1 EAGLETON NOTES: September 2009



Wednesday 30 September 2009

The House of Bernalda Alba

Anna took me to The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow this evening to see The House of Bernalda Alda play to a packed house.  The play was written by Fredrico Garcie Lorca in 1936 in Spain.  The version we saw was a modern version written into the present day Glasgow gangland by Rona Munro.  It was a very powerful performance, wonderfully acted.   It would be great to be able to write a lot about it here but that's not practical.  Suffice to say I would recommend anyone who cares about the role of women and the yoke of tradition to see it.  Mind you this particular version would be unlikely to be appreciated or understood outside Scotland.  Indeed even an person from Edinburgh might have difficulties.

A Candle-lit Evening

The last evening I was at CJ and Jo's CJ lit all the candles for dinner. I just love candles although I'm nowadays a little less enthusiastic about the amount of smoke they deposit on the paintwork. I'm not into redecorating the house any more than I have to these days.


Underbank Hall, Stockport

It shouldn't amaze me living in the UK but every now and then in the middle of towns and cities surrounded by more recent buildings one finds a gem of a really old building.  This one, for example, is over 500 years old and is a now a bank in everyday use.  I went inside and it is as beautiful and magnificent inside as it is outside. 

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Driving Around Britain

This hasn't been a particularly long trip as trips go but I've still managed to clock up close to a thousand miles so far since I left home one week and three hours ago.  I'm lucky that I enjoy driving and I have a car, The Nighthawk, that eats up long-distance cruising miles with glee.  In fact it is one of the most comfortble cruising cars I've owned.   Actually last Tuesday after our trip across The Minch in a fairly stiff gale Marcel du Marche drove most of the way to Fife where he lives and where I stayed the first night of my present travels.

The one thing I do not enjoy about driving now though is the traffic in the UK and in cities generally.  These photos were not even from the city although the traffic was exacerbated by an accident. 


But my saviour these days is my trusty satnav.  If I were to be asked what the biggest aid to travel by car is these days I am fairly sure that my answer would be satelite navigation.  In the days before satnav it was a case of writing a lengthy set of notes and pinning them to the dashboard and trying to read them as one was driving.  If there is a passenger to map-read that's fine but I've spent many years travelling on my own.  Most of that has been spent travelling to and from Merseyside to Lewis so I've not needed a map nor help.  But now as I travel to friends in continental Europe and places in the UK I do not know then my lack of ability to retain images in my mind is a problem for navigation.  But with satnav I can go anywhere without worrying.  Yes.  I love my satnav.

Monday 28 September 2009

A Thistle?

I came across a thistle in the grounds at Bramall Hall the other day.  Now I'm used to thistles but this one had some of its stalks as tall as I am!  And the heads were almost as big as my hand.  And these aren't even in Scotland where the thistle is the national plant.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Trains Have Priority

CJ just asked me what level crossings or train crossings were called in the USA. Trains in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are treated rather differently to trains in the UK and much of the mainland Europe that I have visited (as far as I can recall anyway). In the UK trains are generally fenced off from public access even across many many miles of Scottish moorland. The concept of a train sharing a public road bridge with cars and lorries without even a set of lights of a barrier is incomprehensible in the UK. However in South Island, New Zealand I recalled travelling across a bridge which also carried trains and there was nothing more than a 'Give Way' sign to indicate to motorists that oncoming vehicles, and presumably, trains have priority!

The approach indicates a railroad crossing (should it not be 'sharing') and that cars should give way.

I can see the cars that are coming.

Now what happens if a train appears?

Today I Hope To.....

Write some emails.

Go out with CJ and Jo this morning.

Watch the Singapore Grand Prix.

Catch up with reading and commenting on blogs and write a few postings as well.

Book flights for a Tournament in Nelson when I'm in New Zealand.

Catch up on phone calls.

Write a list of the things I ought to be doing today.

Tick some of the things on that list that I haven't written yet.

The Stocks

When Lesley and I went to Bramall Hall I noticed that there was a pair of stocks in area at the entrance to the Hall. The stocks played a major part in punishment until the 19th Century.  Public humiliation was a major part of punishment and many, if not most or perhaps even all, towns and villages had their stocks.  The victims would be made to sit with their ankles trapped in the stocks.  These would always be sited in the most public place available, for example the market square or village green. In small communities, those being punished would be well known to everyone else, thereby increasing their shame.

