Saturday, 27 December 2014

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Pause in Advent 2014: Weeks 3&4-Loving Wishes

pause in adventLife has somehow taken over again and left little time to Pause for anything which is a pity. However, as often happens in life sometimes we just have to go with the flow and hang on for the ride instead of directing the journey which may be a lesson in itself.

So I suspect my final and very late Pauses on this Christmas Eve are best used to wish everyone a warm, loving and spirit renewing Christmas break.

Thank you to all of those involved in the Pause in Advent and especially to Floss who originated this and to Angela who made this year's possible.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

My Sparkly Wall Tree

I saw this idea while browsing the internet last year and it stuck with me. The essence of it is lights attached to the wall using the 3M command hook products to recreate a stylish Christmas Tree which takes up no floor space. I've not been sponsored or anything just inspired by the unconventional idea.
It is really hard to get a decent picture of it but it looks much better in real life, honestly!
The wall fixings were two medium command hooks, fourteen small hooks and two packets of decorator clips. The clear variety is the best with the clear tape but mine are a mixture as it is what I could get from Amazon or locally as one of my orders went astray. It took 400 soft glow LED lights, 75 teardrop fairy lights 12 baubles and a tree topper. The topper was a bit of a concern as we've always been in the fairy for the top of the tree camp but it needs something that is flat against the wall and can be attached somehow which was a bit of a challenge.
Firstly, the hooks were placed for the tree shape and I stuck with a height I could work at without using a ladder. It's such a novelty being in a house that doesn't have a 13FT ceiling and not having to clamber up a 7FT ladder to get to things! These lights are actually twinkly ones and I was a little sceptical they might leave the living room looking like a disco but they are very discrete.
Next the fairy lights were strung across diagonally. Instead of placing the hooks in advance I just decided to hook as I strung them. In the end it took 3 packets of 25 lights to my surprise, and annoyance, as I'd only bought two.
The baubles form the 'pot' at the bottom of the tree and are just a square shape. I was ONE decorator clip short so tried to use three along the bottom but it didn't look great. (the bottom of the tree shows why the clear hooks are better than the white tab ones.)
This is much better, I think. (I know it is squinty but I am trying to ignore it!)
The tree topper is still making me laugh. I have no idea where my deliberations over how to either buy or make a fairy turned into a.......ruddy great stag's head!

Its been named Big Eric after the stag in the Monarch of the Glen. I do believe the original met an inglorious end but mine has no chance or being eaten.
I do love it though and as the tree is non-conformist then its probably right the topper should be too. Big Eric has also been graced with two spare baubles as earrings
 So that is my main tree this year. I've loved the idea, had good fun creating, it has been fairly hassle free, the cats haven't mugged it and best of all there is no tinsel needing hovered up.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Pause in Advent 2014: Week Two - Being Present

pause in adventMy Pause this second week of Advent is on the subject of being present. Thank you so much to everyone who commented on last week's Pause for your loving and very kind words.

On Sunday I'd hoped to sit and consider what my Pause might be as nothing particular had sprung to mind and I didn't want to write something trite. However, life brought me a lesson! My Mother has been increasingly unwell cognitively and is presumed to be in pain. For the last fortnight she's been distressed and irrational including refusing her medication which now has to be given covertly. I am not going to go into the gory details but despite the best efforts of the wonderful carers she was a ball of fury and no-one could connect with her on Sunday. It was all they could do to get her into some clothing as she had been naked, livid with rage and lashing out on the half landing of the main staircase.

When I arrived it was clear she had no idea who I was which is the first time there was absolutely no recognition and her behaviour included purposefully trying to push the carers and myself down the long flight of stairs. The attention was simply fuelling her distress so I suggested they leave her with me and I sat on the steps on one of the wings of the staircase within reach to grab her if necessary. I tried all my tricks to get through to her to absolutely no avail and eventually resorted to feigning calmness and disinterest while being alert to making sure she was safe. Many times while I sat there I questioned what the heck I was doing. I was doing nothing to improve the situation and anyone could have done the same for her. There seemed to be no value to our relationship as the connection was broken on her side. She persisted in standing for two and a half hours which was obviously causing her great discomfort but she was absolute in her refusal to sit as she knew better than everyone. Eventually, she began finally giving into the pain and effort of standing and she agreed to sit beside me on the stair. When she accepted my hand to help ease her down she leant against me in distress, and I have to admit I just sat cuddling her with tears pouring down my face at seeing her so distraught and out of control, oblivious to who I was which was heart-breaking.

Obviously, this is a personal story which has little to do with Advent on the face of it. However, afterwards it has made me reflect on the nature of 'being present' which is a facet of the reciprocal relationship with God. Relationships sometimes seem deepest in those times where neither party asks anything of the other beyond being there and knowing an unconditional love which transcends words or actions. I have always loved the Footprints poem and the hymn Walk with me O my Lord which characterise the element of God's relationship with us which enables us to live our lives while feeling the comfort of having his strength nearby.

Being present can be both an active role of witnessing or it can be a passive, loving and non-judgemental role which contains humanity, humility and compassion all of which are intangible but deeply felt. Being present can also refer to engaging in the present moment.

Being present with my Mother on that staircase listening to the rain drumming on the glass cupola overhead met a need neither of us could articulate. I felt utterly useless and wondered why I continued to sit there as clearly I wasn't 'doing' anything yet I felt compelled to remain. It also made me think of my own relationship with God this Advent.

I have been trying to throw myself into Christmassy things, to power through work and make an effort with the house. I thought this purposefulness and activity was me being present in the moment which would strengthen my connection with God, allow me to hear his voice and embrace his presence. Yet Sunday showed me that being still, attending and pausing to be present can be of equal value. Just as we often call on God to bestow the blessing of his presence in our lives we perhaps also need to be reminded that the quiet gift of being present is something we too can give to someone in need.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Pause in Advent 2014- Week One

pause in adventI'm delighted to join in again with the Pause in Advent which was hosted last year by the lovely Floss of Troc, Broc and Recup who has passed the baton to the equally lovely Angela of Tracing Rainbows.

