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


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bad Language

The following just came into my inbox courtesy of BerwickshireFreeCycle:

Hello dose anyone have a
cooker there do not want in
berwick as my sister is wanted
one as hers doset work no

Words Of Interest - NATHEMO

As a brief introduction to words of interest, which I may or may not run with in future posts...

Scrabble players are a diverse lot.

All colours, creeds, young and old, men and women and everything in between.

We also range widely in our actual interest in words - the full spectrum of 'I don't care what it means but I know it is a valid word' to the true logophiles. The vast majority of top scrabble players are from scientific/mathematical backgrounds. The problem with logophiles is that they think they have a great vocabulary, which many do, but it is not geared to being good at scrabble. They can lose track of what it is all about - playing the percentages and winning. I am a scientific 'don't really care' scrabble player.

I am much more interested in knowing a word's hooks and anagrams and what letters it combines with to make another word than what it actually means. There are just so many words that will never be used in everyday life - and even if you make an effort the person you are talking to probably won't have a clue what you are on about.

Okay - take EGILMNSU - GUMLINES/LEGUMINS/MULESING. I knew what the former two meant but how often will I have a conversation about removing anal wrinkles of sheep. On second thoughts now that I am a R-URALITE I can't rule it out.

Since I have started using zyzzyva to study I have actually switched on the display of the definitions. I am not trying to learn them but occasionally find something of interest. It may be an odd definition, an odd word or just that I have lived my life in ignorance. I must apologise to David Sutton as he is bound to have covered the following in one of his many articles in The Last Word magazine, but I will have just scanned the bold print to find any words I didn't know :)

Since I first learnt this word long ago I had pronounced it in my head as Nath/Emo. I knew it was a 'blocker' - with an S it makes HOASTMEN. I now find it means 'never the more', yet another word made up by Spenser, and I will change my mental pronunciation to Nae/The/Mo'. NATHEMORE is also valid, which may come in handy if your oppo starts with NATHEMO in the optimal position...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Return of the Flies

The council has been spending more of our council tax cutting back their one metre of verge all around here today. I spotted the tractor with cutter/strimmer going past the house when I first got up. It would be a lot better if they also collected the litter that gets dumped on these same verges - for some reason people seem to think that plastic and metal drink containers become miraculously bio-degradable in the countryside.

I chose correctly which route to take the dogs this morning - they had already completed both sides of the road over the bridge and up to Chirnside/Preston road. The strimmer thing had done a very effective shredding job on a dumped newspaper at the top of the road. I don't know if it is a coincidence but this has also been the first day this year where we have been harassed by flies - shudder. Poor Poncho had a swarm of them around his head for most of the walk. I must have looked as if I was having a fit, twirling his lead and waving my arms around...

As we passed the bottom of the hill just before home I could hear the tractor coming back down. Then there was a squeal of two cars doing what sounded like hand-brake turns around the 180 degree bend and having to come to a sudden stop, and not be quite so cool as they reversed back down. My money would be on the tractor every time.

As it had clouded over and the wind had whipped up again I thought we would be safe this afternoon. Think again. We were quicky surrounded by flies again when we got to the verge. I am now feeling very itchy :(

Friday, June 27, 2008

Extension Part 9

I was full of hope.

On Friday morning Allan and A.N.Other turned up and started building the walls of the utility room. They were back on Monday and real progress appeared to be made. In the afternoon Tom was also here. They had the plans out and were obviously discussing something but I was not made privy to what was going on. Then they all left and nothing has happened since.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's Never Too Late

I have started a new morning routine.

Get up whenever. Do not take the dogs straight out - do not want them to think that waking me up means they get rewarded! Have a cup of coffee, catch up on my email and start on the cardbox. Once coffee drunk then take dogs out for a walk. Feed dogs breakfast on return.

This now means I have a much longer 'free time' gap before the lunch time routine.

I am feeling quite smug about it this morning as the weather was very pleasant when we were out earlier and now (when we would have been out before) it is decidedly yukky.


I got 'buzzed' by someone I knew from uni via Friends Reunited last night. So after some faffing (my account needed reactivating) I went on and replied. It is now free to send people messages so I started trawling back through my 'places'.

I found my 'bestest' friend from primary school and memories came flooding back. We had been virtually inseparable until the age of about 10 when we had a major falling out and virtually never spoke to each other again. She moved away from our home town a couple of years later so we never did rekindle our friendship. I sent her a message apologising for the stupidity of youth. I am so pleased I did as I got an email back from her later that evening.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jen The Serial Killer

Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but wildlife is another matter...

