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Archive for the month “May, 2012”

A hens tale


I’m fourth from the right – next to the hen by the way!

I have Thirty-Three 1500 word assignments to mark this evening so here I am updating my blog instead!

I’m safe and sound back on the rock and I can’t deny I’m pleased to be back.  I was desperate to get away.  I was looking forward to unbroken sleep and indulging my every whim without considering others at all and for the first couple of days I really did.

On Friday morning I went back to sleep after my sister went to work.  Then I got up, ate a leisurely breakfast, had a leisurely shower and then wandered around the Charity shops of Fort William before eating a leisurely lunch, repacking my bag in a leisurely way………you get the idea.

The final location of the magical mystery hen weekend was Dublin.  I was really the driving force behind our decision to go to Dublin so I did feel a certain amount of pressure that the weekend had to go well and it really did.  Of course there was the odd glitch.  The hotel was not quite as posh as I might have hoped for.  You had to wear very strange hats in the swimming pool.  The hotel staff had clearly never heard of afternoon tea and some of them didn’t know what pairs of scissors were.  We ran out of pritstick and Jen had to finish Mairi’s hen book using superglue and bits scraped out of the stick with a broken make up brush. Then the hotel tried to double our bill and one of the hens realised that she had booked herself to go home on the 27th of June rather than the 27th of May.  There was the odd spat too, you can’t have six girls living in close contact for 48 hours combined with alcohol and lack of sleep without a certain amount of crying in the toilet.  I’m proud to say we have all remained friends though.

Anyway we had a wonderful time, spa day (although I had to cancel my massage as I was warned it might make my beloved tan patchy), Mr and Mrs quiz (during which it became apparent that Mairi really knows her fiancee very very well).  Afternoon tea with presentation of the the aforementioned hen book (a photo album with entertaining anecdotes from all of the hens).  Dressing up in Moulin Rouge style outfits and then wearing them out to dinner and to a night club.  Then a good nights sleep before heading off to the races in our stretch limo driven by a lovely man who really was called Dermot O’Brian.

We didn’t see a lot of Dublin but what we did see was wonderful.  Dublin appeared to love us too.  As we walked down the street from the restaurant to the night club it became apparent that six girls in corsets and tutus are quite a spectacle.  Not only did we attract the attention of the numerous stag parties who were wandering the streets we were also asked to pose for pictures by hen parties and Japanese tourists.  I would be very interested to know how many tourists went home with us in their holiday snaps.  It was the closest I Will ever come to being a celebrity and I must say I enjoyed it.

By Sunday morning though I was beginning to struggle.  Much as I fought it I was really missing my girls.  Particularly Sally.  I think there is just something inherently wrong in a mother being in another country from her eight month old baby.  Every time I expressed milk and threw it down the sink I felt guilty and every time I saw or heard a baby it looked like her.  In the airport I saw a baby around the same age and it reminded me so much of her that I found myself having a little cry in the toilets.

So here I am back amidst the nappies, the enormous piles of laundry, mismatched socks and broken toys.  Our kitchen smells of lambs milk and dog.  Our house has been overrun by woodlice and I keep finding bits of food splattered on the wall nearest Sally’s high chair.  Allan and I have spent the day juggling childcare along with the shop and our various other projects.  I’m so happy to be back.  I’m not saying I never want to go away again but I don’t want to go away for a long long time.  I’ve got too much marking to do anyway.


I’ve been tangoed

It’s all feeling a bit surreal.  It’s 08:53 and I’m relaxing on my sisters bed in my pajamas.  I’ve had a full nights sleep (well apart from her snoring) and for the next six hours I have nothing to do but indulge my own whims.  How odd.

For the first time in two and a half years I am actually alone.  Helen and Sally are safely on Colonsay with Allan and my parents and I am in Fort William waiting for my sister Jen to finish work so we can embark on one of our oldest friends’ hen weekends.

I can’t say much about the hen – I don’t actually think Mairi reads my blog but even so having managed to keep schtum as to the location and activities we will be enjoying I would be gutted if she decided that today was the day she was going to catch up on all she’s missed.  Don’t worry though – I have another day to myself on Monday so I promise full disclosure and photographs then.

