Friday, 29 April 2011

Is there a wedding somewhere

Hullo ma wee blog,

You seem to be the only place that isn't concerned with 'that wedding' going on down south. I've tried and failed to find a radio station that isn't hosting either a wedding commentary or some celebratory wedding show of any kind. It's all just a bit too much. I know I'm a grumpy old bugger at times but there are so many people who think this is complete overkill and resent the fact that as far as every media is concerned you are sadly lacking some mental capacity if the royal wedding isn't consuming your every waking moment.

It's beyond sad.

And yet it's not that I don't wish them well. I do, I really do. They are at the end of it all making a lifetime commitment and that is to be applauded. So on a purely human level I wish them well.

So good luck Kate and William. Just for you one wedding song you probably won't have on a play list today.

A Perfect Day


Hullo ma wee blog,

Like the same day twenty years ago the day of our anniversary was a sunny day. Back then there were days of solid bad weather before and after but we struck it lucky for our wedding day which allowed us to take a boatload of guests out to the island in the middle of the Firth of Forth north of Edinburgh for the ceremony in the ruins of Inchcolme Abbey.  Wednesday was a chilled out affair spent, just the two of us, sharing the garden here at home with Jess, the birds and a bottle of pink champagne to kick off an alfresco day enjoying each others company in the sunshine. We had thought of going away for the day, spending it in Edinburgh or further afield, but the weather made it an easy choice to relax and spend the day on the patio. It suited our mood perfectly.

Jess headed for her favourite planter tub at the edge of the patio and slumped down around the curve of the rim, head on the pillow provided by a weed and gave a contented sigh which said she too had nothing planned for the rest of the day but a spot of sunbathing and idle birdwatching. The birds chorused a 'welcome' from the hedge at the back of the garden for a few moments until satisfied we had settled down and they could resume normal business. The dominant male blackbird strutted the length of the roof with his chest puffed out and tail held high until he too was satisfied he could bring his mate down beside us to feed and drink the clean water we had put out. Soon the garden was full of quiet activity, birds came and went swooping past a dozing Jess The blackbird made several zig-zag runs towards her, head thrust forward as if to check if she was really asleep before returning back to his mate to feed at a safe distance. Jess' belly sighed her complete indifference and she closed again the one eye she had opened to watch proceedings with before scooting herself onto her back to lie with four paws aloft as if to say 'Look! I'm just chillin. Leave me alone!'

I brought out another bottle of  bubbly and we continued to chat and read or just sit and watch the comings and goings of our garden residents and listen to the music from the laptop beside us until the afternoon took a turn towards a cooler evening. I split some wood and lit the chiminea which gave us warmth for another hour or so before we felt the chill close in and  headed in to continue the rest of the evening inside, leaving the birds to have a final seed or two before dusk.

A perfect day.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Hullo Rerr China!

Hullo ma wee blog,

'Hullo Rerr China' is a saying familiar to most Scots my age and older as being a greeting used in Glasgow and the West coast for many years.  Based on Cockney rhyming slang it was used by two Scots comedians, Ricky Fulton and Jack Milroy - or at least by their creations 'Francie' and 'Josie', who became famous in the 50's and were popular through many years of my growing up.  It means 'Hello there pal!' as 'China' means 'china plate' which rhymes with 'mate'.

I mention it here as it fits today in a weird, cack-handed and pretty unromantic way {which reflects much of my personality}. Today is our wedding anniversary. We were married in Inchcolm Abbey on Inchcolm Island in the Forth estuary twenty years ago which makes today our china wedding anniversary. My lovely G is both my pal and my mate in so many different ways. Many who knew us twenty years ago would never have bet on us lasting more than a couple of years at best.

Somehow we've made it here through those twenty years and are stronger, closer and more in love now than ever. So this my weird, cack-handed and pretty unromantic way of saying I love you and I will love you for my ever.

So.....

Hullo Rerr China! Are ye dancin'?

Ah'm dancin'........

Here's a favourite clip of Francie and Josie and the interplay between boy and girl.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Sunday Post

Hullo ma wee blog,

Likenesses. {1962}


It comes to mind,
Where there is room enough, water goes
Between tall mountains and small toes.
Or, if I like,
When sun rises, his first light explores
Under high clouds and underneath low doors.

Or, {doing it still}
Darkness can hide beside all that it hid
Behind a nightfall and a dropped eyelid.

Why do I add
Such notions up, unless they say what's true
In ways I don't quite see, of me and you?


