Posted in Life and Family

UK’s Icy Plight

“Aldi had plenty of bread and milk but no eggs. The shelves were bare of milk at Asda, sparse on bread but plenty of eggs – who can fathom it?!”

– from friend in Yorkshire.

I had high hopes things were returning to normal, but when I got up and looked out of the window this morning, snow was drifting determinedly from the sky.

Ahh, noooo!

Drooped downstairs, and my mother mimed falling snow, if you can picture that!

Nevertheless, people are moving around again, and my sister came in from her icy fastness yesterday with a variety of things from the supermarkets. Everybody seems to be doing a supermarket crawl; traipsing from one outlet to the next. I notice when our tall neighbour calls with food, which he did again today, the items are from different shops.

The cats are getting used to him… they used to slide out the back the same second he came in at the front, but now they just hover beside the cat flap and blink patiently. ‘Just in case,’ you know. In the same spirit, the other neighbour put our bin out for collection. ‘Just in case’, he said, but the bin lorry never came.

I emptied the bag of groceries… fish ‘n’ chips, M&S style. Salad and my favourite Piccolino tomatoes. Cold meat, more bread (wow!) and a copy of the Scottish Sunday Express, screaming in particularly large type: “WINTER HELL TO LAST TWO MORE WEEKS”.

Ahh, noooo!

The ‘TWO’ is picked out in red ink, and in slightly smaller type, it goes on: “Scots told to brace themselves again for snow in aftermath of Beast from the East.”

Reading the article, I get a picture of things being cold and wet, some more snow ahead, and likely floods when the snow melts. Some shops are still frantically putting things out on shelves only to have them snatched up by hungry customers… but on the whole things shouldn’t be as bad as they have been, floods aside.

We’re better off than some. Our house hasn’t been buried, or our front door blocked by a wall of snow, and our boiler got its breakdown over with earlier this February. I don’t think there’s a single thing we’re out of, though I finished my cucumber at the start of the storm and had to do without till yesterday! We also ran out of mayonnaise… It’s not so much the ‘doing without’ as the feeling that you are not free to have just what you want when you want. It’s still a land of plenty, but availability is uncertain, so don’t waste what you have.

As I said in the comments to my last post, my sister brought a luxurious Tiramasu cake yesterday. It was strange to be eating cake when folk have been struggling to obtain more basic supplies.

A couple of pages into the Express is the headline, “Finns are amused by UK’s icy plight.”

Well, I’m not surprised…

The paper also mentions a tweet by transport minister Humza Yousaf, who said communities have come together to clear their neighbourhoods of snow, and this weather has brought out the best in people. Our neighbours are great, but a friend is having issues with one of hers. She said they shovelled the pavement but stopped just as they got to her gate! They missed an opportunity to extend an olive branch, it seems. However… there’s plenty positive that’s going on, and we don’t need to focus on the determinedly negative.

A notification has just this minute popped up from The Independent. It says: “Seed vaults protect the world against the apocalypse — but what if doomsday is already here?

Ahh, noooo……

Posted in Life and Family, My Cats

Everybody’s Having a Snow Party

Here in the UK and Ireland we’ve been hosting the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, who were in the mood to party together. In Scotland we had the joys of a ‘red alert’ — apparently the first time we’ve had one. I took a few photos outside and figured out how to use the video option in my camera (nothing special resulted), then wished our snowy guests would leave again… am tired already.

Trying to blog with a cat squirming in your arms is not easy. πŸ˜›

Yesterday I lifted my toilet bag from the bathroom window sill and it felt cold. The toothpaste inside also felt cold and was stiff to squeeze out… I think it half-froze! This morning the toothpaste was more relaxed, although people are still not allowed to go anywhere. A local warned on Facebook that roads are closed, buses aren’t running, his car was sliding all over the place on a narrow road, and snow ploughs and tractors needed to be rescued… if *they* were in trouble, what chance has a car?

An old friend who lives locally contacted me via Messenger and said was everybody keeping warm? I said yes, though we heard from a neighbour that the shops were running short. He (the friend on Messenger) said he got the last lot of milk, bread and bacon from his local shop. I said we have fruity flapjack cookies with coconut in (I’m so glad I bowed to temptation when I saw these in M&S!) If he went back to the shop, he said, and raided it for oats, he could make his own flapjacks. I said he won’t be able to if the local old ladies buy all the oats before he gets there. “Then I’ll just mug them,” he said.