I left Colonsay at lunch time yesterday.  I won’t pretend that the morning was not a little fraught.  Helen was very relaxed about me leaving although she did remind me several times that I had promised to buy some new socks for dolly (she has lost one) and some more big girl pants for her.  I am quite worried about these promises now as my trip only allows for shopping in Oban and Fort William – neither of these towns are large and I’m concerned that socks for dolly may be in short supply.  If the worst comes to the worst I will have to buy some baby socks and alter them on my way home.  Helen actually spent most of the morning down at the weaves – talking to them.  She took them an egg the day before so I think they were pleased to see her.

I had a very pleasant time on the boat.  I ate what I wanted for lunch and didn’t share it with anybody.  I bought two gossip magazines and read them both although I was sad to discover that six months on Colonsay has had a serious impact on my celebrity recognition skills and I didn’t know who half of the people in the magazine were.  I must tell Allan we need to start watching TOWIE when I get home.  I know we live on a remote island but still there are standards to maintain.

My first port of call in Oban was then bank and it was only after I had attempted to engage the teller in conversation that I realised that the social isolation of the rock has impacted on more than my celebrity recognition.  I seem to have turned into one of these old ladies you meet at bus stops who engage anyone in conversation and won’t stop talking at them until they actually get onto a bus and drive away (and woe betide if they are on the same bus as you, I once had to admire an old ladies new gloves all the way from Inverness to Wick).  Mairi may not know what we are doing on the hen weekend but fear not the whole of Oban now knows.  I also had a very interesting conversation with a lady in the tanning salon about her shingles.

Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will have picked up on the words tanning salon.  Yes!  I decided to go for what my friend Kate calls ‘the diet in a bottle’.  I was concerned that Oban may not have the facilities to give me a healthy glow but I need not have feared – there were numerous salons willing to transform my pastey whiteness.  I picked one called Saint Saviour where a lovely lady called Karen talked to me at great length but minimal speed about how realistic the tan would look.  I then took off all of my clothes (yes all of them!!) and assumed a number of bizarre poses whilst she airbrushed me.  Twenty minutes later I was a delightful shade of orange.

It’s funny, I’m usually a very self conscious person.  When I was about 15 my Dad insisted on doing a ridiculous walk all through a motorway service station and I refused to walk near him in case I was associated with him.  Normally I won’t go out if my hair looks greasy but I strolled through the streets of Oban happy as larry, bright orange and proud.

Sadly when I arrived in Fort William two hours later it transpired that Jen does not share my new Zen attitude to life.  She greeted me with shrieks of horror, walked ten paces in front of me and made me wait in the car whilst she went into the supermarket.  We spent the evening engaged in Hen preparations and each time either of us caught a glimpse of my mahogany hued limbs we would be crippled by laughter.  I was also not really allowed to help with many of the hen preparation tasks as my hands kept leaving orange splodges all over everything.

Anyway, I showered last night and this morning  I just have a healthy glow.  O.K. I’m actually still orange but compared to last night I’m practically white again.  It’s true though – I do look much thinner.  I would like to share a photo of my orangeness but sadly it would give away crucial hen details so instead I leave you with a picture of Jens suitcase – she actually thinks it is going to shut – poor deluded fool!



I think I’m having some sort of second childhood, or maybe even a second adolescence.

Allan left yesterday for a stag weekend so I promptly moved myself plus children and dog in with my parents.  I then went out to work leaving my Dad to babysit, came home to find my dinner on the table, consumed dinner, put children to bed (ably assisted by my Mum) and then went out to the pub quiz.

I felt quite guilty about all of this anyway. So imagine the depth of my guilt when I came in at 11:30pm (having stopped in to feed Sally lamb on my way down the field) to find my be-dressingowned father holding a squalling Sally.  All the milk I had left for her had been drunk and he was powerless in the face of her wrath.  So extensive was my guilt that I felt compelled to bake a cake as a form of apology this afternoon.  We’ve just eaten most of it between the three of us so I think my apology has been accepted.

It was worth it though as I was actually on the winning team of the pub quiz.  I love pub quizzes.  I was thinking this over today and I sorely regret not having attended more quizzes throughout my life.  Now I’m a parent and my life is practically over I realise that I’ve squandered far to many evenings with staying at home watching ‘The Apprentice’ when I could have been out quizzing.  Sadly my few quiz victories have been inexorably linked to one man – Colonsay’s resident quizmaster.  (Well he’s not actually the quizmaster – at the moment Colonsay has a quiz mistress – what I mean is that he is a master of quizzes).  The reputation of this man precedes him and on approaching the hotel for any quiz all people can talk about is how they might manage to be on his team.  In fact it’s not unusual to have to fight ones way to the front of a scrum of eager quizzers all fighting tooth and nail to take up that hallowed bar stool next to him.  I’m not foolish enough to think I would ever stand a chance of winning the quiz without this man but last night I did bask in the glory of knowing such snippets as the name of the oldest Von Trappe child (I knew those 242 viewings of The Sound of Music weren’t wasted) and that ‘I dreamed a dream’ comes from les Miserables.

