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2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy happy happy day!

Well November is over and so is my book – hurrah!

Actually it’s not.  I did what I set out to do and wrote 50,000 words.  Well actually I didn’t, I wrote 65,000 but a few vital scenes are missing so my book isn’t technically finished.  Although I have written the ending already I’m holding off writing ‘The End’ until all the bits in the middle are done as I hear those are the most satisfying words.

It’s been an amazing month.  I’ve managed to write almost every day and my life is still pretty much as I left it.  The house is a bit of a mess and my husband may be a little ratty but to the discerning eye I don’t think there is that much of a visible difference.

Sadly I feel this may just have been the easy bit.  Although I’ve produced 65,000 words I would say that at least 30,000 are incorrectly spelled.  Sometimes it was just too exciting and I couldn’t stop to spellcheck. Grammatical errors abound and I tend to become obsessed with one adjective and use it four times in a pragraph – most irritating.  So now I need to edit.  Sadly there isn’t a month dedicated to editing with a counter marking off how many spelling errors one has corrected. However I have found something to motivate me.  There’s a writing competition I really want to enter which closes at the end of February.  Therin lies the problem.  Apparently it should take at least a couple of years to write a novel (try telling that to Alexander McCall Smith!) and I’m aiming to have done it in four months.  I’m not sure I’ve got the guts to do what I have to do. I love the male lead so much that he kept sneaking back in even though this wasn’t supposed to be a romantic novel so unless I want to market it as a gory Mills and Boon I suspect rather a lot of lingering looks and sardonic smiles are going to end up on the metaphorical cutting room floor.  Perhaps I should just cut my losses and walk away so I can talk whimsically about the wonderful book I wrote once but ‘didn’t try to get published as the world just wasn’t ready’.

Anyway I’ve always wanted to write a book and now I have.  The satisfyingly large pile of pages taking up space on our worktop attests to that fact.  Now I’ve done it once I know I can do it again so if this one is no good – and everybody says first novels are crap, I know I can try again.

Meanwhile the world has continued turning without me.  One of my friends has had a new baby and despite her obligingly being eleven days late my knitted gift is not yet complete.  The ducklings are no longer ducklings and I’m beginning to feel less cool about the two named Christmas and Dinner.  Sally lamb is hanging out with the tups and is probably pregnant although she still left her buddies on Tuesday to follow us all down to the beach.  Fat Tracey has taken to guerrilla egg laying.  First I found a cache of 3o eggs in the bracken outside the garden then this morning we found ten in the garden, I feel so betrayed.

Maybe my next novel will have to be an expose of cruel battery hen farming methods – Fat Tracey take note!

Here’s a brief excerpt from the great work:

“The body laid out before us is that of a 65 year old man.  He has long skinny arms and legs and a large paunch.  His chest is partly covered by a long, unkempt beard and a tattoo of a large breasted woman who is giving us a lascivious wink.  His fingernails are also long and stained with tobacco, his toenails curl over at the ends.  His abdomen is tinged with green, the skin stretched tight.  The skin of his feet and hands is wrinkled, thickened and white.  The soles of his feet have peeled away and lie next to him on the gurney like a pair of discarded flip flops.”


helen and sally in the gardenFollowed by a picture of my children, because that’s not weird!

Paddle board at Port Mor

Paddle board at Port Mor

You’ve read the blog, now view the photo. Auntie Jen and Helen Paddle-boarding at the beach near our house.


Thank you so much for all of the lovely comments left on my blog and on facebook.  I’m sure Max would be delighted with all the attention.

I haven’t had the chance to blog much over the last couple of weeks and strangely writing about Max seems to have ended my writers block.  I suspect that the arrival of Shopbaby (very cute) and the subsequent return of Shopmeister and Mrs Shop may also have contributed to my urge to write.

