Tuesday 6 December 2011

Look What I'm Missing

An email was waiting for me this morning from Spesh1 aka Pat telling me about the snow and forwarding some photos that Dave had taken on his mobile phone:

From the back of Pat and Dave's house
Briagha in The Lews Castle Grounds
A footpath in the Castle Grounds - so why the tyre tracks?

Monday 14 November 2011

Christmas Reindeer

I know that I'm in New Zealand but one of the advantages of Blogland is that it is virtual and non-geographic in its reach.  So if I didn't tell you then you would have no idea where I am.  Sorry about the  mixing up of tenses.  Anyway I read Librarian's post Salzburg Sunrise this morning.  The last photo is of a reindeer in a very proud or haughty pose.  It's full of life.  When I saw that it made me realise what a dull and pedestrian structure is the one in Argyle Street in Glasgow which I photographed the day before I left for New Zealand.  With a little bit of thought it could have been so much better.

Sunday 6 November 2011


I’m writing this in Auckland’s Domestic Terminal with a couple of hours to wait for my flight to Napier.  The flight from Hong Kong was completely uneventful: just how a long-haul flight should be!  So what is there to tell you?  Unsurprisingly the answer is ‘nothing’.  The odd thing is that when I was sitting on the plane waiting to disembark I thought of all sorts of things to say.

When I got to Immigration I realised what makes entering NZ so special compared with any other country I’ve been to - including the UK!.  It’s the friendly welcome.

Having come through the Biosecurity checks quickly and painlessly I was out in the sun walking between International and Domestic: a walk I have done at least twice a year since 2005. It is a walk which, for some inexplicable reason, I feel is the proper start of my journey home and not just a journey between countries.

Things are different in New Zealand.  Domestic flights are still like they were between Glasgow and Lewis in the Good Old Days ie about 25 years ago when security as we know it today was unnecessary, where the same staff greeted you at the airport year in and year out and therefore knew you.

Mind you there are still moments like that at Stornoway.  A few years ago when I was travelling weekly between Stornoway and Glasgow for several months I walked towards the check-in desk and as I approached it the person behind the desk already had my boarding pass prepared and gave it to me with a ‘I’ve given you your favourite seat again, Mr Edwards’.

A couple of years ago as I boarded the Auckland to Napier flight for the last leg of my journey home to Napier and was welcomed on board with ‘Graham, you’re back. Wonderful’ and a chat before I took my seat. The flight attendant is a lady (I nearly said girl’ which to me she is but I realise that that isn’t PC these days) from nearby whom we know.  How special and at home does that make you?

 So my next posting should be as a Hebridean in New Zealand.  See you there - I hope.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Hong Kong

Well that was undoubtedly the best $10 US I’ve spent for a long time.  Possibly since the last time I was in Hong Kong International airport.  For the $10 you get access to a lovely clean, powerful shower and bathroom/washroom facilities with all the toiletries including tooth brush and paste all provided.  I feel like a new man.  Come to think of it that’s how my last partner felt: like a new man.  Leastways that’s what she acquired!  But I digress.

The flight from LHR was a dream.  I do love Air New Zealand. The seats are roomy and comfortable.  I had decided to pay for an upgrade but when I realised that the new seat configuration was only on the flights via LA I withdrew.  The seats in Premium are not that much better than the Economy seats and my legs aren’t that long since I got older and shrunk an inch or so.

So, after a wander around the commercial concourse, I now have 15 minutes to re-board for the next 11 or 12 hours to Auckland.

It seems quite strange to be sitting here in Hong Kong knowing that my son Gaz and his girlfriend Carol are not that far away and will be following me the day after tomorrow.

Another reason that I love Hong Kong Airport is that it has free wi-fi internet access so whilse I am waiting I can read some of the 30 emails I see have arrived since I left the UK and perhaps catch a blog or two or even write an email.  After all there is 10 minutes to boarding!

I hope the rest of my Blogger friends are as happy as I am at the moment.

Friday 4 November 2011

The First Leg

That’s the first leg completed.  Anna deposited me at Glasgow Airport and after a trouble-free passage through the airport the plane arrived in Heathrow (hereinafter referred to as LHR, sorry, I love the word ‘hereinafter’.) 15 minutes early.  It then took me almost as long to make my way from British Airways’ Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 from whence my flight leaves for Hong Kong and Auckland at 2105 tonight.  So I have nearly 5 hours in which to experience the pleasures of Terminal 1.  It’s a while since I have been in this terminal but I remembered my way around and am ensconced by a computer and phone charging point.  This will keep me topped up for a while.

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep you updated.

