Monday 20 October 2014

John Byrne and Contemporary Artists

I was very lucky on Sunday to be child/hubby free so that I could meet a friend in town who wanted to see some art exhibitions. He was a very old colleague who contacted me out of the blue which was a nice surprise and having the art was a nice way to avoid any awkward pauses while we caught up. He cracked me up as he kept stopping on stairs mid conversation - it was bizarre and contraire to my always-moving self.

We met at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street, Edinburgh. This is about 5 minutes from where I work but I've never managed to get there - my loss as the building is a neo-gothic wonder. The exterior lobby area is breath taking- with stunning stained glass windows and a painted ceiling. Like a dolt, I didn't take any photos.
I had been meaning to go for ages to see the John Byrne Sitting Ducks exhibition - and luckily managed to catch it on the last day. My favourite artworks were one of Billy Connolly and another Tilda Swinton. There were also many self portraits and family portraits - fascinating to see how he portrayed himself, his mrs and children. I wish I had had time to look at each in detail.

Other fascinating areas of the gallery were the library with it's phrenology exhibition and the Remembering the Great War exhibition. I need to look into Field Marshall Douglas Haig who's strategies led to so many deaths and the poppy appeal which began life at the Haig Fund to help ex-servicemen. 

After a wander around the gift shop, we went in search of lunch. Ending up in Rose Lane North for a non-spectacular lunch. But it filled our bellies and we were energised enough to make our way to the 
Scottish National Gallery where I wanted to see the Generation - an exhibition of contemporary artists. This is a great museum to visit as the two buildings house a wide variety of art so there is bound to be something for everyone in there. And it's accessible being just 5 mins walk from Edinburgh Waverly Station, in the pretty Princes Street Gardens. They had a bit of a shift around so some paintings that were housed in the lower gallery are now in the main one. I like seeing them in new settings. However, I did struggle with the paintings that are hung up high as the lights hit them so you need to move around to actually view them - not easy when it's busy. There is also a very loud hum in the main gallery which was off-putting. The gallery is pretty bonkers as it's actually two buildings connecting by an underground passage. So without realising it, you are in the other building. Luckily there are some red and blue dots to follow. I have to admit that I didn't really warm to the Generation exhibition - nothing interested me but there are so many paintings in the museum that I love and always am astonished they own Rembrandts that it was fine. I recommend checking out the North of the Border paintings especially the one by Peter Graham and the Gainsborough - the Honorable Mrs Graham who was a beauty and had the most fabulous dress on. I'm really looking forward to the fashion exhibition due to start mid November. 

So there we go - my soul is somewhat replenished after what has been an awful few weeks. And if you read my foodie blog, you'll know that I finished the day with a lovely haul of sweets. All in all lovely ...though I was a tad guilty when I got home as Mr Plummy has caught yet another cold :(. 

Thursday 16 October 2014

10 years...

10 years ago I was

  • Single
  • 6 months into a job as a designer (though my title was Research Engineer!)
  • Travelling up to 3 hours a day to get to my job
  • Living back in London, with Dad, saving up to buy a house
  • A person with a very healthy bank balance
  • A person with the freedom to do whatever the fuck I wanted
  • Lonely
Today I am
  • The person who cried in an office where I work part time doing a job that I wasn't hired to do, in too few hours
  • A mother who resents her child who didn't ask to be born, because I gave up work for her. 
I don't know what happened. No I lie, I do know but I am still confused. I met a man, we decided we wanted a baby, he proposed, I accepted, baby got cut out by skilled doctors and life changed forever. In the last 7 years I have moved house 5 times. I hate moving house. I hated the second move out of London to be near people who didn't visit us. I hated the fourth move as I love London and had even come to love Plumstead and didn't want leave. 

