So, packing for the Oakleaf Camp now and setting off in the morning.

Quite looking forward to it, but I do hope I’m not disabled with another humungous tachycardia attack like the one I had at the camp a couple of years ago. It lasted the whole of Saturday, and left me whacked out for the rest of the weekend. I’ve increased my dosage of beta blockers for the past week to try to head it off – I’ve already had a couple of short attacks. Otherwise, though, my health seems to be improving somewhat. I had my monthly blood-pressure check last week and it was a healthy 128 over 80. My damm knee has been twinging more than usual, so I’ve tried to keep off my feet. Did slip a little Tuesday night – B had gone to bed early, I was bored and restless, there was a letter to get into the post. So off I went in the dark, down to the postbox in the village and back again. The night wasn’t completely dark, but a long stretch of the road is overhung with trees, forming an almost black tunnel. There’s no footpath or verge and there’s a blind bend. So you have to take a lot of care walking it at night. I slung on my cream-coloured jacket and took a torch – I have a reflective tabard that I should really have worn but couldn’t be arsed digging it out from under all the jackets hanging in the porch. Only one car passed me the whole time, but it was on that dark bend so I was glad I had the torch to make myself visible.
The walk was otherwise completely uneventful. There was some strange noises from the bottom of the field bordering on the loch. It sounded a bit like a pair of geese quarrelling, but it could have been almost anything – foxes, badgers, deer. I’m not enough of a countrywoman to know the difference. Whatever it was, it didn’t sound scary, just natural.
The whole trip there and back took me 40 minutes; I was quite breathless back in the house, but otherwise fine. Curious to know just how far I’d walked, I got out the Ordnance Survey map and measured it; to my surprise, I found I’d walked a total of one and a half miles. I’d always thought it was only half a mile to the village, but the map said three-quarters. Fifteen years ago, I’d have managed that distance is about 25 minutes and not got out of breath; in my current state of health, 40 minutes isn’t half bad. My knee complained by the next morning, of course. But that was as I expected. And it had been an enjoyable little adventure.

Ah well, will report on the Camp next week.

Red Squirrel

Red squirrel caught on my neighbours' bird table

Yes, I snapped this little fellow yesterday, happily nicking the nuts from my neighbours’ bird table. I was able to get up to within four feet of him; he was watching me, but didn’t seen concerned. Since I didn’t want to waste time faffing with arperture and shutter speed, I had the camera on automatic settings and zoom. So yes, it’s a decent picture, but it’s all down to the camera, not me.
However, taking such a good shot cheered me up after the mess that was Tuesday. I won’t go into details, except that my marvellous (non-) communications skills really put me in the spotlight! So I’m retreating back into my cubbyhole and sticking to what I know I do well (which doesn’t include writing nicey-nice diplomatic emails…)

Caroline is still gravely ill – the news is not good; she’s no longer able to talk and she’s unlikely to be coming home. There’s not a lot I can do from 200 miles away. I’ve said my goodbyes to her.
Although I had to cancel my Lancashire trip and the likelihood of getting the Diary paperwork now seem remote (thanks to the aforementioned terrific communication skills), me and B are getting on with our plans to publish the Elfin Diary. So life goes on, ever changing….

Health-wise, I’m better, thanks to Doc G increasing my levothyroxine dose. I’ve got more energy and I’m sleeping better. I still get tired after walking to and from the village, but it’s now just normal tiredness that’s swiftly dealt with by a sit-down and a cup of tea. Not the oh-god-i’m-aching-all-over-and-can’t-move tiredness that I was getting before. And I’ve not had any more tachycardia attacks – the ones I was having were obviously a temporary reaction to the new dose. B is a whole lot better as well – he’s nearly back to normal fitness. Oh, and we’ve got a new car!

So, things seem to be looking up at last. And of course, it’s summer, though it doesn’t look a lot like it at the moment – we’ve had rain almost every day for weeks. There’s almost no darkness at night now, the Sun is doing it’s usual northern midsummer thing of spending all night skimming just below the horizon instead of setting properly; next week is Full Moon, so there won’t be a lot of difference at all between day and night then.
How many times have I seen this happening? Too many times to count. I’m getting old…..