I cannot believe a whole year has passed. It has been another year of tumult with some very deep and desperate lows particularly around serious illness in those that I love. I too have been severely limited in my mobility by on-going knee pain. There have been lovely and fun things that have happened, wonderful friends, blessings and abilities that have enabled, supported and created a sense of joy at times too.

In my daily life I hate routine and love going with the flow to engage and respond. I positively loathe having my days mapped out with appointments and demands. Where others enjoy structure, anticipation and planning I often find I've lost interest by the time a long awaited concert or event finally rolls round.

Conversely, in the important aspects of life and in my relationships particularly I crave certainty and security, finding it almost insurmountably hard to deal with uncertainty and not knowing where things are going to end. This often makes me very risk averse and I over-ponder decisions through my need to explore every single potential outcome and alternative. While this is hard enough to do for yourself it is even harder to do on behalf of someone that you love such as a child or parent who lacks capacity. This self-imposed pressure often becomes overwhelming which in turn makes things even more difficult and I neglect my own needs.

This is when I find it hardest to let go and let God and to hear the voice of reason that can only be heard internally when I am ready to listen. This Advent I feel the need to renew my connection with the Lord, to live in the moment and to find a way to negotiate a path between my fears and the need to embrace freedom.

This year particularly I need to make the best of this Christmas as it is likely prove to be more bittersweet than any other due to my Mother's advancing illness. To stop myself becoming overwhelmed by anticipatory grief I need to find my balance, to operate in the moment and to make time to meditate quietly so that I can draw on God's Strength, Wisdom and Love.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Spooky Walk Remembered

All the ghoulish Halloween Tales reminded me of a Ghost Walk night out my colleagues and I had in Edinburgh one dark night some years ago. The plan was a ghost walk, dinner then the dancing I insisted on.

The ghost walk was a hoot, or at least I reckoned it was! My colleagues of a more nervous disposition were less convinced. We followed our guide round while listening to his tales of gore and yore and both of the team who had broken ankles tried to out do each other by proving how fast they could walk! They are both very competitive people and nearly knackered the rest of us with two functional legs who were trying to keep up.

It was a really good dark and atmospheric night and the guide was full of scary tales of the city's ghoulish past. I had to hold two of my colleagues hands on the way through the creepy, windy closes as the were both 'feart' and kept threatening to get a taxi to the restaurant to wait for the rest of us. The underground vaults at the end were very atmospheric but we didn't experience any phenomena which I was partly disappointed by and partly relieved about. However, I made sure I kept a close eye on the colleague who'd arranged the spooky tour as he was the very one I trusted least not to pull some stunt, broken ankle or not. I thought the tour was actually quite tame and tried to drum up some interest in us doing the Mary King's Close tour next but was met by pale faces and outright refusal by most of the group.

After a refreshing drink we headed off for dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant where I had to resurrect some schoolgirl language skills to explain to our lovely waiter who spoke virtually no English that I'd been given the wrong prawns. Replete after a great meal we headed off to go dancing but found the place was mobbed. A drunken girl, whose make up had melted and was not clinging to the original features she'd applied it to, staggered by the stairs and exclaiming it "was too hot and all the men were ugly". Trip Advisor she wasn't but after we managed to wangle ourselves into the place we realised she was bang on the money! Worse was the dance floor was the same size as a piece of plastic cheese. Four of us who are vertically challenged managed to weave our way to the bar then had to be extricated by one of our chaps before we got a drink as the rest of the group had decided to decamp somewhere quieter. I never did get to boogie that night.

After an incredibly circuitous journey home the cherry on the pie as I crept in the door at 4.30am was finding the results of my dissertation were waiting for me and I'd passed!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Novel Shopping Experience

There are some family members that I love dearly and there are others that take more effort. What I didn't realise was that there was a place where they wouldn't go to waste and I could still feel I was doing something good for the environment. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Fast Food Dining Emergency

Who says fast food is bad for you? I was ravenous one day and decided to get a drive through Happy Meal as my prospects of getting home anytime soon for some proper lunch were pretty slim.
When I saw this I wondered if the stuff was as bad as people say and needed a paramedic and an ambulance response but no, it seems the only emergency here was their need for an afternoon break too.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Foodie Goodies

I was having a conversation a couple of weeks ago and we somehow got onto the difference between Scottish, Irish and Northern Irish foods. One colleague shared the info that one of the large Tesco's in the East End carries a range of Irish foods including Tayto cheese and onion crisps. Obviously I just had to have a little Irish fix, and sure enough they had a reasonable sized World Foods section. It wasn't huge but it had some favourites I've not tasted in ages. This was my Irish haul:
I've had to position the Tayto crisps carefully as there appears to have been some kind of pilferage that went on before they made it home.... *looking away shiftily*. All I need now is a Bewley's Cherry Bun and I'd have been happy.

They didn't have any white cheese popcorn but I've found an even better white cheese popcorn in the form of Popangles from ASDA. These are tortilla chip shaped popcorn which have the added benefit of not having the irritating bit of husk that gets stuck between your tooth and your gum. They are gorgeous with salsa dip. No pics as they didn't last long enough.

The section also carried some American foods that I've heard of but not tried so they also fell into my basket.
The Butterfinger was odd but quite nice, sort of like a peanut cracknel. However, the Milk Duds were absolute duds and after a few chews I realised they were foul and I ejected them into a hankie. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised as there were few ingredients I recognised on the label which is probably why they tasted so 'chemical-y'.

