Tuesday, 26 February 2008

How busy is busy?

I had a busy January. I knew it would be busy from a bit out. February seems to have gone in a flurry of tidying up from January. March looks really busy because of the capital gains tax changes. April will be like February. Easter is early and I want to take a week off (which is not looking straightforward). I also always fish a couple of days in March which entails a 5+ hour journey north and back. I drove 80 miles to Perthshire to fish in a gale on Saturday and then 150 miles south for a night out on Saturday night. I enjoyed both. I got up at 7.00 to go to London this morning and have now been camped in the lounge at Euston working for three hours waiting for the sleeper. I like to fill time up, but I would sometimes like to feel in control. Some people seem to be - I tell myself its an ability to say "no" thing. I am not good at it.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Being a scruff

We went to a party on Friday night at one of the more beautiful houses we ever go to. I am not envious of their house and their beautiful things as I am a largely content person, but it does make me look at what I have and wonder if I don't quite make the best of it. There followed a week-end of attempted acquisition and getting on with neglected jobs. I have painted my front door (badly, although from a distance it does look better). I have found an alternative upholsterer to repair and re-cover a chair and a sofa the material for which we bought six months or so ago and which has languished in a corner of the dining room since then. I went over the hill to Wooler on Saturday to look for things to purchase, but it was a beautiful day and I ended up totally distracted by a hot air balloon, a photograph of which I had intended to post here, but I haven't fully mastered the taking of photographs on my phone. I have never been in a balloon, but it never looked more tempting. It really wasn't the week-end for jobs as the weather was so beautiful and half term gave a rare break from work. I think I'll just allow contentment to take back over.

Friday, 8 February 2008


While I don't exactly wish my life away I do like to be getting on with it. Various things give the year tempo - work (to a point); my daughter's school year to a large extent (next week end is half term, half way through another school year, which is frightening); the seasons.

One of the things that I find drives on this early part of the year is the 6 Nations Rugby. I went to my first international at Murrayfield in 1976 (I was 10 and we drove the five hours from Easter Ross to go). I still remember it well. I continued to go sporadically until 1979 when I went away to school and from 1979 to 1999 or beyond I didn't miss one. I was there for Scotland's Grand Slams in 1984 and 1990, both great days, the latter in particular as the noise levels in the ground barely dropped during a fantastic and unexpected victory over the English. These were whole week-ends - not just a few hours on a Saturday. They were the rare days when we all went somewhere (even my mother whose love of rugby is not great) and were occasions, with drink and food and friends. It is different now - I only go if asked and, while I quite enjoy it, I can't pretend I wouldn't rather stay at home. I don't particularly like doing, as a business exercise, something that I always regarded as a personal pleasure.

The expectation has not however diminished - I look forward to international week-ends. If I am here and Scotland are at home I love the way the city plays host to visiting sides, crowds of men with wives with shopping bags wandering along Princes Street on Saturday morning; groups of men crowded into bars; the all pervading smell of cigar smoke - it is welcoming; hospitable; visually stunning. So this afternoon I will be in front of the telly, with a gin and tomato soup and I might even, for the authentic car park experience, cook some sausages at 11.00 and wrap them in tin foil until 1.00.

And once this afternoon's matches are over I will start to wish away the week until the next ones and so the year will move on.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Windy Golf

I have spent the last two or three weeks rushing around at work. It is often like that. When it is, it is nice just to veg at week-ends. This week-end however, in the midst of this rushing around, we have rushed around. We drove to Northumberland first thing yesterday morning; we were back here by 3.30.

I got up this morning at 7.00 and drove back again to golf. I can't get too excited about golf and the "good walk spoiled" tag in many ways hits home. However I spent a number of my childhood years on the north east coast of Scotland where everyone golfed and, during those years, I golfed every day when I was at home. As a consequence of that you'd think I'd have some residual competence. I do not. Rugby intervened between 15 and 30, and it was only when my wife started to play (golf, not rugby!) that I picked a club up again.

