Sunday, 30 December 2007


Woo hoo! I've been tagged by Candace.

Actually, I've now been tagged twice, but as Fisher was the first person who tagged me I just sort of ignored it (also she had scary rules like 'tag 5 people at the end of your blog' and I don't know 5 bloggers to tag. *sniff*. So looonely ...). Anyhoo - Candace wants me to write 7 things about myself, one of which is a lie, so here they are:

1. The sum total of my musical achievements are: Grade 1 piano, grade 1 cello, both with merit.
2. I have a letter from Dame Judi Dench in a wooden box upstairs.
3. I have my Open Water Diver certificate from PADI, but since being knocked unconscious by a truck in Tennessee, I still don't know whether I can dive again. If anyone knows, can they tell me?
4. I came 5th in the UK independant school's championships for javellin, aged 12. Yeah, baby!
5. I like girls. (God help me ... considering number 4, what a walking cliché I am).
6. I have read every single Sweet Valley High book between numbers 1 and 83.
7. I can ride a motorbike and, secretly, I think this is cooler than the fact I drive a Land Rover.

Now, the minute I get more friends, I'm going to tag them.

Oh, yer - you're supposed to guess which one's a lie.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

At Least My Nose Isn't the Only Thing Running

Home! How nice it is. Alas I've picked up an unpleasant sore throat, cough and cold from my family, but considering how fat and lazy I feel after doing no exercise at all for a week and stuffing myself with pizza last night, I refuse to allow myself to skive off. Later today I'll either go to the gym or use the elliptical machine upstairs.

Sister, Islander and the boys will be coming for New Year after all, so it's going to be a full house. Koios and Pro arrive on the 31st as well, and with the 2 collies I'm looking after as well as Baffie and Bridie, it's going to be quite interesting. We have pressies to exchange with Koios and Pro, which might be sensible being kept from Gemmill's sight, lest he think another round of gift giving is in order. I'm also not keen on the idea of giving him the chance to disrupt our roast goose. Koios likes a proper Christmas lunch, which she doesn't really get when down south, so I promised to provide one for her over New Year. I was going to do it for New Year's lunch, but it might be better on New Year's eve - unless they're staying until the 2nd. That would be perfect, as we could then have it for New Year's supper instead.

Should a blog be the place for thinking aloud? Probably not.

I got a great gift from brother and Gaura - a set of exotic spices, which I'm going to build a menu around. Also included was a vanilla ... stalk? Root? What the hell is vanilla? Quick google check ...

Hm. Apparantly it's a lesbian bar in Manchester. Useful to know.

Interesting! It's an orchid! Who'da thunk? The thing I've got is the pod, in which are the little black seeds - so I'm hoping to come up with some interesting ice cream recipes. Vanilla and cardomom? Chilli and vanilla? (Yuk - but it might be interesting, and I bet Fisher would love it). I'll have a good sniff of everything and see what goes. As my old Ma says - cook with your nose. Hey - a piece of poetry! "Always remember to cook with your nose - Have a good sniff and see if it goes."

Ok - I'm back from my exercise now, and feeling very slightly like death warmed up. It's been a beautiful day, so I decided to go for a run up Quarry Road. I took Sally the collie and off we went. God, it was hard! I could only breath through my mouth, which meant regulating my breathing was a bit tricky, and I felt very sick at the end - but that was probably because I did the hills at the end as well as the beginning. Well ... almost all the hills. I walked up the very last bit of the first corner at the end and would have walked up the last one, too, only there was a neighbour walking his dog and he kindly paused to let me past and said:

"You'll have to keep up that pace, now, or my dog will chase yours!"

Bugger. So off I ran, and luckily managed to get up the hill, round the corner and home, before collapsing in a heap of gasping horror.

It was a crap time. 5k in 37 minutes. Still, considering my cold and the fact I've had a week off, I'm not all that disappointed. At least I went! I could easily have talked myself out of it and stayed curled up in front of the Sopranos.

Ah - the Sopranos. I managed to avoid watching them when they were first on, but now Channel 4 is reshowing the whole lot, every weeknight. I must say, it's brilliant stuff; Robert Graves would be proud. And what I like is: I find them all so unbearably revolting that if they all die, slowly and painfully, I'll be perfectly happy. Ok, not the psychiatrist, but everyone else can go to hell as far as I'm concerned. It's emotionally liberating to watch something where the end result can go any way and you'll remain detached. They are truly vile people, living a code of ethics so far outwith the bounds of civilised morality, that if they end up being hoist by their own petard I'll only rejoice. Even the kids are repulsive.

