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


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cardbox 34227

I reached my target of the top 15500 7s and 8s this afternoon. I had also added a few more suffixes - WOOD, WORT, LAND.

I have met the criteria to qualify for the Scotland team for the 2009 WSC along with Allan Simmons and Neil Scott, Scotland gaining an extra place after their performance in the previous WSC.

I end the year on a highlight having also regained my top internationally rated female spot due to a poor showing by Suanne in the WYSC rather than by my own doing. It is good for me that Suanne is providing me with more motivation to keep studying :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bring on the New Year

So Christmas is over. The opening of the stockings in the morning, eating of duck at lunchtime, opening of presents after the Queen's Speech, and a night spent watching BBC1 on the box - just had to avoid the two episodes of Eastenders...

On Boxing Day we and the dogs were invited over to Reg and Diana's. After lunch we took the dogs out for a walk across the fields. There had been no deer spotted on Christmas day, unlike the last two years, but this was remedied. Two deer running along the next field and two excited dogs. Jen a little too excited as she tripped Diana up. And then a few hands of bridge with a short break for tea and to let the dogs out again. I was mortified when I saw Poncho tracking muddy paw prints across the carpet but Reg said not to worry. I fear we won't be invited again...

Back to normal yesterday. Saw another three deer running across a field on the dog walk but this time the dogs didn't. 

The duck will go into the soup pot today. Still got Christmas cake and pudding to finish off amongst other things.

I managed to keep my cardbox under control, although my brain doesn't feel fully in gear. Train ticket booked down to Coventry for the UK Open at the start of January - Allan can give me a lift back. May struggle to meet target of top 15500 7s and 8s - still 200 to add.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Almost Wrapped Up

Shopping for Christmas is complete. With just the two of us the fridge is not bursting at the seams. 

I braved the crowds in Berwick yesterday. With free parking and the first nice weather for a while I had been fearing the worst. Actually it wasn't too bad. 

Then on to M&S with more vouchers. This was another story. Armed only with a basket in I went. Got a packet of apple, sultana and apricot stuffing. Then spent another 20 minutes or so fighting my way up and down the aisles. They no longer had the deals on from last week, switching from 'buy one get one half price' to '3 for 2' so I went into my 'I'm not paying that and I don't want 3' mode and made my way to the express checkout and freedom.

We collected the duck this morning - large as ducks go but we will not be eating it into and beyond the new year unlike the families who buy the biggest turkey that will fit (or not, as the case may be) into their oven. We succumbed to some onion marmalade. On to Jean's for coffee.

MIL obviously couldn't keep her end of the no presents deal - a box had just been delivered as we got home. A miniature rose bush, bottle of wine and box of chocolates in a little wicker basket. A very nice surprise - I've told Paul the rose is his :)

After lunch one final trip to Morrisons with a shopping list for the last few things we needed - or more truthfully wanted. And this time we pretty much stuck to it. It took us a while to track down salted peanuts, and they have obviously done a deal to only stock tins of Quality Street. But this just meant we bought a smaller box of Roses and fewer peanuts.

A few cards still to deliver and presents to wrap and it will soon all be over for another year...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Causeway Challenge Reflections

I am not going to go through all of my games - there are just too many and I only photographed a few of the boards.

I got of to a very bad start, being slaughtered by 131 by Victor Chua (SG). I rallied in the next game against Saidu Ayorinde (NI), and the following two. I should have won game 5 against Jin Chor, missing a simple bonus to play out when he blocked my outplay bonus of pREPRI(C)E but set up a place for a 7 ending in A. I have no excuse other than there had been nowhere to play a 7 so hadn't been looking for one and I was low on my clock. I won the next game against Ferdy Anthonius thanks mainly to him playing a phony with a blank mid-game so I started blocking. A few moves later he tried another phony with both blanks. I could see fREEfOR(M), although I wasn't 100% sure, but blocked it. Asked at the end if he had missed anything I told him, and then he said I was lucky he hadn't played it!!! Another tight win against Sherwin Rodrigues, playing for the Asian-stars team - this game has been annotated the wrong way round. I finished the day on a downer, losing firstly to Edward Okulicz (Au) in a very strange game and then to Thacha Koowirat (Th). So 5-4 at the end of day 1, with one game blown but one game given.

Day 2 and I started against Mohammed Zafar. Another let-off in this game when he slotted NAStIER under AJEE making a phony hook of (TEE)T missing several easy 9x around a U in fourth which I then blocked. I then lost a tight game against Naween and then a horrible blocked game against Joanne Craig. I followed this up with another big loss against Henry, which was a little unlucky when he followed up MATTOiD with (N)ARTJIES for 116. I recovered after lunch with a win against Gerry although he was steadily pegging back my early lead. Another three losses followed, although I should have converted a loss by 1 to Sam K. into a draw. I finished the day with two wins against Albert Hahn and Cheah to avoid the day being an utter disaster, but was now only 9-10 with my tougher matches still to come.

The next day news was coming through that the situation at Bangkok airport was getting resolved and flights were getting back to normal. It was a huge relief and it certainly made a massive difference to my concentration. I won eight games out of ten on day 3, losing only to both the New Zealanders I played (Jeff Grant and Howard Warner). My games against Andrew Fisher and Marlon Prudencio being annotated this day.

In the evening there was a banquet given for us all, hosted by the mayor of JB. I had about 10 minutes after my last game to rush up to my room and change into the one skirt I had packed. When I got back down to the ballroom most players were already there and a band was playing. It was probably another three quarters of an hour before the local dignitaries arrived and the many speeches started.

Between each course we were given a display of dancing. Team Nigeria were keen to get in on the act :)

And then also songs. And this then turned into a karaoke night.

Some players had made an early exit and around 10 p.m. Amy and I also decided to do a runner. A quick drink in the bar (there is only so much orange squash you can take) and then an earlyish night. I gather there were about another four courses at the banquet so we probably made the right decision.

Before play started on day 4 Michael Tang waited until everyone was in the room to make an announcement. It had been brought to his attention that someone may be cheating, and in clear terms stated that if anyone was caught cheating that they would be thrown out of the tournament and never be allowed to play in anything he organised again...

Day 4 started well for me, with a rare victory against Pakorn. WIN near the end may be sub-optimal but I couldn't resist it. Next up it was Chris May. We were a few moves into our game when Michael grabbed the microphone. Mohammed Zafar had been caught cheating and was told to collect his belongings and leave the room. We were all told to neutralise our clocks while this was happening. And then security was called to escort him out... I lost the game.

Next up was Akshay. Interestingly the quackle analysis is telling me the best move after Akshay's phony of STRONDE(D) is (P)UMY, which will give him DR(Y)STONE as a 9-timer! I followed this large win with another against Adrian Tamas - you know things are going your way when holding IILNORU he gave me a floating B :)

After lunch things didn't go so well, and I lost four of the next five. I almost pulled off a great comeback against Tim Adamson but it was not to be. However, I finished the day on a high note with my first ever victory against Nigel Richards. There is a mistake in the annotation in this game - SEE was played one square higher than shown.

