Sunday 31 July 2011

Behold The Sea

I love the sea. That's no secret. I live by the sea. Rarely does a day go by when I don't sit and watch it. The moods of the sea are as many and as varied as the moods of the sky. I love the sky too. In Eagleton, in particular, I live with BIG skies; 360 degree skies.

Some years ago when I was in The National Gallery in London I saw a painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela entitled Lake Keitele and I was mesmerised by the patterns in the water.

Lake Keitele by Alseli Gallen-Kallela

I see similar patterns quite frequently in The Minch from my Study window:

Saturday 30 July 2011

Crowded Beaches

The beaches of Lewis - in this case Uig in the far west - get a bit crowded - sometimes:

Thursday 28 July 2011

Thankful Thursday

This morning I set about the task of filling my pill boxes which enable me to make sure that I take the appropriate medication that the medical profession deems appropriate to keep me on this mortal coil.  It's one of those irritating tasks but one that for a short while once every four weeks saves me time each day.  However it's rather like dishwashers: they save an enormous amount of time late at night after a dinner party but the task of emptying them has suddenly become a chore.  Whilst I was filling my pill boxes I was thinking about my Thankful Thursday post.  I had intended to do a post during the week but didn't make the time and by this morning I couldn't recall what it was.  Silly me.  Then it suddenly occurred to me how grateful I am for the medicine that has ensured that I have been able to live a trouble-free life since my heart attack 11 years ago.  This medicine is provided by a national health service free of charge.

So today I am thankful for the good health that I enjoy as a result of the doctors who have attended me, the drugs which have been developed which give me that good health and the system that provides them (at no direct cost!).

And PS I'm also thankful for the 'medicine' in the bottle at the back of the picture.  The docs say that in moderation red wine is beneficial to the heart.  Amen to that.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Don't You Like Me?

In New Zealand I subscribe to a daily deals website called GrabOne.  It's good and I frequently pick up half-price deals for coffee and meals and a good many more things.  I'm selective and I'm usually picking up deals for things I would buy anyway.  But it does encourage me sometimes to go and try different cofee shops or restaurants or whatever.  As I have been in the UK for coming on for three months now I haven't been using GrabOne so I received an email a few days ago saying:

Yes I do.  It's just a temporary estrangement!  I'll be back.  I'll be back in three month actually.  Gosh.  Half time already.

A The Sun it Shone

We woke to a beautiful, warm, sunny day so CJ and I went over to the far West side of the Island in the hope of an enjoyable excursion and some good photographs.  At the Community Centre in Uig where we went for lunch (as always excellent homemade soup and as light a chocolate cake (in my case) as I've ever had we came across this notice on the door:

Says it all really!

Who Trusts Whom?

I'm writing this on a beautiful, warm, sunny morning on Lewis with sufficient breeze to keep the midges at bay.  You see.  It does happen occasionally!

I'm waiting for the plumber to come to instal the toilet etc in the mini-en-suite.  The family has been responsible for my house and business plumbing for the last 37 years.  That's quite a customer/provider partnership when you think about it.

Because it is such a beautiful day CJ and I are off to the far West side of the Island as soon as the plumber is here and under way.  It made me think, though, of a recent occasion when the BT (telephones) engineer came to work on the house and I needed to go out.  "That OK?  Do you need me?" I asked.  "Well we're not supposed to work in a house without the householder here but as I know you that'll be OK." was the response.  Er?  "Well some engineers have been accused of things you see."  Oh.  Right.  It hadn't really occurred to me that the world had altered so that those I invite into my house now have to trust me.  I'm sure it used to be the other way round.

Anyway I'm off to the other side of the Island as soon as the plumber's arrived.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

More Marmite

Anyone who has followed my blogs will know that I love Marmite: that iconic spread that you either love or hate.  In fact I have probably blogged more about Marmite than I have blogged about pigeons.  Anyway when I was away at Helen and Ian's wedding I received a present from Mark and Bryony.  What?  This or should I say these:

I've been reading the cookbook and the tips and even though I am a big user of Marmite in my cooking I've been quite surprised by some of the obvious things that I've missed.  Perhaps I would never have thought of Marmite and watercress toasted soldiers to use with my boiled egg nor would I have put Marmite in my Roquefort, prawn and pear salad (and I'm not sure that I will even now).  I already put Marmite with my baked beans and in stocks.  However there is a whole new Marmite world about to open up:  chicken, avacado and Marmite mayo wraps here I come.

