Seven Years and Seven Days

30 July 2000


Thomas the Rhymer lay on the slopes of the Eildon Hills, in what would become the Scottish Borders, when the Queen of Elfland came to him and took him to Faerie. There he served her for seven years at bed and table, and was returned to the world looking no older than he’d left it.

I was thinking about this story a week ago, when Martin and I drove back from our anniversary weekend away. We’d stayed at the B&B that we always stay in in Crossmichael, across the road from our favourite restaurant. This place – the superb Plumed Horse – has been our restaurant of choice for special occasions since we discovered in in November of last year. Martin’s done a write-up of the whole experience on, so I won’t repeat him.

Now, the Eildon Hills are not exactly on the route from Crossmichael in Dumfriesshire (have a squint at the map). But we had plenty of time, the weather was good, and we wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall. The Wall was Rome’s answer to the Great Wall of China. It doesn’t look like much now, but it was once manned by legions of soldiers to keep the savage Scots out of the Roman territory of England.

We were both enchanted by the landscape around the Wall. The stretch of land from Carlisle to the outskirts of Newcastle is one of the loveliest sections of Britain that I’ve run across. The rolling hills are criss-crossed by stone walls, dividing off green, fertile fields. Maybe some of it was the weather, and the deep contentment of a romantic weekend, but some of it was the quiet beauty of the landscape itself. I think we’ll be going back.

Then we drove back up North, past the Eildon Hills, and I got to thinking about Thomas the Rhymer. The idea that he was swept off of his feet and taken to another world, all because of his beauty and talent…we’d all love to have that happen to us. Have the last seven years been an enchantment? As an adolescent, I wanted my love story to be like that.

Mature reflection, though, teaches me that the story of Thomas the Rhymer isn’t the best ambition. The seven years ended, after all. After seven years, Thomas was back in the real world, the magic of his time in Faery just a memory. Looking at Martin sitting there in the living room, looking forward to the future with him…I’ll take reality.

¡Viva España! (and assorted other places)

Plans are clarifying on the trip to Spain. As it stands:

Saturday, 12 August 2000 Edinburgh – Madrid with a stopover at Luton
5 Nights Madrid
Thursday, 17 August 2000 Leave Madrid on the sleeper train
Friday, 18 August 2000 Arrive in Paris; travel on to Maastricht, the Netherlands
3 Nights Maastricht with the Sutherlands
Monday, 21 August 2000 Flight back to Edinburgh

The irony of it is that I will probably be flying to Norway via Copenhagen on Tuesday 22 August…yet more travelling!

Memoirs of an Illustrated Woman

18 July 2000

The Phoenix

It’s been 10 days since I got the tattoo. It’s been through the scabby phase, when the bits that peel off are the colour of the tattoo. Weird. I hear it’s weirder still with green and blue tattoos. Now it’s just flaky.

Reactions to the tattoo have run the gamut. “Wonderful,” said some. “You’re off your heid” said others. One person wouldn’t believe that it was real and asked if he could rub it, to see if it would come off. There is a perception that I’ve undergone some sort of a rite of passage by doing this. People look at me differently when we discuss it.

I think it’s the idea of a quarter hour of pain, voluntarily undertaken, which generates a certain awe. I think, in the absence of actual pain, we tend to exaggerate how unpleasant it is. Don’t get me wrong – pain is not a good thing. I’ve had my fair share of it. But – phobias aside – 15 minutes of tattooing should not be considered agonising enough to stop anyone from doing something he (or she) wants to do.


I’ve been threatening to put up a website of my own for some time. I’ve mostly been stopped by a lack of things to say. I wanted to be different.

The name evilrooster comes from our habit of playing about with language. There’s an Elizabethan saying of “as full as something as an egg is of meat.” It’s a classic example of the Elizabethan use of the word “meat” to mean food in general, but it sparked our interest. Over the conversation, it mutated to “as full of something as an evil rooster is of eggs.

Since then, I’ve started using evilrooster as my ID on websites and email IDs. Martin, who’s generally ahead of me in these things, was already using sunpig, so I needed something different. Registering the domain was just the next logical step.

So is it different? I think so; judge for yourself.

¡Viva España!

Because I have more holiday time than Martin (gloat, gloat), I’m off for a week on my own. Martin’s never been that keen on travel to Spain, so I’ve decided to go to Madrid. The week I could get off of work abuts the Marott Graphic Services Annual General Meeting.

The itinerary so far: Fly from Edinburgh to Madrid on EasyJet on 12 August. Stay in a small hostal near Plaza de Santa Cruz, go to the Prado, wander around and bake in the heat, visit Avila and Segovia. Take the overnight train to Paris and travel from there to Maastricht on 17-18 August (duplicating an earlier trip with a bandaged leg back in 1991). Join the Sutherlands there for the AGM. Back to work on Tuesday the 22nd.

More information as plans clarify.