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
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
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
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
I spend most of my life in, on, under, beside water of one sort or another, so Water as this week’s theme for the Gallery seems particularly apposite. It is raining at the moment. It has been raining non stop for about three days. However, it has not all been rain this summer and so to celebrate the fun days I thought I’d show you some of the watery things I’ve been up to.
Common Dolphins in the Sound of Canna – they have to bring a smile to your face! There were seals and puffins on Skokholm, although I swam around underwater wondering if it might be one of the last dives I would do. It won’t be but I was feeling particularly mortal at the time. And then it rained in Edinburgh. Torrential rain, hailstones, forked lightning over Arthur’s Seat, thunder and lightning every few minutes for over an hour, floods in Morningside. We sat outside the dive shop waiting for the rain to ease so that we could sprint across the road.
It might have rained in Edinburgh but it was sunny in Donegal when we dashed over for a few days. Continue reading
It’s one of the best sort of Saturday phone calls to get. “Are you doing anything this afternoon? Would one of you like a balloon ride? There’s a spare place!” (I was just typing “Someone’s dropped out” but thought that might not be too appropriate.) Four of us into one place. Hmm. GP1 wondered why we might even consider that he’d be interested and so then there were three. “Why would I want to do that?” To be fair, he truly hates heights. Well, I gave in and just pulled rank. Someone had to make the decision, tough though it was.
Pete, partner of our diving friend Sue, runs Alba Ballooning and was planning on flying – or should that be floating? – from the edge of the Pentlands that afternoon. And what a glorious, clear, sunny afternoon! We took off from near Easter Howgate, to the east of the Pentlands and flew east and northish across Midlothian. There were spectacular views of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat, the Firth of Forth, the Pentland and Lammermuir Hills and across East Lothian to Berwick Law and Bass Rock. It was quiet and still as we drifted along. Quiet, that is, until Continue reading
Head snaps round. Eyes swivel left. Is that my son talking? The one who had six wet towels on his bedroom floor the last time I arrived home from fieldwork? Well, I have to confess it was those six towels that did it, particularly when combined with the five more I found on his brother’s floor and the distinct absence of clean, dry, sweet smelling towels in the airing cupboard. But I’ve already told you about those. What I maybe didn’t tell you was that I threw a wobbly and when shortly after I left for yet another two weeks work, there were rules. Continue reading
Could this be me?
It’s me, it’s most definitely me. Does anyone fancy helping me make the application video?
Seriously, now – yes, I’m being serious – is there a class anywhere in East Lothian that could take time out of the curriculum between now and the end of February to make a 60 second video to entertain and impress the world? Finding something out about the Barrier Reef and the environment on the way? And then if I won, we could have fabulous link ups from an island to a classroom.
More of a dream than either hope or expectation, of course, as the whole world, including everyone I know, will be applying but hey! Someone has to win.
I’ve been tagged by Lynne to tell you seven things. I’m not sure there’s much you don’t know about me, as I’ve already dumped a large proportion of my life into these blog pages. However, prompted by some old photographs I came across the other day, here goes (and apologies if you’re heard most of this already):
1 The first alcohol I ever drank was Red Stripe beer. It was in Daphne’s bar, a roadside shack with reggae blaring out, somewhere by the road between Cow Bay and Kingston on the Jamaican south coast. We used to dive at Cow Bay every Saturday morning and stop on the way home at Daphne’s for escoveitched fish, sourdough bread and ice cold Red Stripe beer.
2 I was the 2nd woman to land on Rockall – by 5 minutes. The first woman went on Woman’s Hour to talk about it! But GPD and I are pretty sure we were the first people to dive with sharks at Rockall.
3 I did the Nevis River race in 1979 or 80, with a crazy bunch of mountaineering friends. We had to hurl ourselves into a raging torrent clutching a lilo, shoot the rapids and jump over the waterfall Continue reading
So that would be GP1, GP2 and GPD.
It became a basketful or more after I collected 3 wet towels from one bedroom floor and 4 from another then went into the bathroom and threw a wobbly at the pile of clothes on the floor. I collected it all, dumped it in the sitting room, and proclaimed that henceforth any clothes I picked off the floor would go into a bin bag and then the bin. And I wouldn’t be the one replacing them. It worked for a while…
On the 2nd day of Christmas my 3 boys gave to me…
…two piles of ironing and a basketful of dirty laundry.
Nothing new there, then.
On the 3rd day of Christmas my 3 boys gave to me…
…3am vomiting*, two piles of ironing and a basketful of dirty laundry.
It was Friday morning. The end of a glorious September week of sunshine, calm seas and early morning mists. At about the time that you were all settling down to your desks with that first cup of coffee or struggling with the first class at the end of a long week, I abandoned my duties as an average mum, ignored the pile of laundry, spurned the siren call of the vacuum cleaner, forgot the data entry mountain and swam to Fidra. And, you will realise, back. It was fab!
Now I’m not what you’d call an elite athlete. In fact, those of you who know me will appreciate that ‘athlete’ is an over-generous term. But over the last few years I have taken part in a number of triathlons. No reason, really, except that, like Everest, they’re there Continue reading
I’m not a great believer in the children missing school for any reason. They really have to be close to death before they can stay home sick and it takes a family wedding to get them the last day of term off. But they’re both taking a week out in April to go with the Ocean Youth Trust, a sail training organisation, on the Greater Manchester Challenge.
