Wednesday, 25 February 2009

From Darkest Northumbria I greet thee.

So here I am in Northumberland. I was going to write "stuck in Northumberland" but that is neither fair nor true. I'm actually having a lovely time. The countryside is truly beautiful, and Fisher and I have not been idle during our stay. We've seen and done many things, mostly based on enjoying the outdoors with the pooches. Baffie and Bridie have to be locked away in our bedroom whenever we're in the house, as we don't want them upsetting Will the cat, to whom we are acting babysitters. Therefore we've been spending as much time as possible out and about, finding walks for them and letting them share our company in the car. Whether they thank us for this is debateable. I have a feeling they couldn't give two shakes of a lamb's tail as to whether we're with them or not.

Anyway - we've had a jolly good explore. On arrival we went into Morpeth and did a spot of food shopping at M&S. Morpeth is a picturesque town, and we returned the following day as I went in search of a bookshop. I've decided to resurrect my novel, in totally different form, and therefore need much information about Celtic myths. I told several different booksellers that I was particularly interested in Scottish myths and legends, and had to tell each and every one of them that no, Scotland is not part of England, and therefore books on English myths are not particularly helpful. In fact, that's a little snooty of me, because the Celts are basically British and so English myths and legends are very much aligned with those you find all over continental Europe. Anyway, I won't bore on about this, but my search for specifically Scots material has been pretty fruitless, but I'm up to my elbows in the Irish legends - which form the root of those found in Scotland and Wales. I'm also revisiting Mr Yeats, who I find both appalling and riveting in equal measure. One thing's for sure - if Blarney doesn't lull her wean to sleep to the sounds of Irish folklore, I'll be taking on the responsibility myself. There's so much beauty to be found in these ancient stories - even if most of them seem to be depressing as hell. Certainly all the love stories are pretty miserable. And it also appears that, after the onset of Christianity, women became much more ridiculous. One minute I'm reading all about the Mórrígna - three war-goddesses called the Mórrígan, Badb and Macha - and the next I'm ploughing through the turgid misery that is the story of Deirdre and Noíse. I'm sure there's a reason Deirdre became Deirdire in Nova Scotia. Dire she is indeed - and wetter than a truckload of sponges, to boot.

Fisher shamed me into going for a run (basically by going for a run herself, leaving me wallowing in my pit like a beached but o-so-comfy whale) so off I dutifully went. I did 5k in the horrendous time of 38.01 - but there was a heck of a lot of uphill, and the uphill was against the wind. I tried to go faster on the way down, but found it so jarring to my joints that I chickened out and slunk (slinked? slank?) home like the cowardy custard I am. Anyway, I was glad I did it, despite feeling like shit on a shingle for the rest of the day. I don't think I was fully recovered from my horrendous hangover from Saturday night.

Ah yes - Saturday night. That was graduation. It was fine. We met at the Tontine Hotel in Peebles, where we got ourselves a room. There was food (poor) and chat (fine) and rather a lot of drink, in the Scottish tradition. I stayed up until 3.30am, until it was only me and the tutor left in the bar. She was then dragged off to bed by her husband - a rugby playing meathead who thought it necessary to tell me how much he hates animals, and relate a hilaaaaarious story about a policeman friend of his who kicked an Alsatian in the face. I'm only astonished that he got them a taxi, and didn't just club her over the head and drag her back to his cave.

The net result of all this frivolity was that I awoke with a stonking hangover, mainly focused on my churning stomach, and would have given a hundred pounds in order to stay in bed. Still, it was nice to celebrate the end of a hefty course. I exchanged addresses with no-one, which either shows the state of socialising in this country (i.e. no-one bothers) or shows how low anyone rated my potential as a friend (which is highly likely). Not that I asked anyone, either. They were a nice enough bunch, but I can't see lasting friendships emerging from the experience.

What else? We've been to Hexham, where Koi and I once spent a happy time discovering games for a Cheeseboard holiday (the immortal Who's In the Bag being one of them) but where Fisher and I bought books and had tea. We've walked around a pretty lake, been to Newcastle (more books, equally disappointing, but also a new pair of trews - itchy - and new trainers - dull) and gone to the beach to walk the dogs. Bridie is becoming an increasing liability off the lead. She is no longer going to be allowed loose until we've taken her to training classes. I've also vowed to do 10 minutes of training with her a day (dubious), after the final straw today.

