Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Sudden Realisation

Yesterday was an Interesting Day (with apologies to Sellars and Yeatman).  It was to be a simple day.  I wanted a polarising filter for the new camera and a new camera case (I'm keeping the Sony for the time being) and some Guerlin Lilia Bella perfume for Wendy in NZ.

I got the perfect camera bag in Merchant City Cameras - a wonderful and unassuming camera emporium - but no converter needed for the camera to take a polarising filter.  It has come to something, though, when all the rest of the photography shops I went into suggested I buy one from Amazon.  The perfume has been discontinued.  We met various friends for 'farewell' coffees though.

I was looking at the television news recently when the UK's Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare was speaking.  I thought how young she looked.  Policemen have looked young for decades but somehow I still except members of the Government to appear a little older  than someone not long out of uni (even Merton College, Oxford).  In reality she's not that far off 40.  Several years ago my brother pointed out that I was not that far off my allotted three score years and ten.  Suddenly I am realising how correct he is.  However I'm firmly of the view that 70 is the new 55.   Good job really given that future generations may well not be retiring until the age I am now.

I am now sitting airside in Glasgow Airport with about 20 minutes to the flight being called.  It's been a full and enjoyable few days with a golden wedding thrown in for good measure. What has suddenly become scary though - harking back to the last paragraph - is that it's my generation that is celebrating its golden weddings.

The Emirates route is Dubai, Melbourne and then Auckland where I should arrive 1400 hours local time Tuesday.  Then it's just a short hop to Napier where I should arrive 'home' 1745 hours Tuesday.

And then my Kiwi resumes.

Bye for now: see you in a couple of days.

In the meantime this is what I will be doing a lot of:

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Glasgow (well almost) Day 1 and Thankful Thursday.

It's Thursday evening (Ah Thankful Thursday!  I nearly forgot) and I am pleased to say that I am now ensconced in Anna's in Bishopbriggs.  I usually say Glasgow because anyone outside of Scotland is very unlikely to know where Bishopbriggs is.  

I pass through quite a lot of security checks in my travels and in the past the one I dreaded most has not been LA (bad though that may have been for staff incivility) but Stornoway where the level of incivility by the security staff had been taken to an artform.   So today I was pleasantly surprised to see that the staff were pleasant and efficient.  I was also surprised to be tested for banned substances.  I can't ever recall being tested for banned substances anywhere else in the world on my way into a flight (come to think of it I've never been tested on the way out either).  It's a good job they didn't test my money because two customs officer friends have told me that a high percentage of high value notes are contaminated.

The flight from Stornoway to Glasgow was bumpy to say the least.   Not everyone survived unaffected!  The chap next to me and I regaled each other with personal tales of travel incidents we'd had and took our minds off things. We also had a good rapport going with the stewardess who was wondering why she did the job on flights like that and was glad it was the end of her day! We also had a laugh when it came to disembarking: the plane had to be emptied from the rear because it was rear heavy and could have tipped up if they’s emptied the front first! We were the small ones at the front!

So today I'm very thankful to have had such an enjoyable first leg of my journey to NZ.  Three sleeps here and then the Big Flight. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Memories of a Lewis Day (so far)

Tomorrow morning I leave for Glasgow and the start of my journey to my Other Home in New Zealand.   Looking at the weather forecast for the rest of today and tomorrow we are promised strong gales and torrential squally showers and rain.  I took these photos within the last half hour but already the skies are lightening as the sun rises but darkening at the same time as the grey rain clouds come across from the west (these photos are taken facing east).  This is one of the reasons I love the Hebrides: the unpredictability of the view from my window.

The three photos were taken in a sequence about 10 minutes from start to finish as the sun rose over the horizon.

Within a couple of hours the wind had risen to gale force and the sea at The Braighe when I went into town was quite rough:

I met Gaz for coffee and lunch at The Woodlands; my favourite watering hole in Stornoway's Lews Castle Grounds.  Believe it or not it was very busy but everyone is behind us.

In the afternoon I popped over to Pat and Dave's for a coffee.  Their eccentric cat Misha wanted first to go out and then to come back in.

This evening a friend is popping in and by the time I get to bed the cases will be shut and I'll be ready to roll in the morning.

Monday, 28 October 2013

It's a Very Small World

I'm sure that I must have posted about this before: probably many times.  

