Saturday, 31 May 2014

James Oswald Series Giveaway Winner

We have a winner of the fabulous James Oswald books signed by the author. Thank you to everyone who commented. There were 12 people in the draw after a duplicate entry, one who kindly commented but didn't want drawn and the author himself who also graciously declined to be drawn! I was most surprised and thought it was wonderful of James to comment, as I'd told him what I was up to when getting the books signed. I did think it might be amusing to add him into the draw and have him reread his own work if he won, but then realised interrupting his writing schedule would be totally counterproductive for his readers!

I decided I'd go with the Power of the Paw instead of a random generator to choose the winner but 8am is clearly not business hours in the feline world here and I couldn't get a compliant cat.
Magic would not rise from soaking up the leftover heat in the bed and Red was too dozy after being scooped from his chair to be pressed into service, even after I went to the bother of wrapping them round a whiskas pocket!
Nice shot, sadly no interest! 
So as a decent cat servant yours truly had to do the honours after much stirring.
I've emailed Angel Jem for her details and must say I am a little jealous of her having the series to date to indulge in. Hope she enjoys reading the books as much as I did.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Signed James Oswald Giveaway

Now that my blog hiatus is consigned to the past I thought I'd like to do my very first giveaway but wasn't sure what I would giveaway. On Wednesday an unexpected opportunity popped up and my decision was made.
The author James Oswald is one of my current favourites with his Inspector McLean novels which are an Edinburgh based police procedural series with a supernatural twist which adds interest to the story. He was appearing at an author event in Dalmuir Library as part of West Dunbartonshire's Booked! Festival and I thought a signed set of his books would make a great giveaway gift especially as I know his books have been popping up with bloggers joining in with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees Year in Books and elsewhere.
It was a bit of a scramble to buy all three books as each shop seemed to have only one or other, which was annoying, as I hadn't realised there was a bookseller attending the event with piles of his books! Dalmuir Library was bright and welcoming and the audience was small and cosy enough to feel relaxed and engaged. They even laid on tea and biccies!
James, who I hope doesn't mind me calling him by his first name, was a fabulous speaker. He was well prepared and spoke with great clarity, humility and humour as he shared his 20yr journey to becoming what the press insist is an 'overnight success'. He's had an interesting career pathway including being a wine merchant and sheep poop collector as part of research and came to farming unexpectedly rapidly due to a family tragedy. I was impressed that he farms Romney sheep and my absolute favourite the Highland 'Big Ginger Coo' specifically because these breeds are hardy and as low maintenance as possible to allow him time to write. The best news for the audience was that he is writing away furiously, and in addition to Dead Men's Bones which is number four in the series, he is contracted for a further two books. Afterwards James was most kind in signing everyone's books, chatting and even kindly posed for the photos here for me.
I'm keeping it simple as this is a celebratory 'thank you' giveaway to the lovely bloggers I read who share their lives and to anyone who reads my blog. Just leave me a comment to let me know you would like to be involved. Anyone can enter from anywhere as I read international blogs so everyone should be able to enjoy the fun. Make sure you leave me a way of contacting you if you are a winner. As this is a Bank Holiday weekend and half term in places I'll keep this open till 8am on Saturday morning 31st of May 2014. Good luck everyone.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Meander round Milngavie

Something that has sustained me during my months of enforced downtime has been following the wonderful bloggers who have so kindly taken us as readers on their daily journeys and special days away. I adore Jacquie, Lucy, Gillian, Louise and so many others who act as tour guide and good friend in sharing their walk or visit. For the time it takes to read their blogpost I am actually there; entranced by their words and views illustrating the panorama and the minuitiae of their journey and not contemplating my familiar but limited view from home.

I am still very frustrated by my limitations and the pain but trying hard to regain my life. To give me a focus, and a distraction, I thought that perhaps the lovely readers who come here might like to accompany me. Its a chance to try Gillian and Jacquie's photo improvement tips. All were taken within sneezing distance of my car but I hope this wont distract.

