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  Loosing weight means smaller sizes so there's new stuff on The Star Swag Blog.  Yes that was a brag, my size 8 trousers are too big.
  We went on the AUOB Galashiels march with Nikki in her YES neckerchief.  Friends H and T were there with their Bruno in his YES too.
    Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched Mary Queen Of Scots.  It's OK.



  Summery bottoms on The Star Swag Blog.
  Nikki did her bit for the EU election, wearing her SNP neckerchief we did a wee turn at the local polling place for #DogsAtPollingStations on the Twitter.  Results are now in, West Lothian voted SNP, Scotland voted SNP, I'd be so embarrassed if we didn't.  When the UK EU election 2019 result map looks like this it's clear Scotland's taking a different road.  Scotland wants a future that the rest of the UK doesn't.  Cool, we can be respectful neighbouring independent countries.
  One recent night I opened the back door and Nikki was straight over to the bird table, with one quick sniff of the night air she'd found a Hedgehog.  This sighting inspired me and I've built a Hedgehog Feeding Station following the guidance of Poppy's Creche Hedgehog Rescue and Rehab, find the video on Youtube.  Took me approx 15 minutes to make and set up my feeding station.  Ignore the date stamp on the video below, I didn't realise I'd need to reset it on the trailcam, video was taken a couple nights after I set up my new feeding station.  Result.
  Just when I think I'm about to take myself off the nurse register forever, I get asked to do a 0730 to 1330 half day shift, and I go and do it.  It was doable because The Husband was here to tend to Nikki.  I did drugs, fair enjoyed it too, it's been so long since I dispensed medications in a nurse type way, I think I've missed it.  The 6 hours were over very fast then Nikki came in to meet the patients and nurses.
    Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched The Captain.  Based on a true story, portrays the madness of war and the instability of fragile minds in inhumane circumstances.  Kill or be killed, he was only 21 in the end.  Thought-provoking, terribly sad and somehow devilishly entertaining.



  Finally found a rain-proof trouser I like, on The Star Swag Blog.
  AUOB Glasgow.  Nikki's been to her first Scottish Independence march wearing her Saltire-blue leather collar and lead with her YES neckerchief.  The day began with Nikki being told to get in the car, she jumped in, onto the front seat.  She had her first public transport experience when she nipped onto a train then through a busy Central Station and into a black cab, no bother.  She had a great day, much admired and photographed, she was on the STV TV news, twice (click pic 2 below), there's two photos of her on the BBC news website (click pic 3 below) and I've seen one Twitter account using her photo as his profile pic and on his blog heading.
  Nikki Photo Shoot.  I'm awfy pleased with these Nikki photies.
  I won a book in an iScot Magazine (my favourite, and the best, magazine in the world) competition on Twitter.  The Peat Dead by regular iScot writer Allan Martin.  This is Mr Martin's first novel and it's Tartan Noir, my favourite genre.
  I cooked Plokkfiskur, Icelandic Fish Stew, served up with Rye Bread.  It's really easy, butter and flour makes the base for a creamy sauce, who actually knew?  Now I have to find which rye bread, available in Scotland, is most like the almost fruity rúgbrauð of Iceland.  I've tried a Polish, too soury, the German is nicer, but not sweet enough.
  Movie Watch (no spoilers).  I watched Jigsaw.  Not as good as memory tells me previous Jigsaw movies were, maybe my memory is being too kind.
  The Husband and I watched Mission Impossible Fallout.  I like the MI movies.
  The Husband and I watched First Man.  I found it a wee bit boring.



