Thursday 31 May 2012

Thankful Thursday

This morning I was reading Jenny Woolf's post on English Dancing.  I found it an enthralling way of spending 45 minutes whilst I had my breakfast.

It's funny, though, how these things lead one's mind into a long and convoluted thread which starts with a simple thought (my inability to dance) and ends with me being thrown out of a pub for dancing very successfully.

The process went something like this: 

Me: I really think that those two dancers are much more clever than some of the steps suggest at first sight.  I wish that I could do that.  I wish that I could dance.

Wee Small Voice:  Ah but even if you could your knee wouldn't stand up to it. 

Me:  I wonder if it will if they ever replace it.  

WSV: By that time you'll be too old to Morris Dance anyway.

Me: Perhaps you are right.  It'll just have to join the long list of things I can do really well. 

WSV: What are you talking about?  What can you do well (apart from hit a ball round a lawn occasionally when you are in That Other Country)?

Me:  I can sing very badly; I could write pretty intolerable shorthand (tried Gregg's and Pitman's); I am exceptionally good at reading very slowly; I once got a clue in a cryptic crossword and even managed a difficult Sudoku - once; I could play scales on a piano - I might even have got to Grade 1.  The list of things at which I don't excel or even come close to being even half competent in is very impressive indeed.

WSV:  But you could dance once upon a time.  

Me: Ah.  But only once dance.  The Cossack Dance - and only rather badly at that.  Cossack Dancing looks spectacular though however badly you do it. In any case that was in the sixties and I was just in my 20s. It actually led to me being thrown out of Snows, a quite smart down the steps bar in London’s Piccadilly. Given that I was much older then than I am now (mentally anyway) I was mortified. I was, I hasten to add, stone cold sober at the time of this incident. I was in London on a training course for something or other and we had finished for the day and gone to Snows. Someone learned that I could Cossack dance and probably dared me to do one on a table - I was quite adept at winning bets that I wouldn’t do something. So I took my shoes off and did a Cossack dance on a table – a very substantial table I should add. I was asked to leave. I was mortified. I can’t understand why but everyone else thought it was very funny!

WSV: So you see you you have achieved being ejected from Snows.  Not everyone achieves that. 

Me:  I'm not sure that being thrown out once qualifies me for being good at it.

WSV:  Well just rest on your laurels.  Well, laurel, actually if it's only one achievement.

Me:  Ah well I will have to content myself with being exceptionally good at one thing which, QED, is that I am exceptionally good at being mediocre.  

And for that I am today exceptionally thankful.  Why?  Because I might have ended up being mediocre at only one thing as it is the list is endless.  You see I am the Jack of all trades and the master of none.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

A Peculiar Sort of Day

This morning as I drove home from town I had the correct words all planned out in my head so why, why, when I now have the opportunity to put pen to paper (so to speak) will only mundane prosaic words  flow from my mind to my hands?  Ah well.  Wotthehellarchiewotthehell.

Have you ever walked down a street and a person whom you are certain is a complete stranger comes towards you saying "You are GB aren't you?" or something like that.  Well that happened to me in town this morning.  The person - visiting from Canada - coming toward me recognised me from my and Scriptor's blogs.  Yes.  Really.  Life can be quite surprising sometimes.

As for the other happenings this morning.  Perhaps, although they were profoundly affecting, they will remain unsaid.  This evening, as the sun does nothing more than dip below the horizon of this Island home of mine before it will rise again in a few hours time without darkness falling, I feel emotions that I haven't felt for many years.  Moments like this make me realise what an incredibly small speck each one of us is in this universe.  

It's a funny old world.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

It's Been a Long Time

I wondered.  Why had I put the bread maker on over night when I had made a loaf yesterday?  I woke to the aroma of freshly baked bread.  Not unusual.  Except when the bread maker hasn't been on.  The brain can play very odd tricks.  I could smell freshly baked bread that didn't exist.  Hmm.

Lewis has been in the grip of a relative heatwave for May.  It was in the mid 20s and absolutely wonderful.  On Saturday I managed to get all the fences painted and a deal of other garden and outside tasks completed. Unfortunately even the rare treat of a spa bath (I do sometimes wonder why I don't have them more often) afterwards didn't manage completely to allay the stiff muscles in my painting arm shoulder the next morning.

In the evening after school the children jump off the pier into water which at best could be described as less than warm or in most of our minds downright freezing.  I'm sure that had I jumped in I would have suffered heart arrest.

All this was taking place a good way from my house and I can only marvel at the ability of modern long-focus lenses (this is the equivalent of about 800mm) to perform hand-held.

On Saturday the sun brought people onto the beach below the house in numbers I can rarely recall seeing before.

Yesterday the sun shone but the wind blew - long, strong and very cold.  Apart from a few hardened dog walkers the beach was empty again.

Friday 25 May 2012

Solomon in all his glory

'Consider the lilies of the field how they grow: they toil not neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.'  It's amazing what one recalls from one's prep school education!

I've known Sue and John for nigh on 40 years.  We came to Lewis in the same year. They left a few years ago.  I've known their children all their lives.  Sue and Jenny (Daughter Two) stayed with me for a few days last week.  Sue brought me some lilies.

