Thursday, 29 April 2010

In the beginning...

I have moved my earliest writings on LJ en bloc to form the earliest post here on Blogger for anyone who is interested or never found the link. Enjoy.

A long and winding post

We've had a very sociable Sunday with friends round for lunch. The house is now full of dirty glasses and dishes which I guess is the price you have to pay for an afternoon of good food and good company. Most people know that I run a bit late getting ready for these things so try not to turn up right on time or they will find me dressed in rags. Today I've given myself 10 extra minutes so that I could get ready and slap on a top coat of blue paint on the nails to go with my new blue top. I hadn't reckoned on Elaine turning up 10 minutes early and I guess she wouldn't have if you hadn't turned up in her Porsche! Some of our friends have money whatever that it is! Oh well the illusion that I'm quite smartly turned out is ruined.

Today the mix of people was one which we had never had before, they got on so well over lunch at one point I went deaf with the noise of all the simultaneous animated conversations. Elaine regaled us all with stories of seven years living in Japan finishing with a disastrous last visit to see her son's family and contracting pneumonia than flying back with a first-class upgrade to try and get treatment at home only to find herself worse off than if she'd stayed in Japan. She was delighted to finally be out visiting people again. Another guest Jane was delighted to get a telephone call from her son saying that he'd finished in the top 20 of the London Marathon, she's especially happy since they're her genes since she used to be a marathon runner.

I think we ate too well, I put it down to the two desserts which were brought as gifts, this is the way to run a lunch party but needs a little fine tuning obviously. This evening I felt a little queasy, something I haven't felt for many years and part of me thought my end had come. Eventually the brain clicked in and said take something to settle the stomach and relax for a little while and that seems to have worked so I'm here for a little longer.

My new cast-off blue top, a silky velour tunic length, was a great success so I was happy, Julie less so when a gold filling came out whilst eating Turkish delight! That's going to be a challenge to get the dentist to fix it in under three weeks, dental services are really under pressure here even when you have a so-called private insurance. The first thing to be cut from our national health service is easily accessible dental care, if you're really lucky you can get on somebody's list and get really basic treatment. If the new dentist opens a practice on the National Health Service literally thousands of people will be camped in the street for days before the doors open to try and get signed up as a national health patient.

My ploy of buying a laptop for Julie to play with has not worked and she's pushed me off my iMac for days while simultaneously bemoaning the fact that I'm not doing what I should be doing on here with all my picture files! It's now Wednesday and she is now downstairs moaning that the screen is only a fraction of the size of this one and 101 other moans. She may as well have stayed here, all my attempts to sign up with a photo lab so that I could order the few colour prints from the comfort of my own home caused nothing but frustration all day and, three attempts before the site even accepted my signing in and despite following every instruction about clearing the cache and enabling the cookies whenever I tried the pictures over to the site and press upload nothing happens!

I think I'm cursed. Many of the things I dreamt about based on my science fiction reading as a child appear to have almost become reality, and to many people they hand over their credit card and carry off a new toy with glee plug it in and it works. For me, something of a fan of modern technology, have to try hard to find sufficient resources to purchase some of these new toys then no matter how much I paid for them once they enter my aura and their functioning becomes questionable! I used to buy top of the range camera equipment when I could honestly claim to be a photographer, without fail these magnificent machines from Nikon, Linhof or Leica all had minor malfunctions soon after they came out of the box! I used to be a fan of Henri Cartier Bresson, hence my buying the last Leica as a toy for my retirement, even this exquisitely manufactured mechanical toy seized solid while far from home on an island in the Atlantic and really far from any repair facilities. Cartier Bresson abandoned photography when he retired and concentrated on drawing, a sheet of paper and a pencil, what could go wrong? It's starting to look more tempting every day!

Back again hours later, hours wasted! I think I've proved that only the most incompetent people on earth are employed to set up Internet sites and the most stupid of them work on online photo sites. When I decided to give up yet again and try a third site, I am very stubborn, the first question asked at sign in was a compulsory question with the choice between Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms! Naturally the information is pointless, the other two sites didn't care so long as I had some money, so why did this well-known pharmacy chain feel that they needed to know. As a matter of principle I've never used any of these unless it was absolutely necessary so instead of trying to use that site which wouldn't tell me how much the prints would be anyway, I sent them an e-mail suggesting they think about their incompetence and lack of my business.