It’s been a beautiful spring day today – warm and sunny.
I ought to be thoroughly knackered – I walked to the village to get on the bus, spent the morning walking around town shopping, hauled said shopping back from the village; had an hour off for lunch and a sit-down before joining B in clearing out the garage for a couple of hours. My feet and legs are aching, but I feel good-tired rather than my usual o-god-it-hurts-i-want-to-curl-up-and-die tired. The sunshine almost certainly made the difference, that and the green sprouts everywhere, and the birdsong and the beautiful sights from the bus on the way back – pink cherry blossom, white buckthorn blossom, yellow gorse flowers all along the banks and verges…. it really lifted my tired old spirits. If the weather is this good tomorrow, I’ll walk up the hill and see if the bluebells are out yet.

Used my bus pass for the first time yesterday. A week ago, we pranged the car – not seriously, no damage done to us – and it has been taken away for inspection. Until the insurance company decides what to do, we are carless. So it was off on the bus I went hey-ho.
I had assumed that you merely flashed the pass at the driver as you scurried aboard. But no – I was hauled up short and told to put my card on top of a card-reader; I hadn’t noticed it, but the card has a tiny chip embedded in the plastic. Going to town? I was asked – like everybody else on the bus, I was, so that hardly needed saying. Going back, I had the same driver – I started to tell him where I was going, but he said it for me; the bus drivers around here know everybody, where they live and where they usually go. As do most of their fellow passengers – the local bus quite the club in these rural parts.

So, here I am, joining the oldies’ club at last.

We have a library bus come round here, every three weeks – a big converted bus full of books that tours around the outlying rural communities. Sure, we can go to the libraries at Castle Douglas and Dumfries, and often do, but it’s important to keep such local services alive (and it’s great having a library stop right outside your house). So we use it every time. It carries a pretty good selection and you can order anything that’s in the library system; the librarian/driver has a laptop hooked up to the main system and can tell you in seconds if a book is in stock or not. He knows his regulars’ preferences anyway and will try to carry stuff that we’ll like.
Today (Tuesday) was Library Bus day; it was also Bin-Emptying Day and Tomato-Man Day (no, not a new superhero but a bloke going round selling tomatoes from his car). Wednesdays are Veg-Van Days, when the mobile shop, selling mainly vegetables, comes round; in alternate weeks Wednesday is also Coal-Delivery Day. In addition, Wednesday is also one of the two Dumfries Bus Days, when the bus going directly to and from Dumfries goes by the house (very helpful when you have loads of shopping to lug home); the other Dumfries Bus Day is Saturday. Other days of the week are as yet unclaimed.
Such is one of the consequences of living out in the ruralities and working from home – days are measured, named even, by local happenings. The rest of the world seems far, far away…..

….dammed cold. According to the news, the temperature last night here was around -10°C. Today, it’s still below 0°C and is expected to drop to -12°C. Minus 12 Centigrade is minus 20 Fahrenheit!!! And the long-term forecast is for more of the same.
I can remember the “Big Freeze” winter of 1962/3, when even London (where I was living then) had day after day of minus temperatures (in fact, checking the ever-useful interwebs, I find that London had below-freezing nighttime temperatures all the way through February).
However, in that winter I was just a kid, with no concerns about keeping the house warm or having to get around. So all I remember from that time is the snow and slush and problems with getting to school.
Now I’m grown-up, experiencing the kind of grown-up worries that my mother went through then. Most of the roads here are icy, the drive here is just a sheet of ice, all the shops are completely out of salt – and the local news is saying that some councils in Scotland are running out of grit and salt to keep the roads open. We have enough coal for our fire until the coalman gets here this week. But if he can’t get through then we’ll have to get the car out and buy some bags. But will the roads be safe? And so on.
So I’m wishing it would thaw soon.

Especially because it’s none too warm where I’m sitting now, in the hallway. Luckily, I’ve no urgent work to get on with (though I wish I had, to get in some money), so I’ll switch off soon and sit by the fire.

Well actually it’s still the afternoon, but what the heck.
Got the Yule feasting done, got the big food shop over with, the coal bunker is full, we have torches and candles in case of electricity failure. It’s brrrrr-type cold outside, but it’s well above freezing here in the hallway where my trusty old computer lives. Basically, we can now sit back and relax. Relax in the way that we like, of course. For B, that means getting on with fixing the cupboard doors on the upstairs landing; for me it’s time to update all the websites, do the accounts and generally tidy up my office space. And also catch up on some blogging.
Anyway, happy Whatever to you all!

