Monday 31 May 2010

A Day in The Garden

I rose early this morning: 0513.  The sun was shining.  The temperature had actually managed double figures!  Mind you everything is relative.  I was chatting this morning to Pauline in New Zealand who was bemoaning the fact that it was so cold – 8 degrees I think she said. With 3 weeks until the longest day and midsummer we’ve been lucky here on Lewis if the daytime temperature has reached 11 deg last week.  Today I was delighted that the temperature managed up to around 15 deg. It was a beautiful sunny day too.  So instead of preparing for my journey to the mainland tomorrow I spent the day outside in shorts and a polo shirt gardening and doing some house maintenance.  I started packing at 8pm this evening and am writing this in bed at 11pm.  I have to be up at 0500 tomorrow to go for the early ferry to the mainland.  Of course the law that says it was easy to rise early this morning because I didn’t have to will make me want to turn over and go back to sleep tomorrow when I do have to rise and shine.

I should be back home on Sunday but, hopefully, I’ll be blogging whilst I’m away.  Bye for now.

Saturday 29 May 2010

A New Blog on the Block

 Turbineflection (1) Click on image to visit the blog

Gaz is stuck in Italy with a sprained ankle and has been occupying himself by entering Blogland.  Some of you may already have seen his photo of a cottage on Skye on my Hebridean in New Zealand blog.  If so you’ll know that there will be some delights to come.  I, for one, am looking forward to them.   Welcome to Blogland, Gaz.

Egg on Face

I feel quite foolish.  That’s not a new feeling for me unfortunately.  However unlike some of the occasions when it happens this one was totally avoidable.  Not only was it avoidable but it arose because I was trying to be ‘clever’.  A friend yesterday said that someone was a ‘thinking man’ and I said that that was an oxymoron.  I said it for a quick laugh.  Unfortunately I sometimes wonder if it’s actually true: particularly so far as I am concerned.

In this case Katherine (she of The Last Visible Dog) had posted some lovely photos which included an autumnal tree with a Monarch Butterfly on the tree.  I made the comment “Your Monarch was out rather late wasn't she?”  The actual gender of the beautiful creature was not in my thoughts.  I was just avoiding the assumption that everything is automatically referred to in the masculine gender. 

Years ago when a lot of my work involved legal issues and it became impossible always to say he and/or she I always use to add ‘the use of the male gender shall include the female gender – Interpretation Act 1889’.  Of course one would look silly saying that in a non-legal context.  In the same vein Andy always used to avoid any reference to specific genders to the extent that he refused to say person because of it’s male-specific connotation.

Anyway I digressed.  Katherine made the point that the Monarch was, in fact a male and not a female.  The markings of the two sexes are markedly different and I had, of course, to agree.

Motto: Don’t try to be ‘clever’ and, if you do, then think first.

Friday 28 May 2010

An Early Start

Last year my eight or so weeks away in Glasgow attending The Beatson for radiotherapy meant that I just didn’t get to make the six Christmas cakes that I usually make for some of my friends.  I am determined to get back on track this year so today I started by preparing the ingredients for a mix and bake tomorrow.  The dried fruit is now soaking in brandy ready for the off.  All as per Goddess Delia’s recipe I’ve been doing this since I was confined to barracks after a heart attack in 2000 and discovered that people actually like what I did.  That’s a huge incentive isn’t it?

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Reed Bunting

When I was looking to see if I had posted on various birds in the Western Isles I was surprised when a search in the Blogger title bar for a Stonechat only showed one posting whereas I knew that there were at least three because I’d also used the word as a category.  It was then I seemed to recall something that Mark (nephew in law) had written about the subject of indexing many moons ago.  I realised that the Blogger search does not appear to include the title of the posting in the search.  I must remember always to include the appropriate words in the text as well.

Recently I’ve had a female Reed Bunting  (Emberiza schoeniclus) in the garden and on the bird table.  I cannot recall that happening before and the Reed Bunting has not appeared in the bird list in the sidebar of this blog.  Until a day or so ago I’d only seen the female on the feeder and I spent a bit of time trying to ensure that the bill was that of the Reed Bunting and not the Corn Bunting (which I wouldn’t have expected it to be really, but I had to check).  Now that I have identifiable photos, it is a Reed Bunting.  It is at times like this that I wished that I was not having to take the photos through a double glazed window and that I had Adrian’s lenses.  But then her mate (or suitor?) turned up when she was feeding.

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Thursday 27 May 2010

Bad Wool Day


A Patchwork Day

I woke up this morning.  It’s amazing how many times I’ve done that in my life: over 24,000 times if my calculations are accurate.  That’s a scary thought.  Even more scary when you think that one day I won’t.  But when I reach the other side I’ll be able to say how fortunate I was to clock up so many.  After all not everyone is so fortunate. 

