Thursday, 31 March 2011

First cut

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Here it comes again, the season for grass cutting begins and I've only got a small petrol hover mower serviceable at the moment. I knew the battery was playing up on the lawn tractor so I gave it a good charge and plugged it back into aforementioned grass cutting implement and, with fingers crossed I turned the key. Cough, splutter, hic and .......nothing, it would appear more than a quick charge is required. It's not a good time of year to book your lawn mower in for a service with your friendly local lawn mower service man, what with the grass just starting to go and all. I have found this out to my cost on more than one occasion so you would think that I would have learnt my lesson by now. Each year you know that first cut is coming and you need to check your equipment(always check the state of your equipment before embarking on any endevour), and yet each year I get caught out. So it is I will spend the next two to three weeks pushing my hover mower up and down, up and down taking double the amount of time to cut the grass than is usual. Oh well, on with the headphones and plug in those grass cutting blues, 'my lawn tractor done gone and left me and while my hover does its best, it ain't no match for a 38inch cutting deck, I got those can't get enough of them grass cutting blues......yea'
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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Feel The Pain, or No Pain No Gain.

Feeling the pain today in so many ways. Firstly my car goes in for the rear discs and pads on Friday gone, its a LandRover so thats going to cost a few bob, then on Sunday as we make our way up to Glasgow four warning lights come on all about ABS, traction control and hill descent. I drop in to the garage again this morning for diagnostics and guess what.....a wheel bearing has gone on the front right side. Once again being a LandRover that ain't gonna be cheap, you need to replace the whole hub with the sensors not just a simple bearing (financial pain). Next up, I am fixing up the greenhouse after the winter storms. A few panes of glass to replace and one to cut to size. You can see where this is going right! even though the large panes are ready cut they still have fairly sharp sides and in the course of manipulating them into place I receive a nick or two, ouch!(physical pain). Just before lunch the Memsahib calls me, 'where am I' , B&Q getting some clips to hold the greenhouse glass in, back in 15mins. When I get in the memsahib is propped up on the kitchen sofa with a hot water bottle and a tale of woe, or should that be Whoa? It transpires that in the course of her morning hack with a friend they encountered a donkey in a field, apparently, horses as a general rule don't get on with donkeys and Luce decides to kick up a bit. Now the memsahib so far has had a couple of  exciting times on horseback with Luce dancing around a bit under her, and she has availed herself well,  but this time it all got a bit much. Luce starts to spin around in circles and dancing from foot to foot getting faster in the spin and eventually the memsahib is unseated. Ouch! thrown roughly to the tarmac, one sore neck, elbow and groin, lucky she had a safety hat on. (physical pain) She managed to get up and back on the horse. Finished the hack and cleaned out the stable before feeling a bit weak and wobbly and so came home for something to eat, a cup of tea and some sympathy. Not having ridden for 20 years it is a steep learning curve that the memsahib has embarked on. I only hope being thrown off has not dampened her enthusiasm. I feel slightly guilty as it is I who has been encouraging her in this latest venture and now she is hurt (emotional pain). We will see how she is feeling tomorrow, being fit has helped her and I'm sure she will recover quickly.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

I Love Lucy

What a glorious day it is today, the sun is shining and it is starting to display a bit of warmth as well. It's our turn to go and deal with Luce the horse today, she needs breakfast, mucked out and she could do with some exercise as it's been along winter in the stables. The only problem is we have not got a clue how to put the bridle on, my god they look really complicated before they are on the horse, with straps and buckles all over the place. To add even more to it this bridle has a 'Martingale ' fitted with it to stop the horse lifting its head and I believe to assist with braking, 'Whoa there'. Well having received some assistance from Joyce, who owns the stable, we finally have Luce all tacked up and ready to go. It was supposed to be just a gentle walk around the school area but another girl turned up and offered the Memsahib the chance to go out for a hack with her, yippee thinks the Memsahib and of they trot, literally. Two hours later they return and Luce is knackered and sweating, looks like a sustained exercise programme is in order for our Luce. Having had a late night the night before I suspect both the Memsahib and Luce will sleep like logs tonight after todays events

Brooke Bond and The Memsahib at The Pink Ribbon Ball 2011

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Pink Ribbon Ball 18th March 2011

