Saturday 31 May 2008

Season of Mists

I'm writing this at 2315 on Saturday. The sun set a while ago but the sky is still bright in the North and it's a wonderful evening. In fact it's been a wonderful day too. However the mists have been really heavy though we managed to avoid it all when we went to South Lochs this morning.

Dark and threatening: who would believe that there was blue sky behind me when I took this picture.

The sun breaks through in pools of light on the sea

The airport and Broad Bay covered by mist

This afternoon the mist still lurked

Who Says!

A vehicle is defined as: A device or structure for transporting persons or things; a conveyance. Mind you given the positioning of the sign the Ferry is about the only sort of large vehicle that could go beyond the sign.

How Beautiful

I was working in the garden yesterday afternoon and came across this beetle. As I've remarked in my New Zealand Blog, I have a very different outlook on things like beetles from that which I used to have. So instead of ignoring it I followed it around with my camera and then got out the insect book. I'm used to looking things up for myself and am very proud when I can just go to the correct section of the book. It would be so easy just to say to CJ "What's this" which is what I would do, of course, if we were out for a walk.

This was (I hope) relatively easy to identify as a Ctenicera cuprea - a click beetle or Elastiradae. In fact it's one of about 7000 species of the family. Big families these beetles have. I think it was a female although it's a bit hard to tell from the photo - their antennae are less toothed than the male.

I've come across click beetles before in New Zealand. They are elongated beetles named for the ability to leap into the air and right themselves when laid on their backs; an action which is accompanied with a loud click.

Be Still My Beating Heart

A few days ago I was looking at a friend's photographs of his recent holiday in France. I had been there with him last year. We had enjoyed the local culture and played petanque in the village. I remarked to CJ how nostalgic I'd felt and happened to say "Be still my beating heart". What a silly saying. That's just about the last thing I want!

Friday 30 May 2008

Business Cards

The sunglasses that I'd had repaired in Heswall arrived in the post yesterday. That was fine. What struck me, though, was the Business Card that accompanied them. "Mr S Taylor". For a friendly business that appeared to me to be unduly formal and uninformative. Or have I just become too used to New Zealand where no-one would ever think of introducing themselves without including their first name? A different culture I suppose.

The Mists of The Lakes

When I were a lad (and I once were) I used to spend lots of time in the Lake District. The last sentence has to be uttered with a broad Lancashire (or even a Yorkshire) accent for it to be taken seriously. Seriously though as soon as I could drive I used to go up for weekend out of the summer tourist season and stay and walk the fells: often with my pal Walter. It was in the Autumn that the most spectacular colours and light occurred from my point of view. You know the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfullness' colours. Anyway today I started scanning some of my old colour slides into the computer. Here are just two. This could become a repository for memories if I'm not careful.

Borrowdale early on an Autumn morning

Derwentwater early on an Autumn morning

Thursday 29 May 2008

The Centre of the Universe

At 0630. From whence all this emanates.

Here Endeth the Sun

Since I arrived back in the UK 5 weeks ago there has been no rain on Lewis. For most of the time the days have been sunny from dawn until dusk. There have been a few exceptions but nothing too serious. As a result of the sun and the fact that for some days now we have had very strong winds the ground had become very dry indeed.

However I made the mistake on Monday and Tuesday of putting the sprinklers on because the plants were showing signs of distress. This so alarmed the weather gods that at about 2pm yesterday afternoon they turned on the heavenly taps and our 5+ week spell without rain ended with a vengeance.

There is something comforting about normality.

The Peats

Peat cutting for fuel has almost ceased in Lewis compared with even 30 years ago. However this year more peat is being cut than I have seen for many years. Perhaps after having paid £750 for a tank of oil this is not surprising. The cutting has been helped by the fabulous weather we have had for the last 5 or 6 weeks. Many of the peats cut have been taken in already. I remember many years ago (over 30 years ago in fact!!) when we were the first family in Coll to get our peats in. It was just before the end of May ie just about now. I still have my tarasgeir or peat iron. After all one never knows when.... One day I shall look out my old photos of our peat banks and the whole ritual. In the meantime here are a few photos from CJ and my trip across the Pentland Road yesterday. A more full exposition can be seen on CJ's blog at Barvas Moor.

The cut bank and the peats drying

Peats stacked ready for taking home

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Carrots and Syllogisms

In the UK carrots are new in May. This is May. Therefore the carrots are new.

I am happy when I eat raw new carrots. I am eating raw new carrots (with humous!). Therefore I am happy.

