Another Year Older

Firstly – thanks to all those who sent birthday cards and good wishes. Another year older, only two years until I’m 70 which somehow is significant. I find birthdays quite depressing.

I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park with a friend and we had a pleasant day, the weather was excellent, managing to sit outside on the cafe balcony for morning coffee and lunch.

It’s always fascinating to wander around and get up close to the sculptures whether it is Henry Moore, Elizabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth or Ai WeiWei. In the past it has been possible to touch many of the installations but at the moment there are ropes around some of them.

It was such a sunny day I managed to drive all the way home with the roof down – glorious.

During the week I had Martin and Kate (Bulgaria now Portugal family contingent) staying with me which was a pleasant change from an empty house and enjoyed acting as host, whether it was cooking the evening meal or simply serving toast and marmalade for breakfast.

I was lucky enough to get two cakes for my birthday: Sue made a beautiful chocolate cake and Lucie produced a great carrot cake.

The family (9 in attendance) had lunch at Market Rasen Golf Club and a good time was had by all or at least that was what they said. The next time we will all be together again is at the family holiday in Norfolk next May.

It’s Autumn so the leaves are now falling in masses every day blanketing the lawns. It’s been very windy (storm Brian) so that has increased the drop. On Friday I took 5 bags of leaves to the tip (run out of space to compost them) and I filled them all again when I got back.

To hand scrape the lawns takes two hours – it’s all good exercise.

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Gardening in October

Considering we’re halfway through October there are still pockets of colour in the garden which is lovely to see. Over the next month the trees will continuously dump their leaves over the lawns and despite my best efforts it’s impossible to keep them clear.

I’m still eating vegetables from the garden – potatoes, carrots and celeriac with a small cucumber and a few peppers.

The vegetable plot gives me a great deal of pleasure; I’ve already planted garlic and a couple of rows of early onions. I do need to plan for next year…

 

And finally, I washed the car (cracked windscreen and all).  My beautiful home and an iconic car.

I should be happy…

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Cars, Film and Theatre

An update on the new MX5 – after only 200 miles there was a crack in the windscreen which, after careful examination, the dealer informed me was caused by a stone and there was a minute chip. This was just the beginning of a silly saga. The insurance covered the windscreen replacement with a £100 excess however it seems the insurance doesn’t cover the recalibration of the camera in the screen and this may cost another ridiculous amount of money.
Today two technicians turned up to replace the screen only to tell me they couldn’t do it because, although they had the screen, they didn’t have the colour matched panels on the sides and the top. These wouldn’t arrive until next Tuesday. So why bother to arrange this appointment? It’s strange this kind of frustration doesn’t worry me anymore – nobody died so why get worked up about it? Life’s too short…

Last Sunday I went to see Blade Runner 2049 with a friend. The original Blade Runner is an iconic film and I was probably expecting too much. This version was too long, had a thin plot with some dubious science throughout. There were references to replicants having “virgin” births where the new “messiah” was valued and revered. If you make a replicant why like a production line why give it a womb?

I admit I’m being a bit harsh; I liked the special effects and overall enjoyed the film but it wasn’t groundbreaking or iconic…

On Tuesday evening I went to a U3A organised visit to Louth Riverhead Theatre to see a Shakespeare Revue performed by the local amateur group. They were good however the whole performance was spoiled by some deranged member of the audience who had the most lengthy, loud laugh. Rather than focussing on the activity on the stage I sat waiting for the next outburst of inappropriate cackling. The cast did an incredible job of staying with the script and there were times when they had to adapt to the buffoon.

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Life is for Living

It’s a worthwhile reminder that life is for living and not something to be frittered away by spending too much time looking backwards although the past has made us who we are.

In the absence of Lucie (Canada visit) Dave and I went to the Broadbent Theatre to see a light-hearted comedy about the life of Charles Darwin. It’s a lovely place, set in the heart of the countryside and sadly it wasn’t a full house.

On Saturday night Dave and I went to Market Rasen Festival Hall to see a couple of modern folk singers – Flossie Malavialle and Edwina Hayes. It was a good evening however I felt the humorous introductions to some of the songs were a little too long.

