Sunday, December 31, 2006

Eddi says it better/Auld Lang Syne


As I Scot New Year means a lot to me, even though I know it's no more than an arbitrary line in the sand, and not a portal to the future.

The worst thing about a cancer diagnosis is that it derails your sense of forward motion.

When I was young the future seemed to be a bridge with a six lane motorway and I was in a fast car. Since cancer it feels more like a pedestrian, rickety rope bridge. But the views are so much better, and the company has proved to be rare and very fine indeed, including Nieves, Joanne, Mary, Debs and Sue.

So tonight I take another step forward. It's no more than anyone else does, it's just that it becomes a little more difficult when the blinkers are removed!

And at the bells I'll remember the friends I've lost along the way and give thanks for those who are still with me.

Happy New Year to you and yours. Don't take them for granted!


Friday, December 29, 2006

In between

Stop Press. If you'd like to leave me a message try the new cbox system on my side bar - and heads up to Blkb for telling me about this!

Well these are the in between days, the dog days of the year. Christmas is over and New Year is almost here. I was in the supermarket today and you could tell most adults were thinking " Yay, my time now!" The checkout belts were awash with bottles and cans rather than cream and Brussel sprouts.

The weather is mild, damp and horrible. I took a present to a friend yesterday and she was just back from Aberdeenshire, where it's freezing cold. She said the hoar frost was just spectacular and the light was sharp and clear. I really feel uninspired as far as taking photos goes, except for yesterday when I did some shots of my husband's cousins for his aunt, as her sons are home from all over the place, including China.

N is off to the north too, she staying near Findhorn, which will be lovely at this time of the year. She called me from the train, I wonder how Basha, the dog, is doing on the train, bet she wants her own seat!

I've been checking on my most popular posts, so far one I posted on bottle brush plants seems to be the most popular. I'm so glad gardening has beaten cancer, ;).

Oh roll on Spring! I long to be in the sunshine either digging or taking pictures. First photocall will be the snowdrops in a nearby wood, they carpet the ground and grow right up the side of the loch. Part of my Christmas is a filter for my macro lens, which will hopefully help me get some great close-ups.

Anyway better close, I've another meal to cook!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Well that's another Christmas gone west. We had a nice few days and the food all turned out really well. I especially like the wee splash of cherry brandy in my cranberry sauce. Also did Nigel Slater's Christmas pudding sauce, which is pud and fresh orange and a little brandy butter melted together and poured over really good vanilla ice cream.

Happy to eat simple food today, as you can have too much of a good thing!

I got my annual jigsaw as one of my presents, and I'm enjoying putting it together. It's very difficult, as it's a pictire of a barn at sunset, which is perfectly reflected in a mill pond, so it's hard to know what's barn and what's reflection. No-one else in this house likes jigsaws, but putting one together reminds me of doing them with my brother and sister as kids, it was a bit like our Monopoly games where we'd all stash a get out of jail free card, except with the puzzle we'd each keep a bit back hoping to be the one to put the last piece in place, sometimes the thing would stand all but complete for days, with only three pieces missing while we tried to psych each other out.

I've done these photomosiac puzzles before and they're very good, each piece has a small picture on it, helping to make the larger picture.

I think jigsaw puzzles are really good things for teaching you patience and how to really look at shape and colour variations. They are also very good at keeping you in the moment, which can be helpful at Christmas.

Anyway I don't care if I'm considered a sad,old eegit,my puzzle is keeping me sane this holiday season and that's all that matters.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hope this band put this out soon

The Favours were on the BBC's Electric Prom, this is a great song, but not available on an album yet. Another great Hull band.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A certain slant of light

Well it's the shortest day today, so we're on our way back to the light, yay!
I've been running around doing things for Christmas and seeing people.
Had a fun night with the Writers' Group on Tuesday night, Judith read a great poem about how she gets this Christmas card every year from a couple she met on holiday twenty years ago.She only exchanged addresses with them to swap photos on her return. She binned their address after that, but they've faithfully sent a card every year since saying something like "Jean & Ted (Tenerife)".

