Sunday, 30 June 2013

Never Again

Actually one should never say that they will never do anything, just as one should never hate anything.

For over a month when I returned to Scotland I didn't keep up with my Blogworld.  It was not because I didn't want to but because I just couldn't allocate enough time amongst all the other things that I also wanted to do.  

I went into town on Friday morning to get a birthday card for an old friend because I thought that I could get a more appropriate one than one of the hundred or so that I have in my desk drawer (yes really).  I could not.  Nor could I get any inspiration for a present - I really am hopeless.  So I went to The Woodlands for a coffee and to write the card and some postcards as well so that they could catch the Friday post.

It was a bit odd being in The Woodlands without a companion.  Two things struck me: the number of people whom I knew (and therefore spent time chatting to and catching up with) and the fact that there was only one other person out of a pretty full gathering who was male (a visitor from Lincolnshire I think I was told).  

A person to whom I chatted for some time came to the Island two years after I did (we worked in the same organisation) and she also did a stint lecturing in the University at Palmerston North in New Zealand.  So we always have a lot to chat about.

The thing we both have most in common, though, is something neither of us have enough of:  TIME.  

Someone else that I met mentioned how much time dragged for him these days.  That made me think.

I often see the saying "When God made time He made plenty of it."  Actually I would suggest that time, per se, is simply a dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future.  It can also be used to measure of durations of events and the intervals between them.  So it's really a tool that man uses rather than something made.

Anyway, I digress, if God did make time, then either he didn't make enough or, as far as I am concerned, He gave us far too many things with which to fill it.

Such as writing rather esoteric and unnecessary posts like this one which could have been summarised as "Never again will I go for 6 weeks without keeping up with Blogland because it takes sooooo long to catch up!"

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Kingdom of Fife

Well a tiny bit of it anyway.  When I was on my recent travels David and I went North along the coast road from West Wemyss as far as Anstruther one afternoon.  

The Fife Coast from West Wemyss to Anstruther
The Ship Inn at the charming little town of  Elie (where we had an excellent lunch)
I love 'proper' inn signs
St Monans Church
St Monans Church interior
Very typical sea-front housing along the coast 
At Pittenweem
These photos hardly scratch the surface of what the area has to offer.  Hopefully I shall return to do it justice.  There are a few more posts to come.  After all who could forget Anstruther?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

What Did You Do This Afternoon?

I will bet any one of you (and I am definitely not a gambling man) that not a single Blogger in the world did what I did this afternoon.  I hope that I never have to be assessed for my mental stability because I'm pretty sure that even the most broad-minded and experienced psychiatrists would begin to have their doubts if they were to discover my secret.  Of course whilst it's a secret at the moment (simply because no one knows what I've done) by the time the first person has read this post it will no longer be one.

I fitted my bed with skis.

Why?  It had castors but they just dug into the carpet when I tried to pull it out from between the fixed bed-side cabinets.  I put silicone sliders under the castors.  They were unsightly and not particularly effective.  Then I had the idea of skis.  Fitting them was not the quick and simple solution I envisaged but an afternoon later they are on.  Are they any better?  Well they do spread the load of the bed on the carpet and I could move the bed very easily until I put the drawers back.  Therein lies the problem.  Each drawer when full is very hard to lift.  Four of them added to the weight of the mattress ensures that a lot of effort is needed to move the bed.  Hey ho.  At least I tried.  And it rained most of the day so  I couldn't go out and play in the garden. Wotthehellarchiewotthehell.

The Postman Called

I have so many posts in draft and so many from ages ago that topicality will certainly not be the point when I press the 'publish' button.  I will start today with an incident from yesterday.  Just after noon the postman arrived.   He went to the back of his van and produced a large and fairly heavy cardboard box.  "You have no idea how glad I am to be getting rid of this." he said.  "I just wish that you were at the start of my round and not over half way through.  It smells like some very serious cheese."  That was odd because I certainly hadn't ordered any cheese.  I duly applied my monicker to his electronic pad.  We were just chatting when Gaz's posemobile drew up and the postie and Gaz started an animated chat about times past, present and future (postie was in school with our first son, Andrew).

