Dress for success

I have just finished my first week at my new job, which was a bit odd as I’m working from home right now. I decided at the start of the week that I would dress for work each day as if I was going into the office. Which, in a way, is what I was doing. It’s just that my office is in my cottage, instead of at the University of Aberdeen.

Normally when I work from home, I work in my pyjamas (mostly) and spend most of the day working from the couch on my laptop. That’s because I am normally working on a very specific task that allows me to do that. But right now, my days are filled with the (almost) full range of tasks and the best way to do that is to recreate an office environment.

Because of this, I have realised that, if I am going to succeed at working from home long-term, I need to treat my home office as if it is the office. That means that I need to keep to standard office hours in my actual home office, not on the couch. Just as I would if I were going into the “real” office. It is especially important for video meetings, as I want to make a good (virtual) first impression with my new colleagues.

Of course, I also know how easy it is to fall into bad habits. Which is why I decided that I would share photos of my work wardrobe on Facebook each day. By doing that, I managed to create a ritual and an almost expectation that I will share a photo, which means that I have had to get dressed.

And so, I have dressed for success all week. I do admit that I wore leggings under my dresses and big fluffy slippers to keep warm, but other than that I was dressed as I would have been for the real office – including lipstick and jewellery! I further admit that I did change out of my office wear a bit earlier than 5pm on the first couple of days because I was a tad too cold. (I will make changes to my office and wardrobe choices to address those issues next week.)

I shared several days ago that I have to put a couple of my 2020 goals on hold, which makes dressing for the home office more important. You see, one of my “soft goals” is to “dress for success” and I don’t want to have yet another delayed or deleted goal for the year. Because this is a soft goal, I don’t have any clear benchmarks to work towards. But I think that getting dressed every most days during the COVID19 lockdown. is a good step towards that goal.

Importantly, I have heard from others that they have enjoyed my week’s fashion parade. I had mentioned that I didn’t want to “bore” anyone with daily dress-up pictures, but one Facebook friend from The Homeland replied that everyone is home right now and that they need a bit of entertainment. So, I will do more Facebook fashion shows as time goes on. But not every day as my wardrobe isn’t that extensive! (I will be back at the charity shops searching for bargains as soon as it is safe to leave the social distancing and self-isolation practices behind.)

If you want to see what my first week’s office wear looked like, check out the photo gallery below!

Stepping up my game

Today is a bit of a celebration day for me as I mark six straight months of taking (at least) 10,000 steps a day. This is especially happy for me because one of my (many) goals for 2020 is to take a minimum of 4,000,000 steps over the course of the year. That means I will need about 11,000 steps a day for 366 days.

My current streak began at the end of September. But if I count only the full months (October through March), I have managed 1,992,203 steps which is just shy of an average of 10,890 steps per day. That is not quite at my daily average requirements but, much like my running goals, I am sure that I will improve on that average as the weather improves.

When my current step-streak began, I was not really expecting to manage so many days in a row of 10,000+ steps. But I know that I get a new Garmin Badge each time I manage a 60-day step-streak, so I have been motivated onwards through the gamification of fitness. And now, even though I don’t get an additional badge for on-going streaks or the number of consecutive 60-day badges in a row, I am motivated by my own pure stubbornness to keep going.

Of course, my obsessive personality means that I get quite anxious when I think I might not make my steps. Sometimes, that means going out for an evening walk or dancing around the cottage a bit before bed. (Yes, I am that crazy about this!)

In fact, I had a bit of a depressing mood crash related to my step-streak in February. When I went to bed on the 23rd, I had more than 10,200 steps on my watch. I had noticed before closing my eyes that it hadn’t synced with my Garmin Connect app, but I was sure it would synch overnight, so I didn’t worry about it. Only when I woke up on the 24th, I found that it hadn’t synched, and turning my watch off and back on again reverted my count to about 9,750. I was gutted, as that meant that instead of having a streak of 147 days, I was back down to zero!

But despite my grief, I tweeted about my dilemma. I didn’t tweet for anything other than a bit of feigned sympathy (and maybe to gently mock my obsession) but their customer support team replied and put me in touch with their tech team who were able to fix the glitch. Which means I got my streak back! Yay!

