from me than to be myself and relax.

I've done some shopping - mainly Morrocan type towels that I like and are super cheap over here and some Italian linen trousers and a dress from the market we always go to - and cooking. Oh yes and eating and drinking of course. Well, no point in being in France without doing what the natives do!

Today Sara and I decided to be tourists and went to the Chateau de Vendeuvre, a lovely place about 50 km north of where I'm staying. They had the most fascinating museum of miniature furniture I've ever seen and is well worth a visit for that alone.

It also has an incredible garden with hidden water features that spray you if you're not careful! We had a lot of laughs about that!



The back view of the castle



The back garden!



One of the many 'surprises'! This one managed not to wet us too much!



Stunning view over the flower field to the castle

The rest of my time en France has been spent playing with the Great Dane's - they have 2, Clarence who's 23 months and Myrtle who's 13 months and so are still both growing and are absolutely gorgeous and pics will be posted when I actually have some.

Tomorrow and Sunday are Vide-Grenier days, which are a bit like car boot sales but French style and are good fun to go to just to wander around and get caught up in all things French.

And that's about it for now. Hope you're enjoying your summer as much as I am.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Dan the Guide Dog comes to stay

I've had the pleasure, the last 4 days, of having the wonderful, very handsome Dan The Guide Dog to stay with me. He's here on his holidays and is a dream dog to have around.

The utterly gorgeous, very smiley Dan

He's so well behaved and a great companion. We had a day in Edinburgh on Friday, when I had to go to a meeting at The Scotsman with the person who took my last job. It was a fascinating meeting from all kinds of perspectives - mostly though the relief I feel at not having to do the job myself - and Dan did just what he was supposed to do, which was sleep and he did that for just over 2 hours. Then we went back to No. 2 Son's house and got ready for dinner.

Dan, getting ready to sleep at The Scotsman

Both my boys came out to have No. 2 Son's belated birthday dinner at Wedgewood in the Royal Mile. They were really good about the dog and had arranged for our table to have lots of room so Dan could lie down, which he did as soon as we got there and went to sleep until it was time to go. Just brilliant. The food was great too and a lovely evening was had by all.

Then, when we got back to the house, Dan went out for a quick pee and then came in and went straight to bed not to stir until I got up the next morning at 8.

Today we went to the music festival at Paxton House to listen to Granny Green, an amazing trio who play their own brand of folk music using a trumpet, accordion and tuba. I was very impressed and they certainly had my feet tapping. They really are quite unique and I urge you to see them if they're on near you. Dan, of course, just went to sleep bless him.

Dan, getting ready to sleep by blending in with the floor at Paxton House!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Baking for my baby

I'm now not just in a post holiday depression, but a post Wimbledon blue as well and I still have my cough. However, I've had to turn my mind to other things.

Today is No. 2 Son's birthday. He's 30! I can hardly believe he's that age... it's not that age bothers me at all, just that it only seems a moment ago he was a baby. And, as my mother keeps telling me, the youngest is always your baby. Poor guy!

Anyway, yesterday, to get myself out of my PHD and PWB I made the decision to bake a birthday cake. You have to bear in mind I haven't baked a cake pretty much since No. 2 Son left home to to to Drama College in Fife when he was 17. But I've kept all my baking stuff hidden in a cupboard for all those years.

I'm pleased to report that, with a touch of angst and flour all over the kitchen, I managed to bake this:

My first cake effort for 12 years!

Yes, it's a bit lopsided, but it's a cake and that's the main thing. And given that I really don't like chocolate, let alone cake, I think I did a great job to put up with the smell. Not only was it in my kitchen, but also in my car when I drove it up to Edinburgh today, along with a balloon to give him a surprise when he got home from work today.

I also dropped into his work... well really, what do you expect? Of course it's a mother's job to embarrass her children and I think I do that part of the job pretty well, if I say so myself!




Sunday, 3 July 2016

The dilemma of a world traveller

After a lovely couple of last days in Thailand, where everyone was very sweet to me and it was almost tears all round when I left, I had a pleasant, uneventful flight back to the UK on my EVA Air flight.

I think I've said before how much I love the pyjamas they give us, which are great. They're made from lovely soft cotton and this year's version are blue and green (last year it was a kind of sandy brown colour) and cosy comfy, especially when it's cold. I was very pleased that, in spite of the fact that I flew out at 3.20 pm - after a 2 hour delay as there'd been some technical hitch before the plane left Taipei (which is always destined to make anxious passengers even more so when they make that announcement), however the EVA Air lounge at Bangkok is just wonderful, with fab food and drink and very comfortable to hang out in - they still gave us pj's. This is a whole lot better than Qantas, who, if you fly during the day, don't give you such niceties, as they reserve their pj's (a nice light cotton grey pair) for night time flying only. You have been warned.