  Camera bag, kinda, on The Star Swag Blog.
  We've been to Iceland, the lovely normal independent country, and we've seen The Proclaimers, a glacier, lava, a geyser, all the Iceland stuff.  I've started my Iceland Blog, it could take a while.
  Been to see Janey Goldey again, this time on the Soup and Independence Tour, Janey giving her performance and time for free to help raise funds for local SNP branches.  There was guitar and singing, political video clip voice-over comedy from Janey, a raffle and tasty soup.  Was fabulous to be in such an intimate setting with a favourite comedian, we were able to have a wee chat and when I said who I am on the Twitter Janey replied "I know who you are, you back me up all the time", indeed I do.
  Nikki and I visited The Cat Wall, we weren't expecting that.  We found it while wandering in the woods in the Bangour Village Hospital grounds.  Cute, quirky and creative.
We've found a new dog-walking favourite place, Heathland Forest.  We've been 3 times now, exploring it's 3473.43 acres, reading the history, Nikki's been running, fetching, paddling and swimming.  And of course, this is the area where her previous owner walked Nikki with the other Golden Retrievers she lived with for 3 and a half years, she knows and loves this place.  The burn down at the bridge is particularly good, while playing fetch with the ball there she was joined by one passing dog after another, and she took us by surprise with a massive leap over the burn.  It's not a great photie, but it's amazing, I caught not only the unexpected moment, but this much motion with an iPhone.
  My new bird table next to the kitchen window has been accepted by the residents.  And there's been a new first-time visitor.  I spotted it as I walked into the kitchen and didn't have anything but the iPhone handy.  Was my first ever Brambling.  Later the same day in the woods I saw my first Treecreeper, again, no camera.  I've also recently spotted a Dipper at the local burn, again no camera.  I have to improve on my general camera-at-the-readiness. 
  Earlier in the year I was concerned the 7-Spot Ladybirds were awake too soon so I put food out for them.  All is well in Starry Towers Ladybird World.  I've counted 18 in a single sighting and there's so much Ladybird sex going on in the garden I reckon the Aphids are doomed.
  Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched Searching.  Well, I watched Searching and The Husband read a book.  I liked the storyline but the acting wasn't brilliant and the screen-time technique got to over-kill quick.
  Friend C and I watched It Comes At Night. It's ok, I don't think it really did just come at night though and there's a futile feeling at the end.
  Friend C and I watched Glass.  I preferred Split, Unbroken was good too, this is going more full-on super-hero cartoony, it's full of great actors acting tremendously, but a wee bit too silly on the psychologist doctor hospital side of things, full of ridiculous flaws that make the super-humans less super, for instance, Glass doesn't have to be the smartest person in the world when nurses behave like idiots, The Beast doesn't have to be so very strong when the security staff are so pathetic.



  Stuff on The Star Swag Blog.
  We've found some Nikki favourite premium reward treats, used specially for off-the-lead recall.  There's 3 tasty snacks that do the trick so far, local award-winning butcher low-fat Lorne Sausage, Gravy Bones, and on a recommendation from a new neighbour I baked a thing (first thing I've ever baked), Liver Cake.  Nikki loves these snacks like someone's added an addictive drug to them.  This is my Liver Cake, it's liver, self-raising flour, eggs and water, this cake-making seems much simpler than I'd ever imagined.  Nikki has on her ecstasy face eating it. 
  Up at Bangour recently there was an interesting snow sculpture, Nikki barked warily at it and I found a £10 note on the road next to it.
  My wee girl's on her season and she's had her last off-the-lead day for a while.  This is Day 20, and people who told me the third week is the worst were right.  Since Day 15 she's changed, being whiney after the boys, some more than others, and the boys are after her.
  We knew Nikki likes water, we've seen her paddle in the North Sea, the River Almond and neighbourhood burns, but we didn't know how much Nikki loves swimming.  We went out driving to find a loch.  First we visited the peaty waters of Harperrig Reservoir where she did some paddling about.  Then we found Banton Loch, by this time the sun was shining and Nikki didn't let a lead hold her back.  Nikki loves swimming so much we went back the next day with one of them very long training leads.  Such a pleasure to watch her, like a golden otter, so overjoyed with life.
  To increase Nikki safety The Husband put a spring-shut thing and Shut The Gate signs on the gate, it's working well.
    I've been to meetings.  When you retire it leaves you with time to consider what else is going on around you that you'd perhaps previously regarded as maybe less than riveting.  So I attended a Community Council meeting, it lasted an hour.  Worthwhile, glad someone can be bothered, just no sure that I could be one of them someones.  I then attended an SNP branch meeting, it lasted an hour and a half, went past real fast and was very interesting, I'll go back.
    Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched Land Of Mine.  Emotional.
    The Husband and I watched Goldstone.  Great acting and so sad with the reminder of the destruction of the indigenous people of Australia, plus the human trafficking, such evil.
    The Husband and I watched Bad Times At The El Royal.  I enjoyed the Tarantino elements and the ending, just a wee bit slow getting there.