Day 5 and I was realistically out of the prizes unless I had a dream day. Losing the first game against Amit killed off any hope. A draw against David Eldar in game 2 which should have been a big win, but given the choice of challenging David's last play which I was pretty sure was phony meant if I was right a win, if I was wrong a loss and if I let it pass a draw. If I was still in with a shout I would have challenged. Three successive wins after this game, and then I played like a drone against Tony Sim in the last game of the tournament letting him off with a phony bonus.

So, I finished 24.5-19.5 with my win against Mohammed being voided, as close to my expected result of 24.7 as physically possible. Congratulations to David Eldar on an impressive win, Edward O. in second and Harshan in coming third, and to team Australia on their clear victory. Team UK finished in second place, well above their seeding. My silver medal will be displayed on the trophy window sill.

The experience has left me wanting to make the team next year. Michael's organisation of the event was superb. Our only real complaint was the live music in the fifth floor atrium going on until late into the night/early morning. The earplugs given to me by Harshan were invaluable.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Extension Part 25

No-one was here when we took the dogs out this morning.

About half an hour after we got back Tom senior (I have been corrected - plain Tom, Tom senior being his dad, as opposed to Thomas, his son and the joiner. We get lost as there are at least 4 generations of Tom/Thomas's) arrived to tell us that unfortunately flu has stopped play.

Work should start again on January 5th 2009 - hangovers, weather and health permitting - and it should be all speed ahead to get the job completed by the spring.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

White Without Sugar

Disaster struck last night. 

The last of the milk that should have seen me through till our next food shopping expidition went off.

No coffee!!!!!

How was I going to survive this morning?

And then as I was brushing my teeth I remembered that I had pocketed a spare creamer from the flight home. A quick rummage through my trouser pockets and I found it.

Paul is now on a mercy trip to the Chirnside Co-op...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hah! Bumbug!

I am still waiting for my USB cable. It has been dispatched...

Life has got back to normal now. Back in the zyzzyva cardbox swing. Getting past my comfort zone now on the 8s...

I have not missed much on the extension - very little progress made while I was away. Snow stopped play. The windows are due to be delivered on Wednesday. Watch this space.

Started thinking about Christmas. 

We are having a Bah! Humbug! Christmas this year. No-one coming and we are staying put. 

Duck is on the menu as there are just the two of us. Also a trip to M&S later this week to stock up on a few treats using Paul's bridge winnings- another £80 of vouchers won this weekend :)

The Christmas tree is not being unpacked - with the back of the sitting room still fenced off there is nowhere to put it. And last year the fibre-optics 'oooh - pretty' stopped working after we had a power cut. We do have a small pre-decorated tree that may make an appearance to show willing. 

Paul's side of the family has made a pact of no presents, other than the nieces. Unfortunately I could not persuade my sister to follow suit, but I have been armchair shopping this afternoon and they are now done. God Bless the internet.

Just need to sort out Paul now...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Back Home

On Tuesday I slept in but Jane was waiting to feed me when I got up :)

I got back into study mode in the morning after catching up on my email. After lunch Jane and I played some more pool - I now knew she had won some trophies for this activity. I managed to win a couple of games - again through Jane fouling the black but I was getting better, having cleared most of my own balls. 

Gerry got home just after 2 pm and we packed my bags into the car and set of for the Harrow International school to pick up Charlie and Charlotte. Then on to Toy's (wife number 1 - mother) about an hour out of Bangkok. She made me feel very welcome. 

Gerry, the kids and I took the dog (Brady - retriever) for a walk to the  garage a couple of kliks away to get a few cans of beer to go with dinner and when we were almost there Gerry phoned Toy to pick us up to get home again. As guest of honour I got to sit in the front and Gerry, kids and dog all squeezed in the back of the car.

I was treated to the works - full roast lamb dinner with all the trimmings, followed by chocolate brownies and mango. Yummy.

Gerry and I left around 9 p.m. and we got to the airport around an hour later, where we said our goodbyes. 

The plane was about three quarters of an hour late, but as I had about a three hour wait in Amsterdam I was not too concerned. Once we got in the air I settled down to sleep - I was not at all bothered about staying awake for the 'meal'. I could not believe that I slept so well, waking up with only about 3 hours to go.

When I eventually got into Edinburgh there was no sign of Paul. I left a message on his mobile. Ten minutes later I decided to try to text him. Young people look away now...

I had foolishly thought that texting would work the same way as searching my address book to get the required letters, but no - it kept trying to complete my words with the wrong one. My attempts at 'I am' kept getting changed to 'I big...' Eventually I managed the amazingly to the point message 'I at airport'!

Anyway, Paul arrived shortly after having been stuck in traffic on the bypass, the journey in taking almost twice as long as normal. Getting home was uneventful. 

After the initial excitement  from the dogs life is settling back to normal. Paul has ordered me a new USB cable for my camera once I tracked down the part number in the documentation so hopefully in a couple of days I will be able to download some photos from the Causeway...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Chilling Out in Bangkok

When Bangkok airport reopened Jakkrit started sorting out getting the majority of the Thai team home by air rather than repeating their 36 hour+ trip home by road and rail (Pakorn is going on to play in Penang). I asked him to also get me a flight and I am now having two days chilling out at Gerry's before taking my originally planned flight home on Tuesday night (I hope).

Jane has just slaughtered me at pool - the only game I won was when she fouled the black. 
She also keeps trying to feed me - tucking into melon as I type :)

I will cover the highlights and lowlights of the scrabble when I get home. I will, however, say how much I enjoyed the event. 

I feel that I played badly on the first 2 days - I think it was more to do with worrying about how I was to get home rather than jetlag - my focus/concentration was severly lacking. Lack of sleep was suffered by almost everyone. Harshan gave me some earplugs on Tuesday evening so I probably got more sleep than most - I could even keep the air-con on in the room as the sound was sufficiently dulled.

I think the strength of the field meant it was harder than the worlds despite the top U.S. and Canadians not being present and a severely diminished team from Thailand, and at 45 games was the toughest event I have ever played in. Despite playing so many games the scheduling was such that we had the evenings free after eating. Unfortunately I cannot post any photos as I think I have lost my USB cable - I can't find it anywhere in my baggage :(

The U.K. team outperformed their seeding, and we got second place behind an unstoppable team from Australia.

I will be trying my hardest to get in the team for next year. Michael probably wants me to make it too as everytime I tried to pay him he said later - and then as we were preparing to leave for Singapore airport I tried again. 'Pay me when you come next year'.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Johor Bahru - Part 2

Well, there are a lot of people here now. Team Nigeria arrived yesterday. I was pleased that Wellington Jighere remembered me for beating him in the last WSC :) The Australians are also here, and spotted Sam K at breakfast. As I wandered past reception on the way to this internet cafe Narween and Odette were checking in. Team Thailand is somewhere in transit - train and coach trip so God knows if/when they will get here and not even sure who is actually coming now.

