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SCOTLAND!

  • Oct. 8th, 2018 at 4:18 PM
Calestina

For my non-FB friends who wouldn't know what I've been up to lately, here's a catch-up.

I've been exploring this glorious country again and have now been further north than ever!

Back on the 12th of September I hopped on a train to London then schlepped from Kings Cross to Euston to catch another train... the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. It was an interesting trip and it took a few days at each end of the trip for me to get my land-legs back again - once home I kept waking up wondering where the train had stopped and why. I think I even got up and looked out the window to see where we were once!

I had a total blast! The Highlands are incredibly beautiful. We had reasonably decent weather the whole 5 days - well it did rain a bit more on the last day but that was okay, although my camera kept focussing on the raindrops on the coach window and not the scenery! Got some great pics of raindrops!

Our tour guide was fantastic - a lovely scotsman with kilt and sporran and gorgeous accent who had grown up local to the area so he knew all sorts of little tidbits. He also admitted to being into tins and stationery, just like me. Sadly, he's involved with someone. Oh well. However he wrangled all 40 of us expertly and did a great job.

On our first day we had to do a bit of a drive round because we couldn't check into the hotel until 3.30pm, so the first stop was a wool mill with shop and restaurant where we had breakfast (second brekkie for me cos I had porridge on the train) and I bought a belt for my jeans because I'd somehow forgotten to pack one. Then we went to a whisky distillery and after a very instructive tour, had tastings and I now know that whisky is definitely not for me. Blegh!

More driving and we got to our hotel in a lovely little village (township in Aussie-speak) called Newtonmore, right on the upper edge of the Cairngorm mountains. How anyone can live there in all that glorious scenery and not explode from the sheer magnificence of it is beyond me. Oh, and if you have ever watched the tv series Monarch of the Glen, this is where it was filmed. I had not seen the series but in a massive bout of serendipity, it is currently being shown on one of the Sky channels. I keep saying 'I've been there!' while watching :D

The next day was the fourth anniversary of my return to the UK, which might have some bearing on the somewhat disconcertingly emotional response I had to the day's steam train trip - one specific part of it in fact. We went on the Jacobite (aka Hogwarts Express) from Fort William to Mallaig over THAT viaduct... and I promptly burst into tears! Maybe I'm more of a Potterhead than I thought. Definitely a geek though! Coming back I was fine - filmed it with my tablet (first time ever and it came out okay) - but the reaction had its toll. I simply could not sleep that night so the next day I bailed out of going on the day's excursion (coach to Inverness then ordinary train to a fishing village somewhere on the east coast then coach back). And I am so glad I did.

You see, Newtonmore has a really cool thing going for it, other than the Cairngorms. In all there are 132 lifesize gaily painted statues of Scottish Wildcats scattered all around, in people's front gardens, back gardens, on top of the phone box, on window sills, peeking out of bushes, under trees... and they give you a prize if you can find all of them (they being the Wildcat Preservation Society). There's one in the station forecourt, one in the middle of a little loch, two at the hotel! That Saturday afternoon in the space of 3 hours I found 30 of them, and the next afternoon when our Cairngorm Mountain Railway trip was cancelled due to the weather, I found another 17!

So next summer I am going to book myself into one of the hotels and spend a week hunting all the statues. Except I will remember to photograph each one so I can make sure I don't count duplicates.

We did another steam train ride on the Sunday morning - from Aviemore to Broomhill (aka Glenbogle of Monarch fame) and then because we couldn't do the mountain train ride, spent a little time in Aviemore where I found a little Waterstones which has a favoured aussie author's books on the shelf, then returned to Newtonmore where the rest of the group wandered around the Heritage Folk Museum (which I had done the day before) while I went cat-hunting again.