The Journey

In an hour or so I shall be leaving Anna's for Glasgow airport.  I shall fly to London Heathrow from there and this evening I fly with Air New Zealand to Hong Kong (where my son Gaz and his girlfriend Carol are at the moment) where I shall avail myself of that lovely airport's showers to freshen up before the flight continues to Auckland from whence I shall fly to Napier and my other home.  The first leg from London to Hong Kong is about 5700 miles (9170 Km) and the Hong Kong to Auckland leg is about 5900 miles (9500 Km).  I should manage a bit of reading over the next 48 hours!

I Nearly Did It

Gaz and Carol bought me a Times 2 Jumbo Crossword Book earlier in the year.  I really enjoy doing crosswords with my morning coffee or lunch.  I have just completed No. 56.  Well, almost completed.  The thing about general knowledge crosswords for me is being able to complete all the questions to which I know, or should know, the answer.  There are, however, answers which I will never get however much thinking I do.   In those circumstances I just grin and bear it and look the answer up.  With such large crosswords I rarely get 100% of the answers although I did manage a complete one earlier in the week.  However No 56 defeated me by two questions: An Australian Fish in 10 and an old chestnut which defeats me every time: A Long-short metric foot in 7.  The answer to the first was BARRAMUNDI and the second was TROCHEE.  I'm hoping that now I've blogged about it I will remember 'trochee' next time it crops up - as it inevitably will.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Thankful Thursday

Well life is full of surprises.  I expected today to be a very ordinary day.  I wanted a new camera bag.  Easy.  Anna had booked lunch at The Rogano (which is reputed to be one of Glasgow's premier restaurants).  This evening Anna had booked seats at The Citizens Theatre (with no apostrophe!) to see A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.

However when I looked at my cellphone this morning I saw a text asking what I was doing today.  I duly supplied the information requested pondering as to why a friend from France would make such an enquiry.  The response was a 'querie as to whether I would like to meet for coffee this afternoon.  Gosh.

So I spent this afternoon in the company of Viv who was in Scotland for a few days - a decision taken on a spur of the moment whim as she was in the UK for a few weeks visiting family.

The acting in the play this evening was serious and light and funny all at the same time.  Quite an accomplishment when dealing with such a subject and dialogue.

So today I am thankful for wonderful surprises and enjoyable nights out.

The First Leg

Everything went so well until the last half hour before I left.  Then everything caught up with me. 

My main case had been packed since Friday.  No problems.  It only weighed 18.4k even with my 'Glasgow' stuff in it. That's 2 k lighter than when I went to France a few months ago.  By the time I leave for NZ my case will probably only weigh about 16k.  Bizarre.  It is accounted for by the fact that I'm not going on holiday (where I have difficulty travelling sans kitchen sink), I'm changing houses (both of which have a kitchen sink).

Stornoway Airport security staff had become notorious on the Island for their officious and unpleasant attitude and the fact that getting through security there was a worse ordeal even than a trip through Los Angeles Airport (voted worst airport in the world by most travellers I know).  My case has been packed with precision and care given that it contains a computer (not my Apple laptop I have to add, camera equipment and so on) and the thought of having to unpack it (at Stornoway there are random searches of hold luggage because there is no x-ray there for large cases) was the stuff of nightmares.  Figuring that the earlier I arrived at the airport the greater the chance of my case being chosen, I arrived just before close of check-in.  It worked!  A few years ago when I travelled out through the airport 9 times in 9 consecutive weeks my hand luggage was gone through on 8 of those 9 occasions.  This time I got through without challenge at all.  Not only that but there had been, I think, a complete change of staff since I last went through earlier this year.  Better still, the lady putting things through the x-ray actually said 'Hello'.  Amazing.

The gales that has swept up the Island for a few hours had abated and the flight was very calm.  I was lost in though as we came in to land in Glasgow and actually got quite a surprise when we hit the ground - in an perfect landing.

If the rest of the journey goes that well I'll be in for a very pleasant time.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Does Stress Make You Sleep?

I think that these days I'm pretty unstressed although other people may see a me that I don't see.  The subject of MRI scans is topical.  I've had quite a few over the last twelve years.  I'm fortunate that they don't worry me: consciously at any rate.  So I have a habit of falling asleep during full body scans.  

I'm not worried by dentists either.  So I also had to be woken up when I was having a root canal treatment.  As the Dentist so correctly pointed out, he couldn't work on a patient who couldn't keep his mouth open.  There's a certain irony there because I'm usually being told that I can't keep my mouth shut! 

So am I really stressed and sleeping to escape or not stressed and just, well, sleeping.  

Ah well.  Back to ironing the bedding.  All's going to plan......so far.

No More Sleeps

Well today is the day I leave Eagleton on the start of my trip for my other life in New Zealand.  Gaz and Carol are ensconsed in Hong Kong for the week.  For those of you who have been asking their Quantas flight left on time and wasn't even full.  Given that it was the first flight to HK from Heathrow after the strike, that must tell us something.

