Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Quick Update

Went to the gym - miraculously helped to stave off migraine - and did this:

30 mins on bike, cross-country setting (highest level 17 - but only for a few minutes). I left it on the gym setting, rather than ratcheting it up a couple of points, as I usually do, because I wanted to be easy on myself. I wasn't. I worked hard, and did just over 8 miles in the 30 mins, which means an average of 16mph - which I was ok with.

Then went straight to the running machine and ran a mile ... ok, I ran half a mile, then had to stop and stretch out my calves, which were incredibly tight. Then I ran the other half - and did the whole thing in 11.30, which I'll take.

Then did weights. I've finally figured out that the pull down machine does, indeed, go up in 5kg increments, which means the first hole is 15kg. So I did 3 x 12 reps at 35kg (pulling down in front of me, 'cos Phid told me I should) and found it much easier! I must have been doing 40kg before ... which, dammit! means I should continue to do 40kg.

Also did:

3 x 12 bicep curl on 6 (prob 15kg)
2 x 12 chest press, 40kg. Then got bored and hungry, so went home and made a sea bass dish I was quite pleased with, to begin with, but became annoyed over by the end. The fish itself was fine. I stuffed each one with ginger, garlic, red chilli, fresh coriander and parsley, then drizzled them with olive oil, kikkoman and sherry. But to accompany it, I made a sort of vegetable ragout with cumin seeds and paprika, cooked with a tin of tomatoes and port - and it was just a bit wet, and too many flavours. In future I'll leave out the port and paprika. I also did pan fried potatoes, though, and they were good. Followed by strawberries with Elmlea, and a little Kit-Kat. Add my apple, and an orange juice, and I've actually eaten 5 portions of fruit 'n' veg today! Huzzah!

Alas, I got on the scale this morning and despite being rather restrained over the last week, I've lost nary a pound. The ice cream cake is Pro's. I know it.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Catch Up

It was Fisher's birthday on the 24th, which we spent organising 'nedding' stuff (Sister HATES that name, so naturally I am now using it as often as possible) in a very exciting, positive manner. All our requests, barring a couple, were given the go-ahead ... but, look behind you! Yes! That's the upper limit of our budget vanishing into the distance.

Some thought must be given to the cost of this thing. Either that or I need to earn some money. Anyone want to give me a job? Bearing in mind, of course, that I'm pretty much good for nothing and that anything I ever did learn I have now forgotten. Fisher keeps saying "just write a book" - like that's easy and not something I've been frickin' TRYING to do! Bah. She knows nothing of art.

Friday night saw the arrival of all our lovely mates, barring Janus who is in Japan having, I hope, a lovely time. We went to L'Orient in St Andrews for Japanese/Thai food. I had a beef curry that was delicious, and perfectly spicy. Koios, in that "I'm so hard" way the English have when eating hot food, claimed it "wasn't spicy at all" but if she'd been eating all of it I'm pretty sure she'd have been sniffing and dribbling by the end of it. It got considerably warmer as you went on! Very good, though. I sat next to Phid and Pro which, apart from watching (and listening!) in astonishment as Pro literally sucked up all his food, was delightful. Good company, the pair of them, and despite the fact Pro called me Frank Carson all night, owing to my propensity to crack rubbish puns, he was one to talk! Mr Crap Joke himself! And a right giggle, too.

Back at Holly Frot, we had birthday cheesecake, chatted, drank a bit and had a chilled evening before going to bed on the back of a rousing 'A Man's a Man for A' That' in honour of Robbie Burns. It's by far my favourite poem of his, so just in case there are any readers out there who don't know it:

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Good faith, he maunnae fur a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Nice, hm?

Next day, I woke up with a hangover, which I found deeply, deeply unfair as I'd not actually drunk very much. Ok, we had a cocktail at the Japanese place, and a few beers, but certainly not enough to put a head on me - or so I believe. I dragged myself from my pit at the slovenly hour of 10.30 (ishg) to find, joyously, the only other people up were Phid and Wheeler who'd taken the guest dogs out and generally been forced to entertain themselves.

I sent Fisher out to the butcher to get lamb and we had a Saturday roast. I managed to screw up the gravy right royally, but there were enough juices to get by (just). I did my usual thing - stuffed garlic and rosemary into the flesh in little cuts, then basted the roast with a vodka and redcurrant jelly glaze about 20 mins before taking out. This is actually what screwed up the gravy. I got bored of glazing and just poured the mixture over the joint, which meant it all pooled into the bottom of the tin, burned and ruined the meat juices. Pah. I'll know better next time. Anyway, Fisher did her usual magic with the roasties (nobody gets them crisper or fluffier) and I heard no complaints. Unfortunately, Wheeler had to head back to town before lunch, and Spartan was busy with Cult duties (the BBs, he assures me, is not a cult, but what are we supposed to think when it takes up every Friday night? What else but passionate devotion to a slightly freaky cause could possibly cause a man of 29 to give up his Friday night?) so he couldn't make it up. We missed them both.

The afternoon was taken up with a game of Mandarin, which put almost everyone except Fisher (who won) in a stinking mood, then tea and cake. Then everyone went back to town, Fisher and I put our feet up, and went to bed.

We've been looking at potential houses this week - but there's nothing out there to tempt us away from HC. It's got to be good. Fisher wants it to be the house we live in forever, but forever always makes me twitch so I'm thinking of it as a house we could live in forever - but is, at least, a step up from where we are.

I'm bored of writing now, and the number of typos I'm making is giving me a slight suspicion I'm brewing a migraine - so I shall close by saying I ran a slow 5k at Tentsmuir on Sunday (36.30 by my crap sat nav, 34.30 by Fisher's new model - but I have to go with mine, as that's the one I've been using the whole time and it gives consistency), but it was a new route and I hadn't eaten anything. Also, I was in a mighty rage! I ran with Fisher and her presence distracted me from getting into a daydream and therefore a rhythm. It wasn't her fault, but I wished she wasn't there. I usually don't mind running with her, although it doesn't exactly boost my confidence to know she's plodding along beside me at an embarrassing pace, but that day I really ought to have said I'd go on my own. I was in such a foul mood.

In fact, my moods have been generally pretty foul for a while now. It's winter. I need vitamin D - and maybe some fun stuff to look forward to. Hey ho. If that's the case, I'd better organise something. No use sitting on my fat arse waiting for someone else to do the work.

I'm off to nurse my bad temper.

^ ^

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Houses and Stuff

Well, I'm stuck in a mighty rut. I can't write. I can barely string a sentence together, for crying out loud. I feel I need a change of scene, something to get the synapses firing again.

This house-hunting malarky is quite fun, in its way, but it transpires that Fisher and I have one major difference in our approach, namely: she wants the right house, I want the right place ... and the right house. But I think I'd compromise much more quickly over the house than she would. I'd dearly love to be up near Pitlochry, where the mountains rise. She wants a wonderful house, and will settle for almost anywhere to get it. We're actually off to look at a place in Moffat on Monday, which is a spa town in Dumfriesshire, but even though the place itself looks amazing (see here) it just doesn't fill me with the desire to move there. The hills are pretty and everything, but there's no wildness to it. It's all terribly tamed. I like to look out of the window and think: that world out there could kill me! And watching cars drive too fast on the A914 doesn't count!

