A Million Things To Give Away

I’ve been such a bad blogger this year. I’ve just been flat out busy and I haven’t had time to devote to the frivolity of chronicling my life. Lately, I’ve been working a lot, helping my friends open their new business venture in Glasgow, travelling, doing custom work… despite ostensibly closing up my business in July, I’ve actually been busier than ever!

One thing though that I have been quietly doing in small stages is shedding extraneous possessions – a whole car load went off to the charity shop last month and I’ve been ebaying clothes and books and all sorts of fancy unguents I’ve never used. I find it quite cathartic.

Whilst I’ve been parting with things, I’ve found quite a large stash of stuff I’ve been saving to give as gifts, or things people have given me that I couldn’t bear to part with but have come to realise I am never going to use (please don’t be offended if  you gave me any of these things, I just want to pass them on to someone who will use them rather than hoard them magpie-like, as I do). To this end, I have a whole series of giveaways lined up and this is numero uno!

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The first prize pot is pictured here, and includes:

  • Knitted Cakes and Everything Oz books.
  • Jonathan Adler bee notebook.
  • Kawaii burger cross stitch by me.
  • Anthropologie push pins.
  • An array of stickers, badges and sewing notions.
  • Tiny sugar/trinket pot

Would you like a little parcel of joy in the mail? This could all be yours – just leave me a comment below and I’ll add your name into the hat. I’ll draw a winner once I return from the States – I am going to spend Thanksgiving with my family there, exciting!

Leave your comment by 12 noon on Thursday 4th December and remember to check back to see if you’ve won!

Do feel free to Twitter about the giveaways – the more, the merrier! And I have a bunch of other giveaways lined up in the coming weeks – so stay tuned!

A Short Break

It seems quite a distant memory now, but in July, I decided to surprise Lee for his birthday/our 10th wedding anniversary, and book a short break in the sun. I did quite a bit of shopping around, but eventually settled on Kos.

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We’d been to Kos before and really liked it, and as chance would have it, I found a pretty good deal on a 3 night break to the exact same place we’d been to previously. I used onthebeach.co.uk to build the break, selecting flights, then accommodation and then transfers separately. This isn’t a sponsored post, but I was really pretty pleased with how smoothly it went and the ability to choose things separately, and then also to make several small payments, instead of one big one. Easyjet was nowhere near as grim as I remembered it, either.

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We spent our days laying on sun loungers, gazing out to sea…

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.. and enjoying some pretty awesome sunsets.

 

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A man came round every day on the beach in the afternoon selling massive fresh custard doughnuts for 2 euros. IMAGINE our delight!

Also, pretty cool that my best friend and her husband and little dude, Harris were on holiday on the island at the same time, so we were able to take a taxi across Kos and spend a day with them at their fancy hotel. It was pretty good fun hanging out in the kids pool and sneaking ice creams from the bar.

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All in all – go to Kos for a few days and recharge your batteries. But take mosquito repellent!

Imagination Admin

My colleague Chris got married to a beautiful lady called Zenobia recently. It was a lovely day and a really fun wedding to attend. We danced to an amazing proper disco band and laughed lots.

I wanted to make them a sampler to commemorate their day, but was pretty short on time to design something myself, so I took to the internet and found Imagination Admin.

il_570xN.617671852_dge3I thought this was particularly fitting because the bride is a librarian, so I bought the chart, which the lovely Ashley customised for me and sent over really quickly. Great service! I tweaked it a bit to fit the frame I had chosen (I knew they were having a gold theme for the wedding which fitted well with my classic frames) and came up with this:

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I added a wee Issued By bit, too:

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I’m pleased to say that the happy couple seemed to love it! Hooray for love. And cross stitch.

Blog Hop

Marceline tagged me in this blog hop, which is nice. It’s a window into the world of how us creators create. It’s nice to read how others work, especially when you’re a lone wolf, working away at home with no-one to bounce ideas off. So, without further ado…

1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Well, interestingly enough, given that I recently “retired” from my creative endeavours, I have actually got a very long to-do list.

  • Finish Grand Budapest Hote charts and get them online.
  • House-warming gifts for a couple of friends.
  • Stock for Red Door Gallery.
  • Christmas!

 

2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

Umm, I don’t know. Does it, really? I suppose it’s designed by me and my  unique take on the world, so it differs in that way. It’s not twee as fuck. It’s not overly sweary (though it’s what everyone automatically associates me with). All my patterns are tried and tested by me, which is something that definitely sets me apart from a lot of Etsy shysters, who bash out patterns by the dozen and sell them for like a dollar each. Ugh.