This Jamaican one is from a different supermarket. An old comfort food favourite used to be Knorr Chicken Noodle Soup which I would add a pile of pasta to along with chopped onion, leftover chicken, spring onions or whatever else was to hand or took my fancy. It was a great cupboard stand-by until they proudly announced on their packet that they were now meeting some reduced salt target and sadly it appears that all the flavour went with it. I tried adding salt to it but no, the actual chicken flavour is irretrievable gone. So I decided to give this one a whirl and found it was very good as a base for pasta/noodle soup. I just don't know if I'll be brave enough to take the packet through the till again!
Life doesn't seem to be easing up the pressure so I decided to take to the bottle with dinner tonight.
Sorry, it was only the juice option that came with my M&S meal deal. It was actually really nice and I'd probably buy it again.
Hope your week is going well and you are not being blown about by gales like we are right now. Take care.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

No Rest for the Wicked

It always feels a bit odd writing a blog post after a little bit of a gap. I can't decide whether to try write up everything, which leaves me feeling overwhelmed or just to write a little trickle which seems to misrepresent the chaos that seems to keep following me. However, here's what's been going on. No pics as I've mislaid my camera cable!

My Mum took very unwell this week and is in hospital for the second time in a couple of weeks. I decided to eschew the local hospital on account of their incredibly poor standards and carelessness. Last time she was referred there by the GP but this time I chose to scoot her through the Clyde Tunnel and take her directly in through A&E at another hospital where her care has been superior in the past. She is still on IV antibiotics; there is a staged approach to her immediate treatment priorities then to regroup and look at the other co-morbidities which might be implicated. I have Power of Attorney for my Mum and the staff have fully engaged me in her care and approach me with questions or answer me openly when I speak with them. Her behaviour can be quite difficult at times and I do not wish her sedated unless necessary so twice the staff have called me for assistance and both times I've been able to intervene to calm her. I cannot tell you how much of a relief it is to have confidence in knowing she is being well cared for and that I am still able to share her care.

I rarely get out much as I have to pace things with my gammy knee but have been making efforts to move things on. Sod's Law my Mum twice needed admitted to hospital on two of my three outings! I did manage to get to see La Cenerentola by Scottish Opera which was lovely even if I did get a call from the hospital, which I could deal with by phone. Scottish Opera are a fabulous company and the only complaint I could have is that the scenery is always done in black or gray with only the very odd bit of colour. It really makes me pine for the gloriously extravagantly coloured operas in Italy.

The gammy knee was looking hopeful as there was a little bit of improvement which has now been destroyed with the extra walking necessary from adding hospital trips. This has been quite revelatory as I thought I was coping and improving but it kind of shows me how just a tiny extra distance is enough to cause serious pain in my knee and bad numbness in my hand from taking so much weight on the crutch. On the upside it saved the physio hurting me when I had my appointment as my knee was actually too sore to do anything with...! I also had a couple of episodes of a strange facial numbness which could have been related to the medication I am on but has been ruled out as that. Thankfully, it seems to be going and hopefully wont come back.

The week before last I had a couple of visits from the Fire Brigade to replace my smoke alarm which were quite funny so I'll write them up as a post.

Magic remains as stubborn as Margaret Thatcher and is refusing to allow her insulin to have much of an effect. As so often happens this will entail more expensive testing and treatment and as her insulin doses are getting ever higher both her vet and I have developed a nervous tic. Her blood sugars are 18-24mmols on 8units of human glargine insulin which is deeply frustrating especially as she was doing really well. We are anxiously awaiting the results of her IGF1 acromegaly test which should be back in the next week or so. Both cats are as perceptive as usual and with all the stress with my Mum I've been waking up roasting hot and sweaty because one or other is wound round my head like a Davy Crockett hat and the other is acting as a foot warmer. It is most lovely of them but my default temp is superhot so the last thing I need is a pair of toastie cats trapping me under my quilt and boiling me to death.

On the crafting front I have lots of WIP's and ideas for things that need or would be lovely to do but finding the time is part of the issue. The dining room, where I usually do my crafty stuff, is also wreathed in damp washing as the weather is utterly foul and the rain torrential. It should be in the spare room which is still too full of boxes and miscellaneous items to get the washing in. Although I don't generally feel the cold I had to switch the heating on last week for a little while which surprised me as it had got really cold. Usually it is mid-Nov before I crack but who knows with our crazy weather.

The garden is a complete lost cause and the wind keeps blowing all my big plastic plant pots over. The buddleia and roses are down yet again but I'm not going out to stand them up again till it stops raining and blowing a hoolie, which might be nearer May next year! My theory was that the plastic would be easier for me to lift and manage. However, I didn't realise you need to weight them down! I'd hoped I might be better by now and could have cut the grass myself but that's not happened so I need to call the gardener and ask him to cut the grass and break the news to him that it hasn't been cut since he last did it in June....! I had to stop having it cut as the vet bills were my priority and cat wins over grass. This time though I may need to employ Indiana Jones to hack his way through it.

So that is you probably up to date. I'll try to post more often and wish you all a week filled with happiness and time to do what you would like.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Funny bone

Recently I finally managed to have dinner with two old friends who I'll call Mary-Kate and Ashley to spare their blushes. We've been trying to catch up for absolutely ages and we finally managed to get a time and date nailed down. Even this didn't go well as the week before Ashley and I had both turned up to find out the deranged Mary-Kate had had a brain burp and meant the following week!

Unfortunately, for me as my knackered knee saga continues I became the reluctant topic of conversation. Both friends used to be orthopaedic theatre nurses and they were 'keen to explore' my reticence at allowing anyone near any of my joints with a Black and Decker. Although I am beginning to knock on a bit, at my age it would still be classed as a 'young knee replacement'. Mary-Kate revealed to my astonishment that she'd had a conversation with an orthopaedic surgeon friend about my knee with no names mentioned and apparently it is not a disaster and I "should get a good 15yrs out of a replacement"! I knew she'd kept my confidentiality and was just info gathering on my behalf so I wasn't upset as they were both trying to make sure I got the best of care. However, the pair of them were like a dog with a bone...or more correctly a juicy knee joint! It took me ages to divert them and neither the starter or getting them on to the referendum gave me much respite before they got back to my knee.

