Three things: Summer, student loan debt, and a short story


Summer holidays are here! We are going away for a couple of days in the middle, but for the most part we are sticking around Aberdeen. Every Friday we plan to meet up with friends for a play and a walk in a different beautiful and local spot (including the Cruickshank Gardens, where we found this wee “campfire” recently). This is pretty much my entire plan for getting through the (seven week long!) holidays, and I am starting to wonder if I might need a few more tricks up my sleeve…

Do you have student loan debt? I do, and I know a lot of people who do–here in the UK, in the USA, and in New Zealand. I really appreciated this two-part series from the podcast Death, Sex, Money. It definitely made me feel less alone with it all.

I wrote a short story for the Scottish Book Trust’s community writing project on the theme of Nourish. You can read it over here, if you like.


Small things

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.

Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother, Theo van Gogh, Oct 1882

Three things: Dunes, elderflower champagne, gardening




Why do dunes never look quite so steep in photos as they are in real life? They are certainly at their steepest when you are only a third of the way up–with a small child in one arm and too many snacks and too much water in the other–wondering whether you should cut your losses, slide back to the bottom, and find an alternative route. This particular dune is a favourite of ours at Balmedie Beach which is about 20 minutes drive away. We often go to the beach just beyond this one because of its gorgeous and frightening population of seals, but we never regret a good play on the dunes, a fossick about the estuary, or fish ‘n’ chips in the playground at Balmedie.

However, at this time of year, we make a trip out especially to pick elderflowers. They grow all over the city and there are countless on our street, but the first year I made elderflower champagne we picked them at Balmedie and now it is lodged within tradition. While their cat-pee fragrance can be smelt about the city now, it turns out it is still a little early for them on the coast. Oh well… best plan on another trip out soon. This is a recipe similar to how I make it. (I have never needed to add yeast). While it takes at least a month in Aberdeen to ferment, I made it one summer in New Zealand, and it was just a few days before the bottles were fit to burst.

Finally, I loved these gardening tips… not so much about gardening, but being/moving in a garden. Numbers 8+10 are my favourites!

An ambiguous, unclassifiable consistency

Very excited for Arundhati Roy’s new novel, but thought I would re-read The God of Small Things before (hopefully) getting The Ministry of Utmost Happiness for my birthday next month ;^) .

They used to make pickles, squashes, jams, curry powders and canned pineapples. And banana jam (illegally) after the FPO (Food Products Organization) banned it because according to their specifications it was neither jam nor jelly. Too thin for jelly and too thick for jam. An ambiguous, unclassifiable consistency, they said… Looking back now, to Rahel it seemed as though this difficulty that their family had with classification ran much deeper than the jam-jelly question… They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much. The laws that make grandmothers grandmothers, uncles uncles, mothers mothers, cousins cousins, jam jam, and jelly jelly. p.30-1

Three things: Life curation, yarn, and sweet cicely


20170607_161715Last week was the fourth week in a row that my 1-year-old was ill with one thing or another, and the second that I was. It was partly that and the consequent lack of sleep that made me take a break from blogging. The last few weeks have felt like we are simply surviving and really not doing anything much else… and this has led to thoughts of ‘OMG what will I write about in my blog this week? Such a dull and yet somehow stressful life’. However, when I look back through my photos, I realise that although we have been much slower than usual, we have done some beautiful things that are worth remembering. And when we haven’t done anything, there have still been beautiful moments to appreciate. It feels somewhat disingenuous or misleading to only write of the nice things in my life… but I end up boring even myself if I focus on the difficult or even humdrum things of life. But I realise that this is a choice that moves me closer to the ‘curated life’ kind of blog… and that kind of grosses out the huge part of me that wants to be authentic. It’s not that I am not showing you true things… I am… but there’s a lot you are not seeing, too. But you know this! Anyway, why am I writing about this internal conflict? I guess just to remind myself that a part of why I write this blog is to notice the small and beautiful moments and to be grateful–not because I am good at doing this, but precisely because I am not. (Also, maybe just so that you know that while I have spent a wonderful afternoon in the woods this week, I have spent six others exasperatedly picking up the same bowl of spilled monkey nuts, exasperatedly trying to prevent the 1-year-old from climbing onto the kitchen counter to lap dishwater from the soaking porridge pot, exasperatedly telling the story of Star Wars to the 5-year-old… everything I know about Star Wars I have learned from that 5-year-old. Serioulsy these things happen multiple times a day right now. Much exasperation).

For some reason I like to watch documentaries when I am sick. I will watch any kind of documentary, including the ones I would ordinarily find too depressing. But here’s one that is not depressing in the slightest: Yarn. The playgrounds in our area are being redone (yay!). I would love a big crocheted one like the one in the film!

One day, after a few of being stuck inside because of rain, I just had to get out or I would scream. Of course, it is hard to muster the energy to get out when you are not well (and when the wind is blowing a gale, as it was that day), but we made it down to the woods and it was just what we all needed. We strayed from the path on our return, having to pull ourselves up banks holding onto treeroots and squelching through mud in the trenches. We saw a heron, three cygnets and their parents, a beautiful nest in a hollow in a tree, fairies in the treetops (top pic), and lots of sweet cicely (second pic). We picked the green seed pods and nibbled on them, enjoying their liquorice taste, then took some home to put into a fruit salsa to have with our tea. (Be careful if you go to pick your own–they’re in the same family as hemlock and other not so edible things…)