The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

BMSC 2007 - Highs and Lows

I set off down south at 11 a.m. on Friday. I had a leisurely drive across to the M6, stopping in Hawick to nip into Morrisons to buy some sandwiches and something to drink. I stopped again at the first services on the M6 for a loo break and to eat my picnic. Back on the road and a travel report said long delays from junction 23 to junction 16 - I was going to J15. Then the same message was being posted on all the overhead signs. I pulled into another service station to see if there was any feasible alternative - the best I could see was the A50 off of J20. In the end I stuck with the M6 as it was just stop/start around the junctions, but we were moving reasonably well in between. I eventually arrived at Yarnfield at 5.15 p.m.

I was not playing in the Ladies event so chilled out in the evening. I did not sleep well, my pillow being far to large and solid, and my room was very hot despite opening the window. Eventually in the early hours I got up and collected a towel to use as a pillow, which although not ideal at least let me get some sleep. Note to self - take pillow in future...

After breakfast I caught up on my cardbox quiz and then wandered over to the main building. I was a runner for the first two rounds of the newbies event, but that was more than enough - the room was extremely hot - and then went back to my room to get ready for the main event.

I won't go through all the games in great detail - partly because there were so many and partly because after day 1 I lost enthusiasm and stopped photographing the boards, and will only remember some of the games in any detail.

Game 1: Andrei Russell-Gebbett
I knew of Andrei from Brett Smitheram, so knew not to underestimate him.
Andrei started and changed 3, bingoing on move 2 with TAINTED. On move 4 he played DIAPSIN and I stupidly challenged it off - I realised I could have played PERIO(D)IC around the D. I played PICO, keeping EIR and picked 4 more vowels. PANIC from Andrei let me dump E(P)EIRA. On my third successive UW rack, having played off PURL and RUSH I had AEHIUW? and was holding my breath. Andrei bingoed with DEMOTES. WHArENUI for 102 from me and a 62 point lead. This was not rewarded by the tile gods - 7 consonants from the bag. I dumped K(I)W(I) to keep scoring and picked 2 more consonants, and was powerless when Andrei levelled with GENITOR. With J and Z unseen I had to block the triple. BOZO from Andrei for 35 - ZOBO for 81 would have been a real killer. I picked the blank, and played (FE)RN to make another opening and hope for a good pick up. Unfortunately I got the J and could just minimise the losing spread.
L: 389-406

Game 2: Kevin Synott
This game was close throughout - everytime I got ahead Kevin pegged me back. BEECH for 50 from Kevin near the end was a killer for me giving him a 20 point lead on a tight board. With one tile in the bag Kevin found the correct play of P(E)ERAGE to give himself a two tile playout, and blocking my winning play of (T)WINTER.
L: 354-367

Game 3: Stewart Houten
Stewart started with two consecutive phonies, MOANY and YEOMANS, but bonusing on move 4. I then took off with 2 consecutive bingoes, solid scoring and a third bingo on move 11.
W: 506-295

Game 4: Bob Lynn
Three bonuses from me of IC(E)FIeLD (was pleased with that), SEXTILE and IND(I)TERS - correctly chickened out of trying to hook R(AKA). Also scored heavily with FELTY, JAW, QI and HI. On my bad racks I was able to balance with IONI(C) and AREAE.

W: 513-251

Game 5: Phil Robertshaw
Phil got a 4-x CHAT(L)INE on move 1 and I levelled on move 2 with (T)RIaLLED. We were then nip and tuck. Going into the end game I was 28 behind but Phil had 7 vowels. I blew it.
L: 428-432

Game 6: Chris Fenwick
I played a phony on move 2 - can't remember what, but successfully bonused on moves 4, 5 and 7 with an embarrassment of good easy tiles.
W: 474-346

End of day 1, 3-3 and +567!

Game 7: Cecil Muscat
Cecil bonused on move 2, but I caught him back up on move 5 and took a bonus lead on move 8. Cecil bonused back on move 9 to get right back in touch, but I had enough ammo held back to stay in control.
W: 428-370 and the first time I had been ahead in the tourney.