  A couple of nice things from ASOS on The Star Swag Blog.
  Lunch with the girls was a buffet at Friend H's house, very delicious and great company.  I love a good chit-chat these days (post-retirement).
  Nikki pics...taken at Bangour Village Hospital, Almondell and Seacliff Beach.  The first picture is out front the nurses home, my old room is the window on 2nd floor furthest right.  2nd pic just to show her bite, in the Seacliff pics she's enjoying her new Chuckit ball.
  Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched The Meg.  Did exactly what it said on the box, a bit of light-hearted giant Shark fun.
  The Husband and I watched A Fistful Of Lead.  A wee bit strange, compared to the usual spaghetti western.  The Husband was convinced it was a comedy, I wasn't so sure though you do laugh at times.  It looks low quality, for instance when the blood hits the camera or someone's bowels hit the floor, it's lacking the panache.  We were both thought it looked like it was filmed somewhere in England.
  The Husband and I watched The Guilty.  Very good.



  More dog walking on The Star Swag Blog.
  A couple of weeks ago I took a Bangour Village walk with Friend H and her Labrador Bruno.  As soon as we got into the woods we let the dogs off their leads and it all went very well.  A big confidence booster for me to walk Nikki off the lead in the old hospital grounds and I've done it alone and with The Husband a load of times since, it's all been good.  Nikki did get more mockit than ever before, she disappeared down a dip then immediately reappeared wearing mud boots.  I encouraged her to take a dip in the Mortuary Road burn on the way home, so she was a lot cleaner by the time we got back home for a shower-wash at the back door. 
  Here's a Nikki video from our first off-the-lead day demonstrating a less than perfect recall/fetch Golden Retriever, but also faulty human behaviour.  I was later to learn Nikki is whistle trained.  Receiving Nikki was a bit like "here's a dog, away and learn about her".
  On another day I got talking to a man who trains Guide Dog puppies.  We were in the woods and he was using a dog whistle, 3 beeps and his off-the lead Labrador puppy came running back to him.  Nikki was on the retractable lead at full length and also came over and sat down at his feet and looked up waiting for her reward.  The man told me he suspects Nikki is trained to the whistle.  Long story short, I bought a 111.5 whistle and gave it a go, I'd say it worked 7 times out of 10 but since then the previous owner has confirmed Nikki is 110.5 whistle-trained.  We got 110.5 whistles and boy, the 110.5 makes her jump to attention.  She remembers, 3 beeps come back, 1 beep is sit. 
  I'm resigning from the nurse bank and cancelling my NMC registration.  Coming off the register seems like a bigger decision than retiring.  Retiring had always been on the cards, kind of set in stone.  For 35 years I've known when age 55 arrived I'd retire and pick up my pension.  The option to join the Nurse Bank was there and I did 4 bank shifts, but was offered none for so long that I lost confidence and with it, any interest.  Then we got a dug.  I take my dog responsibilities very seriously.  She needs 1-2 hours of exercise every day and she can't do it without a person, on most days I'm that person.  I'm no leaving her on her own all night, 20.00 to 08.00, so night shift is out, I can't leave her for a day shift, that's 14hrs, 07.00 till 21.00.  The only other option is a half day, that's 7 hours without me, but also £26 in taxi fares, hardly worth it.  So I'm resigning, sometime in the next 3 months, prior to my next NMC fee payment.
  The 7-Spot Ladybirds are out and about, a tad too early I reckon.  I've seen approx 20 so far, every time I find one I tuck it back into bed in their little Ladybird Houses, and I've provided lettuce and sugar while I'm waiting for emergency Ladybird Food supplies arriving.
  I feed the garden birds in feeders hung on my Lilac tree with a ground feeder under the tree for my Wood Pigeons.  With the idea of getting better close-up photo opportunities of my garden birds I got a bird table and placed it close to the kitchen window.  I had to build the bird table kit myself, with a screw driver, I did a no bad job.
    Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband, Nikki and I watched Alpha.  Stunningly beautiful, enjoyed by us humans and Nikki.
    The Husband and I watched American Animals.  Enjoyable and interesting.
    The Husband and I watched One Cut Of The Dead...for 10 minutes, then I watched the rest of it on my own.  A Zombie movie with a bit of a, not all that original, twist.  The Husband's no the biggest fan of the genre, I like a good one, this one's no that good.