Sure, I would have known that I had achieved a longer streak than what the system said, but I wanted the digital artefact, too; I wanted the points. I wanted needed that gamified motivation to keep going!

And now, thanks to that quick save by Garmin, I can now boast six months in a row of taking 10,000+ steps a day. And if I can keep this up, along with several a lot of days where I rack up far more than 10,000 steps, I will smash my 2020 goal of 4,000,000 steps with (relative) ease.

Stats for the record:
* Most steps in a day during this 6-month period = 20,541 (1 January 2020)
* Most steps in a day ever = 54,218 (27 September 2015, from my last Loch Ness Marathon and the first full day of Garmin ownership)
* Most steps in a day not including a marathon race = 26,736 (4 May 2019)

Anyhow, it feels really good to have this streak, and I am hoping that I can stay healthy enough to keep it going for a bit longer. As I am planning to run quite a bit more this year, it should be easy to get the steps in most days… I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other!

A happy new job announcement

I started a new job at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) today and am extremely excited about it! The new job means that my visa can be renewed, which means that I do not have to carry the stress and anxiety of wondering “what next”. Which is good, as it means I can keep all my stress and anxiety focused on worries about COVID19.

I am keenly aware that my good news comes at a time when others are experiencing extreme financial hardship. That makes it difficult to be too cheerful about my good fortunes, but I am also pleased that this new job means that I can take care of all of the finances at my home for a while, as my housemate (a taxi driver) is one of those people whose job has gone to the wayside due to the social distancing and self-isolation practices. I am overjoyed that this new job will allow me to help him!

But, let’s talk more about the job!!

The new job is a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Aberdeen where I am working in the School of Natural and Computing Science as part of an interdisciplinary, EPSRC-funded project called RAInS (Realising Accountable Intelligent Systems). My primary responsibilities for the next two years will be to investigate issues of trust and accountability in intelligent systems (AI) using qualitative research methods to answer questions surrounding the accountability of systems related to specific use cases.

For the non-AI folks, you can think of this (very, very simply) as looking at who/what is “responsible” when a self-driving car goes rouge or when AI-based hiring decisions are racist/sexiest.

The research was originally planned as a series of hands-on co-design workshops, but given the current state of the world (COVID19), we might need to re-think how best to proceed. I have been thinking about potential (digital) methods over the last couple of weeks and I am sure that we will have a few conversations about how to proceed in the next couple of weeks.

For now, I am just getting myself up to speed. I have several documents and literature to review to provide me a good overview of the project from background literature and proposals to research summaries and workshop artefacts from other research partners. I am hoping that by the time I get through those files we will have a better idea of how to proceed.

It is a bit of a strange start, given that we are on lockdown orders as part of the UK’s COVID19 response. This means that my work will be done remotely for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, I live in a fair-sized cottage and I have a separate office that overlooks the garden where I will be able to work during this time. I just hope that it will not be long until I can move into my office on campus and to start meeting my new colleagues face-to-face. In the meantime, thank goodness for technology!

Normally, such news would also include starting to make solid plans for a holiday to The Homeland. But that will have to wait until we know when leisure travel will be allowed (and safe) again. But I’ll be home as soon as I can… and if any of my Homeland Readers are around, we can have a drink or two and celebrate life!

Note: Keen readers may have connected this story to my 20th February post titled “Aberdeen: Looking up!“. That was the day I travelled up for my interview. I received a job offer right after my holiday to Cambridge

Putting my goals on hold

Yesterday was a monumental day here in the UK when the Prime Minister put the nation on (essentially) a full lockdown. It wasn’t really unexpected, given the social distancing and self-isolation practices measures that were already in place. But it does make things clearer as to the length of time we can expect this to continue. And that clarity means that it’s time to be realistic about my ability to achieve some of my 2020 goals which is a sad realisation for me.

Now, I do realise that there are far greater challenges that others are facing because of this horrible pandemic. And I know that I may face far greater challenges before this period of tribulation is over. However, these are still micro-losses for me and even the smallest losses can compound over time to negatively impact someone’s world.