My friend and I were in Milngavie, which is pronounced 'MillGuy' and not Mill-en-Gavie. Its a pretty and rather affluent town about seven or so miles north of Glasgow and is the start of the famous West Highland Way. I remember it feeling brighter than the pictures suggest but it was raining a little on and off.
The middle of the town centre is the start of the famous West Highland Way and is between a Greggs the Bakers and Costa Coffee if you are looking for it! 
and there are even some great benches for the all important photo op before people set off. 
I didn't notice this lady popping up when I was taking this pic 
This is the view of the mill stream that can be seen across from the benches above
 It is a lovely compact little town with plenty of nearby parking and has a great range of shops for a small place
It has a beautiful clock
 and a statue that I don't ever think I've really looked at before so can't comment on its history or significance
Just a couple of minutes from Milngavie town centre is Tannoch Loch. It is a private loch where I would just love to own a home but suspect a lottery win might need to be involved somewhere.
Imagine going down your garden, into your dinghy and onto the Loch. This is what a pond in your garden looks like in this area!
This little duck made me laugh as he crossed the loch, went over and woke up his sleeping wifey then paddled off which was most ungallant!
 Up above Tannoch Loch are the reservoirs and Mugdock Country Park both of which are very popular walking spots. The reservoir is in the mid-ground behind the trees.
On the other side of Milngavie are wonderful views and this is where my cats come to their holiday cattery. It is also where Rangers Football Club have their training grounds but I didn't think to photograph this - sorry! This is Bardowie Loch

Its is lovely that 10mins form my home there are such gorgeous country views and pretty areas. Glasgow often has a grim industrial type connotation in many peoples minds but no matter which way you go rural settings are available within a very short drive.
 This little swallow made me smile. We once had one fly into our office one hot summer when the velux windows were all open and as fast as he shot into the secretaries office they shot out squawking in horror. Yours truly was yanked from her seat and shoved in to deal with the 'unexpected item in typing area' which consisted of me opening the window and letting him leave.....!
The jolly colours of these tulips just made me smile at the road junction
I love the old fashioned road sign tho' the it looked like a bit of rust maintenance might not go amiss
I really hope you have enjoyed our little trip around Milngavie and that you might join me again the next time I manage out.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Barry Manilow at the Glasgow Hydro and the Tazmanian Devil

If you are just looking for a simple review of the concert you are probably better reading a proper critics review. This is my combined review and personal 'diary' of the event and my attempts at Mother wrangling while using a crutch, not on her I might add!

Barry Manilow is my Mother's lifetime love and would have been my father if she could have gotten her mitts on him, or so she told us! Way back when the tickets came out I had high hopes of being fit and able with my gammy knee just a distant memory. Sadly not the case and I was absolutely dreading this outing from both our mobility perspectives and the first time using this venue. My Mother is now 80yrs old, has survived a couple of life-threatening illnesses and is still living with the devastating physical and cognitive sequelae of them. I love her unreservedly but the use of the popular euphemism 'challenging' struggles to describe her behaviour at times. She also has physical problems with walking distances and worse is that she decides sometimes that she just can't/won't either. Our seats were mid-priced so not on the flat. It would have been ideal to get stalls seats but the only ones left were so far back as a pair of shorties we'd have struggled to see anything.

By now you are wondering what the hell was I thinking!!!! In my defence all I can say is that I thought it was a good idea at the time of booking! Barry Manilow is the only man I've ever seen my Mum swoon about, she is 80yo and he is 70yo so this is probably their last live meeting in Glasgow, I feel eternally guilty as I have not been able to visit my usual 3-4 times a week and we've had to exist on lots of phone calls because of my knee problems, her cognition is so poor that normal things don't stick in her mind but this might, she doesn't need anything so this was a part of her birthday present and I thought it would be lovely to be able to give her this experience.

Between her valiant carers and myself we got her spruced up and into a nice going out outfit and into the taxi. The Hydro venue has good front door access for taxis etc and has a new multi-storey car park nearby if you can walk that distance however, there are three major venues, Hydro, Armadillo and SECC (Big Red Shed) next door to each other and the roads decend into chaos and become overwhelmed. Luckily our access doors etc were all nearby and my Mum was in good spirits and distracted by everything so was managing the walks. This is the first time she has ever had to walk under her own steam outdoors with me as normally she insists on taking my arm and putting all her weight on me. It was funny as she kept trying to take my arm with the crutch, to help me she declared, but how she thought we'd manage as a five legged entity heaven only knows.

