Activity central chez Sutherland

Activity central chez Sutherland

30 July 2000

Wow, it’s been such a busy couple of weeks that it’s hard to know where to start. I think I’ll lead with the thing that’s most prominent in my mind (and body) right now: pain. Vast amounts of it. Muscular pain, from my neck, through my back and thighs, all the way down into my feet. I don’t think I’ve ever had muscle pains in my feet before. And it’s all SARAH HENRY’s fault.

See, back when I was still working for the Royal Bank, she convinced me to take part in a friendly mixed netball competition that took place yesterday at the Pleasance sports centre of Edinburgh University. We had two evening practice sessions, one two weeks ago (Tuesday 18th) and the other Thursday past (27th). I thought I knew pain after the first of those sessions, but that was nothing compared to the sheer agony that comes from five tough 20-minute games in a single afternoon. Anyone who says that netball is a girly sport, I can now with some degree of confidence brand a clueless nutter. It’s very fast, requires heaps of tactics and technique, and enormous amounts of physical fitness (qualities which I don’t possess, but I tried to make for with raw enthusiasm.).

We did actually manage to win the competition, though! This was probably because Sarah Henry and Lynsey Malcolm both play for Scotland, and our other guest star James (whose surname I’ve forgotten) plays for the England men’s team. Having such star quality on board might have helped us along. Greg McAllister, all 6’2″ of him, played some great attack and defence as well, and I just ran up and down the court like a crazed ferret, trying to get my hands on any ball that came near me. Because we only had five players, we had to borrow two extras from some of the other teams. Because Sarah knows everyone, she was able to poach the best and the brightest from elsewhere to come and play for us. Seems to have worked!

Exam Fever

About two years ago I convinced the Royal Bank to pay for a set of Microsoft exams that would qualify me as a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD). I passed three of the four necessary exams (two core Windows exams, and one on Visual Basic 4), but failed by one measly percent on the MS Access exam. I always intended to re-take the last one, but I was too busy with work at the time to be thinking about even more work things extracurricularly.

Now, though, I’m working for Cedalion, which is a Microsoft Solution Provider (MSP). To maintain this status, they must have a certain percentage of their developer employees qualified at MCSD or MCSE (MS Certified Systems Engineer) level. Part of my job duties now include making sure that I attain this qualification as quickly as possible, and maintain (or improve on) it. To this end, I sat exam 70-152, “Designing and Implementing Web Solutions with Microsoft Visual Interdev” last Monday (24th July). This was right after our anniversary weekend (more on this later), and although I didn’t have much time to study, I still managed to fly through it with a score of 84%. (The pass mark was 71%.)

Next ones up are Visual Basic Desktop and Visual Basic Distributed, which I’ve got lined up for Monday August 28th. I’d taken the Interdev exam first, because this is what I’ve been working with most over the last couple of years, and I knew it was going to be my strongest subject. I’ll definitely need to put in more work for the VB exams, though!

The continuing story of a car

Not too much to report on the car front right now. Toyota UK have sent us a brochure on the Picnic, and we’ve sent back our colour selection. We’ve been advised that the 7-seater model in Pacific Blue (600 x 290, 36K) is in plentiful stock, so we’ve gone for that. This means that we’ll probably get the car a little bit faster, but of the available choices, it was the nicest one, too. Toyota should get back to us soon with a delivery date, and after that it’s just a matter of waiting… More details as soon as we have them.

Yet another romantic weekend

Last weekend was our 7 year wedding anniversary! I can now definitely say that the first seven years of a marriage are the hardest ones. To celebrate, we hired a car for the weekend, and drove down to our favourite restaurant, The Plumed Horse. Saturday 22nd July was a glorously hot and sunny summer days. We set off late, and meandered through the Borders, stopping off for a picnic and a mid-afternoon nap at St. Mary’s Loch, before zipping the rest of the way to Crossmichael.

When we got there, we checked into the Deeside B&B, and got cleaned up before hiking all the way across the street to the restaurant. As usual, the food was fantastic. For starters, I had a medallion of goose and duck foie gras embedded in a muscat and calves foot jelly, and Abi has a warm goats cheese salad. Main course was lamb for Abi and sea bass for me, and for dessert Abi chose the chocolate tart, while I went for the banana brulĂ©e. (See my full review of the experience on DooYoo.) We had another bottle of the splendid 1988 Tokaji with the dessert, and because by that time the restaurant had emptied out (it was a very quiet evening–apparently July has been a quiet month for them overall, but they seem to be booked up for most of August already) we asked Charles and Tony (the owners) if they wanted to share a glass to the Tokaji with us. Charles smiled and declined politely, but such tempting bait did manage to lure Tony out of the kitchen. We then spent the best part of an hour just chatting away, and having a splendid time. We wandered back across to the B&B feeling full and happy.

The next morning, being gluttons for culinary punishment, we had a full cooked breakfast before setting off for Hadrian’s Wall, which runs roughly from Carlisle to Newcastle. Neither of us had visited this part of Britain before, and we were amazed by the unspoiled rural beauty of the countryside. Rolling hills with crags and little lakes, small villages with country pubs and people sitting on the steps up to their front doors in the summer sunshine. It looked like a marvellous place to spend a walking holiday, or a weekend break, and I’m sure that we’ll be back at some point in the future.

Music Fest

And if all this activity wasn’t enough, on Thursday evening this week (just after netball practice) we went out to the Port O’ Leith pub to see my drum teacher (Craig Hunter) playing with his band Monkey House. They were playing mostly rock and blues covers, and sounded great even in the tiny space they had to fit into. (The Port O’ Leith is a small pub–if you just stick your head into it, you’d be surprised they’ve got space for the bar, let along a band.)

Then yesterday evening we were out seeing Courtney Pine as part of the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. He had a truly awesome band on stage with him, and they gave up their all on a fantastic set of funked-up jazz that had even me (who doesn’t dance) swinging away during their encore. Courtney Pine is a man who loves his music, and loves playing live. When he really gets into his solos he looks like he’s throttling every last note out of his sax, and placing every ounce of his heart into the effort. One of the highlights of the gig, though, was Mary Pierce on vocals giving a truly stunning performance on Curtis Mayfield’s “Hard Times.” Sent shivers up my spine.

And no, that’s not all. Tonight we’re going out to see Dr. John at the same venue (Queens Hall), also as part of the Jazz & Blues Festival. Yes, folks, the Edinburgh Festival season is fully upon us. As always, we intend to make the most of it, but as always, we’ll just have to wait and see if we have the get up and go to actually get ourselves to more than just a couple of events.

Until such time as I have more to report, it’s over & out from me.