I think I have droned on long enough. I shall just say that the sticky patches seem to be working, the bumps appear to have started to firm up and I'm sensing the characteristic soreness reported by so many, there is also a more noticeable jiggle when going up and down stairs! I seem to be getting what I signed up for with no apparent side-effects. Next week I get a day off to visit the other side of the country for a chat at the clinic, I wonder if they'll be happy enough with my progress to take me off this training dose and prescribe something little more potent. We shall see.

A final welcome to Claire and Laura Who have taken my followers up to a giddy number.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A gift

I can hardly believe it, it's a week already since Lisa's visit, where did the time go?

My life has been a blur this last week was continuing the work to mount up pictures for my forthcoming exhibition and more than usual number of social events. This full calendar has had us living a fairly regular life getting up early for appointments and falling asleep not long after midnight, I can't remember the last time we lived in this time zone!

The spring is really late this year and so is my preparation for it. The days are really sunny but with a cold biting wind and shrubs are starting to show real signs of life and a few flowers, perhaps I'll post a blog with a few pictures one of these days! A few mornings this week I've been digging over the vegetable patch with my garden help who is still resisting turning into a typical teenager, she is having a big internal debate about using some weedkiller on a stubborn area of the garden versus the toil involved in digging out the weeds by hand and it needs to be cleared in the next week or so if we are to get anything planted there this season, and leaving the decision to her I don't want to appear to be an ogre.

She did get one of are morning off when a huge rose hedge fell onto the driveway blocking our exit. It had been an amazing plant often in the past climbing 30 feet up through the old Laburnum tree which recently was blown down in the wind and once the tree was gone was a freestanding hedge 3 feet deep and 12 feet high. Unfortunately I discovered that it had become 3 feet high and 12 feet wide just as we were about to leave and collect two other people to go to an evening of art charity events, luckily we were able to quickly reverse the arrangements and be taken ourselves.

There is no getting out of some of these events since Julie is on some of the committees. I enjoy many of the events but under no circumstances would you say that I blend in. This was made fairly clear on Tuesday evening while I was getting my fill of smoked salmon nibbles washed down with a glass of white wine and chatting to a couple of university academics when they were suddenly confronted by a woman with a strong Scandinavian accent to declared that she just had to take me away from them because I looked like the most interesting person in the room and she just had to talk to me! It's a long time since somebody has shown that amount of interest in me more is the pity. She was a Norwegian psychologist and soon declared that I must be something like a photographer! I had to admit that that's what I used to call myself. We have both been in and around this area for 30 years and somehow never bumped into each other at any of these events, we were getting on great when it was announced that the first part of the evening, a lecture, was about to begin and she went back to join her friends. I assumed she would be going to the dinner afterwards and we would be able to continue our conversation in a better acoustic environment, the modern new build art centre had typical architect designed atrocious acoustic so I was never able to clearly pick up her name. Sadly we never saw each other again.

The dinner was in the 18th century house of someone with have known for a longtime, perhaps the only one now in original condition and with its original mediaeval long narrow garden behind. It seemed like every room in the house had sprouted dining tables and each room has its own dinner party in progress and somehow it seemed strange to be in the actual dining room! At these things you never know who you will end up sitting next to so I thought I'd draw the long straw and won this time they're being for strong and independent minded women and one guy who I already knew who is a professor of theology and aesthetics! One of the women was also a theologian who had coached ballet, one was an art lecturer at the University who I'd worked with before and a really interesting character who was running three nearby National trust properties, sadly this was the last event she was going to attend before leaving parties. Just my luck, she could have been good fun to get to know.

There was little competition for the wine with so many drivers at the table, seem to have drunk the whole bottle that was at my end of the table just sipping away through the meal. I'm not really used to this any more and found myself lacking in energy the next day when I tackled the job of chopping up the Rose, the stem at the base was more like a tree trunk, as thick as my leg is just above the knee! I had been wondering how to reach the top of this hedge to cut it down in height so as not to catch the wind just a bit too late. It was going to have to be sacrificed to allow the builders to get in to repair the wall. After years of having a secluded garden, almost cut off from prying eyes in the summer months once the leaves come out on trees, I now feel quite exposed and certainly will find it very difficult to maintain an allover tan this summer!

Lunch is one of the things we do now so I was up early to work in the garden than a quick change to pick up friends from the railway station. We had run out of time last time they were in town for them to get a good look at the renovated art gallery and museum, they wanted private conducted tour from Julie so we met up in the museum cafe with a few others for lunch. Why they don't have an audio guide with someone like Julie leading you around and enthusing over the works I don't know, they enjoyed it immensely hearing all the background stories behind many of the items.

