Thursday 30 June 2011

Evening on The Water

This evening it is calm - very calm.  Midge by the million, calm.  The technician came today to service my central heating boiler.  It was calm then too for a while.  My boiler is outside.  Did I envy him his job?  No.  Definitely not.  I digressed.  This evening a group of kayakers took to the water:

The gathering
Shepherds and flock
The second gang sallies forth

Thankful Thursday

What is it about talented people?  Why do they get so much of a good thing?  I knew (still know I suppose 'cos you don't suddenly 'unknow' someone do you?) one of the world's top environmental lawyers.  I first met him years ago when he was 'just' a successful lawyer here in Scotland.  His talent was prodigious.  However he hadn't always wanted to be a lawyer.  He had the opportunity of being a professional footballer.  I have no doubt that he would have excelled at that too.  He decided on law because he realised that, as a career, it had greater longevity.  What made him stand out, though, was that he could quite happily walk and talk with kings or commoners and never feel out of place nor make them feel out of place either.  All in all he is an extraordinary man. 

I have used him as an example.  An example of people with talent - real talent.  An example of the fact that when a person possess one really exceptional talent they often possess many more as well. Secretly I often wondered why talent couldn't be shared around a bit more!

I was thinking of this because I saw another picture a few days ago by a local Doctor who is also an exceptionally talented artist.  When she produces a picture of a face you can see through the face's eyes into the subject's soul.

I know a few people who come into this category and know of many more.

Why am I doing a Thankful Thursday post on this subject when I possess absolutely no exceptional talent at all.  And, no, this is not me being modest.  One thing I learned very early on in life was to recognise and work with my limitations (which, very unfortunately, are many).

So today I am thankful for the fact that I did recognise those limitations early on in my life because that recognition has enabled me to live very happily within the ability I do have without constantly yearning or striving for unattainable goals.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Never Happy

This morning it's sunny and warm at 19℃ here in Eagleton and there is only a very slight breeze.  In most places that would be regarded as pretty idyllic.  A news item last night on the Scottish News said that because of the severe winter we've just had the midges will be three times as bad as usual this year.  Why?  Apparently the midges had been relatively unscathed by the weather whilst their predators have suffered.  So when I ventured out of the house for a few minutes this morning I was surrounded by the little buggers.   Today may be an indoor day unless I decide I have to go out fully clothed and in my midge suit.  

A camper on a Loch Lomond camp site asked if he could be moved to a stand without midges.  "Try England" was the response.

Welcome to Scotland.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Found it!

I have been digging a trench to try and find the wastewater outfall pipe.  I dug a longish trench where I though it was and several metres either side.  I had no success although I couldn't see how it could possibly have been anywhere else.  I assumed, therefore, that the trench must need deepening although it was already significantly deeper than the depth of the manhole in front of the house.  I popped into the plumbers today to say that I was still looking and I'd place my order for the new en suite when I found the outfall.  One of the chaps there suggested that I use dowsing rods.  

Now I have a friend who dowses.  I'm not sure that he believes dowsing always works but I have seen many occasions when he has tried it when I've been there to witness it and it has worked.  As to why he has no idea and I certainly don't.  Scientific studies have shown that success with dowsing is no greater than the success of finding something by chance.  I wonder (as an aside) whether it has something to do with the person who is dowsing.

Anyway I decided that I had nothing to lose so I cut up a couple of wire clothes hangers, turned on the taps so that I had running water in the pipes and went forth and dowsed.  I walked around with the rods across the line where the drain had to pass below which included a little trench I'd dug after breaking an area of concrete.  It refused to work.  I went along the big trench I'd already dug and it  didn't work there either.  As the pipe had to pass somewhere there I decided dowsing wasn't one of my skills.  However I decided to give it another chance.  All of a sudden in a place where I hadn't walked before the rods moved inwards and crossed.

I decided there was nothing to lose by breaking more concrete and getting rid of some frustration.  About a foot down after having removed a considerable amount of stone over I came across a paving slab.  I removed a lot more concrete and stone and the paving slab and there, directly under where the rods had crossed was a manhole.

Well I still have no idea whether dowsing works or why the rods crossed at that point on this occasion but I found the manhole so do I really care?  No.  Not really.  Will I be offering my services?  No.  But I wouldn't rule dowsing out if I were looking for another water pipe.

Monday 27 June 2011

Worra Wouser Day

What a great day it's been.  Now many people may think that what I am about to say doesn't back up the statement I've just made but for me it truly does.

