Tag Archives: birthday

2011 Project365 (days204-206)

25th July:

25th July 2011

The dark hat was one of my presents for HD’s birthday yesterday. Apparently the one in front is too smart (which I gather means that the dark one can be squashed, sat on etc) (presumably not when he’s wearing it though). He does look good in a hat (though I am prepared to concede I may be a little biased).

24th July:

24th July 2011

We spent the weekend in York, staying with friends – this is a most welcome splash of colour from their garden.

23rd July:

23rd July 2011

This is our favourite restaurant in York.

2011 Project365 (days154-155)

4th June:

4th June 2011

Beautiful flowers from HD for my birthday 🙂

3rd June:

3rd June 2011

I had a glorious day for my birthday – the sky is bleached out in this photo so you can’t see how blue it is, you will have to take my word for it! This is the garden at the back of Beanscene where we met up with a couple of friends to celebrate my ‘life the universe and everything’ birthday. Creak.

Pottering about

Today is HD’s birthday (and yes it does have a 0 on the end!). We are being gentle and middle-aged and pottering about (and trying out our shiny new washing machine, delivered this morning), and having a curry with friends this evening. The birthday adventure is next weekend (I expect photos will be taken, it’s going to be fantastic, but I will leave you in suspense at that).

It is so nice that the entire flat isn’t shuddering (accompanied by random crashings and bangings) during a spin cycle.

Between now and next weekend’s adventure, I am going on another adventure as the conference I have mentioned occasionally over the last few months is nearly upon us and I am off to Sweden tomorrow. I give my talk first thing (I mean really 1st thing, 8.30am!) on Tuesday, which is the first full day of the conference. It has such a big programme, there are 22 other panels going on the same time as mine, so I am really not sure anyone will come to ours! But it will be more good experience, and I’m planning on taking a bit of time to explore the city while I’m there (note to Ian: I don’t think this *quite* counts as a jolly as it’s not all expenses paid (I won some funding for part of the costs but not all of them), but it will be good to get away and I do intend to do some playing as well as working so it is jolly-like I guess!).

I have been preparing for this, my first trip to Sweden, thanks to the power of the interwebz.



Bork bork bork!

Jupiter Artland

IMG_2319For my birthday outing this year, I chose to go to Jupiter Artland, which I discovered randomly after doing a Google search to try and find out if there were any Antony Gormley sculptures in Scotland. It is in the grounds of a private posh house near Edinburgh, and as you walk round the grounds (mostly forest, but some open ground as well which itself has been turned into a huge installation called Life Mounds) you keep coming across random bits of sculpture. Two of my favourite sculptors (Antony Gormley and Andy Goldsworthy) have pieces here, but there were plenty of other things to discover. IMG_2344 I have put a couple of pictures up here, but also done a flickr gallery of selected photos (I took nearly 200, I’m sure you’ll be amazed to hear!) here.

It’s well worth a visit. I think it’s only open in the summer, Friday to Sunday, but if you get the chance and it’s a nice day it’s a lovely serene place (well, apart from the constant sound of planes, as it’s not that far from Edinburgh Airport). You can get round the entire site in around 2 hours. This giant orchid sculpture (called “Love Bomb”) was one of my favourites – it’s 12 metres high and absolutely bonkers.


So it’s been (more or less) 2 weeks without the internet on a self-imposed internet fast-of-sorts. It’s been an interesting two weeks!

Firstly, the confession: I did go into facebook a couple of times. Once was to access a couple of messages with changes of addresses which I needed and didn’t have anywhere else. The other times were all Smudgie’s fault. While there I did take a quick peek at status updates, but I didn’t play any scrabble or lexulous, apart from yesterday (my birthday) so think that in general I was still pretty restrained, particularly compared to usual. I did also still go into my emails daily, and also booked a few things (or researched things that need booking) but that was always part of the deal so I didn’t feel guilty about that. I have gone back to the internet a couple of days earlier than I meant to, but I’m an old fart now (after Smudgelet’s comments about my grey hair when I saw him yesterday perhaps I should now refer to myself as a silver surfer!).

Apart from that though I had quite a lot of time, which normally would have been filled with surfing the handful of sites I visit daily over and over again, when I had to find other things to fill the time. So what have I done?

I’ve read. Admittedly not the book for next week’s book group, but nonetheless it was really nice to have the time and space to read for leisure (I’ll put the review in a separate post when I’ve finished the book – might have to put it to one side so I can at least start the book group book before next week). I’ve also read some thesis-related articles and bits of books.