Indeed, many of my goals and ambitions are designed to motivate me in my daily life. Not so that I can “be productive” or “be amazing”. Instead, I use my goals to motivate me to live. If not for my goals, I would run the risk of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. And that would increase my feelings of isolation and loneliness. And that would increase my risk for situational depression, which can lead to clinical depression if left to fester for too long. And whilst I have never experienced clinical depression, I know enough about it to know that I want to avoid it at all costs.

Hence, the importance of setting goals and working towards achieving them.

The primary goals that have been put on hold (cancelled?) are those related to running races and travel. But I have also put my “digital free” days on hold, as this seems like a challenging time to not be in touch with my folks – even for just a day. Some of my “soft goals” are going to be harder to work on at this point, too. For example, dressing up for the office will be a little hard when I won’t be going into the office!

I was due to run a half-marathon on Easter weekend and had started looking at other half-marathons to run in the spring. These races were going to help to motivate me for a marathon (or two?) in the autumn. Thankfully, my Easter weekend half has been rescheduled until September. Now, just must hope that others are rescheduled, too. And, of course, I hope the lockdowns don’t delay things even further and I hope I don’t get sick, preventing me from running on my own!

I think that setting aside my travel ambitions is the hardest delayed goal to face. That’s because many of my travel plans were connected to Paul; to the ongoing process of moving forward in my journey of widowhood.

The plans I had for the spring and summer were to visit places that we travelled to together, but that I’ve not been back to since his death. I hoped to visit Bath, where we took our first mini-break together, marking the first time we were in each other’s company for a full 24 hours. (We survived and enjoyed the experience.) I hoped to visit Amsterdam, where we enjoyed our first international trip together. And I planned to visit Venice, where Paul proposed to me way back in 2004. All these trips are now on hold.

I also had plans to visit Iona in April. Whilst it is not a place we went together, it is a place of great significance and is home to the St Martin’s Cross, which is the cross Paul’s headstone was based on. I marked 10 years since Paul’s death last year, with visits to his grave each year and I thought that maybe this year I would change my tradition by going somewhere else to remember him. And where better to begin than to visit the place that holds the inspiration for his headstone? Of course, Iona was also on our list of places to visit, giving it extra meaning.

But now, I won’t be travelling for the foreseeable future. And whilst I can still run without the races, I can’t really travel without the world returning to (some form of) normal. I will try to think of ways to incorporate the spirit of travel into my days and weeks of isolation though.

Yes, it is very frustrating. But I am doing my best to focus on the positive things in my life. Whilst I am losing out on opportunities to travel and to participate in (expensive) races, others are losing their livelihoods (and worse, their lives!). I am part of the “privileged middle class” which means that my life is (comparably) quite stable and easy in the best of times and my personal situation (from professional industry to place of abode) means that I am able to maintain that stability and “ease” whilst others are facing upheaval for the first time in their lives.

So, please know that I am not whinging about my lot in life without a realisation that so many people have it far, far, far worse than I do at the best of times and are not teetering on destruction during this horribly turbulent time in our society. But, as I’ve said on many occasions, this blog is a record and reflection of my life, not a place for commentary on the very real struggles and pains of society.

As I work towards accepting the delay of my goals, I am working to find new things to focus on. That includes focusing on other parts of my 2020 goals, specifically working to be a stronger and more confident version of myself. It is my hope that I can use this time and these experiences to help me with that. I hope that I can use this time of great uncertainty to find positive opportunities amongst the angst. I hope that I can come through this with more compassion, more empathy, and more love. (And then, I can go travel the world running races!)

The noise of isolation

Towards the end of last week, people around the UK and the USA were beginning to increase their social distancing and self-isolation practices, with many people moving to remote working. It all increased again this week so that by Friday most of the people I know who do office-based work were home. In fact, offices around the two countries were basically telling their people to stay home. Work, but stay home. After all, it’s the best way we have at the moment to slow the spread of COVID19.

All that isolation and remote working means that people are adopting new-to-them technologies to stay in touch with colleagues, family, and friends. People are trying out so many new communications tools that my entire world seems to be filled with pings and dings and bells and whistles. They’re going off all day, every day, and it’s driving me a bit crazy! (And don’t get me started on people who are using the tools “incorrectly”. Here’s hoping they learn quickly!)