I am peculiarly squeamish about my own bones and joints and this even extends to my dining habits. When the main course arrived I thought hallelujah as we could concentrate on the food rather than my knee. However, I realised too late that the chicken supreme I'd chosen comes with a leg bone sticking out! I couldn't help myself exclaiming "Oh, no!" as I was horror struck that I hadn't realised how chicken supreme comes. When I explained it was the leg sticking up and not the meal itself that had distressed me the pair of them fell about laughing. Thankfully, I was able to annex a chunk of my chicken and the bone went with it as the shame of having to have my dinner carved by an orthopaedic theatre nurse would have been just too great.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Scottish Referendum Reflections

Thank you to everyone who commented on my previous Referendum posts. Whether you were pro, anti or just generally supportive I have loved having your thoughts on this moment in my country's history.

I'd planned to post on Friday evening but, as often happens life got in the way. My Mother became suddenly very ill that morning and she became my priority. She required admission to hospital but thankfully she has improved even though we only have a presumptive diagnosis. She is still not entirely 'right' but I am just so grateful she is better than she was as the situation was looking grim.

Anyway, to wind up my posts on the Referendum here are my thoughts and reflections on the result. On Thursday night I stayed up until the first result came in. When Clackmannanshire returned a No majority I went to bed with a feeling of foreboding and was not entirely surprised at the overall result. Predominantly, I just felt an overwhelming sadness at an opportunity lost and a slight touch of relief that the necessary upheaval to effect that change would not be happening. I was also sad to see Alex Salmond resigning as I was beginning to develop a grudging respect for his political astuteness and skills. Though this may simply be him manoeuvring Nicola Sturgeon into place.

Two days on I still feel slightly saddened by the result but given how close it actually came in the end I believe there will be a resurgence of interest. I am amazed that Glasgow, which is a staunch generations' old Labour heartland and proportionally the largest council, achieved a Yes majority. I think enthusiasm for independence will return and that this has been a staging post towards Scotland becoming an Independent nation. SNP probably lost predominantly on the financial uncertainty and I would imagine the next time if this aspect is nailed down then the outcome may be different.

I completely reject the notion that 'healing' needs to occur between the two sides of the debate and between Scotland and the rest of the UK. I have not had a cross word with anyone online or in real life during this whole time. This is what democracy is, the answer was No, and we move forward on that basis. If you are grown up enough to vote then you make your peace with it and move on. I was saddened to see that the warm and fuzzy geniality in George Square on the eve of the Referendum was replaced after the result by vile, neo-Nazi, sectarian characters spreading their own brand of hatred and pack mentality. These looked to be the kind of amoral nutters who exploit any opportunity for foaming at the mouth mob based hatred irrespective of the 'cause'.

I found it quite strange that older voters were more heavily balanced towards No despite having probably benefitted most from the health and social care reforms enacted by the devolved Scottish government so far. I am acutely aware of this as I don't know how I would have coped to fund and manage my mother's continuingly complex care needs since 2006 had I lived elsewhere in the UK. Perhaps older voters felt more aligned to the idea of the union from past associations, wars and industries or just less inclined towards change. This might be why younger voters were skewed towards independence.

So, having had a No majority we now proceed towards the Unionist utopia of maximal devolution, or devo-max. This apparently promises greater powers for the devolved Parliament over taxation and decision-making for issues impacting Scotland. One of the most persuasive drives towards a further referendum might result from how well the Westminster government delivers on their alleged promises of devo-max, or not. I am cynical that three party leaders who clearly loathe and distrust each other can deliver, but we'll see.

The Prime Minister has opened the floodgates by suggesting that far from Scotland being the prodigal child he is widening the scope to ensure all parts of the UK will be given devolved powers. I agree entirely that this is right but it does make me laugh; instead of upholding the Union as something cohesive and homogenous he's proposing dividing up the very union he was advocating....??!

So, far from being the divisive nationalists portrayed as shunning their kindred UK brethren, Scotland has actually shone a light on the political inequalities of the dislocated Union and created a vehicle for improvement for all the four countries of the UK. Any chance the political parties will acknowledge this, or is it just easier to blacken the name of the upstart haggis bashers.....? (answers on a postcard or sealed down envelope on this one...!).

It has been fascinating for me to be involved in this Referendum, even if getting to a final decision was a tortured journey. I have seen myself move from a careless No to a thoughtful Yes who felt that Independence was, and is, something worth having. Maslow's Hierarchy places Esteem and Self-Actualisation at the top of the pyramid of growth in humans yet we settled for a Sense of Belonging. I hope that this 'sense of belonging' proves to be for the greater good of the nations of the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Voting Day

Well, I did indeed question myself and my motivation to the very last moment, but the deed is done. Glasgow is one of the last to report their results and, as the largest proportional area, this might be pivotal.
 My journey back to work took me a different route today and I have been utterly struck by how sombre and determined everyone looked. This is George Square in Glasgow which is quite strikingly different to last night's gathering.
There may have been lots of banter and noise in the run up to it but it looks like the decision is not being taken lightly which is reassuring. (Excuse the reflection from my dashboard)
I am anxious and uncomfortable about the result and, in all truth, I genuinely don't know which decision I hope prevails. The alarm clock is set for very early tomorrow to see what the dawn brings.

Eve of the Referendum

Tomorrow dawns the day of reckoning for me. It is a huge decision, and although I am only a tiny part of it, I will be putting my mark towards my country's future tomorrow morning.
I am leaning towards a yes but what a huge leap into the unknown this will be. The alternative is no less scary as a no vote would allow the Westminster government to put away their pretence of devo-max and trample Scotland for daring to oppose them. Both outcomes will be divisive. A yes result will mean Scotland stands alone and a no result will mean a justifiable outrage from the other nations of the Union who must stand by and watch Scotland potentially being gifted extra powers.  
I'd heard there was a gathering in George Square in front of the City Chambers so decided to go and have a look on my way home from work as I haven't joined in any public events with either side. That this one was a Yes event didn't sway me as there was no more definitive evidence to be considered.
It took me nearly an hour to get round the square as the traffic was all but parked, hence the lighting differences in the photos as it got dark.
Big clouds gathering over the City Chambers which I didn't notice till I looked at this pic 
No, I do not know what possessed this man to drive round with two planks sticking out of his windows with flags......!
The atmosphere was very benign and congenial and I had lots of mini conversations with people passing by as everyone was so chatty. The funniest were two African chaps who were clearly pals but smilingly opposite in their views.  
And yes, I did take one of this chap's booklets, as it would have been rude to refuse. I mean, who refuses a nice mannie in a kilt.....?

