‘Return to WordPress’ Ramblings…

Wow, a blog post! Finally! Woo hoo! Yay!

Hi there everyone, I’ve been meaning to get back on here for WEEKS but finally managed to sit my a**e down and do it today. How are you all?

My last post was in August 2016?! I know I said I was going to take a break but even I wasn’t expecting it to be a year long. A bunch of important stuff happened, though. I’ll give you a brief rundown and then get on to cat pictures and Scottish scenery, which, let’s face it, is what everyone would much prefer… 😉

So, as it turned out I didn’t enjoy my new roles within the driver training industry as much as I thought I was going to. As 2016 wore on I was getting more and more unhappy, and wondering what to do about it. Then, I had a wake up call…

In December, hubby’s step-brother died of a sudden heart attack. He was 46 years old, the same age as myself.

I decided life is too short to be stuck doing things that make you unhappy, if there’s any way out of them. After a heartfelt discussion with hubby, I began to make some changes in the New Year. I left The AA, and became an independent driver trainer. I stopped training instructors, and went back to learners and a few qualified drivers. I also went part-time, and acquired another job for three days a week. I am now a Steward for Historic Environment Scotland, based at Inchmahome Priory on the Lake of Menteith. I’ll do a blog post just on this in due course, as there is LOTS to say about it: beautiful scenery, nature, and loads of history, of course!

Although I’m still ironing out a few life niggles (who isn’t?), I’m much happier in my work. It’s a juggling act balancing the two jobs, but I LOVE my Steward’s role. It gets me out of the enclosed environment of the car and into the fresh air, I get to chat Scottish history with lots of people, and – I get to sail a boat! 🙂

The upshot of these positive changes has meant that I actually feel like writing again. So here I am! Also, I need to get back into the way of writing, as I’ve enrolled for my third year with the Open University, continuing with my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. That starts in October, so I’m getting prepared!

Whew! I think that’s pretty much everything. As promised, here are some photos of what I’ve been up to…

As you can see, the cats are all fine…

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome bluebells back in May

Ducks and my little boat in the background

Oh, and the keeping fit has been going pretty well, too. More on that in future. Here’s me looking sweaty after running round the Kelpies. 😀

So, that’s the (abridged) story so far. Hopefully, I’ve found my mojo again and I’ll be back on this blog more often. Tell me what you’ve been up to, readers! Has anyone else made big changes? Or small ones?

Karen xx

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Not Leaving, Just Changing Focus For a While

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been blogging nearly as regularly as I used to. (Most of you will have not noticed, and that’s fine, because we’re all mega-busy and drop in and out of blogs when we have time, both as readers and writers.) I just wanted to do a little update on what’s been happening, why I haven’t been around, and why I may continue to not be around for a while.

The Day Job

This is taking up more brain power! That’s not to say I didn’t use my brain before, ha ha, but the new role I’ve taken on, training the actual instructors, requires a bit more energy. This means that when I’m at home in the evenings, I’m often too tired to write much. I’m sure that’ll change as I get more used to the new bit of my job, but for the time being, it’s having an effect.

Also, as of the end of August I’m going to be covering the Regional Business Manager’s role while they’re off for a few months, so that’ll take up extra time as well!


The New Project

Project Health! Of course, my day job is extremely sedentary. I’ve been aware for a while that I need to take more exercise, eat healthier and therefore lose some weight. Well, it’s now happening.

One of the perks of my job is I get to meet lots of different people. One of my ex-pupils is a fitness instructor. When I was teaching him to drive, he was just starting his own business. In the spirit of supporting local small businesses, and because we get on great, I’ve joined his gym, started doing fitness classes and met a whole lot of lovely other clients along the way. I’ve also been inspired, of course, by my hubby, who has done amazing things improving his fitness over the last couple of years. (See My Running Man for details.)

Inspirational hubby!

Inspirational hubby!

I started this at the beginning of May, and I’ve lost over a stone, gone down from a size 16/18 in clothes to a size 14, and I’m feeling great. After my summer hols, which are a week away, my short term goal is to lose another stone, and get down to a size 12. I’m also taking part in Supernova, a 5K running event in Falkirk at the beginning of November. My long term goal is to take part in the Tough Mudder event in 2017. I’ve signed up, and will be joining the M.K.Fitness team in all their muddy glory.