In the meantime I came into the house and opened the parcel: a scrumptious hamper which was, you guessed it, based on superb cheeses and all the accompaniments.  It was a birthday prezzie from Gaz.  (the sending of which had been delayed due to the fact that the post would't deliver anything over 10kg so the company had had to seek revised instructions from Gaz).  Postie's and my curiosity suitably satisfied Gaz and I had a wonderful leisurely and suitably cheesy lunch.  The lettuce and tomatoes offset the cheese and tracklements - leastways we kidded ourselves that they did. 

I'm sure that anyone who loves cheese (and possibly many who don't) can tell tales of travelling with cheese.  We drove en famille from Barvaria once with a cheese which had been give to us as a present (I seem to recall it was Limburger)  which despite being in a container and triple wrapped in polythene stank the car out for the 1000+ miles home to the Hebrides.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Return

It's seven days and 30 minutes since the Isle of Lewis ferry sailed out of Stornoway with Anna and I aboard for the journey to Bishopbriggs.  In less than an hour I shall be retracing my steps. To me it seems like I have been away from home for an age and done so much and yet, at the same time, it seems like no time at all since I arrived here.  Time plays very odd tricks.

At that point various things happened and I'm now back home after one of the most traffic-free journeys I have ever made from Glasgow to Ullapool in the summer up the A9.  Add to that a flat calm, if rather dull and unphotogenic, crossing of the Minch on MV Isle of Lewis and it was a nigh on perfect journey.

MV Isle of Lewis arriving at Ullapool 
Stern open waiting to disgorge the vehicles
Leaving Ullapool
Looking towards the head of a very dull and dour Loch Broom
I'm hoping that I will now have a couple of weeks to catch up fully with Blogland and all the things I have to do around the house and garden.  

Friday, 21 June 2013

Locks of Love

When I was in Italy last year I visited and posted about the Cinque Terre in Liguria.  What I did not post at that time was the practice whereby couples place locks with their names on in the belief that whilst the locks stay locked their names will also be linked in love.  

Until the last century the Cinque Terre towns were extremely isolated and the townspeople rarely married anyone from outside their own town. After the blasting of the second train line in the 1920s, a trail was made between the first two towns: Riomaggiore and Manarola. A gunpowder warehouse was built along the way, safely away from the townspeople. (That building is today’s Bar dell’Amore mentioned in my post.)

Constant landslides kept the trail closed more often than it was open. After World War II, the trail was reopened, and became established as a lovers’ meeting point for boys and girls from the two towns. (After one extended closure in 1949, the trail was reopened for a Christmas marriage.). A journalist, who noticed all the amorous graffiti along the path, coined the trail’s now-established name, Via dell’Amore: “Pathway of Love.”

This new pathway changed the social dynamics between the two villages and made life much more fun and interesting for courting couples. Today, many tourists are put off by the cluttered graffiti that lines the trail but it’s all part of the history of the Cinque Terre’s little lovers’ lane.

You’ll see a cluster of padlocks under the tunnel, on the Manarola side. Closing a padlock with your lover onto a cable or railing at a 'love place'—often a bridge—is the current craze in Italy, having been re-popularized by a teen novel.  

Now, it seems, that craze is taking hold in Scotland and I discovered locks on the bridge between the centre of Pitlochry and the town's Little Theatre. 

The Lovers - the symbol of the Via dell'Amore
Locks on the safety railings 
A lock inscribed with names on the bridge at Pitlochry

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Day Out in The Trossachs

It's a long time since I ventured into the Trossachs: the mountains, lochs and glens in the area shown in the map.  So today I set out from Callander where I'm staying with old friends North through the Pass of Leny from Kilmahog to Lochearnhead and then down Loch Earn to St Fillans.  I returned to Kilmahog and drove West to Loch Katrine and then South over the Duke's Pass to Aberfoyle and thence via the Port of Menteith to Callander.  The weather was indifferent: warmish, still, dull and fairly humid and pretty good for midges but pretty poor for photography.

With no landscape photos I concentrated on some photos of the SS Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine.  

After that I had a walk with Sandie and her 1 year old granddaughter around Callander where I managed a photo across the river.  