Our front steps are covered over almost completely with snow drifts; you can barely see the edges peeping out. I opened the back door at one point to find a set of dog pawprints leading up to the cat flap. Today they are all over the place… scuttling through the hedge and crisscrossing the snow. People let their dogs off the leash around here (though they’re not meant to) and they run into people’s gardens. My sister’s seen dogs let off in the path behind the house who run up the length of the garden and dash out onto the road at the front, with the owners obliviously calling them on the nice safe path behind. One particularly bad-tempered canine attacked my mother’s old cat — my sister intervened and nearly got bitten. The cat (who had been picked up and shaken) was very shocked and had to go to the vet. I remember the blind look in her eyes that day, but she’s still with us and doesn’t seem to remember.

The ‘off the leash’ thing might explain stories of dogs and their owners ending up in icy lakes. Someone was writing about how drivers forget to change their driving techniques in icy weather… they go too fast; drive too close to the car in front, etc… it strikes me that that warning also applies to other things we do, whether it’s getting our stocks right or walking dogs.

I understand it’s difficult when we do things by habit… we can be knee-deep in trouble before we wake out of auto-pilot.

I was thinking to myself that I wished we had more milk and bread. I noted that we’d gone onto freezer rations — tins next! We still have vegetables and potatoes; biscuits and sweets (including my special hoard of Bassett’s mint creams and chocolate peanuts); a very little fruit; rice and pasta in the cupboard; one small loaf of bread in the freezer (the kind Mum likes but I hate)… I knew we would hold out for months and there’s no need to complain, but I still wished the fridge contained more in the way of fresh groceries. I can’t even make simple things like scrambled egg or macaroni cheese, as we are hoarding what’s left of the milk.

My sister can’t come out because she’s snowed up in her little village. It would be a long icy tramp for me to the local supermarket, though I would do it if it was really worth it. There are no little shops at the end of the block here… one of the not-so-good things about this particular location.

No need to worry, though… Man Mountain to the rescue! He appeared yesterday with milk, bread, and jam doughnuts, and surprised us again today with two bags of food. It was very kind. He said shops are running low in things like milk because the lorries aren’t getting through. The milk he brought today is long-life.

I still mustn’t make dishes that need milk… there are other things we can eat instead. (Eyes the pizzas and and sausage rolls hungrily).

Another neighbour rang up and said he and his wife are making the long walk out to the supermarket and did we need anything, and my mother said “thanks, but we’re okay!”

A friend in Yorkshire says the wind is still whipping up the snow into blizzards. They’re sitting tight and not risking their safety; the only thing they’ll run out of is salad, but they’ll survive without it for a bit.

Now the cat is squirming in my mother’s arms, but that’s fine by me… easier to blog! …D’oh… spoke too soon! This cat (Delilah) is the definition of the phrase ‘in your face’. She lies on your chest and watches your eyes. I escaped by going outside to change a litter tray, and cleaned it with balls of dry snow. Gosh, this stuff has its uses… it saves on kitchen paper.

The following piece seems to be going the rounds on Facebook: “Where are we going, Piglet?”

I don’t go on Facebook much, so don’t pay attention to me if I sound blase! It’s pure gammon. My sister posted me the link and said she visualized Pooh as me and Piglet as The Little Witness. The Little Witness was currently squatting on a box of chocolate-covered peppermint creams, so that doesn’t surprise me.

We don’t have the stocks of red wine referred to in the Pooh conversation, but we have plenty of cat litter, Man Mountain brought the pizzas, and there’s a little bottle of Dandelion and Burdock in the fridge.

It’s odd how differently you view your food stocks when you are snowed in. It goes from “I suppose I should drink it,” to “I’m so glad to see that there!” and “I wish I hadn’t thrown away the year-out-of-date tin of Carnation Milk.”

Ah… a blob of white just flashed past the window.

“Did you see snow drop off the roof?”


Hopefully this freeze party is ending.