Norman MacCaig.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Royal Wedding Dance



Hullo ma wee blog,

I'm not a Royalist and constant news and media items about next weeks wedding is doing my head in. Even so - this T-Mobile advert brought a smile.

See you later

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Will you please TURN THAT MUSIC OFF!!!!


          A beautiful version of this track

Hullo ma wee blog,

The header to this piece would have been very familiar to my mother, although she would usually have ended it with "and come down and have your dinner" or something similar. Strange - looking at me now you would never believe I missed a dinner in my life!


You may {or not} have noticed that the last couple of posts have had a song posted from a particular concert. I found a series of clips on youtube of Neil Finn {Crowded House} Roddy Frame {Aztec Camera} and Graham Gouldman {10cc} playing an acoustic set together. I really enjoy the stripped back sheer musicality of this type of set and when it's handled by such wonderful singer-songwriters as these three it's doubly special, hence me not being able to resist posting yet another piece  {well two actually} from their set. This set me thinking about music and the blog.


Regular readers will know I often post a copy of what I happen to be listening to as I write {if I can find it} and also you may notice that it often reflects the theme or tone of the post itself. This is an unconscious thing for me. I usually have music on about the place, especially when I'm here on the laptop, and I tend to write posts just on impulse or instinct off the top of my head. Usually I've no idea what is going to come out when I sit down unless I'm doing one of my history posts as they need to be a bit more organised and so I tend to plan them out a bit beforehand, although I do have to confess to having a notebook where I jot down things which come to me that I feel I might be interested in writing about. Over the life of the blog I've come to realise that music is an integral part of my blogging experience so that's why I share the songs that have accompanied the post. Most times a post takes two or three {or more} songs to get me to the end with my limited secretarial skills and so I'll add whatever I'm listening to at the time of publishing and it's often only then that I realise there is sometimes a direct link between what I hear and what I write.


{I've no idea why or even if this is important by the way!}


There have been comments about the songs at times but they tend to be relatively few and far between so I really have no idea if most of you take a moment to listen, listen if I happen to post a favourite of yours or just pass them by. I've often wondered how many people listen and what they think of either just the music or about any connection they might have to the piece?  I wonder if these songs sometimes resonate?  I wonder if I should post them at all -is it important or just a distraction?  Do most people flit in and out without listening?  Would it help or hinder the blog if I dropped them?  Should I post them nearer the start of the post so that readers could hit play if they want and read on while it plays?


In some way though I think it makes the blog more personal, more immediate to me at least and so for now at least they'll keep making an appearance as and when they can.


See you later.


Listening to

          Roddy Frame - Hymn to Grace

And God Created Woman.


Hullo ma wee blog,

God walked the Garden of Eden with Adam.

Adam explained he was lonely and needed a companion and God thought about this for a moment and said,

"I can make you the perfect companion. I'll make you a woman! She will love you and look after all your physical and emotional needs. She will cook and clean for you and work at your side. She will never complain and will always laugh at your jokes. She'll always agree with your decisions and will never criticise you or argue against you. She will listen to your every word and will be there when you need her. She'll lie with you and keep you warm on cold nights, make love with you whenever and wherever you want and do your bidding without question. She will be beautiful and have perfect skin. She will have curves and be soft and supple to your touch. She will excite you and fulfill you in every possible way.

Adam replied 

"She sounds fantastic. Absolutely perfect. But how will you make her Lord?"

 and God said,

 "I will make her in your image and from your body. She will be of your flesh"

Adam walked on thoughtfully for a second and said,

"Lord, will you need much of my flesh to make such a perfect creature?"

 and the Lord replied,

"It will cost you but an arm and a leg."

Adam walked on a moment and turned,

"Um - What could I get for a rib?"

see you later.

Listening to

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

I Don't Like To Gloat But......



Hullo ma wee blog,

Our friend M came up to the house this morning to sort out a problem with some lights at the house {pure hopeless at electricity, me} and commented how nice it was here compared to Dunbar where the sea haar {mist} has come in with the humidity from the good weather we've been experiencing these last few days. Their house is a couple of hundred yards from the sea and he said that he could barely see from one end of the garden to the other and had been quite chilled while we are basking in glorious sunshine here.

Once he'd successfully sorted our little problem {cheers mate by the way!} he mentioned he had some wood he was about to clear out of his shed so I volunteered to come and take it off his hands as we could use it to fuel the chiminea we have beside the patio. It's nice to sit out on a clear but chilly evening and be comforted by the heat from this wood burning stove while a few glasses of nice wine help us send the evening off in quiet contemplation or conversation. Soon after he departed I got ready to go down to Dunbar to pick up the wood and headed off after him. Less than a mile down the road the strands of haar were trailing off the fields and across the road and by the time I'd gone another mile I had to put on lights to drive - at mid-day!