This evening saw the 9th Pink Ribbon Ball, an evening of  dressing up,drinking, dining, dancing and charity auctions all to raise funds for the breast cancer ward at Crosshouse hospital in Kilmarnock. This is our third outing to this event and once again a thoroughly good night was had by all. A group of us got together to bid for a wonderful day trip on a 42 foot catamaran called 'Duellist' including a trip from Largs to Tobermoray on Mull for a champagne lunch, and then return to Largs Marina, lets hope for some good weather on that day or our sea legs (or lack of) could get a thorough testing. This is my second year wearing a proper bow tie. What a tricksie little devil it is to do up as well, it took forever again whilst inducing cramp in both inner elbows (I kid you not), the final result, I feel compelled to say, was more Brooke Bond than James Bond but then the Memsahib has always liked her tea so thats alright then. It was also son number 1's 19th birthday today, happy birthday Spud. He was off out with his girly and friends, first for nice meal with his lady and then out to the pub with their friends. As an aside, whilst writing this blog today I am listening to The Allman Brothers Band - Brothers and Sisters from 1973, what a cracker of an album.

Another Milestone

Another milestone event was achieved yesterday by son number 2 upon successful completion of his driving theory test. How he passed I will never know, as only the night before he was asking me 'where are the study materials for the theory test Dad?' WTF! He apparently had not even looked at the books or DVD that we had bought for him. His plan was to cram the night before. My answer did not meet with his approval or his plan as I advised him that I had placed them in his room several weeks earlier. As you may be aware a teenage boys room can shall we say, a complete and utter tip and so any attempt at finding the aforementioned study materials in his room was, I fear, futile. In the end he had to resort to desperate measures and call upon the assistance of a friend. He had to pay for his pal to drive up to our house (fuel is extortionately priced these days and teenage boys are not overly flush with readies, and besides he was doing our lad a huge favour) and then the two of them studied together (again, a huge favour by a true friend) until the wee small hours. Well certainly until after we had gone to bed anyway. So, one night of cramming and he passes his theory test, the jammie little beggar.
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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Spring Snow

Woke up this morning to see the snow coming down in big thick flakes. It continued snowing right through until three o'clock this afternoon blanketing the whole of Ayrshire in white. The Memsahib was supposed to be going out on Luce (pronounced Lucy) this morning with me walking along with Tilly and offering support if required. Luce is the Memsahibs new hobby, a horse. She is an Irish Draught/Cob mare 16 hands 3 fingers!.....Is it ? She is big anyway. Its a horse share which seems like a good way of getting into this horse malarky without actually having to go all out and buy your own horse. Mucking out and grooming seems to hold as much enjoyment for people (girls) as actually riding, what with all of the sprays and oils to apply to mane, tail and hoof and brushing to a high lustre it really is like a gigantic 'My Little Pony'.
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The start of spring?

It's been a lovely few days in the South West of Scotland and at last some warmth coming off the sun. Crocus popping their heads above ground, and buds starting to appear on the trees and bushes. I saw the first sign of cherry blossom today as well. Plenty of lambs in the fields and the hares are starting to show themselves a bit more, much to the enjoyment of my Lurcher 'Tilly'. (No hares were harmed during the writing of this blog)

Skiing in Glencoe

Monday 21st February and we have had a great day at one of Scotlands Ski centres. Surprisingly good snow. The weather was a bit naff at the top, quite foggy but at least it was not windy and it snowed while we were there. We spent a good five hours skiing with a stop at the Plateau cafe for soup and later hot chocolate. Must make more use of these facilities seeing as it is only 2-3 hrs away.

Rest in peace Eric

Sadly missedTuesday 8th February 2011 and after a very sudden and short illness one of our cats, Erica (Eric for short) had to be put to sleep. The vet said it was either a stroke or some swelling or growth in the brain causing nuerological symptoms. Poor Eric lost co-ordination of her legs over the space of a week and at the end stopped eating drinking and would not even attempt to leave her bed. She was a happy soul to the end and at 17 yrs old had a good innings and I like to think a good life in the countryside. Eric and her sister Pookie lived outside in the garage and kept/keep the mice and rats at bay (Pookie is still with us). They did a good job as I was constantly finding mice entrails scattered over the garage floor and on one occassion a very large rat (in one piece). When the boys were young thr cats would come in some nights and sleep on the boys beds but only occassionally as theu were not house trained, once the renovations were done they would come in for the early evening and sit on the sofa's with us (Eric especially loved this, Pookie is a bit more feral and doesn't get on with our Lurcher). She has now gone to the big sofa in the sky were the fire is always on, rest in peace Eric you will be missed by us all.