I've always thought of lilies and irises as being rather formal flowers: almost in the same league as orchids.  These lilies have stayed in the kitchen and, as I have spent more time in the kitchen (the view is spectacular and the breakfast bar convenient for working) than anywhere else in the house since I came home, I've spent a lot of time enjoying their visual and olfactory presence.  I cannot recall ever having flowers with such a scent before.  It is noticeable as soon as one enters the room.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Thankful Thursday

Buzzards and Corncrakes

There used to be buzzards mewing and flying around the valley at the side of my house all the time but in the last few years they seem to have disappeared. I've not been able to fathom out why that should be. So yesterday I was pleased to hear the mewing of a buzzard again even though I didn't see it. I also saw, very close to the house, a buzzard being chased by a couple of gulls. So there is hope the valley will have its buzzards back this year.

I keep hearing a Corncrake too. There are not many sheep in the area now to disturb them so provided the local cats, Hooded Crows, Black Backed Gulls, Buzzards and Hedgehogs leave them alone we might have a few more of this very rare bird by the end of the summer.

A neighbour told me this morning that when you are doing a spot weld you know that you have got it right when it sounds like a Corncrake. The things you learn.

No Electricity

The electricity was switched off recently between 0900 and 1600 for general line maintenance in the area. I found the main inconvenience was the lack of the wi-fi which shows where we are at these days when everything in the house seems to be plugged in. What really struck me though was how quiet the house was. There was no music and none of the 'usual' things one associates with electrical appliances such as washing machines and the like. But the eerie quiet in my kitchen puzzled me. Then I realised just how much noise two fridges and a cooling mat for a laptop in a room make.

Waterfalls and Beethoven Sonatas

As I type this the the sun is shining, there's not a breath of a breeze and it's in the 20s at 9 in the morning. I am listening to the waterfall into the pond outside the wide open window. I am also listening to the final three of Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas having listened to them all since I got back from NZ. I had the vinyl LPs of some of them with Wilhelm Kempff and when CDs came out I bought the whole set and have played it ever since (the recordings date from 1965). Now Paul Lewis has recorded them all and I have a choice.

The Thankful Bit

So this morning as I wandered around the garden in shorts, jandals and a light shirt thinking how fortunate I was to live in two such beautiful places on this earth on this spectacularly beautiful morning I was thankful for being alive. As I sit here, though, my thankfulness is more specific. I am thankful for the fact that I live in an environment free from the sounds of the city. I am thankful for the sounds I have experienced and I am thankful for the silence.

And now I'm off to visit the dentist!

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Never Tempt Fate

I commented to a friend yesterday that I'd had my bread maker since I'd moved into the house in 1993 and that after constant use all that time it was still going strong.  This morning it stopped working.  Amazon or Ian Lighting Electrical in town - here I come.  However I had a thought.  It was the paddle driver that wouldn't turn.  I'd lubricated the paddle on the flour container when I came back from NZ so I assumed the electric motor had gone.  But no.  Some WD40 (penetrating oil spray) and it's working.

It will be a while before I tempt fate again though!

A Trip to Gisla

Yesterday I drove over to the other side of the Island to see friends in Uig.   It's not a long drive - about 40 minutes - and I left at 1015 having said that I'd be there around 11am.  I'm a Edwards.  The Edwardses have a gene which ensures that they are never late.  So when I was held up for a number of reasons on the road and also could not resist stopping for some photos, time became scarce and I started running late.  By this time I was out of range for a mobile/cell phone signal.  By the time I arrived I was 20 or so minutes late and there was general consternation and grovelling apologies for causing worry were the order of the day.

I had, however, managed these photos of the journey.

This is the road I often use for part of the journey.  It is not the main road (our main roads are actually very good) but it is considerably shorter and much more picturesque than the main road.

The houses are Airidhs or Sheilings and I have mentioned them before.  I really must get around to doing a post about them at some time.  At least one of my readers will have a little pause for thought if she reads this.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Photos at Last

Since I returned to Lewis I have hardly taken any photos.  In fact in three weeks until today I had taken fewer photos than I usually take in a single day.  So today I set out to remedy that situation.  Mind you it started well because the Scottish Mainland was highlighted very spectacularly by the early morning sun. For your information the coastline at its nearest point is 30 miles (48k) away from me.

Sunday 20 May 2012

A Pretty Good Day

I've had a busy time since I arrived back in Eagleton and my first visitors have already moved on to stay with other friends.   Although it's often been sunny we've had very strong cold winds.  Yesterday the wind had virtually disappeared and it was a balmy 11℃ (52℉) so that was my first day spent almost entirely in the garden.  It's always good to get the lawns scarified, cut and top dressed for the summer early on.  I managed quite a few other tasks as well and it was wonderful listening to the waterfall into the garden pond, the gentle lapping of the sea below and the calls of the Skylarks.

By the late afternoon I decided that enough was enough and treated myself to a spa bath to ease the  limbs which, I was sure, would otherwise be aching by the morning.

