Tag Archives: Scotland

“You Don’t Always Win Your Battles, But It’s Good To Know You Fought”

19 Oct

The title is a quote by Lauren Bacall, and from one inspiring woman to another, I’m extremely proud to have not one, but two accomplished authors in my family. My Great Aunt moved to Canada, from Scotland, in 1963, and there her life in Canada begun.

Being one of my gran’s younger sisters, she travelled back and forth to Scotland often to visit family, and although I have never spent a great amount of time with her, she always has a smile for you, she is warm, chatty and is full of life!

She met her second husband in the late 1980’s and after being married for 9 years, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. This is where her story begins. She tells her story about caring for him or 17 years, the benefits and challenges she faced in choosing to care for him at home, in the hope that it will help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

‘Martin and Me: My Life on Hold’, under her alias, Anne Louise Larpnel, is available on Amazon now, both in paperback and Kindle: Martin and Me: My Life on Hold

'Martin and Me: My Life on Hold' by Anne Louise Larpnel

‘Martin and Me: My Life on Hold’ by Anne Louise Larpnel


It’s a very touching story, easy to read, full of practical advice, and fond memories of their time together. As another reviewer noted, it’s like listening to a friend share their experience over a coffee. One particular tale that made me laugh out loud was when Martin was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and he could no longer go to the toilet by himself. One day he was constipated, and having no luck they decided to give up for the time being and try again later. Upon pulling up his pants from behind, my Aunt felt a thump on her head, gave it a shake, and low and behold, a number 2 fell onto the floor!

The book is filled with many other funny little stories like that, which makes it all the more heart-warming. And if you happen to be in London, Ontario today, she is doing a book signing at Chapters/Indigo from 1pm – 4pm. Please go along and say hello, and tell her, her great niece in Australia sends her love.

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White Girls Can’t Jump

22 Apr
'Spread your wings like an eagle and fly like a brick'

‘Spread your wings like an eagle and fly like a brick’

Despite a small fear of heights, I’ve always had an incline to do a bungee jump and a skydive and always just thought I would get round to doing them in Australia. But then a few months ago I thought ‘why wait until Australia?’ and went about finding where I could bungee jump in Scotland.

I came across Highland Fling (what a brilliant name for a bungee jump company!) based in Killiecrankie, just 3 miles from Pitlochry, and they boast at 132 ft, the only bridge bungee jump in Scotland. Preferring the idea of jumping over water, rather than concrete, this was the one for me.

Team Bungee

Team Bungee

Along side the jump, myself and two friends, Allana and Valerie, decided to raise some money for a local charity close to us all – Ayrshire Cancer Support. Our initial target was £500, but thanks to some very generous donations from our friends and family, we smashed that target and raised over £2,500! Wow.

So on the first Saturday in April, we went up to the bridge over the River Garry in Killiecrankie and jumped off it! Despite being nervous before hand, when I got up to the platform suspended underneath the bridge and saw all the jumpers getting harnessed in, and all the safety routines and checks carried out by the 5 guys, all my fears went away and I was ready to enjoy it. So on the final words of my guide, ‘spread your wings like an eagle and fly like a brick’, I jumped!

I Once Ran Away With the Gypsies

3 Apr

I’ve been slacking on the ol’ blog posts the past few months, so I’m trying to catch up… watch out for posts on Belfast, Berlin, hats, bungee jumping and Ibiza, but for now here’s a bit on Dublin!

Molly Malone stands with her cart at the end of Grafton Street

Molly Malone stands with her cart at the end of Grafton Street

I’ve been to Dublin several times over the years, the first time when I was 17 and my first of many seasons working at Loudoun Castle Theme Park. Back then , the Cadonas – a well-known ‘travelling’ family in Scotland (also known as gypsies) – owned the theme park, and at the end of every season, they packed up the rides and took them to Dublin, Limerick and Cork, then on to Dubai for the Winter. Being short on willing travellers that year, they asked me to go to Dublin with them. My parents weren’t too happy about it… and that’s how I once ran away with the gypsies.