Firstly the sun shone all day and there was a force 3 to 4 wind all day too.  The temperature even managed to get up to 15℃ for a while although it felt colder in the wind.  The butterflies were flying though so it was over 12℃.  This meant that it was ideal for drying washing and it kept the midges away so I could work in the garden.

So by lunchtime I had four loads of washing done and almost dry. 

I spent a lot of the day in the garden and made a start on cleaning the Nighthawk's paintwork ready for a good waxing.  I also ironed all the washing and watched Wimbledon.

Andy Murray is through to the quarter finals.

Tonight as the sun went down (about 1020 pm) I came to bed to write this post, make a phone call to Canada and perhaps read.

In fact by 2345 I had done most of the things except made the phone call and read.  I had, however, managed to fall asleep for a while.

I'm tired.  Very tired.

Night night.

Chirk Castle

I can't believe that it's over two weeks since CJ, Jo and I visited Chirk Castle at Chirk near Wrexham in North Wales.  It seems like an age ago and yet it seems like yesterday (or perhaps the day before yesterday):

Saturday 25 June 2011

The Butt of Lewis

On Thursday Anna and I went up to the Butt of Lewis: the most northerly point of the Island and, at one time (perhaps still) familiar to listeners of the Shipping Forecast.  We stopped, as I invariably do, at the Morven Gallery on the way back for coffee and to see what was new.  I assumed that at some time in the past I would have blogged about the lighthouse at the Butt but I can't find one so I shall re-visit that topic some time.

The weather at the Butt was excellent with only a light wind and a very warm sun - the temperature actually reached 12℃ 54℉ according to the car's dashboard reading.  However the sea was boiling!

Friday 24 June 2011

Lady's Mantle

I have been getting rid of this plant in the garden thinking that it was a weed.  Silly me.  It's Lady's Mantle (Alchmeilla) and a very hardy perennial well suited to life in my salt-laden windy garden.


Well there's a surprise!

Thursday 23 June 2011

Thankful Thursday

I may well have posted these photos before.  Then again I may not have done so.  Unfortunately memory is not one of my strong points.  In fact I can't even remember what my strong points are or were.  However as this is about being thankful I will explain the relevance of the two photos.  The mountain or hill is The Clisham.  It's a Corbett at 799 m or 2621 ft.  This photo was taken in 2004 which is the last time I climbed anything significant.  Recently I have been feeling a bit sad that I am unlikely ever to be able to climb such a hill again.  Actually I probably could climb up it with some difficulty but I would be unlikely to be able to get down again.  Why?  Well if I tell you that I sometimes get comments on the noise my knee sometimes makes when I walk across a room you'll get the picture.  This is not a 'poor me' post.  I can get on perfectly well with my knee as it is and I'm not in significant pain most of the time.  But it does have its limitations.

However this is a Thankful Thursday post and looking back at all I've done and all the hills I've walked I am very thankful that I had those experiences.  There are a great many people who have never been able to walk at all; many who have been injured and cannot walk now; many who are just getting older.

Yes.  I am very thankful.

Gaz, laid back as ever, just ready for a stroll up The Clisham having climbed Mont Blanc a few weeks previously.
On top of The Clishsm

Wednesday 22 June 2011

A Most Unusual War Memorial

Yesterday Anna, a visiting friend, and I went over to the Callanish Standing Stones because it was something she had wanted to do at the Summer Solstice.  This was not, I would add, for any of the ritualistic or other reasons that many had gathered to see the solstice at the Stones but simply something she wished to do. 

At Garynahine just before we arrived in Callanish I happened to notice behind some trees and shrubs what looked like a model of a Cormorant.  Having stopped the car and investigated I discovered a fairly new and very unusual War Memorial:

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Norton Priory

CJ and I visited Norton Priory.  Only the 12 century Undercroft survives from the original priory.  However the bases of the walls and ruins have been excavated. 

The Priory was built in 1134 for a community of Augustinian Canons who lived and worshipped here for over 400 years.  In 1536 the Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII when life at Norton changed for ever.  The estate was sold to the Brooke family in 1545 and Norton Hall became a family home.  Thirteen generations of the Brooke family lived here from 1545 to 1921 when the family left and the mansion house was demolished.

The ruins with the rescued Undercroft in the background (the window in the roof is to enable an overview of the ruins.)
Sorry about the chairs Adrian!
This was the entrance with a cycle path in front.  I couldn't resist the novel warning sign.

Signs don't come like this very often.  Brilliant!

Sunday 19 June 2011

What Happened?

