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Shauna Reid

Welcome, weary traveller! I'm Shauna Reid, an Australian author and copywriter who moved to Scotland thirteen years ago in pursuit of adventure.

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Meditation with Don Draper

10 Jun 2016

meditate

There’s a number of items that I write on my Things To Try This Year list each January, never actually do, then faithfully carry forward to the next list.

Top of the list was meditation. I’d tried about nine different meditation apps in an attempt to calm the chattering mind, but always found a petty reason to abandon them. Like the one with waterfall sounds that made me need the loo. Or the one with the husky, manic pixie dream girl voice that left me a confused mix of highly annoyed and… excited.

Last summer I heard Jerry Seinfeld talk about his 40+ year meditation practice on Alec Baldwin’s podcast. He credited twice-daily transcendental meditation for getting him through the madness of prime-time sitcom life. I hadn’t heard much about TM before, I’d mistakenly assumed it was woowoo hippy stuff. But if it worked for Seinfeld, whose ability to get shit done was something I aspired to, maybe there was something to it…

Next thing it was January and I was yet again writing “learn to meditate” on the list. I was also emerging from a grim period of work-related anxiety. It had gone beyond the usual low-grade rumble of self-employment to barely sleeping, barely eating (!?!!), racing heart, daily tears and throwing up.

Of course managing such a thing takes a multi-faceted approach, but I felt drawn to adding meditation to my toolkit. At the Magic Cottage I asked Sas about her practice, knowing she’d been happily meditating daily for over a year. Turned out she was a TM person, too.

In the spirit of Foxy by 40 and armed with evidence of two awesome get-shit-done TM people (along with… Katie Perry!), I signed up for a class.

I had my first lesson in a little room in Edinburgh with flowers and incense and a painting of Maharishi. The technique took all of two minutes to learn. I couldn’t believe the utter simplicity of it. I was given a mantra, then all I had to do was sit on a comfy chair with eyes closed and repeat the mantra inside my head. Unlike other methods I’d attempted you don’t try to stop your thoughts or notice them or do any kind of thought kung fu at all.

It didn’t take long to get into it. The traffic outside faded and the mantra gently rolled between my ears, like socks in a tumble dryer. My body felt pleasantly still and heavy in the chair.

But then that Maharishi painting floated into my head. I started thinking about George Harrison. Then I heard the broooooooiiiiiiiinnnnng of sitar that kicks off Tomorrow Never Knows.

Specifically, it was Tomorrow Never Knows as heard at the end of Season 5, Episode of 8 of Mad Men. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. I watched Don Draper put on the record and sit down in his swanky Eames lounger. I sang along in my head as my thoughts raced.

This has GOT to be in my top five Beatles songs. Nooo. Top three! 

I love that apartment he had with Megan. I want a sunken living room!

This incense smells like musk sticks. Or is it musk sticks that smell like incense? Could you set a musk stick on fire?

Crikey Don, what’s it like to be so good looking? I still love you even though you clearly didn’t think much of this song.

I felt a giggle rise up in my belly and told myself to focus on the bloody mantra. I found it again. And I started to feel good. Heavy and light at the same time. And hyperaware that under the flesh and lard and innards I was just a freaking SKELETON omg how cool is that?

The mantra, still accompanied by Tomorrow Never Knows, retreated to mere soft background music. I felt a delicious stillness. Then a spooky awesome sensation that my arms weren’t there at all.

Soon the lesson was over. I felt a lovely quietness, yet wide awake and energised.

I floated out of the building and decided while I was in Edinburgh I may as well get the bus along to Waitrose to see what’s new in middle class groceries.

(Waitrose does not service us riff-raff north of the Forth Bridges, you see. So I like to go along a few times a year to check out the adjectives and buy something ridiculous.)

I sat up the back of the bus beside a nanny and her two charges. The misbehaving one was named Zephyr. Zephyr! That was worth the ticket price alone.

I toddled round Waitrose, got some poncy cave-aged cheese then hopped on a bus back to Fife.

The instructor had said you could do TM anywhere, so I decided to try a bus meditation.

I settled in to my seat, closed my eyes and got ready to transport myself to my new personal temple of zen. But… I couldn’t remember my bloody mantra.

It was GONE! Curse you Zephyr, for distracting me.

