Trip to Oban

The nice thing about receiving rubbish news was that we had already booked a long weekend getaway to Oban. Or, more specifically, to Loch Melfort, about 17 miles south of Oban.

So we let it go and piled the family, the luggage, and the dog into the car.

Wait, we don’t have a car.

Fortunately it is possible to hire a car in Scotland. Angie finished off the packing while I caught the bus to Falkirk to pick up the rental car. I chose Mitchells Hire Drive, Scotland’s favourite vehicle rentals. Scotland must love low levels of service and product quality.

The next cheapest company was double the price of this bunch, so perhaps I expected too much. Most people probably don’t think they deserve to receive a clean car and full tank of petrol when they pay £40 a day for the privilege of using a Ford Ka. Yeah, it must just be us uppity immigrants. The dirty looks I got when I raised some objections. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of competition nearby, otherwise I would have walked out and tried to rent a vehicle somewhere else.

The beaten-up grubby car acquired, I travelled home and we loaded in all the gang.

Weather was our friend on this trip, and Scotland is a really beautiful place on sunny days.

The drive was beautiful. The place we stayed, Melfort Pier and Harbour, was beautiful. There was a tiny beach and Jethro loved splashing in the water. Bean had her first experience of a beach, and I had the impression that she approved. She seemed to say, “Surely, such holidays are fitting for a dog of my high status, and why have I not been treated to such things previously?”

We travelled a bit around the coast, visiting Oban and taking a boat ride around the seal island. Also got a look at some salmon farms up close.

Other short drives took us to the tiny villages along the lochside. Beautiful little spots like Craobh and Ardfern received our custom and appreciation.

Then we returned, and on the drive back we found a most wonderful spot for lunch. The pictures belong tell you more.

And if these were not enough photos, there is a larger collection available on Picasaweb.


And now for something completely frustrating

The Universe. Really pretty, but it's what's on the inside that counts.

It turns out that the Universe is a bit of a prick.

Just when I thought it had stopped screwing me around, it goes and puts obstacles up in my way. Financial obstacles.

The banks seem to be disinclined to provide me with a loan to finance my journalistic studies this year, for no sensible reason. Thanks Universe!

Instead, the Universe is sending me recruitment agents with new opportunities in environmental work. They are only about one year late. Thanks Universe!

And curious business opportunities too. What the heck, Universe?

Guess I’ll just go with the flow.

Crazy Hat Children’s Book Reviews and 100 Word Stories

The Crazy Hat blog has been going for a little while now, and I’ve got enough content there now to confidently let the readership here know about it.

It gets updated every Tuesday and Thursday, with surprising consistency for the most part. Posts alternate between 100 word stories and children’s book reviews. An odd combination, but at the same time not so strange. Children’s stories are odd, the 100 word stories are odd, and crazy hats are odd.

Crazy Hat has fluidised poodles, homeless yetis, organised crime, and more.

So visit Crazy Hat now!

Riding of the Linlithgow Marches! or: What an odd town we’ve moved to

A horse-drawn carriage, of which there were more than one

It’s the first Tuesday after the second Thursday in June, and everyone knows what that means.

What’s that? You aren’t familiar with the great significance of this day?

Admittedly, this is probably something that would never have mattered to me at all, had fate not sent me to live in the Ancient and Royal Burgh of Linlithgow. Such places are so old and steeped in history, that they are bound to develop eccentric mannerisms.

The particular oddity in this case is that it is a local holiday, all the shops closed, and people wished one another a “Happy Marches.”

Was this the inspiration for Lewis Carroll‘s mad March Hare? That is my theory at the moment, at any rate.

If you want to read more about the oddness, it is explained in detail over at the official Linlithgow Marches and Associated Madhatters website. If you click about a bit there are videos of previous years’ events to be found.

Alternatively, just have a look through the sample of the photos I took:

Encouraging Writing News

"We are thinking . . so we are rhizoming !"
I hear pictures add interest

I’ve persuaded Edinburgh Napier University to admit me to their MA Journalism programme.

This is a very encouraging step on my journey to a career in writing, as rambled on about at the beginning of the year. It may even morph into a career in radio or television — who knows? Looks like it’s going to be a wild ride in any event.

