Sunday, 29 January 2023

Unhealthy and Unsafely

What I’ve been thinking about this week:
  1. Lambing
  2. Health and Safety

Here we are again. The end of January is in sight and February marks the beginning of lambing. There are a couple of weeks before it all kicks off but this time of year always makes me think about how little I’ll see Ivie and how best to deal with that. 

I have to say, it’s not such a daunting prospect this year: partly because life feels more normal than it has done for the last three years so my own life away from the farm is busier; and partly because I know what to expect. 

I’m not big on big gestures (just as well, eh) and I don’t need expensive presents in my life (ditto) but one of the things that makes me feel happy in a relationship is uninterrupted, quality time. 

This can be a challenge in amongst farm life. We can be like ships that pass in the night and, as you can imagine, this is even more so during lambing when Ivie spends his evenings snoozing on the sofa and I get used to not stirring when he comes to bed in the wee small hours.  

We’ve tried to take a more proactive approach this year, frontloading some time together before the insanity kicks in. We had a night away in a hotel this weekend where we ate, drank and were merry (Ivie greatly so) and had a visit to the Devil’s Porridge Museum at Eastriggs. 

It tells the story of the cordite factory that spread across 9 miles at Gretna and Eastriggs during the First World War. At its peak, it employed 30,000 people and produced 11,000 tonnes of the stuff a week. Health and Safety wasn’t really a thing and the young women who worked there (most of whom were under 18) were known as Canary Girls because of the yellow hue of their skin. It’s well worth a visit if you’re passing by on the way to the M6. 

I know it’s easy to talk about Health and Safety gone mad and all that but we’ve come a long way in the 100 years or so since the end of WWI. I was a bit alarmed when I discovered that farming is one of the most dangerous industries in the country but it makes sense when you think about it. Let’s face it, I’d have to be going some to sustain an injury in my job. Health and safety really would have to go mad for me to have to enter ‘paper cut’ or ‘stabbed myself with a staple’ into an accident book. 

Which brings me to the sight I saw before me this afternoon. Ivie and I came out to the shed to have a cuppa before I started writing. He finished his coffee and announced he was off to chop kindling and get the fire going in the house. 

As he walked across the grass, I happened to notice that he was wearing his slippers. TO GO AND CHOP WOOD! 

It makes me wonder if the statistics about farmers hurting themselves actually involve farming or just plain stupidity. Answers on a postcard (but watch you don’t cut yourself on the sharp corners). 

Friday, 6 January 2023

Hi De Hi

What I've been thinking about this week:
  1. Holidays
  2. To do lists
I'm really lucky that my workplace closes down for two weeks over the festivities. It had been pretty non-stop in the run-up so I was glad to close down my emails and switch off my work phone on the 22nd and not think about it too much until about now. 

I'm also really lucky that I enjoy my job so I don't have that back to work dread that many people experience at this time of year. A glance at my Facebook memories reminds me that this hasn't always been the case, although I still stand by my status update from 2011:

"...the first week back at work after Christmas should be like the first week of primary school: in till lunchtime then home for a nap and a change into playing clothes."

I had great plans over the holidays with quite an extensive to do list on the go. So far, all I've managed is washing my walking boots and doing a review of my year. (To be fair, I did try phoning HMRC about my tax bill but gave up after 25 minutes on hold, suspecting that my call wasn't quite as important to them as they would have me believe.)

I still find it tricky sometimes that Ivie doesn't have a traditional 9-5 with free weekends, especially when I've got all this time off and we're hurtling towards lambing time. He might be awake in body from time to time but he won't be 100% conscious and engaged or able to hold a conversation beyond lambing stats - number left to lamb, number of triplets, when he last had a full night's sleep, you know the kind of thing.

Luckily, there's a solution to my need for quality time with my significant other away from the ranch. Meet the campervan that we now co-own with our next door neighbours!