Yesterday I had lunch with friends, including Judith. She's nicknamed us "The Coven", the cheeky bugger. I pointed out that quilters groups said they get together to bitch and stich, and asked what writers got together for? We settled on "Write and Snipe"

Been to the farm shop today and bought root veg etc for Christmas, got Brussels still on the stalk, and local tatties, a lovely glossy red cabbage just out the field, and parsnips and some big leeks, which will go into ham hock soup. Also got some locally smoked trout and some lovely salad potatoes and beetroot. Going to roast the beets and make a hot salad for dinner with potatoes, beets, pecans, rocket and the flaked trout. I like eating simply before Christmas.

After the farm shop I took the dog to my favourite beach, no-one on it except us and a few oyster-catchers. We had to walk through the woods to get there and the sun was already low and slanting through the trunks, one side of each tree was completly light up, while the other side was in deep shade. The red bark of the Scots Pines was simply glowing. I like to get away on my own for a bit, it's a good antidote to seeing so many people.

I've attached a picture of the beach, though it was taken in the summer,but it will give you the idea. The big lump of rock is the Bass Rock, volcanic plug and summer home to thousnads of gannets, when it looks like one of these giant snow shaker/ globe thingies.

We're lucky in that we have clear blue skies and no fog, though this cold front is contributing to the fog chaos at London Heathrow, so glad I'm not travelling far this Christmas.

So my 50th year is all but over. It's been a good one. I'm lucky to have good family and friends and I look forward to caring for some of them in the next few days with warmth, light and good food.

Wherever you may be I wish you peace and light. And if Christmas is tough for you, then just remember, "This too will pass".

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pimp your sprout!

Here's Jade, set for a spell on top of the tree!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Name you Christmas Brussel Sprout

Got an Edward Monkton Christmas card from a friend where he's named all his Brussel Sprouts. I don't like sprouts much, so I've only got one and her name is:

Jade Crosby-Bling

She hopes to appear on Big Brussel before she gets past her sell-by-date.

Please feel free to name your's here:

This is Pat's:

Tottie Limejuice Fifi La Bon Shanghai Lil

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday morning radio

I love listening to the radio on a Sunday morning, as Radio 4 is like a great bag of pick and mix sweeties.

This morning I kicked off with Broadcasting House, one of the Sunday paper reviewers was Simon Hughes, chairman of the Liberal Democrats to non_UK folks, and I don't think he was too pleased when the presenter told him that when focus groups are asked to say what sweetie they associate with the Lib Dems leader Ming Campbell they tend to say " a Werther's Original". That made me smile.

The on the Archers we had Adam and Ian's gay wedding, with bad old Brian being shamed into going. The David and Ruth thing is a big yawn, and Pip has to be the most annoying child on radio since the Clithero Kid!

Desert Island discs wasn't that interesting as I wasn't familar with the playwright's work and his choices were pretty safe and boring.

The repeat of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" was brilliant though. You can catch it here, although you need to be a regular listener to get all the wee in jokes. Eg they sing Knees Up Mother Brown to the theme tune of the Deerhunter. Anyway daft British humour at its best.

While listening I put up the Christmas tree, managed to wrestle it into the log base, and place a whacking great nail through the trunk and into the base. I think it is relatively straight, and I hope to persuade my son to decorate it this pm.
I got some really nice glass icicles at IKEA and they should look good. The house smells lovely already.

Also can somebody please teach the younger generation a few more words with the same meaning as "amazing". It seems to be the only word Zara Phillips and Leona Lewis can utter. Girls try, astonishing, incredible, surprising,impressive,wonderful,staggering,marvellous,

Recently research said that teachers were no longer taking kids on school trips as they feared the law suits if things went wrong. People were then asked where they'd take school kids on an outing and what would they show them. One wag said, "To the past, where they'd learn to spell!"

OK, where do I apply to become a grumpy old woman?