I had to take the car in for a service and its MOT (annual fitness test).  Dave followed me into town and brought me home.  Pat and Dave and Kate came for morning coffee.  Kate goes away tomorrow for another 6 month stint touring the world.  “What is it with our children?” I ask.  As the trio left the men came to replace some panels in my porch and fix a door and a gap between two panels in the conservatory.  Lunch.  Pat and Kate took me into town to collect my car whilst Briagha was being taken for her ‘MOT’.  Shopped.  Home.  Washing in and ironing done and guest bed re-made (Steve and Suz were here for the night on Tuesday).  And, of course, I’ve visited Blogland and some friends via the internet and phone.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon so later on I decided to get out into the garden and do some weeding and plant some plants.  Big mistake (one of my favourite film moments*).  The wind was force 4+ from the North taking the temperature from 10 down to a wind chill of 2 deg.  And that felt cold.  So after 15 minutes I abandoned it.  Ah well, only just over 3 weeks ‘till midsummer.  HELP!  Christine from next door popped in for a chat.

So what’s been so special today?  I’ve given thanks that I have such wonderful friends.   I’ve given thanks that I live amongst such beauty.  I’ve given thanks that the sun has shined (not sure about the grammar there) on me and my world both actually and metaphorically.  I’ve given thanks that I have a house that needed some repairs because so many don’t have a house.  I’ve listened to some music (Beethoven Sonatas today) which has been so beautiful I’ve almost felt like crying (the 11th – first movement I think it was).    I’ve given thanks that I’m fortunate enough to be able to appreciate them.  Life’s pretty good.

*Vivian in 'Pretty Woman’.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

The Coastguard Helicopter

Just outside the view from my house is Bayble Island.  It can, however, be seen from Pat and Dave’s house on the other side of the Valley.  When I was there a few days ago the Coastguard helicopter was practising its rescue functions using the Island as it often does.  It’s particularly good for the purpose because the wind (and it was windy that day) means that there is a lot of air turbulence testing the pilot’s skill to the limits.

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When Is Art A Con?

Dawn Treader’s wonderful recent blog series on sculptures including one on a sculptor called William Sweetlove entitled Sweetlove and Cloning made me think of an incident many years ago when I was studying.  I went to an ‘after tutorial, after coffee, gathering’  with some of my fellow students.  The party was at the flat of a famous sculptor (or perhaps it was his sister because it was she, I seem to recall, who was one of the crowd of students with whom I was at the time).  In the fireplace was a poker (for poking the coal fire) in a piece of tramline with a hole drilled in it to hold it.  Leastways that’s what I thought it was.  My evidence for that was firstly that it was in the hearth and secondly it was a piece of the worm gear on a shaft from a motor car.  Such items were commonly used as pokers after the war when money and commodities were short.  In fact Dad took a steel rod from a car engine and made a handle from a varied selection of metal and fibre washers which he then machined into the shape of a handle.  It was a splendid item. 

Anyway the sculptor in question had once worked in an art school environment as a caretaker and decided that he could produce works just as good as the works he saw coming out of the art school.  He was reported amongst my friends as having said that he thought it was a huge confidence trick and that he could do just as well.  He is supposed to have said that once he became famous he would show the art establishment up for the pretentious people that they were.  When he became famous and part of the establishment memory appears to have failed him.  Of course that may all have been apocryphal.  Whom amongst us knows?

Anyway, going back to the flat on that evening many years ago, I decided to poke the fire ‘cos it was getting a bit chilly.  Oh dear.  The ‘poker’ was in fact one of the sculptor’s works of art.  I was saved from my faux pas just in time.

I wonder why William Sweetlove reminded me of that?  

Monday 24 May 2010

It’s Been A Very Long Time

In fact I can’t actually recall when I last felt jaded the morning after a dinner party.  But I certainly wasn’t at my best when I woke this morning.  Fortunately after a couple of hours I was back to my usual self and the ‘tiredness’ had gone.  Last night Dave, Pat and Kate came for dinner with Fred and Sofie.  I decided to make spicy parsnip soup, followed by linguine with a sauce of olives, capers, anchovies and tomatoes and then a citrus syllabub with raspberries in kirsch (I’d never made a syllabub before).  Obviously cheese followed. 


I have to say that it was quite a memorable evening which started at 1830 and ended after 0030 when Fred made the point that they had to go to work in the morning. 

Before I go to bed I usually make sure that everything is cleared away and the only things left out would be some dishes that wouldn't fit in the dishwasher.  In fact the dishwasher was full and there was so much left that I abandoned it and was probably asleep before Fred got home. 


This morning I rather wished that I hadn’t abandoned my usual practice. 