The Marmite Mug turned out to be the same size as the very large Marmite jars that I buy:

This will be absolutely great for drinking, well, yes, for drinking Marmite.  You could possibly use it for ordinary tea.  But green tea with lemon, coffee, hot chocolate and the like?  I think not.  I'm sure that anything sweet would automatically taste of Marmite. Hmmm.  No thanks.  But for Marmite - absolutely!

Monday 25 July 2011

The Bridge House, Ambleside

On the way back from Exeter CJ and I stayed overnight in Ambleside (a fact I've already mentioned in relation to food!).  When I wasa youngster the family spent many holidays in the Lake District and one of the most memorable was in Ambleside!  One of Ambleside's most intriguing buildings is the Bridge House.  Bridge House was built over Stock Ghyll more than 300 years ago probably as a summer house and apple store for Ambleside Hall. The building was purchased by local people in 1926 and given to the National Trust. It is now used as an information centre for the National Trust.  Why was it built over the Ghyll?  Apparently to avoid land tax.

I looked out some photos I took back in the 1960s:

Here are some I took last week:

So far as the house is concerned it is no surprise, as it is owned by the National Trust, that it appears not to have altered in the last 50 or so years except that the doors are now green and not white.  Actually I think I preferred the white.

All Mixed Up

I'm afraid that everything 'real' life has interfered with my Blogland life over the last week but I'm snatching a few minutes to say that I'm hoping to get back to posting soon.  However things will be all over the place and my posts may bear absolutely no relation to where I am or what I'm doing at that moment.  Nevertheless I shall continue bloody but unbowed.

Now, I thought to myself, where does that come from?  I recalled that it was from a poem but by whom?  Of course Google supplied the answer.  What did we do before Google?  Who uses any other search engine?  I used to use different ones at different times but now to me search = Google.  Apart from Yahoo and Ask Jeeves (is that still alive?) I'm not sure I can actually name another off the top of my head.  I just Googled it.  Hmmm.  Interesting.

Anyway as I was saying I just Googled the saying 'bloody but unbowed' and discovered that I actually knew the poem from which it came:


William Ernest Henley, 1849-1903

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul

* translated as unconquered or unconquerable

Friday 22 July 2011


It's 2300 hours and it's such a beautiful evening that it's still light outside and light enough inside to find my way around without lights.  Apart from the cold northerly breeze this afternoon and evening this is what summer is supposed to be like.  So after dinner I sat in the conservatory in the warmth of the sun and read blogs until I was up to date.  There is no doubt that once I started living in Blogland I found being away for even a few days quite unsettling.  I love reading about all that you, my Blogland friends, do, where you go and how you interpret the world because each of us has a different take on the world we live in and a different way of expressing how we feel about it.  I, for one, also learn a lot about the places where you live.

Anyway, as is my wont, I have erred and strayed from my way like the proverbial lost sheep.  I was reading Pauline's post Last Accommodation North when I suddenly read the words "But what are plans other than more restrictions..."  Now I have been making plans for nigh on most of my life and whilst I am less of a planner now that I used to be I still plan a great deal.  Of course it isn't possible to live the sort of life many of us lead without making some plans but some of the most enjoyable things I have done in recent years (like touring Northland!) have had a large element of spontaneity in them.  So I have decided to adopt Pauline's words as one of my mantras.

Thanks Pauline.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Thankful Thursday

My phone was singing away in the kitchen.  I wondered why.  It's Thursday.  Already?  It can't possibly be a week since I was at my God-daughter's. Surely not.  Yet it is!  A week, a wedding and well over a thousand miles ago.

So this morning as I look out over The Minch and take stock I am thankful for the fact that I am able to travel and see my friends and relatives and share their lives.

But, and I'm sorry 'cos I shouldn't really be saying this, I'm not thankful for the Rock Pigeons which hoover the seed out of my bird feeders:

Soooo Much

to do and so little time.  OK I know I'm not alone in having that problem.

CJ and I arrived back in Eagleton late Tuesday evening after a fairly bumpy trip across The Minch.  'They' really should get the surface of The Minch attended to - too many potholes or was it the swell.  I'm fortunate in that I'm a good sailor but one or two went very quiet once we were out of Loch Broom and into the swell.  I can't believe that it was like that in July.

It took the rest of the evening to unpack the car and sort out the resultant mess.  I often wonder how I can travel with so much stuff when I'm in this country but travel with one small suitcase when I travel between here and New Zealand.  The answer is partly clothes: I don't need to take clothes between here and NZ.  