I’ve watched. We had Cal stay with us for a couple of nights en route to Iona (how jealous am I?!) and she introduced us to a programme which has been running for a few weeks now but which had totally passed us by as we never watch TV (apart from Dr Who on iPlayer). And what a delight it was. Monty Halls’ Great Hebridean Escape is the story of Monty Halls, a marine biologist who spent 6 months living on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides as a volunteer nature ranger for all of the islands of the southern Outer Hebrides. It has been remarked that quite a lot of the laydeez viewing think he’s cute. Personally I really really want his dog!

We also watched the last programme on this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. When we lived with HD’s parents down south a couple of years ago we watched it a lot (they were much more into TV than we are, and well you have to be sociable, isn’t that right?) – I’d forgotten how much I like looking at beautiful things. And was reminded (I certainly haven’t forgotten) how much I want a garden of my own in which to be creative.

Having Cal to stay was fab. We were both working so she had to occupy herself in the daytime, but it was lovely to have a couple of evenings to chat and catch up. Having her here also got me thinking about home and hospitality – one of the things we bought with some of the money we were given when we got married was a visitors’ book which we get people to sign if they stay or come for a meal or whatever, and to be honest for 2½ years of marriage it’s looking a bit bare, we obviously haven’t been very sociable! We’ve not held a party here and very rarely have people round for a meal, and I was reflecting on how I feel that’s quite difficult here. Partly because it’s not an enormous flat, and there isn’t a great deal of physical space for people, but also because for pretty much all the time we’ve been married we’ve been a bit up in the air with regards to knowing how long we’ll stay here due to our respective job situations, and have also been apart for quite a lot of it with HD working away, so it still, even after me being here 4½ years and HD more than 2 years, feels like something temporary. So although the Stately Pile is definitely home, and it will break my heart to leave my lovely little flat, because of the transient nature of our jobs (mine because I don’t feel much of a sense of commitment to it and his because his contracts are only a few months at a time) it’s hard to feel 100% *at home*.

I took pictures. We went for a walk round the local park, and wandered round a corner of the park with which we’re less familiar, and I took photos. I’m really going to have to figure out how to use my camera properly (I haven’t a clue about aperture, f-stops and all that sort of thing) as although the autofocus is great, at the moment I’m using it like a posh point-n-shoot rather than using it to its full potential. Sometimes the autofocus produced good results, other times it didn’t quite focus on the bit I thought it was so the pictures didn’t quite work. Anyway here are a couple of pictures from then which I liked.



I worked on my thesis. [readers faint] Which was the main point of the no-internet exercise. I finished a megachapter which is the combination of two previous shorter chapters and which is probably going to need a few thousand words chopping from it. I’ve asked my supervisors to start with a few suggestions of where to start with that, as I’m still too close to it to be able to think rationally about what to keep and what to chop, and in the meantime I have started the reading for the next chapter, which is the one which requires a bit more of a rewrite than the others so I’ve been putting it off for some time. It’s certainly been useful and shown me that I *can* work in the evenings if I really have to. But it’s also shown me that if I do a lot of work in the evenings more than a couple of times a week I am so shattered I’m no good to anyone, which I think is also a useful thing to learn in that I am less likely to beat myself up if I don’t work on the thesis every single waking minute.

I wrote a letter. A real proper letter with handwriting and everything! Admittedly it was with a birthday card and present which was a couple of weeks late, but I did feel good afterwards. When I was an undergraduate when I first left school I was a prolific letter-writer, but as my time is now so full of other stuff letter-writing has really fallen by the wayside. It was nice to write again, though I don’t think I’m up to the epic multi-page letters I used to write. This was 2 sides of A4 though, so still fairly respectable!

I got a year older. It was my birthday yesterday, and happily I was able to meet up with Smudgie and the Smudgelet in the evening for a meal, although as HD had to work Smudgie is still to meet him and is still not 100% that he’s not just my imaginary friend. At work I had already eaten my own body weight in chocolate cake, so an enormous meal with an enormous pudding (not to mention a couple of not exactly small G&Ts) was of course entirely appropriate. It was very good. On the way back to the station Smudgelet (who is a bit on the skinny side) said “Oh, I feel so fat”, to which the only response of course was “Welcome to my world”.

I learnt. Although it’s been good to not be constantly surfing the same old stuff and complaining to HD that I’m bored with the internet as I’ve read everything already (!), I learnt again how important the internet is for me to feel connected. With friends and family all over the place (world as well as country) for many people the only way I stay in touch is online through sites like facebook and the Ship and here at the wibsite. It was good to have a break from surfing for the sake of it, but the not knowing what is happening in peoples’ lives, their joys and sorrows, left me feeling if not bereft then certainly a bit out of touch and disconnected. And thankful for the opportunity to connect through this amazing technology, even if it is sometimes a 2-edged sword.

