Email 12th January 2010

Fish 2010 - Snowblind

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,

First of all a Happy New Year to one and all and hope it's been a good start to the decade for you all!

The run up to Christmas was pretty fraught as the throat operation drew closer and I admit to being very stressed and a little worried about the outcome.
My voice, as some of you who heard me on East Coast FM or talked to me during that period, was well fragged and I was frustrated and depressed by the state of affairs and genuinely concerned that I was facing having to find a new career.
I wasn't in a great mood for communicating in blogs and had nothing much to say as nothing was really happening and I didn't want to relay darkness and gloom in the festive season. :-D

It reflected on Katie who was finding the Scottish winter and decreasing daylight hours tough to deal with. Her clinic in the house was practically redundant and she, like a lot of other people out there in Real World, couldn't find full time employment up here in Scotland and money was tight all round. People were putting up with sore backs and knees and keeping their money for other more pressing things.

Since we had come back from the Summer touring and all the other activities her need to find work away from the Studio became more important and all those frustrations were accumulating in the house as all her attempts to make things happen were hitting stone walls and opportunities were thin on the ground.

She is a very independent and intelligent woman who needs her own income and freedoms as part of her character. She was the equivalent of a fighter pilot being employed as a part time crop sprayer just now.

It wasn't a case of financial pressure here as I had engineered enough to see us through until the Spring, but more a need for Katie to find work that invigorated her and provided challenges and stimuli outside the studio and away from the "cabin fever" that can exist here on the farm if you let it take hold.

I am a lot more used to it and can ride it out until the climates on every level change to a more positive outlook.
I hibernate like the bear I am.

But for Katie the short days and long nights were taking their toll on the bright optimism of the Summer.
I genuinely felt for her and was as frustrated as she was.

The farm is a great place to be in the Spring and Summer, especially when there is a garden needing constant tending and a perpetual sense of growth and creation. Autumn delivers its own harvests and it's still possible to get high on the preparations and plans for next year.

The Winter is however a different matter and we found ourselves more and more in front of the wood burning stove at night watching series links of "Spooks" on Sky Plus as the blizzards blew outside. It can leave too much time to think and it's easy to find yourself wandering down dark alleyways in your head and getting lost in negative thoughts. It's a challenge to remain positive as anyone will tell you who lives in Northern climes.

I had managed to keep myself as occupied as possible with the fish ponds and was still dividing marginal plants and re potting them for the ponds by the illumination of the security lights with the sleet falling around me.
Although the book writing was stalled I kept myself moving and positive with other things and keeping my head focused on future plans.

Katie decided to go down South to Henley to see friends for a week and I was left to sort out Christmas cards and put up the tree.
With the operation imminent we had already decided to shut down the planned "family do" as I wouldn't exactly be the convivial host as I wasn't drinking, smoking a fraction of my previous intake and wouldn't have the stamina to maintain conversations long.
It would just be the two of us, which in all honesty I was looking forward to. A romantic Christmas alone with sparkling tree, roaring fire, turkey in the oven and snow on the ground outside. Perfect! ;-)

She arrived back invigorated a few days before the hospital appointment on the 22nd and we drove in a snow storm to Livingstone, St Johns in the morning.
A long boring day in the ward and then the hustle and bustle of prep and into theatre.

I have never known my throat so sore as when I sat on the gurney in the recovery room.
It didn't help when passing staff asked "aren't you the guy who sang 'Kayleigh'?"
Croaky responses and faint smiles.

Katie picked me up that night and I was home by 11 with a basket of painkillers.
I managed to keep myself quiet and occupied for the next two days apart from a rant at the bank when I had a meltdown on my on line banking.
I reacted as I normally did and then realised the rules from my doc! :-[

By Christmas day my normal speaking voice had practically fully returned.
I cooked the dinner and my best turkey yet. My parents had popped in for a visit and presents were opened in the morning and then Katie and I were left to our own devices.
It was the best day we had had for about two months.
A genuine White Christmas.

We'd decided on practical presents and not to go overboard this year.
I got a foot high fluffy Meerkat (that freaked the cats out for a while :-D ), a kitchen rasp for removing peel from citrus fruits, a book on rearing chickens and a "Flying Scotsman" train set from Katie.