Right, I'm really rambling now. Time to switch off for a while. Man, I'm tired - but my home cure is kicking this cold's arse. For those that don't know, this is my cure for a cold and sore throat:

Hot Toddy:

Lemon juice
honey, to taste (at least 2 tsp)
2 shots rum, or single malt (optional)
Hot water
Sprinkling cinnamon, OR a few cloves.

Take your favourite pain killer with this. Then, after you've drunk the toddy and before the drugs have kicked in, pour youself a shot of the strongest alcohol you can tolerate. Gargle with it for as long as you can tolerate, then either swallow or spit. I'd recommend the latter - especially if you're having booze in your toddy! The alcohol not only numbs your throat, but acts as an antiseptic.

If the pain gets too uncomfortable and you can't take any more pain killers, I recommend fresh orange iced lollies. You can make them easily enough, but the ones from Tesco's are fantastic. If you make them, try adding a bit of honey to the mix as well. Honey is a natural antiseptic, doncha know. But if you can't get hold of iced lollies, just suck on a bit of ice. It'll numb your throat and give you some blessed relief.

So that's that. Hope it helps some time.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Cheer

Christmas is for the children, I have heard. Well bollocks to that. Christmas is for me me me ... and the children can all feck off.

All right, that's not how this holiday started out, but it's how it's finishing. There's nothing so unattractive as viewing humanity in its rawest form - ie that of children, who have yet to learn the social mores such as saying 'thank you' even if the present they get is utter twong, as far as they're concerned. Couple that with snatching everyone else's presents out of their hand, shouting and demanding to go first, screaming at the first sign of dissent, saying the Christmas lunch you've prepared (with no small effort) looks horrible - and you've got a good idea how close I came to throttling Gemmill today.

Anyway, the children are now being bathed and put to bed. We still have a couple of pressies left to unwrap, and I'm thinking the real business of Christmas can truly begin - sitting down as a family, in the sitting room, reading books and trying hard to ignore everyone. Heh heh. No, we shall consume a few glasses of 'poo, talk as civilised human beings, and count our loot jealously. (As usual, I have by FAR the least of everyone. They all hate me and want me dead.)

So far, the best of my loot has been some bed linen I went to buy with my mother yesterday. Officially it's Fisher's pressie, but seeing as how I'll be sharing it whenever she uses it, I figure it's mine as well! The rest have all been books, I think, which are always sensible. Sister gave me a beautiful edition of the works of Virginia Woolf, of whom I'm a great - if struggling - admirer. I always find her quite slow, but ultimately rewarding.

Anyway, I'm going to sign off right now and be sociable.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Swim n Gym

Went to the gym while Fisher did an 8 miler into Cupar. Swam 500m in 15 minutes, then went to the gym. Ran a mile in 9.58, then did:

3 x 12 reps on the lat pully (the one you pull down to your shoulders - I've learned its name!) on 30kg. I tried it on 35kg and couldn't figure out why it was so impossible. Swimming's funny that way. I think because it's so low impact, you don't realise how much it takes out of you.
3 x 12 on horizontal leg lift, at 100kg. I thought it was really easy, so whacked it up to 12 - but then discovered the seat was set way too far back. Once I adjusted it, I could barely lift the 120kg at all!
3 x 12 on stomach press, setting 6.

Then Fisher appeared, red faced and beaming from a good 8 mile time, and we headed to Tesco for the night's meal before going home.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Weekend of Fun

Now that I'm slightly recovered, I can bear to put fingers to keyboard and relate the fun happenings of the weekend.

Koios and Phid arrived in a burst of bonhomie at around 3.45 on Saturday, bearing port with them. No sooner were we installed in the sitting room with cups of tea than Bridie started going bonkers, clearly detecting the tread of Spartan's foot in the drive. She was quite correct. I rushed to greet them, keen to give Spartan succour after his horrific day shopping in Dundee. He'd sent a text at around 3.30 which I giggled over.

"I've got to read this text from Spartan to you," I said to Fisher, at which she said:

"What does it say? Fucking hell, I hate shopping? Oh, wait, no - it's Spartan. He wouldn't be that rude."

"You're right, he wouldn't," I agreed. "He actually says: 'I hate fucking arsing cocksucking wanking shopping!'"

"Oooh," said a big-eyed Fisher, "you better stick the kettle on!"

Tea. The great healer.