The first wash of my bedding is in the machine and I just have some final cleaning and tidying to do so that friends/family who use the house while I am away don't walk in and say 'He doesn't dust his skirting boards' (You know who you are!!).  

The weather lady this morning said that by 8am there would be sunny skies even over the Hebrides.  Well that sure ain't the case so far.  It's dull, damp and dreach.  Gales are forecast for this afternoon.  That'll mean a bumpy flight.  Oh well.  So long as it stays up in the air when it's meant to and comes down at the right time I'll be happy.
So this morning I've been catching up on Adrian's Blog while the washing machine is doing what my Grandmother would have been doing in the washing cellar under the house (by the time I was born the days of someone to that sort of thing for her were over).  I have taken the liberty of pinching one of his photos for a number of reasons.  Firstly I think a post can be just that bit more entertaining if it has a photo; particularly a superb one like this.  Secondly I think Adrian's Blog is always worth a read but the post from which I borrowed this photo is a particularly good read.  Thirdly I think that we should all look carefully at what that photo is portraying because for every one of us (and I'm being presumptuous here that my readers are all from economically developed countries) owes our current wealth, in a large part, to these men.  Without the miners to provide coal for power there would have been no industrial revolution.  And that's just the start.  Oh dear.  I'm in just the right mood for a rant and I've run out of time.  Probably just as well.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

The Use of Superlatives

I usually switch on the TV a while before The News because if I don't switch it on I'm apt to forget.  So I switch on and usually go to mute.  The programme before The News is Pointless.  The compère is given to completely pointless superlatives on a regular basis and I have to say that I find it quite devalues everything that he says.  His usual is 'you've been brilliant fantastic contestants' to almost every contestant who managed to get bombed out without winning.  Yesterday he managed to make the statement that the jackpot had reached an (emphasising) 'unbelievable £5000'.    Which, in fact, seems to me to be an entirely believable sum.

This evening I decided that I could watch it with the sound on because I had a bit of ironing to do and I thought that I might get a post out of it!  Luck was with me because so far today he's not said 'brilliant' or 'fantastic' and the £6250 jackpot was announced without any emphasis at all.  Someone has, I think, had a word with him!

Morning Over Callander

After the wedding in Callander I woke up to a beautiful morning as seen from the bedroom window of my lodgings:

Monday 31 October 2011

One L or Two?

This week I shall be travelling.  Or will I be traveling?
travel |ˈtravəl|
verb ( -eled , -eling ; also chiefly Brit. -elled, -elling)
1 [ intrans. ] make a journey, typically of some length or abroad : the vessel had been traveling from Libya to Ireland | we traveled thousands of miles.
People who use British English have a small problem with Blogger because it uses US English.  Now I am the last person to say that one is correct and one is not but it is quite irritating when every time I spell a word with 'll' or 'ise' (as in realise) I'm told that I'm wrong.  'Cos I'm not!  I used to be a very good speller.  Now I'm constantly making errors (much to CJ's chagrin when we are doing crosswords) and am frequently racked (or wracked) with doubt which is not helped (and may even be caused in part) by spillchuckers.  

Of course there are words which are a particular bête noire.  Mine was 'across' which  for the first 60+ years of my life I always spelled 'accross'.

One I only recently discovered or realised was inquiry (US) instead of enquiry (UK).  Odd that it had taken me so long to come across that one.

PS.  I managed everything in town in record time so am doing this over a cup of coffee before I mend the shed roof and make lunch.  Oh how I love days when I get lots done. 

Wasp Spiders

It's 9.15am.  I have two days before I leave Eagleton.  I've brought in the storm shutters from the garage because there is not much wind this morning for the first time for a week.  I was getting concerned because they are too big and heavy to carry in a strong wind.  I have a HUGE list of things to do this morning in town including taking all Gaz's pictures to An Llantair for the annual  Grinneas nan Eilean Art Exhibition.  Then I have a friend coming for lunch at noon.  So why am I thinking about Wasp Spiders and standing in front of a laptop?  Don't ask 'cos I don't know the answer.  It defies common sense.

But I woke up with a desire to share wasp spider pictures.  The first two were taken at Chudleigh Knighton Heath near Exeter in 2007 and the last one in the Lot-et-Garonne this year. 

Sunday 30 October 2011

Passwords and Usernames

How many web pages, online stores, online services, cellphones, utility accounts and so on do you have?  I have no idea how many I have but the general list I keep (ie the low security websites and not things like bank accounts, telecoms, email accounts and so on) has just reached 100 and that's after a culling of the old ones I no longer use.

I don't know about other people but I do not use the same username or password all the time: in fact I have dozens and dozens of passwords.  Having had my American Express identity stolen on one occasion (and Amex sorted it out quickly and effectively and removed all the fraudulent charges without my even asking thus making me an even more loyal customer) I am very finicky about password and pin number security.

