23 Jun 2021

Hestia in the time of Coronavirus .... 2021

My last blog post here was March 2020 and looking back over the past 12 months brings back feelings of so much fear, uncertainty, helplessness, Barnard Castle, anger, hope and the sense of life just slipping past and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

In 2020, I grew lots of tomato plants and salad leaves and was so incredibly fortunate to have Sonshine and Tartarus at home with me and a big garden with a ladycave we could escape into.

Now it's June 2021 and Tartarus and I have both had our two vaccinations with Sonshine due to get his second jab in a few weeks - what kind of miracle is that?! And yet we are STILL not free of this damned situation.

What did I do with my year of being confined to barracks? Did I learn Spanish? Paint masterful watercolours? Write that book?


Although I DID keep my Gaelic up and am sitting at 560 days of an unbroken streak.  But I still don't think I could order two pints of beer in The Park Bar in Glasgow though!

I have watched a LOT of youtube, listened to gazillions of podcasts, bought lots of online courses (and then never completed the courses, of course!), watched the entire six seasons of Bosch on Amazon, the French 'Spiral' series (note to self: never ever get on the wrong side of the Parisian flics!) discovered a lot of Scandi crime ... and took up skipping.

Have also injured myself on a regular basis with the skipping too - it's not the same effortless fun at 58 as it was when I was 10!

First of all I skipped too much and developed such sore calves that I couldn't walk properly and had to waddle like a portly penguin. That lasted about 5 days and provided a lot of hilarity for hubby and son as I hopped up and down the stairs.

The next thing that happened was knee pain that just would not go away. Fortunately a lovely crime-writing physiotherapist suggested some exercises for my IT band which did the trick, but it took WEEKS before I had the confidence to launch my body skywards without my knee singing an urgent protest.

My most recent war wound through skipping is somehow hurting my back between my shoulder blades.  At first I thought my sports bra was just too tight, but heck-almighty no.  I ended up on my hands and knees on the lawn, desperately catting and cowing (proper yoga parlance - not!) so that I could stand up and hobble into the kitchen.

I am rapidly approaching the stage of just giving up fighting the flab and sinking gracefully into a vat of cheese and crackers.

And that's where I am just now - sore back, no skipping, unfit, eating kitkats by the packet, drinking gin and tonic by the pint. Other than that - life in the time of coronavirus is marvellous.

How about you? Are you still out there reading this? Are you still blogging? Did YOU write that novel? Tell me everything :)  

19 Mar 2020

Hestia and life in the time of coronavirus

One day, our diaries will be historical documents, so we might as well document what's happening.

The virus isn't in Argyll & Bute yet - or at least there are no publicly confirmed cases in the area that I've heard about at the moment.  But that will change.  And it might change because of the Easter holidays and the University students who have been told to go home.  And maybe not to go back to uni this term.  That's a lot of bodies on the move back to distant communities.

Sonshine is just finishing second year at St Andrews and lives in a house with two other Scottish lads (Dirty Harry and Fightin' Fraser).  Who are lovely. 

Tartarus has driven up to St Andrews today to bring home Sonshine and whatever worldly possessions he wants to keep.  Because it might be the case that we go into some kind of lockdown scenario and they will not be back before the end of the lease on their property.  I think we will be kissing the refundable deposit goodbye.

I wonder what the boys are doing about the gas and electric.  *can feel financial panic rising* Maybe today isn't the best day to be worrying about that.

Anyway here on our sleepy island, things are not as bucolic as is usually the case.

We have one Big supermarket - the co-op - and any time I've been in in the past week, it's been full of folks milling around wondering who the feck is hoarding all the toilet roll, rice, pasta and butter.  And, as of today, I'm wondering who is also hoarding the butternut squash and the chickpeas.  I know - very first world problems, right?

Tartarus and I are trying to keep ourselves out and about, but, paradoxically, not being very sociable.  Well, Tartarus has been at the pub for three evenings last weekend, but I have asked, all 'nagging wife' jokes aside if he could please stop doing that as you just don't blerdy know what's going on in public spaces - especially pubs.