So up Blarney and Spartan rocked, pale and weary after battling the Christmas shoppers in Dundee, and we set about easing their tension by giving Spar his belated birthday presents (a PS2 from me, Pro-Evo Soccer from Fisher) and then playing a rousing game of Buzz! The Big Quiz - which proved a mighty triumph for Holly Cottage. Fisher won the first game, I won the second, and Fisher was very reserved in her celebrations, waiting until we were alone before doing the Holly Cottage Jig of Victory and Smugness. Naked.

Not naked. Just my little joke.

Then came the time for us to separate into two groups - those in need of sorrow-drowning over the footie and those, er, not. Strangely, this meant it ended up being the fellers and me who went out to the pub for food and drinks, while Fisher, Koios, Blarney and Lu stayed in. I have no real idea what escapades they got up to, but Koios said they had a very girly chat about children and stuff while Blarney fell asleep at 12.15, in the manner usually adopted by Koios.

Meanwhile, we were dropped at the Dairsie Inn for our food and drink session. We walked through to the restaurant, with its lovely 1970s carpet and a few tables of fellow diners (a family with 6 year old in bright pink coat, an elderly double date, and a quiet, nerdy couple), and Protagoras practically wet his pants.

"There's prawn cocktail on the menu!" he choked.

"Is there?" I laughed. "Is there melon as well?"

The smile faded when I discovered that, yes, there was melon on the menu as well. Seriously. This, as a starter, was pretty damn tame even when melons were hard to come by. Now it's a joke! Like offering a sliced apple for a starter. So, obviously, I had to order it.

Yes - so, it wasn't exactly the rowdy, party-hearty pub suitable for a drinking and shouting session - in fact, it was a one way ticket to 1978 and your grandmother's living room - but did we let that stop us?

We did not!

After a rock and roll dinner of melon starter, and poached salmon main course (for me - the gents had game pie for mains and prawn cocktails) and a couple of pints, we moved through to the 'game' room. It was a 'game' room because there were 3 board games stacked up on a chair - which we studiously ignored. The night wore on, the chat was varied, free-flowing and funny, and, at 11pm the landlady - a deeply miserable looking woman - declared it last orders.

Last orders? At 11pm on a Saturday night?

"We've got a license until 11.30," she lied, blithely, "so you have to be out by 11.20."

Jesus. What a welcoming establishment. I've never known a single place to have a license until 11.30 rather than 12, and to have last orders a full half hour before closing time, when we're the only people in the place, is ridiculous. Still, we had a final round of beer and whisky chasers (ok, I was sensible enough to know that if, on my 4th pint, I started in on the whisky chasers I would not see tomorrow - and would possibly only wake up on January 3rd - so I stuck to beer) and then grabbed a cab.

Back at HC, the laydeez were looking suitably settled in to their wine and chat. I hoiked out the array of whiskies and the fellas got stuck in, while I discreetly and cowardly ... ly sipped yet more beer.

(Oo - another small point about drinking with the gents is how very, very little they need to pee. Uncanny. I felt like a leaky sieve in comparison.)

We didn't really intend to stay separate, but that's what happened. After a bit more chat, the gents and I started playing table football - and then I commented that I actually had Subbuteo in my cupboard. This idea was quickly adopted, the green baize laid out, and the players (one of which was sadly decapitated) laid out in their peculiar 3-4-3 formation. There was the usual debate about rules, followed by the usual argument about whether the pitch needed ironing, which was all settled with the usual statement of:

"Ah, bollocks to it! Let's just play!"

Which we did. Arrow and Pro took the Kop end, Spartan and I were the visitors.

Subbuteo consists of 2 halves of 10 minutes each - a rule which, owing to the 'excitement' of the game, went slightly out of the window. We had one half.

Of two hours.

By the time the clock hit 2.30am my eyes were starting to cross with both tiredness and my state of inebriation, so I declared there be a 3 minute 'extra time' period.

Frantic flicking then ensued, Spartan won the ball and - in some manner of miracle - managed, in the last 30 seconds of this epic battle, to win the game for us! All of which brought the final score to an astonishing ...


Yes, folks, 2 hours of game play brought a single, solitary goal, in the final 30 seconds. Is it any wonder Spar and I clasped one another to our respective bosoms and danced about the kitchen, cheering?

God, it was like watching Spanish football.

So, our victory complete, Spar and I wandered through to watch Match of the Day, while Arrow and Lu bade us farewell and caught a cab home. Pro joined us for the first half hour of the programme, but when he started snoring I woke him and suggested he call it a day. This he did. Spar and I managed to make it to the end of MotD and even drunkenly tally up our Fantasy Footie scores before sleep overcame us, and we stumbled to our respective pits. Fisher was already tucked up by the time I got there, as she had to get up by 9.30 in order to meet her ex-Guardian outside Edinburgh on the morrow. She wasn't asleep, though, and was awake enough to tell me she'd had a lovely evening and that, no, nobody had missed me.