Thing is we were parents who decided that one of us should stay at home with the kid while the other worked. Having grown up with two working parents, and being married to a man who had had a stay at home mum - I was convinced that it was a good choice. So we decided he would stay home, while I worked. 
Thing is I started to breastfeed and I wanted to carry on breastfeeding. But I couldn't figure out how I could do this, where I would store my milk, how I would get back to my baby should she need me if I had to commute an hour and half each way, each working day. I couldn't bear to leave her. So we changed plans, he went to work and I stayed home
Thing is Mr Plummy was made redundant and we again moved up here, over 200 miles away. The first time we lived in Scotland sucked (see 2nd move above). But this time, we moved to the shitiest place I had ever lived and I became very ill (doctors couldn't figure it out, but I think it was due to crippling loneliness).
Thing is I come from a family of women who have been let down by their husbands. My mum, my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother - all had husbands who let them down. The lesson was that I must never ever rely on a man, I must always work. 

Thing is I like to work. No scratch that, I need to work. I loved being one of the first girls in my family to get a degree (and the only child in my family of 3 boys and 1 girl) and after quite a few years of shite jobs, finally becoming a designer. I was so proud of myself. 
Thing is. I love my daughter. She's amazing. It wasn't always easy and there were times I locked myself in a room to stop myself yelling at her. But being with her and helping her transition through 5 house moves was important. We know we did good - teachers tell us they can tell that she has a home parent by her behaviour and command of language. Its not often a parent gets compliments, I gobble them up when they come our way.  
Thing is my husband is not like my dad or my grand-dads. 
Thing is while kiddo is at school I got bored. And that old niggle - the pride of being someone in paid employment started to really bug me
So I did a course on nutrition and started teaching small groups. But the hours weren't enough and were too few. And then there is all this conflicting evidence on what is good nutrition anyway?
So I looked for and found a part time office job. In Edinburgh. Joy was me. I'd go in and be all Mary Tyler Moore walking along Princes Street. Yes,  there were days I was bored but I would just skip off to Jenners toy and yarn departments after work and be happy. I still had the other job for the rewarding challenging stuff so it was all OK.  
Thing is my job changed because there were changes in our head office, people were shifted about and I was asked to take on a new set of duties. Ones I would never have applied to do. I hate it. I am not proud of what I do. I hate going to work and today I ended up in tears in front of one of the managers. 
I want to leave but I know at my age, I will never be given another job again. So I'm stuck. I am so ashamed that I cried. I am so frustrated that there is little opportunity to find part time work around my kid's school hours. And I'm so ashamed that I didn't stand my ground 7 years ago, and demand better conditions so that I could continue a role I was proud of. 

Thing is I love my daughter. I am so proud of who she is and have marvelled at everything she has learnt and I don't know how much I would have missed if I had been at work. 

10 years from now I plan on being in a better place than I am now. I just don't know what the fuck that will be and how the heck I will get there. But I'll be damned proud when I make it. 

Sunday 28 September 2014

Judy's affordable vintage fair Edinburgh

I went along to the Assembly Rooms again today but this time it wasn't for a show, it was for the fun Judy's Affordable Vintage fair. I arrived around 1pm and though there was a very short queue, inside the hall it was packed. So much so that it was a little difficult to get to any rails.
I was more interested in kitchenalia but sadly though there were a few fab stalls, they didn't have any cooking equipment. I did spot some nice white and red plates being sold by Mabel on the Table though I was too lazy to buy them. I'll have to look her up and see if she still has them.
There were some ladies set up doing hair and make-up which was a great idea for anyone who was off out for the evening.
I was really hoping to find some lovely 50s style dresses. In my youf, I used to wonder around markets in Camden Town and Portobello Road looking at the gorgeous old stuff from that era.  Unforutnately, most of the stuff at the fair today was a bit too small for me. I asked one stall holder who told me that most vintage stuff comes in small sizes which amazed me when you think of the beautiful full bodied women from the 50s and 60s (Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and a tonne of Bollywood actresses). It was too crowded for me to look through all the racks but I enjoyed seeing the stuff and hope to go back if the fair comes back to town.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Platform 2, LocalMotiveMarkets

Ah here's me thinking I was done for the night but there's one more: Platform 2 from LocalMotiveMarkets.

