Monday, August 31, 2009



9 months, 3 days and untold numbers of espressos later and I've finished Extreme Su Doku: Bk. 2, by Wayne Gould

I can't remember how long book 1 took me, but I now have book 3 at the ready.

These Sudoku books have become a part of my life over the past couple of years. There's a wonderful meditative quality when my mind is so occupied, that for the duration I'm no longer thinking about anything else - fears, concerns and anxieties are nudged out the way. It's almost become another form of self medication, only with less harmful side effects.

However, because it's usually to hand, especially around coffee time, these books also become notepads.

So along with jottings of which numbers might go where, endless scribbles of shopping lists, things to do, phone numbers, blog ideas and philosophical concepts also end up in the margins.

Before I can throw an old Sudoku book away, it has to be meticulously gone through and any important information needs to be transferred to a different scrap of paper, to be put in a pile, lost, briefly refound and placed in another important pile, lost again, then rediscovered 2 years later when it is no longer relevant.

I'm trying not to think about the fact Wayne Gould doesn't seem to have written a 4th book in the series...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Natural Born Leader

(Also posted on 5 Minutes for Special Needs)

Meg has entered P7 – the final year of primary (elementary) school.

When they asked if anyone wanted to stand for House Captain, it didn’t cross Meg’s mind that she shouldn’t go for it.

She created a wee speech and, with the 6 others who are standing, went round all the classes and delivered her few lines on why she should be House Captain for Deer.

Apparently she got lots of applause and cheers at the end of each delivery to the different classes.

We’ll find out next week who’s won.

Down’s Syndrome doesn’t stand in the way of her expecting to be able to represent and lead the other children in her school.

Does it surprise me she puts herself forward for positions of leadership?

Not really. In common with everyone else in this household, she’s crap at following orders.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Maggie is 18

Maggie is 18 today!

Now before any of you start counting back on your fingers and work out I must have started going out with her 9 months before she was born, I think I'd better explain.

Maggie wasn't Maggie when I met her.

Maggie was in fact, Linda.

Christened Margaret Linda Simpson, the Margaret being after her mother's mother, her mum decided to call her by her middle name. Apparently she feared Margaret might become corrupted to Maggie, which she felt was a little... common. So for the first 34 years of her life, my wife was known as Linda to everyone.

However, in a conversation about names, several months after we started going out with each other, Linda confessed she'd always had a bit of a soft spot for the name Maggie, which she felt had freer and slightly more alternative connotations.

That summer, we went away for a week on a camping holiday together and I suggested that for the duration I would call her Maggie, and if we met anyone we would introduce her as Maggie, and she could get a feel for how well she liked the name.

She loved it.

At this point in her life she'd gone through a separation and divorce with her ex-husband, gone back to college to try and find a new direction in life, and met me. So among other things, I think the idea of taking on a new name helped contribute to a strong sense of new beginnings.

So the following full moon, which was the 24th of August 1991, we had a naming ceremony.

Full of New Age fun, we had a bonfire down on the beach, recited a naming speech we'd found in a book, then went back to Maggie's house for food, drink and general celebrations.

Interestingly, despite telling everyone she now wanted to be known as Maggie, only the friends who came along to the naming ceremony ever really took it on board and never called her Linda again. But friends and family who didn't attend always forgot the name change and reverted to calling her Linda, no matter how often they were reminded,

18 years later, most of our friends have no idea Maggie was ever known by any other name, and the only people who still call her Linda are her brothers and parents.

In these days of Facebook, Friends Reunited and other ways of looking up people we knew from school, it's not going to be easy for pre-Maggie associates to find her. Anyone Googling "Linda Simpson" is more likely to end up on the page of a New York Drag Queen...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Two Major Celebs in Castle Douglas in One Week

Who’d have thought the wee town of Castle Douglas would have as many as 2 major celebrities visit in one week and both be captured in pixels by yours truly.

Internationally known comedian and film star, Eddie Izzard, is currently doing loads of daily marathon jogs around the country for SportRelief.

I’d heard he was going to be in Dumfries on Wednesday morning, but was off in the other direction doing a photo shoot for an artist. However, late that afternoon, Maggie spotted a camera crew in the car park across the road (we're about 18 miles from Dumfries), so I popped across with Meg to take a look.

Sure enough he appeared 10 minutes later. He had a quick word with the press, and was off again.

I didn’t get to talk to him. I probably could have if I’d tried, as there weren’t that many people about, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. Approaching him just to blurt out, “I think you’re a great comedian, Eddie” just seemed a bit pointless. However, I did manage to take a few photos, this one below being the best of the bunch.

Eddie Izzard running daily marathons for SportRelief

However, this was as nothing compared to the International Woman of Fame who made a detour from her holiday in Largs especially to see me on Thursday.

Daphne Wayne-Bough, of Chocs Away Old Gal drove through torrential rain, winds and floods to spend an afternoon in my kitchen. With a bowl of Maggie’s soup, cups of tea and coffee, and my camera, we had a fun afternoon while I touched her up on my laptop.

I’ll stop before the double entendres get out of hand, and just show you one of the photos I took she rather liked

Chocs Away Old Gal

After showing her the versatility of my tool I think she is toying with the idea of getting one with a telescopic extension for herself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Over already?

Rogan went back to school today; the summer holidays are over.