One of the (few) books that I read (and didn't have to read for studying) when I was a young man was Jevons on Logic. Don't ask me why because I don't know. Perhaps logic just fascinated me.

I learned about syllogisms: a form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion; for example, All humans are mortal, the major premise, I am a human, the minor premise, therefore, I am mortal, the conclusion.

My opening paragraph may not be 100% accurate in that some Charlatans sell old carrots in May but it is syllogistic. As is the second paragraph.

Weren't you just dying to know that?

CJ Doing What CJ Does

Since CJ arrived here we've had almost constant sunshine. Despite that we've not done much sightseeing around the Island. Yesterday, however, we went to Balantrushal to see Clacantrushal, the largest or at least the tallest monolith on the Island. No doubt CJ will be blogging about the stone so I'll show you the pictures behind the pictures.

No Decision Needed Here Then

I was updating iTunes yesterday. For those who don't use iTunes (a program for recording and playing music and other media and putting it onto an iPod) when you copy a CD onto your computer the program accesses a database on the Internet and get all the details of the CD so that you don't have to type all the track names etc manually. Usually there is just one match for a CD but occasionally there are a couple. In this case:

No choice as to which data will appear in my iTunes then.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

The Leaving of Lewis

One of my favourite pictures is a triptych by Deborah Cameron. It hangs above a door and I look at it every time I leave my living room. It is entitled "The Leaving of Lewis".

Every time I leave Lewis I relate to that picture.

And every time I return:

Monday 26 May 2008


The first time I saw a herd of windmills (what is the collective? Farm?) was in one of the valleys of North Wales. I was struck by the noise which was audible to me on the other side of the valley. They did not strike me as ugly though but as things of considerable elegance and beauty. Of course I wouldn't want them near my back yard and I have yet to be convinced that they are economically viable but those are arguments for other people and another place. The next large windmill I can recall seeing and getting very close to was on Orkney sitting right on top of a hill in a very prominent position. It was a very popular tourist attraction! In New Zealand's North Island on top of some of the most prominent mountains is a very large wind farm. It is accepted and must be one of the most viewed and photographed attractions.

The argument over wind farms on Lewis has raged for a while and will doubtless continue to rage for a while yet. Personally I have never believed that their coming was imminent because without the interconnector to the mainland there would be no point. I cannot see the Government spending the billions of pounds necessary for that at the moment - if ever. The refusal of the largest application by the Scottish Executive would seem to support that view. However we do have three in North Lochs standing in a seemingly very odd location and, since I arrived back this time, usually working.

"Welcome earthmen"

Sunday 25 May 2008


When I'd finished the pond in the spring of 2006 Donnie brought me a couple of buckets with tadpoles and assorted odds and ends from another pond across the valley on one of his friend's crofts. It never ceased to amaze me how much there was in those buckets and how much wildlife and plantlife now exists in the pond. One such creature sitting here on a raft of bubbles caused by the waterfall into the pond is one of many pondskaters.

Saturday 24 May 2008

Here Today

The pedestrian area around the Town Hall in Stornoway is being re-paved. Some of the guidance to pedestrians appeared, to me at least, a little confusing:

Friday 23 May 2008

People Can Be Lovely

On 13 May I posted A Rather Peculiar Sort of Day in which I mentioned that I'd reversed into a car - a small but perfectly formed VW Polo. I duly sent the owner a cheque with a suitable note of apology and rounded it up and suggested she bought 'a box of chocolates' to compensate her for the inconvenience. Today I received a package with a card:

Wasn't that nice. Fair chuffed I was. A clear conscience and some chocolates. What more could a man want?

Thursday 22 May 2008

An Interesting Concept

There is a house at the northern end of The Braighe which is actually two houses - an older improved croft house and a newer bungalow - joined into one house by a large living area. It is such a neat idea and one I've admired ever since I was in it some years ago.

Wednesday 21 May 2008


Good heavens. Yet another posting on birds. Quite unintentional. This pair of ravens has been cavorting around the front of the house where the thermals and wind from the sea provide idea updraughts for their antics. I recall sitting on the top of Blencathra many years ago watching the ravens below me. They are the only bird that I have ever seen fly upside down.

Really Bad Ideas

One of the things about having CJ staying is having to be accurate in one's speech. I used to be (I'm not now, of course!) a pedant. This morning at the conclusion of breakfast I perused the Book People's latest catalogue which arrived yesterday.