Monday was our last day so we drove to Inverness and got on a train to Kyle of Localsh and drove over the bridge to the Isle of Skye. We didn't stay there long as we had to drive back to Inverness to get the sleeper back to London, but on the way we visited Eilean Donan castle (sadly Connor McLeod wasn't in residence :() and drove a good three-quarters the length of Loch Ness (no sign of Nessie, either).

Back in Inverness we all scattered to find food before retrieving our luggage from the coach and getting on the train to head south. Back in London I found the quicker (and cheaper) way to get from Euston to Kings Cross and timed it perfectly for a train back to Baldock and reality.

The first photo is of the oldest bridge in Scotland (or it could have been the UK) at Carrbridge, then Glenfinnan Viaduct, Wildcat in the loch, Glenbogle station, view from Cairngorm Mountain, Eilean Donan Castle, the last one is Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.







Extremely remiss..

  • Jun. 28th, 2018 at 10:59 PM
Calestina
Ummm, well, I did say (two years ago) I was going to be more proactive in posting in here, and it was only because Mr DM mentioned that I hadn't posted when he rang me yesterday to wish me Happy Birthday that I realised I haven't been posting in here!

Too much life happening!

I still don't have a good bloke to look after me in my dotage but I'm not looking. I did sign up for a short while with an online dating agency and very swiftly decided it was not for me. That's the trouble with being the age I am but not wanting to be with someone who is also my age or thereabouts - they're all too old! I've got too much life and geekiness in me to settle with someone who thinks his life is over. And I definitely don't want to settle for someone who really only wants a housekeeper!

So, what have I been up to in the last 2 years? Plenty! I kicked my editing business off again last year and so far have only had 2 clients but that's okay. I've made my courtyard look flipping fantastic with plant stands and a lovely little water feature that the birds and local cats love drinking out of, the fences got fixed!!! Even the back one which was leaning into my courtyard... I kept moaning about it on a regular basis and finally the owners of number 69 admitted responsibility for that fence and conned their tenant into fixing it.

My workplace is fabulous - so much respect and acknowledgement of the effort I put in - we had a couple of hiccups with the payroll files which meant an entire morning spent inputting each payment individually online! The first time was the hardest because I had to verify every single person, but the second time went a bit quicker. As a thank you, I got two very nice bonuses in my pay packet - bank balance much appreciative.

Last week I took myself off to Norfolk for a week in a caravan sans cat and sans sister who I love dearly but who drives me bonkers if we're away together for more than a couple of nights. We are so different in personality and I sometimes feel that the year I spent living with her has affected my oomph - it's a regular thing to spend half of Sunday slumped in front of the TV watching Doctor Who when I want to DO things. I shall have to have another stern talk with myself and get my act together.

Health-wise I'm reasonably good. My knees are giving me some grief, especially the left one, with arthritis. Also the middle finger on my right hand, although the last couple of days it's been okay. I have registered with a surgery and it took the NHS SIX MONTHS to get me a number - they kept trying to 'find' me from my previous surgery when I was a kid until I reminded them that my record would have been shredded by now as all medical records weren't computerised until 1987!

I have learned to drive in snow! We had a really big storm back in March - at 4pm the boss said go home as it was just starting to snow properly so we all bailed out and the next morning much whiteness was observed and kept on falling.







I did promise way back after I'd moved into this house to put up photos and it seems I never did. So there's a bunch of snow pictures from what was called the Beast from the East and then some nice sunny ones of my courtyard.

I know I've got some photos of the inside of the house but I can't seem to locate them at the moment... and as it is nearly 11pm it's well past time I should be asleep.

Very remiss..

  • May. 17th, 2016 at 9:37 PM
Calestina
I have been horrendously remiss in not posting in here... but that's going to change.

I attended a workshop yesterday evening which has given my mojo a big kick up the bum. I've been very slack, or so I keep telling myself, but after driving the equivalent of Sydney GPO to Albury and back the week before last (550kms or thereabouts each way), on my own, wildly trusting my brand new scarily intelligent satnav, I think I have breached the barrier.

