Thursday, 11 November 2010

I can be found at:

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The End of Things

Dear all.

This is the end of Life of a Wastrel. I'm starting afresh and anew. Thanks to those who read, and those who followed, and those who commented.

If anyone would like to follow my new blog, feel free to email me at:

and I'll give you a link.

Ta and goodnight.


Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Mallorca Fun

Hey all. I'm in Mallorca, sitting in the piazza in Santanyi with Yesh and her friend, and her friend's partner. I don't have names for them yet because I only met them yesterday. Yesh's pal is German, her partner Italian, but they both speak good English. Not good enough to understand my sense of humour, but I'm sure we'll overcome that by the end of the week.

Yesterday we arrived. Yesh came from Geneva, because she's been to her step-brother's wedding in Zurich. Madly, she'd managed to think it was in Geneva - because that's where the cheap flights to Mallorca flew from - so she had to get a train from Geneva to Zurich. Then back to Geneva to fly to Mallorca. Anyway, I'd missed her like mad, and it was fantastic meeting up with her in the airport.

Then we had to get a bus from Palma airport into Palma, then a bus from Palma to Santanyi. This all went without a hitch, and we were met in Santanyi by Yesh's friends. They took us to the house - a traditional Mediterranean town house. Cool dark, with a little courtyard out back. There's no air conditioning, which is fine by me. Air conditioning always gives me a rotten cold. No fans, either though ... which might be a bit more problematic.

Anyway, we unpacked and then were taken to the beach for a swim and a sunbathe. Yesh and I swam out to an offshore rock and back again, before clambering out and joining the nudests in sunbathing. I must say, I ain't no prude but it is a bit of a shock to be introduced to a complete stranger's labia when she bends down to pick up her towel. A towel, incidentally, that she has no intention of wearing. Yesh was very excited to have seen her first sunburned cock and sunburned 'fandango' in the same day. It's always good when you have new experiences.

Then to the supermarket to buy provisions (a relatively hideous experience) and home for dinner. Yesh and I were dropping with death-tiredness by the end of supper so went straight to bed and were soon snoring.

This morning was delightfully lazy. We lay in bed and talked, then I made scrambled eggs and we had them in the courtyard. The others had just left as we emerged, off to get some espresso at the piazza, so after we ate we came here and joined them.

And that's that. Hm. This isn't really a particularly interesting post. But there we go. I've been so lax for so long, I'd be surprised if anyone's reading it any more. Pretty egotistical to stick this stuff on the internet anyway. Wonder why I do it? Thought for another day.

Hope cyberflowers in the cyberworld are blooming for anyone who stops by.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

More Good Things

Yeah. Good things. There are a lot of them. To go into mote detail, when Geordie Maple was here & I was driving about the place I gelt the first stirrings of love for Bute. Yes, there's very little potential for a job and there are still moments when I wonder what the hell I'm doing here, but now - on this upswing - the world's a beautiful place.

Another good thing: Suvari.

I've been emailing her on and off for a few
months now. She's in the UK from South Africa and we struck up a real rapport on email and MSN. There are some rare people you just connect with. Meet their mind. Her sense of humour, her darkness, her touch of oddity are all so similar to mine it's almost like meeting a reflection. Only nicer.

She came up for a visit and I took her for a jaunt about the countryside in truly shitty weather. She made me laugh - a lot. And I appreciate that more than I can possibly say, right now. We also talked several hind legs off several donkeys, ate with gusto at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, and laughed our heads off at the Inveraray jail. No, we didn't get arrested. It's a tourist attraction, complete with compulsory poor-bastard-actors who have to pretend to be inmates and end up being mocked by South African lesbians.

After lunch we went to Benmore and walked through the gardens in a downpour until we sought shelter under a beech tree and lay on our backs listening to the rain pattering on the leaves. We were (almost) perfectly dry. The smell from the earth was dark and warm, and the grey light was almost luminous. One of those moments where you don't want to be anywhere else, with anyone else. It was just lovely.

So, yes. Suvari. She is a very good thing.


It's been a while since blogging, and it seems wise to get some thoughts down on the blogosphere. Recent events have made me feel a bit more settled, and I'm feeling more positive than I have in a while. This isn't to say it won't all plummet to a miserable low in another 12 seconds - but hey, that's living, eh?

First off - the negatives. I still don't have a job. I got fucked around something chronic by Mount Stuart. I went to them for two different jobs - a catering assistant in their restaurant, and an admin assistant in their estate offices. Unfortunately, the head chef, in a bid to be helpful, told the admin woman that I was a historian and would be useful in the house. She meant it as a 'strong recommendation' but actually what happened was that the admin woman just took my name out of the running for the admin job and palmed my CV off to the woman in charge of the house - doing guided tours and whatnot. I never wanted to do guided tours of the house, but beggars can't be choosers after all. Unfortunately, when I got there, it turned out the job they were offering was 'room steward.' This didn't even involve talking to people about the house. It was a job mostly given to students in need of petty cash, on a call-in basis, and involves standing in rooms making sure people don't nick stuff, break stuff, or defecate in corners. The woman was pretty embarrassed about the mix-up, and I was fucked off. I couldn't go for the admin job because the interviews were happening on the same day. But the woman promised to hand my CV in to the office and, if something came up, I might be given a call.

Lo and behold, yesterday I missed a telephone call from Mount Stuart offices, asking me to call them back. So I did - this morning. I couldn't get hold of the right woman, so she was supposed to call back. She didn't, so I called again. Not in. Then she called me - and I missed her. So I called her. Out to lunch. Fuck's SAKE!! But eventually she got hold of me ... only to tell me that there were no jobs available, but thank you for coming for the interview.

Son of a BITCH. Like I didn't already fucking KNOW that. I knew that on the day, when we looked at each other and said "this job really isn't for you/me." And it was stupid to feel upset, but I tend to feel my hopes running away with me. I'm looking for some ideas of what's going to happen to my life - where it's going to be, what I'm going to be doing - and any sign of a plan fills me with reassurance. So to raise my hopes even a little only to have them dashed is a bit of a kick in the teeth. And it's happened twice with Mount Stuart now. Bastardos.

BUT ... let's look at some positives.

1. Yesh is lovely.
2. I've had wonderful visits from friends - including Lime Basil and her ex, and from Geordie Maple. Geordie was particularly fun - we went up to Inveraray, climbed to the monument, had lunch at Loch Fyne, wandered the ruins of St Blanes on Bute, got pissed in the Anchor, and talked. A lot. She was brilliant company. As was Savuri - but more about her later. In fact - more about everything later. I have to go catch a ferry.

Anyway ... things are good right now. I'm happy : )

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


So here I am, on Bute. Except I'm not, I'm at Yesh's place. I only got electricity and gas today because the previous tenant had left a big debt on the meter and it needed to be wiped before I could get a new meter key. Yawn. Still, it was relatively painless in the end.

Ok, I'm feeling a bit daunted. I think it'll be better once I'm properly settled in and starting to make a routine for myself, but so far it's been a bit ... up in the air. Plus I have to go back to the east coast for this interview on Monday, and to Edinburgh and Dollar for fun & frolicks next weekend. I'm really looking forward to the fun, but it isn't allowing me time to really get settled. Ach. It'll be grand.

