Wednesday 30 June 2010

A Good Day For Drying

No words are needed.

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A Face?

When we were visiting the Callanish Standing Stones one of the stones struck me as having a ‘face’.  Can you?


Tuesday 29 June 2010


I went to buy some dried seaweed a few days ago to top dress what passes for my lawns.  The factory is at the end of the road to Arnish Point and the former oil platform fabrication yard.  Along the road are some lochans.  Fishing in one of those lochans was a heron.  These photos were taken through the car window.  I was foolish enough to lower the window (I nearly said wind down the window – that shows my age!) for a few seconds but the invasion of midges was unbelievable and it went back up before I could take a photo with it open.

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Monday 28 June 2010

Feed Me!

This year I’ve had an abundance of small birds in the garden but Greenfinches outnumber Sparrows which is unusual.  This family have a lot of hungry mouths to feed so my seed feeders are emptying at an alarming rate.

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Training Exercise

It was happening a few miles out in The Minch so was at the limit of my camera’s capabilities but it still looked pretty spectacular with the Coastguard helicopter coming up to the back of the fast moving lifeboat to lift a ‘casualty’ from its afterdeck.  I was sure that I’d done a post on the Lifeboat when she was hauling her tender on board in the Bay last year but it’s not coming up in the index.  Odd.  It would have given you an idea of how big she is.

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Sunday 27 June 2010

The Results

No.  I’m not talking about today’s football nor yesterday’s tennis nor, indeed, today’s F1 GP.  I forgot to post the pics of the Christmas cakes.  I’ve made another two since the last post and they are just about to be given their first feed of brandy and then wrapped up in silicone paper and foil until the next feed:


Saturday 26 June 2010

For Helen

After my post yesterday on the annual return of the Large Red Damselfly to the pond I decided just before midday today, when the sun decided to replace the dismal clouds for a while, to go and clear some of the algae from the pond.  there is something rewarding – like painting the Forth Road Bridge – in knowing that however much you do today there will still be just as much waiting to be done tomorrow.  Anyway as I knelt down and dipped my hand into the water a flurry of Damselflies rose and flew off.   I was irritated by the fact that I hadn’t been aware enough to have seen them first.  However they soon came back, by which time I had my camera in my hand.  I counted three coupling pairs and several others who seemed variously to be chasing the pairs or just being voyeurs.  I was really excited.  Helen’s enthusiasm for  Odonata has rubbed off on me.  And all that’s thanks to CJ for making me so aware of the world of insects in general.
So here are what will probably be the last photos I will ever post on this Blog of Large Red Damselflies – unless, of course, I ever manage to catch some hatching.  I wonder if they do hatch in my pond.
DSC00765 DSC00767Is that a grin on their faces?
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Friday 25 June 2010

A Cynical View of a Jar

DSC00525Before I start this post I should explain that I am referring to British Marmite (also sold in Australia and New Zealand as My Mate).

I love Marmite.  I love the Marmite jar.  I love peanut butter.  I detest the Sun Pat peanut butter jar.  Why the difference? 

Well firstly I should ask what the similarity is.  The similarity is that they are both almost impossible to empty completely with a knife because of their shape.

What is the difference?

The Marmite jar is iconic.  It has been the shape it has since the 1920s and derives from the shape of the original pot which was an small earthenware pot, similar in shape to the kind of French casserole dish called a 'Marmite' (pronounced MAR-MEET). I had always assumed that this was where Marmite obtained its name but the Marmite website simply says that this may be where Marmite gets its name from.

Back to the point.  The Marmite jar was conceived long before the idea was ever likely to have entered the mind of a marketing guru that there could be difficulties getting the last of the contents out of the jar.  Indeed recently the Company introduced an ‘upside down’ squeezy jar with the specific objective of getting the contents out of the jar more easily.

On the other hand the Sun Pat jar is relatively recent.  If my memory serves me correctly Sun Pat peanut butter originally came in a slightly tapered jar which was wider at the top than the bottom.  More recently the jar you see above was introduced.  A jar which it is almost impossible to empty with a knife.  Think about it.  If you create a jar which when thrown away (or cleaned for recycling) still has, say, 2% of its contents inside then that creates a percentage increase in sales equal to the amount left in the jar.  Or to be exact the difference between the amount left in the new jar and the amount left in a jar which can be emptied to a greater degree.

OK so this was a pretty arcane posting.  But it doesn’t alter the fact that I just don’t like the new Sun Pat peanut butter jar.  So why do I buy it?  Because the Coop where I shop doesn’t sell its own brand.  Perhaps I’ll start going to Tesco for their home brand.