It occurred to me this morning that yesterday I spoke on the 'phone to friends in Canada, New Zealand (2), England, Scotland, and on the Island.  I was Skyped by Jamie in China and passed on a message from Jamie to New Zealand.  I received emails from every continent.  I read blogs from all over the place but the nature of blogging made the places irrelevant because Blogland encompasses the world (or much of it anyway).

I was born in Liverpool and people from Liverpool ended up all over the world because it was a sea-faring city with links to everywhere.  I came to Lewis decades ago and found people who knew countries and places I'd hardly even heard of.  In particular many from here went to the Southern Hemisphere on the whalers and I've met a few old-timers who were well acquainted with Napier and many other places in New Zealand.  It's pretty much the same today with so many young people going to sea and working on the rigs and oil industry all over the world.

This, however, is just the human element of the small world we inhabit and share with other creatures.  The migrations of the Monarch Butterfly and the Godwit almost make our efforts look insignificant by comparison.  We use our brains to enable us to make the world smaller and they use their bodies so I suppose they can't really be compared but even so.....

So today I've been relishing the sun and mild weather to clear up the last few outside jobs before I leave for Glasgow and then New Zealand on my annual migration (assisted by the efforts of many thousands, perhaps millions, of brains which created all the means of transport etc that I shall be using to achieve the journey).  I feel for those in the South of England who are clearing up after the terrible storm they've just had.  Having lived through three hurricanes on the Island where we are adapted for such weather I cannot really imagine how bad it must be in some places which are clear not so adapted.

As a reminder that all days are not as calm and sunny as today this was my garden pond a few days ago:


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Thankful Thursday

Today I was thankful for a very small thing:  the ability to spend the afternoon in the garden doing some last-minute re-potting and sorting of the plants into their place for the winter whilst I'm away in NZ.  It's not all finished but the majority of the work is done and the garage has been sorted as well so that the Nighthawk can be put into it.  Of course it doesn't stay there for the whole of the six months.  Dave takes it out for a run occasionally just to keep everything ticking and to make sure nothing seizes up.  Mind you so far as the battery is concerned ever since I invested in a CTEK MXS battery charger, which remains attached to the battery whenever it is garaged, the old problem of the alarm draining the battery no longer applies.

Being thankful for that doesn't make for an even vaguely interesting post though so I thought I'd post a few pictures from CJ's and my Liverpool visit to the gardens and recreation area adjoining Liverpool One.

Doesn't everyone play table tennis after shopping? 
Entertainment for the littlies (and their parents/grandparents)
This reminded me of days in Berlin where chess-in-the-park seemed common
Relaxing in the sun (everyone seems to be wearing Tilly Hats now)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

If You Like Ice Cream

Then what better way of buying one in Liverpool than from a Really Old Van?  The first is a Bradford and the last a Citroen and I the grill of the middle one is reminiscent of the old Ford Popular but I'm not 100% sure.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A Camera Decision

For the last couple of months I've have Gaz's DSLR Canon EOS7 and assorted superb Canon lenses available to use. The reason was to help me decide whether I was going to continue using a bridge camera or go for a DSLR having abandoned the format when I started travelling so far away by plane where carrying a heavy DSLR with the lenses I would want just isn't practical.  There are a lot of pros and cons for each format but for me it came down in the end to my principal use of the camera, its versatility and it's portability.

What few people seem to realise (because few read the small print) is that any camera and suchlike equipment carried in the hold of a plane is not insured either by the carrier (because most carriers forbid its carriage in hold luggage) nor by most travel insurance policies.  Thus it has to be hand luggage.  Gaz's camera bag is designed to meet international travel flight sizes.  However it can't be carried on the FlyBe flights to and from the Island because it is too large and the weight limit is 6 kilos.  International flights I use usually allow 7 kilos.  Gaz's camera equipment weighs 14k and that's without his laptop etc.

My principal camera use is for my blogs and for photos of record.  I don't want to print A3 size pictures.  I do want to be able to photograph a landscape one minute and a buzzard flying above me the next.  It goes without saying that I want a comfortable body (don't we all), a good lens and the ability to shoot in RAW.  After that  Versatility is everything.

So my latest camera is another bridge camera but this time, as Sony have dropped their main selling point (imprinted GPS positioning on the metadata), I've switched to Canon and their 1200mm equivalent lensed SX50 HS.  So far I'm well pleased.

These shots were taken on a dull afternoon at full zoom with the camera hand held.  The buzzard is 244 metres away from me.  The images are not perfect by any means but they certainly serve their purpose for identification.

This picture of a robin taken through my kitchen window does show what the lens can offer in terms of clarity:

Monday, 21 October 2013

All Gone: 2013 Version.