As well as the serious points, I missed out on the silly too. For example, Eurovision. I love the annual cheese-fest, and always text a friend from London with my observations (I used to go to his place for Eurovision parties when I lived down there), but this year I was looking forward to seeing Eurovision as commented on on twitter as well as on the TV (having enjoyed the twitter coverage of the three election leadership debates recently). I was restrained and didn’t go online, and stuck to just the texting as usual, but did feel like I missed out. Next year I’ll be armed with phone *and* laptop as well as the telly 🙂

[Eurovision did produce a memorable exchange with HD which is still making me laugh whenever I think of it so I shall preserve it here for posterity (sorry darling!). We were watching the Romanian entry and remarking on the rather tight-fitting latex catsuit being sported by the female singer:

Me: I’d better not wear one of them, I really would look like the only gay in the village.
HD: More like an aubergine ….[starts digging] I like aubergines …. [more digging] Not in *that* way.]

I’ve decided to modify my internet use now. The (almost) two-week fast was a useful thing to do, but for reasons of connectedness isn’t so practical long-term. But I do acknowledge that I surf pointlessly far too much when I could be doing more useful (and leisurely) things instead. So I have decided that I will have 3 days a week when I don’t go onto the internet other than if I have to for work or booking stuff/etc reasons. One of those days will be my uni day, which is usually a Friday. To start with then I’ll say Tuesday, Friday and Sunday will be internet-free, but reserve the right to change the days if that turns out for some reason to not be practical. I think this will do me a lot of good.

I did miss you all you know 😀

Arran birthday

So, now that life has officially begun I feel, well, not much different really – creaky still, but I’ve been creaky for years! I had a lovely birthday, and feel very blessed and loved and cared for. The actual day itself (Wednesday) HD and I got up early and after opening my presents and cards we set off for the coast, Ardrossan to be precise, to catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran. I’d wanted to go there for ages and ages, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

IMGP6915Arran is the 7th largest Scottish island, and the 9th largest island surrounding the mainland (presumably the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight are the two non-Scottish islands that are larger). It is also just under an hour away from the coast, so very accessible for a day trip, although there was lots to see so it would be easy to spend a week there and not be bored, we could only scratch the surface really. After arriving in Brodick we drove around the north of the island (there is a road which circumnavigates the island), stopping first in Lochranza on the north-west of the island. It was a really lovely drive – the north is the more mountainous/hilly half of the island (Arran is often referred to as “Scotland in miniature” due to the similarity to the Highlands in the north and the southern lowlands) and I noticed that all the wild flowers seemed to be out – lots of purples and reds, it was beautiful. I should also mention that it was lovely and sunny – not as warm as earlier in the week, but still gorgeous.

IMGP6925Our first port of call was the Isle of Arran distillery at Lochranza – this is Scotland’s newest distillery, and it produces a light, non-peaty single malt whisky. We joined the tour round the distillery, and were also rewarded with seeing two golden eagles flying high over the nearby hills. At the end of the tour was a whisky tasting – as HD is the whisky connoisseur among us (I can generally take it or leave it, though the odd sip I can cope with) he particularly enjoyed that bit, and we also found one he particularly liked so that’s his birthday present sorted out : -) We stayed there to have lunch, and apart from the tea and coffee afterwards taking ages and ages to come, I’d definitely recommend it as somewhere for lunch – they use lots of local produce, and our various salad dishes came with huge chunks of Arran cheese (which we quite often buy from our local farmers’ market and already know we like).

IMGP6940From there we drove just a short way and parked up on the coast at Lochranza, and then took a brief walk to have a look round Lochranza castle, a ruined castle that was apparently the inspiration for a castle in one of the Tintin stories. We then carried on driving down the west coast road, through some villages until we reached Machrie Moor. On the moor are a series of stone circles so we walked to see all of them – in the background are Goatfell (Arran’s highest peak, not quite a Munro but not far off) and neighbouring peaks, so we had a beautiful backdrop as well as a pleasant walk. IMGP6986 And on the way back of course we had a view over the water towards the Kintyre peninsula (although an island, Arran is surrounded down both east and west lengths by the mainland, thanks to Scotland’s interestingly shaped coastline!).