The other place I'm keen on is this one: here.

Unfortunately, Fisher is about as enthusiastic about it as I am about Moffat, and with good reasons. The garden's not big, she's pretty sure it's right on the road, and the inside is far from ideal. In fact, it may turn out to be as big a turkey as the other one we looked at in Pitlochry. But it's the right place, for me.

It's funny. We call Fisher 'the Hermit' because she'd be quite happy living in her own cupboard counting shoes and never seeing anyone again - but when it comes to people in the general sense of the word, it's me who really needs to keep them at arms length. I hate the thought of living amongst them. I want to look out and see the wilderness, not someone else's house. It's the Thoreau in me - although Thoreau was a bit of a pansy really. Wilderness my arse! He lived about a mile from his family home - he just happened to be in amongst a bunch of trees. Sister would laugh in his face!

The planes, as I think I've mentioned, have been truly appalling for the last couple of weeks which drove me to such extents of rage I sat down and wrote a stiff email to the RAF. Yes, folks, the British spirit is strong within me - especially as I littered it with sarcasm, such as the phrase "delightful 'circuits and bumps' which so charm the local population as you fly over our houses again and again." Luckily the RAF are scrupulously polite in responding to angry locals, and I got a swift response with some good news.

First of all, they explained that their runway had been under repair which caused flying to be restricted, hence why they'd been so quiet of late. Now it's repaired, the Christmas break is over, and the squadrons have returned from stirring up an unnecessary hornet's nest in Iraq, so we're back to the usual crap. (They didn't phrase it quite like that). But the good news is: in May, we're dropping down to 2 squadrons. Huzzah! Then the Typhoons will arrive in 2010. Huzzoo! I've been told that the new Eurofighter Typhoons have a greater noise footprint than the F1s - but a smaller turning circle which means ... well, nothing, to me. I'm pretty sure it means the people of Leuchars and Guardbridge are fucked, though. It might turn out better for the folks up here as the planes turn more quickly, but I doubt that, too. They' ll still want to fly over the hill, and the sound of those enormous, twin EJ200 engines will cause some serious ear-throbbing! Although I notice it can cruise without the use of afterburners, which ... probably won't make any difference at all, actually, as I think it's the use of afterburners during take-off that's the problem round here. And even 'dry' those babies make a hell of a racket.

Basically, it means we should sell up and move by 2010, and put the house on the market in May.

Ironically, since I've complained, the planes have been really good. Naturally, this has nothing to do with my complaint and much more to do with the RAF having caught up with their backlog of hours, which means I'm sitting here writing to the uninterrupted, mellifluous tones of Lisa Miskovsky (she's much poppier than I usually enjoy, but reminds me of Elin Sigvardsson) and loving life. Could I be coming through the black patch? God help me but I've been so angry of late.

Tell ya what - going for my first 4 mile run in an age helped yesterday. I wasn't fast, but managed to keep up a steady 12 minute mile pace up to Logie and back. Quarry Road is such a bitch. I found the run extremely hard, until about the 3 mile point when I recklessly thought to myself "I could keep going at this pace all day!" Naturally, this means I should have picked up the pace - but sod that. Anyway, within about 10 seconds I was back to wishing myself dead.

It's funny, but one of the things that keeps me going on a run is the thought of Fisher's face when I tell her what I achieved. She's always so genuinely pleased, and because she's so much quicker, more dedicated and generally better at running there's never a sense of competition between us, so her approval is pure and heartfelt. I don't usually seek approval for my actions, but I have to admit, it's really wonderful to have someone patting you on the back at the end of a run.

Lisa Miskovskovskovsky has finished now, and it's on to Regina Spektor. This chick rocks my socks.

Hmm. Looking back over this post ... I promise, my musical taste doesn't just involve northern European female singers! In fact, the last album I bought was Gavin Mikhail who's an American male (from northern European stock, with a name like that! Dammit!) and is also much poppier than my usual taste.

Christ, in my old age I seem to have taken a firm grip on the wheel and driven boldly to the middle of the road.

No. Regina Spektor will save me.

And with that - I feel an urge to WRITE! How marvellous. Also, Fonda is coming round for supper tonight and she's just got herself engaged, so a chance for some serious girly chat, I think.

Saturday, 19 January 2008


Played squash - made people run for a change, and ran a lot myself, which suggests improvement (still gubbed up and down the court though).

Did a few weights in the gym after, and have serious doubts about the weight increments I've been believing I've been hefting. I stood on the scales and weighed how much the bicep curl added to me when I lifted it up. I have a sneaking suspicion each weight is actually 2.5kg, not 5kg - which would suck, but make much more sense. Anyway, this is what I did:

3 x 12 pull down, on 6 (35kg, supposedly). Did one set to the back of my neck, one to the chest with hands far apart, one set to the chest with hands close together
1 x 12 bicep curl, on 8 (either 40kg or 20kg)
2 x 12 " " on 7 (35kg or 17.5kg)
1 x 12 horizontal leg lift, on 12 (120kg)
2 x 12 " " " on 11 (110kg)
1 x 12 leg curls, on 8 (fuck knows, fuck cares - I HATE that thing. It seriously hurts, like cramp)

Then Fisher was ready to come home. She made a delicious dinner, after we valiantly managed to resist getting pizza. Smoked haddock with pancetta risotto. Deelicious. Alas, I then ate almost 2 whole bars of Green & Black's chocolate - one Maya Gold, the other Butterscotch - so I would have been better off getting pizza.

Pro is so going to win this bet. Still, before scarfing the chocs I'd lost 4 pounds, so with any luck the fact I ate like a frickin' Cistercian during the day will help.

Hm. Just checked the fat and calorie content. Bad idea. Suffice it to say, I would have been much better off just getting the goddamned pizza. However, it's ludicrous to imagine myself primly eating only a small pizza and nothing else, so I would have had pizza and chocolate, and would be crying myself to sleep with chocolate all round my mouth right now.

Onwards and upwards. Downwards, I should say, if we're thinking poundage. No point in dwelling on the silly stuff. Just get back on the horse, forget the slips, and struggle onwards. In a week or so I'll probably start enjoying healthy food again. It'll improve my moods, make me crave fresh fruit and veg, and generally improve me as a person.


I swear ... a pig! It just flew past my window!

Friday, 18 January 2008


The goddamned RAF have flown over this house once too many times. I'm leaving. We've begun the search for our dreamhouse (I'd like it to be somewhere near Pitlochry, or that area, anyway) and plans are already rolling for some updates to HC to make it more saleable.

I don't know what's suddenly changed - apart from increased RAF activity - but I've rather lost my attatchment to this place. I thought I'd find it hard, leaving Fife, but actually I couldn't give a rat's arse about this place. I've lived here for 7 years now and the only real friends I've made are Brave Bird and Minstrel - which means there are no people keeping me here. There's the tennis club - but there are tennis clubs all over the bloody place, so no worries there. Otherwise, what is there?