Predictably, my awakening on Sunday morning was somewhat horrific. First of all, I woke when Fisher woke, meaning the full force of my hangover was inflicted upon me when I might, otherwise, have slept through the worst of it. I lay, shivering and wishing, not for the first time, I were of temperate nature, until I hit on the bright idea of sticking Northern Exposure on the DVD and distracting myself with the most irritating hero of all time - the excellent Rob Morrow's Joel Fleischman. I got through 2 episodes before I felt alive enough to wander tentatively downstairs and join my guests - all of whom were looking obnoxiously perky. Especially those whisky-swilling gits, Pro and Spar.

After a bit of wandering around, talking to milling dogs (we have 2 guests at the moment - Jake and Sally, the lovely, utterly soft Border Collies) and swigging of water, I felt recovered enough to cook up some brunch of scrambled eggs, bacon and muffins. We sat, ate, and enjoyed the pleasure of company for which one need make no allowances, and in which everyone is completely at ease.

Brunch completed, we then embarked on a little Sunday Stuff. First, we bowed to Koios's sudden overwhelming urge to play Countdown. My brain was just starting to remember it had a hangover, and add mental arithmetic to the mix and I was soon struggling against a proper mind-buster. Not, I hasten to add, it would have made any difference. I can only ever do the numbers game if I'm alone - and even then, I rarely get it right. I'm the world's biggest mathematical idiot. Usually the letters game sees me through, but not this time! Koios romped to victory by 2 points, leaving a newly returned Fisher to settle for second place and do the Furious Dance of Loss and Shame. Naked.

Not naked. Well ... not very naked.

Next, Spar, Pro and I watched Man U play Liverpool, which - as usual - promised much but presented very little (Man U won 1-0 in a game with moments of excitement and a lot of dull, stop-start stuff). Alas, we lost Spar and Blar after the footie as they had errands to run and a friend to visit in hospital, so we bade them fond farewell and Happy Christmas.

Next up was last week's repeat of the very excellent Cranford, which Hils had missed last Sunday - and we suddenly started feeling rather hungry. Pizza was suggested, pizza cheered, and pizza ordered. Fisher and Koios kindly went out to collect it (we're too rural for a pizza delivery company), while Pro and I watched Arsenal v Chelsea (slightly less dull, but watching the Gooners win anything is a painful experience).

Pizza was the perfect end to the visit, and at around 7, Pro and Koios gathered their bags and headed off into the cold, back to Edinburgh and preparations for work the next day - at least for Koios. Pro is off for the Christmas hols now - although he does have rather a lot of marking to be done.

With the final crunch of gravel, Fisher and I were alone again. We flopped happily on the sofa, most happy with our lot, and managed to stay awake through the final, tear-jerking episode of Cranford. I do believe Judi Dench to be the finest actor alive in the world, but the rest of the Cranford cast was just as impressive. Maybe not the young, romantic leads - but then, nowadays I couldn't give two figs for love stories involving boring, traditional characters. It was much more touching when it was Judi Dench and Michael Gambon kindling the flames of an old romance. Young, pretty people in love are just so insipid.

So that was that. Cranford watched, tears surreptitiously wiped away, all other pottering done, we collapsed into bed with sighs of content. A lovely weekend with lovely friends. What more could we ask for?

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Urghgggghhhhhhhhgggghhhrrrrr ...

Boys ...

drink ...

more ...

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Song 'n' Stuff

A quick update:

I went to the gym and couldn't face running, so did 30 mins on the bike, on hill - which turned out to be 8 miles ... nearly. I ran over in order to complete the distance, but only by about a minute - if that. I did a fast half mile on the treadmill, then weights.

3 x 12 reps on the pully-down thing, 30kg
3 x 12 reps bicep curler, 25kg
3 x 12 reps on the chest pressy thing (where you push out from a sitting position), either 25 or 30kg, can't remember.

To make up for all this nonsense, I then ate a whole 175g bag of Maltesers, and felt sick. Shame, as it rather spoiled Fisher's delicious Teriyaki Chicken. I really must stop doing that. I think having regular meals would help. At the moment I forget to eat, and am then SO hungry at the end of the day I scarf down anything I can get my hands on.

Ok - boring stuff out of the way. On to ... er ... more boring stuff.