I googled I forgot my mantra. Google was feck all help, but I did learn that Jeff Goldblum says that very line in his Annie Hall cameo appearance!

(How hot was he back then, by the way?)

The next day I went back to Edinburgh for a group meditation session. That just means a bunch of people all sit round in comfy chairs at the same time. I slinked up to the teacher and confessed I’d forgotten my mantra.

“Ahh,” he said, “Happens all the time!”.

Four months on, the mantra is firmly fixed in the memory bank. I’m still building up to the recommended two 20-minutes sessions a day. It’s more like 15 minutes. But I’ve stuck with it!

It’s been the biggest factor in toning down that January anxiety (Ziggy comes a close second!). The more I do it, the less I run away with unhelpful thoughts. I’m in there here and now more often than not.

It’s bonkers that something so mundane can be so helpful. It’s like a tiny superpower, a cloak of calm I can throw over my head, any time or any place I need it. Sometimes when I’m meditating my mind is blissfully blank. Sometimes I figure out problems. Sometimes I just lay back and think of Don.

Operation Foxy By 40

31 May 2016

Foxy by 40

There was an olive in my bra!

It was green and fridge-cold. I’d been scoffing them straight from the jar when the rogue fella slipped and disappeared down the front of my t-shirt.

The olives were a hasty 3pm lunch on a wet and windy Friday last November. I’d been installed on the couch avec laptop since 9am, a mere 700 steps on my Fitbit.

As I rummaged round in my ancient sports bra, wondering if I could snuffle out that olive like a truffle pig, I caught the reflection of my faded tracky dacks and paint-stained grey hoodie in the kitchen window.

Hmmm… you know what? I thought. I think I’m ready to take things up a notch!

That’s when Operation Foxy by 40 really kicked off.

The moment I turned 38 back on 1 November, my mind immediately skipped over 39 and started thinking about the big Four Oh:

  • How did I want to feel on 1 November 2017?
  • What do I want to be doing?
  • What will everyday life to look like?
  • What would happen if I got out of my own bloody way for awhile?

I’m not talking about radical change here. It’s more a gentle renovation.

I just don’t want to wake up on 1 November 2017 feeling irritated or somewhat disappointed, like after an episode of Outlander without an Adult Scene.

On the whole the 30s have been bloody awesome. I’ve navigated some Mega Highs and Truly Shitty Bits. What I haven’t handled so well is all the spaces in between. For every big event there’s been a corresponding period of hiding and neglect that’s been at least three times as long. I’m getting on in years and I want to stop messing about. So I’m working like a mofo to make the everyday stuff more solid and sparkly.

Why Foxy by 40? It’s a bit tongue in cheek, and I like alliteration. For me, foxy is a feeling and a state of mind!

This is a two-year experiment to see how it would feel to take the best bits of 20s me and combine them with the best of the 30s into a SUPER SHAUNY. Or at least a slightly more competent, consistent and cared-for Shauny.

From the 20s:
Reclaim:  Determination, spark and endurance. The joy of putting in solid effort over time. The joy of blogging ones guts out.
Ditch: Self loathing. The weight obsession (and you thought it was all about the lard, young Shauna… I’ve got two words for you… gravity and greyhairs)

From the 30s:
Keep: Perspective. Not taking things too personally. Holding what I love lightly.
Ditch: Hiding. Denial. Lack of exercise. That low-grade-meh, second-gear feeling.

Seven months in, I’m feeling more confident that I’m not just pissfarting around this time! So I’ll be doing regular updates on my Foxy by 40 adventures on here. Follow if you fancy this bold quest to:

  • hide less and have more fun
  • improve my health (not as lip service; not as dieting and restriction in disguise)
  • build a wardrobe less funereal (yes, it’s still dire, two years since I wrote about it)
  • put olives onto a plate instead of into my brassiere.

 

P.S. My “monthly” newsletter is coming back from the dead! (last seen March 2014). There will be bonus stories, writing tools and maybe even a mini-column from the Mothership. Hop on board here if that sounds good…

The Mothership at 60

03 May 2016

Mini Mothership

Today The Mothership turns 60!

I stand by all the warm and fuzzy things I wrote on her 50th, so I wanted to share with you ten of my favourite Mothership moments.