Game 8: Richard Kennedy
I started with BYLAW and then SILICES. I could not believe it when it was challenged off, and asked for a recheck. Not allowed. I dumped CEILIS the next go and my racks just went downhill from there...
L: 357-417

Game 9: Joyce Cansfield
Joyce started with LEISURE. I couldn't get going, and changed twice in the game. We exchanged bonuses on move 11, and I was still 40 behind with Joyce to play. Near the end and now I was 85 behind, holding AACERSU. I spent several minutes agonising over CAESURA(s) for 80, and eventually chickened out with CAESURA for 74, but opening the triple. Joyce dumped (C)IVIL for 30. As the tiles lay I would still have lost, but should have given myself the chance to win.
This was an annoying game as Joyce challenged every other word I played, even at one point muttering that if penalty challenges ever get voted in that she will have to learn the new 3s...
L: 432-409

Game 10: Anne Ramsay
A cracking game. Anne started with a bonus, but I responded in kind on move 2. PANNI(E)RS from Anne on move 4 opening a 9-x and I hit it straight off with IM(P)ARTEd for 158 to be a bonus lead ahead. I bonused again on move 8 to take a 150+ lead, but Anne hit back on move 10 with GAZIEST for 101, and I took off the triple for 27 to stay a bonus+ up. Another bonus from Anne and another bonus from me. A play for 41 from Anne, but leaving herself only one place to play out that I blocked...
W: 539-484

Game 11: Vincent Boyle
Vincent took an early lead, bonusing on move 2 whilst I was struggling. I face-value bonused on move 6 to get within 20. I then picked the J and Z with 5 vowels. I rejected JIZ for 54 in favour of JEU for 36 and picked the X. XI for another 36, setting up the Z for 63 the next go and a lead of 8 points. We exchanged 30 point plays, but a bingo from me on the next move and a winning margin that looked a lot easier than it was.
W: 455-326

Game 12: Sandie Simonis
This was a dream game for me and Sandie took it in good grace. I started with OJIME, keeping ET and had the great pick up of AQSU?. Sandie's reply of PIU(M) set up SUQ for 67, followed by a bonus on move 3. Two more bonuses from me, my lowest score in the game being 22.
W: 499-255

Game 13: Terry Kirk
Terry opened with COXY. My rack of AADINRT and neither 7 played, but I had choices of 8s. I knew I always muddled the anagram of RADICANT, and eventually settled for ANTID(O)RA as it gave least away. Terry was struggling, and when he bonused on move 6 was still slightly behind. I bonused again on move 7 and scored solidly from then on in to the line.
W: 404-314

End of day 2 and I had recovered to 8-5. I still had a chance of a good placing if I could win all 5 on day 3, having the best spread by far of the field, +1060

Game 14: Gareth Williams
The tile gods decided to piss on me in this game. With BEFKRTU I opened with BUKE and Gareth bingoed. I picked no vowels but could dump FR(O)NT. I played the next 8 moves with a single vowel, but was still hanging in there. On move 11 I held CONTEST, but nowhere to play it. With a slightly vowel heavy bag I dumped COT to set up another bonus lane, and picked 3 more consonants. Gareth blocked the SCOT bonus lane, and I played W(E)ND to open another onto the triple lane on the left, keeping REST. I then picked EEO. Gareth blocked again. I dumped EE, to make another opening making (ME)E vertically stopping 1 short of the triple lane on the right, knowing that Gareth had no tile that went on the end of it so the best he would be able to do would be play a single tile onto the second E which he duly did. I picked LY, and dumped the Y in a last-ditch attempt - if the unseen E was the last tile in the bag I still had a chance. Gareth had it, and played PIZE for my worst defeat of the tourney.
L: 316-442

Game 15: Mike O'Rourke
Solid scoring from me at the start including an X dump for 52 on move 2. Mike bonused on move 5, but was still 26 behind and a 95 point bonus reply from me kept me well in control. Mike bonused again on move 8 but I was still well ahead. Mike then tried a phony with AELORST, and I blocked a danger spot for an S ending. On my next move I blocked the only other bonus lane, and drifted over the winning line.
W: 480-363

Game 16: Di Dennis
Di opened with QI, and I spotted TANTRUM. Di bonused back and after 3 moves apiece it was all square. I went ahead on move 5 with LINDIES, and Di hit me with a double whammy of BALDIES followed by INCRE(A)SE which blocked my RARITIE(S). There was nowhere to just dump RI for any points or tactical gain, so I played off ARTI(C) as there were 2 blanks still to come. Unbeknownst to me, Di had picked them both after INCREASE but had overlooked the R hook thinking she was safe with all the Ss and Ds gone. I got back ahead with FRIAR for 47 followed by JE(E)P for 34. Coming into the end game with 5 unseen, including the blanks, I dumped GLIT from AGGILNT to stay in touch and give myself a good chance of a blank if one was in the bag, or guaranteeing it if both were. It was not to be.
L: 417-436

