23rd-25th of August, 2017: Perma-Drunk Racing, Neuritis, Trains

Wednesday, 23rd of August

Ah, a hard-won day off. Although my PICK (Partner In Crime Krista) was busy working later in the afternoon, we managed to meet for breakfast at a coffee joint in town nearby but not in the ongoing festival madness. Although this area is normally a short, sweet cycle for me, when I arrived I described to Krista that although I felt more or less okay, I felt strangely drunk. We also had to air out a bit because the morning was a bit damp and humid (Tennesseeans know all about that)!

After my weekly dose of much-needed gal time, I headed home where eventually Haitham, too joined me, having taken a half-day from work to do A Thing. That’s a thing I’ve been pestering him about for ages–and well I should, considering this was a gift I got for him in January of the year, to be used sometime within the year. The gift? A race course experience at Knockhill Racing Circuit!

Check out those squinted eyes. Apparently the helmet’s visor didn’t exactly block out 100% of the breeze!

Thursday, 24th of August

When I woke up and felt more or less the same as I had the day prior, Haitham convinced me to go to the doctor. I reluctantly agreed, and within about ten minutes of my appointment, I was walking out with my diagnoses sheet and prescription in hand: vestibular neuritis.

Here’s the highlights:

  • Vestibular neuronitis, or neuritis, is an infection of the vestibular nerve in the inner ear. It causes the vestibular nerve to become inflamed, disrupting your sense of balance.
  • The most common symptoms of vestibular neuronitis are dizziness and vertigo – the sensation that you, or everything around you, is moving. This may cause you to feel nauseous or be sick, have difficulty concentrating and blurred vision.
    These symptoms can range from mild to severe, with some people feeling that they’re unable to remain upright for the first few days. In most cases, the symptoms appear suddenly during the day or when you wake up in the morning.
  • After a few days, you can usually start moving around, but will feel dizzy and easily tired. Even after a few weeks, you may feel some dizziness when being active, particularly away from your home.
  • You should also avoid driving, using tools and machinery, or working at heights if you’re feeling dizzy.
  • You won’t make your condition worse by trying to be active, although it may make you feel dizzy. While you’re recovering, it may help to avoid visually distracting environments such as: supermarkets; shopping centres; busy roads
  • These can cause feelings of dizziness, because you’re moving your eyes around a lot. It can help to keep your eyes fixed on objects, rather than looking around all the time. Once you’re over the worst phase of the illness, physical activity helps you recover, even though it will be unpleasant at first.

Ughghghghgh FOR REAL?

Needless to say, any photos I took were V.N. related that day. So here’s one for you too!


Friday, 25th of August

Wooooooooork. And so begins my “Clarissa Is No Longer Safe to Drive for the Foreseeable Future, So Let’s Turn to Trains Instead!” stint. Which, spoiler alert, will turn very quickly into a total palaver. (Notice there are two bikes already piled on here, mine just resting alongside as the racks inside the traincar are only meant to hold two max. More on that one to come… I’m looking at you Scotrail!!)



20th-22nd of August, 2017: Bikes, Homes, Downward Spirals

Sunday, 20th of August

Foreshadowing: in my notes on the day I wrote down clumsy. I’ll talk about that more later. For now, it was a relatively nice, sunny day at work.

One of Haitham’s favorite things to do on Sundays when I’m on my way home from work is to lurk in the farthest room from the front door (the kitchen) whilst leaving his keys in the front door so that any trespassers (me) can’t get in when they arrive home from nefarious deeds (work). He then listens to his headphones so any sounds of the letterbox flapping (an acceptable alternative to ringing the doorbell) or knocking on the windows and doors fall on deaf ears. Not only that, but naturally our doorbell doesn’t work–you can also thank Haitham for that one–in attempting to fix our partially-working doorbell, made it so that it never works.

Anyway, needless to say it’s happened before. Normally when I find myself frustratingly but amusingly locked out I willingly venture a few steps away to the pub just up the street. However, today as the sun was shining brightly for a change, and I had my bike lock key, I hopped aboard and went for a cheeky cycle while I waited for Haitham to get my SOS message.

