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


Friday, February 29, 2008

Poncho - Now I am Six

It was Poncho's birthday yesterday.

Treat number one was a visit to the vet to get his bandage removed. He is still hobbling as the skin between his toes has been rubbed raw, so now he is on antibiotics as well as pain killers. The vet thinks the cracked toe has healed well but the other toe is slightly twisted. She hopes that with the bandage off it will straighten back up. There is now much licking of paw.

Treat number two was to let him walk down the drive, along the road in front of the house and back up the side of the cowshed. This soon looked like a mistake - I spotted an unknown woman with a small dog coming around the corner of the road as we were walking down the drive. There was no way in hell that I was going to get him to turn round, but I managed to keep him back so he did not see the dog. Luckily they headed into the undergrowth towards the river and bridge, and the dog was soon out of sight. Poncho was so excited, walking three steps, sniff, pee, look back to see if woman was still visible. And then he started doing his paw scraping after peeing - not a good idea. The adrenalin had run out by the time we got to the cowshed and paw was being held aloft. It was just garden toilet breaks for the rest of the day...

For his birthday present I bought him a new outdoor jacket from the retired greyhound trust - his old one is covered in tiny rips where he went through a gap in a fence on one of his first adventures off the lead...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Blustery Day

We had been hearing all day reports of the bridges up here being closed to all but cars due to the high winds. Our small bench has been blown over several times - we had given up picking it back up. The newly filled bird feeder is swinging like some mad fairground ride.

I was looking out of the bedroom window, watching the white horses on the river and the twigs and leaves flying through the air on the other side of the road. I looked down and saw Paul in the garden. Then I looked across and saw the ivy-trellis on the lawn.

I raced downstairs and we managed to get it upright with a bit of a struggle, and Paul could hold it in place long enough to allow me to rescue the pots from under it.

The wind was blowing me backwards as I took this photograph...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spot The Difference

Poncho has been very frustrated at not being allowed to go on walks - with the padding and pain killer he has forgotten that he has two broken toes. He just gets taken out to the garden to do what must be done. This is a bit of a palaver as we need to wrap his bandaged paw in a plastic bag to keep his dressing clean and dry.

In his bounciness after being taken out at 8 p.m. last night he managed to step on the plastic bag and before we knew it there was the bag with bandage fully intact inside - he had managed to pull his paw completely free.

So I phoned the vet's emergency number. As Poncho seemed okay - lying down licking his paw - we were advised to wait until the morning unless he was in obvious distress. Back to the vet's first thing this morning. Luckily the toes were looking a lot better and the vet was able to re-bandage it without having to sedate him. We are back to red bandage...

Jen, often not the keenest dog to go for walks especially if it is very cold or there are bangs, has decided that she does not want to go far on her solo walks. She digs her paws in and other than dragging her there is not much you can do about it when she is in that mood.

Life would have been much easier if it had been Jen with the broken toes...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Poncho in the Wars - Again

We decided to let the dogs have a run in Margaret's field this morning. The stubble field had been ploughed over the weekend and we know that she is also considering ploughing at least some of the hay field because of the number of mole hills in it, so future opportunities may be limited.

We let Jen off first and she trotted happily away. Then we let Poncho off and he quickly disappeared at speed over the brow of the hill. We wandered up and saw him at the other end of the field. He appeared to be hobbling. When we got to him he was looking very sorry for himself, and he was clearly suffering. He would manage a few limping steps and then stop. Paul took Jen home and then came back with the car.

While I was waiting for him David walked past with Florence, which normally causes much jumping, twirling and barking. Other than another two or three hobbles towards the gate there was little reaction. We managed to get him into the back of the car but had to lift him back out when we got home.

We gave him a half dose of pain killer with some food and decided to see how he was when we got back from shopping. Things were obviously not great as he had not broken into the kitchen and the lounge was still intact. His left paw had now swollen quite considerably. I phoned the vet and we got an appointment to take him in at 2.30 p.m.

Again he had to be lifted in and out of the car, and once inside took very little notice of a Yorkshire terrier waiting ahead of us.

The vet decided to keep him in to X-ray it - she thought he had broken his middle two toes. This was later confirmed, one very badly broken and the other one cracked.

He now has a very large padded bandage that we have to try to keep on for 10 days before he goes back for a checkup. No walks for the forseeable future, and no runs for at least 6 weeks. If the worst comes to the worst and the badly broken toe does not set it may have to be removed.

Scottish Masters 2008

Well, I'll get this over with but it is pretty painful stuff.

