Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Out of Context

When I was driving home this afternoon, southbound on the M74 between Hamilton and the exit to the A71, I saw a Chevy SUV on the motorway. This was unusual in itself. There are more Chevys being sold in the UK these days, but the thing that made me go "Hey!" was that this gas guzzler was sporting Iowa license plates!!! On top of that, they were from Linn County! I grew up in Linn County. More specifically, Mt Vernon not too far from Cedar Rapids, the county seat.

I was all set to flag this person down and ask him what he's doing all the way in SW Scotland with an Iowa vehicle. Then I noticed a two smaller things. 1. A W-04 bumper sticker (George Bush presidential campaign sticker) and 2. A Confederate flag sticker on the rear window. Last time I checked, Iowa was waaaaay north of the Mason-Dixon line. Maybe it was on the SUV when he bought it and just never got around to taking it off. He was turning off the road anyway and I was staying on. Never mind.

It was nice to see the Iowa plates. It caused me to be awash in homesickness for my old prairie state. I do miss Iowa. Big fields of corn, barns, thunderstorms, picnics in the park, camping, canoeing, knowing all the bird songs and not being a foreigner just as soon as I open my mouth.

Did I tell you that I bought some crickets in the pet store the other day? I did. I've got them in a plastic bug container. If I can keep them alive, I'm hoping that the male crickets will chirp this summer. There aren't many chirping crickets in the UK and I miss that particular summer evening sound.

It was a beautiful day in SW Scotland today. Apparently it was raining just about everywhere else in the UK. After I had seen this Iowa Chevrolet, I was wondering if I would ever move back. I don't want to say never . . . . . for as much as I miss Iowa, I can't imagine leaving here.

Spring Things

We are getting a new gate. It's going to be about two and a half meters in front of where the old gate is at the moment. Saturday the posts got cemented into the ground. The gate will get hung in a few days when the cement has cured properly.

This is some of the CLAY that was dug up when digging the holes for the new posts. I could start a pottery with all the clay under Whitelees.

Aquilegia - Granny's bonnets - In the wild it would be columbine.

This is Mike. Mike and I discovered that we're three days apart in age.

You can see the new gate leaning against the shed. The new gates will be from the corner of the shed. This will give us a whole bunch of new usable back yard space. The old gate is broken and needed to be replaced. We might as well put the new gate in a better place.

Mike and his wife Isobel are our friends. It is handy that their children are friends with George. Mike brought most of his children with him when he arrived on Saturday. We like having them over. The kids are kind, well behaved, grateful for any baking I have done and TALL!

Here they are watching Groundhog Day on video in our tv room. Polly inspecting Mike's trailer. You can see the new gate posts leaning against the stone dyke.

Yesterday evening when I was walking Polly I thought that as the light was so beautiful, I'd take the camera with me. The hawthorn is just getting to be past its best, but the perfume it makes is wonderful! There's loads of it around here and I think it makes it seem as though the hedgerows and forests have been festooned for a wedding.
Pretty, isn't it?

The rhododendrons and azaleas are in high bloom at the moment too. Rhododendrons have become a real pest in Scotland. As pesty as they are, they are still beautiful when in full bloom. Rhododendron blossom poking through the undergrowth.

Coming back, Polly discovered that her friends the cows are visiting and are right up to the back fence. You can just barely make it out, but there is a cow nibbling on something behind the chicken run. I showed you the front of the place the other day. Whitelees is still partly obscured by trees but this is the view from the road looking at the rear of the place. Well, the view of Whitelees from the the rear is prettier. This is because you can see the hills of the Lake District when you are looking south, as this last photo illustrates. Some days the hills look closer like on Tuesday evening. The hills look closer when it's going to rain. Sometimes one can pick out individual fields on the slopes going up. Other times, the hills look like they've moved back and are further away.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You're allowed!

Now that Memorial Day has passed (over here in the UK it was merely a bank holiday with no special significance attached to it) one can safely wear white trousers, skirts and white shoes again. For those creatures who have white paws, they don't have to worry about being unfashionable now until Labour Day.
Myself, I have never followed the rule of no whites or linen before Memorial Day. Who invents this stuff anyway? Another thing, does anybody wear white shoes besides nurses? I may have some white heels in the closet left over from the 80's. I'm saving them in case I get invited to a retro 80's party.

I spent the day in a traditional way, mowing the lawn. Because I am older and wiser, I didn't get the traditional sunburn.

This is Julio. "No photos please!" The paparazzi follow these kittens everywhere and it makes them weary.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Peggy Needs

I have found this excellent way to have fun with Google in Christine's blog. It passes the time and entertains me. You type your first name and the word needs in quotation marks, "Peggy needs" in Google and this is what you get...

At the very top of the pile was Peggy needs a vacation.
Truer words were never spoken!

Peggy needs some good luvn and some new people to hang around with.
Google knew that Fran's flight leaves on Monday.

Peggy needs help selecting some fish.
I wasn't planning on getting any new fish, but if I do I will now seek professional advice.

Peggy needs to stop the killer before the death toll rises!
OK That has me worried.

Peggy needs a home.
Sniff - It breaks my heart.