Been keeping up with my cardbox and even added a few (very few) new words in.

After first night's good sleep the last two nights have been horrendous. Last night I could hear some kind of repetitive mechanical noise and I just couldn't get it out of my head. It stopped around 3.15 a.m. when I could then here a lot of people/cars/motorbikes - presumably the workers of whatever the machine was going home. By this point I felt awake again although tired. Just hope it gets better tonight and during the tourney - it is a tough field so need to be at the top of my game.

Going to see if I can find my schedule - still not sure where exactly we are playing or at what time...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Johor Bahru Part 1

I found that I did have to go through immigration before I could get to the domestic terminals.

This was a lot less hassle than usual despite the inbound flight not issuing us with forms.

When I got there there was only one desk open and no queue so I requested my form. As I was filling it in a group of about six men just beat me back to the lone immigration lady, but they didn't take long to process.

So I duly arrived. More surprisingly so did my luggage. I followed the signs to the taxi rank and was then told I had to go back to the desk to get a ticket. Michael was right - 40 RM.

A bit of hassle when I got to the hotel - although most of my accommodation will be paid for via Michael they wanted a credit card to cover any miscellaneous items. Fine - I kept an eye on deskman and credit card (had problems in KL in 2003) and it didn't seem to want to swipe. Asked if I had another one he could try I stood firm. Another try and this time it went through. I am a little unhappy that they insisted on putting 1000 RM credit on it - assume I will get that receipt back when the actual bill is paid as I cannot see myself exceeding that limit.

View from room...

Once I had settled into my room - I have actually put my T-shirts and knickers in a drawer as I am here for a week I set the alarm clock to allow myself a short nap. It took a while to get to sleep despite being so tired - have seen on the news that the situation in Bangkok is still ongoing and worrying about what to do if it doesn't get better soon. However, fall asleep I did and when the alarm woke me two and a half hours later I felt even worse.

I forced myself to get up and wandered down to reception to enquire about wifi rates. They are not too horrendous but I am writing my blog notes in advance - when I pay for the wifi access this is gonna be a cut and paste jobby. I then had a little wander about getting my bearings. The hotel is attached to a shopping mall – bizarrely this little section of the city is a duty free zone. I found this out as I decided to have a little aimless meander outside and got stopped by an official from my intended route. To leave you have to go through a customs area.

I haven't spotted any other scrabblers here yet. I guess Ed and David should arrive some time tomorrow. Don't know about Femi (usually last minute) and Harshan.

Well, it is 7 p.m. here now so I'm off for another meander and to get something to eat...

Back in room now, and my idea of getting a good night's sleep may be on hold. The design of the hotel is such that the rooms form a large square, and in the middle on the 5th floor are the restaurants and bars. Tonight (and I have no idea if, indeed, it is every night) there is live music. I have just suffered the most awful rendition of 'I want to break free' I think I have ever heard. Freddie will be spinning in his grave.

After several false endings the live band finally stopped just before 1 a.m. And then I fell asleep to be woken at 9 a.m, by the alarm. I was still tired and went back to sleep, finally getting up again around 10.30 a.m. after being awoken by the maid service. Having missed breakfast I went into the shopping mall and got a glass of orange juice. Back to my room and cleared my cardbox, wandered back down to reception to see if Ed or David had arrived and bought a 1 hour wifi card from the business centre. Decided to have the buffet lunch in the hotel – I was starving and having checked it out earlier knew there was plenty there I would like. Having forgotten to set the service light on my room as I went out it was still a mess when I got back, so I decided to take my book down to reception to allow my room to be made up and see if I spotted anyone I knew. After about 20 minutes Ed appeared in front of me. He had got in yesterday too so I have no great hopes of reception informing me of David's arrival...

Just got back from dinner and a few beers with Ed. David and Amy appear to have arrived but must have gone straight to bed. Maybe catch up with them at breakfast tomorrow. I should make it...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

KL Airport

22 hours since we got up to leave for Edinburgh airport and now I am sat in Starbucks at KL airport having a 4 hour wait for my flight on to JB. Only one and a half hours to go.

Eyes are extremely sore and head wobbling. Sleep, I need sleep. 

It is very strange - just needed to go to transfer desk so still got immigration and customs waiting for me at JB I guess.

Have found the smoking room so at least not going too much round the bend.

Amsterdam also had a smoking 'room' - in the casino a very small booth and only 4 people allowed in at a time. Very cosy :)

Managed to catch up on my cardbox in Amsterdam, but not going to even try here. Brain definitely switched off.

Hopefully I will have internet access from hotel in JB. That's all for now...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Extension Part 24

The first lintel of the sun room went in last week.

Monday and Tuesday saw the sort of completion of the sun room stonework. Looking good. The sills for the windows still need to be done but there is no point doing them until the windows are ready.

David came over on Tuesday morning with the pillar inserts for the gates, and now the pillars have been built up around them.

Work is progressing well on the stonework for the walls.

Alan reckons they will have done all they can by the time I get back.

Which may be in quite some time - see my previous post...

KL Here I Come

My flight to Bangkok was cancelled when we checked the KLM site this morning.

So on the phone to their e-ticket helpline. Janice was very helpful, seeing whether there were any seats for tomorrow's flight - nope, fully booked. I said I doubted whether the flight would actually happen anyway. She said she would try the day after. I then said would it be possible to change my flight to Singapore as I had only been going to stay in Bangkok a few days before flying on. She checked with her supervisor - no, that was not possible. However, there was a flight to Bangkok tomorrow bouncing at KL, would I like her to change me to that flight. Yes!

So back onto the internet and I have booked an onward flight from KL to Johur Bahru (JB), where the tourney is actually taking place.

Now I just have to persuade the check-in desk to let me and my luggage bail out at KL...

And hope that the situation is sorted before I need to fly home again...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bangkok - Here I Might Not Come

I am due to fly out to Bangkok tomorrow afternoon but with the current situation this looks unlikely. 

I will try checking in shortly and see what happens. 
Then phone the airline tomorrow to see what they say...

I think I am doomed to never get to play in any tourney Michael Tang organises - the last time I tried the tourney was cancelled after I booked my flight :(

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cardbox 33000

I passed the 33000 question post this morning - 33036 to be precise.

I decided to concentrate on suffixes. OID, AGE, ATE, ITE... Some may be quite low probability but it feels like tying up loose ends (excuse the pun).

I have also, as a separate exercise, spent some time on a very weak area - 6 letter blockers. This area still needs a lot more work but I have now created my own subset of 'non-obvious' blockers so it looks a lot more manageable.

Happiness Is...

Blowing your nose on return from the dog walk on a freezing cold day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Red and Yellow and Pink and ... Green???

I just had to rush back from the late afternoon dog walk and get my camera. The colours in the sky were amazing.

View from bridge looking east towards Chirnside, just visible if you zoom in.

Views from bridge looking west towards Duns. The floods in September have changed the river considerably around here with the large number of stones that have been dumped.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Extension Part 23

Alan and Mark returned last Wednesday with the first of the sandstone.