I decided that the Hospice Garden needed some TLC so I’ve spent a couple of hours dead heading and generally making sure it was neat and tidy. One of the Yew balls has died so Caitlin is making enquiries as to where we can get another one. The other Yew balls are doing very well and will require a trim to keep them in shape, probably in the spring.

Thankfully the silver birches are looking very healthy but then again they would because they have Jane’s ashes scattered over them.

On a bright, sunny day in early October it was a very peaceful place to be.

As part of the U3A I organised a car full of people to visit Lincoln University for their Lights research open day. It was disappointing that out of 330 members I could only find 4 other people to join me at a free event.

It was aimed at school children so we were advised to turn up after 1pm. Some of the “attractions” were overblown and a little disappointing although I did like the two lecturers who were demonstrating 3D scanning and printing although they did haven’t a printer on show. I challenged them to scan my face which they amusingly did, unfortunately the scanner cannot cope with a beard or moustache so it loses a lot in translation. Maybe a death mask?

This external booth was demonstrating the way people became astronauts and the work that took place on the International Space Station.

Unfortunately we didn’t see the end because it was 6pm and time to leave so everyone made their way back to my car and we headed for home. As an overall showcase for the university there is room for improvement and I will write with some suggestions when I get a moment.
And finally – there is always an “and finally” – I spent today with my college friends Tim & Wid and Susie & Jon at Clumber Park. It’s a great venue with a number of walks one of which we did around the lake (4 miles?) before having lunch.
We’ve known each other nearly 50 years and whenever we meet it’s like going back in time. The wit and repartee hasn’t improved but it is still in existence. Always good to see them…

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Five Star Speedster

The day arrived when, after twelve months of scary fun in the Lotus I’ve made a mature decision and toned down the speed by a notch (0 -60 5.2 seconds to 7.4 seconds). What the change will give me is 5* comfort and the ability to drive for more than 2 hours without feeling crippled and of course it is so much easier to get in and out.

If I had a three car garage I would have been tempted to keep the Lotus because I did love it but it was time to move on.

As the proud owner of a Mazda MX5 RF 2 litre Sport Nav 160PS in machine grey I look forward to getting out in it. After a quick run round my favourite roads I know it will be my preferred vehicle unless there are floods, snow or I’m giving a lift to more than one person. The adventure starts here…

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Rest Days

I don’t allow myself rest days. There are days when I don’t have anything in my diary and on those days I write a list of things that need to be done. This week I run the lawnmower over the lawns to pick up the leaves which have started to fall and swept the drive with Dave. This spruced up the look of the house for at least 24 hours until more leaves drift down.
I’m still managing to get myself sufficiently motivated to go for a cycle in the early mornings. I confess that I’m tending to put my head down and try to beat my best time (53 mins)(competitive? never) however I cannot fail to see the road kill – two badgers and a muntjac deer. One of the badgers keeps being dragged off the verge probably by a fox as it tries to rip the meat off it. So every day I pull it back onto the verge – it’s surprisingly heavy.
And the morning light is different every time I go out. Here we have “mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Thankfully it hasn’t been too cold although it was only 5 degrees C one day – a portent of what’s to come.

In the spring of last year I was thinking that I would abandon Jane’s vegetable plot, turf it over and concentrate on the flower beds. How I have changed. I get so much pleasure from the vegetable garden (a bit fed up with runner beans and courgettes for dinner). I’m not only planning what to grow next year I’ve already planted garlic and onion sets. As for the flower beds, they’ve been a bit neglected so I now need to change my focus and do some serious reorganisation. More thought required…

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This and That…

I’m aware that it is over a week since my last posting and I haven’t been idle although a lot of what I do is quite ordinary. I’m trying to cycle 10 miles two or three times a weeks – this is a time trial not a gentle ride and at the moment I’ve peaked at covering the circuit in 54 minutes. It’s getting tougher because I set off just after 7 am so it’s now quite chilly however I feel a lot better for it.

