‘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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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… 😉

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! 🙂

This Cat Is On Something

No, not catnip. Well, yes, sometimes. But Arwen (even more so than most kitties) has to sit ON or IN everything possible. Here I present, for your amusement, a photo journey through Arwen’s preferred sitting places. Enjoy!

All boxes must be sat on:

And in (however small):

Once on the box/in the laundry basket/on the printer, shout really loudly to let everyone know you are there:

Or just look cute, wherever you are:

Sit on the builder’s saw and other items until he stops work and fusses you:

If disturbed when actually in a proper cat bed, give human the stink eye:

When sitting on mum, be prepared for her to take photos that make your bum look big:

Finally, when sitting on dad, be prepared to share him with other kitties!

The Sirens Call – Issue 25 – Things That Go Bump in the Night

I was very flattered to be offered the chance to showcase my photography in this month’s issue of The Sirens Call eZine. There’s a little interview with me as well. Thanks very much to Nina for thinking of me when it came to the artwork for this issue.
The eZine also features poetry, flash fiction, and short stories from an all female line-up, in honour of Women in Horror Recognition Month.

Click here to download your free copy!

My Random Camera

I was recently asked to supply some photographs for a magazine. I was very flattered and started trawling through my collection for suitable pics (there was a theme). I was flabbergasted to discover I have over 4000 photos on my phone alone! For the more professional photographers among you, I’m sure that’s a mere drop in the ocean, but I was astounded. I was also surprised by the wide variety of things I take pics of. Basically, if I like it, I snap it.

I always use pics on my blog posts, and where possible I like to use my own. So you’ve seen images from my holidays, gigs I’ve been to, my cats (duh), spooky locations around my home…you name it. Here are a few random ones that haven’t fitted with any particular theme so far, but I found them when trawling and thought ‘I like these, let’s share them.’

I’ve also been practising using a programme that puts a watermark on photos. Thanks to my good friend Coral McCallum for reminding me of the name of the programme again. 😉 (Fotor, if anyone wants to know.) And check out Coral’s blog too, for some great photos from her part of Scotland. As I don’t make my living from my pics, I haven’t put my name across the image so it can’t be used. I just thought I should start putting my name on them somewhere, as they’re going out into the big wide internet world. I respectfully ask that if you use a photograph of mine, please don’t crop my name out of it. 🙂

The pics are all from Scotland, taken on random walks around the places featured.

Bank Street, Stirling. Too lovely a building not to photograph.

Bank Street, Stirling. Too lovely a building not to photograph.

Stirling chimneys, taken from Stirling Castle esplanade.

Stirling chimneys, taken from Stirling Castle esplanade.

These two photos were taken during the summer, when I was waiting for a tyre to be changed on my car. I walked up the steep hill to Stirling Castle, and then promptly ruined my calorie-burning efforts by having an enormous ice-cream!

I’m amazed I actually took the above photos, as the aforementioned Coral will testify to the fact that I was suffering horribly with a cold that day.

Edinburgh Moon

Edinburgh Moon

Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Taken in December when hubby and I were visiting Edinburgh for the Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens. The eerie light is actually coming from the Funfair.

Playing around with black and white for these last two. Airth is my home village, with lots of lovely walks and old markers, such as the Headless Cross. This is said to have been the Mercat Cross of High Airth, an older version of the village which was built on a slightly different site.

Hope you enjoyed this photographic wander with me! I’m sure we’ll be going on some more in future…