So That was 2020

Autumn saw us making a quick dash to the Central Belt in the campervan for Emily’s actual 40th and a cheeky visit with my garden visiting buddy Val to Jupiter Artland.

Not quite New Zealand but well worth it.
Jupiter Artland somewhere near East Calder. Who would have thought it?
Ditto.

September saw our walking holiday with Kathleen converted into a visit here from Kathleen and David which saw us explore local areas a bit more and provided a safe place for them.

Socially distanced at Tarbert castle.
A weird “Dun” above Torinturk.

John has, as usual, spent a lot of time in the shed fiddling with chain saws, making a snail, a turtle, and a kangaroo and perfecting various wood turning techniques. Recently though, he has moved up to the landing beside me where the better light enables him to do painty things.

The pooping kangaroo!
The “sitooteerie”. A work in progress.
Yet another Zoom!

Indoors we promised ourselves we would do something about squeaky floorboards but Christmas decorations and cards are taking precedence. Having embraced technology with Zoom quizzes, Zoom birthday and Hallowe’en parties and managed to cast streamed events on the television, we went to the ballet last week and a walking tour of Barcelona, with other virtual trips planned. I feel obliged to curb my love of visiting new places in real life for various reasons and try not to worry about the very different range of opportunities our children and grandchildren will experience. (I had to replace my passport in November – it came back dark blue.)

Joanna and family have had their own version of 2020 Down Under. Both she and John kept working all year, Joanna with extra ppe and extra hours to clear backlogs and John on government contracts in play parks. This has meant Johnny being able to keep going to school which was great for him. He has also made new friends locally and looks like turning into a bit of a soccer ace if he would just stop breaking bones.

Emily and Richard found themselves with both working full time from home, a 7 year old to home school and a 4 year old to entertain (how many hours are there in a day?) but once Emily was furloughed and embraced the time at home for picnics, foraging, crafts and so on, they seemed to manage very well. They have done a major restoration of the front room, Emily is now a member of the Royal Geological Society and is working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer.

2020 has welcomed two new members of the family: Meet Ellie and Wilhelmina Snakespeare!

Ellie on the right!
Wilhelmina getting bigger by the week!

Summer

When travel restrictions were lifted in July, we had Emily, Richard and the girls for two whole weeks. Richard was able to take over my office and I think it was a nice change for them, a place with beaches and walks, a garden with a three storey cafe and tree house, places for den bulding and owls.

Owl Man with fledglings.
What a hoot!
What a hoot!

Yes, the barn owls returned for the first time in three years and we arranged for Neil from the Kintyre Barn Owl Trust to come and ring them while the children were here. I don’t think they realised how special an opportunity this was. We also rigged up a trail camera (thanks Emily) and obtained some gruesome footage of overnight feeding routines as well as some prettier pictures of the fledglings.

The Kintyre Way Ultra was postponed from May and we were fortunate to have been able to reschedule it for the end of August which turned out to be the perfect window before things stopped again. We found ourselves making up the guidelines alongside Scottish Athletics but the main changes were the hour and a half long timed start, which was no bother for us and the timing team, being orienteers, but a mystery to our fellow organiser Rob, and keeping people socially distanced at the Start. Not having access to Village Halls for checkpoints turned out to be less of a problem than it might have been as we were once again blessed with good weather. Phew!

The Fynesiders, not being allowed to sing, are meeting on Zoom for a blether and a quiz and it’s great how these sorts of activities have forced us into accepting alternative ways of keeping in touch. My book group also meets on Zoom, the beauty of this being that I don’t have to drive into Tarbert and can therefore have a glass of something. Other than that I’ve made a point of phoning people we can’t visit, though we are able to meet local folks in the ventilated poly tunnel.

Not quite up to Red Door standards but needs must.

While We Could…

We started 2020 with a road trip that I confess I wasn’t entirely looking forward to but now feel extremely grateful for.

After Christmas in Stonehouse with Emily, Richard, Caitlin and Roslyn, we went via (cousin) Tony and Helen in Wolverhampton to spend New Year in Chesterfield with (sister) Kathleen and David, Paul and Isobel. (And I managed to complete my 1000 miles a year, yet again by the skin of my teeth, on the 31st of December).

Suse, Tony and Helen in Wolverhampton.
Serious Gaming in Chesterfield with The Smiths.
Campervans near Clitheroe.

Heading north we rendezvoused (is that actually a word?) with (friends) Neil and Dorothy at a campervan pub in Clitheroe, where we continued delving into John’s grandfather’s life – not that we have so far managed to obtain enough evidence to apply for Irish citizenship and a passport.

And of course (sister) Hilda in Morecambe, who is not going out much but keeping herself occupied.

