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

Let there be snow

“Can I take the car tomorrow?”


“I need to get back to Uni.”

Just 18, he passed his test in July and already, of course, he’s a far better driver than his mum.  Never mind that the car is buried under a 3 ft blanket of snow and hasn’t moved since the weekend.  Don’t worry that all the roads are single track and covered in slush, with cars abandonned all over the place, and as soon as the plough goes through and clears the path new snow fills it in again.  So what if the AA has had 18,000 breakdown call outs and that the temperature is predicted to drop to record lows tonight?   Even the buses are struggling to reach the village.

The Forth Road Bridge was closed by snow for the first time in its life. The schools have been off all week and Continue reading

Ladies who lunch – or not

I had a phone call from Outer Mongolia the other evening. It was so faint it certainly sounded as though it was from the furthest corner of the planet but I did decipher someone closer to home.  Did I want to meet for coffee, asked the distant voice from another world?  By now I’d figured it was one of my occasional running friends.  I’m sure we all have friends who we meet in one context but rarely in others, so this invite was slightly unusual but very welcome.  I work at home, you see, so I’m always up for being disturbed by not-to-be-missed social events.  Call in for coffee any time you’re passing, I say to people, but they rarely do.  “I wouldn’t want to disturb you if you’re working”. 

Anyhow, we arranged to meet for lunch today, midday, in a local bookshop cum cafe.  But I work at home, and the phone rang just before I left with a call I had to take.  So I was late, about 7 minutes in my estimation.  I looked round the cafe: noone I recognised.  I browsed in the bookshop. Still noone I recognised.  I ordered coffee and sat with the newspaper.  The place was still full of strangers.  Had she been and gone, I wondered, because I was late?  But I wasn’t really that late.  So eventually I phoned her.  “I’m in the kitchen” she said.  “But we arranged to meet for lunch!” I said.  “Didn’t we?  12 at the cafe?”.  Continue reading

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

“It hasn’t stopped raining for two days! I haven’t been able to get any washing out” GP1 said.

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

Neglect, n.

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

To do. A list of things.

This morning’s list:

  1. Send off forms for school travel passes (oops – should have been on last week’s list.  Oh well).   😳    
  2. Book our holiday.   😉    Started.  And we’re probably going here:  Dolphin Bay Divers (among other things)
  3. Tax the car   🙁     Why is the simplest thing never simple?
  4. Go through tender application.  A big one. It has to go out tomorrow. There’s a whole bunch of us working on it. I’m near Edinburgh.  They’re in Edinburgh, Weardale, Pembrokeshire, Dublin, Galway.  The world becomes small with email and phone conferencing.  8)
  5. Rearrange podiatry appointment for GP junior.  He’s now hobbling after every football/basketball/tennis/whatever session.  🙁  Good job he likes swimming. 
  6. Wonder if hubbie’s health insurance would deal with it more quickly.  And how do I find out? Arrange it? Find a decent podiatrist? Will it cover follow ups?    😕  
  7. Book our holiday.  Still not done that.   😀 
  8. Finish the next section of my current project. It’s already overdue and time’s running out.   😯       
  9. Find accommodation for September survey. 
  10. Start on next tender for a job in north west Scotland.
  11. Book our holiday     😆   
  12. VAT return.    🙁 
  13. Start (and finish) report for Menai Straits last year.    🙁 
  14. Go for a run – Great Edinburgh Run this weekend.  😯     I’m not in Mud’s league but you do what you can do.  I’m aiming for under an hour this year.  She’s tagged me, by the way – I’ll get round to it soon.  Put in on next week’s list perhaps.
  15. Nag.  When they come in from school, of course   🙄      
  16. Pay credit card bills  🙁     
  17. Hang out the washing.  We escaped for the weekend so there’s a backlog and yes it rained yesterday. 
  18. Wonder why the front door bell’s not working.  Had three different lots of people wondering how to break in yesterday.
  19. Book that holiday   😛      
  20. Displacement activity – write a blog post     😈    

Must dash.  Things to do, you know.

Why do some smilies work sometimes and not at others, she wonders?

Oh, and there are lots of entertaining blog posts to read in my spare time, in another blog carnival over at Mothership.  Do drop by! 

Dreams of paradise

Could this be me?


It’s me, it’s most definitely me.  Does anyone fancy helping me make the application video?

Post postscript: 

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.

A bloggy good idea

I don’t often post about the work I do, having been jumped on from an enormously great height early on in my blogging career.  Yesterday I was in Inverness presenting some work I’ve been involved in to the relevant SNH staff; this post isn’t about that work, before anyone gets excited, but is about some discussions en route.   Five of us in a car from Perth, thanks to the rail strike (for once I had bought a ticket ahead of schedule  🙁    ), did prompt a certain amount of chatter.