It is wet, grey and miserable.

It’s the middle of August.

I’ve lived in Scotland just about half my life, but embedded in my soul since childhood is the idea that school, and thus the end of the summer holidays, doesn’t start until September.

Seeing all these kids walking around in their school uniforms, in the rain, makes me feel I’ve lost a precious month of the yearned for summer

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Most common requests when editing photos on the laptop in front of clients, friends or family

1. Can you do something about my teeth?

2. Can you make me look 20 years younger?

3. Can you give me green skin like you did for her?

This weekend was no different...

My granddaughter

And her mother


Monday, August 10, 2009

That's life, innit...

Life is a roller coaster of ups and downs.

Or maybe it’s like a swim in the sea where there are beautiful fish and man-eating sharks; colourful corals and deadly jellyfish; calm waters and treacherous whirlpools.

Or perhaps it’s more like a dodgy minestrone soup with tasty bits, and chewy bits you wish you hadn’t discovered.

Simultaneously there are wonderful things and really bloody awful things going on in our lives.

But then, isn’t that always the case?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sleep, Ikea and Dr Maroon

“Well you might be borderline with sleep apnoea,” said the consultant looking over the results of my sleep monitoring 8 months ago.

“But my wife has never been aware of me stopping breathing, and I don’t even snore very often.”

“Well, yes, you’re kind of in that grey area where it affects some people, but not others. It all depends on how you think it makes you feel.”

“I feel tired all the time and my doc says I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Could this be the cause?”

“Hmm. Maybe you should try one of these masks that pushes air up your nose while you sleep. It might help. About 80% of people who are much higher up the sleep apnoea scale benefit from them, although in your case it’s more 50-50, flip of a coin kind of thing. I’ll send a note through to Dumfries to recommend they contact you to try one out. If it works, all well and good, but if not, you’ve lost nothing.”

“If it ends up making no difference, is there anything else in those results to indicate what might be causing my CFS?”

“No, that’s it.”

And that was it. A 5 hour round trip to Edinburgh for less than 10 minutes with the consultant for me to see how he can shrug his shoulders. At least there’s a department in Dumfries, which can supply me with the mask. It’s only 20 miles away rather than over 100 to Edinburgh.

Still, it wasn’t an entirely wasted journey. I took the opportunity to meet up with Dr Maroon.

He’d phoned the night before and with a voice conveying a sense of urgency wondered when we could next meet up. It seemed unlikely that 2½ years of owing me a lunch was foremost on his mind, so I mentioned my Edinburgh trip the following day. “Excellent,” he said, “I’ll see you there!” Then he hung up.

As it turned out, we ended up meeting at Ikea on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Free parking was mumbled at some point, although the real reason soon became clear.

Initially it hadn’t occurred to me he’d carefully arranged the meeting after lunchtime, thereby ensuring I’d already eaten a ham roll Maggie made for my trip, and thus wasn’t hungry at the point we entered the café area in Ikea.

“Coffee?” Maroon asked with a gleam in his eye. I nodded warily, expecting him to say, “me too, make mine a large…” but instead he took 2 empty mugs and paid for them at the till.

It transpired that at Ikea you pay 99p for the use of the cup, rather than the coffee, and can go back up and refill from the machine. I’m sure it said a refill, although it didn’t stop Doc constantly leaping up only to return excitedly with another each time we finished.

Oh sure we chatted about things that now escape my memory, and by the time we parted company I was high as kite on all that caffeine and only came down with a crunch at 4.30 this morning.

But I have no doubt he now feels he’s met his obligations and is currently planning our next meeting when it will be my turn to pay

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tunes by the Sea

Our friends Kerry and her son Oliy, have an open house every year during the first weekend of August. Old friends from her hometown and newer local friends all converge at her place, bringing food, drink, children, more friends and musical instruments. The number and mix of people is never the same from one hour to the next, and music sessions threaten to break out at any moment.

It is truly wonderful.

A superb musician, I first met Kerry around 3½ years ago at a fortnightly folk session I started going to. She mostly plays the fiddle at sessions, although whistles, recorder and squeezebox periodically make appearances too. She’s warm, friendly and there is nothing superior nor pretentious about her. She’s also level headed and down to earth. In short Kerry’s the kind of friend everyone should have.

This weekend past, Maggie was taking part in the Kirkcudbright Art & Crafts Trail. One of her friends, who was displaying and selling her own work, asked if Maggie wanted to share her venue on the trail – her living room.

So on both Saturday and Sunday, after dropping Maggie off in Kirkcudbright, Meg and I went round to Kerry’s for the day, until it was time to collect Maggie again.

Not wanting to turn up empty handed, and with only a little help from Maggie, Meg made some sultana and pumpkin-seed scones to take with us the first day, and some rocky-road chocolate thingies the following day. Both went down a treat.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get round to playing any music on Saturday. Once the hoards of children realised that not only could I take photos of them, but I could turn their skin green and give them pointy ears on the computer afterwards, much of my afternoon was spent on my laptop with Photoshop, trying to oblige the cries of “turn her lips black,” and “make her eyes glow red!”

Sunday, however, I did manage to get the bouzouki out and join in with fiddles, guitar, flute and bodhrán.

All of them are infinitely superior musicians to me, but none of them ever lets on.

Which is why I love these people.