Yesterday was spent, as one might expect, doing the usual things one does when one arrives back from a trip away.  Of course CJ and I added to that a trip to town and The Woodlands Centre for our daily coffee and crossword fix.  Whilst I tried to bring the garden under control in the afternoon CJ sorted wedding photos.  Pat visited in the afternoon and Carol came down in the evening.  By then a most enjoyable day was drawing to a close and a catch-up phone call with Mo one of my oldest friends (which is a reference to how long we've known each other and not to her age!) in Canada was my final act before sleep took hold.

Today I will, hopefully, be back in Blogland at least for a while.

Monday 18 July 2011

Just a Toddle

Just 265 miles today from Ambleside to Spean Bridge in the Scottish Highlands. It only rained torrentially during the journey when we stopped to get out of the car. This evening the Spean Bridge Hotel chef produced The Perfect Chip: crisp on the outside and light and fluffy inside.  I ate them all.  If Spean Bridge can do it why can't Ambleside?  Home tomorrow night.  CJ and I had problems with the crossword.  Either our brains have gone on holiday or the compiler was in a bad mood when he compiled that one.  Either way we were a bit peeved because we couldn't get a paper to check the answers.  Ah well.  If that's the worst we have to worry about then we can't complain.

Home tomorrow night!

Fatuous Statements

I decided to have my annual fix of chips (fries) for dinner last night.  I just fancied some.  Crisply battered fish and chips seemed the best bet on the menu.  To quote one of my favourite movie lines (from Pretty Woman) ‘big mistake’.  The batter was just a soggy mess of semi-cooked flour and water (given that it was brown I assume that it had been frozen and heated) and the fish was tasteless and over-cooked.  The chips certainly wouldn’t have passed any test on Master Chef.

In these circumstances I feel that the management should always have such short-comings drawn to their attention.  However on this occasion I couldn’t be bothered until the waiter asked if the meal was OK.  He got both barrels from me and as CJ’s ‘mashed potato’ wasn’t mashed he got it from CJ as well.  They offered us free desert and coffee instead.  By that time despite having had no lunch and no dinner I’d lost my appetite and I rarely eat desert anyway.  The waiter could see no resolution so I asked to see the Manager.  He was busy.  Well could he please unbusy himself from the office (unbeknown to us he was the person who had been standing a few yards away serving behind the bar when all this had started) and come and sort it out.  He emerged to offer to re-fund the money for our largely uneaten meals but not without saying “Well we’ve served over 200 meals this evening without a complaint.” 

And the relevance of that fatuous comment is….? 

Sunday 17 July 2011

An Unconventional Decision: Another Edwards

Helen and Ian have, as those of you who read this blog know, just married.  When a lady marries the convention is (was?) that she adopts the surname or family name of the husband.  Ian has decided that he will adopt Helen's family name and become an Edwards. 

I think that's a really interesting approach and it's good to welcome another Edwards into the fold - particularly one as special as Ian.  

It's going to make the task of anyone researching the family tree in years to come a little 'interesting' though!

A Day On The Road

Today I drove about 370 miles from the Woodbury Park Hotel near Exeter to the Queens Hotel in Ambleside via Tintern, Hereford, Whitchurch and The Wirral (to catch up with a bag which didn't get transferred) and which included an extra 20 miles because of a closed off road in Exeter which made me travel up the motorway for 10 miles each way before picking up Cj at his hotel.  So having sort of eaten (unfortunately the main course was as inedible as any I've been offered for a very long time) and been for a walk and had a couple of cognacs I'm now ready for a (relatively) early night.  We've had a Good Day.

I'm sure that when we have arrived back on Lewis there will be plenty to blog about The Wedding which was a very memorable occasion.  It's really a day for the Bride and Groom - and so it was - but it's also a day for their family and friends - and so it truly was: a very memorable one.

But now it's bedtime.  Night night.

Saturday 16 July 2011


This morning I went for a run (in the Nighthawk - I haven't suddenly taken to physical exercise!) to Otterton Mill (where the wedding reception is to be held and where I bumped into CJ and family and had coffee)) and then to Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth.  It was a rather dull and uninspiring morning for photography but when I arrived in Exmouth I was reminded of the close bond between the two countries in which I am fortunate enough to live at the moment (sorry, Scotland, but I'm pretending the UK is a country for this purpose) by this:

I've never been one for nationalism in fact quite the contrary but this sent quite a little shiver down my spine:

The Journey to Exeter

I am ensconsed in my bedroom at the Woodbury Park Hotel near Exeter having traveled the 240 miles down from the Pennine foothills via the M6 and M5 and arrived at around 3.30 yesterday afternoon (although it seems like an age ago).  It's just over three hours to The Wedding.  My niece, Helen and her partner Ian are tying the knot.  The Nighthawk and I have official duties ferrying the Bride and CJ.  So yesterday afternoon I took The Nighthawk to get a good wash and brush up so that it would be respectable after the 5 day journey from Lewis.  I might as well not have bothered.  It's poured this morning and she's filthy again.  The roads around Exeter seem uncommonly mucky!  The garage is too far away for me to have another go and it'd probably be just as mucky again when I arrive back here.  C'est la vie.

