1 EAGLETON NOTES: August 2013



Saturday 31 August 2013

A Day In Chester

CJ had a relatively Good Day today.  We went to Chester.  For those who don't know the city it was founded as a "castrum" or Roman fort with the name Deva Victrix in the year 79 (ie nearly 2000 years ago).  Chester's four main roads, Eastgate, Northgate, Watergate and Bridge, follow routes laid out at this time – almost 2,000 years ago. One of the three main Roman army bases, Deva later became a major settlement in the Roman province of Britannia. After the Romans left in the 5th century, the Saxons fortified the town against the Danes and gave Chester its name.

Chester was one of the last towns in England to fall to the Normans in the Norman conquest of England.  William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a castle, to dominate the town and the nearby Welsh border.  

Chester has a number of medieval buildings and is one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain. Apart from a 100-metre (330 ft) section, the walls are almost complete.

As we were going to be in close proximity to buildings all day I decided to take Gaz's Canon EOS 7D with his canon prime 24mm lens with the wee gadgety thing which allows one to compensate for the parallax effect of being close to buildings.  Gaz put his camera and lenses into my care before going back to sea with permission to use them to see if I wanted to move from my bridge camera and return to full SLR capability in due course.  My last SLR was pre-digital.  I suppose I should have been a bit concerned given that the kit I was carrying today probably cost more than my car is worth.  His full kit probably cost more than my house did.  I digress.

I had downloaded the manual and read some of the hundreds of pages but still didn't manage to recall all the instructions so quite a few of the 130 photos I took were  over-exposed and therefore unusable.  Ho hum.  

Very old (the bridge), old (the first bus) and new (the second bus) join in the ancient city of Chester
I hadn't realised that milliners still existed as shops
City tours
We had morning coffee at La Paticerie on Lower Bridge Street with wonderful smiling staff and cakes to drool over
The Old King's Head was the house of Randle Holme, Mayor of Chester 1633-4.  It was described as a 'new building' in 1633.
These elegant houses of the Abbey Square were built in the mid 18th century and must be some of the most desirable town residences in Chester
and these cottages were built in 1626 by Bishop John Bridgeman.  The building to the right is part of the Chester Cathedral complex.
A get-together of advertising banners.
What happened to the ever-present sandwich board man with "The end of the world is nigh" written on it that every town used to have?
On the way home CJ and I stopped in Parkgate for an ice cream.
Ice creams and shrimps have (separately!) been part of Parkgate since we were children.
The Ship Inn in Parkgate where, as a young man, I spent many a Friday or Saturday evening in the company of friends.

There Was A Time

When you went into a shop or department store to but something like a waste bin or garbage/trash can and there might have been a choice between a plastic one and a stainless steel one.  This is the choice in John Lewis in Liverpool:

And that appears just to be the metal ones.  Perhaps they don't have plastic ones.  

Friday 30 August 2013

An Afternoon's Croquet

CJ's had a bad night last night and today he's had a bad day too and hasn't surfaced.  Jo had to get some work done.  So I decided to see if I could have a game of croquet.  Chester has a croquet club.  So I managed to get a game of Association Croquet. I discovered that one of the members was someone who used to play at the Marewa Croquet Club where I am a member in Napier in New Zealand.  It's a very small world and we had quite a lot to chat about.  I had a game with another member and although at the beginning it looked as though I had lost any capacity to hit a ball straight that soon remedied itself.  I lost the game but not badly and had a really enjoyable afternoon.  They were a really great bunch and now that I've found it I shall play some more on future visits.

I should also mention that it was a beautiful afternoon with the temperature around 23℃: the warmest since I left Lewis.   This evening it's clouded over and I suspect we are in for a cool and wet night.

The four lawns are superb (and very fast) and can be converted to 8 half-size lawns for social golf croquet.

Odds and Ends From Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Castle has a small railway museum which I might show some more photos of at another time.  Today I'm just showing the engine that Jo wanted to have a go at driving. 

Then there was this curious three-seater chair.  As all three people had their backs to each other it would have made conversation a little odd.  Perhaps there is another reason for its shape.  Does anyone know or have an idea?

After dinner when the ladies had withdrawn the men had the 'luxury' of not having to wander off round the castle when they wanted to relieve themselves.  Just go behind the screen for a handy chamber pot.  Hmmm.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Thankful Thursday

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Peacock Butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Speckled Wood Butterfly
Large White Butterfly

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Penrhyn Castle

On Monday CJ, Jo and I went to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor in North Wales.  None of us had been there before which is surprising given that its only 60 miles from The Wirral.  The castle is a mock Norman castle built in 1820-32 [not 1920-32 as I originally wrote - thanks Meike] as a monument in stone to the powerful and wealthy Pennant family whose money originally came from Jamaican sugar plantations which was invested back in North Wales: in particular in the Bethesda slate quarry which at the end of the 19th century was the largest in the world.  The castle was the country residence of the family and had over 300 rooms and a basic staff of 30 servants.  We were not really expecting to be impressed but, in fact, we all were.  It is certainly worth a visit.  We will have to go back one day to see the walled garden.

The last photo is of a wonderful innovation of the time and the forerunner of the current door lever handle which allowed the servant bringing the morning tea tray up to a bedroom to open the door with their elbow (pressing the doorknob downwards) whilst carrying the tray thus removing the need for a second maid to accompany the first to open the door.

Monday 26 August 2013

On The Wirral With a Teddy Bear

It's 232 miles from door to door: Anna's in Bishopbriggs to John and Jo's on the Wirral.  I had a leisurely drive down the motorway (if that isn't oxymoronic).  In actual fact I came off the M6 onto the A6 well before Penrith and joined the motorway again south of Shap.  I had comfort stop and a light lunch at Clifton at a lovely country inn, The George and Dragon.  The weather was lovely and I have to say that I enjoyed the journey.