We went to a gorgeous wee nook called Lady Well. It is, as the name implies, a little walled area in which stands a crystal clear pool with a stone cross in the centre and a statue of some bishop who allegedly baptized 3000 Northumbrians on that very spot. Now there's a little plaque giving no information about the well, but telling us not to disturb the surface of the pool, as it provides water to the nearby village. I sheepishly yanked Baffie out and spent the rest of our visit trying not to let her pee in it. It was truly beautiful, and the little walk through woods and fields was suitably free of roads and sheep for me to suggest we let Bridie off the lead. Fisher had refused to do so on the way to the well, but Baffie had romped free, and I thought it might be a good time to give Bridie a final test.

Off the lead she went.

Off through the trees she vanished.

She ignored our calls, whistles, commands, demands, shrieks, tantrums, shrieks, demands, commands, whistles and calls. Eventually we saw her emerge on the path behind us, and called her encouragingly.

She fucked off in the opposite direction.

Retracing my steps, I eventually had the honour of her attention and she came to me, crouching before me and trembling as if I were about to lay into her with the nearest branch. I resolutely ignored the temptation to do just that and praised her for returning. I then clipped her on her lead and had her walk to heel all the way back to the car, while Baffie romped free and stuck her tongue out.

So, as you can see, she's in much need of a firm hand and some obedience. Yes, I can hear an almost universal shout of fat chance emanating from every corner of the globe (well ... two, anyway) but I'm determined. Progress reports to follow.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Yesterday I went for my first 4 mile run in aaaaages. I just went out the door, ran up the hill, down it again, then past the house and back in a 1.5 mile loop. It was around 56 minutes, which is, of course, pathetic, but I did get stuck in a wood, which added time.

Today, I feel awful. Apart from the slight aches and pains in my knees, my muscles are fine - but I'm pretty off colour. This is bad news, as Ceegar and Meeper are due any minute and we're supposed to be going out to Café Briezh tonight. I'm hoping it's just coffee and the after-effects of a long (for me!) run - but I have to say, I'm quite tired of feeling physically off-peak. I've booked myself in for a course of massage, which may well help with general relaxation (although I tend to tense up when undergoing massage) and even a course of hypnotherapy. The latter is in an attempt to see whether the globus is psychophysiological, but I'm not holding out much hope. Naturally I'll go in with a totally open mind, as I can't imagine I'd be helping myself by being pessimistic, but whether hypnotherapy is the answer I just couldn't say.

My first session is Wednesday - massage in the a.m, hypnotherapy in the p.m. I suppose you'll just have to watch this space.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Yesterday morning we got a surprise visit from our neighbour Epona. She was on her way up to Glenshee and wondered if I'd like to come along. Seeing as she'd caught me completely on the hop and, yes, to my shame, still in bed (late night previously) I had to hustle to get my gear together, but I was thrilled to be able to try out my new boots, skis and poles. Fisher declined to accompany us, as she had to get some work done, so it was just Epona and me who shuffled off in E's Drover.

Glenshee was astonishingly busy for a mid-week afternoon, but it turned out a lot of schools were having a break for somethingorother and so people had taken advantage of the perfect weather. And perfect it was: sky as blue as cornflowers, sun shining, mountains a perfect white picture postcard. We had a good couple of hours skiing, and with Epona's back-of-the-hand knowledge of the slopes I certainly got the best out of the resort. Unfortunately, I was also in considerable pain. My new boots made my feet cramp, get pins and needles and, eventually, go completely numb. It's hard to find boots that fit owing to my big calves, but, as Epona said, I'm not an "unusual shape" so it should be perfectly possible to adjust them suitably. Once that's done and I'm comfortable, there'll be no stopping me.

Despite having to ski through the pain, it was a grand couple of hours. I felt pretty ropy a lot of the time, partly from pain and partly because I hadn't eaten anything (too much of a rush to get ben the house), but nothing can detract from the sheer beauty and joy of skiing.

To repay Epona, I insisted she and Shah come to dinner. Round they came and I made chicken pie, which was almost entirely consumed - despite it being big enough for 6-8 people. We also did well with the wine, and finished it off with a wee dram o' Aberlour - which put me in a lazy, contented frame of mind and saw me in bed at the very reasonable hour of 1am.

I was woken at 9 this morning by my client cancelling her massage, owing to being snowbound - so I have a free day. Off to the cinema with Phid this eve, weather permitting - and back to Banks in Perth right about now, to see if they can help me with my boots.

A bientot.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Weekend Shenanigins.

I'm blogging loads at the moment, partly because I'm quite enjoying it, but also because I've bought new music and this gives me the chance to listen to it.

We've had a very lovely weekend. On Saturday we went to Arrow & Lu's for supper. Arrow cooked an amazing 3 course meal - scallops & black pudding to start, venison with a red wine jus to follow, and then ... oh then ... a chocolate and raspberry cheesecake that nearly killed us both. We 'only' had 2 slices each.