I am currently sitting in my parents house waiting for Sally to wake up.  Allan’s sister is visiting from Sweden and after much debate we eventually admitted to ourselves that fitting four adults and three children into a three bedroom house wasn’t going to work.  The girls and I have decanted down here for the weekend.  Sadly Sally didn’t think much of being closeted in bathroom last night and spent much of the night in my bed poking me in the face.

Helen has already gone down the field (clad in puddle suit and wellies as of course Colonsay is putting on its best show of torrential rain for our visitors) to meet her new cousin.  She wasn’t that keen initially but soon warmed up at the promise of presents. 

I don’t have any particular topic to blog about today.  I could write another eulogy to Max.  Allan and I are still bursting into tears on a daily basis (my Dad and I had a wee cry this morning too) but I will try and remain positive and instead give a round up of current events on the rock.

  1. Sally lamb continues to thrive.  She did have a rather nasty abscess on her foot which Allan treated with the generic and all curing shot of antibiotic in the bottom.  He also squeezed the puss out which I’m told was very satisfying.  She seems to be under the impression that she is a sheepdog as she followed Allan around the hillside trying to gather the other sheep last week and today accompanied him down the filed in trusty canine style.
  2. I have a new job!!  Having given up the shop (thank God – it’s amazing how quickly a business can be brought to its knees by one persons ineptitude) I have have been appointed as Colonsay’s newest Local Development Officer.  I’m really looking forward to starting despite (or perhaps because!) I will be job sharing with my Dad.  This is probably the first job I’ve ever had where I think I may actually look forward to going to work in the morning.  We’ll see how long this enthusiasm continues.  Watch this space.
  3. As well as the visiting Swedes we are eagerly awaiting a visit from some of our best friends and their new baby.  Sadly the torrential rain is forecast to continue so I hope that they (complete with toddler and new baby) like playing Scrabble.  I am constantly amazed at peoples willingness to visit us and constantlydisappointed that the weather can be scorching hot until the boat comes in but as soon as any friend sets foot on the peir the heavens open.
  4. Sadly I will have to cut short this fascinating litany as Sally-Bee has just woken up and I need to take her down the field to be admired.  My last thought is that this little girl lives not far from us in mainland Argyll.  I know it is wrong to be jealous of a nine year old and I’m sorry that she has to eat that minging food but I’d eat almost anything for six million hits!

P.S apologies again for lack of photo – I will try and post some inspiring images soon.

The end of an era

We buried our dog yesterday.  To all you animal welfare fanatics about to comment in horror………..don’t worry he was dead.  I may sound as though I’m making light of it and maybe I am.  What else can I do? The abrupt loss of such a huge (quite literally) part of our lives has hit both of us hard.

Max became unwell on Sunday night.  He was wandering around the kitchen making the most horrific retching sounds.  My initial feeling was irritation.  We had been away over the weekend and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I assumed that the daft animal had eaten some grass or something else that didn’t agree with his (remarkably weak considering his size) constitution.  Sadly not.  I quickly recognised the signs of ‘Bloat’ a common condition in Great Danes where the stomach dilates, fills with gas and often flips on its axsis cutting off the blood supply.

We called the emergency vet in Oban who helpfully advised us to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.  Once we had established that this would be Tuesday morning she did suggest some first aid measures and Allan and I spent an unpleasant half an hour ramming a hose pipe down the poor dogs throat.  Over the course of the night it became apparent that this was not providing the necessary relief.  Max seemed to accept things too.  He gave up pacing and lay quietly in his bed.

Had the decision been down to us I think we would both have opted to have him put to sleep at this point.  Unfortunately the task of dog euthanasia on Colonsay falls to the hands of the local GPs.  Even more unfortunately it was their son’s wedding we had been at and they were still on the mainland.  We couldn’t quite face phoning up a locum we didn’t know to invite him to come and kill our dog at 2am.