Game 17: Richard Kennedy (again)
I got revenge in this game :)
I opened with BANTY. On rack 3 I was holding AINOPRS with nowhere for either bonus to play when Richard just vowel dumped OE, to give me a place for PARISON. He bonused back with STRIVER on move 4. We were both scoring steadily. I had consecutive moves of MENHIR(45), F(I)Z (35) and VAL(I)D (36) despite having only a single vowel on the last two racks, to counter his JOW(37), EX (38) and BIOGE(N)Y (36). Richard then opened the 9x with ACiE(R)AGE, missing the safe AC(R)EAGES, to take a short lived 44 point lead. I had picked the other blank to hit it straight away with MORTG(A)gE for 158. We exchange 30+ plays, and I was holding ACDHILN. I made a decision that if I was still a bonus+ up after Richard's move I would go for it else I would play safe. Richard dumped (V)AU so down went MANCHILD*. I waited for the challenge but it did not come, so 110 points added, followed immediately with another 65 for UNSTAID. Richard's last rack of EEELNRS had no playable bingo so he just dumped the L to stop me scoring with an easy P(E)AK for 38 from a rack of AEKOPUU, but I was pleased to spot the new 4, KOAP for 33.
W: 626-368

Game 18: Stewart Holden
This was the reverse of my game against Gareth. I foolishly played BOYLA from my opening rack of AABIOLY, and then had AAAIEUS. I dumped AUA and then had AEIIINS. I played INIA and then had AEIIOST. Stewart had just bonused opening the triple so I played IOTA. Next rack EEIIIXS, and I couldn't even play XI but had EX for 38. Can't remember next rack/move. EEIIMOS and dumped (A)MIE as the board was getting blocked and I needed to keep it open (no T for MOIETIES). AEIORSW, played off OW to make an opening. Stewart played TINNIER off of it, but at last. EARWIGS for 97 and only 109 behind! Of course, my pickup was by now consonant heavy but I had the second blank. J(U)VE for 44 and inside double figures. Stewart then played a phony (F)LUKER with 2 left in the bag. So with my rack of CFNOVZ? and APTT unseen I dumped of F(I)Z for 19 and prayed for AT in the bag. I turned over AP and any chance of playing out off the open I had gone.
L: 361-442

So, 10-8 +1209.
Positives to take out of this: I had the best spread of the tourney. Average game score 441.9. Even in the two games where I had consistent crud against Gareth and Stewart I still had a chance of winning at the end. I only blew one game...

Many congratulations to Paul Allan who won the title although he could have looked happier :)

Also to Phil Robertshaw who gained the last UK place for the WSC.

Thanks go to Sarah for all the hard work she puts in to organise the tournament and apparently all the rudeness she had to suffer from a, hopefully, very small minority of the players. Thanks also to Mauro, Ian, the runners and everyone else without whom the event could not take place.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This Little Piggy

I drove Paul to the station on Thursday morning. He was stopping off at his parent's to sort out Alan's new laptop before going on to Brighton the next day for a bridge congress. I collect him back tomorrow lunchtime.

So, four and a half days with just the dogs. Not normally a problem. However, yesterday morning I awoke to a sore toe on my left foot. I have no idea what I have done to it - it looks a little swollen at the joint. This morning it is throbbing and I am really hobbling around. Luckily it is raining again, so I have an excuse to only take them on very short walks.

I have resumed my diet. I was very happy to find that I had not put on any weight in the break, despite eating vary large amounts of chocolate - hopefully enough to remove any cravings over the next few weeks.

The first installment of bulbs arrived on Friday - 45 of the 75 rockery tulips. I weeded and planted up twenty of them in the little bed at the end of the lawn. That bed is now fully bulbed up until the voles discover it...

Yesterday I got out for an hour in the afternoon and weeded the area where I had planted up the lupins. That is now ready for more planting, as is LB6 that I weeded last week and planted four of the hardy fuchsias that I had previously potted on.

Paul has just phoned - his team are apparently in the B final. Sounds like they blew it, as had been leading the main event with 2 rounds to go but they lost both those matches badly. His sympathy for my toe left a little to be desired - more concerned about whether I will be able to pick him up from the station than about whether I will be in a fit state to drive down to Yarnfield on Friday for the BMSC...

The studying is going well.
Cardbox quiz: All 5s, 9750 7s and 4750 8s. Target of 10000/5000 before BMSC well on track...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Penny to the Rescue

My passport runs out in November, so Paul has been bullying me to sort out getting it renewed. I filled the form out on line quite a while ago, and on Wednesday went to the post office to get some passport photos taken.

Today I went back to the post office with the form, photos and current passport. I was going to use the check and send facility which is available from some post offices. However, the lady on the counter said she couldn't do this as I had filled the form in on-line (not quite sure why this makes any difference). So, I bunged everything into the envelope, got it weighed, paid for the postage and handed it over.