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blousy French ladies

My new bare-rooted roses finally arrive. They were due in October, but couldn't be dug up as they'd not gone dormant.They are all big blousy bourbon type flowers with heavy scent. I can't wait until the summer to smell them on a still evening. Two are French varieties, Mmme Isaac Pereire and Ferdinand Pichard, the other "Heritage" is a modern variety with an old look and a musk scent. I hope they do well, I've put them in ground that hasn't grown roses before, so there's no risk of roses disease in the soil, and I gave them a barrowload of homemade compost. Also finished tidying up the plum tree, now it too is dormant. I took off the large branch
damaged by the weight of the glut of fruit back in the summer. Also cleared the remaining grapes from the greenhouse, they were past their best, and pruned the vine.

Can't believe the amount of bulb shoots already through, I just hope we don't get a savage January/Feb that will frost and check all the growth. My winter jasmine is flowering, adding a Spring-like yellow to the a corner of the garden before we've even got to Christmas.

I'm looking forward to the garden next year, it''s in the best nick it's been in for years, I just hope the new things I've put in take and flourish

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Friday, December 15, 2006


I caught this great item on Woman's Hour today about the quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama. My mother had an old family quilt, which I loved to lie on and trace the patterns with my fingers. It disappeared one day, perhaps because of the 1960s obsession with all things modern; perhaps, like the way it was made, out of necessity.

These women quilt the same way, finding vibrancy against all the odds. I'm glad women's needle work is at last being valued in every sense of the word, too often you see work that must have taken months, and in some cases the maker's sight going for a song.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mixed bag

I enjoyed the Scottish Poetry Pamphlet Fair. There was a lot of variety on display in the stalls, and I bought the lovely Rob's pamphlet and a children's one for my young newphew, which has lots of great illustrations in it too. I look forward to reading Rob's. I sold a few copies of mine and was encouraged when Tessa Ransford stopped and spoke to me. She said she too had had treatment for cancer, and she's be apprehensive when she heard I was to read a cancer poem, but that she had liked its tone very much indeed. I made more sales after the reading than before it, so that was encouraging.

Anyway enough already, on to other things. I had to laugh at my husband, he's told me to tell my son what he'd like for Christmas from him, which is either the Paul Weller's Greatest Hits, or, and get this, a nose hair trimmer!

Never though I'd lived to see the day when someone from the Jam and nasal hair were mentioned in the same sentence. I wonder if he'll pogo while trimming his hairs, he will if the thing gets snarls up in them, ;)!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Doppelganger

I was surfing a writers' site the other day and short story by someone with exactly my name, albeit my maiden name, caught my eye. It was really strange reading something that had my name attached to it, which had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Turns out this Anna is a Canadian writer. She's very good, check out her blog here. I'll sidebar it when I get a minute.

Maybe I'll become like that guy, whose name escapes me :), and set about trying to find how many other Anna Hoods there are in the world. It is a difficult surname, especially at school, where you get saddled with Red Riding Hood etc. And on the phone it's a nightmare, "Hood, no not Good, or Wood! No Hood! Yes, as in Robin"...and then they start to hum that flipping Brian Adams' song.

Mind you my married name is worse, but we won't go there.

Looking forward to the reading tonight. Got a nice e-mail from a nursing lecturer who wants to buy the book, he said,"I strongly believe that the use of patient experiences is essential to help the student to at least gain some insight into health care from the 'other side' lest they forget what it is we are all about.

Thank you for what you have done, there is a particular courage involved in
placing such things in the public domain and I am grateful to all who have
done so."

Thanks Carl!

Tomorrow I'm making gingerbread tree decorations with Bonnie, N's grandaughter. She's appropriated an old milking stool I had to reach the counter in her Mum's kitchen. I used to do these with my son, and I'd end up with half the neighbourhoods kids around the table covered in icing and gunge. I just hope I can find my cookie cutters.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It's a Scottish thing

Just in time for the hangover season. The art work in this is fab too.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Yay for nhsblog!!!

Just got my first e-mail sale following Dr John Crippen's mention. I love the net!