Juno, my mother, is on the mainland and living in her 'supported' housing.  She has stocked up on gin and jigsaws.  Has also got series 2 of The Crown to watch and a boxed set of The Sopranos.  'Hen, I survived being bombed by Hitler, so being stuck in the house for a month with a box set isn't much of a hardship.' 

The plan is, I think, at the end of that month, when things are - god willing - starting to flatten down in the UK, that I can bring her down to the island for a month or so.  Not staying with us.  Oh for GAWD'S sakes, that would be madness! But my friends have a one-bed cottage that she will be able to rent.  She'll be nearer, but still able to be isolated if the need arises.

I am trying not to panic, but the truth is that the chaos that is swirling around this virus frightens me more than contracting the virus itself.  Someone on the island, for example, discovered that her mother's toilet roll had been stolen by a visitor to her mother's house - carer? cleaner? I have no idea - but WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!

There is a really thin veneer of civilisation on us (well, clearly its thinner on some folk than on others) and it won't take much for that veneer to chip right off.  That scares the crap out of me.

I am spending my time flicking between scare stories (AKA 'up-to-the-minute-updates') and weeding.  Flicking through my packets of seeds and being determined that things will, as somebody famous once said, be ok in the end. 

And, if things are not ok, it's not the end. 

With lots of love from me and mine to you and yours, wherever you are <3

16 Feb 2020

Hestia - what colour is your name

Sometimes the internet brings us wonderful things and this is one of them.  Synaesthesia is where your senses are more closely linked than the average bear - so some people see colours when they hear words, or music etc.

Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to feel colours from music?!

Anyhoo, in an article on Medium, someone wrote about the colours (or colors if you are one of my American cousins) she sees when she hears someone's name.

She has even designed a tool to let you SEE what colours your name would conjure up for her.

Here's mine:

Now that it's been rendered into an image, I can use my Tarot interpreting skills to tell you what *I* see when I look at the image.

I see an image that starts out as vital and light (on the left), but which slowly descends into sombreness on the right.  There have been two breaks in my life which were life-enhancing (white) but that ended up back in the same place.

Yes, Tartarus, I'm looking at you. Or maybe it's house moves, I dunno.  it's harder to read for yourself because you KNOW the backstory :D 

Why not try the little web app thing for yourself and see what your own name looks like as colours! 

13 Feb 2020

Hestia's eyes and the NHS

On Monday Tartarus, Nero and myself headed north to glorious Perthshire where the soil is the colour of a chestnut and gleams like a race horse's flank in the low winter sun.

We were staying in the Meikelour Estate in a wee cottage (gorgeous - single bedroom, dogs welcome, log fire kind of thing) and the world-famous Meikelour Hedge is but a scant mile's walk to the edge of the estate at the A90.

On Tuesday night, we popped to the other single bedroom cottage to visit our friends - The Mad Woman From Kilmarnock and her lovely hubby. And their two whippets.

As I stepped out into the rural darkness I became aware of a tiny glitter when I blinked.  I thought nothing of it and after an hour it went away.  A lovely evening was had.

I woke up on Wednesday morning with definite visual disturbance - a bar that lay across my peripheral vision of my left eye from about 10 to 12 (if my gaze was a clock face).  It went away after about an hour.

But I was shitting myself.  To tell Tartarus or not to tell Tartarus? I told him.  Just in case anything else happened.

Thursday morning we drove home as planned and I made an appointment for Friday morning at the health centre.

Friday came and my sight felt fine, but I went all the same.  The nurse shone a light into each eye.  'There is more of a halo effect on my left eye,' I admit to her.

She scoots off to ask the doctor on duty at our cottage hospital what to do next and returns with the answer - a pressure test is needed on my eyes.  A puff test.  I get that done every year at the opticians - no sweat.  But cannot be done today on this fecking island.  I need to go to the mainland.

I am left with instructions to phone Specsavers or Optical Express in Greenock and get a puff test today.  Specsavers tell me to come over and they'll squeeze me in.

'Shall I come with you?' asks Tartarus.  I have had the puff test before, I tell him that I will be fine.

