Tuesday 31 May 2011

I've Fallen in Love - Again

This time it's with something much safer than falling in love with a fellow human being!  I received one of my usual emails from the John Lewis Partnership (For those outside the UK this is one of the few remaining Department Stores in the UK.  It is prestigous.  It is owned by it's employees).  On display was A Farmers Cottage Rotating Sphere.  It comes as a Seater, a Lounger or a Summer House.  What a fabulous idea.  Rotate the entrance away from the wind and remain able to see the views.  If I had that in my front garden overlooking the Minch, the Scottish Mainland and the valley to Upper Bayble I would be in seventh heaven.

Close Up

Alternative View

Alternative View

Close Up

Monday 30 May 2011

Where Does Charity Begin

I have often heard people say that charity should begin at home and that whilst there are many in need in our own country then we should give to those in our own country before we give elsewhere.  This is an argument that could occupy a book never mind a few inconsequential paragraphs on this blog.  It's not an argument to which I wholly subscribe, by the way.  I don't, in any case, tend to give to charities dealing with needs of poverty per se.  I prefer those dealing with problems (like Age Concern or The Macmillan Nurses) or medical advancement or the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.  These are personal choices and we all have our own and often varying views.

It struck me this morning, however, that I actually spend a disproportionate amount of money on wildlife that would, in all probability, survive almost as well without my help.  I was looking at the two sacks of birdseed, the tub of fat balls and the tub of peanuts which are in my garden shed for the Sparrows and Greenfinches and Starlings and so on which inhabit my garden.  Lots of other birds come but, on the whole, they are insectivorous or eat worms and the like. 

From my observation the Sparrows who live under my eaves can have three broods a year and I think that is probably because of the plentiful and close food supply.  So it helps keep the numbers up here even if they are declining rapidly elsewhere.
When, however, I weigh up what all this costs per year it does make me wonder whether that money would be better given to one of the other charities.

Just a thought. 

Sunday 29 May 2011

A Paperless Environment, Books - 2

When a new boss appeared in the late 1980s one of the first things he pronounced was that within 5 years there would be very little paper in the office and most things that we did would be computerised. He set out to achieve that end. By the time he left, an almost broken man, in the mid to late 1990s the office had more computers and more paper than ever before; I suspect that over 15 years later things have not changed.

I was reminded of this by the recent debates that have been taking place over traditional books v electronic books (which, for me, means Kindle).

Dawn Treader recently posted upon the subject of books and bookshelves from our houses disappearing as a result of changing ways of reading.  As you have seen I still have plenty of books in my house: many seen but many more on boookshelves which line a wall in my loft.  The number of books I have does not disgrace the Edwards name (Mum collected books and Niece Helen collects books just to name two) but is miniscule compared with the number my brother CJ (aka Scriptor Senex) has.

I have attempted to remove some of the paper from my Study by scanning many documents (eg insurance and similar documents) and doing away with Bank Statements and just reading them on line.  I started doing the same with my diary and address books etc but have realised that as records (I have most of my diaries going back to 1967 and my address books from my schooldays) they are invaluable in paper form.

When it comes to books I have discovered that many of the books I use on a daily basis such as bird and insect books and many other reference books with illustrations are just not available electronically at the moment.  On the other hand every recipeone could ever want is available on line.

So for me there are two issues when comparing the paper book with the Kindle: convenience and comfort.  There is something undeniably comfortable about holding a book and reading it.  On the other hand the Kindle allows me to travel with as many books as I am every likely to need when I am away from a home or, as with my music collection on my iPod, allows me to carry books from one home to another without any weight in my luggage (which is an important consideration these days with such weight restrictions on air travel luggage).  

Another great advantage of Kindle is that I can read a book on the Kindle reader or my cellphone or my laptop and because they all sync I am always at the correct page in whichever book or books I am reading and I can comfortably read on the plane or in a surgery waiting room or if I'm caught somewhere unexpectedly.

