Dear Friend

Do you know who you are? You’re the one who I thought would be around even when I was 3000 miles away, well you’re not.

Not long after I moved I noticed that our communication had turned into a one way street. Sure you’d respond when I contacted you but with minimal answers and you had simply stopped initiating conversations. I eased off contacting you, maybe I was in your face too much…maybe not as I haven’t heard from you in several months.

Are you retaliating because I moved away? Did our friendship really mean that little to you that it’s worth such a petty response? I tend to think not. I think the much more likely answer is that I imagined our friendship to be much more than it was. More likely that you’ve moved on which was easy because you’re gregarious and outgoing so new friends are easy to garner. Not that I didn’t expect that to happen, I wasn’t expecting or wishing that you’d sit around wishing I was still in Michigan. I was hoping for something other than radio silence though.

I’m hurt. Of course I miss you. I have very few friends in this world and was beyond happy that perhaps I could consider you one so of course I’m hurt that this is not true. The child in me wants to reciprocate that hurt back to you so that you can have an idea of how you’ve made me feel which you are so oblivious to. I want to yell and curse at you because it’s not fair how easily you’ve cast me aside.

I don’t do any of this because despite it all I am still your friend, it’s not as easy for me to let go.

House Hunting

I’m not satisfied unless I’m planning something and renting a house that’s a “bit rough around the edges” is driving me nuts. I want to plan all the repairs and improvements I would do if it were mine but refuse to spend any money or energy on it. At first B and I had grand designs of converting a property, we spent hours scouring the web, visited a couple of churches and a school and did quite a bit of research (I still can’t help myself and wander over to Buildings at Risk about once a week). Then after one viewing we began seriously picking apart the logistics and we had a realization of what we would be putting our four-legged family through to move forward with this dream. I think we’d be OK with it if they were all a bit younger but our youngest cat is 15. Starting a conversion would take our time and energy away when they will need it the most so we’ll wait. I’m sure overall this is for the best, it gives us a chance to acclimatize ourselves to the inner workings of UK residential building maintenance before we attempt something as big as a conversion.

I’m sure winter is probably the worst time of year to look for a house to buy. There seems to be so little on the market that ticks our boxes or perhaps we are just too picky. First of all we need it to be in a decent location, the town/village has to have good internet speed so we can stay employed and can’t be too far from train stations and airports. Jedburgh is about 75 minutes from Edinburgh and a little further from the airport and I have to admit we’ve felt a little cut off from the city. There’s a lot going on in Edinburgh and the length of the drive wears on us a bit. In September a new rail line is opening running from Edinburgh down into the Borders, I’m sure this will help us feel a bit more connected. Our next requirement is space, while there are only 2 humans in our family we both work from home so we need one large room or 2 small rooms for office areas in addition to the rest of the house. And we’re American which means we have more “stuff” that we should. We also prefer to have a garden area for the pugs, for me to potter around in (read: killing flowers and shrubs) and to hopefully start a new beehive. Our last requirement is not actually a requirement, it’s me being a spoilt brat. I don’t want to live in a pebble dash box with tiny windows, we both prefer a house with character. It doesn’t have to be category B listed or even especially old, it just has to have something a bit unique about it. I realize this is pretty snobby of me, perhaps this is a luxury I have because we’re not in any particular hurry.

Except I am in a hurry because of my need to plan….shut up brain…

Anyway, we’ve found a house that ticks all of these boxes, the only catch is that it definitely puts a big red X in a box we hadn’t seriously considered, it’s location within the town. It’s in Galashiels, perfect we thought! It’s a bit closer to Edinburgh, the new station will be within walking distance and not too much further from Berwick for the train to London. Internet connection speed is more than adequate, in fact we’d be able to get a fibre optic connection. It has plenty of space and a bit of character. The big red X is in regards to the location of the house in Galashiels, it’s on a pretty busy street with a building supply store across the street and a couple of big box retailers just down the street. My heart keeps tugging at my brain though, reminding it of the beautiful staircase and all the natural light in the living room and drawing-room.

We’re leaning towards going for it but need a couple more months of saving before we’re really ready. In the mean time I’m trying to get a better understanding of the property purchase process here in Scotland and have a plethora of questions. Do we negotiate directly with the owner? At what point is the survey conducted? How do we choose a conveyancing solicitor? It feels a lot like wading through treacle.

Borders Country Hill Walking – Three Brethren

I wanted to push our endurance a bit so we chose another “two boot” rated walk. My secret goal is to get to the point where we can comfortably tackle a Munro and by comfortably I mean not die. Three Brethren looked great, it had the right kind of profile, not too far from our house, no areas where we couldn’t take the pugs and a mid-point reward of 3 massive stone cairns built in the 16th century.