The flat, in fact, is lovely. It's suffered a bit from being empty for a while, but a bit of a spring clean and it'll be grand. Maybe some paint. But it's light and airy and there's a wonderful view over the bay. Alas, no broadband and practically no mobile reception as yet. I'm writing this from my iPhone while Yesh cooks, and it's a bit of a tortuous process. The blogging, not the cooking.

The old digestive troubles are back, alas. It's just the stress. It'll pass as soon as I chill out.

A small blog just to stay up to date. More when cilvilisation comes to Bute.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Movin' On.

Well, it's been a while, eh?

Life moves on at its own pace, and I can't say I really know what's going on all the time. I'm still a bit emotionally fragile and find myself struggling at random times - but I'm moving upwards and onwards. Well, ok - I'm moving. The direction is a little ambiguous.

I've been spending a lot of time on the West coast with Yesh, and now I'm moving to Bute for 3 months. I'll be a lot closer to her, but she's not the only reason I'm going. Firstly there's the fact that, if I want to salvage a relationship with Fisher - and I do - I really don't think living with her is a good idea. Secondly, I want to think about the rest of my life and what I'm going to do with it. I run over and over things, but what I come back to every time is writing. So I'm finding a quiet spot in the world where I can concentrate on finishing a novel, and if I can't manage to get something finished then it's a good sign I never will.

Of course, sod's law strikes at the most inopportune times. Having decided to head to Bute for 3 months I received a letter from Historic Scotland regarding a job I applied for months ago. I'd figured they'd put me on the discard pile ages ago - but no. I've got an interview on the 15th June. It's for a position as a monument manager for St Vigeans up near Arbroath. It would be 4 days a week, still leaving me time to write and massage. But it's over an hour's commute from my house every day ... and then there's the fact I don't really know where things are going with Yesh. I don't fancy the idea of seeing her only at the weekends. But it's only for a year's contract, so I could probably cope. More distressing is the thought they'll want me to start before I've come back from Bute. I really, really want these 3 months. I really want to see if I can live alone, and write a book, and what's happening with Yesh.

Still - no point in panicking over what might be. I need to get the interview under my belt before I even have to worry about what to do if I actually get the job. And I don't really think I will, to be honest. It's not like I've got any experience at managing anything at all - and couple that with how ridiculously far away I live, I don't think I'm the ideal candidate. Never mind. It was nice to get an interview. Makes me feel less unemployable.

Everything's happened fast, hasn't it? Fisher and I are both moving on, physically and emotionally - and the future doesn't seem quite as terrifying. I mean ... it's pretty terrifying. Just not as terrifying as it was.

I hope anyone reading this is feeling happy and wholesome, fulfilled and with bright plans on the horizon.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Short Story: Dysmorphia


I’m looking down at myself and coming to an uncomfortable conclusion. Can it be true? Surely it can’t. But no, there’s no doubt about it. I’m dead. My soul is leaving the building. I am in the process of becoming the dearly departed.

It’s deeply disappointing, it really is. I was on my way to a party. I’ve been looking forward to it forever. I even bought myself a new dress. It’s a wrap dress from Monsoon, and I can’t afford it, but it’s been years since I bought new clothes. It’s ruined now. The story of my life. The story of my death.

Janine is throwing the party. I love Janine. She has the telephone next to mine at work, and when she talks down it she sounds like Margaret Thatcher. She’s from Bradford. I don’t know why she thinks sounding like Margaret Thatcher is a good idea, but she always does it. Good arf-ternoon. Might I trouble you for a moment of your time? Thanks awf’ly. She swears people are less likely to put the phone down on her. She does get fewer hang-ups than the rest of us.

Hang-ups. I had plenty of those in life. Body dysmorphia, Janine calls it. I see fat everywhere: face, tits, belly, arse, thighs. Look at me, lying there. There isn’t a part of me that isn’t covered in a thick layer of blubber, like a beached whale.

I wonder when they’ll find me? I wonder if they’ll find me? They must do. I’m not particularly well hidden, here behind the Maharaja of India. And when they do, I guess they’ll take me to the hospital morgue and lay me out on a slab and take off my Monsoon dress and wash the blood off. I won’t be clean. My dirt is too deeply ingrained. You’d need more than a bit of soap and water. What is it they do to whales? Flensing. I should be flensed. Peel off layers of skin until I’m as clean and white as a fresh maggot. All the marks and bruises gone, left on the foul old skins that are dropped in the corner like a wrinkled pile of used condoms.

It wasn’t only body dysmorphia. You could say I have – had – mind dysmorphia, too. Too stupid, too slow, too ignorant. Couldn’t even learn how to fold laundry, or lay a table, or cook a blue steak. Thirty seconds each side, was that so hard? But every time I lose count and it’s not right. It’s always overdone and Michael has to show me again. He likes showing me what a stupid tart I am. Stupid tart, he’ll say, and show me. Show me how to fold laundry, cook a steak, wash dishes. How to take it, how to give it, how to suck, blow, come, go. Very controlling. Very controlling indeed, come to think of it.

Never mind. It’s all over now. It doesn’t matter that I’m lying with my legs spread like slabs of beef, my eyes glazed, unmoving. Frigid as a nun. As exciting as a tax return. A dead horse, a useless lump, enough to turn anyone off, like touching an iceberg, fat cow, dog, minger, troll, stupid piece of shit, not fit for the gutter. He was wrong about that. I look quite at home in the gutter; quite peaceful, actually, with my hair spread out in a chestnut halo and my palms raised in surrender.

Life dysmorphia. Is there such a thing? Shouldn’t I know, now I’m dead? Shouldn’t there be a blinding flash of enlightenment? It seems unfair that I’m still confused. Still, since when did fairness have anything to do with anything?

Christ, maybe that was it. Maybe that was my blinding flash of enlightenment. I really hope not. I really hope there’s more to the meaning of life than what my mother used to tell me: Life’s not fair. Get over it.

Look at me. Look how small I am. What endless misery there was, bound up in so small a vessel. My misery seemed like a world in itself: vast and inescapable. And there I dwelt. There I wallowed. There I rotted. And in the end I’m just a little thing, taking up barely any space at all behind the blue skip full of wasted Indian food. My feet and hands are especially small. When we first met, Michael used to kiss my fingers; light kisses, like butterfly wings. He called them ‘delicate’. He said I smelled of petals. That’s what he called me. Petal. He didn’t specify which petals. He wouldn’t know anything about flowers. He ripped up my Sea Holly and composted it. I cried to see it all uprooted, rotting away. He told me it made sense I’d like something that ugly and prickly. I did like it because of its prickliness, but I don’t understand how he could think it ugly. At dusk, it glows. It’s jagged and rough, but nothing dims that luminescence.

