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Shauna Reid

Welcome, weary traveller! I'm Shauna Reid, an Australian writer who moved to Scotland eleven years ago in pursuit of adventure and kilts

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Scotland dot jock

10/Sep/2014

Scottish Independence Ballot Paper

I’ve never written about politics in 14 years of this blog but thought tonight would be a good time to wade in, while snotty and half delirious with a cold. Next Thursday September 18 is the Scottish Independence Referendum.

I don’t know how much chat is happening outside the UK, so to summarise: we will be voting Yes or No to the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

I’ve never spent so much bloody time pondering a question. I’ve debated with strangers. I have asked learned friends for detailed explanations of their views. I’ve scoured the internet for neutral, solid facts and figures and they are not easy to come by. There are moments when I feel like this is a thrilling once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, then others I cannot get my head around the implications and practicalities and the feeling that as much as I truly love my adopted country, I like being part of the United Kingdom too.

And then my brain swells in confusion and I start to ask totally frivolous questions like:

  • What would happen to my precious Pact Coffee subscription? Would I get charged international shipping?
  • Would we be restricted to River City and Reporting Scotland (snooze) or would they let us watch the proper BBC with the full suite of Scandinavian crime dramas?
  • What would the top level domain be? Answer: dot scot. Not dot jock as Gareth hoped.

Anyway, I need to get my postal vote in post haste. I’d requested one because I got confused and thought the 18th was the Wednesday, when I’ll be on a train coming back from England. Right now I’m procrastifaffing and admiring the stark simplicity of the ballot paper.

If you would like a good and hilarious summary of what’s going on, check out Charlie Brooker – David Cameron can’t help the No campaign – he’s less popular in Scotland than Windows 8.

Independence express

Everyday Life: August 2014

06/Sep/2014

August was a funny old month. Lots of work, yet lots of laziness and idle browsing of #gelato on Instagram!

Daily braindump. I don’t think I’ve ever said the word “yikes” out loud, but it appeared. What’s next? Jeepers!

Diary angst

Spontaneous stop to watch these seals lounging around…

seals3

It was hilarious seeing them scuttle off as the tide crept in, with these two determined to stay put until the last scrap of sand disappeared.

Seals at Dornoch Firth

Morning walk along the Caledonian Canal.

Caledonian Canal

A rainy night at the Belladrum Festival, watching Tom Jones butcher the classics and Gareth nervously watching people drinking beer that he’d made. And other vessel to add to his annoying inanimate objects with first person copy list, too. Mwahahaha.

Belladrum Festival

ITV showed the Star Wars trilogy over three Saturday nights. Marcel/Neighbour Cat invited himself over for the first two, but took off after ten minutes of Return of the Jedi. Even cats know that one stinks.

Cat watching Star Wars

(I hope you appreciate my restraint at only posting one cat photo!)

Greta garbage bin…

Garbage bin

More roses…

More roses in Inverness

Ducks old and new on the River Ness…

ducks

Plus a heron after a rainy night.

Plus a heron after a rainy night

We finished the month with Sunday lunch at the Ben Leva Hotel, which is home to the Loch Ness Brewery. This is my favourite pub up here. It is so laid back and quiet and there’s always a dog or two lounging around, sometimes staring at you mournfully while you eat. A Sunday roast isn’t something that looks particularly good when photographed but it was bloody delicious!

Sunday roast at the Ben Leva Hotel

There’s also this massive, gorgeous tree out the front.

tree

I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but it’s pretty much how I used to imagine the Magic Faraway Tree. Get climbing to the Land of Goodies!

Massive tree at the Ben Leva Hotel

Up & Running September winners

03/Sep/2014

Thanks for all your giveaway comments! If you missed out but would like to join us next week, you can use the code TEATIME at checkout for 20% off until Monday. This discount also applies to Up & Moving, which is a great course for beginners and walkers (I finally finished my redo of the course… the six weeks took over two months, eep!).

Here are the lucky winners as decided by the Random Number Generator:

  • Maike - who would serve plum tart for Adele
  • Vera – would whip up her lemon ricotta blueberry cheesecake for Hugh Jackman
  • Siv – who would bring back her dad for tea
  • M – would invite Emma Thompson
  • Roisin – will be serving apple fritters and gingerbread biscuits to a revived and reassembled Anne Boleyn
  • Noreen – would like a tea party with Robert Downey Jr and “chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate”. I’d gatecrash that one Noreen, but I think you guys would rather be alone!