It started a couple of months back when a chick had fallen from its nest in our eaves onto the path below. After a brief game of 'tag' with Poncho she grabbed it back and ate it.

On Saturday Penny came over to pick elder flowers to make some cordial. We were heading towards the bridge when I almost had my arm pulled out of its socket as Jen dived into the undergrowth. She emerged with a mole in her mouth. It took quite an effort to get her to drop it, and I only succeeded when she tried to rearrange its position and lost her grip on it.

Last night as we were heading down the steps to the top of the drive she suddenly leapt into the pergola-covered oil tank area. Poncho dived in after her. A sudden loud squeal and I tried to pull them both back - I was worried they had found a hedgehog. I shone the torch in and could see something that was not prickly, and Jen was straight back at it. Out she came, shaking a very large rat. She threw it back down and I took the chance to drag them both away. On coming back about 10 minutes later I could see that it was still alive, and had crawled onto the bottom step. Jen was all for finishing the job but I turned them around and back to the house via the building site.

I must now go and remove the dead rat from our steps...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Alcoholic Sloe Jam

Anne invited Penny and me over for dinner on Thursday, and I suggested to Penny that she stayed overnight here so that she could have a drink. After polishing off a bottle of red between us with dinner (Anne was not drinking) I decided it was a good idea when we got home to decant one of my sloe alcohols - they have now been maturing away between six and eight months. I can confirm that sloe vodka is just as good as sloe gin...

Yesterday I bottled up the rest - two bottles of gin, one bottle of the Aldi's 'voshka' and two pints of vodka - the only problem with vodka is that the bottles have these integrated pourers which I could not remove so it is now back in a plastic milk bottle - very refined :)

Last night I boiled up the five pounds of alcohol laden sloes in a pint of water and then spent a good two hours forcing it all through a sieve to end up with about a pint and a half of pulp. I probably could have got a little more but it's damned hard work and return on effort diminishes after the initial scraping of each spoonful. I must say the house smells good...

This morning after the dog walk I made the jam. I added another half pint of water as the pulp was pretty thick and boiled it up. Then added a pound and a half of jam sugar - fresh sloes may be full of pectin but I assumed that these no longer were. Boiled hard for about 15 minutes and it appears to be setting fine. I had the scrapings of the pan/spoon/ladle on cream crackers for lunch, and have just over three pounds in jars.

I probably shouldn't have had any for lunch as I found many typos/bad grammar in this post that needed correcting. Hopefuly, if not perfect at least better now...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Berwickshire News Misses Animal Scoop Story

A mother and her family of three had a near miss encounter with a lorry at Whitemire stud.

An eye-witness gives the following account:
"I was walking back home with my two greyhounds, Poncho and Jen, when I heard the lorry approaching behind me. I turned to see where it was and pulled the dogs onto the verge. As I turned back I saw four stoats run into the middle of the road and stop. I held my breath as the lorry thundered on towards them. At the last moment they made a dash for it, and I saw them all reach safety and disappear through the hedge on the other side of the road."

The above is for Huttonian in case he is having animal-story withdrawal symptoms - although he hasn't yet featured our neighbours' (Sheila and Margaret) success with Australian terrier Melba at the Kelso show :)

Poncho had his own encounter with wildlife yesterday. In a quick internet search trying to find out what to do I found a great deal of conflicting advice. I decided a quick trip to the vet's open surgery was the most sensible course of action, where the offending tick was removed free of charge. I have now invested in an 'otom' tick remover kit...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

20 Years and a Day

Yesterday was Paul's and my 20th wedding anniversary.

He had left me a card in his car.

A delivery man arrived in the afternoon with a large box. It was (wrongly) addressed to Paul and the man seemed very concerned about his health - not often men get sent large bouquets of flowers I guess...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dog Days

I drove Paul to the airport on Sunday.

Two weeks in Pau with his 'other women' and I am now the sole focus of the dogs.

I feel trapped on the sofa - every move is watched and if I attempt to reposition myself they are both up and looking at me expectantly. I have to be careful with what I say as well. I told them to chill out yesterday. This was obviously heard by them as '????? OUT' and had the opposite effect of what I wanted.

Two weeks of getting up early - at least I am clearing my cardbox before the morning walk, and have started adding more in again. I won my match against Allan last week - well, I had a winning draw 4.5-4.5 but had a better spread of 43 points after nine games. A nail-biting finish if I had any nails left after my gardening...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Extension Part 8

The work on the extension appears to be very stop-start at the moment.

Last Tuesday Allan was here bright and early and started on the utility room. When we got the revised drawings from the architect he had drawn the external door coming out facing the sunroom to be. This wasn't as we had expected but I preferred it as it will give us more usable space inside, with the two doors only wasting the space at one end. After some thought and discussion Paul agreed. It also saves hassle about changing the drawing again, and will save money (always a good thing) on patio/paving around the utility room.

