Jane and I have moved in together!

A study filled with boxes.

After seven years of living very different and separate existences Jane and I have taken a dramatic and significant step in our lives: this evening Jane and I moved in together. I am of course speaking about our joint study (home office).

During the last few days we’ve been busy painting the walls (hence the lack of blog posts) and this evening we started moving our stuff out of the hallway and into the study. It’s a giant step for both of us. Not something that has been entered into it lightly or selfishly but reverently and responsibly in the sight of almighty God.

Will Jane be able to put up with my almost obsessive need for order? Will she be able to stand my compulsive desire to file anything of hers that sits in her In Tray for more than five weeks? Will Jane be able to put up with my 6.1 surround sound PC speaker system (playing either thrash metal or Battlefield 2)? Will I make any room on my shelves for her books and folders? … of course I will! I’ve already given up a whole drawer of my filing cabinet. However, it’ll just mean that I have to start filing a lot more under ‘R’ for recycling.

Wish us well in this new joint venture.

p.s. This is the room that used to be the garage.

Raisin Monday

Students having a foam fight in Sallies Quad on Raisin Monday in St Andrews

Anyone who has been a Bejeant(ine) student at the University of St Andrews — Scotland’s First University — will immediately recognise the scene in the photograph above. It is, of course, the annual shaving foam fight in Sallies Quad which marks the end of Raisin Weekend.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, here is the excellent article about Raisin Weekend from The Sinner (one of the main student-run websites at St Andrews):

Raisin Weekend

Raisin Weekend is centred around the unique St Andrews tradition of the “academic family”.

Each first year (or at least those who choose to take part – it is not compulsory) is adopted by an academic mother and academic father — who are usually, but not always, in their third or fourth year. In one form or another, Raisin Weekend has been around since the very earliest days of the university. It was, and still is, a “rite of passage” for new students.

On Raisin Sunday, first years’ spend the day with their academic parents. First of all, they attend a tea party with their mother at which, traditionally, not much tea but a great deal of alcohol is consumed. Later, the children are collected by their fathers and the evening is spent in the drinking of yet more alcohol.

In return for their parents’ kindnesses, the first year is expected to give them each a bottle of wine. This is deemed the modern equivalent of a pound of raisins (actually, the modern equivalent of a pound of raisins IS a pound of raisins) which was the usual gift way back in the mists of time when students had a bland diet (has this changed much?).

On the following day (handily called Raisin Monday) and after being woken up, sobered up, cleaned up, and dressed up in outlandish clothes, freshers are presented with their Raisin Receipts. These are written in Latin and is a way of acknowledging the gift of raisins. They always used to be on parchment. Nowadays, almost certainly, the receipt will be something large, embarrassing and cumbersome which has to be carried around.

The gift-giving does not end here. Academic mothers give each of their children “Raisin Strings” with a small gift attached. The gift or “favour” is supposed to reflect the personality of the child. The number of Raisin Strings depends on the status of the mother. It is one string per year of matriculation – blue for first year, crimson for second, gold for third and black for fourth. These strings, with gift still attached, will eventually be tied to the child’s gown hooks.

After all this largesse, children are paraded through the town until they arrive at Sallies Quad. En route, third years, fourth years and graduates of the university (if they are wearing their gowns) can stop any fresher and examine their Raisin Receipt. If they find a mistake in it then they can demand that the Gaudeamus be sung as punishment. Once at Sallies Quad, between 11 and 12 o’clock, a foam fight nearly always breaks out – it’s almost traditional. The striking of 12 o’clock means the end of the fun for another year, and sees students slowly drifting off. Parents perhaps to have photos developed. Freshers, almost certainly, to sleep.

By Al

The office windows at Business Improvements on Butts Wynd, directly opposite St Salvador’s Quadrangle (aka Sallies Quad), give an excellent vantage point for watching the proceedings.

It brought back many fond memories from my time in the very same quad one chilly November morning in 1989, although I have no recollection of what I was wearing. I’m sure my academic brothers and sisters made up some kind of collective costume that involved cardboard and sticky-back plastic, but I really can’t remember what it was. I simply remember managing to fairly successfully not get covered in shaving foam, buckets of booze, or worse.

As one of my colleagues pointed out, we now have to watch the shops in St Andrews become suddenly inundated with razors as their stock computers fail to take into account local student traditions. One week a year the town sells out of shaving foam, the next week the stock-check computer orders a million-and-one razors to compensate, as if the entire student population has spontaneously reached puberty on the same weekend!

I had the good fortune of having both my academic parents for both my first and second years. I had the following raisin strings (from my academic mother) and raisin receipts (from my academic father):

First Year

  • Raisin String: A Barbie doll and a book of chat-up lines (I was her eldest academic son!) — which made for good reading in dull chapel services (!!) and an interesting pastime at the college photocopier (!!!)
  • Raisin Receipt: An inflatable American football — my academic father didn’t approve of the sport but bought me it anyway.

