Easter weekend was a lazy few days spent lounging in the sun in Grandma’s Somerset garden. Hot, hot, hot!  We played croquet and badminton, did the crossword and ate too much.  There were dragonflies hovering over the pond, hoping  there might be some water.  No such luck.  I did go for a run along the river, and was foolishly enthusiastic when the boys decided to come too.  It was sweltering, even in late afternoon, and they ran the socks off me.  Life is so unfair.

And on that note, I’ve been doing loads of running recently in this wonderful weather.  Last night a group of us ran around the There and Back tracks around Bolton and Gifford; a lovely route through woods, by fields, alongside rivers.  There’s a wooden finger post on one of the paths that points There and Back again; one of these days I’ll get a photo.  Today I plodded up to Fa’side with Lynne and Jeanette for fantastic views across the Forth.  It would be nice, just for a moment, to feel that it was having some effect and that I might be losing a pound or two of the post-chemo excess weight.  Life can be very unfair.

So here are my April photos for this week’s Gallery.



How to spend Christmas Eve. 1st Instalment

So how do you like to spend Christmas Eve?

Option 1

A leisurely walk, maybe, in all that glittering new snow. Build a snowman and throw a friendly snowball or two at your offspring. Back home to a nice warm fire and listen to the Nine Lessons and Carols while making a few last minute mince pies and icing the Christmas cake.  A pleasant family evening meal then enjoy a glass of port and one of those mince pies while wrapping up the last presents in front of that roaring fire.  Perhaps venture out to Midnight Mass, although all that snow might pose a bit of a problem.  Wait up until the small hours when your teenagers might possibly be asleep and do the Santa Claus routine. (I did wonder about getting up early and doing this bit in the morning, but teens can be very unpredictable.)

Option 2

You’ve spent the 23rd cleaning, emptying the fridge, putting the rubbish out, packing, having a family meal with leftovers.  All that snow has been beckoning but has been firmly ignored.   Come the late evening, there’s just time to collapse in front of the fire with a glass of port and a pile of presents to wrap.  Early start on the 24th, pile into the car and head down the frozen motorway towards the green fields of the deep south of Somerset.  Brave the traffic jams on the M6/M5 parking lots but arrive in time for a warm welcome, a glass of wine and a huge evening meal, courtesy of Mother-in-law.  Head for the midnight service in the tiny village church and then the Santa Claus bit. Maybe next year I’ll set an alarm for the early hours so that we can sneak in unheralded. When do they grow out of stockings?

Option 3

Same scenario on the 23rd.  Tramp through the snow to load the car in the early hours of the 24th and set out a little nervously on the frozen motorways for our Christmas adventure.  The main roads are more or less clear so we decide not to take our normal route via Biggar through the hills of the Borders.  Good decision.  But in this version, the car breaks down near Glasgow.   Stops.  We turn round to head back along the M8 to home and the other car but it stops again. refuses to go any further. So, at 0830, we call the 4th emergency service, the AA.

With the prompt arrival of a 911 breakdown truck, things didn’t seem too bad initially.  After all, we weren’t that far from home.  But, as we drove off, our rescuer was told to drop us at the nearest services rather than take us home, and the AA would take over from there.  So it would be that, rather than icing the Christmas cake or heading down the road to that welcoming dinner in Somerset, we were destined to spend the day at Harthill Services.

Option 3, our choice of course, went something like this:

“There’ll be someone there at 11 to take you home.”

Just time for a cup of coffee and bacon rolls, then.

“It’ll be 1pm before we get to you.”

More coffee, keep the coats on (the snow outside was deep) and make use of the free WiFi.

“There’s someone on the way – 2.30”.

Buy a pack of cards.  Harthill Services is a petrol station with a small cafe, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure.

“The earliest we can get to you is 4pm.”

Groan.  Start wondering who we can call.  Whose numbers we’ve got and who would be brave enough to venture out in the deteriorating weather. And then, at 4.30ish:

“It looks like it’ll be midnight before we can pick you up.”

More to follow…

Family matters

We’ve had something of a family weekend. On Friday night we met my sister and her surely-will-be-famous-soon daughter for a meal at Mother India in Edinburgh.  Great meal, we’ll be going back there again.  It wasn’t quite long enough to catch up on all the news but we did hear a bit more about the impending permanent relocation to the Irish cottage and the difficulties of getting onto the Irish teaching register.  Having to provide every address where you have ever lived throughout your whole life, for instance, is probably a whole lot easier when you’re 22 and home has always been in one place than when you’re 50 something and have lived all over the world.  And she’s not quite sure of the relevance of all the units in her architecture degree, taken some 30+ years ago, even if the University can fill in the blanks, when she has been successfully teaching Design & technology or something like that for quite a number of years now.  