Two weeks in a luxury trailer in Clondalkin – one of the roughest parts of Dublin, working 4 hours a night in a burger van for 400 euro a week, 17-year-old, impressionable me thought I had it made! It was an experience and a half, but apart from a couple of shopping trips to Grafton Street and a handful of drunken nights in the infamous Red Cow on the M50, I didn’t get to see much of Ireland’s fair city.

A busker plays his tin flute on Dame Street

A busker plays his tin flute on Dame Street

Then, when I started Uni at Dundee the year after I made a load of Irish mates and have since spent many a memorable weekend in Ireland – Belfast, Derry, Ballymena, Donegal, Meath, Dublin, Newry, Coleraine – to name a few. But again, never to see much of what Dublin has to offer – aside the pubs that is.

So when I planned my mini Irish adventure over the Christmas holidays there (Dublin – Belfast – Donegal) I made sure I had some time to finally be a tourist in one of my favourite cities.

I had already arranged to meet up with and stay with Uni friends, but I had half a day to myself to do as I please. I set off from my hotel in Temple bar early doors, and walked along Dame Street to Trinity College, not having a lot of time, I resisted the urge to go in and see the book of Kells. Instead I stopped to greet Molly Malone at the bottom of Grafton Street before having breakfast at a nearby pub. After that, I walked along to Merrion Square where a memorial to Oscar Wilde can be found perched on a rock with a drink in hand in the corner of the park. It’s a nice quiet spot to sit and read some of his many famous quotes, my favourite being – “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”.

Oscar Wilde hanging out in Merrion Square

Oscar Wilde hanging out in Merrion Square

I then walked down to St Stephen’s Green, along to St Patrick’s Cathedral, onto the famous Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle and St Audden’s Gate. Crossing the River Liffey, I walked along it and up by the fruit market to the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square – a memorial to “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”. Finally I walked down O’Connell Street, by the Spire (completely missed the Post Office – doh!) and back to Temple Bar to meet my friend Sarah and get on the rip.

Outside the iconic gates of the Guinness Storehouse

Outside the iconic gates of the Guinness Storehouse

By 6pm, a few too many baby Guinness and some new friends made later, I had to get myself over to my other friend, Lynsey’s place down at the docklands, to head out with her and her friends for her birthday – the rest of the night can only be described as a blur. But as the saying goes, when in Rome…

The next day I was as rough as a dog and on the bus to Belfast – but that’s for another time.

A view across the River Liffey

A view across the River Liffey

The famous Temple Bar

The famous Temple Bar

Happy Halloween!

26 Oct

It’s Friday 26th October 2012, and for the folks of Kilmarnock, and surrounding areas, that means it’s Halloween!

Despite the fact that the rest of Scotland and the world celebrate Halloween on the 31st October, holding Halloween on the last Friday of the month has been a local custom in Kilmarnock for as long as anyone can remember.

Me dressed as Spongebob Square Pants in 2007

As a kid it never occurred to me that this tradition was odd. It wasn’t until I went to University in Dundee, and then started working in Glasgow, that I realised we did things differently in Ayrshire. Every year, it’s always met with the same humour and amazement by my friends and colleagues, as I discuss my plans for Halloween and tell them about this little known tradition.

There’s no real explanation as to why it exists today, but one suggestion is that it dates back to the industrial and mining past of the town when workers were paid on Fridays, and so they had a little bit of spare money to spend on sweets for the kids before it all went on food and bills.

I always laugh at the thought of what new comers to the town  must think of this tradition. I hope locals tell them in advance of Halloween and they aren’t left to wander the empty streets of Kilmarnock on the 31st of October!

Nonetheless, I’m quietly proud of our little peculiar custom and hope that it continues for many years to come!

Happy Halloween folks of Ayrshire!

Me dressed as fried egg in 2006

A big stooshie!

1 Aug

I have been back in Scotland just over a month now and all I seem to be doing is waiting… waiting to see this specialist, waiting for this scan, waiting to see that consultant, which makes me feel like I’m still in limbo. But on a much better note, I’ve had some great news since I came home.