Friday 15 July 2011


I have arrived at the lovely home of my God-daughter, Lou, and am writing this (starting it at least) while I wait for her and Gerry to come home.  The house is under the shadow of the Pennines and, although on the edge of one of the old Lancashire mill towns, it is secluded and at the end of a no-through-road road.  It's therefore very quiet - by sub-urban standards.  I am sitting in the sun in the back garden with a coffee, surrounded by plants and trees and there are no midges!

I find it hard to believe that half an hour ago I left a manic motorway system behind me.  I drove all the way down the M74 and the M6 stopping for an hour in Penrith.  The drive was fairly relaxed and, apart from a couple of maniacs driving at high speed, it was noticeable how the speed of most people was relatively law-abiding and the driving considerate.  As an aside one of the two speeding cars looked as though it had had a tyre blow out and had ploughed up a bank.  The police were in attendance.  There is a certain poetic justice in such situations.

However things changed dramatically when I got onto the Manchester urban motorway network.  Speeding, lane changing, tailgating, under and overtaking with no though for anyone else and a general lack of consideration seemed to be the norm.  I do not know those roads so if I had not had satnav in the car then negotiating the five (?) motorways I had to traverse to get round Manchester whilst coping with the traffic would have been virtually impossible.

Friday morning:  Last night we went out for a meal with Lou's Mum whom I have known since we were both aged 4.  That's a long time ago.  What an excellent night it was too.  

Life's pretty good really.

Now for the next leg of the journey to Exeter.  More motorways.  Ah well.

Thursday 14 July 2011

Thankful Thursday: Noise and Other Things

It is early morning.  I am staying with a friend, Anna, near Glasgow in a sub-urban environment.  It is quiet.  Very quiet.  In fact cocooned in a double-glazed, well-insulated house with the windows closed it is hard to realise that there is anything going on outside.  For all I know there may not be! So when I just read Librarian's comments on her blog post All that NOISE!!! I suddenly started to think.  As my regular readers and friends will know, making me think is an achievement in itself!

I'd started reading blogs this morning because, although I'm off on my travels again in a couple of hours, I thought I would try and get my Thankful Thursday post done.  Now the annoying thing is that something happened last week which made me very thankful indeed and I set out at one stage to write a TT post and schedule it for today knowing that time would be at a premium.  Somehow ARADD intervened and since then I've been unable to recall what it was.  So this morning I was sitting trying to think of a TT post subject when an angel of mercy provided one to me.

Like most, or at least many, people I find noise stressful.  I live in a rural - very rural - environment.  In Eagleton on the Isle of Lewis the most noise comes from natural causes - usually related with the weather in the form of wind and rain.  I hear relatively few birds and no agricultural noise.  The occasional vehicle turns near the house because I live at the end of the road.  Occasionally people use motor-mowers to cut their grass - I am probably the worst culprit in the neighbourhood in that regard!   In New Zealand the noises I hear are natural - the  birds are exceptionally 'noisy' - or agricultural.  I have few neighbours within earshot even when they are using things like motor-mowers.

So today, thanks to Librarian, I am thankful for the fact that I live with the noise that I want to live with, the noise of music that I initiate, and that, for the most part, I live in the 'quietness' of nature.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Scriptor Senex/CJ and Blogging Woes

For those of my Blogland Friends who also follow my Brother on Rambles from My Chair and other blogs I have some news:  there may be no posts until after CJ arrives up on Lewis which, all being well, will be the evening of Tuesday next 19th July.  Unfortunately he has no phone and no broadband and BT cannot even come and look at why the phone is not working until next week.

Boys Will Be Boys

Who says that when you get to my decade you grow up? 

A Walk To A Bridge

Yesterday Peter and Bill and I went for a walk.  A very interesting walk.  A most enjoyable walk.  We walked from Callander town centre (where the friends I'm staying with live) up to the Bracklinn Falls on the Keltie Burn and then back through the woods to the end of the town and back along the old railway track. 