I arrived at my mother's house in London at 11 pm feeling very sprightly as, of course, I was still 6 hours ahead and it was morning as far as I was concerned. I did manage an hour's sleep, but that was it. I also discovered I'd come back with a cold... a great parting gift from the dining room manager in Hua Hin, who'd come down with it 3 days before I left.

London was OK. Not too cold. My tan was greatly admired by all and sundry and I spent my time staying out of my mother's way, even though she was actually in a reasonably good mood. She was out quite a bit herself, so it worked out pretty well. I even went, on her recommendation, to get my nails done in M&S in Oxford Street, which I can highly recommend, and was a laugh a minute with the other ladies who have nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon and only cost a tenner.

Then I had to tear myself away from Murray playing pretty well at Wimbledon and went out for dinner last night. Luckily I'd borrowed a brolly from my mother's house as about 5 minutes after I left there it chucked it down. My feet were pretty wet, but they soon dried off over my salmon and salad with white wine meal at Harry's Bar where I was taken. However, I cried off early as jet lag really started to set in and I was in my bed by 9.30 pm.

At least, because of the awful weather that's been around this week and because I purchased a 1st Class ticket while they were going pretty cheaply a few months ago, I sat back on my journey back to Scotland enjoying the delights of the extra day at Wimbledon for the few hours it took me to get home.

I'm already missing the Thai heat and we're due more rain tomorrow, so I might just have my first day back home resting up and watching tennis while I make up my mind if I'm in the mood to wear my EVA Air pj's or my Qantas ones. 1st world dilemma or what?!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Thoughts on coming home

You will no doubt notice that I've said nothing about the referendum. Well until now that is. It's been most interesting watching it all from afar and with the Bangkok News (THE paper of choice - or at least that's what it says on the masthead) for my catch up.

Many of the guests here asked my opinion, and as the result unfolded there was a shaking of heads and a distinct air of worry as to how this was going to pan out across the world. The Thai Government has already announced that it's leader would not stand down if the vote here (which is happening very soon) doesn't go his way... or in his words in today's paper, 'I will not do a David Cameron. The situation in our country is very different.' Well yes, that's true as it's a military junta and it seems they can do pretty much what they please no matter what the populace decides.

I'm coming to the end of my stay here and I can't say I'm thrilled to be coming back to a divided country, which undoubtedly will become more divided as, without doubt, the SNP will call for another vote on Scottish Independence. Yes, we did vote already on that and decided what we wanted, but now the landscape has changed and so, apparently, have the rules of democracy i.e. we're only democratic when people agree and if you don't... well we'll have another vote!

For my part, if I'd been able to vote (my postal vote will undoubtedly be waiting for me in the pile the Post Office will deliver after I'm home), I'd have voted remain. But that's by the by now. We now have to get on and make it work, no matter how tough that is, but I fear all the political fall out from it all will take years to overcome and in the meantime that means instability for us all.

However, on the bright side, I've been offered work back here again next July. Probably not the best time to come to Thailand weather-wise, but I'm happy to be asked and who knows what will be going on by next Summer in the UK, so any chance to be away has, in my view, to be grabbed with both hands.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Party Chiva Som style


The staff party was hilarious. First of all we had to wear masks and choosing them was quite something. Because the chairman of the company was in the HR office and it was the HR Manager who'd purchased a whole lot of masks for everyone, she had to secrete them to the locker room (as the chairman didn't want evidence of the party in a work office), where it was a bit of a bun fight picking one.

The Communications Manager, my friend Teresa, and I immediately spotted a silver one that we both liked. I managed to grab it first, but then decided that actually it might look better on her, so I ended up with hers, which was a black lacy effect one. Pretty damn scratchy too!

Then, the whole shindig was held at this amazing place called Venezia, which is Hua Hin's version of Venice. I can't actually say that it resembled Venice in any shape or form that I recognised, but rather it reminded me of a very downmarket Las Vegas attempt! However, we did have a red carpet to have our pics taken on.

The Doge's Palace?
Your guess is as good as mine!