Nay! For we went out! Yes indeed, a few nights ago Fisher and I donned our glad rags (more emphasis on the rags than the glad) and headed off to Edinburgh for a wine tasting at Sideways, followed by dinner at Calistoga with The Clan. It was muckle good craic, as they say round these parts. Although, I have to say, the guy giving us the wine tasting was a class 1 knob. He decided, apropos of very little, to display a bizarre desire to spout his disapproval of some Jewish people who phoned up the v posh Witchery restaurant to request Kosher food. The Witchery then had to send out to Glasgow for said Kosher nosh, which seemed to displease this fellow very much. The cheek of it! To request Kosher food! Don't these Jewish folk know they should be grateful just to be allowed to eat in Britain? King John expelled them all, and yet here they are, eating food and behaving as if nothing ever happened!

Ok, he wasn't that bad, but it did take the biscuit when he said:

"It's just my opinion but I think people are stupid like that. I mean, if it's a case of starving or eating non Kosher food, which one will you choose?"

We all stared at our feet, thinking "who said anything about starving? Who, if on borderline starvation, would be eating at the Witchery?"

He then went on to say:

"I don't see, if God exists, which I don't believe he does - " yeah, no shit " - why he'd have a problem with you eating non Kosher if it was a matter of life or death. I mean, unless you believed in some real Old Testament type God, or something."

I shit thee not, readers. He actually said this, with a proper scoff in his voice. When we pointed out, not unreasonably, that Jewish people ... er ... like, did believe in a 'real Old Testament type God' he attempted to back track, failed and, upon realising that we were all getting distinctly uncomfortable, said defiantly:

"Oh, are my views too strident for you?"

I think Barry managed to switch the topic of conversation admirably at this point, which was exceedingly good of him because I was a hair's breadth away from saying:

"Not too strident. Just pig ignorant - and quite offensive."

This would not have been a good idea. Luckily, danger was averted, we returned to swilling Californian vino (the best of the bunch being a St Francis Cabernet Sauv - who'd a thunk it? I generally dislike cabernet) and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We then went next door for nosh at Calistoga (food good, options limited), gave Wheeler his birthday pressies, and all was most convivial.

Aside from this sojourn, I've been extraordinarily lazy this week. I've been revisiting Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within on PS2, and it's such a beautiful, atmospheric and thoroughly engrossing game! A real work of art - although I have to say, the fighting is extremely frustrating. There are just too many combinations to learn, so you end up button mashing - which I hate. On the whole, though, it's one of the best games ever made. Not quite as good as God of War, but right up there.

The other thing I've done is write a song - and embark on the next volume of Las Amazonicas. For those reading who don't know, Las Amazonicas is a book what I writted, with all my pals taking the lead roles. It's set in the 16th century, on the high seas - because it was written for Koios's Christmas present a few years ago, and that's the sort of thing she likes. Considering I know bog-all about 16th century sea-faring, it was a bit of a challenge (although not really. I just made it up). This volume continues the adventures of the all-woman crew of dastardly pirates. Considering I've been writing it for only a few hours, and have nearly 40 pages, it could turn out to be rather ... ah ... epic. Also, I had one - just one - idea to work into the plot. Alas, as usual, my friends turn out to have minds of their own, so I find the crew of Las Amazonicas quite on the other side of the world to where I wish them to be, embroiled in quite a different adventure.

So, yes. It's going to be a long 'un.

Lastly, I wrote a song. The tune is rubbish. I'm not happy with it at all, so I'm going to start again tomorrow. The lyrics are ok, though - but I can't think of a decent title. Therefore I'm going to write them down here, and hope one of you three readers can come up with something marvellous. I'm next to useless at naming things.

Here it is:

As Yet Untitled Song

The world's a broken playground
A carnival of dreams
With a troupe of strutting players
Painted fools behind the scenes
We all want the limelight
Solo dance across the floor
But we scratch amongst the chorus
Hungry wolves with blunted claws

Every part we play is minor
Even presidents and kings
And our dreams are just a footnote
In the grandest scheme of things

We want to leave our mark here
When the darkness takes the light
But like children clutching inkwells
We've the tools but cannot write
We're a cast with no direction
With an audience of ghosts
And the stories we're declaming
A compendium of boasts


Take me to the river
Wash me clean and make me whole
For this theatre of shadows
Leaves a stain upon my soul
Let me see the final curtain
In the footlights, not the lists
With no shame in my performace
No regret for lines I've missed

Yes, I know some of it doesn't quite scan - but that's the beauty of music: you can let the tune bear the rhythm, and as long as your words aren't too squashed it works fine. (Yes, I'm also aware than 'kings' and 'things' is bollocks, but sod off. I've never been a particularly good poet, so leave me alone.)