I remember the haar well from the years we spent living down in Dunbar before we moved a few miles along the coast to where we are now and it was something I always hated. While the rest of the coast benefits from clear skies and sunshine, so often Dunbar is shrouded in sea-mist. This thick cloying haar can sometimes last for three weeks at a time, which is frustrating when you know that just a couple of miles away people are basking in the warmth of the sun, enjoying the fabulous views hereabouts and getting a nice little tan. By the time I'd arrived at M's house the temperature gauge in the car had plummeted from 16c to only 8c and I felt the chill immediately on stepping out of the car. While normally happy to stand around a while and chat or drink his coffee I was single minded today in my determination to get the wood into the back of the car and get back home. I may not be a good gardener. I may not even particularly like gardening, but I was glad to get back into the car and head home away from the damp and the chill of 'Sunny Dunny'.

I don't like to gloat but I had a huge smile on my face when I suddenly drove out of the haar again when I was almost back home. I turned off the lights on the car, rolled the window down, cranked up the music and watched the thermometer climb steadily upwards. Oncoming traffic - if they saw me at all - probably thought the car was being driven by a lunatic grinning away for no reason.

But now, cold cider freshly poured, the garden calls and for once I'll be only too happy to pull a few weeds or wander round with the lawn mower for an hour or two with the sun on my back. I'll be happy to spray the drive with weedkiller, rake some moss and above all enjoy an afternoon in the sun and a cider or two. Heck I may even risk bringing Jess out on her leash and tie her to one of the apple trees so she can lie in the shade, flick her tail and dream of chasing the young braves of the local sparrow squadron.

Sorry you're not here to share it M.

 Maybe you should put on a jumper.

And a hat.......

See you later.

Listening to

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Sunday Post


Hullo ma wee blog,

Two Sheherds. {1964}

Donald ran and roared and brandished
his stick and swore
in all the languages
he knew, which were some.

Pollochan sauntered. stood
six feet three silent: with a small
turn of the hand
He'd send a collie flowing
round the half-mile-long arc
of a towsy circle.

Two poets
Donysian,
Apollonian
and the sheep in a pen.

Norman MacCaig.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Sunday Post

Rain on Leaves. Scone Palace.

Hullo ma wee blog,

The poem for this Sunday is;

Sure Proof.

I can no more describe you
than I can put a thing for the first time
where it already is.

If I could make a ladder of light
or comb the hair of a dream girl with a real comb
or pour a table into a jug...

I'm not good at impossible things
And that is why I'm sure
I will love you for my ever.

Norman MacCaig. 1968

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Happy New Year !


Hullo ma wee blog,

Today sees the start of a shiny new tax year. Happy 2011/12 everyone!

Unfortunately, for many UK taxpayers, the new tax year is far from happy, and instead brings an additional £200 tax bill, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). This may come as a surprise. After all, the Government is very proud of the fact that the personal allowance, the amount of income you can receive before paying any tax at all, is going up to £7,435. This will remove 500,000 taxpayers from income tax completely, according to IFS figures.

What they are perhaps less keen to mention is the fact that the simultaneous lowering of the 40% tax rate threshold down to £34,000 will actually make 750,000 more taxpayers liable to 40% tax. Unsurprisingly, the wealthiest will contribute the most to refilling the Treasury coffers, as their tax changes will be exacerbated by the restriction on pension contributions. But it is one earner families with children who will be worst affected, according to the report. It actually concludes that the main winners from these reforms are non-working lone parents, being the only household type to gain on average. It says low- to middle-income households without children will benefit. Amazingly, the reforms "will slightly weaken the incentive to work at all", according to the IFS.

Was this David Cameron's aim when he introduced the reforms? Presumably not…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But aren't changes normal at the start of a new tax year?



Yes, but the issue has been exacerbated this year because of the sheer number of different taxes and benefits affected. The biggest change, affecting the most people, will be the 1% increase in National Insurance Contributions, which is expected to bring in more than £9 billion on its own. The increase in the personal allowance is good news for lower earners, but higher earners will pay £1 billion more through the lowering of the basic rate band and the changes affecting higher rate tax relief on pension contributions. But the lowest paid do not escape scot free. By switching the method of inflation used to increase benefits from RPI to CPI (a lower measure), the Treasury is pocketing a cool £1.1 billion, and cutting the winter fuel allowance and certain other benefits by 1.5% brings in more than the same amount again. And it's worse if you have children. The health in pregnancy grant, the baby element of Child Tax Credit and Child Trust Fund are all scrapped, and the Sure Start Maternity grant restricted. Child Benefit is frozen, and will soon become means-tested, and the maximum amount of childcare costs covered by Child Tax Credit falls 10% to 70%.