Mid-afternoon one of our friends headed off shopping and then took an early train home whilst we took Elspeth to visit a friend who has a business of craft made knitting. She had bought something many years before which is still adored so we took her to see if she could find something new. Elspeth had spent most of her career teaching German diplomats to speak English, she especially enjoyed teaching them to use the phrase " I am afraid"! Our knitting friend is German but gets little chance to practice, I suggested they change language and left them to it to help with the coffee, our friend Elspeth is nothing if not decisive and had found something she adored which suited her figure and fitted perfectly before we could get the coffee to the table. We didn't stay long since goods were being loaded up another epic sales trip to the south of England.

Final destination was to abandon I guest to visit Julie's cousin and uncle who is on his last legs sadly and had wanted the final visit from Elspeth. We went in just to say hello and while they were chatting Julie's cousin took me aside and asked if I was interested in one of her old jumpers, she said it had stretched in the wash and would only be able to wear it has a very short dress! She knows me well, I exist on other people's castoffs so we went upstairs to see what was on offer, I get a tunic length silky soft blue velour top with a slightly scooped neck, this is my lucky day and hers because now she can go and buy a new one.

When we get home we have already discussed the idea of inviting a few people on a Sunday lunch, a few hours off watching over her old father will be a relief so I give a call and say thanks again for the gift them pass the phone over to Julie. She is asked if it was all right to give me something so obviously girly, her reply, of course not, C loves that kind of thing! Osmosis is a wonderful thing!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

real live friend

It is about 16 months since I took the plunge and started writing my own blog and not just commenting on others. Just by chance I started on LiveJournal because that's where I most wanted to make comments at the time and it wasn't too long after I started that Lisa found my blog and asked to be a friend. As far as LiveJournal was concerned I was quite uninteresting to most readers and gathered no more than four friends. The average age on LiveJournal is quite low and my age is quite high so it's hardly surprising how things worked out there.

Lisa not only found me, she persuaded me to sign up to the chat and often spent time in the early hours of the morning together online. Yesterday I broke all the rules about meeting someone you've met online, trusted my instincts and invited Lisa to come and stay during one of her business trips north to Scotland. I woke to the News of a volcano erupting in Iceland and bringing the British airspace to a standstill, at first I thought it was a strange dream full of nonsense but soon realised I was awake. Part of our plan involved Lisa taking a colleague to the airport on the way to visit me and I had visions of them being stuck together and our meeting being cancelled.

Instead of getting on to make final preparations for the visit I wasted time watching the news and then thought I would quickly change the water filter to give us some sweeter tasting drinking water. With my recent lack of success with plumbing a died should not have gone looking at water pipes, one awkward joint needs re-soldering since it is slowly bleeding water into the Cabinet and causing damage! When I had just about tidied up this mess the phone rang, this was the first time I had ever heard Lisa's voice and she was telling me that because of the disruption plans have changed and she was now two or three hours ahead of schedule! Could she arrive early?

Silly question! It had been six months since this meeting had first been suggested t and now we could spend late afternoon together instead of just arriving in time for an evening meal. The stern dominatrix in her satnav brought her straight to the street where I live and since all the numbers are scattered at random the second phone call had me walk into the street and wave. Her car was quickly parked in the driveway and we greeted each other like long lost sisters, I was fairly sure I wasn't going to be murdered in my sleep!

A quick introduction to Julie and Lisa w was shown to her room where she was able to change out of work clothes and become her real self. It was a beautiful sunny day I and the late afternoon sun had warmed up the glass house conservatory so we three sat out there with a cup of tea and started to have real chat. Sometime after the tea had disappeared I found three glasses and a ready chilled bottle of Australian sparkling pink Shiraz wine, if we hadn't been relaxed before we certainly were now!

Julie had volunteered to do the cooking and rustled up a small feast starting with venison steaks which had been slowly marinating for 24 hours in red wine and Juniper berry marinade. I don't want to make you too jealous so I shall skip the rest of the details, with another bottle of red wine the conversation flowed late into the night.

With so much to talk about so many virtual friends in common we really needed a week together. The little time I had was especially interesting for me since this is the first live online contact I have made whilst Lisa has met several others too. We do have another meeting organised already almost 2 months to the day if only the planes take to the air again and fly Lisa and Lucy to meet me in the Mediterranean sunshine.

It was good for Julie to finally have someone else to talk to and the three-way conversation helped clarify a lot of things on her mind. Far too quickly our time together was over, I spent a few minutes with Lisa after breakfast out in the morning fresh air down by the harbour then almost like a scene from Brief Encounter we embraced and were then whisked apart as she headed off for her business meeting half an hour away.

