Thursday 31 July 2008

Identity Theft

I suppose that I should be flattered. I've had my identity stolen - again.

The first time was on e-Bay when someone hacked into my account (presumably meaning that the e-Bay password is easily bypassed or their site isn't as secure as it could be). My account was the subject of a fair amount of abuse which basically meant that it could no longer be used. With e-Bay that problem is easy to solve. You abandon your identity and create a new one.

Yesterday afternoon I received a call on my mobile from American Express. Apparently someone has been using my card details to do three of the things I am least likely to do: join NAPSTA, travel by National Express and make a donation to Christian Aid. I ask you. Apparently fraudsters tend to do this sort of thing on line to see if the details are correct and then try and use it for a larger transaction. Amex's security system kicked in when an online payment for £160 to Halfords was requested. It was declined and an investigation started. So now my card is dead and a new card will be issued. I'll get my money back but it does make one wonder how someone got hold of the details. It could have been a garage although I'm careful never to let the card out of my sight. Who knows.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Yum Yum, Celery and Wormlet

I bought some celery from Tesco yesterday. Lovely celery it is too. Celery is , as far as I know, the only food which takes more calories to consume than it provides. Presumably a small injection of protein would help to reduce that deficit. However I have to admit that the protein element in the form of a live wormlet was not really to my taste. It seems to be my luck though given that only a short while ago I met a caterpillar in some green beans that I'd bought. Fortunately I'm not particularly squeamish.

You get quite a good view of his innards on this though!

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Misty Evening Over Bayble Pier

Misty Morning from my Study

Monday 28 July 2008

An Island Funeral: Angus M Graham

There is nothing quite like an Island funeral. There was no one quite like Angus Graham. So it was to be expected that Angus's funeral would be quite an occasion. 

Most of you who read this won't even have heard of Angus Graham so I will just mention that he was a prominent Island politician from about 1984 until a couple of years ago. He and I worked very closely (though not without the occasional disagreement) and I respected him because, unlike so many politicians, if you were straight with him then he was straight with you. 

About two months before I left New Zealand last April I had an exceptionally strong dream in which he figured (he was not someone I would usually have dreamed about!). It was not pleasant and it stayed with me for the rest of that day. It worried me to the extent that I emailed two people whom I thought would know if anything was wrong. Indeed it was. He had just been told that his cancer has returned and that it was serious. I met him a few days after I got home and we had a chat. He commented that it was remarkable how the mind dealt with unpleasant situations. I think from what he said that, like many of us, it is not death of which we are afraid but the way in which we will die. 

So this morning the Township of Back came to a standstill after the funeral service at the Back Free Church. I should explain. After the service it is the Island tradition that the coffin shall be carried by the mourners to the hearse - in olden days it would have been to the cemetery (which often was not accessible to vehicles). I would estimate that there were about a thousand mourners. Eight mourners at a time carry the coffin on its bier - four on each side. The mourners who have not had a 'lift' form two lines behind the cortege and walk to the front of the bier. As the back person leaves so the others move one place back and the 'new' person joins at the front. Each person in a large funeral like this probably keeps his station for about 3 paces. It was a long walk today. 

There is one road connecting the Back area with Stornoway. The cortege travelled along that road. After Back there are the Townships of Gress and the Tolstas. So if you were on one side of Back and wanted to be on the other side there was only one solution: patience. 

I will miss Angus.

Tall Ships

There have been a lot of sailing ships going through the Minch over the last week or so. So far as I can work it out they are racing from Liverpool to Norway under the auspices of the Sail Training Association. All the vessels were many miles from land so decent photography was not an option. I did manage some photos with a combination of the little Canon and the spotterscope or using my Olympus with it's powerful zoom.