I don’t know when Michael kissed my fingers for the last time. I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision, or if he just gradually lost the desire. Probably, one day, he went to take my hand and saw fingers like fat grubs, wriggling and reaching and wanting. It would put anyone off. I was so greedy. I wanted things all the time. I learned not to ask after I went dress shopping and Michael slammed my fingers in the car door. He was sweet afterwards; sat with me in the hospital waiting room, held my other hand. He even said I could keep the dress, but it made me look fat so I took it back. It didn’t make me look fat. Fat made me look fat.

Of course! That was the last time. We were sitting in the waiting room and he lifted my broken hand to his lips. He kissed the fingers, even though they were all twisted and blue and had blood under the nails. He didn’t say it, but I knew he was sorry. I don’t know what was wrong with me when I was alive. I don’t know why I couldn’t learn how not to make him angry. Then again, I couldn’t even count to thirty. I couldn’t do anything, really. I couldn’t cook, clean, or lose weight. How hard is it to lose weight? It’s just laziness and greed. Better off dead.

No. Don’t think I’m glad I’m dead. I’m not. I’m truly, deeply pissed off about it, because it’s all been for nothing. I’ve done nothing. My life is nothing. There it is, splayed out in the gutter amongst the blood and filth, and there’s nothing more I can do about it. All that sorrow and struggle, all that desperation over such a little thing. What does it matter? Does anything matter? Why don’t I know? Where’s my enlightenment? This really isn’t fair.

And now everything’s getting a little hazy. Nothing’s been made clear to me and now it’s all disappearing. I’m still looking at my body, looking at the scarlet mess of my chest and the whiteness of my skin, but I’m starting to change. To separate. To dysmorph. I’m becoming something else. I don’t know what. I don’t know whether I want to, but I don’t suppose it has anything to do with me.

God, is this it? Is this really all I’m leaving the world: a shattered body and a bloody Monsoon dress? I should never have said I’d go to Janine’s party. Michael was right. In the end, I couldn’t survive on my own. The streets are dangerous for women like me. There are maniacs on the loose. Maniacs with kitchen knives you bought them for Christmas. That fucker. I’d be furious if I wasn’t dysmorphing.

I wonder what they’ll say at my funeral? Dearly departed, we are gathered here today in the presence of these witnesses to celebrate the death of

I think I’m confused.

I’m floating. Light as a feather at last.

I’m going. This is really it. I’m getting thinner and thinner. Departing. And I can see, I can see everything: the sloppy Indian food in the skip and the body behind the skip and the blood running and mixing with the dirt and rain water and the young Indian waiter in the white shirt opening the door and his cigarette and his beautiful hand and the curling white smoke as soft and insubstantial as me, as me, as whatever I am, and the turn of his head, and it doesn’t matter if he sees because it’s beautiful it’s all so beautifully pointless and I was alive and that’s enough and I’m leaving and I’m clean. I’m clean. I’m so clean.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Merry Meribel

Greetings all. I'm in Meribel. I'm here with Phid, Wheeler, Castor, Epona, and two of Wheeler's pals. I shall call them Fiddler and Biker. We arrived on Saturday, after flying into Geneva and then transferring by minibus. All went smoothly. The chalet is basic, with small bedrooms, but with everything we could possibly need. There are chalet girls who cook and clean for us, which feels ridiculously decadent, and even if the snow isn't great it's not so bad there isn't a lot of fun to be had.

First morning, I skied mostly on my own. Fiddler and Biker went off together, Wheeler and Castor faffed about with Castor's new ski boots and then skied together, and Epona took Phid for some gentle runs and a lesson. I was very happy to be pootling about, finding my feet again, and by the time I met everyone for a little break at noon, I was starting to feel a bit more confident. I do love skiing: the mountains, all sharp and jagged; the snow so white; the sky so clear blue; the sun so warm and yet the air so cold. And then the speed, slipping smoothly over the ground as the wind bites your skin. Of course, that's only when it all goes right. When you fall on your arse like a tit, everything's a bit frustrating - but I managed to only fall over once yesterday. On a green run. Quite embarrassing.

In the afternoon, Phid, Fiddler and I did a few fun runs and then Phid had a lesson. Fiddler and I did lots of the runs I'd done in the morning, then a few more a bit lower down where the snow was slushy and totally knackering. We were all done in by 3pm, but we started at about 10, so it was a pretty good stint for our first day. Especially as I'd drunk too much whisky with Wheeler the night before, and he'd scolded me roundly for being such a fuck-up and made me cry, and I felt a bit drained the next morning. Luckily his hangover was much worse. Karma's a bitch, Wheeler. Heh heh.

This morning I went off with Phid and Epona. We did a couple of easy runs for an hour or so, and then Phid decided to head back to the chalet and rest before our afternoon lesson. I went off with Epona, and we went to the top of the mountain and skied some reds and blues. It was great. Snow's much better today, after a very light snowfall to soften the ice, but still quite hard. My legs are holding up - a bit tired, but not too bad. Epona's a very good skier - much, much better than me. But as I said, we're having a lesson this afternoon and I plan on being absolutely brilliant by the end of it. Brilliant, I tells ya.

I daresay I'll blog again. This is a lazy holiday, with lots of down time as well as skiing, so I've plenty of time on my hands. Catch you later, dudes.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Big News

Things move apace. Today, Fisher and I were in Edinburgh looking at a flat she'd spotted. Actually, I think Koi saw it in a paper and passed it on. Anyway, I was away at the time, and when I came back I was sort of sideswiped by the news that she'd not only found a flat she liked, but was hoping to put an offer in.

I know this is all my idea, but the sudden overwhelming fear this inspired was almost breathtaking. I saw myself in this house without her and it became so real, so unbelievably solitary, that I went cold. And she kept talking about it, and I just shrank into myself, all the while knowing I had no right to feel this way. She wanted me to come and see the place with her, give my opinion, and I just nodded and kept saying 'yes'. I'm not sure I heard most of it. But after a while the feeling sort of solidified into a little section of my mind and I was able to cope.

So, today, bright and early, we headed into Reekie and looked at the flat. It's grand. Spacious, full of potential for development, and with a view of Arthur's Seat. There's a park for Baffie, who's going to live with Fisher, and room for Fisher's work space as well as a 3rd bedroom, after development. Perfect. So out in the car, she put her offer in, and all that was left was to wait.

We were pretty starving, so we went to Urban Angels off Broughton Street. See Scran for details.

After that, I wanted to visit Waterstones and get a book on Leonardo da Vinci, with whom I am recently enamoured. Thence to the National Gallery, where I gazed on the self portrait of Rembrandt with genuine awe.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait Aged 51
The moment I saw it, I said to Fisher how sad he looked. And she told me how he'd been suffering great personal and financial loss at the time. This is what I love about Rembrandt. All his people speak. You can hear them. Their faces are full of words. Upstairs in the Italian section I looked at Raphael and was just left cold. His faces don't seem real at all; they're like air-brushed models posing with expressions of grace and tranquility, but feeling nothing. Still, I'm not going to base any sort of opinion of Raphael on the couple of paintings hanging in the National Galleries in Edinburgh. I'll just have to go to Florence and see more.

Fisher, by this time, was wandering around with her phone in front of her face, desperate not to miss any call from her solicitor. But it wasn't until we were on the way home that the call came.

She got the flat.