Our masks lasted all of 5 minutes, as the moment we could we just took them off! A friend of mine, Natasha, had taken a bottle of wine for us to share, but Tal (one of the naturopaths, who was my companion for the night) declined any and as Teresa was driving, that left the whole bottle for just the two of us. On each table there was a bottle of Thai whisky (which I'm not sure would pass any whisky tasting test in Scotland), which smelled more like brandy than whisky and I'd been advised to steer well clear of... and Tal decided he would chance that. Brian, the Facility Manager, who joined our table kept Tal company in the whisky drinking stakes.

The food wasn't the best, a kind of Chinese Thai mix of not the best variety, so I didn't eat much. So what with little food and the wine and Tal and Brian loading on the whisky, we were actually a very jolly party!

One lovely thing though, is that the party is a true celebration of the work force and the chairman gave out certificates of good work practice, flowers and presents to the 2 employees of the year and everyone who has worked for the company for 5, 10, 15 and 20 years respectively got a special gold gift. I think it's something like a ring for 5 years, a bracelet for 10 and getting more and more expensive as the years go by, which I thought was a lovely touch.

There were over 200 staff there, which just goes to show how many people it takes to run a place like Chiva Som and it was lovely to see everyone let their hair down and enjoy themselves.

The funny thing was though, was that, to me, with the music from the band strictly 50's and 60's (the chairman is a member of the band and is renowned for singing 'Johnny B Good'!) it felt like I was in a time warp. And because most people had dressed up to the nines, I kind of felt I was at a wedding party circa 1958!

By 10.30 Tal and I decided we'd get the bus back, but it turned out the bus was non-existent, or at least it hadn't turned up when it was supposed to, so Teresa very kindly gave us a lift back, for which we were very grateful.

Here are some pics for you:

Me waiting at the Staff Bus complete with scratch mask!

Tal and Me just before we took our masks off


Natasha and Teresa
Some of the Holistic Team + Teresa, who joined us for the evening, all glammed up!

Monday, 20 June 2016

... and it's back to Thailand

I'll bet you thought I'd disappeared of the face of the proverbial, but the truth is I've been busy. I'm not sure quite with what, but the time has truly zipped by.

My time in Perth was fantastic. The weather wasn't brilliant, but it didn't mar anything.

I was picked up on my arrival by my friend, Jim, and whisked off to his place to have dinner with him and his wife and then we went out to a jazz club. As I had been 2 hours ahead in Sydney, it turned into a very late night. I really enjoyed myself, though the table next door to ours and I were rocking the music and in the end we all decided I would have been better off at their table!

The next day Jim took me on a tour of South Perth where he lives and to his office and from there into Perth itself. We walked across the Narrows Bridge to Kings Park and amazing views of Perth, South Perth and down the Swan River to Fremantle. A lovely lunch in the park and then a wander round town, a stop at a pub and a good catch up with all that we'd both been doing since we last saw each other and finally took a water bus back over to South Perth. Then it was out to dinner at a restaurant on the jetty, Mister Walker's, which was ok... not brilliant, but it was a lovely location looking out over the lights of Perth. Of course I forgot to take my phone, so no pics of that!

The next day I went on a 6 km walk down the Swan River foreshore. It was just amazing. Flat parkland flanking the river and quite beautiful. Then Jim and I went off for a drive to the Swan Valley wine region for lunch, where we had a wine tasting at Jane Brook Winery and a picnic lunch out on the porch. Then Jim decided we should go on a wine crawl and he wanted to go to Sandalford. Ok, this sounded great. We got in the car and zoomed off. This would have been fine except we'd travelled quite a long way and couldn't find it. Jim put his phone on and asked Siri where we were. The voice came out saying, 'You are in Brigadoon'. I'm sorry, but at that point I was in hysterics and almost pissed myself laughing. We turned around and then Jim spied some lemons on a tree at the side of the road and he encouraged me to get out and pick some. I was still laughing from the Brigadoon gaff and lemon picking just made me laugh even more.

Picking lemons from the side of the road in hysterics!

And of course Sandalford turned out to be just down the road from where we'd started! Jim was pissed off and I just couldn't stop laughing.

We eventually got back to South Perth, 8 lemons to the good, feeling very mellow from our day out. Then it was out to dinner at an Indian restaurant along with one of Jim's sons, Ian, and his lovely wife, Kate and their 2 boys. It was a very companionable evening.

On the Friday I went off to Fremantle on my own. I sailed down the Swan River on a Captain Cook cruise. That day in Perth it was raining, but by the time we got to Fremantle the sun was shining and it was just brilliant. I took the free bus to orientate myself and then decided on a walk along the beach by the Indian Ocean.