You start in Philiphaugh Estates and the path begins taking you up through woods then emerging into fields and moorlands as the climb gently continues. You pass a lovely wee waterfall (Corbie Linn), tucked in among the trees and undergrowth. Further along there’s a nice little reservoir and stream running along side for a while.


Then the climb begins to be less gentle as you work your way up the side of Cairn Rig, with the Three Brethren within view (a nice little bit of motivation when your thighs are cursing you for thinking this was a good idea). It also helps that as you climb and occasionally look back over your shoulder you’re rewarded with views that keep getting better.

We did this walk just before Christmas (yes I am that far behind…) and had picked up some coats for the ladies as the cold was definitely becoming a limiting factor for them. I’m really glad we did, the wind was cutting and temps were cold enough to freeze puddles over.

The views from the top made everything worth it. I do love these hills.

And the Three Brethren weren’t bad either, at about 3 metres tall and very stout.

There’s a little bench along side the cairn with names recorded, I didn’t have a chance to fully look at what this represented, by that point the ladies were shivering and very ready to get moving again. I can just about make out something about standard bearers in the photo I took. We’ll need to go back to find out what that’s all about. I did take a pic of a lovely mouse someone carved into the bench.

We were practically running back down the hill side in comparison to the speed we made the climb at. Then the path works it’s way between a couple more hills, through more grazing land and moorland. Finally coming around to give you great views over Selkirk.

We got back to the car with a little light left and a big appetite…time for fish and chips.

Beech and Capon in February

The Capon

I’ve decided to use the age of the Capon Tree as motivation to learn about the history of the area we are in. It’s going to be my peek into what the tree has seen in it’s life so far. But first, a quick bit of additional info I’ve found regarding the tree itself. According to the Director of the Tree Register The Capon Tree is a Sessile Oak. My ignorant inner monologue immediately asked what the hell that means, Google answered. There are only very subtle differences between the English Oak and the Sessile Oak, the most noticeable being that the acorns are stalkless (or sessile…see what they did there). Let’s see if I manage to remember that in Autumn… An experienced arborist may also notice that the branches straighter, the trunk more upright and the leaves have longer stalks. It’s tough for me to notice these differences when I look at her, I’m easily distracted by the great split in her trunk and how hollow it is.

I’m going to image her beginnings in the were at the beginning of the 14th century, after all she’s called the Capon Tree after the Capuchin monks who would shelter under her so she had to have been around a while by the time they showed up in order to provide said shelter. There was quite a bit of conflict in the area at the time, with major battles close by in Selkirk and Kelso during the First War of Scottish Independence. Her location was forested at the time so she was one of many in the Jed Forest, instead of standing alone as she does now. Perhaps luckily for her William Wallace chose Ettrick Forest in the Selkirk area for his base instead of Jed Forest.

The Beech

I’ve been a bit worried about this youngster, it’s held on to a lot of it’s leaves through winter. After a bit more research my concern seems pretty much unfounded and instead The Beech has marcescence foliage which is common in Beech species and may be beneficial. What’s still surprising is the amount of leaves that are holding on, even through the recent winds. Apparently they will eventually give in to mechanical forces though and drop when their stalks are brittle (how are they not brittle yet in these temps?!).

As the Beech is in our garden I’ve been able to observe it a lot more than the Capon. I see it every day while I’m doing the dishes and watch the community of birds who I’m sure appreciate the marcescence foliage. These’s one in particular who seems to be a regular, it looks like a young blackbird and frequently hops over to the neighbour’s Cotoneaster bush, helps itself to a belly full and hops back into the shelter of the Beech to digest. I’ve also noticed a small collection of mushrooms growing under the canopy.

I do love the arrangement of the leaf buds on the Beech, the elongated zig-zag of the slightly downy looking stems and the color of the buds themselves are beautiful.

Borders Country Hill Walking – Timpendean Tower

B found this walk when we were looking for something a little more low key, it’s walk 4 on this publication. I’m sure we’ll be returning to this to check out some of the other 8 walks included. Calling it hill walking is probably a bit ridiculous because it really is low key with minimal hills. There’s a bit of an incline as you climb Sharplaw Road which gives you some nice views over the town. Then you’re off through the woods of Lanton Moor and part of the Lothian Estates.

The mud level was pretty high at the time, at least by our American standards. The girls soon gave up on trying to keep their paws dry, Zoey especially embraced the muddiness🙂

Then we took turns going over the ladder stile and through the farm land to the actual tower so that one of us could stay with the dogs and keep them from worrying the livestock.