Back to normality

Well the Scottish weather seems to have got back to normal. Wind, rain, wind, more rain, mild (for that read DAMP) conditions (rhumatism sufferers be warned) in other words' Status Quo Ante' has been established in the south west of Scotland. I wonder when we will get our two nice weeks this year?

Wind !

Thursday 5th Feb, my goodness It's windy, sounds like the roof is going to lift off at any moment. Went wondering around the garden when I got home from work picking up large (ton bags) bags that had been blown all over the place. Looked out later to see something large and black on the grass near the greenhouse, it turned out to be one of my wheelbarrow carcasses which live at the back of the garage. It had been blown around the front, digging a sod of earth out as it passed the greenhouse but amazingly not touching the greenhouse. I went to recover said carcass and put it in the log store along with the other two (which at that moment were pinned up against the back wall of the log store) and I discovered that the flying wheelbarrow had dislodged an end cap from the log store guttering. Whilst trying to replace it the wind caught my glasses and whisked them off my head and off up the drive! I thought I would have to go into the house to get a spare pair so that I could find the windswept pair, but by treading carefully and bending low (very low, I'm blind as bat without them) I spotted them just before I trod on them, phew! The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent listening to the wind trying to rip our roof off. The draw through our log burner was so fierce, even fully damped when I put a fresh log in it was like watching a Rizla in the wind (hand rolled ciggie for those wondering), one puff and its gone. What destruction awaits me the morra?!?

First day on the bench

Off a nightshift and feeling a bit jaded as usual. The Memsahib is at work boys in bed and that's exactly were I am going for a couple of hours or so anyway.....Yawn! Well that's a little better now its time to take the dog a walk, she's been patient. Outside I let the chooks out, collect the mail from the mail box (which is rapidly disappearing under the Clematis, note to self must trim this year) and check the cats, yep all still alive and well. Off we go for our walk, up the lane and into the fields around our house. I never get tired of the walks we have around here, nothing too intensive but enough for the dog and to blow away the cobwebs with some beautiful scenery. We get back as the sun comes out, time for a cup of tea whilst sitting on the bench methinks, first time this year and there is some strength in the sun, roll on Spring.

Log Pile Heaven

Back from holiday to find four Tonne bags of logs waiting for me to sort out. They had been ordered before we left and now we are home its time to play. I am full of inspiration from the Alpine villagers and their fine displays outside their homes. I find it very relaxing just playing in the garden sorting or chopping logs with chickens clucking around at your feet.

Holibags in Saas Fee

The Alps in all their glory

The view from our window
The weather could not have been better, we have had a fantastic week, lots of sunshine a little fresh snow (not much, but a little) and it felt like we have had the piste to ourselves. Saas Fee is a wonderful Swiss village, typical chocolate box setting. No serious injuries although the memsahib did fall and hurt her hip causing a hell of a bruise and no.1 son landed badly from a snowboard jump and hurt his coccyx and suffered mild whiplash. Other than that no ill effects, well providing you don't include the food. At one evening meal the memsahib and I decided to have the cheeseboard (the swiss being famous for cheese as they are) and for the most part they were very nice. However, one of the cheeses (which looked like a slice through a 90yr old mans bum cheek) and smelt like it hadn't been washed for all of those 90yrs was on the plate. Now I worked on the premise that anything that smelt that bad (like fermented Swedish Herring) couldn't possibly taste as bad as it smelt, so I leapt in and took a bite.......yuuuuuuuuuuk it was absolutly the worst cheese in the history of cheese that I have ever tried. It was like a bush tucker trial. Next time I'm confronted by something that smells that bad I'll remind myself of this cheese incident and get someone else to take the first bite ;-)