The guys were discussing the problems of an internal newletter they were planning to produce.  Once a month? Every 2 weeks? How long? Paper or email? Would people read it?  “Why don’t you make it a blog?” said I.  “Blog?” they chorused, as though I had just suggested Continue reading

The guilt complex

We’re the type of household that gets sacked by cleaners.  You’d think that, working from home, I’d have all the time in the world to keep the house immaculate.  When the children were babies, people used to comment about how lovely it must be to sit and work at home whilst the darlings played happily by themselves, slept on command, gurgled contentedly in their moses basket next to the desk and didn’t start screaming the moment the phone rang.   They went to a childminder.

These days, I dream of waking up one morning to find that not only have I turned into a tidy, well organised person but that the children have suddenly become helpful – “Let me do that, Mum” – and that GPD  has figured out the purpose of the toilet brush.  But, as the first anniverary of last year’s cancer diagnosis approaches, I find myself having to admit that I have recovered from recent traumas rather better than my oven.  Broken ankle? You try cleaning an oven with your leg in plaster.  Hysterectomy? That central line of staples really didn’t help.  Chemotherapy?  OK, you get the idea.  I have tried to restore order, but have had to recognise that there are some jobs noone else is going to do for you.   Not unless you pay them large amounts of money, that is.

Which is why I finally cracked Continue reading

Not a bad day


If it’s not raining in Shetland, it’s “not a bad day”.  If you can see across the voe “it’s clearing up nicely”.  Perhaps, then, it’s not too surprising that the lead article on the front of the Shetland Times when I was there recently was marvelling at the heat wave, with July temperatures reaching 20.8º C.  Yes, that’s right – a meltingly hot 20.8º C.  I can vouch for these scorching conditions as I went for a walk across the Muckle Roe moors in shorts and t-shirt without so much as a waterproof in my bag.  We made the most of the lovely conditions for our first few days of rocky shore surveys in Sullom Voe; if you have to be out on the shore at 5 am to catch low water, good weather certainly helps.  Still, weather can be so fickle and normal service resumed later in the week.  The wind veered back to the north west, the temperature plummeted to a more seasonal 12- 15º C, and “it wasn’t a bad day, clearing up nicely”.   

 But all good things have a downside, do they not?  Warm, calm weather in Shetland is midge nirvana.   The  irritating midges on our holiday in Co Donegal the previous week were novice apprentices Continue reading

Snail mail

natica-sarns-small.jpgMy email inbox has been pinging with excitement over the last day or so.  And why?  The pings trumpeted (can pings trumpet, I wonder?) the arrival of several work-related messages which were sent on the 7th April.  So that makes, ummm, approximately 3 months in the ether.  They could have been sent by sea in that time.   Or by horse and cart.  At least one was inviting me to tender for a piece of work I had expressed interest in.  A bit late now, methinks. 

Is 3 months a record for email delivery?  Discuss. 

Life goes on

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 also met up with fellow bloggers Helen, Vanessa and Erica at an Edinburgh coffee shop and then visited the Children’s Bookshop in Morningside.  Continue reading

I’m celebrating

p1010034.JPGI’m not celebrating the fact that my hair is now coming out in handfuls and my debris is competing with the cat’s fluff for the attentions of the vacuum cleaner.  Mind you, the cat’s fur isn’t likely to block up the bath plug so I win on that score.

I am celebrating the completion of my Irish Sea contract.  I wrote, way back in the mists of May, that a large proportion of the Irish seabed had arrived in my back yard.  Well it’s now left.  Finally.  Only four and a half months overdue – it was supposed to be finished by the end of June.  You’d think they’d have induced it by this time.  The biggest inducement in the life of a self-employed anything is of course being paid and I had a quiet laugh as I wrote the invoice last week.  Continue reading

It’s good to talk – Part 1

I’m not sure how I ever had time to work.  After the excavation of my insides, the physio said “You’ll need at least 6 weeks off work.  Maybe 12.”  My comment: “So that’ll be 2 weeks then.  I’m self-employed.”  I could in fact have started work again last week (make that 1 week) but I’ve been floating in a sort of limbo of not knowing, which hasn’t done a whole bundle for my concentration.  OK, OK, I know – Limbo has been cancelled, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

I thought maybe once Monday was out of the way I’d be able to move on so, in a fit of positive action, I unpacked some videos I need to analyse on Monday morning.  When I say I need to, I should have done them weeks ago but events somehow intervened.  Needless to say, it’s still all sitting there and very little progress has been made (I do hope Tom’s not reading this!).  There has just been no time – there has been far too much talking to do.  Perhaps I should be getting on with it now, rather than blogging, but I desperately want to write everything down before I forget.  There’s been no time even to blog up to now so the videos will just have to wait.  Just a little longer.

