Monday, October 27, 2003

Daylight wasting

Is that the opposite of daylight saving? Daylight is certainly increasingly fleeting. The clocks have just gone back, and it's dark when I come home from work now (although for now still light in the a.m.). I am struggling to resign myself to the fact that it will be like this for the rest of the year (and a bit of next year too). Meanwhile, all I hear from NZ are stories of the sunniest Labour Weekend in living memory.

Fitting, then, that it's almost Hallowe'en - which marks the end of the light half and the beginning of the dark half of the year. Hallowe'en is a big deal here (well it is a celtic festival - A took some convincing on that one, he was sure it was invented in America). In Scotland, people go guising rather than trick-or-treating, dooking for apples is almost obligatory, and many other messy food games are involved (I'll give you the full update after our themed team meeting at work on Friday - I'm busy carving turnips as we speak).

Speaking of Scottish festivals, I was excited today to receive my two free tickets to Edinburgh's Hogmanay, a big street party on New Year's Eve (or Hogmanay, as it's properly called). They allocate tickets by ballot in October each year. It promises the world's biggest Auld Lang Syne, not sure what else though - probably a serious chill to the bones and lots of general revelry to distract merrymakers from the cold.

We just received a copy of our wedding video - lovingly crafted by Richard Foy at Propellerhead Productions (aka his living room). I can't believe it was almost a year ago. Richard did a great job (not too long, not too much to cringe about, some nice touches with titles, music & graphics), and it was so nice to see faces and hear voices that we hadn't seen/heard for so long.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

It's snowing

Yep, it's October and it's snowing already (or at least sleeting - there's definitely some frozen stuff in those raindrops). 88% chance of snow tonight, -2 degrees. Brrrrrrrr! Fow a wee peek, check out these Edinburgh webcams. I'm so glad we have central heating.

I've just been in Dunfermline for 2 days - staff away days for planning and the like, but not too much in the way of teambuilding activities that are the stereotype of such days (no quadbiking :-( ). I suppose, being a charity, it's not a good look to spend on such frivolities. Still, the hotel we stayed at had a nice pool. Somehow I've come out of the two days with lots more work (including writing a communications strategy for the organisation!),

Here comes Andrew - I can hear the distinctive scooter drone. He looks VERY cold! cold in fact that he was unable to untie his shoelaces when he came in (his hands were that numb!). The poor wee soul.

My fascination with the telly is waning a bit - a fair amount of dross to wade through to find the good stuff. Some particular highlights tonight: Britain's Worst Driver, Wife Swap and Pornography: The Musical - an "operetta about the sex industry" where "porn stars sing about their lives". Apparently, the music's awful too.

There are some definite treasures though, some things that you would never see on TV in NZ (God bless the BBC and her public service requirement) - like the programme about this year's Stirling prize finalists and winner (an architecture award). Mind you, given the UK's obsession with real estate in all its guises, it's not really that surprising that architecture telly makes it to prime time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Golly it's Olly

Had a super weekend - one of those weekends where you hardly spend any time at home and feel all the better and more rested for it. We had a visitor, inspiring us to go out and do stuff - Olly the vet. He didn't even break anything while he was here (although there were a few touch and go moments).

Definite highlight of the weekend was chance spotting of group of Norwegian telemark skiers serenading girl outside Mellis' cheese shop on Candlemaker Row. This may sound way too farfetched to be true, but true it is. They even had a papier mache dog as past of their entourage (and quite a nifty trick involving a skipole that made it look like the dog was dragging them up the hill). They skied UP the cobblestone street in their short pants, long socks and funny hats, quite a sight to behold. Olly and I had great fun poking around in dinky wee shops - where they specialised in cigars (Olly, sucked in by the sales pitch, bought some of Fidel's faves) cask-strength whisky, maps, wine, kilts...

Finding Nemo's worth a look for some feelgood family fun.

Update on last post - we now have TV. ASDA came to our rescue with something cheap, good, and in stock. Why all stores don't follow that model, I have no idea. It's gotta be a winner. I feel a wee bit like they must have felt in the 50's (or in NZ, the 60's) when TV was new and exciting and different. I am particularly interested in ads, but I'm sure it will wear off...