My ready-made pieces are all made by my own hands. I frame them all myself. I source everything myself. I post them all. I pick the dog hair off each and every single item that makes its way out the door. DEDICATED.

3. WHY DO I CREATE WHAT I DO?

Regular readers of this blog will know that in the past few years, this is something I have struggled with on more than one occasion. The thing is that now I don’t know if I create things because I enjoy it or I am just now deeply institutionalised, ie, I can’t sit down without doing something with my hands.

I still have a need to create and to produce something that I can’t explain. Ceramics is something that has been rolling around in my head for a few years now, but I’ve never had the opportunity or time to scratch that itch. But, I may have just purchased this on eBay…

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4. HOW DOES YOUR CREATING PROCESS WORK?

Mostly, it starts with an idea. I then carry it around in my head with me, and if it sticks for a while, I transfer it to my list in my phone of things to make. When the muse strikes or time allows, I sit down and usually chart it out by hand. If it’s a large-scale piece that’s more involved, I will chart it out on my charting software on my rickety laptop that only gets turned on if it’s vitally necessary. I could really use a new one.

Then, I basically sit down and stitch it. I take note of any changes on the chart as I go, and then go back and amend it once finished. Et voila. It’s not really that ingenious at all.

I do tend to scribble down ideas at work, too. Sometimes in a notebook, sometimes on a meeting agenda, or on my hand if it’s a good un. I’m always getting ideas, but it’s the ones that stick that tend to make it into production. Sometimes, I run them past a friend or Lee to gauge their reaction. I’ve scrapped whole collections before because no-one else “got” them.

I’ve probably burst a few bubbles with this info! I don’t work very scientifically or with much organisation at all, because my life is fairly hectic and I just fit in creating when I can!

I’ll tag Claire of Claireabelle Makes and Kim of Finest Imaginary to write a little about their creative process.

Retirement

Well, that was rather a longer hiatus than I anticipated. The truth is, I’ve been at work for most of the last 2 months, bashing my head metaphorically against a brick wall of despair. Whoever said a career in broadcasting was glamorous was off their tiny rocker.

In the intervening times, I have closed The Bellwether to all but instant-download PDF traffic and also written my last post for Super Cute Kawaii, so I’ve essentially retired from everything but my day job. I should feel liberated and free and have a lot of spare time, but unfortunately, this hasn’t transpired yet, so I’m not really feeling the benefits yet.

Also, I have…

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..finally been to the Gourock Lido for a midnight swim (spoiler – actually is at 10pm). It was fabulous. I’m going again next week. I went with my lovely friend Sarah, who I also saw with her bandmates at…

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..Kelvingrove Bandstand, for their gig as part of the Commonwealth Games Opening h00-ha. It was a perfect evening and such fun. This was on the day I came back from a mini-break in Kos, where we ran into…

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..,my best friend Jo and her boys, Ryan and Harris.We spent a very sunny day by the pool together which was again, such fun. Harris is the best company and I got to hang out in the pool with him lots. Speaking of trips, we also made a road trip to West Linton where I ate…

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..quite the poshest pie, beans and mash I’ve ever had at Tony Singh’s Old Bakehouse. We went for my Mum’s birthday and it was superb. I can’t wait to go back! Soon, I hope. We’ve also had our other social occasion for the year, in the form of my colleague Chris’s wedding, at New Lanark, which was…

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..delightfully quirky and beautiful and romantic and perfect. It was so nice to see him happy after a tough year. I basically drank, cried and danced all day, sometimes all at once. It’s left me very little time for sewing, though I did finish off my Grand Budapest Hotel set, with this…

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..Mendl’s van. It’s so cute. I hope to one day get my shit together and get the remaining charts online to purchase. I’ll still keep my hand in. Just not sure when. Too much busy! But I do have a mere 3 weeks until I have another holiday to jet off on – maybe I’ll get time to catch up then.

 

Things You Should Know About

A collection of things you should know about.

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1 > Bolden ceramics has re-opened. I have 2 of the wee dash bowls and they are divine.

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2 > The annual Bonbi Forest sample and seconds sale is on just now. I bought one of these for a mere tenner.

3 > Some people are setting up a weekly urban market in Glasgow. For once, I want to believe it could work. Fingers crossed.

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4 > This exhibition is on in Glasgow and I really want to go see it.

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5 > I also really fancy this series of lectures in Edinburgh.

And I got a new Dyson that’s really good. That’s it.

End transmission.

Review: Sewing With Letters

CALLING ALL TYPE FANS! In my parcel of booky loveliness from Ivy Press, I was rather pleased to find this tome by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate – Sewing With Letters.