This is the new market that will be at Edinburgh Waverley station every Friday from 1pm to 7pm. I had a quick look before catching my train home. As it's new it is still quite small. There is a mix of stalls from those selling handmade bags and felted goods, jewellry stalls, a great looking art stall (Stones of Scotland) and some food stalls. I was going to try cheesecake from one stall but she couldn't guarantee it was vegetarian and was very surprised to tell hear about animal vs vegetarian rennet and the easy availability of veggie cheese in all supermarkets! Philadelphia is veggie and makes lovely cheesecake cake-stall-lady.

It's a lovely idea and I hope that it continues to grow and grow (especially as I always forget that Scottish Farmers' markets are on London they were usually on a Sunday!!!!)

Beggars and bagpipes and stuff

There are things you cannot get away from in Edinburgh. Some I think about too much.

There are beggars on the street. Whenever I've visited the city (including  years before we moved to Scotland), I've seen the beggars on the streets. In London it was a common sight when I was growing up but I never got used to them. And the ones in Edinburgh are ever present. There is one on Princes Street who sits with a cupboard piece claiming he wasn't a druggie/alcoholic - the same sign as he has been showing for years. It's remarkably pristine.
There is the East European woman who sometimes sits outside the station cup in hand. And there is the one who claims he is a ex-soldier, with a noble expression, his service record readily available for anyone to see.
One very rare morning, I found his stuff in it's usual place but no soldier beggar in site.

He was back the next day, glasses perched on his nose while he read a book and waited for people to put money in his hat.
Ironically this part of the street is also where the Jesus lovers stand all day with their leaflets about the love of god blah blah blah.

As Fringe begins the number of beggars ramps up. Somedays I pretend they are spies for the local police keeping an eye on the people around the streets. I will give money to the street artists like the man that carves a dog sculpture out of sand, or the Big Issue sellers s and to the local homeless charities.

Bagpipes - early morning starts mean that I don't hear bagpipes when I am in the City. But by the time I go home the drone of the pipes is in the air delighting the tourist. Most often polluting it with the same old tunes. But every now again, usually a young piper, plays something different and then I will stop and listen. They rarely have the US or Japanese tourists around them at this time which is a bonus.
More street music that I enjoy are the south american band that often joyfully play outside Jenners or M&S, or the flautist who plays modern pop song tunes outside the station.

Anyhooo, I haven't forgotten my aim to make sure I always look at the Castle and never forget it's there. Sometimes though ...that's hard! And in foggy weather, I hope that I don't trip over a person whilst looking up at the amazing buildings around.

Our kiddo free week parts 5 and 6

Ok so this is the release date for Guardians of the Galaxy. I had half a day but worked late (unpaid, my own fault but grrrrr). At home, I realised the house was a mess so I tried to clean but sod it. You know what, we were knackered and a little skint from our week that was, so we stayed home, cooked food out of the freezer and watched more Breaking Bad - awesome.

Panic stations. Kiddo was coming home later. So a little less late lie in, a deep kiss or two (we never kiss enough the hubby and I) followed by a touch of Saturday kitchen best bits, then a mad rush around the house with the Flash and vacuum, shoving things into the washing machine that smelt musty and a quick dusting whilst he went off to collect her and the Mother in Law.

And now, sigh it's the evening. We have had our pizza and the kiddo is in bed.  Sunshine on Leith is on the box whilst I [annoyingly] type away at the keys doing my mass update. I'm not done quite yet - one more post to do tonight.

Our kiddo free week part 4: Thai food and Danny Bhoy

Another lovely lie in. Another small lunch - this time because I was expecting a gorgeous dinner. Another late start to work. A shock at the Edinburgh Waverley which was packed full of tourists coming and going to the Friendly Games.

Work was fine. Not much on so I got to chat to a colleague from another office.

Then the fun began.

