Not in Lockdown yet…

The pre-Coronavirus Diaries, continued

Tuesday/ cont’d

Download and watch Salt, for perhaps the third time. I consider it to be one of Angelina’s finest works. My flatmate elects to stay in his room.

Given that the government advice precludes meeting together, church is now off for the foreseeable. Preliminary plans are made to begin filming and editing a video-based online church service.

Wednesday/Thursday

I have very little recollection of these days. Video editing was involved.

Friday

I do remember having an Empire Biscuit on Friday, so some of life’s rhythms are still intact. 

I make various visits to various supermarkets. The food items-shopper ratio is gradually decreasing.

Where are all the stockpilers putting all their stuff? Surely they’ve run out of space by now?

Sister is in touch on WhatsApp. She raises the thorny question of what would happen if the Queen passes on in the middle of all this. What will we do? Will all the meticulous planning be for naught?

“I’m sending turmeric to the Palace,” she affirms.

“Make sure you keep enough back for yourself,” I remind her. It’s easy to overlook one’s personal needs in times of crisis like this.

“I have 25kg” she replies.

Saturday

More video editing. I watch “We were soldiers” with my flatmate. He cooks a roast chicken for the occasion.

Sunday

First online church service passes off well. It’s a gorgeous sunny day. I spend the afternoon walking in Holyrood Park, along with hundreds of other people. It proves quite difficult to maintain a 2m bubble without appearing to be offensive.

Monday

I stay at home and join a series of four online meetings, which is a surprisingly exhausting pursuit, given the lack of physical movement involved. 

Having suddenly remembered that all UK McDonalds restaurants were closing tonight “by 8pm” (nothing like a vaguely-communicated deadline to ensure some McDonalds panic buying), I nip out between two meetings to pick up some Chicken Selects for the last time for goodness-knows-how-long. (Four hours, as it transpired).

I join an epic drive-thru queue. By the time I reach the order point, with the help of Nicola’s advice on the matter via WhatsApp, I realise I need to make the most of it, and so order a milkshake AND a McFlurry.

However, the “ice cream” machine is being cleaned. So no milkshakes or McFlurrys available. I settle for the a 3-Selects meal.

Make it back narrowly in time for the next meeting. Switch my camera off for the first part so as not to make everyone jealous while I scoff McDonalds.

Realise afterwards I had missed a solitary fry, which is lurking in the corner of the cardboard container. 

Is this in fact the correct singular spelling of fries? I have never before had occasion to refer to one on its own. Today’s fries were perhaps the limpest and most disappointing I’ve had from McD’s in recent years. And so the solitary lonely fry, now stone cold, having not been the warmest to begin with, is not an appetising prospect.

I optimistically throw it in the food recycling.

Two meetings later, I head back for my belated McFlurry. Join the drive thru queue again. Still no “ice cream” products available. I order another 3 Chicken Selects.

Still hungry. Maybe I’ll crack open some tuna tonight.

Avoiding non-essential social contact

The pre-Coronavirus Diaries, continued

Sunday

Life continued as normal today. Was at church morning and evening, where we sang songs about God’s goodness and love. Nobody sounded fearful, but it felt like there was an air of resignation that this would be our last ‘normal’ Sunday for a while.

My fellow tech team member tonight was George, whose self-isolation game is strong all year round. I hope he starts blogging with self-isolation tips for the masses.

Phoned mum in the evening. She stayed away from church tonight, on social-distancing grounds. On the upside, her forthcoming 80th birthday will see her receive an additional 25p per week in her pension. She is understandably over the moon about this and unsure of how to invest her new-found affluence.

Tomorrow I am theoretically up for jury service. But a phone-call this evening confirmed that I am not required to attend tomorrow. 24hrs stay of execution, at least.

Monday

In the whirl of coronavirus-related uncertainty I put on a clean pair of trousers this morning, but forgot to add a belt. However, it’s ok – it turns out that my trousers are self-tightening. Should be ok so long as I don’t stash too many tins of tuna in the pockets.