We tried the emergency vet again.  She was nice and advised us to plunge a large needle into his stomach.  We decided against this.  Much like doctors I think it must be hard for vets to accept that the death of some patients is inevitable.  We were battling a condition with a low recovery rate even when treated surgically immediately.  With no veterinary help and no chance of getting him to a hospital with the next few hours we knew he wasn’t going to make it.  Deflating his stomach may have provided symptom relief but neither of us could face inflicting more agony on him, for a temporary benefit with uncertain results.

Eventually Allan sent me to bed and I slept for a few hours before it was time to get up and go to work.  I left shortly before 7:30am.  Max was lying in his bed, when I went over to him he looked up at me without lifting his head.  He twitched the tip of his tail at me.  He’s never been a morning person.  I stroked his head for a few minutes.  It would sound very dramatic to say I knew then that I would never seem him again but I didn’t.  I feared it but part of me hoped that he would hang on until the boat the next morning or he would make some sort of miraculous recovery.

When I phoned a few hours later to see how he was Allan told me he was gone.  He had remained calm until the end, simply getting up and walking outside to settle down on the path and go to sleep.

Of course Allan and I are now forced to live with the consequences of our actions.  Moving to an island with no veterinary cover.  Leaving him for the weekend while we were off enjoying ourselves.  Putting the tube down his throat.  Not putting the tube down his throat again.  Not putting the needle in his stomach.  Not getting him put down.

I feel that every time I complained about the mess he made (he made a lot of mess) or his irritating habit of needing a poo at 4am I was somehow inviting this upon us.  It’s so cheesy but I wish I had appreciated him more when he was alive.

The last few days I kept seeing his whole life flashing before my eyes.  The first time we saw him at two weeks old when Allan held him and demanded that we get ‘this one’.  Going to pick him up from the breeder six weeks later and watching him chew her living room rug…….little did we know about the sofa, shoes and wall that he would decimate in our own home.  I remember coming in from work one day and finding him sprawled across our bed on his back with a pair of my pants dangling from his jaws.

He was in the room when Allan proposed to me and it was only an intervention from my mother which prevented him from being present at the wedding too.  He trained hard with me for my first marathon and made me feel safe running through the dodgy parts of Edinburgh.  He wasn’t allowed in the living room in our house on Colonsay but sometimes he would come and stand in the doorway sighing loudly until I brought his bed over so he could lie looking reproachfully at us.  He tolerated Helen wandering through is bed a hundred times each day.  Even when she accidentally fell on top him he would just look mildly bemused.

I deeply regret every time I shouted at him (apart from when he chased sheep) and every time I forgot to feed him.  I wish I’d spent longer with him yesterday morning. I wish I’d climbed into his bed and given him a proper cuddle while I had the chance.

We buried him just outside the garden wall, wrapped in a blanket with the string of plastic sausages he used to play with as a puppy.  Helen wanted to give him one of her toys but I feared that the offer might be rescinded at a later date and I didn’t want to risk having to dig him up again.  Helen insisted on climbing into the hole with me to pay her last respects.  For a two and a half-year old her understanding of death seems fairly good.  She said bye-bye to him and didn’t complain when we covered him with earth. Today she just seemed relieved to be free of the constant risk of being flattened that playing in the garden normally brings.  This freedom didn’t last long as Sally lamb, sensing the demise of her nemesis, stormed the garden and unsurprisingly knocked Helen over.

For the last five years my life as been a constant battle against slobber, hair and general dog dirt.  Today I feel strangely unwilling to do any cleaning.  Suddenly the slobber on the wall around his bowl and the greasy mark on the kitchen wall have become shrines to him.  My Dad appropriated his bed and bowls for the other dogs but I can’t even begin to contemplate getting rid of his halti and lead.  Even the box of out of date dog biscuits is sacred.

I may never own another dog and will certainly never own another Great Dane but I’d give anything for another day with Max.

Two weeks old, who would have guessed he'd get so big.

Investigating an alien object on the croft.

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 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.

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