The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

Another visit to The Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright, to check it hadn't changed. Thankfully, it hadn't. It's a small, Victorian museum collecting the flora, fauna and found objects of the local area (known as 'The Stewartry'). Everything is crammed in there - birds, fish, animals, fossils, war posters, lighthouse lenses, butter churns, turnip scythes. You name it, it's in there.

The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

Taking pictures in museums (with permission of course) is always a tricky thing. I spent ages taking pictures from every angle to avoid the glare but in the end, my favourites were these outtakes, reflections and all. More photos of The Stewartry Museum on Flickr.

Carfin Lourdes Grotto

Today, a visit to Carfin Grotto, Scotland's mini-Lourdes. I love it here, it's incredibly beautiful whether you believe or not. Built in the 1920s it's an amazing collection of statues and shrines to the Virgin Mary and associated saints.

Carfin Lourdes Grotto

I've been before in winter when it was quiet but today it was in full swing. There was a procession snaking its way round the grotto and Hail Marys blasting out over the PA system. We had a little chat about religion as a family (we are not religious). Danny (4) is too small to care about God but he liked it because it was like Doctor Who, full of weeping angels.

Carfin Lourdes Grotto

I visited the reliquary for the first time - a collection of saints' relics. One of the largest collections around, it is extraordinary. Whatever you believe, it's a beautiful, striking place. Makes you think. I'm always knocked out by the design - things that are not 'good taste' look great together (silver and gold together?). The old signs are so grand and the ironwork throughout the grotto is just beautiful.

Carfin Lourdes Grotto

It doesn't feel part of the modern world at all. More photos here.

Calico creature fox brooch from Murgitroyd and Bean The Lone Fox Print from Old Wives Tale Fantastic Fox cushion from Kirsty Elson Designs
Fox necklace from Finest Imaginary Sleeping foxes hand pulled Gocco print from Dee Beale Fox cupcake print from Fox Bunting

I like foxes almost as much as I like birds, so here's a foxy Folksy Friday. From L-R: Murgatroyd & Bean, Old Wives Tale, Kirsty Elson Designs, Finest Imaginary, Dee Beale and Fox Bunting.

I'm just getting round to blogging about our lovely trip to Derbyshire. We went to a number of theme parks. Well, two. Two is a number.

Gulliver's

Firstly, Gullivers in Matlock Bath. We pulled into the car park by mistake and there was no going back. It was occasionally rubbish in an astounding way, like the animatronic bears that sang country and western classics. They were old and slightly broken, which made them super creepy. The whole park is an odd mix of Gulliver's Travels, (the original theme, now mostly gone), country and western (flashes of Westworld), pirates and new 'character' rides like Dora the Explorer. It felt like they get a job lot of new rides once every ten years.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. It was however, our first introduction to tourism the Derbyshire way, which was like being in Royston Vasey but real - the world of the hostile tourist attraction, an astounding (and hilarious) mix of eccentricity and mild outrage at one's paying customers.

Quiet please - Tired engine resting

Then, a few days later we went to Drayton Manor (warning: musical website), home of Thomasland - a must for all engine-obsessed youngsters. It's quite small but very well done. The kids loved it and after we'd been there I got to sniff round the old bits of Drayton Manor looking for nice signage. Of which there was some right up the back.

Drunken Barrels

More holiday delights to come.

Stained Glass Baby Bird Window Decoration from Through the Round Window Paper bird blue tit from Rae Welch Colour-in sparrow card from Kate Broughton
Blue tit pocket moleskine cahier from Ink Me Up Goldfinch felt bird brooch from Lupin London Clay Bird from DH Painter

This is a combined Folksy Friday/currently reading post on the subject of birds. I love birds. When I was much younger I was a member of the Young Ornithologists' Club (the junior wing - ha! - of the RSPB). I had a bird book and went on birdwatching trips. As I got older it got a bit dull and that was the end of it. An embarrassing hobby, consigned to the dustbin of history.