Congratulations, folks… will look forward to chatting on the Forum over the coming weeks! I’ve emailed you with the details so please get in touch ASAP to claim your prize.

All aboard for the Up & Running 5K

Win a spot on the September Up & Running 5k or 10k course

25/Aug/2014

Following on from the Robert Plant post, who would you invite round for tea?

Yep, it’s nosy question time again! We’ve just opened up registration for the final Up & Running courses for 2014, thus I’m making my last attempt to lure you into our international running club.

The 5K Beginners Course starts on Monday 8 September and the 10K Course starts on Thursday 11 September, each going for eight weeks.

Here’s what you get…

  • an eight week training plan to get you race ready, designed to gradually increase your strength and fitness while avoiding injury
  • a daily blog chock full of support materials, like running techniques, drills, videos and inspiring videos
  • unlimited support from expert coach Julia Jones, for all your running questions
  • access to our private community forum
  • a delightful sense of wellbeing as the year draws to an end, having achieved something so epic!

I’m giving away five free places. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and tell me:

  1. If you had to invite someone famous round for tea, who would it be and why? (And optionally, what would be on the menu?)
  2. Which course you’d like to do.

  • Entries close 11PM GMT on Monday 1 September.
  • There will be five winners and they have their choice of 5K or 10K course
  • The winner can gift the prize to a friend if desired.
  • Winners will be randomly selected.
  • Winners can be from anywhere in the world. Previous winners are eligible to enter again. Remember the Courses are for women only.

Come over for your tea, Robert Plant

13/Aug/2014

Do you think Robert Plant ever Googles himself? I bet he doesn’t because he’s Robert Plant. He’s quietly aware that he’s magnificent and has no need to click through to the 25,675th page of search results to find some random loon banging on, ROBERT PLANT IS MAGNIFICENT. But I’m going to do it anyway.

Last night I was re-watching his set from Glastonbury 2014 (there’s still three days left to catch it on BBC iPlayer) and kept thinking that he’s ace in so many ways. So I made a list.

  • He was in Led Zeppelin, one of the greatest bands of all time, but he doesn’t go on about it. I also saw the documentary Robert Plant: By Myself earlier this year, where talks about their massive success and how great that time was, but he’s kinda modest and matter of fact, and it’s clear that he’s had this whole other life since then.
  • He never rests on his laurels. He’s always evolving, dabbling with new sounds and genres and collaborating with new people.
  • He doesn’t strut around like it’s still 1970 with the bare chest and unfathomably snug jeans. He is where he is, and looks totally cool with that. As you would be, if you were Robert Plant.
    Robert Plant
  • That Glastonbury show is full of classic Zeppelin tunes, because he knows that’s what the people want. He’s not one of those folks that get uptight about playing the old hits…
  • … but he makes them new.  He and his incredible band cooked up cool versions that mix “African Trance, Psychedelia, and 21st century warped dance beats”. It wasn’t at all cringeworthy and at no point do you think WHERE’S JIMMY?
  • (It was a different experience seeing Tom Jones at the Belladrum festival last Friday night. He did It’s Not Unusual with a quasi-reggae beat! And the famous brass intro was nowhere to be heard! That’s the best bloody bit, TOM!)
  • His band is full of brilliant musicians and they feel like a band. He steps aside and listens appreciatively during their solos, letting them have their moment.
  • He looks like he’s having fun the whole time and still sings like he means it. Not phoning it in for the dosh.
  • In one song he lets the guitarist’s son wander up to the front of the stage to dance around. How many stars would put their ego aside for that? He’s Robert Plant, he can share, nae bother!

He’s the perfect blueprint for rock stars on how to grow older gracefully. Stay curious, never stop learning and evolving, be generous to others, keep your mane in good nick… all while retaining your original magic and charisma. He’s at the top of my fantasy Famous Folks To Have Over For Dinner list. No, wait… what the hell would you cook for Robert Plant? That’s too much pressure!

