1 EAGLETON NOTES: August 2011



Wednesday 31 August 2011

On Being Called EdwardEs

Nephew-in-law, Ian Edwards, posted on Sunday about the troubles he has with his name.  He decided when he married my niece to adopt her surname name instead of her adopting his.  However it has not been straightforward.  I've never had problems with mis-spelling of my surname although in Napier I am sometimes asked if my Edwards has a second 'e' because there is an Edwardes Road in Napier.  This has reminded me that I had written a piece some time ago and it's been lurking for a long time as a draft post.  So here it now is!

The idea for this post is not new.

Nor is it unique in its application to my name.  It could be Miller instead of Millar or Thompson instead of Thomson.

The matter was originally brought to mind by a letter I received.  The letter annoyed me.  Not by its contents but because of its address.

My name is Edwards.  But the letter was addressed to Edwardes.  I am, I confess, a little sensitive about that extra E.  When I see it stuck onto the end of my name I am conscious of an annoyance altogether disproportionate to the reality of the situation.

The Edwardeses are as good as the Edwardses.  There is nothing to choose between us.  We are all the sons of some Edward or other.  Why in heaven's name someone along the way had to stick an extra E into his name, though, I fail to understand.

It is probably pride on his part.  Just as it is pride on my part not having that E.

But whatever the origin of the variations we feel a pride attaching to our own particular form.  We feel an outrage on our names as we feel an outrage on our persons.

It was such an outrage that led to one of Robert Louis Stevenson's most angry outbursts.

An American publisher had pirated one of his books.  But it was not the theft that angered him as much as the mis-spelling of his name.  "I saw my book advertised as the work of R L Stephenson and I own I boiled."

I feel at this moment a touch of sympathy for,  or is it with, that snob Sir Frederick Thesiger.  He was addressed one day as 'Mr Smith' and the blood of all the Thesigers boiled within him.

"Do I look like a person with the name of Smith" he said and passed on.

And as the blood of all the Edwardses boils within me I ask "Do I look like and Edwardes?"

Yet I suppose one can fall in love with the name of Smith as with the name of Thesiger if it happens to be one's own.

I should like to see the reaction of Sir F E Smith if someone were to have called him Sir Frederick Thesiger.

But perhaps there is another reason for the annoyance.  To misspell a person's name is to imply that he is so obscure or negligible that you do not know how to address him and cannot take the trouble to find out.

And whether we like it or not there is something within us all which rebels at the thought that we are not even worth that much effort.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

All's Quiet on the Eagleton Front

At just after midday CJ and Jo left for Ullapool and a leisurely journey taking about 4 or 5 days to get home through the West Highlands and the Lake District.  After a wet morning the rain stopped and a breeze got up and the sun peeked out occasionally so I manage to get the washing all done and dried and some maintenance done outside before dinner.

It's a strange feeling after 6 weeks with CJ and then CJ and Jo here to have no one in the house tonight except me.  A friend will be here tomorrow night and then I have about 10 days to get things done in the house and garden before I leave for Glasgow and France and a wedding in Callander at the end of the month.

Yesterday I managed to sort out all my travel arrangements and also discovered that my flights for NZ had all been altered too.  Hopefully all is now sorted and I can relax.

The upshot of all this is that I've hardly been in Blogland since last Friday.

Hopefully I'll manage to make up for that over the next 10 days!

In the meantime I'll leave you with a wave:

Friday 26 August 2011

A Charm of Starlings

CJ posted today on the term A Charm of Starlings and explained how the term came about.   It has always seemed to me to be a most inappropriate term for these noisy, quarrelsome and usually objectionable birds (beautiful though some may consider them).  Given that the word charm arose somewhere before the middle of the 19 century and has now fallen into desuetude perhaps we should use another collective noun.

How about A Quarrel of Starlings?  Any ideas? 

Thursday 25 August 2011

Thankful Thursday

My Sister-in-Law, wifely partner of CJ, is due to arrive at any minute on this absolutely glorious late summer evening.  It's been a really full day.  I took CJ down to the ferry terminal earlier this evening so that he could get some photos of the incoming ferry. Partner-Who-Drinks-Tea will pick him up and bring him home.

After I'd deposited CJ I drove home over the moor and I was gripped with an awareness of the enormity of the stillness, silence and vastness that can envelope tiny insignificant me in this immense world.  On an Island so often beset by the noise of wind and sea, the silence this evening was overpowering.

I sat in the car and listened to the silence and thought.  I thought about Thursday; about Jaz and the worry she and Mark have just gone through as they will every time she's unwell; about being asked to help a friend to do something which gave me a sense of usefulness; about a friend who is desperately unhappy; about a cat who is part of the family and who is now in pain with his cancer and who's life will end on Monday; and about the fact that about 240 million people lost their lives in conflicts in the last century.