Although the concept of public punishment may now seem strange, even barbaric, it was the accepted norm  in England until the 19th century. It is only in recent times that prison has been used as a punishment. Before the 19th century, jails were usually only places to hold people prior to their trial or punishment.

Audience participation was a key element. The helpless victim would usually be subjected to a barrage of mockery and abuse, and pelted with any missiles which came to hand. These could range from rotten fruit and vegetables, mud, excrement, dead rats, even stones.

There are still quite a few village stocks preserved.  Mostly, so far as I am aware, in the North of England.

Saturday 26 September 2009

The Dream

Today CJ, Jo and I went to IKEA.  Exciting eh? Actually IKEA is always a bit of an exciting experience for us teuchters from Lewis.

But on the way we went to see Dream.  Dream takes the form of a 20 metre high girl's head with her eyes closed, seemingly in a dream-like state, resting on a plinth bearing the inscription "Dream Sutton Manor" inspired by the small, circular "tally" each miner carried as a means of identification. The notion is simple but profound, for in the words of Jaume Plensa's own words "in our dreams, anything is possible...".

The story of the sculpture can be read on the website Dream.

My impression was one of awe at the size and beauty of the sculpture.  It was, apparently, controversial.  Why it should have been I cannot comprehend.

Friday 25 September 2009

Bramall Hall

Yesterday Lesley (whom I've known since I was 4) and I met for lunch and a walk and some catching up.  After lunch we walked through the grounds of Bramall Hall which is a timber-framed manor house surrounded by 70 acres (28 ha) of landscaped parkland featuring lakes, woodland, and gardens; its oak timber framing was originally infilled by wattle and daub. The oldest parts of the house date from the 14th century, with later additions from the 16th and 19th centuries. Unfortnately the weather was not very pleasant and, although it didn't actually rain, it was dull and not a good day for photography. 


Thursday 24 September 2009

I Went For A Walk

A few days before I came away from Eagleton, Marcel went off to see his son and grand-children and took the car so I went for a walk over to Pat and Dave's for coffee and a chat.   It's a couple of miles and it's NOT flat!  This is the view up the Upper Bayble Township Road from the end of the Lower Bayble Township Road.  The brownish coloured house at the bottom of the hill used to be the Post Office.

Happiness Is An Evening With People About Whom You Care

Just over a year ago I wrote the following posting.  For various reasons I didn't post it at the time.  I am staying with my God-daughter at the moment for a few days.  Tonight we shall be going out to the same restaurant again.  Now I feel free to post my thoughts from a year ago:

I regard myself as one of the luckiest people alive. I have few worries and a lifestyle which suits me very well indeed: living in Napier in New Zealand and the Isle of Lewis in Scotland - two of the places best suited to my temperament and lifestyle. I am very content, even happy.

Occasionally, however, something happens to take that happiness to an exceptional level.

Last Wednesday evening was one of those occasions. I was visiting Lesley and Geoff. Lesley and I have known each other since we were both aged 4 and Lesley regarded me as a "horrible little boy" (I'm no longer a 'little boy' and I'd like to think that I'm no longer quite so horrible!). After going to see my Goddaughter, Louise and her partner Gerry at their new house we went out to the Pho Thong Thai Restaurant in Mossley.

The food, the ambience but above all the company and the fun were truly exceptional and made it, for me, one of the most memorable and enjoyable of evenings.

No blog posting would be complete without a photo or two so here they are:

Out and About

I owe you all an apology.  I left Lewis on Tuesday without so much as a cheerio.  Marcel and I drove - actually Marcel drove most of the way - to his home in Fife and then yesterday after staying with him for the night I travelled down yesterday to visit a God-daughter and her partner and a friend of almost as many years as I've been on this planet.   Today Friend-of-Many-Years - God-daughter's Mum - and I are going out for the day and then we are all going out for dinner this evening.  Tomorrow I drive across country to stay with my brother Scriptor Senex/CJ and Jo.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Yesterday's Conversations

Sometimes things stick in your mind and just won't leave. Given that I have the memory of a goldfish which is... Er. Let me see. I've forgotten. No. It's seven seconds. Anyway given that, it 's remarkable that one clause from Jen's blog My Moments entitled breathe to forget, breathe to forgive has stuck in what passes for my mind and just won't go away.  It's a wonderful clause.