  A couple of things on The Star Swag Blog.
  The Big Sale Update.  I keeping a spreadsheet record so know I've sold 161 items or lots.  My first sale was a biggie, my Beanie Bear collection for £120, from there I've sold two items on Gumtree and four on Shpock.  The rest have all been on Facebook's Market Place and today I passed the £2000 mark in takings.  That's quite astounding really, I'm just selling bits and bobs from around the house.  My idea was "if we were flitting tomorrow what wouldn't be coming with us?", a load of that stuff is gone, but still got loads to sell.  I love that things I'd have either gave to The Mum to take to her local good cause or have put in landfill have made me £2018 so far.  I'm meeting loads of lovely people and posting stuff on request.  Not all buyers bother to rate after a sale, I always rate the other person and give them positive full marks.  Until today I had only positive feedback, 68 of them, slightly horrified to see a negative today, but taking an educated guess I think I know who did it, weirdo.
  We took a trip to Cramond Beach, it might also be known as Silverknowes Beach, it's a wee bit confusing for the first-time visitor.  We'll go back, for a visit to Cramond Island which sits 3/4 mile off shore and is accessible by a walk across the WWII anti-submarine barricade causeway, but the sand itself is pretty mucky, when the tide is out anyway.
  Last weekend at Seacliff Beach we learnt that our generally well-behaved dog has a weakness, her Kryptonite is a football.  She couldn't resist when she spotted a football in the air at the far end of the beach and off she went oblivious to us calling her back.  In the hope of desensitising or perhaps persuading Nikki that other footballs aren't all that, we got her her own footballs and kicked a small size 5 blue football around the beach.  She had a load of fun with it and became less obsessed with it as time went on, same as she does with other toys.  She did some damage to the outer covering of the ball but she didn't burst it.  She got a bit of a fright when The Husband went in with his welly boot to take the ball from her, she looks like she thought for a brief moment that he was going to kick her, funny dog-face expression caught on camera.  Back home, after a weekend of beach visits she was in for a full-on shampoo shower, I worry about all that salt, she worries about how she looks in her dressing gown.
  Lunch with my old work colleagues was at Liberta in Bathgate.  I wasn't feeling at my best, a late night and bottle of wine the previous evening with Friend M then getting up a 7am for dog duties then doing the long walk before showering and getting ready to head out to meet with the girls, I was rough as.
  Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched A Star Is Born.  We both adore Lady GaGa so this was a pure pleasure.
  The Husband and I watched Lean On Pete.  Bit sad.



  Good walking socks on The Star Swag Blog.
  There's been a Canine Medical Emergency.  On the way home from a walk in the woods Nikki kept stopping to lick her front left paw.  We'd walked through undergrowth type stuff in the woods, even having to turn back at one point due to the jaggy wild rose type tendrils.  Once home I found this tiny wee thorn and pulled it out of a Nikki paw. I am a genuine Veterinary Medicine type hero #Androcles
  We had another 1st time visit when we went to Almondell and Calderwood Country Park, a raging River Almond stopped us from even thinking about an off-the-lead event.  We know Goldens love water and we have no idea how an off-the-lead Nikki behaves around rivers, but it's a great park.
    Our second off-the-lead day went fabulously well, a beautiful blue sky sun-filled day on Seacliff Beach.  Off-the-lead day with other dogs, people and horses, Nikki was brilliant, though we nearly ended up swapping Golden Retrievers with a couple of guys (their girl came with us and Nikki went with them) and right at the end she left us for a man and boy kicking a football around. A beautiful day, though she did eat horse shit.
    Here's a good thing for dog owners, the Hozelock PortaShower.  Fill it up with hot water, leave it by the back door (or stick it in the car if you're driving to your walkies), by the time your dog walk is over and your dog is filthy mockit, the water is at a good temperature for a wee wash down of the dirty bits.  We use it nearly every day, very handy and effective.
    Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched The 12th Man.  Amazing.
    The Husband and I watched Upgrade.  Gory, fun, suspenseful and well made with a streak of silly, highly enjoyable.



