Wednesday, 31 December 2014


Despite the promise to write on Christmas day, I've only just made it to the computer. Far from stuffed turkey, rustic veggies and roast potatoes, the past 10 days have been more like stuffed nose, rough cough and roasting temperature. Some dreadful lurgy crept up on me during the night early last week, and at its height gave me conjunctivitis in both eyes for good measure. The only Christmas wine in my house was that of me groaning from my bed.

Christmas joy.

But, I was determined not to let it keep me down, and carefully managed my energy levels. Normally I wrap up warm and go to my local church for the watchnight service on Christmas Eve, but this year I wrapped my self up in the duvet and went to bed early. I'm a generous person normally but I didn't want to give anyone a gift of flu, or whatever it is I had in abundance.

Dosed with paracetamol and various decongestants, the following morning I started to show glimpses of being on the mend. I was invited to a friends for Christmas Day dinner, and having spent the last two months feeding a homemade Christmas cake with brandy for the occasion, I was determined to deliver it personally.

By mid afternoon I had renewed energy and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Since then I have continued on a slow improvement course. Over these past few days I have enjoyed the company of several visitors, and on Monday Pauline returned from her Christmas away, which lifted my spirits even more. It wasn't until then that we swapped out gifts and enjoyed a traditional Christmas meal.

Having missed most of the activities I am now determined to get away on a trip with my bike up north. The battle is on to kick this lurgy into touch,  load up the bike and head off for winter wonderland experience in the snowy Highlands of Scotland.

Next weeks blog will be all about that adventure. Until then I'll most likely find something else to whine about.

Hope you all had a fab Christmas and my best wishes for the New Year.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


Well, OK, the week before, but you get my drift.

Speaking of drifts, there's been a fair dump of the white stuff in Scotland over the hills and mountains of the Highlands, so in the north at least it looks like a white Christmas is on the cards. Here in Edinburgh we've only had the odd flurry so far, but there's time yet.

With a week to go I'm busy making final preparations. Like most people, for me it's the final buying spree this weekend for those last minute presents. I also make a few presents as well, with that little personal touch, and I'm busy putting the finishing touches to those.

The academy, where I teach film and TV to young students, is putting on its end of term show this Saturday. First up the youngsters will showcase their live performances in Musical Theatre and Comedy & Drama, then it's my turn to present the films the students have made, all with a Christmassy theme. I've enjoyed the first three months with the academy but I'm looking forward to the break until the 10th January. If you liked to see one of the academy's set of three, lasting just short of nine minutes in total, just click here.

Every year for the past four years I make several Christmas cakes, usually around the end of October, then feed them with brandy for two months. This year I've made three as gifts for various people, and tonight they get their royal icing coating. I decided to make them all gluten free, which isn't difficult as there's hardly any flour in the recipe anyway, and I also make my own marzipan.

The rest of my Christmas treats, mince pies and Christmas pudding, are shop bought. On the day I will join close friends and their family for a festive feast. Because of this the traditional feast in my house will be held on New Years day, which I quite like.

Then I'll be off into the Highlands with my bike and tent for a few days in search of that white stuff.

In the mean time I hope all your own preparations go well and I'm already looking forward to blogging on Christmas day, the first time my "blog day" has fallen on the 25 December.

Friday, 12 December 2014


To twinkle or not to twinkle, that is the question.

This weekend is an important day if you happen to be a little superstitious, as it will be 12 days before Christmas when some believe that is the time to put up the Christmas decorations. Then 12 days after you take them down, and a curse be upon you if you're late!

Well, mine went up last night, and very nice they are too, so there.

Pauline and I met up in the city centre to wander around the Christmas lights of Edinburgh. Within the confines of the east side of Princes Street Gardens, right in the heart of the city, a large Christmas market had sprung up, with traders all housed in quaint wooden, chalet-style huts. The remainder of the gardens are occupied with a myriad of entertainment opportunities, everything from a giant Ferris wheel to horse carousels and even an ice skating rink!

As we wandered around, with traditional Christmas music as the backdrop, it started to snow. Which was nice.

Next stop was the huge department store of Jenners, to see their traditional giant Christmas tree. And giant it was. I've never quite figured out how they get this enormous tree in there, but apparently it does come in, through the front door, in one piece! All around the balconies above were strands of white lights.

George Street, one street up from the Christmas market, always does something a little special and this year is no exception. At regular intervals all the way along it's half mile stretch, were pure white artificial trees festooned in white fairy lights, throwing out a magical bright white glow. One business on George Street always decorates the giant stone pillars outside their entrance with large holly garlands wound around the pillars and lit with thousands of lights.

After a Christmas Blend latte at Starbucks, with a muffin too of course, we set off home to put up our decorations.

This is not quite on the scale of what we had seen in the city. We have a two foot high artificial tree decorated with bits and bobs of Christmassy items collected over the years, and a small string of lights. As a small addition this year we bought some tiny coloured fairy lights, powered by a small solar panel. This we have wrapped around the bare hawthorn tree in the garden. You can have them on all the time or they can be set to flash and twinkle.

Sadly, on day two, they do neither. It would seem there just isn't enough light during the day to charge them.

And there was me deliberating over whether to have them on all the time or to twinkle.

Thursday, 4 December 2014


Today I had an appointment with an orthopaedic consultant surgeon, for an issue which has been ongoing for the past five years. As always, you are given a appointment time which bears no actual resemblance to the time you will be seen. On arrival, and having "checked in", the waiting room was empty, and I sat down pleased, thinking this was my lucky day. A nurse then called my name within minutes, and I was off. Fantastic. Only, she took me to my consultants waiting room, wherein sat 20 bored and miserable people.


This was my second visit in the past three years. I wasn't expecting any good news, but surprisingly, to both of of us, things are looking up. For what I thought, and had been told as much three years ago, was a hopeless case, turns out to be not that bad. After studying new X-rays it appears there's been little change, and the injury has stabilised, to the extent where I am the perfect candidate for a little done surgery technique that could improve things ten fold. More on that in March after the procedure.

So I'm sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, observing those in all manner of casts and slings, and feeling a bit of a fraud with my "sore toe", when I spot the ubiquitous pile of magazines. The usual rubbish was there of course, in the form of celebrity gossip rag mags. I surmised the misery in the room was because most of them had read these mind-numbing publications. Amongst the rubbish was a gossip magazine of a different kind however, The Tatler.

A famous magazine there is no doubt, but one I had never read. I picked it up, curious. Turns out that the name comes from the phrase Tittle Tatler, literally meaning "gossip". There was a picture of the very first edition front cover, which ran with the epigraph:

"Whate'er men do, or say, or dream
Our motley paper seizes for its theme".

It was most popular in the middle classes of the early 1700s and had been designed to be read at leisure in the "coffee houses of St James". I'm guessing Starbucks circa 16th century!

To my surprise the paper/magazine has been going a long time. Over 300 years! It was started back in 1709 by a chap called Richard Steele, formerly of Charterhouse.

As an aside, the name Richard Steele brought a smile to my face. Now sadly passed away, back in early 2011, a very good friend of mine in the film industry went by the same name. And the same spelling. That was a nice coincidence. I wonder if he knew?

Steele and another Charterhouse chap, Joseph Addison, went on in later years to start The Spectator newspaper.

This particular issue of The Tatler was the 300th anniversary edition, and had been sat in this waiting room since 2009.

Thankfully I didn't have to wait that long.