Monday, 30 January 2012

Week 30

Another productive week - at the end of which I have a job and a new car!

The job is still a little hush, hush (but most people who know me will be able to guess) so I'll tell you about the car saga.

Well, my little Punto proved to be a bad investment but I'm trying to see it as a positive impact on my life because it focused my attention on what was important.  Without getting all deep and meaningful (I'll leave that for later on when I reflect on my mid-life-crisis), driving an unreliable car made me feel frustrated. I found that I chose not to drive to places because I wasn't sure if the car would make it - so it also had an impact on my social life.  Everything came to a head when the engine kept over-heating...this came to light last week on my mission to the SSPCA - on the way home, the warning light came on.  From this point onwards I decided that I HAD to get a reliable car if I was considering going back to work.

And this time, I wanted to take the plunge and get the most reliable car for country life - a diesel 4x4.  So the hunt was on.  My shortlist contained Honda, Toyota, Kia and Skoda.  I am please to report that I test drove one of each rather than buying the first car I drove (lesson learnt from Punto experience).  The Honda kept coming up on top.  Toyota was a bit noisy, Kia was too high for Skye to jump into and the Skoda Octavia was too long and too rare.  Having chosen a Honda - the hunt was on for the right car at the right price.  After a bad experience at Arnold Clark (talk about slimy car-sales-man) my choices were limited.  A general rule for buying cars in the North East of Scotland is to go south for cheaper cars so I found 3 Hondas in Edinburgh to test drive.  It all happened so quickly...

Thursday - up early, pack an overnight bag (just in case) drive to mum's to drop Skye, top up Punto coolant, drive to nearest train station, get train to Edinburgh, on train text my good friend to line up crash pad if car sale came off.  My first stop in Edinburgh was purely determined by the fact that one garage offered to collect me from the station.  My train arrived at lunchtime and after a smooth drive and umpteen negotiations - 4 hours later I did the deal.  The clincher was that they would fast track the car through the MOT and service and would allow me to drive the car home the very next day.  Result.

Luckily, my friend, Ray, put me up for the night and we enjoyed an impromptu girls night in with a bottle of pink Prosecco and Cadbury's cream eggs.  Ray literally lives round the corner from the garage so it worked out quite well. I spent the Friday morning watching Andy Murray get beat in the Australian Open semi-finals before the garage called to say my car was ready.  Woo hoo. 

A smooth drive home (with a stop at mum's to pick up Skye) got me back home just in time for a quick turnaround to join my friends for a pre-arranged meal.  The food was absolutely fabulous so I need to give a bit of publicity to Cafe Boheme.

Saturday was another busy day because I had abandoned my little in Punto at the train station so I had the tense situation of driving it to my dad's for a safety check.  What a difference driving the Honda v's the Fiat.  Fortunately my dad has agreed to try and sell the Punto for me - my saviour.

The end of the busy week was a sad one because I said goodbye to the Guide Dogs that I've been working with for the last 6 months.  They are amazing dogs and I've learnt so much from the people who work there.

One of the guide dog activities involves stimulating the dog's mind with interactive games.  I was impressed at how quickly the dogs grasped the concept of hidden treats and sliding I thought Skye would enjoy them too.  Skye's boredom intensified due to lack of walking and playing (I was scared of over-stretching her legs if she played hide and seek in the house) I invested in a couple of interactive games for Skye and she loves them.

 And to end on a high note another bonus for Skye:

Skyebird and Dougal - get ready to hit Europe!!!

9 weeks to go...

Monday, 23 January 2012

Week 29

Mega week!
I'm pleased to tell you that Module 2 of my Dog Behaviour Diploma has been submitted.  It was quite an interesting module - talking about the genetics of dogs and their instinctive behaviour - I now regard Skye's sniffing habits with a whole new level of respect - she has to interpret so much information with her nose!