Posted in Life and Family, Observations, Photographs, Technology and Software

What Comes Into Being When You Have No Access

Here in Scotland, drifts of powdery snow lie on the ground outside.

Certain things had to be done before the daylight waned… laundry, changing bedlinen, and bringing the ironing board back from the shed. Whilst pottering around happily in this manner, unaware of a chain of events thus set in motion, one of Mum’s friends turned up for a teatime visit and to sit in my place. πŸ˜’

I’m not annoyed… I would rather she sits there. The other chair is too far away and you’d have to yell down the length of the room at Mum. Trouble was, I had forgotten the visitor was coming, and left my iPad set up on the big footstool by my seat. I didn’t want to disturb them by retrieving it (as though to say “hey, you’re sitting in MY spot!”), and my offer of tea was rejected, so I abandoned the iPad and got on with preparing vegetables in the kitchen.

When the friend left, I brought tea and biscuits and settled down. At last I could get some rest! My shoulders and neck were aching as I hadn’t meant to spend so much time flitting around.

But no! The iPad refused to start up… its battery power had gone utterly flat. All that showed up on the screen was a black void featuring the spectre of an empty battery sitting in a little sliver of red. When the iPad’s power goes that low, it takes an age charging it up enough to let me back in.


While your phone or tablet is charging up, you have to find some other way of amusing yourself. Out in the gathering night, a snowstorm began whirling… a wall of white behind the skeletal trees. In the drama of the moment, while Mum and I stared out of the window instead of at the TV, wolves and other hungry raptors came to mind.

Abandoning my tea, I went upstairs to get my camera, opened the window, and leaned out. The trees stood swaying in gaunt silence; cold, sepia and white. I should have been taking photos of the snowstorm but somehow… this happened instead.

After the iPad powered up, I used it to take a photo of the back of my camera, being too lazy to go through the rigmarole of getting hold of the actual photo. If we got more snow here, I would probably be more practised at taking photos of it, but for now this is all you’re getting. πŸ˜›

Posted in Current Affairs

‘Banks, Are You All Right?’ (Mary Poppins film)

How the UK is getting on… especially Scotland:

Banks ‘were close to collapsing’
(but the UK has now turned the corner) by BBC News
Why a Lloyds TSB takeover of HBOS is bad news for the Scottish high street by The Scotsman

Mum is still keeping her fingers in her ears and going ‘lalalalala’ so I just told her the governor of the Bank of England says we’ve turned the corner. And we might be able to save money on broadband and phonecalls if we switch to Sky.

It was me who said the last bit, not the governor of the Bank of England, but it cheered her up anyway.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Books

About a Scottish Poet

I quickly finished the biography of George Mackay Brown by Maggie Fergusson. It’s shorter than it looks because of the references at the back. I enjoyed it and found it more informative than GMB’s autobiography (From the Islands I Sing) but it was fairly dry in the middle, around the period when GMB was spending a lot of time with the other poets.

I suppose each person’s life is bound up with others and you really can’t separate them too much. These other people supported, influenced etc.

In his serious writing, GMB had a taste for the dark things of human existence (such as what happened to the local witches). But he also had his lighter, friendlier moments.

GMB suffered from periodic depression as well as agoraphobia. I wonder if many of the reviewers and critics really understood how that would impact on him. I was reading a review by someone who had read the biography who kept saying “but it was hard to work out why GMB [this, that or the other]“. In turn, it made no sense to me how anyone could read that book (or know anything about him) and not understand.

It’s true that some people think in black and white terms. They would imagine that if you have agoraphobia, you never leave the house. And if you leave the house regularly (like GMB going to the shops), you don’t have it any more. But as GMB found, it hangs around… sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it’s barely even present. He stared at the island of Hoy and wondered how he ever found the energy and courage to go out there. I do that myself – I think about places I’ve been and things I’ve done, and marvel. It doesn’t mean I would never be able to do them again – I would just feel currently unable.

To come close to understanding another, you really have to join up the dots.

Posted in Current Affairs, Health Issues, Political and Social Issues

Smoking Ban Could Drift Further?

I have friends who smoke, and my father also smoked, so I’m careful how I express myself on this subject. When it comes down to it, though, my feeling is that the smokers have had their way for long enough and now it’s our turn.