So getting fitter is taking up some of my time, too. But it’s a good use of time. Although I’m a firm believer in ‘having it all’, I don’t believe you can have it all at once – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. At the moment, I’m focusing on my day job and on getting fitter, so writing has had to take a bit of a back seat. I was stressing about this for a while, but then I realised that was silly. My priorities have changed, for the time being at least. Writing is meant to be fun. If I’m forcing myself to do it when I’m tired, or should be doing something else, that’s not fun.

This blog post is as much for me as for you, lovely readers. I’m giving myself permission to not write.

That said, I’m sure I’ll simply not write as much. I’ll still blog about fun things I’ve done. I’ve got a couple of short stories already written that’ll be appearing on here. And I’m sure that, having permitted myself not to write, ideas will jump into my head that I simply have to write about!

Okay, I’m off to make dinner, feed the cats, and all those kind of necessary tasks. Oh, and see if hubby needs any help – he’s up a ladder fixing something! 😀

I’ll see you when I see you, folks.

Karen xx

Romans and Riesling – Our Trip to Trier

In my last blog post I mentioned that hubby and I had recently visited the German city of Trier. This was a surprise trip for me, and had been sneakily organised over Facebook by hubby and our friend Iris, who lives in Trier with her hubby Christof. (See, another example of the good side of social media!)

Trier is a Roman city, the oldest city in Germany, and an architectural extravaganza. Cue lots of photographs. Last lot until after our summer holiday, I promise!

We explored quite a bit over our three days there, starting with the very imposing Porta Nigra (Black Gate), the best-preserved of Roman city gates in the world.

The Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra

The Basilika started out as Emperor Constantine’s throne room, and is now a church, with a magnificent organ. There was no way to fit the whole exterior in the picture!

Trier Museum has so many Roman finds they can’t display them all, and if someone discovers something new in the city, the archaeologists take a photograph and say: very good, now put it back where you found it! 😀 I think if I’d found those coins I’d have sneaked a few away…

There are many Medieval buildings and remains in Trier, too. Note where the ‘door’ is on the House of the Three Magi. Yes, it’s meant to be up there. This house was built before the medieval city wall was finished, and so the door was accessed by a ladder which could be pulled up in case of attack. Clever, huh?

There was a lovely open air market selling all kinds of things, all gathered around the Market Cross. Poor Christof was chained to the Pillory by angry townsfolk! 😉 Luckily he didn’t have any rotten fruit and veg thrown at him.

The Cathedral displays architecture and artwork from 1650 years of history. Hubby and I spent a whole morning in there.

Trier Cathedral

Trier Cathedral


So, we’ve seen the Romans – where does the Riesling come in? Well, Iris and Christof know the owners of the local winemaker Zilliken. We spent a very enjoyable afternoon wine tasting at their lovely premises, with the expert knowledge of Patrick Zilliken to guide us. We sadly couldn’t bring any back as we only had cabin baggage, but rest assured we shall be ordering some!

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

Wine tasting! L-R: Patrick (the owner), hubby, me, Iris

I’ll finish with a pic of Iris and me. We had just finished eating schnitzel, after the wine tasting. Hence why I’m a bit pink. 😉 Hubby is taking the pic, and drinking the local beer.

I can heartily recommend a visit to Trier, especially if you love history (and beer, and wine)!

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

Our wonderful host Iris, and me

A Larky Day Out in Luxembourg City

Well, I’ve finally got back to my blog! (Stupid day job.) As I mentioned in my last post, hubby recently organised a surprise holiday for me. I had an inkling of where we were going, but was still delighted when I found out it was to Trier, in Germany. But you said Luxembourg..? – confused wails from everyone Bear with me, people. Trier is home to a couple of friends of ours, who showed us round their city and treated us to lots of lovely German delicacies (more on Trier next time). However, work commitments had to be met, and on the first day our friends weren’t free. So hubby decided he would like to visit Luxembourg City, which was only about an hour away from Trier by train.

Luxembourg City Old Town is perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the gorge cut by the Petrusse and Alzette rivers.


A new bridge is under construction over the gorge. Wouldn’t fancy that job!

IMG_0285

The Old Town has plenty of pleasant squares, old architecture, and cobbled streets – complete with coach loads of elderly people also on a day out! 😉

The city also has a modern business and administrative side. We took the obligatory open-topped bus tour to see as much as possible.