To be clear, I am excited to see people reaching out through technology. I mean let’s face it: My entire academic career has been built on online communications and social media use! It is so nice to see how technology is helping to bring people closer together and to help people to collaborate in new and exciting ways.

But I am starting to get overwhelmed by the noise of isolation now.

After nearly 11 years of widowhood, I have learned to live a fairly isolated and quiet life. I have learned how to cope with days and days of near-silence, and I can go 2-3 weeks without face-to-face human interactions. It was hard at first, but over the years silence became a big part of my life. And I have (mostly) accepted this, despite the loneliness that the silence can cause at times.

Because I have grown so accustomed to silence, I now need it. Not all the time, but I do find that I must have a bit of silence each week. Ideally, I will have a bit of silence every day, but at the very least I like to have a day or two all to myself.

Right now, however, the silence is hard to find. And I think that’s because all of those people who are used to having daily, face-to-face interactions with other humans are now struggling to cope. Some of them are worried about loneliness. Some are worried about boredom and some might be worried about the effects of isolation on their mental health. Which means that people are reaching out to others. A lot. They’re messaging and videoing and social media-ing and just generally communicating as much as they can.

And the noise is deafening!

For the first few days, I tried to participate as much as possible because I could see that others were struggling, and I thought that maybe I would find a bit of solace in the increased human interaction. But what I have found instead is that I am overwhelmed because I haven’t had a day’s silence; I haven’t had time to just sit and be alone.

In fact, today I was so overwhelmed that I have been making excuses for why I can’t join this chat or that chat or the next chat. It’s almost like all of the excuses I used to have for why I couldn’t attend this pub night or that party…

I am hoping that the noise dies down a bit over the coming days, especially as people begin to get used to this new way of living. But I am also very aware of how painful silence can be, more so for people who are living alone or are already experiencing feelings of isolation. So, I will be reaching out to people over the next few weeks and I will be here for anyone who wants to talk. Even if that means I must take on some extra noise.

But for now, I am turning off all the alerts for the evening and I am going to relax so that I can revel in the silence that I have learned to love.

An anxious expat

Whilst I was in Cambridge last week, things were starting to accelerate with the spread of the Coronavirus that causes COVID19. News from America and in the UK was just starting to get worrying and people were beginning to panic buy supplies to be prepared for the unknown. But even then, it didn’t really seem “real” or as if it would have a real impact on life here in the UK or at home in America. But by the time I settled in back at my cottage outside of Edinburgh, universities around the world were starting to cancel classes and people were beginning to work from home in droves.

And now, social distancing has become a thing. Isolation has become a thing. And in many ways, fear has become a thing. Fear. Anxiety. Stress. All these things have become part of my daily life in recent days.

I think that my biggest worry is “what should I do?” You know, the one where I start to wonder if I should run to my parents to help and protect them or stay where I am to help and protect myself. And there really is no way to know what the right choice is because both choices would have long-term, potentially life-long, consequences (good and bad, I imagine).

As an expat living 6,000 miles away from home, away from my parents whom I miss and love very much, I quite often feel the painful struggle of having one heart torn between two homes. I have lost track of the number of times when I have wondered about my long-term future and the best place to settle down. And now… well, now that the world is shutting down to hide from this deadly virus, I am feeling overwhelmed with the struggle and all the related emotions.

As I (try to) do most Sundays, I had a Skype chat with my folks this evening. I let them know that I was conflicted and that I didn’t know what to do. And they, in their wisdom, told me what I probably knew all along: The best thing for me to do is to stay where I am. That’s not the easiest thing, but yeah, it’s probably the best thing; the safest thing; the smartest thing.

I am best to stay here because that will be the best option for job opportunities (there’s something in the works here, where I’d be unemployed if I returned). If I return, I will have no health insurance. If I return, I will be returning to a place that is a “hotbed” for COVID19 at the moment – not to mention the risks of mass public transport at this time. Where if I stay here, I can isolate; I can protect myself.

But that’s hard because that means I can’t be there to make sure they are safe. (Give me a break, they are both US Marines, each with more than 70 years’ life experience. They don’t need a young whippersnapper like me coddling them!) It’s hard because there is a very real risk that I will not get to say goodbye if the worst were to happen (a risk that I am always well aware I face as an expat!).