I no longer feel that I have to have permission to do things. I was absolutely terrified of the drive down at first... the butterflies in my stomach were the size of 747s... but once I got onto the motorway I relaxed and remembered that I do like long drives. Then of course the satnav decided to be clever and cut a particular corner off - instant freak out and quick detour through the carpark of a university and then a 'oh well, might as well trust it as I have no idea where I actually am' and I followed its instructions. When I looked at the map later (I had a road atlas with me too!) I realised it did cut off a decent sized corner so in future I will follow that route on the way down, but coming back I'll go the way that is the cut off corner simply because getting back on the A1 via the shortcut at peak hour is not recommended.

A couple of minor scenic detours on the A30 down in Devon had me going in circles for a while until I swore at the satnav and got back on the main road... then coming back I completely bamboozled it by turning left instead of right and kept insisting on staying on the road I was on until it eventually conceded defeat and let me get back to the A30 the better, if longer, way. Going down it had taken me on the quickest route but it was a B road and pretty ghastly (and involved a couple more scenic detours).

I'm loving my job... today I had an incident with an evil bottle of stamp pad ink. Ink went everywhere (luckily the bulk of it onto the stamp pad but the rest all over my desk - fantastic spatter pattern for a CSI operative to examine). Back where I was working in Oz everyone would have tut-tutted at my very australian expletive and left me to sort out the mess by myself. Here? One co-worker handed me a stack of paper napkins to mop up the mess and a spray bottle of citrus cleaner, the department boss laughed and said 'oops' and my immediate boss was worried the ink had splashed on my clothes (it hadn't).

I feel totally at home, both at work and at home. Still got a few bits and pieces to sort out and tidy up, but as I said to my sister, it may not be my house but it is my home and if the landlords happened to stop by and see what I've done in the courtyard they'd be quite pleased. If only they would get the fences fixed!!! My sole complaint now about the place.

So my life has definitely improved out of sight... now all I have to do is find a good bloke who will look after me in my dotage and not mind my craziness.

Settling in nicely...

  • Oct. 17th, 2015 at 12:48 PM
Calestina
Well, time for a catch-up. Photos will follow once my chest of drawers has been put together (have to buy it tomorrow though - hope they've still got one in the store!) but my sister's comment last weekend when she came over for lunch was that it looks like I've been here for years - I moved in just over a month ago!

I'm getting used to the neighbourhood... and learning to drive into it very slowly because not only is the street quite narrow and there are loads of cars parked on each side, but there are some people who drive through it quite fast! Nearly had bingles twice with one person in particular who hoons along like he owns the road.

My next door neighbours are terrific - they are Polish with 2 youngsters who don't make loads of noise (well, one is still a baby) and the husband has been a great help. In exchange for being able to change a 10 pound note one weekend, and accepting a delivery for them last weekend, he's helped me put up my shower curtain rail and hauled a small bookshelf upstairs to lie it on top of the other two small ones I have that hold all my craft gear.

My study is now pretty much sorted. The final sort out will happen when I can sort out the wardrobe in the bedroom... which will be on Tuesday when said chest of drawers gets built!

Maybe now I can get back to doing some writing... and finish off the final check through of The Novel and send it off to a publisher before the end of the year.

Geekiness

  • Nov. 28th, 2014 at 12:11 PM
Calestina
Geek mode fully engaged this morning, after numerous bouts of swearing by my sister at her computer.

For some reason known only to Microsoft, her login had died completely. She was able to get in via other user accounts (a couple of grandchildren and I have logins - me so I can access the printer) but it was very frustrating, especially when I wanted to upgrade her virus protection which had run out.

So, after reading up on what to do I tried to print out the instructions but could not see her computer at all, even when logged in as me (the printer is local to her pc, not networked - and that is going to get sorted at some point!). Much under-breath swearing, including at the one cat who loves sitting on the lap of whoever is on that computer (and apparently watched from start to finish the video of the horse meeting water for the first time).