Once off the bus, we explored some of the old streets. Found this awesome sign which heartily met with my approval!

If we’d had more time there were plenty of museums, galleries and other places we could have visited. As it was, we had a great day out and caught a flavour of this vibrant city. The weather, which had been threatening rain all day (you can see the clouds in some of the pics), finally turned just as we were leaving, so that was good timing! We grabbed a local beer before catching the train.

(Follow the link if you fancy knowing more about Luxembourg City and what to do there.)

So: arrived in one country, promptly popped over to another, and then headed back to Germany for more food, drink and sightseeing. Now to sort out my Trier photos for the next blog post… 😉

Excuses, Excuses…

Bloomin’ heck, nearly a month since my last blog post! Why’s that, then? Well, I’ve been kind of busy with a variety of things – not to mention catching THE COLD FROM HELL a week ago. Here’s a rundown:

New instructor training role in my driving day job is great, but it’s keeping me busy with more paperwork, planning, etc.

Paid a visit to deepest darkest Aberdeenshire to see my mad best friend (for what that’s like, read my post Pictures From A Wild Weekend). Except this time we weren’t too wild – we went to the ballet. Scottish Ballet’s new production of Swan Lake, to be exact. Very contemporary and very beautiful in a stripped back sort of way (if you’re looking for tutus and feathers, don’t go…)

Started PROPERLY trying to get fit again. One of my ex-driving pupils is a personal trainer, and together with his wife, runs a mix of personal training sessions and classes, together with a lifestyle and nutrition plan. So I’ve signed up (there may be more on this in the future, let’s wait and see…) 😉

Somewhat throwing in a spanner into the works of the latter, I caught THE COLD FROM HELL just over a week ago and was basically out of action for most of last week. No energy, no voice, sniffly nose…you get the idea. Worse than any cold I had during the winter – and it waits until May to turn up! Bah! It’s still hanging around, although it’s going…slowly. Too bloody slowly.

In spite of this, managed to hand in my end-of-module assessment for my Open University degree on time last week. Phew! No studying again until October.

So that’s my feeble list of excuses for not blogging. Hopefully now my OU coursework is finished and my head not full of tiny annoying germs, things’ll get back to normal. And after next week, I’ll definitely have something to blog about, because I’m off on a mystery holiday. What? Yes, hubby has organised a trip somewhere, and it’s a surprise. I will need euros, apparently. I think I’ve figured it out, but sshh, don’t tell him. I may be wrong though, so you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out where I’m going and what I did there. How exciting!

(For those of you who may be concerned about this, thinking I could be getting carted off to The Museum Of Running Shoes or The Exhibition Of The World’s Greatest Kit Car Parts, don’t worry. Hubby is actually pretty good at surprises. I’m confident that wherever we’re going, it’ll be enjoyable and interesting. And apparently there’s beer involved, so there’s a plus point already.) 😀

Hope you guys out there are all well and enjoying some good spring weather, in between rain showers. Or autumn weather, if you’re on the other side of the globe. I’m off now to study a map of Europe to get more clues…

Spirit Slips Away

Another flash fiction tale for you lovely readers. This one started life as an Open University Creative Writing course exercise, and then grew into a story for the local newspaper. Rock fans may guess who the fortune teller sees from the title and the image…

**********

Eva stared at the tattered card. ‘Gypsy Petulengro’ it read. ‘Fortune Teller to the Stars’. Of course, nearly every woman by the name of Petulengro called themselves that. You fell over them on every seaside pier and promenade. She had been the real thing. Both the famous and the ordinary had flocked to her for readings. Until it all went wrong.

She didn’t remember what she had been looking for when she went to the desk. Scrabbling in the drawer, pulling out pens, paper clips – and then the card. She used to have hundreds of these made up. She glared at the picture next to the writing. The woman in the photograph mocked her. The knowing smile. The hooped earrings – how predictable. The auburn mane framing a face that was more striking than pretty. The chin was too pointed, the nose too long. Yet the bright green cat’s eyes, sparkling with mischief, had fooled many an admirer into calling her beautiful.