Feck all.

I say, farewell Fife - it's time for pastures new.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Blimey - Feminist Rant from Nowhere

Chopper came up for a visit this weekend, which was fun. It's interesting getting to know her better.

Friday night saw us chomping Fisher's Thai green curry and yakking (talking - not puking), then watching Sideways on DVD. I do like that film. Both characters are so deeply flawed, and yet you can't help liking them both. I don't find it as funny as some, but I like its air of the ludicrous and the hopeless helplessness of this pair of losers - one of whom is depressingly aware of his failure, the other utterly oblivious - and the ultimate hope their story brings. Also, it's about wine - so how far wrong can you go?

Next day, we went for a lovely walk at Balmerino, along the banks of the Tay and right the way up to Birkhill House, which appeared throught the trees quite suddenly, just as we'd decided to walk only a little further before turning back. There's a walled garden there, which is marked 'private' but I bet you can have a squizz round. We were too gutless to go in, but peered through the bars of the gate like urchins at a restaurant door. We then walked up to Birkhill House, which was built in 1692 - although some of the house is older by about 100 years, and admired it greatly. It's now a housing co-op called Talamh (which, I believe, is 'earth' in Gaelic), which has been going since 1996. It was bought by a bunch of friends in '93 who wanted to provide affordable housing for themselves, as well as sharing ideals of community, self-help, quality of life and love of the outdoors. The original members have all gone, but the co-op continues. I dunno - it always sounds lovely, and something which appeals to me greatly, but I can't help feeling it doesn't really work out, and if it doesn't, the consequences are severe. I shared a house with Koios for several years without incident, and so far so good with Fisher - but those are rather special cases. Plus, introduce Fisher the Hermit into the mix and you've got problems. Leave your shoes out of place one time too many and she'll stomp around the house slamming doors for days.

I imagine, if you were going to start up a housing co-op, you'd need to make sure everyone was already with their chosen partner, that everyone liked everyone to the point of being able to have a blistering row without long-term consequences, and that no great changes were afoot (so, preferably, those who were going to breed had already done so). Change, while exciting, can often put great strain on friendships. You have a comfortable status quo, then something or someone comes along and changes it ... I'd guess it can be tricky. No wonder these communities of friends don't last. It's hard enough when things change in a group of mates who aren't living together!

So, Fisher, Chopper, dogs and I had a little scout around, then headed back through the woods to the car. It was quite an interesting walk, in that the path was rather cross-country in places, and involved some stream-fording owing to broken bridges with ice on them. The dogs enjoyed themselves, even through Bri had to be kept on the lead. She ran off on her walk the day before and wouldn't come back when I called. She tracked me all the way home, but I was seriously cheesed.

We certainly got the best of the weather. It was crisp, sunny and very cold, but our exercise warmed us up, and when we got back to the car the sun was starting to fade, causing the temp to drop even further. Our driveway was very iced up. The postie could barely get out after dropping off the post, and even Keith the Drover had a moment of gliding when we got back.

We'd stopped off at Leuchars to go to the butcher and pick up some lamb shanks for supper, and also to get some hot chocolate, cream, marshmallows and flakes to make Fisher and Chopper some serious chocolatey goodness. This they did, while I went to the bottom of the garden and hauled in a bunch of icy logs, in case we decided to have a fire later on. Luckily, we didn't. They'd never have lit!

Fisher and Chops plonked themselves in front of Hairspray while I took the opportunity to play on my computer - and then, at around 6-ish, Sister and sons arrived in their usual whirlwind. Wrecker greeted us with a beaming smile, clutching his new teddy, Coco (ha ha ... Spartan'll love that). After greetings and settling, we fed the boys spaghetti bolognese, let Sister get on with bathing and putting to bed - while I started cooking the lamb shanks.

Once the boys were down, if not sleeping, we had a very pleasant evening of wine and chat.

Sunday saw Sister and sons head off at crack of sparrows, while the rest of us rose in a more leisurely fashion before heading in to meet them in Dundee for lunch. We went to the Twin Cities for mezze and falafel, then Chops, Fisher and I went to the DCA to see an exhibition by a short film maker (that's short films, folks, not a vertically challenged film maker) which I was much more taken with that I'd expected. There was a bit of rousing feminism from Mary Woollstencraft, which reminded me, still, of how far feminism has to go.

Case in point: the BBC reported on the barracking of Hillary Clinton by young students shouting "iron my shirt" as a 'moment of levity' or words to that effect. I wonder, would they have thought it as humourous if the students had shouted 'pick my cotton' to Barrack Obama? But, nowadays, it's deeply unfashionable to be a feminist. In fact, most people don't seem to see any difference between being a feminist and a feminazi. Complaining about laddish behaviour is considered petty and uptight, and women don't seem to mind that all things female are still looked at with, at best, patronising tolerance, but never equality. If men and women are equal, why are men still humiliated at the thought of being feminine? Why don't men crochet, or knit, or dance? Yes, I'm aware there are men who do these things, but they're unusual - just as there are woman, like myself, who would rather put their face in a food processor than spend the evening crocheting - and considered a novelty. (And before you ask - I don't crochet because I have ten thumbs and, personally, find it the most frustratingly boring thing in the word - not because I scorn it in any way). And it's not just about clichés like knitting, either. Look up the word 'masculine' in a thesaurus. Then look up the word 'feminine' - and you tell me you don't have a problem with it!

I've been angry for so long, and it never makes any difference. Women just roll over and ask for their tummies to be scratched by men. They pander to their egos, defer to them, and never challenge them - because they want men to like them. Fair enough, you might say. The species has to continue, so men and women have to like each other. But my question is: why is it always women who defer?

I played tennis with Spartan, Pro and Phid a couple of years ago. Phid is a total beginner. Pro is a beginner, and quite rubbish. Spartan was relatively rubbish. I'm rubbish, but not as rubbish as the rest of them, because I play a lot, and at least know what I'm supposed to do - even if I can't duplicate it. But what struck me is that Spartan and Pro both decided to teach Phid how to play, despite the fact they didn't actually know what they were talking about. It was just confusing, as well as mostly wrong. In the end I split us up, put the boys together and gave Phid some pointers I remembered my tennis coach giving me. But the point is - why did the men think it ok to give Phid lessons? I noticed that, as Spartan was playing Pro, he wasn't keeping up a running commentary on how to play the game. And these are men without a sexist bone in their bodies. Why shouldn't they give Phid pointers on how to play? But why didn't I decide to give them pointers? Why, when I played Spartan again at a much later date, did I not point out all the things he was doing wrong and teach him how to hit the ball better?

Because I thought it would be humiliating for him. After all, I was beating the life out of him anyway, so getting lectured would have been rubbing salt into the wound. I can't help but get the feeling men only feel this way when playing other men. Playing women, they have very little expectation of being bettered, so it's ok to be pedagogical about it.