We had our first night in it parked up at Sandhead last night. We had a very rock n roll evening, eating home made curry, watching the dog run herself daft on the beach and playing Scrabble. Scrabble is my 'sport' and Ivie plays me once or twice a year to balance out the actual sport he's tried to get me involved in over the years (none successfully, you'll be surprised to hear).

If Old McDonald played Scrabble

I'm looking forward to more mini breaks, getting to know this corner of the world more. Moving to the Spittal just before the first lockdown got in the way of that a bit, although this week alone we've managed a trip to Cruggleton and getting lost at Kirroughtree. I'm just wondering where else we can squeeze in before lambing 2023 gets underway.... (suggestions welcome!). Now that's a to-do list I can get behind. 

Sunday, 18 December 2022

Ho, Ho, Ho

What I've been thinking about this week:

1. Winter schedules

2. The 'C' word

In theory, I should see a bit more of Ivie at this time of year. (By which I mean I should see him more often, not that I should see more bits of him. What with the thermals and extra layers not much of our pasty, celtic flesh is seeing the light of day at the moment.)

But the thing about living with a sporty farmer is that once the busy summer is out the way, it's time for the winter sports - touch rugby and curling, rather than ice hockey and figure skating, just in case you were wondering. 

Sport at a safe distance

It doesn't seem to have been as noticeable this year, though, as this is the first December since I moved to the Spittal that life has been a bit more normal. It's coming up to our third living-together-aversary and I don't need to tell anyone how far from normal December 2020 and 21 were. 

Which brings me to that 'C' word (if you'd like to watch a seasonal, sweary song that includes a few mentions of the other 'C' word, you can click here).

Ivie and I are both a little bah humbug about the festivities. We both enjoy eating more cheese and drinking more port than usual and blaming it on Christmas, obviously, but that's not quite the same as embracing the tinsel. Besides, our first date involved a bottle of port and cheese on toast and I'm all about preserving traditions.


To be fair, I love seeing other people's trees and decorations all lit up and I do enjoy a rousing rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful in the village on Christmas Eve. Part of my reticence is that in a past life a fully decorated house was used to paper over the cracks in an unhappy household and I haven't quite had enough therapy to dissociate the two. Freud would, indeed, have a field day, just before handing me a Santa hat and a singing reindeer. 

Being out of the house more often at carol concerts and Christmas afternoon teas means that things are a bit more evened out and I feel less like a rugby and curling widow compared with previous years. My Christmas tree earrings have even seen a few outings with a few more to come before December is out. 

I'm sure that deep down we're not as bah humbug as we like to present to the world. After all, we managed to inadvertently name our dog after one of Santa's reindeer. I'm sure Freud would enjoy that, too, as we try to persuade him that she's actually named after a Specials song (no sweary words in this one).  

Stop your messing around

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

There's no place like home

What I've been thinking about:
  1. Writing
  2. My own bed

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a writing retreat run by Write South West Scotland. I pootled along the A75 to Brig o Dee, met fellow writers IN REAL LIFE, ate lots of food, star gazed at Threave, ate more food, swam at Mossyard and, you guessed it, ate more food. (By lunchtime on the second day, I had changed into my baggy jeans). 

So far, so good. After four days of listening to amazing writing and a chance to share a bit of mine*, I was planning to pootle back along the A75 and be home well before Saturday lunchtime. But dastardly covid had other ideas. 

Ivie succumbed for the first time and, due to my dodgy immune system, it made sense to stay away. Thankfully, the tutor let me stay for another three days (she came to the Spittal for tea a couple of weeks ago and I think it was Ivie's cheesecake that swung it) so we ate leftovers and caught up with Bake Off and Strictly. 

I thought about my new friends and the gigs, plays and exhibitions they'd talked about going to recently and felt a bit jealous. It can be easy to feel that some things pass us by in Dumfries and Galloway. 

But one of the great things about the week was the chance to see our corner of the world through their eyes. 