My trousers’ new-found self-tightening status may or may not be a result of me powering through the 90kg weight barrier recently. Smashed it, I did. Left it choking on my dust. I look forward to renewing acquaintances with 90kg on the way back down sometime in the future.

Just after I’d sent an email to my work teams saying largely “business as usual this Sunday” the PM, without checking with me first, holds a press conference and instructs us to avoid “non-essential” social gatherings.

So we’re into the next phase.

My Sister gets in touch on WhatsApp: 

“Y’all ok? Enough turmeric?”

Then she sends me a link to where I can buy a 25kg bag of it online. I am grateful.

Not required for jury duty tomorrow either. On reading the “Coronavirus Update” page on the Scottish Courts website, I am fairly sure that they consider the judicial system to be “essential” social contact. So I don’t think Coronavirus is going to help me here.

Tuesday

On reading my previous post (I originally wrote “last post”, but a slow trumpet sounded in my head and I realised that has other connotations), some pointed out to me that I visit the supermarket a LOT.

I confess I hadn’t thought about this. But, perhaps because I live very close to Morrison’s, and not that far from Sainsbury’s either, perhaps because I have very little freezer capacity, and perhaps also because I don’t plan very far ahead, I am probably in a supermarket at least every other day. So my regular supermarket visits are not a result of coronavirus-related panic, but rather just the outcome of a permanent state of semi-disorganised food planning.

Is this a single-person thing? Or just me? It may be just me.

Today is my usual day off. I am accustomed to spending Tuesdays without much in the way of social contact, and some Tuesdays I don’t really leave the house anyway(!) so today probably won’t feel all that different.

The pre-Coronavirus Diaries

Tuesday, 10 March

I catch the bus into town, to meet a friend for lunch. Suddenly I am aware of every surface I’m touching – the handrails up the stairs, the button you press to ask the bus to stop, everything.

Looking out the window; no-one is wearing face masks. I wonder how long it will be before they appear.

I’m down for jury service next week. What happens if I contract COVID-19 before then? Will they accept my call-off over the phone? It’s not like I can produce a doctor’s note – I can’t visit my GP to get one, and I can’t leave the house to deliver it.

Which makes me think that the chances of people calling in and crying off (legitimately or not) jury duty might be quite high… I suspect the courts may grind to a halt soon, for this reason, if not just because everything seems to be being cancelled at the moment.

I have slowed down on my Easter egg consumption a little. With all the panic buying at supermarkets I didn’t want to rush through my supplies of essentials.

Wednesday, 11 March

I pay a visit to Morrison’s. They’re playing INXS on the in-supermarket radio. They have a better class of playlist at Morrison’s than your average supermarket. I applaud this, although all in all I would prefer if they had my favourite marmalade brands in stock, as I can get good tunes from elsewhere. But they don’t. I consider writing to the management. 

I speak to my Sister on the phone, in the process reintroducing myself to voice calls, which are a long-forgotten friend, and limbering up for when I might be needing them on a daily basis.

“Have you got enough turmeric?” she asks, with a concerned note in her voice.

I hadn’t even thought about that.

But it’s all a little academic, as I need milk for my turmeric milk, and milk won’t last 14 days. Unless I was in America.

We discuss more prosaic matters, like toilet roll stockpiling. I discover that her household runs through two toilet rolls per day. TWO PER DAY. I am beyond flabbergasted. 

Here at OHFTC Towers, we are a much more toilet-toll efficient household. Perhaps we are not as regular.

My Sister reckons she keeps the cellar (which I like to think of as the Baileys Bunker) stocked up with enough of everything to keep the family going for at least four months, under normal circumstances. 

When I grow up, I want to be like my Sister.

Thursday, 12 March

I notice that the pile of pine nuts is getting a little low. And coffee. It might be time for another visit to Morrison’s. I don’t think there’s been a run on pine nuts just yet.

Friday, 13 March

I bump into a friend at Sainsbury’s. She is gazing at the handwash shelves, which are so depleted that her choice is restricted to Posh or Super Posh. I move on in search of more tins of tuna.

