Monday, 27 February 2017

Taking Away Some of the Strain

    We know that our mental health is important to our whole well-being. A recent report by the, University of Exeter has found that spending time outdoors, surrounding ourselves with flora, and fauna has a positive impact on our mental health. Therefore helping reduce, anxiety and depression.

    Writers spend lots of time in seclusion, and yes, this is detrimental to our health, both physically and mentally. I've recently moved away from the countryside into the town, however once a week I do visit open spaces to enjoy the world that surrounds me. Importantly taking time to get away from it all.

    Today, I've included a couple of pictures that I've taken over the years both home and away. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them.

    Take care have a wonderful week.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Jerk

    I turned right into Marchmount, then left into Nicol Lane. On checking my rear-view mirror, I see the same car that has been a tailing me since I drove into the lane. Has no one ever told this jerk about safe stopping distances? My stomach is churning, I can feel the beads of sweat forming above my top lip like a Thomas Magnum moustache. I drive on a further 100 yards and I glance in my offside mirror, then my rear view again. My left hand pushing up on the signalling shift simultaneously.

     The sound of the right-side indicator, ticks like an old mantle clock. Interrupting the drone of the engine that has been filling my ears for the last half hour. Removing my right foot from the accelerator pedal, I depress the brake gently with it. The car slows down, and I push down on the clutch pedal with my left foot. I take hold of the gear-shift with my left-hand and start to drop down the gears. Five, four, three, two, one. I imagine I can hear Jim, my instructor say, "Check that mirror again, before you pull in.”

     As I do, I catch sight of the reflection of the jerk, in the car behind. His face has a strange purple hue to it and his eyes look like they are standing out on stalks. I can't allow him to break my concentration. Steering the car to the right, the jerk, swerves his car passed me; only narrowly missing the rear bumper. He takes time to wave his fist and mouth an oath in my direction, before he speeds off like a boy racer. My car comes to a halt, I engage the handbrake, place the gear-shift into neutral, then I turn the engine off.

    We sit stationary for a moment, I take a deep breath and turn the ignition key, pushing the clutch pedal to the floor once more. The engine coughs a little, but then it starts to purr like a contented cat. I go through my repetitive routine again, tickling the accelerator enough to feel the car beg to start moving, disengaging the parking brake I pull back out into the traffic.

     We travel 200 yards and we turn back into Marchmount, 100 yards on we reach our destination. I carefully go through my paces and bring the car to a halt outside the driving test centre. Jim speaks for the first time in forty minutes,
     "Hey you did well. That was a great practise run. I just hope you don't meet any more jerks on the real thing."

     I'm about to agree with Jim, but the appearance of an official looking man in the doorway of the centre knocks the wind out of my sails. He looks down at his clip-board and heads towards my car. OMG, meet my examiner, 'The Jerk.'



Monday, 20 February 2017

The One Pot Cook

     ‘Receive pleasure from sensory stimulation such as taste, smell and touch.’ No, it’s not an extract from some erotic novel, it’s a characteristic belonging to those sensual beings born under the earth sign Taurus and I happen to be one of them. We are also said to enjoy, an over indulgence of food and good wine. If you knew me, you would say that I have this trait, as my expanding waistline and rising BMI will confirm.  

     I read my astrology chart each day, with a certain amount of scepticism. Nevertheless, it does mean a lot to me to cook well, and I do appreciate an eclectic mixture of culinary pleasures. I have my own explanation as to why I feel so passionate about cooking food well. As a kid I was used to food that was cooked in one pot, on a stove, and came under the name of ‘Stovies’.  

     There were two reasons why my mother cooked in this way; first being, there were always a good supply of the main ingredients, potatoes and onions, in the vegetable rack. Then, by adding in some leftovers, a meal was created. Secondly, it saved on fuel bills. 

     “What’s the relevance?” Being, taught to cook using one pot as I was, I didn't really develop any real talent for cookery. Therefore, the first time I stepped into the kitchen, instead of scrumptious delights being created, I produced disasters.

    My kitchen nightmares include, curries made from canned meatballs, lasagna made with tinned corned beef, oven ready chickens cooked with the bagged giblets still inside. It wasn’t just the main meals that I failed in, I tried baking and wondered why my scones didn’t rise. Only to find out months later, that flour came in different types.  

     Finally, when my idea of creative sweets was jellied doughnuts, topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries; it was time to ask myself, “What the hell am I doing?” The humiliation I put myself through, putting down these 'great gastronomic debacles' in front of guests, was painful.

     But, I took the bull by the horns, and taught myself to cook. I followed recipe after recipe to the finest detail. If I saw something in the supermarket that I didn’t recognise, I bought it and made sure I found out how to cook it.

     The result is that many years on, I can safely say I’m an accomplished cook. I do still cook in one pot regularly, because there are fabulous recipes out there. However, I no longer go about the kitchen, like a bull in a china shop. My dinner parties are no longer a place of ridicule. Cooking, like writing, is about hard work and imagination. Importantly for me, cooking food well means I can share wonderful food experiences with those I care for and love.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Vostre Tres Affectionne

Exhibit National Museum of Scotland

     Four hundred and thirty years ago Mary Queen of Scots was executed. Writing a letter before her execution, to Henri III, King of France, the brother of her first husband, she tells him of her plight.
     Mary being educated in France, wrote the letter in French, six hours before her death at, Fotheringhay Castle, in Northamptonshire. She informed Henri, that she believed she was dying because of her Catholic faith, as well as her claim to the English throne, asking also for his prayers.

Mary's birthplace, Linlithgow Palace

    The letter is in the possession of the, National Library of Scotland and because of its rarity it is seldomly exhibited. Last week, the first time since 2009 the library did display the letter to commemorate the Queen of Scotland's demise. On display for only a few hours, those lucky enough to view it were able to see a special piece of Scottish history. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to do so.

       However, the letter can be accessed via the, nls website and you can read Mary's last words there.

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Three Sisters

     I took a trip to South Queensferry this week to have a look at the new bridge over the Firth of Forth. The last section of the bridge was lifted into place a week ago and now joins her two sisters in joining the Lothians and Fife in Scotland.

    The Queensferry Crossing as it has been named, is a cable-stayed bridge, 2700 meters in length and the centre tower deck now has its place in the Guinness World Record Books. Being recorded as the largest freestanding balanced cantilever in the world.

   It's not every day you can go and see history in the making.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Not the Time to Roost

    If you have fallen by the wayside in fulfilling your New Year resolutions you made on January the 1st as I have, maybe all is not lost. The new Chinese year, the Year of the Rooster, began January the 28th and will continue until February the 15th, 2018.

    Therefore, I've decided to put those extra couple of weeks to good use. I've been toying with the idea of a book for the last two years and for some reason or, another I've kept putting it on hold. Why?

    I think there's an element that I don't know if the reading public will be as in love with the concept as I am. But, caution is now being thrown to the wind and I've now started my research.

    All going well, I will be able to share my work with you sometime in the near future.

    Gung Hay Fat Choy!