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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Yesterday, the sun was shining gloriously in my part of the world.

Being keen to make the most of the fine weather, delightful assistant no.1 and I zipped off Kinross-wards, to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.

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Loch Leven has quite a bit to offer the visitor.

Not only is it a nature reserve of particular interest to birders, but there’s a castle in the middle of the loch where Mary Queen of Scots was once held captive. You can visit the castle via a small boat trip.

There are over 12 miles of level paths round the loch which are ideal for walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs and motorised scooters.

Perhaps best of all, to my way of thinking, Loch Leven’s Larder – a tip top food stop – sits near the banks of the loch and provides the ideal place for a tasty luncheon.

In order to make the most of the facilities, we parked in the Larder’s car park and went for a brisk walk to work up our appetites.

Tall reeds were growing in the marshy land beside the loch:

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Their golden colour made me dream of summer.

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The delightful assistant spotted some silkily soft pussy willow catkins. We stopped and stroked them, in time honoured fashion.

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There were also some magnificent Scots pine trees, with their beautiful bark lit up by the sunlight:

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Our walk did the trick, giving us the appetites we needed. I was close to desperate for a bite of something by the time we were sitting in the cafe perusing the menu.

I opted for one of the soups of the day, kale and potato, which came with not one, but two, pieces of deliciously fluffy freshly baked bread:

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It was tasty, filling and no doubt very nutritious, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Delightful assistant no.1 also enjoyed her choice of toasted ciabatta with brie and chicken, which came with an interesting looking coleslaw and root vegetable crisps:

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Loch Leven’s Larder is one of those places that has rather a mindboggling selection of sweet treats, and on this occasion the desserts included a special pudding of plum and apple crumble with custard.

Despite the temptation of that, and many other delicious looking items, I couldn’t – as I rarely can – get past the idea of a scone.

The scone options were as follows: fruit, plain, cheese and….chocolate and marshmallow.

I’m pretty sure that before yesterday I had never seen a chocolate and marshmallow scone. Although I did waver for a moment between that and the fruit scone, I grasped the nettle and plunged into new territory.

I teamed it up with a decaf cappuccino, while the delightful assistant settled for a lovely pot of tea and a ‘little taste’ of my scone.

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I wasn’t at all sure how the marshmallow would manifest itself, but it appeared to be a sort of shiny hardened area that I’m afraid I haven’t photographed very well (it’s the slightly shiny bit beneath the pale bit to the left of the photo below):

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Was it a success, this teaming of chocolate and marshmallow in a scone?

Decidedly, yes.

I don’t know how many excellent dining experiences I’ve chalked up now at this fine establishment, but I can assure anyone looking for a decent scone near Kinross that they’re sure to find something highly satisfactory at Loch Leven’s Larder.

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One of the things that repeatedly surprises me about Scotland is the number of fascinating little out of the way villages there are, sitting quietly waiting to be discovered.

The county of Fife is full of such places, and yesterday I took the delightful assistants out for a seaside adventure in search of one.

Anyone who knows the Fife coast well might already be familiar with the village of West Wemyss (pronounced Weems), but it’s the sort of place you could easily miss, being at the end of a road that leads to West Wemyss and nowhere else.

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The village of West Wemyss, nestling on the Fife coast at the end of the road.

We parked in a free car park by the harbour, overlooked by some commanding buildings complete with pantiled roofs very typical of Fife coastal villages.

The cream coloured building is called the Belvedere, and was built in 1927 to serve as a miner’s institute and reading room. I would have liked to have gone inside and had a look for the books, but alas it was all closed up.

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The village of West Wemyss was a planned community, built by the landed gentry of the Wemyss Estate to house their workers.

Despite still having a few grand buildings the current village has a popluation of around 240 and I don’t imagine that these days many of them have work within West Wemyss itself.

The Wemyss family have lived in this area since around the 12th Century and in 1421 Sir John Wemyss built Wemyss Castle, which is now in a state of some disrepair.

The castle lies a short distance along the bay from the main part of the village.

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Wemyss Castle hiding behind trees and a most curious wall which, viewed from afar, I thought was a long arched bridge.