Annual Event

Last year I said that I thought that was the first time I’d seen a Damselfly (a Large Red in this case) in the garden.  It wasn’t.  So far since my pond has become established I’ve seen one each June – and blogged a photo.  This year it was slightly later than the previous two years.  In this photo it has alighted on some dried algae – the bane of my pond. 


Thursday 24 June 2010

Wimbledon: Mahut v Isner: Groundhog Day

Every record in the book has been broken.  Even the fact that yesterday the umpire sat in his chair without a bathroom break for over 7 hours must be a record. 

At the moment the world seems besotted with the Football World Cup.  Footballers seem to be the prime donnas of the sporting world but when it comes to fitness I’m sure they couldn’t hold a candle to an FI GP driver or a top class tennis player.  To be on the court for 8 hours running around and serving a ball at around 130 miles per hour requires very considerable stamina and fitness.

John Isner eventually won the match but it is not that for which he will be remembered.  He will be remembered for being part of a game in which so many records were broken:


Some of the moments after the match captured from the BBC’s coverage:


The players and the umpire:


The Ultimate Frustration

It’s not that elusive puzzle that someone gave me years ago and which has confounded everyone who has sat in my living room and tried it.  It’s not a thousand and one other things I’m sure that I could think of if my brain would work.


So what is it?  It is, of course, computers.  Those things with which we cannot live today.  Of course many people think that they can and do live without them.  They are wrong.  They may not own a ‘computer’.  But they will have a TV or a radio or a car or a washing machine or a …. Well, perhaps a garden spade doesn’t have one – apart from the human brain which is guiding the hands which are, in turn, guiding it.

My PC doesn’t like the way I work and it makes no bones about telling me that.  Since I installed Windows 7 I’ve had no involuntary shut downs and Windows appears to have worked impeccably.  However the underlying problem which I’ve always had with it remains.  The USB ports don’t get along with each other.  In particular they don’t like the front combined card reader and twin USB port.  When I installed Windows 7 I had hoped that it would have proved to have been an operating system fault which would be cured.  But no.  The problem persisted.  So I am very careful about the use of these essential pathways to my information and try never to change them.  Today I did.  And paid the price. Ho hum.

However when iTunes started up and told me that I needed to install the latest updates I couldn’t be bothered.  So iTunes got shirty and refused to work.  So I decided to uninstall it and download the new version.  And that is what started me off on this posting.  iTunes told me that it couldn’t start because it wasn’t feeling well and therefore it couldn’t uninstall itself.  Arghhh.

Inter-Island Ferries

When Wendy and the children were here we went down to Harris and had lunch at The Anchorage Restaurant at the ferry terminal at Leverburgh.  Leverburgh is the point on Harris from which the ferry goes to the Island of Berneray and to North Uist.  North Uist is the northernmost of the Southern Isles.  I will post on the island chain soon because I’m conscious of the fact that I’ve never done so and few of my readers are likely to be au fait with the geography of the area.

When I came to the Islands to live in 1975 the only ferries between the Islands were passenger ferries and they were basic passenger launches or converted small inshore fishing boats.  The exception to this was the Caledonian MacBrayne deep sea ferry between Harris and Skye and North Uist.

Film36-33A-8403 The Leverburgh, Berneray, North Uist ferry in 1984

The ferry between Ludaig in South Uist and the Island of Eriskay , MV Eilean Na H-Oige came into service in 1980. (Scottish Gaelic Eilean na h-Ă’ige "The Island of Youth")  until the causeway opened in July 2001.

Film26-08-82 Film26-09-8009 Film26-10-8009 Film26-11-8009 MV Eilean Na H’Oige

By the time the late 1970s had arrived the ferry between Leverburgh and Berneray and North Uist had been improved to a 12 seater motor launch with a proper cabin:


That was replaced on the sector between Berneray and North Uist by MV Eilean Bhearnaraigh (a similar vessel to the MV Eilean Na H’Oige) in 1982.   This operated until the Berneray Causeway opened in 1998.

