Thursday, 29 January 2009

Blue, blue, lectric blue...

The internet is a wonderful thing. I posted my snaps and a friend was able to take them away and play with them. I love what she has done...have a look at these.

(I'm tempted to change that red door for a green one so that I can continue with my apparent theme of 80's pop songs.)

This clever lady is the person behind The Happy Snapper Chronicles (see my sidebar), and you can check out some more of her work by visiting her Glam Music and Media website which I've included with my "other stuff" over there on the left.

Take the Blues Away

The first single I ever purchased was Grey Day by Madness. I bought it from the record stall in the market square in Cambridge (Andy's Records anyone?) and no doubt the rest of my money went on honeycomb from the nearby (complete with pink and white awning) sweet stall. I'd have taken the bus home, torn between wanting to chow down on crunchy sugar and the need to keep my single in its pristine condition. Once home, I'd probably have asked permission to use the "hi-fi" which was situated in the front room and generally off limits to oik-like children. Oh, the hours I spent listening to that record...endlessly, over and over, until I'd learned the words by heart. I missed meals in order to get them down pat.

We've had a lot of grey days here recently. January is never a good month for me. The post-Christmas slump, coupled with uninspiring weather, the heavy sense of having to start the whole year again, always leave me prone to depressive episodes. I can usually recognise the signs. When a desire to cosy-in becomes a dread of leaving the house; when the ringing of the telephone stops heralding the opportunity to chat and instead causes me to hide in the bathroom; when all I want to do is sleep, then it's time to take action.

Exercise is supposed to be good for depression. It releases endorphins and improves your mood. So with that in mind, I set out for a walk around the village hoping to stave off madness.

I found lots of pleasing things while out and about; some natural, some manmade. Even some of the litter could be pretty if you looked at it hard enough. I took the camera out with me and snapped away at the things I liked the look of, scaring away one local dog-walker who was obviously concerned for her safety. Not many sane people were out swooping on bits of blue debris to make patterns in the sand. She clipped her dog back on its lead and marched swiftly in the opposite direction, away from the local nutter.

Anyway, I showed a few of these pictures to friends. They all seemed to quite like the results of my beachcombing efforts. Someone suggested a few tweaks, and it's interesting to see what photoshop can do. Take your pick - which blue does it for you?

The original, undoctored photograph.

With the background saturation reduced to virtually nothing

And with a bit of orange to bring out the blue.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

A Capital Night Out.

So, it seems that The-Man-I-Married has put quite a bit of work the way of an Edinburgh-based company, and as a result was invited to a very swanky Burns Supper in the city this week. And I got to tag along too. Result!

We were provided with a night's accommodation in a suitably swanky hotel, I dug out the only vaguely swanky dress I could squeeze into and a fun (and swanky) time was had by all.

Organising an "Away" event like this is always a bit stressful. My mother often says she's happy to babysit, but in fact spends so much time worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong that she winds me up until I'm all tied in knots. I frequently find myself asking "Is this worth it?" as I'm writing down endless of lists of what to do just in case this happens; who to call in case of that particular emergency. Mum doesn't "do" going with the flow and likes to have step-by-step instructions for tea, bathtimes, bedtimes, breakfast, schoolbags, homework, bus timetables, breathing. Me? I'm a "Suck it and see" kind of a gal and I find all this endless agonising over every last detail a bit draining. I phone my mum up to ask if she could babysit and the more she talks the faster I can feel my enthusiasm for the project evaporating into the ether.

However, I held my breath, tried to remain impassively calm in the face of rising hysteria from Mother and let The-Man-I-Married whisk me off for 24 hours of fun at someone else's expense. (That's always the best sort, I think!)

Edinburgh was lovely. I haven't lived there for nearly twenty years, and there are lots of new shiny buildings in places where there didn't used to be anything new and shiny, but the heart of the city remains much the same and the familiarity was calming and exhilarating at the same time. Flashbacks of youthful escapades invaded my headspace as we flitted past some of the dodgier looking pubs and clubs! One things for sure, twenty years ago I don't think the owners of The Glasshouse would have been half so welcoming to my student-self as they were on Wednesday night.