For us mothers the problem with the Colonsay pub quiz is that it doesn’t finish until well after 10pm.  If you are then victorious you are suddenly hit by £40 to spend on Alcohol (admittedly split between six of you this doesn’t go far on Colonsay) which, if you are a lightweight like me, you will be in no fit state to consume.  It doesn’t matter though, it’s the moral victory that counts.

I spent today basking in the glory of my victory, feeling mildly hungover and running up and down the field to feed Sally lamb.  Helen was up very early and I found myself pushing the buggy through the driving rain at 10am this morning just so that the wind in my ears would drown out the sound of her whingeing.  All this single parenting is building up plenty brownie points though – all of which will be redeemed next week when it’s my turn to head off to a hen weekend and leave Allan in charge.  Those poor children won’t konw what’s hit them.



Not me – Fat Tracey.  Not only has our top layer produced a double yolked egg this week but she has now taken it upon herself to increase our flock of hens.  Sadly poor Tracey is flogging a dead horse.  Her eggs are distinctly unfertile.


In fact my perusal of the interweb indicates that broodiness is not to be encouraged.  If we don’t stop her she may start plucking out the feathers on her chest, starving herself and, worst of all, doing giant poops.  I have sought advice on the aforementioned interweb and have found a number of solutions.  My favourite include giving her flying lessons (not sure I’m qualified to do this since I can’t fly myself) and putting ice cubes in the nest – harsh. We have settled for shutting her out of the hen house.  However this has made the other hens very cross as it means they have to lay their eggs outside.  If she doesn’t stop brooding and snap out of it we may have to put her in a run by herself.


Poor old Sally lamb is off colour too – she has a runny bum.  We had to phone the vet for advice and sadly this advice involved me jabbing poor old Sally in the bum with some antibiotics.  She took it pretty well though and is still wolfing down milk and happily sleeping in her dog kennel.  We managed to get a drug runner to bring some more antibiotics over on the boat tonight so fingers crossed she’ll recover.


For those of you eagerly awaiting news of Sally lamb’s failed foster mother you will be pleased to hear she is still with us.  She was up on her feet and eating some hay today so fingers crossed she’s on the mend.  Interestingly her lamb continued to feed from her even when the poor sheep was lying at deaths door – every lamb for himself!


We are safely back in our own house this evening after three hours of solid cleaing.  I think the girls are pleased to be home although on being dragged away from my parents  Helen did say ‘No, no, no I want to stay at this house’. I don’t think she really meant it.  Sally didn’t really say anything – just shrieked and filled her nappy.  I think that means she’s enjoying the view out of the new double glazed windows.

I’m going to give it all up and become a doctor!


My Grandpa shearing a sheep in the good old days.

It’s just been one of those weeks.  Suddenly the island idyll is seeming less than idyllic.  I’m about to catalogue a litany of disasters both great and small.

I think things started to go down hill around mid week when Allan found a dead lamb in the field….now I think about it it was probably an omen.  There was a sheep hanging around and he decided to foster our pet lamb, Sally lamb onto this willing mother. A series of events subsequently unfolded where the lamb didn’t really take to the mother, my dad kept saying how weird the whole thing was and something wasn’t right until a couple of days ago Allan went down to the shed to check on them and found the proud mother had given birth to a lovely new lamb!  Clearly she was not the mother of dead lamb in the field and no wonder she wasn’t that keen on the foster lamb we had tried to fob her off with.  Sally lamb gleefully went back to the bottle and the dog kennel and we put the sheep out in the field.  Then we noticed she was a bit off colour and appeared to have a bit of retained placenta.  Then she looked really sick so we gave her some antibiotics.  Then she looked really really sick so we did some investigating and found out that she not only had a retained placenta but also a retained lamb. Not nice.  She is now in the shed looking pretty gubbed (to use a medical term) and Allan and my Dad are taking turns to flagellate themselves for the numerous ways in which this poor sheep was mismanaged.