So, another day yesterday driving around delivering Yellow Pages. Not so much fun as before, and not just because it was pouring down all the time.
I wrote last time about how so many people in the more rural parts leave their doors wide open; it’s typical of the friendliness of the people living here. Well, not all of them do. Yesterday we found three properties that all had their driveway gates firmly locked (they were all within a mile of each other, funny enough). One of them at least had a gate mailbox and a bell; the other two had neither. One of those had two security cameras beadily watching us; B gave them both his ugliest scowl and made a big point of dumping the directory on the ground, in the rain.
After that, we came to the last two addresses – adjoining houses – on the list. In the nearby village, when we had mentioned that we’d be going to this place, everybody had chuckled meaningfully and said something to the effect that “Well, you’ll find it’s interesting there……”Continue reading

So this week, me & B haz work! Delivering Yellow Pages.
When we accepted the job, it sounded easy – just deliver in Dalry and to some scattered farms and houses outside, we were told. Dalry is a small town, just a couple of hundred houses. Piece of cake, we thought – do the town one day, do the outlying areas the next day.
Then, this morning, we picked up the directories and the routes lists. And found that as far as the distribution firm was concerned, “Dalry” included the entire Glenkens and halfway out to Moniave. Which is one heck of a big area. So it’s going to take us a bit more than two days and will involve taking the new car up a lot of rough tracks, which I’d got B to promise he wouldn’t do, after the Buttercup wipeout.
But, we got a lot done today, and saw a lot of scenery. And learned a few things. For instance, we learned that lots of dog-owners leave their dogs alone in the house during the day; these mutts, invariably out of their tiny canine minds with boredom, greatly welcome the diversion afforded by fingers poking through the letterbox. So another thing we learned (extremely fast) was not to put fingers anywhere near letterboxes.
Rather more pleasingly – or not, perhaps – we found that many householders in the more remote farms and cottages leave their doors wide open; obviously not many burglars can be bothered to make their way up half-mile farm tracks.
So it was a chance to get out of the house, plus I always like having a good nosy at peoples’ houses. I spent a lot of time leaping in and pout of the car with directories in my arms, but so far, I’ve not felt any bad effects. I’m quite looking forward to tomorrow.

….not a lot.
I’d had a really tiring couple of days. Friday I bussed into town to get some shopping, banking and bill-paying done, and managed to miss the bus back (I was sitting on the library wall some yards down from the bus stop, the bus had no number or destination and was coming from the wrong direction, I was too tired to get up and haul myself+bags down the street to see if it was the right bus). So I had to spend nearly two hours hanging around waiting for the next bus. It wasn’t entirely wasted time – I bumped into Son, who had just got into town for an evening out, had a good chat; went into the tiny art gallery attached to the library where a local artist was exhibiting, got talking to her about life drawing and may have got some life-modelling work for B; and because my arms were nearly dropping off from carrying two bags of shopping, bought myself a shopping trolley.
With that purchase, I appear to be on my way to being an old woman – only old women use shopping trolleys. As I’ve already recorded, B & I took the community bus on Wednesday night to get our shopping; it turned out to be more or less a mobile pensioners’ club – the bus driver had to search for his ticket price list, as he had never carried anybody who didn’t have a bus pass. One of the old ladies (it was all old ladies) was deaf and barely mobile – the bus collected her right from her door, with a volunteer helper assisting her on. On the way back, there were actually a couple of other paying customers – a young woman and a 10-year old – but this was evidently not the norm. I shouldn’t mind elderly people – I’m nearly one myself – but the journey reminded me depressingly of the old peoples’ homes I’ve seen. Waiting for Godot, in real life.

Anyway, Friday left me utterly exhausted; Saturday morning, I walked into the village and back to get a paper, which was probably not the best thing to do. By the evening, I was fighting to stay awake. B was watching the footie anyway, so I sloped off to bed at nine. Took my new iPod with me, spent an hour listening to music (Leonard Cohen mainly) and watching the resident Red Kite hunting over the hill beyond the window before sleeping. Woke up at some dim time (didn’t see what hour) and it was still twilight outside. Up here, we don’t get proper darkness around the Solstice, just all-night twilight; “sunrise” is just a gradual lightening of the sky. And it was clouded over, so there seemed little point in getting up to watch something that I couldn’t see anyway. So I slept again, until nearly nine.

So that’s wot I did on the Solstice. But the shopping trolley will be useful. Even though I am NOT an old woman.