It’s a pretty short path from the stile to the field where Timpendean Tower is, then over one more stile, dodge a large quantity of cow initiated land mines (and their owners!) and you’re there. The field occupants were all looking at me with great curiosity as I traipsed across their pasture.

Timpendean Tower was a tower house built in the 15th century, it holds a somewhat strategic location between the River Teviot and Jed Water (I’m sure the strategy of the location was more evident 500 years ago). There’s still enough of the structure left to see the 4 foot thick walls, a fireplace, doorways and windows. There is a great split down one side of it though and I think the edges are slowly wandering apart. Originally the tower was owned by the Douglases, they sold it to the Scott’s in 1843 (according to Wikipedia). At the time I had no idea I was poking about in a home of my ancestors.

On the way back we encountered Bonjedward House and the accompanying gardeners cottage, both boarded up and looking very lonely. These properties are in a beautiful location and immediately I began to imagine taking up residence in the gardeners cottage. Surely they wouldn’t mind me moving in…after all it’s all boarded up and begging for some tender loving care.

Jack of all trades

I’m definitely one of those people who have too many hobbies. I’m pretty keen on gardening/playing in the dirt, I’ve got a fair size stack of books on my bedside table awaiting my attention, I love breaking out a board game (think Settler’s of Catan, not Monopoly), I still get into video games…OK mostly Minecraft, love some tent camping and hiking, and when we were living in Michigan we were apiarists as well (hope to get back into that once we’ve settle somewhere a bit more permanent). One might think that’s quite enough for one person but not me. I’ve been caught up with another diversion…cosplay. It appeals to the way I think, I’ve always been a bit of an inventor (I remember diligently running string across the curtain tops of the bedroom I shared with my sister growing up to create a pulley system to open and close the curtains much to her dismay). It also works well for me because I get bored fairly easily so long term projects are not for me, with cosplay each project is different so it easily keeps my interest.

It started off as some casual costume creation for Halloween parties, the usual kind of stuff…Poison Ivy, a Fembot, Medusa…and as soon as one was complete and had been worn I was immediately planning the next. Then it escalated a bit to more complex costumes like Midna from Zelda Twilight Princess, a nurse from Silent Hill. More recently I’ve stepped up to two costumes a year, one for Halloween and the other for whatever convention we’ve attended. My convention costumes have included Lucca from Chrono Trigger, Black Canary and a homegrown steampunk conglomeration.

Now here we are and I need to find a space in this new house that I can abuse a little bit while my imagination runs away with me. I am going to try a document some of my processes here because I’ve found one of the best inspirations that gets my arse off the couch is sharing the experience with others.

First up is a project I started work on in America and intend to finish up now. It’s Alice from the pc game Alice: Madness Returns and is my most ambitious costume yet. I’ve chosen to combine two pieces that I love the visual of, the Royal Suit and the hobby horse:

I’ve made some serious progress on the hobby horse but still have a lot to do. In some of my upcoming posts I’ll cover how I did what I’ve already done, including fun with expanding foam and the magic of Worbla😉

Borders Country Hill Walking – Peniel Heugh

We’ve been exploring a fair amount since we moved in, some of it in the form of hill walking. There are quite a few good walks around Jedburgh and lots more further afield. Hopefully I’ll keep up with documenting them a bit here.

Our first was a walk up Peniel Heugh and Waterloo Monument at the top. We had spied the monument several times while driving around looking at rentals. Then I found the hike on walkhighlands which is one of my favorite sites to vicariously escape via (love love love the OS map access for each walk). After a little research I found in some comments on TripAdvisor that for a small donation to Lothian Estates (office in Bonjedward) you can borrow a key to the monument and climb the 200+ steps to some pretty impressive views. We should have taken a torch (flash light…) with us as it was pretty dark inside but we managed. I carried Leeloo for some of the way, I think the combo of darkness + one eye just made it a bit too scary for her.

The walk is a circular route for the most part, starting and finishing at Harestanes Visitors Centre which was already closed for the year but looks good. In the same location are Buy Design Gallery (which was open and had some wonderful collections) and Mary’s Dairy for some ice cream in warmer months. It was a great first outing for us, not too strenuous as the overall ascent is only 172m (another thing I love on walkhighlands is all the juicy details you get). The path took us around several small patches of woods along the way and gave us a small first taste of the local flora and fauna, with lots of pheasants ducking around in the undergrowth. The route was really easy to follow and only mildly muddy in a couple of places. I look forward to hitting this hike a few more times as the seasons change.

The only disappointment for me was the camera on my new cell phone. It does not seem to perform well in low light but it may be user error😉. Either way I’m going to upgrade to something a bit more serious shortly.