Some lovely walks and a number of extra Park Runs (remember them?) were enjoyed by us and anyone we could persuade to join us.

Suse and Kathleen finishing the Chesterfield Park Run.

I had three qigong workshops booked, one in January at Portavadie and one in February in Glasgow at which one of the participants turned out to be an old school friend I hadn’t seen for almost 50 years! This led to a wee reunion in Glasgow which was very pleasant but provided one of the scariest rides home on the 926 bus that I have ever experienced… due to… yes, lots of people on a busy bus with coughs and colds. I generally tend to avoid putting myself in situations like this and duly came down with something on returning home but I don’t think it was the dreaded…

An equivalent photograph from 1960 would be priceless.

In between the workshops we volunteered again at Celtic Connections and had a fantastic time discovering musicians we had never previously heard of. Celtic Connections in 2021 will be a virtual affair and a real bargain at £30 early bird rate for 19 high quality gigs. Hopefully, we can keep music and musicians alive and open Celtic Connections up to audiences all over the world.

In early March, we squeezed in an orienteering road trip to Banchory and met up with friends who had recently moved there, before everything went totally haywire.

The maps from the orienteering weekend.

The third workshop in Tarbert with a Mindfulness friend was cancelled along with our planned trip to New Zealand with Jo and Emily to celebrate (OK a bit early) Emily’s 40th. Getting information from Emirates was impossible – no refunds – so we have credit notes and extended tickets for 2021.

The calendar from then on has a lot of things scored out – as has everyone’s. Who could have predicted?

Autumn 2019

Autumn saw us meeting up with Cal Major as she cycled northwards promoting the film of her epic paddle board trip in 2017. https://www.calmajor.com/films This time we also got to meet James Appleton (photograher/film maker and no bad fell runner) on his way back to Keswick. http://www.jamesappleton.co.uk/ A protest about a planned fish farm off Glen Sannox on Arran even saw the kayaks making an outing.

Our enthusiasm for mountain marathons saw Emily and myself in Durisdeer in the Lowther Hills at the end of September. The area was new to us and the courses a good bit longer than we are used to. (25k both days) but we managed to tough it out. Although there were no screes, we still managed to find a “Ravine of Terror” towards the end of Day 1. I think we’ll go for the short score course in future so that we can do distances better matched to our levels of fitness. Still we both seemed to enjoy it despite the pain!

Kathleen and David popped up for a quick visit. We did the usual amount of walking with a pleasant trip to “Beaver Land” However, the “Game of Thrones” Monopoly game was a hightlight especially for Kathleen who wiped the floor with everybody.

The news from Oz has been of Johnny’s goal keeping exploits that resulted in a fractured finger which was a bit more serious than first thought. Hopefully, all on the mend now.

Summer 2019

After several false starts, we finally met up with Kathleen and David in Ferbane in County Offaly. We had originally thought about teaming up in Spain to walk some of the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago which Kathleen had done some years ago. The on off Brexit negotiations kept getting in the way and in the end, we decided that a trip to Ferbane to do a spot of family research would be a most acceptable alternative especially if it helped to establish if there was any chance of an Irish passport should Brexit finally happen.

We took pot luck with a cottage north of Ferbane and althought it was a bit off the beaten track it was very comfortable and scenic. To cut a long story short, we confirmed Kathleen’s original finding that there is no birth certificate in the Irish records system for my grandfather, Kieran and unfortunately, parish records show his birth but the page of the actual register is “missing”. Given the terrible ordeals that families endured in the late C19th century, it really is surprising how well some of us have done. You really have to be be grateful for the opportunities that other people created for you to take.

At the end of the visit we spent some time in Dublin and even took in the inevitable Parkrun before we flew back to Glasgow.

On our way back from Ireland, we called into Stonehouse to pick up Caitlin so that we could take her back to Larick House. We had a great time, baking, hot tubbing and roasting marshmallows. We went took the campervan to Clonaigh and stayed overnight after a fire on the beach.

Emily and I made our regular trip to the Lake District to take part in the Saunders Mountain Marathon in the Howgills. Definitely cooler than last year and with a route choice through the “Scree of Death” that even now gives me the creeps.

We teamed up again with the Birches in August to attend the Scottish 6 Days Orienteering event in Pertshire. They had booked a static caravan and we had a nearby space for the campervan and all in all things seemed to work out very well. We all did colour coded courses and Caitlin and Roslyn looked the part in their official event “O” tops. Emily did the same course as me and well ahead in the overall rankings!

Winter 2018/19

The winter started with something different. We were invited to Katie Evamy’s (our next door neighbour’s daughter) wedding to her long time boyfriend Tom. The venue was in in rural Perthshire at the beginning of December and we even squeezed in a Perth Parkrun.