I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting history attached to Wemyss Castle, far more than I’ve been able to find with a quick online search, but I did learn that much of the Wemyss family wealth was built on coal mining. I also discovered that in 1565 Mary Queen of Scots first met Lord Darnley (the chap who was to become her second husband) at Wemyss Castle.

As we walked past the castle we noticed that close to shore in the bay, stretched out on rocks, were a few fat seals.

I believe that both grey and common (or harbour) seals are found in the Firth of Forth and I really don’t know which these were, but they were satisfyingly plump and shiny.

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Fat seals.

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Is a shiny seal a healthy seal? I like to think so.

Just inland from the seals was a row of large concrete blocks: tank defences put there during the second world war to stop the Jerries from climbing aboard our shores.

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Between the castle and the village, stuck onto an old bit of wall, were some mosaics, including one depicting two swans:

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Swan mosaics stuck onto an old bit of wall by the coast.

There was a snazzy mosaic door, too, which didn’t seem to lead anywhere but looked very pretty.

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Lovely mosaic door stuck into an old wall.

A plaque informed us that this artwork had come about as a collaboration between three local artists and the nearby primary school at Coaltown of Wemyss (another village along the coast). The project was supported by Fife Council and included a little picnic area:

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A view that delightful assistant no.2 claims brings sorrow to his very soul – a picnic area with no picnic in sight.

Constructed in 1512, West Wemyss harbour lies at the west end of the village.

In the old days it was an important port for ships carrying coal and salt (and, somewhat unfortunately in 1590, the plague, which spread from here throughout Fife wiping out a good many of the inhabitants).

These days it provides shelter for a few fishing and pleasure craft:

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West Wemyss harbour.

Next to the harbour we spotted a beautifully weathered building with a few bricks set into the surrounding stonework. It looked to me like a work of art.

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Interesting textures created by wind and weather, nicely contrasting with a bit of brickwork.

Having enjoyed a bracing walk along the coast with a cold wind blowing rain into our faces, we were ready for sustenance and plunged into the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

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The West Wemyss Walk Inn – the cafe inside is run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers, and jolly good it is, too.

It was lovely to get inside out of the wind and rain, and settle down in the warm cafe to peruse the menu.

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Inside the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe – cosy and welcoming.

I opted for the soup of the day, which was cream of tomato and came with a roll and – delightfully – a cheese and chilli stick covered in sesame seeds:

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Outstandingly good soup with bready snacks on the side.

Not having been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but am delighted to report that it was exceptionally good soup and a very nice little stick and roll. The soup tasted of fresh tomatoes and cream, it was thick and delicious and, I’m quite sure, the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted.

Delightful assistant no.1 went for fish and chips, which came with a side order of bread and butter.

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Battered fish with chips, peas, bread and butter. Carbohydrates covered.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose one of his favourite toasted sandwiches, a brie and cranberry panini, which came with a fresh side salad and a few crisps:

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Brie and cranberry panini with salad and crisps.

We all had tea to drink, and a free refill of the teapot. Everything we had was just the job to warm us up and make us feel contented.

The cakes on offer were freshly baked in the kitchen upstairs and looked very tempting, but we all felt too full to have anything straight after our savouries, so we’ll save that treat for another occasion.

On the windowsill next to where I was sitting there was a small Christmas tree made from driftwood and decorated with fairy lights.

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Driftwood tree at West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

Behind the tree there was a framed certificate that made me happy; it declared that in 2013 West Wemyss had won a Silver award in Beautiful Scotland’s ‘Wee Village’ category.

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An award in the Wee Village category for the West Wemyss Bloomers, 2013.

I’m not surprised that West Wemyss has won such an award and I intend to revist later in the year when there are more blooms to be seen. Even on a dull, damp January day there were bright colours dotted about to cheer us up and make us glad we’d taken the little dead end road down to the coast.

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Bright colours to cheer a dull day in West Wemyss.

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Yesterday was the delightful assistants’ 53rd wedding anniversary.