I sat in the car looking at the vastness of the Island and the sea which I could see surrounding it and I realised something curious: that the emotions created by the loss of a special family cat are just as significant - perhaps even more significant - than the loss of 240 million people whom I never knew.

So why is this a Thankful Thursday post?  Do you know I'm not really sure. 

However as I sat there looking at the vastness and listening to the silence I knew that, for whatever reason,  I was thankful for being alive and for being able to have those thoughts.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Greenfinch Close Up

Adrian posted a picture of a Greenfinch a day or so ago.  Adrian would possibly say it was a passable picture but it really is very good.  It made me look closely at the image, particularly at the eye.  Then it made me go back and look at some of my pictures.  I suddenly realised there is more to the beautiful Greenfinch than I'd taken in.  So I decided to post a few more.

A softened muted picture showing the strength of the beak in relation to the head and body
Who's a pretty boy then?
A youngster or female - or both
Dropped it?
Definitely got it this time

Tuesday 23 August 2011

A New Original?

The Lands End catalogue popped through the door yesterday.  I was about to throw it into the re-cycling bin when the caption on the front caught my eye (as it's meant to do and, yes, I only have one eye which can discern letters!) so I had to open it and find out what the question was.  Not that I expected it to be interesting.

I was not disappointed.  It wasn't interesting.

Nor was the next bit:

HOWEVER CJ and I just couldn't stop the amusement when we saw:

Next we'll be able to pre-order the new originals. But it got better (or is it just CJ and I?) when it said that one of the Lands End selling points - no-iron finishes - didn't apply here so they can be worn "with a blazer....or casual polo"  Surely the implication here is that the no-iron finish is inferior.  Surely not?!

But then we discover that the no-iron finish only lasts for 50 washes.  So what magical event takes place between 49 and 51?

OK I'm sure it's just us.  And it did make me take notice.  But.....

We Have Sheep Too

It's not just the occasional cattle that block the road.  Sometimes it's sheep:

Shepherding at Rodel, Isle of Harris

Monday 22 August 2011

Harris Roads

The road down the East side of the Isle of Harris is tortuous because the coastline is a mass of small inlets with lots of rocky outcrops and very little flat land.  The area is sparsely populated and the road is not only tortuous but also narrow with passing places and plenty of blind bends...and other hazards:

An impasse
An impressive piece of beef capable of making a mess of the car if he got upset

We Went To Harris Today

Unfortunately CJ's reputation for bringing the sun has been tarnished this visit and the weather's not been sunny enough for photos recently for us to make the trip down to Harris.  Until today.  So we were out early and in Tarbert for coffee a few minutes after 10am.  I've little doubt that as CJ took over a thousand photos (so he reckons he'll have a few worth showing) that you'll be able to follow our journey on his Hebridean Blog.  I'll probably do a few posts too but first I thought I'd show you one of our beautiful Harris beaches with Cj doing what he spends a lot of time doing:

Horgabost, Isle of Harris (with a little blob near the water's edge)
The little blob using telephoto - I'm using the telephoto, not the little blob!

Sunday 21 August 2011

Water Soldier - A Post For Helen

Stratiotes is a genus of submerged aquatic plant commonly known as water soldiers. A characteristic of the genus is the habit of the plants rising to the surface at flowering time.  I bought a couple a year or two ago when I was in Exeter.  They seemed to like each other and lots of new ones ensued.  This year I arrived back from New Zealand and they seemed to have disappeared.  But one seems to have survived and become larger and more splendid than its forebears.  I'm excited that next year it may even bear a flower.

Saturday 20 August 2011

I've Started So I'll Finish

Yesterday morning started off beautifully sunny but the forecast was for rain coming up from the South-west by lunchtime.  So we decided against Harris (will we ever get there in the sun before CJ goes home?) and made an early start for Tolsta which, by road, is only about 22 miles away on the other side of Broad Bay (and half that in a straight line - in which, despite the saying, crows do not generally fly). 

Traigh Mhor must rank amongst the most beautiful beaches in the Country for size and remoteness.  I am ashamed to say that although I have lived for the best part of four decades on this Island I had, until yesterday, only once walked the length of the beach.  CJ and I started off yesterday with a leisurely stroll at the Northern end exploring, for me, the coves where we and friends used to take our children for afternoon and picnics.  It is only seven miles from the original family home.