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My first thought obviously was ‘I’d never have the patience to knit the jumper big enough to fit my dog,’ but I quickly got over that and plunged right in.

There are some lovely projects in this book, but I’d say they are geared towards those with slightly more experience – you wouldn’t want to jump cold into these bad boys.

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I really liked this washbag project using the Futura font – so simple and stylish. Reminds me of Jonathan Adler.

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I also love the Santa Fe font, and this calligraphic table runner would be super-styling in a contemporary kitchen. I really want to have a go at calligraphy again, I used to be right into it when I was a kid.

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No craft book is complete without a project to make a doorstop, let’s face it – the obligatory one here is pretty cool though, and again, very much geared towards a contemporary home where the occupants are dressed in Toast and reading the Observer Food Monthly.

There are a bunch of templates at the back of book that you can enlarge to use for some of the projects, with instructions on what percentage to enlarge them by. I’d find this a bit of a faff, I think, so I probably wouldn’t tackle any of these ones, if I am being brutally honest.

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Overall though, it’s a pretty good collection of more difficult projects and again, you can see repeat makes in there. I particularly like that each font that is used has a wee history of it beside it – educational AND fun!

You can find this book on Amazon here.

Thanks to Ivy Press for supplying me with books for free. This is totally my own opinion, by the way. And that’s not an affiliate link, so there.

Review: Sew Quick Sew Cute

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I was recently sent a lovely parcel of books from Ivy Press to read and review and to my dismay, I am only just getting the chance to write up my findings! It’s been rather a hectic time, but I’ve loved flicking through these crafty tomes and found myself inspired to make things for my actual self, which is no mean feat these days, I can tell you.

First up is Sew Quick Sew Cute by Fiona Goble. Featuring 30 projects which promise to be both simple and speedy, it’s already appealing to me and my limited attention span. The introduction is a little bit sketchy – for example the “buying a sewing machine” bit pretty much just says “buy a mid-priced one” which is a bit of a general statement! However, I do realise that this part of the book is kind of a necessary evil and not one that most people would actually bother to read. No one buys this sort of book for a list of things they should buy to equip a sewing basket, for example – they are all about the projects.

So, how about those projects? Well, I haven’t had time to make anything out of the book myself yet, but it’s a good sign for me that I fully intend to! The one thing that really struck me about this book straight away from first flickage, is that there are loads of great projects that I can totally see being go-to makes for gifts.


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This Valentine envelope project looks super-easy and would be great for all kinds of gifts, all year round.

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And a tablet case would make a great gift for so many people – Mum, I am looking at your birthday here (she won’t read this, don’t worry!).

I also really like the illustrated step-by-step instructions, which give a nice tone to the whole book:

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Is it weird for a book to give you a feeling of serene calm? Somehow, this does inspire you with the confidence that it will all turn out well. I am not sure how, but hats off to you, Fiona Goble! This is like the gazillionth book she has written though, so she’s well-practiced, to be fair.

I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re looking to add some good, solid gift makes to  your repertoire, whether you are well-versed in the art of sewing or not. You’ll find it on Amazon here.  And, I can’t resist one last snap of  my favourite project – who can I make this for?!

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Cute penguins – WINNER.

Thanks to Ivy Press for supplying me with books for free. This is totally my own opinion, by the way. And that’s not an affiliate link, so there.

Day In The Life 20.04.14

This time around, Laura chose the date for DITL.  As it worked out, I didn’t really have all that interesting a day, but here it is, anyway.

I was awoken strangely later than anticipated by the furry alarm clock, who didn’t make an appearance upstairs until 8.15. We’d planned to get up early to visit the car boot sale at Overton Farm, so after Max had licked my face into oblivion, I had a shower, dressed and took him for a short walk in the woods.

Lee and I then headed in the sunshine to the car boot sale, which was totally mobbed with visitors but didn’t have all that many good stalls. We did still manage to buy a wooden obelisk for training sweet peas up for the garden, and a massive sack of kindling – we’re all about the wood.

After that, we had breakfast at Sandyholm and then discovered the lovely village of Crossford, which we’ll have to go back to another day, as I hear they have a narrow gauge railway – whoa!

We made it home by 12 noon and then, I’m afraid to say I did nothing else apart from sew for the entire day. I’ve designed a collection of patterns around a central theme and I am frantically trying to get them all stitched up as quickly as possible so as to release them. It’s taking slightly longer than I had planned, and I hit a bit of a stumbling block last night as I discovered my charting was slightly wrong around one more intricate part of the main design and had to unpick it no fewer than 4 times. GAH.