Mark was working on the new steps up to the veggie patch, and some was laid out as coping for the wall around the utility room leading to the steps. We had decided on sand and grey, but some looked very reddy/pink to me. I went back out for another look, and Alan said he could take them back and swap them for some more yellowy/greyish ones. I know when we first looked at the stone to choose it was quite hard to tell what colour was what, with the variations within the stones themselves, and a lot of the grey has a pinky hue!

A start of the remaining outside wall has been made, and holes dug yet again for the gate pillars. Unfortunately this was a little premature again. David had asked for a week's notice to get the inserts made, so they won't be ready until early next week. This caused a little problem on Monday for the lorry delivering the stone for the walls and sunroom, and I believe some refilling was required for the lorry to get in. It is certainly a lot of stone...

Work started on Monday on the walls of the sunroom. A lot of stone cutting was required for the bottom layer, presumably to get the overall height correct. Tom was here this morning fitting the fire stops (?) for the windows, and now progress with the walls is progressing a lot more quickly as less cutting is needed.

We have been told it should be about a week to do the sunroom stone work. They are not here tomorrow, but should be back on Thursday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's a Girl!

Margaret phoned this morning. 

Very embarrassed.

Paul is actually Pauline. 

I guess the mistake was discovered when 'Paul' was due to be emasculated...

This is very good news for Pauline. Not only saved from the procedure but will now hopefully live a long and happy life on the farm, no longer destined to become someone's Sunday lunch :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

That's My Boy

Mother and son doing well.

Target Reached

So today is a double red letter day for my zyzzyva cardbox.

15000 top 7s and 8s are now all in and my first question has hit cardbox 10.

Now I have to decide what to do with the spare two weeks before I depart for Bangkok :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Strictly Come Prancing

As a huge fan of SCD I am beginning to get p*ssed off with John Sergeant. 

He seems to mistake the reason he is being voted for as 'popularity'. I rather think that the public are just voting to watch him make a prat of himself. It is getting past the point of entertainment, and now is merely annoying and embarrassing.

If the judges really want to get rid of him then all they have to do is also play the game. Agree beforehand to give all the other contestants exactly the same score thus ensuring he will be in the dance off - unless nobody votes for anyone other than him...

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Calf on the Block

We had been playing bridge online later than usual last night, me with Penny against Paul and Jules. We finished about 11.30 pm and Paul then took the dogs out. I had had a bath earlier so was in my jimjams and therefore excused duty.

While he was out the phone rang. Experience says that it is never good news at that time of night.

It was Margaret next door. She was having difficulty with one of her cows giving birth. Could Paul come round and help. I said I would send him round as soon as he got back in and I rushed upstairs to get dressed. I was just coming back down when Paul returned. Straight on with wellies and back out the door.

When we got there the calf was well out but Margaret and the mother where both exhausted with the effort so far to complete the job. Paul was told by Margaret to just grab the calf's legs and pull, and out it came.

A big un according to Margaret, and a boy. It is to be named Paul...

Relieved and shattered mother.

Whilst proud aunties come to investigate...

The next job was to move the calf to a pen, which was relatively easy - Margaret and Paul taking a pair of legs each and carrying it in. And then the difficult job of getting the mother up and also into the pen...

She got up okay but was not cooperating, keeping going back to the other cows. On the other hand there was no lack of interest from the aunties wanting to join the calf. Eventually we got the mother trapped down the side of the pen, Margaret untied the end of the pen and we could drag it back to make an opening for her to get through.

Mother and calf re-united...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Extension Part 22a

Well, I was getting all ready to report this morning.

Zilch. Sweet F.A. B*gger all.

And unlike the last time I haven't had to change tack.

Nothing. Not a sausage. Not even a chipolata.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Cardbox 32000

I have continued my steady progress and today passed the 32000 question mark. 

14700 top 7s and 14600 top 8s. 

Should hit my Causeway target with ease...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

FSCS To The Rescue

When Paul got home from his bridge match last night he had an email from the FSCS regarding the Icesave bailout. I hadn't received anything but knew they were planning on sorting us all out in batches so was not duly concerned. However, on a whim this morning I got Paul to check whether my email had been spammed by my over-zealous service provider. 

It had. 

So if you are still waiting to hear check your spam/junk...

The good news is that I will be able to opt to hold off rescuing my money until the end of my fixed term which means I will get all the interest as if nothing ever actually happened. Hurrah!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Doggy Post

We are at the time of year that many pet owners fear. Luckily we have only one dog that is terrified of loud bangs.

It was bad enough last week when we had the fierce hail storms with thunder. Jen was visibly shaking.

On Saturday evening we heard several fireworks although we are not sure where from, and they really set her off. Shaking, panting and walking round and round the room.

So we had been prewarned by Ann at the lodge that they were having a family party and fireworks on Sunday. 

I decided to try something new - wrapping her head in my pashmina. Paul thought I was mad but I hoped it may muffle the bangs. I thought it was working to some degree as when there were barking dogs on the T.V. there was no reaction from Jen at first. However, this did not last as the dogs continued to bark and Jen leapt up and joined in, shaking the scarf off as she did so. As it was there were no fireworks - maybe sleeping grandchild was our saviour.

The weather forecast for tomorrow evening is rain so maybe we will be spared again.

Not to leave Poncho out, our dog walk yesterday morning was towards Lintlaw, passing the house where Molly the Border terrier lives. This is always adventurous as if Molly is around she runs up and down her garden barking and taunting our two. Poncho in return twirls, leaps and barks back until we have dragged him past. Yesterday, however, she was safely indoors. Not to miss out on a bit of excitement though Poncho has taken to twirling, leaping and barking at a stone cat that is curled up sleeping on their doorstep and refuses to run away...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Media Madness

I liked the Jonathon Ross show on Friday nights.
Although not a regular listener I also liked his radio show.
I was not so sure about Russell Brand but I thought his comments at the MTV awards were hilarious:

"Some people, I think they're called racists, say America is not ready for a black president.

"But I know America to be a forward thinking country because otherwise why would you have let that retard and cowboy fella be president for eight years?

"We were very impressed. We thought it was nice of you to let him have a go, because, in England, he wouldn't be trusted with a pair of scissors."

At what point did the complaints hit 35000+? I think it was when the BBC kept repeating the comments for those of us who didn't know what all the fuss was about. Just in case you missed it here it is again...

Now if only we could start a campaign to get rid of Jeremy Vine I would be a lot happier. He is far more annoying and insulting than either of the above two without even trying, with his sanctimonious witterings. We frequently listen to the Ken Bruce show and find there is a 15-20 minute slot dedicated to Jeremy plugging his follow-on show. "This is where we get down and discuss it". "More real than a television show". Well, duh! It is a mad rush at midday to switch him off.

And now he is presenting Eggheads so we are watching the news instead...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Extension Part 22

The roofers have continued roofing through sun, rain, sleet, snow and gales.