Following on from all this Allan and I set off for a romantic walk round the sheep last.  For reasons best known to ourselves we decided that a sheep had a stuck lamb and chased her around the croft twice. During the process of the chase I fell flat on my face (but I was up and running like a gazelle seconds later). I also managed to perform a bizarre Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 360 degree spin whist catching her which I think dislocated my shoulder and broke several of my ribs.  O.K. maybe not quite but I’m very stiff and sore this morning.

So this morning I woke up sore, sleep deprived (but that’s a given) and generally grumpy to a howling gale. This led to the realisation that our tent (also known as the guest wing) was in real danger of blowing away.  It was heroically rescued by my dad and Allan.  Sadly I felt their actions were less heroic when I discovered the sopping wet tent shoved into the shed with Max’s stinking dog bed on top of it.

Allan has not been in my good books this weekend as he and my Dad have spent most of their time replacing the windows in our kitchen and living room.  Yes I know this is great.  It will be nice not to have to mop the windowsill dry when it rains and to remove the tea towels which we had stuffed around the window frame in a  vain attempt to stop the drafts but did they have to make so much mess?  I often complain that when Allan cooks he uses every pan in the house and leaves the kitchen like a bomb site.  Well if you extrapolate this to power tools  you may have some idea of the current state of our house.  At least they fixed the hole in the wall that Max made with his giant arse.

Whilst they were out doing manly things I decided to display some of my domestic goddess skills and proceeded to make homemade pizza.  Sadly I forgot to add a raising agent to the dough and created something which was more like hot cheese and tomato on an oatcake than a pizza.  At least Helen said it was lovely which is something as she’s not afraid to tell me when my food tastes ‘mingin’.

So here we are camping out in my parents (admittedly luxurious) house. Our house is an uninhabitable tip. We have our friends little girl to look after tomorrow morning.  We have to somehow clean our house and dry out the tent (which is almost as large as the house), minister to the sick sheep in the shed, feed the pet lamb, keep an eye on the sheep on the croft and go to playgroup.  Also I need to spend a lot of time this week learning how to get to grips with the shop ordering system as Mrs Shopmeister’s period of confinement draws near. Allan is going away to a stag weekend on Thursday leaving me to clean a 12 bedded holiday cottage by myself.  And to top it all off it is the first week of a new semester on my on-line learning course – this means that I will be inundated with e-mails from vacuous students asking me bizarre questions and complaining that their holiday plans don’t fit in with the course timetable.  Just writing this has increased my heart rate.

I guess I thought when we moved here that the horrible – rip your own skin off you’re feeling so stressed- stress would be left behind.  Rather disappointing to find that this is not the case.  However it makes me wonder if perhaps I am just the sort of person who would be stressed anywhere.  Even if I was a Buddhist monk I would probably be unable to meditate due to worrying about my bum looking big in my robe and what the other monks thought of me.  So I could give up the good life and rejoin the rat race or maybe I could just try and relax a little.  Easier said than done though.

Quid pro quo, I don’t think so!


I thought the book festival was wonderful mummy!

I know this may seem a little big-headed but I am genuinely beginning to think that The Scotsman may have some sort of vendetta against me.  Yes this seems unlikely but I really cannot think of another explanation for recent goings on.  Perhaps they are so threatened by my blog that they feel the need to pour cold water on my every endeavour least I overtake them and become Scotland’s leading broadsheet.

If you  have the time have a little read of this link and see what you think…………

For those of you who have forsworn The Scotsman after the last piece of guff they wrote about me the precis is if you want people to write nice things about your book festival you have to give them lots of free stuff.

Obviously organising an amazing event, featuring six world class authors, in a beautiful setting with wall to wall sunshine and providing said journalist with a friendly welcome and a free ticket for him and his wife plus a whisky tasting with 6 malt whiskies for only £8 is simply not enough.  We should have sent a runner to the nearest Dolce and Gabanna and fashioned a designer sunglass containing goodie bag out of the skin of our own babies – point taken.

I am apoplectic with rage.  I think what really gets to me is the fact that we all worked so hard to make the festival a success.  Those of you who have small children will understand how difficult it is to co-ordinate childcare especially when you are feeding a baby yourself.  Allan and I had to run around like blue-arsed flies to fit in all of our work commitments and allow me to go to meetings.  Allan and my mum both spent most of the whisky tasting washing glasses in the kitchen despite the fact that they weren’t on the committee, had paid for their tickets and my mum doesn’t even like whisky!! (in fact she can’t even stand the smell, it was torture for her).  On the Saturday morning each committee member turned up and uncomplainingly paid for their own tickets despite the hours of unpaid (and largely unthanked) work we had put in.