  • I tend to take a dark, starry sky for granted - others had never seen a shooting star before. 
  • I live ten minutes' drive from a lovely, little beach - and most of the time there's no-one else there. 
  • I regularly see deer and kites on my morning dog walk - some of my new pals got up early every day in the hope of spotting wildlife. 
I finally got home on Tuesday evening to an enthusiastic spaniel and nearly healthy farmer. I didn't think I'd miss the mud and bellowing bulls but there was something reassuring about the familiar sights and sounds of home (the jury's out on the familiar smells). 

Today included a chat with Lupy while I took a rubbish photo of a rainbow and a walk with Isa and Rudi in the swirling wind. It was a good reminder that there's no place like home, even if I am sleeping in the spare room until Ivie gets around to changing the sheets. I might start taking it personally if he hasn't changed the sheets by this time next week.... 

* One of the stories I wrote was about a tight farmer. They do say write what you know.

Saturday, 22 October 2022

New Socks Please, We're British

What I've been thinking about this week:
  • Excellent purchases
    What I haven't been thinking about this week:
      • Socks

      One of the things I've found about middle age is how excited I get about buying things that my younger self would have been horrified by. I've never been particularly 'spendy' but there's nothing wrong with simple pleasures. 

      This week has been particularly good for online, middle-aged purchases*
      • a heated blanket I put over my legs like a Nana when I'm working (so we don't have to put the heating on during the day). 
      • an old school paper diary from Germany (it's worth it, honest).
      • an old school paper calendar from a small business in Edinburgh (are you detecting a theme here?) 
      There have been a few deliveries for the farm this week, too, as Ivie et al get some maintenance done between the summer madness and the winter. Although I asked all the right questions, I'm not sure I could tell you what they've been up to, other than the concreting up by the pens - and that's mainly cos I walk past it with the dog every morning (on the lead so that there are no little pawprints left as a lasting legacy🐾).

      A rare moment of calm

      I've got used to the couriers arriving in between all the other vehicles coming and going during the day. They're pretty good at delivering farm parcels to the steading, rather than to either of the houses so I didn't pay too much attention to the one that drove past just before lunchtime. I saw the driver open the back door to the van and hand Ivie a package. I assumed it was another sprocket, widget or tractor part so carried on trying to persuade the dog to be calm for five bloody minutes while I heated up the soup. 

      Ivie has excellent timing, so he appeared back just as the toast was popping with said package in his hand. It contained socks. Not just one or two pairs, mind you. Twelve pairs of new, heavy duty, promise-not-to-wear-through socks.

      Ivie is not spendy: Exhibit A

      As we all know, Ivie is even less spendy than I am so there has been a lot of deliberation about these socks. He has mentioned buying new ones on a fairly regular basis for the past month and, I have to say, my interest was waning. 

      Here's hoping it's a while before he has to buy something major. Like wellies. 

      * It's important to support our local businesses, too, especially in the run-up to the 'C' word. Check out this blog from 2020 that lists some of my favourites. And check out one of my new local favourites, Nest Galloway.

      Friday, 9 September 2022

      Tales of Wigtownshire and Beyond

      What I’ve been thinking about this week:
      1. My weak will. 
      2. Not telling tales. 

      Last week, Ivie and I were in Glasgow for a couple of nights. He’s just turned 28 (I know, I’m such a cradle snatcher) so we had a wee jaunt with some very vague plans, mostly revolving around food. 

      We had booked a Japanese restaurant for Friday night where we had to reign in our enthusiasm and not order one of everything. We were fairly smug about our chopsticks technique, even under the influence and went back to our hotel merry and with full stomachs.

      Teppanyaki drama

       Our plan for Saturday was to pop into Kelvingrove on the way to watching Newton Stewart play Glasgow Accies then head for Thai food in the evening. 

      • Kelvingrove – yep, walked in just as an organ recital was beginning, which included some Very Serious Music. And Star Wars. 
      • Rugby – yep, although we got stuck in the bar before the match as the after-lunch speaker was blocking the doorway WHILE SLAGGING OFF SELKIRK WOMEN! 
      • Thai food – not a chance. 