Considering we didn't drink all that much - 2 bottles of red between 3 (Lu doesn't drink) and a dram of Edradour - un chill-filtered - I felt rough as biscuits this morning. I couldn't understand it until Fisher reminded me of the vast quantity of food we'd consumed at one sitting, after eating practically nothing else all day. Bleuurg. No wonder my digestive system was doing somersaults.

Anyway, we had a very convivial evening, with the sort of good chat I've been craving over the last few months (covered everything from transsexuality to The Simpsons), and some good larfs. Alas, to our shame, we returned to the sitting room after the meal and discovered that Bridie had eaten 2 apple scented tea light candles, and peed on the carpet. Luckily we then discovered the pee was just water, but even so, our cheeks grew rosy on her behalf. I took the dogs out, then we retired to the air bed upstairs and kipped in their guest room. We kept waking up whenever we bumped elbows (NOT a euphamism), as we're not used to sleeping in such close proximity, so we were pretty bleary eyed the next day.

Today we scampered home so I could watch the first half of the Spurs Arsenal derby and record the second half, as we were going down to Edinburgh to meet up with Janus and Badger and look at the Jean Muir exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland. I was annoyed as, literally for the first time this season, Spurs were actually playing very well, and I was going to abandon them to the recording device, which has no vested interest in the game and therefore doesn't affect the outcome. Still, considering they've lost every game I have watched this season, it's probably quite a good thing I went away.

The exhibition was small but pleasing. I like Jean Muir's stylistic ideals as they're similar to my own. Her clothes are definitely too 'old' for me - my Aunt S used to wear her clothes a lot - but I do agree with her ideas of grace, comfort and style. Fisher and I were both surprised the exhibition wasn't larger, but what's on display is a good example of her work, so I think it does well in showing her off in a small space.

We then went for a hot chocolate with Badge and Jan in Biblios, which was very welcome as it was feckin' Baltic outside. We chatted for a while about this an' that, and it was all very civilised and cosy.

Back home I was able to sit and watch the rest of the game in peace. Despite Arsenal having Eboué sent off in the first half, we couldn't break them down and it finished goalless. We really are toothless in the box. With Robbie Keane back I hoped we might regain some proper finishing, but the only real chances fell to Keane who headed over the bar, and, in the dying seconds, Luca Modric, who was one on one with Almunia, completely failed to lift the ball over the 'keeper. Pathetic! Have to say, though, in fairness, he played pretty well otherwise. He was probably motivatied by Wenger the Whinger who said he wouldn't sign him because he was too fragile for the Prem. This was probably true, actually, at the start of the season, but he's toughened up a lot and gained some strength and tenacity.

So, we drew. All our relegation rivals lost yesterday, so this was a prime opportunity to put some distance between us - but with a single point, all we could do was limp to 15th. We SUCK.

Enough of footie. We spent the rest of the night in front of the box, which was a waste of time. I wanted to see the BAFTAs, but they were bloody stupid, as usual. Best Film went to Slumdog Millionaire, which may well be the best film in the world but, I suspect, won solely because it's British. Strangely, though, despite it being the Best Film, it wasn't the Best British Film ...

Stupid. And, also, very dull. Nowadays, all the recipients are too terrified of not getting people's names 'out there' to give a decent speech. They all have to just reel off a long list of 'I'd like to thanks' to ensure the right publicity for their teams. Sorry, but isn't that what the credits are for? Dull, dull, dull.

And that's that. Might go skiing tomorrow, if I can be arsed.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Self Indulgent Nonsense. Please Ignore - I'm Just Venting.

I'm in the throes of setting up the ol' massage business, which means designing cards and posters, sorting out how much I'm going to charge, getting insurance, and starting to figure out a Plan of Action for building clients. And, because there's so much to do, I decided today would be a great day to start clearing out the stable, which is still full of boxes from the move. Fisher has been in a bit of a state of unhappiness, anger and frustration over the last few days, feeling like there's a neverending stream of chores and everything's just getting on top of her. I know how she feels, albeit in a less specific way. I don't fret over piles of chores, but sometimes it just seems like life's one long highway of dullness and nothing good will ever happen again. Everyone and everything seems horrible, the weather will never improve, you will never feel 'normal' again, and you might as well just curl up into a ball and die. Usually, I can pull myself out of this by hearing a chord sequence that catches my heart, such as in Chariot by Gavin DeGraw (0.53m), or seeing a red squirrel, or thinking of something new and fun to do, like climbing, or learning to knit, or playing a new song on the joanna - but I don't know what it is at the moment, I just can't seem to get out of this rut. Perhaps it's the memorial service curling its shadow over me. Maybe it's the knowledge that some of those dearest to me are unhappy. Maybe it's because I'm a depressive. Maybe it's because the moon is in Virgo and the sun up Mystic Meg's arse - who knows or cares? The point is, the only way out is to do, do, do - and that's not easy when all you want to do is sit around, but when you sit around all you do is think over all the things that are depressing you. When Fisher's blue or angry she goes to the gym, which really helps. Not me. Because exercise is an 'empty headed' activity, as I call it, I just end up filling my head with dark thoughts and obsessing even more.