The distance between Berneray and Leverburgh is too great for a causeway and a vehicle ferry Sound of Harris service started in 1996.  However the 18 vehicle ferry proved to be inadequare because the popularity of the service was greater than any of the estimates had anticipated.  The new ferry capable of carrying 36 vehicles, MV Loch Portain, came into service on 1 June 2003.  This is the ferry which we saw when we were in Leverburgh last week:

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Directly across the water from Leverburgh is the Island of Ensay.  There is no permanent occupation of the Island although there is a large holiday house and a chapel.  There used to be a service held every summer in the chapel which was attended by members of the church in Stornoway to which my wife and I belonged.  There was no ferry to the Island so each year the local cattle boat which was used to ferry sheep and cattle to and from the local islands was used for us human cattle:


As you may have realised I have been delving into my old boxes of photos yesterday and was lucky enough to find old photos of the ferries and scan them onto the computer.  It’s been an enjoyable exercise made possible by the horrible weather outside.

Wednesday 23 June 2010


I’m not an avid tennis follower but I still enjoy the Wimbledon experience even though I’ve only ever watched it on television.  In recent years I’ve not even watched much of the play.  This year I may manage to keep up with things because I’m working in the Study at the moment because the weather is too awful to get out into the garden and I will be at CJ’s when the finals are on.  CJ and Jo are avid Wimbledon followers.  I have a television in the Study.  It’s rarely on other than when the News is on but it also enables me to keep an eye on programmes whilst I work if there is something exciting like the Grand Prix or Wimbledon.   So although I don’t usually have the sound on I can keep an eye on it and put the sound up when it gets exciting.  And it’s exciting as I write this.


The longest match in Wimbledon history is taking place on Court 18 between the American John Isner (World 19 and American number 2) and the Frenchman Nicolas Mahut (World 149).  As I write they are up to 34 matches each in the fifth set and there has been 6 hours and 54 minutes of play.

Well. Nearly four hours after I wrote the above the match came to a conclusion – for today.  The match will re-commence tomorrow!  It has broken every record in the tennis record book already and it hasn’t finished yet.  It was amazing.  I have never seen such stamina both mentally and physically.  It will take their bodies weeks to recover.


To be continued.

The Adventures of Pip

Pip001 This morning as I put away Archie and Mehitabel (a book by Don Marquis) having just re-read the piece of blank verse entitled a spider and a fly (the verse is not only blank but contains no upper case characters nor punctuation) which I was going to send to a friend.  My mind then wandered to what the fly had been saying in justification of its existence.  Then I recalled that I knew about flies and germs from Enid Blyton’s book The Adventures of Pip (written in 1948) which I had read when I was knee high to a grasshopper and from which I had learned so many things.  In fact it is a testament to the book’s author that I can remember much of what I learned and can actually trace it back to that book.

A propos this morning’s thoughts I learned that a Bluebottle (a large fly in case they are called something different in the US) carried germs from rubbish and dung heaps and deposited them on our food and so on.  I also recall that, as would have been usual then, good triumphed over evil and a Robin ate the Bluebottle. 

But I also learned that some trees (I think it was a chestnut) had buds covered with sticky stuff to prevent them freezing (although it didn’t explain about the chemistry involved – and at around the age of 5 I wouldn’t have understood anyway); that caddis larvae covered themselves with bits of vegetation to prevent tadpoles eating them; that male sparrows had black bibs'; that Blackbirds have bright yellow beaks; that you could tell the weather from the Scarlet Pimpernel; that the Hermit Crab had no shell so used discarded shells from other creatures.  There was also something about catkins and lambs tails but that’s a bit hazy.  There was so much more but all things have to end somewhere.  So this post ends here.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

The Standing Stones of Callanish

The Standing Stones of Callanish, which are estimated to be about 5000 years old, are on the West side of the Isle of Lewis at (as the name not unsurprisingly suggests) the township of Callanish.  They form one of the most outstanding stone circles in Britain ranking with Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney.  Despite the paucity of information on the Wikipedia entry for the Callanish Stones (some of which appears fanciful to me) a considerable amount of research has been undertaken and published including the book New Light on The Stones of Callanish (ISBN 0 9505998 4 0).  They are a must see for every visitor to the Island and we were fortunate in having a sunny, if cold, day for our visit.  Quite how impressed the children were I’m not sure but I’m sure that they will remember them – who could not?

DSC00004 The Callanish Stones

DSC00045 A closer look

DSC00023-1Fraser and Catriona providing scale

DSC00020  Next time I’ll organise a better shot!