When it’s wet or windy I go for a walk on another circuit which is around four miles and takes a little over an hour. At least on the walk I take time to photograph the trees which are looking beautiful before the autumn leaf drop starts.

The vegetable garden is coming to an end so the last potatoes are out of the ground; Bramley apples have been picked and pureed; courgettes finished; runner beans now stringy; carrots ready for eating and the peppers quite small.

I’ve also been privileged to see a painting that my college friend Tim has done. It was taken from a photograph he took on the last occasion Jane and I were out together. She, as always, with that wonderful smile that melted my heart all those years ago.

And of course West Wolds U3A continues to keep me busy as chairman and also on visits such as the one to Sheffield Assay Office and Cutler’s Hall with a quick stroll around the galleries in the Winter Garden.

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Garden to Plate

As autumn streams in upon us and my thoughts turn to making adjustments in the garden it is always satisfying to bring into the house a selection of produce from the vegetable plot.

The beetroot has been magnificent and I’ve already pickled enough to fill three kilner jars which should last until next summer. The onions (red and white) although not massive have produced sufficient for me to store away in a pair of Jane’s tights (they keep dry and don’t sprout). I will use the onions over the next 10 months. After a late start the runner beans are overwhelming and I cannot eat enough so must put some out at the top of the drive (free to a “good” home). The courgettes are doing well and I keep picking them so they don’t get too large. Finally, for the time being the carrots are good, if a little small, however I need to do better next year. Still to come is the celeriac (experimental) and the parsnips.

Lessons learned: Sow fewer beetroot and runner beans; more carrots; and be careful in my choice of courgette variety – I like the striped kind. I shall also plant garlic this autumn because I’ve started using it in my cooking.

Then there’s the meal I produce from all this “stuff”: Roasted beetroot; carrots and runners with spiralized courgette and salmon flavoured with rosemary (from the garden) on a bed of pesto mash (my King Edward potatoes.

I’m trying to lose a little weight (78Kgs) and I know it’s all healthy food but there’s just too much…

Off to pick more runner beans and set up my stall at the top of the drive.

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London Visit

A few days away in London staying with Richard and Nicola is an opportunity to appreciate the culture of the city with very knowledgeable guides.

First stop was the Matisse exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was a collection of the items Matisse had in his studio and how he included them into his works of art. It was a crowded event and at times it was almost impossible to step back and appreciate the work.

After a picnic (courtesy of Pret a Manger) on deck chairs in Green Park we walked up to the National Portrait Gallery for the BP exhibition. It struck me that none of the portraits depicted people smiling and I haven’t been to explain why this might be. Any artists out there with an explanation I would appreciate hearing why this might be the case.

We finished the day off watching Tom Cruise in American Made.

It was based on the true story of a TWA pilot who goes to work for the CIA initially photographing communist insurgents in South America and then gun running for the CIA and returning from his trips with drugs for the cartels.

He makes so much money he doesn’t know what to do with it and struggles to launder it. Not a great movie but worth seeing when it arrives on our TV screens.

On Saturday we went for 9 mile walk through the Chilterns around Berkhamsted. I don’t think I’ve walked so far for several months. The beech woods were very special and it wasn’t unusual to see deer. We stopped for lunch in the shadow of Bridgewater Monument which was delightful.

Sunday and we started the day with a swim – another activity I haven’t done for nearly a year and I still found the energy to complete a half mile but it took a lot longer than it used to. I need to get fitter and make time to go swimming at Louth.

Richard and I then drove into the wilds of Essex to Hedingham Castle to view classic Porsches. There were some beautiful cars with matching prices.

A fabulous weekend…

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Time for a change…

I’ve had the same watch for over 25 years. It has always been accurate, never needs winding up or a replacement battery and I’ve proudly stated that why would I want to spend more money on a gadget that will just tell me the time. This week I went back on all I’ve said in the past and indulged myself once again by buying a Samsung Gear S3.

It tells the time, lets me know when I’ve got emails, texts or WhatsApp messages and I can use it as a phone (this would require me to talk down my sleeve or hold the watch to my ear – bizarre).