So I expect that during my lifetime at least books will always be with us but that more and more books will be read on electronic readers.  I, for one, shall embrace the new technology with open arms.

But here are a few more of my books many of which will probably not be 'Kindalised' in my time:

Saturday 28 May 2011

Books - 1

A few days ago I posted from my living room which showed some of the bookcases in the house.  Years ago I was waiting for a colleague.  He had just moved in a few doors away not long after we moved to Lewis.  I was looking at his bookcase.  I have no idea at all why I asked but something made me ask if he minded me looking at his books.  He replied that he didn't like people looking at his bookcases because books were a private thing and you could learn too much about a person by knowing what books were in their bookcase.  Well that may or may not be the case.  If you can tell anything about me from these two samples of my living room bookcase you are welcome to speculate. 

Friday 27 May 2011

Miscellaneous Thoughts

I woke to sunshine this morning.  Well it was sort of now you see it now you don't but it gave me hope.  When I then watched the Scottish news and weather at 0730 the weatherchappie said something like '.... and for those of you in the West who are enjoying the sun don't worry the rain will be back by lunchtime.'  He was correct!  I've moved back from the Study where I started off the day into the cosy warmth of the living room.  Such is our weather this May.  Yuk.

After having had Pat's PC in the Study for about a week trying to replicate the problems she was having and having no problems at all it eventually decided that it could behave no longer and displayed symptoms I've never before seen in a PC.  Whether it's a hardware or software problem I have no idea but I think a re-formatting of the hard drive and re-installation of Windows is the next step.  More yuk.

New Zealand produces some splendid wine.  It's just a shame from the economic point of view of New Zealand, that the NZ$ is such a strong currency at the moment.  It's also a shame that the country has increased wine production so much over the last few years.  There is now a glut of wine worldwide caused by overproduction on one side and economic hardship of consumers on the other.  So NZ wine which had enjoyed a sort of boutique wine status is now being sold more cheaply in competition with lots of other wines.  For example a splendid South-East Australian Shiraz/Grenache  going under the name of Firetail Estate Selection is selling for half price at the moment - £4 in the UK - making it as cheap as any wine but a lot better than many and almost anything I have ever tasted at considerably more than that price.  It's a good time for wine drinkers!  For managing to buy a good supply deduct a big yuk!

My emails to my brother, CJ, have been going to his spam folder; those to a friend in New Zealand have been marked as phishing as have emails to Pat just across the valley.  I'm not sure how many other potential recipients have been experiencing that.  The problem is that if someone doesn't get an email I'm unlikely to know and so is the intended recipient. Another problem to be solved.  Another yuk. PS If my emails to you are going to spam please do let me know.

This actually started as a two-paragraph post. The first paragraph was to have been as I actually wrote above.  I've still not recalled what the second paragraph was to have been.  All I can recall is that it was to have been a non-yuk one balancing things out.  Ah well. C'est la vie.

Of course the second I've posted this I shall recall exactly what it was I was going to say.  Ho hum.

Have a good day or sleep well - depending upon when you read this.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Thankful Thursday

It's becoming harder each week to think of something new about which to be thankful.  It's not that I don't have a HUGE amount of things about which I am thankful but trying a) to think of them to order and b) to make it interesting is not so easy.   Actually it reminds me of what Richard Burton said on his wedding night when he married Liz Taylor for the second time.  He knew what was expected of him but he had no idea how to make it interesting. Ho hum.

Anyway I think I'll go for a biggie (or is it biggy? - spillchucker says biggie ) today.  OK so, yes, I am thankful for being alive and, no, I don't take that for granted.  Today I am thankful for warmth.  Now that might sound silly.  But let's think about it for a minute.  I was at a friends' recently and his ladyfriend was there so the house was cosy.  However left to his own devices his house is cooler than I enjoy.  That's because he doesn't like the heat and I do.  Conversely my house is too warm for him.

Ok I'm rambling.