I was awoken at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning. A bit odd I thought - they don't normally start work until around 10 a.m. I was right - we had some keen scaffold removers so the last few days the roofers have been having to just use ladders.

It is almost complete now. We now just need the joiner to fit the bobble on the top of the witches hat and then whatever the roofers need to do to that to make it watertight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

4 Nations 2008

I set off for Colin and Maureen's after lunch on Friday. The sat-nav again decided it was not going to talk to me. I was making good progress and as I was going to hit Glasgow around 3 p.m. decided I could afford a comfort break at the services on the M8. Good job I did. As I neared Glasgow the traffic came to a standstill. Signs overhead were telling me 5 miles of slow traffic. And then the temperature gauge in the car hit the red zone and the STOP light came on. I managed to pull over onto the hard shoulder and opened the bonnet. I gave it the best part of half an hour to cool down and then made the decision to try to continue on. The traffic was still atrocious so it was going to be very hairy. Luckily I had a police car behind me for quite a way so did not feel intimidated to edge forward every time the traffic moved a car length. Wait for a reasonable gap to get a little speed up, stop, engine off. I made it - eventually the traffic started moving at a reasonable pace and by the time I got to the Erskine bridge it was free flowing. And the sat-nav switched itself off...

I got the train in to Glasgow the next morning. It was pouring down and despite it being only a short walk from Central station to the hotel I arrived a la drowned rat.

My scrabble on day one was as much a disaster as my previous day's car journey, only winning two out of seven. However, it should have been zero with my two wins being gifts from my opponents mistakes in the end games. I don't think I was playing that badly - I only missed one bonus of the hopeful looking racks that I checked and it was probably not that costly as I scored 48 from a 4-x with INH(O)OPS (holding an O of my own but no place to play it), and the bonus would have been face value opening a 9-x.

We finished playing around 10.30 p.m. and headed for the bar. I had a bit of a headache and wasn't going to stay that late but a couple of paracetamol and a large glass of red and I suddenly felt a lot better. Thank God the clocks went back that night, I switched to drinking water for the last half hour and I had the foresight to order a wake-up call for the morning before I tottered back to my room.

I felt surprisingly good in the morning and thoroughly enjoyed a decent breakfast to set me up for the day.

My scrabble turned around, winning the first battle of the day against Wayne.

The game of note here was against Gareth. He had played ROSETTE making S(KOW) which I challenged off. It would have played underneath making KO/LOS/WE or some such, so I blocked with WOOL. Gareth dumped TE and I had AEEIUST on my rack when the fire alarm went off. Clocks neutralised we all trooped out. Gareth came in for a good bit of ribbing as I enquired why hadn't he played ROSETTE underneath KOW as it scored more ponts there and he said he didn't think LOS was allowed :) It was the best part of half an hour before we got back inside to resume our games. Gareth and I then both went through a series of vowel dumping moves before I bonused with MOTILES and he hit straight back with something equally difficult on top of it. I had picked the Q with nowhere to dump it but had a decent lead so just kept scoring, awaiting an opportunity to offload it. Nearing the end ZAPS from Gareth for 50 down from J14 to get within 32 points. I made a mistake now - I should have blocked with BI/AB/PI but I had previously manoeuvred a decent place for the Q and played it. Gareth hit me with LINDANE for 95, taking a 37 point lead but emptying the bag. I had BEIRRT? but the only place for a 7 needed to start with an E. Panic was just setting in when I spotted a C sticking one square up above a parallel play of EF to its right, and the bonus hit the board to seal victory.

I finished the tourney with a battling win against Chris Quartermain when he had got ahead with two consecutive bonuses and had been clamping the board down. He had left one spot open and I got the bonus in to draw level nearing the end. It may have been closer if Chris had known SHULED but luckily for me he didn't, so I finished on 7 out of 12 with a clean sweep of Wales.

The final result was the closest ever. Wales in fourth with 16, Ireland third with 26, Scotland second with 27 and England just pipping us also on 27 wins but scoring a mere 15 points more in spread than us over 48 games played!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Roof Must Go On

As I depart for Dumbarton tomorrow to stay with Colin and Maureen prior to the tourney a brief extension update.

The roofers returned on Monday and by end of play yesterday the utility room and corridor were slated.

I feel sorry for them today. The wind is up but at least it is not raining...yet. I hear tales on the radio of the Forth Road bridge being shut to high sided vehicles again.

The have started on the sunroom, and were well on the way to completing the first two triangles when we took the dogs out at lunchtime. I fear the worst each time I hear a loud clang.

I have no intention of wandering out with my camera - that can wait until Monday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cardbox 31000

It is the 4 Nations scrabble match this coming weekend in Glasgow. My preparation has been going well. I set myself the target of the top 14000 7s and 8s into the cardbox and this has been achieved. I seem to be going through a phase where my brain is soaking them up so I have been taking advantage of this, adding in a hundred or more most days. I did have a bit of a set back this morning when I did a general sweep up and found I had managed to skip 12251-12500 of the 7s but they have now been mopped up. This has now taken my total of questions over the 31000 mark.

Allan and I had another practice session in match 5 of our series yesterday and I continued my winning ways against him - currently 6-2 ahead.

Michael Tang, the organiser of the Causeway Challenge, phoned this morning to check my arrangements. It is now about five weeks away before I fly out to spend a few days with Gerry in Bangkok before continuing on to Malaysia with team Thailand. My next study goal is to get the next 1000 7s and 8s under my belt before I go.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just Like Mother Used To Make

Paul is away again this weekend playing bridge, this time in exotic Peebles. 

He was a little put out when we went food shopping last week. "Don't forget I am not here at the weekend so you need to get yourself something". So I disappeared up the meat aisle and re-emerged with a steak - very nice it was too. No doubt he will get his revenge when I am away next weekend playing scrabble in Glasgow.

I have been busy today making my first ever apple pie. I cheated using Jus Rol pastry that had been in the freezer since time immemorial. It was way past its use-by date but I don't tend to worry too much about these things - I mean, what is likely to happen to it in the freezer?

I found a recipe here that looked very easy. A little poke around in the larder and I found that we did have some cinnamon. Wasn't sure if demerara sugar was the same as soft brown sugar but what the hell. 

All systems go when I got back from the dog walk.

Now for the post title - a vivid childhood memory. With the spare pastry roll it back out, cover it with marmite and then roll it back up. Love it or hate it. It didn't last five minutes when I got it out of the oven :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Extension Part 21

Well, I was getting all ready to report this morning.

Zilch. Sweet F.A. B*gger all.

But then the roofers arrived.

Lots of banging...

But no tiles yet...

Just gift wrapping...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Words of Interest - COWFLAP

When I first saw this word I had visions of a large swing door to allow your pet cow carte blanche to come and go as it pleased.

It is, however, one of a variety of words for cow poo. These include the normal COWPAT and COWPIE, and also the lower probability variations (in scrabble terms) of COWFLOP and COWPLOP.