      It turns out I’m very easily led. By which I mean, the conversation at kick-off (and every conversation thereafter) went something like this:

      Lorna/Jo/Lorraine/Ivie/Russell/everyone else: “Would you like a drink?”

      Me: “No thanks, I’m a lightweight.”

      “One won’t do you any harm.”

      “Oh, go on then.”


      The wine and conversation both flowed pretty well and there was a wee chat about my blog. It’s always nice to get a compliment (thank you) and I did my best to reassure the travelling support that I won’t share everything they say or do. The blog mainly exists to take the mick out of Ivie and me, to be fair, and I’m not into throwing anyone else under the bus. Unless they’ve slagged off Selkirk women, obviously. 

      Turns out John McNeillie wasn’t quite as concerned about throwing people under the bus. Or Clydesdale. I’ve just finished reading his book, Wigtown Ploughman, which upset folk in the Machars when it was published in the 30s. He didn’t shy away from the harsh realities of rural life or concern himself with changing the names of the farms or the families that ran them. No-one escapes the violent temper of the main character and there was little heed of the notion of consent, although it did lead to changes in the law to protect agricultural labourers. So, not all bad then….

      Bit of light reading

      Thankfully, my own modern(ish) ploughman has very little in common with Andy Walker, except perhaps his love of the land and satisfaction in a job well done. 

      And I doubt I’ll have 40 books under my belt unless I do nothing else but write from now until eternity. But at least most folk in the Machars will still be talking to me. 

      Sunday, 28 August 2022

      No Direction

      What I’ve been thinking about this week:
      1. My sense of direction.
      2. Only joking! I haven’t got one.

      The good thing about having no sense of direction is that I never worry about getting lost. 

      I’m sure my poor Dad wouldn’t have been impressed to read that last sentence. He was in the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team so could read a map in the pissing rain while looking for some daft sod who’d gone hillwalking in flip flops. 

      Me n me Dad, 1989

      I got many of his genes but not that one.

      Luckily, I have friends who seem to understand where in the world they are, even if I haven’t the foggiest. 

      Yesterday Rudi and I went for a walk at Kirroughtree with one such friend. She has an OS app on her phone so I immediately relinquished all responsibility for figuring out where we were at any given moment. 

      Kirroughtree is just along the road from us and is part of Galloway Forest Park. It has fantastic walking and mountain bike trails and is used for lots of outdoorsy competitions and events. 

      A past visit. I may have been on this path yesterday. Or maybe not....

      A few years ago I volunteered to marshal at the Hillbilly Duathlon at Kirroughtree. (Ivie’s brother is one of the organisers and I was trying to get his family to like me. I’ll let you know how that goes.) I was dropped off somewhere in the forest with a hi-vis vest and an excellent packed lunch and instructed to direct the runners to turn left at the bottom of the slope. 

      After the last runner had passed, I realised I had no idea where I was (you saw that one coming, didn’t you) and no phone battery. Unphased, I set off in the direction that I’d sent the runners. Who knows whether I took the most direct route (probably not) but I figured if I kept going downhill I’d get back eventually (I did). 

      Kirroughtree, in particular, messes with my brain. I’ve never done the same walk twice (although, who knows) and I can never quite figure out which direction I’m facing. I did have a glimmer of recognition yesterday when I spotted the cemetery at Minnigaff in the distance and my friend’s map app informed us we were on Larg Hill. 

      Happy dogs 
      Photo by Catriona

      We went back to the Spittal to have a cuppa in the sunshine. Ivie returned from being very busy and important and asked us how our walk had gone. I said we’d been on Larg Hill and we’d seen a farm in the dip below. 

      “Yep, that’s Larg Farm,” Ivie said.

      “But that’s different from The Larg (a farm in the opposite direction that Ivie often does work at),” I said. 



      There’s really no hope for me and my sense of direction but at least it doesn’t bother me not to know where I am. Mind you, if I said ‘Larg’ I’d have a decent chance of being right.