Happy birthday, dearest Mum – I love you loads. Thank you for keeping me on the straight and narrow for 38.5 years. Thank you for providing me with things to blog about for nearly 16 of them. Can’t wait for your royal visit next month!

. . .

1. On real estate:

MOTHERSHIP: Three flights of stairs? I don’t think I can do this very often.

SHAUNA: That’s the idea.

M: Don’t you go insane from everyone else’s noise?

S: I heard people having sex this morning.

M: Don’t you worry about being trapped on the third floor?

S: No.

M: I see you have a balcony. Has anyone tried to break in yet?

S: No.

M: You’ll be burgled if you don’t burn to death. How much rent are you paying?

2. On meeting her new son-in-law:

“Are you cold, Gareth? You’re sitting there shivering!”

“Oh I’m fine, Mrs -”

“Don’t bullshit me, Gareth!”

Mum, me and Gareth embracing his inner Aussie

Mum, me and Gareth finding his inner Aussie

3. On embracing a digital world:

“I am having trouble finding things on the Internet lately.”

“Have you tried Google?”

“Google? Is that www G-O-G-G-L-E dot com?”

“No, that’s goggle.”

“Oh. So if I type google in to Yahoo, will I find Google?”

It's my lucky day!

A photo posted by Shauna Reid (@shaunareid) on

4. On the death of our beloved dog Bert: He really loved kangaroo mince in the end!

5. On a rural Australia road trip:

Kimba is famous for its Big Galah, lovely sandstone buildings and as the birthplace of “Cats” midfielder, Corey Enright. Can’t ask much more of a town of around 800 people.

Oh, did I mention that you can buy a pair of jeans for $2, a collarless shirt for $1, a paperback mystery novel for 10c, home-grown lemons for 5c each or a like-new dressing gown (Giovanni) for $2? You can get all this and more from the Uniting Church Op Shop.

6. And another:

Yesterday morning whilst enjoying my rolled oats, I was fortunate enough to witness a lovely sight – a black and white border collie, tail waving enthusiastically…

The dog was full of life, not pulling on his lead, but bouncing along on three legs. The rear right side leg was missing.

I figure I need to remember my own blessings and bounce through life more often.

7. On my brilliant career: Hope your receptionist job goes well – you can do anything with all that experience working at KFC!

Mum, me and cousin whose name escapes me. Our 80s game is strong.

Mum, me and cousin whose name escapes me. Our 80s game is strong.

8. On literature: I really need to read that book, Let’s Talk About Lionel.

See also film: Shauna, have you seen that new thriller, Tinker Tailor Sailor Spy?

9. On Paris: Well, you know what they say about Paris. Pickpockets and bum pinchers. That’s what it’s all about. If they’re not stealing your wallet they’re pinching you on the arse.

10. On health and safety:

On Tuesday we got the train into Edinburgh.

“So that woman with the keys, does she always have to open and close the doors?”

“The conductor? Yes, that’s her job.”

“Does she have to open and close the doors at every station?”

“Yes, every station.”

“What about in the event of an emergency?”

“!!!??”

“Does she still have to open and close the doors then?”

“Umm… I imagine so. Unless she was indisposed by the emergency. Actually, I DON’T KNOW.”

“Well she’s the only one with the keys.”

“Mum, have you noticed that you always manage to think of the absolute WORST case scenario in every situation?”

She peered out across the water for a long minute. “Wow, you’re right! I do do that, don’t I?”

Me and Mothership, 1978

Mothership with gormless ginger bairn, 1978

Up & Running 5K Course starts Monday

15 Apr 2016

Up & RunningA quick shoutout: we have an Up & Running 5K course starting on Monday! We’re running it as a live group again, as opposed to self-study, so you’d be part of a great global group of women all starting at the same time. The 8-week course gets you ready to complete a 5K. Julia is a brilliant running coach, and I am a devoted cheerleader! So if you’d like support to get running, we have 3 spots leftYou can find out more here if you fancy! Update: all spots taken now.