After a while strolling in bare feet (I've lived in New Zealand too long to wear shoes or even jandles on a beach) I found myself drawn towards the far end of the beach.  The going is quite difficult because the sand on that beach is quite soft even just on the tide line so if I wanted to walk at a reasonable pace there was a lot of energy to be expended.  There was something in my head, however, which would neither let me stop nor turn back.  What puzzled me when I was within about 4 or 500 yards of the cliffs was how they seemed to get further away every time I looked at them but my mind allowed me no choice so I kept going the one and a half miles until I reached the cliffs at the end.

Then I had the return journey.  I rarely go long walks these days whilst I'm on Lewis so this was a welcome experience and achievement.  It helped that there was no strong wind continually to make my eyes water nor to require a battle in order to proceed.  I must do it again.  I must!

The red dot to the left is the car park.  The blue dot is the furthest point of my walk
At the car park end of the beach - Northern end looking South-east
A cove at the northern end where we used to have picnics with the children over 30 years ago - it hasn't changed!

The river is a rich golden brown from the peat washed down from the hills

The coastline to the North is rugged and uninhabited between here and Ness
The sand was soft and made walking difficult
Looking back with only a few hundred metres to go to the furthest point

It seems a huge cliff - it IS a huge cliff!
Looking back from the furthest point of the walk - just a mile and a half back to the car!
Another little cove we used to picnic in with the children - at low tide!

Friday 19 August 2011

Great Northern Diver - Another One

It seems that CJ and I are constantly in search of that perfect shot - completely unattainable, of course - of any bird that we see: especially uncommon ones.  So far as we are concerned Divers are not common.  So far this last few weeks we've seen Great Northern Divers in (relative) profusion and also a Red-throated Diver (and possibly a Black-throated one too).  They tend to be quite a long way off shore though so a good shot has been difficult.  When we were driving along The Braighe (between Eagleton and Stornoway) yesterday I saw a Great Northern Diver just out of the water on the edge having a little siesta.  A hurried stop of the car (if one can do that) and a quick walk back and we managed a few shots before it sailed off into the distance.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Thankful Thursday - International Edition

Some of you will know that I've been having a clear-up and a clear-out of the loft.  Not everything is going of course.  Lots of things are just being looked at and replaced.  Memories can be such interesting things.  I'm not a great dweller on the past but, like most people, when something triggers a happy memory I like sharing it.

When the children were young we used to go and stay with friends in West Berlin for October and sometimes we paid other visits too.  That was before The Berlin Wall came down in November 1989.  I'm not sure exactly when I was next in Berlin without looking it up but it was when the wall was still being pulled down.  As I watched, the opportunists around were breaking pieces of the wall into very small pieces and selling them.  I actually did have a few pieces of the ordinary wall but the choice pieces of the painted wall (a lot of the surface of the wall on the West Berlin side had been 'decorated'  in bright colours) were being jealously guarded.  So I paid up and looked happy.

So today I am thankful that a country was re-united and that the friends that I had and have from both sides of the Berlin Wall have a life that they might otherwise never have known.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Minch Moonlight

The sky was clear enough to see the moon last night:

A Really Really Good Day

The weather yesterday was absolute crap (a well known Kiwi technical term) and the Midges were hell but it was a REALLY GOOD DAY.  Why?  Because:
The house main stop tap started to leak at about 0915 (which would destroy the wood on the kitchen floor in no time) but the plumber arrived and had it fixed within 35 minutes of it happening.

CJ and I went to The Woodlands and Katherine found CJ a Florentine and me a Tunnocks Tea Cake (none of either on display), CJ's lattĂ© was exactly as he likes it and we finished the crossword.  In fact we finished all the crosswords we set out to do yesterday.

The plumber came again in the afternoon and fitted a new part to the toilet cistern (I've been meaning to have that done since I got back at the end of April).

The joiner came and re-hung the conservatory door which had gone out of true, letting the wind whistle in when it was strong.

I went up into the loft above my bedroom and dropped a cable down the wall from the booster in the loft and fitted a TV aerial socket in the wall.  I've been meaning to do that for two years.

We went for dinner to Pat and Dave's and had an excellent meal (as always) and then watched photos taken by Kate on the television which we'd been meaning to watch for ages.

I even managed to do other odds and ends and sort some photos.
Ah yes.  It was a Good Day.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Oops - An Apology

I'm sorry Mr Weatherman.  Within 30 minutes of me saying that the sun had come out at 0930 the sky had returened to that grey colour one gets used to here and it has stayed that way ever since.  In fact it is greyer and mistier than ever.  And - and here Cynthia's words are ringing in my ears - the midges are so bad that in the 5 metres between the car and the house we were besieged.