A little research has shown that the word COWFLOP is also another name for a foxglove as well as the Royal Roads University Council of Western Financial, Logistical, and Operational Personnel and an American chocolate factory...

n.b. CATFLAP* is not valid - presumably hyphenated or two words. You are rescued if you have this rack with FLATCAP.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Third Anniversary

It is our third anniversary of moving up here permanently.

I am celebrating by making a batch of Todheugh autumn mix jelly. I went foraging yesterday and came back with 3/4 pound of elderberries, 3/4 pound of blackberries, 1/2 pound of rose hips and a couple of pounds of windfall crab apples. 

I prepared the elderberries yesterday. I think there must be an elderberry spider. I noticed four trundling around the punnet. I kept having to push them back in as they tried to escape on to the sofa. I then decided to take the punnet outside to let them have their freedom, and typically they then refused to climb out. Every now and then one ventured up the side and I gave it a helping hand. Six spiders later and I came back in. A seventh was found in the bowl with the berries and was also rehomed outside.

This morning everything else was prepared and has been simmering away. I am now just waiting for it to cool down before the really messy job of loading the jelly bag...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Give and Take

We have been salvaging the left over wood from the building site. There are some reasonable sized bits that could come in useful for the garden. Reg had brought over a cold-frame top a while back which on testing was not quite wide enough to sit on top of the new raised beds, but I am hoping to be able to cobble together a frame which can then sit inside one of them. The smaller bits are being bagged up for use as kindling. When Margaret came round when the muck was delivered she asked about it. So, so far a couple of bags for Margaret and a couple for Penny. We still have more...

Spurred on by his success with our mole Paul also offered his services to Margaret when he took the wood round, as there were a series of mole hills in the grass down the side of her drive. He is now a superstar! If we fall on hard times I believe the going rate is five pounds a mole :)

Reg had also brought over a cereal box crammed with daffodils on Wednesday. I really didn't want to plant in LB8 yet but there is nowhere else to put them at the moment. I reweeded a large patch and got them planted yesterday afternoon. I should be able to dig them back up next year and redistribute them as required. It was actually quite therapeutic pulling out the baby weeds - I have obviously done a reasonable job on the new section as it was very easy. What joy to plunge in the bulb planter without hitting stones every time.

All the 'necessary' gardening jobs have been done and I am now down to the WIBNIs.  In no particular order:
Weed edge of path along bottom of HB - I think of this as part of Paul's responsibility. Unfortunately he doesn't.
Winter prune the roses.
Tidy up the raised bed on the other side of the rose garden.
Salvage the fuchsias from the pots - may survive if brought indoors but my success rate with house plants is atrocious.
Keep weeding the new LB.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Extension Part 20

Tom was here Monday and Tuesday working on the roof of the corridor leading to the sun room. He has now finished all that he can do until the roofers have been and done their stuff. Unfortunately there has been no sign of them yet.

On a good note we have resolved the issue of the bill that arrived from the architect for the new drawings/moving of the utility room. They have agreed that we should not have been sent a bill and issued a very nice apology.

The amount of gardening I can now do is diminishing with the weather deteriorating. Even when it is nice the ground is absolutely sodden. However, I have managed to tidy up most of LB1-6, the trellis bed, rose bed and small bed between it and the lawn. A large volume of the buddleia has been lopped off. I also made a start on the new area - removing the nettles from the veggie patch and assorted weeds from the Stairway To Nowhere. I have also relocated the larger stones from the raised bed planters for use in LB7/8.

I want to remove as many stones as I can from the veggie patch before it gets started in earnest. I made a half-hearted start yesterday morning but it is like a quagmire in places. It was slow and dirty work, pulling out the stones from the mud into a bucket and then traipsing to the planters to empty it. I gave up when the tractor arrived with the pile of muck I had asked Margaret to provide. Alan thought he had flattened the ground up to the veggie patch but I don't think his digger was heavy enough. There was an area we thought had a trapped air pocket below as you could bounce on it - very weird, Anyway we were right - the weight of the tractor has burst the bubble and now there is a deep rut. A large rock was removed that was probably at the root of the problem.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Icesave Meltdown 2

It looks as if I may have misinterpreted the BBC story.

Icesave does not appear to be part of the ING deal. It is just too confusing...

The treasury statement is here.

Icesave Meltdown

I, like thousands of other people, am waiting to see what is happening to Icesave. 

Paul and I had been very sensible in ensuring that we had not put more than the 'safe' 35000 (now upped to 50000) in any one institution, and I had a one-year fixed rate bond with the aforementioned ex-bank. This is not due to end until February. According to the BBC website it looks as if ING is taking over my account if the deal goes through. 

I will await my welcome letter to put next to the one I have from Santander for my Bradford and Bingley account.

The recent troubled times have seen our pension funds plummet. Luckily for us we still have a long time to go before we need them so hopefully they can recover. We may now need to die quite a few years before his optimistic 90...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Late Sunshine

I took this photograph last weekend just as I was packing up gardening for the day.

Extension Part 19

A little bit late on reporting progress as mil and fil have been up for a few days.

The progress has all been on the roof. We are falling behind Huttonian's extension, but I don't think this is for lack of effort. The joiners have been here most days. I think the octagonal shape is just a little more difficult - but it looks great :)

Insulation has been fitted between the battens.

This has now been covered - we guess the gaps are left for helping with the future tiling.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Mourning the Loss of Something I Never Had

It is not often that something gets offered on freecycle that I want, but on Wednesday it did. A large metal garden bench needing some tlc. I didn't think I stood a chance as it was a couple of hours after the timestamp of the offer but I thought I would give it a go. This was only the second time I have responded to an offer - the first was for a dandelion remover and I never heard back...

When I got up in the morning I found that our email provider was having problems but Paul went to the website and there was a reply - it was mine if I wanted it. Oh happy days.

I phoned the given number to organise collection. No, this was not Alan and he was not offering anything on freecycle. I got Paul to email back to let him know that there was a problem with the phone number given. I heard nothing back.

In the evening I received an email saying that as he had not heard back from me he was offering it to someone else. I immediately replied but no joy. Irrational depression sets in.

Today there was a 'taken subject to collection' message :(

I am consoling myself with the fact that it was probably a rusty load of junk...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cardbox 30000

I broke the 30000 alphagram barrier in my cardbox today. Woohoo!

The next milestone I should pass in the next week or so is to have the majority of questions in cardbox 9 - as long as I don't go too mad in adding more in. 

After much experimenting I have settled into adding a hundred or so anagrams every 2-3 days. This steady flow is much more manageable than adding in larger chunks less frequently - it was quite daunting when I could see I had several days coming up with 400+, whereas now I seem to have a more balanced 200-250 being scheduled each day. If I want to do more I just reschedule the database...

I am off to Allan's tomorrow to continue match number 5. My bottle of wine for winning match 4 by a very flattering 13-4 may be waiting :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Another Year Older

Paul was not in my good books re my birthday. I discovered he was going to be playing bridge in the Scotland pre-trials on the big day when a wedding invitation arrived last month for the same date...