Overall, the net payday for the Treasury (after adjusting for the reduction in corporation tax, effective from 1 April) amounts to £5.35 billion, which works out at approximately £200 for each and every UK household.


Obviously, not every household will suffer by this much, some will be better off. But a significant number will be worse off and given the substantial changes to benefits, it is likely to be those with children who are claiming benefits that are hit the hardest. Which seems a little harsh to me. What's worse, this £200 penalty is in addition to the effect of the VAT, fuel duty and other indirect tax increases in January this year, which will already cost the average household an extra £480 this year.

With salaries already eroded by inflation, this is not great news for the average pocket.

Unfortunately, most of these changes are going to be hard to avoid — with the exception of consumption taxes like VAT, fuel duty and alcohol/cigarette levies, there is very little action we can take to avoid being hit by the changes. An employee is not going to volunteer to take a pay cut just so he can pay less National Insurance, for example. Similarly, someone on benefits is at the whim of the Government if they decide to change those benefits currently in receipt. And, as the IFS concludes, the changes actually widen the benefit gap, making it less worthwhile financially for those claiming benefits to go and seek work.

The information above came from this article

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dances with Cats.............

Who? Me?

Hullo ma wee blog,

Jess isn't at all pleased to have been relegated to the utility room overnight. As far as she is concerned she's perfectly entitled to share our bed each and every night. Why should we complain if she likes to lie between us curled tightly into a ball while leaching the heat of our combined bodies into her fur coated self? What does it matter if by doing this she has taken all the spare duvet and sensitive parts of our anatomies are exposed to the still cold night time air? So what if she decides that she can't sleep during the night and wants to walk to and fro across sleeping heads or stomp across sleeping shoulders or hips. Shouldn't we be happy to be wakened so we can spend quality time with her at 3a.m?  Why should we care if we can't sleep because she has decided to tear up and down the stairs and the hall outside our bedroom door in the middle of the night or has just found that ball she misplaced earlier in the day - the one she so needs to have a nocturnal game of  'rattle the skirting boards/chase round the darkened room' with? In her eyes these are minor considerations, small adjustments that have to be made to accommodate the most important and singularly feline member of our threesome family. It's only fair isn't it? Just look at all the pleasure and fun she brings to the party for goodness sake.....

And so for the last couple of weeks as the final part of our night time ritual she has been carried through to the utility room and her basket lined with cosy blankets and her well filled water and food bowls. She accepts this with a disgruntled, indignant and distinctly out-of-sorts look on her face. Clearly it's not fair that she should be treated in such an inhumane and callous manner as this. Instead of curling up in our arms as we do this, she hangs paws, legs and tail out in all kinds of awkward ways. Its like trying to carry a bucket of water without the bucket. She gurns, she whines and she grumbles. Not fair! Not Fair! Not Fair!

First thing in the morning - which is not Jess' best time of day - if she can raise her head she will make a great performance of greeting you in a tactic clearly meant to weaken your resolve. The Lovely G will often go down and open the utility room door and bring her up while she is getting ready for work. Jess uses this time to play the part of a friendly, well behaved and cutesy cat, rolling around the floor next to G as she dries her hair, doing all those stretchy, back curling, head-on-upside-down contortions that are guaranteed to make G smilingly turn and watch her as the hairdrier and straighteners get to work. While this happens Jess will make a fuss over G's discarded hair towel and pretend that the aroma of her peppermint shampoo is the best thing ever and is sending her into paroxysms of squirming, purring ecstasy as she wraps herself up in it.

But I see the plan in this. She's not fooling me for a minute.