The point is that when I came back to Scotland nearly a month ago I wore shorts in the garden when I was working.  Today when I went to town I wore jeans, a thick padded gilet (vest) and a Berghaus jacket with a separate down lining.  The weather is horrible.  So I've migrated from my Study with it's beautiful views and lots of light and all my computer gadgetry into my living room with it's ancient roll-top desk and books.  And I've been warm and cosy.

Actually looking at that chap in the chair I'm not sure I recognise him.  Last time I saw him from this angle he had hair!  His sleeves in New Zealand must be a bit longer as well judging by the white patch above the tan!

Anyway the point about this post is that, unlike millions, nay billions. in this world I have the wherewithall to ensure that I am warm when the outside temperature is cold.  For that I am truly thankful.

PS I'm also thankful for the small things this evening.  I dropped my camera with the lens extended.  It appears to have survived.  Oh yes.  Very thankful!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

St Clements Church, Rodel

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would do another post on Rodel Church.  In fact I shall do several.  Here is the first: of the 1528 tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of MacLeod.  I shall keep the text brief because there is lots of information on this important 15th century Isle of Harris landmark notably Wikipedia, Undiscovered Scotland (a complete misnomer in this case because Rodel Church is very discovered and essential visiting by any tourist on Harris) and Leverburgh.co.uk .

1528 tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of MacLeod,
The Holy Trinity
An angel spreads insense from a censer
A Highland Galley under sail - part of the measure of a Chieftain's power

Tuesday 24 May 2011


I have had one of those days when I've only ventured outside when I really had to.  The wind has been  cold and almost gale force and, despite the fact that the sun shone for a great deal of the day, the squalls have come through with great speed and ferocity.  So in between doing some spring cleaning and other odds and ends I've been writing.  I suddenly thought about a post I had done last month on A Hebridean in New Zealand.  Except that I'd apparently never actually posted it. 
How long does it take you to write your average blog post?  Or your average email?  Or a letter?  Or, indeed, anything.   Of course there isn't really an answer to that question other than responding by asking 'How long is a piece of string?'.  I've just written a post which has taken nearly two hours but that's not the whole story.  I had to download the photos from my camera and my phone.  I was, sort of, watching the TV News and making dinner too and in true ARADD fashion I managed to do (and not do) a number of other things as well.
I was thinking of the time it's taken because in a recent post, Terminology, on her blog, Katherine quoted, in context, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” It would appear that Mark Twain made the comment.   Apparently, however, nothing is ever truly original because Blaise Pascal (French mathematician and physicist 1623 - 1662), in his "Lettres provinciales", letter 16, 1657 said "I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short (Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte)".

The point of all that rambling is that I spent my career making sure that letters, cases, reports, legal documents, the words spoken by politicians (but written by their civil servants) etc were always clear, precise and, hopefully, open only to the interpretation (or in some cases interpretations!) that were desired.

So now that I am supposed to be writing more entertaining prose where, let's face it, no one really cares whether I have crossed the is and dotted the ts (er that doesn't sound quite right correct does it?), I find it very hard to break old habits.
To which post I was referring I have no idea but the principle holds true.  Some people read and write speedily.  Some do not.  I'm one of the slow ones.

Monday 23 May 2011

Storms and Things

It's been pretty stormy here today but, until I saw the pictures on The News I had no idea how bad it had been.  I recorded winds of about 50mph here at the house but 100mph has been recorded in central Scotland.  At the time of the 6 o'clock News 42000 households were reported as being without electricity and I think they said only 5 train services were running in Scotland.  A friend was stranded in Glasgow.  Fortunately he has a son there.  By about 7.15 the whole of the Western Isles was powerless too.  Fortunately it lasted less than a couple of hours with us.

The sea in the bay below the house gives an idea of what things were like at about 1400 this afternoon.