However my feeble brainpower is just not able to keep all that information in my head so I have a spreadsheet with it all on and I keep bank and email account information completely separate.

All of it is, however, in encrypted files of one sort or another.  I used PGP Encryption back in the day when it was free and public encryption programs were not so readily available.  Now I use various other programs including McAfee and Apple.  The only problem is that, in order to satisfy any enquiry into the security of the encryption, the passwords I use are all a full sentence long.  I've been using them for so many years I doubt I shall ever forget them.  But you never know.  And if that happens........

Travelling Travails

My son, Gaz, and his girlfriend are supposed to be going to Hong Kong tomorrow on their way to Auckland where they are due to arrive the day after I arrive.  I flew Quantas to Australia in 1999.  I  learned my lesson.  I've never set foot on a Quantas plane since.  When I went to New Zealand in 2005 I stayed in Hong Kong en route and flew Cathay Pacific.  The service was superb.  However since then I've flown Air New Zealand and have been well satisfied. 

So what didn't occur to me was that Gaz and Carol were flying Quantas.  Or at least that was their intention.  As readers will probably know Quantas have grounded their entire overseas and domestic fleet and locked out their staff.  Their website gives absolutely no information.

So will Gaz and Carol get to Hong Kong?  Will their holiday be ruined?  And that's just the people I care about. What about the thousands of others?  What about the Australian economy and the hit that will take?  What about Quantas?  Well time will tell but just now all I care about is my family.  No Quantas, you still won't be getting any of my business - however cheap you make your flights.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Island Isolation

My Mum always used to say that she could never have lived on Lewis because she found island life very claustrophobic.  If you consider that this is one of the most open places in the UK with huge skies where you can see the horizon on all four points of the compass in many places that can sound odd to some people.  For a while it sounded odd to me.

Recently the ferry has been disrupted a lot because of the severe weather with people either being stranded in Ullapool overnight or stranded on the Island.

Therein lies the answer to the conundrum.

When my Mum used to come to the Island there was no way to get off the Island on a Sunday: no planes and no ferries.  No way to get off in extreme weather.  Now it is rare for there to be no way off the Island on any day.  The planes and ferries travel on Sundays.  When the wind is high and confines the ferry to port the planes usually fly and when the ice and fog ground the planes the ferry sails.

However the stretch of water - nearly 30 miles between the nearest points and 50 miles between ferry ports - which separates the Mainland and Lewis (The Minch) is the very barrier which makes the Island the place that it is: wonderfully free to live in because of its isolation and terribly claustrophobic to live in because of its isolation.

New Zealand is an Island group miles away from anywhere else including its neighbour Australia and the other Pacific Islands.  Many people in New Zealand feel cut off and claustrophobic.  Many, like me, feel liberated by its remoteness.

Australia is an Island. Perth is possibly the most remote city on earth being geographically closer to both Dili (2,785 kilometres (1,731 mi)) and Jakarta (3,002 kilometres (1,865 mi)) than Sydney (3,291 kilometres (2,045 mi)), Brisbane (3,604 kilometres (2,239 mi)) or Canberra (3,106 kilometres (1,930 mi)).  I found Perth one of the most wonderful cities I've ever stayed in.

So I have come to the conclusion after that rather odd rambling post that there are two sorts of people.  Those who like living on Islands (or isolated situations such as Perth) and those who don't.  

I don't think I'll get any plaudits for coming to that conclusion.  Sorry if I bored you!

Thursday 27 October 2011

Thankful Thursday

My Thankful Thursday post will only just make it on Thursday.  I set up the post when I got up this morning but had other things to do first.  For the rest of the day I've been living in Wednesday.  It wasn't until I texted a friend a short while ago to wish her a safe journey home from France tomorrow and received a reply saying she was already home that I realised.  I am beginning seriously to wonder.....

The original building of Quarry Bank Grammar School.    
I've recently been contributing the occasional post to a Facebook page on my old Prep School, Ryebank.  On the whole I can't recall it being a particularly bad place to be although I never liked school at any stage.  It prepared me well enough to get though the 11Plus (the Grammar School entrance exam) with a high enough pass to get to Quarry Bank, my first choice of Grammar School.  At 630 pupils it was quite small and, together with the Liverpool Institute, was the most sought-after Grammar School in Liverpool.  Quarry Bank was John Lennon's school and The Institute was Paul McCartney's.  Like all pupils at Quarry at the time I had my John Lennon memories.  I wish that I'd kept his maths book that I inherited a couple of years after he'd left!

So today I am thankful for the fact that I survived unscathed from a school system which I can say without any doubt provided the unhappiest days of my life.