I grasp at the smoke of the conversations from yesterday.....

Stornoway Harbour

On Friday Marcel and I went into Stornoway to get some odds and ends and a couple of new front tyres put onto the car.  Whilst that was being done we strolled down to the Harbour.  Harbours are invariably interesting places but right opposite where we were standing (but unfortunately from a photographic point of view with the sun in our faces)  was the boat repair yard.

 Taken from the air some years ago

Beyond baling?

Saturday 19 September 2009

Home Grown

A few weeks agoMargaret from Margaret's Ramblings blogged about Lost Potatoes.  In my comment I said that I had a friend, Iain, who grew potatoes both in the ground and in sacks.  I said that I would seek his views and tell Margaret.  Iain and Carol came to dinner last night bringing some of the results of his efforts  It gave me the opportunity to quiz him on the subject of potatoes.  He has had an excellent and abundant crop in the sacks.  He grows them in a mixture of his own and bought compost.  We have had a great deal of rain but Iain's view is that even so you need to give them lots and lots of water when they are developing.  These particular ones are Kerr's Pinks which are very popular on the Island.

Scriptor Senex is not alone in having remarked on the dearth of butterflies this year.  Iain has had a bumper crop of root vegetables this year but has lost all his brassicas to caterpillars.  There's been no shortage of butterflies here this year.

Friday 18 September 2009


This Heron in Stornoway harbour was enjoying the pickings of the low tide.

Thursday 17 September 2009

The Woodlands Centre

Both CJ and I have blogged about The Woodlands Centre in Stornoway in the past.  It is generally where we go for coffee and do our crossword.  It is often where Spesh and I have coffee if we happen to be in town at the same time.  Well yesterday and today Marcel du Marche and I went and did the same thing.  It occured to me that I haven't actually shown you what it looks like.  Well from the outside this is it:

The top picture shows the settings within the Lews Castle Grounds and the second is a close-up taken yesterday.  It was a beautiful day and, as you can see, warm enough for people to sit outside.  And for CJ there is the reminder and the Rowan Trees with their berries which he will not, I think, have seen in this setting before.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

A Friend Comes To Stay

One of my greatest and longest standing friends from my 'new' life ie the one I started when I came to the Hebrides 34 years ago, is Marcel du Marche from Le Jardinier Ecossais. We started work here for the same organisation on the same day and, until things were sorted out we shared a cupboard (yes it really was a cupboard) until our own offices were ready. He received  the name Marcel du Marche from the French market stall holders who came to the village where he holidays in France.  They gather for breakfast consisting of a huge barbecue of steaks and other goodies which would fill me up for two days washed down with sufficient quantities of red wine to render me helpless.  Marcel managed to hold his own and thus became an honorary member of the club.  By this time I was cowering under the stairs in case someone came to find me.  I'm reasonably sociable but there are limits.

Last night he arrived for a week's visit and holiday.  Unlike me he still works so his time is not his own to the extent that mine is.  We will have a Good Week.  Then I shall be off gallivanting (I spell it gallavanting but the spillchucker prefers an i) down South to see CJ/Scriptor Senex and friends before I zoom off to the other side of the world again.

 Taking a rest from the garden in France
Marcel has always complained that the above photo made him look grumpy.  He's not!  He just has a thing about wheelbarrows.

A Taste of New Zealand

Heather suggested that if I had not posted this picture before then perhaps I should. Well it seems unlikely that I will ever get the opportunity in Soaring Through the World in Pictures 'cos Glaciers is not likely to be a topic most of us have the opportunity to photograph.  It just so happens that New Zealand has some wonderful glaciers and I've been fortunate enough to hike on one of them.  It was, however, long before I blogged.  But it has given me the idea that when I resume A Hebridean in New Zealand I might show some of the older photos of my time there.  Some are more interesting and exciting than those I am able to take on the croquet lawns!  The Franz Josef Glacier might well be an early contender.   

Hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

Never Hate Anything

Warning:  This posting may be regarded by some as containing politically incorrect words.

I was thinking recently about the people and things that have made a lasting impression on me and which I, in turn, have tried to pass on to others in my life where possible.  I shall post on a few over the next wee while.

If, as a child (and when I was an adult come to think of it), I ever said that I hated something my Dad always responded by saying "You should never hate anything in this world".  I don't think he ever did. I'm not sure that I have ever hated either.  I abhor things like intolerance and discrimination but I don't hate them.  I have certainly never hated a person.  Hate is too destructive an emotion.

When I was a child growing up in Liverpool there was a joke which went "What's green on one side, orange on the other and has a white line down the middle?"  The answer was "Netherfield Road North".  That road was notorious for being the boundary between the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities in Liverpool.  The area was poor and largely comprised of slum dwellings.

I digress.  When I was 21 I was the deputy in the Housing Committee Section in the Town Clerk's Department (the legal and administration department of the Liverpool Corporation - City Council).  That Section also dealt with slum clearance and compulsory purchase.  Anthony Wedgewood Ben was the Minister of Technology at the time.  He was visiting Liverpool.  Even in those days (1965) politicians had press officers spinning for them.  We were told that he had to be referred to as WedgeBen of MinTek to make him look modern and with it.  He arrived and decreed that the word 'slum' was no longer to be used.  Houses were henceforth to be referred to as 'unfit for human habitation'.  Never use four words where one will do - unless you are trying to make your own title look modern.

Back to the story.  Netherfield Road North was a hotbed for the violence of man on man caused by religious hatred.  I recall, for example, the discrimination where the Lybro Overall Factory had a notice in huge letters outside the main entrance "No Roman Catholics (or was it Protestants?) employed".  I was a Protestant but I had been sent to a Prep School owned and run by an Irish Roman Catholic family.  So why did religions hate each other?  Even as a very young child I wondered that and found it incomprehensible.

Liverpool Corporation in one of the most courageous and far-seeing practical acts of anti-discrimination almost eliminated the physical divisions of religion in Liverpool when it cleared the slums to the new high-rise blocks in Kirby.  They mixed the orange and the green.  People became next door neighbours with people whom they would not previously have tolerated on their side of Netherfield Road North.

But nothing has changed in the world.  Liverpool may no longer have a significant problem with religious hatred.  But the rest of the world.......

One amusing thing that always sticks in my mind was my partner's daughter who whenever she said that she hated something and I responded as my Dad had done, used to stamp her foot in mock annoyance and say "OK, Graham, I don't like it a very lot then!".  And she wasn't yet a teenager.

It's a funny old world, Dad.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Then Three Come Along All At Once: 2

You see I've done it again.  No posts for days and now you have three.  Except that this makes it four.  Wrong again.

I Had A Dream

OK so I am about to share an intimate moment with you but if someone out there can explain this I'll be really surprised.

I dreamed I was in bed with a lady (OK, that bit's easily explainable).  She proceeded to write out the equation for E=MC2.  Then she proceeded to explain it.

And I'm supposed to be the one who's a boring old fart!

Summer's Over Today

No.  This is not a post about the weather.  I got up this morning at 0612 and IT'S DARK.  This is the first morning I've had to put the light on when I got up.  Summer's over.  Time for New Zealand.


Yesterday was a rewarding day for birds.  [I wrote that and scheduled it. When I read it this morning  I realised that what I meant to say was that it was a rewarding day for me seeing birds]. I was in Town and, unusually, decided to walk down on the quay.  Something CJ and I do frequently but I very rarely do on my own.  As I walked along the quay and looked into the water I saw a Guillemot just below me.  I was quite taken aback.  Firstly I had never been so close to one before - I was about 10 metres away.  Secondly it was grey - clerical grey.  I thought that they were black.  In fact when I got home and checked all the pictures show them as being black but one book does show the adult male winter plumage as sometimes being grey with the band under the throat.


Monday 14 September 2009

A Buzzard Pays a Visit

Or is he back to stay?  We used to have lots of Buzzards flying here and all summer their mewing and cries could be heard.  Last year they disappeared.  This year I have not seen one.  Until today.  Today a Buzzard spent the morning in the valley at the side of the house looking for a meal.