Alan said he wouldn't be around the following day as it needed to 'go off'. This is normally when something has been left too long in the fridge in my experience...

Anyway, Paul got an email the day after saying that it would now be Monday before he would be back. He was having trouble getting trucks to deliver stuff - apparently the three new schools being built in this area have priority and are hogging not only the trucks but also building materials.

He was true to his word, and when I took the dogs out first thing (for me) he was waiting for a delivery to arrive. The truck arrived about a minute later - it had got lost and was approaching from the Chirnside direction. When I wandered back past with the dogs a pile of something was being unloaded, and the truck then passed me a couple of minutes later. Alan then also departed...

The other exciting development from a couple of weeks back is that we have a spray-painted outline of the new corridor and sunroom. At last I can sort of visualise it. And that led to a bit of a falling out with Paul re gates/walls/railings.

I have never been happy with what was drawn, but have been told not to worry - they are not set in stone (joke). Anyway, now that I could see the outline I could see that the currently planned/drawn enclosed garden area is a long narrow rectangle, with the new patio a completely separate entity with a no-mans land area in between. I really want it all too be more integrated and as little unenclosed space as possible. Paul does not want railings right down the side of the new patio spoiling the view. So - compromise, railings to come part way down and wall splits at that point to complete railed enclosed garden and unrailed patio area. So I was told to work out the cost implications... And I was on to a winner there - my new plan reduces the size of the original patio that could house an orchestra, and the cost savings of that more than pays for the few extra metres of wall/railings.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Edinburgh Festival of Scrabble

What can I say.

I blew it.

Game 1 and I made a stupid mistake on my tracking right at the end, and thus blocked the 'winning' play by my opponent to lose by 1 point.

So I came second, one game behind Mikki but with a better spread.

On the positive side I did play some good words (I was especially pleased with WAMmULS) and made a great comeback (126 behind Barry Grossman after 4 moves) to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat...

I have my BEST match against Allan on Thursday - first to five to go through to the regional final.

I am busily catching up on my cardbox. 771 waiting for me when I opened up the cardbox quiz on Monday morning. Had got it down to 338 when I went back in this morning. Should get that cleared over the course of today.

Red Sky At Night

Views from my bench at a quarter past ten last night. The moon is just visible above...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Good Day

Today has been a 'good' day.

We took the dogs on an unplanned long walk this morning - it was perfect weather, sun shining and a nice breeze. Over the bridge and up the hill to the Chirnside/Preston road. We continued on taking the road to Lintlaw, turning right at the top. As we approached the Billiemains road Jen and Poncho were up on their toes at the sound of a dog barking. Suddenly a hare came racing around the corner and ran straight up the road in front of us before veering off into the field on our right. Luckily there was no sign of the dog we heard chasing it. It took quite a while before Poncho stopped pulling me up the road in a state of great excitement. A little further along and they both dived into the undergrowth - a pheasant emerged from the back, squawking and flapping away frantically. There were no further incidents which was just as well - it still took them both about half an hour to stop panting when we got home.

I cleared my cardbox before lunch.

After lunch I got out in the garden.

I started weeding the left hand side of the high bank. Considering it is a year since I last ventured up there the bottom section was not too bad - one sack of weeds, moss and general debris. I was really pleased to find some self-seeded foxgloves - I had been hoping the ones I planted last year would spread. Unfortunately the top section looks as if the brambles have taken over again.

Rather than continue up that route, which is very wet and slippery, I decided to start on my next big project - a path up to the top from the right-hand side of the fruit bush area. It is the ideal route as there are no plants other than weeds up there. It will also give me access to the rest of that area, which does appear to have had some shrubs planted in it by the previous owners.

So far that section has been totally ignored by me. It is overgrown with ground elder, nettles and brambles. I had no intention of attempting to dig them out properly, that would be impossible. However, I have done quite a good cosmetic job on it - enough to remove all the crap down to the bare soil. I then raided our building site, selecting some of the good-sized flat chunks of concrete and stones. Back to my path and I now have a series of stepping stones up to the back of the tree stump which leads to the top of the high bank. It was too late to continue on, so I settled on clearing the weeds at the back of the gooseberry bushes. All in all a good session, as shown by five sacks of rubbish.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Road Repairs

Last week the council were out and about in the locale.

We had noticed a sign up on Monday at Edrom stating there may be delays for the following two days for road repairs.