We had really awesome homemade pizza for dinner and then more sewing until I couldn’t see straight and had to go to bed around 11pm. I also watched several episodes of Breaking Bad which I am ploughing through for the first time. It took me until nearly the end of season 2 to get into it, and I finally started to like it when this happened:

 

I bloody love Mexican music.

Umm, that was it this time. Check out Laura’s blog for a round-up later!

Garrion Bridges

There are two major interests in the Brown household – collecting old things (me) and gardening (Lee). Imagine if there was some sort of magical place, not far from Brownton, that catered to both of our interests… Well, there is!

Not long after we moved to the area, a quick bit of research on Jeff Google unearthed Garrion Bridges, a garden and antiques centre about 10 miles away from home. (Their website is terrible, but click to see where it is, if nothing else.) Based in what I’m told is an old Fyffes banana packing facility, it’s a good afternoon out. Yes, I know how old that makes me sound, but I genuinely love it!

Aside from the gardening bit, which is small but well-stocked with gardening essentials, there’s a large range of giftware, an old-fashioned sweetie shop, a Yankee candle concession, a wool shop, and a pet shop which sells all sorts of dried-out offal that Max adores.

There’s also a large cafe, which I haven’t sampled yet myself, but looks to be fairly decent, with a wide range of cake (and let’s face it, that’s what you were waiting for).

The best bit though, for me, are the antiques halls – one large and one smaller one. You can do a nice big S-shaped route through the two and take in all manner of delights. Here’s a few snaps from my recent visits:

 

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Ahhh, the trunks! I wish I had room/funds to snap all of these up. I’m a sucker for a trunk, I have a big old one that we used to use as a laundry basket, which sits at the foot of our bed. Lee had to be restrained from buying the gong.

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Well, I do need a desk… (I didn’t, though).

 

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I was really taken with that Nellie brooch! If only I knew a Nellie. Those owls are part of a whole shelf of owls at one of the stands. There are dozens of different independent traders with booths and you pay the centre and they divvy it all up. Good idea.

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I do like the idea that in the olden days, there was a necessity to label your baby with a silver pin.

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More trunks! Umm, that big earthenware flagon might now be in my dining room… There’s a lot of collectables as well as antiques  - the football shirt stand was just opening up last week when I was there.

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And yes, I did try that top hat on. It fitted a treat.

The only problem I find with Garrion Bridges is that I don’t have enough room or money to buy everything I like! But I have picked up some great gifts there, and some cool stuff for the house, and my American cousins loved it, too. Hoorah!

If you’re in the area, do check it out. There’s a whole bunch of other garden centres and a nice farm shop just along the road in Rosebank, too, which also has a weekly car boot sale and monthly farmer’s market.

Grand Troyes Hotel And Other Exotic Locations

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Coincidentally, after recently seeing Grand Budapest Hotel on my annual trip to the cinema, I rediscovered this small collection of vintage luggage labels I’ve amassed. I’m not sure what I had planned on doing with them – they were just too pretty to leave behind!

I’m selling them now as they deserve to be put to use, or at least admired by other people, out of the drawer in my studio. They mostly look to be gummed paper, I’ve shown the backs of them, too. The wear is minimal on them and they all come in individual pouches.

They are priced at £3 each including UK first class postage and you can pay by PayPal – just drop me a line at hello@thebellwether.co.uk to request the ones you like!

1. Le Puy

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2. Hotel Persborg

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3. Hotel Prinsen

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4. Central Hotel

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5. Hotel Bristol

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6. Caledonian Hotel

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7. Hotel Bellevue

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8. Hotel Da Baleeira

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9. Grand Hotel

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10. Hotel D’Italie

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Guilty Pleasure: AM

courtesy of Arctic Monkeys website

courtesy of Arctic Monkeys website

 

My guilty pleasure of recent months is this album, AM by the Arctic Monkeys. I’ve always had a bit of a thing for bands that sing in their own accents. I’m not sure why, maybe it just sounds/feels more authentic. I don’t know. But I bought this album not long after it came out on a whim, one late night or early morning on the way home from work. I stuck it in the CD player and then…never took it out for about 5 months. I’m not even joking.

Occasionally, I would take it out and put in another CD in from my vast collection. I’d get a couple of songs through something else and then think, no, I just have to list to AM again. And so, one-handed down the M8, I’d fish it out the side pocket of my car, and on it would go again.

