Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year

This dignified old tree lives in the field overlooking my house. Isn't it splendid?

Happy New Year

This time of year is a time for reflection. I tend to chew over all the plans I made last year and never quite got around to fulfilling. But does that really matter? The most important things are the hopes I did fulfill. This is a time to rejoice with the friends and family and lament the passing of friendship I no longer connect with. And of course, this is a time to be grateful for the health and happiness of my loved ones.

I feel I have achieved loads this year. I completed my novel and even though I haven't managed to drum up any interest in it yet, I am proud of the accomplishment. I have embarked on new pastimes; guitar and pilates. I have made new friends and joined new writing groups.
I continue to marvel at what life has to offer me and what I can give in return.

2008 is going to be a bumper year for me. I was born in 1958, so this will be my fiftieth year.

The First Fifty

Because I want to make this year special I plan to dig up all the dreams and desires of the first fifty years and try some of them out before the beginning of 2009. I don't intend to get hung up on achieving a full list of fifty tasks, like the suggestions in those horrible list books "5 million things to do before you die and feel guilty if you don't do anything" etc.

My list is going to be achievable and desirable (to me anyway). Things like; read 'War and Peace', play a game of Bingo at a proper Bingo hall, bake a souffle, watch Stirling Albion play at home, and plant a tree. Easy-peasy stuff but worth making the effort to turn my celebration year into one I'll cherish for ever.

Monday, 17 December 2007

man's inhumanity to animals

Roe Deer

Living in the countryside is idyllic, (most of the time), but it sometime divulges its grim side. Yesterday I witnessed a sickening act. I was out in the garden protecting some plants from the anticipated frost when I heard horrendous screaming, Colin grabbed a stick and rushed into the field next to the house and what he found was a pitiful sight. One of the harmless little roe deer, that normally spends it days bounding through the long grass and darting in and out of the forest with its mate, was lying mangled on blood soak grass. By the time I had grabbed my coat and followed I was just in time to catch sight of a lurcher dog skulking off in the opposite field, scattering sheep in its wake.

At first we thought it was a stray, but as I called the police, Colin caught sight of a man on the skyline waiting for the dog. This was a poacher, he had brought his dog into the countryside to hunt and kill animals. Hunting with dogs is illegal in Scotland and I now know why. This was a barbaric act towards an innocent lovely creature. Thankfully one of our neighbours very quickly put the poor beast out of its misery with a bullet to the head, but the cruelty of the act lingers with me still.

An Interesting Discovery

While editing letters for my new magazine role I have noticed that Microsoft's spell check does not recognise the word 'renewables' (and neither, it appears does Blogger). Isn't that interesting?

Writer's workshop

I attended a writers' workshop last week led by talented Scottish writer Laura Marney. Building a character was the task for the afternoon, and although some of the exercises were similar to other I've completed, one exercise Laura dished up to the group was a meditation. She explained that she uses this method to clear her mind before she begins writing. The practice helps to rid the mind of all those niggly wee things that stop the flow.

I have been trying it this week and it works!

Great new blog

This is a rather unfortunate piece of synchronicity, considering the story I told at the start of this post, but I found this website and blog last week and always intended to feature it.

Velvet Antlers is the creation of Clare and Dave MacLeod. Dave is the world class mad man who climbs death threatening climbing routes and Clare is the crazy women who belays his climbs (for the uninitiated in the art of climbing this means holding the rope attached to her man and praying he doesn't fall off the rock). Clare starred in this supporting role in Dave's recent TV climb 'To Hell and Back' and my nails still haven't grown back from the chewing fest the climb induced.

Velvet Antlers website sells exquisite Scottish produce similar to the stuff I have been blabbing about for the past couple of months. The blog also features Clare's foray into the world of filming and mountain festivals. I am adding this site to my favorites list. Check out Dave's blog too.

Incidentally, I voted 'To Hell and Back' as the top TV programme in 'Best of 2007' section. I will post the link for the winter issue when she has announced its release.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Tunes of the Earth

Plain White Ts - Hey There Delilah

The guitar tune I aim to conquer before the New Year. Wish me luck!


I am a great believer in synchronicity, when two things happen at the same time with a strong connection. Some people call this coincidence, I call it spooky.
Maybe I am more open to this phenomenon, but I experience this all the time.

One such incident happened last Thursday. I picked up a book of poetry from the library, The Tree House by Kathleen Jamie. That evening I received the latest newsletter of The Ochil Mountaineering Club, a club I have been a member of for fifteen years. I was delighted to read of one member’s canoe trip to the islands of Loch Maree, Wester Ross. In the article the writer describes a tree on one island that has coins hammered into its trunk. Something triggered in my memory, something I had heard about Jamie’s poems. I grabbed the book and was astounded to find the first poem The Wishing Tree, describing the very tree on Loch Maree.