I went full of hope - I had got back into my daily routine of studying after the New Year and was feeling reasonably confident. I picked Allan up at 9 a.m. on Saturday and we arrived at the venue in Edinburgh with plenty of time to spare.

Game 1: Simon Gillam
I dumped MILL(E)R keeping ER on move 1, and picked a blank. With HENRYR? Simon gave me the perfect place to play off RHY and things were looking good. OTARIES from Simon, GREENeR from me. We kept neck-and-neck even after Simon bonused again with REPENTS, with me countering with HAJES. In reality the game was virtually unwinnable from here as Simon had picked the second blank and Z on a tight board whereas I was struggling to balance whilst making half openings that Simon was able to block and outscore me. It could have been worse, Simon missing bonuses when blocking with SEAsON...
L: 349-409

Game 2: Christine McKenzie
I opened with GALoPED, being surprised when checking afterwards there were only two possible bonuses with this rack. Christine bonused straight back with FROSTI(E)R. I had picked the second blank and dumped LUNK(S) keeping GL?. A pickup of AAAS and I was pleased to spot both bonuses, opting for ArGALAS. STO(V)AINE on move 9 was enough to ensure victory. With very bonus-oriented tiles unseen near the end Y(O)WIE blocked the higher scoring places, with Christine playing out with BRO(M)INES.
W: 483-423

Game 3: Allan Simmons
Allan opened with OLEFINE, and I was able to clear a pretty yucky opening rack with Y(O)UTHY. AXE(N)IC from Allan gave me one of the floaters I needed with ADEORRT, albeit only for face value. QUO(D) from Allan, JALOP(Y) from me to almost catch back up. (J)OBE from Allan, (A)BID from me. I overhauled him on the next move with AGISM, deciding it was worth using the S with the other 3 and both blanks unseen. Allan retook the lead two moves later with KEE(L)ED and I realised why I had been struggling - only 1 E so far. WAIT kept me in touch. SONNeTS from Allan was a bit of a body blow, although I had the last S. I was going to need everything to go right from here in. With a grotty rack of FHIPSUW I played off H(E)W and Allan took it off with ZIT - his other option had apparently been ZOI(S)T for 66. I now needed a miracle, so opened a 9x with FRUG. Allan took the triple. My late bonus of ASPIRA(T)E at least stopped Allan with his last rack of EAVING?.
L: 363-442

Game 4: Raymond Tate
Ray bonused on move 2 with KATIONS and was still slightly ahead when he bonused again with (G)INnIEST after my balancing B(E)RG from BEGLNRS. I had the dream pickup for DER, to score 101 with SLENDER to take a small lead. A good scoring HONEY(S) from Ray and a balancing M(E)RIL from IILMRRT in reply. Ray opened the 9x with BAYE. I had picked the second blank and vowels but ETOURdI(E) did the trick. Then the wheels fell off - seven consonants from a pretty evenly balanced bag. No real surprise when Ray played AIDOI, and I dumped NTH. Picked 3 more consonants. (D)OZE(R) from Ray to get back to only 7 behind. FMPPRST on my rack, ADEOUVW on Ray's...
L: 426-432

Game 5: Caroline Atkins
Consonant heavy again I opened with VOLK. JU(K)E from Caroline. Still only one vowel, and GYRES for a reasonable score. LOOT from Caroline (she told me afterwards she had SOLOIST, and really should have played LOOTS). At last a nice looking rack of AINOPX?, I opted for PAX keeping the O for OXO rather than POX, not liking ANO? from PIX. On checking later there is only one 8 available from this rack. A spent an age on my next rack trying to find something to play down the side of PAX but eventually gave up and played MOLINEs. Caroline bonused on move 7 with STAIRED. I had been going through a vowel patch, but ODEA the move before and now I could dump AU(D)ITED keeping back another U to stay a bonus ahead on a relatively blocked board. REN from Caroline gave me REUSInG for a comfortable lead. QAT the move after and Caroline's outplay of VERDICT kept my win to double figures.
W: 431-355

Game 6: Lorraine Gordon
Lorraine opened with POUT, and with a single vowel I dumped D(U)CK. HUIA from Lorraine and I took the triple with BINE. LURE from Lorraine and now with no vowels but 2 Ss I played S(I)NG. YEH from Lorraine, and I preserved my solitary vowel with (E)RF. ZIMMeRS from Lorraine. I had AIORSV? and eventually opted for OVAR(I)tIS to keep the board open. Lorraine changed and PO(t)E got me the lead back. I should have known better - back to one vowel. EA(V)E from Lorraine, (F)LIX from me. Lorraine then bonused with (S)INUATED and JAB from me to try to score, balance and restrict the triple. Unfortunately it didn't work. Coming into the end game I discovered I had made a mistake in the score and Lorraine was 10 points more than I had thought. This threw me a bit, as what I thought was a game won suddenly wasn't. It certainly wasn't when I completely cocked up the end game.
L: 390-392

