118. I’m On MY Way…

From misery to happiness. Although The Proclaimers did not have vaccination in mind when they sang that. Yes, both JD and I have received our first microchip, sorry, COVID jab. Anyone who truly believes that there are microchips in them, intended to follow our every move, has a higher opinion of our leaders than we do in this house. Are we really that interesting? I’ve also seen theories that (a) the virus was a deliberate release to kill off the global population and / or (b) the vaccine was developed to deliberately kill us off. I don’t know if conspiracy theorists hold both views at the same time but maybe, like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland (or possibly Alice Through the Looking Glass, they’re both by Lewis Carroll), they can believe six impossible things before breakfast. There are even more outlandish theories around, I’m not going to give them any air space.

Anyway, I’m sitting here like a coiled spring just waiting to release all my pent up blog energy, to misquote the Bank of England’s chief economist. Let’s go!


Burns Night cocktail

I have the dictum (a short statement), “a place for everything and everything in its place”. This is not a diktat (an imposed order), unfortunately, as you’ll see. JD has delusions of grandeur. I was looking for the office key the other day. (WFH for 30 years, I learnt the need to lock myself away from distractions). As I couldn’t find it in its usual place, I asked him where it was. In The Other Place, he said. For those who don’t know, this is UK Parliament etiquette, when in the House of Commons, for an MP to refer to the House of Lords and vice versa. I did find the key, now our entrance hall will forever be The Other Place in my mind.


Discussing what we were planning to do for the day, JD said he had to mend his broken jigsaw. This confused me on two points: surely jigsaws are meant to be broken, and he doesn’t do jigsaws anyway. Had he a hidden one in his shed? Then I realised it was a broken jig saw, used traditionally to make jigsaws!

As tartan as we can get

Having celebrated Burns Night on Monday 25th January (more below), I thought I’d let you know what else we missed that week: Australia Day (or Invasion Day according to some protestors), Chocolate Cake Day, International Lego Day, and finally Curmudgeons Day. Chocolate cake is always welcome and we do have some bits of Lego floating around (show me a house that’s had a child grow up with no hidden Lego!) but I don’t know any Curmudgeons. Do I? Moving on…

I must not forget Groundhog Day, 2nd February. Let’s face it, every day feels like Groundhog Day. Who needs the film? And I’d better mention our other friends Down Under, Saturday 6th February was NZ Waitangi Day. This commemorates the signing of New Zealand’s founding document and seems to be enjoyed by all, so maybe they could tell Australia how to do it?


You might be wondering why I’m only now (mid February) telling you about Burns Night (late January). I’m worried there may be lean times ahead so I’m rationing our celebrations, who knows when we’ll be allowed outside again to the excitement of haircuts and non-essential shopping.

Robert (Rabbie) Burns: why do we celebrate his birthday? Good question, as he was a Scot and neither JD nor I are. I think, if you are a Scot, you have a legitimate excuse. For the rest of us, we need something to look forward to in the long nights of January (once my birthday is out of the way).

You’ve probably predicted that I have a book on Burns. It was published in 1887 in Edinburgh and I have no idea how it came to me. It has a “biographical sketch” so here is a potted history of Burns. He was born on 25th January in 1759, two miles south of Ayr (in Scotland) in a humble cottage. He died on 21st July 1796 “in his 38th year”. He became known as the Ayrshire Bard from his prodigious poetical output. Many of these poems were addressed to or about ladies (?) of his acquaintance. His father was a gardener then a tenant farmer and Rabbie worked on the farm until ill health prevented that. He was “fond of the ladies” and had twins with his wife, after another love had died suddenly. Other offspring were born to other lady loves. A (legitimate) son was born the day Rabbie died.

The two poems we are interested in here are The Selkirk Grace and To A Haggis. The Selkirk Grace he made up when dining with the Earl of Selkirk: “Some hae meat, and canna eat, and some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit”. Nice and short, I think you’ll agree, before you tuck into your meal.

Haggis, tatties and neeps (and whisky)

On Burns Night we traditionally eat haggis, where the second poem above comes in. If you have a Scotsman (or woman) at the table then they can recite it. If not then anyone who wishes to volunteer can make a hash of speaking with a Scots accent. We found a reply one year but I’m not sure where we filed it! I cannot take a legible photo of our copy of the poem so you’ll have to look here if you want to try and read it yersel.