In the supermarket, and driving home, I see 5 people wearing face masks. All of them are Chinese/Oriental.

Here at OHFTC Towers we now have plenty of pine nuts and marmalade, easing concerns somewhat. We also have enough tinned tuna to sink a ship, and the usual amount of pasta, which should be enough.

Saturday, 14 March

My regular coffee shipment arrives. Hurrah. I pop back to Morrison’s, and stock up on cereal, which I rarely eat. But you never know. I avoid All-Bran, as I feel it might deplete the Toilet Roll Stockpile somewhat.

It all feels a little surreal. I think it’s because I don’t actually know anyone that has contracted the virus. If and when that happens, I suspect it will become a little more real.

I am avoiding making any meals with tuna, which rules out about 40% of my usual weekly menu, on the basis that if I have to self-isolate I don’t want to be bored of it before I even begin.

I discover, via the BBC website, that the Italians are dealing with their enforced captivity quite beautifully. I suggest to Nicola that, after a couple of gins, she could do the same thing in Polwarth. She is working on a playlist as we speak.

Stay tuned, and stay healthy!

Easter Eggs and the Coronavirus

Well, dear reader, Easter is upon us, and so it must be time for another blog update, and maybe another change of bed linen. 

Just the other day I was speaking to a regular blog reader (not you, the other one) who was complaining that it was difficult to maintain their status as a regular reader, given there wasn’t much in the way of regular reading on my blog, and how much more enriched their life would be if I was to post an update more frequently. I’m paraphrasing there slightly. 

I do apologise to both of you.

But back to Easter. I’m not sure exactly how close it is, but it can’t be far off, as I’m now on my third Easter egg. I began with a Rolo one, followed it up with a Kit Kat, and now I’m onto the Creme Egg. I’m aiming to keep up my current consumption rate of one full-size Easter egg per week, which is arguably a less traditional way to celebrate Lent, but I have a feeling it could catch on.

Although it’s fair to say it’s not normal for me to either set, or follow, trends. Usually I am swimming against the tide of popular culture. If you picture a poor-to-average swimmer doing a doggy paddle in a tsunami, you’ll pretty much have the idea. Except, perhaps, on those days when I decide to pay a visit to Ikea – on these days I seem to be fully aligned with the thinking of everyone else in Edinburgh. 

On my last visit there I was seduced by one of those oversized spherical light bulbs, with the glowing yellow filament. I brought it home and fitted it to the main light in my bedroom. On switching it on, I discovered it gives off about the same amount of light as one of those energy-saving lightbulbs before they’ve warmed up. Not terribly practical, really, and I can’t see a whole lot in there now, which means I have to rely a bit more on muscle memory for tasks like changing the bed linen, but I do feel pretty hipster.

The onward march of Coronavirus was all the talk in the office today. Having survived a ski trip to Northern Italy in January, I caught a cold on my return to the UK. Googling “symptoms of Coronavirus” momentarily brought cause for alarm, as I realised I was suffering from almost every single symptom listed , but on closer inspection I realised I had landed on the Daily Mail’s website, and I de-escalated the alarm accordingly.

I aim to stave off the virus with a health-conscious diet of plenty of turmeric milk and regular Easter eggs. I think that should just about do it.

Stay healthy, Britons, and don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly while singing “Happy Birthday” twice through. That should do the trick, apparently…

Hogmanay 2019

Christmas has come and gone. I am relieved on one score at least – no more Christmas music with its abundance of glockenspiel tricking me into thinking I’m getting a tonne of WhatsApp messages.

Around this time of year, during the inbetweeny-bit, a strange compulsion comes on me – to clean my living space, and tidy things. I suspect it’s a pagan tradition, but every year I succumb. 

Mon 30 Dec

I set about it with vigour. Bags for the charity shop, the Recycling Facility and the bin (quite a number of socks in the latter) were filled. Older clothes, even those with precious memories attached, were ruthlessly discarded.

I even changed the bed linen.