This one seems to be going the wrong way

Friday 25 July 2008

The Moon

Last night as it was getting dark the moon appeared just above the horizon and just visible to the right of the hill on the Northern side of Bayble Bay. It was one of the fieriest moons I can recall seeing and it appeared, of course, to be huge. Remembering the modest success I had photographing the moon in New Zealand I decided to try my luck with this version. I anticipated problems because the moon was not bright like it had been when I photographed it high in the sky in New Zealand (See A Hebridean in New Zealand: The Moon and Full Moon - Almost ) and therefore the exposure was quite long. The results were acceptable:

For those of you who are in New Zealand or might not have read the posting on the New Zealand Blog entitled So Far But Yet So Near I shall repeat it because it is just so apt. I said:

"We may be apart but when I look at the sky and remember that we are standing on the same earth, looking at the same moon, somehow you don't seem so far away after all."

Thursday 24 July 2008

A Spa Bath to Ease the Aching Limbs

In contrast to the heat of today, Monday was a cold and miserable day and my body ached more than I cared that it should because the previous day, amongst other things, I'd put two coats of paint on the kitchen ceiling and two on the walls (The Kitchen). So by 1700 I was ready for something to ease away the tiredness. I treated myself to Dvorak's First Symphony and a relaxing soak in the spa bath. Something I very rarely do. I've spared you that picture!

The Urn has a short story attached to its location in my bathroom. I have no conceptual ability. So when I'd said that I wanted a sort-of-white tiled bathroom and designed the layout as best I could I naturally sought Fiona's advice on the detail. In amongst the advice she gave (and which I followed almost to the letter, I have to add) she said that it would need one large splash of colour somewhere. This urn had been in Uncle Eric's bungalow on Anglesey and had been eyed with some slight disdain (for want of a better word) by CJ and I. However we eventually came to the conclusion that it was because it had held an enormous bunch of Doris's artificial roses. The urn on its own turned out to be quite pleasing. So it became my bathroom's splash of colour.

Bathtime for the Birds

Today has been hot. Really quite hot indeed. In fact in the garden it reached just over 25 in the shade. As there was no breeze there was no wind chill factor either. It was a lovely day because despite the weather conditions once the early morning ones had gone there were NO MIDGES. So I managed to get quite a lot done in the garden this afternoon. Indeed I'm writing this in the Study at 2231 without a light on and it's a beautiful evening and 16 degrees. It is just so hard to believe that a few days ago I had a heater on because the temperature was in single figures.

Today it was not just the humans who were feeling the heat though. The stream became the cooling off point for some of the Starlings.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

This Garden's Not Big Enough For The Two of Us

One of the disadvantages of the bird table is that the local cats (of which there is a considerable number) think that it is also their breakfast bar. This is the reason I moved it from its original position next to the rockery and hence near cover from which the cats could pounce. Two of the rival cats met in the garden on Saturday:

The stand off

Raised hair!

More raised hair but fained indifference (Or does it mean something else? I'm not an animal psychiatrist)

No mistaking what he's thinking

After the spat just walk away.

The Kitchen

Having spring cleaned the kitchen and got rid of quite a lot of its contents I decided that the ceiling had to be painted. The walls would be ok for a while and I certainly wasn't going to re-paper them. Pat wasn't convinced by this and thought that the kitchen would be brighter if the walls were painted too. So one day over the weekend I decided that two coats on the ceiling and two on the walls was the main task of the day. This is the effect which had the added advantage of giving me a wall on which to hang the two batiks which had hung in Andrew's hall.

Monday 21 July 2008

A Stornoway Smithy

There is a Blacksmith in Stornoway - in fact there are a few but none like this one. If I ever had any jobs in the Pottery such as strengthening a handle on a piece of equipment or welding something that had broken then a solution was always to be had. Not a smith who, as a rule, deals with fine spot welding but if your lorry trailer has lost a side protection bar then he's the man to knock something together for you. On Friday I popped in with a very delicate little job - mending part of the exhaust flue to my central heating. I was a bit unsure (and so was he) as to whether his welding equipment wouldn't just fry the whole thing. Undaunted he took on the task and I went back to collect it this morning. It's done. I waited. No sign of the smith. So I decided to take a few photos for the Blog. I'll have to go back tomorrow for the flue part.