I was really, genuinely happy for her. It's such an exciting prospect, and so good that she's moving on. Of course it will be hard, and of course it will take adjustment - but it's progress. We must both remember that. And I must remember that I chose this, and I think it's right, and that the first priority with me is to sort my life out. For me. For no other reason, and in light of no other people - relationships or not. My loch-swimmer is so far from a safe bet I can't even think of more than the next time I see her. I fully expect to end up with my heart ripped in two - but if that's the case, then I'll put it back together with duct tape and go on enjoying the life I've made.

Now I just have to make a life. I'm thinking a job would be a good idea. Maybe just 2 or 3 days a week to start with. Maybe something in the food world - host at a restaurant, perhaps? Anyway - I'll wait and see what's out there. Considering my criteria of 2/3 days a week, I'm thinking I'll have to take what I can get!

That's all from me for now. Hope all are well.

Monday, 15 March 2010

2010. The Year That Sucked.

Location: In the library, on my lonesome.
Mood: Fucking depressed.
Listening to: Won't Lie
Reading: Beyond Good and Evil

Right, so, this is tricky.

Unfortunately, Fisher and I are no longer a couple. It seems harsh to post this on the blogosphere, but it's fact. I'm not going to go into details, and everything is extremely raw and painful, but things are progressing. I don't know whether they're progressing for better or worse, but they go on - as does life. Which is a shame, as I'd quite like it to take a break for a while, then wake up and have all this shit over with. I'm to blame. Fisher did nothing. All things changed in me.

At the moment, Fisher is in a mysterious location, leaving me alone at home. This is only right and proper. I've been doing enough darting about, so it's her turn to try and get some perspective. Of course, the problem of what to do next is first and foremost in our minds. How do we live? Together, in a platonic relationship? Or separately? What about the house? The dogs? Fisher's workshop?

So hard. Fuck. So, so hard.

I will keep blogging. I shouldn't have stopped, really. It's such a help in organising my thoughts, and I can write without getting too personal. So look out for more blogs coming this way.

Love to all.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Officially. Never. Drinking. Again.


Had a lovely night with the neighbours last night. I asked Fisher to help stop me drinking too much - which she did not do in any way. We drank until 3am, including me and Kai consuming a bottle of whisky between us. This was not big or clever. I am still unwell and it's 9.30pm the next day. Officially and completely, I am OFF THE BOOZE.

Great night. Horrid day after.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Accursed Snow

Location: Home
Mood: Antsy
Listening to: Radio 4 (programme about Henry Moore)
Reading: 4-4-2

Our sleep patterns are all screwed up. We weren't asleep until 4.30am last night, and now it's half eleven and I'm barely awake. The whole day gets lost this way and I loathe it.

On a more positive note, we at last managed to visit Andrew Fairlie's on Tuesday. It was supposed to be a surprise for Fisher - her last birthday present - but Fairlie's phoned earlier on Tuesday and left a message on the phone asking us to confirm the table that night. Naturally, she listened to it. She still got a surprise when Kai and Ina turned up as our 'cab', and another one when Wheeler and Phid were sitting at our table.

The food was excellent, although I can't say it blew me away. To start with I had crispy egg with truffle oil and artichoke salad. I wanted to compare it to the similar dish I've eaten at Devonshire Gardens, and it wasn't as good. The coating was much more of a generic batter than the crispy shell at DG. The salad was delicious - full of little cubes of flavour, and the truffle oil was superb.
My main course was lamb: a roast loin, a kidney, and confit neck. It was lovely, but again, not particularly innovative. The loin was a small roundel, and Ina - who had the same - was slightly disappointed that hers was tough. I didn't find mine tough, but I wasn't impressed with the confit, which I thought slightly underflavoured and a little dry. The kidney, though, was delicious. And to finish I had an extremely good cheese plate, with Artisanal cheeses from France. There were about 9 small slices on the plate, which is an excellent and if there could be any complaint it was that there were too few accompanying crackers. But only by one or two, so I managed.

The highlight of the evening, food wise, was probably Fisher's dessert. She had a chocolate brownie with brambles and basil & thyme ice cream. The brownie was a small sphere served in a case of chocolate - over which was poured hot chocolate sauce. The hot sauce slowly melted the chocolate coating, revealing the brownie and ice cream inside. Clever! It was the first sign of real innovation, and we all appreciated it very much.

So, while I don't come out of Fairlie's thinking I've experienced something new and different, we did all come away having thoroughly enjoyed our meals and having had a very lovely night. Especially enjoyable was the wine: Felton Road's pinot noir from New Zealand. Deliciously easy to slip down - so we had 2 bottles. Mmm.

Of course, all this did nothing for my calorie count - but I had a small lunch, and it doesn't seem to have knocked me off course. Yesterday I consumed about 1300 and burned off 400 at a half hour gym session. If my BMR is around 1700, that means I burned at least 2100 during the day - 800 more calories than I consumed. Which is ok - especially as it'll be a little more than that owing to a mile walk with the dogs.

Alas, we are now sitting under a good few inches of snow again - so it's back to slippery roads, running inside, instantly soaking dogs, and general irritation. Grrr. Feeding Epona and Shah tonight, too, and we need to go shopping. So I must start getting the day underway.


Monday, 1 February 2010

New Regime

Location: In ma bed.
Mood: Bit headachey, but content.
Listening to: Love, Where is Your Fire (preeetty)

Greetings all.

At long last I feel like 2010 has begun. Frankly, January has been shittier than a cow's backside, and it's about time things turned round. We've decided that the heating is just too unreliable to ... well, rely on, frankly, so are looking into getting a stove put into the sitting room. We had a fella round today who was very pleasant, young and enthusiastic, who turned up on time (in the evening, no less) with no need of directions. The news wasn't great, in that it's going to involve widening the hearth and taking the mantel off, but we'll just have to wait and see what the price will be.

This post is really about my new targets exercise wise. I'm a bit fed up of constantly falling short of my goals, so I reckon it may be wise to think of new goals rather than keep stabbing away at the old ones. So I'm having a rethink of my gym targets, and general attitude to weight loss.

1. I will be counting calories, which is terribly dull, but probably suits me better. I can eat what I like as long as I don't overshoot my target. I know the number of calories I burn, so I have to consume AT LEAST 500 calories fewer. Ideally I'd like it to be closer to the 1000 mark, and even more than that if poss.
2. My gym workout will involve calorie targets. Weights do not count.
3. I must burn at least 1500 calories a week at the gym. I don't know whether that's too little, so we'll see how it goes. If I need to up the target I shall.

Today I presume was a good day, but let's just see, shall we? (I promise all my blogs won't be like this - I'm more thinking aloud right now).

1 bowl oxtail soup = 98 calories
1 baked potato = 245 calories
Butter = 74 calories
Tuna = 75 calories
Mayo = 70 calories
Salad = Should I bother?
Salad cream = 45 calories
Pudding = 200 calories
Total = 807 calories.

27 minute run = 363 calories
15 minutes on cross trainer = 210 calories (websites say 270, but it's so easy I don't believe them)
20 mins on static bike = 150 calories - so says the bike. But looking online, this is incredibly conservative. I always thought it was shonky, too - a low return for high effort. So I'm going with 200 calories. All the websites say 230 odd, so this seems fair. 10 calories per minute.
Total = 773 calories.