Peggy needs to chill.
The Man of the Place agrees with this one.

The last thing that Peggy needs is a fella after what she's been through.
Google really cares about me.

Peggy needs your financial support.
Please give generously.

And this last one I'll put in here:

Peggy needs to be doing other stuff than playing with the Google task bar.
OK I'll go get dressed and start my chores.

I invite you to see what pops up in this little exercise.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More Gender Identity Problems!

Some readers will remember a mix up when we got our kittens. We thought that we had a male and a female. It then turned out that we had two male kittens. It was what we wanted anyway, but were a little abashed at not being able to tell the difference.

Our powers of observation have failed us again. This time with the gerbils. At Christmas George was given a lovely gerbil cage with lots of coloured tubes and groovy things in which gerbils can live out their lives. With that he was given two little gerbils, a black one named Hendrix and a white one named Cobain. We were assured that they were two male gerbils and we never really questioned it (or looked very hard).

Well on Sunday when George and The Man of the Place went to clean the gerbil cage, they discovered something surprising, baby gerbils!!! There was a nest with five pink, hairless gerbil pups in it.

It is obvious that Hendrix is the mother of these pups. There is no point in changing her name at this late stage. Big Daddy Cobain (shown above) has been annexed to a new cage that was hastily purchased this afternoon. I hope that we have prevented further pregnancies. From what I've read, gerbils copulate almost immediately after giving birth.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Started With a Bang!

We went with some friends of ours to the top of Burn's Wark, a large hill near our village with a sweeping view of the Solway Firth. It was the perfect place to watch the four towers at Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station fall in a controlled explosion.

As I mentioned before, this power station is in the process of being decommissioned. The plant stopped producing power in 2004. I guess I never noticed until they mentioned it that the big cooling towers never steamed anymore.

It has been broadcast on the news, both radio and telly about the planned controlled explosion. There have been articles in all the local newspapers and stacks of information sheets in the local library and council offices. If you live in the area and didn't know these towers were going down, you just weren't paying attention.

There is even a dedicated website.

The towers had been scheduled to come down at 9 am. We got to the top of our hill at 8:30 just so we wouldn't be late. I'm glad we gave ourselves plenty of time because somebody was moving their cows. The faithful border collie was helping to hurry the cows along by nipping at the hooves of the slowest cows.Here is our happy band. Antony (with baby Dominic on his back) Helen , George and Rory (with camera). Henry is standing behind me trying to block the considerable wind that was blowing.

Here are the last moments of the towers.

It's a beautiful and easy hill to walk up. The Romans, when they were here used to use this hill for training purposes. On the way up you can see the lumps where they had practice ramparts to scale and the areas where the trebuche were placed.

Then, in a flash and EXACTLY at 9 am, the towers came down. From our vantage point, the only thing we could hear was wind. Thirty seconds after we had seen the last tower come down, we heard the four booms. The children were amazed that the sound took so long to travel to us. A quick demonstration about the speed of sound is always educational.

I have embedded the few seconds of my own footage here on the blog. The reason there is just a few seconds of footage is that my dog, Polly was terribly badly behaved. She was pulling on her lead to go and play with all the other dogs that had come with their owners. She lunged just when I was taking a shot of the towers coming down and the footage was cut short. Just as well, I don't think you guys wanted to hear me swearing at my dog.

Then the towers were gone. Even in this blurry picture one can see the dust from the explosions (which is probably NOT filled with radioactive particles) floating across the landscape.

Then it was all back to our house for a big brunch. Waffles, croissants, good coffee, strawberries & cream etc. . . .

Friday, May 18, 2007

Goodbye Fran

My dear friend Frances is moving back to New Zealand. She's been living in the UK for "yonks". She arrived about twenty years ago as a newly qualified nurse with just a backpack.

She is repatriating herself and taking her UK acquired husband with her along with more possessions than will fit comfortably into a backpack.

Really close friends are sadly always a bit thin on the ground. She is one of those friends who I speak to on the phone every single day, if not more than once a day. When she was in hospital for some skin problems, I sneaked some Bailey's Minis and gossip magazines onto the ward for her instead of the customary grapes.

Fran is going back to a beautiful country, a new job and a whole change of scenery. She has said that we can come to visit her at any time, staying for weeks on end. If we ever did get all the way across the planet to New Zealand, we'd have to stay for a couple of weeks, just to make it worth the long journey. Sadly, I don't know when we will ever get across to that part of the world, so I don't know when I'll ever see my friend again. I'm going to miss her terribly and her friendly "G'day Piggy" when I answer the phone. By the way, she doesn't call me Piggy. That is just how Peggy sounds with her Kiwi accent.

This is what the front of Whitelees Cottage looks this afternoon (partially obscured by trees). I thought you readers would like to see.

You can almost see how the pink clematis is taking over the front of the house and almost obscuring one of the front windows. FYI, Clematis Montana is a real thug of a plant.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Groovy Link

You may have visited Border Birds. Emma's site has been listed on my blog roll almost from the very beginning of my blogging adventure.

She has this groovy NEST CAM. I'll not spoil the surprise but there are birds in the nest . . .