I love riding my bike alongside the Union Canal. There are always people in Harrison Park picnicking and taking their dogs out, and there are oftentimes charming canal boats stationed on the water. Today was no different–in fact, one of the canal boat owners was standing on deck having a chat with a landlubber. Not only was she enormously, adorably pregnant, but there was smoke curling up from the stove of the boat. Even better, I spotted a ginger cat peering out from the deck of the canal boat, giving a dog barking on the canal’s edge the ol’ heery eyeball.


Is it too late to change my mind about buying a house and instead buy a canal boat and a ginger cat? I will miss this stretch of the canal when we eventually do rip up our Slateford roots.


Monday, 21st of August

I think we may have… bought a house today? Well, not technically. But we did have our offer accepted on a house. I think there will still be more paperwork to come before we can say we “bought” a house, but we are in the process of making a house our own. Huzzah!

I couldn’t help but feel this offer-accepting all seemed a little too easy. Like, where was the wizened old adviser-figure popping up out of the shrubbery to waggle his cane at us kiddos and ask if we were old enough to buy a house? That begs the question… are we old enough to buy a house? Sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes!

Anyway, here’s the only photo I took today. It’s of the cleverly named Large White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae). At least, I’m pretty sure it’s the large white… it could, alternatively, be a Small White. (Seriously, who named these guys!) Apparently they are also known as cabbage butterflies, because they will eat this shit out of your greens.


Tuesday, 22nd of August

Feeling a bit “off” all day. I’d had a bit of a sore throat that more or less disappeared by this time. Lingering on was a bit of a stuffed head sort of feeling, leaving me feeling a bit woozy and not quite right. It didn’t stop me from again snapping a few photos during my day at work–here’s one of a flower I find particularly stunning, Lobelia cardinalis. It may be a familiar sight to my folks back home, as it’s a native to the Americas, and one that can sometimes be seen looking gorgeous alongside creeks and riverbanks. It’s honestly a total cracker of a plant; what you don’t see is another tall flower spike just behind it, being totally ett up by snails. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ What can ya do eh??


17th-19th of August, 2017: Mortgages, Podcasts, Pottery

Thursday, 17th of August

Guess who have, uh, four thumbs and uhhh… a mortgage?

It’s us! Me and the ol’ boy.

In other news, I found one of the young lads’ hats at work today, abandoned. I’ve asked him (rather, demanded) that he give me this particular work of art many times before. So naturally when I spied it unattended, I had to send him a cheeky photo of my new treasure. (I did eventually give it back, mind!)


Friday, 18th of August

28 days till America!

One of the First World Problems I encounter on a daily basis is my love of American podcasts. The six hour time difference means when I’m up in the morning, it’s still the middle of the night back home. More often than not it means that the podcasts I catch up on from NPR and such are from the day before–all well and good, except sometimes, I come home feeling like I’m in the know, and am totally slapped in the face with some breaking news or maybe-it’s-been-known-for-hours news that I had literally no idea had taken place.

Like today. I was brushing up on some NPR Politics news (one of my favorite podcasts now, strangely enough) listening to the response to an interview Steve Bannon gave, and when I got home… welp, he’s sacked!

Jesus. I mean, I guess that’s what happens when someone like Trump is in office, for starters. It’s like a cyclone in the White House at any given minute.


In other news: we got some mad awesome chicken pieces at my work today! That’s boss lady in the background allowing me to have my moment, which I find hilarious in itself.


Saturday, 19th of August

Remember the movie Ghost? And that iconic scene where the sappy song is playing and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are at the pottery wheel making a right mess?

Well, guess what folks. Haitham and I did the first of a two-part introductory pottery course today. And I can safely say it:

Pottery is hard.

Who knew, right? It looks frikkin easy in any movie and gif and blah blah. Much the same way as a concert violinist can make you think that you, too, hopeless heathen that you are can pick up the violin any ol’ time and whittle out a mighty fine tune. Pottery, it turns out, is like that.


Our course started with some hand-made stuff (in which I, inspired, made a chicken pot) until the group split into two, one of which worked at the wheel. It was when I had destroyed my second bit of clay by turning it into mud in my futile attempts to get it centered–shown so effortlessly in the above gif–that I realized I had honest to god no idea what I was doing. Haitham, helped along by the countless soothing pottery videos he sometimes binges since our visit to Potfest a few months back, found it easier than me but still ended up with some pieces with a wonky bit in the center due to getting a little too handsy with the walls of the piece, resulting in thin or warped sections upon their collapse. Because the instructor took pity on me and said “Let me just get that started for you,” I actually have two pieces that look like things. Ha!

Just look at this asshole go.

That same night, I ventured out into town to say goodbye to two of my favorite folks in the group of terribly nice Spaniards who kindly allowed me into their fold. There was drinks, excellent chat, a home-made tortilla contest which I got to participate in as part of the “international” team of judges (Sweden and America being two that I recall present), and a delicious birthday cheesecake were all present. They’re a good bunch, and it’s sad to see the two of them depart our Edi scene.


14th-16th of August, 2017: Booking Blues, Saying Goodbye


Monday, 14th of August

I was going to leave out my photo for the day, but for lack of anything more interesting to really discuss on this particular day, and my promise to upload a photo a day gosh darnit, I’ll include it just for the heck of it. Drumroll, please, ladies and gentlemen.


It is… some leaves! Did that do it for ya? No? Fine, maybe it’s just me. I’m chuffed to see this particular volunteer in the shady portion beneath our big evergreen hedge in the garden. That’s because it’s a foxglove, a plant which I adore. Realistically, it probably won’t be able to flower to its full height next year considering there is a hedge literally a foot or so above it. But I’m pleased because it must have come from the seeds of my own foxglove. I’m happy to see it joining the ranks of my wild viola and Welsh poppies! Not only that, but I do sort of like the silvery sheen on its new growth.

Aside from work today, I came home to spend some time finalizing some last tidbits of our trip: specifically, booking some airbnb’s for our time in Utah next month. Tonight’s choice was for Moab, where we will be crashing for close access to Arches National Park. This Airbnb is called something quirky like Organic Coyote Madness, where I am looking forward to an equally organic, coyote-inspired(?) breakfast!

Tuesday, 15th of August

Looking back, I actually took quite a few photos on this day, as it was sunny (for a change); there were two doggoes in the garden centre (Lousy Rowsey and his new beagle brother, Bear); and my now-favorite customer reappeared towing two retriever puppies in tow. So it’s understandable why the photos were abundant!

I’ll post this one though, as one can only get away with pupper photos for so long, eh? It’s a Red Admiral, one of the UK’s most frequent butterfly visitors. Handsome chap!


After work, we booked a few more things. This time our Airbnb for Salt Lake City–and, even more exciting, a segway tour out and about SLC. Couple that with our anticipation of visiting Red Butte Botanics (snicker), and our plans for SLC really don’t require much more!

Wednesday, 16th of August

What a lovely day off! Although, admittedly, it did come with some bittersweet feelings. That’s because I joined my PICK (partner in crime Krista) and our fellow mate Mel to not only catch up, but also say goodbye. Although Mel has been here for many years studying and working, and her partner has a full-time job here, her visa status was coming very quickly to a close upon her graduation. Despite her best efforts to remain, coming by a visa here is damned difficult (I should know!!) and she decided to give up the fight gracefully. We had a lovely meal with her, but parted feeling melancholy that our lovely city would lose some brightness with Mel and Ben’s departure. Oh well–I know that the two of them will begin anew on the western coast of the U.S., where hopefully they will get a bit more sunshine, and warmer weather for sure!

The rest of the day for me was spent picking up tickets to my first (and seemingly only) show of the festival this year, to be seen with my mate Emma much later in the evening. The show? Shit-Faced Shakespeare! Which, to my mind, is possibly the best way of witnessing any Shakespearean drama that I’ve experienced so far. Each night the performance of Romeo and Juliet featured an alternating cast member to be absolutely wasted on set. Our night happened to be Romeo, who had us in stitches with his inability to remember his lines, his proclaiming that his name was Kevin, and his penchant for sitting on some poor lass’s lap in the audience. Honestly. Even with his being absolutely pished, he did a good job (on occasion) remembering some tough Shakespearean lines!

On my way to pick up my tickets, I did pause for a moment to take in some of the mayhem along the Royal Mile (one of my favorite things to do!).

Here’s a guy doing some… ballsy stuff? What is that even called, what he’s doing there? I watched him for a few minutes but honestly he struck me as a bit odd, so I cleared out before he could heckle me as he appeared to be doing to some bystanders!


This next guy was quite interesting. I didn’t stick around long enough to figure out what his shtick was, but when I started watching before I got my tickets, he seemed to be teaching audience members some cultural war dance. Post-tickets, he was balancing a table via a peg in his mouth. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Who knows eh? I do particularly like seeing the gaggle of hi-vis kids in the corner.IMG_6258


10th-13th of August, 2017: Butterflies, Mums, Songs, Pups

Thursday, 10th of August

Check out this gorgeous butterfly I spotted on, appropriately, a plant called butterfly bush at work today! She was totally cooperative in my enthusiastic photo shoot, although now that I think about it, she may have been warding me off from having a nibble by flashing her four eyespots at me. I’ve just googled her–she’s a European peacock butterfly, Aglais io.

I get quite excited when I see butterflies or really, critters of any kind at work. It’s amazing how much I took for granted seeing bugs and critters in Tennessee–butterflies, hawkmoths, hummingbirds, caterpillars, frogs, turtles. You name it. Here, you get quite a lot of bees, and sometimes a caterpillar or two. When butterflies show up it’s quite the treat!


Friday, 11th of August

I was working most of the day in houseplants, which I quite enjoy as it means I get to basically putter about by myself, tending to orchids and cacti and such. When I emerged from my den to the outside area at the end of the day, a metamorphosis had taken place: autumnal plants are here!

I can’t help but be amused at this. Although the summery weather here seems to be well away now and this just the start of August, a quick glance at the weather in Tennessee–33 C, 91 F at 3 PM as I type this–I just have to roll my eyes at Scottish clime: tomorrow’s high being 18 C, or 64 F. (weeps)

Ah well. I do so love the look of mums. It makes me think of Tennessee and Halloween and pumpkins and stuff. Although I also hate them, because they break so damn easily. Honestly they’re a bit of a nightmare to deal with a retail sense. Ah well–hey-ho!


Saturday, 12th of August

Some days you seize the day, other times… you just take a nap. Haitham looked at me incredulously when I had a whinge about us not doing anything together on our mutual day off. “What do you mean?” he said. “We went to the shops!!”

Here’s a tip to men of the world everywhere: going to the grocery store does not equate going out.

Anyway, for lack of pictures and things, here’s a song that has slowly crept into my brain and continued to bounce around in there for a wee while. I think I first heard it when H went on a massive Dubliners bent, they being a relatively famous Irish folk band that had their start in the ’60s, renowned for singer Luke Kelly’s ability to belt out songs like Whisky in the Jar and The Irish Rover. Also, he had an incredible ginger afro.

I was listening to folk compilation album featuring “classic” songs given new twists with modern indie bands. This one caught my ear, and when H heard me playing it one night he said, “Oh, this song tears me up.” I was surprised at that, but when I read the lyrics I realized why. It’s because it’s a song about children leaving school during Victorian times only to enter the brutal workforce down in the mines. According to the BBC: “Some children pushed trucks of coal along mine tunnels. They were called ‘putters’. ‘Trappers’ opened and shut wooden doors to let air through the tunnels. A trapper boy sat in the dark, with just a small candle, and none to talk to. Some children started work at 2 in the morning and stayed below ground for 18 hours. Children working on the surface, sorting coal, at least saw daylight and breathed fresh air.”

It’s astounding to think back on times that weren’t actually that long ago, isn’t it? This is one of the many reasons I love folk music–it really transports you away, capturing moments in time, happy, sad, or otherwise.

Here’s the song–lyrics below.

Schooldays over, come on then John
Time to be getting your pit boots on
On with your sack and your moleskin trousers
Time you were on your way
Time you were learning the pitman’s job
And earning a pitman’s pay.

Come on then Jim, it’s time to go
Time you were working down below
Time to be handling a pick and shovel
You start at the pits today
Time to be learning the collier’s job
And earning a collier’s pay.

