1 EAGLETON NOTES: October 2012



Wednesday 31 October 2012

Travelling Again

Tomorrow I shall be wending my way South again.  This time though I shall not be traveling via Los Angeles or Hong Kong but via Dubai and Australia.  I've been quite lucky given the chaos that transatlantic air travel is in as a result of Superstorm Sandy.  My loyalty to Air New Zealand has been interrupted by the fact that ANZ wanted almost twice as much as Emirates to get me from Scotland to New Zealand.  So tomorrow I shall fly to Glasgow

After a night spent with my friend Anna I shall set of for Napier on a different route to usual.

Hopefully I shall blog again before I leave.  If I don't then it will be Saturday before I arrive in Napier and have the opportunity to return to Blogland.

Monday 29 October 2012

The Last Week

'Last' as in previous not as in this is, or that was, the last week (of our existence).  

Living my life as I do in two halves I have always found the last week or so of each life quite difficult.  It's not so much the packing because I usually only have a small amount of stuff to transport between my worlds.  I came back from NZ last time with a suitcase weighing 14k plus my 6k cabin bag. When I went to Italy this summer I had three cases (plus my laptop backpack etc) and all the other odds and ends.  There are so many other things to be taken care of from making sure the house, car and garden are set up for the winter and all the paperwork is done to saying goodbyes.

So the last week was sort of planned in my mind.  What I had not expected was last Monday and Tuesday being such wonderful days that I spent most of them in the garden doing, you guessed, gardening and outside house maintenance.   The rest of the week was a mixed bag though.

Upper Bayble across the valley from me - a valley filled with mist on a still and frosty morning
 and in a different light
From the kitchen window
No wind - that doesn't happen very often
Dew and spiders
The spider must have been dizzy when it had finished that untidy lot
The next day the weather started closing in
and the squalls came through running South down The Minch
and the snow showers came in squalls
followed by some sun
and then more squalls
and even more
Then the week ended.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Daylight Saving Time

CJ posted an interesting perspective on Daylight Saving Time - DST (which in Britain we call British Summer Time - BST) here.  That and the comments that had been published when I read the post together with the spooky fact that my central heating time clock re-set itself automatically (it was presumably taking its cue from the German radio-controlled clock that I have in the kitchen, made me think.  And, as my friends know, that is some achievement.

Why do we still persist with DST?  Who is 'we'?  I found the answer to the latter question (shown in the map) quite interesting.  I hadn't realised (until I read Meike's (Librarian) comment on CJ's post that Russia with it's 9 time zones didn't observe DST.  China doesn't either but I've never quite understood how China works things out given that it only has one official time even though it covers a massive five geographic time zones.

Why was DST introduced in Europe?  According to Wiki Summer Time was first introduced in some countries during the First World War, then largely abandoned with some exceptions, mostly during the Second World War, until the 1960s and 70s when the energy crisis prompted a wide scale re-introduction. The practice has been fully coordinated across the continent since 1996.

In the UK the arguments seem to revolve around children going to school and road safety.  That's purely a perception on my part  by the way I've done no research on the subject.  In many ways though the energy crisis would still be a relevant factor if it was relevant back in the 70s.

Here on Lewis BST makes relatively little difference because at midsummer we have sunrise around 0300 GMT and sunset around 2130 GMT but it's light(ish) all night anyway.

Anyway then I started thinking about New Zealand where I have heard a lot of discussion over recent years and where there are some wonderfully odd things as a result.

New Zealand time, including DST, is used by several Antarctic bases that are supplied from New Zealand. This results in the oddity that the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station sets its clocks an hour further ahead during the southern summer, when the sun is constantly above the horizon, than in the southern winter, when the sun is constantly below the horizon. The extreme geographic position of the base means that no possible adjustment of the daily activity cycle can have any effect on the amount of sunlight received during those activities. However, the arrangement presumably makes real time communications with New Zealand more practical, particularly in dealing with offices.