There certainly has to go down as one of my most memorable days.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


I have just found the perfect way to cleanly remove my sticky patches, a session in the sauna! It was nearly two months since I have spent time there, first the light had broken and before I managed to fix it my toe nail was removed so since the sauna was off limits I had my ears pierced.

The studs had to stay in for six weeks with regular cleaning twice a day which I did without fail. In a sauna the studs would burn my ear lobes! Today time was up so I removed the studs to see if they had healed. It was quite a struggle to get the keeper off the back, not good at brute force! The left ear which I have been sleeping on is a little reddened and Julie says it has a slight discharge so I decided to try an hour of heat treatment while they were out then disinfect everything before putting the studs back. Not as easy as you might think first time round.

Guess if I am going to use the sauna in future I shall have to get it organised with my patch changing schedule! I shall also use a lower heat setting, without testosterone I thought it felt hotter but today now that I have the estradiol patches the old temperature felt unbearable and I felt light headed for a while so stepped out to cool down in the shower. Guess changes are happening!

The spring has almost settled, Sunday and Monday were positively hot. I finally managed to clean down and repaint a cousins garden fence, she seemed surprised by how carefully I was doing it, “as if it were my own!”, how else would I do it? A contribution to the holiday fund was made for my help so I have now earned more for painting fences than doing the work I used to do, should have gone into the fence painting business when I was fit and able! Time to do some work in my own garden before I abandon it to my teenage garden help.

Only a month before we set off so time to finish off some exhibition work before Julie starts to worry, posts may slow a little.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


I clicked on the Mac the other day and was shocked to see that the hard drive had amassed 400gb in it’s brain, poor thing was filling up fast. What with is anybodies guess but some could be the 25mb raw picture files when I bother to use the lumpen slr. I kept this thought at the back of my mind for when we were out.

Two months ago while visiting friends during the icy weather they showed me the catalogue to an exhibition in Aberdeen where they had just been to the opening night. The artist had been their teacher when they were at art college and was having a show in Aberdeen city art gallery to mark her 80th birthday and it included recent work from Antarctica! The catalogue had what looked like some interesting essays about her work which I have always admired. We once shared a major wall in a mixed show in the same gallery, each showing a triptych which really gave me a lift. This was a show I just had to see. I was thinking about it when thinking of anything to recommend to someone visiting the area soon so did a search to check dates only to find that today was the last day! I have a pile of work to get done including getting the house into a merely untidy state for a visitor next week but this was something to drop all work for and spend an awayday on the road.

For us it was an early start but the first smell of fresh cut grass was in the air, one of life’s magical smells, our grass is a longtime off cutting and over the winter has become mostly moss. Sun has not touched it yet.

The run up the coastal plain was a delight, the red earth recently ploughed fields mixed with those with the vibrant fresh flush of new shoots. Strawberries in amongst the hoops ready to be covered by poly tunnels and vivid streaks of yellow where some have diversified into daffodils!

Julie was delivered to the door of the gallery then I went in search of a multi parking place sa close as possible to where we would go afterwards. So many wax lyrical of their time in “the Mall”, not somewhere you go in my local city but as I stepped out of the lift into the heart of this shopping mall in this oil rich city I briefly felt jealousy for these smartly dressed shoppers all happy, smiling and enjoying just being. What a contrast to the sour misery and fat rolls over the waist bands in my town! The irony is that my town was the ideal and preferred location for the land and sea base for North Sea oil exploration but the local unions thought they could make big demands from the oil companies who just moved 60 odd miles up the coast even though the road link was rubbish and stayed that way untill all the deliveries had been made! In my scruffy town even I sort of blend in so I should not complain, I certainly could not compete in Aberdeen.

As a bonus Francis Walker the artist was in the gallery chatting to some of her old students when we arrived and she came over and had a chat with us afterwards. Where do some of these people get their energy and enthusiasm from? Artists never retire while they can still see and wield their chosen tools of the trade. I have always admired her painting and printing style which while remaining faithful to the accuracy of depicting the landscape is subtly abstracted leaving me frustrated with the literalness of my medium! That sounds a bit stupid but reality does leave much to be desired.

The Antarctic panoramas filling one room were gems of painterly touch and I was so envious of her ability to paint a tilted horizon to represent the tilting boat, I am sure that the same scene in a photograph just would not have worked gaining nothing but criticism for being squint but these were so right!

