Whither GP1?

It seems a long time ago since I started this blog. My concerns at that stage seem so distant. Life has indeed moved on. It is over a year now since Tim (aka GP2) left school and Standard Grades, Highers, SQA, Curriculum for Excellence, Leaps, are now of no more than passing academic interest. Time for a round up.

So, Chris/GP1/Ginger left that fine academic institution that is Ross High School three years ago with a respectable assortment of Highers, Advanced Highers and various other SQA offerings. I can’t really say, hand on heart, that he ever quite got studying but hey, he did what he needed. We suggested he took a year out to figure out what he really wanted to do before moving on to more studying but he didn’t want to, so onwards it was. I think perhaps he couldn’t visualise the alternatives to the school-college route – it was a sort of comfort blanket that didn’t require too much thinking. LEAPS summer school (he didn’t really get that, either) was followed by Sport Science at Heriot Watt University.

Oh dear. Oh Heriot Watt – do you have no student support system that flags up when things are not going as they should? It was obvious to us by Christmas Continue reading

Guineapigmum moves on

It is time to grow up, venture into the world alone, stand on my own two feet. The guineapigs are guineapigs no more. They’ve left school and are off doing other things. So I called in a PR company and, just as British Petroleum became BP and Environment and Resource Technology became ERT, I paid them many thousands of pounds to change Guineapigmum to GPM; I have, after all, become attached to it.

I’m relaunching my blog which has languished unloved for some time, partly because I want to share my plans for this summer’s Big Adventure, the Shin Swim. A friend and I are planning to swim coast to coast across Scotland. Well, swim and cycle – we can’t really swim upstream and crossing Scotland does mean crossing a watershed as any self respecting geographer will tell you.

Before closing this blog, I do plan to write a post with an update on the guineapigs, for those Edubuzz readers who have been with me all this time. But please don’t leave me – drop in at GPM goes wild!

Yesterday’s conversations No.2

Tim (GP2) to Chris (GP1): “Those are my shorts you’re wearing! ”

“All my things are in my suitcase. Mum told me to wash everything so I did.”

(So why, if he’d washed and packed everything, was I hanging his washing on the line this morning, I wonder.)

“I was going to wear them today! What am I supposed to wear?”

“Well, they were on the radiator not doing anything.”

“I put them on the radiator to dry. So’s I could wear them.”

“I needed some shorts.”

End of conversation.

It was the blatant complacency that got me. Big Brother was entirely in the right for the simple reason that he wanted a pair of shorts and those ones happened to be to hand.

I should be grateful, I suppose. In the old days this would have deteriorated into violence.

Yesterday’s conversations No. 1

“I’m in Aberdeen tomorrow” he said casually, as we drove home from the station. Nothing unusual about that – sometimes he’s working in Aberdeen several days a week.

“Oh,” I said, “what time will you be back?”

“Usual time. Maybe a bit later. I’m on the 4pm train.”

“What! We’re booked for 7pm. Don’t say you’ve forgotten.”

“Oh… Perhaps Continue reading

On islands

I recently spent a couple of weeks working on the beaches of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Life can be tough sometimes. It was the beginning of May, pre-midges and so often hot in Scotland. We did have lots of sunshine whilst the rest of Britain swam in rain but oh, so cold! There was a bitter north east wind for most of the trip which brought in hail storms for at least a couple of days.  Despite the wind, and dressed in our best winter outfits, we walked miles across some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and counted cockles, worms and anything that didn’t escape the sieve. We also found a little time Continue reading

The hunt for photo id

GP1 is flying to London this evening, for an American visa for his impending trip to the States with BUNAC. He will have to leave his passport at the US Embassy and needs some photo identification to fly home again. Yesterday we took the house apart looking for his student rail card to book train tickets for a trip to Newcastle on Wednesday. No joy. Today we took the house apart looking for his driving licence. Of course he has known for weeks that he needed some id for this flight. Of course he has known for days that he didn’t know the whereabouts of his driving licence.