And so, I will stay. I will stay here in the (hopeful) safety of my rural cottage, relying on technology to keep me connected to my parents and the rest of my family and friends around the world. I will stay, and I will do my best to overcome the anxiety that this frightening time has brought to my heart and soul.

I think I will have to speak with my folks a bit more often over the next several weeks… and I will just have to hope that they don’t get tired of me video chatting. But it will help me to feel better about our distance, and hopefully, it will help them feel better about it, too.

And I will pray that this is all behind us soon so that I can plan a holiday to the Homeland, and to the arms of my parents. I will pray that it is not long before I can be with them again. I will pray that we all get through this scary time with as little heartache as possible.

Stay safe and stay healthy, Dear Readers. And stay in touch with the people you love!

Relaxing in Cambridge

I have just returned home after an enjoyable, and much-needed mini-break to Cambridge (with a brief stint in London) and I am feeling well-rested and rejuvenated. It’s the first time I’ve been to Cambridge in a few years and was the first time that I really had time to explore the city.

My visit was prompted by my desire to unwind after the end of my post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Dundee, which lined up well with my friend Ernie’s plans. He was in the area for work and wanted someone to pal around with for a few days, and I was more than happy to oblige. After all, when a fellow geek wants to spend a few days visiting libraries, museums, and institutions of knowledge and culture, it would be silly to decline!

I made my way to London on Wednesday afternoon where I settled into a hotel room near King’s Cross station for the evening. It was a bit rainy, so I opted to simply relax, knowing that the days to follow would require a great deal of walking – and even more brainpower! Then on Thursday morning, I woke up and gave myself a facial and a manicure before heading out to meet my friend who was arriving that morning.

I had a late check-out for my room, which meant that Ernie was able to freshen up after his travels and we could leave our luggage behind whilst we explored the local area a bit. As we are both kind of geeks, out first stop as the British Library. I am embarrassed to say that, despite it being so near to King’s Cross, I have never been to visit. I am so pleased that I finally got there!

After the library, we decided to walk up to St Pancreas Old Kirk. It was a bit rainy, but we were hopeful that we would be able to dry off in the church for a bit. Once we arrived, we were greeted with an unexpected cello recital. It was the last in a series of lunch-time recitals and we were both quite excited by the treat. Indeed, when we left, we were sent on our way with lots of cake (and declined offers of tea and coffee) for the train to Cambridge. Bonus!

Of course, because of the unexpected musical treat, we had to rush back to my hotel so that I could check out on time. Then we made our way to the train station where we found some sandwiches to enjoy along with the cakes for a nice little train picnic on the journey to Cambridge.

Once in Cambridge, we settled into our hotel rooms then met up for a walk around the city to orient ourselves for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, the rain let up as was walked, making for a pleasant evening of wandering around the city. In fact, we enjoyed enough of the city that I had a daily step count of 19,268 – nearly double my daily goal!

After a good night’s sleep, I met Ernie in the lobby for a full day’s sightseeing. Thanks to our reconnaissance walk around the city the night before, we knew the best way to get to where we wanted to be. In fact, we found a great short cut on our recon-wander which meant that we were able to start the day with a visit to the Pembroke College Chapel where we got to admire the Cross of the Migrants.

Then it was onto the Fitzwilliam Museum where we enjoyed their temporary exhibit called “Feast and Fast: The art of food in Europe, 1500—1800”, in addition to their permanent displays. I was especially impressed with the elaborate sugar sculptures, as shown in the photo gallery.

From the museum, we made our way to the Mathematical Bridge at Queens’ College before making our way to King’s College Chapel where we marvelled at the design and the displays telling the history of the building.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the city, popping into the different colleges (where we were allowed) to enjoy the chapels and gardens. And at the end of the day, we went to a lecture at the Darwin College as part of their Enigmas 2020 lecture series. The speaker was Dr Albert Yu-Min Lin on the topic of Archaeological Mysteries [you can watch the lecture here]. (I did say we were geeks!)

After the lecture, we went out for a big bowl of Pho before heading back to the hotel where I was able to relax and read for a bit before bed. All told, I managed 20,046 steps for the day which made me incredibly happy.

