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
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.
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
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 the week before Christmas and Tara’s Gallery theme is Sparkle. I don’t have time to write a new post and in any case these are my sparkle pictures of the moment – phosphorescent waves lapping on the shore in the Maldives. I don’t feel too guilty rejigging this post from a few weeks ago as the phosphorescence was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a long time and not many people spotted this post. So here’s my offering for Sparkle: Dancing on Stars.
It was our last night on holiday. Our bags were packed. GP2 was already in bed. We wandered out onto the beach for the last time. The full moon we’d had all week was now waning, and was still hidden behind the palm trees. We could see the Milky Way above us on this dark night with no city glow to disturb us. But down at our feet, the waves lapping on the beach were shimmering bright blue, tracing chains on the sand like strings of Christmas lights or necklaces of sparkling stones.
I’ve been wandering along beaches most of my life but have never seen phosphorescence so bright or so blue. We paddled in the waves and as we lifted our feet the tiny algae attached to the soles cast an eery glow over the sand. We dragged a reluctant son out of bed and he was soon jumping in the wavelets with us.
We tried to take photographs in the darkness but, without a tripod to hand, we were taking pictures of blackness. It was a magical moment, dancing on stars.
- March 31 2010
Dr Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain…
Torrential rain, snow, blizzards. It must be spring. The snow has only just melted Continue reading
(You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?)
“Midnight? Midnight? It’s Christmas Eve for goodness sake.” It was just as well it wasn’t me on the phone to the AA as it was at this point I suffered a sense of humour blackout. “There are a lot of people having a far worse Christmas than this” I kept muttering to myself.
“Very sorry sir, but there are some people who’ve already been waiting almost 8 hours.”
“We’ve already been waiting 8 hours. You want us to wait another 8?”
I buy more coffee and some peanuts, the only gluten-free food available. Despite the fact that we’ve been almost the only customers all day, the lady in the cafe still doesn’t acknowledge us. Meanwhile GPD phones our best hope of rescue, but they’re already in Blackpool for Christmas. Or Bolton or somewhere starting with a B off the M6. We knew it was a long shot.
We debate trying to get the car back onto the motorway, to bump ourselves back up the priority list. Unfortunately, though, we figure that might result in a priority ride to A&E so abandon that plan.
So how do you like to spend Christmas Eve?
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.)
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?
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…
Neglect. As in My blog has fallen into a state of neglect. I haven’t written anything. It has accumulated spam comments (now deleted, I hope). There are real comments, including some from Reluctant Memsahib, one of my favourite reads, and I haven’t responded. I’ve been busy. I’ve been away. I have lots of excuses. I don’t really like excuses, though. My sister has taken me to task. “Why doesn’t your blog work? It won’t load” she asked. I think it’s sulking.
It’s not that there’s a shortage of material. The holiday, for instance, is begging to be told. Stories about the fading American lady in Fiji Continue reading
We’re back. We’ve been, we’ve done it, we’ve come home again, the inheritance and all future salaries are spent. 600+ emails, 700+ piles of laundry and millions of raindrops and I know we’re back. Singapore-Port Douglas-Sydney-Fiji-San Diego are already memories. I have pictures and posts planned but am dashing off to Shetland for 2 weeks and first have to finish the work mountain that kept me busy before we left on our Grand Tour. Although, given that I’m still waking up at 5am courtesy of jet lag, I really should make use of those early mornings. But, with the promise to myself that I really will write down some of our tales, here are a couple of photos to make you envious. Or not, as the photo uploader won’t play.
I’ve been shaking out the piggy banks and flexing the credit cards for the past few weeks, eyes screwed up and fingers firmly in my ears. The BBC series South Pacific has become compulsory Sunday night viewing in the Guineapig household. We’re going on holiday. Had I mentioned that? A BIG holiday. The sort of holiday that consumes the boys’ inheritance. We’re off to the other side of the world.
I wasn’t much older than GP1 when I first decided I wanted to dive. We lived in Jamaica at the time and I had already spent many hours snorkelling over the coral reefs. Diving was the obvious next step. Being one of six children, though, nothing came on a plate 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
I 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!