What is it about this album that made me love it so much? Perhaps it’s the fact that I was working mostly really early or late shifts, leaving in darkness, coming home in darkness, always driving around in the murkiness and listening to this very after-dark sounding record. The whole vibe from start to finish is “late night after a night out” (apart from one or two mediocre numbers in the middle (Mad Sounds, track number 7, is always quickly skipped past. It has no place on this majestic beast of an album). That might be the Josh Homme influence. It is very QOTSA-y in places.

Or maybe it’s because it just has a slightly more grown-up sound to it from the previous albums. I remember the first time I heard Arctic Monkeys – it must have been about 9 years ago now. I was in the bathroom in our flat in Maryhill and I Bet  That You Look Good On The Dance Floor came on the radio and it just sounded great and attention-grabbing. It is a silly song, but it was instantly a hit with me. I kind of drifted away from them in recent years, but this brought me back in and I couldn’t let go of it.

I am not sure why I feel such a deep sense of burning shame about this, but for some reason, I do. I’ve listened to this album so much that it’s come from one car to the other, across the new year boundary and is so worn out, it’s starting to skip a bit (on track 4, Arabella, which incidentally, is the latest single from the album. I didn’t like this song so much when I first heard it, but now think that the last verse, the one where it all speeds up a bit, is magical).

You’ll be pleased to hear though, that I’ve now managed to prise it out of my stereo in favour of the new Mark Morriss album, A Flash Of Darkness. It’s basically another Bluetones album and that can only ever be a good thing. Oh, and late to the party, I bought the Haim album the other day (Lee says they sound like Milli Vanilli doing the hits of Madonna).

If only I’d bought a car with a CD changer.

Day In The Life 10th March 2014

I meant to do a proper DITL post for this day, but then haven’t had time and have now probably forgotten half of it. But, luckily, I did take photos to jog my memory.

I woke up when Lee went to work and Max came to join me in bed. We had a short snooze further and then I got up, showered and dressed. I then took photos of the prize for the massive Super Cute Kawaii giveaway that is running at the moment – you should totally enter!

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Whilst I was doing that, the postman arrived, so I shut the dog indoors and had a chat with him. He didn’t bring anything exciting though, despite it being my birthday the next day. The perils of being old.

After that, I took some photos for my Not On The High Street store whilst it was not raining and I had the camera out. I also took this photo to add to my own webshop, I didn’t think it would be all that popular, but 2 people have asked for one on Instagram already, so I may as well add it.

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Whoever would say no? Idiots, that’s who. Whilst I am taking the photos, I remember that Lee made chocolate brownies, so I have a bit for breakfast. I’m an adult, I can do what I want. Then a man arrives at the house asking me if he can put some stickers on next door’s propane gas tank. He doesn’t seem able to fathom that I have no authority over such matters. I eventually tell him to have at it.

By this point, the dog is doing my nut in, so I take him up to the local forestry commission place for a walk. It’s approximately a 2 minute drive away, but we can’t walk there without being killed.

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It’s the first day this year I have been able to go out without a coat on. It’s glorious. Max enjoys gambolling around in the sunshine. We trek round for a couple of miles, before heading back to the car, and home.

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Amazing. No rain! Then I had to drive all the way to Helensburgh, which is very far away from my house now. About 50 miles, in fact. It takes about an hour and 45 minutes. But first, I met Marceline in Partick and then we went to Ikea so she could pick up some new things for her new pad. Of course, we had to have cake first.

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A cake break also, of course, means an Instagram opportunity! After we refuelled and shopped, we drove to Helensburgh and on the way there, were discussing a mutual acquaintance of ours who also recently moved there. As soon as we got out of the car outside Marceline’s new flat, said acquaintance walked past – uncanny! So we had a quick chat, and then lugged everything upstairs and marvelled again at how ace the flat is.

After unpacking things, we had a stroll around H-burgh to take in the sights as it wasn’t raining. Behold, the delightfully old-skool postbox:

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Love it. I wonder what happens if you put things in the wrong slots? Also discovered this ghost sign, just around the corner:

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No visit to H-burgh is complete without an ice-cream from Dino’s Radio Cafe. The best ice-cream in the West!

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Delicious, if a little unseasonal (and blurry)! A quick pitstop at the most picturesque supermarket car park ever (Waitrose in H-burgh is awesome)…

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and then I dropped Marceline off at home in Bridgeton and went home.

Once I got there, Lee and I decided to go for Chinese food at our favourite place – which is another 40 mile or so round-trip. I made him drive, but I drove home. The food is delish and worth the journey!

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God, it was good. Then home, some puppy time and then bed. Zzzzzz. I’d love to reignite Day In The Life blogging. Want to join me? First person to comment that they do gets to pick the next date!