Acting as chauffeur, I whisked them off into the county of Angus for a tasty luncheon, an invigorating walk and afternoon treats.

Here they are attempting to gaze lovingly at each other for the camera:

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They found this highly amusing.

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Delightful assitants in a more natural pose.

Delightful assistant no.1 chose to go to Peel Farm, near Kirriemuir, for lunch:

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A welcoming sign at the entrance to Peel Farm.

We arrived nice and early, a little before noon.

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The entrance to the coffee shop at Peel Farm, decked out with wreaths and other Christmas decorations.

Due to our fortunate timing the coffee shop was unusually empty, which allowed me to take a photograph of the inside.

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Inside the lovely Peel Farm coffee shop, unusually empty of hungry punters.

The delightful assistants wisely chose a table at the fireside end of the room, from where we all ordered a farmhouse special of soup with a roll and butter, followed by a scone and tea or coffee.

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Delightful assistants perfectly placed near the fire with bowls of hot soup.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I both chose carrot and parsnip soup, while delightful assistant no.2 had red pepper and tomato.

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Carrot and parsnip soup with a crusty roll.

Our soups warmed us up, and when they’d been polished off it was time for scones.

There were three options available: plain, fruit, and raspberry. After considerable deliberation I plumped for raspberry, while delightful assistant no.1 chose fruit and delightful assistant no.2 chose plain.

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My choice of a raspberry scone – I was not in any way disappointed.

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A fruit-studded scone for delightful assistant no.1.

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A beautiful plain scone for delightful assistant no.2.

A delicious jam was delivered with the scones and delightful assistant no.2 felt that his plain scone gave the perfect base for it.

The jam was a new creation by one of Peel Farm’s master jam makers and was a combination of plum and orange. It tasted a bit like marmalade because of the orange, and it had a wonderfully zingy sweet flavour. Delightful assistant no.1 christened it ‘jarmalade’. Here’s a blob of it on my raspberry scone:

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Raspberry scone with a blob of jarmalade on it.

I wasn’t too sure how my raspberry scone would fare as a platform for such a sprightly spread, but when I tasted them together I was immediately won over and slathered the rest of my scone with the stuff, enjoying each mouthful with gusto.

When we’d finished our scones and downed our tea and coffee we had a quick look in the Peel Farm craft shop where I spotted the happiest little gingerbread men I think I’ve ever seen.

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Cheery wee chaps on a string.

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Utterly delighted to meet you.

We got back into the car and drove to nearby Loch of Lintrathen, which has a level road all round it, virtually devoid of traffic and very pleasant for strolling along.

It was grey and chilly but we walked briskly, enjoying the fresh air and the noise of wind in the trees and on the water.

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Loch of Lintrathen.

Quite a few branches and twigs lay scattered about after recent high winds; delightful assistant no.2 fashioned one such branch into a walking stick.

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Delightful assistant no.2 taking twigs off the fallen branch of a larch tree.

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The old chap making use of his newly acquired walking equipment.

On our walk we passed a well constructed bird hide, and I popped in to see what I could spot.

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Loch of Lintrathen bird hide – I had it all to myself.

I didn’t see anything particularly unusual, although someone had noted a white tailed sea eagle in the visitor’s book a couple of weeks before.

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Gateway to the bird hide at Loch of Lintrathen.

After my bit of birding I caught up with the delightful assistants and we scooted on to the nearby town of Kirriemuir to seek out an afternoon snack.

On past visits to Kirriemuir I’ve been unable to find interesting tearooms, so my hopes weren’t terribly high.

We parked in the free cark park and walked towards the town centre.

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Delightful assistants keeping each other upright.

Before we even reached the main street, to my astonishment and delight, we passed this promising looking establishment down a little alleyway:

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A side window at The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

Just around the corner we found the front door, and swiftly sailed in:

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Front entrance to The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

The interior had a charmingly rustic farmhouse feel with solid wooden furniture and gifty things dotted about. We perched ourselves at a table for three:

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Seated comfortably close to the wooden dresser where there was a selection of tasty looking treats.

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A dresser showing off its cakes and biscuits.

