Friday, 30 October 2009


Autumn is upon us and with it comes flu season. This year, being aged 65, I was offered the NHS flu vaccine. There are posters up everywhere telling people that if they are of a certain age or disposition (pregnant mothers etc) go and get your flu jab.

Two things:
[1] In Britain they call a vaccination a "jab" or - equally common - a "jag". It's a good word ... much better than "injection"!

Knowing the importance and effectiveness of vaccination, I wouldn't dream of not taking up the offer.

[2] This is all free. Over the past 6-8 weeks there was a lot in the UK media about USA demonstrations - a great deal of hysteria! - over the proposals to have "free" health care. (Nothing is free, of course; it is paid for by our taxes.) People who live in a culture of "national health service", i.e. free health care for all, find it incomprehensible that people would actually NOT want this coverage.

So ... nothing for it ... I don't have to agonize over how much it is going to cost me ... I just turn up at the doctor's office, get handed a number and go and sit in the queue. There were 6 staff on the day I went and it all went like clock-work. In fact, I ended up getting 2 jags: one for flu and one for pneumococcus infection.

Done. I did have a sore upper arm for about 3 days but that was it. I am here to report that the National Health Service is alive and well; I cannot sing its praises enough!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I use a desk-top publishing software package called QuarkXpress. I use it to produce a yachting publication (and other minor bits and pieces). It is quite sophisticated but frankly can be flakey. That is the bad news. The good news is that I am learning that if I have trouble try Google for a solution. The hard part is getting the right terminology. I keep telling myself that the answer will be there somewhere, just keep googling (that way one learns the lingo which makes all the difference)!

Well, I solved a problem today and because I couldn't find the exact answer on Google I thought I would post the problem with its solution here.

Problem: Using Mac OSX and QuarkXpress 6.5 I appear to have corrupted a file (showed 0 kb). When I went to open the (recently used) file I got End of File error -39.

Solution: In Finder, I took the corrupted file and dragged it on to the Desktop. Then I dragged the file onto the Quark (lotus) icon in sidebar. Bingo! It opened! And it was all there.

I do not know why or how it got that way nor how it recovered .. but it worked.


This is my saw. I guess you could call it a lady's saw. It is small, sharp and very functional. That this is so is not by chance. I get great pleasure using this saw. (I am talking here about small branches and the like).

I am very fussy about tools, i.e. I clean them after use and put them away in a dry (hopefully) place. I think I get this habit from my father - a very tidy person when it came to tools and equipment in the yard: "a place for everything and everything in its place". Yup. I'm a fuss-pot in that respect.

Furthermore, I have a friend (Bob D. Yes, he looks after his tools which he uses to work on his car and his motorcyle etc.) who gave me a great tip about the care of saw-blades. He said that if you just rub a little Vaseline on the blade (having dried it off first, of course) before you put it away, in this case, by placing plastic blade cover over the blade, you will always prevent it rusting and the teeth will remain sharp.

So, in the same way as when I bring out a recipe given to me by someone, I always think of him when I go to put the saw away at the end of the day!


I was digging in the garden last week as the weather was mild and balmy. I hadn't been out long (it was late morning) when I became aware of a lot of birds settling in the trees around me.

Using the telephoto lens (as I don't have binocculars to hand) I took these 2 photos. I don't know what they are... starlings? In the city centre of Glasgow there are often large numbers of starlings settling on the ledges of the Victorian buildings. Actually they can be a real nuisance; nets have been put up to try and deter them.

It is quite fascinating to watch them swirl around, settle, chatter-chatter-chatter and then all of a sudden they move off. It can only be across the little park next door as it is possible to hear the sound of them off and on all morning.

I'm not quite sure what is going on. Are they preparing to head off somewhere? Is it about establishing the pecking order (oops...sorry about the pun)? Is it about who can make the loudest bird sound? I wouldn't say they were 'singing' ; it was more like 'chattering' and, indeed, all at the same time.

Friday, 23 October 2009


I am away from my computer these days and miss it terribly! However, using Iain's laptop, I am able to post text but not photos.

Where has the week gone?! Busy, busy, busy!

Today I was in the bank, the Clydesdale Bank in Milngavie. Instead of getting money out of the hole-in-the-wall cash machine, I decided to go inside (a thing I seldom do these days) and wait in the queue to get the cash that way. The reason was that I wanted some £5 notes instead of always just having £20 notes which can be a problem if you just want to buy a paper or whatever. (Two weekend newspapers these days can cost nearly £5 in total! Eaghghgh!)

Anyhow... where was I?... When I reached the teller and requested the money (including some back as fivers) she promptly pulled over a school jotter (to non-Scottish/British this is a medium sized lined school notebook ... click here - and scrool down to the half way mark - to see an image of a Glasgow school jotter!) and wrote the amount and date in it! She was keeping a note of all her transactions!