The New Zealand dependencies of Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue do not maintain DST. They are located on the other side of the International Date Line and differ between 22 and 24 hours from New Zealand proper.

Saturday 27 October 2012

The Time Has Come

I spent yesterday sorting out insurances, finances and all the other stuff which those of my generation still refer to as paperwork but which involves relatively little paperwork these days.  This day and age it means spending the day on the computer setting up, altering, and generally juggling with websites and then ringing help lines to confirm things (usually your identity).  I've also discovered that having set up various accounts for various things one then has to print off forms, complete them and then post them off "so that we have a real signature".  Eh?  I thought the purpose of having to do it all on line was.....oh, never mind.  So I have a little pile of letters for the post this morning to show for a whole days spent on the computer and phone.  C'est la vie.  Ce qui est, je crois, meilleure que l'alternative.

However there was a real highlight to the day.

Earlier in the month I had a young male Sparrowhawk in the garden - The Hunter Hunted.  So  when I looked up from making a cup of coffee yesterday afternoon I was delighted to see a pair of raptors flying across the crofts between me and the sea.  The camera was two feet from my hand and within seconds was switched on and pointed through the kitchen window.  I managed three shots before they had flown out of range.  One of them was usable for identification:

I was puzzled, however, because my initial reaction  was they were Kestrels but I couldn't recall seeing a Kestrel here before.  So I consulted an expert, Steve Duffield of Western Isles Wildlife whom I'd previously in touch with about.........WHAT!!  (exclamation marks not ?s on purpose).  I'd been in touch with him about a Kestrel which I'd positively identified and blogged about in July in a post   pithily entitled Kestrel on Lewis.

I definitely need a rest.  Either that or.....no, I don't want to think about it.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Thankful Thursday

Jaz from Treacy Travels has been giving me food for thought for several years now and her post last Thursday Happiness, optimism and the Dalai Lama was no exception.  Jaz asked "Why do some find being happy so hard?" and concluded hard work was a requirement just as it was for a good marriage, a flourishing garden, a good friendship or a  fit healthy body.  She also quoted the Dalai Lama "It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come."

My immediate reaction when I read the post was that I didn't find being happy hard at all.  I'm lucky enough, I thought, to be very happy.  The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that Jaz had a very good point.  It isn't that simple.

Then along came Yvonne's post 'See Me' - the anti-stigma mental health campaign and I started to realise that not only was Jaz so right but that the degree of 'hardness' could be extreme for some people and not just because of their own illness but because of people's attitude towards it.  That was where the Dalai Lama's saying hit home for me .... develop a good attitude and heart and from this, happiness for both yourself and others will come.

So today if you are not happy think about just how much effort it will take to be happy and to make others happy too and then go and make that effort or take a tiny step along the road.

If, however, today you are happy or if you have made someone else happy with your positive attitude towards them join me in being thankful.

Tuesday 23 October 2012


I've never showed you the tiny town in which we stayed.  The village of Belforte belongs to the municipality of Radicondoli, in the province of Siena, region Toscana.  It is small.  It has a ristorante, post office and a small shop.  There is a church.

There is, however more to it than that.  Belforte has a long history.  It is the ancestral home of the powerful Belforti family of Volterra. The castle is first mentioned during the 12 C and in a document of 1208 it is cited in the will of Ildebrando Aldobrandesco where he bequeaths it to his son Ildebrandino together with other territory and castles. In 1221, Belforte numbered 260 heads of the family and, together with Radicondoli, swore fealty to the Republic of Sienna. Despite this, Sienna and the Aldobrandeschi continued to contend for possession of Belforte, but in 1301 it became definitively the property of Sienna. From then on, Belforte shared the destiny of Radicondoli and in 1555 it was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of the Medici . In 1676, the auditor Gherardini notes that Belforte had a main street paved partly in brick and partly in stone, running from one town gate to the other. Among the public buildings were the Palace of Justice, a reservoir, a fountain including a public washhouse and an animal trough, a kiln, the schoolmaster's house, a pilgrims' hospice, the parish church and the Church of Santa Croce.