I then decided I would call in on Penny, who owns the premises next door. I got shown the interior of the shop which is undergoing refurbishment and then invited up for a quick cup of coffee. She had to go out shortly to meet up with Jean and then go on to Alnwick to pick up a van she had bought.

As we were getting ready to leave Penny was checking she had everything she needed, and mentioned her cheque book. This must have been divine intervention - it was the first time I had called in at Penny's, and if she hadn't needed to be at Jean's by midday or been going to pay for something I would have been completely stuffed.

I almost ran out of the flat and into the post office. Luckily I was still in time - the envelope was still sitting in the tray waiting to be picked up. The lady behind the counter was very helpful and she managed to open the envelope without too much damage, and then when I gave it back with cheque enclosed said she would cellotape it back up for me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Garden Report 2007 - 16

Again there had been a long break without me being able to get out into the garden. The weather this week has been better, and after all our visitors had departed I have managed to start to get it back under control. I have been out for a couple of hours each afternoon from Tuesday through Friday weeding, cutting back the aquilegias, and pulling out the poppies and the purple/pink plants with the grey/green foliage (no idea what they are) before they set seed, as they do tend to take over. Anne asked me to try to save her a pink one despite my warnings, and hopefully the one that I trimmed and potted up will survive. Starting from the rockery end I have caught up to where I got to from the other end in my last stint. It is looking a lot neater now, but I still need to do the top where nettles are coming back through and there is one area where the bind-weed is taking over.


New from the last report I have three hydrangeas in flower. This blue one as at the top left of the high bank.

There is a pale pink one half way up the left of the high bank.

This rather magnificent deep pink one is really only visible from the window of the upstairs spare bedroom. It obviously is thriving on neglect as I have only managed to climb up there twice since we moved in to pull out the weeds, nettles and brambles.

The potentillas are still flowering well. The spiraeas are beginning to go over now.


I don't know if I should count this clematis as a climber as it is resolutely ignoring the trellis. However, it is flowering...

I need to get up the high bank and find/rescue the clematis I had planted up there. It had been making its way up one of the large alliums that were planted around it, until the strong winds flattened it.

Janet gave me this everlasting pea last year. It had such a large root that I could not easily dig a deep enough planting hole for it and ended up mounding soil around it as best I could. It does not seem to have minded and is now thriving.


I could hardly believe it when I saw the cyclamens I have in a pot near the house were flowering.

A few of the schizostylus, which are supposed to be autumn flowering, are also being slightly premature.

The allium sphaerocephalon have now taken over from their larger flowered relatives. I had been rather concerned about these when they first came through as they looked so spindly that I thought they would not flower this year, but they have done me proud.

I am expecting a load more bulbs from J Parker to arrive possibly at the end of this month or early next. I just hope the weather is compatible with getting them in...


This is another of the day lilies that I brought up with me. It must be a good couple of months later flowering than the lemon-yellow one at the top of the drive.

The two jasiones from the J Parker cheapo collection are both flowing now. Also putting in flowering performances are one of the chrysanthemums, one of the achilleas (deep pink colour which should not have been a surprise since it was called Cerise Queen) and what I think is the lychnis - deep scarlet.

The ground cover star this time round is the sedum which is provided large carpets to deep pink.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A House-load of Charlies

My sister Susan, brother-in-law Charlie and Daniel were staying on in Aberdeen for a few extra days after the wedding, and then coming to us on the Thursday night on their way back down south.

My friend Gerry (a scrabble player) and his two children (Charlotte and Charlie) were/are in the UK from Thailand for a holiday and I invited them up to stay for a few days. They had also arranged to come on the Thursday and were staying until Monday.

We had organised for Susan/b-in-l to sleep in the downstairs spare room with Daniel on the sofa in there as they were only stopping for one night, and Gerry and family had the upstairs spare rooms.

I picked Gerry and family up from the coach stop in Berwick at around 6 p.m., and Susan and family had arrived whilst I was out. We all (except brother-in-law) took the dogs out for a walk to Edrom, and then organised getting fish and chips for dinner. Gerry told us they wanted to experience all things Scottish/country living. The Iron Bru certainly went down well with Charlie and Charlotte, although so did the red wine the following evening...

Susan and family departed late morning.

In the afternoon Paul and I took Charlotte, Charlie and the dogs up the road towards Craigswalls to pick wild raspberries and cherries. Later I had a couple of games of scrabble with Gerry - honours even but I have now nicknamed him 'two-blanks Gerry'.