And then at just before 1600 the sea suddenly calmed down as the wind swung round off shore:

This is pretty rough weather for this time of year.  Impossible to believe that I was in shorts in the garden when I first came home around three weeks ago and the pier looked like this:

Sunday 22 May 2011

Cars, Punctures and Spare Wheels

In a recent post Thank You, Firestone Pauline mentioned the number of punctures that she has travelling on metaled (gravel) roads in New Zealand.  I have travelled over metaled roads and been remarkably fortunate but I was also with Pauline when she was about to take me to the airport and we discovered that one of her tyres had been completely flattened by a puncture.  Pauline's car carries a space-saving wheel which limits your speed but is quick and easy to use. 

When I arrived back in Scotland and Pauline wrote that post it made me think.  My car here doesn't have a spare wheel.  Strictly, therefore, I understand that it is not road legal in France where I travel.  I imagine that there are a great many UK cars similarly breaking French law.  I've had the Nighthawk for about - no, actually I've just looked it up - I bought it on the 28 May 2004 - and I've had it for 7 years.  Odd really because I still think of it as a new car.    I must get an MOT this week too.

Anyway as I was saying, the Nighthawk has a kit which injects stuff into the tyre in the event of a puncture.  I've never had to use it.  I've never had a puncture in those 7 years.  But Pauline made me think and I bought a space-saver wheel.  Not ideal but as the 'proper' wheel is hugely wide it would be a very tight fit in the allocated space.  There are limitations on the speed but it was only when I removed the supplied kit that I discovered that it has even more severe limitations.  It can be used at a max speed of 80kph/50mph.  If, however, I read the instructions correctly the car can only be driven for 10 minutes once the kit has been used.  Really?  Anyway reading various blogs on the subject it seems that even if you manage to get the tyre inflated with the gunge it is unlikely to be repairable once so filled. 

I think I've done the correct thing!  No more kits for me when I buy another car.  They can give me a proper wheel or lose the sale.  If I ever buy another car that is.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Yum and Yuk

Last night I went to Steve's for dinner. His partner, Suz, is up from Edinburgh 'enjoying' the dark, dreary, days that have followed the hottest, driest and probably sunniest April on record here on Lewis.  It's a strange old world.  But then I expect people have been saying that for centuries.  Suz did the cooking and after green pea and mint soup which was absolutely delicious she produce loin of lamb cooked so perfectly - just so that there was no blood (neither Steve nor I are too keen on blood oozing out of our meal) but still pink enough to satisfy a Frenchman.  It was accompanied by, amongst other vegetables, roasted beetroot.  It's the first time I can recall having roasted beetroot in this country although it's a common dish in New Zealand.  Steve keeps a substantial cellar of very passable wines.  'Nuff said.  We eventually got to bed.  A most enjoyable evening.  Yum.

I travelled home mid-morning with my wipers and headlights on.  I've been doing odds and ends in the house all afternoon with the most dreary weather imaginable engulfing the house.  It feels like the winter and I've had the central heating on since I got home.  Yuk.

Ah well.   I'm being picked up by Pat and Dave in under an hour and we're going to friends' for dinner. 

Tomorrow it's the Grand Prix from Barcelona.  I think I'll have a nice easy day and do some blogging and chill.  

It's a hard life.

Friday 20 May 2011

I Knew It Would Happen!

Actually if I'd really known it instead of suspecting it I wouldn't have put all the washing on the line 10 minutes ago!  The sun was shining.  The wind was blowing.  If it had been a bit warmer the conditions would have been ideal.  I live under big skies and can see weather coming - usually.  When the washing went out there were squall clouds around as there have been for days now as the heavy showers sweep through.  So here I was in the Study facing the sea with the sun streaming in when suddenly the squall hit from behind.  Result?  60 seconds of torrential rain and thus soaked sheets and shirts.  And in the time it's taken to type this the clouds have swept through and the sun is out again as I watch the squall move out over the Minch.  Ah well.  If it's still wet by this afternoon I'll just have to spin it again and use the tumble drier.  So much for being eco friendly.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Thankful Thursday

Where do I start today?

