Return from Edinburgh

I’m back from Edinburgh!

It was great. Lots of walking. Rich had quite a few blisters. I managed just the one.

We spent the vast majority of our time perusing the old town. And eating. And walking. We stayed at the 5 star Balmoral Hotel (just the one night), where Rich ate one of the best breakfasts he’s ever had. Ever. His scrambled eggs were free range.

‘Twas good. Not being one for eggs, bacon, sausages et al I opted for scottish potato cakes (hash browns) and beans, followed by croissants, and a selection of mini danish pastries. Welllllll, we’d done SO much walking I felt as though I deserved it.

You see, the day before I’d satisfied a longing to stop off at the birthplace of Harry Potter – the Elephant House cafe. The back room has looks out on the castle, and we sat with our iced fruit smoothies gazing at the view.

During the day, we saw all the sites; Holyrood, Edinburgh’s Disgrace, the castle, royal mile, the parks… being unashamed tourists went on a couple of sightseeing tours atop a bus, walked through the many streets, wynds and closes, took pictures, ate food, got hot, ate and drank more and had an alfresco dinner of pizza and garlic bread on a wobbly table on the cobblestones of Bella Italia on Northbridge.

So it’s fair to say that we arrived home on Friday evening tired and aching. In Edinburgh we’d had temperatures in the high twenties; at home it’d broken thirty degrees. And my vegetables and plants hadn’t been watered for two nights running. They looked a bit worse for wear.

However, a weekend of a bit more TLC seems to have done the trick. I’ve been pretty bad over the last few weeks, leaving them to fend for themselves mostly, sporadically watering and weeding when I had the time or the inclination. I haven’t even got my butternut squash plants out of their small pots – I’m a bad, bad person! I need to get them in this week if there’s any chance of them growing to a decent size. It’ll be a pleasant surprise if they manage to produce any fruit. Bah. I’m trying!

But I’ve got two (well – one and a half) days off work left, then it’s three days’ work before the weekend again. So effectively that gives me time to put a bit of work in here. I already got down to the allotment with Mum yesterday (where we were discussing the reality of the situation – was I really able to keep it on now that I’m working full-time and have everything at home to contend with?), and intend to go down again before I go back to work on Wednesday. At the very least, we came home with a trug absolutely chock full with red and white onions, potatoes and some small but tasty Early Nantes carrot thinnings.

I also need to weed my onions at home. They’re looking OK – not huge, but at least they’re consistently medium at the moment. I’ll give them some time. Carrots are doing OK. But they won’t be ready for a good 6 weeks or so. Potatoes – I’ve got Charlotte potatoes coming out of my EARS. I might bag a few up and sell them from the garden gate. Earned me some spare change last year.

I think work might calm down for a while now we’ve got this big project out of the way. It’s just been madness for the past three weeks or so. It’s made me feel a bit… tied down. Like I want to escape it all, especially when I went to London in 35C for a meeting. I just don’t know if I belong in that kind of life. I mean, I like writing. But I love writing about things I really care about. I know in this climate I am more than lucky to have landed a stable (contracted) job. And it doesn’t have to be forever. And it’s not a bad job. And it’s helping me get back on my feet.

But it’s not my passion. That is what I’m struggling with a bit at the moment.

2009 – Resolutions and a Smack in the Face


Birthday was nice but quiet. We spent the evening over at Mum’s playing trivial pursuit (I forced everyone because I love that game), eating Cadbury’s Roses, followed by a Chinese takeaway. Healthy! Generally though I had a really nice, relaxed evening. I was spoiled rotten by everyone, received lots of excellent presents including new spotty wellies, Cath Kidston mugs (perfect size for cradling between my hands on chilly evenings), a tonne of new makeup, a couple of smart tops, a Harry Potter first edition reprint hardback copy of the Philosopher’s Stone, thick socks, a bag made from vintage fabric, a pruning knife, veggie seeds, a black and silver butterfly neck scarf and vouchers to spend at my leisure. Rich also had the white gold necklace that he bought me for my 18th birthday fixed, so I was thrilled that I could start wearing it again. I am one lucky girl!!!