It was a most pleasant surprise when we discovered that the Birches intended to spend Christmas at Larick House. We had a very traditional family Christmas with plenty of excellent food Emily and I ran my 100th Spion Kop 5k.

Over Christmas, Emily and Richard indicated that they would like to grow some vegetables at Larick House so that they could have some fresh veg and help with the veg plot. It was clear that the existing soil was not really responding to the “improvements” which had been carried out since Concrete Ali ran his pough over it 10 years ago. Initially, raised beds were on the agenda but after some further thought we decided that they wouldn’t be enough on their own and that another polytunnel was the only sensible thing to do. We got cracking and after a few near misses with the weather got the new tunnel up for the forthcoming growing season.

Suse and I volunteered at Celtic Connections in Glasgow and although it was a big learning curve, we both enjoyed ourselves and will probably do it again. However, the main event in February was a trip to Lanzarote with the Birches for the first week (on the beach) and Kathleen for the second week (walking ). No major dramas inspite of extensive use of the local buses.

In March, Suse went to China and I stayed at home where I did battle with OFGEM who insisted that we install a meter on the pellet boiler. I lost.

Autumn 2018

Fired by our outing earlier in the year in the Lake District, Emily and I took flight to Northern Ireland for the Mourne Mountain Marathon. We both liked the area and the courses and once we’d recovered from the overnight squall we really enjoyed ourselves.

Hot foot from the MMM, Suse and I met up with Kathleen and David for a series of walks along the St. Cuthbert’s Way in the Borders. All the arrangements worked very well especially having David’s services as chauffeur. It really made a big difference.

The school half term holiday saw us joining up with The Birches in Aviemore principally for Emily and me to do the Aviemore Half Marathon. We both managed to finish and were cheered to the finish line by Richard, Caitlin, Roslyn and Suse. We were lucky with the weather and spent a great day at the Museum of Country Life with Caitlin and Roslyn

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Later in October we popped across to Edinburgh to see Ned Boulting’s “Tour de Ned” show about this year’s Tour de France. Needless to say, we enjoyed Ned’s scatterbrained stories especially when he spills the beans about David Millar.

Meanwhile Jo has been regaling us with stories of Johnny’s footballing prowess and is quite the proud “Soccer Mum”

Summer 2018

Early in June there was long overdue kayak trip to Gigha with the McBrides followed by a visit from Kathleen who brought good weather with her and who did a serious amount of walking along the Kintyre Way and later in Knapdale. A new pizza oven was fabricated and did actually produce edible pizzas! In Glasgow, we finally arranged for a new front door for the flat together with some secondary glazing. We even insulated the suspended ceiling so things should be warmer.

In July, Emily and I did a ridiculously hot Saunders Lakeland Marathon near Grasmere. We cut Day 1 short but toughed out Day 2 and were pretty pleased with ourselves. There is information about the event here

Later in the month we met up with Ogilvies on Arran in the Lochranza distillery and caught up with the news from Broughty Ferry and OZ.

The European Games in Glasgow finally appeared on the calendar. Suse was in the Velodrome helping with media duties. I “marshalled” pedestrian crossings in central Glasgow for the road cyclists. I still shake when I pass the junction of Buchanan Street and West George Street. It was memorable mainly for the pandemonium and the near misses! Still it whetted our appetites for volunteering in Glasgow so we will be doing more!

Spring 2018

We made our way back from Oz only to encounter The Beast from the East. I think we caught the last 926 out of Glasgow before everything ground to a halt.

Things weren’t too bad in Kintyre and we even managed a sneaky trip to London to see Daniel Fooks’s exhibition of drawings of his Dad Chris. Have a look on his website www.danielfooks.co.uk/

Somewhere in the mix, Suse had also volunteered to participate in “Memory Clinic” trials in Glasgow. After a really thorough physical and mental examination and a trip to Preston by train and despite being exactly the type of person they were looking for, the trial was abandoned because of some adverse reactions to the drugs they were testing. Interesting………

The trip to London also resulted in us re-connecting with Elizabeth and John (some long lost friends from West Lothian) who reminded us that we used to play canasta! We also had visits from Caitlin and Roslyn who presented us with garden gnomes, the female of which has an uncanny similarity to Suse (or so I think). In OZ, Johnny was wowing his school with stories and old photographs from Suse and myself.

The Kintyre Way Ultra took place with son-in-law, Richard, running the 33 miles from Tayinloan to Campbeltown in preparation for a 69 mile event in June. His Facebook video is worth watching if only for the the beard:} https://www.facebook.com/richard.birch.524/videos/10155286480101034/