As the week continued, I made a whole load of progress on my "to-do" list:
  • The job hunt started in earnest and I have to say it's looking quite positive but I can't say too much yet...
  • I visited the SSPCA and spoke to the manager about moving up the "waiting list" for volunteering work.
  • I found a handyman to quote me for all the outstanding house and garden projects!
  • I started the car hunt and test drove 2 Honda CRVs (I finally learnt my lesson after the last car purchase - not to buy the first car I see!!!) - luckily my dad is getting involved in the search as I wholly appreciate his input.
  • I booked flights to visit the family in Holland.

What a week...I feel totally energised.

I celebrated my achievements (any excuse) with a night out with the "yoga girlies" on Friday.  As I enjoyed the fabulous food on offer, I was totally unaware of the wine consumption and, as a result, I crossed that line...into the boozy world where all logic escapes us...we finished the night with a double baileys each and didn't even flinch when the barman asked for £24 for the 4 drinks - ouch indeed. 

I know I got home safely (thanks to one of the girl's husband) but I did my usual routine: cup of tea and toast, switch on the tv, start watching my sky+ recording and fall asleep...2 hours later - down 2 glasses of water (and pray it's still going to avert the hangover) then crawl to bed and sleep for 3-4 hours.  After those few hours of sleep I peered through my eye slits - checking that Skye was safely asleep next to me and tried to recount the number of drinks consumed.  All of this wouldn't necessarily matter if I hadn't arranged to meet someone late afternoon on the Saturday.  My usual hangovers last until 6pm. Oh crap!

So I lay still as I tried to calculate when it would be safe to drive: number of units of alcohol (14 or 15) v's number of hours since alcohol consumption began - oh my it takes a lot of brain power to figure these things out when you're not feeling 100%.  I also tried a bit of reiki on myself, to keep the vomiting hangover at bay, but I kept nodding off.  Finally I decided the best option to combat any feelings of illness was a kick of adrenalin.  So, with my gorgeous Skye willing me to take her out, I jumped out of bed and threw on some clothes and ventured outside to give Skye her morning walk.  I deliberately chose not to wear a hat so the freezing temperatures would cause an adrenalin surge to my brain and ensure any pending hangover would disappear.  As I returned home, my efforts paid off and I felt ok...not great...but ok.

Any slight movement of the body resulted in my head catching up a few seconds later.  I downed water and tried to concentrate on something (other than my feeble body) by switching on the TV.  How bizarre to see something as "viewed" on your sky+ and have no recollection of it's contents.

After a cold shower (another attempt to get the adrenalin flowing), I felt more alive and managed to make it to my meeting.  I got home early evening and only then did the real hangover kick in...then I crawled into bed and slept for 12+hours...bliss.

On Sunday I was working at the guide dogs.  As usual, I dropped Skye at my mums and whilst there I had a bit of an accident (possibly a result of my over-indulgence on Friday).  Muddy shoes off at the door, meant I was walking around in my socks.  I was coming downstairs with phone in one hand and diary in the other when I slipped on the top step!  The diary went flying.  My clutch on my phone got tighter and, as a result, the only thing that would break my fall was my poor coccyx.  I bumped down 5 steps before I finally stopped myself.  OMG the pain.  My mum's concerned shouts of "oh Julie" stopped the minute she saw me doubled up laughing hysterically.  She joined in the hysterics - tears were streaming down my face - not sure due to pain or laughter.

Following this, I had to go and work with my beloved guide dogs - a great tonic to take your mind off any negative thoughts.  After work, I came home did a bit of reiki on my coccyx and had a hot bath and remarkably the pain is easing today.  I've just been for a swim which eased the pain too: pre-swim - I could hardly tie my shoes laces; post-swim - I could bend my knee right up to tie the laces.

On the positive side, is it possible that the pain in my coccyx is similar to the pain Skye feels every day with her lumbo-sacral disease?  If so, it is reassuring that the pain is bearable except for a few twinges now and again.