On another note:

Our little village is near Chapelcross Nuclear Power station. This power station is in the process of being decommissioned. It stopped producing power in 2004.

On Sunday morning, the big towers are coming down. I'm pleased as the towers are a huge blot on the landscape.

I'll try to get you some footage if it's available. Here is the BBC News link.

Monday, May 14, 2007

New Cleaning Product

I discovered a new cleaning product in the supermarket today. I was in getting normal stuff; cat food, milk, cheese, flour etc. . . . Going through the cleaning products aisle, I saw this new purple stuff. A non-toxic all purpose cleaner that smells of lavender (my favourite!)

Years ago when I was living in Florida and had two little boys that had terrible aim in the bathroom, I used to use bleach to clean everything. I hate bathrooms that smell of wee and with two little piddlers, I was determined not to lose the battle.

One Saturday, I was too strident in my use of the chlorine bleach and I burned the inside lining of my nose with the fumes. Really, don't use that stuff in an enclosed space! After rinsing the bathroom with clear water and opening windows and keeping the extractor fan on, I was able to make the bathroom safe for humans again. Before you ask, I didn't combine chlorine bleach and ammonia. I know about that one. Since then however, I have been very intolerant of the use of bleach as a household cleaner. I can't be in the same room if bleach has been used to clean things. My nose reminds me of the pain long ago.

With this new flowery non-bleach cleaner, my quest for non-toxic cleaning products has been productive. Let's hope it works. It seemed to clean the bathroom sink quite well (soap scum and dried bits of toothpaste). I'm hopeful.

What I'd really like at this very moment is a scented candle. Polly the wonderhund is under the computer desk farting like a trouper. She likes to be in the office with me but her sulphurous guffs make me want to boot her outside.

Because I know you'll ask, this new cleaner is called Method all purpose surface cleaner (French lavender).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Everything is Wet

The ground is wet, the houses are wet, the grass, trees and hedges are wet.

It has been raining HARD all day. We've had a few moments of non-rain. I took advantage of those dry moments to take the garbage out. I think that the more waste paper bins one has in a house, the more garbage you will find to put in them. I never had to deal with so much rubbish before. There are only three people living here for heaven's sake!
I cleaned the big aquarium and I fixed the leak in the small aquarium and put a fish that needed some quiet time in the newly repaired and filled tank. The fish that is in isolation had been getting chased and bitten by overeager boy fish. She's looking pretty stressed out. I hope I didn't leave it too late.

I also sent a massive e-mail to everybody in my contacts to say that we are not going to renew our account and to start using my new gmail address.

Here are some images that were taken a very short while ago.
Rosemary in bloom!

Apple blossom!

My dwarf banana that has thrown a new little sprout!


Everybody likes to sleep in front of the fire.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

William's Birthday

My friend and work colleague Anna's father had a birthday today. Anna's parents have a holiday cottage in New Galloway just over an hour's drive from here. Well, more of a house as it has a HUGE garden that needs almost daily tending. Anna's folks split their time between their flat in Edinburgh and this wonderful house in the country.

Today was Anna's father's birthday and I was invited up for dinner.

On the drive up, I drove past an area that has feral goats. These goats were brought over by the Romans (!). When the Romans buggered off back to mainland Europe, the goats were left (or locals took them). These are part of the remaining wild flock.
It was a wonderful day, full of good conversation, good food and pleasant surroundings. It's a shame life doesn't have more days like this.
Some Hawthorne is in bloom. It is May, the traditional month for Hawthorne to be in bloom. Some still call it Mayflower.
Where there are flowers, there will be bees. This beautiful bumble was resting on a rock.
There was also a HUGE buzzard perched in a tree on the side of the road. I couldn't pull over as there was no shoulder to pull onto. Plus, if I had stopped the car, I'm sure this magnificent raptor would have flown off.

Friday, May 04, 2007


The bluebells in this part of Scotland are at their peak TODAY. Tomorrow they will be less blue and too many of the blossoms will have fallen. Bluebells will only grow in deciduous forests. You won't find them in pine forests. Carpe diem you fans of the bluebell!

Thankfully it is a gorgeous sunny day and anybody who's paying attention can enjoy them. There are other wildflowers to enjoy as well, but the bluebells are on the main stage today.

These are some photos I have taken the last two days. The photos have been taken from the car, pulled over onto the side of the road. I was hoping to capture the blue misty romance that is evoked when you see a bluebell wood in high bloom, but the camera just hasn't managed to capture it. Perhaps if the day were slightly cloudier, the delicate blue on the floor of these woods would be more intense on the photograph.
This photo is blurred but had good blue colour in it.

I was out to Stranraer and Newton Stewart yesterday to see doctors and pharmacists. Today I was in Castle Douglas, Kirkudbright (pronounced Ker-COO-bree) and Dumfries. I brought the camera along both days as I knew there would be a few spots along my route where there would be lovely bluebells.
I have a tendency to want to kick my work shoes off, and go romp through the woods on days like today. I also pity folks who live in cities.

View from my car window - A75 between Gatehouse of Fleet and Creetown.