Yesterday was a fabulous day:  full sun all day.  There was a very brisk force 4 or 5 wind too which was great for keeping the midges away.  I think that I shall go away more often because I had three days of idyllic garden weather when I returned from New Zealand.  Anyway I spent the whole day in the garden (with a couple of quick coffee stop visits to friends) either gardening (which is what one would expect) or digging a trench so that I can find the waste outfall from the house (which is not perhaps what one would expect).

I spent a little time later in the evening with a book soaking up the sun in the conservatory.  The evenings here at the moment are long - sunset is after 2230 - and as there was not a cloud in the sky it was still reasonably light when I eventually went to bed at 0200 this morning.

I expected to be tired and stiff when I woke this morning because I've not indulged in that sort of physical labour for a while.  I was surprised to find that I was neither tired nor stiff.  I must exercise more often!

What did surprise me though was that in those few hours the sun had disappeared and the clouds and rain were back and the midsummer temperature is a stately 13℃.  And the mid night mid winter temperature in Napier?  12℃.  Mark commented on my Hebridean in New Zealand blog that I would have to take a decision about where my permanent home was going to be.  Just at this moment, if I had a choice, it might be a no-contest decision.

Saturday 18 June 2011

My Own Bed and A Pod of Porpoises

Written last night before I fell asleep!

I love being away and staying with friends and family.  Which is exactly what I've been doing since the start of the month.  I also like my own home and friends are always welcome to come and share it with me.  So today I wended my way home from Glasgow and I am writing this at 1am in my own bed.

The journey was pretty awful: the construction of a new length of motorway between Glasgow and Stirling completely fooled me and the sat nav and I couldn't find my way onto it.  Eventually I got onto the Stirling carriageway by following the Glasgow sign (Glasgow being in the opposite direction) and trusting to instinct.  To make everything worse it rained or poured from Glasgow to within a few miles of Ullapool and the end of my Mainland journey where I catch the ferry.  However that wasn't the worst thing.  The average speed of many drivers - and the A9 road from Glasgow to Inverness is not a fast road at the best of times - was often no more than 30 to 40 mph.  That can increase a journey time by at least 25%.  It's a good job I started out early otherwise I may well have missed the ferry.

When I was a small boy my Dad told me always to take my camera with me.  For 60 years I've been obeying that advice and rarely is my camera far from me.  Now with the advent of the 5Mp camera in my cellphone I sometimes don't have the camera slung over my shoulder or have the compact camera in my pocket.  The cellphone camera is almost as good as my Canon compact.

However when a pod of porpoises shows itself racing alongside the boat across the Minch I need my long lens and my 'proper' camera.  Today I left the camera in the car - inaccessible in the boat's car deck.  So it was today that a pod of porpoises showed themselves and it was today I didn't have my proper camera with me.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Thankful Thursday

It's the end of the day.  I hadn't even realised that it was Thursday until I read/listened to Jaz's vlog.   In fact I wouldn't have read Jaz's blog nor, indeed, anyone else's blog if I hadn't read Mark's comment on Facebook that Jaz had done a vlog and I was curious to see what one was.  So now I know.  

Jaz I am overawed by your courage in doing the vlog and I'm wondering if I will be able to muster the courage to do the same.   And Jaz, it was wonderful to see you looking so beautiful, happy and well.  Long may it continue.

The last seven days has been very mixed in many ways:  what I've done and where I've been;  what I've read and what I've seen;  what I've experienced and how I've reacted.  In short it's been a fairly typical week in many ways.

One of the things that I have done a few times during those seven days is complain.  I complained because I was cold and wet in the croquet tournament at the weekend and had to wait so long between games when I was cold and wet.  I complained because of the weather during the week and because I was cold.  I've complained about a few things.  OK some of these complaints were not so much complaints as general grumps.

Then I was made aware of just how much some of my friends really have to complain about.  Then I read Fiona's Blog about the ongoing problems caused by the earthquakes in Christchurch.  Then I heard from a friend whose daughter ...... and another friend who's father is in hospital ...........  I could go on but I won't.

This evening when I saw Jaz I realised just how much courage and fortitude she has.  When I read Fiona's blog I realised how much courage and fortitude she and so many in Christchurch have. And how little they complain compared with how much about which they have to complain.

So tonight I am thankful for those around me who make me realise just how fortunate I am,  give me a true reality check and make me stop and take stock.

Thanks guys.

