Tuesday, April 28, 2009

plague central

Yup. We got it here first. Scotland is now officially a pariah nation, second only to Mexico. If I listen very carefully I can hear the sound of walls to rival Hadrian's original being erected down there in them thar Border country. Sigh. Tomorrow I have two events at an independent bookshop down in the Scottish Borders, and next week, I'm supposed to travel down to Brighton to do an event for which a whole class of children, their teacher and I have been preparing for the past two months.

At least, that was the plan before Media-Flu broke out all over the planet.
Media-Flu Symptoms : 
Weakness of the normal critical faculties - we appear to be rushing like Gadarene swine (ooops, perhaps not the best analogy) I mean rushing like lemmings towards a Panic Pandemic.
Vomiting: Acres of newsprint are even now being ejected from the vast factory sheds of the Fourth Estate.
Diarrhoea: (or perhaps logorrhoea )This unstoppable eruption of tides of foul-smelling discharge is  flowing from the fevered minds of journalists trying to file copy before rushing out to buy their personal stockpiles of Tamiflu.
Temperature: Rising by the minute towards a complete global meltdown of common sense.
Pains in the joints: and in most bars and other places where people gather to spout nonsense.

Maybe it's not nonsense, maybe a pestilence of biblical proportions is headed our way, but the way that the printed media have seized upon this topic to the exclusion of all else is wearisome. Our eerily deserted local supermarket had a whole raft of DOOM, DEATH and OINKERCHOO tabloid titles in evidence, and try as I might, my eye had scanned them before my brain could censor what I was looking at. And I most emphatically didn't want to look at those.

Marvellous. More interesting things to wake up and ponder in the wee small hours. O, the thinks you can think...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

a feathery hug

Sometimes we all need an owl mummy. This one is from Stormy Weather - publishing in October 09.

But much more importantly -Welcome to the world baby Findlay Langlands - the first new baby in our wider family for eleven years. Can't wait to meet you. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

101 today

I don't usually pay a whole lot of attention to numbers - except when the come suffixed with a DR which in these benighted latitudes means you've got to get on the phone quiick to the bank before they close you down. Post codes, phone numbers, car registration numbers, tax codes, pin numbers, birthdays, national insurance numbers....you know what? I don't retain any of them. So, when I logged on tonight, I noticed that my last post was the Fiddle and Pins centenary edition.

Aw heck. If I'd noticed, I would have baked a cake, but since the dawn of spring has also brought the dawning realisation that my jeans and assorted trousers are growing decidedly tight round my rear, cakes are temporarily verboten.

Which means I'll have to ignore the siren song coming from the big glass-topped cake tin that holds our 2009 Simnel cake, which I swear is trying to attract my attention as I type this. If I listen hard I can hear it banging up and down and hurling home-made candied peel all about in a fit of the 'Notice me! Eat me! Eat all of me! We're talking quality adipose tissue here, not common-or-garden flubber! Come on, you know you want it!'

Attention-seeking little cake. Actually, not all that little - it's a bit of a monster with it's cape of marzipan and freight of speckledy chocolate eggs. And given the tightness of my jeans, to eat anything more than a slice about a micron thick is to call down the wrath of my Inner Personal Trainer, and trust me, I don't want to do that. Shhhhh. Whatever you do - don't rouse her.

Having blithely said I don't pay much attention to numbers, I've just worked out what a complete lie that statement is. I pay a lot of attention to the numbers on the dial of my bathroom scales. And I'm gripped by the calorie count that my heartrate monitor watch thing tots up at the end of a session. And the number of minutes still to go in the self-imposed purgatory of running for half an hour non-stop...although since I wheezed my way through January's 5k, I haven't done any running longer than about 10 minutes. In fact, since January I have completely trashed what I laughingly call my fitness regime, and am currently at a high risk of jumping two sodding dress sizes in an upwards direction.

Which is why I'm going to get up at 5.25a.m. tomorrow just like I did yesterday, and will continue to do on a one-day-on, one-day-off basis until I'm back in the rut of early morning gym-bunnydom. And yes, I hate it every bit as much as you might imagine, but the prospect of facing down my Inner Personal Trainer is far, far, far worse. The only thing missing is a good playlist to fire me up and keep me at cruising altitude while I dree my weird.* All suggestions welcome.

* As good a phrase as any to describe the ungainly, wheezing, red-faced, sweaty and ultimately pointless procedures I put myself through in the pursuit of fitness, happiness and tighter buns than a desk-bound illustrator deserves to possess.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

unsprung Spring

The blossom is out, the trees are at bud-break, the primroses carpet hills in Argyll but it's so damn cold that I can only think wintry soup thoughts and warm cashmere wrappy things and hot baths and electric blankets cranked up to max and every meal i make seems to have a dried red chilli or two snuck into it. Brrrrrrr.

Spent the Easter break over in Argyll, making up crummy doggerel for my youngest daughter's egg-treasure hunt, baking Simmnel cake and trying to feed beloved visiting friends on a budget of precisely zilch. We did have one spectacular dinner at sunset at the top of a newly-opened right-of-way at the top of a hill with an unexpected picnic table sat right up there at the end of a half-hour uphill slog. Needless to say in the same postal code of the smoking capital of Scotland, that particular picnic table is totally underused, if not certifiably virgin, but hey, not any longer. We had our wicked way and heated a chilli con carne, deflasked a pile of Basmati rice and necked two bottles of red from wealthier times.

And Michael even remembered to pack candles.

Ther's nothing quite like eating volcanically hot chilli with friends and drinking wine at the top of a hill looking out to a seaview of the island of Arran. There was a sufficient window in the weather to allow the candles to burn evenly, and I was left with the feeling that we will all remember that picnic for a long time to come. Not for the food, but for the place and the unlikeliness of eating outside in Scotland at night in April.

We're back at the coalface now, though. Work is beginning to eat me alive, my fiddle playing hasn't improved much but my flute playing has taken an exponential leap forward when I abandoned my godawful Tune-a-Day primer and went off-piste and played real music. Real music, breathily played ( in a previous life I was a smoker, so my playing and hill-walking will always be -gasp -breathy) on a beautiful silver flute. The beautiful flute was a 50th birthday present from Michael which initially felt like more work ( must practise NEW instrument, must get good at flute as well as being average at fiddle and drawing 145 line drawings for the new Witch Baby and bake our own organic bread and, and, and....) but now I'm loving it, loving the sound I make and occasionally really flying. In the way that you can only fly with music.

The other wonderful thing about the flute is that it won't go out of tune in the cold weather. I can sling it in its case in a rucksack and go play at the top of a hill with a view to Arran if that is what my heart desires. Once I've drawn the 145 line drawings and baked the bread, that is.