I had a book token left from my 50th birthday in March, I'd salted it away so well I'd forgotten about it! Anyway last week I found it again and amongst other things I bought Carol Ann Duffy's Rapture. I read it a couple of times at the weekend,and I liked many aspects of it. It's not to hand just now, but I especially liked the "Text" poem, and the reference to just queuing up to die if one lives without passion.

She's about a year older than me, and that got me thinking that I don't believe I'd have the energy or the inclination to fall passionately in love with a new person. It's probably a lack in me, but all that sneaking around, and waiting for messages and meetings and being totally besotted and then utterly broken when it ends badly. I feel knackered just writing about the very idea.

I think I'm with Boy George, I'd rather just have a cup of tea, and even then not one that my lover's slavered all over.

I like Edna's St Vincent Millay's take on love, especially her poem Thursday. So this is my homage to Edna.


I didn’t love you Friday,
which came as a surprise,
after loving you for so long,
suddenly I saw through different eyes.

Will I love you today, tomorrow and the next?
We’ll have to wait and see.
I loved you Thursday, and right now
that feels like quite enough for me.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Really chuffed!!

NHSblog is running nominations for his British Medical Blog awards, and he has very kindly mentioned me! I'm really chuffed to get a mention on such a brilliant blog. He's doing a sterling job at shining a light on some of the excesses and inconsistencies of present NHS policies.

He say this on the blog:

"The publishers were complimentary about this patient’s breast cancer journal, but said that she “needed a hook to sell it, like being a celebrity.” She is not Kylie Minogue, so she went back to the drawing board and rewrote the journal as a series of haiku. Brilliant. [I have already had a lot of emails about the haiku. They have now been published. £4 plus postage. Email Anna at]"

Thanks Doc!!!

As ever details of the book are on my sidebar. I'm reading a few pieces from it at the Scottish Poetry Pamphlet Fair this Wednesday, the 13th, in the National Library, Causewayside, Edinburgh from 6.00 to 8.30 pm. I think I'll be on towards the end of the evening. Hope to sell a few copies of the book too. (BTW money from my sales is going back to help other local writers get published.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Fruitmarket memory

I emerge from the station in Fruitmarket St. It’s a slate grey winter’s day
The buildings across the road, including the old Scotsman newpaper building, are six storeys high. They block out the sun even in high summer, so the meagre light on this, the shortest day of the year, hasn’t a prayer of pentrating down to street level.

The road’s deserted, as if it’s been cleared for an atmospheric, period film set. It’s midday, but the pavements are still peppered with patches of frost, and the damp air hangs around like dirty viole drapes.

And then I hear the muffled sound of an unacccompanied, male voice singing. I don’t understand the language he’s singing in, but I know it’s Gaelic. I walk on up the dank close and a hundred other disembodied voices take up the tune with him. The power and beauty of this keening sound stops me in my tracks. I’ve never heard anything so timeless and lovely before.

I start to climb the stairs again, glad to be walking towards the sound, which is now reverberating off the close’s high, narrow walls. I make out two shapes sitting on the steps about fifty yards above me and a little spike of uncertainty pricks the pit of my stomach, but I carry on climbing.

Now I can see the breath of the two figures, and the dank air takes on the rank odour of stale beer. And suddenly I’m right over them, two homeless men dressed in filthy, baggy clothes, both nursing cans of super lager. The beautiful Gaelic voices are spiralling out of the twin speakers of a ghetto blaster filling this cold, miserable city passageway with praise songs of the distant Hebrides.

Both men smile at me, then they raise their cans and shout in hoarse, smokey voices “Merry Christmas!”.
I expect them to ask me for money, or to be badger me in some other way, but they don’t ask for anything. I then wonder whether I should give them a couple of quid anyway, but there’s something about their manner that makes me think I’ll offend them if I do. So I just say, “And to you” and carry on climbing the endless stairs, and the beautiful sound peters out behind me.

I wish that I’d asked them to tell me about the music, and why they were playing it. And my mind fills with romantic notions about boys leaving distant islands for a better life, only to end up as old men on the capital’s street.