Dinner was at the rooftop restaurant Chaophraya, This was my second thai meal within a week. On the previous Friday I met a mate for lunch at Time4Thai - crap name but my god, the food was so delicious. I had a dish with fresh peppercorns and holy basil. My mate ordered off menu in Thai (very impressive to me and the Thai waiter). The staff let us eat - they didn't speak English well but who cared as the food was delicious. Now back to the rooftop. I was early but went in anyway to enjoy the view. Nervously I tried to make jokes to a red headed totally HUMOURLESS waiter. Gah!
Hubby eventually turned up and sat down. Two minutes later his team leader walked up to us - of all the restaurants, what a coincidence. They were also headed to the Assembly Rooms after but for a different show! Small world hey?

The couple were so funny when I was taking photos.
This is lovely looking restaurant with a cocktail bar attached with access to a terrace which was beside this glass enclosed dining area. The view has to be the most phenomenal in the City. It did feel odd as people came onto the terrace and were looking into the glass area; obviously they were looking at the view but it made us feel like animals in a zoo.
Yummy sweetcorn cakes and Singha beer. Best bit of the meal. I chose Tofu with pineapple with sticky rice as a main. It was sweet (d'oh!) and I couldn't eat it. Hubby chose chicken satay to start and then prawn dish for main which luckily he enjoyed. This bill was just under £55. As a comparison Time4Thai food was miles better but this place had a view to die for IMHO.
And a final note - I mentioned the sweetness to another waiter (Manuel who was a lot better than the other guy) who assured me he would feedback to the kitchen.

Oxford Bar  - with time to kill we headed to the Oxford Bar which is a old man's boozer frequented by Ian Rankin and featuring in his Rebus books. I loved it and enjoyed my half of IPA and chatting to an old Art Lecturer who was in town visiting art museums. And just look at the window of the ladie's loo door - so pretty! (side note, the old man was trying to catch the eye of an older hottie at the same bench who wasn't interested - wonder if he managed after we left)

p.s. if booze and gourmet burgers is more your thing, head down the same road to the Cambridge Bar :)

Well now what a tardis the Assembly Rooms on George Street are. It's huge inside. After the previous night's experience we didn't expect a huge crowd. Boy was I wrong - we were directed to a long queue that snaked twice along the side of the building. A mixed crowd of old and young. Mostly white - I am still getting used to being the only brown face at Comedy shows. 
Eventually we were allowed in to the Music hall and we chose to go up to the Balcony. Wowsers is this room awesome with a chandelier that I would keep well away from Del, Rodny and Grandad. 
Well now, the show was ace. He is a very funny man. This was his 12th Fringe show, and all proceeds are going to local charities. 
His experience showed as he handled the crowd well - telling an enthusiastic fan shouting about BottleOs (an Aussie offie that Danny has done jokes about before) that with only an hour, there wasn't much time for banter. And much later very deftly told a lady in the audience to turn off her phone as it was rude and distracting. The jokes were so funny - things about not using publicity, about a yob defacing a Danny Bhoy poster to Danny Gay - diligently taking time to cross out the H whilst Danny stood behind him and watched. He joked about the problems comedians have renting flats as they are too high a risk. 
There was singing as part of a joke about blues and stories and BB King singing about going down to the bus stop to get a bus. He likes to sing and has done in previous shows. And another joke about going to a Michelin star restaurant in Canada where the maitre'd insisted he wore a jacket even though the place was empty. And finally a funny rant about how companies are always collecting our details even when it make no sense - I don't think I will ever be able to go to Tony and Guys for a haircut or even go to buy a pair of pants without laughing.
At one point I shushed hubby as I thought he had started his high pitched laugh (usually happen when he is really out of control laughing) - turns out it was the fan next to him. 

Unlike the previous night, I didn't want this one to end - he is such a master of his art and I'm glad that charity or no, we went to see him. 
Thoroughly wholeheartedly recommended. 

Our kiddo free week part 3 - Imran Yusuf / Josie Long pre-Fringe show.