So I think that whilst I'm in apologetic mode I should apologise to Cynthia too.  Cynthia said recently:

"I have a friend in Scotland who says that “midges” keep tourists off of the island he lives on in certain months of the year.  That could possibly be a boon to the locals’ privacy.  It sounds like midges are the ultimate tourist deterrent!  I know that when I go to visit in some distant moon, I will schedule the trip in the midges’ “OFF” season."  The comments (on Facebook Networked Blogs) went:

  • Graham Barry Edwards The midges aren't that bad. No really! Well ok they can be a real nuisance but only on the calm muggy days and they are not so frequent. This year we were told that they would be really really bad but they've not been bad at all.
    09 August at 23:17 · 

  • Cynthia L. Hines OK, Graham! If you insist! ;^)
    10 August at 00:18 · 

  • Graham Barry Edwards Well they are only little anyway. How could they possibly harm us. Hmmm. Seriously I find them more of an irritation than anything 'cos they get in your ears and eyes. It's the French no see ums that cause me serious grief and sometimes the NZ sandflies. I suppose it can be a case of what you are used to.
    10 August at 09:22 · H

Had it been today I would not have said that!  Definitely not!

A Tiny Camera

"Well look at it this way" I said to myself this morning at 7am when the weatherman on the TV said that the rain (which had already been coming down for the previous three hours at least) wouldn't be clearing from the Hebrides until this evening "that's another opportunity to get on with things in the house."  So apart from our usual foray into town CJ and I have all day to get on with 'things' until we go out across the valley to friends for dinner and I have no temptation to go and concrete or cut grass or things like that. What a shame!

One of the things I will finish off is clearing the loft.  I spent a lot of yesterday going through my box of 'things from the past'.  One of those was the Ensign Midget miniature camera which our Uncle Eric took round Italy during the Second World War and with which he took many many hundreds of photos which, unfortunately, were to us when we sorted through them, completely unidentifiable.  Even by today's standards it is a small camera.

The last image shows it next to the VPK (Vest Pocket Kodak) which I 'inherited' from my Mother at a very early age (she went on to use a Kodak Box Brownie) and was, I think, the first non-plate camera which I used before I went onto a more 'modern' camera in my teens.

Doubtless you have not seen the last of the camera posts.

Oh and by the way, it's 0930 and the sun is shining.  The weathermen at 0700 were only half a day out with their predictions.  But that's the Hebrides for you.

Monday 15 August 2011

What if?

What if the Hokey Kokey is really what it's all about?


The birds suddenly disappeared from the garden - all of them including the pigeons.  Aha, I reasoned in one of my more lucid moments of thought, there must be a bird of prey around.  Sure enough as I looked down into the valley from the Study window there was a Sparrowhawk coming up the valley.  Good eyesight these birds have and a good early warning system too, I thought.  The said bird settled down on a fencepost some three or four crofts away.  It then flew from fencepost to fencepost just as a bird of prey does.  Something, however, was not right.  It wasn't sitting up like a bird of prey but down - like a Cuckoo.  But it's a bit late for Cuckoos.  Well, not actually.  The older birds leave the Island in July but this year's young don't leave until August.  Closer inspection through the spotterscope confirmed that it was a Cuckoo.  Unfortunately it was a long way off and even with the 660mm equivalent lens the dull day meant that the pictures were poor.  But they confirm a Cuckoo.  It's the first time I've seen a Cuckoo from the house though I hear them a lot earlier in the year.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Heron, Castle Grounds, Stornoway

Imperious and Regal
What's going on over there?
Off to investigate!

Saturday 13 August 2011

Optical Illusions: The Spinning Dancer

Katherine at The Last Visible Dog posted On Paradoxes a few days ago.  It set me thinking.  Not just the post but in particular the optical illusion illustrated.  Optical illusions fascinate me.  Something has to I suppose.  Escher, obviously, can always leave one wondering about perspective and illusion.  However for me one of the most fascinating that I've seen recently is The Spinning Dancer  also known as the silhouette illusion.  This is a kinetic, bistable optical illusion resembling a pirouetting female dancer. The illusion, created by web designer Nobuyuki Kayahara, involves the apparent direction of motion of the figure. Some observers initially see the figure as spinning clockwise and some counterclockwise.

File:Spinning Dancer.gif

If the foot touching the ground is perceived to be the left foot, the dancer appears to be spinning clockwise (if seen from above); if it is taken to be the right foot, then she appears to be spinning counterclockwise.

With thanks to Wikipedia which is where the Spinning Dancer links will lead you.


When we were up at the Butt of Lewis I was standing by a wee lochan (about which I posted earlier today) when I realised that there were a lot of Dunlin around the edges having a feed.  As I stood there one little chap or chappess came within three or four metres of me and seemed totally unconcerned by my snapping away: