Freya’s last day at nursery in Lux

As I was going through my old posts, this picture really stood out as representing the moment perfectly. It was a sad time, incredibly sad actually, and that surprised me. It was Freya’s last day at précoce, or nursery school, in our little village of Sanem. She hadn’t been going for all that long really, but she’d got into the routine and so had I. I used to pick her up at lunch time with Hamish on my back in the Bush Baby. Sometimes we’d go up to the chateau to get Lorraine and walk home together, but more often I would use the opportunity to take some pictures with my Nikon.

I was never particularly happy in Luxembourg, so it’s surprising how sad I was feeling during these last few weeks and how nostalgic I feel now looking back. I think it must be largely because I got to see so much of the kids then, although I didn’t fully appreciate that at the time. In which case I should extrapolate that forward to now, so that I do make sure I appreciate the time I have now.

The walk home from précoce was about 10 minutes and it really was a lovely wee village where we lived.

The hardest goodbye was at the forest creche. I took Freya there every afternoon and picked her up at night. It’s the one thing I miss most about Lux. Freya loved it and had a lot of friends there. It was funny to watch her playing with her friends and listen to her speaking fluent Luxembourgish. Ho hum…

Sandy and Eliane

Freya’s Beavers Investiture

Freya’s Beavers Investiture Certificate


1979 maybe? I’m not sure what age I was when I started playing, but this must have been near the beginning as it’s a 12-bass so must have been my first one. I moved up to a 72, which I still have as it happens, but it’s not a terribly good one and good ones are so expensive. Besides, I’m kind of caught up with guitar and mandolin so not sure where I’d fit accordion in, and I’d only end up playing ceilidhs anyway. Maybe one day though.


Epson Perfection V750 Pro


I ummed and ahhed for ages just before we left Luxembourg about whether to spend so much money on a decent scanner. I decided that I would and I’m so glad that I did. I scanned all of my and Lorraine’s prints before we moved and then binned them all.

After my dad died in November 2009, I brought all their photos home and have been going through them bit by bit and I’ll tell you what, that scanner is terrific. It’s really fast and, using VueScan, it’s so easy to do whole batches at a time or do one at a time with colour correction etc, then into Photoshop for some adjustments and the results are very good indeed. So much better than the original prints that have faded so badly that the image is barely discernable.

Not sure whether this scanner has been superseded yet; in all likelihood it will have been as we’ve had it for over two years. But that means these should be more affordable. If you’ve got a big scan project looming, consider the Epson and buy VueScan. SilverFast came with the scanner and it’s pretty hard to use. The Epson software is okay, but VueScan rocks.

The pictures are me in 1978 in my primary school uniform with Trudy the dog that was eventually put to sleep for biting my brother. The next one is me and my brother on the swings down Prestwick beach and the third one is my mum, who, believe it or not, used to be rather a good shot.

Spectrum 48

Santa got it so right in 1984. I had a Commodore Vic 20 before this, but the Spectrum 48 with the rubber keyboard was where it was at. Hours of joy and hours of frustration and trying to get games to load off a tape player. And there were hacks, oh yes. Randomize User strings.

Load “” would make a great t-shirt logo as well. Heh heh.

Thank you letter from Santa

Dear Freya and Hamish,
Thank you very much for so kindly leaving those lovely biscuits. They were melted moments, unless I’m mistaken? They were beautifully decorated and I must confess that they were so tasty that I ate them both! Rudolph took the carrot for later as we got to your house quite early and he wasn’t hungry. Hope you have a lovely Christmas and enjoy your presents. You’re both really good most of the time and deserve a great Christmas.
Till next year,

Rip Chipper

My dad passed away in the early hours of Monday morning. He’d been suffering for a long time with COPD and was prone to angina attacks and chest infections as a result. He had real trouble breathing and was on oxygen pretty much most of the time.

My brother called me at about 3 a.m. to tell me the news and to ask if I could come home. I got the first boat over at 8.20 a.m. and got to the house. My dad had been taken away by then and my brother and I began the process of Sorting Things Out. And in a strange kind of way it was an enjoyable time: just I, my brother and my mum in constant contact dealing with insurance policies and such like, as well as clearing out cupboards and cleaning.