On the beach at Fremantle

Then it was off to look at some exhibitions. I went to the Shipwreck Museum, which was fascinating and then met up with an underwater photographer and went to see his exhibition, which was great. Then it was time to head back to Perth on the cruise.

Perth in the distance from the Captain Cook cruise on the Swan River


The sun was shining, the dolphins were playing, lunch on board with wine and all in all it was a great way to spend a day. I loved Fremantle.

Looking over to Perth from South Perth

That evening was Jim's CD launch for one of his bands, Jimjam. It was a fun night and I got involved with a crowd of guys who plied me with wine and kept me laughing all night.


The next day was my last in Perth and Jim and I took a long walk with his wife's dog, Jyoti. All along the foreshore are exercise machines and Jim insisted on showing me how good he was... I made no comment at all!

Jim doing his thing, or in this case posing, though I think Jyoti did a better job of that!

On the way we passed a whole jetty full of pelicans... what a delight!

'Pelican city' South Perth foreshore

And then we had a final lunch together at Mister Walkers, which was lovely. After that it was back to Jim's house to watch him make his bean chilli hotpot for the musical soiree that we were going to before I got my plane back to Sydney - which was leaving at 11.55 pm.

Jim cooking up a storm in his goggles to prevent an onion attack!

My final evening was spent at the musical soiree, where a whole bunch of bands get together and have a half hour slot to play their stuff, while their fellow musos drink and eat and don't dance... no sirree... far too cool for school! One of the guys who'd plied me with drink the night before and had taken a shine to me plied me with drink again and then it was time for me to go get my plane.

I arrived back in Sydney at 6.15 am Sydney time - which is 2 hours ahead of Perth time, so it was 4.15 in the morning! I made it back to my hotel no bother and spent the day with my friend Su and recovering from my early start. Then it was out being sociable in the evening to a place called The Camelot Lounge, where Su and I and everyone else in the place danced non-stop to a fantastic Columbian band. I was adopted by these gorgeous young people at the table next door. 2 of the women were Columbian and one from France... the 2 Columbians married to a German guy and a guy from Iran. They were a fantastic bunch of people and I had a ball.

My lovely adoptees
Me with my girls!

On my final day in Sydney, I wandered around for the day. The guy who was supposed to be taking me to lunch had got the date wrong (I'm saying nothing!) and so I had the day to myself. I went all the way to Mrs McQuarrie's Point and sat in the sun watching a plane write 'marry me' in the sky.

How romantic!

I also had my last photo of me and the bridge and opera house.

Final Sydney photo call

And then for my final evening my friend Su and I went for a slap up meal at The Gantry, an upmarket place on the waterfront near Darling Harbour.

The next morning was an early start (5.45) to get my plane back to Thailand. I was a touch disappointed that I didn't get a second pair of Quantas pyjamas (which are really very nice), but I think they only give them out on a night flight. But the wine and food more than made up for it. I arrived back in Bangkok no problem and was met by my driver and aircon limo, which was just as well as it was 38 degrees and we were stuck in traffic trying to get out of Bangkok. I eventually arrived in Hua Hin at what would have been midnight Sydney time, so was exhausted and pleased to get to my bed.

I had a day off before starting work again. The last few days have been pretty low key as there are renovations afoot and so there's only about 28 guests in the place. So I've spent my mornings going on long walks along the deserted beach, which is fab. I aim to do 6 km a day and so far am on track and feeling pretty fit.

The beach at Hua Hin. On the hill at the end is the golden Buddha statue
And here he is

Then in the afternoon I get a bit of sunbathing in and doing a bit of work with the staff. I still have my morning class twice a week and my talk once a week, but it's all pretty low key.

One of the lovely things is though, they're having the annual staff party - a bit like a Christmas Party, but because it's high season at Christmas they have the party in June. Everyone's very excited and get dressed up to the nines. Although I brought a couple of dresses with me, I didn't really have anything suitable, but I bought a dress off a friend who comes from Chiang Mai before I left for Australia, so at least I have something to wear. It's a bit on the short side, but is pretty glamorous... ok, well maybe glamorous isn't quite the word... I think 'sexy' was the one they all used when they saw it!

So that's me for now. I'll report all from the party in due course, but I thought I'd leave you with this photo of a herd of goats that just leaped out from a side street when I was out walking the other day and I think thought I was herding them. They negotiated the traffic far better than most pedestrians do in Hua Hin!
The goat herd trotting down the pavement!