But it's not just playing sport. How many times have I sat and listened as a man lectures me on one or other subject - regardless of whether I know something about it or not? But there's the thing - likely, it's 'not', because I will ask people about things they know about and listen interestedly as they speak. I don't see men doing this. How many men have listened to me lecture them about dogs, or cooking, or writing, or singing, or tennis, or Shakespeare, or medieval history, or the Scots language, or any of the other things I happen to know something about? Readers who know me well might scoff at this, because I'm not exactly one to keep an opinion to myself - but that's not the same thing. I like to take an issue and discuss it and, yes, I might occasionally go 'off on one' and rant a bit - but I expect people to counter me, and I enjoy the discussion. I don't sit and give them lessons on whatever it is I'm talking about. I find that patronising. And yet, I believe that deep down a lot of women still instinctively feel a man's knowledge is broader than their own, and will sit and listen to him - whereas the opposite is not the case.

I can't emphasise enough, though, that I'm by no means certain this is the man's fault. I don't think women assert themselves when it comes to men. I think they're too frightened of being disliked by the opposite sex. I also think they quite like a man who is assertive, powerful and stronger than them. I suppose I have a different aspect, anyway, because I'm not trying to attract men. I like them a lot. They're great friends, and I enjoy their company hugely. To a certain extent, I can almost be more myself with them than I can with women. But it does piss me off that women are still subservient - something you can see in the evidence all around us - and it's not a situation that can be pinned entirely on men.

It's about time women stood up, looked the world in the eye and said: if I want to be treated with respect, it's about time I earned it. The trouble with stroking egos is that, in the end, the stroked ego is nurtured and strengthened above and beyond the stroker's. Fuck it. From now on, I'm conducting an experiment. In how many social situations will I find men talking and women passively listening?

I'll let you know ... the minute I have a social situation.

Christ, that came out of nowhere! Well - not nowhere. It's been simmering for about 31 years. I just don't know what triggered it.

Back to the weekend ...

After the gallery visit, we went on home and played with the boys until it was time for Chopper to catch the train home. I dropped her off at the station, went home and ate supper with Sister and Fisher (Fisher cooked teriyaki veg as we all felt a bit meat-tastic).

Next day, Sister and sons went out and had breakfast in Cupar, leaving the house quiet for the morning. Fisher worked, I pottered, and when the boys returned I headed out with them to St Andrews for a walk on the beach with the dogs, lunch at The Seafood Restaurant, a foiled trip to the Aquarium (shut) and then home. Sister headed into Dundee for shopping, so I looked after the boys on my own (with a little help from Fisher, who changed Wrecker's nappy after a noxious aroma all but had us crawling, gasping on our bellies ... and then we discovered no nappies in the house, so I had to go out and get some from Leuchars, after which I was damned if I was going near the foul stench) which involved a large chunk of watching TV, some playtime with a water-based toy, some drawing, and, lastly, Gemmill cooking his own omelette for supper. I also stuffed them with crumpets & jam, carrot sticks, oat biscuits and brambles - so at least they were well fed! Sweetly, when I brought Gemmill a plate with crumpets on it, he looked up from the TV and said:

"You're being very kind!"

To which I responded: "That's what Aunties are for!" A statement he greeted with natural skepticism, and rightly so.

Sister returned just as Gemmill was creating his gourmet omelette, so I was glad to collapse in a small heap and turn over responsibility to her more capable hands. Food, bath, bed - accompanied by much mischief from Gemmill, who claimed he was "sooo thirsty" but, it transpired, he only wanted a glass of water so he could put his weird maize-puff type toys in it. We should have twigged when he rejected the beaker of water Sister brought him, and insisted on a glass.

Cheeky brat.

Meanwhile, Fisher was having a small meltdown in her workshop, so took a break to collect Thai food for us all. Mmmmm. Gooooood. Then we watched TV and went to bed. I was asleep by about 12.30 - unheard of! But I was also up at 8.30 to see Sister and the boys off on their trip to Glasgow for Wrecker's hospital appointment (residual burn stuff), so I'm glad I had an early night.

Is this blog the dullest thing on the web?

Could be. And thus:


Friday, 11 January 2008

Song II

I've written another song. Seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment. Anyway - I'm actually quite pleased with it (shock! horror!) although it's rather sad. Here are the lyrics. Comments welcome.

Morrigan's Daughter

Do you remember the time
When we drank too much wine
How we ran to the shoreline and danced in the sea?
There was snow on the sand
And I held out my hand
Watched the flakes as they melted at first touch of me

Remember the way that you turned in the water
Your hair in the moonlight like silver, fine-spun,
The night in your eyes just like Morrigan's daughter
You faded before me like I was the sun

I remember so well
How you suddenly fell
The gleam of your arm a wild flash in the dark
And I stretched out a hand
I still can't understand
How quick you were gone, like a vanishing spark


And I'll see you somewhere
In a girl with gold hair
Or a woman whose skin is the pearliest white
But those girls in the sun
No, they're never the one
For my Morrigan's daughter is lost in the night

(Chorus x 2)

Thursday, 10 January 2008

More Exercise, More Recipes

Ok, I don't want to turn into Fanny Craddock here, but I was very proud of my supper tonight. The cupboards are surprisingly bare, considering I recently did a Tesco shop, but I managed to rustle something up that tasted extremely fine. But more of that later. First, the doings of the day.

I started the day by double booking someone for dog-sitting. The poodles, Molly and Ben, are due to come to us next weekend, and a woman phoned to ask if she could book her two mongrels in for Thursday to Saturday. I thought it would mean a single day's cross-over, but then the Poodle Owner phoned to say she would drop them off on Friday morning - meaning two full days with 4 dogs. I asked Poodle Owner what she thought of the arrangement, and she said her big old male dog is getting grumpy in his old age, so she wouldn't be comfortable with it. She did offer to take the dogs with her to see her parents, but I couldn't have that so I had to phone the Mongrel Owner and crawl.

I hate crawling.

Luckily, Mongrel Owner turns out to be lovely. Funnily enough, I thought she was One Of My Ilk when a woman who wasn't her answered the phone and talked about 'their' trip. Ha! thought I. So Fisher and I aren't the only Hell-Bound in Scotland. Then, when I phoned again and got Mongrel Owner, it transpired that the woman staying with her was just a friend ... but she turned out to have a be-boobed partner anyway. Huh! Fancy that.

Actually, we had a nice chat about the weather, as you do. She's an American, and was bemoaning the misery of it all.

"It's got to brighten up soon, right?" she asked, pleadingly. "I mean ... just a little?"

"First time in Scotland?" I said sympathetically, to which she agreed. "Well, you may well find yourself in for a long haul," I told her, thus crushing her poor, shivering spirit. Dammit. This is why I never became a counsellor. Still, I don't know what she was complaining about. There was a full 30 minutes of sunshine over Guardbridge today. I know because I could see it out of my window, through the snow.

Seriously, though - I agree. If we don't get some clear, sunny, crisp weather soon I may just have a little tantrum.

Once I'd managed to sort the dog situation out, thanks to Mongrel Owner being incredibly understanding and not giving me the earful I deserved, I turned my thoughts to more serious things - like finding a nice wee cottage in the country for Phid, who's moving soon.