  Stuff on The Star Swag Blog.
  Lunch with the girls was at Hot Flame in Livingston, right next to one of my favourite fountain sculpture things.  Turns out, "quite a lot" is the answer to an all you can eat buffet, but we didn't eat as much as I imagined we would, and to be entirely honest the quality of the food, in the keeping-it-hot cauldrons, no really exceptionally delicious.  I found myself mixing various cuisines on one small plate and really, that's not my idea of a nice dinner.  I began with a very confused starter plate.  My main course was mostly Indian after I discovered the one main food item they don't do...I wanted fish and chips, but no battered fish, I was directed to the scampi but that was rubbery.  At the sweet course I went with one of all the little bits and that was just ridiculous.  It's cheep and cheerful if you want to eat yourself silly.
    Nikki News.  On Nikki Day 1 we visited our local Pets At Home for all the necessaries including a Wainwright's Quilted Mattress Dog Bed with Bone Pillow, £48 worth of what turns out to be rubbish.  The only good bit is the bone "pillow", no any good as a pillow but Nikki likes to play fetch with it.  So a new bed was needed, the extra large Pet Fusion Memory Foam Orthopedic Bed with matching super-soft fleece blankie is fantasticly comfortable, she loves it so much, we had to get another, one for nighttime upstairs sleeping and one for daytime downstairs lounging.  I'd happily nod off in there and we can, both Nikki and I fit in cuddled up, and it's big enough to let her stretch out on her own.  The old bed went back to the shop, full refund received and they also let us keep the bone "pillow" for the fetching, so full marks for customer service to Pets At Home.
    Having Nikki has introduced us to our surroundings.  We go all over Scotland but I've lived in Sunny D since 1990 and it's only now, 30 years later I'm out walking miles every day and getting to know my way around our local countryside.  And I'm impressed, really looking forward to the Summer.  This is us up Dechmont Law on a cold and frosty Winter day, and then on another day Nikki and I went searching for UFOs in the woods.
    At Seacliff Beach we had our first off-the-lead experience.  Nikki behaved impeccably, there were no other people or dogs around so we've still to experience that, but it went really well, she didn't run away.
    The Husband and I watched The Secret Of Marrowbone.  Beautiful.



  Nikki News.  Nikki got professionally groomed, this is only ever a good statement when it's about a dog.  A mobile groomer visited in her van, approx 90 mins later Nikki came back whiter than white with paws so neat and any tuggy matted bits removed.  I also got advice from the grooming lady which I've made good use of and just a few days later Nikki was much more comfortable with me touching her back paws.  I'm now able to brush her tail and I've introduced her to the downstairs shower.
  Nikki has been introduced to her new vet too and had the first of the vaccine jabs.  We'll have to wait till she has a season before we can plan the spaying op.
  There's been a terrible accident.  The Husband and I were out walking Nikki, Nikki was on her extendable lead, the last thing I remember is saying to The Husband "don't throw the ball".  I worry Nikki will hurt her neck if she runs hard to the end of this lead.  Next thing I know an ambulance woman is kneeling in front of me asking me questions.  I had concussion with a 20 minute memory loss, I've got a sair face and my neck and right arm have been wrenched a fair bit.  The sair face is a cut on my right eyebrow and a big dirty graze down my cheek.  The paramedics put me in restraints, the kind that protect the spine and at A&E I get steristrips to the cut and have a check for spinal damage.  All is well but I'm on Concussion Watch for the next few days and that dirty graze didnae heal itself.  Hydrocolloid dressings did a good job of fixing it over the space of a week.
  Health News.  Since I retired, must be about 4 to 5 months ago, I've shed 22lbs in weight.  This has been the easiest weight loss I've ever done in my life, I'm 8st again.  Turns out going to work is bad for you, age doesn't make it more difficult to loose weight and walking a dog is good for you.
  Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched Berlin Syndrome.  Good.
  The Husband and I watched Iceman.  Really enjoyed.
  The Husband and I watched Hereditary.  Well made shite.