Robert Plant

Photos: hypervocal; anchorshop.

Everyday Life: July 2014

05/Aug/2014

We went down to Dunfermline to visit the in-laws and I spent the whole weekend sneezing and crying. Good ol’ Fife pollen.

We got the royal tour of the allotment…

Sweet peas

It’s unrecognisable from the weedy wasteland we inherited back in 2011. It’s now crammed with tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, leeks, onions, carrots, pumpkins, broad beans, peas, rhubarb, courgettes and even wee apple trees. David and Mary have put so much hard work into it.

Allotment

Peas and raspberry

Meanwhile back in Inverness there’s only one plant in our little rental back yard, but it’s a goodun. It heaved with bees all through July, and a few butterflies too…

Backyard butterfly

Neighbour’s Cat/Donut/Marcel Kitten spent much of the month sprawled out on the deck looking like a sheep waiting to be shorn. He stared up at the insects and occasionally got up to try (and fail) to catch one.

Lounging cat

This packet of bread rolls cracked me up.

One of the better bakers

Things are hotting up with only 43 days until the Scottish independence referendum. The Yes stickers seems to be slathered on more objects than No Thanks stickers round these parts.

Referendum

Lots of nice sunny days in July…

Sunshine on Inverness

… but some rainy ones too, of course. Here’s some a band of American and Canadian pipers getting soaked at the Inverness Highland Games.

Inverness Highland Games

All month I was obsessed with spotting roses on my walks. It was so bloody windy I could never quite catch them in the frame.

Roses

Pool party

29/Jul/2014

This crumbling beauty is Tarlair Swimming Pool in Macduff, Aberdeenshire. It was built in the 1930s in Art Deco style and is one of only three surviving outdoor seaside pools in Scotland.

Tarlair swimming pool

The pool’s outer wall was designed to be fractionally below high-tide level, so the waves could roll in over the edge, refilling it with clean sea water twice a day.

In its heyday it was the place to be, but it closed in 1996 after the impact of indoor heated pools and cheap overseas holidays took hold.

Tarlair swimming pool

The pool then fell into decay. At once point there was a proposal to turn it into a lobster hatchery! That would have been sacrilege for this glamorous old duck.

Tarlair swimming pool

We’d stopped for a nosy on the way back from visiting Pennan, the tiny village where one of Gareth’s favourite films Local Hero was made. Apparently not the original phone box, but Gareth and all the other Children of the 80s wandering around with cameras seemed happy enough…

Pennan

… anyway, I bloody loved this pool! Well, I loved my fantasy version of this pool. Imagine sitting there in a figure-flattering 50s swimsuit and a gigantic hat, sipping a cocktail. Sunny but not skin cancer sunny. Watching bronzed blokes stroll by from behind giant sunglasses.

Tarlair Swimming Pool

Of course the reality would have been children bellowing over their fallen ice creams, and truly shitty weather 90% of the time.

Tarlair swimming pool

Good news: local Macduff residents had a Save Tarlair campaign and eventually a £300,000 essential repairs programme was announced.

Tarlair swimming pool

It doesn’t look like there’s enough dosh to restore it to a working pool, but it’s good to know it will be around.

Tarlair

Life: you’re doing it all wrong

23/Jul/2014
Battling ropes

Chalky hands + battling ropes = happiness

  • Do you ever have those grumpy, paranoid weeks where you feel like you’re the most incompetent person on the planet? That you have nothing of interest to offer and you’ll soon be living in a cardboard box? I’m sure studies have found this phenomenon is 73% more common amongst the self-employed, as there’s no one around to tell you to please be quiet and go make a round of tea for the team.
  • Thank goodness for exercise to restore perspective. I switched my weekly personal training session to 6.30AM as part of Operation Morning Person, which after a decade in operation has finally stuck. Today Shona let me loose on the battling ropes, those weighted rope thingies that you wave up and down. Holy whole body workout, Batman! I could only manage short intervals but afterwards I felt calm, determined; brain realigned with body.
  • We tried to figure out the name of that cat by calling out test names and seeing if he reacted. Hey Tiddles. Bawbag. Fluffhead. Heisenberg. He never really reacts to us anyway so the results were inconclusive. Gareth now generally calls him Donut; I call him Marcel Kitten (that’s one for the Tour de France nerds).
  • The Commonwealth Games start in Glasgow TONIGHT! Bring on the lawn bowls and weird Australian team uniforms! Back in the mid-naughties I worked for a member of the bid team and the 2014 Games sounded impossibly far away. I remember typing up various letters and documents and thinking, I will be so old in 2014 but I’ll be all glamorous and together by then. Ahh, youth!