Everything is Relative

DSC00541 For a person who lives alone I have emptied the dishwasher many times since I returned to the UK.  Far more than usual.  In fact when I’m on my own I don’t use it very often at all.  So how can I make a posting out of that?  Well I was half way through emptying it this morning and thinking what a chore it was (and conveniently forgetting that after my guests had gone last night I had no washing and drying of dishes to do ‘cos it all went into the machine) when I thought to myself how much life has changed from my childhood when there were dishes to wash and dry and how much I have for which to be thankful.  And what a sorry state we are in when we consider emptying a dishwasher a chore.  So I played the Glad Game.  I have dishes to wash because I have food to put on those dishes.  I have glasses to wash because I have wine to put in those glasses.  And I have a lot of washing up to do because I have a lot of friends with whom to share that food and wine.  So I told myself this morning not to moan about emptying a dishwasher but to give thanks for the fact that I had that opportunity.

Monday 21 June 2010

The Scottish Midge

I blogged last year a bit earlier than this on Midges.  Inevitably when something plays such a significant part in a blogger’s life then it is only natural that there will be various blogs about it.  Today is absolutely perfect midge weather.  It’s warmer than it has been (17 deg c), absolutely calm, dull and overcast with an imperceptible drizzle.  This morning early on I could see the midges swarming outside the kitchen window.  Eventually I had to go out to put the bins out for collection and then go to Town.  By running all the time I actually seem to have avoided being bitten.  I compared that with a few days ago when I filled the bird feeders first thing in the morning wearing my dressing gown (= bare legs!) when in 45 seconds I was bitten 14 times.  The bird feeders need filling at the moment but…..

I would have tried to entertain you with a posting on little (2 mm long) critter but CJ (Scriptor Senex) did that in June 2008 when her was here in a posting entitled, informatively, The Highland Midge which appeared on his now-abandoned blog The Editorial.

One of the few humans to be exempt from attack by The Highland Midge is the lone piper who plays to entertain coachloads of tourists in various Highland beauty spots.  As one midge said “It’s not a good idea to drink the decoy.”

Sunday 20 June 2010

The Doulton Fountain at Night

When we were waiting for the taxi – see the previous post – we were sitting by The Doulton Fountain outside The People’s Palace.  It was particularly beautiful lit up at night:

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After The Party

After the wedding party in the People’s Palace in Glasgow we had a problem getting a taxi.  The first company just didn’t arrive and no one else could provide a car.  Eventually the supervisor at one firm took pity on us and a car arrived within minutes.  Apparently, the driver told us, there was a big gig on at Clydebank (I assume he meant the SSEC) with 10,000 people all trying to get home after midnight!  Anyway two tired littlies, one glam mum and one oldie all got back to Anna’s sanctuary – late but grateful.


Saturday 19 June 2010

Everyone’s Gone

It’s Saturday.  It’s 0600 hrs.  I’ve been up over an hour.  My latest visitors – a close friend of nearly 50 years who’s lived in Canada for over 40 years, her daughter who lives in Australia and her Sister in Law from Merseyside – departed at 0545 for the morning ferry to Ullapool.  The beds are stripped and the first load of washing’s on.  Unusually for me I’m tired and just want to go back to my bed.  That would be the sensible thing to do.

Looking back it’s been a roller coaster of a couple of months since I returned from New Zealand.   I’ve rarely had a couple of days without either visitors staying or being away.  It’s been wonderful.  I’ve spent relatively little time in Blogland.  I’ve spent a lot of time cooking.  It’s a good job I love cooking.  But then I came to it late in life and have never had to cook daily for a family.  My wife was a superb cook and hostess and when we got married she chose to do the cooking and the ironing. 

My next mission is to go and see my Brother and Sister in Law Who Drinks Tea.  But I have a crown to be fitted in 10 days so I’ll set off immediately after that.  In the meantime I shall catch up with living on my own, with Blogland, with phone calls, with my friends on the Island, with the garden and getting the spring cleaning done (even if it’ll be on the countdown to Autumn in two days when the days start drawing in again).  Oh, yes, and booking my return trip to New Zealand.

Tree Chair


Chair, Castle Grounds, Stornoway.

Two Children and a Dog = Fun

When they were here last week Wendy, Fraser, Catriona and I paid a visit to Pat and Dave’s.  Inevitably the children ended up playing with Briagha in the garden:

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Thursday 17 June 2010

Long Days and Light Nights

A little while ago Katherine commented on my posting From Stornoway to Ullapool in relation to the fact that nights didn’t get truly dark on Lewis in the middle of the night at this time of year.  I’ve been waiting for the right moment (and the time given all the visitors I’m having).  Tonight seems to be that moment.

It’s a half cloudy and half clear night as the following panorama to the North shows:


The sky really is as light as that and this is the time the photo was taken: