Monday, 20 May 2013

Words and woollies

Recycling - alternative uses for an old ice cream tub!

At long last, after many months of anticipation, the SQA Higher English exam has come and gone. The past week was characterised by myriad manic messages from tense tutees, eager for last words of wisdom (or at least comfort) via Skype, text and email about how to tame the monster that is critical essay writing or to spot rhetorical triads at fifty paces. The evenings will be strangely empty now that Yours Truly is no longer spouting forth on the different sorts of love to be found in Romeo and Juliet or extolling the imagery in innumerable Carol Ann Duffy poems.  

This year’s group of students have been a particularly intriguing mix – indeed a couple of them have astounded me with their dedication to the cause. One analysed the results of each close reading paper he completed and then calculated (in percentage terms – as only a scientist would), precisely which type of questions he was losing most marks on and thus needed to focus on when studying.  I was seriously impressed. Son+Heir may possibly have been less impressed, so for reasons of personal safety I didn’t suggest he adopt a similarly scholarly approach...

Another tutee had pinned handwritten, meticulous timetables on the back of the dining-room door, charting how every hour of study was to be allocated over the period of the exams. Even those who found English a metaphorical thorn in their side battled stoically on – one of them buoying my humour immensely at the end of a long evening by responding to my question “Now what is a benefit?” with the immortal words: “It’s a type of make-up.” But, joking apart, without exception, they’ve worked their socks off, and I feel genuinely privileged to have accompanied them all on the arduous linguistic and literary journey that ended yesterday at precisely 12.35 p.m. All we can do now is wait and see if their hard graft has resulted in the grades they deserve. Roll on the 8th August...

Of course, with the evening job having come to an abrupt end, Yours Truly will immediately have to focus on the “day job”.  And the first pressing commission is a self-imposed one: to re-write my own website. The current one was put up hastily 10 years ago when freelancing constituted but a tiny fragment of my working week. However, now that I’m writing website and marketing copy for other companies almost full time, it seems rather neglectful not to spend some hours polishing my own site. This is, therefore, to be priority no.1 for the month of June. And while I am slaving over the compelling copy, local web company Interphase Design will be doing what designers do best i.e. giving the words somewhere attractive to hang out!

Giant lamb Tufty just keeps on growing
Her mum "Auld Yin" is partial to a slice of bread
One benefit (not a blusher in sight...) of working from home during the post-lambing weeks is that I’ve been around to deal with miscreant escapee lambs – of which there have been plenty. Shetland lambs may be officially ovine on paper, but their apparent ability to collapse their skeletons and squeeze through the tiniest gaps in any fence/barricade/netting is akin to that of mice.  There are sixteen lambs in the paddock (or at least supposed to be in the paddock...), including four sets of twins. Sometimes both twins dive in to “mama’s milk bar” for a quick top-up at the same moment, and their eagerness for sustenance often results in the hindquarters of their long-suffering mums being literally lifted up into the air.
Brownie tells it as it is: raising babies is hard work!
As a mother myself, I have to confess I’ve been feeling distinctly sorry for the poor flustered ewes whose job it is to keep track of the wee dears. Yesterday I paused from typing, mid-sentence, when I saw one poor ewe squatting and attempting to relieve her bladder, but having to stop mid-stream several times because her beloved lamb thought that her lowered rear end was an invitation to jump on mum’s back. It took me right back to those Halcyon (or perhaps not!) days when, with three children under four and a husband working on the land virtually 24/7, I could barely get to go to the loo in peace.  And it reminded me there are definitely some advantages of having grown-up kids!

Talking of said grown-up kids, DD1 managed to escape from studies/work in Paris for a few days to celebrate her birthday en famille. As her culinary talents are vastly superior to her mother’s, she elected to bake her own birthday cake, and indeed her birthday meal: succulent gammon steaks accompanied by baked sweet potatoes (which I’d heartily recommend if you’ve not tried them before). Birthday girl's cake creation was a summery strawberry sponge with lemon curd cream, and it arrived at the table bedecked with pretty flowers and sprinkles of pink fairy dust, just as you’d expect from any self-respecting 22-year-old. To add to the birthday feast, there was a tub of Mackie's of Scotland's luxury ice cream which DD1 had been lucky enough to win in an online competition.

DD1's strawberry cream cake was so good... didn't last long!

A lucky win - a  free tub of Mackie's of Scotland ice cream
I have to say that it was a real treat to have all five of us round the table at one time, as such occasions are less and less frequent these days. Ironically, I suspect that the ewes out in the field might just envy me a little ...

And in other news from The Sparrowholding... sheep and plants are on the move!

Visiting sheepdog Speed gets some practice in

HunterGatherer with tup Coco - heading for pastures new

Poor Spot got in the way of Coco's horns, so out came the Sudocrem!
In the polytunnel, everything is growing - including the weeds...

One strawberry does not a summer make...

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