5 hours later ...

There ARE no nice cottages in the country. Seriously. There isn't a single one on the market - at least, not in Clackmannanshire, Stirlingshire, Perthshire, or any other Shire. I sent off 3 pathetic offerings that may or may not suit as a stop-gap - and then went to the gym with Fisher.

Hurrah! The running machines were free.

Hurroo. That meant I had no excuse not to use one. I did a few weights to warm up before hopping on:

3 x 12 pull down, 35kg. Sort of. Doing it at the front means I use my back too much, and not my arms, so I think I'll have to admit defeat, put it on 30kg and acknowledge that Phid has superior strength in this. Bless her little pint-sized muscularity. I swear, I'd pick her up and cuddle her for being so mighty, if I didn't think a) it would freak us both out, being non-demonstrative types and b) she would then snap me in half with a smooth, pull-down motion.
3 x 12 bicep curl, 30kg

Then came the run. I managed 5k in 32 minutes dead. I'm not sure, but this might be my fastest 5k to date, and it fair knocked my socks off. I'd forgotten to eat anything since breakfast, so the muffin with honey I'd had all those hours ago gave me scant fuel. (I've just checked back over the ol' blog, and while I didn't find out whether I've done a faster one, I did discover that the last time I did a 33 minute 5k - outside - I'd also not eaten anything. Maybe I need to be as empty as possible, relying on burning my ample fat stores for sustenance and the fact I'm a couple of pounds lighter than normal and can therefore haul myself around the course just that little bit faster?

Hm. I doubt it. Also, I thought I was going to faint at one point and had to drop right down to 5.1 mph - just as a bloke got on the treadmill next to me, glanced over and adopted an expression of such scorn I felt like vomiting on his shoes. He must have looked at me as we looked at those old women t'other day. Still, those old women didn't have faces the colour of stewed beetroot and sweat dripping between their bazoongas.

5k completed, I then did another 12 on the pull down machine, this time at 30kg. Then I did:

1 x 12 chest press, 35kg
2 x 12 chest press, 40kg - although I had to do 6 & 6 for the last set of reps, with a short pause to catch my breath.
1 x 12 leg curl, 50kg, followed by another 6. I just couldn't get comfortable on the bloody thing - plus, I was really bored by now.
3 x 12 horizontal leg lift, 110 kg. Better. Fisher 'spotted' me for the last 12, which helped.

So that was that. Pleased with ourselves for a good workout, we headed home to feed the pooches - and ourselves.

The only thing we had in the fridge was a pack of venison sausages, which Fisher pooh-poohed as we'd had venison so recently, and some smoked salmon. As it was my turn to cook, I ransacked the fridge and cupboards and came up with this recipe:

Savoury Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Salsa

1. Make some pancake mix with half plain, half self raising flour. Add sprinkling of pepper. Leave to stand, 20 mins.
2. Peel and chop 4 medium tomatoes.
3. Peel and chop 2 spring onions.
4. Cook up the ol' tomatoes and onions in a saucepan. Add teaspoon green peppercorns in brine.
5. Grate 50g cheddar. Add to tomatoes.
6. Add quick slosh of cream. Not too much, as you don't want it to be too wet. Stir until a sauce.
7. Keep the salsa warm as you cook up the pancakes in a large frying pan. When each pancake is done, line it with smoked salmon, pour over half the salsa on each, fold the pancake and serve.

Yummy. It was good - and much more filling than I thought it would be.

Which, full-bellied, brings me to this point. Fisher wants an early night tonight, as she slept in like the lazy tart she is, this morning. Tomorrow, Chopper arrives for weekend fun. Looking forward to it very much! It's been ages since we saw her.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Feffing Gym!

So, there I was, all geared up for an hour's sesh in the gym - and what do I discover? It's shutting half an hour after we get there. Think I was miffed? You should have seen Fisher's face. I seriously thought she was going to lamp the girl at the till.

Anyway, we trotted in, already amending our schedules to fit with 30 minutes, when what do we discover? The ruddy place is packed to the rafters with the elderly! Now, seeing as I'm a member of a tennis club where the average age is about 50 and I'm routinely thrashed up and down the court, I don't like to prejudice against people for their age. I'm very willing to acknowledge there are many, many older folks who would laugh in my face when it comes to fitness.

Alas, these weren't some of them.

If you think Fisher was cross before, you should have seen her when she set eyes on the treadmills and saw them all taken up by yammering, gossipping walkers! There was one woman in particular who was barely strolling, chatting non-stop with her neighbour, and certainly wasn't actually exercising in any way. Both Fisher and I kept staring at her, wondering if there was some injury she was rehabilitating - but if there was, it was completely invisible. Nor did she look like she was recovering from surgery or anything. And she was on the treadmill the whole time, squawking like a cockatoo and never getting above a slow plod. I could have throttled her, and I could see Fisher eyeing the scales, thinking how satisfying it would be to thwack her repeatedly about the head with them.

So, unable to use the treadmill, I concentrated on weights instead. I have Phid to thank for giving me a kick up the backside by sheer example. She said she does 32.5kg on the pull down weight - and there am I, feeling dead chuffed if I manage 25kg. Considering she's about half the size of me, I'm pretty sure this reveals a laziness in me that deserves expunging. So this is what I did today:

3 x 12 reps on stomach crunching machine, 100kg
3 x 12 reps on bicep curl, 30kg
3 x 12 reps on pull-down, 35kg (I did it the Phid way, pulling down in front of my chest rather than onto the back of my shoulders - don't think it was much easier, if at all). Fuck ME it hurt!
3 x 12 on lat machine, 35kg
3 x 12 reps on horizontal leg lift, 100kg - which was hard this time. I don't know why.

I finished off with 1o minutes on the bike, hill setting, which took me 2.7 miles - which makes an overall speed of 16.2 mph (right?). To be honest, I can't really tell much difference between the bike on level 18 and on level 20. Either the machine doesn't work properly or, by that stage I'm in so much pain I can barely register any external stimuli at all. (I actually think it's the latter).

I then came home and got lost in Civilisation III, where I was busy wiping the Japanese off the face of the planet, and forgot to cook dinner. A plaintive yowling came from next door just as I was heading off for my long overdue bath, and Fisher came into the bathroom looking all big-eyed and sorrowful, clutching her tummy. Naturally, faced with such a pathetic sight I cut short the old bath and rustled something up with venison.

My Rustled Up Venison
I fried some sliced, new potatoes in about 2 tbsps olive oil, with some fresh thyme, salt and pepper. They kept sticking to the pan, so I had to be vigilant. 10 minutes before it was all ready, I added some green beans to the potatoes and fried them up as well.

Meanwhile, in a second pan I put shallots, crushed garlic, mushrooms, a good slosh of port, and what was supposed to be a light sprinkling of rosemary but turned out to be a great cascade of the bloody stuff thanks to my dodgy wrist. I'll leave out the rosemary in future - unless I use fresh stuff. I reduced the port until it all became an accompanying sauce, then fried up the venison medallions - 3 minutes total.