So, what’s going on with me so far during 2009? It’s been pretty damned cold here. Apparently it’s the coldest December – Jan since 2002. And I specifically remember having to push start our little 899cc Fiat Cinquecento almost every morning during that winter, so can well believe that this year is on par. The hens, as usual, are pretty unimpressed, huddling under the bench where I’ve padded it out with straw so they can warm their toes during the (perma!)frosty days. Last night it snowed, only half an inch or so, but it was still nice to stand out at gone one o’clock in the morning and take pictures of the unblemished snow as it lay down our road (see pic).

The snow is still here so the hens have been resolute in staying in the shed with the straw and food. When the sun is out, it’s not so bad because they tend to stand warming their backs in the sunlight. But the cloudy, dark and cold days are pretty miserable. Needless to say, Maureen is keeping her legs firmly crossed and there’s not been an egg in sight for a few weeks now. Apparently she should come back into lay around Valentine’s Day; we’re in no particular rush for Yoko to come back into ‘lay’ so don’t really mind if it extends beyond then.

I was also hoping that 2009 would be my year that it all turned around from the snowballing crapness of the past 7 years. But no. Two days in a very very very close immediate family member receives a call that she has pre-cancerous cells that need zapping before they do anything (with an emphasis on the PRE- part), and the next day whilst I was visiting a lady turned up at Mum’s door to tell her that Mum’s beloved cat Basil was lying in her front garden. When we rushed over to get him, it was obvious he’d been dead for a few hours. He was only about 8 years old. He used to follow Mum around the house and garden, a real companion cat. That was a hard blow; I carried him home as Rich walked Mum home behind me, Mum crying, shocked and bereft. Basil turned up when I still lived at home (I left not long after I finished my A-Levels), and when no one replied to our ‘missing cat’ posters, I started sneaking him up into my room. But really he became a Mummy’s boy and now she feels she’s almost lost a friend. It’s so sad. She’s still grieving for losing her Mum (Nannie) and then all this.

So 2009 is reigning down it’s crapness upon us already. Seriously, I know things could be 10, 100, 1000 times worse but I’m still sending this one out to the Universe; give my family, and particularly my Mum, a break. Let Lady Luck be on our side for once. I’m trying to stay positive but I’m rapidly losing patience.

So as an antidote to this stream of rubbish that seems to continually come our way,  I’ve started thumbing through some seed catalogues, pondering about what to do for the next growing season. For my birthday, I also received two blank, hardbacked notebooks that I’m using as two recipe books – one for Cakes & Bakes and one for Savouries, Soups and Stews etc. I have many pieces of paper floating around, some printouts from the Internet and some scribbled recipes that I’ve held on to for years. One of my evening projects has been to set myself up by the open fire in the chair we’ve christened ‘The Throne’ (a slighly shabby high backed chair, with regal arms and a little bit of ornate carving, reupholstered by Mum over a decade ago), rug over my knees whilst I carefully copy out recipes into my two books.

I’m doing this because one of my New Year Resolutions is to cook and bake more. I need to eat a much more varied diet and experiment more too. I checked a few cooking books out of the library and have been copying in recipes that I like the look of – things like Morrocan Pizzas, Marrakesh Serpent Cake and Tarka Dhal. I’m trying to choose things that I can cook up on a budget, seeing as my workload has dramatically reduced and I am scrambling (and outright failing sometimes) to pay the bills (another source of major stress but let’s not go there). I’m also aiming to cook things that use ingredients that I can grow easily at home. Many of the recipes I’m copying over include a variety of fresh herbs, chillis and peppers – all easily grown in containers so anybody can have a bash. These are all things that I’ve grown in the past with varied success, but am determined to nail this year.

So here I am at the beginning of 2009 – a bit angry, a bit fed up but nevertheless determined to keep going and MAKE things work out for me and my family this year. My first step – getting more work (which may involve some soulless temping work, but hey ho, when needs must), followed by a proper planning session detailing what I want to grow this year. When the temperatures have risen a little I’m going to bribe a couple of people (Rich, you’d better watch out) with food and things to come on a digging session down at the allotment too. Then there’s the plots here at the Smallest Smallholding – they need feeding, weeding and expanding (again, Shhh, don’t tell Rich). And then MAYBE a couple more chooks along the way…

…At least my new spotty wellies look cheerful!!!!