Delightful assistant no.2 was the first to make up his mind and went for a mug of hot chocolate and a mint chocolate traybake, which was enticingly decorated with broken bits of fondant-filled mint thins:

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Chocolate mints on top of a traybake – a stroke of genius.

Although very fond of mint chocolates, I thought this traybake might be too sweet for my tastes. However, having tasted a piece of the one in the photograph, I would gladly return to Kirriemuir just for a slice of this excellent confection.

As it was, I went for a slice of fruit loaf with butter, downed with a cafetiere of decaf coffee:

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Delightful assistant no.1 also had coffee, but in the solids department she made a traditionally festive selection:

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Delightful assistant no.1’s choice of a mince pie. Such a good girl, she didn’t make a fuss about the lack of cream.

After enjoying our treats we had a quick squiz at a few of the items for sale, some of which were displayed at the bottom of a gracefully curving banister:

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One item in particular took the fancy of delightful assistant no.1.

In her youth she remembers having a little wooden rocking horse that rocked very nicely, and when she saw something similar at The Auld Surgery Tearooms she didn’t want to go home without it:

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Small wooden rocking horse with teacup: a happy ending to a lovely day.

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Just outside the village of Stanley in Perthshire there’s a small car park that’s often filled with vehicles sporting colourful roof rack items.

The colourful items, which are generally canoes and kayaks, are brought here by their owners and carried along a narrow pathway across the road. You could easily miss it if you didn’t know where to look (right of centre in this picture, to the left of the red car):

After a short walk on the flat you come to a long set of steps going downhill:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe reason for carrying canoes along this path is to reach the River Tay at the bottom, where there is apparently some challenging paddling to be had.

Here’s the river, looking quite benign:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the occasion of these photographs there were no canoeists in sight, but Delightful Assistant no.2 and I enjoyed a pleasant riverside stroll, ducking underneath low-hanging trees:

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On the other side of the river we spotted a small beach, where a lady and her dog were enjoying the sunshine:

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The path we were walking along was built up a bit from the water, but there were one or two opportunities to get down to the waterside.

I opted for a route which was made of a sort of stone ladder, just visible in the next photo on the left, but more clearly shown in the picture after that, taken from down below looking up to the higher path:

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Although it was lovely down by the river, we were on the shady side and I thought it would be nice to hop into a small boat and row across into the sunshine.

Some time soon, on a similarly sunny day, I’ll take the delightful assistants to the path on the other side of the river, and perhaps we can have a little seat on the beach and pretend we’re on our holidays.

It’s a bit too snowy for that today though.

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In 1997 a book was published by an unknown author living in Edinburgh.

It was to become a publishing sensation, but since nobody knew that at the time the first print run consisted of a mere 500 hardback copies, most of which went to libraries.

The book was “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, by J K Rowling.

harry-potter book jacket

Image from boingboing.net

If you want to buy a first edition, first print run, copy of the book today you’ll need to have several thousand pounds to spend on it, and if it’s a signed copy you’ll need several thousand more. The copy above apparently sold for $29,875 in 2011.

Then again, if you just want to read the book you can get the hardback in a new edition for less than £10 and the paperback for about half that on Amazon. If you’re lucky you might even pick one up in a charity/thrift shop for much less.

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A good rummage in a shop like this might just produce a Harry Potter bargain.

When I self-published a little guidebook to tearooms last year I had no idea how many copies to order, but I found out from the printing company I used that the more I ordered the cheaper each book would be.

Taking a complete stab in the dark and lured in by the lower cost price if I had lots made, I plunged in and ordered 2000.

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A small sample of my book stock.

Had I known then what I know now about the sort of quantity I was likely to sell, I would have paid more for each copy and ordered far fewer, but such is the benefit of hindsight.

On the plus side, lots of lovely customers have shelled out for this small tome, for which I am most grateful, and who knows I may even sell a few more before they become completely obsolete.

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New book by local author in the window of The Bookshop, Blairgowrie, last year.

I was chatting to my sister about this today, and telling her that I felt I’d like to do something with some of the remaining copies.