The Burns Supper followed a fairly traditional format whereby much champagne was forced down the throats of the audience in order to put them into a receptive mood for the speeches. Actually, it wasn't just champagne. There was red wine, white wine, whisky, port and some really rather good food too. Five courses of it!! Tiger prawn and crabs all towered up and posh; haggis, tatties and neaps served with a dram of whisky for toasting purposes; beautifully rare beef with cauliflower and cabbage; three tiny little puddings all pretty on a plate and a very generous cheese board, coffee and tablet. My poor dress!

And, because it was a Burns Night celebration, there was the Selkirk Grace, the Address and Toast to the Haggis, The Immortal Memory, The Address to the Lassies and the Response from the Lassies. There were some very good speakers, although the poor bloke who'd been volunteered to do the Address to the Lassies had lifted much of his material from tinterweb and so quite a bit of it wasn't "new" to me. I'm guessing that a lot of the people there weren't forumites because they were laughing like drains and obviously hadn't heard it all before!

The evening ended with a ceilidh, which I was happy to watch but couldn't join in...too much risk of ankle/knee/hip injury and I don't want to jeopardise the gentle progress I've been making on the wii fit. We left shortly before chucking out time to go and make use of the Honesty Bar in the hotel. The-Man-I-Married poured himself the largest Baileys I've ever seen, but I needed something cold so picked out a bottle of Peroni. We took them back to our room, but it was a struggle to stay awake - too much food, and too much alcohol, and besides the bed was just too comfy.

I woke up in the morning with my eyes all stuck together. I'd forgotten to check for feather pillows. It has been so long since I had to. It explained the comfiness but unfortunately they give me hayfever-like symptoms, so I went down to breakfast looking as though dh had punched me and I was still sobbing over it. Never mind.

Breakfast was lovely. There was a help-yourself continental breakfast bar and a selection of hot things. I knew we wouldn't be eating lunch, and imagining that the hot menu would be all fancy and in miniature, I helped myself to smoked salmon, cheese, fruit, crackers, juice etc. And then was handed a full size plate of eggs benedict with parma ham on a bagel. It was a struggle, but I knew I'd feel bad if I didn't thoroughly enjoy every last morsel, so I did.

I think this week's diet results might suffer horrendously for this, but hey, it's not often I get to be all swanky and as I've been discov!ering lately, life's too short to not enjoy the good bits.

Slainté mhath!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Ups and Downs

I lost four pounds this week! Ordinarily, this would have me leaping up and down in a joyous fashion, but the truth is, that up until yesterday I was on track for losing five. My beer and butter intake robbed me of a truly spectacular result, but still, I can't be too unhappy; I was the cause of my own downfall and can only blame myself.

Which is more than can be said for my poor Kid-in-the-middle. Oh dear. She has not had a good weekend.

January in Scotland is traditionally taken up with celebrating the nation's bard, Rabbie Burns. The school host a Burns Supper (haggis, neeps and tatties...not exactly what you'd call diet food, but do enough burlin' roon the room in the form of Strip The Willow and you can probably call it evens) and there is much in the way of pipers, fiddlers, recitals, songs, dancing and drams. A reet guid nicht indeed.

It was a week ago that Kids Top, Middle and Bottom came home with the songs and poems that they were to learn. My eyebrows shot heavenwards when I saw what the two older ones had to learn. Google "Tam O'Shanter" and you'll appreciate that Kid-the-Eldest had a big task ahead of him. Kid-in-the-Middle got stuck right in with hers, and within three days had the following down pat:

The Ballad of Janitor Mackay By Margaret Green

I wis playin keepie uppie
In the street outside the schule,
When Jock McCann’s big brither
Whose an eejit an a fool

Went an tuk ma fitba aff me
An he dunted it too hard
An it stoated ower the railins
Inty the janny’s yard

Aw, Mackay’s a mean auld scunner.
He wis dossin’ in the sun,
An when ma fitba pit wan oan him
Big McCann began tae run.