I've heard rumours of people who claim they've been 'abused' for holding mainly No voter views but this chap with the fabby bike and the no flags and stickers was a being treated like a star.
 He was very friendly and happy to pose with a whole succession of people sporting yes badges and items. The black Yes shopping trolley near the front of the bike is one of the odder items I've seen.
There was bagpipe playing, speeches and spontaneous singing. I joined in the start of Flower of Scotland but felt really choked and emotional, which I hadn't expected. The enormity of this decision and what it will mean for all of us just seemed to get so very real now that it has finally arrived.
This is the lion in front the of the City Chambers which is a challenge for every Glasgow child who aspires to be big enough to clamber up onto it with a sense of absolute achievement. I think it is part of the Cenotaph so probably very disrespectful but nonetheless one of mine and many others' childhood  memories. We are kind of known for 'embracing' our statuary, or sticking a traffic cone on their head, as the Duke of Wellington in Royal Exchange Square knows all too well!
The City Chambers is a very lovely looking building, especially in the twilight
No matter what the result of the referendum is on Friday, or how I vote, change will be inevitable.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Referendum Thoughts 4

Fear not, we're nearing the end of my reflection posts on the Referendum next week.

A week further on and no further forward essentially. It is odd that the No campaign, with all their attributes as the known quantity, seem to have nothing concrete to offer or to be showcasing the benefits. It should have been easy for them to persuade voters towards a safe, comfortable union. Used properly they could have batted the upstart Alex Salmond off like an irritating midge. However, something went very wrong; their scaremongering went on too long and they badly mis-judged their understanding of, and connection with, Scottish voters.

This week's unseemly scramble north has smacked of panic. Their smoke and mirrors offer of a devo-max 'process' to identify some crumbs to sweep Scotland's way with a timetable of decisions, rather than actual powers, on notable dates on the Scottish calendar was nothing short of disgraceful. If the campaign really doesn't know how to engage Scottish voters without offending them then they've lost the plot. Pulling out the tartan and shortbread only works if you are actually Scottish and not just using it to try to appeal to the haggis-bashers!

What I find strangest is the lack of cohesion between the Westminster political parties. Each of them has made a great play of telling us simpletons to remember it is "not about a particular political party", "its not like a general election" and even Dave in his emotional speech told us not to use the vote to "give the 'effing' Tories a kicking". Yet, each of the political parties has campaigned entirely separately, in their own traditional party playgrounds and advanced their own political party's ethos. For a campaign aimed at demonstrating how the union is Better Together they might have clocked the fact that they should have been presenting a UNIFIED front. A fragmented unionist campaign doesn't really walk the talk!

I am worried by the financial implications and uncertainty of this vote. The panic from the no campaign seems genuine and I can't decide if it is as a result of suddenly realising they've misjudged the situation or whether an Independent Scotland is going to impact the UK financial stability far more than is being disclosed.

I am deeply suspicious of the banks and retail giants wading in with statements which appear to indicate they will either pack up and go south, or enact massive price hikes, as Scotland is really just an expensive loss leader for them. My suspicion centres on the rather unhealthy relationship between 'captains of industry' and their government chums so I imagine some puppetry going on here and some nice wee knighthoods being dangled. Although the shares market is demonstrating the effects of the uncertainty it seems only to be UK companies who are narcissistically lobbing their toys out of the pram and identifying themselves as only trading in Scotland under sufferance and subsidy. So can I really believe all businesses will pack up and leave during a recession when they are already established, have their supply chain in place and the change will be a transitional one?

It is more difficult to criticise the Yes campaign over their conduct this week. This doesn't mean they've made a good case, instead they've astutely let the No campaign hang themselves. Compared to the chaotic union campaign they are presenting themselves as a steady and consistent leadership; Wee Eck and Nicola have complementary skill sets and are coming across as a unified team. I've still no idea if this pair can deliver a prosperous and effective Independent Scotland as they really will be 'first time parents' of a new nation, and that is not ideal. However, compared to the fragmented union campaign which Nigel Farage has now joined, I need to question whether the status quo is really that attractive. The quality of incisive newspaper reporting is also very poor and they really are scraping the bottom of the barrel with non-stories alleging as both are childless they can't understand family values and Alex Salmond is only doing this because an English girlfriend once dumped him.

Where am I now? Still on the fence and Yes-ward leaning, but this is no certainty. My search for facts and evidence has been nigh on impossible and sadly the decision is being made on a balance of probabilities rather than on empirics. I feel rather lied to and manipulated by both sides and remain equally disparaging about the veracity of each of the sides offerings. As I suspected, my eventual decision will have to be very close to the wire.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Driving the Referendum

Given that all the Better Together campaigners have pulled on their Saltire socks and tartan knickers and headed north. How much fun would it be if David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband hailed a cab together when they alighted at Central Station and got into this one....
...anyone want to hazard a guess which way this chap might be voting?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Surf and Turf

I don't like beef but I did wonder if you can get Mad Cow disease from a tempura prawn that looks like its bovine relative....?
As these prawns were the nicest I've had in ages at the Jam Jar in Bridge of Allan I decided to stop questioning and keep scoffing!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Expletives simmit

Post number two today as an alternative for those bored by referendum talk.

I am really chuffed with this solution to the multiple remote controls and 'essentials' cluttering up my side table. As you know I don't usually boast about my makes as they are never perfect and the omnipresent 'flaw' always seems magnified to me so, as I am already bigging up this item, you can sense a 'but....' coming up.
I made this to my own spec and like all my novice sewing projects it took nearly a whole day and then extra time the next day to refine it! Initially it had five long spaces at the top and five small pockets at the bottom but aside from the two big remotes the long pockets were too deep. So I sewed off the middle of the three long ones to make them shorter and added an extra row at the top for little nick-nacks.
It was only when I was holding it up to check for flaws or stray threads, and to decide if it would do the job, that I realised it looked rather like an explosives vest which was rather dismaying. So I've christened it my expletives simmit* as it stops me saying bad words when I can't find the right remote, glasses or nail file.
I also made myself a hankie box to try to make it look like an intentional set rather than just a stray little simmit with an unfortunate look-a-like.