A friend had organised a group of youngsters from dinghy sailing clubs in Derbyshire to go on the boat but several dropped out recently and she was offering the places more widely. We initially turned it down as it was during term time for us – Easter holidays in other parts of the country – but GP2 was keen to go. Some more thought and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. The school agreed and have been very supportive about the idea; they’re not getting off scot free as they’ll have some reading and writing to do. Anyhow, they’re both going and so is their Manchester cousin. They’ll sail from Holyhead, probably out to the Isle of Man, and back to Liverpool.
Interestingly, although it’s expensive it’s a lot cheaper than some of the school trips on offer, presumably because we don’t have to cover staff costs. Travel costs will be helped by the fact that I have a meeting in Bangor that week which I’ve managed to rearrange for the Monday – they board on Sunday – so it’s all fitting in well.
And I’m very jealous.
It was Monday morning, yesterday now. I woke up knowing exactly where my legs were. As the morning wore on I learned to identify every individual leg muscle. The big ones at the front – the quads. And yes, there were the hamstrings. And the calf muscles, especially the one just above the titanium-reinforced ankle. But ouch! The worst were the ones in my bum, the glutes. They made their presence felt every time I stood up from my chair. If it’s that sore, it must be girls’ weekend away time.
I have friends who do girls’ weekends. They go to Dublin or Barcelona Continue reading
…London buses. With apologies to The Guardian. Lest I become permanently marked as a moaner and ranter, I thought it was time to write something positive. And I always enjoy the “In Praise of…” piece on the Guardian Leader page – an antidote to the ranting and complaining of so much media. I would like to write something about GP1’s recent school report. But that would be too depressing and would definitely negate the required positive, enthusiastic, upbeat tone I need. Perhaps I’ll wait until after Parents’ Evening for that one. So London buses it is.
I think it’s about 3 years, maybe 2, since our last extended visit to London. That was over Easter and was mainly memorable for GP2 breaking his two front teeth on a bench in the Imperial War Museum. We were in the Trenches at the time. Easter Monday was spent in dental casualty at Guys.
Our visit this New Year was less eventful, thank goodness, Continue reading
This is going to be a very selfish, mean-spirited, churlish, curmudgeonly, whingeing and Grumpy Old Woman sort of post. There. You’ve been warned. For more enlightened, friendly, positive, cheerful reading you could try some of the links on my blogroll instead. Iota’s started posting again about life in the States and she’s always entertaining and currently much more enthusiastic than me. Or there’s Reluctant Memsahib who writes about homeschooling, schooling of the boarding variety but mainly day to day living in the Tanzanian outback. And you could try Potty Mummy, Mother at Large and Pig in the Kitchen for general entertainment and cooking tips. Oh, and I nearly forgot Fidra books who are offering to give away books to schools. I hope you’ve all gone now so I can complain in peace.
Well, brother-in-law got engaged at Christmas. Good news! Exciting news, even, as his fiancee only appeared on the scene in September; Mother-in-law had, I think, secretly started to give up hope of any more grandchildren and suddenly hope came galloping into our Christmas celebrations. Sister-in-law to be, who keeps Continue reading
In fact, it goes on at such a pace there doesn’t seem to be time to write blog posts. And that’s with no significant work to do for a week or so. Bliss! Christmas shopping and meeting fellow bloggers without feeling that there’s something else I should be doing. Make the most of it. It won’t last.
So, in the last ten days I’ve had my second round of chemo, which was no problem, although I think it took a little longer to get over than the first. I did manage to get myself along to the EduBuzz meeting but was feeling slightly spaced out so I’m not sure I contributed anything coherent. In fact, I may have agreed to write something; it’s rather akin to agreeing to something at a party or with a pint in your hand. You wake up the next morning thinking “I said I’d do what?”. Anyhow, as I’m fairly certain I haven’t said I’d swim the channel for charity, I’m sure it’ll be fine.
I know everyone else is working, or living somewhere more exotic than Edinburgh, but my desk is clear for the first time in years. So Mother at Large and I are meeting for coffee tomorrow at the Cafe Grande in Bruntsfield. 1030 if anyone else can organise a skive. I’m hoping we’ll be able to wander up to visit the new Childrens Bookshop which I haven’t yet seen. Short notice, I know, but do come along if you can.
I’ve just read Salmon fishing in the Yemen which should, I think, be compulsory reading for all scientific civil servants. It was certainly compulsive reading, and very funny, with its descriptions of a whacky project to establish a North Atlantic salmon run in the Yemen desert, the inevitable political machinations that arose and the talk of big money. Running through it all is a sad but funny story of a sterile relationship and a career obsessed woman for whom the glass ceiling is merely a skylight in her penthouse suite. I charged through it in a couple of days and it set me thinking about strange projects I’ve been involved in over the years.
If I had taken a camera with me yesterday, I could have shown you one of our beautiful East Lothian beaches – blue sky, golden sand, glittering sea. Today, now my sister has gone home, I went for a dose of Vitamin D along the path behind the house to the woods. I should have had a video camera today, as I watched a real life action movie of a stoat chasing a rabbit to the death in a field of stubble and then dragging it off into the hedge. It was quite a fantastic sight, with the stoat lolloping and bounding above the stubble so that it looked as though it were flying whilst the rabbit squealed in terror. No video camera, so this YouTube clip will have to do.
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