I went to a huge cat show once, and though people mustn’t smoke amongst the cats, they were allowed to smoke in the rest area at the side of the hall. Eventually the smoke drifted into the Siamese cat section. At first I didn’t pay a lot of attention, but after a while I realized I was having trouble breathing. And in the next moment I realized it was because of the drifting smoke, which always seems to affect me that way.

When I got home, I sent an email to the show manager, saying it was a good show and very well managed, but the one niggle I had was the smoke. In her response she said it wasn’t a problem as they weren’t smoking anywhere near the cats.

Ha! I was standing in the middle of the Siamese section and there was plenty of smoke drifting around. It wouldn’t have affected me otherwise, as I never sat in the rest area. The smokers, the non-smokers and the cats were trapped together in the same hall all day, and there wasn’t really anywhere else for any of us to go. Not good.

Well now there’s a smoking ban in Scotland. There are those who agree with it, and those who disagree. There are those whose horizons have broadened and whose profits have increased, and those whose scope has narrowed and whose profits have shrunk, and there is very little middle ground. Probably because you either need smoke or you can’t stand it. There IS no middle ground.

Even if there was, the smoke would drift across it and permeate everybody.

Remembering that my father was a smoker (though he never smoked in the house, and quit a short time before he died) I don’t like to throw my weight around. But the other day I was in our usual cafΓ© and noticed smoke. I was puzzled. When I investigated, I realized it was someone sitting at a table outside the door. He’s allowed to smoke there, but his fumes blew right into the shop.

I couldn’t help smiling slightly when I read this article from The Scotsman: MSPs look at calls to extend smoking ban. There is all the usual anger from smokers who feel hard done by, but I understand the reasons for people wanting the smoking ban to go a little bit further yet. It’s not walking through or past the smoke that bothers me so much – it just seems futile to have a smoking ban and then sit in a smoky cafΓ© anyway.

When I reached the end of my blog post, I suddenly realized I had a fascinated audience – see photo below.

Large cuddly sloth sitting on theΒ desk

Peeping out of the bookcase behind my hairy reader is a red book with a green dustjacket. There’s only one reason why I kept it – it belonged to my father, and has his name on the flyleaf, in small neat capitals. And it doesn’t smell of smoke – it smells of book.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was on Blogigo:

1. Iain wrote at Sep 27, 2006 at 23:55:
The inevitable question: what’s the book?

2. Diddums wrote at Sep 28, 2006 at 00:05:
‘The New Beginners Please: for those who want to invest profitably’ published by the Investors Chronicle. I don’t dip into it very much. πŸ™‚

3. Pacian wrote at Sep 28, 2006 at 13:18:
I want one!

The sloth I mean.

Posted in Current Affairs, Political and Social Issues, Rants

Media Stirring

I found this Scotsman article (with lots of comments from its readers) and thought “why has this started up again?”

Cumming hits out at Jack’s ‘racist’ own goal

I like Alan Cumming as an actor and first noticed him in Bernard and the Genie (a much-mourned film that we never see in the UK anymore). He’s also the evil hacker in the James Bond film Goldeneye – the one who shouts “I am invincible!” and then something happens… Yes, him.


Anyway, it sounds to me as though he got onto this topic when he was discussing what it means to be an expatriate Scot on the prowl for work. The media, as usual, blows everything out of proportion; Alan Cumming’s part in the discussion as much as Jack McConnell’s own personal stance. Granted, the politician could have expressed himself more carefully, though who asked them these questions in the first place? If we don’t want to have to deal with their replies, or are only expecting a bland “may the best team win,” why ask politicians (or actors) where they stand in a football match – and then publish their responses widely?

What is not explained here, exactly, is why Alan Cumming was given advice to pretend he wasn’t Scottish if he wanted a job. Why should any of us have to pretend to be something we’re not because of other people’s prejudices or expectations? I can’t believe it was purely because of one man’s comments about a football game – in fact I doubt it, which makes me wonder if this is a much larger issue than it’s being presented as.