In the evening a friend arrived with an excellent bottle of the red stuff vintage 2006 and in perfect quaffing condition.  We duly obliged the vingneron and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  By 10pm Carol had left and 15 minutes later I - who rarely goes to bed before midnight - was asleep.  Which is how I stayed for the following seven hours.

It's amazing what a day in the garden can do for the body and soul.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

An Apple Man Am I

I've succumbed.  It has been said that when Apple sell you a piece of equipment what you actually buy is a brand  into which you are forever locked by loyalty.  I can see that is the case.  Fed up with the vagaries of Windows and lured by the quality and beauty of the Macbook and its seamless operating system I succumbed in 2010 and went the Apple way.  

So far as a Smartphone was concerned however, because of the problems with the iPhone 4 Gaz went the HTC way after returning his iPhone so so did I.  Unfortunately, despite my satisfaction in many ways with the HTC, the way it showed contacts and the many problems synching data led me soon to became dissatisfied.  So one of the first things I did when I got back to the UK was visit Glasgow's Apple Store.  They really do know how to do things!  I came out a complete Apple Man.  I have used an iPod since they were steam driven to carry the music of my my 1300 or so CDs between the UK and NZ.  This, I understand, makes me a law breaker in the UK because, although I only have music on my iTunes and iPod for which I have a CD (ie no pirate music), it is still unlawful to do that.  Silly!

So now I have completed my Appleship by buying an iPhone and an iPad.  The latter will replace Samantha (the trusty Notebook) who remained in NZ with young Catriona as her new friend.

My Apple Family
I have discovered that the iPhone is brilliant and that Siri is unbelievable - and I really mean that last word. I can recall the first attempts at voice recognition software.  This is something quite beyond anything I had imagined.  I'm sure there could be another post on this at some time.  What I can't understand is why I haven't realised its existence and its full capability before now.

Does anyone need an iPad?  It'll be very handy not to have to cart the Mac around everywhere all the time but, let's be frank, what has need got to do with it.  Noone actually needs Apple....... until, that is, you have Apple.  

PS Note that I still keep a good old fashioned diary.  I have my appointment diaries going back to the year dot (and every address book since I was a child) so I think I'll not be stopping that now.  

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Cold Beauty

It's been strange acclimatising to Lewis again.  Four seasons in a day isn't unusual for the Island of course.  But the cold wind has been a bit of a shock to the system.  This has been fairly typical: bright sun and then a heavy shower coming through.

Saturday 12 May 2012

A Spring Morning

I rarely see much of Spring anywhere because of my flitting however that doesn't mean that I miss everything completely because I see photos on other people's blogs and sometimes Pat sends me photos of what I'm missing just to remind me.  In this case the photos are of our beautiful Lews Castle grounds:

Thanks Pat.

Friday 11 May 2012

Glasgow's Miles Better

Back in 1983 Glasgow had a wonderful slogan with a smiley face.  It was developed by Scottish advertising agency, Struthers Advertising, and featured the phrase "Glasgow's Miles Better" wrapped around the cartoon figure of Mr. Happy.  It is regarded as one of the earliest and most successful attempts to rebrand a city in the world and received a number of domestic and international awards.  In fact I would venture to suggest that no city in Britain has ever produced such a successful and memorable a campaign slogan.

If it hadn't been for the fact that I actually was listening to the radio the moment of transmission I might have thought the following snippet was apocryphal but it's not.  It happened.  When Glasgow was looking for a replacement slogan Edinburgh was also looking for a slogan.  Sue MacGregor the co-presenter of the programme Today on Radio 4 suggested off the cuff that Edinburg could adopt 'Edinburgh's Quite Nice'.  I'm sorry that those of you who don't know an Edinburgh accent or understand the gentility attributed to Edinburgh may feel a bit non-plussed.  But believe me that was greeted with a very wide variety of comments here in Scotland. 

Anyway all this arose because I wanted to show you a photo that I took in Glasgow the day after I'd arrived back in Scotland:

Thursday 10 May 2012

Thankful Thursday Back in Eagleton

For those of you who also follow A Hebridean in New Zealand this post might be a real case of déjà vu because I've also posted this on that blog.

I cannot believe that it's now 9 sleeps (and within an hour I'll be starting my tenth) since I arrived back in Scotland.  I had a few days near Glasgow before I came up to Lewis last Sunday and since I got back it's been absolutely non-stop from dawn (sunrise is just after 5am!) until bedtime.  I thought that I was going to have a quiet catch-up week but heck no.  I think, too, that I've spent far more time explaining why I've not done any posts than I would have spent had I actually done some.  So I shall try to do better from here on in.  I shall be over here for the next 6 months or so with the occasional post on my other blog as and when something takes my fancy.

I'm hoping that I will have lots of posts with interesting photos over the period because I've got lots of places to go and things to do over the summer.

In the meantime the views at around 5am on Monday morning - the first spent back on the Island -  were all that a soul could desire:

So today I am thankful to be back safe and sound in my 'other' home after my little travel scare and thankful for my dear friends who have looked after my home here whilst I have been away.  What would I do without you Pat and Dave?