It also counts my steps and calculates the calories I’m burning. It warned me today that I’d been sitting still for too long and needed to stretch.

I shall fiddle about with it for a week or two and then write another review.

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Basques, Bustles and Blunderbusses

Lincoln Steampunk Festival is always a significant date in the city’s calendar and so Graham and Sue decided to come up for the Bank Holiday weekend to once again admire the range of costumes parading around the castle and cathedral area…

The participants vary in age and size but one thing is certain, they are all having a lot of fun in an anarchic way…

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Scotland in Pictures

A selection of images from Edinburgh…

And the beautiful Scottish Highlands…

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Edinburgh Fringe (Days 3 & 4)

Thursday 17th August

A late start and a visit to the Scottish National Portrait gallery. I’m not usually interested in portraits however there were some fascinating images – paintings and photographs and it was easy to spend a couple of hours wandering before having a cup of Earl Grey in the cafe before the rush started.

Pixel Dust –  a one woman drama revolving around the impact of the internet on us. Our ability to connect and take on new persona. There were only about 10 people in the audience which was a shame because it was well written and performed. The blurb mentioned the use of technology in the set however it wasn’t ground breaking or unique.

Charlie Dore – A modern folk singer with a combination of humour and romantic lyrics. She had an excellent, clear voice but one or two songs didn’t work for me. She had a good following within the audience and it was an enjoyable show.

Dinner at the Urban Angel on Hanover Street but I ordered too much and over ate considering I then had to rush over to the Pleasance Courtyard on the other side of the city.

Tom Allen – As the audience walked into the venue Tom Allen stood at the door and gave everyone a handshake which was interesting. His whole set is about him being Gay and it was uproariously funny.

Friday 18th August

State of the Nathan – This was a free show and despite that fact there were only 10 people in the audience. At one point I thought I was going to be the only one however a few more did arrive. It was dire! He certainly demonstrated how difficult it is to do “good” standup comedy. He made it look like hard work. His musical intros run from his iPad didn’t work and it was generally a shambles. Despite it being a “free” show he effectively mugged us on the way out to make a contribution. I felt like I was giving encouragement to a drunk on the street to go and buy more booze. This guy shouldn’t give up the day job but I got the impression he was only doing this because nobody would employ him.

Identity – A series of playlets all based on the theme of identity. First was a company called Big Data which knew all about us and it offered services we didn’t even know we wanted. Second a play about manufactured babies where all defects are removed and the more you pay the “better” the foetus. Naturally born people are called “naturals” and are seen as second class citizens. There were several more along similar lines, all of them thought-provoking. I thought it was a well written series and each one could have been developed into a full hour-long drama.

Jan Ravens – Famous for her impersonations on Dead Ringers (Radio 4) she started her set with her Teresa May and went on from there. It was sharply written and her timing was excellent. It was 60 minutes of very good entertainment.

Mark Steel – He bounced onto the stage full of energy and hyperactive. He’s another left-wing comedian which got me thinking “why are all comedians left-wing?”. Perhaps it’s because there’s nothing funny about capitalism with its inequalities between winners and losers. He was going through a divorce and there was plenty of material in the process to make fun of without deriding directly his soon to be ex-wife. His set finished just before 11pm and there was still plenty going on the streets of Edinburgh as I walked back to the flat for the last time.

Who knows, the next time I come it might be with a companion – something to look forward to.

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Edinburgh Fringe (Days 1 & 2)

I made the decision to come back to the Edinburgh Fringe in January but it filled me with dread how I would cope on my own. Jane and I were supposed to come in August 2014, we had accommodation booked, shows paid for however Jane was in hospital having her chest drained to help her breathing.

My flat is good – a penthouse flat in student accommodation (how can students afford this?). It has a small kitchen area, double bed, sitting area with TV and a toilet and shower.

Tony and Jude came down for a couple of days so there was a lifeline and we met for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 1

The Joni Mitchell Story – There were several things I didn’t know about her; she contracted polio as a child; had an illegitimate child; an affair with Leonard Cohen (bet that was a barrel of laughs) and married David Crosby (Crosby, Stills and Nash). Her songs were well performed and it brought back memories of Jane – Clouds and Big Yellow Taxi were a couple of her favourites. Music is so evocative.