Two hours in, the scale of the task was becoming apparent, but with bulging sacks and a vacuum cleaner – taking momentary respite from its endeavours – littering the hallway… as Van said many a time, it was too late to stop now. Out with the old, in with the new.

Hogmanay

The purge complete, I flicked through a ski brochure online, trying to decide if I have the time and money to fit in a second ski trip this winter. I don’t, but I’m figuring out if this is a non-negotiable situation.

My niece and nephew no.1 bought me the most elegant trilby hat I’ve ever known for Christmas. It’s yellow, and covered in gold sequins. It will make the perfect accessory for this evening’s Hogmanay celebrations. 

A thought occurred. I realised I hadn’t seen the trilby hat for a while.

Panic momentarily set in, before I located it in the laundry bin, where it had probably fallen during a particularly frenzied dusting episode.

Freshly showered and shaven, wearing a shirt not necessarily clean, but freshly-ironed, I closed the browser, clamped the trilby – smelling faintly of stale underpants – on my head, and set off to the party, clutching a few beers, a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels, and a packet of stripy doughnuts.

New Year’s Day

Sometime after 3pm I climbed into my car, after an evening, night and morning spent in the company of some truly great friends. The Jack D a little emptier than it was… the doughnuts, however, still intact.

When I plug my phone into the car stereo, sometimes the System remembers what I was last listening to and picks up where we left off.

Sometimes it chooses a random song instead. Today it pulled up the near-forgotten Natalie Merchant. 

Maybe it’s the time of year, the wispy melancholy that pervades a grey New Year’s Day, the contented tiredness from a Ligretto session that began before the bells and ended shortly before 3am, but Natalie Merchant’s liquid-silk vocals prove to be a serendipitous choice.

Farewell today // Travel on now // Be on your way

Go safely there // Never worry // Never care // Beyond this day

Raising a glass to you all, wishing you a year of hopes & dreams fulfilled. Here’s to great friends that make the world a great place to be.

Thank you for reading my random musings in 2019! 

<clink>

Turmeric and the General Election

Turmeric. It’s all the rage among the hipsters, you know. Lots of internet-proven* health benefits including anti-inflammatoriness, being a natural painkiller, and basically eliminating cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression. Also, it provides a glow and lustre to the skin.

Having come down with a cold earlier in the week, I am now fighting fit again. I am confident that my daily intake of turmeric has helped me recover quickly. But it’s always hard to prove these things, and the turmeric may in fact have only made my hair more lustrous.

Meanwhile we’ve had a General Election here in the UK, with a seismic result. South of the border, England and Wales have returned the Conservatives to power with an overwhelming majority. Up here in Scotland, the SNP have further increased their domination.

Which has produced an even-more polarised Great Britain, with England and Wales almost entirely blue, and Scotland almost completely a turmeric shade of yellow. And the inevitable and obvious conclusion that the two countries are completely different, justifying the renewed call for another Scottish independence referendum.

I have three objections to this obvious conclusion.

Firstly, does a resounding win for the SNP on Thursday translate to reasonable justification for a second referendum?

The SNP are – very cleverly – both a party whose main reason for existing is to achieve Scottish independence, and a political party who have proved they can govern competently. I am confident that this second facet of the SNP has gained them more and more votes in both local and national elections in recent years. And so, despite their overwhelming support in Scotland of late, most recently on Thursday, it cannot be inferred that the same number of people are pro-independence.

Secondly, the fact that Scotland has, pretty much en bloc, voted differently to England and Wales, is not especially relevant. The SNP don’t field a whole lot of candidates in English constituencies, you will note, and so English voters don’t have the option of voting for them. Therefore it’s no real surprise that Scotland and England vote differently. If England had a nationalist party which was a credible political force, the map might look different.

Northern Ireland has been voting for Northern Irish parties for years, but it’s never been taken as a justification that the Province needs an independence referendum. Of course, none of those N Irish parties were campaigning for independence for N Ireland, in the manner of the SNP. But that brings us back to the first question – how many of the SNP’s recent votes were votes for independence? We don’t know.