I'm a hopeless case, I tell you. And if there's one thing I hate more than anything else it's self pity. Well, that and self-righteousness. And self-obsession. And vanity. And selfishness. And ...

Yes, another thing I tend to do is spend far too much time thinking about what I hate. I should stop that.

So, the point of all this crap-o-la is that I spent a long time trying to occupy my mind today. First I went through some matters of business and confirmed to myself that, yes, I will be poor for as long as this bear market lasts. Then I paid some bills, thus hastening the aforementioned poverty. Then I sorted out my insurance for massage. Then I was at a loss as to what to do next, so I decided now would be the ideal time to clear the stable. I was feeling pretty wired from a cup of coffee with only a slice of toast (yes, my appetite's off, too), so a rare burst of energy inspired me to go and throw rubbish into piles and move bits of remaining furniture into the house. Fisher helped me, which was a good job because I was almost sent into a towering fury within the first two minutes. My bike had had its wheels taken off for transport purposes, and while it seemed a simple enough matter to put them back on again, I managed to make it considerably more arduous than it need be. I had everything on but the wheel wouldn't turn - until Fisher pointed out that the wheel wasn't clipped into place. Nor were the brakes attached properly. And the chain was going round the gear cog.

After removing the back wheel and kicking it about the driveway for a bit, Fisher and I managed to work out how the brakes were attached, how the chain went on etc etc, and all was well. It actually only took us about 10 minutes from start to finish, but in my current dangerous mood it was about 9 minutes 30 seconds too much for my patience.

After working our way through one of the stalls, we decided it was time to call it a day. We bundled the dogs into the car and went off to Five Mile Wood for a good stride through the snow. It was a lovely, fresh walk, with the sun shining (until it went down) and the air crisp but not too cold. The dogs romped off their leads ... and then Bridie ran away. We could hear her screaming with excitement in the distant trees as she flushed some poor prey, and we stopped at once and began calling. Both dogs were nowhere to be seen, but after a couple of minutes Baffie came galumphing along the road, looking exhausted but pleased with herself. Bridie, however, remained AWOL. She'd stopped squealing and the woods yielded nothing but silence. Fisher went off on her own to see if Bri had emerged onto the path ahead of us - but she was nowhere to be seen or heard. I tried to go into the woods, but the ground was completely sodden and overgrown and I couldn't go more than a few metres. I kept up a permanent whistling and calling, until eventually deciding to backtrack in the hopes she'd followed our scent and was following.

No luck.

I was starting to feel pretty sick by this point. The A9, while being a good distance away, was by no means out of her reach, and if she got the scent of something who knew how far she'd chase it? Terrible thoughts went through my mind ... and then I heard Fisher's joyful shout. Out of the woods came Bridie, covered in snow and panting merrily, butter simply unable to melt in her mouth. I resisted the temptation to staple her to the nearest tree, instead praising her for returning - even if it was in her own fucking time.

We returned to the car with both dogs on leads.

Starving, we went to the Perthshire Visitor Centre for some moderately pleasant Panninis and a coffee - and then home. That brings us up to date - and something has already occurred to cheer me up. Koi has sent an email saying she'd love to go to a hotel for a weekend, that she insists on shouting us dinner, and that she's getting a Blackberry to help with work. The fact she sounds cheerful has really lifted my spirits. Now we just have to let Barry choose the date, so we can fit in with his term schedule.

Little things can make all the difference.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Greetings reader.

It's been fun over the last couple of weeks, and a little hectic - which is good. It's taken my mind off the weird throat thing, which has meant it's troubled me much less. It hasn't gone away, but I've adopted a Clair Weekes view and decided that que sera, sera. So what if I feel like my throat is swollen from the inside? It won't kill me, and apart from being deeply annoying, there's very little over which to concern myself. This attitude definitely helps. Mind over matter, that's what I say.