The new Keltie Bridge opened in November 2010, the original bridge having been swept away by flash floods in 2004.   This 20 tonne  bridge  made of local Larch and four 12 metre long Douglas Fir trunks was brought to the site in sections, constructed on site and winched across by hand.
The view up the burn from the bridge
The Bridge from below the Bracklinn Falls

Setting off for home
A startled Roe Deer decides whether we are a threat (this was taken with the equivalent of a 660mm telephoto lens - we are not really close

Tuesday 12 July 2011


The rain it rained just as the first waterlilies of the season were making an effort to open in my pond:

The first waterlily of the season tries to make a show in the world but struggles as the rain starts
I found the raindrops clinging to the waterlily fascinating
And then came the really heavy rain and the patterns in the pond water
The waterlily seemed to be sinking in the boiling water

Saturday 9 July 2011

Summer Flowers

This year many of the flowers and bushes here are blossoming in greater profusion that I can ever recall.  On the way back from Pat and Dave's on the other side of the valley yesterday I stopped to take this view.  I can't seen the Island from my house but I can see the sweeping croft of Meadow Buttercups.  

Excuses and Luck

This morning Scriptor Senex posted on odd excuses given by sportsmen after they lost.  I wondered in my comment what happened to the good old 'He was better than I was'?  No don't misunderstand me.  I've been known to make excuses for things that have happened in my life and some of those excuses may have been outlandish.  However when I've been beaten at a game of some sort involving skill my usual response to being asked why I lost is 'He (or perhaps more often, she) was better than I was'.  Now thinking about it I can understand why people don't say that.  One of the responses I get is 'That's just an excuse'.  Er....no.  It's an explanation.  Obviously it's rarely quite as simple as that.  Sometimes there is an element of luck (good or bad) involved.  But as one of the world's former top croquet players said to me 'The better you play the more good luck people think you have.'  Thinking about it I now realise why my luck's been failing me recently.

Friday 8 July 2011

Google Confuses Me

I just received an email on my phone.  I read it.  It was sitting there on my phone for me to see.  I decided that I would respond whilst the mood was upon me.   I opened my Apple mail and it wasn't there.  Odd.  I went to my Google mail account.  It wasn't there either.  Even odder.  So (and bearing in mind the email is staring me in the face on my phone) I tried to forward it to myself so that it would re-appear on the computer.  The phone told me that I couldn't forward it because it didn't exist.  There are various scenarios (scenaria?):  that was a very strong glass of wine I had earlier; I'm going mad; Google's going mad.  I just hope that it's the last one.

Magpie Moth

I was just on the phone when I saw this Magpie Moth land on the kitchen window.  I managed to manoevre phone and camera and get two shots before it flew away.  So far as I can recall it's the first Magpie Moth I've photographed.  It may well be the first I've ever seen here.

Pest Pestering Pest

This morning the midges were so bad that even the pigeons were being hounded:

Thursday 7 July 2011

Thankful Thursday

I'm going to be thankful in advance this morning.  In 40 minutes I will be without electricity for 8 hours.  I must remember to get the car out of the garage - electric door!  That means no music and no wifi.  Argh.  Even my landline phone relies on electricity (but I keep a spare old-fashioned one for such emergencies).  I'm hoping for a dry day so that I can get the car done and some work in the garden and perhaps even break some concrete for the new drain I'm having to put in.

Ever since the Christchurch earthquake I've been very aware of how much I (and most of us in the developed world) take for granted the services like electricity and other utilities.  Today for a mere 8 hours I will lack one of them.

So today I'm thankful for the things that make our life so much easier and which we take so for granted.  Today I'll not be complaining about the lack of power.  I'll be being thankful that it's just for 8 hours.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Bloggers Block

I'm not quite sure what it is but I seem to have Bloggers Block at the moment.  It's not that there is nothing to blog about it's just that, well, to be honest I can't explain. Ah well. Some photos might help:

When Pigeons are milling around like this they look for all the world like a load of crawling insects.
This part of the garden is beginning to look presentable now despite the winds
A little froglet emerged from the pond yesterday.  It's about the size of my fingernail.
The Ravens are frolicking around on the thermals and wind this morning - it's the first time I've seen them doing it this year
Not quite sure what this one was doing there was no other being pounced upon which is as it would appear

Sunday 3 July 2011

Please Can't I Come Too?

Friday 1 July 2011

Excuse Me Please