She can go through all this performance for G but as soon as she's out the door for work I know that Jess will shortly head for one of the spare rooms to curl up on the bed in the morning sun where she will in all likelihood ignore me for a large part of the rest of the day until she wants the obligatory massage or some part of her anatomy scratching. Or occasionally she may decide to play a game we've come to call  'lets make Alistair think we've escaped'. {Jess is a house cat and is not allowed out due to her penchant for buggering off for days at a time or getting herself locked in sheds and outhouses and other out of the way places. This house-cat 'claws' is not part of the co-habitation contract that Jess has actually signed up to you understand, so she feels free to ignore this as and when she gets the chance. Any time Jess has managed to get out it also just so happens to be me that has been left in charge, which also - unfairly and completely without justification  =  it's my fault! Never mind that it's actually Jess who has decided to leave. What about free will and that?  Oh No, definitely my fault for leaving a door or a window open.......} The game of 'let's make Alistair think we've escaped' is actually quite traumatic for me, due to the unsavoury and completely disproportionate and extended consequences which I have been graphically told will rain down on my person should Jess actually ever escape my clutches again { honestly - it's only been once or four or five times - which is nothing really. Right?} This is a game which Jess has perfected to the level of a Jedi master. For days she will be somewhere in my peripheral vision or in my consciousness, just lying innocuously on a cushion, by the window, on the bed or somewhere that you would expect a cat to be. Sometimes she will disappear for a while, yet all I have to do is call her, or give a whistle and she will come trotting out of a room that I've already quickly looked in and dismissed as her not being there. Usually when this happens I'm downstairs again and look up to see a superior Jess at the top of the stairs, all white against the red carpet to emphasise how easy she is to spot, a question mark of a tail being held over her back as she leans a hip into the post of the banister in that oh-so-coy catty way. She might miaow a "Yes? You were looking for me?" comment but we both know what's going on here. Sometimes when I have been missing her and gone to look she will simply have vanished! That's when the game of 'lets make Alistair think we've escaped' commences.........

Plotting.

Last week she took the game to another, quite unexpected level altogether.

As you can imagine, timing is everything in a game like this. There's no point playing the game on a day when I've not been anywhere. Oh no, the game can only be played when I've been out and about; perhaps when I've been {ahem} working in the garden and have come in and out of the house multiple times. For best impact the game also should be played when there is a time constraint involved too to help rack up the tension, like when I have to leave to go somewhere, maybe to meet the Lovely G - that's always a good stresser - or best of all when the Lovely G is about to come home and I haven't checked where Jess is for an hour or so. The anxiety level that can be achieved playing the game under that condition can be quite exquisite. Just imagine for a moment: The house is clean and tidy, dinner is on the go, the Lovely G is due in through the door in twenty minutes when you realise that you haven't seen Jess for the last three hours. A quick check round every room in the house, including all the normal places where the game is played, has drawn a blank and you have been in and out of the house all afternoon pottering in the garden or shed or -whatever, that's not important - but you can feel the anxiety rise. Calls and whistles get no response.  Obviously the bloomin' cat's legged it, G will be home in  a few minutes and you're going to die! You have three options; you can get a jacket and go and look for her for a few minutes before coming back to face the wrath of hell; you can take a deep breath and calmly recheck each room thoroughly while mentally rehearsing your grovelling technique; or finally you can grab a jacket and just leg it yourself.

Now, potentially in this situation, Jess comes out the winner in all scenarios. The way I see it;  a} I can come home empty handed to find G is already there and can't find either Jess or I so she therefore knows something has happened; b} I can come home empty handed again, sweating and having palpitations with half formed excuses or explanations to find G home and waiting for me in the kitchen with a quietly smug Jess purring away in her arms which leaves me looking like a prize berk and Jess with the gold medal position on the podium and the champions belt;  or;  c} I search frantically and loudly  for 19 minutes before finding Jess curled up somewhere stupid like under blankets in a drawer under the bed, but I have to pretend to be calm and just quietly lift her and carry her downstairs while she purrs away pretending that she hasn't really been torturing me with this game again but has simply fallen asleep like any cat can do.;d]  the ultimate final ending is that my nerve has broken and I've just legged it and Jess now has G solely to her self for the duration and I live the rest of my life in fear and self loathing. I hate this game. With. A. Passion.

But the variation she played on me recently was very smart. Very cute! I was outside the other morning feeding the birds. I was just finishing filling the seeds into the bird feeders at the low table that I use for displaying pot plants in the summer when I had that feeling of being watched. I had my back to the house so I thought it was just that she was watching me from one of the patio doors, but the feeling grew stronger and I just had to slowly turn around to see what was making me so uneasy and there she was, four or five feet away, just sitting quietly watching me from her place about ten feet outside of the slightly open patio door! I thought I was going to pass out but in these situations you can't afford to give the game away - or scare her off - so with my heart in my mouth I just said  "Oh hello you. What are you doing over there then?"  and gave her a grin before turning back to the job. I carried on putting the lids on the filled feeders but all available sensory perceptions were directed backwards to try unsuccessfully to work out what 'madam' was doing when I felt a rub at the back of my legs and I looked down to see her looking smugly up at me. I reached down and picked her up before gently carrying her back into the house and closing the door behind us. Only when I did this did I realise that I hadn't breathed for probably several minutes. I sighed loudly then rubbed her neck for a moment and put her down and watched her walk off, but that wee swagger in her walk, that insolent tilt of the tail told me that she knew she had me, she knew I'd messed up and she could have punished me for it. "Now," it said eloquently, " you owe me."  That tail disappearing round the kitchen door also told me that it was time that Jess was allowed back up to bed at night - at least for a trial run.