Fast-forward to the present day when I'm too old to care what's cool and the ole birdwatching skills are coming back. We upgraded our bird-feeding infrastructure late last year and now my days are broken up by quick surveys of the garden to see who's arrived, who's eating what and who's fighting with who. The latest arrival (and my favourites) are two goldfinches who finally eat all those nyjer seeds we bought last year.

To complement this obsession, I'm reading Birdwatchingwatching by Alex Horne, which is a very enjoyable story about a year spent competitive birdwatching with his dad. It covers a lot about birds and birdwatching as you might expect, and also the whole idea of turning into your parents which I can relate to. Recommended.

Folksy Friday picks from L-R: Through The Round Window, Rae Welch, Kate Broughton, Ink Me Up, Lupin, London Clay Birds.

Coast poster by Angie Lewin Dungeness poster by Andy Tuohy

Coast magazine are running a seaside poster auction in aid of the Marine Conservation Society. There are seven original posters to bid on, including beautiful pieces of work from Angie Lewin, Andy Tuohy, Rob Ryan and Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway. See them all on ebay and get in before 16 May if you fancy your chances.

The Beat owl greeting card from Konnie Kapow Portrait Embroidery by Gentry Illustration No Place Like Home gocco print by HelloJenuine
Brownie Camera Keyring Bottle Opener by Cut Copy Create Leather bookmark from Lesley Barnes Tunnock's Teacake Owl Digital Print by Nikkimade

The idea of Folksy Fridays where you pick your favourite Folksy items for the week is really taking off, so here are some talented Scottish ladies (at least I think they are Scottish and ladies) who can be found on Folksy. From left to right: Konnie Kapow, Gentry Illustration, Hellojenuine, Cut Copy Create, Lesley Barnes and Nikki Made.

Introduction: Time scale

I like the idea of writing a weekly update after reading weeknotes from Russell, Rattle and BERG among others. When I went freelance I thought I could write one every week but somehow two months in that hasn't really happened. So here's an extra big weeknote covering the first two months of self-employment.

I felt very anxious for the first month. Like nervous wreck anxious. It felt like all the stress I'd been staving off for months piled up and hit me in one go. There was nothing to worry about, it's just such a huge change that it takes a bit of adjustment. After two months, it's not so bad, but I still have my moments. I guess that's normal though. (Please tell me it's normal.) I go swimming a lot, that helps. Being able to swim in the middle of the day with the pool to myself is one of the little things that has made self-employment all worthwhile.

I've been working on three things - Folksy, Newspaper Club and a Nothing To See Here book. Folksy came out of beta yesterday, which is a big milestone. Sales and visits have mushroomed over the past few months and it's an exciting place to work (we are hiring - developer wanted). There are lots of challenges for a small team working on a busy site, but that's good. I like a challenge.

I've been working with Newspaper Club since the beginning of March. What a gig. It's an honour to join Ben, Russell and Tom on the team, along with fellow newbie Gary who looks after business development. My role is Customer Relations - liaising with the customers (who are enthusiastic and delighted so far), dealing with their queries and turning the patterns and issues that emerge into future developments. I've learnt a great deal from both jobs already and have had fun visiting my new colleagues in Sheffield and London.

The book, which is called Nothing To See Here - A Guide to the Hidden Joys of Scotland, will be published by Pocket Mountains, an excellent Scottish travel publishing house. At least it will if I ever finish writing it. It's been on the cards since last February and I've been travelling to different corners of Scotland to try and make sure that all the best spots are included. I need to get my head down and finish writing for the end of May, so that it appears the right side of Christmas.

So that's why it has been a little quiet round here. It's been a long period of adjustment and in getting into the new swing of things I lost my blog voice. I feel like I'm getting it back again though so I'm going to try a bit harder to keep writing. Might even make it to one-month notes next time.

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