Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Another lovely day today.

Ruaíri arrived from Dublin last night and we got absolutely trollied on red wine and Linkwood whisky, busting the myth that you should never mix grape and grain.

Had an impromptu birthday present ceremony. I received a very large bottle of Black Bush, plus some beautiful purses from Asia, and these slightly unusual gifts. The ones on the left are ceremonial cutlery with dancing apsara. I bet you can't guess what the other one is? I'll give you a hint - it's magnetic.

Wonderful night. We went to bed very late and very happily sozzled.

Today we took a jaunt down to the registry office. My two dearest friends, Ruaíri and Martine, are getting married. They're both previously divorced. Ruaíri's from Ireland, Martine is French, and they wish to get married in Scotland. You can see this required some consideration. Not as many questions as when Martine's daughter required a birth certificate, having been born to a Scottish father and a French mother in Algeria.

All rather a fiasco. Plus, divorce was only legalised in Ireland in 1997!

Anyway, after that we treated ourselves to celebratory nosh at one of Martine's favourite cafés. Which also turned out to be J. K. Rowling's favourite, too. The Elephant House in Edinburgh. It's where she wrote Harry Potter. The toilets are covered in graffiti from all over the world. My favourite simply reads "Harry Potter was conceived here."

If you go into the main cubical, on the left cubby wall (where the picture is), quite high up, you'll find MGW 27.02.2013 in orange crayon.

We walked into town along Waterloo Place and saw some interesting sights.

The tomb of philosopher David Hume.

A giant statue of Lincoln, erected in memory of Scottish-American Soldiers.

All in a very ancient cemetery, which was more like a small village, with empty houses where family plaques were mounted like old paintings.

We also passed (in order): a stone circle commemorating the opening of the Scottish Parliament. Each stone is from one of the counties in Scotland and each county is written next to it; a view of the hills surrounding Edinburgh; the old observatory and the Robbie Burns memorial.

We ended up back home, and this time it was Ruaíri's turn to make pho (pronounced fur). Followed up with an incredibly strange but yummy pudding: Nanfang Black Sesame Paste.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Scrabble for Scotland

I always learn something new in Edinburgh. Last time it was the game of Tarot, this time it is Scrabble. More specifically Words with Friends. Despite my literary bent, I'd never played either of these before as I didn't think I'd be much good at it. My vocabulary's not bad, but I am a shockingly bad speller.

Turns out I'm not too shoddy, and it's extremely addictive.

At one point last night, myself, Martine, and our friend Laetitia, were sitting around the kitchen table playing the board version of Scrabble whilst simultaneously playing each other on Words with Friends between moves! I don't think we actually spoke a word to each other for over an hour! 

Futuristic mind hive!

It was surprisingly good fun. 

I've also been sucked in by this thing, where you get four pictures and have to find the common word. I've had an iphone since Christmas and I'm still working out just what it does. 

I think Shazam is the best thing ever invented! I first saw Cathryn use it in Belgium a year ago. We were sitting in a bar and a song was playing on the radio. She pulled out her phone and used Shazam to identify the song. Turned out to be Love, Thy Will be Done by Martika. I just stared at her, open-mouthed. 

I'm still getting used to the possibilities of apps. After playing WWF last night, I put down my phone to go and search for my phone. Took me a while to realise what a twit I was. Think I'd mentally associated my phone as being some sort of computer, so when I wanted to send a text message I needed to find a phone.

Yeah... that or the fact it was almost 1am and I had been drinking.

Talking of drinking...

Chocolate, thy will be done.

I decided to do some cooking the other night for Martine and Laetitia.

It was actually awesome. I was three sheets to the wind on a large bottle of sherry, but the concept was a good one:

  1. Grill salmon steaks
  2. Place on bed of green tagliatelle
  3. Trim with lemon and a hard boiled egg, sliced


  • Veg (mushrooms, mange tout, spinach leaves)
  • Garlic 
  • Fresh ginger

Wok fried in honey and soy sauce

It was very yummy indeed. Though it very almost didn't happen. We were all a little (very) drunk and I was standing there impatiently pulling the fish out of the grill and getting increasingly annoyed that it wasn't cooking.

Martine's son arrived home from the pub, wandered in, looked in the grill and said:

"That looks interesting. Are you trying to cook it?"

"Er... yes."

"Maybe turn on the grill?"

At this point I realised that I had turned the oven on full blast with the door wide open. The fish wasn't cooking - we were!

Thanks David :o}

Nice to know little in Edinburgh ever changes. Looking forward to Ruaíri's arrival from Dublin tonight. Lots of wedding planning and moving-to-Laos planning; love, hugs and more alcohol. Such happiness in the household at the moment.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Bonjour Edinburgh

Haggis Flavoured Crisps

Safely ensconced in my second home in Scotland. 

Very glad I had Kitty reshoed at Under the Bonnet (excellent little garage) before we left for Belgium. Had a very near miss on the way up the M1. Pulled into the inside lane at exactly the moment the inside lane decided, inexplicably, to stop! One of those mysterious traffic kinks that cause tailbacks for no reason other than an itchy brake peddle. 

There was an impressive screech of tyres and about a credit card's width between me and the bumper in front. Not an encouraging start to the northern leg of my road trip. Plus it was grey, overcast, and I ended up travelling up the East side of the country, which bypasses all the gorgeous mountains around Shap, and Westmorland Farm Shop. There was a brief glimpse of the sea, and the rusty outline of the Angel of the North, which summed up the bleak landscape pretty accurately. 

Angel of the North
Which doesn't look quite that impressive from the A1.

We also went past the giant power station at Ferrybridge or, as I like to term it, the 'cloud making factory'. Which sounds so much less ecologically destructive than 'heavy industrial plant'. 

Also not quite as picturesque from the A1.

Isn't it amazing how attractive PhotoShop can make just about anything look?

Anyway, made it safe and sound.

Martine has just returned from a round the world trip: Australia, to see her daughter, then Vietnam and Cambodia. She's fallen in love with Laos and she's shown me some incredible photos of ancient burial tombs and landmines!

She's also fallen in love with Ruairí. 

They're getting married! Two of my closest and dearest friends, marrying each other! Absolutely wonderful. It's going to be a very quiet, closed ceremony - only two witnesses. Myself and another volunteer from Rwanda. Ruairí's arriving on Tuesday and there will be much wedding discussion. Can't wait!

Meanwhile, Martine's trip to Asia has resulted in some culinary delights:

A traditional bean noodle dish from Vietnam. 

Followed up with birthday chocolate cake with cream and vast, vast quantities of wine.

Plus, plenty of natural colour.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Extra Crucial

Just back from the annual VSO Rwanda reunion in Belgium.

Every year, usually for Valentine's Weekend, Cathryn and I get in the car and head to Torhout to see Lies, Kassim and baby Noah.

This is the last year we'll be going to Torhout as they're moving to Bruges next month (yes, we love that film too!). Bit of a bummer as we've only just managed to memorise the route!

Had a wonderful time. Caught the ferry late Friday evening and arrived just gone midnight. Lazy Saturday playing belated Santa to Noah's Rasta Mouse obsession.

Irey mon, me feelin' da situation be all extra crucial and ting.

Perfect programming for a wee rasta baby! 

He now has the bag, the DVD and the talking toy. And we have the theme tune stuck in our heads!

Lies was crocheting shawls and knitting socks whilst all of this was going on. She's so talented.

In the evening, the boys stayed home and we headed into Bruges to a lovely Italian restaurant for big bowls of pasta and plenty to drink.

That last one is me being a bit sad. I thought the car park was brilliant! Look - it has lights that show you where the spaces are, and blue ones for disabled spaces. Isn't that clever?

Err... yes, anyway...

Another highlight of our trips to Torhout is the local supermarket. It's way better than supermarkets in the UK because they feed you! Not just little samples, but entire trays and, this time, a guy with a wok!

Wee tipple? Don't mind if I do...
Pesto flavoured crisps - nomnomnom
Salted macadamia nuts
Little bit of fruit to balance it out
Fresh cooked shrimps in dressing to finish

This is also a special supermarket because it's where Co-Pilot Percy Rabbit came from. They appear to be cloning him...

On the Sunday we took a slightly hungover amble into town to eat pancakes at a lovely music bar called Roots. Whilst Lies opted for coffee, Cathryn for the slightly adventurous 'gunpowder tea', I was back on the boozer with a large glass of glühwein (mulled wine), which certainly helped to ward off the winter chill.

It was a lovely weekend, though a 500 mile round-trip is a little exhausting. The boat over was packed with school kids off on half term holidays, but the day ferry back on the Monday was practically empty.

Managed to get some kip. Dropped Cathryn off in Forest Hill, rocking in to the Beastie Boys' Intergalactic - awesome blast from the past. Then battled my way out through central London, by which time I was clinging to Smooth Radio and a giant bag of peanut M&Ms for sheer sanity.

(London - I love you, but you are an arse.)

I was supposed to be heading up to Edinburgh today, but rearranged for Friday. Need to do some sleeping between now and then. Really looking forward to it, though. Ruairí is coming over from Dublin on 26th and we have a wedding to plan!

More on that later.