The Magic Cottage

12 Apr 2016

I have to mention another life-affirming weekend, way back at the end of January. Not to say the default harrumph-around-the-house weekends aren’t life affirming, but anyway…

The sassy Sas invited me and three fellow self-employed ladies to the Cotswolds for what she dubbed a #ladybossretreat.

cottage

We stayed in the gorgeous ye olde cottage above. It was designed to age just so over the centuries, to reach a perfect level of crumbliness in time for the invention of Instagram.

window

I’d travelled seven hours on the train in lieu of an hour’s flight, to give myself a ridiculous amount of time to switch from introvert to social mode. My plan was to curl up in an armchair and simply observe at first, like a crow lurking on a telephone wire. Or offer to make tea all the time.

But the moment everyone arrived all friendly and laughing, and pretty much immediately changed into loungewear and slippers, I felt a wee jolt of elation and meant-to-be-ness. I was all in, baby!

Once the cosy fire was lit, we gathered round and each said what we hoped to get out of the weekend. My thing was a desire to feel more legitimate about being self-employed. Despite paying my bills for going on three years, it still felt accidental and fleeting, like I was really just noodling around on the internet.

fire

Next Sas each had us draw a card from a deck of animal cards, so we’d have a little symbol for the weekend. I drew a card with a bat on it. A BAT? What the hell? But according to the little book that went with the cards, the bat was a symbol of rebirth. I was up for that.

bed

I wanted to nick that bedspread!

Over the next day, each person had an hour in the spotlight where we talked about an aspect of our business that needed a sounding board. Everyone raised what seemed like a very straightforward, practical topic but they all turned out to be so much deeper and interesting. Layers were unravelled, buttons were pressed, honest conversations were had, emotional ponds were dredged and all the bodies and shopping trolleys came up. It was exhilarating.

I started my own stint waffling on about editing services and content calendars. Then somehow the next minute every long-held long-buried shitty doubt, fear and crazyass thought began to speeeewwwwww out of my mouth. Well I’m actually a fraud and not a real writer and I only got a book deal because it was ancient times with hardly any blogs or weight loss memoirs yet and it would never happen now coz you need 5 million followers on Instagram and zoodles and smoothies and a shapely arse to get published and the running book was an accident too and it’s not like it’s a Kate Atkinson or a Marian Keyes or something…

Then Clare said something that stopped me in my tracks. I don’t know if she’ll even remember saying it but I’ll never forget the moment. She said something like, “Shauna, there are many different kinds of writing. There are many different kinds of writers. But they’re all writers.

For the past five years when a lovely baby bird Up & Runners says, “I’m not a real runner”, we always reply, “Are you running? Then you’re a runner!”. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow or if you take walking breaks, you are doing it. You’re allowed to run, you are a runner, there is room for everyone.

Clare made me see that likewise, it doesn’t matter if you write award-winning novels or inane blog posts about cats and travels… you’re allowed to write, you are a writer, there is room for everyone.

But you know someone who isn’t a writer? Someone who doesn’t do any bloody writing! That’s been me, for long periods, frozen by my wacky thoughts. The you suck voice was no longer the voice of old critics and trolls, it had become my own. And I realised, there by the stylish fire, that it was time to stop listening.

That evening we wrote down all the crap we were ready to let go of, then SET FIRE TO IT in a ritualistic manner. Ooh that felt great. I had some Airmail stickers in the back of my notebook so we stuck those to our letters… FECK OFF old crap! Fly away now!

bat

The next morning I got up early and went for a walk in the mist, peering at other crumbly cottages and feeling so much lighter. Then this little tiny cat tottered over to say hello.

cat

The weekend was over all too soon. I spent the seven hours back to Scotland alternately in tears and grinning like a loon. And texting Gareth, BEST WEEKEND EVER, btw we’re getting a cat… TOMORROW!

Had the desired outcome for the weekend been achieved? Yes, I felt more legit. I also felt totally pumped! That’s how I summed it up to those four brilliant women. PUMPED! So many old cobwebs had been blasted from the brain, leaving room for focused action, as the Sasmeister calls it.

Of course, it’s taken me two months to process it all and actually write something, but I always take a wee while to warm up.

Big love and a gazillion thank you’s to Clare, DeeSas and Tamsyn!

train

Here’s Ziggy!

31 Mar 2016

There’s a fair bit to catch up on from the past two months but first we need to get the CAT SPAM out of the way.

Yes, it finally happened. As so many of you said it would. We got a cat!