Thirdly, this is a snapshot in time. In this late-2019-snapshot of the political mood of the nation, the Conservatives appear to be rampantly popular in England, and the SNP are equally popular in Scotland. Twas not always thus, and – one imagines – it won’t stay that way forever. Or even, perhaps, for all that long. Political parties have a knack for puncturing their own success, through various means including corruption, scandal, and general incompetence. Leaders change, and lose popularity. Moods change. People change. The electorate shifts.

I have lived in Edinburgh for 27 years. For most of this time, Edinburgh’s political landscape has been utterly dominated by Labour. Now, they hold only one seat. In fact, it’s their only seat in Scotland. This was a completely unimaginable scenario not so very long ago. But things change.

If the SNP, riding a wave of popularity that has been swelling for less than ten years, manage to inveigle the Scottish people to take a decision that will echo for centuries to come, I for one will be monstrously unhappy.

Brexit gets rolled out as another justification for Scotland to leave the UK. Scotland voted to Remain, goes the narrative, whereas the overall UK result was to Leave. That shows how different we are to England and Wales, it’s said. But the Brexit referendum was not based on regions, or constituencies, but on individuals. From the rhetoric, you might be tempted to think that 100% of Scottish voters opted to Remain. They didn’t. 62% did. The remaining 38%, when put together with the results from the rest of the UK, helped vote for the UK to leave the EU.

The majority of voters in Northern Ireland also voted to Remain. Again, no banging of the independence drum there. 

“Westminster doesn’t represent us” goes the cry. Here’s the thing. If Scotland was an independent country, Edinburgh wouldn’t represent the Highlands all that well either. There would be local biases, and parochial interests. Just on a smaller scale.

We’re a nation full of lots of very different people, with different views and priorities. We have a parliamentary system that affords representation to every area in the corridors of power at Westminster. It’s not perfect, it never will be, but let’s stay together Britain. Let’s stay together.

It’s part of being in a union. It’s like being in a family – you don’t always get your own way. Not getting your own way shouldn’t mean you leave.

I apologise for the political post! I promise to revert to whimsy before too long.

The Lost Art of Letter-writing

I confess I get a little suspicious whenever anyone entitles something “The Lost Art of…”. There’s a degree of presumptuousness in declaring something a lost art. And so I will begin by asserting only that the art of letter-writing has been lost (for a while) to me. Although perhaps also to those who would once have written me letters, as I haven’t received any for some time.

Today I decided to write a letter for the first time in the longest time. Immediately I began, I was struck by a few things.

  • You think through your sentences more, because you can’t just backspace your way out of trouble.
  • If you do commit yourself to a word that you then regret, even in the most innocuous way, you have a decision to make. Either you can re-craft the sentence around the word, adapting on the fly. Or you can score the word out. However, you know that the reader – unless you score it out so thoroughly and heavily that it leaves a shiny black dent in the page – will read your wrong word and try to work out what you were going to say. And why you changed your mind. 
  • Even if you make the shiny black dent the reader is going to wonder what on earth you wrote that you now so desperately don’t want them to read. And there’s still a possibility that the word can be read by turning the page over and holding it up to the light.
  • In such a way was my prepubescent crush on Lynda McCann in P7 discovered. I sent her a Christmas card, along with a cuddly toy gift, with the intention of being a mysterious anonymous sender (plus I was scared). Sadly, however, I forgot to NOT WRITE my name in it, as I was on a Christmas-card-writing roll at the time, working my way through all my Christmas cards to all my friends, most of whom I had no desire to conceal my identity from. Hence I resorted to the classy approach of Tippexing my name out. Which didn’t really work when the reverse-and-hold-up-to-the-light tactic was employed. In front of the whole class, if I remember correctly. For such moments were counselling sessions created.
  • If you get creative, and make up a whole new word, an angry red dashed line doesn’t appear underneath it. Nor does the system automatically change it into another word that you didn’t remotely want to say. Because there is no system. There is only you, some paper, and a pen. 