We didn’t find the driving licence but I did find, down the sides of the sofas, the following:

  • Several male nail clippings;
  • Approximately 10 assorted pens and pencils;
  • The remains of a party popper;
  • Miscellaneous bits of Knex;
  • A few playing cards;
  • 25 Spanish pesetas;
  • £10.74 in loose change (all mine, as I was the one who bravely stuck my hand where no man would dare);
  • A lot of stuff too disgusting to describe.

After I’d excavated that lot he discovered he could use his old, recently expired passport for identification. His driving licence will have to wait a few ore days.

Eating out Italian style

Do you know that niggling feeling when there’s something not quite right? As we walked through the restaurant to a table in the centre, I felt there was something slightly out of place. We sat down, looked around and I realised that I was one of very few women in the place. All the tables were full of men – young men, old men, in-between men, – but definitely men. A business convention? I wondered for a nanosecond. As two well groomed twenty-somethings were shown to the next table, the penny dropped. Il Pirato del Porto was clearly part of the “lively gay and lesbian scene” we’d read about in the guide books.

We were in Italy in Bologna for the weekend, a post-chemo celebratory/break from too much work weekend and had been recommended this restaurant by the gentleman at our hotel reception. There had been a moment’s pause Continue reading

On strike

We’ve all been very relieved about the good news on the cancer front. Of course. I got big hugs from both the teenagers which nearly made me cry, as it only then sank home what it all really meant.

Later that evening one of the boys suddenly turned to me and said “So does that mean you’re going to start doing our laundry again?”


“Certainly not!”

I’ve been on strike since a particularly bad week somewhere near the start of the chemo when the washing mountain grew and grew and my idle offspring waited for me to deal with it. It was half term, I believe, so it wasn’t as though they were pressed with other duties.

Anyhow I’ve enjoyed being on strike and see no reason to regress. In fact, I regard it as my duty as a mother to stay on strike. Their future wives will surely thank me.

Now, do you reckon I could get them to clean the loo?


Yes! Punches air…

The CT scan last week was entirely uneventful. That was the first bit of good news. GPD met me on time at the clinic, despite a little detour through the wrong part of the hospital. That was the second bit of good news. But the headline news was that the scan was clear and the CA 125 was normal. Turns somersaults of joy!

We’re celebrating, but in a slightly muted way. A friend has just asked “Is it joy or is it relief?” It’s relief, I think. Of course it’s wonderful that I’m in remission again. The consultant, though, was at pains to stress that the cancer WILL come back – we just don’t know when. The longer I have clear the better, as the more chance there is of another round of treatment being successful. My body needs time to recover from this lot, for starters. We’re into the wait and see, with check-ups every three months and the knowledge that I’m unlikely to revert to six month intervals, let alone ever be signed off as clear. I am still coming to terms with the fact that I will be living with cancer for however long I last; I suspect that this may be even more difficult for the rest of the family to accept.

One of the problems of finishing chemo, that I remember so clearly from last time, is the transition Continue reading

Fish eyes

I remember a moment, many years ago as a baby diver, when my buddy grabbed me, signalling frantically at something on a rock. I was clutching a borrowed Nikonos camera with the smallest macro frame attached – this would photograph things that were a couple of inches across, nothing bigger. I peered at the rock but couldn’t see anything special. There were a few frilly things that might have been hydroids. There was a stripy bit which could have been a worm but didn’t quite fit. There was something black and round. I gave my buddy a puzzled glance and looked again. Then suddenly my mental search area shifted from the camera frame dimensions to the whole rock ledge and I gasped. I was looking at Continue reading

On CT scans

So my hate – hate relationship with the CT Scan Department continues.  My first encounter with this smiley, all singing dancing department is buried in the mists of that inital diagnosis four years ago. Buried but not lost. I remember vividly the absence of any suggestion in the letter I was sent that might have warned me I would be spending several hours in the department. I also remember waiting for maybe an hour in one of those unflattering gowns in the equivalent of a corridor with no idea what was going on. I particularly remember leaving in the early evening in a truly foul mood, worrying about the children I’d abandonned for far longer than planned.

Scan No 2, last summer, was more straightforward but perhaps more fraught. With No. 1 they weren’t expecting to find anything and indeed it was clear. No.2, on the other hand, was most definitely looking for something and sure enough, they found things. Ho hum. Hardly the fault of the CT Dept, of course – they were only doing their job, finding what shouldn’t have been there. But a smile or even some eye contact from the receptionist might have helped things along.