And she’s a non-Neighbour Cat, too! Her name is Ziggy and she’s a 2.5 year old tabby with a fluffy ginger belly. We adopted her from a local shelter. After a shitload of contemplation and angst.

Ziggy

I started stalking the shelter website about three months before we moved back to Fife. So it was a full six months of umm-ing and ahh-ing before the moment of action arrived. I kept saying to Gareth:

Now, we don’t have to do this!
It’s a big commitment, I know.

A cat can live for twenty years or more.
So you need to think about this very verrrrrry carefully.
You can say no!
I won’t be offended at all!
Just be honest with me!
I won’t do it unless you’re fully on board!

He kept looking at me like I was off my rocker, saying he was cool either way. It wasn’t until the first night we bought Ziggy home and I was staring at the ceiling at 3am with guts churning like a washing machine, that I realised the commitment issues were MINE ALL MINE.

What the hell have I done?
I don’t know what to do with a freaking cat!
What if she lives ’til she’s 25?

What if I don’t like her as much as Neighbour Cat?
What if she’s a jerk?
What if she pees all over everything all day long?
What if she gets really bored and hates our guts and claws our faces off in our sleep?

I can barely commit to a free Boots loyalty card so I dunno how I managed to twist it in my head that it was Gareth holding up the process. But anyway. ZIGGY IS BRILLIANT!

Little pudding

In the interest of hitting publish on a blog post before the next decade I am going to hit you up with some quick Ziggy facts:

1. She has cute white socks! She looks like she’s off to play a round of golf or referee a snooker match.

Catsignal

2. One paw has a tabby-coloured toe though, for added cuteness.

3. She is tiny wee! I now realise that Neighbour Cat wasn’t just “festively fluffy”, she was a bloody large cat.

Ziggy with her friend the Squirrel doorstop

Ziggy with her friend the Squirrel doorstop

4. She doesn’t really sit on your lap, but she loves to curl herself around your forearm and use the palm of your hand as a pillow then take a nap. Melt!

Cuddle

5. She is a near-silent cat. When Alfie/Neighbour Cat was hungry she’d get vocal and sometimes tear open the Whiskas pouches herself. Ziggy just waves the end of her tail like a rattlesnake when she’s hungry. And every time we sing “Huuuungry Taaaaail!” to the tune of Eric Carmen’s Hungry Eyes

6. Sometimes she makes a quiet “brrrrt!”, an almost Space Invaders kind of sound, if she wants to play or have a nap in your palm.

7. As per cat cliches, I bought her a cat bed and she prefered to sleep in a cardboard box instead. But a couple of weeks ago she finally got in and fell for its cushioned charms. SUCKA!

beds

cat-bed

8. Her favourite game is Chase The Ping Pong ball. You have to say, “Ready Ziggy?… GO!” and throw the ball across the room, and she springs off like a dog, paws scuttling along the tiles. Then she pounces and swats it around. Extra cute with the aforementioned white gloves, like a tiny goalkeeper.

9. She also has a pet golf ball. Gareth had dropped it in the hallway when we moved in and it rolled under the radiator. We realised this when we heard her battering it off the skirting boards at 3am.

Ziggy and her pet golf ball

10. She falls for the Cats In Circles thing, every time.

Ziggy in Circles

11. Turns out that yes, you were all right. There is room in my heart for more than one cat. I LOVE HER SO MUCH, SHE IS MY LITTLE PAL!

Do you like my summer house?

Do you like my summer house?

Amsterplanning

22 Feb 2016

Sunset at Schiphol Airport

Amsterdam is the best Euro Weekend Destination from Scotland, I reckon. There’s other cities you can fly to in the same amount of time, but Amsterdam is the perfect blend of Different Enough From Home and Non-Painful Journey From The Airport.

It also brings that miraculous feeling of childhood day trips to Orange – you travel for just over an hour, then magically arrive in a exotic new world! In Amsterdam that means canals and stylish shops, whereas Orange it was traffic lights and a Dymocks bookshop and a McDonalds, OMG. Not to mention Franklins supermarket with its bargain jelly fruit. And that one time the Mothership accidentally rolled the car over my foot in the K-Mart car park.

Anyway! In early December I met Julia in Amsterdam for another Up & Running Coffee ‘N’ Planning Summit. This was our third meet-up there, although it feels like we’ve been more often, so engrained are our Amsterdam rituals and routines.

