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…

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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! 🙂

3 Years Of Blogging!

Gosh, it’s 3 years since I published my 1st blog post! I can still remember my finger hovering over that ‘publish’ button, wondering if anyone would be remotely interested in my ramblings. To my astonishment, many of you were, and I found a community where I got encouragement, help, and advice – and made many wonderful friends. Some of you I’ve now met in person! Big thanks to all my readers, across all the social media platforms I pester you on. 😀
For those of you who haven’t known me since the beginning, here’s the story of why I started blogging, and writing ‘seriously’ (whatever that means 😉 ).

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Well I’ve finally done it! Set up this blog, that is. So what will I be writing about? My life, I guess. Trying to be a ‘career woman’ (ugh), a wife, a friend, read a lot, keep fit, go to gigs and shows, travel, and now write as well?! Obviously I’m crazy.

I also write fiction. That will probably appear on here at some point in the future.

I’ve used the words “light and dark and funny and serious” in the tag line for my blog, because I think my writing, like me, will be a mixture of all of these. Be warned, there probably will be funny pictures of my cats. Did I forget to mention I’m also a crazy cat lady? If you can’t handle that, best leave now. But to begin with, I thought I’d explain what led me to set up this blog, and that’s a little bit on the ‘dark’ side of things.

Pretty much exactly one year ago, my elderly father, who has suffered from dementia for a few years, took a fall down the stairs and was in hospital for several months. During this time, my mother went into hospital for a routine procedure which went wrong, and the upshot was that the doctors discovered she had oesophageal cancer. There was already some doubt about whether or not my dad could ever live at home again; this news about my mum was the deciding factor. My dad was admitted to a nursing home in the summer, and in the autumn my mum had surgery to remove her whole oesophagus. She came through the surgery, but is still recovering six months on; it was a major procedure.

Due to my mum’s ill health, it fell to my husband and I to choose a nursing home for my dad, deal with getting him moved there and all the subsequent paperwork (there’s a lot; it’s still ongoing). We also had to deal with my mum undergoing such a huge operation, visit her in hospital and help take care of her afterwards. The hospitals involved, the nursing home, our house and my mum’s house are in completely different towns, so we were run ragged. This inevitably led to a lot of strain between my husband and I, some major arguments, and on one or two occasions, nearly the breakup of our marriage. An awesome summer holiday to visit friends in the USA had to be cancelled, we hardly saw friends or went anywhere as we were either busy, arguing, or knackered. All in all, 2012 was not a good year.

But…it made me realise that I didn’t want to be in the position my mum and dad are in now and think “I wish I’d done that when I had the chance” – the chance is NOW. I’ve always enjoyed writing, I’ve done it for fun, for my company newsletter, that kind of thing, so NOW is my chance to take it a step further. I was also inspired last year by some of my favourite musicians – I know I sound like a teenager, but I found an album where pretty much every track seemed to suggest an idea for a story, or just be about my life at that time. I love music, and l believe that, like a good book, it can help get you through the dark times. So big thanks to…well, more on them later.

Phew, that was a bit heavy, wasn’t it? That’s quite enough of that! Anyway, that’s the story of what led me to start writing again, set up this blog, and in the process, become completely addicted to Twitter. Oh well, I suppose there are worse things I could be addicted to. Many thanks to the authors I’ve met on Twitter who have inspired or encouraged me to do this. Also, many thanks to my husband for all his support (yes, he’s still here, I did say we nearly broke up). I promise my next blog will be more light-hearted. Now, where did I put that picture of my cat upside-down in a saucepan?

Not in a saucepan, but in the clean washing!

Not in a saucepan, but in the clean washing!

The Best Of Both Worlds?

I was recently given the opportunity to write for Divine Magazine, by my Facebook friend and great writer of M/M romance, Susan Mac Nicol. Divine is an online magazine and social networking website, tailored for the LGBTQ community and anyone who supports the rights of its members. Check it out for info on books, music, lifestyle – you name it.

Follow the link below to read my piece. There’s plenty of humour, as well as some more serious stuff. The information in it may surprise – even shock – some of you. Some of my friends will know already – or have suspected. Ooh, piqued your interest now, haven’t I? 😉

The Best Of Both Worlds?

Holiday/Vacation/Summer Break Begins – See Ya Later!

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’m about to disappear for a couple of weeks. I’m very fortunate to be visiting Tunisia, a fascinating country on the continent of Africa. Long-suffering hubby is coming too, of course. 🙂

I intend to:

Read lots of books

Laze about and get a suntan

Visit places of interest

Play in the pool and the sea

Eat local foods, and enjoy a drink or two. 😉

Oh, and shop. I like haggling in markets.