On Thursday, much to my surprise, Paul volunteered to go food shopping without me. That's nice - I can get out in the garden...

I was balanced precariously three quarters the way up LB3 when he returned. Could I fetch the last couple of bags from the car? Not at this precise moment...

I was informed that it was lunchtime. I said I would come in when I had finished that area - after the effort of working my way up there I didn't want to stop. Or to be more precise, I didn't want to have to climb up there again.

When I got in there were two bunches of Aldi flowers in the kitchen sink. Hmmm... I have nothing against Aldi flowers but that meant no bouquet was coming unless this was a very deep finesse... Paul seemed a little put out by my reaction - or lack thereof :)

I had lunch and continued out in the garden.

Friday back out, coming in after 6 p.m. I asked what was for tea and got told it was a surprise. I cleaned up and awaited. Paul had bought spring rolls and duck/pancakes... He was making a real effort :)

So Saturday (birthday) arrived. I got awoken just gone 8 a.m. with Paul bringing in my prezzies.  'I really need/want xxx' seemed to work this time - new gardening gloves and  hand blender/whisk amongst other things. And then he abandoned me.

Penny phoned to wish me a happy birthday and suggested coming round to cook me dinner in the evening. That was very unexpected and a lovely thought. She popped over in the morning with a card and bottle of wine and to check what to bring in the evening. I spent the rest of the day ... gardening. I packed up around half past five and took the dogs out. As I was coming back Anne and Jenny arrived with a card and a jasmine for me. 

I decided I needed to tidy the kitchen a little for Penny. I had just started washing up when the phone went = Penny asking what flavour of icecream to get. Just get my hands wet again, phone rings = Penny checking I had flour for the gravy. I had just finished when I saw her drive past so headed out to help bring the stuff in. 

Roast lamb, roast potatoes, roast vegetables followed with chocolate fudge brownie Ben and Jerry's. Large glass of red wine. Yummy. I had insisted on watching Strictly Come Dancing so we ate in the sitting room, plates on laps (nothing new there). 

And then I noticed one of my favourite films, The Witches of Eastwick, was coming on. 

I should apologise to Penny for vegging out but it was bliss. It turned out to be a very pleasant birthday :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Extension Part 18

The railway sleepers are now in place for my three raised beds. I am very pleased with these - they look good.

The site for the new oil tank has been made.

Many of the stones and large lumps of rubble have found new homes, filling the gaps up the steps to the veggie patch and drainage in the raised beds. I may relocate a few of the larger ones...

The lawn edging is in place so now we have a much clearer vision of the lawn and planting beds.

Alan and Mark were going to start on the foundations for the pillars but hit a problem with the one nearest Margaret's wall - solid rock again. David came round on Monday to check out the walls for the railings. There was some discussion re the pillars and I think it has been agreed that the posts for the gates can be bolted into the rock somehow. On Thursday the holes were filled back in again as they were not going to get the required inserts from David in time and it was the last thing they were going to do until they return to do the paving and wall completion.

The joiners were back on Thursday and again yesterday. The roof is now starting to take shape.

And The Latest Score Is...

Paul scored an equaliser yesterday. 
Match currently stands at Jen 2: Paul 2

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Long Bank Progress Report

After the hard work clearing the first half of the LB extension I absolutely whizzed through the next quarter. The previous work done on this section meant that a hand trowel was sufficient in the main to get the new covering of weeds out. Only one injury sustained - stabbed my finger on a piece of slate. Blood gushing out through the grime but I kept going, completing it by end of play Monday.

I had a day off from the garden on Tuesday. Allan came over in the morning to continue our on-going best-of-25 match. Jean also came over to see the building site. She thinks I am mad extending the long bank but I don't see any other option. I certainly didn't want to keep it as the weed patch that it was. It will also be great fun when I eventually start populating it with my choice of plants :)

Back to it yesterday afternoon. 

Organic gardeners look away now.

I decided to spray the last section with weedkiller again. 

I had bought some Clinic Ace but couldn't find how much to dilute it in the instruction booklet. All the tables were for specific sprayer types/weeds/per hectare large scale agricultural use. Back to google - I found a suggestion of 50-1. Next problem was how to measure it. I did have a garden-use nasty substance measuring cup thing but our resident shed mice had decided to nibble a hole in one corner of it. So I measured out 2 litres of water into a two pint milk bottle and then stuck a label to mark the level. Similarly I  measured 40 ml of water into a small glass jar and marked the level. Voila!

I made up a batch and poured it into my RoundUp sprayer. By this time I decided it was too late to spray but I was ready for today. I was out there straight after the dog walk this morning. I needed it to stay dry for 6 hours and it may be a week or so before I start to see results. I had a few worries around lunch time as it got quite dark but it brightened up again.

So I now have an enforced break from LB7/8 to get on with other jobs. And there is a long list...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Extension Part 17

Well, another week has gone by so it is time to report the latest on the extension.

Tom (joiner) was on holiday this week so the sunroom remains as it was.

However, progress has been made by Alan and Mark.

We heard a lot of loud bangs one day - Alan was digging a big hole for the rumble drain. 'You're on solid rock'. 'Yes - we thought you knew. The porosity test failed - that's why we need a rumble drain rather than a soakaway.' When we went back out in the afternoon Alan was filling it back up again. We have no lack of stones that could be used in its construction. Apparently the council didn't want to come out and inspect it - Alan has taken a photograph of it just in case.

Mark has started on the external wall. When we took the dogs out one lunchtime there it was. We thought it looked a little too high as we are planning to have a metre high railing on top. Mark said it
wouldn't be a problem removing one layer of bricks, and that has now been done.

We had a little discussion regarding where the wall 'bends' around - the wall is in three sections of 3.6 metres long, stepping down. We had thought of columns at each change of direction/height for the railings to be attached to. But Alan was not convinced that the angle of the columns would make this easy. So Paul phoned David. He will come round early next week to have another chat with Alan and Mark. He can sink the poles into the wall and angle the hooks to hang the rails.

Thursday/Friday the paving and planting beds around the path were pegged out. A delivery of 'type 1 gravel' arrived. It has now started to be laid where the paving and patio will be. I saw Mark with a boys-toy steam roller type machine flattening and levelling it.

I have continued with LB clearance most days this week.

I had a bit of a break yesterday. I decided to try to remove the nettles and more importantly their roots from the raised bed to be alongside Margaret's wall. This was hard work. The 'soil' there is mainly slimy, wet, cold, smelly clay. Not for the faint hearted. Still, I got a load out - some of the roots stretched for several feet...

I was going to continue this endeavour for the new veggie patch but decided to call it a day after my foot sunk into the mud. I still have this joy to look forward to, but we are due a few dry sunny days so I will wait to see if it dries out. If not it will be out with the wellies.

Today was a major milestone - I finished the big weed section. Hurrah!

So half way there.

The next quarter should be easier - I had cleared this section earlier in the year. It is covered in weeds again but hopefully I got most of the stones out last time round.