At that point we weren’t sure if we’d drive through the middle of the island back to Brodick for the ferry or if we’d carry on round the south. In the end we decided to do the southern coastal road, so that we could say that we’ve circumnavigated the island – we’ll just have to come back and explore the inside of the island a bit another time! We drove all the way round until we reached Lamlash, 4 miles south of Brodick, where we stopped for a quick drink and a walk. The bay at Lamlash is really pretty, featuring Holy Island (as with so many of the Scottish islands, and also (I think) Anglesey in Wales, islands with a smaller satellite island just off them often seem to call the satellite island Holy Island). Arran’s Holy Island is now owned by a Buddhist group who run retreats and things. We took a look along the sea front and harbour, before heading back to Brodick to catch the ferry. It was a really full day, and I think the only thing I had wanted to do but didn’t get the chance in the end was to look at house prices in an estate agent’s office! We IMGP7006noticed loads and loads of “For Sale” signs, so I was really curious to see what they’re going for (given that the house prices we saw on Cumbrae a few months ago were very tempting!). Unfortunately we never did find an estate agent, so that’s something else to look for, if we ever manage to get our broadband sorted out (it’s still not working and we’re still dongle-reliant, grrrr).

Sadly the day ended with me having a killer headache – all I can say is hooray for Migraleve which did wonders, but I was miserable and probably not very good company on the drive home from Ardrossan, it was a shame to end such a lovely day like that but there we go. Anyway I’ve got lots of lovely memories apart from the evil headache, it was a really lovely birthday, and 2 days later I can say that I don’t feel any more decrepit than I did beforehand : )

You’ll be unsurprised to know I took lots of pictures – here’s a link to a selection of them on flickr (if you’re a friend of mine on facebook you can see the entire 111). I’d definitely recommend Arran for a holiday, it was great for a day out but there was so much it would keep you going for a while.

Of dongles, Dunblane and drinking

Apologies for blogging infrequency, our home broadband is not very well (understatement; we are currently waiting for BT to test our line and try and find out what is going on. In the meantime HD has got a pay-as-you-go dongle (what a great word that is!) so we are still able to connect, but I don’t want to use up all his credit so I am being reasonably disciplined and trying not to waste it all on scrabble. Though I might waste a little bit later ….).

Thursday evening I headed over with some other people from church to Dunblane, where our friend and former curate was being inducted (instituted? I can never remember the correct terminology. I’m pretty sure it’s not induced though!) as the new priest there. I have (and I know I’m not the only one) missed Kimberly a lot here, she was a wonderful curate, and St Mary’s are lucky to have her. I must admit to shedding a tear during the service – it was actually at the point that the church warden handed her the keys to the church. She had such a huge smile at that point it was clear that she had “come home”. What a wonderful service and wonderful occasion, and I hope and pray she will be very happy there. As if that wasn’t all wonderful enough, I can now also say that I have been in the same room as the Cope of Glory (that’s a reference that kingsfold will get, if nobody else!). My goodness, and it was quite glorious!

The end of the week has seen a couple of pre-birthday events – yes I finally reach that grand-old-age-with-a-0-on-the-end next week, and so had drinks with people from work on Friday night (shamelessly piggy-backing on another friend’s leaving do), and then with friends from church last night too. I think I feel alright about it, generally – I was really excited about the last birthday-with-a-0-on-the-end, and have loved being in my X0-ies (I don’t know why I’m not just coming out and saying the numbers, I’m sure you all know!), so I think I’m more bothered about not being in my X0-ies than I am about being *0.

Anyway – we are going to go on an adventure on the actual day, so hopefully that will soften the blow a little 🙂


Thank you for the birthday wishes, by the way. I had a good time – I did everything I planned apart from the street theatre at the end. I did try, but as it was at ground level, unless you were right at the front it was like being in a rugby scrum and you couldn’t see anything at all, so I gave up and went to bed instead.

I did see the fireworks though, and they were great! I remember sometime in the mid 90s (’96 or ’97 probably) I went to the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich with some friends for my birthday, it was midweek and not a particularly noteworthy day (other than being my birthday obviously, but you know what I mean). We were inside but by a window, so we had a good view of the Thames, and all of a sudden this amazing firework display just appeared out of nowhere. It was great, and made me feel really special, even though of course it wasn’t really for my benefit. But I’ve had a thing about birthdays and fireworks since.

Here are a few pictures I took last night – I’m quite pleased with them. I’ve never had much luck with firework photos before, but these worked quite well.

ooh ... aaaaahh ....Sibiu fireworks
Sibiu fireworksSibiu fireworks

Ziua de Nastere

That’s Romanian for “Birthday”. 😀

The weather is glorious, not a cloud in the sky, and later I shall be going to my favourite restaurant where I shall have a big glass of wine (which will probably knock me out as I don’t have a corkscrew here so have hardly drunk a thing since I’ve been here), followed by a firework display (it’s the closing ceremony of the theatre festival) and then a German outdoor theatre company are doing a performance which looks interesting so I shall finish the day at that.

Last time I had a birthday in Romania it was my 25th (which I’m *sure* was only a couple of years ago, not 13 – argh) lots of cheap vodka was involved, I seem to remember (though not very clearly, thanks to the cheap vodka). I won’t be doing that again!