Without two open doors and flash this would have been to dark for the camera.

The Forge - lightened artificially on the computer so that you can see it

Just so atmospheric


Raindrops in The Pond

There is something beautiful and very soothing about watching rain falling into water.

Of course it's even more beautiful and soothing if you can sit in the warm sun and look at the blue sky reflected from the surface instead. But there we are. We can't have everything.


Rainbows are quite common here. They might be quite common everywhere but we have larger skies in which to view them. This was Saturday's offering from the kitchen window.

Sunday 20 July 2008

Bacon Butties

It's a Sunday morning so I decided to have a treat for breakfast: a bacon buttie. After all my usual muesli or porridge or toast with Marmite and peanut butter can become a little samey after 60 years. Not that I'm a creature of habit, you understand. There was some bacon left over from making broth and I had fresh home baked bread so...

Even when I was a quite committed vegetarian (I'm still a vegetarian by inclination if not by practice) I always wanted (and had) a bacon roll as soon as I got on the morning ferry to the Mainland. I still do.

Bacon rolls are made with white rolls. Making a bacon buttie with home baked multigrain brown bread is just not the same. Ah well. Back to muesli tomorrow.

Problems With Pests

Last year I got a bit obsessed with the pigeons which deposit so much poo all over my roof and dominate the garden. This year the number is about 30 and it's becoming a serious problem. Last night when I went up the ladder to clear the Study roof (not having done so for about 2 weeks) I was astonished, not just at the amount of poo there was up there but also by the difficulty I had removing it. There are two sorts. That which is like small pellets and rolls around in the wind just causing considerable irritation. Then there is the sort that sticks like cement to the polycarbonate. I couldn't reach it all with a broom so I will have to go up onto the roof and attack it from that angle. Of course the stuff which is stuck to the polycarbonate will only come off with the power washer so I'll have to lug that up the ladder and and across the roof. What a chore.

I decided this morning that something would have to be done. So I Googled the problem. The first site I looked at looked promising: Jones and Son, Pigeon Spike Manufacturers. So I'm obviously not the only one with the problem!

What I just loved about their website - and that which prompted this posting - was the statement that "You can ask us a bird spike question here, we will get back to you within two hours, test us. If we fail we will send you a large bar of chocolate."

Friday 18 July 2008

Well It Didn't Work For Me

A few days ago I mentioned that I had the two items shown in this picture. They are for making pasties. I wondered if anyone had ever used one. Presumably no one had. Very wise. Don't bother. I decided that they could be used to make individual Russian Fish Pies or apple and Wensleydale pies or whatever. Anyway I tried them out. Despite a fair amount of perseverance, time and cost I was not successful. In fact failure would be putting a gloss on the results. So they are now consigned to my past.

Thursday 17 July 2008

We Have No Time To Stand and Stare

I went to Town this morning and after hurtling round trying to get things I met Ann and had a coffee at The Woodlands. I'd already been conscious of the fact that the Lewis Maritime Festival was taking place and had managed a few photos of the yachts in the harbour earlier in the morning. As I came out of The Woodlands I decided to drive round to Cuddy Point and get some more photos but the yachts were, by that time, out of the Harbour and into The Minch.

It was then that I realised that, since CJ had gone home, I hadn't once, in the words of Wm. Henry Davies (1871-1940) in his poem Leisure, stood and stared. So I got out of the car and walked around and took some photos of some of the 'sculptures' on the road into Stornoway. I thought that CJ had already done a blog on them when he was here but, of course, the flowers have all changed since then. However I can't find the posting if there was one. Anyway I made time to Stand and Stare and felt all the better for having so done.

Sails in the Harbour on a drab Thursday morning.

A boat out of water. I really love this.

A yacht in the Outer Harbour (photographed from The Braigh)