I started massaging properly yesterday, with my first proper client. It went very well, and I was able to relieve her symptoms quite considerably. Of course, I then ruined my professional, organised image by leaving my watch and jewellery behind and having to creep back and retrieve them.

I then went to my psycho/osteopath and he caused me considerable pain. My back has been troubling me since our 9 hour drive to London and back, but I'm afraid, in the end, I know the answer to my distress. My posture is lordotic, and therefore puts undue strain on muscles that shouldn't be called upon to support my structure. And why am I lordotic? Cos I is a biffa. If I lose weight then my posture will improve and my back pain will subside - so yet more incentive to stop eating like a hippo.

Unfortunately, although I've tried quite valiantly, of late circumstances have conspired against me. First there was Fisher's birthday, where we went to Abstract in Edinburgh for supper. It was a very delightful, convivial evening - but it lasted 4 1/2 hours, as the food was so appallingly slow. I have written them an email of complaint, in a fusty and matronly manner, and wait to hear from them with interest. Food wise, everything I had was extremely good, but because it took so long it was quite difficult to fill up - so I ended up having cheese at the end, when I'd vowed not to have a 3rd course.

Next up was a trip down to London for the memorial service of my uncle. It was a beautiful service, with some of my favourite pieces of music (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, a bit of The Creation, and ... something else lovely I can't recall) sung stunningly well by the choir of St Bartholomew's. St Bartholomew's is just a gorgous church, seen in Four Weddings & A Funeral (the one Charles is supposed to get married in), and our family has a long history with it. My parents were married there, my grandmother had her memorial service there, my brother was married there ... and I think the connection extends further than that, but I'm not certain. Anyway, the church was full, which showed just how popular was my Uncle Trewsers. My mother read the poem Abou Ben Adhem, because it really suits Trewsers. For those who don't know it, Abou Ben Adhem awakes and sees an angel writing in a book. On asking what the angel is writing, the angel tells him it's "the names of those who love the Lord." "And is mine one?" Abou asks, and is told categorically that it is not. So:

Abou spoke more low
But cheerily still and said
"I pray thee then
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men."

The angel duly does so, and when he appears again on the next night, he shows Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase) all "the names of whom love of God had blessed":

And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

Uncle T really was a man who loved people - just like his mother. He was incredibly social, loved being around his friends, always remembered you after meeting you once - and remembered the names of your brothers, sisters, dogs (definitely dogs) and asked after them. He loved food - the more exotic the better - and took delight in ordering such things as brains and challenging you to eat them. And such was his personality that you never wanted to appear small in his eyes, so you'd end up eating lamb's parietal lobe stuffed with the bollocks of an aardvark, or something.

He was also a world citizen - again, much like his mother. He spoke 5 languages and made his primary home in Singapore, that cultural melting pot. He did business in South America before anyone else, and embraced difference with gusto. He held Britain up to an old fashioned ideal and was therefore constantly disappointed with his homeland. Had he moved to the north of England, or even to Scotland, he might have felt happier, as these are the last bastions of true Britishness.

Still, maybe not Scotland, as his downfall came in the form of good Scotch ... or bad Scotch, for that matter. Anyway, he drank himself into the grave, leaving a great many people both sad and angry. But I remember him as jovial, hospitable, and full of fun.

We stayed with Brother and Gaura in Westminster, which is quite my favourite part of London. There's nothing to really do there, but it's so beautiful - and astonishingly quiet on the weekends. After the memorial we had supper at the Royal Garden Hotel, in the Chinese restaurant. It was a long banquet which, while delicious, left me sadly hungry only a few hours later - as well as pretty dang pissed. So Brother, Fisher and I headed into Soho and wound up at another Chinese eating Dou Miao and sundry other dishes at 2am. Cracking stuff.

It was great to catch up with the extended family, but we were glad to be home on Friday - especially as the Cheese Board were coming up, sans menfolk, for the weekend. We had a pleasant time of it, although I was disappointed to be told on their arrival, that Blar and Koi couldn't stay for Sunday. I like to be told these things in advance, so my brain doesn't run away with potential plans only to have them scuppered. There's quite a difference between people coming up for the weekend and coming up for Saturday, then leaving at noon on Sunday. It sort of dismisses all of Sunday for activities, leaving only Saturday and just making me feel a bit rushed. It's not really a big deal, but I like to know what time I have. It's also a bit of a downer when you're told almost the instant people arrive; it suggests people are already thinking about leaving and would secretly rather be at home. I got that impression from Koi throughout, actually, and don't think she's in a very happy place right now. I shall have to think of ways to improve her lot - like providing entertainment to the best of my abilities.

Until next time.