*Simmit (or Semmit) - is a vest. It can be any kind of vest from the snow white one on the tanned bod of the Diet Coke hunk to the manky string effort sported by Rab C Nesbitt.

Referendum Thoughts 3

There will be a second post today just in case the whole voting caper is boring you - don't worry, if I wasn't required to vote, I'd be ignoring it too.

This week sees me leaning over the fence towards the Independence campaign. Oddly, not because I actually feel strongly about voting yes but because I am completely turned off by the bampottery* of the pro-unionist campaigners. I am genuinely struck by the notion that their campaign is actually aimed at supporting the yes campaign in a subversive manner. It also beggars belief that David Cameron is currently up here, not to underline the critical stage of proceedings, but to join the Queen on her annual hoolie at the Highland Games. Fiddle, burn, Rome.....? We know we mean the world to you Dave!

The No campaign's main tactic has been the promulgation of fear, posing unanswerable questions and suggesting nightmare scenarios of the irretrievable collapse of society. And it worked, in the early stages, at least. Now, as the arguments, alternative options and common sense become more sophisticated and the horizons open, their scaremongering has left them looking vexatious with no second line of argumentation.

I feel their campaign resembles domestic abuse where an unhappy spouse, who wants to leave, is constantly berated with their alleged inadequacies and inability to go it alone without the partner. The key here is that Scotland has a sense of being belittled as part of the Union which is why the Independence referendum has arisen in the first place. "Stay with us, we'll treat you better but we wont tell you how till you've rejected Independence" might be a genuine offer but its a really big gamble.

Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, almost always plumps for Labour and, no matter how corrupt or poorly a Labour administration does, they get voted straight back in! However, Ed Milliband's recent visit cannot have failed to annoy even their most dedicated adherent. Crowning it off with 'we'll seal off the border if you don't comply' made me wonder if he was authorised to commit the necessary billions needed to that project. The odour of fear in their campaign is getting very strong. I can't decide if it relates to us both becoming vulnerable if we split or from their sudden realisation that there is something momentous to lose if we take our own path.

By default all this bolster's the Yes campaign to my mind. It makes their vision of a potential brave new future through a fresh, modern Scandi-style government more tantalising. Yesterday, was also an historic day for me; two Independence campaigners came to my door to ask my opinion. This is the first time since I was a child that I've seen a particular side/party bother to engage with individual voters. They didn't alter my view (undecided) and went away with a flea in their ears over their own campaign inadequacies but I was impressed that they were at least game enough to pitch up.

The next ten days should get interesting as it is alleged there is an air of panic in the No campaign and all trains North are booked solid. Let's see if they have a case to put forward?

*Bampottery- absolutely no idea if this is a real word but its meaning is clear and has definite resonance, for me anyway, in relation to political madness.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A second Referendum vote

Here's another twist to add to my own Referendum dilemma. As if I wasn't having enough trouble deciding what way to vote I got a call from my Mother's care home to say her postal vote had arrived.

I have guardianship for my Mother and my understanding had been that she was not eligible to vote. However, on checking this with the local council it seems that I am responsible for returning her vote where her wishes are known or can be elicited.

Now, in addition to still not having clarified what way to vote myself, I have the challenge of eliciting confirmation of my Mother's choice. This is obviously legal and as her guardian I am not only empowered, but required, to act on her behalf and to use my voice to enable her rights, choices and decisions to be made known. Someday, I'll maybe write about what it feels like to carry the decision-making burden for another adult. It is a privilege and a duty of honour but I find it to be an onerous and ethically challenging position to be in. Ethically, it doesn't seem quite right that someone can vote on the future of a nation when they cannot always recall if they have just eaten or been to the toilet. By the same token binning her vote due to my ethical concerns conflicts with my responsibilities as a Guardian of her rights as she can state a preference.

When I posed the options in very simple open terms she very rapidly gave her view which confirmed my supposition on the way she would vote. As her response was so quick I am assured within myself that this is her lifetime and strongly held choice as it is only when she is asked to think through an issue that it becomes mired in her brain. Where a decision or view is given almost 'automatically' this has identical match with her pre-brain injury functioning and personality. As I always do, I will revisit this with her on at least two more occasions to confirm before putting her cross in the box.

Apart from the obvious gravity of this situation there is an ironic side. Here I am pondering the depths to make a good decision and yet my Mother, who cannot function independently in her personal life, can bring to bear a decision in a heartbeat AND provide me with a reasonable justification which seems rather surreal.

My own decision is still uncertain though I am tilting towards a certain position. My Mother's choice won't influence my own but there is now the additional knowledge that I may have been involved in both votes cancelling each other out depending on what my eventual decision is. This just doesn't get any easier, does it?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Not a ghost of a chance

I've been using Bare Minerals powder foundation since I found it 8yrs ago and it has been a totally game changer for me. I can't stand heavy foundations so the light coverage is perfect. I also love trying anything 'new' so was keen to have a nosey at their newest serum foundation.

The assistant was lovely and suggested I 'take a seat'. However, I'm the height of nonsense, walking with a crutch and the seat of the stool she gestured towards was level with my armpit....I declined the offer.

She asked what shade I normally wear, Fairly Light, then selected four shades to try, commenting that she wouldn't use the porcelain shade as it would "wash me out completely". I did comment that my base colour is deceptively pale and I usually need the first shade in a lot of ranges. She took a look and shook her head saying "Oh no, that would be far too light". I elected to use my inner forearm for the testing instead of using my jawline.

Well, the inevitable happened. She painted four increasingly dark ginger stripes up my arm, which began to resemble Red's tail.
She shook her head in wonderment at how my freckly chalky skin was making her choices look so dark. She gave each stripe a vigorous blending but nope, you could still spot them from fifty paces.