The letter I wrote was to my 12 year old niece. I expect it to take her by surprise. I began the letter by explaining what a letter was, which may have been mildly condescending, but I suspect it was needed.

The whole experience was quite rewarding, and brought back some long-forgotten memories. Like Basildon Bond writing paper. I am fairly convinced that I (on at least one occasion) received some Basildon Bond writing paper as a Christmas present. Possibly a pack of envelopes too.

My niece, I’m afraid, received no such luxury – I wrote to her on a piece of lined paper torn from a student’s notebook. I should point out that it was a student’s notebook that I had just purchased – I didn’t tear a page from the book of a nearby student.

I addressed the letter, put a stamp on it, and posted it in a red pillar box. I felt like a relic from a bygone era. It was great.

Islands in the sun

The summer has faded here in Scotland, although not without a welcome September reprise of beautiful sunshine and warmth. Many of my off days these past months, and not a few lazy evenings of extended twilight, have been spent wearing out the Golf Coast Road to Longniddry, Yellowcraig and North Berwick. 

In August I made my now-annual pilgrimage across the Irish Sea to the Openskies festival, once again in the excellent company of Ickle Bef, on a ferry which charged £1.65 for a cup of tea and £2.00 for a cup of hot water. 

The weather forecast for the weekend was absolutely apocalyptic. We camped anyway, praying madly that the weather would miss us, which it did, and we came away with tents and belongings mostly dry and all intact. Even the fairy lights – a lovely set of plastic pink flamingoes generously donated by DL – survived. The deluge, it transpired, had been diverted towards Wales, where it landed with full force where my sister and her family were camping. Our diversion prayers were non-specific in a directional sense, and my conscience is clear.

Sports-wise, England won the Cricket World Cup, failed to win back the Ashes despite Ben Stokes’ monumental heroics in Leeds, and the Red Sox had a disappointingly average season.

Ireland appeared to be alarmingly ill-prepared for the Rugby World Cup, but still I approached their opening game against Scotland with hope and a degree of expectation.

Sunday 22 Sep | Ireland 27-3 Scotland

Later that day Ryan texted me from Nashville.

“What’s happening to Scotland?”

I was feeling slightly daunted at the prospect of figuring out what, indeed, was happening to Scotland in the current Brexit and IndyRef2 climate, not to mention how to condense that into a text, when a further message clarified that he was talking about the rugby. 

I reminded him of my Irishness, which is something I am happy to do for people when they are inclined to forget, and especially when Ireland are doing well and most especially when they’ve just beaten Scotland.

Six days later, Ireland faced the hosts Japan in Shizuoka. 

I woke up early. Like, 4am early. Three hours later I gave up on further sleep, and made my escape to Sainsbury’s, which I had discovered to my surprise was open at such an hour on a Saturday morning.

I returned home with bacon and croissants. The croissants were freshly-baked and still warm, and so good it sort of made me want to get up early on a Saturday morning more often. Sort of. 

Then I watched Japan puncture the hopes of an island, and I wished I’d stayed in bed.

Saturday 28 Sep | Japan 19-12 Ireland

The afternoon was sunny and breezy on the coast. A few friends joined me on a fast boat trip from N Berwick, which skimmed over the choppy waves to three islands in the Forth – the Lamb, Craigleith and the Bass Rock. The Lamb, we discovered, is now owned by Uri Geller, who is convinced that the ancient Egyptians buried treasure somewhere on it. Our guide explained that the Lamb was made of basalt, one of the hardest naturally-occurring substances known, and openly wondered how the ancient Egyptians would have buried anything in it.

Having completed a slow circuit of the Lamb, we sped through the sea spray to Craigleith and did the same, and then on to the Bass Rock, and its 150,000-strong colony of gannets. At this time of year their numbers are thinned out somewhat, but there was still enough to make a considerable din, and their guano was, well, fragrant. 

As we circled the island I discovered that it not only has a lighthouse, but also a 14th century castle. In fact, the lighthouse has been built inside the castle. This makes the Bass Rock, in my view, about as epic as it could possibly be. An island with a lighthouse AND a castle? I feel sure the Famous Five must have visited.