So it was out with the little notebook pc I have, which of course had no charge in the battery. Cables draped all over the place, the notebook perched precariously on the end of the desk so I could read the instructions, and of course Adobe Reader had to update itself while I'm trying to scroll through the instructions!

Finally, all instructions were complete and I restarted the computer... and she was back!

Now to deal with the heating!

Getting skinny...

  • Nov. 2nd, 2014 at 9:23 AM
Calestina
I've decided to refrain from posting my weight-loss statistics on Facebook because my sister is getting disheartened at how quickly I'm shrinking... and she isn't!

Today, being first Sunday of the month, was "weigh and measure before breakfast" day. I am so close to my target weight of 70kgs it's almost guaranteed I'll be there by Christmas. Reason being - I lost nearly 6kgs (12.5lbs) in the last month!

I had targeted 75kgs but I'm now 1.25kgs below that, at 73.775 kgs. Overall since I began this latest round of stats (Boxing Day, 2011) I've lost 44cms overall, and 16kgs. Mind you, in February 2013 I was at my heaviest at 92.7kgs so you could say I've lost 18kgs in total.

I'm pleased, very pleased. Although the new jeans I bought just last week are already beginning to feel loose!

Of course, my Slimming World stats are higher because I'm wearing clothes for that weigh-in, but I've found the lightest pair of track pants I own and always put on a light top under layers.

By the time my belongings arrive from Australia nothing will fit - but I'll keep them so when my sister gets skinnier she can have them if she likes - nothing like hand-me-ups!
Calestina
In seven days I will have changed my address big-time. From one side of the planet to the other. This time next week I will probably be sprawled on my sister's couch with a mug of tea, smothered in cats, and the pair of us will be talking our heads off for at least another hour. Well, that's how it happened last year and given my flight lands at the same time as it did last year... :)

The last few weeks... heck, the last few months... this whole year... have been crazy, emotional, uplifting and have gone so fast.

It all started with the health issue. That is now nicely settled down even though my scar is still very red, but at least it is all healed and I am still being careful with how much stuff I lug around.

Then Mr DM landed his work problem on me and that straw was what broke this camel's back. I am still amazed that he has taken this whole separation so well, amicably and relatively calmly. Of course, I have no idea what he says about me behind my back, and I'm not going to stress over that! I'm also pleased to know that the cat is settling in well at her new home, and first encounter with one of her canine siblings went well - no hissing or language. Mr DM is taking her introduction to the whole house very slowly, and was quite surprised when I told him I'd had her micro-chipped so if anything did go wrong, she would be returned to her owner and not become lost in a totally strange place.

I've really only let the tears flow this week... when the dog-man came to collect the cat on Monday she got rather soggy... when Mr DM drove away that night I nearly flooded the living room because I will never see him or hug him again... and as the house emptied quite a few tears were shed.

This afternoon I will be back there to oversee the plasterer fixing up the mess the painter left - honestly, I cannot believe what he did. The living room ceiling is stippled, so you would think he would repaint the repairs with a roller that leaves the paint stippled - right? Nah, not this bloke. He simply repainted the whole ceiling leaving the repairs standing out like dogs whatsits! If I didn't check up on this and just paid the plasterer, the final inspection on Wednesday would result in the contract being ripped up and I'd be back where I started.

The motel I'm staying in is lovely and comfortable - small room but big bathroom and they are providing little extras for me given I'm here for 12 days all up.

My car gets picked up on Thursday - bit of walking will ensue after that but that's no problem.

I spoiled myself yesterday when I noticed Target had the same style of jeans I adore... tried on a size smaller because my current jeans were getting loose, but I'm not quite there yet, and luckily they did have a pair of the right size, so those and 2 new bras came back with me yesterday. Weight loss is progressing... I think... won't know until my shipment arrives and I can unpack my scales.