Second Year

  • Raisin String: A pair of plastic high-heels (carrying on the theme…!)
  • Raisin Receipt: A plastic dinosaur — a protest at my taste in music, which he saw consisted mostly of “dinosaur rock”.

… and you thought that St Andrews was posh and elitist!! (I still think that it’s the best university in the world, though.)

When can we play on the swings?

Playpark with two men standing next to it.

The area between our house and The Marches (a recent housing development where regular readers will remember we put in an offer for a house five minutes too late) has been lying empty for the last few months. It appears that this area has now been sold to a company that will be responsible for its upkeep as a public park; the sort of thing that the local council once did until money became such an issue. They are now building a children’s play park in the middle of the area.

During the last couple of days I’ve spotted the same two men arriving in their car around mid-morning, parking nearby and walking up to the fenced-off play park and looking longingly at the play equipment wondering when they’ll finally be allowed to play on the swings.

Or they could just be from the construction company overseeing its development.

But I prefer to think that it’s the former.

Clock watching

Spot the cat sitting on a table watching the clock

The other night dinner was interrupted briefly by the sound of Spot (the cat) pawing at something in the living room. We quietly poked our heads out of the dining room door to see Spot sitting on the coffee table intently watching the clock, and every now and then coiling up and leaping at the second hand as it ticked by. It was quite charming and quite hilarious.

Spot sitting on the armchair watching the clock

And it hasn’t stopped. This morning he was sitting for about 30 minutes on the armchair watching the second hand going round and round, and every now and then he’d try to attack it.

I need to get the washing machine up and running today. I suspect that Spot can’t wait.

Heating woes, pt.2

Pipes and gauges

Me: Hello, our central heating boiler is not working and my wife called yesterday to arrange an engineer’s visit, she was told that someone would come out early — and certainly between 08:00 and 13:00 — but it is now past one and no-one has arrived yet. I just wanted to make sure that someone is coming.

Scottish Gas Homecare teleworker: Let me just check, Mr Saunders … [30 seconds later] there is no appointment booked for you today.

Which is strange because Jane spent 30 minutes on the telephone to another Scottish Gas Homecare telephone assistant (also called Jane) doing three things:

  1. moving our contract over to the new address (AGAIN!! She’d already called the day before to do this)
  2. putting me on the contract, and
  3. booking an appointment for “as early as possible” this morning.

To say that I was (and still am) upset and angry would be … well, absolutely spot on! Because not only is it infuriating that, for whatever reason, Scottish Gas haven’t been able to do their job properly and successfully book a visit but it has completely disrupted our plans for today.

My Mum came up to visit last night and the plan was that I would take her back to Edinburgh this afternoon.

Scottish Gas Homecare teleworker: Oh, but that’s okay we could book in the appointment for tomorrow.

Me: No, it’s not okay. We want our heating and hot water. We’ve been without it since Saturday and we were promised that someone would come out to see us EARLY THIS MORNING!!

So Mum in a fit of rash adventure has taken the bus from Anstruther to St Andrews (20 mins) to sit in the cold for 40 mins at St Andrews bus station to wait for the 16:00 bus to Edinburgh. And she has angina, and has spent the last 24 hours in a house with no heating.

And I’m at home still waiting and still upset. Upset that we’ve been let down by Scottish Gas, upset that I’ve let Mum down and she is now suffering badly with her angina (I know that because she’s just called me), and upset because … well, I’m upset and I don’t like being upset.

But at least they had put me on the contract… oh, hang on! No they hadn’t even done that. And now we’re going to have to wait until the weekend before they can call Jane to do that as she is off to Belfast on business for a few days.

They’d better turn up today. Otherwise … actually otherwise what? Otherwise I might write them a stiff letter? Otherwise I might just have to spend my fifth night in the cold and with no hot water? Otherwise I might just blog about my poor experience!

This is just not acceptable. We pay for this cover:

Choose HomeCare 200 and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing we’re caring for your complete central heating system. If anything goes wrong with your boiler and controls or your radiators and hot water you can rely on our engineers for help.

I actually do believe that. My experience of Scottish Gas engineers has been exemplary. It’s just the bureaucracy, the automated telephone systems and the not really knowing whether you have successfully booked someone to come or not that is the really infuriating bit.


17:16 The heating engineer has now visited. It turns out that he’s been here before. A lot. The hot water expansion tank has gone completely and needs replaced. Which will also mean that other parts (naturally) will also have to be replaced.

So, a bucket-load of parts have been ordered and he’ll return sometime on Friday (am or pm) to fit them and then hopefully we’ll have heating and hot water. In the meantime the system is running on minimum which may or may not limp through to Friday.

The good news is that I’ve now managed to get the electric fire in the living room working. Using a pointy stick and a can of WD-40. I kid you not. (Details on request.)