I actually thought it was going to be a total disaster. Everything started burning at once, then there was the rosemary incident, the potatoes were sticking like bastards ... but it all worked out in the end, and is a very tasty, quick, easy dish to make. It was probably about 20 minutes, start to finish.

Just in case you're interested ...

Monday, 7 January 2008

Weekend of Joy!

Lordy, I'm still tired after the exertion of this weekend!

Bright and early on Saturday morning, Fisher and I packed the pooches in the Land Rover and headed West, young man, to the Lomond and Trossachs and, more specifically, Ben A'an. The weather was fair when we set out, but enjoyed teasing us with typical Scottish whimsy. By the time we arrived at the car park, just beyond Brig o' Turk, we'd already been through sunshine, sleet, rain, hail, and yet more sunshine. Unfortunately, Ben A'an wasn't to be bathed in beautiful winter light. O no. We pulled glumly into a grey, wet car park and gazed at the mist-bound hills.

"What the hell's the point in walking up a mountain if you can't see anything at the top?" I groused to Fisher - but she had that all-familiar, slightly manic, S.A.S 'bring on the paiiiiin' look in her eyes. Knowing further grumbling would meet with no sympathy - and rightly so - I decided to make the best of it all. At least I was wearing my waterproof trousers!

Koios and Phid were already parked and ready to face the fray when we arrived, and seemed cheerful enough with our predicament, so it was a merry group of optimists who started the trek. It was a short walk - only 4kms (2 1/2 miles) - and we were confident 4 fit young women could tackle it with relative ease.

Ha ha. Ha haaaaaaaa ha ha ha!

Y'see, while I'd been expecting a climb, I wasn't quite prepared for 3 1/2 of those kms to be a steep upward trudge, often breaking a path through snow, and mostly sloshing through ankle-deep, muddy water. It was hard going! However, I have to say, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a walk more!

First of all we climbed steadily through woods, snow soft on the ground and a fast-flowing burn singing to us on our right. We crossed the burn over a wooden bridge, pausing only to look around and smell the metaphorical roses. The mist was still hanging grimly around us, but it didn't keep the woods from their beauty. I would have felt like Thoreau if I'd ever read any of him, but as it was, the poem that kept going through my head was by that other* great American, Robert Frost:
The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep ...

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I know there are more verses, but I couldn't remember them at the time and, anyway, I wasn't riding a horse. More's the pity.

The toughest stretch came at the last half mile. We emerged from the woods to see the peak of Ben A'an, towering before us like a black power salute.We're going up that? I gulped to myself. Surely we must be going round the back and circling? There must be a gentle path to the top? Surely! Pleeeeease???

We're Going up THAT??
Not a bit of it. The path to the peak was pretty much straight up, on very treacherous ground. While I didn't wish Janus was with us (she'd have hated it with every fibre of her being) I did wish we had her cool walking poles. They would have come in useful.

Still, as we stood at the foot of the vertical-seeming climb, the mist cleared and we gazed, awe-struck, over the snow-swept valley and to the peaks beyond. Galvanised, we set off with a will, the pooches bounding from rock to rock and dragging at the leads. I would have liked to let them off, but Fisher was too nervous of Bridie's penchent for roaming so they had to stay restrained. While she was right to be cautious, it did mean the dogs got very cold - despite their little barbour jackets - because they couldn't expend the energy they needed. Still, although Baffie whined, gazed at us in distress and looked for all the world like she was having the worst time of her life, they were actually very good.

The Ascent To The Peak started sharply, and got worse. After passing through a few sparse trees, we found ourselves following another rushing burn which we had to cross. The dogs had to be picked up and passed over, and Fisher's vertigo gave her a few pangs - but she ignored them like a trooper and we all set off up the last, steepest and trickiest part. This involved a semi-scramble over wet, slushy rocks. We met some lads coming down and got an eyeful of how tricky it would be coming down, as one of them sat on his backside and contorted himself uncomfortably from one rock to another - but the pain of climbing too occupied my mind to give much of a rat's backside over the descent. Christ, my legs were killing me. I could only manage 10 paces before having to pause, take three deep breaths, then tackle the next ten.

Then, suddenly ... just as I was struggling to summon the energy to put another aching thigh forward, wondering how my legs had suffenly come to weigh so much, I saw the Great Phid turn, blow out her cheeks and say:


And, yes, she actually looked like she'd broken a sweat!

Much galvanised, I was able to haul my hefty carcass up the remaining 100m. There was one rocky bit that involved a proper scramble, using hands and everything, which I enjoyed very much - and then we were on the final stretch. The snow was thick on the ground and we waded through drifts up to the knees, giggling and floundering like children. Phid managed to fall over several times, which looked like fun so I did it too. I was having a whale of a time!

At long, long last, we topped the final rise and there it was, lying out before us in all its splendour: Lochs Achtray and Katrine nestled beneath the peaks of our own Ben A'an and, opposite, Ben Venue. Sitting beneath the rocky tip were two fifty-something walkers, who were friendly and slightly patronising, in that rather endearing way older men have when they see a group of younger women. They were eager to chat, and one of them pointed out all the landmarks - something which irritated Koios no end, 'cos she doesn't like to be told stuff by old men! (Especially, to be fair, if she knows it already). But he was kind enough to offer to take our photo with my crappy camera, for which I paid a fortune and which I hate with every fibre of my being because it's utterly, utterly bollocks. None of the pictures have come out well. The light wasn't good, it's true, but even so! Anyway, we perched on the edge of the peak and looked proud. Well - 3 of us did. Phid decided to look like someone was kneeling on her ovaries - but that's Phid for you.
We took our time at the top, enjoying the view and catching our breath. I was the only one who wanted to reach the peak proper, which involved a little scramble up some boulders, and then a few wobbly moments as I realised the wind was pretty blustery up there! I then discovered I could get down with a short hop, and that if I'd tackled the peak from the other side it would have been a piece of piss. Huh.

The downward journey was much less effort, but slightly more hair-raising, as the rocks were incredibly slippery and Baffie seemed determined to pull me over at every availably opportunity. Poor Koi wasn't wearing waterproof trousers or decent gloves, so her hands were going numb and she was soaked to the skin - but did she let it spoil her mood? She did not. Ever the cheery old goat, is Koios.

Apart from the treachery of the terrain, it was relatively easy on the way down and we reached the car park 3 hours after we left, feeling proud of ourselves and like we'd truly earned the treats that were to come. However, now that I've described my feelings over Ben A'an, I'd like to quote a few comments from walkers' guides, regarding this very trek. Ahem:

"This is the perfect walk for families, and even the youngest children will be able to handle the hike." -, who then go on to add:

"You can't go very fast through [the] final stretch to the top, but it is not terribly difficult. Our 5 year old daughter made it, and was pretty cheerful about it, though she did have to be carried when the path crossed over a mountain stream."

Oh, oh, she had to be carried over a mountain stream did she? She was pretty cheerful about it, was she? Well, lemme tell you, Britain Express - if I ever meet that 5 year old incarnation of a mountain goat, I will fling her from the peak of whatever mountain she's pretty happy about climbing.

