Moomin art in the Outer Hebrides (Rousse)

Having  tired of watching footage of my sister-in-law J making an early departure from a reality television series, the rest of us set off to find more interesting entertainment on the Isle of Lewis.

TPR and I contrasted the new commercial developments that made our usual holiday destination look rather backward and shabby. How had we missed the wonderful luxurious hotel and all the organised activities?

With my sister J, her family, and my mother we walked through the new hotel and towards the activity building to join an ‘art wall’ class. I expected that this meant that we all would contribute to the same canvas, but instead we sat around a table with other participants and were each handed a laminated postcard on which was already sketched a mountain scene.

The main instructor asked everyone at the table to introduce themselves from behind a white painted screen. I dreaded my mother’s response, but she managed a few words without breaking into tears. My sister, unfortunately, made someone rather uncomfortable by insisting that she say more about her failed doctoral studies.

When the time finally came to do some drawing, I was keen to take advantage of the advice of the Finnish instructor next to me and perfect my Moomin technique.

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A comedian, lipstick on a hairbrush and a conference with rottweilers (Belle)

The food at this conference WAS good, I admitted begrudgingly. This didn’t stop me shouting loudly that the slices of Spanish omelette were too large.  The person responsible for the catering success was Australian comedian Chris Lilley, whom I had previously denounced as only getting the job because it was “man’s work”.

There were a lot of rottweilers attending the conference and a girl with great legs kept standing on her hands and showing off her red pants. I met old school friends, one of whom said that he was recovering from brain surgery and his aftercare programme involved sniffing talcum powder.

I had a makeover at the conference and was astonished at how good I looked. The secret, apparently, was to always use a hairbrush to apply lipstick.

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Dog in a pram – a love story (Belle)

My dog fell in love with a dog in a pram. Its owners (and now my in-laws) took us on a tour of the terraced houses in Birmingham.

In one of the kitchens, the hostess pulled back the louvred wooden shutters to reveal the inside of a pub. All the drinkers cheered at our appearance. 

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The dance of the hotel spa radishes (Rousse)

There was nobody at the reception desk when I tried to check into the hotel.

Having made a couple of enquiries as to their whereabouts, I found the staff lined up along the edge of the hotel playing field. They were watching their guests – dressed in bright red paper costumes – perform as dancing radishes.

This was yet another reason for me to hate spa hotels.

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Escaping from book group (Rousse)

Left in charge of the book group, SC transformed it into an escape game. All the clues could be found on the reverse side of the place mats, just beneath our dinner plates on the table.

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A PhD bigamist (Rousse)

I married one of my PhD students in a secret ceremony. Indeed it was so secret that I didn’t even attend the wedding.

Several years later I was finally facing up to this misdemenour. Soon I would confess all to TPR and the authorities, despite the risk of a long prison sentence and a fine.

(Alternatively I could say nothing and someone else would have to sort out the mess after my death.)

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Another restaurant fire on Edinburgh’s Broughton Street (Rousse)

A new restaurant was opening on Broughton Street in the space between the two cafés that had recently burnt down.  It was rumoured that the owners were trying to decide a name that would capture the notion that their place had emerged in the gap between the two piles of ashes. How could they incorporate the sense of  ‘there used to be two restaurants in this street on each side of this building that bore the names of citrus fruit, but they were both destroyed in fires’?

TPR and I booked a table for the opening night of the new restaurant. I was looking forward to eating my meal while seated on one of the white fairground ponies that I could see through the restaurant window.

However, it was not to be. When I turned up at the time of our reservation, a Chinese chef in a blue apron came to the door and explained that they were ‘not quite ready yet’ for customers. Behind her were billows of black smoke.

It seemed to me that Broughton Street was going up in flames yet again.

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