People and Toast

There are three types of people in the UK:  those who eat their toast hot with the butter melted into it (yuk); those who eat their toast cold with the butter on top (yum); and those who fall into neither of those categories.  This is a totally impartial post.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

A Day in Glasgow

Written: Tuesday 14th June

The Nighthawk went into the Car Hospital today at 0800 so I was left with no transport.  I caught a bus (one of those big things which hold lots of people, stops a lot and swarm all over the City) from the Hospital into the City Centre and then caught another one out to The Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.  Anna came there for lunch and then took me to collect the Nighthawk.

When I got into the City Centre first thing this morning (ie around 9am) I decided to have some breakfast.  On Sauchiehall Street I found Bradford's Tea Room (it's also a bakery) with a very enticing menu.  Like so many of these places in the UK it promised much more than it delivered.  Its bacon roll might have been delicious but as they had no Earl Grey tea and the coffee came in a paper cup I declined their offer and went elsewhere.

I was once a member of the former Scottish Royal Automobile Club (an old-fashioned Residential  Club in Blytheswood Square in the centre of Glasgow).  As it had closed some years ago I wondered what had become of it.  Well it is now The Blytheswood Hotel and a very exclusive place it is too.

The SRAC Arms are still on the wall
'Motherless' about which I have blogged before.
Portrait Head by David Gauld about 1895.  Out of the thousands of pictures this one always captures my heart
Add caption
From the sublime to the ridiculous!
At 1pm most days there is an organ recital.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Stiltwalkers in Durham

When I was in Durham there was a real carnival atmosphere on the Saturday morning.  These stiltwalkers were making their way through the crowds and traffic.  I've seen plenty of stiltwalkers at parades in New Zealand but I can't recall seeing them in the UK before.

Monday 13 June 2011

Gateway to a Walled Garden

The walled garden concerned is at Norton Priory.  CJ has blogged about it and I shall doubtless do some more posts too.  This gate really captured my fancy because I love gates and doorways.  I'm not a person of great imagination so I don't look and wonder what lies behind.  I just love them for that which they are.

Saturday 11 June 2011

A Grump

I'm afraid I have to apologise to the Thankful Fairies and the Keeper of the Glad Games today.  I was a Grump.  I'm not often a Grump.  Leastways I don't think I am.  Although there are occasions....  Today was one of them.  It was the Scottish Golf Croquet Open Championship Tournament.  Sounds grander than it is.  Last year I came second.  That was probably more of an achievement than the previous year when I won.  Although I would say that when I won it was the day after I finished my radiotherapy treatment.  Had the tournament been the day before or the day after I would not have been capable of playing.  It's a funny old world.  Anyway, as usual, I digress and am rambling.

Today started really well.  The sun shone.  It was almost bordering upon warm.  I was playing really well.  Then the clouds came.  The wind went cold.  The rain started.  Heavily.  My play deteriorated.  Then I had to wait , wet and cold, for about 90 minutes for my next game.  By the time I was back on the lawn I was cold, wet and stiff and my wrist was bandaged and sore.  I was a real Grump.  I lost my next game 0:7.   I was even grumpier.

Then the rain stopped.  It got a bit warmer.  It was early evening by this time and I had one more game.  One game away from some spag bol and a glass of wine.  I won.  It was the deciding game to take me into the last four tomorrow.  The competition is fierce.  I shall be playing one of the UK's top 20:  best of 3 at 0930.  

I'd better have an early night tonight.

The Journey

In Durham's Millenium Square is a sculpture: The Journey by Fenwick Lawson. The bronze of the original wooden sculpture 'The Journey', by the renowned sculptor Fenwick Lawson who is County Durham born and a City of Durham resident. The sculpture is in Millenium square just off Claypath near to the Market Place and it depicts the journey of monks, fleeing Lindisfarne Abbey (Holy Island) off the Northumberland coast. They are carrying the uncorrupted body of St Cuthbert to it's eventual destination at Durham. The monks were forced to flee Lindisfarne in A.D. 875 because of continued attacks there by the Vikings.

A Few Images from Durham

Actually these are the sort of images one could find almost anywhere but I thought that I'd share them anyway:

Unusual burgers for the UK!
I though this was a rather attractive, imaginative, practical and unusual set of railings
Dad used to call me a Mugwump.  No one in the shop knew why it was so called.  One girl (for that she was) said she thought it was someone who sat on a fence (literally rather than actually) and that quite a few people came in and said their parents had called them one. You need to Wiki it for a fuller explanation.  The little door to the right hides a splendid cellar restaurant where we had dinner - the best restaurant pan-fried duck breast that I have ever tasted.
This one is to amuse my New Zealand friends