Tomorrow, dogs arrive - as do Kois and Pro and Blarney and Spartan, for a weekend's chilling. I'm taking the fellas out for supper with my winnings from the Croatia game (and the extra winnings for me being a clever sausage and putting a fiver on Capello to become next England manager. Damn me for not making it a tenner!) so we can have a jolly good moan about our lot. Those not interested in the footie are remaining at home to - I dunno - crochet or something. I'm v much looking forward to it!

Will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Bugger ...

Oh well. Never mind Ricky, it sounds like you were punching above your weight, and put in a good showing. Stick to Light Welter, I reckon.

I imagine Las Vegas now looks like Brighton after a 25,000 strong stag party just hit it. Poor America. Oh the joys of Brits abroad. I was especially proud of how they boo'd the national anthem, just as they do at International football matches. When is someone going to mention how revolting this is? Thank you Scotland for starting that little habit.


I'm not usually a big boxing fan, but even I've got myself caught up in this one.

Get in there Ricky! Go on my son! And ... er ... other suitably primal exclamations of encouragement.

Jesus, boys - not in front of the kids! They might catch The Gayness.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

A Weekend in York

Ahh ... how nice to be back home again. It's one of the nicest parts of going away - returning to all the cosiness of your own nest, checking out all the things you've recorded on Sky+, watching the dogs dance in circles at the sight of their familiar territory ... I love it.

I also love going away, and this trip was a chance to catch up with Brother and Gaura, who are in the throes of buying a country retreat in Staffordshire. My brother seems the only member of our family determined to remain a Sassenach, despite the call of his blood which sings to a hefty Scots tune. Still - the other half is just as strong, belting out Hearts of Oak and the like - and it's funny he's ended up in Staffordshire, where all my mother's maternal side hale from. He didn't know that's where they were from, just as I didn't know about Pitlochry and Perthshire before falling in love with the region (and NOT living there, thanks to Fisher and her Fishy devotion to the dang coast. Must remember to ditch her before the nedding this July), which reaffirms my slight suspicion that affinity to certain landscapes are genetic.

Before our York trip, Fisher had a craft fair in Auld Reekie which turned a very fine profit. She was well looked after by Koios and Pro, who allowed her the use of their spare room, while I twiddled my thumbs at home and was kept awake by lonely pooches. Bloody Bridie! As usual, it takes me a while to get used to sleeping alone - a heavy irony as I'd always sworn I'd never get used to sleeping with someone - so I didn't fall asleep until 3.45am, despite Dotton Adebayo being more than ordinarily dull on Radio 5's Up All Night. At 4.15am I was woken by Bridie whining in her crate. As she's just been shaved, I thought she must be cold so I put her jumper on (god help me, I never thought I'd own a dog that wore clothes) and went blearily back to bed. She then woke me at 6am, 7.45 (when I got up and let her out, only to have her run to the bottom of the garden and shout at the top of her lungs, showing no interest in peeing), and 8.15 when I finally gave up and recognised I wasn't going to get any more sleep. Baffie, of course, was dead to the world throughout all this, curled up at the bottom of the bed under the duvet, snoring fit to bust - so at least one of the family was well rested.

I spent the day watching the footie on the telly, willing myself to take a nap but failing, willing myself to get up and do something active and failing, willing myself to eat something substantial rather than the packet of chocolate biscuits and microwave popcorn I was eyeing and - naturally - failing. By the time it was turn-in time again, I'd realised that, without Fisher around, I would quickly turn into this:

Me, Fisherless, Watching Spurs
Actually, I can see some good points ...

No! Begone, couch potato bliss! I've eaten far too much already this December, and with a calendar full of dinners out and celebrations until well after Crimbo, I really have to exercise just a little self-control - without becoming boring about it.

Where was I? Oh yes - just about to turn in after a day on the sofa watching footie.

Luckily, it was Bridie's turn on the bed that night, so after wrapping Baffie so tightly in my Dad's old jumper she could barely move, I went to sleep in about 5 seconds flat. Joy!

Sunday saw me watch more footie, then head into Edinburgh with the dogs in order to catch Spurs play Birmingham, at home, on Pro's Sky Sports. We lost, 2-3, conceding - again - in the final minutes, and proving our defence is a degenerate bunch of shit bags who need a good caning. Dawson is a competent defender who did very well for us last season, but this season he hasn't won a single header and is poorly assisted by new signing Kaboul, who's a fucking liability! He gave away a needless penalty in the first half before being subbed at half time and replaced by Lee. Wanker. Couple a disasterous defensive display with Robbie Keane getting sent off for a yellow card offence and we were truly up the brown creek, sans paddle.