Back at the family's art gallery the Galleria Luti  I was fortunate to get a few of the best Jackdaw photos I've achieved.

Across the main road through the town is the rather photogenic Callander Fudge Shop:

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Lenticular Clouds

I'm used to seeing lenticular clouds in New Zealand but they are pretty rare around the Outer Hebrides. To see such splendid ones recently gave me a satisfying photo opportunity.

Lenticular clouds (Altocumulus lenticularis) are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally in perpendicular alignment to the wind direction.  Due to their shape, they have been offered as an explanation for some Unidentified Flying Object sightings.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

More Travels

It was another 5am start this morning.  Then the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool with the inevitable bacon roll to sustain me on the journey.  A journey shared with Anna who had been staying with me in Lewis for a long weekend and with whom I am staying tonight before a week of visiting and sight-seeing in central Scotland.

A propro nothing at all to do with the previous paragraph a few days ago I received a parcel.. Inside was the delivery note.  Curiously I found it hard to understand.

Monday, 17 June 2013

House Martins

According to the most authoritative book available on birds in the Western Isles House Martins do not seem to have nested in the Western Isles since an apparently unsuccessful attempt at breeding in 1974.  

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when quite a few House Martins reconoitered the front wall of my house a few days ago with an obvious view to finding a nest site.  After a few days of flying to and from exactly the same point on the wall they lost interest and returned to their habitat down towards the sea.  One major problem for House Martins trying to nest on Lewis is the lack of mud.  There is almost no clay on the Island and, as far as I am aware none at all near me.

The photos are taken through double glazing in less than perfect photographic lighting conditions.

Friday, 14 June 2013


One of the great things for me about Blogland is the friends and acquaintances I've made:  friends who are not just people who read and comment on my blog but people with whom I communicate in a meaningful (don't you just dislike that word) manner.  Some of those people have become friends in my 'real' life as well as in Blogland.  Some, though really good friends, I may never meet.  Some will pass though my life and I through their like ships through mist.

Yesterday a long-time fellow blogger whom I have met several times this year on my travels through Scotland came for a visit.  It can be truly astonishing what one finds out about people that one never even thought about.

Adrian and I share quite a lot of beliefs although our approach to those beliefs is quite different (I have never been given to the robust - not exactly extremist - approach that Adrian adopts).  I have never courted danger in sports and pastimes nor in my life in general.  Adrian, on the other hand, has led a life that I would find truly terrifying and he has the physical and mental scars scars as testimony of that life.

We had a long and very interesting evening yesterday.  I am writing this so that Adrian can read it and know that is the case (from my viewpoint anyway).  I doubt very much whether he can recall any of it because, like everything he does, from his obsession with photographic image manipulation and the seeking after perfection to writing provocative posts, he consumed in one evening more fine wine than I would be able to consume in a fortnight.

Enjoy the Island Adrian.  Enjoy life.  Until we meet again.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Ignorance is, well, Ignorance.

Am I the only person in the world who didn't know until tonight what happened at the end of the third series of Downton Abbey aired in the 2012 Christmas Day Special when I was in New Zealand?  Because I hadn't seen the full second series I decided that I wouldn't seek any information so that I could watch everything at my leisure back here in the UK.  Until tonight that is when after the 6 O'clock News, Dan Stevens, was on The One Show.  He played Mathew Crawley in Downton although his real name meant absolutely nothing to me.  The Show started off with the clip from the Christmas Show giving the whole game away.  Despite the fact that many (including Frances Garrood) have nothing but robust contempt for Downton it is one of the most widely watched television programmes in the world! 

Although it has nothing at all to do with this post I thought that you might like to see a young Sparrow which posed this evening on a branch I have set up near the bird table so that I can get better photos of the birds that inhabit it.  She hasn't yet learned how to be elegant!  Apart from that I'm not quite sure how she managed to land like that.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Owls and a Sad State of Affairs

When I was in Glasgow a few weeks ago Anna and I went to her local garden centre.  At the entrance was a young lady with some owls: an obvious photo opportunity as everyone scurried back to their cars for their cameras.  As I raised my camera I was immediately asked not to take photos because there was a little girl in the vicinity.  As I was actually taking closeups without any children in shot I was a bit taken aback.  All the more so because none of the other photographers who were all standing further back and mostly using point and shoot cameras which were likely to be including the children were being asked to desist.  Then I noticed that I was the only male taking photos.  The matter was easily sorted when I assured the parents and asked if they had any objection.  They seemed quite non-plussed and said they certainly didn't.  A donation towards the birds' feeding expenses seemed to make the handler happy too.