On Tuesday our builder Alan was not best pleased when he found this actually meant delayed for the whole day as the road was completely blocked with multiple 'boys toys' vehicles - diggers and tar-laying machines and the like - halfway between Edrom and us. He had to reverse back to Edrom as there was nowhere to turn around with his trailer.

On Wednesday they had moved to the bottom of the hill at the other side of our house. Despite it being steady rain for most of that day they have replaced several large areas of road surface there. Hopefully this will last longer than the running repairs of Scottish Borders Local on the pot-holes, which are ripped apart again within days by tractors doing the 180 degree turn there from the bridge.

Over the last couple of days we have heard/seen a large yellow vehicle coming along slowly. It appears to have given the verges nice crisp edges, reclaiming a fair amount of road from the encroaching mud, 'wild flowers' and grass, flattened a foot or so of the aforesaid flora from the roadside and thrown the debris back onto the verges.

After the rain of yesterday the verges are decidedly dirty, as was Jen after this mornings walk - hippopotamus impersonation after rolling around in the long grass to cool down.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Spring Sales

It was the Jim Clark rally last weekend and we decided to have a barbecue. Alex was up for the weekend - gold cup bridge match with Paul on the Sunday. We had also invited a few more friends over.

We had bought a cheapo Aldi's gazebo last year and it got its first outing last Saturday. It was perfectly adequate but we did have a few worries as every now and then there was a strong gust of wind. We could just see the Berwickshire News headlines - gazebo causes rally chaos.

Geoff and Joy, friends of Paul who he had met via the BBO online bridge site arrived first - they were up in this area for a short holiday. Penny arrived next armed with enough home-made scones to open a shop. Jean and Sandy next, with a rhubarb crumble which needed to be cooked and home-made icecream - this was a big hit. We were getting worried whether Reg would make it before the road was closed - he did.

I had noticed an advert in the paper for a wool/yarn sale at Moondance Wools, Springhill Farm at Coldingham over the bank holiday weekend. With my newly refreshed enthusiasm for knitting I thought this would be worth investigating. Jean not only knew exactly where it was but also knew the owner and her friend who holds weaving/craft workshops. We arranged to go together the following day, and also to visit the fuchsia nursery near Grantshouse which neither of us had ever been to.

I arrived at Jean's a little before 11 a.m. and after a cup of coffee we set off. Jean told Sandy we would be back around 1 p.m. for lunch, but he was very sceptical. He was right - we spent far too long at Moondance Wools as there were just so many to choose from. I eventually settled on some Shetland wool in pale blue, turquoise and mauve, one ball of pink silk/cotton and two balls of silk/mohair/wool mix multicoloured turquoise/purple/blue. We decided that there was not enough time to go to the nursery...

I have started on my next jumper. It is not going as smoothly as the last one - a couple of the sections hadn't quite worked for the colours/design so I have been ruthless in undoing them. I think I am back on track now.

On Friday it was the Paxton plant and goody sale. I had been planning on taking or going with Anne but she emailed me to say that she would meet me there as she was planning on filling her boot so may not be room if I bought a lot too. As it was I arrived before her and managed to park in the village hall car park. I was on my second spree when I saw her, Jenny, James and Emma. All in all I was very pleased with my haul. First load - one hosta, verbascum and campanula. Second load - one geranium Kashmir (white), two Dicentra (white), and two unknowns (one is low growing ground cover, the other looks like a perennial of some sort) but both in nice large clay pots. Total spent £11.50.

I planted them all except the ground cover yesterday, along with two alpine asters and a carex I got in Homebase's half price section, in the trellis bed and in the space I gained from the osteospermum die-back. I got an extra bargain with the campanula - I found there were two in the pot!

This afternoon was the Allanton plant sale. There was no sign of Anne...

This was a lot better than the last time I went, when I thought it was overpriced. So now waiting for a new home are: one hardy geranium - type unknown but I think it is more of a ground cover type, one peach-coloured day lily, one small rosemary, one small sage, one polemonium and six dark blue irises in a plastic planter. Total spent £9.40.

Extension Part 7 - The Break-In

Alan arrived bright and early on Monday to start on the two new doorways out of the back of the lounge. We weren't sure how Jen and Poncho would react to all the noise, but they seem relatively unconcerned. They have soon got used to him popping in and out of the house and no longer rush to the front door to greet him each time he comes in.

There is now a small hole at the top of the new utility room door way with a metal plate being supported by a large pole inside.

The sun room doorway has also made some progress.

Alan said he would be late on Wednesday, and we weren't too surprised when the weather took a turn for the worse that he did not turn up at all.

Back on Thursday, and he has started digging out the ground for the utility room foundations.

Again the weather was not so good on Friday so no more progress.

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