That present was a response to an off the cuff remark I made as a joke about putting a train layout in the soon to be redundant spare room as Katie had decided that her clinic was moving out the house and that the treatment room was going back to become a spare bedroom.

I have to admit to being in two minds about this new idea when presented with the train set and the "Flying Scotsman" does induce a terrible nostalgia.
I still have somewhere, black and white photos of the train's final journey that I took at Waverley Station on a Kodak Instamatic and fond memories of my layout in the attic in Dalkeith.

Katie's enthusiasm about building a model train lay out in, what used to be called "Yatta's room" was perhaps a rail bridge too far and the entry into a very expensive and time consuming hobby that may quickly outlive its initial attraction.
We both decided we would probably take it back and use the money to buy chickens! :-D
The gesture was lovely though and there was a childlike excitement on the day. A train set under the Christmas tree!! :-)

We had both, by sheer coincidence, bought each other books on rearing chickens and I had got her the Telegraph Gardening Diary to add to the dream of next years planned activities.

A glittering Hibs T shirt and the much needed scarf were in her pile and "Santa" had brought the "24" box set with series 1-7 and a "super scrabble" board (bigger board, twice the letters and quadruple scoring options ;-) )

That night our friends, Phil and Jan came round and Katie customarily gubbed us all as was her duty at first laying of the new Scrabble letters.
(I have only managed to beat her once while she absolutely cuffed me on every other game since with scores of over 300 ahead of me <:-| )

It was a fine day.

I'd seen Tara a couple of times before Christmas and she came out from her flat in Edinburgh to visit me over the holidays. It was great to see her and hear the stories of adventures in Dubai. She has grown up so much and I was really proud to see her getting her life together after a tough year.

Katie went down to London again on the 28th just after we had been to Easter Road to see Hibs unbroken run end on their 13th game of the season the day before against Rangers. (I celebrated our 12 second opening goal in wild animated silence and then hid my head as 4 goals were returned with interest. X;{ )
It was a great chance to see her family who had all congregated in London while I continued to recover up here.

Day by day the voice was getting stronger and the "speaking" ranges had all returned.
I was careful of what I was doing and looking after my healing chords.

I hadn't been looking forward to Hogmanay as apart from a bottle of wine on Christmas day I'd been avoiding alcohol and a dry New Year in Scotland was going to be a first.
The plug on any festivities for me was pulled when on the night of the 30th Katie called to say she had to baby sit for her sister's kids on the 31st and it would be tough to catch the train North on time.
It turned out later she hadn't allowed for the restricted Hogmanay time tables and would never have made it up anyway.
I was despondent and couldn't make it down South at this late notice as everything was booked.

And so I brought New Year in on my own here in the Studio.
I broke my abstinence and had a couple of pints in the Tyneside and was home at 8 and in bed by 10.30 sober and heavily disappointed at having missed bringing in the decade with my new wife in the first year of being married.

New Years Day was the customary party at the Tyneside but my heart wasn't quite into celebrating as Katie was staying over in London as we'd agreed that as there wasn't much happening up here she should take the opportunity to be with her family a few days longer.
Another early night at the Studio.

I spent the days keeping a hole in the ice in the fishpond as the pump had frozen and I had to keep a gap open for the oxygen to get in and the noxious gasses that gather under the ice out.
Striding out in blizzards with hot kettles and knives twice a day in raging snowstorms certainly gave it an edge but I knew that if I wanted to save the fish stocks that had only recently been added to the new main Peter Pan pond that I had to make the effort.
It's worked so far :-)

The woodpile was shrinking badly and it was impossible to get deliveries.
I had to make a run down to Duns to pick up materials to seal the stove as it was letting in too much air and burning too much wood.
A major storm had hit and even Katie had refused to come with me as she thought it too dangerous.
This was just before Christmas and I knew we would run out before New Year at this rate.
I'm pretty used to driving in snow and my childhood around a garage with recovery vehicles combined with my experience from forestry days and owning a Cross Country four wheel drive Volvo made going out a no brainer for me.