To have some bourgeois journalist complaining that he had to pay for his own B&B in order to come and enjoy our idyllic island is almost too much for my blood pressure.  I’m not sure where he thinks we would have got the money to wine and dine him from? Perhaps he was hoping I would chip in a little of this months child benefit and that older members of the committee could have done without fuel this spring and contributed some of their pension?  Most likely he had read the previous article and thought Allan and I could spare a little of our ‘enormous salaries’ to support him.

The book festival was the first community spirited thing I have done since coming back to Colonsay and this has left a very bitter taste in my mouth.  The reason I became involved was to allow myself and other islanders the opportunity to engage in a cultural activity which would normally be outwith our sphere.  With one paragraph I feel that the whole event has been somehow cheapened.  That it is assumed that we want to compete on a national scale and, if so, we will be judged not on the quality of our event but on the quality of our freebies.

Fortunately feedback from the authors – some of whom were happy to stay with friends on the island and all of whom did not receive free accommodation for their partners and families has been more positive.  Colonsay is a magical place.  Some people get it, some don’t.  This guy didn’t and that’s his loss.

3 Reasons why I think I’m pregnant

1. My back really hurts

2. I’m hungry all the time

3. I’m very tired

Hmm I do realise that there is a rational explanation for each of these signs.  Having finally reached my  Weight Watchers goal I’m now struggling with the strange urge to go on a rebound binge and eat everything in sight.  When I say I’m struggling I mean I’m fighting a rearguard action in a losing battle.  Last night I ate a whole bag of pretzels in the bath.  This is actually quite difficult.  I had to fill up the back of one of Helen’s rubber ducks with pretzels, then it capsised, then I had to eat damp pretzels………..I still ate them though.

Indeed I am very tired.  However I think this may be due to both Allan and I’s late night feeding responsibilities.  Sally lamb is now STTN (this is baby forum speak for sleeping through the night.).  She doesn’t actually sleep through the night but she can certainly survive all night without dying of hunger.  Sadly we now have our second pet – Helen lamb.  Helen lamb is not STTN.  Helen lamb also doesn’t want to suck a bottle.  She was cruelly taken away from her mummy (she’s also a triplet but we left her with mum for a few days) and she wants to go back.  Sadly she has to be chased around pen three times (with Sally lamb in hot pursuit) before she will allow herself to be caught and then grits her teeth and point-blank refuses to take the teat in her mouth.  While this is going on Sally lamb helpfully tries to insert her head between Helen lamb and the teat in order to intercept the milk.  Honestly I would not be surprised to go out one day and discover that Sally has eaten Helen.

Anyway…………Sally baby still requires one or two overnight feeds and Helen lamb requires at least one.  Allan has manfully taken responsibility for Helen lamb.  Theoretically I wouldn’t mind feeding her when I’m up with Sally baby anyway but the reality of this would be that I would get up, change Sally’s entire apparel (because she insists on sleeping with her legs in the air which, due to the law of gravity, causes her nappy to leak) and then feed her.  I would then go outside, chase Helen lamb round the pen three times, whilst tripping over Sally lamb and then spend half an hour trying to feed her before falling back into bed for and hour before Sally baby would be up again requiring further sartorial attentions and more milk.  I couldn’t cope.  Sadly Allan isn’t really coping either, sleep deprivation sucks.  Welcome to my world.

My back hurts.  This is the most worrying sign.  During both of my previous pregnancies I suffered from severe back pain due to ligament laxity.  O.K. O.K maybe running a marathon at 12 weeks pregnant didn’t help either. I have an intense pain in my right buttock which causes me to assume a bizarre limping gait and whinge continuously.  Conveniently the pain is also exacerbated by any form of housework.  Normally the pain disappears as soon as I give birth but it reappeared about 3 week ago.  It’s obvious I must be pregnant. Either that or I shouldn’t have run to the shop whilst pushing the double buggy……….

Sadly pregnancy tests are not widely available on Colonsay so we’ll just have to wait and see.  Admittedly I’m not exhibiting any of the more conventional signs of pregnancy, no morning sickness, no weight gain, bump etc.  I wouldn’t mind being pregnant again but I don’t think Allan is so keen.  With our current overnight schedule I think we’d have to get Helen up to take responsibility for some of the night feeds as Allan and I are pretty much flat-out as it is.  Or maybe we could just get one of the multi teated lamb feeders and just stick babies and lambs in together………why didn’t I think of this before?



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