Scan No 3 came in the autumn, following the clearing out of all unsavoury abdominal bits. For the benefit of readers Continue reading

More trees

It is autumn, after all. Trees deserve several mentions. I went for a walk yesterday with Ray and Harvey, on a lovely autumn afternoon up through Ormiston Woods to find the yew tree. Ray has lived in East Lothian even longer than I have and, just as I had never seen the twisted pines until recently, Ray had never seen the Ormiston yew. Still, what’s 20 years or so in the life of this remarkable tree, which could be 1000 years old? It is recorded as a landmark as early as 1474 and John Knox preached in its interior at the start of the Reformation. It was presumably planted in the grounds of the original parish kirk, St Giles, which Continue reading

T is for Trees

Tara’s prompt this week is T. Just that, T. So I thought I’d show you some trees.

The twisted pines are behind the dunes at Yellowcraig in East Lothian. All these years that I’ve lived here and I’d never seen them before – we always go straight down to the beach at Yellowcraig and never wander around the back of the dunes. But last week I was helping GP2 with his project on sanddunes for Advanced Higher Geography. Not only did we measure across the dunes from the sea to the trees, we did zillions of quadrats so I had to learn to identify some plants that weren’t seaweeds. GP2 had to learn to identify some plants. We sat in the sunshine and counted and named plants together and afterwards we both agreed we’d enjoyed ourselves. This is not an activity I would ever have believed that I’d be doing with one of my offspring, let alone a willing, happy offspring.

We saw some spectacular strangler figs on our Big Holiday. We have dozens of photos of trees – that’s what you get when you go on holiday to the Australian rain forest – but I thought I should show you these. It’s difficult to get the scale – suffice to say Enormous! We also saw lots of palm trees but this one from Fiji was my favourite.

The day after chemo

Chemo days are long. They start in the middle of the night, 6 hours before the appointment, when I have a lonely midnight feast with a handful of steroids. Middle of the night feast, of course, not midnight. Do you remember those midnight feasts when you were little when you and your friends would hide away a bundle of sugar-hit goodies, and of course it was a secret and your mum didn’t know, but then you couldn’t last until midnight? Either you tucked in to the goodies at 10 o’clock, torch under the blankets, or you woke up in the morning and it was all still sitting there.

Anyhow, back to the chemo. My appointments at the moment are Mondays, and have moved from 9am to 11am. The 11am bit means I can get up at 6 to take my tablets, rather more civilised than midnight. Why not 5? Unfortunately the Monday bit means I have to get my pre-chemo bloods done on Friday, three days ahead, rather than the preferred 24 hours before. The way this drip-drip poison works is to kill off every fast growing cell it can find. Subtle, eh? Fast growing cells include Continue reading


It seems a lifetime but it was only two years ago. We went on a big family holiday, right round the world. Cancer had been banished and our eldest was on the brink of leaving school; it felt the right time to spend a month together, the right time to stop putting things off. We took a collective deep breath, phoned Trailfinders and bought the tickets. Singapore (to break the journey) – Queensland (Barrier Reef of course) – Sydney (well, you just have to, don’t you) – Fiji (came recommended) – San Diego (to visit Kris) – home. We had wonderful experiences from cities to wide sand beaches and rainforest. The boys learnt to dive on the Great Barrier Reef and then tackled the Rainbow Reef as though born to it. We ate all sorts of food, made new friends and met old ones. We stayed in hotels, on boats, in tents. And amongst all that, one particular day, our last on Fiji, really stood out for me; that was the day of these happy faces.






We’d spent a week at Dolphin Bay, a most wonderful, tiny dive centre accessible only by boat.  We needed 24 hours without diving before flying back to Nadi in an unpressurised tin can so chose to stay on the neighbouring island, Taveuni, and have a look about. We’d stood on the date line and messed about on a natural water slide (Wild Wadi eat your heart out). It was time for A Walk. The taxi driver agreed to call for us early on Sunday morning to take us along the island – there were a few paved roads – to Lavena in the Bouma National Heritage Park where there was a trail to a waterfall. Just time before our plane, everyone reckoned. You would think we’d suggested a spell in a torture chamber. A walk, for goodness sake! Why would two teenagers want to go on a walk!