Nearly a couple of hours ago I received an email from an old friend (that is to say we've known each other for more years than either of us would care to count and she bears goes by the sobriquet of She To Whom I'd Entrust My Life) asking if I was ok because I hadn't blogged for several days.  That was notwithstanding that she's at their house in France and we'd spoken yesterday!   Leastways I think it was yesterday.  I wasn't wearing a watch this afternoon and eventually realised that I'd had my afternoon coffee at what I though was mid afternoon but must have been about 5 o'clock and nearly wine time!

I'm certainly not thankful for this week's weather!  But I am thankful that it showed my beloved Island in a Good Light to my visitor last week.

What else am I thankful for today?  I'm thinking hard.  It's not that I don't have things about which I'm thankful but it's not so easy to enunciate them each week.

I've been trying to sort out my summer: visits and visitors;  me to friends' and friends here to me.  It's really hard trying to organise a whole summer with so much happening.  

When I see that in print in front of my eyes I realise just how much I have to be thankful for when my biggest problem is how to organise my summer.

Two Lives

As a general rule my New Zealand life and my Scottish life manage to separate themselves in my brain emotionally.  I am frequently asked (usually in the UK) where I would wish to settle if I had to make a choice.  That's a question I always avoid answering.  

After The News this evening I happened to notice that The Phantom of The Opera was on the box and decided to put it on whilst I was finishing organising the Study (which I've been doing all afternoon) and writing my Thankful Thursday post.  Wow.  I hadn't allowed for what happened after I'd been listening (and partly watching) it for a short while.

I occasionally have the DVD on in the evening when I'm alone in The Cottage - my New Zealand home. My brain has obviously indellibly associated it with my New Zealand life.  Suddenly I was an alien in my own land.  I looked out over a familiar and loved land and seascape and experienced another life: a life from which I am, at this moment, detached.  It's an experience I will never be able to explain adequately but it is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally harrowing experiences I've had.

I suppose it's not one helped by the fact that the music and words of the work are also so emotionally charged.


Tuesday 17 May 2011

Stornoway: 21st Century

A few posts ago Adrian mentioned that the Co-op Supermarket in Stornoway was tiny which rather surprised me because I believe that it is the largest Co-op in Scotland.  I eventually got off my bum and took some photos of the store in its beautifully manicured grounds.  I also managed to taka a few inside but as taking photos iside a supermarket is a hanging offence (ask Pauline!) I had to do it on my phone and rather discretely.  I think that the 'supermarket' that Adrian saw was the town centre shop which is small and was, when I came to Lewis nearly 40 years ago, one of the two main grocery stores.  How times change.

Taken specially for Adrian - sorry they don't do a decent draught beer
This represents about 2/3rds of the store

Glimpses of a Week Gone By: Harris

A few pictures from a day spent exploring in Harris with Viv.

First Fruits Tearoom, Tarbert
Not quite B&Q or Mitre 10 Mega NZ but more character!
The Bridge to Scalpay
East Coast of South Harris
St Clements Church, Rodel, Harris - of which there will be more later
Seilabost, West Coast of South Harris
Luskentyre Sands, Harris

A wee township near Tarbert
The hills of North Harris looking North at the valley through to Lewis
Loch Seaforth -the Harris/Lewis boundarylooking East to Skye

Sunday 15 May 2011


Perhaps after last Friday I should have realised that there would be a word meaning 'fear of Friday the 13th'.  However, not even being superstitious and as it had not even registered with me that it was Friday the 13th, it's not a phobia that I can claim to have.  It was only when I read CJ's blog Words, Words, Words (and Phrases) that I even became aware there was such a word.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Frightful Friday

OK so the whole day wasn't frightful but it sure came pretty close in parts.  The Good Bits were that in the morning Viv, Pat, Briagha and I went for a walk round the Lews Castle Grounds followed by coffee at The Woodlands Centre.  Well actually they did most of the walking 'cos I met a friend and chatted for ages before meeting them coming back. In the afternoon Viv and I went up to Traigh Mhor.  The weather permitted both in between the showers so I suppose that was a Good Thing too.

