Thursday, September 29, 2011

Many tangents

So, I've been feeling very distracted recently. And feeling that the effort and energy I exert each day don't quite produce an equal or greater return. I lurch from one task to another and bumble through it all and feel worn out and dizzy at the end of the day.

Anyway! Below is a selection of some of the good fun bumbling that has occurred in amongst the annoying bumbling.  
I watched my Godson JJ last Friday and we decorated gingerbread men!
I had considered making the gingerbread men as well as decorating them, but decided eventually to just buy the kit from the supermarket with the gingerbread men already made. It took me by surprise that JJ started eating the gingerbread man before he'd finished decorating it. And that he thought he had to eat each one he decorated. So I had to eat a couple myself, and dedicate one to be put aside for his brother.
I finished my orange, winter socks. They are less stretchy than the Rowan Pure Wool 4 ply, but I like the colour very much, and it's great to have a second pair of bed socks. I love that there is so little sewing to be done once the socks are finished, thanks to my amendment of the pattern.
On Sunday we had the most fun day of all. Hagos had decided he wanted to make cider using real apples. We have recently started making cider from kits, and the results have been good! But there are so many apple trees around where we live that it seemed a good opportunity to try real cider-making.
The Burnses came out to help us gather the apples, and our initial caution over the kids climbing ladders and trees was soon thrown aside and the kids were soon up the ladders and trees gathering apples with much gusto!
This is Hagos and JJ returning to the small apple tree (big tree, lots of small apples) after checking out something in the house.
And JJ showing off all the apples we had gathered from five different trees over the course of the day. They looked amazing in the bath.

Hagos and I then spent the rest of Sunday juicing all of the apples. It was a long, laborious process but we were happy to get through it without breaking the juicer! It's now bubbling away in Hagos's studio and we're excitedly awaiting its readiness.

I'm now reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, having become re-interested in the Uncanny/Marvelous/Fantastic genre after reading Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger. I was so impressed by the whole book I did something I've never done before and I wrote her a fan email via her publisher. And she emailed me back! It made my day. 

Hagos has a lot of coming and going coming up over the next two months. It's been so great having him home for a longer stretch over the last month (with a few gigs thrown in) but, you know, money is useful.

So I'm looking forward to Rik and Jenny's wedding on Saturday, and then getting back into writing. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I think this may be the only carrot I get this year from the very few I planted. I did a tub with about 11 carrot seeds and 11 beetroot seeds in each half. The beetroot has formed fine, but the remaining carrots are small, and will be gone in one bite.

So, we'll probably have it tonight with dinner. 

I'm planning to make the beetroot into relish again, if I can put my hands on the great recipe I made last year. 

Next year we'd like to grow loads of veg and try to store as much as we can to see us through the year, and can/preserve whatever's possible. It was such a joy last winter to go to the shed and get a fresh bulb of garlic that was hanging there. The onions lasted no time at all and I would need to grow a lot more next year. Our potatoes in the tubs are lasting us well though. I did one tub of International Kidneys, and they produced a heavy crop, all fairly big. Now we're onto what I think are Red Roosters (all my writing got washed off the marked sticks a couple of days after I planted them!). They have also provided us with a heavy crop.

I've missed my gardening this year due to the move. The potatoes have kept me going, but next year I want to do it all properly again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Country Walks

This is Flotterstone Reservoir in the Pentland Hills. I was introduced to it by my neighbour, Gill, a couple of weeks ago, and Hagos and I returned last week. There's a good car park by the Ranger Centre at Flotterstone Inn, and then there is the choice of either walking on the road (very few cars come by) or going off into the hills on one of the many footpaths. Part of the land is military and there are signs warning you may be 'ambushed'. Sounds fun.
The colours of the water, the hills and the heather are just amazing in the afternoon light. We chose a very windy day to go and at some points I was unable to move forward due to the wind pushing me back. But it was exhilarating.
On Sunday I met up with the Burnses (below) to go to Vogrie Country Park (Vogrie House, above). The house and grounds are amazing. It is all now owned by Midlothian Council, and though there is a sweet little cafe at the back in the main part of the house, the rest of it has an institutional feel about it. It was sold in 1920 by the Dewar family and operated as a mental health hospital. Later it was used as a communications centre during the Cold War. The downstairs is open to the public and has various rooms marked off for Boy Scouts etc. The house has an open day one day a year, I believe, where people can explore the rest of the house.
We went to do the Pond Dip, an event arranged by the Rangers, for kids to take a tray, a net and a tub with a magnifying lid to explore what lies in the pond. All the boys, including the biggest boy, were keen to get their hands on the net, and Lynsey and I were disappointed that at least one boy didn't fall in the pond.

I'm really enjoying finding different country walks and houses and castles in the area to explore.

In other news: I have just finished reading one of the most impressive books ever. It's The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. I do believe that finding the right book at the right time is one of the most rewarding experiences ever, and I was exactly in the mood for The Little Stranger. It was so well paced and developed, and though there was one point towards the end where I suspected what was going on, Sarah Waters keeps it well contained. And the resolution in the very last sentence was just brilliant. I would highly recommend it. A word of warning though: it is a ghost story, and I finished it in bed while Hagos was away (I live in a country house, in the country!). I had only intended reading a few pages before falling asleep, as the following day I was due to get up early to drive to meet my sister for lunch, but the end of the book pushed me on, and I was so absorbed that by the time I finished it was 2am, and I became aware of my surroundings, realising I was alone, and how late it was, feeling a little unsettled!

And, other news: I have almost finished my second orange winter sock. I reckon three more nights of TV knitting and it will be done.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

PJ Harvey!

This smudgy photo is PJ Harvey playing at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sunday. One of Hagos's colleagues is touring with her at the moment so we were put on her guest list for the gig.

I've admired and respected her as an artist for years. The first time I was aware of her was about 1993 when I was on tour with my husband's band in Europe. They were playing at a festival in Belgium (probably Pukkelpop) and PJ Harvey was on the same stage either just before or just after, which meant we were all backstage at the same time. Some of her band members came into our dressing room, and a few of us went back with them to theirs. PJ Harvey was lying across some chairs having her make-up applied. It was drag queen-type make up: huge eyelashes, lurid green, sparkly eye shadow to match the lurid green cat suit she was wearing. This is from memory. If I researched the gig the eyeshadow and cat suit may turn out to have been lurid pink, or lurid, sparkly blue. But I remember it as green. She was extremely skinny and played a great set. I watched it from the side of the stage and from the mixing desk front-of-house. And I've liked her ever since and respected the career she has built and directed for herself. A true artist from inception to delivery.

So I was really pleased she won the Mercury Prize tonight.