Ah well. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as our supposedly culturally dead cousins across La Manche would say. (Yes - what's that all about, Time Magazine? If France is culturally dead I'm a mathematician. The fact French authors don't make it in a wider world has more to do with the English speaking world's reluctance to enter the multi-lingual fray than anything else. I mean, for crying out loud! US publishers even insist on translating English into American English before publishing UK authors. How the hell would they cope with French? And the UK isn't any better. The number of linguists we have in this country is just embarrassingly bad, considering our proximity to the continent. At least the US has distance to excuse it. We practically share a border with France, but how many people in the UK speak French? C'est effroyable! Or should that be il est effroyable? Dammit!!)

Lawks, how I do wander off the mark.

Sunday night saw Fisher, Koios, Pro and me pop round to see Chopper in her new and very cosy flat, which she'd managed to make a home in 15 hours. Astonishing. We had mulled wine and too much cheese before heading off for a vegetarian meal at David Bann. Pro had been told he couldn't complain or make jokes or he'd be forced to go to see Enchanted with Koios. He lasted until he sat down, sniffed loudly and said:

"I smell hippies!"

Considering one of the hippies was a skinhead with prominent tattoos, I thought he was quite bold. Still, he is 6' 11", so he was probably safe enough.

It was nice to broaden the old culinary horizons, but I can't say I'll be in a hurry to reurn. For veggie haut cuisine it was remarkably uninspired. There were a great many curries, and if it wasn't curried it was in tart form. I had a chickpea cake type thing with curried sauce and cauliflower, which was pleasant but a little stodgy and, in the end, tasted entirely of curry. Obviously. But it was fine, and I was delighted to have tried it - not to mention the company being, as usual excellent.

Actually, something rather chastening occurred during our visit to Chopper's. We were sitting in the sitting room listening to an older couple (in their late 50s? Early 60s?) talk about the most boring party they'd ever been to, from which they'd just come. It was at Age Concern. I remembered my own, recent, night out at Cupar's Age Concern with slight foreboding. The wifie of this couple - the husband of which was a minister - then said it was mind-numbingly dull because all the elderly folks talked about was meals they'd had out in the past, what they'd had, and how much - or little - they'd enjoyed it. Dull indeed, we agreed, exchanging guilty glances with one another. After all, who but the dullest of dullards would spend an entire evening speaking of food?

If you're going to do it, you ought to make an entire weekend of it - like us.

And, frankly, they're right. It is dull. I find myself to be increasingly boring, driving myself to distraction with the putrid anecdotes I attempt to spin. My own eyes glaze over at the sound of my voice. And yet, I think, at one point, I was a relatively amusing companion. What has happened? Is it age? Are my witty brain cells all fleeing the mothership like rats from a doomed vessel? Or is it just that my life is so unbearably mundane I actually have no anecdotes to impart?

This is serious stuff, and needs exploration. Some day.

Meanwhile, back to recent events. Do I still have your attention? Hello?


Oh well. Struggle onwards, as Boris Johnson would say.

After a pleasant eve with K and P, we slept well and departed for York at the crack of noon the next day. It was a long and, at times, frustrating drive - but we broke it up with a visit to a craft place in the Borders, where we bought Brother some birthday presents, and arrived in York at around 6ish. We were staying in the York Hotel du Vin, which had only opened a week earlier and still had painters around - but was lovely anyway. Not a patch on the one in Glasgow, but very nice.

We met up with Brother & Gaura in the bar, where we chugged a bottle of very pleasant champagne (forgotten the name) then went through for a long, chatty, boozy supper. We ended up in the library drinking digestifs and playing contract whist.

Oh God. I am so old. And it's mental, too - not just a frivolous physical statement of time. Tomorrow I will wake up and, after my bowl of porridge, kick off my slippers and be incredibly youthful and vigorous.

Jeeze. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

After a good-ish sleep on a comfortable bed, we faced York with enthusiasm. It's a beautiful town, and Fisher had given a good account of the Yorvik Centre which I was keen to see, as well as the Minster. We walked from our hotel to the medieval centre and headed into the Yorvik Centre, where we paid our £8 (!) and descended the steps. We stood beneath a sign that said: "Please wait here for transport back in time" or some such crap. We duly waited, until a door hissed open, revealing a time machine, inside which was a Viking. Sort of. He saw 4 adults, no children, and gave an audible gulp. We soon learned why. Instead of clocking that we weren't going to be particularly impressed by his Pantomime Viking ("Yarr, I don't know why I was put in charge of this machine - 'tis all magic to me! Yarr - is it the red or green button? Yarr ... etc ...") and dropping the act to its bare bones, he gave the full spiel a half-hearted and very embarrassed go, leaving all parties uncomfortable and desirous of finding a hole in which to hide.

