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Shauna Reid

Welcome, weary traveller! I'm Shauna Reid, an Australian author and copywriter living in Scotland.

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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

Return to the Kingdom

09 Dec 2015

After two great years the Highland Experiment is over. We’re moving back to the Fife!

Inverness Castle

Update: we’ve moved back to Fife! We’ve been here five weeks now and it’s taken me awhile to emerge from a pile of work and boxes. Luckily Jennette and I had scheduled a blogging pact break so the Conservative Party is none the richer for my slacktitude.

There were many reasons for the move. Wanting to live closer to Gareth’s parents, new career opportunities, more affordable housing, and plain old missing the Fife Life. Alright, I admit, when we found out Neighbour Cat was leaving the building... that kind of sealed the deal. 😉

Just before we moved north in 2013 I wrote:

“I’m not scared of the unknown. I’m not worrying if this is the right or wrong move. It’s just a move. I’m not one to wang on about “The Universe” or fate or destiny… I reckon life is a mish-mosh of a) conscious decisions and b) completely random shit. So I will let things unfold, try to be open and choose whatever path feels best at the time. Something will happen up there, and whatever that is, even if it sucks I’ll get through it eventually.”

Well bloody hell, a lot happened up there! I made fabbo new friends for life, bumbled into self-employment, pootled around the Highland landscapes, drank many teaspoons of whisky. And the difficult things that happened, like that stupid mole-y git Wally, we muddled through them. Damn 2013 Shauna, you wise.

To be honest, right before we moved up north I wasn’t a happy bunny, deep down. I was restless, stuck and constantly annoyed with myself. The Highland Times were a fantastic kick up the arse to get out of my rut and do things differently. And learn to be kinder to myself. I’ll no doubt be falling down and clawing out of self-created holes to the end of my days, but it’s all good. I always reckon, if you can get to the end of the year and feel even 1% smarter and more self-aware than you were at the end of the year before, that’s progress. So at the end of two years, I feel approx. 73% better than before. Pow!

I have a Highlands wrap-up post in the works, but in summary it was such a bittersweet feeling to leave. Of course Inverness put on a late burst of sunshine in our last week to be all, “Smell ya later!”.

So back here Fifeside, we’ve swapped the castle and the river and the crappy little flat and the memory of the fluffy visitor for quiet village life and a great wee house! I now have a tree to look at while I’m working instead of a tiny velux window that pigeons would shit on like clockwork every morning.

Best of all, the bathroom has an excellent shower! I’ve never lived somewhere with a powerful one before. I nearly cried the first time I stood under there and the conditioner blasted right off my head. “The same thing happened to me!” said baldy Gareth. Ha ha ha.

New view

Everyday Life: September 2015

11 Nov 2015

Crikey, I’m way behind on life! There’s so much to catch up on. First of all: September report.

September was obviously a hard month with losing our lovely friend Clare at the start of it. There doesn’t seem to be anything stage-like about the Stages of Grief at all. They happen out of order and/or at the same time and/or in a continuous loop. All your senses are raw and heightened. One minute you’re smiling at a memory, then the next minute you’re raging at the stupid slugs that keep sneaking under the stupid back door of your stupid flat. How come those slimy bastards get to be alive?

There was also a deep, deeper appreciation for everything. For friends near and far, for getting to be here at all, for beautiful feasts for the eyeballs like this one.

torridon

How’s that for a clumsy segue?! But we took a drive one Sunday arvo and ended up here, just outside Sheildaig. I reckon that’s the very best thing about Inverness – it’s got all the mod cons, but you’re so close to proper quiet, mind-clearing wilderness.

Another Sunday we woke up to find some rotter had smashed our car window. I love Gareth’s annoyed expression in the remaining glass. When the repair guy came, Neighbour Cat jumped into the back of his van and found a box to sit in.

Smashed car window

Loved the peaceful gardens at the House for an Art Lover in Glasgow.

flowers

Neighbour Cat practicing her most forlorn expression.

forlorn

The best part about the long drive down the A9 is stopping at The Mountain Cafe in Aviemore, the best cafe in the Highlands. It’s crazy popular with the queue usually spilling down the stairs and out the door, but always worth the wait. I believe the owner is a New Zealander! Antipodeans know how to give good cafe. The food is bright and light, yet indulgent and comforting. And of course there’s bloody great cakes and coffee. Hubba hubba!

potato

This is Neighbour Cat’s arch enemy, Little Socks. She’s a real piece of work and in October she beat up Neighbour Cat and scratched her eye. Oooooh I was spewing. I don’t know how parents cope if their child gets bullied. It’s distressing enough when the victim is an indifferent cat that doesn’t even belong to you!

nemsis

The month ended same as the previous two Septembers – cheering runners at the Inverness Marathon. No friends in action this year but I still loved watching. This marshall at Mile 26 was bloody hilarious, telling the runners, “you’ve come too far to give up now” and that there was free beer at the finish line. At the end of this video you can faintly hear someone asking, “Is there really free beer?” and him muttering, “Naw, there’s no beer.”

I hope you catch lots of bugs in your remaining years

13 Oct 2015

^ That’s what Gareth said in farewell to Neighbour Cat as he left for work on Friday morning.

The black & white assassin is finally away to her new house, fifteen months since she first sauntered into our living room uninvited.

We were so lucky to get seven bonus weeks of cat sitting. Her owner was full of thank you’s for helping her out of a tight spot, but the pleasure was all ours. We loved her already but full time residency let us get to know her lunatic ways on a whole new level.

Since she didn’t have her real family to hang out with, we made an effort to keep her entertained. She really dug our high tech yarn toy. Please excuse the hairy carpet in this video and focus on the cute…

When she wasn’t snoozing on that old duvet she would take up residence atop Gareth’s motorbike leathers.

Alfie on the leathers

She continued to eat like gannet, and on this occasion decided to open the Whiskas herself when Gareth dared to arrive home ten minutes late. Looks like she may have been about to make a sandwich…

It's Whiskas time

She’d frequently tap at this particular window to be let in. She’d never realise it was already open, despite it being the same kind of window as the others she entered through. Please excuse her grubby pawprints and the washing machine on spin cycle and focus on the cute…

“What the hell are we going to do now?” I asked Gareth on Friday night as we stared at an abandoned Dreamie on the kitchen floor.

“We’re going to have Empty Nest Syndrome then get divorced,” he said. “I read about it in The Guardian!”.

There’s a real space left behind by the feline formerly known as Marcel Kitten (’til we found out her real name was Alfie, then subsequently known as Alfie Pops, Alfinator, Alfredo, Alfonso, Alf Stewart, Alfie Pudding, Sprocket, Pantaloons or Lady Poostinks).

But as I said to her owner, it was an honor to know her. If you’d told us two years ago that the highlight of our Highland Experiment would be frequent visits from a sweet, grumpy, hilarious, spider-chasing four-legged stranger, we’d not have believed it. I treasure every swipe, every snore, every snooze on my lap; every furry blurry leap through the window.

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