More quotes to shatter my fragile ego:

"This small peak is a little gem which offers rewarding and magnificent views far out of proportion to the effort required to reach its summit." -

"The hill itself provides an easy walk, suitable for families with young children or anyone else. Winding up through the forest, following a stream for much of the way, the walking is easy and not too steep." - Scotclimb

Ok, so all of these reviews are based on a summer climb where you don't have to break a path, or slip and slide through slush - but even so! I'm now deeply depressed about my fitness levels and know without a doubt that, if I want to tackle the Cuillin Ridge this summer, I have to get myself in much better shape. How depressing.

BUT! What needs depression after such a fabulous weekend? The joy had only just begun. After stripping off our soaking waterproofs, giving the dogs a rub down (and letting them be fed bits of shortbread by the men we'd met on the peak, who were having a bite to eat in the car park), and eating a swift packed lunch, we jumped in the cars and headed to Glasgow. Our heads, once filled with images of battling up peaks, were now packed with images of soft beds, roaring fires and magnificent plates of gourmet food.

Yes folks, we were off to Hotel du Vin - site of the finest meal of my life (see previous post). We arrived, dressed in our skanky walking gear and soaked to the skin, only to find that one of the rooms would be 20 minutes before it was ready. We were early for check in, so we didn't mind the wait - especially as you can scarf a few free drams in elegant silver quaichs as you wait beside a roaring fire. All most lovely.

Our room, once we got in, was much larger than the one we'd had previously, with a little annex down some steps where there was a desk, should we have chosen to do some work (!?!), and the bathroom.

Ah, the bathroom. It was large, with a vast, deep bath that filled in about 10 seconds flat. I allowed myself the luxury of a long soak, easing away the stiffness in my muscles while Fisher pottered about doing ... whatever the hell it is she does when pottering. Oh yer - she unpacks my dress for me, hangs it up, and makes sure I've got everything I need. Sigh. She's fab. (Oddly, when she said she'd done it I thought "but I did it! It was the first thing I did when I got in!" I was so sure I'd done it - but I must have just thought about doing it, imagined me doing it and, in my tired state, my brain turned it into a false memory. Very peculiar.)

After my bath, I lay on the big, soft bed and switched on the telly. And what should I discover but that the BBC was showing Man United v Aston Villa in the FA Cup! I swear I nearly cried, I was so happy! Instead I proceeded to fall into a doze, only woken by Phid at 6pm, saying she'd see us in the bar in 10 minutes. Fisher was almost ready to head down, looking lovely in her black and white print skirt and black top, and there was I, half asleep and groggy as buggery. Fisher made me a cup of coffee, which I swigged like magic potion, and I got myself into my dress and make-up, telling Fisher not to wait. After all, I reasoned, we weren't eating until 8pm, so there was plenty of time.

When I arrived downstairs, in the dark, cosy bar, my three pals were in elegant repose, sipping cocktails and chatting. Koi looked funky in a black woollen beret over perfectly curled hair, a black dress with wide belt, fishnets and red suede high heels. Phid had on her new Karen Millen dress, with pink & grey (?) cross-hatching over a black base. Everyone looked gorgeous, so I was pleased to be wearing my favourite blue and white print dress, with Nine West pinky-red high heels and the same colour cardie.

I joined everyone in a wee cocktail - a mint julep, in honour of my Southern US connections - and had to be physically restrained by Fisher from speaking in a broad Virginia accent for the rest of the night. Bless their cotton socks - Koi and Phid offered to pay for all the booze, and then ordered a bottle of girly pink champagne. It was Laurent Perrier, but I can't remember whether it was Alexandra or Cuvée Rosé Brut. I'm not usually a massive fan of rosé - but this was delicious, and such a novelty. Yummy.

After an hour and half's chat, we were brought menus and droooooled over the choices. Fisher and I let Koi and Phid choose first, seeing as we'd already been there once, and we were determined to all have different things. Koi went for a starter of artichoke and mushroom velouté - or 'siphon' as they called it - followed by squab pigeon. Phid decided on the house speciality, which I'd had before, of soft boiled egg and truffle soldiers, followed by duck shepherd's pie. Fisher had a crayfish salad to start, then turbot and pork belly for main, so I decided on the pathivier of partridge followed by anglais chicken with crispy skin. Koi and Phid were in charge of wine, and they wisely asked the advice of the sommelier because we wanted something new and different. In the end they were recommended a pinot noir, which wasn't exactly a new grape, but the sommelier assured Koi that, if we wanted something unusual, this was the one.

About 15 minutes later we were shown through to our table and brought an amuse bouche. Fisher, Phid and I got a little pumpkin velouté, which was devine, while Koi - because she was having velouté as a starter - got, er, something else. I can't quite remember what it was, but it involved a green mousse and much deliciousness.

Our starters arrived - and so did the wine, which, coincidentally, proved to be the Morgan pinot I'd ordered by the glass last time! Nothing new, then, but I couldn't have given a hoot because it was so delicious. Round, rich, plummy ... just like me! Ha ha ha ...

Aaanyhoo ...

I'm not sure how interesting it would be to go through every dish, so I'll do a quick run down:

Starters: amazing! Everyone's was simply spectacular. My pathivier was melt-in-the mouth delicious, lined with fois gras and just one of the best things I've ever tasted. Koi's artichoke velouté was light, fluffy, slightly cheesy - and had mushrooms saturated in juices nestling at the bottom, which - seriously - nearly made her orgasm on the spot. Phid's soft boiled egg was as splendid as last time, while Fisher's crayfish salad was lovely, but the dullest of the lot because, no matter what you do, a salad is still a salad.

Mains: Definitely the cream of the crop, for me, was the duck shepherd's pie, which came with foamed potato on top and flaked duck beneath, stewed with the nicest mouthful of all (according to Phid) - duck kidney. It was rich and wonderful. My chicken was wonderfully moist and juicy but - and this is something that rankles increasingly - I got no crispy skin! I told the waiter afterwards, who said it should have come as a separate accompaniment. Fisher remembers that the waiter dropped something on his way to the table, so I think it was that, and he just hoped I wouldn't notice. Hmph. Fat chance. Anyway, it was delicious - but not what it should have been. Fisher's turbot was beautifully cooked, but she was a little disappointed with the fish itself. The pork belly was gorgeous, though - salty, flavoursome and a terrific accompaniment. Koi's squab pigeon was both beautifully presented, in little towers, and melt-on-the-tongue tender.

Then came dessert. I decided to have cheese instead, like last time, and while I missed the girl who put all the cheeses in order of how they should be eaten, it didn't stop the cheese being of splendid quality. Unfortunately, I can't really remember what the desserts were. I think there was a macaroon thing, a chocolate and ginger thing, and something else - but hopefully one of the others will remember better than me and put it in their blog.

It was such a wonderfully relaxed, chatty meal - slightly boozy, but not too much - that it was a real shame to bring it to an end. We had coffee at the table while we waited for the whisky room to clear, and then went through to relax in squashy chairs and have a digestif. I didn't fancy a whisky, so had a pastis instead. Koi had a maraschino, while Fisher and Phid went for whiskies. I know Fisher revisited Tomintoul (16 year old) but I can't remember what Phid had. Tallisker?