The long and the short of it is, dear reader that I found myself at Inverclyde Hospital at 2pm on Friday with high pressure to both eyes.  Drops immediately brought it down.  But the doctor started talking about lazering holes in my iris to help with drainage.

Fine, I think to myself.  That will be about June or July.

'Oh no, we'll do it later today' says my lovely Doctor, as if we were talking about going to Tescos for the shopping.

I text Tartarus.  I ask him to come over on the next convenient ferry - I am not going to be able to drive home.  It's a 10 minute taxi drive from Wemyss Bay to the hospital.  He's there by 4pm.

Just in time for me to get my eyes lasered.

Reader - it was completely painless. And over in less than 10 minutes.
Another quick check at my pressures confirmed that they were down from 40 and 36 to 20 and 16.  The upper range of normal and normal.

The doctor asked me if I had any questions and I shook my head dumbly.  Less than 12 hours ago, my eyesight was fine.  Reading glasses needed, but fine.  Now I am looking down the barrel of glaucoma and eyedrops for life.

I am due back next week - possibly for a bit more work in the eye that is still high pressure and definitely to let the doctor inspect my optic nerves for damage. Permanent damage.

Specsavers were magnificent. The NHS even more magnificent.  This Service of ours is a wonder of the modern world and we need to protect it and cherish it and those who work within it.

31 Jul 2017

Hestia visits ... a brilliant wee garden

So, yanno the Open Gardens Scheme? Well we had a yellow sign go up in the town this weekend.  An Open Garden HERE? In the middle of TOWN?! I couldn't possibly imagine it.

Tartarus was dragged away from some racing on the tv and off we trouped.  We followed arrows up a lane and lo! Along to our left was a GEM.  I had NO idea that this wee garden was here.

Here it is - Marlene Hills lovely little space.  This is one of two gardens.  Which is the front and which is the back, no idea.  Both glorious!

There are the most pristine little grass paths.

Tip 1:  Trimming the grass edges neatly makes everything look fabulous.

Tip 2:  If you like the look of something, just  PUT IT IN YOUR GARDEN.  Peas and Sweet Peas snake up the same frame.  Broad beans brush shoulders with bright annuals.

I particularly liked the Ammi Majus and the other little flower here - lovely colour and delicate, isn't it.  What in the hell is that other flower called?!  It has gone right out of my head.  ASTRANTIA!!!!  

Tip 3:  Frame old mirrors and add them to walls - and if you are clever with the glue and bits of wood, make it look like the window is opening AWAY from the viewer.  This trompe l'oeil is used to great effect (and frequently) in Marlene's garden.  I honestly thought that they were opening out into another space, behind walls and fences! Also, it gives you something else to train a climber around.  Or Over.

Tip 4:  Add height and drama with a pergola painted in a dark colour - acts as foil for flowers - and another climbing frame!  Marlene's hubby made this - isn't it fab?

Tip 5:  Make your lawn borders undulate - much more interesting than straight lines.  See how beautifully it's clipped?! Marlene's hubby again!

Also - she's got her fig outdoors.  Our Figgy is in a pot and I'm thinking she doesn't like it!  *resolves to plant her outside against a south-facing wall, like Marlene*

Tip 6:  Paving stones (again REALLY neatly set!) leaving just a little pocket for some lobelia.  And another nice wavery edge to add interest.  

Tip 7:  Let things self-seed!

Tip 8:  Dead-head until you are doing it in your sleep!

I thought that I'd taken a photo of the little archway just behind that yellow flower in the last photo.  Although the front garden of her little cottage is not huge, Marlene has created a little room (where the bench is) accessed by the arch or this little path.  Keeps the garden an interesting shape.  And arch adds height!

Isn't it a pretty garden and get this.  The whole thing - front and back - was created in 18 months from nothing more than lawn.


I've lived here 20 years and my garden isn't a fraction as attractive as Marlene's. Take heart everyone!  EIGHTEEN MONTHS.

Thank you so much for the lovely tea and cupcakes, Marlene! You and your garden are inspirational! I hope that you have raised hundreds of pounds for your chosen Charity!

Explore the ruined citadel of m'blog: