08 January 2013

Roo the foster cat became Roo, permanent member of the family in late August 2012. We took him down to his would-have-been furever home only to discover he doesn't play well with others. His feelings towards our friends' three cats were made quite clear; despite strenuous efforts to integrate him into what would have been a completely fabulous home, we had to admit at the end of a week that Roo was never going to accept being part of a pride.

So now he lives with us in Scotland, and his new blog can be found:


The link opens in a new window, and like the other two blogs I manage (this one and the one for greatly missed Mozart and Gonzo) comment moderation has been enabled. Also, anonymous posting has been eliminated as an option-spammers, what'er ya gonna do, sigh.


So far the New Year is off to a fair start for us. Father Christmas was pretty good to all three of us, efforts towards our house moving are coming along, but yes, it is STILL raining all over the UK. Another sigh.

The constant rain has caused no end of problems across the Union-floods, crop losses, travel delays and outright stoppages with landslips and slides, and roads and rail beds washed away. The temperatures have been unusually mild as well, if it weren't for all the rain I could be out in the garden turning the soil, etc, in preparation for the spring garden...'cept the garden just beyond the window whereby I sit isn't the garden I need to be preparing for spring. Critter populations that ordinarily would have been frozen off slither and flit all over what vegetation persists; it is a depressing vista thanks to rain and mildness.


FORGIVE THE FOLLOWING IF FOUND INCOHERENT AND RAMBLING. Sometimes a good venting is wanted when one is coping with the challenges of expat-cum-bi-national life. Be assured that in spite of the way it reads, it is good humoured. One hopes. Perhaps you, gentle reader, might read this post aloud to gain a full sense of the essay...

When I came over to Scotland in 2010 I did have some apprehensions about a few things, this current house being one of them. Paul had lived here for a rather long time (since late '96) and to make things even more 'interesting', he was a lifelong bachelor and retired historic building conservator-oh dear. Retired, potentially territorial and knowledgeable to boot...

We are a good couple-we are good for each other and have a great relationship. But oh dear. He WAS pesty the first couple of years with his constant critiques of my housekeeping, and territorial-OMFGsh, I'd clean and organise the kitchen and he'd slip in after to rearrange it. He followed me around as I swept, mopped, vacuumed and 'gave instruction' on the proper way to utilise the broom, the mop, the vacuum.

Best to not get me started on broom, mop, and vacuum. Leave it at I finally got a real broom in 2011-June to be exact. I got a functional mop and bucket in January 2012 (no, seriously), and it took until August 2012 to get a real Hoover upright vacuum cleaner to replace the 20+year old 'wet-dry' canister vac he'd been so proud of. That the new Hoover runs circles around and he has finally agreed is actually a wheezer good only for cleaning the ash and debris from wood stoves and garage.

My husband is a Scotland wide acknowledged expert on British (and historical Scottish ones in particular) buildings. His knowledge is so immense he's constantly on call to any number of architects and engineers who ring up asking for a consult. He does know his stuff.

As a consequence we've butted heads frequently on any thing to do with house reno, and oh bloody hell, garden too! Oh wow, just wow, I would pick up the scraper and sandpaper block to get started prepping the kitchen walls for paint and he would lay a finger alongside his nose, tilt his head, and say 'Leave it to your Pauli' as he gently unwound my clenched fingers from whatever tool I was clinging onto. He 'caught' me taking the lawn mower and clippers out the garden several times and stopped me there as well.

He finally came right out to say this was his house-he knew what and when was best...

I finally came right out to give up and leave it to Pauli.

Which drove (drives) me just a bit mad.

I'm an early morning person, he is not-no housekeeping until he's up and in his study-ARGH!!

I'm a trained and certified three US states Master Gardener, trust me he is not. He actually throws the grass clippings (oh wow) into the recycling bin that goes out the kerb for council binman pick-up every other week. No, really. He wanted to prune the rowan IN AUTUMN and I finally had to prove the wrongness of that to him by pulling up a Royal Botanical Gardens page on the Internet and frankly I'm still not sure he really believes me. ARRRGH!! I might however leave him to prune the buddleia, I'm sure the new owners will thank me. Profusely. Pruning at the wrong time will kill anything even if climate refuses to cooperate with the plan by freezing over for a nice few months. That buddleia is tempting...

I owned and used proficiently all manner of power tools but I am not welcome to use the power tools. I swan he thinks I'm going to run the drill or saw through my hand. (SOBBING now) I am quite the DIYer, and not being able to throw up a shelf when needed. not being able to create what in the States is known as a pantry and here is known as a store cupboard PUT ME RIGHT THE BLOODY HELL OFF COOKING/BAKING/MEAL PLANNING...not being able to prep and paint, likewise put me off; not being able to vacuum at 0800 every morning, not being able to start a load of laundry...

Oh hey, while I'm on it, he is a prodigious and fast paced hill-walker, for a long while there I could barely manage the gently sloping streets of the market town we currently live in even at a crawl. (Hey, I was really quite unwell, now that's sorted I'm well on my way back to fitness!) Not sure I'll ever catch up to his pace at hill-walking though. 

Oh wait, to continue the whinge session, permit me, please to whinge about the laundry situation in Scotland. (BTW, I'm certain it is the same down in England and Wales)

OMFGsh, doing laundry here is crazy-making! They call it the washing. I'm willing to make adjustments but I will never learn to call it washing. It's LAUNDRY, dammit.

Several of the UK news feeds carried a story about the British habit of stringing wet laundry across the house over racks called airing towers, and how that habit has led to increased asthma and eczema break-outs owing to mould and mildew build-up from the constant humidity. The constant humidity is, btw, owing to the reality that these people persist in keeping their homes at a temperature conducive to damp (read bleedin' cold, these people find 60F acceptable as an indoor temp, oh la, can you say mould? I know I can!). In combination with the outdoor constant damp from all the rain and from the lack of sunshine the past two years have added up to a huge uptick in asthma and eczema complaints.

Yes, for two years running all four seasons here in Scotland have been consistently grey, wet, and 'mild' with temps from 40F to 55F-very few more or less days. No wonder we all have cabin fever.

And owing to the recent unconscionable price rise in heating oil, natural gas, and electricity, a lot of people are keeping their homes even cooler now-50-55F+extra layers of clothing is becoming the norm. Plus (God give me strength) even if they have extractor fans (known as vent fans in the States) they are reluctant to use them as intended (you know, to extract humidity from the kitchen/bath/utility room). Few households have the luxurious, considered-to-be-extravagant laundry appliance known as a tumble dryer (you know, that wide mouthed machine that dries clothes by hot tumble?), and those that do are using them with even less frequency owing to the price rise.

The insanity of the so-called modern British clothes washing machine will be covered in a separate post. Leave it here by saying I fail to see how a 'normal' washing cycle that requires over two hours to complete is somehow 'green and eco-friendly'. No, it's ludicrous and surely NOT economical. Particularly when the damn things use so little water to wash a load that to get the load clean and soap free the laundress must run the F'ing thing three times. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! No wonder these people have asthma and eczema, they are walking around in dirty and soapy clothes because they are so backwards they run a short cycle (1.5 hours as opposed to 2.5-3 hours) ONE TIME ONLY, and then wear those clothes four or five times. 

Stringing laundry across the house on several airing towers puts a huge amount of humidity into already humid homes and it really, truly (trust me on this because I've seen it for myself) takes as much as 7 days to get a pair of jeans dry enough to wear.

Now, we heat house and water with wood, and in so doing our house is actually less humid than most even with four airing towers going at once. But it honestly still takes 2-3 days to dry anything unless it is 'airing' right next to the wood stove. Next to the stove it can take anywhere from 6-12 hours. For jeans as much as 24.

oh. my. stars.

And the outdoor clothes lines over here? OH MY GOODNESS!! Talk about your waste of space! They set slender, single poles at different points of the 'garden' (yard, don't get me started), run a single line of rope pole to pole, and call it a washing line.

Growing up in America this was known as barely one step above the inefficient 'poor man's clothes line' consisting of a single cotton (thereby saggy) line between two trees, which was of course the step up from the truly poor man's method of spreading washing over a shrub. God save us. Here they think it's an appropriate way to hang out laundry. Year round. In the rain. Do you know, they even use fork-ended poles to prop up sagging lines? No, really. God, PLEASE give me strength.

No wonder my great-grandparents emigrated to America. The willfully ignorant backwardness is appalling at times yet there is a equally appallingly large segment of the population utterly convinced they are superior in every way. The longer I am in the land of my ancestors the better I come to understand why they upped sticks for America, and that although not even one generation separates me in truth from Great Britain, I am in many ways an American. Why my mother returned to this is beyond me when confronted with the absurdities. More on this later in a different post, I do love it here and fully intend to continue on. This post is venting. Mostly. Bi-nationality has its advantages and disadvantages. Now on with the whinge!

Supposedly they do this because of the humidity. In reality they do this, near as I can figure, because they have NO FLIPPIN' CLUE-and do not want one!

I've been doing laundry for nearly 50 years. I've done laundry from top to bottom and side to side of North and Central America, in arid and humid climates. Trust me, these people are clueless and know it and don't have the slightest interest in EVER learning a better way. Perhaps what is most infuriating (I know, sad, right, to be so wrapped up in proper laundry doing) is that because Paul insists I don't have DIY skills (grrrr) I can't go down to the lumbar yard and buy the timber (and a post hole digger, why do these people not own post hole diggers, I do not get that!) to build a proper clothes line. I honestly weep to recall my proper clothes lines in America.

Sigh. The most concession I have been able to force is a 'rotary' dryer. You know, the single pole umbrella style line that you can stand in one place to peg the laundry to the four lines before you then spin to the next set of four? That's a rotary dryer. Limited space but they do work even in all this damp if the laundry is staggered and spread out enough to permit air circulation.

Which would be great if A-Paul would hammer the pole seat into the ground and stick the bloody pole into the ground so that on the rare warm and sunny day I could hang out laundry, but because we're moving he is reluctant to do because he insists he must cement the seat in and he rightly doesn't want to have to do that when we're moving in a few months. Which by the way he's been saying since Spring 2012. When the rains began in earnest and so B-it's pointless to erect the rotary dryer since anything hung on the damn thing would take up to a full week to dry on anyway.


Please add your voices to my fervent prayers that a lunatic with more money than brains appears at our door in a couple of hours and buys this house so we can move! The house we've found is not perfect but it is so close to perfect for us that I'm in a real fever to move. Huge, level garden with an unobstructed southern exposure, move-in condition and (sob) with a lovely store cupboard in the BRAND NEW (and really gorgeous modern) kitchen. The shower room is pretty deluxe too. No extractor fans (wtf is with these people?!) in kitchen and bath, but that's a relatively inexpensive re-fit.

Best of all? Paul and I have had several frank (but not fraught, that's why we make such a good couple) discussions and he agrees the new digs will be OUR home, not HIS house he has decided to share with a wife.


02 January 2013

!!!HAPPY NEW YEARS 2013!!!

Another bank holiday for Scotland. I've Googled and can't find a good answer to the question as to why we Scots enjoy an extra bank holiday of 2nd January, supposedly we are such hearty party-ers that we need the extra day to recover. Not buying it, there is a better reason that has been lost in the shuffle.

The banks are open. Most stores are open. But the atmosphere will be relaxed and I for one appreciate that more tranquil easing into a New Year.

I see the US has managed to avoid lasting damage from falling off the fiscal cliff overnight, and have put aside their one-ups-manship for a few brief minutes to vote and approve a plan whilst muttering dire asides to handy press. As usual. New Year-New Me clearly doesn't apply to politicians. They should see what we see, those of us down here amongst the people.