Travel delays en route to Geneva :-(

The day started at 3am when I got up to make the memsahib and I a cup of tea. The weather in South West Scotland is atrocious, absolutely lashing down with rain, let's hope its better in Saas Fee, Switzerland, its holiday time yippee! We head of at 4am to meet our ski buddies the Pickens and then its a quick run up to Glasgow Airport where we will be catching the 7.20am Thomson flight to Geneva. We park up and get ferried over to the terminal ready to check in, its now 5am. As we enter the terminal building and glance up at the monitor we all let out an audible groan, our flight is delayed until 4.10PM that's almost a 9hr delay, no phone call, no email nothing. It's all due to the trouble in Tunisia apparently. Nothing to be done but make the best of things, so as advised we check in and get rid of our bags. We then decide the best course of action is to go home for a few hours, the check in staff say that is fine but we must be back to go through security by 2pm. After a few hours at home and a little bit more shut eye we head of back to Glasgow. As we put the cars back in the car park the security guy enquires what flight we are on and then duly advises us that the departure time is now at 8pm, more collective groans. We go through security and with the food vouchers we have been given partake of some refreshments both munchie and liquidy. The time keeps fluctuating for departure and we overhear someone saying that Geneva airport shuts at midnight, oh joy we might not even get to Switzerland tonight! Imagine having to spend a night in an hotel at Glasgow airport (we have already gone through security). Finally we get a firm time and eventually the journey gets under way and I must say once we landed at Geneva everything went like clockwork (that's the Swiss for you). We finally arrive in Saas Fee at 3am Sunday morning, tired but pleased to be here. We get four hours sleep then get up, get our gear sorted out and hit the slopes yeehaa, we're skiing....and the weather, well its fantastic. So begins another years skiing.

Yet more snowboard gear!

It's the day before our holibags to Saas Fee Skiing and we are still trying to get boots for son number 2. Another early pick up from school and off up to Glasgow. The memsahib decides she will come with us as she wants to pop into Silverburn shopping centre for a wee present for number one sons girlfriend. She also wants to keep an eye on number two son and I to ensure we do not spend too much I dare say (but not to her face). Into the snowboard asylum and over to the boot section for a fitting, the chap tells us that Louis has a narrow foot and so Burton boots are probably not ideal (that works for me, means I might get to keep them). He is now trying on Salomon F22's at £190 (gulp) and guess what, they fit a treat and he loves them. Whilst thinking for a few moments about what to do Louis spots the helmets, "mum can I buy a new helmet 'cause I don't like mine". You could feel the tension building, like an electrical charge in the air. When she had regained her composure the memsahib gave her answer, an emphatic NO ( in truth there was more to it than that but you don't need all the details ). Louis then looks to me to assist him in his quest for the new helmet, its a dodgy strategy which could end up with him and me in a heap of trouble but he is adamant, he does not like his one season old helmet and in any case he only bought it (we bought it actually) because mum insisted he wear a helmet. Another dodgy strategy, but after a little while of working on her and reasoning and promising to sell all sorts of stuff to cover the cost he ends up with a new helmet and new snowboard boots. Cost of rental in Switzerland for snowboard and boots £185, cost incurred so far, so as to avoid paying exhorbitant rental fees £655, go figure.

Last Parents Evening

Thats it, we have attended our last ever parents evening. Number 2 son will be finishing sixth form this summer and so that is it, no more mingling with the other parents, no more chit chat over a cup of tea. Will I miss it? I think I will in a strange way, its the end of an era. Its the place where you get to see people just that one time each year and for some reason after the event you don't see them again for another whole year, and yet in that one evening you chat as though long lost friends. We cast a final nostalgic glance over our shoulder as we left the school grounds and then set off to pick him up from his work. We were late as we had indulged in too much idle chit chat and cups of tea.

Ski Gear

Well it should have been simple but as usual I appear to have made a slight mess of things. I'm off nightshift on Monday morning and after a couple of hours in bed its up and at 'em. I walk the dog, check the chickens and cats and then I'm off to get Number two son from school (he finishes early today) and then off up to Glasgow to check out some second hand snowboards and boots. Had to detour via Dunlop to pick up a part for the log burner and then it started. The Google maps app sent us all around Will's mothers to get to the rendezvous with this chap off Ebay. After some wrong turns and lots of cursing we finally get there and check out the kit. Burton custom snowboard, Ride Tomcat bindings and a pair of Burton Ion boots (size 9.5). Louis tries the boots, they don't quite fit him but they do fit me! (Don't really need them but they are a bargain right). Any road up, I decide to make an offer for all of the kit (I'll keep the boots for me, well I plan to be a snowboarder one day). Trouble is, that is the budget spent and we have another board to see over in Livingston and Louis still has no boots. The journey to Livingston is along the M8 a straightforward run but the weather is atrocious. The chap we are meeting says call when at junction 3 so we do, no reply, nor is there any reply when we get to jct 3 or for the 30 mins we wait. Right that's it we're off. Back on the M8 heading west to Glasgow its now rush hour, the phone rings; "hi how's it going, are you there yet". It's snowboard man no.2. "It's not going very well actually, I'm on my way back to Glasgow after your no show". Turns out he gave me the wrong phone number, so hasty new arrangement and we exit again at jct 3a. This is the board Louis wants so we now have two snowboards a set of bindings and a pair of boots (that don't fit Louis), we still need a pair of boots and the budget? Well I'm working on my reasoning and excuses for the Memsahib. Never send a man to do a job where a little restraint is called for, especially if it"s a bargain!