John Hegley – He’s a modern, humorous poet and likes to put them to music.Very funny with plenty of audience participation and songs you wouldn’t believe could be made to rhyme. How does anything rhyme with Guillemot? Well John Hegley can do it. It seems as though he ran out of material and stretched out the last 10 minutes which detracted from the previous 50.

Mark Thomas – I’ve seen him several times before and he can best be described as a seditious comedian who loves to poke fun at the establishment. Prior to the performance the audience were asked to complete a form to say what the future might hold in the next one year and four years. I stupidly wrote that I expect to find the second love of my life in the next four years not thinking it might be used in the show, how naive of me. He handled it very well and the only really embarrassing part was that he asked all the women in the audience to talk to me after the show, needless to say I was first out the door at the end. The show it was excellent and there were humorous discussions about Trump, May and Corbyn. We voted on which predictions were likely to happen and then he would place a bet on them coming true. All winnings would go to Cultural organisations that had budgets cut by central government. Gets my vote!

Day 2
Scottish National Gallery Beyond Caravaggio – I wanted to see this because I went to see the RSC perform The Seven Acts of Mercy based on a Caravaggio painting. I’m not an enthusiast for portraits but his use of candlelight is very special with actual light source hidden by a hand or book. The exhibition contained a couple of Caravaggio paintings but the majority were other painters who followed his technique and often copied his composition. Some captured the faces perfectly but others were less in his style. It was an enjoyable morning where I had to rely on my own opinion rather than asking my artistic oracle (Jane).

Assessment – A play about state sponsored euthanasia. In the near future when the government can no longer afford to pay the state pension some faceless bureaucrat comes up with the fact that it would be cheaper to give certain old people a tax-free cash incentive (£30k) plus funeral expenses to die. It would cost the state far less than continuing to pay the pension and of course the cost to the NHS. The target demographic was a widow aged 77 with children who needed a cash injection. This could be me in 10 years. This was serious drama, performed well and left the audience stunned by the reality of it all.

Milton Jones – An hour of surreal one liners none of which I can remember and most too subtle to be funny outside the confines of the venue. He was very funny and the only joke I can remember came in the last five minutes when he asked to audience for subjects. Someone said IKEA and he immediately said he used to work for IKEA and knew most of the 7,000 products that they sold so he asked the audience for a number. Someone shouted out a number and he thought for a moment and then said “sorry that’s out of stock”. A good ending to a very good show.

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Ever Onwards…

Life at The Pig Yard continues to move forward, or at least in a direction, I’m not sure whether that’s forward or not.

I’ve started cycling again after a long layoff (lack of motivation) and I’m now trying to get out at least three times a week in the early morning (06:45) when there is little wind or traffic. I cycle a ten-mile circuit in an hour. The mornings are uplifting and are a good start to the day although such early starts do make the days very long. On Saturday morning I had cycled, showered, hung out a towel wash and done some shopping all before 09:30. Which left the rest of the day to do – what exactly? Well I took the Lotus out for a tour of the countryside, then washed it and after lunch spent three hours weeding the garden.

The garden continues to bloom in small sections and once I get started it can occupy me for many hours. Despite all my efforts I still focus on the weeds rather than the beauty which is a reflection of my own personality. Going round the garden and taking photos helps me to realise that it’s a lovely garden…

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Fruits of my Labours

Warm wet weather brings the vegetable plot into its own. Despite my concerns the onions are filling out; beetroot is being harvested; potatoes are ready (one plant produces enough to feed me for a week); and the runner beans are taking shape although Nick and Val have already supplied me with some from their plants.

In the potting shed I’ve got a number of cucumbers coming. I grew the same variety last year and they were delicious – looking forward to some more salads before the summer is over.