10 weeks to go...

Monday, 16 January 2012

Week 28

pro·cras·ti·nate (v.intr.) :- To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.

I am the queen of procrastination but I feel I am building up to something week is going to be awesome and I already have great news but I'm going to make you wait until next week's post to tell you about it...

My diploma module 2 is staring at me and the list of jobs I promised to do during my "time off" is still has long as my arm...

But this week has mostly been about fresh starts.  I've been for a haircut and a facial and I've given Skye a well deserved bath - so I'm starting to feel the freshness of a new (and extraordinary year).  I've also done a bit of research into my gorilla holiday so things are happening but at a slower rate.

Things ramp up next week, I promise...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Week 27

The peace and quiet is suffocating...

After the blissful festive period when my house was full of energy and laughter, it is now alarmingly quiet.  It didn't help that I spent most of the week lazing a new week starts and I'm raring to go.

Friday, 6 January 2012


I don't really believe in making New Year resolutions.  But this is such a big year that I want to set out my plans and make a huge effort to stick to them.

First and foremost, I've made a decision to go back to work when Skye's rehabilitation is complete - around mid February.  I have realised over the last 6 months that, although I do love animals and wish to change the animal world, I do not have the "va va voom" that propels me to make such a drastic change in life.  I'm a dreamer but not a do-er. I can lose myself in a visual spectacle containing nature at it's finest and seriously believe that I could be the next greatest nature photographer, camera-woman, commentator...but when it comes down to it, I don't have the drive and ambition. I realise that if you really, really want to be something or do something, you need to knock down doors, speak to tons of people, listen to people saying you can't do it and bounce back and vow to try even harder...That is so not me. Even when I left my job, I did not have a clear picture of what I wanted to do. I figured the picture would become clearer as I let fate guide me. There is no doubt that animals and nature are a big part of my life and my interests but I have been easily distracted and that "picture" has never really come into focus.  But I can compromise and that is to go back into the oil industry on a part time basis (about 2 or 3 days a week) allowing me time every week to study and volunteer.  I think that's a great compromise.

If the job plans come together then I have a wish list of things I'd like to do in 2012:
  • Visit Africa and see gorillas in the wild
  • Go to a music festival
  • Visit Northern Scotland in Dougal
  • Go to Iona
  • Visit my friend, Sandy, in Switzerland
  • Go to a West End London show
  • Eat in a Michelin star restaurant
  • Take a photography course
  • Learn to dance (salsa or tango)
  • Buy a more reliable car (in exchange for Punto NOT for Dougal - Dougal's staying put)
  • Visit Monkey World with my mum
Quite an impressive list don't you think - and they're not cheap either!  So I'd better get job hunting now...

Monday, 2 January 2012

Challenge updates

I bet you're all dying to know how I got on with my 2 personal challenges...

I said, back in July, that I would not purchase any new clothes or shoes for the next 6 months and I DID IT.  I am so impressed with myself.  Even during the festive season when the gorgeous, sparkly outfits were beckoning me, I resisted temptation. I got through the few Christmas parties by wearing "old" outfits.  And, because I couldn't fit into the outfits back in July, I had to embark on a fitness regime to tone up and by mid December the zips on all dresses were loose(r).  Double bonus.  I will try to keep this challenge going until I earn my first income...

At the beginning of December I also challenged myself to restrict all drinking to social events - so no alcohol in the house unless I had people with me.  This proved a challenge indeed.  It's amazing how I automatically opened the wine on a Friday evening.  But once again I DID IT.  I celebrated at 01:00 on 1st January by having a Baileys.

Week 26 - Happy New Year!

Why is it when you have all the time in the world to do something, you put off till the last minute? 

Every year I have been organising and hosting a "Family Challenge".   The last 2 years, I've been working full time and have managed to carry off a massive event starting with a treasure hunt and ending with a pub quiz.  This year, I hadn't even planned the treasure hunt until Thursday and the Challenge was planned for Friday!!!  I have had all the time in the world to come up with the quiz questions and again I left it till the last minute...