Eva coiled a strand of grey hair round her finger. A brittle end snapped. Something snapped inside at that moment, too. Why was she hiding here, alone in her flat with only spiders and dust for company? It wasn’t her fault. Nobody except herself had thought so. Most people didn’t even believe in what she did. But she had never seen anything as clearly before. And when it happened…she couldn’t face something like that again.

Where had hiding away got her? Maybe it was time. She searched the drawer again. Yes – there it was! Still in date, thank goodness. The box of hair dye, luxuriant brown. That would be a start. There was something stuck to the box. She tugged the piece of paper away from the cardboard, and unfolded it. Her breath caught.

She remembered it as though it were yesterday. The curly haired young man, a musician, like so many who came to visit her. Laughing and asking: would he make it big? She had answered truthfully: yes, yes he would. His band would be huge, respected throughout the industry. But then she saw what came with the lifestyle: the partying, the indulgence. And after that…

How she had hidden the vision from him she would never know. He was getting ready to leave then, having heard what he wanted. He didn’t notice her face go white, her hands grip the table edge. Her body swaying with horror and pity.

Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, she steeled herself, then opened them and faced the newspaper clipping. It was a story that had happened before, and since. Except this one was her bright young star. No more laughing. No more singing. No more music.

ROCK STAR, 27, DEAD OF LETHAL COCKTAIL OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL.

My Running Man

I’ve been very busy recently cheering hubby on as he runs various distances in various parts of Scotland. Yes, the race season has started! A few weeks ago he ran his fourth half marathon. In spite of him driving me crazy the way that men do a lot of the time, I couldn’t be prouder of what he has achieved over the past few years.

From being a total non-runner, he started walking regularly, interspersed with a little bit of running, as a cheap way to keep fit. The running part began to increase, and he wondered about entering an ‘official’ run as a way to give himself a specific goal. Someone introduced him to the Park Run, a timed 5K run that takes place in parks and recreation areas all over the world. He started taking part in that, and from there went on to try a 10K run in 2014. Having managed it, he did several more that year, improved his time, and began wondering about…yes, you guessed it. Could he do a half marathon?

As a self-confessed couch potato, I found all this very impressive. After swithering a bit, hubby decided to just go for it, and entered the Alloa Half Marathon, a friendly local event, in March 2015. And he did it! He got cramp on the hill near the end (which is a b*****d of a hill, it’s true), but he finished and with a respectable time. He did two more half marathons last year, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, acheiving a personal best time of 2 hours dead in Glasgow.

This year he began the season by running the Alloa Half Marathon for the second time. He improved his time, and didn’t cramp on the hill (although it was still a horrible hill, apparently). 😉

This is the timing car at Alloa Half Marathon, with the race winner behind, at about the 8 mile mark

This is the timing car at Alloa Half Marathon, with the race winner behind, at about the 8 mile mark

Hubby (in pink shirt) about to cross the Alloa finish line

Hubby (in pink shirt) about to cross the Alloa finish line

Yesterday, he ran a 10 kilometre course round Grangemouth, another local town. This is a very flat course so good times can be achieved. Hubby was delighted to finish with a personal best time of 53 minutes 31 seconds. His previous best for 10K was over 56 minutes so he was well chuffed (and knackered). 😉

Approaching Grangemouth 10K finish line, making a fist and pulling a satisfied face at his time!

Approaching Grangemouth 10K finish line, making a fist and pulling a satisfied face at his time!

As well as being very proud, I’m writing this to say: if hubby can do this, anyone can – and he totally agrees with me! Never in a million years did he see himself as a runner. He used to say that he hated running. He was much more keen on cycling, walking, lifting weights in the gym – anything but running. Here are some words of wisdom from the man himself (which could apply to anything that you want to do, I guess):

The hardest part is getting off your bum, putting on your shoes and getting out there.

Put one foot in front of the other. Walk. Then do it faster. Run a bit. Do it faster. Run for a bit longer. Do it a bit faster.

Never compare yourself to anyone else. Only compete with yourself.

He’ll probably kill me for this, but below is a photo from early 2014, when he ran his first 10K, and also a photo from yesterday, after his latest 10K. Before and after – it shows what you can achieve!

And finally, here’s a great shot the pro photographer took at the Alloa Half Marathon:

He's having fun - honestly! ;)

He’s having fun – honestly! 😉

I guess the message for all of us is – just get out there and do it! 🙂