As an aside, as we were leaving the restaurant the boys spotted an off-duty teacher, Continue reading

Those Deathly Hallows

temp.jpgI was reading the new Harry Potter at breakfast the other day when GP2 took it off me, saying “You shouldn’t be reading that. You should be revising!”.  Too true unfortunately.  Surely three years can’t have whizzed by quite so fast?  I’m sure it was only last year that I did that much loathed 2 day First Aid at Work refresher course.  I know it is A GOOD THING to know some First Aid.  I know I have to keep my certificate in date as 10 minutes out of date and I’d have to do a 4 day course.  I know they all did the right things when I broke my ankle – after all, I’m a trained first aider and I know these things – they kept me lying down (not that I was planning on going anywhere) and they called an ambulance.  But I hate these courses, taught by people who I appreciate are trying to be helpful, friendly, interesting but always seem smug, in the gloomiest of buildings imaginable.  Anyhow, despite Harry Potter, and forgetting to call for help during the scenario, never mind potentially breaking the nose of the victim dummy during CPR, I am safe for another 3 years.  But please, don’t hurt yourself while I’m around.

So back to Harry Potter.  We missed the midnight launch this time as we drove to Somerset for the weekend; it would have been my in-laws’ 52nd wedding anniversary on Monday and Grandma is still finding life alone very hard.  What a wet weekend.  Wet, wet, wet.  Thank goodness we travelled down on Thursday and avoided the M5 floods on Friday.  Anyhow, despite waiting until Saturday morning for the book, GP1 had finished it by Monday morning and even GP2 had read it by Wednesday night.  I had to wait to get my hands on it but that’s it, done and dusted.  We need another publishing sensation now.  Who’s next? 

Health warning… the ending of the HP story follows shortly, so, as they say, if you don’t want to know, look away now!

On our drive up and down the country we listened to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – 11 CDs worth, and we haven’t quite finished yet.  Continue reading


We are a two car family.  On second thoughts, make that 2.5 – the venerable MGB still moulders away at the bottom of the garden under a dustsheet and the plum tree.  Anyhow, as my driving activites have been curtailed somewhat for the foreseeable future, we have recently attempted to add other drivers to the insurance.  First of all, Grandma.   “Too old!” said the insurance company, not appreciating that despite her years she is more active than the average 60 year old.  Then a friend’s car failed its MOT. “Borrow ours!” I offered.  “It’s going to be sitting there for the next 6 weeks.”  So I phoned the insurance company once more.  “That’s fine” they said.  “But he’s a Police Officer.  We can’t insure him for driving to work.”  Duh?  What do policemen do on their way to work?  “OK,  so put his wife on.”  “But she’s a housewife.  We can’t insure her at all.”  Clearly a high risk occupation, being a housewife.

The girl on the other end of the phone was both puzzled and apologetic.  I was apoplectic.  The car is still sitting there saving the planet.  This has to be bureaucracy at its finest moment.  So KwikFit, if you’re listening, we’ll be switching to DirectLine next year.  Adding an extra driver to one of their policies is simple, efficient and cheap.

Progress report

I had a bath this morning!  More information than you need, perhaps, but it was thanks to the arrival in the post yesterday of a Limbo.  It works! It’s wonderful! So thank you to Fearghal and Liz O’Neill for recommending this.  I then managed to get myself downstairs (we live upstairs) and along to the store for milk and a paper, all by myself. And back again, of course.  It’s these little things that mark the daily improvement and reassure me that I will not be like this for ever!  I have also started working on the mountain of seabed samples that are currently cluttering up the back yard although I can only sit for a certain length of time at the microscope with my foot down before said limb demands to be raised above hip height for a while.  It is definitely not possible to work at the microscope with my foot in the air.  Progress on the sample front is slow, but at least it has begun.

Meanwhile, having cancelled all my fieldwork for June, Continue reading

Sad news

My father in law died unexpectedly during the night.  It’s now 7am and I am just back from dropping my husband at the airport, neither of us having had much sleep.  There is never a good time for these things but, with the dreaded prelims starting this week, I can’t just take off to Somerset in support like I would normally do; the cousins have mock A levels this week so it’s the same for them.  The boys are still asleep so they don’t yet know that Grandad has gone.  We will all miss him.