So we set out and it was raining, on a path along the coast, past a village, through dense vegetation, over streams, Continue reading

Inspirational people

I’m sure we are all inspired by different people at different stages in our life. As a geeky teenager, I thought Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were where it was at as I trotted off to study French at university. I read everything I could get my hands on, in French of course. Can I speak French now? Of course not. As a young marine biologist I thought Sylvia Earle was just wonderful, and parts of me still do. But her image became tarnished when I heard her speak at a conference. She was “Me, me me!”, ran over her time by half an hour or more and then handed over to her photographer for another hour. Bad chairmanship of course, but I don’t think inspirational figures should really let on that they think they’re wonderful as well. It should be a one-sided affair.

Somewhere between Sartre and Earle, I met Monsieur Edwards, or maybe Edwardes – I don’t know the spelling and can’t remember his first name.  We were staying in Sombra, a cottage near Port Antonio, on the north coast of Jamaica. It was an idyllic spot with its own little beach, Continue reading

Dear David

It must be my guilty conscience working and I do realise that I haven’t yet phoned or emailed to thank you for fixing my misbehaving Netbook but working your way into my dreams is a little excessive, don’t you think? Yet there you were in the middle of the night looking down from some balcony or other – although of course it was almost certainly daytime wherever you were – and worrying, not about the Netbook but about a key which I hadn’t returned. A very tiny key with a fancy head. I wasn’t sure that I knew much about this key but there was something twanging on my conscience of course and I realised that the key was probably in the pocket of a blouse that was now in the washing machine. You would speak to your boss, you said and then things drifted on and I have no idea what the outcome of that conversation was. Or whether I retrieved the key from the washing machine. Or even what the key was for.

So I think I had better ease my conscience and say “Thank you!” for fixing my Netbook.

But as is wont to happen in the middle of the night, one thought drifted to another and a little web of connections began to form, all linked to you getting me started on this blog almost five years ago now, for reasons that are almost lost in the fog of time.  But I think that’s another post.

With thanks,


Colour Yellow

This week’s Photo Gallery is Colour. Just one colour, any colour. I thought you might like this view of Lindisfarne Castle from Gertrude Jekyll’s garden. I loved the blaze of colour hidden behind stone walls on a fairly bleak landscape. A few weeks ago we all spent a happy Sunday afternoon wandering around Lindisfarne before meeting friends in Beadnell for dinner. I’ve been over the causeway to Holy Island several times over the years, often for work, but for some reason none of the rest of the family had ever been across. It was very busy – lots of tourists on a sunny day – but that didn’t seem to matter. The little garden was a gem.







Legend has it that teenagers have no affinity with soap. This is of course a complete fantasy, as any parent knows that modern teenagers must have at least one shower a day, preferably more, each involving a clean towel from the airing cupboard.  So I wonder is the acronym SOAP an ironic nod by the East Lothian Outdoor Education team to this proclivity for cleanliness? Or does it have more to do with that early morning whiff that must have hit all of them at some time when they’ve unzipped a tent stuffed with teenagers on a Duke of Edinburgh trip, to try and goad them into action?

Anyhow the Secondary Outdoor Adventure Programme run by the Outdoor Ed team is taking a group of ten Sixth Years from the county High Schools into the Scottish Highlands for a series of weekends over the course of this year. Maybe it was the attraction of building snowholes Continue reading

The Ames Room

We tried to go to the Davis Cup tennis in Glasgow today. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons mostly involving prevarication, I failed to get tickets in time and there was none for sale on the door. So we went along the road to the Glasgow Science Centre instead, and had a very entertaining afternoon. The top floor was the best in my view. There is a relatively new set of exhibits up there called Mind Games, all to do with optical illusions. Whilst the holograms in the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh take some beating, there was plenty to make us think about in Glasgow.  Apparently they used the Ames Room illusion when they were filming the hobbits in Lord of the Rings. Take a look at these!

NB. Open the post to see the photos properly