Hotel Highlight #1 – the resident cats. Sometimes if the door behind the fancy reception desk was open, you could see them sauntering around and/or shredding the walls of the back office.

Hotel Cat in Amsterdam

Hotel Highlight #2 – Cocktail bar!

The best cocktail ever

One evening Julia suggested we go see a movie. She’s a big Apple fan so was keen to see the Steve Jobs film. I was keen to see Michael Fassbender so happily agreed.

Julia was new to the work of the Fassbender and about five minutes in she turned to me and whispered, “Oh my word, who the f*ck is this guy?”

“I KNOW! Even in the Dad jeans, he’s still got it!”

Steve Jobs the movie

When not drooling over the cinema we also drooled at shop windows. I was delighted to find this first-person toy car to raise Gareth’s hackles. I AM €22.95!

Shop windows in Amsterdam

The traditional-because-it’s-happened-three-times finale of the Up & Running Summit is the Dreaming & Scheming Session at our favourite cafe Villa Zeezicht, home to the great apple pie. It’s about three inches high, a veritable wall of apples, served with cinnamon ice cream…

Villa Zeezicht - the best apple pie ever!

Previously the Session involved us ordering the pie then each taking a big blank piece of paper. We’d divide the page into four squares, like this:

U&R planning method

Then for the next half hour, between bites of pie, we’d get real quiet and think about the year ahead. For both Up & Running and our individual life (relationships, home, work, anything) we’d come up with a list of Sensible, Doable things we wanted to do or achieve, then a list of Wild & Crazy, outrageous impossible insane batshit silly things.

I would have thought this all a bit too woo-woo before I met Julia, but now I love it. It’s just taking a bit of time each year to think, where do I want to steer this ship? Because even if the ship gets attacked by pirates or crashes into a cliff, if you were generally headed where you fancied going it all seems easier to deal with somehow.

Also, the Wild & Crazy exercise really fires up the imagination. Sometimes, what seemed crazy and impossible turns out to be perfectly doable a few years down the line.

This time we shook things up a bit. Rather than big lofty goals, we both wanted to work on making our everyday lives more purposeful and productive. So instead of the big piece of paper system, we went stationery shopping (any excuse) and each got a new notebook and pen. I got this notebook because I love that ampersand, but it has an Artistotle quote, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”.

Neither of us can be arsed with perfection, which is why we won’t be quoted on the front of a fancy notebook thousands of year from now. Even so, we started the Session by writing out what our perfect working day would look like. Ideal would have been a better word – I’m still experimenting with that bloody morning routine and learning how I best get shit done.

Dreaming and scheming

Then we wrote down what stuff we wanted to do in 2016, and finished with some Crazy Dreaming. My lists were not that wild this year. They were kind of cosy and doable. You might say I’m getting old and crusty and lazy. But I think it’s more I want to appreciate and enjoy what I already have and make sure I’m giving that my full attention, instead of racing off to a random thing.

Nearly two months into 2016 I’ve already ticked some things off from the Cosy and Doable list. Pow! And I’ve booked that cat-scratched hotel again for December, just in case Julia put a return trip on her list too.

Flying over the Netherlands

Like a goose

20 Jan 2016

It’s one of those projects you begin with wild enthusiasm, then immediately wonder why the bloody hell you started. We’re painting the inside walls of the garage, or more accurately Gareth’s Hobby Lair. It’s home to bicycles, motorbikes, homemade homebrewing contraptions, and tools of many kinds.

Shortly after moving in he noticed that the garage floor wasn’t sealed properly, so his hobbies were getting coated in a fine layer of grey dust. He spent a couple of weekends sealing the floors. This turned the floors a grim, depressing grey. Which in turn made the grim, depressing grey of the concrete block walls look even more so.

The logical solution was to paint the walls a bright white. We calculated it would be a long weekend’s work but it’s been three so far. One reason is that the concrete blocks are chunky and rough so you have to hurl paint at them repeatedly then really stab it in with your brush, over and over and over again. But the main reason is beause it’s flipping cold and we can only work in short shifts before the shivers and madness take over.