Just been to the inaugural Morningside Wine Tasting (hence the stream of consciousness blog), run by our good friends at Oddbins. A very congenial evening, held in this weird building that looks dead modern on the outside but inside is all 80's bad carpet and disco lights (think all your worst ferry crossing and casino experiences rolled into one). One NZ wine in the tasting, Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2003. Yum! The best bit was all the stories about the winemakers (I think our host/guide Gareth had a soft spot for the underdog and Kiwi/Alsatian/Spanish battler). And the tasty wine, of course. He even recommended old fave Cuisine as the place for info on NZ wine. Much discussion about the merits or otherwise of Lindauer - seems to be quite popular here, sells for around £6-7/bottle. I also learned that aforesaid wine is NZ's 3rd most popular grocery item. Not sure how much truth in that, slightly scary, statistic!

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Sweeties, darling

Today I had a most enjoyable mission, which took me into just about every sweet shop in Edinburgh, and down memory lane as well. SALP (where I work) has a new campaign in November, called Bite Sized (all about reaching new learners by offering "bite sized" learning opportunities, short, sweet and free). I am writing to a bunch of people to encourage them to get involved, and decided to go with the theme a bit, and include a gimmick with the letter. My first choice, chattering teeth, were beyond our budget, but I decided that a couple of sets of Milk Teeth would grab the attention almost as spectacularly. So began my quest. I had no trouble finding penny shrimps, sherbet dabs, dolly mixtures, flying saucers, edible paper, drumsticks and kola kubes (yum, sucking on one now), but no milk teeth to be found. Still, I was pleasantly distracted. There's something fantastic about walking into a shop that can unlock so many childhood memories through its Pick n' Mix.

I have since tracked down some teeth - at the local UGC's candy bar (although it's probably called something different).

Andrew's busy listening to the miracle Italian CDs that he got from his work (they have a very comprehensive training library). "Michel Thomas" (the most sought-after language teacher in the world, apparently - he has taught Emma Thompson, Mel Gibson, Eddie Izzard & Princess Grace) promises "no pens, no paper, no homework, no memorising". 8 hours and we'll be set for Roma, I hope!

He's listening to it on our new home cinema system - we decided to get that rather than a stereo and DVD seperately. It makes a pleasant change from listening to everything on the PC or tranny - has everything, including radio, and can play MP3s and just about every other file format save .doc. The cinema part is a bit of a joke at the moment though - we don't have a TV yet. Not that we haven't tried. I have encountered some bad shop & restaurant service here, but so far, nothing compares to electronics retailers. They seem to specialise in stocking their shop with things that you can't actually buy, TVs without remotes, TVs without boxes, TVs that are "discontinued" and TVs that are out of stock. If you ask to see the picture quality, they show you a different brand and screen size and tell you that it will be just the same. Brilliant. I've actually lost track of how may TVs we have tried to buy.

Still, sans TV, we might get good at Italian!

Sunday, October 05, 2003

A gathering of the clan

There was snow in the air yesterday - it felt like somewhere in Scotland, it must be snowing. The skies were ominously leaden one minute, opened explosively to drench everything the next, and then blinding sunshine would reflect off every soaked surface as more grey clouds piled in...a three act play repeated again and again. A crazy weather day. A good day for a trip to Uddingston (home of Tunnock's, of teacake fame) and some family madness.

Uddingston's a Lanarkshire town not far from Bellshill (where we stayed when we began this wee Scottish adventure of ours)...our destination was the St John the Baptist Church Hall, where my uncle Joseph's partner, Michael, was celebrating his 60th birthday.

The hall was filled with Dohertys, Sweeneys, Gavigans and other branches of what I have come to realise is a fairly substantial family. My dad's 4 brothers & his sister were there, along with their weans (and grandweans x 2 on the way), and cousins galore. They all know how to party - lots of dancing, lots of drinking, lots of chat. Andrew & I were a star attraction ("all the way from NZ, mind?"), fielding many questions (some, overzealously bordering on interrogation) about our plans, impressions of Scotland, NZ, the Dohertys, families... Much debate about who looked like whom, many memories shared of my antics as a child... One uncle would talk to me, then another would want to know what he had said! They're a highly competitive bunch.

We have since been invited to Christmas at the godfather's (my Uncle George) for more family intrigue. Should be fun.