Monday, December 19, 2011

Family Decorations

This is a photo of one of the earliest child-made Christmas decorations.  I don't even remember what it is supposed to be.  We think it is a cat.  It gets put on the tree every single year and then removed and carefully stashed away afterward.

I love Christmas decorations that the children have made.  I know that I had more. I remember a pop-sickle stick sled that was broken.  Most of them have not lasted the years, even though I was careful with them.

I am calling on all my readers to post me a photo of their favourite child-made Christmas ornament.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Open Mike Night

Support Scotland, Drink Tennents!
Since before I met him, The Man of the Place has played guitar.  He has been loosely connected with bands and actually been in bands throughout the years.   I don't play an instrument, but I can carry a tune.

He tunes up while the rest get stuck into their pints
We used to go around the folk clubs years ago, but we lost enthusiasm for it  . . . .   He still plays when he can but rarely in public.

The Man of The Place and our boy listening politely.
A couple of our friends in the dive club go to the Coach & Horses on the Whitesands in Dumfries on a Monday night.  They have been asking Henry to come along.  This week he went along and both George and I tagged along.

Iowa radio station sticker on the guitar case
We met a bunch of new people.  These folk knew a lot of the same songs we know.  The songs we didn't know, were really nice.  There seemed to be a good reception to the songs that we knew but were new to them.  Good crossover then.
Our friend Rodger. 

This pair in the corner never gave their names, but they certainly were enthusiastic. The bigger one wasn't all that bad on the harmonica.  He took a fancy to my beret.  He must have told me how much he liked my hat 6 times.   I let him try it on, but though he wanted it, he couldn't keep it.  I wouldn't have anything to keep my head warm if I gave away my beret.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kill Fest 11

Our mild mannered house cat, Julio has started to put on weight.  Because of this, I have taken over the feeding of the cat.  I have always been in charge of feeding the dog because she is my dog and my responsibility and has really never had a weight problem.

Cats will overeat and cry for food even when they aren't actually hungry.  So it is up to the humans to make sure they get what is best for them.  

Julio has been on this new regime for just about a week.  A few days after we started cutting back the rations and only feeding the cat when it is feeding time we noticed something.  More dead mice were appearing in the house.   I'm not counting the dead ones I have pulled out of the mousetrap under the sink.  These are brought-in-through-the-cat-flap mice.  I  pray we keep on top of the mouse corpse situation.  Finding an partially decomposed mouse is unpleasant.

Two days ago, The Man of the Place found the head of a pheasant in the hallway.  That's a bit odd.  He threw it out.  Just now, I tripped over something in the dark . . . .it was a whole dead pheasant.  

Has hunger driven our poor cat to catching whole adult game birds?  Bleh

Saturday, December 10, 2011


It is winter now.  We had a bit of snow on Monday.  The snow melted a bit,  making slush.  Then at night the slush froze.  It made for some slippy driving. 

As I had an appointment in the town of Lockerbie, a mere12 miles from the house, I took my time in getting there.  I drove carefully and cautiously.  I have a pretty new car and I am over cautious with it.  I won't even take it through the car wash because those can scratch the finish.  I wash it by hand or use the jet wash.

I passed people having difficulty getting up hills because of the glaze of ice everywhere.  It reminded me of the ice storms experienced in Iowa.  Ice storms are stinkers.  The world is glazed with a sheet of smooth and slippy, glass-like ice. 

I got in to Lockerbie just fine and parked in the car park of the local health centre where I had an appointment to see the doctors (for work).  I turned the ignition off and reached across to the passenger seat/office to get my sales materials and . . . whump.  My car was hit!

I was surprised and probably a little stunned.

The moral of the story is, if you park your car on a hill, on a sheet of ice and the tyres of your car begin to melt the ice a little bit, the car will start to slide down the hill.  The car will slide even if it is empty and the hand brake or parking brake is on.

Later on, after the police had arrived.  Somebody else parked in the parking spot that had been occupied by the sliding car.  The driver was informed that this was not a good place to park and the accident was pointed out to him.   He didn't listen and walked away.  Minutes later, his car slid into the car that had slid into mine.  Well, we TOLD him.  Why is it that some people don't think that the laws of physics don't apply to them?

I went away for to have a cup of coffee.  I couldn't go anywhere until the cars had been moved and it was cold.  I got the details of the owner of the red car and the insurance details. My lovely new car, that hasn't even had its first service yet is off to the body shop.

I was not terribly hurt in the accident.  A few hours later, my back started to stiffen up so I went to the doctor about that.  It isn't a terrible injury and I'll be fine . . . but be careful out there.  Don't park on any icy hills.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Best Shop in Scotland

I love living here!  I find it comforting that my youngest child doesn't remember living anywhere else.  I feel we're putting down roots.  One of the reasons that living in this community is so wonderful, is that it is just that, a community.

I was in the town of Langholm today.  It snowed overnight, so I didn't drive on the road that would get me there the quickest, I drove the big, well travelled and plowed roads.  Langholm is about twelve miles from the house.

While I was in town, I needed to stop by the most wonderful shop in Scotland, Latimers!  I love this shop and I will use any feeble excuse to go in.  This place has a wonderful, old fashioned way of doing business.  It has been around for years and it stands by the things that they sell.  They sell everything in here.  Really.  Everything.

I went in to buy a new grate for the fire.  You can buy a grate, an ash shovel and replacement fire bricks.  There is even some black stove polish if you need it.

