Monday, 23 May 2011

The Return of Steve

Over the winter months, our foxie visitor had been somewhat elusive. I'd been used to seeing him out my window every so often in early evening, but of course in winter, early evening is pitch black. If he was around, I never saw him. I saw him again for the first time a month and a half ago. I saw him again a couple of weeks back. Neither time I managed to snap a shot.

Today was crazy stormy all over Scotland. Power cuts and falling tiles and broken stuff all over. Maybe Steve thought he'd go unnoticed under the cover of wind. He crossed the garden in the late afternoon, in broad daylight. He looked right towards me for a few seconds, which gave me just enough time to grab my camera and snap him as he jump up on the wall and into the neighbour's garden.
Not the best shots, I know. He's a bit camera shy, it seems.


Last night there was a Pirates of the Caribbean themed pub quiz at one of the cinemas in town. High school friend Kirsty asked if I wanted to join her team. I'm no expert on the films, but I thought it sounded like a laugh. Kirsty really wanted a Johnny Depp beach towel, though we didn't know what the prizes were.

There were four rounds. The first round was supposedly about the films, though a lot of the questions were more about the actors and other work they'd done. We did okay that round, and wound up joint 1st with two other teams. We managed to get 7 of the 9 Pirate Lords from At World's End. Round 2 was about pirates in general. We did really good that round, only dropping 2 points. We disputed the last question, though, which was about the notorious (and false) allegations of innuendo levelled at classic British seafaring cartoon Captain Pugwash. We disputed it, but still got four points for putting the answer they expected. We were two points ahead of the field after that round.

The third round was where we fell down. We only got 3 points. The questions were all about which actors were appearing in which upcoming summer blockbusters. Funnily enough, in two or three cases we incorrectly wrote down the names of people for certain questions that ended up being the correct answers to other questions. We were back to joint first with another team after that.

Then they marked the picture round, for which we got all but one correct. I think at that point we slipped into second place. The only thing left was the creative challenge. At the start of the quiz we'd been asked to design our own pirate ship. I suggested we do a space pirate ship. After that, basically any random idea that came out of my mouth became part of the drawing. I said Princess Leia should be the figurehead. Then I said it should ride on a rainbow made of skittles.  In the end, Buzz Lightyear was captain and Chewbacca was first mate. He had an eyepatch. It was no contest, really. We got first place for our picture which landed us ten points, putting us in first place. Here's the picture that clinched the deal. Kudos to Jill for the drawing it:

The prizes were impressive. To Kirsty's delight, there was a Johnny Depp beach towel. There was also a DVD box set of the first three films, the movie soundtrack, a poster, a badge set and some free cinema passes and popcorn vouchers, all in a nice shiny PotC bag. We divvied up the spoils as pirates do. I took tickets, a voucher, the poster and badge set. Here's the poster:


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Trouble at the Ol' Mine

I've had a bit of a mental week. I had another Creative Writing assignment to hand in, and I found myself somewhat distracted. One part of that was becoming an uncle, and getting irrationally excited about the whole thing. I wasn't much in the mood for sitting still while there was a baby to go and gawp at. Also, despite my resolution to never drive again, my dad offered to put me on his insurance so I could drive the family car. Combine stalker uncle with newfound freedom, and it's not long before I'm driving my mum to the hospital to visit my sister and the babbie. This was my second trip out in the car, the first one being half an hour earlier as a test to see if I could do it. I stalled about seven times, but I didn't let that deter me, and I was absolutely fine on our trip to and from the hospital.

The real drama only set in on Tuesday. I'd managed to make good headway with my writing by then. I decided recently to try a new method with my writing. Instead of going straight from my notes to word-processing, I decided to write my first draft on paper as well. It was after I saw something on a website about working with your hands. Not sure how I feel about it yet, but it has its advantages. I was still on my first draft on Tuesday, with the assignment due on Thursday, but I was planning to finish the draft by the end of the day and then type it up on Wednesday, leaving Thursday to do the report and other things the assignment required. However, something happened which put me out of the mood for writing.