Come on then Dai, it’s nearly light
Time you were off to the anthracite
The morning mist is on the valley
It’s time you were on your way
Time you were learning the miner’s job
And earning a miner’s pay

Sunday, 13th of August

The best thing happened today: a woman brought in puppies. And not just any puppies, boys and girls. Oh no. Golden retriever puppies. Although, admittedly, golden retriever puppies are hardly the red of the pups we’ve had back home for many years now, or even gold half the time. Instead it seems the popular color is pure white! And boy are they cute!!!

Needless to say when this completely unsuspecting woman and her husband entered the store, a chubby pup held like a sack of potatoes by each of them, there was a minor commotion caused by dozens of feet stampeding towards them by customers and employees alike.

Just look at this pure creature. Oh my god. Is there anything better?


7th-9th of August, 2017: Mice, Snow, Bikes!

Monday, 7th of August

I rescued a tiny mouse today at work. M and I were by ourselves in the greenhouse, doing some plant rescue when Mrs. S, the grand-matron of the business, appeared at the door and gestured us over. She pointed down on the ground to where this little chap was huddled, in a tiny curled ball, unmoving. This particular bit of ground somehow had petrol spilled onto it by one of the boys, who then had attempted to clear it up and cover it with sand–it was still reeking, though, when we came in.

I scooped up the tiny guy and walked it over to the tree line. Before I released it I couldn’t help but stop to run a finger down its furry back–I felt a rush of emotion for the tiny fellow, as one does when presented with something tiny, defenseless, and impossibly adorable. How could anyone be afraid of you? I wondered. I suppose that a tiny, defenseless mouse in the hand is different than say, a mouse in your home. But still.

I set him down in the brush and he clumsily skittered off. I’m hoping that the overpowered petrol fumes just momentarily addled him–but one never knows what sort of things people put down for pests. Ah well. Best wishes, little mouse friend!


After work on my way home, I was also treated to this view.


It may feel like it’s raining in Scotland more often than it’s not, but darned if it doesn’t make up for it with a crazy amount of epic rainbows!

Tuesday, 8th of August

Another day, another tiny snail. This one so minute even my mobile had trouble capturing it!


Wednesday, 9th of August

Day off glories! Today was one of those perfect days that come along so rarely in Edinburgh–what I mean by that was–it was sunny.

On my day off!  I know! What a treat!

Even better than that, I had plans with my two favorite gal pals in the city. First up, my PIC (partner in crime) Krista and I had a bicycling rendezvous planned. In afternoon we met up at Portobello beach to attempt a hustle to North Berwick. Though this cycle is not terribly long, I’ve only done it one time before successfully–the first, I popped a tire along the way, only then realizing I had left my tools in my other bag at home. Then, when a helpful man and his son stopped to lend a hand, upon putting the tire back on, the stranger promptly popped the new tube. D’oh!! At that point, we attempted to patch the puppy, but I only made it a few hundred yards before it popped once more. It just wasn’t meant to be.

The second trip was fine, but nothing on this trip out today with Krista. That’s because her fairy princess magic somehow revealed some lovely spots that I’d never spotted on my prior rides–farms, adorable cafes, and even sections of off-road cycle tracks I somehow managed to miss before. I dunno how she does it!

I could go on about our ride–about stopping to feed a crowd of adorably murmuring red hens at our coffee/lunch stop at an organic place in the middle of nowhere. About the pleasant surprise of finding Archerfield Walled Garden which had a cafe, shop, microbrewery, walking trails, and gardens outside that we ooh’ed and aah’ed over. Or just the satisfaction of us having made it to North Berwick from Edi!


I obviously took loads of photos, but it was the stunning stretch of mystery blue flowers just outside Archerfield that took the cake. Like the basic bitches we are, we frolicked and took loads of photos together. Girls will be girls!


Afterwards, the two of us returned to town to meet with fellow friend and former coworker Oa, where we had a much-deserved meal at veggie restaurant Henderson’s in town. Now that’s what I call a day off well-spent !