On Saturday, I started the day with a morning run on the treadmill before meeting Ernie for our final day in the city. Where Thursday and Friday seemed relatively low-key and uncrowded, Saturday was quite busy with crowds milling around everywhere. In fact, it was even busy at our first stop, the Scott Polar Research Institute. (That location was not my choice, but Ernie seemed keen on it, so I happily went along.)

After the polar museum, we made our way back to Queens’ College Chapel for an afternoon organ recital, performed by Christopher Baczkowski. I always enjoy listening to music in churches and was pleased to have yet another opportunity to do so!

From the concert, we made our way to the river for a punting tour along the River Cam. It was a wonderful way to relax and take in the views of the different colleges that make up the larger University of Cambridge system. Plus, it was nice to not have to walk for a while! Although, the walking wasn’t completely done for the day!

After punting on the river, we walked around a bit more, stopping into a couple of small churches and galleries along the way. Then we made our way back to King’s College so that we could enjoy the Evensongs. It was a real delight to hear the choral voices filling the ancient chapel, and I was so pleased to have had yet another opportunity for listening to music in a church!

I will admit that I was extremely tired by the end of the day, but I did manage enough energy for a nice dinner before heading back to my room for the evening. Between the morning run and the walking around, I managed 18,331 steps – which is probably why I had such a good night’s sleep!

After waking up on Sunday morning, I packed my bags and got ready for my journey back up to Scotland. I met Ernie in the lobby, and we made our way to the train station where he left for London to continue his travels. I then took the time to find a couple of geocaches before catching my train home.

It felt like an exceptionally long journey home, but I did manage to get back to the cottage before 6pm – which made it easy to get an early night’s sleep. It was harder to get my steps in for the day, with a final count of a measly 10,236. Which, in fairness, is about normal for me. But I got so used to all the extra holiday steps!

Anyhow, it was good to see Ernie and to pal around for a few days. I hope that we will be able to meet up soon for more adventures! It was also good to unwind for a bit to mark the end of my job and the stress of looking for a new one! And since you, Dear Reader, missed out on the fun, here are some photos from my travels for you to enjoy.

Ramping up my running

I have some pretty ambitious (for me) running goals for 2020 and now that the weather is warming up, it’s time to ramp up my running so that I can meet all of them! And if I can keep the momentum going, I might even manage to beat all of them, instead of simply meeting them.

My foundational aim is to run 700+ miles, spread out over at least 175 running activities. Of course, if I am to meet or exceed the rest of my running goals, I will end up with more miles and (potentially) more activities. At this time, I am slightly behind meeting those goals because of the winter weather. But I feel confident that I will be able to make up the difference as the weather improves. I will also work to bank up mileage and activities in anticipation of more bad weather come November and December.

My other running goals are time-related. I have set goals to run new personal best times for all of my distances, from a super-fast (for me) 1-mile run to shaving a few minutes off my half- and full-marathon times (and everything in between). In many ways, those goals will be harder to meet than my mileage goals because each one requires keeping a different pace and I will need to work on interval training, hill running, and tempo runs with more dedication than I normally give to such things.

I am cautiously optimistic that I will be in “running” shape to run the inaugural Declaration Half Marathon in Arbroath next month. The race celebrates the 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath and is a tad over a half marathon, at 13.20 miles to mark the signing in 1320. Is should be a small competition field, which will make for a relaxing return to racing.

I am starting to think ahead to other races, too. Including the Loch Ness Marathon in the autumn and maybe even a race during my (yet-to-be-planned) Homeland Holidays. I haven’t participated in a race since before I broke my ankle, so I am trying to get back into the swing of things. And I am really looking forward to it.

It feels good to finally have the time and the energy for running more regularly, so I want to do everything I can to beat all of my running goals! My hope is that I can get at least 40 miles this month, building on my 18+ miles in January and 24+ in February. Then, I hope to increase my mileage each month through September or October.

Yep, I am feeling pretty good about my 2020 running goals. It’s going to be a great year for smashing goals!

Deleting goals: Beannachd leat, Gàidhlig

I did something today that I (almost) never do. I gave up on a goal. More than that, I gave up on a learning goal!