A luxurious lie in until 10am as I was working the afternoon. But urgh - dehli belly caused by those hot chillies so no left overs for lunch just a yummy Red Delicious apple and a cuppa.

That evening we had tickets to see Imran Yusuf at the Underbelly and then later Josie Long at the Stand. I was really excited about Imran Yusuf as whenever we have seen him on the telly he has been hilarious.
Before the show we treated ourselves to a very rushed dinner at Mums Great Comfort Food which was a brilliant find. I enjoyed my choice of veggie sauces and had champ for the first time. But the best bit was the Tempest Brewing Company Holyrood Pale ale. It was DELICIOUS.

Now to the show which was in the Wee Coo - a very long shed painted black. Imran Yusuf was doing a new show Roar of the Underdog. As it was a pre-Festival show there were not many of us in the wee coo shed.  Apparently 34 of us. How do I know? He said it about 6 times at least. And I think he was counting himself and the crew. I don't know what happened as before the show I was raving about him to the people outside and jumping up and down with excitement. It was AWFUL. It was raining. We walked into the shed and were urged to sit at the front. After some rap music, he announced himself and came out in casual clothes, not the shiny suits that he wore when on the telly. He is a lot taller than he looks on the box. Notes in hand he explained that he hadn't been to Fringe for 2 years. Too close to home in parts (he's an Asian born in East Africa who great up in London, though much younger than me). He worked for Sega where one of my brothers was for a while (they never met). The first story was about him being a Godfather to a Catholic friend's kid - something Mr P.M. knew all about as he is Godfather to my catholic niece. Every story was long and what started off as a grin in my face changed to a grimace. The stories were long. At times it felt like a lecture. And a lot of it felt a bit too racist for me. He did something about trying to change people's perception of Muslims but by this time, I was so bored and regretting my front row seat that I didn't care. He didn't make eye contact with me but did with Mr P.M. who did laugh. At the end of the show he just said he wanted to be liked and was happy to meet people outside and sign autographs. 
My review: the boy grew up and got all serious - my humour bone cracked but not with laughter. 

Josie Long at the Stand - umm well we went along and found out that actually the show had been cancelled a few weeks back. After the Imran show I was LIVID. The staff at Stand were really lovely trying to find out if we had been refunded. They emailed the Fringe staff to find out if we had been refunded. 
Date night was over. I had a thundercloud over me and was angry beyond belief that our evening had been so awful. To top it off my feet were killing me (stupid Karrimor shoes) and Mr P.M. who had aleady made the mistake of laughing at the earlier show hadn't really seemed that bothered about the cancellation. So No, I didn't want a drink. I just wanted to go home.
At home, still fuming I check and both The Fringe site  and Josie Long's site still had the show listed. Tehre was link to here Twitter feed and the rage went into overflow as I saw a tweet from her saying how happy she was to be in Edinburgh.WTF. A twitter exchange followed where it turns out she is actually quite a lovely person, was very sympathetic about my rage and offered to get us VIP tickets. I turned those down as it wouldn't have been fun but at least now when she's on the Stewart Lee Alternative Comedy Experience, I won't turn off.

Fringe lessons learnt:
1. Don't believe the Fringe site
2. Don't believe Artist's site 
3. Always ring the venue to check a show is on
4. We had been refunded but as I had decided to save the extortionate £4 per show booking online, the Fringe didn't have my details to tell me the show is cancelled. Hmmm not really a lesson here - I still hate that fee more than this risk of going to shows that aren't on. 
5. Don't go to bed in tears and angry as no-one gets a cuddle and a cold wall between couples is a big waste in kid-free weeks. 

Our kiddo free week parts 1 and 2

Routine again rules our house. At 7.30 I had the battle to take kiddo for her shower - she always enjoys herself in there so the battle is doubly frustrating. Now it's around 8pm and Mr P.M. is upstairs putting kiddo to bed.
We have had a kid free week - and boy did we need it. I love being a mum but sometimes I just want to walk away - be somewhere where I can read what I like, watch what I like on TV and eat what I like without feeling guilty that I haven't made a yummy yet nutritious non spicy meal for kiddo. Freedom wasn't quite what I got though as I still had Mr P.M. around but luckily we took advantage.