Thank you, Cat People

22/Jul/2014

… for your fab and funny comments on the last post. I learned a lot, too. Who knew there were microchipped cat flaps that only let in the right cat?

I think the cat must have sensed all the adoration coming its way as he’s been extra aloof this week. No interest in affection; too busy trying to catch insects and snoozing on the shed roof.

Cat on the roof

The borrowed cat

15/Jul/2014

I’ve fallen for the cat next door.

Wallcat

Until now I never understood Cat People. What is the point of cats? They’re so indifferent to you. They don’t seem to care if you’re alive or dead, as long as they’re being fed.

But then the black and white fluffball above moved in to the little house on our left. It immediately started a turf war with the evil green-eyed cat that lives to our right. The battle ground? Our tiny back yard.

Both of these cats share their humans with a dog, so I can understand why they’d fight for the right to lounge peacefully in neutral territory.

After a few weeks of staring contests (as depicted in photo above) and midnight hissing, the new kid came out on top.

At first he just plonked himself under this dense, scraggly bush in the yard, the perfect position to keep an eye on both his own home and the home of his green-eyed enemy. But then he invited himself inside.

Our flat is small; it’s a third of a converted outbuilding. We’re overlooked on all sides so it can feel stuffy and oppressive. We keep the awning window in the bathroom open most times to let some air in. It’s a small window, but just big enough for a determined cat to squeeze through.

One evening Gareth got up from the couch, opened the living room door and nearly jumped a foot in the air when he found the cat sitting on the other side. The cat sauntered in, jumped on the armchair and made itself comfortable.

On the couch again

Neither of us know anything about cats, so we just kind of stared at him. He stared back, then decided he was bored and demanded to be let back outside (at that point, it could climb in through the window, but had yet to acquire the skills to get back out).

Since then he’s just dropped in whenever he damn well pleases. I came home from a meeting to find him conked out on the bed.

Bed cat

Having only had relatively obedient dogs as pets before, the audacity of this cat was fascinating… and endearing. My cat-owning friend LaLa explained to me that many cats take up “second homes”. Evidently he’d decided on us for his crash pad.

I also didn’t realise that cats in boxes is really a thing. I mean I love Maru on YouTube, and had a book called My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes when I was a kid, but had never really thought about cats ’til now. When this guy snoozed in the beer box for four hours straight he won me over forever.

Box cat

I also didn’t know that cats sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Gareth googled it. He was mocking me for being smitten, “You love that cat!” but he’s just as bad. Here they are reading Cat Facts together.

Cattop

The creature is totally shameless. He will snooze for hours in a suitcase or mooch next to you on the couch, but then he’ll hear the footsteps of his Real Human arriving home, the One With The Food, and he’ll spring up and trot away without a backward glance.

Three times this past week he’s even sneaked inside in the middle of the night. We wake at 6AM to find him dozing on the foot of the bed or on the floor. He looks at us all bewildered and regretful, then jumps off and heads back out the bathroom window. We watch him slink down the path back to his real home, like a walk of shame after a long night out.

In some of my jealous, pathetic moments when I’m working from home and just want the company of another living being for a bit longer, I consider offering him a snack. But that would be crossing a line, and it’s kinda great that he hangs around without ever begging for food. He just uses us for a quiet and comfy place to sleep (like four hours in the laundry basket yesterday) and that arrangement is working nicely.

Bag cat - Lap cat

Sometimes I wonder if I should just get my own cat, but I really don’t want one. I’d have to deal with stinky cat food tins and vet bills. Plus, it wouldn’t be as good as this cat. I’m besotted with that Don’t Give A Fuck stare, the wiry whiskers, the belly as fleecy as a sheep’s and the complete disregard for our feelings and furniture. What a champ.

Cat yoga

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