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Accordion

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Not sure whether this scanner has been superseded yet; in all likelihood it will have been as we’ve had it for over two years.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,
SANTA

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.

Halloween

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.

 

Freya’s first day at school

Our big five-year-old started school on Monday 17 August. She was very excited!

Bakfiets cargo bike

We’ve been after a child-carrying bike for a few months now. We started out looking at tricycles, the Trikidoo in particular. However we couldn’t find any reviews of it at all, good nor bad. Besides, there was no way for the children to be protected from the rain and our location is rather wet at times.

We looked at various models over a period of a couple of weeks, and thankfully there were quite a lot of reviews for many of the other models available. Whilst we were doing our research, a cargo bike appeared on eBay. It went too high, so we decided to beg our folks for some help to get a new one. The order process went really well and the bike shop was really helpful, even shipping straight to our address for no extra charge (we’ve on an island and usually have to pay a lot more for shipping). We decided after getting some good advice from someone who obviously knew their stuff that a two-wheeler is more stable and easier to control than a tricycle when carrying heavy loads.

The bike arrived today. First impressions: it is very solidly built with a great paint job, neat welds and well engineered. The components are good (Shimano disk brakes front and rear, Shimano 8-speed rear hub). The box looks well made as well, although some of the joins could be better, in particular the latch that locks the box under the seat. The seat clamp is cheap, handlebars and stem aren’t great either; seemingly just some generic Chinese-made jobs. The saddle is gel filled, much to Lorraine’s delight (I’m a Brooks man myself). The stand seems sturdy and holds the bike well while the children climb aboard. The harnesses for the children are really quite poor though. It’s a shame about that. The rain cover seems nicely aerodynamic but doesn’t button down at the sides. Seems like a gust of wind could get right under the rain cover and that could be a problem. It may be that we’ll try and come up with our own solutions for the harness and to keep the rain cover down a bit better. Oh, nice Schwalbe tyres on board too, but none of our four bike pumps fits the inner tube so we’ll have to get a new pump

That was another thing that put us off the Trikidoo; the web site makes no mention of components and I reckon that if they were worth mentioning, they would be mentioned. Don’t get me wrong, we did call the Trikidoo lady and she was very helpful, but for some reason I just didn’t get as far as asking about the components. But any product that uses celebrity power to market it and not much else seems to be lacking in something.

We took the bike out out just a short run this afternoon and it is remarkably stable. You need to get a wee bit of momentum going at first, but once you’re going it’s fine. The kids enjoyed it too. We’ve yet to try the rain cover but from the few hours that we’ve had the bike, it seems like we’ve made a good decision. The bike will be used for the school run mainly; it wouldn’t be any good for say cycling round the island, but the gears are good enough to get us up the steep hill on our street.

I’ll try and get it together to do a proper review once we’ve had it for a while. I know from experience that it’s important that owners of these bikes/trikes post reviews as they’re not cheap and you can’t really go on the marketing hype.

Oh, and one last thing – it fits in our shed!

Orange in honour of the VDC Changa!