Game 7: Marion Keatings
No photo. I was pleased to spot SUBVENe(D) on move 2. Marion played a phony letting me take the triple for a bonus-sized lead. ANEROID on move 7. Marion came back at me with good scoring. With EIIRSTU I decided to just dump an I as most of the unseen tiles gave me a playable bonus. Marion beat me to it with TOUSIER, but my pickup of an L gave a neatly slotted RULIEST under it. I took the last two tiles, OE, and saw Marion had CEENST?. A moment of panic but the only playable bonus I could see did not score enough. In the end Marion tried something to win, so the spread is flattering.
W: 446-323

Game 8: Amy Byrne
No photo. I started with LOONY and Amy played TOAD(Y)ISM. Looking back there was a 4-x through the N for 94, so maybe I was lucky. More good scoring from Amy and another bonus on move 7 to be 136 ahead. I eventually bonused on move 11 with FRIABlE to get to 50 behind, opening the 9x. I picked the second blank, but unfortunately AEFHLM? makes nothing.
L: 381-403

Game 9: Ross MacKenzie
I started turning over my tiles. EILRT...looking good...another I...oh well, still has possibilities...another I...b*gger! LIRI for 8. Ross bonuses with TOADIED. I have picked the Q, but opt for WIT for score. I have to dump QI the move after and obviously then pick a U. Ross tried IPOMeAS so from TUNELER I dump EL, as I can see various options for Ross and decided my best chance was balancing. Ross played MyOPIAS, and I had STUNNER(S) in response. AFOOT from Ross meant I was still 60 behind. With another clunky consonant rack I opt for HUB(S) which Ross neatly blocks with KAM. PEND to keep scoring. GEE from Ross, another reminder of my lack of vowels but at least I had picked the second blank. I took a long time with ABJNTV? before picking BANJo to get back within 15 and making an opening. Ross blocked the S(WAIL) hook with Y(ID) which was a little annoying as I had been going to make an opeing with VO(ID). Still, VOX got me back to almost level. This looked like a good choice with Ross's play of (V)UG to now make an opening. I had ACEHOST and was very pleased to spot CATHO(U)SE. I thought at first it was opening the 9x, and then had to move it down one row much to Ross's displeasure as he had RE(C)ITERS in response. With AACGNNR I can see the possibility of F(R)IZ from Ross so block with C(R)AN and pick the Z. FOIL from Ross to take a 4 point lead. I now have AGNORRZ with AEEILUWY unseen. I took a long time before deciding on (T)ZAR as it blocked a4, gave little away with the Z and gave me a chance for a playout. I picked the U. Ross blocked my playout with (V)IEWY but I held on to win.
W: 417-414

Game 10: Neil Scott
No photo. Neil bonused on move 3 with B(R)EVIARy. On move 4 my NUTLIKE didn't fit so I played off KU(TI) and bonused with (R)ATTLINE the next go to get back in touch. Neil bonused again on move 7 - can't remember what. He was closing the board down and I was having to sacrifice balance for score. I got DESCEND down near the end to empty the bag - I needed to be lucky with the last 5 tiles from the bag but was not.
L: 395-427

Game 11: Ricky Zinger
No photo. The only game where the tiles flowed. Even on my couple of bad racks I was able to clear them. DIIIPSS with an L available to dump (L)IPIDS. Keeping AERS and picking AAE, but dumped EA and picked IT...
W: 469-291

So, 5-6 and a tourney rating of 158. This must be my worst result in the last decade. Congrats to Neil on winning with a 10-1 record and well done/commiserations to Ray for second place, also with a 10-1 record. It's back to the drawing board for me...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Fame?

I drove over to Allan's on Saturday as Border News wanted to do a piece on us and Scrabble. They were late arriving, but once there filmed for about two and a half hours! It will be interesting how many minutes are actually aired.

Allan took the starring role, talking through the books, equipment, top scrabble tips etc. Next they filmed a short interview with me. Then they got Allan and I to play a game, which I won playing out with BEATS (not a setup, honest) that they made me play again with a smirk. Finally they wanted a cheesy bit with Allan spotting a difficult bonus word and the interviewer then missing an obvious bonus word and smugly playing a crap move. It may be aired on the 22nd...