Curate’s Egg

It’s been quite a summer. As the curate of Punch’s 1895 cartoon said of the stale egg he had been served by the bishop, parts of it have been excellent.

During the last few weeks, there have been days which have been among the nicest I’ve ever known in Scotland. But when it hasn’t been excellent, the rain has been apocalyptic.

At the end of June I travelled down to London to watch the Red Sox play the Yankees. I was excited about this. It would be the first time Major League Baseball had played a proper game (ie not an exhibition game – one that mattered) in Europe. Two games were scheduled – on Saturday and Sunday.

I watched Saturday’s game on a giant screen in a sun-soaked beer garden in East London. The Yankees were in front most of the game, and despite an 8th inning rally from the Sox, New York prevailed.

Sunday, nephew Sebastian in tow, we made our way to the stadium – London Stadium, which had been converted to a baseball field for the occasion. The sun shone again. 

I disappeared to get a couple of Cokes for Sebastian and myself, and came back £9 lighter.

Our neighbours in Row 37 were Violet and Joe, and their son Eddie, all the way from Boston. Eddie had trained as a vet at Edinburgh University.

Sebastian, meanwhile, was hungry. I got him a burger, averting my eyes and handing over my debit card, wincing slightly.

We returned to the game. The Sox were winning. Sebastian was still hungry. He seemed to be treating London Stadium as a huge open-air restaurant with some baseball happening as in-meal entertainment. I fed him some of my chips.

The Yankees had a massive 7th inning, and from then on the Sox were always chasing the game.

Sebastian, meanwhile, was still hungry, so we got doughnuts. Six of them, just in case.

The Red Sox lost again, despite threatening with another 8th inning rally. The game over, I bid goodbye to my new Boston friends, and promised to say hi to Edinburgh for Eddie.

It’s been a curate’s egg of a summer for the Red Sox too. There have been flashes of last season’s excellence, but no consistency. Following the inaugural London Series their record against the Yankees reads won 1, lost 6.


It’s now late July. It’s another sodden Saturday in Edinburgh, and I’m back in the Hideout. Cricket has been rained off again (third Saturday in a row). Boris has just been made Prime Minister. The country is unsure of what lies ahead, as it always is, but probably more so now than ever.

Tuesday this week, it was swelteringly hot. SCORCHIO! As the red-tops used to scream on days like this. Perhaps they still do.

I spent the morning paddling in the shallows at the beach, before meeting a friend in town. We lunched in the sunshine on Victoria Terrace. The Terrace overlooks Victoria Street, which was reputedly the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley. There is meagre evidence for this beyond Victoria St’s proximity to the Elephant House – the self-proclaimed ‘home of Harry Potter’ – but the tour parties come by, one by one, complete with excitable HP superfan tour guide.

It is, however, a pretty magical street, Victoria Street.

I had the Eggs Benedict, which was excellent. I managed to spill a quantity of hollandaise sauce down the front of my t-shirt, ensuring I (and everyone I met) had a visual reminder of the excellence of my lunch for the rest of the day, which was pleasing.

In the still-warm early evening, Ickle Bef and I sat on a rock in Holyrood Park, looking out over Holyrood Palace, the National Monument and a forest of giant cranes putting together the new St James Centre. We discussed our camping plans for Openskies, so that – this year – there wouldn’t be any unnecessary duplication of the important provisions. Not that Ickle actually brought any pine nuts last year, to my memory.

On Wednesday, apart from Boris becoming PM, the other main news was that the milk Ryan and Katie kindly bought for me to use while I was in Tennessee – in early May – went past its sell-by date. These dates are always conservative, as we know, so there’s a chance it may still be usable.

Thursday night the Red Sox finally got to play the Yankees again for the first time since London, and the first time at Fenway Park this season.

They thumped them 19-3. They thumped them again last night. The summer is looking up…

The Longest Day

It’s getting on for the end of June, dear reader. The country remains in unresolved Brexit turmoil, although attention has now shifted to the Conservative Party’s leadership election, which will determine our next Prime Minister. Once this is resolved, for better or worse, Brexit will again, I imagine, consume us all. 