After dinner that evening, my dad got a call from my grandmother. My grandfather had left a note saying he had gone out for a walk in the Bilston area. He would have been expected back around 3, and it was now 6. At 7, my dad called the police, then went out to Bilston to look for his car. He came back around 10, having found nothing. We were all pretty worried by this point. My grandfather is 83, and though he's fit and healthy, he's still an elderly man. We got calls from the police throughout the evening informing us of their progress, of which there was none. By the time I went to bed around 2, they still hadn't found his car, so could not direct a search team. I'm sure my dad would have been out looking with them, but he was told to stay at home by the police. I went to to bed to an uneasy sleep, more or less convinced I was going to wake up to the news that a body had been found.

I woke around 5.45am, aware perhaps of the phone having gone off, though I don't remember hearing it. Lying in my bed, afraid to get up to be confronted by bad news, I overheard my mum tell my brother that the car had been found, but there was nothing else yet. I decided I should probably get some more sleep, so I dozed in and out with the TV on, hoping it would stop me from sleeping all morning. My dreams were filled with thoughts of my grandfather, turned surreal by my having recently played a game called Ghost Trick where you play as a spirit that possesses objects. When I woke again a couple of hours, I heard my mother on the phone, and by what she said I was able to surmise that there had possibly been good news. It sounded like she was talking to my grandmother.

When she got off the phone, she came and talked to me. My grandfather had been found - alive - and indeed barely injured at all. He had fallen down a disused mine shaft and been unable to get out. He was still there, but only waiting on special equipment to be retrieved so he could be rescued. You can imagine how relieved we all were. It was an ending none of us imagined possible.

I heard the full story later.

My grandfather, who is a keen caver - and according to one of his caving club friends, quoted in the paper, 'knows more about the country's old mine entrances than any other person'. He was planning to go out, and when he goes out for a walk he generally waits to take his medication until he returns, because it weakens his muscles. It rained, so he was going to give up on the excursion and so took his medication, but when it turned out to only be a brief shower, he headed out anyway. Not long into his walk he came to the mine entrance, and took a look inside. He often reports his findings to his caving club so that areas can be explored more fully, and in some cases his findings have led to safety measures being taken to alert country walkers to the presence of these old mines. He climbed down a ladder to take a look, but because he had taken his medication, he lost his grip and fell. The area at the bottom was only four foot across, and after hurting his back he was unable to lie down. He had no food with him, and he wasn't wearing particularly warm clothing. To keep warm for the 15 hours he spent trapped in that four-foot space, he paced repeatedly up and down. Again and again. Forget Chuck Norris, do not mess with my grandad.

I know the question you're asking yourselves, because I asked myself the same thing. Where was Lassie in all this? That dog has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, my grandad got an x-ray but was found to be fine (though I'm sure my poor grandmother gave him an earful and a half), and I ended up getting an extension on my creative writing assignment. I finished it after painstaking editing last night. 1000 words over the limit. But you know what I say? Bollocks to word limits, that's what. You can't limit my creativity, man. I'm livin' the dream.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Baby, baby, baby (NE)phew!

On a day when the Scottish National Party swept to an unprecedented victory in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, securing the first mandate since the parliament's inception in 1999, my big sister finally had her baby. Which I probably haven't mentioned until now. The baby was due last Friday, but showed no signs up coming until yesterday. My sister had a total nightmare by the sounds of it - the baby's head was tilted too much and wouldn't come naturally, the cord was twisted twice round its neck, she had to have a C-section which was initially going to be under general anaesthetic, but she was woken up from it when they couldn't get the breaking tube down her throat due to swelling, and finally she had it conscious with an epidural at 2 in the morning. Not the ideal birth scenario.

But little baby boy unnamed is perfectly healthy, though his parents are understandably exhausted. We went to visit and the little guy is sufficiently adorable for fawning purposes. I'm hoping my sister recovers quickly and doesn't have to spend too long in nasty hospital.