I’ve also taken to writing in a little A5 notebook. I’m finding it much easier to actually create something when I don’t have the time-wasting lure of felis LOLcatus and other assorted Internet fauna. Just me, the pen, and the paper. There is something very organic in writing that way. It is as if the writing is imbued with unique qualities. Each letter is subtly different. The loops and curves of my handwritten glyphs. The change in the tempo of the text as I become more engrossed in what I transcribe from mind to hand to pen to ink to paper. The words drift to illegibility as my pace of writing increases — but I can still read it even though no-one else probably can.

I don’t get that with typing into a computer. When this goes live on the Internet, you can only see the errors I missed. You can’t tell what I scratched out, or what I added with a ^. You can’t see the squashed words that had to contort themselves between the already-written lines.

With this approach I’m producing many more first drafts than I previously did. When I have enough, I’ll start publishing them. When I start publishing them, I’ll let you know about it on Waffle Group.

Bean Liberation: First Run Next to the Loch

Bean and Jethro walking next to the Loch

When I let Bean off her lead as we went passed the palace, Jethro became very concerned that she would take her new-found liberation and run with it. And not stop running.

He charged after her calling out for her return. Of course this just encouraged her to explore at a greater distance. In the end, i managed to persuade Jethro that she would follow us if we just kept walking.

Jethro loving the walk too

Linlithgow has a Palace So We Moved There

Our Palace that needs repairs

They wouldn’t let us into the Palace. Not to live there, at least. There must be some sort of mistake, so we’re living in a semi-detached two-bedroom place until we get it all sorted out.

Mind you, the place we’ve moved to is rather nice. It has double-glazed windows while the Royal Palace has no windows at all. Sure, there is a lot more space at the palace than the house we’re in, but imagine the palace heating bill in the winter?

We moved because the costs of living in Edinburgh were too taxing. Other than the palace we should rightfully occupy, we chose Linlithgow because of its strategic geographic location. It’s about half-way between Edinburgh and Glasgow, along the railway line, increasing the markets in which we can look for employment. Nursery school teacher and telephone call centre human are not our life-long ambitions, so having a broader range of places to look for other work is an important consideration.

Unlike the place we rented in Edinburgh, our new place in Linlithgow didn’t come furnished. Fortunately, second-hand furniture from charity shops (like British Heart Foundation) is super-affordable — and they deliver! Unfortunately, on the day we moved they delivered only half our bed. And not the soft, springy half. The floor that night was not in any way comfortable.

Bean Dog’s emancipation from quarantine coincided beautifully with our move to Linlithgow. A few days after we moved home, it was up to me to fetch Bean from the Milton Quarantine Kennels, in Strathclyde, west of Glasgow. Angie was off at work, so I had to take Jethro with me on the journey, which complicated matters somewhat.

The SPCA appeared to have a No Fur Cutting Policy, and as a result Bean was a rather massive canine ball of fluff. I told Bean this, and Jethro overheard me. He still hasn’t stopped telling people that Bean is “a ball of fluff.”

Bean was, understandably, excited about leaving solitary confinement and getting her first sniff in six months of the outside world. Bean has neither travelled on a bus nor a train, and both means of transport would be required to get her back home. Jethro, although having travelled on buses and trains, had not travelled on them with Bean. He was rather excited about it all too.

Their excitement was my trepidation. I had terrible visions of dogs and children running off in opposite directions, and falling in front of buses, trains, and other heavy machinery, as I scurried desperately after them. Surprisingly everyone was rather well behaved, with one exception. Bean sat quietly panting while every bus passenger embarked and disembarked. That was until a black person stepped on the bus. Then she let loose with her growly-yap-growl-yappity-yap! Another passenger sitting across from us remarked, “Your dog is racist.” I couldn’t really argue with her, but attempted to deflect the implication of my inherent racism with a story about dogs barking at white people in South Africa, when the dog owners were black. If seemed a flimsy defence and I’m not sure it worked.

With Bean living with us again there is a sense of belonging. A sense of place. Although nothing can ever be truly permanent, we feel relatively certain that we’ll be here for a number of years to come. Our stay in Edinburgh felt transient and incomplete. A rented flat we were not allowed to decorate didn’t feel like home. We are living in a home now, and that’s an important step on getting our life back on track.

Having a home gives us a base to operate from. We’ve found Jethro a playgroup to attend and a child-carer to watch over him while we attempt to rekindle our careers. Although “rekindle” may be a poor turn of phrase, considering we already cast our careers into the bonfire of [clever metaphor I’m too lazy to think of], and scattered the ashes to the four winds.

Moving on to some pics of the new place. Enjoy!