In late-December, I decided that I would start learning to speak Scottish Gaelic. I thought that it would be a good goal to add to my 2020 ambitions. Duolingo was offering the language on their language platform and it just seemed like the perfect time to learn.

For the first few days, I was enjoying the challenge. Each day, I did one or two lessons on the mobile app and I was looking forward to learning more and more as I went along. But by the end of January, I realised that it was becoming a chore; I was not enjoying the language and I was not enjoying the lessons. Instead of feeling like a fun adventure, learning Gaelic felt like a real drudge.

Generally speaking, I am not one to give up on goals. I have a stubborn streak that I’ve long relied upon to keep me going until I reach success. And once I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I do it because my ego demands it. I do it because my integrity demands it. I take pride in my follow-through.

So why quit? Because the goal was set with the view of enjoying myself and learning a fun new skill. Only I realised that I wouldn’t have a chance to really use the skill. And it was causing me great misery each day. And so, I have prioritised my own happiness and joy.

The good thing about this decision is that I can now concentrate on the language that I really want to learn: Scots! And that’s a language that is used quite regularly mixed in with everyday conversations. So, I think it will be easier and more enjoyable to learn.

And so, beannachd leat, Gàidhlig! (Good bye, Gaelic.)

Aberdeen: Looking up

I made a trip to Aberdeen today for a meeting and found myself looking up. In fact, I found myself looking up a lot more than I would have expected because I was enjoying the contrast of the grey-slabbed buildings against the bright blue skies.

It was a bit surprising to me in a way because I’ve been to Aberdeen many times of the years but this is the first time that I’ve really noticed or paid attention to the spires reaching upwards into the sky.

Of course, this was also my first time in Aberdeen on my own, as every other trip has been with colleagues for meetings or conferences. In fact, my first trip to Aberdeen was with a colleague from my days working at Universities Scotland way, way back in 2003 when we took a taxi to and from the train station to our meetings meaning I didn’t get to see the city at all.

Today’s visit was relatively quick. But train times were such that I had more than an hour before and after my meeting. And whilst it was quite cold, the skies were dry and blue which meant that I was able to walk the mile and a half from the train station with more than enough time to stop for photos.

And that’s the purpose of this post: Not the meeting, not the train journey, but the photos! Photos that you can enjoy without the kink in your neck from all the looking up!

Temporarily yours

Hello and welcome to this amazingly awesome Just Frances temporary blog.

If you’re a regular Just Frances reader, you may have noticed that I’ve not posted since the first week of October. Further, you may have noticed that I took down the site’s content in mid-October, leaving you with nothing more than a placeholder page.

At the time, I had thought I’d be back up-and-running before the end of October, but life gets in the way sometimes so that just hasn’t happened. And I’m not really sure when the site will be back online, so I’ve decided to create a wee stop-gap blog to get me through because I actually find life more enjoyable when I have an audience to write for—even though I don’t know who my audience is, or even if there is an audience!

Because this is only a temporary blog, I will not be spending much (any?) time trying to make it look pretty. I have pulled in all of the text content (including comments) from my main blog, but I am not going to pull over the images. Further, I am not going to update links and such which means that (for posts made prior to November 2012) any links to my own materials will not actually link through (sorry about that).

But, something is better than nothing. Right? And to that, here’s something.

Normal service will return soon(ish).

Please bear with me…

Oh no. Don’t you hate it when your Website goes all wonky and you have to mess around with it to get it back on even keel?

Yeah, me too.

I’m not certain what’s happening with Just Frances, but it seems that there have been some error scripts or some other fancy-schmancy webby terminology going on. I am working with a couple of very clever friends to fix it, but have decided to limit some of the site’s functionality whilst I do that.

This means no photo galleries for the time being. It also means no scrolling ‘recent posts’ section, no Twitter feed, and no rotating quotes. I’ve done these things so that the main site could be re-established.

Sadly, I’ve also had to limit a few IP addresses until I figure it out. (If you’re one of those people, you might not be reading this. Yikes!)

Please, please, please feel free to get in touch with questions or comments if you want. Otherwise, please know that I will try to get the site up as fast as possible.

Thank you for your understanding–and for your support in general!