Holy crap on a stick!! Can this be in any way accurate? From this calculation, I'm running on 34 calories!

Well ... put it this way. I'm well, well, WELL below my 500 calorie target. I'm wracking my brains to try and think of things I've forgotten. Did I consume a small ox and forget about it? No, don't think so. That was yesterday.

Just joking.

It was a sheep.

The only other thing I've consumed is coffee - which, ok, had milk and sugar in it. Even so ... if I can keep this up I'll be larfin'. And the weird thing is - I had a cracking headache earlier, but I think that was from muscle tension in my neck - I don't feel hungry. At all.

Ok. This is all good. I had a choccie treat for pudding, butter on my potato, mayo in my tuna, and still seem to be coming in well under target. I treat this with suspicion, but I can't seem to think how I've gypped myself, so ... y'know. Good.

Quite excited now. Roll on the weight loss!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Poached Salmon, Colds, Birthdays and Fury.

Location: Library, huddled by the fire to keep warm
Mood: Cold, ill, but determined not to buckle
Listening to: Lately (not convinced. One minute they're like a poor man's Arcade Fire, the next like a drunk Bruce Springsteen. I don't think they know who they are either.)
Reading: Drood (second attempt after losing it the first time), Dan Simmons.
Playing: Haven't been near the PS3 in days. It's too cold in there.

It was Fisher's 31st birthday yesterday, and to celebrate we had the Cheeseboard and Cheeseboys up for the weekend. On Friday night we went up to East Haugh Hotel and had a pleasant pub supper. I was feeling pretty grotty with a cold and sore throat, but it didn't stop me enjoying every mouthful of excellent fish 'n' chips. I was also more than happy to be designated driver, as staying with Phid and Wheeler throughout the week led me to get utterly knocked sideways with a 5 hour drinking session with Wheeler, and being off the booze for a few days seemed sensible to me.

And why were we staying with Phid and Wheeler? Yes, it's our wonderful heating system again. It went off last Monday, and because the inept company has laid of the second engineer for Scotland it means we've had to wait a full week before getting someone in to fix it. And what happened this afternoon? The engineer who said he'd be here this afternoon phoned to say that, no, it'll be tomorrow before he can make it. Look away now if you're offended by filthy language.


Anyway, Phid and Wheels let us stay at the cottage, and very grateful we were too. But back to Fisher's birthday.

Saturday morning saw us tootle in to Perth for a 9 a.m start. We'd booked ourselves a curling lesson! An hour and a half's serious entertainment (who'da thought sliding stones on ice could be so much fun) brought in a bill for £54. That's £6 each. Where else in the world do you get 90 minutes of fun for that sort of price? We all agreed we'd do it again like a shot - so watch this space for a Cheeseboard Winter Olympic medal in a few years.

I left most of the clan to take a walk with the pooches up Kinnoull Hill, while I did some errands in town. Protagoras, who does NOT enjoy walking, chummed me, and we nipped into the fishmonger to pick up a vaaaast salmon and the baker to pick up a selection of French fancies for Fisher's birthday dinner. Then we pegged it back home, dropped off the food, and returned in time to meet the rest at Breizh for lunch.

After lunch we returned home and had an afternoon of arts and crafts. People painted, people drew, people wrote poetry, people stuck and printed and coloured ... it was brilliant. Highlights were definitely Badger's drawing of a Cheeseboard crest, Castor's excellent picture of a roaring fire, and Pro's poem.

Unfortunately, during the day I started feeling pretty terrible. My nose was so blocked I had no ability to either smell or - catastrophe - taste, I was aching, and my throat was all scratchy from having to breathe through my mouth. But I had a hot, hot shower and wallowed as long as I could in a desperate bid to get my senses back (didn't work), then went downstairs feeling refreshed. Luckily the only cooking I had to do was poaching the vaaaaaast salmon (4.5kg - 9.9lbs) which was easy as pie in the fish kettle. This is what I did, foodies:

Fish Kettle Salmon
  • Placed salmon in fish kettle.
  • Covered the fish in as much liquid as made the fish float. I used white wine, lemon vinegar, and the rest water.
  • In the water I added: 3 bay leaves, a handful of pink peppercorns, some lemon slices, and a sprinkling of oregano.
  • I brought the water to the boil and let it boil for 2 minutes only. Then I took the fish off the heat and let it cook in its own juices. This only took about half an hour, and then it was ready to serve.
We also had a whole host of things from the Deli in Dunkeld - ham, cheese, rosemary crackers, antipasti, ostrich paté, venison paté, aioli from the Really Garlicky Company (which was the only thing I could even vaguely taste), delicious stone baked bread from Breizh, and smoked salmon. It was a feast. We finished it off with the little French fancies - some in the shape of mice (timorous beasties), others in little haggises (it's Burns' Night tonight), some fairy cakes and some fondants, and all sweet, sweet, sweet. I didn't have any as there wasn't any point, but there have been more than enough left over for me to sample. Too sweet for my taste.

It was a lovely night. Fisher got lots of great loot from her pals, and I managed to stick it out until 3am with Pro, Badger, and - briefly - Wheeler, playing poker. Badger and I were the last ones standing, but he took the pot of £35 in the end. Ah well. Victoria Coren I ain't.

Sunday was lazy. Everyone but Phid left by noon, so we took the opportunity to take the dogs for a walk, have some lunch at Howie's in Dunkeld, then go to the gym. Yup, the gym. Fisher and Phid did some running, but as I was still feeling rough - though better than the day before - I only used the elliptical machine. Then home for a chill out before heading in for Fisher's final treat - a trip to the theatre to see Stephen K Amos being funny. And funny he was, even though it was pretty much the same show as last time we saw him at Birnam.

Due to a series of unbelievably bad luck incidents with Phid's car, which is currently broken down somewhere in Perth, I gave her a lift into Edinburgh after the show. And what did she learn as we drove into Reekie but that Wheels has just had his Land Rover stolen. Talk about bad car karma ...

Anyway, that brings us up to date. Here I am, huddled in the library, willing the fire to generate a bit more heat, still nursing a sodding cold and now badgered by a nasty cold sore as well, wishing ill upon the stupid geothermal heating company that can't even provide enough engineers to fix the number of busted heaters they've got. Tell me - do we think it's appropriate to leave someone in a house with no heating for over a week in January? Do we think I might just be about to give someone a serious bollocking down the phone? Yes. I think I might just.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Hey ho.

It's 4.26am. No sign of sleep. It's that pesky insomnia again - which comes around now and again when it's least welcome. I've had a heavy couple of days, packed with fun, but not exactly healthy on the food or drink front.