The next few posts are going to be about the week that was. Lets start with Monday and Tuesday

A full day of work which means extra money at the end of the month to spend on the house. To be brutally honest, I am not enjoying this job as I have to wake up very early to get the train in and there is a lot of work to squeeze in the hours. But I'm grateful to have a job and on the whole they are flexible which is useful for a parent.
We cracked open the first season of Breaking Bad. Episodes 1 and 2 were fine. But my goodness Epi 3 was slow and I nearly gave up. I spent a lot of time complaining about the wife who was just an awful person!

Tonight's dinner was a falafels. Usually a meal I love but having spent a bit of time on the phone with kiddo it ended up burnt. And our Zinfadel Rose didn't work out - very rarely I get a strong pain in the Eustachian tubes when drinking alcohol. Sod's law it was this time. Bit of a flat evening ensued.

Another working a full day (wooohoooo more hours = more money to spend on the house).  I couldn't be bothered to cook dinner so we had take out from Bay Leaf - I had my usual extra spicy saag paneer and hubby had a prawn curry. He seemed to enjoy his. I loved mine - even though every now and again I was crunching on rougly chopped up chillies. We had our meals with pilau rice and a paratha. It is really lovely being able to order a ruby murray without worrying about kiddo.
More Breaking Bad - we are HOOKED

In some ways it was a normal few days - I got home and moaned about my job. we ate dinner while watching the box. We watched the box until late and we went to bed.

Huffed and puffed and blew the house down

There is a building on St Andrew's Square which for ages has intrigued me. The architecture is not in line with the buildings around but I really liked it. I am sure a lot of visitors get confused as the building is covered with adverts for the National Museum.
I was amazed on the way to work the other day to see that it was being knocked down. And laughed the next day to see a crane raising a bulldozer to the sky! Sadly the building is being replaced by a new shopping centre which will no doubt be full of shops that I cannot afford to go to and will be a further stab in the heart of the few remaining independent shops in this area.

Gullane Bents

One of the lovely things about starting work at 8am is that as a part-timer I finish by 12. When the sun is hot as it has been this amazing summer, it's time to go to the beach. It was Mr P.M.'s week with the kid so luckily we could all spend a lovely day together having a picnic and just doing beach like stuff.

Gullane Bents is a lovely beach North of Edinburgh. The facilities are basic - carpark, toilets and an ice cream van. Kiddo and I met friends there last year and it was glorious. And there has been no change this week. The only sad point was that I again failed to visit the Falko Konditormeister shop - luckily he has a shop in Edinburgh too so I hope to visit.

Mr P.M. and kiddo love going to beach - sandcastles, paddling in water and skimming stones are just some of the fun they have. In the meantime, I like to go for a walk at the water edge looking for shells and jelly fish.
We only decided to leave as there was a group next to us cooking a BBQ - a signal that it was time for young families to go home and the young thangs to take over the beach :)

The carpark at the Gullane Bents is being improved. This might be due the Scottish Open which will be held at the nearby Gullane Golf club next year. Hopefully it won't lead to this beach becoming too spoilt. 

Sunday 20 July 2014

Museums and other stuff

We are a third of the way through the kid's summer holiday. In the run up to the start of the hols I spent a bundle on buying lots of crafty kits and games for us to play ready for a dreary rainy holiday. But what a glorious summer it's been so far and we have been out and about. Some of the fun stuff so far:

Wonderful Wild Wednesdays - we are incredibly lucky to live close Almondell Park which is run by the West Lothian Rangers. The first week of the hols, we went for a day organised by the rangers to teach kids about local wildlife. We learnt lots about ladybirds and bees. There was also a chance to get up close and personal to some not=so=local creatures thanks to Cool Creatures. They were at my kiddo's birthday party last year and it was lovely to see some of the animals again especially the baby meerkats. Not so great to see the albino python but my brave kid willingly held the snake again. The Rangers regularly hold events in the three parks surrounding Livingston - I urge you to check them out.