It was with the utmost reluctance that she reached for the 'washed out' porcelain shade and tried was too dark.......! Her face was a picture. At least I got to try it and, although it wont be going on my Christmas list, it did give me a laugh.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Ticked Off

Now that all the dust has settled on the Commonwealth Games, Scotland is now bracing itself to focus on the upcoming Referendum to decide whether to remain part of the UK or to stand as an independent nation.

I'll lay my cards on the table; I have absolutely no idea which way to vote. As my blog is the nearest thing I have to a personal diary I am planning to record some of my thoughts towards whatever the eventual decision I make will be. It is said that you should never discuss religion or politics in polite company, but an opposing opinion is that views that are not exposed to the light of reality can breed unhealthily. I may not reveal where my X eventually lands but putting my thoughts on virtual paper may help me reach a decision I can live with.

What are my political leanings?
I have none and am actively apolitical and apathetic about the whole process. People interest me, improving our living conditions interests me and the dual notions of being a responsible citizen and having the opportunity to achieve this are important to me. I don't have a political affiliation as I don't believe dogmatically framing society works either in a consequentialist or deontological sense. A political stance doesn't define me.

My simplistic experience is that at each general election all the parties offer great promises in their manifestos, but whoever gets into office always fails to deliver citing the fact the last government left everything in a bigger mess than they expected then asks the country to vote them in again after 4yrs of broken promises as they've now cleared the backlog and can start delivering.

I believe individuals enter politics with high ideals and ethics around improving society. However, I do not believe that an adversarial political arena is the right place to harnesses ideals such as working together for the common good. Perhaps a contemporary parliament in a newly independent country would be something fresh and devoid of traditional bloat.

On a personal level I have no real competitiveness in my nature but am old enough to recognise and value this as a virtue rather than a failing which is probably why political sniping causes my eyeballs to roll backwards all of their own accord.

What is my view of this Referendum?
I think this is quite a massive decision and one that should only be decided 'in the round' after very careful consideration of all the facts. Sadly, facts and figures are not being shared and I find both sides of the campaign evasive, actively scaremongering and unconcerned with putting an intelligent and truthful case to the voters.

I watched the debate between Salmond and Darling the day after on the iplayer. I thought it was a shamefully wasted opportunity and I learnt nothing of value. Similarly, the literature falling through the letterbox has been sparce and not overly helpful.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the Yes campaign to demonstrate a brave new future of how a contemporary, purposeful Scottish national parliament would conduct business. Instead we are facing a hand of cards which we cannot really see. As a devolved government Scotland has made some major societal decisions which have made significant improvements to areas of Scottish life that impact everyone. The NHS in Scotland is far from perfect but it remains far more stable than NHS England which is teetering on the brink of implosion. Schools and social care seem more societally focussed than in England. There are arguments that Scotland draws in more than it gives but, I suspect that even if this is the case, the funding disparity is not so large that it would explain the way that Scotland prioritises budgets towards vulnerable citizen services. The care sector in Scotland is shockingly underfunded and unfit for purpose in many ways but the English comparator is worse. However, can this a government, used to partial decision making on devolved issues, continue to make good decisions when it is fully responsible for all national elements?

The No, or Better Together, side haven't bothered to put together a case at all and seem simply to taunt in a manner of a child withholding a ball unless everyone agrees to play their game. I don't understand the unidentified and undefined promises of greater powers for Scotland if we stay as part of the UK. If we are as wonderful as the Better Together campaign allege why has this not already happened? I am also, as a sentient adult who has attained their majority, deeply offended by the paternalistic element to the manner in which the unionist case is being made. I may not be minded towards the Independence campaign but I will be damned if I am going to patronised into not rocking the boat by the alternative.

Neither side has endeared themselves to me and I have found the poor behaviour by both sides to be most unedifying.

Which side of the fence am I on?
I am resolutely welded to the fence. I can find no compelling reason to choose one over the other. The polls suggest only 7% of people are undecided. No-one I've ever known has formed part of any of these "representative opinion polls" so I'm not surprised that they don't represent my experience or that of the people I associate with. When it has come up in conversation, aside from a few with strong views one way or another, the majority seem perplexed over knowing which are the key variables in the proposition so my view is that the greater majority are in the undecided camp.

What influences me?
I've grown up with the dual national identities of UK/Scottish. I absolutely love my Glasgow/West Coast/Scottish heritage but have never felt any less Scottish by being part of the UK. I think Scotland gets a raw deal from a London centric government but by the same logic so too does Wales, Northern Ireland and the North of England so how far do we go in carving up the country/countries?

It is important to have a sense of history and to learn the lessons of the past but there is a time to move forwards and not keep rehashing old battles. Whether that means keeping a UK union or striking out on our own is unclear to me.

How much of both campaigns is based on fact and how much on scaremongering to coerce my vote. I want to make a positive decision that I am believe to be right. I don't trust politicians in general and neither side is endearing their campaign to me as I need intelligent, evidentially based debate and facts.

I didn't really see the point of devolution beforehand but in the light of experience it has made a huge difference to Scottish public life. So I need to consider may be something of a similar quantity?

This current trend of extending the retirement age means that I'm only just over half-way to retirement. However, I don't want to work beyond 60yrs old and on that calculation I am just about to reach the last quarter of my working life so pensions and living a comfortable third age are my priorities. I have a plan to live some or all of my retirement years in the Peak District and this vision motivates me get out of bed and to work some days. Depending on the result of the referendum I may have to apply for a visa or passport to do this and the economic repercussions may make such a move nonviable. Therefore, I need to know what I am voting for.

I do wish 'celebrities' and others in the public eye would stop burping out their strong views. Most seem not to live in Scotland or have a vote here but that simply doesn't stop them spouting rubbish. I would defend to the death the right of free speech of a strongly held personal belief but as public figures I also believe this places on them a duty to consider where, when and how to wade into a debate in which their views are simply not publically relevant.