First up was a truly terrific night out with the Cheeseboard ladies. We went to Hotel Mizzoni in Edinburgh and well and truly helped out with my New Year's resolution to be More Fabulous. There was a very chi-chi bar which we lounged over in our posh, frilly and sparkly frocks, and downed cocktails. Yes, we even had a round of cosmopolitans - and delicious they were, too. Then up to the restaurant for a slow but delicious supper, a bottle of champagne, 2 bottles of wine (one of each) and some dessert wine. The chat flowed free, the chuckles were many, and we all agreed that, while we will miss Janus hugely when she goes to Manchester with Badge, a new chapter of our lives has opened up. After all, Koi and Pro have got engaged, Janus is not only moving but getting married in a few short months, and I am feeling extremely itchy.

Change, you see, is a wonderful thing. And I have not changed in a while. I feel restless. Antsy. It's time for some va-va-voom, in one shape or another.

But back to the events of past days. We spent 5 hours at Hotel Mizzoni, had a fabulous time (hurrah) and then got a cab back to Blar's house in Nitten. There we collapsed into bed and rose on the morrow to take a jaunt into pretty North Berwick for lunch. The weather was filthy, the lunch itself only passable, but the company was excellent and I found a sweet travel handbag designed like an air mail letter ... to go with the hideously extravagant purchases I'd made in Harvey Nicks the day before - including a Marc Jacobs handbag, which some people might wish me to describe. Therefore - it's green.

After our leisurely sojourn, we headed back home with just enough time to enjoy a leisurely bath before being collected by our neighbours-but-one, Kai and Ina. They had invited us along to the Opening of the Tay dinner - which was rather fun. It took place in a baronial hall in a local hotel which had recently been renovated, but really only involved sitting at a table, chatting and drinking beer. Then a very good ceilidh band struck up a set, and it all went a bit tits up. I mean, the music was great - but the room wasn't big enough to warrant Glastonbury-esque amplification. After suffering our eardrums for another hour or so, we gladly headed home. A quick nightcap at ours, where Kai got down on his hands and knees and attempted to fix our cooker (he's a man who likes to be useful) and we chatted for a while, and then to bed.

Next day - today - I woke feeling ropey. But it was also the day Spar had promised to take me to see Aberdeen v St Johnstone's, and I was much looking forward to it. We were meeting at Gloagburn for lunch, then on to a nearby pub (gah!) for a pre-match pint, then on to the game. Then back home, then pub supper.

Alas, all our carefully laid plans went aglay. First, the match was cancelled. Boo. Then, when we decided to go and hit some golf balls on the Gleneagles driving range, we discovered the range was closed due to snow. So we went to Noah's Ark in Perth instead. But they had only 25 balls left - which we shared, with Spar giving me some good pointers on my swing. It was great fun - but not nearly as much fun as the crazy golf afterwards. We played 9 holes and were completely level pegging, so had to play another 3 holes to decide the outcome. Alas, on the third, I managed to fluff an 8 inch putt by failing to hit the ball hard enough (!!!!), and lost the day. Boooooo!!

Then back home. We watched Liverpool limp to a draw with Stoke - the reds of Merseyside are in serious trouble - and half way through, Fisher came back from walking the dogs to say a deer was caught in the fence above Kai & Ina's. She couldn't free it because of her wrist, and it was screaming. So Spar and I took the car up and managed to untangle its rear hoof from between a barbed wire line and a plain metal wire. Above the hoof was cut, and despite our best efforts, the deer wouldn't stand. The best we could do was get it onto its belly with its legs tucked under, and hope it just needed a rest. It had been caught for a while, and been scrabbling the earth with its front legs to no avail, so we think it was pretty exhausted. I'm not hopeful, but it might get to its feet after a rest, and if it's going to die, at least it won't die upside down with its leg caught in the top of a wire fence.

It was a bit chastening. We're pretty realistic about country life, but you never like to see an animal in distress, and if I do come across one I can't keep myself from trying to help - even if just to try and alleviate its misery. Of course, if I had real courage I'd have gone back late this evening to see how it was faring, and if it was dying I would have sent Kai to shoot it.

Back at the house we finished watching the footie, I had a shower to wash the deer off me, and we went out for supper. It was a gentle affair, involving steak, NO BOOZE, and pleasant chat - and we parted well pleased with our lot. I'd had a lovely day, despite the lack of live football, and I hope Spar enjoyed it too.

And now I'm wide awake, it's 5am, and I have nothing more to blog about. Oh well. I'd best try and get to sleep. Even Dotun Adebayo has gone to bed.

G'night all.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

"I Would Go Straight For" No. 1

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. Especially at the start of The Priory School when someone faints on his carpet and he looks like an excited schoolboy.
He's less attractive when he becomes very ill, but even then he's full of authority and intellect.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

2010 - So Far So Challenging

Location: Home
Mood: Not sure yet
Reading: Still getting through all the books I've mentioned.
Listening to: Buildings & Mountains
Playing: Bayonetta

It's not been the smoothest of rides so far this year. We've had broken heating, a frozen water pump, a rodent infestation, snow, ice, injuries - and barely time to draw breath before Sister and 2 youngest sons returned for another visit. They're always welcome, of course, but putting your feet up hasn't been a feature of the new year.

Fisher slipped on ice the other day and bashed her wrist nastily. It's fine, but sore, and she can't use it. Poor lamb. Didn't stop her from going for a run, naturally, but I don't think it did the wrist any favours.

So - yesterday we took a trip into Edinburgh to see if Sister couldn't get the tiles for her new house chosen and ordered. We dropped her off at the tile shop and took Wrecker and Tertius to Dynamic Earth for some educational fun. Unfortunately, it turned out DE was shut (be nice if that was prominently mentioned on the website) so we went to the Museum of Scotland instead. This had the bonus of being free, and there was plenty to entertain Wrecker for an hour and a half. We were supposed to be meeting up with Blarney for dim sum, but she couldn't get on the bus. According to herself, you can only take one buggy per bus and she waited for 2 buses - each of which had a buggy on them already so she couldn't get on.

I don't get this. It's a nonsense! If you fold up a buggy, how much room does it take up? Although, come to think of it, Blarney's buggy is vast and I'm not sure it can be folded very easily, so it must be an issue of space and safety. Still, it seems very harsh to make a woman with a baby miss the bus because you won't let more than one buggy on. She was most cross, and I felt the full force of her wrath when I dared ask after the wellfare of her car. It's got a flat battery, apparently, and has done since before Christmas. Hey ho. Nitten doesn't seem to be the paradise we all expected.

So that was disappointing - but we had a good lunch at Saigon Saigon anyway. Love dim sum, me - and so does Wrecker. He filled his 4 year old (to the day) face with 4 custard bao, as well as noodle soup, deep fried squid, and sundry other Chinese goodies. I don't think I've ever seen him eat so much. Tertius, at the princely age of 1, was pretty impressive on the gluttony front, too. Definitely my kin.

After lunch we all went back to the tile shop to see if we could help Sister choose. It transpired she had shedloads still to do, so I offered to drive the boys home, leaving Fisher with Sister to offer design input and catch the train when they were done. This agreed, I set off.