One of the things I find comforting is a place that sells rope and string.  There is a nice assortment here.  From the sort of handy string for tying up packages (Does anybody tie up packages in brown paper these days?) and garden canes to a new clothes line.
Need a new brush for your broom?  I love brush heads and brooms.  They are nothing except practical and handy.  Now that I'm thinking about it, the door mat in the kitchen is well past the point of being useful and should be replaced.

This aisle is where I could be lost for a large chunk of time.  Why don't I have a mixing bowl in every size?  The kitchen gadgets are on the right hand side of this aisle.  If they don't have it here, you just don't need it.
I mentioned that it has snowed recently.  Guess where you can buy a snow shovel?  That's right!  I asked if they had sold many shovels today.  They had. I then showed him a photo I had taken with my phone of the amount of snow that had fallen at Whitelees this morning.  "Jings!" was the response I got. 
That's the grate I bought on the counter there.  I also bought a small tin of rust-proof primer and a tin of yellow paint. Paint is found behind the area where the china and fine glassware are stocked, just past the tools and nails.  The Man of the Place is giving our air cylinders a new coat of paint.  Rust never sleeps.

The back room is where they sell beds and carpeting.  The second floor is where the furniture is.  Sorry, no photo available.

Now that I'm home, it turns out that the grate I bought is a bit too big.  I'll take it back tomorrow and exchange it.  I don't have a receipt, but the man behind the counter will remember me and just swap it across without any bother.  That's how they do business.
Wal-Mart in the US has killed off all the shops like this in America.  I am SO glad that we don't have Wal-Mart here.  Yes the prices are lower in that big, faceless, soul destroying store but at what price to the community?  Family owned stores that are not a franchise of some other chain are almost extinct.  Wouldn't it be great to get them back?

Almost every farm in the area has an account there. Every raffle draw will have one prize in it, donated from Latimers.  Local brides get their names on the Latimers Bridal Registry.  I know I have rose-tinted specs on . . . . and I'm sure somebody will point out how messy the front counter is in the sixth photo of this entry - and how inefficient it is to tally up my purchases on the back of a scrap of paper.  It is probably bad business that even though my purchases came to £31.24  I was only charged £31.00, but they have my undying loyalty.  I will continue to give that shop my business for the rest of my days.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

I Visit Arran Again

It is actually been over two years since I have been on Arran for work.  The cost of getting my car across on the ferry,  inhibits me from a casual trip across . . . so when work is picking up the tab, all systems are go!

I thought that if the the ferries were running and if I could get somebody else to come along and if the forcasted gales stayed away long enough, I could squeeze a dive into my working day.  It would have to be meticulously planned and dive after my last appointment at lunch time and before the 4:20 pm crossing.

I broadcasted my plan to my dive club on Wednesday and the first volunteer was young David, a trainee.  He hasn't been diving in a while and would like to just "get his chops back".  Fine!  The dive I planned was a shallow dive in Lamlash Bay.  Easy in and easy out on sand, staying shallow because in our short winter days, light is often very poor.

I had to get up at about 04:00 to be out of the house by 05:00.   I picked David up at 06:00 just outside Castle Douglas and then drove north to Adrossan.  When I got out to go buy tickets for the ferry, it was very windy.  I was starting to resign myself to just a day out on the island, scrapping the dive because of the weather. We caught the 09:40 crossing from Adrossan to Brodick. 
Though there was a little pitch and roll on the way over, by the time the ferry entered Brodick Bay, the sea was very calm.  The wind direction mean that Brodick was sheltered.  Force 5 winds but there is barely a ripple on this bay.  

We managed the usual tourist stuff, buying cheese and soap.  We didn't really have time to get to the brewery, distillery or chocolate shop as we had a different agenda today.
Over in Lamlash Bay where the dive was planned there was a slight chop on the water, but nothing that would stop me from going in.  I must say that it doesn't take much for me to call off a dive, so the conditions were really quite okay. 

David and I DID manage to get a dive!  Because I was intimidated by the wind, I cut our dive from one hour to half an hour.  I was afraid that the wind would change direction during the dive.  That has happened before.
This is us getting ready - You can see the wind whipping my hair.  I put my hair into two plaits when I dive.  It is so much easier to manage and much less painful with a tight neoprene neck seal.  If I don't braid my hair up, it gets pulled and that hurts.

Once you're under the water, there is no wind.  There was a bit of current in the bay the further out we went, but as for bad weather, that was all on the surface.  We saw some wonderful stuff!  David was the first to spot some long-legged spider crabs.  They are very spider-like in appearance.  When I looked them up in my books afterward, I discovered that they stick bits of stuff on themselves for camoflage as they don't have much in the way of defense.  Staying hidden is the best way for them to stay alive. There were very few starfish.  Just a couple of little tiny ones, hidden between rocks.

My buddy also spotted a little humpbacked shrimp.  I noticed a seaweed with blue iridescence on it.  That was beautiful!  I was unsure about where the no-take zone starts and stops in Lamlash Bay.  Taking a sample of this pretty seaweed wasn't going to happen.  I wouldn't do that anyway.  If I'm in again with my camera, I'll get a picture.  I won't take the camera in when I have a trainee with me.  All my focus is on them and the dive.

On Friday afternoon, at the end of the working week, I managed to get a dive.  It was a beautiful dive too!

Many thanks to David  for coming along and being such good company.  It was a lovely lovely day out.