So this is Belforte as we saw it:

The Main Street: Via Santa Croce 
Ristorante La Mura
A 'side street' leading from the Main Street to Villa Belforte
The southern end of Via Santa Croce
Villa Belforte
Just to show that The Nighthawk really was there
Via Santa Croce looking northwards by day
It's hard to tell which walls belong to which house much of the time.

Monday 22 October 2012

A Gadget Too Far

I came across this gadget the other day.  It's to help you fold your shirts and the like.  I'm a gadget fan but even I really couldn't believe it:

While I'm on the subject of gadgets I was both taken aback and rather complimented this afternoon when someone referred to me a 'someone who is as young as you are'.  Perhaps this doesn't apply to me after all:

And for the Francesses and Adrians of this world I saw this advert the other day.  Ouch.

'Sall for now.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Awaiting Her Master

Molly suddenly realised that the love of her life was missing.  Where?

Obviously in there!

Saturday 20 October 2012

Sometime One Just Gets Lucky

I was sending a text standing on a friend's doorstep because the cellphone signal was very poor in the house.  Something fell between my nose and the phone (without touching either!).  I looked up to see a bird fly off the gutter.  Now that's what I call being lucky.

Friday 19 October 2012


I spend a great deal of time extolling the virtues of the health service on the Island.  Few public servants have a particularly easy time these days despite what many of the rest of the public think.  Sometimes, however, they do make it difficult for the public to sympathise.

Not having had a call returned I popped into the Health Centre on the way home from town this morning.
Me "Please may I see the lady who looks after the admin for the specialist nurses."
Person 1 "She's got someone with her.  Can you wait 10 to 15 minutes?"
Me(albeit reluctantly) "OK."
Person 2 a few minutes later "Sorry you can't just see her now she's a busy person.  You'll have to make an appointment."
Me showing some impatience "I have to make an appointment to see someone so that I can talk about an appointment she's already making for me with a specialist nurse?  I've popped in here because I can't get through on the phone."
Person 2 "She's on holiday.  I'll get someone to telephone you but it will be Monday."

If you can make sense of that then you are a better man than I am Gunga Din.

San Jimmy Banana

I have absolutely no idea how it happened but when Wendy and Martin (my New Zealand Family), Carol (my wife) and Catherine (a dear friend to us all) went to Italy in 1992 we all fell for San Gimignano and one amongst us christened the place San Jimmy Banana.  For us that has been its name ever since.  It was probably the most commercially aware of the tourist towns of Tuscany twenty years ago so although I've been back since then the changes have not been quite so great as, for example, in Volterra.  Having said that one now has to pay to go into the Duomo and no photos are allowed there either.  The queue outside the only public toilet I saw inside the walls  was long (cafés are obliged to let the public use their facilities) but at least the outflow from it was not pouring down the street as it was last time.  All in all it is still a beautiful place with a marvellous history and the fact that all we tourists want to go and see it is testament to that.

Notice on the door of the public toilets at the car park below the city
The Southern Entrance Gate
Just inside the main gate
Handbags everywhere and in every colour, shape and size 
The 'main' street
Looking back towards the main gate
One of the Antony Gormley** statues looks on 
Wild boar are everywhere usually with something stuck in their mouth. 
The main square with yet another Antony Gormley statue
A little potter's studio or rather a potter's little studio
with a splendid trades sign
Yet another Gormley way up high....very high
....that high
Our lunchtime café - superb formagio
The street out to the North 
An absolutely splendid purveyor of goodies
The terrazzo where Wendy and I sat and listened to a musician (and bought his CD) 20 years ago.  It was lunchtime so we had the square to ourselves  (The siesta seems to be a thing of the past in towns like this).   Now the terazzo is fenced off and is the entrance to the Duomo and only available to those who pay.  The inside of this Duomo is completely covered in frescos.
**There are (or were) Antony Gormley statues everywhere.