4th-6th of August, 2017: Dogs, Biking, Little Sparta, and More Dogs

Friday, 4th of August

It was a relatively quiet, drizzly day today. Everyone was in pretty good spirits including BL (boss lady) who did let us get away with some minor faffing about here and there. It’s nice to be able to squeak some shenanigans in from time to time, isn’t it? Breaks up the monotony of the day.

We had a guest visiting us outside. His name was Harvey, and he’s a border terrier. I think he in no small part contributed to the goofiness of the day. That’s because the owners of my garden centre also have a border terrier who’s name is Rowsey (I like to call him Lousy Rowsey), who also happens to spend some time chilling by the tills on a lead. When BL walked in and saw instead Not-Rowsey chilling by the till, she thought she was seeing things.

Anywho. Turns out Not-Rowsey was being pup-sat by the owners. It was quickly revealed that he was a whiny baby though, and spent his hours with all of us alternating between being adorable/whining incessantly/destroying things. Shoowee.

I managed to catch him and The Boys in the act of loafing. It is hard to resist a cute pup, even if he is a whiny pup.


Saturday, 5th of August

A nice, full day–even better, the sun was peeping out occasionally from behind the clouds. To start, I set off at 10 AM with one of my lady bike groups. It was a short ride–perhaps 15 miles, tops, which suited me just fine as I planned to drag H out of the house with me in the afternoon. We did have two punctures which set us back a bit on our time, but the overall ride was just peachy, and as I made my way home I couldn’t help but marvel at just how much I liked all those girls. They’re just a solid bunch! One of them, a fellow American, was even 3 months pregnant and cycled like a boss. How adorable!


Our first puncture happened just before the canal aqueduct, which, requiring dismounting to walk over the narrow path, allowed me ample time to snap a few photos. Before my battery went dead, anyway, as I very much failed to bring some spares. I noticed first off that there was loads of something in the mint family growing alongside the water’s edge. It was lovely and smelly and I sort of wanted to take some home–or at least figure out what the heck it was!


Whatever it was seemed to be doing quite well in its chosen spot along the canal! It made for a nice photo as the sun peeped out.


At one point we decided we’d had enough of waiting for the puncture repair and set off backtracking to see what the issue was, and only made it this far before catching up with them as they’d just finished. I snapped a quick photo, mainly due to the presence of the kayakers up the way.

After our ride (which I didn’t take any other photos of as I failed to bring spare batteries) H and I headed out of town for a cheeky trip to a place my coworker had told me about. She’d shown me some photos that intrigued me of a garden called Little Sparta in the midst of the rolling hills of the Borders. I was already in good spirits as we drove our way out there, because it’s truly lovely countryside to drive through.

Although… H likes to argue with me over some weird stuff sometimes. I marveled over the purple carpet of heather you could see blooming on the hills. He said, “Clarissa, those hills are brown.

Like… should I have some solid concerns about his eyeballs. Yes/no?


What followed was us exploring a decidedly quirky, surprisingly lovely garden. As we headed in we saw a sign proclaiming “Reception” was nearby, but as we peered around just past the entrance gates we saw no sign of anything except some buildings and what looked like someone’s private home. With nothing really to guide us, and basically no knowledge of what we were even meant to be looking at and why, we set out.


I managed to do a quick google search that revealed some answers upon our departure. Turns out Little Sparta is a private garden that was owned by an artist/poet till 2006, at which point he passed away. It now belongs to a Trust set up in the garden’s name, and is free for all to visit. The poetry and artistic nature of the owner was very apparent as we strolled through the grounds.

I totally dug it. I really liked the tiny grove of birches below, with a stone proclaiming that it was the “In Sweet Harmony and Agreement with Itself Grove”


Honestly it was a real treat to visit. Would highly recommend to anyone faffing about in the Borders.


Sunday, 6th of August

Yet another quiet, showery day. Highlights: planting crocosmia; seeing my colleague’s dog; and hearing that my colleague Ben got swooped by a buzzard on his run. Yes I found it hilarious, but also recognize that getting swooped on with anything with talons also is quite scary! (Clarification: this is a UK buzzard!)

Dog. Check out that gorgeous beast. However, because of my coworker’s broad accent, I don’t know if dug’s name is Soya, Sawyer, or Soldier. Hmmm!