It is slowly sinking into my brain that I can do whatever I want now... go learn taiko drumming (I've already looked up where the nearest place is for that!), get back into drama, whatever I darned well please!

Welcome to my new life!

Strange feelings...

  • Aug. 7th, 2014 at 11:18 AM
Calestina
So reality is really kicking in now. With Mr DM having packed up 95% of his stuff, and me selling off a goodly portion of my DVDs, the house is beginning to feel a little empty.

Yesterday there were two inspections on the house, both said the house was very neat and tidy, and the word pristine got mentioned. Kudos to Mr DM for the painting he did! They wouldn't have said that if he'd just slapped another coat of paint on the walls without getting rid of the lumps and bumps. He even repainted the patio floor and the bit of concrete slab visible under the sliding door that used to be the carport.

An offer was made... lower than my minimum (we've put the house on at offers over $280,000) but they have come up to that, but I'd like to see what kind of action happens on Saturday when there's an open house. The agent is being canny and has told them (they are buyers in Sydney) that she can only get hold of one party (ie me) and won't be able to get hold of the other (Mr DM) until the weekend.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed this doesn't affect my health - yesterday when I got in the lift to go home I had a dizzy spell, and felt wobbly and mildly nauseous all the way home. So much so that I didn't have anything to eat apart from half a biscuit around midnight, and half a cuppa, and stayed home today because I still felt wobbly. So I'm attacking the books in the bookcase that my niece is taking - haven't kept many and the others will be appearing on eBay at some point in the not too distant future.

This is all getting very real!

Reminder to self - you are starting a new life, you are allowed to grieve over the life you are leaving, so if some of the books get a bit tear-stained that's okay!

Life...

  • Apr. 27th, 2014 at 11:15 AM
Calestina
Thought I'd pop in for a minute - haven't been in here in way too long and I have missed lots but given I will be off work for the whole of May I'll have plenty of time to catch up.

Going into hospital tomorrow morning, and not looking forward to what I have to drink this afternoon to clean my insides out (I definitely won't go into details!). Apparently some bits of me have decided they don't like me any more and want out, so tomorrow I get sliced and diced and hopefully only one bit has to come out and not the whole lot!

Thinking positively (the last time I had any kind of surgery was 30 years ago and I woke up in ICU because they nearly lost me) I will have two fat books with me (thanks Glenda!) and I've printed out some Brain Food Factory newsletters which will keep my brain active while I try to get my body back into a semblance of activity.

I'll probably be in there for a week, hopefully less, and it may be a day or three before I am capable of sitting in front of the computer again, but Mr DM has been given a list of people to contact if things do go wrong and no doubt they will inform the wider circle of mutual friends.

So, I will catch you all on the other side!

I might even get some writing done while I'm off work! Might even finish The Novel! Now that would be a nice shock to the system :)

Yummy soup...

  • Sep. 1st, 2013 at 2:06 PM
Calestina
While I was in the UK my sister whipped up a batch of Speed Food Soup. Well, okay, she had some in the freezer and microwaved it because it does take time to make (apparently swedes - the veggie variety - are very hard to chop up), and it was delicious.

So, for all my foodie friends, here is the recipe:

1 can mixed bean salad
1 can green lentils
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can baked beans
Handful of split lentils
2 large leeks
1 large onion
4 medium carrots
1 small swede
1 each of red, green and yellow capsicum
2 stock cubes
Salt & pepper to season
Mixed Herbs
Water (enough to cover all ingredients)

Chop and put all veg in a large pot with everything else
Cover with water and bring to boil
Simmer until soft

And that's it - simple, yummy and very much along the lines of the KickStarter Soup they've been promoting over here.

Can be left chunky or blended if you prefer
It also freezes and tastes great!

And on the veggie front while I was away my beans and peas did fantastic things - I already have 3 serves of beans in the freezer and the fourth batch was with dinner last night, along with a good haul of peas fresh from the garden. Scrummy!