The venue has escalators and lifts so we were doing well until we came to the final stair access to our seats. The seat pitch is very steep which is great for the view however getting there is a nightmare as the polished concrete steps have NO handrails. My heart was in my mouth and it was a nightmare getting her up there. Barry Manilow's fans were not young and there were a lot of scared and unsteady people on the ascent and descents. Luckily the lady next to us had sussed out that if we went up to the next level on the way out there were stairs with handrails which made things a longer walk my significantly safer as the area seating is genuinely treacherous.
Access aside the venue was well laid out and everyone was given a glow stick so when the lights went down it looked like the place was filled with fireflies waving along to the songs. Mum took umbrage at her's and rolled it in her jacket. It made me laugh seeing all these pensioners giving it 90's rave culture with the glow sticks and being totally oblivious to the connotations! You could take drinks and food to your seats but I wondered how I'd manage to carry stuff and if my Mum needed the toilet it would have been a nightmare getting her there and back. Thankfully she refused offers of food or drink as the cold drinks and fast food didn't appeal.
The support act was a smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz who was very good if a little loud and he had a good audience rapport going. I love a bit of sax but too much definitely gives me a headache :-) Jazz and Blues are the two types of music I really cant take to somehow but he was ok. There was another long break before the main man appeared and when he did WOW the audience just erupted and the glow sticks went wild. He sang a good mix from his various albums and many of them old favourites. I have to admit to loving Copacabana, Bermuda Triangle, Mandy and New England probably because they were the undesired soundtrack to my youth.

Now I will have to kill you if you repeat this but I've seen Barry Manilow three times now as I have always been the fall guy to accompany Mum. He is a good showman but he's not my cup of tea. However, what I was really struck with last night was what a bloody great performer he is and what a humble and self effacing man. He had a very stiff and uncomfortable looking gait and quite a few of my pics have him leaning to the side like Gourock (the West of Scotland equivalent of Pisa) but I'm not in a position to criticise anyone's gait or limp. He really connected with the audience and you could see he was struggling with some of the songs which, in his youth he wouldn't have, but he really pushed it for his fans. Initially I wondered if he was possibly lip synching but he definitely wasn't and was giving it his all and I felt what a trooper. To be fair he could have come on stage and passed wind and his die-hard fans would have clapped uproariously but this was an expert in his craft in his 70's still genuinely reaching out and connecting with his fans and well done to him.
When he sang 'Looks Like We Made It' someone who may have resembled me (!) became a bit teary holding her Mum's hand and remembering all the times her Mum used to sing this during the hard times and how that same woman has survived. To be there together was a special moment in time and that very blurry picture of our hands is one I'll treasure.

Shortly afterwards the little fan I was accompanying became less engaged and started getting agitated. I noticed she was looking anywhere but at the stage, raking her nails through her hair and rearranging her clothing. She's recently been refusing to wear her bra so I bought her a soft crop top which she somehow managed to wear in the style of a vest and kept tucking it in her knickers which is a testament to the stretch of lycra if nothing else. It was funny when I asked her if she was alright and she asked me if I'd had enough and was I ready to go home as if she was only there to keep me company! She did manage with a bit of prompting and support to stay vaguely on track and was quite settled for the rest of the concert. It wasn't an excessively loud concert but it may have become so for her especially with her poor concentration as she may have forgotten who was singing.

The way out of the venue was less hazardous than I'd feared but when we got to ground level my Mother suddenly went absolutely Bertie and started getting exceptionally belligerent and verbally abusive to me, declaring she wasn't walking anywhere and that was her final word! Reasoning with her only enraged her even more.