Tilly's Leg

About 15 staples
Well the bandage lasted reasonably well but this morning I noticed that she had licked and nibbled her way down to the staples. As a result some first aid practise was required by me with son number 1 as my able bodied assistant. While aforementioned son held the sharp end still, I had to carefully remove the old bandage (tricky were it had stuck to the wound) and then re-dress. First attempt looked secure enough but she was making a huge fuss about not being able to walk properly, so off it came and I re-dressed each wound seperately allowing the leg to bend. It was secured with gaffer tape(let's see her nibble through that). And nibble through it she did, at about 4am on Friday she woke me making a hell of a racket with a bandage flapping from her leg, so now its off. After a bit of licking she has decided to leave it alone and its looking good, about 15 staples and some nasty big cuts but she is healing.

Tilly's Leg swells up

Poor old Tilly Tot
After an uneventful day at work(always good in Air Traffic Control) it was back home to fix the TV aerial socket and see how the dog is getting on. The Memsahib is feeling down as she blames herself for Tilly getting hurt, absolute nonsense but there you go, nothing I can say will make her feel any better. I do try though and after a while she is feeling a little better. I think it must be the pep talk, then the email pings through to my Blackberry; Dear Mr cater, Thankyou for your order from Boden (clothes) we will dispatch you order as soon as possible. The penny drops, retail therapy. "Most of it will go back, honest", yeah right. It appears Tilly's leg is swelling up and so its back down to the vets for another long wait after which she is re-bandaged and given a top up of antibiotics, the vet appears not that worried, some gently exercise might be in order. Right get of my sofa for a start........

Day Three

We returned from Helen's house this lunchtime and were greeted almost immediately by our friends The Pickens come to wish us a happy new year. After a quick lunch it was dog walking time for Tilly and the Picken's dog Tess (a Labradoodle). Colin and I were left in charge of putting up the new blind that Helen had made for us while the girls walked the dogs. After about an hour the phone rang, "can you bring the car to the top of the lane Tilly has cut her leg." This did not sound good. Indeed it was not good as Tilly does not suffer cuts well, as any Lurcher or Greyhound owner will appreciate. It was off to the vets for some staples and dressing of wounds, luckily no general anaesthetic was required. Tilly spent the rest of the day with her legs up on my sofa. Meantime its off to the log pile with number two son for some chainsaw action to chop some more logs for our burner, the heart of the home. Its very satisfying chopping your own logs, very Davy Crockett. A couple of whiskeys and its time for bed, back to work tomorrow.

Over to Biggar 2nd Jan

Sunday and we are off to see our friend Helen at her home just outside Biggar in the Scottish Borders. Before we go we have to refresh the chickens water, feed the cats, dog wild birds and ourselves and then its off we go. Its not a terribly picturesque drive across the west side via th A70 but once you cross the M74 its improves and after only 1hr 15mins we are there. After lunch its a nice long walk with the dogs, we have Tilly the lurcher and Helen has Molly a greedy lab and Bailey a soft old Collie. We are walking along the side of the river Tweed on the Tweed Way, and as usaul Molly managed to find something to eat. This time it was in the form of a dead pheasant and a salmon head yum yum. After little persuasion we decided to stay the night with Helen and so made for a lovely pub called 'The Mill at Coulter' where the girls managed to tan a bottle of wine between them and then some. We returned to Helen's and the dogs and to our surprise, no destruction, that was a relief. Next day another walk and hot chocolate and then we left Helen and headed back over to Ayr. We heard from Helen later that day that Molly had managed to get at the leftover pain chocolats  and gobbled it down necessitating a trip to the vets (chocolate is highly poisonous to dogs) . One injection later and apparently the pain chocolat came out in one piece. Disaster averted....again!

The girls slightly foo