The talking began on Monday lunchtime Continue reading

Home again

p1010010.JPGWinter arrived in Perthshire last week or it felt like winter as the air temperature plummeted with a high pressure system bringing sun and winds from the north.  Fortunately there was no rain to speak of and the water temperature lags behind the air, so spending several hours a day snorkelling around freshwater lochs was not as uncomfortable as it might have been.  The water was quiet and still and searching the loch floor for rare plants was like looking through a muffling brown fog.  It was a case of breathe in, hold it, dive down fighting the buoyancy in the dry suit but helped by lots of lead, catch a glimpse of a small patch of vsnorkeller-balloon-marker.jpgegetation, swim as far as the breath allowed, shoot back to the surface, repeat.  We would each do this for an hour or so and then take a turn in the boat, putting in markers for each other around the edge of the loch and continuing around the perimeter until we reached the beginning.  In this high tec world in which we live, we used bamboo canes and balloons to mark out 100m sections – tempered by the use of GPS to record their positions.  Simple but effective.

The plant we were searching, Continue reading


Slender naiad I’m off into the wilds of Perthshire for a week or so, milfordhaven.jpglooking for Slender Naiads – no, not water nymphs but a rare species of plant that grows in some of the freshwater lochs up there.  After that, I’m off to Wales, weather and engineers permitting, to dive on the only Welsh maerl bed, conveniently located right in the centre of a l-corallioides.jpgmajor engineering project.  It should therefore be very quiet in this corner for the next couple of weeks.  I have a list of things to do as long as my arm and really should not be sitting here blogging.  Must go.  But first…

GP2 said the other day, in a very accusing tone of voice, “You are going to be here for my birthday this year, aren’t you?”  “Well yes, but it looks like I’ll miss GP1’s.”  “You’ve missed mine for the past two years.”  I’m not sure that’s strictly true, personally, as I think I only missed last year’s, but the guilt strings have been suitably twanged.  Poor neglected children.  There’s a post over on Mother at Large all about the evils of leaving your child with a minder (she’s reporting the opinion of others, I must point out).  What would they say about missing your child’s birthday?  Will I be struck down by a bolt from the heavens? And what age are children when they stop minding that you’re not there for their birthday? When do they stop counting down the days?  I’ve a feeling I’ve got some way to go on that front.

Good mother, bad mother

I’m back!  Well, OK, I haven’t in fact been any further than the utility room at the other end of the house, which doubles as a lab and houses my microscopes in a truly microscopic corner.  As Andy from Wales remarked, when he called in to collect some of the buckets of pickled seabed I’ve been working on, “You really don’t have much room, do you?”  Anyhow, I’ve been shackled to the microscope and, as it’s holiday time, have relinquished the computer to the children.  On top of that, a neighbour’s tree took out our phone line and I had to have daily arguments with BT for a week before they would come and fix it.  “Our checks show it is not a fault with the line. Please turn off your modem and check your handsets”.  “We’ve done that.  Several times”.  “Our checks show it is not a fault with the line…” Deep breath and much gnashing of teeth. “It is a fault with the line. Please come and fix it!”  So I haven’t blogged for a while. Or read anyone else’s blog.

In the last few days I have resumed my duties as Chief Chauffeur, my plaster having been removed a week or so ago.  I can drive, but can’t walk.  In fact that’s not strictly true; Continue reading

One week’s travels with my ankle

I have this feeling that I’ve run out of things to say, a very unlikely scenario.  Some of you, of course, may breathe a sigh of relief.  But, for myself, I have found that this blogging thing is a little like that old-fashioned and sadly declining habit of letter writing; the more you write, the more you have to say and the easier it becomes.  Unfortunately, the effort of hopping around on crutches, balanced by excessive time spent sitting on my backside, and more television than I’ve watched in my life, seems to have knocked my motivation for, well, anything, for six.  I started writing this post last week and never got round to finishing it. So get on with it, GPM.  It’s already out of date.  It’s too long.  It’s boring.  What follows is an etiolated diary entry.  You have been warned.

Saturday a week ago began at 0530 in the pouring rain.  It’s the sort of morning time that only exists in books or to catch a low tide.  Continue reading

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