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Our daily bread

I entered the shop this morning to find that Shopmeister had been left holding the baby.  No, I don’t mean he was running the shop by himself, although he was also doing that, he was literally holding an infant.

Saturday mornings are a good day to attend the shop all year round.  There is always a boat on Friday so on Saturdays you can stock up on milk, bread and vegetables.  Although in the winter the boat arrives at lunchtime on the Friday so it’s not advisable to leave your shopping until late on the Saturday morning as you are likely to find that the shelves have been picked clean and there is no milk and no bread and you will be reduced to eating UHT and oatcakes…………..again.

A few weeks ago we had dinner with the couple who live next door (well, in the neighbouring field) and the new school teacher.  We have all moved to Colonsay from cities fairly recently and talk turned quickly to what we missed about the mainland.  Cafes was definitely a common theme.  The Pantry is great but having lived in Edinburgh I was used to there being a cafe on ever corner many with play areas for children.  In fact there was a lovely pub at the end of our street where you could let the little darlings loose in the massive play area whilst drinking yourself into oblivion if you so desired.  They would even help you carry your pram up the steps.

One of the things I am most surprised to miss is the Scotmid at the other end of the road.  For those of you not familiar with Scottish culture Scotmid is a chain of small supermarkets (I think they are owned by the Co-op) they are quite cheap and distinctly un-middle class.  It won’t surprise you to learn that the Scotmid was at the other end of the street from the yummy mummy pub.  Our street acted as a kind of bridge between posh Edinburgh and scummy Edinburgh.  At one end was the baby friendly pub, Valvona and Corolla, John Lewis and the New Town; at the other Scotmid, a betting shop, several (very good) charity shops and a football stadium.  You could say we lived in purgatory.  Anyway, although Scotmid stood next to a very nice little bakery we rarely went in there.  Instead, on a Saturday morning after I had taken Helen to an even more middle class part of Edinburgh to her Tumble-tots class (sort of like SAS training for toddlers) I would pop into Scotmid.  By 11am they would have received a delivery of freshly baked bread, croissants and rolls.  Helen and I would buy a few and stroll home avoiding the dog poop and puddles of vomit on the street to a pleasant family brunch. The bread was always delicious, fresh and soft – one of my favourite things about weekend mornings.

Since moving to Colonsay we’ve had to give up on this kind of thing.  Although there are still plenty of SAS style activities for the children to engage in the only fresh bread that is readily available is my own.  I’m actually quite a good baker – in fact I won first prize for a loaf of non-breadmaker white bread in the recent root and grain show (sorry to blow my own trumpet there) – but getting up on a Saturday morning and making the bread yourself doesn’t create the same leisurely brunch mood.

So you are probably wondering why I’m still wittering on about bread, cafes, Edinburgh and my past life whilst leaving poor Shopmeister stranded in the shop holding Shopbaby.  Let’s just take a minute to discuss Shopbaby.  Shopbaby looks how I would like my children to look.  In fact they often look like she does on leaving the house but by the time we go anywhere they are generally plastered  with food, hair stuck to their faces with snot with questionable stains on at least one item of their apparel. Shopbaby always looks like she has just stepped out of a salon.  She is always well coordinated, I have never seen her with sick in her hair and her hair is always fluffy and shiny not matted with food or non-existent as in the case of my two terrors.  Shop baby was a little grumpy this morning though.  Shopmesiter was holding her in that slightly tentative manner that indicated to all present (me) that she may detonate at any moment.

Fortunately Shopmeistress was not gone long.  She had spent the morning slaving over a hot oven to produce the very same bread that our local shop used to sell!  Evidently the islanders had fallen upon it like starving animals and she had to rush home to bake more.  Word spread like wildfire across the island – people were phoning in their orders and rushing to collect them.  No sooner had she arrived with the second batch it was gone and we were lucky not to have been trampled in the rush! High on refined carbohydrates the islanders had become insatiable.  We managed to emerge victorious from the melee carrying a bloomer, two rolls and a croissant (for Allan).  Helen carried the bread out to the car in a reverent fashion ‘it’s warm mummy, it’s still warm’.  She insisted on holding it all the way home.  Sadly when we reached this house there wasn’t much of it left – next week we’ll have to order double!


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.

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?