As for tourists in Scotland – I’ve blogged recently about falling ill again with agoraphobia because of the sheer numbers of holidaymakers in town. Mum reported hearing plenty of English accents – not because we were discussing whether or not they liked us enough to come over here, but because she was trying to identify who the tourists were and what sort of holiday they were having. If a few decided on the strength of World Cup clashes not to visit Scotland… I have to say we really didn’t notice! There are a lot of forgiving, intelligent, broad-minded people out there, so thank you. You are really very welcome.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this entry when it was hosted on Blogigo:

1. Diddums wrote at Sep 17, 2006 at 16:25:
PS The Google ads on that news article are advertising Scottish holiday cottages, which is ironic. And I didn’t realize Alan Cummings was exactly my age – hmm! πŸ™‚

2. drifting wrote at Sep 18, 2006 at 07:11:
Golly – what a to-do about nothing! (the ‘anti-English’ comments). McConnell was simply stating his preference for football teams surely. Anyone who takes offence and decides either to leave Scotland or not holiday there as a result is totally overreacting!

My brother is an avid football fan and will always barrack for the ‘other’ side – ie the country he’s not currently living in – so while in Germany he never supported German teams – while in New Zealand, he doesn’t support NZ teams – it’s one of his contrary ways – probably more to annoy the locals than anything. I must admit – I enjoy supporting Australia if there’s a NZ vs Aust rugby match and am forced to watch it. Love the reactions from the patriotic All Black supporters. Hehehehe.

3. Diddums wrote at Sep 18, 2006 at 20:12:
Absolutely right – I agree with the ones who say it’s about rivalry, not racism. On both sides there are always those who go over the top, but that doesn’t mean the heart of the entire nation is in the wrong place. Someone suggested (in the comments to the news article) that it exposed a flaw in the politician, that he was anti-English – but he was actually quite careful to say it was about the sport, not politics.

Posted in Blogging, Lost in Thought

Signs of the Blogs

While categorizing the older posts, I found this one: Spelt Exactly How it Says on the Tin

The bit that caught my attention was:

It’s impossible to switch off my niggle radar – my whole life is a kind of busman’s holiday. I just know if they put me in a reality show to swop lives with someone else, they would be forcing me to write ‘WD40’ without hyphens. “You must learn to loosen up. It’s good for you,” they would say. Then they would catch me red-handed, in the middle of the night, correcting my blog by flashlight.

It crossed my mind that swopping blogs would be mildly entertaining, though to no real point – imagine if you took over another blogger’s blog for a while and tried to write the sort of posts they might write. It would be easier if you also lived their life for a while so that you would be writing about the same people and things. Or then again, it would be more fun to stay in your own home and make it all up, then you could add silly things like “I went up Ben Nevis with my wheelie bag and felt quite alright, thank you kindly.”

Come to think of it, I’ve seen people ‘blog-sitting’ so it’s not really a new idea. It can be confusing. I remember tuning in to one blog and not realizing it was under the control of a different writer. There was something not quite right and I was perplexed, then realized the stark truth… imposter!

I suppose it’s more fun for the bloggers than the readers, an exception being the sort of situation where a friend or family member steps in to convey information while the main blogger is elsewhere.

On a slightly different subject, you would think personal blogs (if saved for posterity) would be interesting for historians if viewed as a whole. Even the most casual blogs (if not too introverted) reveal patterns and directions similar to shoals of fish darting about the reefs. For instance a number of British blogs recently have been talking about ‘torrential rain’. Not just any rain, you notice. It’s torrential rain. Most of us enjoy it even while we complain – we speak of the comfort we feel when looking out at a damp grey landscape. That won’t be interesting to historians, who will presumably have access to proper weather reports, but it’s just an example – there are other common topics and viewpoints.

Like… hem… well, very early in the year I was noting down bloggable topics – I wanted to describe the beautiful Scottish spider webs coated with ice. I never got round to it, but when I visited other Scottish blogs, they all seemed to be admiring their frosty cobwebs. One provided photos – much nicer than anything I could have come up with. It gave me a shock. I thought I was the only one observant enough to come up with such blog posts, and at the same time I was struck by the fact that all the blogs about icy webs (at least just then) were Scottish. I’m just a typical Scot after all – nothing out of the ordinary. Just one of the tiny silver fish in the middle of the shoal.