An Mackay picked up ma fitba
An he looked at me an glowered
But I stood ma ground, fur naebody
Will say that I’m a coward

But when he lowped the palins
An he fell and skint his nose
I tookty ma heels and beltit
Right up ma granny’s close.

I could feel the stairwell shakin
As efter me he tore,
An he nearly cracked his wallies
As he cursed at me an swore

“O save me gran” I stuttered
As I reached ma granny’s hoose,
Fur Mackay wis getting nearer
An his face wis turning puce.

Noo, my gran wis hivin tea
Wi Effie Bruce and Mrs Scobie
And when she heard the stushie
She cam beltin through the loaby

Ma gran is only fower fit ten
But she kens whit she’s aboot
“Yev hud it noo, Mackay” I cried
“Ma gran will sort ye oot!”

See the janny? See my granny?
Ma granny hit um si a sanny
Then she timmed the bucket owerum
An he tummelt doon the stair
An he landed in the dunny
Wi the baikie in his herr.

Fortune changes awfy sudden –
Imagine he cried me a midden
(I goat ma ba back but.)

I was most impressed. But then, on Friday, she came home in tears. Apparently, the head teacher had decided that this was too long, and too much for them. She changed their poem to The Coming of the Wee Malkies. It's another fun, vibrant poem, but my poor wee lassie has struggled to learn it over the weekend, and the judges are coming to school today. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her. I've listened endlessly to her attempts at learning this poem over the last 48 hours or so and I hope her efforts, so much more focused than mine were, are successful!

The Coming of the Wee Malkies

Haw missis, whit'll ye dae when the wee Malkies come,
if they dreep doon affy the wash-hoose dyke,
an pit the hems oan the sterrheid light,
an play wee heidies oan the clean close wa,
missis, whit'll ye dae?

Whit'll ye dae when the wee Malkies come,
if they chap yir door an choke yir drains,
an caw the feet fae yir sapsy weans,
an tummle thur wulkies through yir sheets,
an tim thur ahes oot in the street,
missis, whit'll ye dae?

Whit'll ye dae when the wee Malkies come,
if they chuck thur screwtaps doon the pan,
an stick the heid oan the sanitry man,
when ye hear thum shauchlin doon yir loaby,
chanting,"Wee Malkies! The gemme's a bogey!"
Haw, missis, whit'll ye dae?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Tomorrow is weigh-in day after my first week back at being "on a diet". I've been pretty good for much of this week and I've seen quite a bit of my Christmas excess simply melt away with a bit of exercise and a good strong dose of willpower; there are still many temptations left in the house left over from Christmas but generally speaking I've ignored them.

Mind you, last night, watching a batch of sky-plussed televisual entertainment, I managed to sink four bottles of my favourite American "beer" and two ramekins stuffed with pretzels. I was pleased this morning to note that the scales hadn't been adversely affected, but I'm not sure that today's input will help my case much.

I'd forgotten that there was a "Luncheon" after church today. It's Christian Unity week and we invite members of the local Catholic Church to join in our service, some of our lot go up to them and then we all meet for a soup lunch afterwards.

The soup was delicious, but I've no idea what was in it re. fat content etc and I ended up eating two bowls because Kid at the bottom of the heap took two mouthfuls, saw that her brother had something a different colour and demanded some of what he had instead. In addition to which, there was no option for an unbuttered roll to go with the soup so I ate butter for the first time in years and remembered just how delicious it was.

Of course, if the scales don't give me a good reading, it is bound to be the result of someone-else's heavy-handedness with the dairy products and nothing whatsoever to do with my alcoholic tendencies!! Isn't it?

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The things they bring home...

Much hilarity around the dinner table last night, even in the midst of sadness. Such is life. Kid-in-the-middle has revived the family tradition of relaying the dreadful jokes they hear at school, usually over dinner. This generally involves much groaning from the adults at the table and is followed by an attempt at joke-telling by Kid-at-thee-bottom-of-the-heap. Her complete inability to stop laughing, or remember a punchline usually renders these unfunny at best and in the worst-case scenario, simply incomprehensible.

