Category Archives: Social

Back on the Payroll…

I’m on the first day of a two-day training course, which makes this my first day of actual work in very nearly six months. I had to get up at 7am for an 8.30am start, but that still feels like mid-morning when I used to be halfway through my shift by then.

Of course, there are teething problems with the training, and the class has now been pushed by an hour or so, so I’m taking the opportunity to post this. It would seem that while a lot of things have changed recently, some things – like delays and red tape – have not.

So, this is the beginning of a new chapter. If I’m honest, I don’t want this one to last very long – I want something different; something better – but in this Covid world, beggars and choosers and all that.

Oddly, I always did more writing when I was working full-time as well, so that’s a bonus I can look forward to. I have a few new ideas that I’ve been mulling over for a while now, so I’ll probably be able to get them fleshed out a little over the weekend.

Amazing Bed & Great Breakfast…

When I was on my own I was a far more frequent visitor of B&B’s, because my narrow-minded belief is that they are tailored more to the lone soul than the couple looking for a quiet and romantic escape.

Ardtorna, a luxurious B&B just a whistle north of Oban on the west coast of Scotland, has shown me that not only is that opinion wrong, but that maybe I have missed a lot of fantastic overnight opportunities over the years.

I have never stayed in such a well-presented and beautifully decorated establishment. Everything is crisp and clean and intended to make your stay the best it can be, and it’s clear that owner Karen takes immense pride in providing that service for all her guests.

Running a bed and breakfast is difficult, and owners of these places don’t get enough credit for the love they put in to their work every single day. Karen does this all with a smile and some friendly conversation. You may think that’s easy, but I promise you, most of us wouldn’t last a week in such a cutthroat environment.

Of course, Ardtorna is not for everyone. Everything here is immaculate. If you’re the kind of person who treats a hotel room as your personal rubbish bin, and doesn’t think twice about spilling wine or breaking a glass, you should find somewhere else to stay – this place is not for you.

Cards on the table, I often take the coffee and tea from my room when I leave a hotel. Sometimes the little shampoos and conditioners too. I joke with The Fiancée© that these businesses factor this into their costs, but of course, they don’t.

Well I didn’t take a thing from Ardtorna, not even any of the Celebrations that were in the mini fridge… and they were factored into the cost! Why? This care and attention to the comfort of the people she has welcomed into her home deserves to be respected, and I don’t want to take advantage of such dedication and hard work. I can see that she has gone above and beyond, and she will wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

I didn’t start this post as a love letter to Ardtorna, but now that it’s done it feels like that is just what I’ve written. So thank you Karen, for a wonderful bookend to our extended weekend away from home. I’m sure we will be back.

An Otter’s Pocket…

It’s been a hell of a day.

We left the hotel in Invergarry after a couple of nights there, with the intention of taking a leisurely drive down towards the bed & breakfast I had booked for one night, before our trip back home. We had a lot of time to play with before check-in at 4pm.

But the weather had other ideas.

The rain has never been far away since we left home, which is a shame but this is Scotland. That would be like an Arab complaining he was getting too much sun.

But this was next level annoying. At 9am on a Sunday the road we were taking to drive south – the only possible road south – was blocked. Flooded. We waited for ninety minutes (the length of time it should have taken us to reach our destination) while we watched the police stand about and do very little, only for one of them to eventually come over to tell us we’d better turn around.

Sure. Except where we had to be was down there, not all the way back up that way. So we were forced into making a 130 mile diversion – extremely frustrating at the best of times, but when the sky is making the whole experience miserable… well, we almost decided to pack our bags and just head home a day early. Non-refundable room be damned.

But it was all worth it when we found our way to Ardtorna B&B, probably the most exquisite bed and breakfast I’ve ever stayed at. Granted, we have not yet slept or had breakfast, but if the views over Loch Creran from the floor to ceiling windows, and the sumptuous anti-pasti platter we were served are anything to go by, this will definitely be a stay to remember.

Skye? What Skye?

It was a terrible day. Well, at least, the weather was terrible. Most of the time. We did squeeze a few moments of sunshine from the sky, but really, we were mostly trying our best to avoid the rain.