Unfortunately, it was only when pulling into the drive that I realised ... I'd left the house keys with Fisher. I called Epona to see if she had a spare key. She didn't. So I smashed the summer room window ... and discovered the inner door to the house was also locked. There was no hope for it. I had to take the cold, cross boys to Epona's and wait it out. Luckily it was only about an hour and a half before Sister and Fisher returned to let us in, and Epona was great - played snap with Wrecker, and provided a basket of wood off-cuts for them to play with. Thus did we while away the time. But I was supposed to be cooking slow roast pork for everyone - including neighbours - that night, and there was precious little time left to slow roast anything.

However, the evening did end well. I whacked the pork in the oven as soon as I got in the house, and Epona and Shah agreed to make it a late supper. They arrived at around 9.30pm, so the pork had 3 hours before we ate it, and if it wasn't as good as it was at New Year, it was very tasty all the same. If we hadn't had enough blimmin' Chinese food at lunch, we served it with rice, and steamed broccoli & pak choi with oyster sauce.

I've been getting a few hits from foodies, so I'm going to start listing recipes. Here's my recipe for Chinese slow roast pork shoulder:
  • Mix together: 125ml each of soy sauce and dry sherry, 70ml water, 2 spring onions (chopped), 2 crushed cloves of garlic, some grated ginger (about an inch?).
  • Rub a pork shoulder with Chinese 5 spice and place it in a covered, close-fitting roasting dish.
  • Pour the liquid around the pork, put the lid on, and place in the oven at 150 degrees C (that's 300F).
  • Cook for 4-5 hours.
I didn't have 4-5 hours, so I actually whacked the heat up to 220C for 20 minutes to give it a start, then down to 150C for the rest of the time. It wasn't as tender as at New Year, when I gave it the full amount of time, but it was still flavoursome and juicy.

I've decided I'm also going to include a quick review of the things I'm reading/listening to/playing. So:

The Republic Tigers (link at top) are ... well, ok so far. I've not listened to them very much yet, so the jury's still out. They're quite MOR, despite considering themselves experimental indie. I find their music pleasant, rolling along in the background type stuff. They remind me of a Scottish band called Dogs Die in Hot Cars, only much more serious minded and lacking a sense of humour. It's the same mix of pop, tune-based music with electronica thrown in for good measure. I like it - I'm just not sure I like it enough to give it my full attention. The Nerve is a cracker, though, and I'll rate the album - Keep Color - at 6.5/10. A pleasing, if unexciting, buy.

Bayonetta is, I'm afraid, one of those games that drives me nuts. It's all about button-mashing sequences, over the top blood, puerile masculine sexual fantasy (to a ridiculous, pretty offensive degree in this case) and fighting, fighting, fighting. Don't get me wrong, I'm the first person to complain if there aren't enough battles in a game, but the best games, for me, have a good mix of battling, puzzles and story. Take God of War, for example - a fantastically beautiful game with a clever story, an interesting anti-hero, a good variety of moves and weapons, and excellent satisfaction on completion. Bayonetta, alas, doesn't have half GoW's charisma. The heroine is preposterous, the battles repetitive and all too frequent, the action moves too fast for appreciation, there are too many things to think about at once ... No, I'm just not a fan. I daresay this has a lot to do with the fact I'm just not very good at button mashing, but surely a game should have a bit more substance than endless battles? As for the sexual aspect - I like foxy women heroes, and appreciate a witch who uses her clothes as part of her spells, thereby showing considerable flesh - but touching herself inappropriately is a bit much. The whole leg-spreading thing is tiresome, too. I'll give the game 5/10.

That's it for now. Oh - one bit of exciting news is that Janus has been offered a job in Sheffield. This is great news! Badger has a job in Manchester, so it means they can both move down south together and not be apart. We'll miss her loads, but I can't wait to visit and explore a new city. It's the end of an era, and the start of something brand new. Hurrah.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Location: Snug and warm at home
Mood: Smug and warm. Also tired.
Listening to: The Story (can't seem to get enough of Leddra at the moment)
Reading: Look, Taste is quite a long book, orright?
Playing: 3D monopoly.

Today I went skiing. The last time I went was last year, when the sun shone o-so brightly. The sun, alas, was not shining at all today and it was very cold. I think a -17C wind chill is cold in anyone's book. Horizontal snow that cut the eyelids completes the picture - although, to be fair, this was only at the end of the day.

Epona gave me a lift up to Glenshee as Keith the Land Rover had a flat tyre - again. We met up with Phid and scooted down merrily down Sunnyside - the green run just above the café. I say merrily, but it really wasn't, for me. Much to my disgust and disappointment, I seem to suffer from excruciating pain in my Achilles tendons when I ski. My feet also feel like the bones are being crushed and wrung like an old dishcloth. This happened last year, and I thought it might be my boots so I went back to the wonderful Banks in Perth and got them lengthened. Unfortunately, it appears there's nothing wrong with the boots at all. It's just my feet. My Achilles tendons are pretty short, my calves are enooooormous, I'm not skiing fit, and my feet naturally turn outwards, which means they don't like being straightened. I get terrible pins and needles when doing the elliptical machine at the gym, so it's no wonder they don't like ski boots. Anyway, despite all this I managed to work out a way of enjoying my skiing. It meant poor Phid and Epona had to wait for me a few times, but, basically, I'd just do a run, take my boots off and stretch out, then re-boot and off I'd go. A faff, but much better than causing myself agony. And it really is painful. Basically, it feels like crap. Cramp, I mean. Crap cramp. Even now, at 11pm, my Achilles tendons are still sore to the touch.

But enough. There's always something wrong with me, physically, and either you let it stop you or you suck it up, make the best of it and carry on. I hate having anything that affects me cause issues with others, but Phid and Epona were very patient. Also, Phid helped me out a lot by falling off a button lift 4 times, giving me loads of time to de-boot and stretch as I waited at the top. Very decent of her.*

I had 2 falls. The first was just due to poor visibility, my carelessness and my ski hitting something under the snow (which, I have a suspicion, was more snow). No big deal. The second was more fun. Epona went over a little jump, landed, then fell over. I decided it would be one hell of a coup if I managed to land the jump and no shame if I fell like she had - so over I went. Yeeee-eeeees ... I didn't exactly land it. And I discovered my knees are nearly as flexible as they were when I was 21. Ouch.

It was a fun day. In total we did about 3 hours skiing, which was just about perfect for me. I'm hoping to do more skiing this year than last. My Achilleses definitely eased up a bit after I'd been skiing for a while, suggesting it's more a case of tight and shortened tendons than a boot issue, so the more I do it the better.

Back at home, Fisher had a mug of tea ready for Epona and me. I had a wonderful hot bath, then she cooked me penne and cheese with pancetta and peas (serious lack of veg in my diet today!), which was exactly what I wanted. She is great. So is Baffie, who is curled up at my feet right now.

Happy today.

*The lift was a bastard. It shot out of the trap, down a steep hill, dragging you out like Ben Hur behind a runaway chariot. Then it stopped at the bottom, so you sailed into the pole face first. Then it shot off again, lifting you clear off the ground (if you're Epona's size) or causing you to wobble violently and fall down. This happened to me, but I managed to snow plough adequately on my second attempt. Credit to Phid for plugging away. I'm not sure I would have tried it 4 times.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year People!