Saturday 22 May 2010

A Mouse

Carol came down for a blether later this afternoon and as we chatted over our tea and coffee in the kitchen I noticed a mouse run across the garden – in the open broad daylight.  Unusual.  I tracked it down and moved aside the overhanging foliage and there in a cleft was a baby mouse: I’m fairly certain it was not the one I had seen which had been quite a bit larger.  I managed a photo before it leapt a good six inches into the air and catapulted itself into the small bushes on the other side of where Carol had been standing before she’d managed to out-jump the mouse as it almost passed under her.


My Visitors Were Lucky

When my friends from New Zealand were here on Monday and Tuesday the weather was perfect although rather chilly with the temperature only just reaching double figures.  It was indifferent on Wednesday until the evening when it deteriorated.  On Thursday and Friday we woke to heavy mist and fog which, until lunchtime today, only lifted enough to let the rain pour down.  The temperature remained low.




I got fed up with the weather presenters on the television saying how wonderful and hot and sunny the weather was all over the UK – oh, except for the very North of Scotland.  Yes.  Well we are the very North of Scotland.  Please don’t rub it in quite so much.

DSC09033 Forecast


Then after lunch today the temperature raced up to just above 20 deg the cloud began to disperse and the sun came out.


Friday 21 May 2010

The Light Went Out

I have just come across a copy of part of a letter that I wrote to a dear friend (who is still a dear friend) back in 1978.

“How often do you go to the loo?  Twice a day at least?  That means for the last thirty years you have made about 22,000 visits.  And how many times have you checked the loo before you sat down? [at that time my friend was living in Canada – as I now know, had it been Australia, the answer would have been different].  Well, for the record, I rarely do.  Perhaps I ought.  ‘Cos yesterday there was a bloody great bumble bee sitting underneath the seat.  And he took great exception to the light going out on his world.”

I Don’t Sleep With Men

I woke at 4.05 this morning when the chap in the next bed woke me to tell me that he thought I was going to snore.  "Was I snoring?”  “No.  But you sounded as though you might."  Eh? 

It took me a while to realise it was a dream. 

I have always been told that one of my (obviously few) good points was that I didn't snore.  Having said that "the girls" tell me when we go away to croquet tournaments that I do snore sometimes.  Ah well.  Good job I generally sleep alone these days.

The rest of my morning in bed was peppered with more nightmares.

I’m not going to bed early (ie before midnight) again if that’s what happens.

Thursday 20 May 2010

How Old Are Your Shoes?

DSC08704These are possibly not the most beautiful and certainly not the most fashionable of shoes.  But they are supremely comfortable.  So they should be.  I’ve been wearing this pair for over 40 (yes, forty) years.  I’m pretty light on shoes!  So why am I mentioning shoes?  Someone made a comment during dinner a week or so ago that They’d had their shoes for several years and the shoes were getting passed it.  I happened to be wearing these shoes at the time.

A Warm Welcome

I went over the valley to see Pat and Dave and Kate for coffee yesterday afternoon.  A warm welcome always awaits you from Briagha:

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And finally a gift!

Wednesday 19 May 2010


I’ve never really been as aware of Spring here on Lewis as in other places I have been because it is not a place full of blossoms and trees bursting forth with new green shoots.  But it’s not without them:


Cherry blossom in Stornoway



Gorse at Garrabost.  The buildings are the Garrabost Mill which still produces barley meal.

Everyone’s Gone

Well it’s been an interesting, full and very enjoyable few weeks.  Gaz left yesterday after having stayed for nearly two weeks.  It’s been wonderful having him here.  On Monday Richard, Julia, Jo, Ben and Mark arrived from New Zealand complete with campervan.  They are staying in the UK for a couple of months on a family holiday.  They are friends from Napier.  I thoroughly enjoyed having them stay and share a bit of my Scottish life for a few days. 

It was a bonus that the indifferent weather that we have been having turned into wall to wall sun on Tuesday and whilst it wasn’t all that warm that didn’t deter them one little bit.  They spent Monday afternoon on a fabulous beach at Hushinish on the Isle of Harris (Harris and Lewis is actually one physical island nominally divided into two).  They have a travel blog and their arrival and photos can be viewed on The Cornes Family

It was with considerable regret that I bade them farewell this morning as they set off to see some more of the Island’s sights before returning to Skye and their further adventures this evening.

DSC08901 The Cornes Family arrives



My neighbour’s and Richard and Julia’s campervans made it begin to look like a camp site



And off they trundled.  No cheese and port in good company for me tonight.

Tuesday 18 May 2010


IMGP1088 I have lived on Lewis for 35 years and on and off for all of those years I have heard Cuckoos and Corncrakes: two very elusive birds.  Back in the ‘70s I did glimpse a Cuckoo which used to inhabit the area behind the house we lived in in the township of Coll.  But, despite its constant calling, it was only one glimpse.  I’ve never managed to see a Corncrake.  Chatting to my friend Steve this afternoon on the phone he casually mentioned that he’d been startled by one of his resident Cuckoos banging into the window.  He later managed the above photo of it in a tree in the garden.   How envious am I?