The car actually "purred" as it was in the conditions its makers intended it for.
I had a couple of brilliant drives over the holidays, just going out for the thrill of driving in winter conditions.
It's also a great breezing past a struggling Jaguar Sports car spinning at the side of the road >:-}

The drive to Duns was a great adventure and the mission was accomplished. The stove was repaired and I managed to get through the holidays and still have a few logs left, although finding them in snow drifts is a challenge :-D

And the snow kept falling and the ice kept gathering.

It's quite Fellini that this winter is the worst since 1963 which is the year "Jenny's World" begins.

I have to put my hand up and say that the book has been temporarily shelved in the last two months as other priorities took control and my head was in no way capable of creative writing. I couldn't retain my focus and any writing I was doing was to other ends and far more demanding.

My voice however was leaping forward and the other day I had a tentative run through of some notes.
I am overjoyed to say that everything is looking and sounding good despite the pronounced stress that surrounds me at present.
The stamina is returning and things are opening up nicely. I don't see any reason at present to worry about beginning writing for the next album in early Summer this year aiming for recording and release very early Autumn and followed by a tour.

There have been times in recent days when I have just wanted a tour bus to roll up the drive and get me out of here but I have to be patient and not make the same mistakes I made last year in coming back too early and doing too much, too soon.
It's frustrating just now as I just want to get back singing as soon as possible and genuinely miss it.
Before Christmas I was getting down even hearing other singers and was avoiding listening to music.

Now I am aching to try something out for real but have to be patient and wait on the next ENT appointment in February for the full all clear.
My doctor had told me after the operation that she was confident that all the problems had been removed and that there should be no further problems. It appears so far she is right! :-)

Once I have the full green light I can start "practising my scales" and give the "Red Tops" another "catchy" story. (Happy New Year if you are reading guys! ;-))

As there is nothing much going on here at the moment and with my current "writers block" I have decided to go away on a short holiday for a couple of weeks.

Katie is tied up with new work commitments in London and so rather than vegetate alone here in the cold and darkness, I booked a two week holiday in Costa Rica where I will be hiking under and in rain forest canopies, climbing volcanoes, visiting coffee plantations and slooping about in boats in the jungle.

It's something I badly need to do given recent events and I need desperately to get myself out of the current rut I find myself in.
I would have preferred not to have gone alone but circumstances dictated otherwise.
I know I will miss her and that we will be thinking of each other every day.

It has all been arranged at last minute and yesterday I was getting my various injections at the doctors and picking up medical supplies and other stuff for my trip.
It's too easy to just sit back and let the world go by and as I realised when I went to Vietnam I need those inputs and experiences.
I decided to take this opportunity and when a cheap late deal game through I jumped at it.
I needed a mission.

Don't worry I will be taking the camera! ;-)
I won't however be taking the laptop and will be incommunicado on the email front.
I need to breakaway for a wee bit and find something I recently lost.
Willard needs to go up the river again to find Kurtz. (yes amigo ;-))

At least the snow is melting outside and with Tara and her boyfriend house/cat sitting for me, before they move into their new rented flat in February, the timing has come together well in most accounts.

The Nearfest DVD has been getting some great reviews and after all the hard work everyone put into making it it's a good feeling to know we delivered and delivered well!
It appears all the missing orders are getting to their destinations and the reviews are being noticed and attracting orders from people who had held off before Christmas with the anticipation of delays in the postal services.

Elspeth has been doing a sterling job over the last weeks getting the orders out and even getting to the office some days as the drive has been an Ice Road Truckers trial event.
The number of times we have had to dig people out is unbelievable and we are still waiting the refuse trucks to pick up the garbage since before the holidays!! (I had to dig Elspeth out this afternoon after a delivery truck had churned up the road)

But the big melt seems to be on and the scenery is regaining its colour.
Total white out is wonderful for a few days but as we know the perpetual mush of snow, sleet and ice starts to lose its appeal after a while.

One of the reasons I am off to get some "colour perspective" in Costa Rica.

When I return I know I will be facing some tough challenges and decisions and perhaps options I never considered before, but for now I really need some time and space to re energise and regroup my thoughts and prepare for the coming months.

Haddington Bear is coming out of hibernation! :-)

Hasta la Vista baby ;-)

lots of love
Onkel Fish

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