Location: In bed, wrapped up in a duvet, with the old electric heater on.
Mood: Slightly despairing.
Listening to: Picking Oranges
Reading: Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking
Playing: Revisiting TimeSplitters 2 on PS2

Fuck. Ing. Hell.

Woke the morning to a very miserable Fisher, who'd gone downstairs to discover the heating isn't working. This happened at exactly the same time last year, again on a public holiday, and again meaning we had to wait 3 or 4 days before getting someone in to fix it. We have to freeze until Tuesday. Is this reasonable? I think not. And when I say freeze ... it's currently -2 degrees C outside, at 12.35, so I can only predict that the temperature will get considerably less balmy as the day progresses. The night should see a drop to at least -7. For those on the other side of the pond, the conversion to silly fahrenheit is as follows:
-2C is 28.4F
-7C is 19.4F

This may not seem all that bad, in comparison to the -40 I've heard tell can hit certain parts, but I'd like to point out that most of you lot seem to follow the example of the second little pig and build your houses out of twigs, with rooms that are easy to heat and installed with heating systems that were created a mere few decades ago. Beautifully warm and functional (despite your dodgy electric circuits and bafflingly rubbish dishwashers), with sizable rooms and modern luxuries such as electric light switches that don't spark alarmingly each time you switch them on. I, on the other hand, am the proud and loving possessor of a house built some time in the 18th century by people who had no problem combatting the cold by setting fire to each other and sharing small spaces with cattle. If you're a little more fastidious than this, it turns out the house is quite hard to heat. Not only that, but if you bought the house from some eco-friendly Buddhists who, though pleasant, are not very bright, you may discover they've installed geo-thermal heating ... which is both unreliable and expensive. At least, this system seems to be. When faced with low temperatures outside it goes into a dizzy panic, believes the whole world must surely be in the throes of a nuclear winter and that we're all going to die, then faints in terror. It takes a degree of expertise to be able to know just where to thrust the smelling salts - expertise that I certainly don't have (I've only just mastered switching it on), and that even clever Fisher can't deal with. At least she has an idea of what might be wrong. She says it's probably the thermostat, which we had replaced this time last year, and is obviously shite. If it is - and if it's broken within a year - she's going to have a little stroppy-strop and tell the engineers it's bloody not good enough and it was clearly a faulty part. Meanwhile, I'm huddled in bed, she's pootling about resembling a bright pink Michelin man in her 18 layers (the top one of which is a bright pink fluffy jumper), and I'm busy contemplating alternatives to shivering it out. We have 3 days to wait. We could throw ourselves on the mercy of our friends, which I am very loath to do. They've all just finished their holidays, are going back to work feeling crabby and depressed, and have only just got rid of us anyway. Also, we have Baffie and Bridie, who aren't welcome in certain flats (owing to landlords - not friends) and cause allergies to other pals. So friends aren't a very comfortable option.

We could throw up our hands and head off to some flashy pants hotel. This would surely be the most fun option, but Christmas has placed a strain on the coffers - as usual - and I don't want to go all budget at this time of year. Budget hotels are rarely pleasant in sunny weather. When escaping the freezing wastes they're a definite no-no. Also, Fisher and I agree that we've overindulged to a ridiculous extent this year. My attempts at weight loss have been larfable, and with New Year providing no excuse not to be resolved, it seems foolhardy to head off to a swanky establishment with lavish meals provided as part of the package. So, on the whole, this is a tempting but inadvisable option.

It seems our only recourse is to stick it out. Gah! Unfortunately, because the coldest part of the whole house is the kitchen, neither of us is going to want to cook - so we'll probably end up going out anyway, getting fat and dying of a heart attack. Or is that overly pessimistic? Sorry - must be the hypothermia setting in. Even wrapped up in bed I'm starting to feel my face getting numb.

But this is a sad opening entry of the new decade - especially as the last one ended so merrily. Let me give you a run down.

We had the whole family come for Christmas. Fabulous to see everyone, and there were a lot of laughs. Of course it was hectic, with lots of meals to prepare and plan, but everyone pitched in and it was a lot less frantic than it could have been.

Once everyone had gone back to their homes we began preparing for the second wave. Hogmanay would see us host 11 for a sit down Chinese banquet. Guests were: Epona, Shah, Kai and Ina from the Glen, Janus, Badger, Pro, Koi, and Champaign Charlie - who was over for the Christmas holidays and cadged a lift up from Dumfries with Epona and Shah.

This is what I cooked:

Bao - stuffed with haggis, for that Scottish touch. I don't think they worked as they were meant to as they weren't nearly fluffy enough - but I had good reports.
Gyoza - courtesy of the lovely marvellous Badger, who made them with his usual expertise.
Prawn toast - courtesy of Ken Hom and Tesco. Cop out - but tasty.

Main Courses:
Peking Duck - with wild duck shot by Shah, homemade pancakes (not great. Too thick and tough) and homemade plum sauce (tart!).
Slow roast Chinese pork - delicious! Rubbed with salt and 5 spice, then roasted in a tight, covered dish while steeped in sherry, soy sauce, spring onions, ginger, spot of sugar, garlic, for 5 hours at 150. Mmmm. So good.
Stir fry prawns with squid rings in ginger and sherry - not sure I tasted this one!
Chinese beef stew - brisket in soy sauce, star anise, sherry, spring onions, lots of water and simmered for 2 hours - excellent! The brisket was much more tender than I imagined, and even if it produced a lot of fat, it wasn't hard to skim off and the taste was wonderful. We had a lot of this left over and had it last night for supper. Yumster.
This was all served with boiled rice and stir fry veg.

Lemongrass sorbet, made by Fisher, and ginger tuille biscuits made by me.

We finished it all off with a very un-Chinese cheese board, and accompanied it all with shedloads of booze. I have to say, I was horrified with how much I drank over the course of the night. We didn't get into bed until 4am and I was very much hammered. I think this had something to do with how quickly I was drinking. There was a lot of getting up and down for all the different dishes, and in between I'd just neck back whatever glass was in front of me. So - yeah - the following day was somewhat painful, and it was a good lesson. From now on I shall try and drink more slowly.

New Year's Day was spent in painful, lazy fashion. We did all manage to drag ourselves out into the snow to walk the pooches - and were promptly caught by Shah and invited in for a dram. I'd just started to feel less hungover, so accepted a "very weak" G&T ... which was so far from weak it wasn't even funny. I had to empty a full can of tonic into it to make it drinkable. As for the boys - they asked for small, very small, drams of whisky, and got triples. We drank incredibly slowly, drawing our drinks out for at least an hour and enjoying the chat, then went home and collapsed in front of Dr Who.

Everyone left yesterday, leaving Fisher and me to revel in our quiet house. We went to the gym in the evening, where I ran 5k then did 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, ensuring I burned at least 500 calories. My knees are feeling a bit ropey at the moment, but I'm ignoring them and hoping their complaints go away. Always a sound solution, I feel.

And now we have no heating, and I think 1.52pm is probably pushing it for being in bed - no matter how much I tell myself it's a heat-conserving exercise. So I shall leave you, wishing everyone who reads these words a very happy new year and hopes for greatness to come.