  BIG NEWS!  Nikki News.  A new dog's in town.  Oor Nikki is a 3 year old white Golden Retriever and since the 5th of January she's been the most popular member of the family.  Everybody who meets her loves her.  She is everything anyone would want in a dog, she's just perfect.  I've learned that having a dog sleeping by your side is a pleasing comforting experience and walking is healthy.  I'm out walking her every day for anywhere between 90 to 120 minutes, at least, I'll need to get a pedometer thingy.  I'm walking like never before and really enjoying it.  I knew when I retired that I'd need a reason to get me out the door every day, and here she is.  I'm no saying she's the most beautiful dog in the world (she so is), but I've got a new favourite photography subject as well as all the other benefits and happiness she's brought to everyone at Starry Towers.
    Nikki belonged to a breeder who is also a business acquaintance of The Husband.  We'd been fancying a mature dog rather than a puppy, but had reservations about getting a rescue dog.  The Husband and the breeder were chit-chatting, long story short, Nikki was in her new home by the end of that day.  She's so well behaved and trained, she loves a good walk, a good brushing and a right good cuddling.
    We left Nikki in The Boy's care and, along with Friends H & T, attended a showing of Nation III Norway, the 3rd in a trilogy of documentaries about Scotland's Nordic neighbours by Lesley Riddoch.  Introduced by Lesley and Joanna Cherry SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, there was music by The Yes Choir and fiddle playing Musica Nordica and a Q&A session following the film.  Emotional, entertaining and educational.  Afterwards we had dinner and drinks at All Bar One, hit the spot nicely.



  A Gid New Year and an Independent Scotland to all. 
  The weekend before 2019 I woke up with an urge to go north so The Husband, me and What's My Feckin' Name? Douglas! (from now on known as Douglas for simplicity's sake) took a surprise trip.  Booked a hotel, packed the overnight bags and a picnic lunch.  Up the road and my customary shout out to the KELPIES!  We ate our picnic in Glen Coe, what a view to eat your lunch to.  The overnight stay turned out to be a Curry and Comedy Night at the Whitebridge Hotel by Loch Ness.  The Teuchter's Comedy Club took to the stage, the compere Halde Pottinger raised some mirth, though he relied too much on the old-fashioned blue side for me, he has comedy skills, the other two Inverness guys weren't too hot.  Thankfully experienced Glaswegian comedian Pablo Serski was the headline act, he told funny stories very well.  He also had me admitting to a room full of Loch Nessians that I have LSD experience, nowhere even close to as much LSD experience as Pablo has, but there wasn't an opportunity for me to tell the audience of my relative innocence on the matter.  I did get a chance to explain to Pablo after the show though, so I felt a wee bit better about it.  I'm sure others were judging me thereafter though, like in the bar after, at breakfast the next morning and when checking out.  Brushing off the morning-after shame we took a walk in the woods where great care was taken not to fall at the Falls of Foyers.  Then we headed to fish and chips in a '70's stylee at Tea @ The Shee in Glen Shee, then on down the road, over the beautiful Queensferry Crossing under a multi-coloured sky and home sweet home.  Scotland is still the most beautiful country in the world.
  Movie Watch (no spoilers).  The Husband and I watched Revenge.  It's a very good horror fest.
  The Husband and I watched First Reformed.  Interesting.
    The Husband and I watched Bad Match.  A cheap thrill type movie with a good twist.