At long last, as the clock bade farewell to midnight, I felt the effects of the walk, food and drink overwhelm me in a sleepy wave. The dogs needed to be taken out for a last constitutional, and the thought of those crisp, white sheets and enormous pillows beckoned me like a siren call. The end of the night was nigh - and what a fantastic night it had been.

But the weekend didn't end there. Oh no.

Next morning, I had an irritating headache, which had been niggling the night before and was now a full-blown pounder, probably aided and abetted by booze - although I didn't feel hungover. Once again I was unable to enjoy a proper breakfast, having only a slice of toast and some coffee - but Koios wolfed a mustard-coloured bowl of kedgeree, and Phid had a boiled egg, while Fisher just stuffed her face with mini pastries.

After we'd packed and checked out, we headed to the Kelvingrove for a proper nosey, unaccompanied by 4 year old, like last time. It's a terrific museum: very eclectic, with a whole bunch of stuffed animals which pop up here and there, seemingly at random. I particularly enjoyed the small Egyptian room, but couldn't have given two turds about the Kylie exhibition. Who cares what a semi-talented pop star and some-time mediocre actress wears on stage? Well - quite a few people, it seems - but I'm not one of them.

After the museum we tried to find the Cheese Bar - only to discover it's turned into an uninspiring little Italian bistro called Pizzazz. We weren't in the mood for pizza or pasta, so went instead to a small café which did pannini and other such mundanities. It was a major come-down from the night before, to see Koi nibbling on a bagel with cream cheese and bacon, and all seemed like ashes in our mouths - but it was sustenance.

And so the weekend came to a close. We had to be back in Fife for usual Sunday chores, while Koi and Phid had boyfriends to fling themselves upon, as well as work to prepare for - so we bade each other fond farewells and set off, driving in tandem until Keith the Land Rover headed to the Kincardine Bridge, while Phid's little Fiat barrelled its merry way to Edinburgh. We waved manically, Koi waved the little toy chaffinch she'd acquired from the Kelvingrove, and we parted.

And that was that. The end of one my favourite weekends ever.



What's next?
*Not that I'm implying there are only 2!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

More Exercise 'n' Stuff

I worked today.


That was the sound of everyone I know falling over in a dead faint, so I'll wait a while until they all get up and dust themselves off.

Ok? Good.

Yes, I actually did a bit more writing for 'my' websites because I discovered the diary I wrote while holidaying in Norway with Koios. It was most nostalgic, revisiting the trip, but I can't help but feel we rather gypped ourselves by heading to Norway in April. The diary is full of things like:

"Got to the hotel only to discover the restaurant closed owing to it being off season ..." or "the ferries aren't running so we can't get to Balestrand/Mundal/anywhere that isn't fucking Flåm because it's off seaon ..." On the other hand, I was swept away by my effusive outpourings over the Vigesland Park in Oslo, the Viking Ship museum, Bergen, and the 'quaint' (that's just for Candace) Flåmsbana train, which drops 6000 feet through a be-waterfalled valley and some 20 tunnels. (It stays on a track, though. It doesn't just plummet like a frickin' dart). Anyway, all that information was very useful for some travel writing on Cosmotourist, and with the old finances suffering after Christmas I can't say it won't come in useful - as will the cheque from Jake and Sally's owners, who gave a fat tip for a job well done. Hurrah.

Alas, fairness meant I had to pay a chunk to that bloody Arrow and Lu who squatted in our house over Christmas and tried to seduce our dogs away from us ... quite successfully, I might add. When I got back into the car after dropping the cash off to Lu, Baffie went crazy sniffing me all over, wagging and looking for her pals. When no Lu or Arrow got into the car she was seriously miffed. We're clearly second best now. We don't give them morning walks up the hill every day. Christ, it's all I can do to walk downstairs in the morning!

While I was busy tapping away, reliving the evil Wanker Hotel in Oslo (ok, it's actually the Anker Hotel) who stole my new black coat, Fisher came prancing into my study saying she was off for a run. As usual I felt my soul curl into a tight little ball, put its fingers into its ethereal ears and sing 'la la la ... I'm not listening'. Unfortunately, my pride kicked my soul in the goolies, reminding me of the unpleasant wobble my belly gave as I sat down and, more importantly, the ice cream cake I stand to lose come the end of February. I opened my mouth to agree to a run - and then the wind gave a mocking whistle outside the window, and I hurriedly suggested a trip to the gym instead. Fisher agreed, so we jumped in the Drover, packed the pooches in the back, and headed to East Sands.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

Fuck ME it's cold out! We could only bear to give the pooches a quick run on the beach, up to the slip and back, and even that was quite enough to make me wish I was home in bed. But we soldiered on into the gym, giving our cards over to Misery-Guts at reception. Tell me - is it a prerequisite of the job that, to work on reception at a leisure centre, you have to be a miserable, rude old bi-atch? If so, she should be given employee of the year.

Once in t'gym, I managed to huff and puff my way to 5k in just under 34 minutes, and do this on the weights (for Phid's benefit, as she is CLEARLY trying to best me and it will make her happy):

3 x 12 reps on pull down (lat) machine, only managing 25kg (why? why?)
3 x 12 reps on bicep curl, 25kg
2 x 12 reps on shoulder press, 20kg
1 x 12 reps on shoulder press, 15kg (I HATE THAT THING. Why am I so weak?)
3 x 12 reps on horizontal leg press, 110kg

I then did 5 minutes on 'hill' on the cycle while waiting for Fisher to finish. Quite a surprising effort, going from level 4 to level 20 then down again in 5 minutes. The hill setting has a steady increase in gradient, with no breaks in the middle, so it's quite a killer. Not as bad as actually riding a bike up a real hill, of course, but still pretty hard work.

I think I must really try and increase the weights I'm doing. I've been stuck on the same ones forever, so it's definitely time to push myself further.

Oh - one last thing before I hit the hay: a big HELLLOOO to Koios, who's decided to join the blogging fun. See her pearls of wisdom here.

G'night, world.

Thursday, 3 January 2008


Hey! It's snowing! And the only place in the entire countryside it's settling is in our garden. Literally, I look out of the window over north east Fife, all the way up to Dundee, and everything is lush and green - but there's a white patch that is our garden. Brilliant! I love living in the lee of a hill. On the other hand, it's brass monkeys out there, and with my ongoing sniffles I feel no desire to get out and exercise. Yesterday I did a full weight loss programme on our elliptical machine - 49 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Jesus it's boring. A thrill a minute watching the level bounce from 4 to 7 every 3 minutes. Yaaaaawn. But at least I didn't have to go outside.

I have a bet with Pro that I can lose more weight than him by February 29th. And the prize?

An ice cream cake.


Meanwhile, I've found a recipe that might actually feed me 'n' my 9 mates next Christmas - although don't count on there being any leftovers.


Right, I'm off for a wee lie down. This weather is depressing me.