Regardless, it was still a good event even though the treasure hunt involved walking and my family got soaked to the skin!  However the rest of the day went well...the Hague Hippos took an early lead but the Xtra Factors were only ever a few points away...they were catching up and it was neck and neck for a while until the quick fire rounds kicked in. The first was a "Who's line is it anyway" round and involved me and J reciting a famous line from a film and the first team to guess the film and actor got 2 points.  Even though the films ranged from 1960's to cartoons to recent films the Xtra Factors didn't stand a chance against my brother who always claimed he was Barry Norman/Jonathon Ross/Claudia Winkleman depending of which era you watched the "Film Programme".  Even when my brother retired to bed with "food and drink issues" the Hague Hippos won and took the trophy back to Holland with them.

Hogmanay was a quiet evening. I had drinks with my good friend Debbie and had a wonderful girlie chat, along with a few vodkas and home at a sensible time so as to do my first footing without a hangover.  Does all that make me sound old?  Well, it is the big year after all...40th birthday planning starts here and now....

Week 25 - w/e Christmas Day!

I've been so busy recently that I haven't posted for about 3 weeks so I'm trying to catch up now...

The week running up to Christmas was magical.  Partly the anticipation of my family arriving from Holland and just the general excitement of this time of year!

It's was a busy week but I managed to escape the madness of the shops - my Sainsbury's food order was delivered on Tuesday and all my Christmas presents were ordered online too.  I did venture into the city on Wednesday for a lunch date with an old work colleague and was surprised that it wasn't mobbed - has everyone done their shopping online?

On mad Friday I met up with some of my work colleagues for a few drinks - it was great to catch up with them.  But I ducked out early mainly because I didn't want a hangover on Christmas eve and also to get home for Skyebird.

On Christmas Eve my family arrived from Holland.  I had to put a poster up in my sun porch to make sure Santa knew that J was staying at my house.  I think J was impressed.

The energy levels intensified with a 7 year old in the house and I can say it truly made my Christmas complete.  We told J that he could not get up on Christmas morning before 7.30am (in an attempt to give the adults a chance to get a good sleep) but at 7.29am all 3 bedroom doors opened and all adults said to J "We've been up for ages waiting on you" - I think we were just as excited as him.  First thing - check that the beer, banana cake and carrot had been eaten then we tiptoed into the living room and lo-and-behold a massive sack of presents were waiting for J.

So many gifts!

The meal had been meticulously planned over the whole day with lots of gaps between courses so we didn't end up feeling stuffed.  Each person had a chance to cook or present something they baked earlier so it was a combined effort and I think it went really well.  My brother cooked the main course and during the course, we were joined by some friends:

Who can beat a line up like that at Christmas time?

Week 24 - w/e 18th Dec

Well, I think I've cracked Skye's toilet issues.  On a desperate day when she hadn't done anything at all (and I'd been out with her 5 or 6 times waiting patiently for her) I took drastic steps and let her off the lead and miraculously she circled there and then and did it.  What a result.  I swear she looked at me as if to say "what took you so long to get it?".  Since then we have a little routine which involves surveillance of the area prior to letting Skye off lead so she can do what she has to then straight back to the house.  It seems to work though she's still puzzled at the new routine. 

She's been getting lots of reiki from me and we also had a visit from my animal healer, Bob, who has helped Skye enormously over the last few years.  He was able to tell me which areas to concentrate on.

The week ended with a night out with the lovely yoga girls on Friday and a meal with friends on Saturday (I think I posted about the aromas in my kitchen when I was cooking on Saturday).  It's been a week of indulgent food and I think it's going to continue through the rest of December...

The rest of the week has been Christmas planning. I am hosting Christmas this year and feel remarkably organised - presents wrapped and massive food order placed.