Frankly 'It's' all the same here in the UK. Scotland is beginning the independence campaign in earnest now; I do wish both sides of the issue would produce something more meaningful than 'Vote NO/YES because it will be great for us to stay/leave the Union!!' No, really, so far neither side has taken it further than vague promises of how great it's going to be-the very real issues are not being addressed and anyone from your next door neighbour to the leader of the NO campaign are accused of scaremongering if they dare ask a question.

The YES campaigners are on track to embarrass the hell out of everyone as they continue to insist everything will be just fab should we Scots vote ourselves out of the 300+year old Union but they keep insisting 'of course we'll stay in the EU after independence', 'of course we'll keep the Queen', 'of course we'll continue on the Great British Pound Sterling and the Bank of England will continue to back us'.

Except...the EU has made it clear repeatedly they will force an independent Scotland to reapply for member state status. The Scottish First Minister and his team continue to embarrass those of us tempted to vote YES by going on camera and insisting the EU is wrong and of course we'll be a member state, we'll be in a negotiating position from within, not without.

*In spite of the fact that England is moving closer and closer to a referendum to get the hell out of the EU, and most Scots don't want to stay in the EU anymore than an Englishman. My word, uncontrolled immigration of Europe's criminal class on top of it's impoverished masses into the UK is destroying it-we MUST leave the EU for our own survival.

*Will we become a Commonwealth country, really, when even in Jolly Olde the Republican (anti-monarchy) tide is rising? When Scottish apathy towards the Royal Family has rarely been higher than it is now? Pockets of Royalists can be found but in the main what I'm seeing in the streets of Scotland is a profound indifference-when the Royals make an appearance in Scotland you don't really see a large crowd, and what crowd you do see is made up of mainly women and children.

*It is only in the First Minister's fevered imaginations that we could continue on with the Pound Sterling-the Bank of England has, like Brussels, made it clear that an independent Scotland will not enjoy a currency backing from the BoE. Should we actually achieve independence and manage to remain a member state of the EU we will be forced onto the bloody, bleeding Euro. OH HELL NO!! No to the EU, and HELL NO to the floundering Euro-I wants me GBP Sterling in me purse, thank-you very much.

Personally I would prefer not to have to be considering these things-I'm a British Federalist who believes the United Kingdom properly agreed is still a world beater. Survival and prosperity of all citizens of the Isles depends on us working together-key word TOGETHER, thou gentlemen of Westminster!

But naturally the enmity between Scotland and England requires an end to the Union because oh no, my boyos, we cannae have a civilised, mature discussion and renegotiation of terms, it's bloody all or nothing. Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face is beyond stupid. I cannot believe I made it across the pond only to be landed up in the middle of an Independence vote run by near-utter incompetents, I really can't.

The English aren't making it any easier with their sneering condescension, their apparent comfort at taking our oil and whisky revenues whilst assuring us we are getting so much more out of the Union bargain, why the English people are worn down and overburdened by the weight of Scrounger Scotland (meanwhile of course we contribute billions more than we get in return)...The English don't even go out of their way to express their contempt for us because it's clear we're invisible to the English, including Westminster-if I hear 'One Nation' one more time I am going to London and personally projectile vomit in Eddie's direction. The Union does not begin and end in Westminster or within England's green and pleasant borders, Sir!

The Scottish anger at the continued sniping and disrespect is growing. WE ARE NOT ONE NATION! The Union is FOUR NATIONS, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. We must recognise and celebrate each other. Surely we must stand together or we truly shall all hang separately, how on earth is this a difficult concept to grasp?!

The thought of a clearly English Westminster seemingly intent on alienating Scotland whilst asset stripping it does make me (and many of my fellow voters) want to vote YES just to wipe that smug look off their faces.

But oh dearie me, the thought of voting YES with the current group of numpties in charge is terrifying...

Bloody swell, 2013 looks more 'fraught' than 2012.

God help us because clearly we haven't the brains to help ourselves!