I couldn't believe my eyes! What?! With all the ***@&*** technology we have to go through what with cards, pin numbers, security codes to do with banks! OK.... maybe she is just a learner... maybe she is doing it to cover her own back 'cause she's been having hassle from the boss. Beats me!

Friday, 16 October 2009


I was visiting Neil B. this week and we had a stroll around his garden. This bush (it is not a 'tree') is in the back garden and was planted by his first wife (now deceased) many years ago. She was a botanist and Neil is at a loss to know what the plant is. I also have no idea. It is not an acer. It has very feathery leaves and velvety stems. There is a flower at the top (see arrow) which is purple and is a compact mass of little buds.

Days later: A very kind person has responded (see Comments below) and identified this bush. It is a Staghorn sumac as he/she points out here.

Now that is most interesting! From Neil's window in the back of his house, I said I thought it was a sumac from my experience of British Columbia sumac. However, when I looked closely at is I realised said to him that, No, it was not. Well, well! I was half way there ... right genus, wrong species!!

Neil and Christina 'out-source' the maintenance of their garden to their neighbour who is a landscape gardener.

Here is another shot of his flowers, also taken with my iPhone, of holyhocks and Michaelmas daisies.

Finally, I took this shot this afternoon. Iain and I paid a visit to Willie to get a load of horse manure. We had a really good visit with both Willie and Daye and enjoyed seeing their vegetable garden, hens and Red Rooster, and their peahen (the peacock has gone Walkabout).

They sell eggs at the gate so I walked down and bought a 1/2 dozen. The arrangement is to put the money in the black honesty box on the ledge. On the way back up the lane I was greatly taken by this iron style bathed in the late afternoon sun.


The weather has been good ... very good for several weeks now! This means we have been out in the garden clearing, digging and tidying. The aspect is south, the plot is not big, i.e. managable, and the soil is not difficult. There is lots to be done and, on the whole, we have managed to do it ourselves. We take it in small pieces. I do (at least) an hour a day and then stop. With the continuing good weather the job is soon done.

Iain does the heavy stuff, digging and felling (one only) trees. This holly tree provided Himself with 'Tree Therapy' as he calls it. Get out the saw and get out the pick-axe to remove the trunk and roots. In the past he has tackled much bigger tress but this garden is proving to be less onerous so he was able to do the job fairly easily.

The front of the house has a very narrow driveway and the first thing Iain did was widen it. He then removed the stones in preparation for a grab-machine to come in a remove the rubble and earth.

The truck arrived and removed all of Iain's earth digging and clearing of the past 2 weeks.

This is the view from the front door looking out to the street. The cleared area on the left will now allow space to park 2 cars (as well as a wider driveway entrance).


Mairi brought the children over for a few hours while she did some messages. Ishie will be 3 this coming New Year and Alastair is rising 2 years old in February.

Happiness is a back garden with a washing line! Many a happy hour can be spent playing with clothes pegs!

Alastair is really no bother. He putters about "helping" in the garden and easily amuses himself.

Grandpa is up for taking them for a wee hurl.

Ishie talks in sentences and is always ready to report on her day. She likes to give long explanations of things! Alastair is now saying many more words and occasionally a couple strung together.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

iPhone Technology

This is a test. I am trying to post text (have not figured out posting photos) using my iPhone. It would appear that it has to be done in HTML.

Goodness gracious me!! It works!!! This has to be the most amazing technology! I am so impressed!! This is because I am sitting in rather bare surroundings with a bit of kit the size of a packet of cigarettes and able to put this on the website (via sattelite?)

And what also amazes me is that I figured it out myself!

Next test: post a photo (of Iain digging up the driveway)!!!

Saturday, 10 October 2009


When we were in Galloway for the Book Festival last week I wandered out to the country outside Dalbeattie (where we were staying with friends) and took a few early morning photos.

There had been a lot of rain the day before.

The good news is that it is great for photos with lots of swollen rivers, puddles, clouds etc.

The bad news is that if your house involves a river to ford you really need to invest in a canoe! There is a farmhouse just out of view on the other side of this river.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


We have been away for the weekend down in the south-west corner of Scotland. The reason was to attend the Wigtown Book Festival. This is a small market town in Galloway and it deserves a pat on the back for marketing itself as a Book Town, i.e. lots of little bookshops, second-hand bookstores etc.

Once a year writers are invited to chat on stage to a host and then sign books afterwards. We attend 3 events (more on this anon when I am not so pressed for time). Most events take place in 2 large marquees erected in the main square. However one of the events took place, we discovered, in a local distillery down the road - Bladnoch.

The whole day was peppered with heavy showers and high winds passing over (which proved hard going for the large tents!) However, as we emerged from an excellent talk in the distillery the sun shone and I ran into the yard and adjacent garden to snatch a few shots.

One thing they had an abundance of - rain barrels!

And not forgetting that one of the many uses of old no-longer-required barrels - planters.