It made me feel very sad though that the world has come to that.  It also made me realise just how different Britain and New Zealand are.  No one would have batted an eyelid in New Zealand where every school play and event is still captured on a hundred cameras and video recorders.

Little Owl: the smallest British owl at 22cm (8 1/2")
So alert
Hands to give an idea of just how small the owl is.
Look at the eyes
This is his left eye closeup
An Eagle Owl.  At 71 cm (28") this beauty is capable of taking a Roe Deer or a Capercaillie 
I wonder what he's thinking.
Barn Owl. 34 cm (13 1/2") I should think this is Britain's most common owl.  It's call is a blood-curdling screech but it can also hiss, snore and bark.
I apologise for the burn-out on the face but all my full-body shots were the same.
Such inquisitive and all-seeing eyes 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Paradise Found

“Paradise can take the form of anything! It can be a flower or it can be a word or it can just be a sincere smile!”
Mehmet Murat ildan

Today is the sort of day that makes me realise that I'm living in paradise.  Today is one of those days when I want to do everything that I can with a sort of frenetic urgency.  Today the temperature has soared to the heady heights of 15℃ without the strong, cold, northeasterly wind which has plagued us for the last week.  Today the sun is shining and, by Lewis standards, Bayble Beach looked down on from the house is packed with families enjoying the rest that the Sabbath here gives them: no cutting peats nor supermarket shopping here on a Sunday.

For me today is a day inside catching up and admiring the sun from outwith its rays;  a day of writing emails and letters (using one of my many fountain pens); a day of rest from the 20 plus hours that I spent in the garden over the previous two days: hours which told my body when I rose this morning that as I start the year towards my seventieth birthday my body is not quite as supple as it was when I came to the Island in my 31st year.

Today I have played no music: I have listened to the sounds of the birds; the voices drifting up from the beach;  the water tumbling down the waterfall into the pond; and the silence.

Today I have done no work:  I have wielded my pen and typed on my keyboard;  I have looked at my garden and I have pondered on the beauty that surrounds me;  I have watched a bumble bee.

Today I have been in paradise.

A far-away Blackbird waken the neighbourhood with his heralding of the new day
Part of the garden lookng North
Looking down to the crowded beach
The strikingly beautiful and rare (only found in the Hebrides now) Bumblebee - Moss Carder - Bombus Muscorum

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Fish: An Update

Just under a year ago I introduced 5 goldfish to the pond in the garden and posted about it here.  I was asked in response to yesterday's post how they were getting on.  They are getting on splendidly thank you.  In fact three of them are about 5 or 6 inches (12 to 15 cm) long whilst the other two are about half that length.  One of the larger ones has turned almost white.  They seem very happy and when all the work was going on levelling the pool edge they didn't even bother going down to the bottom of the pond to hide.  

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Thankful Thursday

I've been very remiss recently and have not posted my Thankful Thursdays (and precious few other posts either).  The reason is quite simply that since I arrived back in Scotland I have been up at the crack of dawn (well not actually 'cos sunrise today was 0425 and it would have been daylight long before that) and in bed after midnight and every waking moment has been filled with things I, generally speaking, wanted to do.  I sort of decided, well actually it just happened, that the much-neglected garden was going to get a good make-over this summer.  Since then I have taken every opportunity I  could to work in the garden.  Some days I have still been out there at 9pm.  That's reminiscent of the days when I created the garden from rough croft land over 10 years whilst working six and sometimes seven days a week.

I have enjoyed every minute of it despite the sometimes strong and bitingly cold wind. 

One morning's job was to make the Astilbe bed a very damp one because last years it dried out and I nearly lost most of the plants.  

So today I am very thankful for my garden and the good health to be able to do the manual labour needed to make it look good again.