Years later, through the wonders of the internet I find Salm Vol.1 a recording of Gaelic Psalm Singing recorded in Back Free Church on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland in October 2003, with five hundred in the congregation.

And I learn that “this form of singing existed all over the UK after the Reformation, when translations of the Bible into English made it possible for everyone, not just the choir to join in with the hymns
Along with a reaction against over-ornamentation of religious buildings went a desire for simplicity in the church service and in its music. For their worship the English Puritans chose the Psalms of David, sung in unison, unaccompanied. The metre into which the Psalms were translated was ballad metre, and the music was syllabic - that is, using one melody note per syllable. In 1643 the Westminster Assembly of Divines enacted "that for the present where many of the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister or some other fit person appointed by him, and the other ruling officers do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof." Lowland Scots took well to ballad metre, which was familiar to them in folksong, and ‘reading the line’ became so much part of the church’s praise that it came to be regarded as a venerable Scottish custom. Later church music reformers campaigned to abolish it, and it gradually became extinct, except in Gaelic speaking areas.
When the psalms were translated into Gaelic the metre used was again ballad metre, so that the same Lowland tunes could be used. This metre was and is entirely alien to Gaelic literature and any other Gaelic poetry composed in it is a parody. The way in which ‘reading the line’ broke up the quatrain into eight lines of differing length may have been a welcome alleviation of ballad metre for the Gaelic singer.
The person who read the line became known as the precentor. Nowadays it is the precentor’s duty not only to let the congregation hear clearly the text it is to sing next, but also to give a hint of the melody line by pinpointing its more important notes. The repertoire varies from seventeen to twenty four tunes, which are basically the same as those that appear under the same name in the Church Hymnary or the Scottish Psalter. Melodic modifications do occur in some of the tunes in the process of adaptation to the Gaelic modal patterns, but these are not to be taken as the only cause of the unaccustomed listener’s confusion as he tries to link the printed tune with the Gaelic version. (See sheet music). There is no clear break between the precentor’s chant and the beginning or end of the original musical text; the singing is very slow, possibly to convey the solemnity of the occasion even if the psalm is a joyful one; and passing notes and grace notes are introduced to decorate the basic melody - but not to the extent of obscuring it, and the precentor’s voice should keep the congregation together on the basic notes, which coincide with the beginnings of syllables. There is ample opportunity for any would-be precentor to learn his art. Metrical psalms, sung slowly, ornamentally, and with precenting are used almost (if not) exclusively in Gaelic services in Presbyterian churches throughout Scotland, and almost exclusively in the Western Isles on a regular basis. In the island districts where Gaelic is spoken they are sung at family worship as well, once and sometimes twice a day. The style in Lewis and Harris is more ornamental than elsewhere. For the CD and cassette ‘Salm’ we have confined ourselves to precentors and congregations from these two Islands.
On hearing Gaelic Psalm Singing for the first time, some who are entirely outside the culture find it an intensely moving experience. For the privileged few who have been nurtured in it, each good performance has the attraction of familiar, secure, unchanging things, as well as that of the powerful beauty of the sound. Speaking of the tunes ‘Dundee’, ‘Martyrs’, and ‘Elgin (no longer in common use)’in The Cottar’s Saturday Night Robert Burns may well have been thinking this way too when he said:
"Compared with these, Italian tunes are tame;
The tickl’d ears no heart-felt raptures raise;
Nae unison hae they, with our Creator’s praise"
For further historical information see here

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Karine Polwart

A youtube clip. She's singing about summer up in Shetland, and she mentions a heron, which as a would be poet is all right by me.

Hard to think of summer today as the light fails at 15.25 and I freeze as the windows go in, and the cold blasts through the house.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Must do better

Won't have time to post tomorrow, or the next couple of days as builders are coming in the morning! First step will be to give them biscuits to give to the dog, and then he might let them over the threshold with their bums intact. After that they'll be able to come and go as they please. It's his Bonio toll system.

