fire safety for cows

The first fire safety talk I had at school stands out in my mind thanks to an anecdote the fireman told us. When asked whether the fire brigade had ever really been called to rescue a cat from a tree, he scratched his chin. “No, we haven’t,” he replied, stretching out his legs in their thick rustling trousers, “But we did have to rescue a cow once. The daft thing ran off the edge of a cliff and ended up in a tree. Took us a few hours to sort that one out.”

For a long time after the talk, the cow in the tree occupied my every thought – I obsessed over the logistics of the accident and the rescue, dreamt of it mooing miserably as its legs trod thin air. I wrote a number of odes to the cow in the tree (I was in my ode-writing phase) and every countryside walk became an exercise in spotting the place where it might have happened. I was undeterred by people telling me that the fireman had made the story up for our sakes. At the time, my trust in the authority of uniformed officials was embarrassingly absolute.

Another, later fire safety talk was memorable for less entertaining reasons. On this occasion it was a brusque grey-haired man who held his helmet underneath his arm the whole time he was talking. He told us just how dangerous fire was and how almost anything could start one – I was horrified to learn that even a washing machine had the potential to burst into flames with no provocation, despite the confusing involvement of water. He made us watch a video of a family escaping a house fire in the middle of the night and I hardly slept for over a year. At the time we were living with my grandparents, who would let the washing machine run at night even after I’d told them that it could combust at a moment’s notice. For months I spent my nights getting up every hour or so to stand at the top of the stairs and sniff the air for smoke, convinced that I was the only one who could save my family from the inevitable inferno. I was the one who’d had the fire safety talk, after all.

The priorities of children are peculiar things. When you consider what you remember being told as a child you realise that there is little rhyme and less reason to them; that they were often innocuous things that became warped somehow: just like when I became convinced I could somehow unravel myself by accidentally turning out my bellybutton – or how I refused to be left alone in a parked car if the engine was running, visions of the vehicle accelerating into a wall or down a hill of its own accord – there is a weirdness to the perceptions of children that frequently enters the realms of horror stories.

When my grandpa was a little boy his mother told him that the ends of bananas were poisonous and to this day he cuts them off. My mum can't go to bed with the TV remote sitting on the arm of the sofa because of some vague fear of battery acid eating into the upholstery, planted in her youth. In amongst all the lessons we learn as we grow, we also retain these weird little nuggets of childish logic that are far less shakeable than reasoned, adult conclusions. That's how you can end up with generations of strident atheists who still determinedly believe they can get ink poisoning from chewing on the end of a pen.

I was never called upon to save my family from a fire, but sometimes a strain of that childhood paranoia slips to the forefront and I start panicking in the shower, wondering if it’s possible to drown on water vapour (I’m told the heat would kill you first, which is reassuring).

And to be honest, I still think about that cow in the tree a lot.


I feel like I've been living in a lifestyle blog the past couple of weeks. I moved into my new flat and I love it so much. Being back in my favourite city is so heartwarming after being away for a year and since I still don't have a job (hey, someone hire me, all my teachers said I was a delight to have in the class - a delight I tell you) I have a good amount of free time to spend pottering around, drawing, reading, cooking, drinking my tea in the morning as I look out at the castle. Yep, I can see the castle from my flat. It's like the Scottish version of all those films set in Paris where you can miraculously see the Eiffel Tower from every apartment window.

I'm so easy to please these days; a bowl of avocados, a hanging lantern, a functioning microwave and a wifi connection and I'm good. All I need is a cat and I'm basically living my dream.

 I wanted to draw the photograph I took last week of Katie as soon as I saw it, I love the colours so much. This is kind of a based-on drawing because I hate drawing little boring details like the camera bag and I'm really lazy with backgrounds.
 This is a thing I doodled the other day when I was re-doing the blog that I thought I might use for a new banner but then I realised I'd mixed up the wail/whale because I'm a deeply foolish person and I couldn't be bothered doing it again (see earlier laziness comment). It's quite cute though so, here.

Beanie & Bingo on a hill

 Katie took us up a big hill and we ate watermelon and discussed profile picture theory.

"I want to look like I'm enjoying my life, because I don't think I convey that enough normally." - me

"I want it to be, like, candid. But not actually candid, obviously." - Katie
(These are candid for real)

Bonus 'playing with new phone' pictures:

home, sweet

 Home is where people make you tea without asking first, wherever that happens to be this week.


 So I got a roll of film developed. I've kind of missed shooting solely film because it really is a great feeling to get to see pictures you'd forgotten taking. The film developing guy (who probably remembers me from last year because he saw me rather more than the average customer) told me that this set of negatives was very overexposed when I went to collect them and I thought that meant they'd turn out like my first lot of Grenoble pictures but I was actually pleasantly surprised. Silly man, doesn't realise that my expectations for my ability to work my own camera are really quite low.

The exception is this first photo of Puerta del Sol in Madrid, which turned out weirdly like an impressionist painting or something. The others are the leftover pictures from Spain.



Dunottar Castle sits in a precarious position on a large rock very much in the sea.
It's the kind of place that conjures to mind stories of Scottish mermaids, who have scales the colour of salt-rusted anchors and sun themselves in silvery stone bays.