When she eventually took on board that we couldn't stay in the venue and I couldn't, or wouldn't magic her where she wanted to go she stormed off at speed and I struggled to catch up with her! Once outside, we had the same pantomime of 'where are be going, I can't walk, I'm not moving, you'll need to do something'. Same deal until I got her to the little bus shelters for her to sit and stew. There was a Black Cab taxi rank adjacent but the queue was snaked way around the venue so I waited till the traffic cleared a bit and called a local firm.  Meanwhile my Mother was enraged anew as the Taxi Marshall's were chatting with folk in the queue and she took this as an affront that they were all laughing just to get at her, they were talking conspiratorially about her and to see if she could get a rise out of me she tried to tell me they were out to get me too and I should wade in and 'sort them'! Her language and volume were problematic and I had to tell her off on a number of occasions as in these situations she escalates for effect. Visualise an unreasonable and beligerent drunk spoiling for a fight at a taxi queue and that's a good match for my sober but furious Mum with delusions of grandeur and self-centredness.

Things weren't helped by a woman getting someone in a wheelchair into a taxi who decided to back right into my Mum and then complain because my mother put her hand out to protect herself. In this case my Mum was in the right and I had to politely but sternly challenge the woman's inappropriateness. By nature I am a quiet person and as much as I was mortified with having to manage my Mum's outbursts I certainly wasn't going to tolerate bad manners from anyone else and definitely not where these could have lead to an avoidable injury.

The remainder of the half hour wait for our taxi was difficult as I couldn't engage Mum in distracting or pleasant conversation as she sat Lady MacBeth style mangling the plastic bag containing the very expensive t-shirt I'd bought her and muttering vile untruths about everyone and occasionally and loudly making paranoid accusations at those nearby. I realised all I could do was try to ignore and contain her increasingly unreasonable outbursts but I can recall eventually hissing exasperatedly "You are only everyone's first priority in your own head so you'll just have to wait".

Half and hour later our private hire taxi arrived once he could get through the traffic, I apologised to the Taxi Marshall's for her behaviour at the adjacent Black Cab rank and after an absolute battle to get her seat belt on I got her back to her care home and the loving embrace of carers who were not plotting to lob her into the Clyde like I was by this stage. She stormed into the home and when the night carer offered her tea and something to eat she immediately popped on her pleasant chatty face. When I left I tried to kiss her goodbye but clearly I became public enemy No.1 again as I was now abandoning her. You just can't win, and as I said to the carer on the way out 'Clearly no good deed should ever go unpunished' and mine certainly hadn't!

I initially started writing this as just a review of the concert and venue but as I began writing, or more accurately rambling, I wanted to record how my night had really gone. I am not a fan of big crowd concerts at the best of times and I think it will be quite some time before I get over this one. It was done as a kindness, was poignant and special to have been there and hellish by turns but sadly these highs and lows are the reality of loving and being with someone who has a cognition destroying condition. I am always conscious that I am blessed that she is still here with me but that doesn't make her, or more accurately her condition, easy to live with. I wish with all my heart it was different but it isn't and maybe this reflects badly on me as a person. I feel I should say something profound about the role of carer or the person with the disability but the reality is all you can do is try to do your best and try to hang on as the emotional rollercoaster goes faster and faster.

If you've lasted this long, well done and you deserve a cuppa, or a lie down-I know I definitely did when I got home afterwards as my first trip to the Hydro is definitely not one I'll forget!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Blog Hole Resurgence

I have been very remiss in blogging and seemed to have fallen down a big black blog hole in terms of posting. I've still been around and have loved reading your blog posts which have helped sustain me. I love the bloggers I read who tell it like it is - the good, the bad and the frankly funny and it has been great to hear of your lives. Generally I like my own blog to be positive, or at the least balanced, but the effort of being upbeat was just too much when I was tired, sore and disheartened. I know many bloggers are struggling with much worse life circumstances than me but sometimes all we can do is manage what is ours.

My knee is still not great and I have to use my hated crutch but being able to drive a bit further and just getting out under my own steam feels good. I am getting back to work which is a tonic in itself, if rather knackering, but great to be occupied purposefully again. I'm not sure how things will pan out but, finally I have clinicians I trust and a supportive boss so while things are not perfect they are probably as good as they can be right now. It's not been all misery as some nice things and some craft makes have happened too and I'll try to get these written up as posts. So apologies in advance if I end up bombarding you with a torrent of blog posts. Hopefully, not so many that you end up needing a rest from me!