Honestly, would you make the decision on whether to cleave a nation in two or not on the basis of the opinion of a celebrity hairdresser such as Nicky Clarke who neither lives here or has a right to vote because he tells you he thinks Scots are too thick to make the decision? Much more impressive today was David Tennant who says he has forfeited his right to a public opinion as he no longer lives here and it should be up to the politicians to make the case and Scots to decide. Although I am choosing to make my personal views public I am not seeking to alter anyone's opinion or make a case either way. Instead this is a means of recording my thoughts regarding a potentially momentous historic event, which it will be, no matter what the outcome.

What will my eventual choice say about me?
Come what may I will cast my vote and I hope it will speak of an informed choice made on soul and conscience. How I will achieve this is less clear.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A Grand Day Out: The Trossachs

This was a Grand Day Out my friend and I went on during the heatwave while the Commonwealth Games was on and has been in my queue for posting. I am not genetically or temperamentally suited to being over heated and the fact I still had my chest infection and no respite from the heat, even at night, made things hard. I'm better now and it is significantly cooler (and wet!!!) so we are all coping again. I know some of you live in significantly hotter places and cope but your average Scot is more of a larder item best kept cool and damp! You only need to see the shocking radiation style burns on the loonies who expose themselves the second the sun peeps out to know this.

There was a minor skirmish on one of the hot nights as everyone tried to find a space on the bed which was directly in the middle of the air cooler flow, on top of a cool bit of the quilt and definitely not touching anyone or anything else. My ankle got tail whacked as I managed to get my roasting hot foot too near Magic while searching for a cooler bit of the quilt. I'd have hated to see the aerial picture as there were bodies, legs, arms and paws splayed everywhere. Red wins the prize for funniest 'unable-to-cope-with-the-heat-while-wearing-a-fur -coat' impression.
 He kept doing his agonised wee howl an inch from my nose till I realised he wanted a space at the cooler edge of the bed so, with some negotiation everyone rejigged to afford him a place. This was fine till he got comfy and did a big starfish impression thus taking up more space. Once again proving that if you give a cat an inch you'd be as well chucking in the bed and all worldly goods too. Never let fluffy cuteness fool you!
My friend and I are always promising ourselves we'll make more time for ourselves and have committed to trying to find a day, or few hours each month or two to do something together. We have a notion to do something 'tourist-y' as it seems mad that we rarely seem to take advantage of what our own city and country has to offer on the doorstep. As the Commonwealth Games was taking over the city our decision over breakfast at the Wishing Well in Gartness was to do the Trossachs Trail and Callander. It turned out to be an excellent choice which was spectacular and gave some welcome respite from the heat as we drove along with the windows down and the sunroof open.
Our first stop was at the Scottish Wool centre at Aberfoyle. Inside it was more gifts and clothing rather than yarn which was rather disappointing but good for the purse!
 There was an owl display outside but it was sheltered from the scorching heat.
 Also outside was a fabulous sheep and duck herding display by this chap who was training the cutest young collie in history.
 I could not believe I didn't get a good pic of the dog as it was seriously gorgeous and so eager to work. You can almost see it to the left of the pic but I am annoyed with myself as I wanted to dog-nap Brit as he was amazing.
I think the mountain in the distance might be Ben Lomond but I'm a bit geographically challenged so don't take it as gospel.
Loch Katrine is where Glasgow's water supply originates from and is famed for being pure and clear. I'm not entirely convinced how pure the stuff is that flows from my home tap as we've had some spectacular blunders from Scottish Water over the years including an accidental diesel spill and cryptosporidium contamination from sheep poop at the Milngavie works. However, new treatment facilities have been built or upgraded and this should have improved things.
What really touched me about this drinking fountain was how much it reminded me of the Peak District Well Dressings that Louise has been sharing this summer.
 I've decided the next I go here I am going to petal a little plaque and place it beside the fountain as my own special link between my beloved city and the Peak District which I love. I just hope it is not prohibited to place a little petalled dressing outside of the confines of the Peak!
I've no idea why this pic is squinty but can only think I was probably propped on my elbow crutch taking it and am so used to listing to the one side that I didn't realise. Either that or I was wilting in the heat as it was around 1pm and fiercely hot.
On the spur of the moment we decided we'd like to do the cruise.
However, the lady in the booking office warned it was 'quite full' as three coachloads were booked on the one we wanted to go on in that kind of voice that says 'oh, you really don't want to do that...!' So we decided to save that for another day and go for lunch in the adjacent cafĂ©.
Just as well, as the boat was utterly mobbed. This is the view from our sweet little shady pagoda where we shared an afternoon tea stand, some snacky chips and gallons of tea, juice and iced water to rehydrate.
 I liked this shot with the lavender in focus but as I am a point and shoot photographer all credit goes to the camera 
Sauntering back to the car we noticed an old fashioned telephone box beside the bike hire shop. (You'll note there is NO mention of us hiring or returning a bike...!)
On closer inspection we realised it contained an AED defibrillator which seemed both odd and apt. Nice as a safety touch for a tourist area which caters for high volumes of often elderly coach tour parties or sporty sorts. However, my wicked mind was off having fun at the idea of some poor foreign tourist looking to call home and ending up with a bad perm and a shocking headache! Bet they'll 'reverse the charges' next time.....tee hee!
It could be worse, you could have been stuck in the car having to listen to my friend and I prattle on like this......still, it kept us amused.
I should have taken more pics but I was just enjoying the journey and chatting so much.
On the return journey I was definitely in seriously soporific mood with droopy eyes as it had been such a fabulously relaxing day. Or at least I was until a BMW driver did a dangerous overtake heading into a bend and oncoming traffic and my friend had to take action. She is a very cautious driver and I feel very safe in her care but both of us were quite shaken with her having to avert a crash and me trying not to face plant the windscreen. Fair woke me up!
We had such a lovely day, and it was great to get some respite from the heat, especially as this was the car reading when I got back to mine after the air con had been on for five minutes. My friend and I have also decided she will do the summer runs as her car has a sunroof and I'll be the winter driver as mine has hot seats. Bearing in mind we usually only get a week of sun here each year I may have got the heavy end of this deal!

I hope you enjoyed accompanying us on another Grand Day Out.