The only idea I’ve come up with is to make them into some sort of art installation, but beyond piling them up, sticking them to a lamp-post, or arranging them in a sculptural manner, I’ve had little inspiration.

She suggested I ought to have a competition for people to propose things I might do with them, and that made me think about writing this blog post.

This reminds me of a situation my dad was in a few years ago, when he was lumbered with boxes of a book that wasn’t selling (he was running a book stall at the time). I remember leaving a copy on a train once, and on a bus, and I think possibly even on a park bench. I hoped that in each case someone might pick the book up and read it, or give it to a second hand shop or something, but I really don’t know what became of them.

I could do the same with my book, except that I am still selling it online and in a few shops, and I don’t want to upset anyone who’s recently purchased a copy.

The longer I have it, however, the more out of date it becomes, and I’d like to work towards putting it to another use.

If you happen to come up with an interesting idea for what I might do with, say, a box of 100 copies, perhaps you could leave a comment below. There might well be a teatowel for the winning suggestion.

Since I haven’t yet broken even on the cost of producing the book, I’d like whatever I do with spare copies to cost nothing. I have given quite a few to libraries, but I don’t want to offload more onto them when the book is getting a bit dated.

I’ll be putting my own thinking cap on again, and if I come up with anything of interest I’ll post about it anon.

Perhaps I’ll try wearing a pancake like this beautiful rabbit, to see if that proves more inspiring.

 

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Have you ever had a migraine?

According to The Migraine Trust, it’s the most common neurological ailment in the western world.

There are more people suffering from migraine than from diabetes, asthma and epilepsy combined, accounting for over 8 million people in the UK alone.

I’ve been getting migraines for the past 16 or so years. I’ve learned to live with them (and luckily don’t get them as badly or as frequently as some people do), and now think of them as part of life.

When I recently visited the Migraine Trust website after a particularly disagreeable migraine, I was very interested to find out about this:

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One of several Travelling Migraine Diaries from The Migraine Trust.

Before, or even after, people are diagnosed with migraine it’s suggested that they keep a migraine diary, to see if there’s any pattern to their occurrence.

Inspired by that idea, and with the aim of encouraging sufferers to share their experiences, the Migraine Trust came up with the idea of a Travelling Diary.

Rather than just using one very large book, they’re sending out a number of blank books all over the UK to people who suffer from migraines, so that each sufferer can contribute their story of how migraines affect them.

I received one of the diaries in the post yesterday and wrote my piece in it this morning:

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My entry in one of the Travelling Migraine Diaries.

After my mum’s added a bit about her experience of migraine, the book will be sent back to the Trust so that they can send it on to the next person on their list.

I enjoyed reading the stories of other people who had written in the diary before me, and eventually all of the stories will be available to view online. The Trust are taking photographs of the entries as they receive them and putting them on Flickr during their Diary Campaign, and you can see them here.

If you live in the UK and have ever suffered from a migraine, you might want to consider adding your bit to one of the diaries. You can do that by clicking on this link to the Migraine Trust’s sign up page.

You can also follow the Migraine Trust on Facebook and Twitter @migrainetrust.

I don’t know if humans are the only species in the animal kingdom to suffer from migraines, but I hope so. I wouldn’t like to think of other animals having to cope with migraines.

Here’s a happy horse I saw the other day wearing a natty red coat and looking comfortably headache-free:

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White horse in a red coat.

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Today we had a little visitor in the garden, snuffling amongst the leaves next to a hosepipe:

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Hedgehog with hosepipe.

Jolly good for the garden, hedgehogs, as they enjoy a diet of slugs and other such pests.

They’re so useful, in fact, that people have been known to steal them.

I remember an occasion in my childhood (a time that was filled with hedgehogs, in my memory) when I was playing in the garden with a chum who lived up the street. After playing at mine we went up to her house and told her dad about a hedgehog we’d seen in my garden. He asked us to show it to him, so we took him back to mine.

On being shown the hedgehog, he promptly pinched it and took it back to his own garden in the hope that it would eat his slugs. My mum wasn’t too pleased.

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Welcome, little visitor, do call again. Prime slugs are supplied free of charge.

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