Hopefully next year he and his friends will be back in the area.  And perhaps he'll have his head on the right way round!  How do they do that?

Sunday 13 September 2009

Harris Township and Old House

My last two postings have been devoid of photographs so I thought that I would redress the balance and post two photos that I took a few weeks ago when I went to the Isle of Harris. The first one gives an idea of the remote and sparse nature of the rural settlements in the Islands of the Outer Hebrides.  It is the township of Maaruig.

Isn't the Body Amazing?

Today I read in Les Chaussettes de l'Archiduchesse that our brain turns off our butt neurons so that we don't constantly think about them when we are sitting (that is why your backside may be numb when you get up after a long sit).  That is by no means all that I have learned from L'Archiduchesse I might add.  Isn't the body amazing?

However as so often it is the simple things that amaze me.  Not, I hasten to add, that I'm suggesting that the human body is simple - far from it.  Some days ago I was mending the kitchen sink outlet when I cut my finger badly on a stainless steel sharp edge.  There was a loose flap of skin and flesh and lots of blood.  One of those silly moments which should have been avoided.  Normally when things like this happen I call Friend Who Knows Too Much who used to be a nurse and is really good at things like this.  I know.  I have the scars to remind me and make me grateful. Unfortunately she is hundreds of miles away so I was left to my own devices.  Using Steristrips (tricky when it is one's right index finger that is affected and one is right-handed) I managed to get it put back together and covered in Melolin and Micropore.  I have renewed the dressing several times and it looked as though I was going to have a small hole in my finger for a while.  Last night before going to bed I took the dressing off but didn't really look at the wound.  This morning there is a tiny bit of dead skin and everything else has just healed itself.  I never would have thought it.  Isn't the body amazing?

Then Three Come Along All At Once

Life can be frustrating.  We all know that of course.  So what is frustrating me at the moment?  Well, to be honest, lots of things but they all boil down to one thing which afflicts us all.  Too many things we want to do and too little time in which to do it.  Well this week has been particularly bad from that point of view and my blogging has suffered.  The problem is that when I do have ideas instead of spreading them over a number of days I tend to write and post immediately.  So I have three days when I have no posting and then three come along all on the same day.  OK so I'm exaggerating a bit but that's how it feels.

Anyway today was not going to be a problem.  I had a number of postings in my head and a free day in which to get lots of things, including the postings, done.  I even found the negatives for the photos from 1986 I wanted to use for one of the posts. 

That's when things started to go pear shaped.  My scanner suddenly refuse to work with it's host computer - Henry, my PC.  Eh?!  It was working perfectly a week ago.  Every time I powered it up the computer froze as soon as I opened Picasa.  (Why does Blogger run by Google mark 'blog' 'Blogger' 'Picasa' and 'Google' as incorrectly spelt or is it Firefox? - whatever it's an irritation).  Then Henry went on strike and wouldn't start up.  This is not the first time these have caused me angst.  In fact I posted about Frustration only a few months ago.

Then Palin (Laptop running Vista) decided on a major go slow again.  He's only just had an extra Gig of RAM inserted so it wasn't that.

The long and short of it is that instead of a nice quiet day blogging and scanning photos and so on I've been sorting computers.  That was NOT the best way to spend the day.  At least I had the Grand Prix to watch whilst I did the ironing for some relaxation!

Friday 11 September 2009

Riding With Pat

My car has been having all the stone chips in the paintwork treated.  It's amazing how many stones are thrown up by vehicles (usually large lorries travelling towards one) and just how much damage they do.  One particularly large one which I actually saw as it bounced up onto the bonnet (hood) of the car then hit the windscreen and cracked it.  Anyway the car was in hospital for four days.  During that time Pat and Dave were good friends and neighbours and ferried me around.  One day after the Doc's Pat and I went for a coffee.  It was Wednesday - the first of our recent sunny mornings.

At The Woodlands where we had coffee the sunflowers and begonias which were already ageing had been all but destroyed by the storm on Tuesday. 
One or two had survived relatively unscathed
Back seat driver - actually Briagha's impeccably  behaved in the car.
Who says that Lewis is barren and treeless?  The road through the Castle Grounds to the Woodlands Centre