Personally I’m sort of enjoying it. It’s not like painting inside, you can really slap it on and make a mess. We turn the radio to 6 Music and sing along and grind the paint into the bricks in time with the music. The first wall was accompanied by Lemmy tributes. The second was poignant with non-stop Bowie. So many brilliant tunes. Devastated. Not sure if they will pay homage to our fallen Eagle this weekend. I hope we don’t lose any more 70s icons before we hit the last wall.

Although it’s been a pretty mild winter so far, Gareth isn’t enjoying the cold. Between the garage shifts and his long days toiling in a chilly brewery he just can’t get warm. He claims after 43 Scottish winters his bones are finally turning to mould.

He keeps watching Outback Truckers, in which fair dinkum Aussie truck drivers haul their giant loads all over the reddest, dryest parts of the great Southern land. He insists he wants to go the Pilbara as seen on a recent episode, and just “dry out for a few months”. I reminded him that he struggled to cope with a mere 30’C overnight in Sydney, unable to do nowt but lay very still on the bed squarking, “Too hot! Don’t touch me!”. But no, this time he says he’d welcome extreme heat and the many creatures that want to kill you.

The other day I started this cool Make Films course, in an attempt to make my wonky egg vending machine videos better. Our first mission was to make a teeny 15 second film about our weekend. Xanthe is an kind and generous teacher, encouraging you to start small and not worry about techy details – just get in there and shoot snippets of your everyday life. My issue was I kept forgetting to shoot. But when I did, I’m proud to say I finally managed to hold the phone horizontally! And I was delighted when I played back a snippet of Gareth painting a mercifully non-nobbly chunk of garage wall that I’ve captured his grumbling!

I missed his first line, which was:

I’m going to fly south for the winter.

Then he says:

Like a goose.

*large, dramatic sigh*

I don’t care if it’s dusty.

I’m going anyway.

This is the stuff I’ll treasure when I’m 80 years old, finally retired to the Pilbara.

2015 Review Thingo

13 Jan 2016

Happy new year, comrades! Here’s the seventh annual installment of Review Thingo. Previous episodes: 2014, 2013201220112010 and 2009.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?
I didn’t make any resolutions, as I thought I’d try quieting my chipmunk brain by taking things one day at a time. Which worked a treat, except for the days I simultaneously took things 1234 days into the past and 567 days into the future. Mwahahhaa.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Lainey, Linda, Helen, Jen, Georgia, Sarah… I know I’m missing someone!?

4. Did anyone close to you pass away?
The one and only Clare and the one and only Dotto.

5. What countries did you visit?
Austria and the Netherlands.

6. What would you like to have next year that you lacked in this one?
How about less of something I had too much of in 2015? Time spent online. Just so Gareth will stop tsking, “It’s too late for screens!” when I’m faffing around on my phone at 11pm. But both me and my weary Instagram-scrolling thumb know he’s right. I need to read a book, or go to sleep!

7. What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • March 3Wedding anniversary on a wild and stormy Skye.
  • May 31 – Cackling over a few drams of whisky at the Jolly Judge, a great end to a weekend with Up & Running comrades.
  • July 31 – Walking to Sandwood Bay, “perhaps the most beautiful beach in Britain”. I did way too much whinging with my unfit lungs and too-small shoes that day, but crikey it was a beautiful beach!

Sandwood Bay

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Remaining self-employed.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Hermit-like behaviour.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This gigantic bread bin, a housewarming gift from me to me. It’s like the bread Tardis. You can fit a loaf, a dozen rolls and a family of four in there.
Giant bread bin

12. Where did most of your money go?
Groceries! And moving.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving into our new house. Peggy strutting down the hall in Mad Men.

Peggy strutting down the hall

14. What song will always remind you of this year?
Regret by Everything Everything. So bloody catchy.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

More content.

b) thinner or fatter?
Slightly lighter!

c) richer or poorer?
About the same.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Weight training. Fiction reading. Music listening!

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Faffing around. Get on with it, lady!

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In our new house avec in-laws. The triumph of the day was this Self-Saucing Chocolate Cranberry pudding. Why it’s a winner:

  1. It’s stupidly easy – takes 10 mins to put together or you can assemble in advance, up to the point of pouring over the boiling water.
  2. It’s a festive crowd pleaser – the cinnamon and cranberries taste Christmasy without the involvement of evil, shrivelled dried fruit
  3. It sauces itself!  – that blew my mind at my parents’ 1980s dinner parties and continues to blow my mind today!
Chocolate Cranberry Pudding

Pic from Sainsbury’s website as mine was not photogenic!