The council was out and about yesterday verge cutting. I saved them a short stretch over the other side of the road. And this is only a small selection of what I dug out...

Thursday, September 18, 2008


There has been some discussion on my scrabble group as to what to name the new Lloyds + HBOS bank. I came up with the above gem.

It did spur me on to check whether I needed to rearrange my accounts yet again. With only 35000 'secure' under any single parent organisation we need to keep on top of our finances. Mergers and takeovers also make it harder and harder to find suitable accounts. Luckily I think I am okay this time, only having money in one of the affected 'brands'.

Still, some good may come of all this. I suspect this could be the end of Halifax's Howard on our TVs...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Culture in Coldingham

When Reg and Diana were over here on Friday they asked whether we wanted to go and see Amada that was being staged at Coldingham village hall. Reg had a cutting from the Berwickshire News and it looked interesting. They also asked Penny, Jean and Sandy.


From the Arches website:

Based on a short story by acclaimed Chilean writer Isabel Allende, Arches Award winner Cora Bissett uses a tight ensemble of three actors, one Chilean guitarist and Basque singer to re-create the colour, passion, sensuality and emotional landscape of Allende's tale Amada. Centering on one woman's journey through a tragically touched life, Amada is a beautiful homage to the dignity found within the oldest profession in the world.

Following a tour of the NTS award-winning Wolves in the Walls and roles in ITV's Rebus, BBC's River City and Bafta award-winning film Red Road, Cora Bissett has directed this fantastic new play. Amada was a smash hit when it premiered at the Arches and Traverse Theatres in April 2007 and was nominated in the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland for Best Use of Music in Theatre.


We arranged to meet beforehand at the pub in Coldingham. Penny arrived here at around 6.30 pm and we set off shortly afterwards. Jean and Sandy couldn't make it.

We were very impressed with the village hall. Big Lottery People's Millions money has been used to purchase collapsable tiered theatre seating for 100 people amongst other things.

There was a moment of doubt when the play started as it was introduced in Spanish, but luckily that did not last. As the 'stage' area is quite small there will be limitations on what can be put on, but this play worked beautifully. It was just a shame that only 35 people attended what was a thoroughly enjoyable performance.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Extension Part 16

We have actually had quite good weather this week and I got out every afternoon into the garden, only running in from the rain on one of them.

The joiners started on Monday. First task was the roof on the utility room. The walls have also now been completed.

They then moved on to the sun room. When they left on Friday they had started on the roof. The octagon shape is a bit of a challenge. They had got four beams up and standing unsupported - I heard 'Look no hands' at one point. They were then taken down again and taken away to check that the wood is in good condition - they are going to be exposed within the sun room and therefore they need to look good.

Alan and Mark have been pressing on with the steps up to the veggie patch, external wall foundations and the foundations for the railway sleeper raised bed.

Reg and Diana came round for coffee yesterday morning. They were given the tour of the building site. All is fine with the world - we have Reg's approval :)

I have cleared another five metres or so of the long bank. I have been building up the river defences with the stones and enormous lumps of solid clay I have been digging out and lobbing over the road...

I think I am going to have to reclassify this new area into two or three new sections as it is almost half as long again as the existing LB.

Unfortunately I can see new weeds sprouting up almost in front of my eyes in the first bit I had cleared :(

Rock Climbing

It was time for a break in clearing in the long bank. I had just got myself a mug of coffee and was heading for a rare sit down on my bench when I spotted movement on the wall of the porch. I went and got my camera.

This hairy caterpillar (I have been completely unsuccessful in my attempts to find out what kind) was having a stroll around the brickwork. It is probably the commonest of common hairy caterpillars in Scotland...

I watched it climb up a brick, along the top and head back down the other side.

I had a wildlife photographer's dilemma when it got itself entangled in a spider's web at the bottom - do I step in and rescue it or let nature take its course?

After a bit of a struggle it managed to free itself and continue on its journey along the next brick.

I got back to clearing the long bank...

A little further searching and I came across this bug and weed identification site which may prove invaluable in the future. So I am guessing that my caterpillar is either a Common Footman (right location) or a White Ermine - looks more like this to me.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Get

Wanted by Joyce...

Email 1:
Hi! We have recently moved into a new home and in need of a few items:

Dressing Table w/Mirror
2 Drawer Filing Cabinet
Chest Of Drawers
3 Piece Suite

Wanted Curtian Rods Various Sizes:

1. min. 80cm
2. min. 106cm
3. min. 130cm
4. 2@ min. 230cm
5. min 125cm
6. min. 115cm
7. min. 120cm

Email 3:

Wire Mesh (to protect pets from a busy road)
Wood (suitable to make secondary glazing frames)
Glass/Perspex (for above)
Cider Press


Tumble Dryer
Fireplace Tools
Jewelery Box

The day is still young... Next will be request for curtians (sic) to fit above rods and jewellery to go in said box :)
I can see that a cider press is an absolute must for a new home.
And there does seem to be a surprisingly large demand for filing cabinets on Freecycle - almost as desirable as tents/gazebos/marquees...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The 2008 Whiteadder Floods at Todheugh

The rain water drains at the bottom of our drive had backed up yesterday causing a large puddle by lunchtime. By the afternoon walk it was up to the verge. When Penny came over in the early evening it was starting to get deep and she was worried about getting out again. When we took the dogs out late at night we soon realised by the light of our torches that we were not wading across the verge but were actually walking in the rockery. This was the view this morning...

We escaped via the extremely muddy building site and walked back to see how much of the road was under water...

We then walked down to the path by the river. One of the straw bales from Margaret's field next to the river had made a bid for freedom...

We then walked up to the view point at the top of the hill to see the full extent of the flooded fields.

Margaret's field half under water. I wonder how many straw bales have actually made it all the way out to sea...

The field below Blanerne House had not been harvested. I don't know how much will be able to be salvaged.

I ventured back out after a cup of coffee to try to get to the bridge. I did not even get to the bottom of the drive before the water was up to the top of my wellies. Not deterred I went the back route from behind our garden sheds, via the old quarry coming out on the road just behind Karen's house.

The water stopped at the bottom of the hill so I could make my way around it to the bridge.

The water was over the top of the buttresses. Luckily it did not look as if too much debris had been lodged in the bridge.

It could have been a lot worse - there is quite a log jam in amongst the trees on the submerged island upstream. Of course, these could still free themselves...

View East from the bridge...

View West from the bridge...

The water on the road had receded about a metre when I walked back, but I soon found out that I was not going to be able to wade through it and had to retrace my route via the quarry.

I have repeated the view from an upstairs window for a comparison with yesterday photograph...

Despite the fact that it has been raining most of the morning the water levels are dropping quite quickly. I have just taken the dogs out and the verge is no longer under water, although the road still is but is passable if driving slowly. The field in the top left corner of the above photograph now looks merely puddly, draining rapidly back into the river via a mini waterfall. The straw bale is now high and dry. There is a lot of debris dumped along the other side of the road, ranging from tree trunks to plastic bottles.

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