In Edinburgh, the summer so far has been unusually damp. Unusually damp, I say, for it has been damp even by Scottish standards. 

Accordingly, the cricket season has been patchy. Last Saturday the Holy Cross 2nd XI, of which I had been carelessly – but happily only temporarily – left in charge, played their first game in a month.

We were away to Musselburgh. I lost the toss. This was the first indicator that it wasn’t to be a good day. We were asked to bat on a damp wicket, and bowled out for 21, which – for those not in tune with cricketing matters – is a pretty low score for one batsman, never mind a whole team. 

Captains and managers in sport are frequently said to have “lost the dressing room.”  I took this a step further by losing the dressing room key, which went missing from the scorer’s table at some point during the first innings. Fingers were pointed and accusations levelled.

In due course the key was located, in one of my team-mates’s pockets.

Normally at this point we would all ‘take tea’, which would involve picking at whatever meagre fare the home team had produced, before commencing the second innings. However, such was the low score that Musselburgh needed to chase, we simply went back out again.

Four overs later, Musselburgh required 7 runs to win. I threw the dice, and made my first bowling change, bringing on Ollie the Offspinner. Ollie delivered his first – entirely respectable – ball, and the batsman, in an act of considerable discourtesy, deposited it over long-on for six.

It bounced on the path which ran beyond the boundary, right over the wall, into trees and dense foliage, and was lost forever. We found another ball from somewhere. The same batsman edged this one through the slips and it was all over. 

We trooped into the changing rooms. The showers were cold. We emerged again, and the tea, sadly, met our expectations fully.

A dismal performance, a lost game, a lost ball, a lost dressing room key, cold showers, and a poor tea. At least it wasn’t raining.

The following Friday we celebrated 2019’s longest day, on an East Lothian beach. We really should have been at Akva, our monthly Swedish haunt, but the weather had taken an upturn, as if acknowledging that the longest day deserved better. So we cancelled our booking, in the process denying ourselves Akva’s pagan midsummer celebration complete with flower crowns and frog dancing, whatever that is.

Suitably equipped with fish and chips, we wandered down the sandy path to the beach. The tide was in. The fish was excellent, the chips too, although sand – unfailingly able to find its way into every available orifice – found its way into my box of chips, and became a most unwelcome garnish of the grittiest possible kind.

Nicola, garlanded most appropriately with a flower crown, produced a couple of bags of Haribo from somewhere, and we watched the sun sink slowly in an almost flawless blue sky, painting a pencil-thin orange stripe towards us across the water, and the wet rippled sand.

We walked eastward to the end of the beach, on the way enacting what we thought frog-dancing might be, and parked ourselves on a massive piece of driftwood, as the sun sank even lower. Eventually, just after 10pm, it dropped behind that little hill across the water in Fife, whose name escapes me now. 

I remember someone telling me that there are parts of the village of Falkland which are in shadow for six months of the year (or thereabouts), due to their proximity to that hill.

We returned along the Golf Coast, courtesy of Sonic Boom Bef’s thrill-a-minute driving, and stopped for a McFlurry at Fort Kinnaird.

It was at this point that I noticed TK Maxx. It was looking as good as a TK Maxx ever has, I would venture to say. The distant horizon, still burning a fiery red, was reflected in its polished glass frontage. This, combined with the odd solitary tree and manicured grass of the Fort Kinnaird car park, made for a striking image. Made me think of Malibu.

“It’s just like Malibu,” I remarked to Nicola.

Nicola snorted.

I’ve never even been to Malibu. Later, I found a picture of the TK Maxx in Malibu (although of course it’s TJ Maxx there). It was surprisingly unimpressive-looking, although there were real palm trees in the picture. Fort Kinnaird for the win, I say.

We found a table by the window, with a gorgeous view across the roundabout to Screwfix, and Bef had her first ever McFlurry. It was a momentous day.