19. Did you fall in love this year?
No.

20. What was your favourite TV program?
The Americans! Season 3 was a cracker, the best yet. So I’m still on my crusade to convert people to the superb spyfest. Gareth is now up to speed after I wore him down with months of pestering (reliable KGB technique).

The Americans

21. What was the best book you read?
Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. As I was reading it I thought, this is way too woo-woo for me. But the takeaway from that great Pixar story – to paraphrase inelegantly, when you’re right in the middle of something it always feels sucky – has saved me 275 buckets of angst since. It’s just the sucky middle bit! Carry on dude!

22. What was your favourite film?
Way back on January 2 Gareth and I watched We Are The Best!, in which three girls in 1980s Stockholm start a punk band. I watched 23 films in 2015 (I kept a log! #dorkalert) and this is the one we still quote. Hate the sport! Hate the sport!

We Are The Best!

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 38 and I spent the day grumbling into a pile of moving boxes.

24. What kept you sane?
Chatting to Neighbour Cat during the work day. I’m still coming to terms with the one-sidedness of that relationship and accepting she’s never going to trek 150 miles down the A9 back to us, like a curmudgeonly homing pigeon.

What?

25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I was in love with Philip and Elizabeth Jennings on The Americans, even in their most dodgy 1980s spy disguises. Then there’s the ongoing fancying of President Obama. Loved his episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. And this State of the Union photo alters the state of my mind.

State of the Union

26. Who did you miss?
I really missed my Aussie pal Jen. It was her first year of being a mum, wish I could have been there to chat and/or babysit.

Now let’s get on with 2016!

Everyday Life: October and November 2015

30 Dec 2015

Tram meets horse-n-cart, Vienna

There’s much more to Vienna than schnitzel, but two months on it shines in the memory like a tender, crispy beacon.

Delicious schnitzel in Vienna, Austria

Rhiannon and I spent a weekend in Vienna for a two-years-overdue celebration of Ten Years Living In The UK. When not busy gnawing schnitzels, my jaw was dropped in awe at the State Hall of the National Library of Austria…

State Hall of the Austrian National Library

State Hall of the Austrian National Library

(I love ye olde globes where the map of Australia is incomplete)

State Hall of the Austrian National Library

… as well as gobs and gobs of art in the many galleries. Happy eyeballs, grumpy feet. The Schiele exhibition at the Leopold was bloody brilliant and I had one of those Holy Shit I’m Not In Cowra Anymore, Toto moments seeing Klimt’s Judith and The Kiss at the Belvedere. Equally excellent was the Belvedere cafe’s chocolate passionfruit cake!

Another highlight: while trawling through this Masterpieces of German Expressionism exhibition, I noticed a boy about ten years old running between the galleries taking photos of paintings with a digital camera. Oh look at his happy wee face, I thought. Then I realised all the artworks he snapped had naked ladies in them. Whatever floats your boat, kid!

Lower Belvedere Orangery, Vienna

What Eurojaunt would be complete without a supermarket crawl. We saw many cakes, breads and things in tubes…

Baked things in Vienna

Things in tubes, Vienna supermarket

Back in Blighty, there was one emotional Friday where we said farewell to both Neighbour Cat (seen here with her Final Brekkie)…

Neighbour Cat's last supper with us

… and Gareth’s brewery colleague Ali. We drowned our sorrows with fine Belgian beers at The Anderson.

The Anderson, Fortrose

Then came a blur of moving boxes, more goodbyes and soaking up the Inverness autumn colours. All accompanied by gut-churning anxiety. Intellectually, I understand that doing anything new in life involves discomfort and uncertainty, but I seemed to have a harder time than usual riding those waves of emotion. Anyone out there find it tricky? What helps you? Since then I’ve been working on the little things that keep me on a more even keel, so I’d love to hear your ideas. In those crazy days before the move, a good long walk by the river always worked a treat.

Morning light at the Ness Islands, Inverness

Rainbow over the River Ness, Inverness

Look up - trees on the Ness Islands

Autumn tree at Eden Court, Inverness

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