So that night I quietly suggested that it would be nice to give Jess another go. I said I was quite missing her. I said that maybe she would have calmed down and she would go back to her old way of crawling under the duvet beside G and falling fast asleep for the whole night. G, grudgingly and surprisingly, said we could give it a go. Some time later after two hours of sleep the normal pattern resumed. Heads were trodden on, noses were squashed and there were moments when it felt like we were sharing the bed with a belly dancing hippopotamus. every now and then there would be a loud thunk as she jumped off the bed followed by a period of peace and quiet until you were just on the edge of blissful sleep when an impact like a badly coordinated penguin leaping from the icy deep onto the bed told you that her ladyship was back. Then the purring and the miaowing would begin. It didn't take long before G grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and stomped off downstairs with her, mumbling something about having to be up in a couple of hours and that not everyone could lie around sleeping or doing nothing all day long. {this is a bit unfair -I've no idea that Jess actually does that by the way - and she couldn't have been meaning me.}

This morning we were feeling a bit jaded from lack of sleep. G went through her morning routine on auto pilot and stumbled off in the direction of work and I went to the fridge in the utility room to get some milk as I badly needed that first cup of coffee. Even before I'd closed the fridge door Jess was out and sitting there on the kitchen floor, licking some imaginary bit of fur back into place and ignoring me with an air of complete insouciance. I stumbled to the kettle and put on some water and then back to the kitchen table and the laptop. No comments and few postings to check from the blogs I follow meant that almost immediately I had finished my start-up routine. I needed more coffee and time to get my plan for the day into action. As I headed for the kettle again Jess walked in front of me, getting in the way and earning an exasperated "Oh come on you! Get a move on!" While I made coffee she twirled round my legs then followed me back to the table and sat eyeing me pitifully as I gratefully sipped the strong second cup of the day.

"What the day needs Jess, is a bit of toast and another hour in bed. You up for that?"

Jess looked like she agreed. At least she would get to come up to the bedroom with me and have some quality one on one time. She'd been good yesterday and maybe a payback conciliatory massage was in order. As I headed out of the kitchen a few minutes later with a plate of toast and marmalade in one hand and yet another coffee in the other and a book tucked under my arm, Jess was just in front. She stopped and sat just in front of the bottom step and looked back with a quiet "meh" to check that I was actually coming, but didn't move as I got there. I stopped behind her and waited a second expecting her to move on but she didn't. I carefully stepped over her, intent on getting up there and had gone up maybe three or four steps and was reaching a slippered foot for the next when Jess shot past me, startling me and causing me to jerk my raised and slippered foot enough so that the slipper came half off. The movement came at the point of balance and I missed the next step, jarred my foot down and, realising that I was going down, began to tumble forward. With hands full I had limited options and ended up somehow doing a graceful pirouette, perhaps in an attempt to land neatly on my bottom, banging into the stairs, dropping the plate of toast, upending the coffee over myself and sliding non too gracefully down stairs until my feet touched the hall floor and stopped me. I wasn't hurt but rather startled and sat there for a second, glad I hadn't hurt myself, looking at the coffee stained crotch of my trousers and a plate which had deposited each of the four half slices of toast and marmalade face down on the carpet at my elbow. It was so absurd I laughed and looked up the stairs I had tried to climb.

What can I do to him next???


At the top stood Jess, white against red, with a question held in her tail, hip lent coyly against the banister post. We exchanged a lengthy and meaningful look.

" Miaow?"

I understood perfectly.

Bloomin cat!

See you later.

listening to

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sunday and a Spott of Rain.......

Innerwick Kirk.


Yesterday my Lovely G had some studying to do in preparation for a two day course for her work which she is at today and tomorrow. As she was going to be preoccupied with study for an hour or two I thought to take myself out for a while and leave her in peace and so I ended up pottering around a couple of local graveyards at Innerwick and Spott, two nearby villages.