After watching a brief video taking us back in time through York, we emerged underground, in a cavern that smelled very peculiarly of something either burnt or burning. A female Viking awaited to show us onto our next ride - which would take us round the excavated site, which has been 'developed' into a supposed kiddie heaven of waxworks, reconstructed huts and patronising voice-overs. I mentioned the burning smell, only to be reprimanded by the female Viking who said: "That's my home you're talking about!"

"And you're not concerned your home is clearly on fire?" I muttered under my breath, but before I could suggest someone actually check the presence of a raging inferno on the premesis, our carousel arrived and I clambered on.

Round we went. It was pretty dire. Brother entertained himself by listening to the voice over in Spanish, but the rest of us put up with being told "look, o-look, there is a hut made of something called 'wattle' and 'daub'. 'Wattle' and 'daub' is where ..." at which I threw off the restraining metal arm and flung myself onto the tracks in front, to be run over veeeeery slowly by a very patronising carousel.

Or so I contemplated. Fisher was dying of embarrassment for having recommended Yorvik - or so I surmise from the way she's denied all responsibility ever since.

The thing that pisses me off is: here's a fabulous site of historical interest, excavated with loving care - and turned into a kiddie playground. I have absolutely no problem with encouraging children to explore history, but do you have to do it to the detriment of serious adult visitors? It would have been nice to glean some academic learning from the experience - but even though we opted for the adult voice-over, rather than the children's option, we were treated to 'the idiot's guide to Viking York'.

Still, it was good for a larf, and seeing Fisher in a Viking mask almost made it £8 worth of larf.

£7.50 worth of Larf
After Yorvik we headed for a tea room in The Shambles, which are really lovely mediaeval streets. Quaffing copious amounts of Orange Pekoe was restorative, and we pottered off to The Minster.

Now that really is worth a dekko. The first builing on the site was a Roman fort, at which Constantine was made Emperor owing to the death of his father. An Anglo-Saxon church then took over the site, replaced by a Norman cathedral after William I's harrying of the north between 1069-70. It took the Normans only 20 years to build their austere, workmanlike cathedral - probably because they realised quelling the local hotheads with work was more effective than beating their heads in.

The current minster was built between c.a 1230 and 1472. During the 1960s they discivered the continuing additions had put enormous strain on the original foundations, particularly on the four balusters holding up the central tower, and the tower was in immediate danger of falling down. They raised around £2m and it was saved, so York Minster continues to impress today.

It really is divine, in all senses of the word. It's hard to get an overall picture of it, because it's in the city centre and the surrounding buildings prevent a complete view - but its size is the least of its charms. The Gothic style is always so awe-inspiring, and inside there are so many features to admire - not least the famous Rose Window (not as impressive as the one in Notre Dame, but still mighty fine). I'm particularly fond of the statues of all the kings, up until Henry VI, and of some of the commemorative statues. Check out my flickr site for more pics of York if you're interested.

We explored the minster fully before heading out and getting something to eat at Betty's famous tea room. It was a bit of a wait, but worth it in the end for its old fashioned charms. You can well imagine people drinking tea, eating finger sandwiches and scones, at Betty's in the 1900s. We then split up for a while, before heading back to the hotel to walk the pooches. We made our way back fine but Bro and Gau got hopelessly lost and walked for miles before finding their way back. We sensibly decided to get a cab when we headed out for supper - which we had at a place called Melton's Too, and were uninspired.

Next day, we spent the morning drinking more tea, buying me some shooooooooes, ambling the Shambles, and deciding we'd seen enough of York. Bro and Gaura were meeting the owners of their prospective house that evening and their thoughts were clearly elsewhere, so we headed our separate ways. The drive was much smoother this way as we avoided Newcastle, and arrived in Edinburgh in good time to have a meal with Koios (who'd come down with a filthy cold), Pro, Chopper and Blarney. Finally, we dropped in to say hello to Spartan, berated him for not having birthday plans, then went home.

And here we are, home hale, hearty and whole - at least until Saturday when Fisher goes off to ply Lucklaw Silver's trade in Glasgow. Fingers crossed for another lucrative fair. She deserves it after all the finger-skinningly hard work she's put in (link to her website at the top of this page, for new visitors to the site. Hello to both of you, by the way!)