On Wednesday we continued our third best-of-25 match. I won the first two games to complete a stunning comeback from 9-6 down to win the match 13-10. When I got home I had an email from the Sunday Post regarding a feature as it is the Scottish Masters this weekend. I phoned the number given and gave a telephone interview. A photographer has just left. It was quite amusing when I brought through a few of my trophies, including the Scottish Open Championship that was sponsored by The Scotsman. It may be in this Sunday's paper...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snowdrop Season

Apparently we have just had the wettest January since records began. I can well believe it, the number of times we got drenched walking the dogs. We have also had more snow than the previous two winters we have spent up here, although it has never stayed around for more than a day or two.

I think the snowdrops are a couple of weeks later coming into their full glory up here. I had been bemoaning to Janet up the road a while back that they are not so good this year, but I was a little premature. As far as my garden is concerned it is a good thing as I still had not cleared the autumn debris. However, the weather has been much improved over the last few days and on Sunday I ventured out to start the clear up operation.

I started with the area at the bottom of the drive, where the nettles and brambles encroach from the wilderness area behind it. It is a balance between clearing the dried out nettle stems etc and not stomping all over the snowdrops I am trying to give access to. I could get so far up the bank, and then decided to complete it from the top down. This entailed having to clear the area at the back of the sheds.

Last year I found that there is a large plum tree behind the sheds but I could not reach the plums because of all the self-stoned/suckered trees growing around it and the forest of brambles wrapped around them.

Out came my trusty loppers. I gradually cleared a path through, with multiple trips pulling the 'baby' tree prunings (some must have been reaching almost 10 feet in height) back out around the sheds. I filled two bin bags with brambles and general crud.

I sustained a very painful injury when they started fighting back, and a branch whipped back into my eye. 'Ouch' or words to that effect. It is still very sore and red...

The mist started rolling in in the early afternoon but I was not to be deterred, and eventually finished the job after about four hours of hard graft.

Paul had been away playing bridge, and when quizzed the next day on what I had done in the garden failed dismally... His excuse was that he had been looking in the garden proper and tried hedging his bets on various other areas.

The mist didn't clear yesterday until around lunch time.

I was surprisingly free from aches and pains (other than my eye), and decided to start clearing the high bank in the afternoon. As I was just cutting back last seasons stems and flower heads it only took a couple of hours. Two bin bag loads of old asters, phloxes, peonies, sedums and crocosmia. I sustained a few stings from nettles coming back up - but that will be a job for after the snowdrops have finished.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

UK Open 2008 - The End

This is probably not worth the wait as there were only four games on the last day, and I forgot to photograph the first two...

Game 35: Theresa Camelleri
No photo. A close game all the way, but I did enough for a small win.
W: 436-420

Game 36: Mike Whiteoak
Ditto above
W: 424-397

Game 37: Paul Allan
I bonused first on move 5 with POWTERS, immediately seeing the slightly safer PROWEST/FILETS after I had hit my clock. Luckily for me Paul could not use the spot, playing JUS for 40 which allowed me to dump VIBE for 50 and a healthy lead. I outscored Paul on the next few moves to extend that, so when Paul bonused with pARATOI(D) he just caught me back up. I pulled back ahead with XU and bonused the following move with RiGHTEN to seal the win.
W: 465-388

Game 38: Craig Beevers
If I won this game I would finish in the prizes.
Craig opened with JILTS, I replied with (L)EZ from a vowel heavy rack. (J)ANTY from Craig, and I dumped EAU. Craig's consonant dump of CRW(T)H far outscored mine. PU(C)E from me, QIS from Craig. (Q)UEEN from me, and my rack had now swung to consonant heavy. Craig played WI(N), and holding DDGNOST I decided on DONG for 28. I was hit immediately with ERI(G)EROn. I haven't simmed it, but it still feels like the right play to me. Craig bonused again on move 9 with OBTeNDS and I replied with ATRESIA. I picked GRANOLA out of the bag, but unsurprisingly Craig took off the triple spot. I was pleased to see LARGAN(D)O and was now a bonus+ behind. However, Craig then delivered the killer punch of ANTILIF(E)...
L: 367-530

So, 3-1 for the last day and finished in 8th place. Congrats to Nigel who swept all before him.

Tourney record: 20.5-16.5 excluding the bye, and a rating of 185. Not a total disaster, despite my ABSP rating dropping to 189 as I was also losing some good results. My next set of games to drop are bad, so fingers crossed for a good Scottish Masters in just over a week's time to get back into the 190s.

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