 Innerwick lies a mile inland from the sea a few miles between here and Dunbar. It's a small village like ours and has some lovely old red sandstone houses that fit perfectly into the landscape with its red soil hereabouts. Although the land slopes quite gently up from the sea to the village, a lot of the small, older houses of the original village are set down in a dip and those who aren't seem to have to look past the village kirk sitting obstinately on its hummock in front of them to get a glance at the sea. The 'wick' ending of the name actually means 'village' and shows the influence of the southern tribes in the ancient history of this area.  It's unusual in Scotland to see this as these names have usually been replaced by northern or Celtic ones as they dominated the greater part of the local area for most of our history. Another village nearby is called Oldhamstock, which in effect means 'old village village', and also shows linguistic roots from changing southern tribal heritage over its history too. It emphasises the high level of impact the south has had in this fertile little corner of Scotland.  Our own village of Cockburnspath is believed to descend from Viking/Norse rootstock - 'Colbrand's Path' which shows yet another set of influences in the regions history.

It was just my luck that the bright and breezy morning had decided to turn into a cold showery afternoon in time for me walking into the kirkyard and it highlighted the exposed position of the kirk to me by spattering me and my camera very effectively with windblown raindrops. Shielding the camera from the weather I had a walk round despite this and took some photos in the gloomy light but I didn't stay too long before I headed back to the car with damp hair and a wet and wind-chaffed face that had been thoroughly chilled by the wind off the water. I looked at the clock and decided it was too soon to head back home as my arrival would only disturb G from her prep work, so I headed on down the road a couple of miles to the edge of Dunbar and turned inland again to the hamlet of Spott sitting tucked away below the hill which looms over it. By the time I arrived the rain had stopped and the sky had brightened a bit, but rain wasn't far away so I thought this too might have to be a fairly short visit as my fleece was still damp from the short walk round at Innerwick. I'd been forced to stay outside at Innerwick as for some reason the kirk was unexpectedly locked up on a Sunday afternoon which I thought both odd and under the circumstances, pretty unfortunate.


Gravestone - Innerwick

Spott is an old village, much older than Innerwick, probably as old as my own little village a few miles away up the coast and the kirk here is one that I've meant to visit for quite a while. It's a low roofed and dour looking wee building,  seemingly stuck fast to the ground as if to make sure it doesn't get blown away in our often fierce East Lothian winds. It's a much older kirk than Innerwick, which dates from the early to mid 1800's. Spott started probably as a chapel of rest for pilgrims on their way to Iona, across country and off the west coast of Scotland. There's a holy well used by pilgrims and dedicated to St John a few hundred yards away from the kirk. Spott was listed as part of Dunbar church when it was made collegiate in 1342 but it seems likely that Spott was in opeartion for some considerable time before that.

Spott Kirk - North Berwick Law in the distance behind.

Several of the early clerics at Spott were important in the Scottish church of the time; Andrew Ayton, Rector of Spott was Chancellor of the cathedral at Dunblane and Procurator of the Scottish Nation at University of Orleans in 1520; Robert Galbraith, Rector of Spott and one of the original Senators of the Courts Of Justice, High Court Judge and Court of Session was murdered in Edinburgh in 1544. The first protestant minister of Spott, John Kello was hanged in Edinburgh for the murder of his wife in October 1570. I bet that had the gossips going....

Not long after I got to Spott and started having a look around the kirkyard the rain started again, although not so bad as it had been - and the position of the kirk is less exposed too - so I decided to try the door to see if I could escape the worst of the weather.

These were hanging by the door.

Jougs {pronounced 'joogs'}

These were in common use in Scotland for many years in the bad old days when the kirk interfered in peoples lives much more than today. In the 17th and 18th centuries the kirk held its parishoners to very narrow  'Old Testament' style rules of behaviour and anyone who offended against them would be punished. Punishment could take the form of having to wear rough sack cloth and being made to sit in disgrace in front of the congregation for the duration of the services, which in those days could be for several hours at a time or they could be chained by the neck  to the entrance to the kirk using the 'jougs'. There were several types of these instruments in use over the years and several Scots kirks still have examples hanging outside the entrances as reminders of days when harsher treatment was the norm. Even after centuries of weathering this example of the jougs still reeked of humiliation, especially placed where it was by the door. Not much sign of God's forgiveness in that article. To have been pinned there and have your friends and neighbours have to almost squeeze past you to get inside would have been incredibly humiliating.


A variation of the Jougs was 'The Branks', a cage of iron bands that went over and around the head and had a piece - either flat or spiked with rowells - that fitted into the mouth and made speech impossible. To be 'brankit' was used as a punishment exclusively for women who were over zealous in scolding their husbands, argumentative in the community or outspoken against the establishment. They were also used in times of witches to prevent an accused witch from cursing or placing spells on those around her. The kirk records for Spott in 1705 starkly states "Many witches burnt at Spott Loan". I'll return to that topic in another post soon.