Mythical Maze Summer Reading - a programme running throughout the UK to encourage kids into local libraries. A bit annoying that the Scottish kids started their holidays earlier but we had to wait for the English schools to be off before the website features were all working. We love to read in this house so kiddo didn't need much encouragement - each week she gets a small gift from the library and another challenge to do. If you miss a week, they keep the gift for the following Wednesday. She's missed a few weeks but hey ho, doesn't stop us reading and her trying to take out the whole library's stock of childrens books in one visit.

Edinburgh Museums - week two, the mother in law took over as I went back to work. They both came into to town to meet me. It was the day that the National Museum staff were on strike so we chose to go to the Museum on the Mound again where they both got to Strike a Coin and make another one in the machine in the Museum's lobby. A lovely souvenir. The subject matter may not be terribly exciting but the staff at the Museum are very welcoming and lovely.
Next we walked headed to the Royal Mile and the Museum of Childhood. the mother in law had a rest while kiddo and I went around the museum. It's a shame as I think she would have enjoyed it more than kiddo who's already been before and only wanted to sit on the old hobbyhorse on the top floor - its a beautiful horse so I don't blame her. And she did take more interest in the dolls exhibition this time around.
A tea break in the Scottish Storyteller Centre for yummy cake and tea. Kiddo loved the display here of scenes from old Scottish stories - and the MIL was able to tell us what a lot of them meant. There is a detailed mural of the Battle of Bannockburn which was worth the price of the tea alone. I plan to go back to visit John Knox house which is adjoined to the Storyteller centre.

After that we headed to the Museum of Edinburgh - it was a longer walk that we expected. Across the road from a Fudge shop which was a temptation we managed to resist. On entering the museum, they had usefully put feet markings on the floor showing which way to walk - shame they didn't have any showing the way out as lots of foreign tourists tried to exit out of the alarmed Fire Exits. But this was the only issue I had with a fascinating packed museum. It's housed in an very old building with higgledy piggledy floors. First we saw a display for the Commonwealth Games and then up to the the actual museum crammed with the history of the city. I learnt that Edinburgh had had a great fire, about the Coveners and tons more. There was enough to keep the kid amused and the best parts for her were the dressing up room and the children's craft room. Absolutely brilliant - packed full of activity sheets, papers, crayons, pencils, silver rubbings. The room was a blessing on such a hot day for us to let kiddo have some fun whilst we got a rest.

All these museums are free to enter and as long as you can afford the train fair, it's a great way to spend a day just pottering about these places. There is a charge for John Knox house.

Lazy days: a lot of the days we have been enjoying our garden and just pottering around the shops in Livingston. When the MIL was on kiddo duty, she took her to the local baptist church for Messy church or just along to the local parks to play on the swings.

Simply play: Luckily this year we have been able to take enough holidays between us to cover the long summer break. But for one week, the kid went along to mornings at a Simply Play holiday club. The Mr and I had to do a bit of juggling and dashing about to pick her up as she finished before I did. So there was a mad week of handovers but I wished we could afford to send her more often as it's a chance for her to meet kids her own age. I do worry that she gets lonely as she's an only child and out of school a lot of her school friends are away. She was reluctant to go but by the end the week, was happy and wanted to go more often.

Thunder and lightning: we heard rumbles of rain and the odd bit of thunder but no lightning. I'm so happy to be in Scotland when I read of the 30+ temperatures in the South East. London in a heatwave is hideous whereas Scotland with a bit of sunshine is just beautiful. And the rain, wow so much rain fell on our house that we thought we would have to get the sandbags out. Then it got very very misty. And today, back to the warm sun. Just love these changes in weather.