I’m afraid we don’t know any bagpipe players to accompany it into the dining room. Any volunteers out there for next year?

It is possible that you haven’t a clue what haggis is, especially if you live in the USA, where it is banned. I suspect you can’t export it to mainland Europe since Brexit either. Here is a scientific paper written about the farming of haggis which you might find illuminating (especially the references).


Ignoring Burns Night

According to the statistics, we are all watching a lot more TV programmes and that is true here as well. Often, we don’t turn the machine on from one Friday to the next as we seem to only be interested in The Graham Norton Show (I think possibly in case he needs an understudy?). Having written that, I now find out I didn’t tell you the big story of when we were in Punta del Este. Go back to Posts 53 of 22nd October and 54 of 28th October 2019 and see if the photo of JD reminds you of anyone (more) famous. Yes, with a beard, people kept thinking Graham Norton had walked into the room. Amazing.

What else have we watched? Programmes almost at random: Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly, which had me shouting at the TV, a practice I abhor. Honestly, if your dog kept chasing and puncturing footballs when you took it for a walk in the park, what would you do? Keep it on the lead? Walk when the kids were in school so you’d not have to worry? No, of course you’d go and buy new footballs every week and hand them out when your dog had run off with the kids’ ball, wouldn’t you? Then Finding Alice, a thriller (I think) about a woman whose husband dies falling down the stairs. We keep watching it thinking something must happen or why would they make six parts.

More interesting (well, resulting in less shouting) was 54 Days, a two-part documentary about the pandemic. Maybe too early to come to any conclusions but the first part about China and the second about the USA response were interesting. If you can get the BBC you might want to watch it.

And finally, a film called Breathe, about an older infectious disease that terrified the world. Thankfully now almost eradicated, I think it’s only Afghanistan and Pakistan where polio still exists in the wild. This film got me thinking about ventilators and all the children there were with polio (I developed polio about the same time as the chap in the film but luckily was nowhere near as badly affected). What happened to those children? How do you explain to a toddler who’s totally paralysed what’s going on? Which reflects the teenager who’s just woken up from a coma ten months after being hit by a car, and doesn’t know if he’s being wound up about the pandemic. If only.


I’ve learnt a delightful new word, Tsundoku, which means buying more books than you’ll ever have the chance to read. Is that possible? Surely just having the books by your bedside means you benefit from them, somehow by osmosis of the contents? I have to admit that I am buying far fewer books and probably only have about 6 months’ worth by the bed. As it used to be about 24 months’ I think I need to buy more. (Ah, don’t mention my secret weapon, the Kindle I bought for my China trip, haha, which I guess can hold more books than I could ever read. It doesn’t though).

Bulbs coming through

Spring is coming (so much better than winter is coming, don’t you think?). I’ve posted a few photos of early flowering plants in the garden, although we have had a touch of snow (see header). In Post 15, of 12th February 2019, I asked how JD coped with being cooped up due to the snow. Little did we know, snow would prove to be the least of our problems.

Cocktails: today’s ingredient is Quetsche, another eau-de-vie, this time from the Alsace region (French, but in the past has been inside Germany). You can buy the tree, a special blue plum and grow your own.


Once again, it’s an old bottle we’ve had hanging around for a while, can I finish it off before JD decides it’s his new favourite? It is still available although I’m not sure how much extra import tax now applies nor how quickly you could get it over here. Ooh, looking at their site, there’s exciting bottles I could get for my next round of cocktails. Yes folks, we’re getting (relatively) close to the end of the bar.


(If you’re wondering why I’m droning on about export and import, since Brexit at the end of last month, we’ve been hearing reports of people having to pay export tax when taking things out of the UK and import tax on the same items when arriving on the other side of the Channel, even old stuff you just want to take over or presents for the grandkids. I have no personal experience so it could all be the conspiracy theorists again).

News in the Vendée Globe, the first female sailor finished some days ago, in a faster time (just over 87 days) than Ellen MacArthur set in 2000/01 (94 days). Faster boats, better equipment? It doesn’t matter, she did it.


The only Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi finished the race this last week, his story is worth reading for inspiration:


And yesterday (12th February) Pip Hare, British skipper, has finished in 19th place. I can’t see why women can’t sail as fast as men but as I’m not a sailor it might be obvious to those who are. Sheer body strength can’t be the only factor. Maybe we’re talking too much, as the Japanese Olympic chap said (I think he’s finally resigned).


I’d better stop now!