 The 'Jougs' hang at the Kirk door.
The last recorded use in the UK of 'Jougs' was in 1856.


On finding the door unlocked I moved inside out of the weather. Away from the rain I had a look around the inside of this austere little kirk which is still in use today.


Inside the tiny T shaped kirk - note the box pews

The pulpit is jacobean and there is a warning supplication to the congregation gilded across the top to keep their ears open and pay attention to the word of the Lord. The wee kirk had a warm feel to it, out of the rain as I was inside,  yet had a real 'puritan' feel too. It wasn't a place where you would sit comfortably for any great length of time and remember - some of those old time sermons would be two or three hours long. It made my bum feel numb just to think about being perched on those narrow seats,squashed in by my neighbours for hours on end. At least it was warm and dry out of the rain.

Weathered gravestones - Spott.

Outside again when the rain shower had gone I hunted without success for any sign of the place where the bodies dug up on the ground of the first battle of Dunbar in 1296 had been reburied on hallowed ground. As rain started to patter yet again I decided enough was enough and to turn and head for home. I'll come back again when the weather and the light is improved to take some more photos and try and find that burial spot. As I walked up to the gates of the kirkyard I passed the little cottage building once used by a watchman to prevent bodysnatching in the Burke and Hare era. The heavy iron gate closed behind me with a satifyingly long drawn out squeal of metal on metal and I walked away with a childishly big smile on my face.

That was loud enough to wake the dead......

Time for home and  coffee.

See you later.

Listening to












Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Sunday Post

Spring Flowers In The Garden {2010}

Hullo ma wee blog,

This weeks Sunday poem.

The Concerto.

Miss pianist bows her lovely back
under a hail of notes
that she's returning, slightly damaged to Beethoven.

The audience puts on looks
of exquisite thoughtfulness. How lucky
to have horn-rimmed glasses
at the middle of your skull.

On the podium, the conductor
is a cobra, half reared
from a basket. How stupid
not to know who's the charmer.

Beethoven knows nothing of such things ever since he became
deafer
than deafness.

Norman MacCaig. 1968

Friday, 1 April 2011

A Wedding

A Wedding Cushion

Hullo ma wee blog,

It's a few weeks back since my Lovely G and I went down to England for the wedding of one of her ex work colleagues. It was a bit unusual as the bride was Chinese - from mainland China - and the groom English, especially so as we had been told that the day would incorporate some aspects of both cultures.

The wedding took place at Bolton Abbey  in North Yorkshire, near the heart of Bronte country and given that the weather had been pretty poor before the actual day, we were very lucky as we had a decent, mostly  bright and dry day for the occasion itself. There's nothing worse than a rotten rainy day to put the damper on something like that. Every bride deserves sunshine on her wedding day, don't you think. Even though it was dry and bright it was quite windy and there was a chill in the air to remind you it was still February.


The Lovely G and I had never been down to that part of the country before, although we had been to the lake district a few times, but this part of Yorkshire is very rural and seemed very untouched, with it's tiny villages, narrow twisting roads and of course dry stone dykes everywhere. Some of these walls looked very ancient and were literally covered in green moss. driving along a narrow lane with moss covered walls on both sides was a real treat to the eyes and somehow made the roads less intrusive in the countryside. The Abbey dates from the 12th Century and is still in use as a parish church but I struggled to get shake free shots inside due to light levels and a request for no flash photography.

Martin and Liang - Just Married.

The service was a traditional British wedding service with some traditional Chinese music played as they wedding party signed the documents, then there was time for  photos outside before we headed off to a local hotel for more photos before the meal and official reception got underway.

The Bride.


Vintage Rolls-Royce


The Photographer Does His Stuff.




Hair Settings - Liang and Her Mother.


A Quiet Chat.

The reception included a traditional Chinese tea ceremony which required the bride and groom to kneel before the parents and to serve them with green tea as a mark of respect. There was also a traditional bracelet gifting which symbolised the parents releasing their daughter to her new husband with gifts to provide good fortune.

The Tea Ceremony.

Bracelet Gifting.

We spent time with some friends who were also there. It was nice to catch up again with Sam and Lisa as we hadn't seen them for some time. We attended their {also unusual} wedding reception last year which you can read about here.


The Cake.


Cake Cutting

Liang Seemed To Enjoy Her Day....



See you later.


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