Still, rain doesn’t ruin a holiday – attitudes do. We made the best of the inclement weather and visited Eilean Donan Castle in the morning, on our way to Skye. It’s a beautiful location and having been there now I can see why it is such a popular wedding venue… although I imagine it has an extremely long waiting list.

After that we crossed the bridge and went to see the Fairy Pools on the west of the Isle of Skye. It was a bit of a let down, but mostly because once you’ve parked the car you still have (literally) miles to walk to get the most out of the excursion. Because it had been raining, and the trek involved crossing a couple of rivers, we got as far as we dared, took a few pictures and turned back.

No biggie. We saw Krka last year in Croatia, so we’ve done the amazing waterfall thing.

We then looped over the top of Skye and back down the east coast, by which time the sun (what sun?) was going down and the rain was not letting up.

All things considered, it was a fun day. I’m glad I finally got to see Skye, as it’s a part of Scotland that has always escaped me. The scenery is postcard-worthy almost every step of the way, and even when it’s wet, those mountains are still mightily impressive.

Go West, Life is Peaceful There…

We’re away for a much needed break. Or rather, The Fiancée© needs a break – I’m just along for the ride. So we packed the next few days into a suitcase and headed west.

We haven’t been away overnight since February, as I’m sure is the case for many people, and going around feels more than a little strange in this changed world. Now we are taking our masks everywhere we go, only entering small stores if there are no other customers, and using hand sanitiser when we do go inside.

We are in Invergarry, a small town to the south of Loch Ness. It was a three hour drive that we stretched out to seven. Well, the journey is part of the holiday, isn’t it? Besides, Scotland is filled with beautiful scenery, and a fair chunk of it is on the way to where we are now.

We are in an elegant country hotel – traditionally Scottish, except for the fact that the restaurant serves Indian food for dinner. Odd, but actually really good. So now we’re stuffed and sprawled out in the king-sized bed we have.

I mean, I know she’s here somewhere, but she’s so small, and this bed is so big…

Mum’s the Word…

I went over to visit my mum today, with the intention of telling her that I had been made redundant… only she already knew.

Turns out, she read it on my blog last week, which wouldn’t really be all that surprising, except she isn’t subscribed to my blog and only happened upon the site because she had Googled my name… and I thought I was the only person who did that.

She used to be on my mailing list, but then she changed her email and I never bothered to set the alerts back up for her. I didn’t see the point. A lot of the stuff I post wouldn’t interest her in the slightest, and some of the other stuff would just make her worry about me more than she already does – which was the entire reason I didn’t tell her about the redundancy in the first instance anyway.

So, now that I know I may be under surveillance, I will have to be a little more vigilant about the gratuitous sex, violence, and bad language that I post here.

Modern Inconveniences…

My friend Steven called me today from Canada. We send messages back and forth on WhatsApp (all too infrequently, really), and it’s been a long time since we have spoken on the phone.

And we’ve never done it with video enabled.

I’m fairly old school when it comes to phone calls. I want to be able to be naked or to pick my nose or to go to the toilet, if the need or desire arises. I just can’t do those things if the guy on the other end of the line can see me. Well, I certainly can’t do them comfortably.

So I pulled on my pants and answered the call.

It was good to hear his voice, and although he’s had a rough time of it lately, I’m glad to hear that things are beginning to get better for him.

Hopefully the world catches up and we can all begin to see a little happiness in our lives as 2020 begins to wind down.

Pastures New…

Today, The Fiancée© said goodbye to her first born as he moved away from home. He hasn’t gone far – just a half hour drive away, into student accommodation, where he will stay while he studies to be a midwife – but that distance may as well be the other side of the world.

I have got no children, so I don’t know what it feels like to help pack away their things, bundle them into a car, and drive them off to waters unknown. This is as close as I have come to that feeling of loss and emptiness. I have only known him for a couple of years, and I obviously don’t have the history with him or the wealth of memories that The Fiancée© does… but even I found myself fighting back tears this afternoon as we helped him set up his new home.

The Fiancée© is crying – right now, as I write this – but I know that while there is a lot of sadness in those tears, for all the times she has had with him over the last nineteen years, and I know she will miss him greatly; those tears also represent the joy of possibility, of how his life will progress, and what he will achieve now that he is beginning to walk without her guidance.

I am proud of her emotional strength, and of how she has handled this difficult day. I know she will be fine – they both will – but today marks the next chapter for each of them, and I will be here to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

A Lazy Covid Summer…

I have never defined myself by the job that I do. I mean, I couldn’t, I’ve had so many of them. Maybe it would be different if I was a doctor or a lawyer, but for a number of reasons – at least some of which are of my own making – those things are not in my wheelhouse.

I haven’t worked since the tail end of March – that’s a shade over five months. At first (despite the circumstances that forced this upon me) this was great. I was getting paid by the government to sit at home. It gave me more time to relax and to do all those things that a full time job just didn’t allow me to do. I devised quizzes, I did jigsaws, I made board games. I read a lot more. If nothing else, it certainly put a stop to those 4am alarms!

I enjoyed staying at home, because it gave me a lot of time to myself. I know a lot of people don’t fly solo very well, but I’m one of those people who really doesn’t mind their own company. But as the lockdown restrictions were finally lifted and people started to find their way back to the workplace it began to sink in that something was missing.

The Fiancée© has been working through the majority of my furlough period. Because of the cutbacks and the fall in the market, her salary is less than it used to be, and she now has more work to do as well. Most days she is there longer than she should be (it’s 8.30pm as I’m writing this, and she’s still there) and although I’m sure some of her colleagues recognise this, she definitely doesn’t get the appreciation or the credit that she deserves.

Most days she arrives home tired and drained, cursing the circumstances that have turned her career into something that it never should have been, and looking forward to the day when all of this is behind us. Although she has the occasional moan about colleagues not pulling their weight (and whom amongst us can say otherwise?), or her job not being completed properly when she is away, she really doesn’t complain as much as she has every right to, and certainly not as much as I thought she would.

She tries to forget work when she is home, but not as hard as I would like her to. She still replies to emails, and gets embroiled in back-and-forths on WhatsApp, even when she should be putting her feet up and winding down for the night. It never stops. Even when we’re in bed, she will usually take one final look at her inbox before hitting her pillow.

I like that she is dedicated to her job, and I admire her committment to making sure everything is done correctly and to the highest standard, but it concerns me that she takes all of this on herself. That’s just who she is though. I’m not going to be able to change those things about her, and I don’t want to anyway. I just need to ensure she isn’t stretching herself too thin.

The point of all this is… I need to be back at work.

Maybe it’s a simple case of pride, or maybe it’s some residual macho gene that is tugging inside me, telling me I have to get out there and bring home the bacon. I’m not sure. Either way, I don’t want The Fiancée© to monopolise all the headaches that come with running a household, or to be the only one whose shoulders are weighed down by the stress of it all – I need to share some of that burden with her.

She deserves that.

What I’ve Done This Month #August…

I didn’t do any fresh writing this month, which – although a little disconcerting – is not altogether unexpected. Covid-19 has knocked everything into a spin, which is certainly no excuse, because I have absolutely had more time to write, but it has tweaked the way I go about my days. One good thing about the pandemic is that I am no longer having to wake up at 4am. That’s something I won’t miss.

I am slowly making my way through my exhaustive filing of stories, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Starting with all the stuff I did far too many years ago to mention, I have filed and dated everything (in colourful lever-arch folders) up to and including 2012. By the time I write next month’s update I am confident I will have it all squared away and be able to dedicate some time to coming up with new stuff.

Over the last few days I have submitted a lot of stories to various markets, primarily to get back in the habit of doing it. There was a time when I’d get a response from a pubisher every day. Now, I go many weeks between replies, and that is mainly because I just don’t throw my stuff out there the way I used to. Well that is going to change. 2020 has not bee a good year, but I’m determined to salvage something positive from it.

In other news, I was officialy made redundant this afternoon, so – with the thought that such an endpoint was coming sooner rather than later – I’ve been looking for other work as well. I don’t have anything yet, but I have a few irons in the fire, and I’m sure it won’t be long until I’m back out there earning a wage rather than taking the furlough payment for granted.

Take care folks!