We did once buy one of her screen prints of a Hebridean island and gave it away as a present, how mad were we? The prices have shot up!

Lunch in the gallery cafe was a real joy as we sat in view of a table occupied by three biker chicks. Julie is really starting to understand the real me and asked one of her most perceptive questions ever about wether they were how I had wished to be. Dead right, down to the look in their eyes when they were talking! It was all I could do to resist following them to see if their ride really was a Harley, who else would have leather tassel fringes on their leathers? Well that is one big regret but the roads now are not the open roads of my younger days and I have no plans to be an organ donor as many older bikers become!

“Time machine” is still grinding away! Just what are these 1,152,117 items it is storing? Only a quarter of the way through after an hour and a half. We stopped for a coffee in the mall just before collecting the car to come home, another chance for people watching. Since the coffee was so hot I set off to see if I could buy an external hard drive for backup so there goes all my possible clothes shopping for a good while! What a curse since a rose bush attacked my thin summer weight jacket and ripped two neat parallel tears in the back!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A week in a flash

The world is getting back into it’s normal routines, mine is not to have one! These cold dark mornings offer no incentive to be up and about so we live late into the night and laze about listening to the morning radio programmes often until, well best not say. This will change as the year heats up.

The alarm went at 7:30 today so we are now at mid morning wandering about shell shocked zombies but it had to be done to be available for the insurance assessor at 8am. No problems about the claim, the first in 60 years! In the end we will have a better wall than we ever had since so much more well have to be removed to ensure strength but no indication when it can be done. I just want to placate the neighbour even though he did not maintain the wall from his side at all! Our side will soon be hidden by a holly hedge to form a wind break since this is the lowest part of the wall round the garden. We are enjoying the free use of his security light when using the drive at night but that will not last when the hedge grows.

You certainly loose a lot of muscle power with the change so though I am still quite strong for a girl I am weak as a kitten compared to my past life but it is difficult for people to take this on board because they are such poor observers. The two day clear up exhausted me and had muscles aching which I did not know I had. Along soak in a hot bath with salts seemed like a good idea and seemed to help but I nearly did not manage to get myself out! Just about back to normal now but was tested yesterday when visiting friends we were sharing the purchase of a deer with, it had been resting in their freezer for a week while we ate as much from our small freeze section to make room. Liz was getting ready for decorators but one screw was stuck and she watched in fascination as I struggled to shift what she knows would have been a breeze in the past.

With the chaos of the clear up we forgot to do any Easter plans but lucked out on some last minute invitations. The friends with the wood burning stove returned to my message for chain saw help, they had been away at their highland home burning some of my last delivery of logs! They made two trips with their truck to remove the tree bits then asked what we were up to that evening, an impromptu easter roast feast was rustled up for us so we took an excellent bottle of red wine and we got toasted round the fire of last years logs.

My old friend M had his daughter visiting from Germany where she works now so we were invited for a brunch or breakfast as we would call it! A big crowd turned up for this egg based feast. The germans are keen on dying hard boiled eggs so there were many coloured duck eggs and a perfect frittata. Hams and cheeses and hot crossed buns followed then a wicker basket loaded with small chocolate and nougat eggs. Restraint was required! Everyone seems to have accepted the studs in the ears without comment! Word is out that I want cameras dangling from the ears for the opening of my show, time I made some effort to get some, postage from the US will be the largest part of the cost, little seems to be available on this side of the Atlantic.

Lucy may have been their baby but she grew up with me around and we have always been friends though sometimes a “fathers day” card would pop through the letter box! We spent most of the time swopping music, her father has jazz blinkers on and has never been on the same wavelength as his kids especially about music. He was non too pleased when his son bought some really nice speakers to play his (our) rock music and I showed him how the base could be made more solid by adding weight to the cabinet, I cut up loads of scrap lead from the roof repairs to add about 30 lbs to each speaker to anchor them to the ground then he was able to shake the house with Pink Floyd and Hendrix. Like me Lucy is totally eclectic and she keeps me fairly up to date. She will be flying down to France for my exhibition at the end of May and knows that she can make playlists for the restaurant music system if she wishes.

Getting down to practical presentation work now the printing has been done is the order of the day, a few experiments and I will know exactly what needs to be done.

Nearly three weeks into the HRT and there are signs of something happening. The emotions seem a little more sensitive and there is a slight soreness round the nipple areas. It is a low dose to start so don’t expect dramatic changes so soon but seems to be doing something. The hot flushes have not disappeared but do seem to have reduced in frequency and intensity and will not be missed if they go completely!