Carnival / mum goes off: We were back in Edinburgh today for the Edinburgh Carnival. It was a little chaotic as we thought our kid could turn up in costume and join the parade. But no, you had to be signed in. Also not well advertised so there weren't many kids there. I didn't see any of it as I slinked off to the National Museum of Scotland to see Nordic Knitathon.  I had great fun at the crochet workshop with Arne and Carlos but was sad to find that I was too late to join the knitathon (my view that crocheters are more friendly than knitters was sadly reinforced).

Ketchup? No catch up

Time for a bit of a catch up and I'll try to make sure it's not like a Christmas letter! (Yes I mentioned Xmas and it's only July)

Work: I did a course with the local council trying to teach kids who had left school without any qualifications. The council find them work placements for 16 weeks and one day a week, they have to attend a day of skill learning - including a session of basic cooking skills. There was a lot of resentment on their part regarding both the cooking and cleaning. I had a difficult time seeing them waste the food they had cooked but refused to eat. It was probably the hardest job I've ever done. Funnily, once the course ended, I really missed the kids and the challenge!

Regular work: Sadly the hours from the council are not regular enough so in February I got a part time admin job in Edinburgh in fashionable George Street - a very swanky street full of top end clothes shops and restaurants. The people in the firm are super clever and miles away from the kids I was teaching. I work 4 hours a day and naively thought that would give me loads of time to go around Edinburgh. On most days, I'm running for one of the two trains that run an hour to get back in time to pick up the kid from school - really makes me miss London Underground with it's regular trains. And there are early starts meaning getting up before 6am. It's been nearly 5 months and I'm still getting used to it :S

Castle: As I exit Waverly Station everyday, I'm try to make sure I look up at the Castle. I don't want to forget it's there. It is odd being on the lower New Town part of the city looking up at the Edinburgh Old Town - can just imagine how the peasants felt back in the days when the Castle was occupied.

Mountains: We went up to Aviemore for a short break for my birthday. Amazing views from the top of the CairnGorm mountain, riding up on the Funicular Railway. And yes, that was snow in May. A smallish strip but I was chuffed to bits to see people snowboarding and skiing. Luckily the rest of the area was not covered in the freezing stuff and we spent some great days exploring the area.

Beaches: we visited  Cramond Beach which is in North Edinburgh on a sunny day in June. It's quite a short drive from Livingston. There are some beautiful views though sadly the beach itself was very dirty. Mr Plummy Mummy's family come from Dundee and the beach there at Broughty Ferry is so clean that it's always a shock to me when I see one that isn't as well kept. However, it's definitely worth going here for the views and to see the old WW2 fortifications. 

Helix Park in Falkirk - this is an amazing place developed on old industrial ground right next to Falkirk football stadium. We (foolishly) chose to go on the first weekend of the holidays so all the car parks were rammed. Like a lot of other people, we ended up parking on the grassy area. Sadly the developers massively underestimated the amount of parking needed. The Kelpie Horses designed by Andy Scott are AMAZING - really beautiful sculptures and together with Falkirk Wheel, are helping to turn this area into a great destination to visit. I was gutted to have missed the launch at night when the horses were lit up and there were fireworks. A rare moment when I missed living in Falkirk :)

There is a wonderful waterpark which is part of the Helix park - and after I got my fill of culture taking a million photos of these sculptures, we took kiddo to the waterpark to have fun in the water. It was all so lovely apart from the idiotic mother that let her young daughter run around naked in the water. Just seemed so wrong especially when the little s*d decided to wee in the water. Quick exit for us!

Gardening Scotland 2014 - Chelsea this is NOT! It was tiny. We were in the midst of buying the house we rent and I wanted some ideas for designing the garden. There were only a few show gardens which whilst gorgeous, were beyond my gardening skills. There was an area for schools gardens and some of these really clever in their designs. Inside the main hall, there were lots of plant displays and I've picked up a couple to try out on the garden.

So that's it, caught up to June. In the next post, I'll cover July after I've watched Monty Python live on Gold