When our children were little they had various verbal idiosyncrasies and sayings just as, I suspect from my experience, most children and many adults do.  I knew a person who could not say 'anonymous' so in committee meetings he would always have to use 'nem con' which sounded a little pretentious even 40 years ago.  One of our children called 'lily pads' 'lally pids'.  We also pick up sayings from our parents and relatives and some of us are lucky enough to hand down to our children oral snippets we got from our grandparents.  CJ and I were brought up in a household where the worst expletive we were likely to hear was the occasional 'dam'.  It was considered terribly risqué, therefore, when our Victorian ram-rod straight backed maternal grandmother taught us children the little ditty "I chased a bug around a tree.  I'll have his blood; he knows I will."

I could go on but I'll spare you that.

Another of the phrases which seemed to be used a great deal with our children was 'all gone' and I wouldn't mind betting it was/is used in the majority of households.

So yesterday I woke up and realised 'all gone'.  The house was quiet.  Viv and Elodie's short and very enjoyable visit had come to an end.  No more visitors are planned (which doesn't mean no one else will come, of course).  In theory I need never go near a grocery shop again before I leave for NZ; I just have to empty the fridge and freezer.  I've had help for the last two nights (Carol popped down on Saturday and we ate enough different cheeses to sink a battleship and Pat and Dave helped me eat leftovers last night and we then watched the 'Strictly' results) and I hope I'll have some more help before I go.  I  enjoy having friends in for dinner.

In the meantime the socks have gone.  They've been here since friends of Viv's came up and visited the house a couple of Christmases ago.  So they went with Viv and Elodie.  

However the book is still here because the original owner who left it bought a replacement.  So if anyone wants a book on beekeeping it can be collected any time in the next ten days because I have just ten more sleeps before I step on a plane for Glasgow on the first leg of my migratory journey south.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A New Dog on The Block

Just over two years ago Elodie was born in Maumulon, France.  Two months later she found a new home further south near Duras with Viv.  The freedom of 40 acres of plum trees and vines and acres of paddock and gardens.   The freedom to roam and exercise of which most non-working dogs can only dream.  

And what a lovely lady she has turned into.  Now she is a well-travelled lady with her own pet-passport and a more miles under her belt than many humans achieve in two years.  

Yesterday on Bosta beach on Lewis she had a great time:

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Thankful Thursday

I've been taking photos since before ever so long ago.  Obviously in The Olden Days I took them in black and white (for you youngsters that's 'without colours').  Sometimes I used B&W even after colour had become my norm.  Some people like Andrea use no colour most of all the time.  Strange but true.  She has a Bronica ("bow, bow ye lower middle classes...").  I never did but this one still turned out to be square so I obviously had some camera or other which took square photos.  We may never know which one it was.  This was my Mum holding a couple of sparklers.  I've always been rather secretly pleased with it.  Today I am coming out and turning secret into no longer secret.

Today I am thankful for Dad who encouraged me to take photographs from a very early age and who helped me enormously in every way.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Liverpool One Water Feature

When CJ and I went to Liverpool in August Cj showed me Liverpool One: a 42 acre (170,000 m²) redevelopment of underutilised land in Liverpool city centre. It is a retail led development, anchored by department stores Debenhams and John Lewis, with additional elements including leisure facilities (anchored by a 14-screen Odeon cinema and 36-hole adventure golf centre), apartments, offices, public open space and transport improvements. The completion of Liverpool ONE has significantly boosted the local economy as well as lifted Liverpool into the top five most popular retail destinations in the UK.  Liverpool ONE is the largest open air shopping centre in the United Kingdom and the 10th largest overall.  Despite all this I wasn't overly impressed with the fact that much of the retail sector was open to the elements.  Like them or loathe them covered malls are much more comfortable places to spend a day without having to go from freezing wind-swept open air wearing winter clothes to hot shop wearing those same clothes.

However there were some lovely open spaces including this charming water feature:

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


I know that some of my Blogland pals - including my bruv, CJ aka Scriptor Senex - are often up and about in the very early hours of the morning.   In the UK summer here in the Hebrides the sun is often well over the horizon by 4am and I tend to get up very early (ok, not at 4am because I'm not usually in bed until well after midnight) but as the winter draws near and the sun is still below the horizon at 7am I tend to get more reluctant to be up at the crack of dawn.  This morning, though, around 5am I was up and re-loading the dishwasher after last night's dinner party.