On Saturday it was the Duns Agricultural show. After the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey on Friday this was likely to be severely affected. However, it was also an International Highland Games at North Berwick so we went there instead. Paul had enquired as to whether dogs were allowed, and had been told yes. We decided to take them with us as we would need to take both cars anyway. Gerry and Charlotte came with me, but I think Charlie was a little put out when I put my roof down. Gerry said there were very few convertibles in Thailand as it is just too hot and humid for most of the year.

This was the first time we have tried taking the dogs to anything like this, and they were very well behaved. It was very hot, but we had brought their bowls and water with us. There were a lot of other dogs around, but other than Poncho trying to sniff a small dog and it squealing, they were largely ignored. I think Jen was a little stressed when we were walking around by the number of people and general noise, but when we settled down to watch the 'strong man' events she relaxed and lay down. In fact, for the first time ever she actually sat for quite a while. Poncho, similarly to when he is in the car, insisted on standing the whole time to keep an eye on everything going on around him.

There were only four competitors in the strong man events - apparently there were several other highland games events taking place around the country. Gerry really wanted to see the caber tossing and at least got his wish.

Other events included throwing the 56 pound weight over a height bar...

and throwing the hammer...

There were also various piping competitions and a lot of pipe and drum bands from all over the world.

Two girls came over to say hello to Jen and Poncho, and they were drummers in a band over from Canada.

We left for home in the late afternoon, and this time I had Charlie and Charlotte in my car.

The US Player Tournament (scrabble) started on Saturday so Gerry and I settled down to play through the games that were posted on the web. There were five Thai players competing in it, including Pakorn and Panupol who stood a good chance of doing well. Thailand uses TWL (the American word list) unlike the UK which uses the international word list. It was quite interesting playing through the games with Gerry - many of my suggested moves were not valid in TWL. It was not surprising that the lone Brit (Mike Whiteoak) taking part was struggling, although he later reported that he thoroughly enjoyed his experience.

Paul, Charlie and Charlotte spent the evening playing board games, of which we have a large number. This was continued on Sunday which was a thoroughly lazy day other than the dog walks. Monopoly, Cluedo, Totopoly, The Business Game (Mine a Million) and Sherlock Holmes card game all got at least one outing.

Monday morning and after a few photos being taken it was back to Berwick to get the coach back down to London.

Family Wedding

As anonymous commented on my last post, it has been a while. Just like London buses there will now be three turning up in quick succession.

The long heralded wedding of my second cousin Christine took place at the end of July. Paul and I were only invited to the evening reception. As is the norm for any family wedding on my side, however, Paul was still in the States so I would be going on my own. I was joking with Penny about this - half my relations probably think I am a poor deluded soul with an imaginary husband...

I took Jen and Poncho over to Sonia's in the morning and set off for Aberdeen in the very early afternoon. I have never seen so many speed cameras as on the road between Dundee and Aberdeen. After missing the turn to the hotel and heading into Aberdeen proper, I eventually arrived there about 4.15 pm. As I was checking in my sister, brother-in-law and nephew wandered past. We arranged to meet in the bar before getting the coach that was to take us to the venue.

The coach was due at 6.30 p.m. according to our invitations. We met another couple in reception also waiting for it. There was still no sign of it at 6.50, so I wandered into the car park to investigate. I found a likely looking coach, and yes it was the one but the driver had been told 7.00 p.m. Not a good start.

At 7.00 it pulled up outside and we were the only people who got on. It turned out the venue was the best part of 30 miles away, and we arrived at Drumtochty castle at 7.50 p.m. The speeches were still going on... and on...

We found a room where we could get coffee, but the bar was in the room where the main reception was taking place. At around 9 p.m. the speeches ended and everyone started spilling out of the room, which was then cleared for the dancing. My cousin Donald got me a glass of red wine. I found Christine to hand over the present, and chatted to various other members of my family. I was trying to find out if/when there would be any food - I had not eaten since midday, and then only a bowl of cereal and I was starving. There was a chocolate fountain, but I didn't think that was the best thing to line my stomach...

Later in the evening my cousin Colin told me there was food in one of the rooms, but by the time I got there there were only cheese toasties (and wedding cake) left. It could have been worse - my brother-in-law does not eat cheese. Still, a lot of red wine and a lack of food had the inevitable result.

The coach taking us back was leaving about 1 a.m., but Katharine said they would give me a lift back with them. This was just as well, as my sister only realised some time after they had left that I was not on the coach.

At breakfast I made up for the previous 2 months and the night before, and indulged in cereal, full cooked breakfast, toast and coffee. Heaven...

All my Scottish second cousins (or alternatively Aunty Margaret and the grandchildren)
Back row: Ewan, Calum, Alan, Robert, Andrew, Iain
Front row: Caroline, Christine, Aunty Margaret, Katharine

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