So, in the grand tradition, there was an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman. (Apologies to any Irish people reading this. You know where it's going.) And they found a shiny new bucket. They rubbed it, as you would, and out popped a genie. The genie said that as there were three of them, he would grant them one wish each, and that whatever they wished for, if they slid down the slide that he was about to produce, and into the bucket, the bucket would be filled with whatever it was they'd wished for. They were a bit sceptical...a slide, going down into a bucket? How would that work? Surely the bucket was too small? The slide a bit dangerous?

The Englishman went first. He was very worried about this whole slide/bucket scenario and actually not convinced that the "genie" was for real, so he simply wished for cotton wool to land on. Lo and behold, as he slid down the slide, the bucket expanded and filled with the softest, bounciest cotton wool known to man and the Englishman landed as if on a downy mattress and in complete comfort. They were all amazed, and the Englishman a little miffed at the opportunity he'd missed.

The Scotsman, having seen what happened, leapt onto the slide and wished for lots and lots of money. And lo. And behold. As he wished and slid, the bucket expanded and he landed in the biggest pile of large denomination notes of cash you've ever imagined.

And so, it was amidst much merriment and excitement that the Irishman jumped onto the slide with a huge grin on his face and as he started to slide down the slide he shrieked "Wheeeeeeeeeeee".

Oh the hilarity. There's something about short, consise words for potentially rude things that juveniles find irresistible - wee, poo, bum, fart. Mention any one of these and small children will crease up with laughter and keep themselves amused for hours simply by repeating the offending word. Which is why I am surprised that nobody seems to have noticed that our latest acquisition rhymes with wee. By rights, they shouldn't be able to play the thing for trying to control their guffaws, but play it they do. Endlessly if they think they can get away with it.

However, I have come to spoil their fun, because this Christmas, with much trepidation, dh presented me with the Wii fit. Apparently he was worried that I'd be offended, but the opposite was true - I was delighted.

Now I know that another blogger has said she's going to post a review of the wii fit, so I'm not going to steal her thunder. But I did just want to say that I have finally found something that gets me moving and is fun. It must be my inner-Monica, but I can't stand it if I don't beat my previous best and so I'm constantly spurred on to do more, do better and beat myself! No exercise video ever tapped into this uber-competitive spirit before, so I wonder if this piece of kit might finally be the thing that gets me moving and keeps me moving!! You never know, if it helps me to shift enough weight, you might find me slim enough to get on the slide in the garden and go "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Dark and Stormy

I've been struggling to write this for days now, but somehow I need to get it out.

On January 9th, my dear friend Grahame put an end to his suffering and took his life. It's hard to bear the sadness we feel at losing him, and difficult to process the fact that he survived his illness but not the treatment for it.

His wife has asked that friends and family contribute happy anecdotes from their bank of memories, and the only difficulty here has been choosing which. Grahame was a kind, generous, warm, intelligent, humourous man who loved nothing more than cooking for friends and sharing a dram, and most of my memories revolve around meals and drinks prepared for, or by, or with him. Who else would we find on a dark and stormy February day, shuggling a lamb in a binbag full of secret-recipe marinade ready for the barbecue. Sane people were supping soup and hugging their radiators, but not Grahame.

And talking of Dark and Stormies, it was Grahame who first introduced me to this wonderful drink - one I can't make without immediately recalling the oppressive feeling of Florida humidity and keeping an ear out for an impending thunderstorm. They aren't recommended on any diet that I know of, but take a long tall glass,add ice and a double measure of good dark rum. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime and top up with ginger beer. Drink, for preference, on a beachfront balcony as you watch thick jagged spikes of lightning break the sky and jab the sea hard while the air around you thickens and the thunder cracks over the ocean. Better yet, drink it anywhere, but with friends.

It's hard to say goodbye; sad to realise that there's one less rumbling laugh in the world. No-one left who calls me "Sweetie". We'll miss you Grahame, but we won't forget you.