So as I write this the dishwasher and the washing machine are gently thrumming away in their respective rooms and I'm in Blogland.

The mornings are presenting different and very varies views around dawn:

As the day progresses the sky is not so good for photography: there's not a cloud anywhere to be seen

Friday, 11 October 2013

Portrait of a Place

Andrea, a fellow Islander and blogger with a thousand old film cameras, a penchant for black and white (and various photographic techniques I'd not heard of until I started reading her blog), and a wonderfully eccentric style doesn't 'do' landscapes.  So when she produced one a few days ago she called it a 'Portrait of a Place'.  I'm never ashamed publicly to admit it when ideas are not my own so strictly speaking I never plagiarise I simply use other peoples' ideas.  Of course having now given Andrea credit for the words I will continue to use them and at some time in the future someone will read them and not realise they are not mine.  Honour and morality are satisfied and I will still get some residual credit in the future.  

This doesn't just apply to today's heading.  There will be many more which, over the years, even I have come to believe are my own original thoughts.  Of course people who know me well know that, competent though I may be in writing up an adversarial case for, for example, a ministerial meeting or  a planning inquiry, any original thoughts contained therein will always have been gleaned from others who have the required talents.

This is a rather different portrait of a place that my readers see all the time but from a very different perspective.  This was taken from across the valley by Dave (Spesh's hubby) on his mobile phone.  My house is indicated by the arrow.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Thankful Thursday

Virginia in a post on her leaving Barbados for a holiday remarked that the Gate Control Officer was the best Gate Control Officer that she'd ever met.  It reminded me of a person I think of very frequently and have done ever since I was a small boy at prep school.  

Some years ago I posted the following about him on my A Hebridean in New Zealand blog:
When I was a small child in Liverpool we had a neighbourhood street sweeper. He happened to be called Alfred but that's not relevant except to demonstrate the weird tricks of memory whereby I can recall a name from 60 years ago and not remember momentarily the name of a friend's daughter whom I've known all 40+ years of her life during a conversation when I was speaking on the phone today. 
When I was walking down the road I often chatted to Alfred. One day he imparted some wisdom to me that I've never forgotten. 
CJ and I went to a small private Prep School in the area. You need to know that because of what Alfred said. 
Alfred said that whilst he was only a street sweeper with little education and I went to a smart school what mattered was who you were and that you strove to do what you did as well as you could. He said that he was satisfied that he was the best street sweeper in Liverpool. And he may well have been. 
What struck me later though was his use of the word 'only'. I have never got used to people who say that. I once rang an office and when I asked who was speaking was told that it was 'only' the office junior. I pointed out that most offices can function satisfactorily for a while without senior staff but that most offices seem to collapse if the office junior is not there to find things. Well that's how it used to be anyway. There is no such thing, if one thinks about it, as an only in life. There are just different roles to be played.
It's odd what we recall and what shapes our thinking. 
As Andy used to say "It's a funny old world, Dad."
I am very thankful for Alfred's lesson.  It's made me appreciate people and the jobs that they do and to realise that there are many people 'above' me in the educational, social, socio-economic and employment arenas who could look at me and say "he was only..."

Friday, 4 October 2013

A Mixed Day

I arrived home at 9.30 pm yesterday (Thursday) after a day's driving up the west coast of Scotland in the rain.  During the journey I learned that a person who is very special to me is expecting a baby and that another person, who is younger than I and whom I have known for nigh on 40 years, has died.  

Today has been a day of mixed feelings.

Anna came up to Lewis with me for a long weekend and we had a relaxing and enjoyable day and evening visiting and being visited.

I have one of those head colds that makes concentrating between the bouts of sneezing and nose-blowing difficult.  I have probably spread it far and wide.  I apologise to anyone who gets it.

It's also been a day of minor frustrations outwith my control.

So I've not read any blogs, nor caught up with Words With Friends, nor replied to emails.  Now, if I can stop sneezing and blowing my nose, I'm going to get some sleep.

Earlier in the year I planted these prize geraniums, Roxanne, which were a present from Anna.  They are beautiful and doing well:

They make me happy.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Away For A Few Days

I left the Island yesterday at the crack of dawn for a few days on the Mainland: principally to attend the funeral of the mother of a friend of many years standing.

As the ferry was preparing to leave Stornoway I managed these photos (I'm afraid that the last one is very 'noisy'):

As we were entering Loch Broom I couldn't resist the inevitable photo of the ship's wake:

The hills had a very watercolour look about them:

and some of the very remote crofts were emphasised