Today I played very badly - I need to play every day for a week to go about the game competently at all and so I rarely play well before Easter. It was however a fantastic day - the sky was clear, the sun was out, it was dry all day for the first time in ages and the wind, which blew hard throughout our round, provided at least some excuse for my poor display. When I was 13 how I played mattered; I enjoy it so much more now it doesn't.

Sunday, 13 January 2008


I don't have room to plant many trees. It doesn't stop me doing so from time to time. Strangely on New Year's day both a friend we had staying (who I suppose at least has the excuse of having started, but not finished, a forestry degree) and my brother, who came for lunch, expressed a desire to plant some trees. It is a desire I too have been secretly harbouring against the day when I have the space to do so. I half considered clubbing together, buying a field and just planting the things randomly when we had the time and money. If this is a mid-life crisis I suspect it is a harmless, in fact even mildly entertaining, one - there is to my strange mind something quite funny about three mad old chaps planting trees in an otherwise empty field.

My office has for some months been engaged in a programme of confiscating waste paper bins, preferring us instead to put our rubbish in a variety of strategically placed re-cycling bins. It is not the concept that bothers me - it is the fact that we believe we should have someone spend their time thinking about this stuff when there seems to me so much else to do. I have no problem with recycling - the majority of our household waste is paper (we read a lot) and bottles (we don't hold back on the drink front) and we pretty religiously manage to put it in the appropriate box for collection. It doesn't mean we don't have bins about the place. On Friday the office bins in my department got a reprieve. I will try to put my stuff in the re-cycling bins. To salve my conscience (and more importantly because I enjoyed doing so) I planted a tree this morning to offset my wastefulness. In my view much better environmentally, economically and for my sense of humour.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008


My daughter has come home from school today with a homework instruction to create a list of liquids and volumes. After her bath we are going to my (substantial) drinks cupboard. Am I a bad parent?

Sunday, 6 January 2008

New Year Gloom

For some reason I have started this year in a gloom. I shouldn't feel like this. We had a good New Year, with friends on Hogmanay and fantastic village fireworks at midnight, and a house full on New Year's Day. My father was then in hospital for tests, which, if it hadn't been for the fact that they were generally good, would have been a reason for gloom, and so ought instead to be a reason for celebration, and I am pleased. They now seem to be plotting a trip to Australia. I think they should go on a freighter from Berwick which one can apparently do and would be an adventure. If I had time (and they do, although my mother is not a sailor) I'd definitely do it that way.

To say its not like me would not be entirely true as I'm inclined towards aggravation, although usually my mood is more positive. Work was busy in November and December and, while I managed to do Christmas things (including our daughter's school's really lovely carol concert) , it was generally in a rush. Then Christmas came and everyone seemed to disappear off the face of the earth so the last couple of weeks have been quiet. I know (and have known for the last two weeks) that they'll all be back tomorrow desperate to make progress. One of my team returns from a secondment and it will be good to have him back to provide an extra pair of hands. We have managed without him, but I think it may have been more of a struggle that we think.

I have just dismantled two lots of Christmas decorations, never the most cheerful job and we have spent the last hour tidying our daughter's room. She has so much "stuff" and it is so plastic. To be fair she's not a greedy child - her note to Father Christmas ended "It doesn't matter if I don't get it all." - but she seems to accumulate huge numbers of dollies, animals, paper, paints etc. etc. We are relatively doting I suspect, and I hope we provide more than just the material. I do however feel a strange (self imposed) pressure to provide and provide. For her first Christmas, knowing years of plastic things lay ahead, I bought an original illustration from "Noddy Goes to the Fair" and found a reasonable copy of the book. It (the picture that is) moulders away on the wall behind her blackboard. Presumably years of providing Christmas cheques lie somewhere between now and when I can next impose my taste on her!

I usually read John Macnab when I'm in this fettle - it is the ultimate comfort read - but I suggested it as my book group book for December and, even for me, to read it again now is too soon. We banished the television from our bedroom last year, but its only gone as far as the spare room, so I think we'll go there and watch Foyle's War - I'm not sure it'll cheer us up, but at least its proper Sunday night TV.

I promise to brighten up soon - not to be grumpy is one of my New Year's resolutions!