I saw the specialist at Crosshouse Hospital the week after I returned home, and having brought my biopsy samples home with me from Korea for the pathologist to re-test in Scotland (yes I brought my cancer home in my hand luggage) the doctor told me that the cancer is still at a very early stage 1B. He said the tumour was tiny and that it’s completely curable – the only downside is maybe the price I’ll have to pay i.e. my fertility. He also said that it’s unlikely that I’ll need any chemotherapy or radiotherapy. As you can imagine I was delighted to hear this news! In fact delighted doesn’t even begin to cover it, it was the best news I’d had since this whole malarky started!

Having had this news I feel like my life is no longer on hold and I can start to plan things again and look for a job.  Since that appointment I’ve had an MRI scan (the doctor was happy that the cancer hasn’t spread) and I’ve been referred to a specialist at Stobhill hospital in Glasgow. After a consultation with him, I’ll have another cone biopsy, similar to what I had in Korea (to make sure they have removed all the cancer) and I think they also plan to take out a few lymph nodes to test to check that the cancer hasn’t spread to them. And as far as I’m aware that might be all the treatment I’ll need. If that is the case then I feel like I’ve caused a big stooshie over nothing!

Nonetheless, until I’ve had the all-clear the war paint stays firm!

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart

Where have the last 9 months gone?

28 Jun

Snowboarding at High1 Resort, Korea, December 2011


I remember arriving in Korea last September scared and anxious, sad to leave my family and  friends back home, hoping I’d like it enough to stay the year.

Well I can now honestly say it was better than I could have ever anticipated! I met amazing people, I tried new things, I went on lots of adventures and most importantly to me, I learned to adapt in a country entirely different to Scotland. I taught English to children, even though I’d never taught a class before in my life, I made friends with people who don’t speak the same language, I tried so much new food to remember and I even learned to read Korean!

I’ve had lots of ‘firsts’: my first taekwondo class, my first baseball game, my first time on a snowboard, my first time at a shooting range, my first taste of roller derby and my first sailing lesson. I reckon I’m the first ‘Derval lassie’ to visit North Korea, I went to a Buddhist funeral and  I appeared on Korean TV. I ran a 10k race in a different continent and I was lucky to have 3 people come visit me whilst I was in Korea. I learned how to converse with the crazy Korean taxi drivers, I can order 600 grams of pork at a Korean bbq. I’ve tried roasted silk worms, chicken feet and pigs lungs, but sadly no dog. And even though my time in Korea was cut short and I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to do (I was going to see the Stone Roses at a Korean music festival, cake myself in mud at Mudfest, jump off a tower and lie on the famous white beach in the Philippines) I’m grateful for every new friend I made in Korea, every new experience I had and everything I’ve learned in the past 9 months. I can confidently say I gave it my all.

Sailing course in Busan, May 2012


So I’ve been back home in Scotland for 5 days now and I’m about to embark on a new ‘adventure’. Sure cancer is terrifying, I might loose my hair and I might not be able to have kids, but trying to think positively, it’ll be interesting to see what I’ll learn about myself and how I’ll view the world differently when I come out the other end.

Wish me luck!

The ‘C’ word

18 Jun

I’ve always had the mentality that ‘it’ll never happen to me’, so when I found out yesterday that I have cervical cancer it was earth shattering. I think I’m still in shock. I have a thousand and one questions and thoughts going on in my head that I can’t make sense of yet, I’m gutted and I’m scared.

I need to go home, not because the treatment is bad here, if anything I believe it would be far better than in the UK, but I need my family and my friends now. I’m gutted that I have to leave Korea, I’m not finished here yet, I had so many plans and my tan’s not at its optimum. But at the end of the day my health is number one, so I need to pack up, ship out and head home, get on the battle gear and start kicking cancer’s arse.

It looks like this Korea blog has just turned into a cancer diary… I’ll try limit the depressing posts, I promise.

Kung fu panda – he’s going to help me kick some ass!