Maybe some of those other ‘silver fish’ live next door. Right at this very moment they could be posting: “as I gaze dreamily across the road, I see a woman sitting at her window – she stares into her computer monitor all the time and never looks out at the world long enough to behold small but beautiful things… such as spiders’ webs bejewelled with dew.”

Hang on while I draw my curtains.


Posted in Current Affairs, Political and Social Issues

Who Do You Support – and Should it Affect Business Decisions?

Anybody else notice this news item from The Scotsman about Scots losing business because of the sides they take (or don’t take) in the World Cup? I wonder if it is happening anywhere else? It’s a hot topic… when I read that news article there were at least 98 comments at the foot of it.

What I see is a company taking business away from another company who, as far as I’m aware, have said nothing at all about which teams they are supporting in the World Cup (and it’s probably a fair mixture). That seems a shame to me.

As a child I was clueless when it came to supporting one’s own nation. We were watching It’s a Knockout! – a wacky obstacle-course sports thing with different countries participating. My sister said “I support the team with GB on their backs.”

I was too young to know that GB stood for Great Britain, or what the other letters meant – all I knew was that my sister supported GB, so I had to find a team of my own to support. That way it was more fun and maybe I could beat her. I thought the letters CZ looked nice, so I chose that. CZ and their small Scottish supporter didn’t do particularly well, as far as I remember. But that’s the name of the game.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was on Blogigo:

kateblogs wrote at Jun 12, 2006 at 20:37:
There are 237 comments now – it has certainly got people talking. Unfortunately, bigots from both sides have also crawled out of the woodwork, but I suppose that was to be expected. It is a shame that we are still having these petty arguments, we are neighbours for goodness sake!

I think the programme you were watching was It’s a Knockout! Well, if I am remembering correctly.

Diddums wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 01:04:
And now there are 315! Many that should have been reported – some of the ones I saw before have probably been removed already.

Thanks, that’s right! Oddly, when I looked up It’s a Knockout, I found a bit about it on a page with the heading I love 1966. That’s a year that gets mentioned a lot in the football argument.

drifting wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 07:20:
My brother, although married to a German and having lived in Germany, refuses to back the German team. He was disappointed they won their first game. Instead he likes to support the underdog. Similarly I don’t want to support NZ or Australia (we’re a contrary lot). I’ll probably go for the Brits!

Diddums wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 12:52:
Yes, it’s strange – you like your neighbour or resident country, work with them, trade with them, but when you’re used to having your own separate side, it doesn’t seem quite right to support the other side when your own side isn’t playing. As some of the people commented in the news article, it boils down to a normal spirit of rivalry. In this case though, I’m not taking sides as I’m not following the football.

kateblogs wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 17:04:
“I found a bit about it on a page with the heading “I love 1966.” That’s a year that gets mentioned a lot in the football argument.”

Well, 1966 was a very important year – I was born! I believe some English team won something too, but my birth was obviously the thing everyone was celebrating. What else could it be? LOL

It is curious the way people decide which team they will support. I do it myself, teams with players from Liverpool FC are my top choice, followed by teams from countries where I have had a nice holiday. Those are followed by teams from countries I would like to visit.

BTW Pete at has mentioned your post!

Diddums wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 23:00:
Ah, that explains why 1966 kept popping up :-).

Rushed hotfoot to read Pete’s blog post on the football. It led me to think that the thing that’s interesting about the difference between sports and the Eurovision Song Contest (cough) is that we get rapped over the knuckles (particularly by Terry Wogan) if we vote for neighbours. In our case, people might say “they gave 12 points to Ireland – of course they would!” I suppose it’s not at all the same, except that I stocked up on snacks and soft drinks for the Eurovision while others stocked up on beer and crisps for the World Cup. Yes I know, I’m sad, don’t tell me… LOL.

kateblogs wrote at Jun 15, 2006 at 21:46:
LOL yes that’s true. Britain always votes for Ireland in Eurovision, and that is seen as cheating, but at any other time we are expected to support each other. It’s very odd. Having said that I did notice both groups of fans supporting each other durng the last World Cup.

Mr Blogs bought some beer for the match earlier, I stuck to a glass of wine. Beer gives me hiccups. I don’t blame you for stocking up on snacks and drinks, it makes it more of an event.