And so onto my pickling adventure. When preparing the beetroot after cooking them it does appear a bit like a bloodbath. If I walked out into the street mid preparation I would have looked like a mass murderer. I did miscalculate the number of beets required to fill a kilner jar so I’ve got to pull up some more and go through it all again. It’s easier than I thought…

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Car Fest Weekend

Sometimes car events come along like buses, nothing for years and then two in one weekend.
On Saturday I went as a guest of my friend Tony to the Lotus 7/Caterham sixtieth anniversary at Donington Park. The drive there was exciting in itself and the weather was superb. It was great to see so many enthusiasts with their Caterham and Lotus 7 cars firstly all parked up and then be put through their paces on different track events. All the trials were just for fun so there was no timing or judging – just for fun.

On Sunday I was asked by a friend in the U3A to be navigator in his Austin Healey Sprite on a non-competitive classic car rally. I’d never navigated before using Tulip course notes so I was a little nervous but I needn’t have worried. From a field of approximately 70 cars we started early and before long we were catching up with those in front who allowed us to pass. I had a great time and only missed a couple of turns but we stayed on course and came in second at the Old Tile Works in Barton Upon Humber.

Not all the cars were true classics and included Porsche, BMW, MX5 etc. My Lotus Elise wouldn’t have been out-of-place so who knows, next year I might be driving a similar course through the Lincolnshire Wolds.

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Wildlife and Top Gear

While putting out the washing this morning I heard a strange squeaking noise and wondered what it was. I looked in the almond tree but couldn’t see a bird so I went back to me pegging out the bedding when there it was again. I looked down near the fence and there was a grass snake with its jaws around the back-end of a medium-sized frog. I rushed off to fetch Dave & Lucie and Nick & Val because this was very unusual.

Slowly the snake engulfed the frog as it tried to crawl away and in the second photo you can see the frogs front legs with two sets of eyes – snake and frog. And as if by magic the frog was no more and the snake slithered away to digest a very large meal. David Attenborough eat your heart out…

This afternoon I took the Mazda CX5 for its first service and while I was there I was tempted to test drive a Mazda MX5. A quick (very quick) drive across the Wolds and back to Grimsby within an hour – phew. The Lotus is a wonderful car, frighteningly fast (and I mean that literally) but it is a struggle to climb in and out and any journey over two hours is bone shaking. Perhaps I should be considering a vehicle with a similar attitude but some of the creature comforts I have in the CX5.

Should I? Would I? Could I? Watch this space for the answers…

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Everything and Nothing…

After a weekend spent in the garden I’ve almost caught up with the essential weeding but the closer I got to finishing the flower beds the more excuses I found not to finish off. Says something about my personality – a degree in procrastination.

On Monday I went on a U3A trip to Humberside Airport – it has to be the quietest international airport on the planet. We had a guided tour of the control tower and the radar room. It’s interesting that NATS (National Air Traffic Service) operates as a commercial company and sells it’s radar data to privately owned regional airports. Our air safety has been sold off to the highest bidder!

We had a demonstration by the airport fire service and this was followed by a tour of the Coastguard station which is also run by Bristow, a commercial company. The pilot was fascinating and had an obvious love of the helicopter.

And whilst I’m busy watching people play with fire Nick is busy building Tawny Owl boxes. I helped him (held the ladder) to put this one up. There are Tawny owls in the area because we have seen them on a number of occasions in the trees along the drive so fingers crossed we’ll have an owl nesting in the next few years – fingers crossed.

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Still Here…

This week I met up with my ex sister-in-law and her sister-in-law in Lincoln. Marjorie lives in California; she had returned to her native Scotland to do some ancestry research and was travelling down to Suffolk. We had a coffee at The Collection; a tour of the cathedral and lunch in the castle cafe. The weather was described as dreich (Scots word meaning dreary or bleak).

Don’t worry you’re not drunk the last photo was taken by a young person in the castle cafe and they had a strange idea about vertical.

 

 

This week I received my new office chair. I’ve waited for over 12 weeks for this to come from Hong Kong. It’s based on a classic Charles and Ray Eames design. Not an original but still a lovely, comfortable design.

The old office chair will find its way to the Hospice charity shop when I get a spare moment next week.

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