Then I have the pleasure of my second last parents' night ever. They will all say, "M could do better if he made more effort". And they'll assume that I know what he's up to, which I don't as I don't speak Monosyllabic and he doesn't answer my questions. Just as well that he already has the passes he needs for the course he wants to do at uni next year. He did a Young Scot business event at the weekend and his school team won the marketing prize, which we're very proud about. But I think they're all convinced that real life will be one big episode of the Apprentice. God help us all! :) My husband and I are both public sector workers, in health and housing policy areas, and having a son who wants to be an entrepreneur is like a couple of hippies raising a straight-laced child. Anyway as long as he makes enough to keep us both in our senility.

Had lunch today with three old colleagues, it was great to see them - they are one of the few reasons I miss work. B told me that when his four year old was asked what she wanted for Christmas she said, "A present for my big sister." A said her wee boy has gone for conventional things this year, last year he asked Santa for "a wee, tiny head", which had her a bit worried!
And we kidded I about having the carbon foot-print of a yeti as she was in Alaska in the summer and is now off to Berlin.

N. is also in Berlin for a week visiting a friend. I'm a bit jealous as it's a city I'd like to see.

Wish me luck with the builders, I'll be knee deep in plaster dust for the next three days at least.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Started doing the reading on the garden archive. I must admit I'm enjoying it. Came across some great pictures of the garden when it was first laid out in the style of a 17th century Scots Garden back in 1973, the allee of hornbeam is amazing. The trees are just wee whips, these days they are 35 feet tall, sorry can't do "new money" and all squared off to make one long block of growth. Also interesting to look at the prices of things back then, particularly skilled labour.

I hope to start writing something later in the week. The guidance I've been given from the grants' people really relates to reviving a Victorian public park, but there are some aspects I can draw one, and my task should be easier given I'm only going back 30 years, but I do want to say a little about the use of the ground from 17th century to 1973, which was largely as an orchard.

This is a picture of one of the corner features of another old garden in Haddington, Amisfield. It is a ruin now, it was ploughed up in WWII to grow potatoes, and then bacame a failed tree nursery. I took some shots there on Saturday, which was a wild showery day. Colin Will is involved with it and he got me in with some of the volunteers who are clearing the ground. I got some good shots, but I may submit a few so I won't post them here. My favourite was one of a line of trees shadows down the full length of one of the walls.

Better get moving, need to walk the dog before darkness descends again. Winds last night were awful, tearing at the back of the house from the West. I fear for the chimney stacks in weather like that. There's tree down over the road, but fortunately it has fallen the other way. There are some beech there, and that concerns me as they are shallow rooted trees. At least the leaves are off, otherwise they'd have acted like ships in full sail and branches would have come off.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Reading at IKEA Christmas Fair tomorrow

Going with fellow writers. Doing wee a selected section of the book on being in treatment at Christmas, but going to do some fun things too. I've done a "shopping forecast based on the idea on BBC Radio 4's One series. You take the Shipping Forecast and give it a twist, like the slipping forecast or the skipping forecast, here's my effort, I just hope it works:


There are warnings of high pressure and cold fronts around
Iceland, M&S, fresh turkeys, chipolata and brandy cream.

A general synopsis of things forgotten: bread sauce,
crackers, shallots, serviettes, cava, avocados, that drink that sounds
like a Dutch football manager, it has something to do with balls, and is
the only thing Gran drinks. Rockall left. Conditions set to deteriorate.

Pray Uncle Bill doesn’t bring German Bight, the Rottweiler

Veering now for the veg, grab a fast net of Brussel Sprouts. Note warning of
severe gale 9, mainly southerly, decreasing 5 or 6, becoming cyclonic for a time.

Dover Sole for vegetarians. Don’t forget the Dogger Bank.
Credit rating rough or very rough, rain and drizzle expected.

Baileys, must buy, pour over Christmas Pud. Conditions may improve,
but visibility likely to remain poor.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Gotta love these mullets

This is my fav Indigo Girls song. I love You Tube!