I may pop up on social media from time to time, or I may not…

Be good while I’m away!

Karen xx

Pictures from a wild weekend (well, not really).

I spent the weekend with my best friend and our two husbands, in rural Aberdeenshire. We were helping prepare for a new kitchen to be fitted. As usual, these things always take longer than you estimate, and we didn’t get back home until late Sunday evening. So I’m starting Monday a bit behind and flustered, trying to catch up with shopping/washing/blogging.

We did have a fun time in spite of it being a ‘working’ weekend. The friend in question is the one who breeds Bengal and British Shorthair cats. Warning: cat picture alert! She also has horses, a dog, and many ducks and hens. Here’s a little picture story of the weekend:

Don’t think much of this hotel. The bed seems to be overrun with cats!

Clockwise from top left: Paige, Rowan, Gemma, Fearghus

Clockwise from top left: Paige, Rowan, Gemma, Fearghus

We woke up to snow on Saturday morning. Horses still had to be fed and dog walked.

L-R: Shaquille, Tracey, Theo Front: Bean

L-R: Shaquille, Tracey, Theo
Front: Bean

The boys worked on the kitchen – well, most of the time. Hubby got his mouth taped shut for giving us ladies cheek.

What happens to men who give me nonsense.

What happens to men who give me nonsense.

Best mate’s hubby decided to teach Bean the Dalmation how to dance.

Next winners of Britain's Got Talent?

Next winners of Britain’s Got Talent?

But somehow the work still got done! (Note the shiny new range oven in the background of the above pic).

Next day dawned – and the snow was all gone.

Theo, Shaquille, and Haggis.

Theo, Shaquille, and Haggis.

The boys did some more work while me and bestest buddy looked after played with cats. 😉 Here’s a selection of the Bengals (and one British Shorthair who wanted to be in the pictures too).

So that was my weekend. Now I must really get some housework and coursework done. You might get a more sensible blog post next time. Then again, you might not! 😉

Music Monday: Fairytale of New York

Our Christmas decorations are up! Hubby must put them up on 1st December. He can’t wait any longer. He’s a big kid really!

He decorates the outside of the house, while I do the tree and the indoor decorations. We have a real tree for the first time in years. It’s huge! It does look lovely though.

My lovely hubby, and my lovely Christmas tree! Hubby is six feet tall, so you get an idea of the tree size...

My lovely hubby, and my lovely Christmas tree! Hubby is six feet tall, so you get an idea of the tree size…

I also have cinammon-scented pine cones. I’ve been seeing them in the garden centre every Christmas for ages and saying ‘I must get some of those’. Finally, I got some – and between them and the piney scent of the tree, the whole house smells gorgeous.

I know some of you will be saying ‘Bah Humbug! How can you be doing Christmas things already?’ Truth is, I love it. I’ve always loved Christmas, but sadly in the household I grew up in it wasn’t a happy occasion. I’m not going to go into why in this post. Maybe I’ll explain some other time. But I always wanted Christmas to be magical (probably through reading too many books where it was), and ever since I left my childhood home, and especially since being with hubby, I’ve endeavoured to make it that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that there’s far too much consumerism and that the goodwill often gets lost. I try not to lose sight of the fact that it’s about love, not how big a tree you have or how many presents you’ve got. (Says the person with the ridiculously big tree). I know Christmas is a difficult time for many. Anyway, that leads me on to…

…Christmas songs. I love them too. The carols, the cheery ones, and of course the cynical ones… My Music Monday choice this week definitely falls into the latter category. Frequently voted the best Christmas song ever, Fairytale of New York, performed by the unlikely pairing of The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, was first released in November 1987. It has been re-released several times since, and re-enters the charts every Christmas.

The song tells an Irish immigrant’s story about Christmases past while sleeping off a binge in a New York City drunk tank. It becomes a back-and-forth between the male and female characters of the story, their youthful hopes crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction, as they reminisce and bicker on Christmas Eve.

Kirsty MacColl’s melodious singing contrasts with the harshness of Shane MacGowan’s voice, and the lyrics are sometimes bittersweet — sometimes purely bitter: ‘Happy Christmas your arse/I pray God it’s our last’. The title, taken from author J.P. Donleavy’s novel A Fairy Tale of New York, was chosen after the song had been written and recorded.

Since Kirsty MacColl’s untimely death in 2000, the song has become even more poignant. It’s been a favourite of mine ever since it was first released. During my University years, a friend and I used to give a rendition of it at pub sing-songs. Not sure how well we did it, but it always went down a treat (possibly because our audience was inebriated). 😉

Here’s Fairytale of New York and the wonderful video that accompanies it. (Look out for an appearance by actor Matt Dillon, as the cop).