Lews Castle and Stornoway Inner Harbour
Braigha at the mouth of the River Creed

Panorama of Stornoway across the Outer Harbour from the Castle Grounds
A tree feller with a sense of humour
Traigh Mhor, Tolsta
Meanwhile Blogger was down and I didn't see the comments that had been made on the last two posts and couldn't comment on anyone else's.  I shall go back and do that.  What was irritating was that the information on Blogger's own blog was very sparse.  Blogger had been down when I tried late Thursday evening so I assume that it was down for nearly 20 hours.
More of my emails have ended up in intended recipients spam folders.
My £500 HTC Desire S phone newly acquired when I returned to Scotland decided to give up the ghost on Monday and on Tuesday Vodafone agreed to replace it on Wednesday.  I didn't expect it on Wednesday 'cos of where I live but Thursday would have been reasonable.  Yesterday (Friday) evening there was no phone and a call to Vodafone elicited the information that they hadn't sent one and wouldn't be sending one either.  They hadn't bothered to tell me.  The saga is so bizarre that I shall have to do a separate post but needless to say the situation has not been resolved.

Viv went home to France.

Needless to say there were other irritations which prompted my outburst of Frightful Friday but overall and looking back from the serenity (who am I kidding in this weather?) of Saturday morning I should have just reiterated my mantra "Don't sweat the small stuff; and it's all small stuff!"  It wasn't such a bad day.  No, it really wasn't.  There.  I've convinced myself.

Thursday 12 May 2011

Thankful Thursday

This week I've had Viv, a friend from France, staying.  Viv has not been to the Outer Hebrides before so, of course, we've been doing touristy things; that is going to all the touristy places.  However, in addition to having a biologist's interest in flora and fauna, Viv is also an artist.  So to some extent I've been seeing some of the things that I take for granted in a new light.  I've also been wandering off the beaten track and have discovered a few roads and places I didn't know existed and have re-discovered places which I have not visited for over 30 years: places that I went to when I was first exploring the Island but have rarely or not been to since. 

Rather coincidentally Viv had links via acquaintanceship and art to Willie Fulton, a well-known Harris artist and campaigner.  I like his art but have not always sen eye to eye with his views.  Viv decided to call upon him and his wife, Moira.  I tagged along.  Interestingly Willie and I managed to see eye to eye on things upon which I had judged him ill.

The weather, which was wonderfully warm and sunny for a couple of weeks before Viv came, has been rather cold and very showery except for the day we went to Harris when the sun had the majority vote and the rain was banished to the sidelines.  This does not, however, seem to have dimmed Viv's enthusiasm.

So today I am thankful for personal indifference laid to rest and for a re-awakening of my vision of the Island upon which I have lived for coming up to 40 years and which I love so much.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

A Party

Friend Who Knows Too Much is on the Island for a few days.  Last evening she brought some friends to Eagleton for dinner.  Two of the friends are from Australia.  It was a very convivial evening with a great deal of serious discussion on esoteric subjects.  And if you believe that you will believe anything.  The company was absolutely brilliant and the very diverse personalities and backgrounds and experience and ages made for an evening filled with so much laughter that at the end of it my face and lung muscles had stretched beyond repair.  

It has long been tradition in my house that FWKTM and her children, when leaving the house, fill in where they think that they are on Pip's Tree.  Yesterday she had no children with her so, as the friends were leaving, we all filled in 'our' position on the Tree.

Sarah, who was taking the pic, is laughing too.  Believe me.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Ness Harbour

That's one way of dredging a harbour! Wait for low tide.  Get a digger and then dump it back over the harbour wall.  Makes sure that you've got a job for life anyway.

An Unusual Sky

As regular followers of this Blog will know the sky around Lewis changes from moment to moment.  After a Monday spent in Harris and which promised heavy rain around midday but which delivered mainly good, sunny weather, we were quite surprised when we arrived home to find the following sky facing us.  I am told that the colours are due to ice crystals in the clouds.