There wasn’t all that much to sort out in terms of material possessions; my folks moved from our family home about 10 years ago to a small one-bedroomed house, so most of the junk went during the move. And my mum is physically prepared for being on her own. She’s paralysed almost completely from the neck down and has constant social care. My dad was there, but he wasn’t really there in the last few months as he wasn’t in good enough shape really to be of much help to my mum. Of course he was company and that’s what she will miss the most.

Mum and dad were married in 1971 and my dad was 78 at the end.

The funeral was today. We didn’t expect there to be a great turn out, given that my dad’s family is quite small now and he wasn’t really a great socialiser since moving house. But we were wrong: there was standing room only and even at that some people had to stand outside!

The service was really good, officiated by the same minister that married Brian and Lynn and me and Lorraine. He also christened all four of Brian’s kids. So he’s been dealing with the families births, deaths and marriages for a while and that’s kind of comforting.

The service was followed by a trip to the cemetery where dad was buried and it was a nice service there too. The close family all threw a rose into the grave and I hope that Freya will remember. I think she will. Hamish probably won’t though as he’s only 3.

During my time at home, since Monday, I got to an AA meeting every night. It’s weird to think that I spent a lot of my drinking time in Prestwick and Ayr but I’d never been to a meeting there. It was easy enough to find the meetings and it was a great help to me. It’s a shame in a way that I didn’t get to sit in the pub with my brother and the rest of the family after the service, but I know what that would have led to and it’s not what dad would have wanted; of that I am certain. So I made up for that by getting a 32 gig iPhone. It’s what dad would have done! He always was an early adopter and a gadget freak so it’s the best way I can think to remember him. I also wore his cuff links at the service today and shall keep them special.

I’m not sure whether I’m grieving or not. I think being able to share at the AA meetings was a big help but whether it was letting out some of the grief I really can’t say. I’ve never dealt with the death of a parent before. Time will tell.

I know that I am proud of my family, particularly my brother and his eldest for the way they’ve dealt with everything this week. And same goes for Lorraine; she’s been there for me and has been a great help. And my children helped too. And so life goes on for us all.

I’d also like to thank all the friends and family who came along today. It was a great help to me to see my school friends there, even if I didn’t get to talk to them for very long. If you’re reading this its, thanks for coming!

Rest in Peace, Chipper.


The kids were at a Halloween party at the school last night and had a great time. For some reason I can’t get Lightroom to export the photos in their proper colour settings on the Macbook; their costumes were more vibrant than they look here. But you get the idea.

Double anniversary

Lorraine and I were married on 9 October 2002 and I had my last drink of alcohol on 9 October 2005. If I had not stopped drinking, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be married 7 years!

It’s been a great day. We got each other a woolly jumper from the sheepskin shop as 7 years is apparently the wool anniversary. And we got wood delivered for the fire and sat home and watched Burn After Reading, the Coen brothers’ latest. it was very good indeed.

I also got to practice step 9 at work today (we continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it) on a customer who got me wound up. I apologised, unequivocally.

I also had a nice meringue cake made for me at last night’s AA meeting. They’re good people for sure.

So today I’m a grateful sober alcoholic and a happily married man. Oh, and I’m cosy and warm too!

14th operation

Ilizarov Frame

So the accident on 18 July 1989 still has me in hospital! I’m just back from having my 14th operation, this time to straighten my fourth toe. The toes were broken and pinned after the main surgery was completed back in around 1991, but they clawed again and one in particular was causing me no small amount of discomfort (i.e. hunners of pain). So I found myself back under the knife at Ayr hospital yesterday.

The procedure was a DPJ (distal something or other joint) removal and fusion. In other words, they removed the joint and put the toe back together again with a pin in it and hopefully it will fuse and become straight.

It was weird being back in hospital again as it brought back many memories. I’d forgotten how surgical and cold the threatre can be and how it feels staring up at the bright lights while the anaesthetist does her thing, then that feeling as the cold creeps up your arm, then your head expands, and you’re out!

It all went well and awoke without the pain I was expecting to feel. The nurses were great too. I am still amazed at how great a job nurses do.

I got out this morning and am now back in my island fortress. I’ve got co-codamol 30/500 for the pain and they seem to be working fine. I’m going to stay home for the rest of the week and enjoy a rest. (I hope!)

I’m back in two weeks for a check up (more boat trips, logistical difficulties of getting from the ferry terminal to the hospital and back again, more extra hours for the PO girls, which of course means more cost for my business) and then another trip four weeks after that to have the pin removed and then I’m done. It’s a quiet time of year at work so it’s good timing really.