A return to gainful employment

It may have become apparent from my writing that moving back to Colonsay has been something of a dream for Allan and I.  To be honest I’m not sure either of us really believe it yet.  I was showing our house plans to a friend yesterday and whilst pointing out the large number of bathrooms and mud busting utility room it suddenly struck me that this is actually going to be our house for us to live in……………….  I’ve just read back that sentence and it’s no good.  I still don’t believe it.  Even once it’s built I’ll probably still come into this house instead. A bit like when I moved to a flat below my old one in 2nd year of university but kept trying to break into the old one.  It all rose to an embarrassing head one day when the new inhabitants had failed to lock the front door and I walked in and used the toilet before I realised I no longer lived there.

Here’s a link to the plan of our new house just in case you’re interested.

Over the years actually getting here seemed like the hard part.  Selling our flat (which was subsiding down the hill at an alarming rate), giving up our jobs and packing all of our belongings into one transit van seemed like a pretty tough challenge.  Now we’re actually here it’s become apparent that that was just the beginning.  Getting to Colonsay was relatively easy.  Now we have to stay here.  Of course we did produce a business plan before we were awarded our croft.  It was written utilising a level of creativity and inventiveness that J.K. Rowling herself would have envied. Whilst some of our plans were realistic the fact that our croft is still tied up in red tape means very few of them have come anywhere close to fruition.

We have been very lucky though.  Sally was a rather well-timed baby and for the last few months I have been the sole breadwinner despite never leaving the house.  Sadly my maternity pay will come to an end this month and we are now have to make our spreadsheets balance without a rather generous contribution from the NHS.  This isn’t as difficult as one might think.  Fortunately my father taught me the first rule of accounting many years ago.  Apparently you work out what you want your spreadsheet to add up to and then massage the numbers until they fit. Joking aside I think we’re both quite nervous about what the next year will bring.  As well as actually having to earn the money there are all sorts of terrifying prospects such as tax returns, declaring ourselves self-employed and family tax credits (I’m just making it up now) to consider.

In a way I’m looking forward to finding work.  I love my children dearly but that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes want to rip their heads off.  Helen is sitting next to me at the moment industriously sticking stickers in a book.  I’m quite concerned that she may be reading this.  As I typed those words she viciously ripped the head off of Gaston the Ladybird Dog.  Although I have been earning money whilst sitting on my behind it doesn’t feel the same as Allan coming in covered in mud (and other more unpleasant substances), reeking of sheep and devouring half a loaf of bread because he’s so hungry after working so damn hard.  All of  this has led us to encourage the advances of the new Shopmeister.

Until a couple of weeks ago the shop was run by my Uncle Mike (not really my uncle). He and his lovely wife have finally sold it on to the current Shopmeister who is around the same age as me (a rare thing on Colonsay, an island populated mainly be geriatrics). Sadly timing could not be worse and the Shopmeister’s girlfriend is due to give birth imminently.  Undaunted the poor woman is to be seen in there every day slaving over a hot till but no matter how mean the Shopmeister is even he will have to admit defeat.  You see it’s illegal to give birth on Colonsay.  Well I’m not actually sure if it’s illegal but it’s certainly not encouraged.  Once their pregnancy hits 38 weeks woman are frog marched to the pier, loaded onto the boat like cattle and are not welcomed onto the island again until they have expelled their sprog.  I hung around myself until 38+1 and every time I saw the GP for the last couple of weeks he looked as though he were going to cry.  Admittedly I did think it was particularly amusing to grab my bump and groan loudly whenever I saw him coming.

I actually have some experience of working in the shop.  Before Uncle Mike (not really my uncle) took it over it was owned by my Dad (actually my Dad) and I was engaged to work there the summer before I graduated.  Unfortunately I abandoned my poor father in order to pursue a young man to South America.  By the time I returned, dragging the poor man by his overly long hair, it was time to head back to university so I only really worked there for a few weeks.

Hopefully (a now short-haired) Allan and I will last a bit longer this time.  Not only have we agreed to look after the shop while the Shopmeister is away but I will be working there for two afternoons a week starting from next week.  So there we have it.  I am about to rejoin the rat race – from pathologist to shop underling in less than a year – I couldn’t be happier.

No more blog posts please.

………….Oops I forgot to say thank you so much to everyone who reads my blog and thanks too for all your lovely comments.  I have worked out how to add a follow this blog widget-me-thingummy-bob on the right hand side so if you’d like to receive an e-mail letting you know each time I post please click it.

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