What is Inconvenient about the truth?

Last night I watched the DVD The Inconvenient Truth, the film by Al Gore. Most of the points made in the film were not new to me, but it was clear that the efforts of the rest of the world were pretty paltry compared to the difference the US could make if only they would take this matter seriously. The one thing that may make them sit up is the failings of their car industry. I personally traded my guzzling 25mpg Chrysler for a nippy 46mpg Suzuki. It was one of the best moves I have ever made.

This film also made me think of the other positive steps I have made to improve my own carbon footprint.

Two weeks ago I began ordering from a vegetable box scheme at This seems like a good idea until I manage to work my garden into providing my own fresh produce. The only problems is that the company do tend to heap on the root vegetables at this time of year and despite finding a great website, I am struggling to use up all the potatoes and turnips delivered.

It is difficult to come up with different Christmas Pressies for friends and family and still try to be earth friendly. But this year I think I have hit a winner. I live within staggering distance of Glengoyne whisky distillery and their gift shop is a full of locally produced gifts. One piece of their moreish fudge probably has more calories than I need in a year, but is so yummy it is easy to forgo the healthy options. The best product is their range of organic soaps handmade by Purdie’s. I bought the Whisky Ginger & Barley for my own use and have fallen in love with the evocative rich spice perfume. The packaging is simple and the price is not deadly. In future I will spread my soap purchases between the distillery and my other favourite soap shop, Arran Aromatics, from where I stock up during my annual visit to the island.

This year I also switched to Lush deodorant. Lush produce an organic deodorant sliced from a block like a lump of cheese. 100 gram purchase can be divided into small pieces and kept in paper bag. It lasts for ages. No need for the heavy plastic packaging used by most deodorant suppliers. My one concern with Lush is I don’t know how far the products travel before they reach the stores, but I can’t find a local supplier of deodorant.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Reads and Rants

Another troublesome bear - Rupert

Gillian Gibbons
Thank goodness sense has prevailed and the Sudanese Government have released the British schoolteacher jailed there last week for insulting Islam. This charge has been recognised as an over reaction and the Government have granted Mrs Gibbons a full pardon. How easy small mistakes can be exploded into life threatening situation.

Is voluntary work a luxury for the well off? £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££

I have recently agreed to become the sub editor of a mountaineering magazine based in Scotland. The post is voluntary but because I have been associated with the magazine’s governing body for fifteen years I felt that I should give something back to them. But my main motivation for offering my services is that I felt I would learn about publishing and the position would, somehow, legitimise my decision to give up the day job and be a full time writer.

A friend of mine told me that some media organisations in London pay young graduates meagre salaries to work their way up in their particular field of interest. The graduates can do this underpaid work because they are supported by family money, trust funds and annuities. This practice limits the number of jobs for hard workers, struggling to carve a career in the same area. She argued this practice is creating an unfair advantage for people with higher incomes than others?

I don’t personally agree with that argument. I have not always been able to afford to take on such a large chunk of voluntary work, but I always tried to help organisations I've been involved in, even contributing a small amount of help.

One philosophy I have stuck to all my life is that if an opportunity comes my way, no matter how large or how small I grab it.

The world is full of people with more money than me, but the world is also full of people more talented than me, funnier them me, prettier than me. This list could end up quite large so I’ll end it now - you get the message. But there are also a ton of people who have not seized the opportunities presented to them because they are too busy moaning about not having choices.
The world is full of unfairness, but many people in the western world sit back and allow rich opportunities, even some large ones, pass by them everyday.

‘seize the moment try to freeze it and own it, squeeze it and hold it’ Eminem

Just Read

The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson

This book was recommended to me by a Canadian lady and at the time when I search for it in Amazon I found it was only available from . I ordered the book and then realised that ordering most books from the US was cheaper than buying through – not a good deal for the environment is it?

The novel tells the story of fifteen year old living on a farm near a Native American reservation. The area is terrorised by a daemon who invades bodies and turns the weak willed into evil beings. I believe that this theme is a metaphor for the girl to rationalise the abuse she suffers at that hands of her disturbed father and to help her deal with the ill treatment dished out to herself and her family by the community.

The focus for the action is a wood, a setting the author skilfully uses to create the menacing mood that percolates through the whole story. The characters were neither good nor evil but have extreme elements of both. The author show great sensitivity and compassion when dealing with the girl’s confusion over her awakening sexuality.

My one criticism of the novel is the use of repetition for certain pieces of information. Whether this is intended or not I found it distracting.