One title was The Mystery of Things by A E Grayling, subtitled Life and What It Means. All that and three other of his books for £6.99. Given the attempts that have been made to clarify this subject over the millennia the price seems remarkably reasonable.

Then came Don't Arm Wrestle a Pirate: 101 Really Bad Ideas. Now it seems to us that not arm wrestling a pirate is a very sensible idea. Perhaps if I read the book I'd know differently.



Here on Lewis I have big skies and grand vista views. It's 0500 and the sun has already popped up over the horizon.

In Napier I live in a kettle or bowl and have a beautiful but much more intimate and cosy view. I don't have sunrises and sunsets. I only see a mature sun.

To me that's probably the most noticeable of the visual differences between living in Tigh na Mara here on Lewis and The Cottage in Napier.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

Photos and Things

I once read a comment to the effect that every photo that one takes should be destroyed as soon as the photographer has looked at it and been satisfied with it. I suppose it goes without saying that the ones he or she is not satisfied with are destroyed. I think that the point was that the whole reason for taking a photograph is the satisfaction of creating an image with which one is happy. I think that that overlooks the whole question of photos as records or works of art for others to appreciate.

However having been involved over the years in going through the photographs of family and friends who have died there does seem to be some justification for the first point of view. Uncle Eric, for example, had taken many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos of the war in Italy. When he died it fell to CJ and I to go through the boxes of them. Unfortunately they meant nothing to us and probably hadn't been looked at since they were taken. They were records rather than works of art but with no identification and no memories they were meaningless. So they no longer exist.

Dad had spent all his life taking photos but the vast majority meant something only to him and possibly to Mum. Because many were slides they had not been looked at for years. Sorting them was a major task.

I have thousands of images on various media taken over nearly fifty years by me and more from my childhood taken by other family members. I also have photos of the family going back almost as long as photos have been taken. Most of my photos have had few airings since the days when we had family slide shows. Andrew and Gareth have occasionally looked at the family albums of their childhoods. More recently some of my images have been shared through my blogs and web albums. Most, however, languish in boxes and drawers and would, in the ordinary course of events, never see the light of day again.

When I retired in 1995 one of my tasks was to be to sort my photos. When I retired again in January 2005 one of my main tasks was to be to sort my photos. There have always been more 'important' things to do. CJ has been sorting his over the last few years and using some in his blogs. This has made them accessible to the rest of the family and friends. So I have been inspired to make a start on mine. It is at this point that the enormity of the task suddenly emerges. I have spent quite a lot of time this week late at night just sorting and scanning photos from my childhood. I have managed the first couple of pages of my first album. At this rate if I lived until I were to be 100 I would not have finished the task. So I shall have to be more selective and ruthless. We shall see.

In the meantime I leave you with just one picture of me and some friends on my 8th Birthday in the back garden of 68 Renville Road. CJ is the one in front!

Aren't we a happy bunch?


CJ and I went for a walk yesterday on the Braighe. On the Broad Bay side the tide was very low (as, indeed, it was on the other side too) and I walked out along a seaweed covered spit which is usually under water. There was little birdlife but there were a couple of Oystercatchers and although I didn't manage to get very close I did get a some photos.


The Study in Tigh na Mara has two sides of glass and a roof of smoke tinted polycarbonate. The disadvantage of this is that, even with blinds that do not allow any light through the windows the amount of light in the morning when the sun streams in makes working on the computer difficult. All this has to be traded for the fabulous views and the fact that the bird table is just outside it. Yesterday's picture was an 'ah!' one.

Monday 19 May 2008

The Pond

One of the first things I did a day or so after CJ and I had settled in was to put the pump into the pond and set up the stream and waterfall and the lights for the pond. Apparently in the Spring Eagleton had been overrun by frogs which explains why the pond was absolutely milling with tadpoles. We have also heard a frog calling from the area of the pond (indeed it may well have actually been in the pond) but have never managed to see it.

Nearly Home (This One Not That One)

When we arrived at the Pier in Tarbert the SatNav was accurate but seemed slightly confused.

The ramp lowers

The road over the moor to Lower Bayble and Eagleton

Tigh na Mara is the second house from the left in the foreground

Saturday 17 May 2008


Plockton is a delightful village North of Kyle of Lochalsh and popular with film makers. We were diverted - and drove an extra 10 minutes or more each way and missed the lovely coastal views - because of a film unit. It achieved considerable fame as the fictional village of Lochdubh in the BBC's Hamish Macbeth.