Monday 17 May 2010


There are very few dedicated tobacconists left in the UK.  I’m not sure whether smoking has declined markedly (I suppose I should know that but having tried to find my way around the National Statistics Office website I am still no wiser) but certainly the number of dedicated tobacconists has.  However most tobacconists on items that were not readily available in every local convenience store or supermarket ie cigarettes.  My own observation would suggest, for example, that there are very few pipe smokers today.  However almost opposite my hotel in Ayr was a tobacconist with a wonderful array of items from the past:

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Cricket Result

For those of you who are cricket fans and, in particular Twenty20 devotees, this is an irrelevant post because you will probably have watched the finals on Sky and will know the results.  For those of you not in that category you will probably have no interest in the results anyway.  But just in case there is even one person out there who wants to know, the results of the finals were:

England v Australia: England won by 7 wickets.

Australia v New Zealand (Women's):  Australia won by 3 (YES 3) runs.

How annoying is that?

Sunday 16 May 2010

Did You Know - 1

That only female ducks can quack.  [Really?!]

Like finger prints everyone’s tongue prints are different.

An office desk is likely to harbour 400 times more bacteria than a toilet.  [I assume that means 400 times more types of bacterium. ]

Starfish can turn their stomachs inside out.  [Yes I did know that.]

Most spiders have eight eyes as well as eight legs.

There are more than 2700 languages in the world.  [There’s almost that many versions of English so far as I can see!].

Recovering Creels

One of the creel boats that set lobster creels in and around the bay below Eagleton pulled the creels last week and stacked them on the pier below the house so that they could be taken by road (to where?  I have no idea.).  At first when I saw the boat come in I was worried by the fact that it was so low in the stern.


but when the creels were unloaded the boat returned to normal


and she set off for the second load



returning less worryingly down at the stern


leaving quite a lot of creels on the pier: 240 in all if I can count correctly.


which were then collected at the end of the week.


Saturday 15 May 2010


FinalsWhen I was in Ayr having dinner there was a TV screen (without sound) showing the ICC Twenty20 cricket series semi-finals for both the men and the women cricketers.  This format is really exciting.  The outcome is shown on the right. 

For once I’m in the situation where I really would like to have SKY Sports on TV to enable me to watch the finals.  They should be really exciting.  I have no difficulty, either, in knowing where my loyalties lie.  My big problem would have been an England v New Zealand final for either or both.


I stayed in Ayr overnight on Thursday.  Ayr is a small town of 46,000 with a long history (it was created a Royal Burgh in 1205 – 705 years ago) on the coast South and West of Glasgow. It’s an hour’s flight and an hour on the train with intervening car/bus rides from my house in Eagleton.

More specifically I was staying in The Ayrshire and Galloway Hotel.


It turned out to be a much larger hotel inside than the small frontage suggests.  Adjacent to the hotel is it’s restaurant (there is also a bistro in the hotel itself) called The Meridian.



If you want the perfect chip that’s the place to go.  I don’t eat many chips but when I’m eating out I often treat myself.  The food looked excellent and the menu is quite extensive.  Despite the wide variety of things on offer I decided to have fish and chips: a very good choice as it happens.  The batter was as light as a Japanese tempura batter and the fish was cooked to perfection.  Add to that the excellent and friendly service and if I lived in Ayr I know where I would be spending a few evenings!

Why was I in Ayr?  I was due to see the oncologist yesterday morning at the Ayr Hospital.  After the blood results which I mentioned a few days ago the Consultant was absolutely delighted.  For the first time in 12 years I have been moved from 3 monthly monitoring to 6 monthly.  In future they will have an annual phone consultation unless I feel that I need to see them for any reason.  How good is that?

I may never go to Ayr again!  For that reason, if for no other, I feel that I should say something about the place.  Yesterday evening I walked down the main street and was very distressed to see that there are dozens of shops vacant and for sale. 


There seemed to be a lack of 'quality shops and a greater than usual number of betting offices and cheap dress shops.  There is a general air of commercial despair in the evening when the shoppers are not there.  This morning I have to say that it seemed a lot more alive.  It would seem, however, that there are just far too many premises for the catchment area.

In amongst that the local Council has obviously tried to introduce an air of hope by some attempts to brighten the area up.  Unfortunately they are fighting  a losing battle. 

Thursday 13 May 2010

The Temperature Rose Today

It got into double figures.  I recorded a maximum of 11.2 deg – fleetingly.  It felt a lot colder in the wind.  And this is the middle of May.  There are less than 7 weeks before the nights start drawing in again and midsummer will be passed!  The mainland of Scotland with snow on some of the mountains stood out for part of the day which was crisp and clear.