I arrived to the hospitable welcome that I always receive and to my birthday present.  Now I am unashamed to say that I love old cars.  So an encyclopaedia of classic cars will give me lots of interesting reading as well as being a useful reference book.  I should add, before anyone says that loving cars is a 'man thing' that I know a number of ladies who are equally enthusiastic including my sister-in-law.  As for the teddy bear I have to admit that I must be one of the few men of my age who has been given a teddy bear (even if it does have a particular relevance).  

Saturday 24 August 2013

The Scots Have a Word For It

'What a dreich morning' I thought as I opened the curtains to reveal a blanket of grey drizzle hanging bleakly over the roads and houses around me here in Bishopbriggs.   Having made a cup of hot water with lemon I decided that it really was about time that I got myself in gear and wrote a post and 'dreich' provided a useful opening.

It's apparently the Scots' favourite Scots word (as voted for in a Scots Government survey) and a word you are unlikely to hear uttered much in England although, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary it is of Middle English, of Scandinavian origin.  However the other dictionaries seem to place it fairly and squarely as a Scottish word.

What does it mean?   Weather where at least four of the following apply in combination:  dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable. 

The example of the use of the word given in the Urban Dictionary is:  Historically regarded as a dreich corner of Britain, Scotland's very name comes from the Greek word for “dark”.

That reminded me of the story as to how, in New Zealand, Dunedin (the Scots name for Edinburgh) came to be colonised by the Scots and so named.  It is said that a group of Scots arrived in the north of the North Island of New Zealand but, realising that it was hot and sunny set of south down the eastern side of the island stopping at various places along the way but always finding the climate to warm and sunny.  They then crossed the Cook Straight and set off down the east coast of the South Island.  Having passed the temperate lands of Marlborough and discovered that a little England had been established in Christchurh they hurried on down the coast.  When they arrived almost at the southern tip of the country they realised that they had stumbled upon a place which much resembled the north of Scotland in so many ways: not least the fact that its weather was so often dreich.  There they stayed and when one is in Dunedin it is just like being in a little version of Edinburgh.

I'll leave you with a photo I took on the east coast of Harris a few weeks ago on a dreich day:

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Tuesday Travels

It’s just after 0700 and I am leaving the Stornoway harbour on MV Isle of Lewis. There are some really dark clouds lurking over The Minch as we plough our way through the remains of the swell caused by the weekend’s gales. As crossings of The Minch go this is quite calm. I like the MV Isle of Lewis. It is coming to the end of its 20 year active life with Caledonian Macbrayne and will be the second vessel I have seen on the route. The first, MV Suilven, left the company’s service around 1994 and, ironically, went to New Zealand where it plied the Cooke Straight as a cattle boat before going to Fiji where it was eventually scrapped. 

I’ve had my compulsory bacon roll. I have no idea what it is but for the last 40 years even when I was a non-meat-eater I’ve always had a bacon roll when doing the early morning Minch crossing. It comes somewhere between habit and ritual. It’s not quite an addiction. 

I’m off to the Mainland to see my brother, CJ aka Scriptor Senex, and his family and to visit friends. I am meeting up with Anna in Pitlochry around lunchtime and then we will drive down together to her house near Glasgow where I’ll be staying for a few days. 

After spending so much time in the garden this summer I left with some trepidation because the weather over the weekend was very wet with gale force winds but it was also quite warm by our standards. As a result the weeds have had a field day and I rather dread to think what will meet me when I return in about three weeks. 

I imagine that I will have lots to blog about during the next three weeks and I hope that I manage not to lose touch with my Blogland friends during that time.

This evening:

We had a very enjoyable trip from Pitlochry to Anna's via Crief (looking very sad these days with closed shops) and Muthill (where the whole village is bedecked with flowers).  This was one of the floral decorations:

How wonderfully cheerful is that?  How could you feel sad with that in the village?

Saturday 17 August 2013

A Rude Awakening

What's that knocking?  Who's calling me?  None of it fits with the dream I'm in.  What's happening?  

There is something very disturbing about being woken up by someone calling you and knocking on the bedroom door when you are fast asleep and in the middle of a dream.  One thing it guaranteed for me was that within seconds of waking I couldn't recall anything about the dream.

David and Molly left this morning for the early ferry to Ullapool.  Suddenly the house was very quiet.  Not that any of us is noisy but there was conversation between the three of us (use we talked to Molly and she responded).

No gardening today though.  Rain and gales interspersed with odd moments of sun and gales. It's August for heaven's sake.  Don't Jupiter or Zeus (I'm not sure which one is fashionable at the moment) know that?  They managed between them to conjure up a rainbow for me this evening though.

Friday 16 August 2013

Ferry Across The Sound of Harris

When I first crossed the Sound of Harris in 1975 it was on a small converted fishing boat - a lobster boat I seem to recall.  We sat down in a makeshift wooden structure with a sort of roof but still open to the elements.  Gradually over the decades the boats improved and the service improved.  Now there is a  a 32-car ferry MV Loch Portain.  It is upon that ferry that David and I travelled across the Sound of Harris a week ago.  

Leaving Berneray with the Causeway to North Uist 
I never tire of watching a ship's wake. 
A blackhouse which was (and may still be) used as a hostel on Berneray 
Leverburgh nestling under the Harris hills
Sailing towards Leverburgh
Entering Leverburgh harbour
Approaching the jetty
Vehicles disembarking

Thursday 15 August 2013

Thankful Thursday

I have a study.  In the summer it gets too bright in the morning sun to work on the computer without pulling down the blinds which rather defeats the object for me and in the winter it gets quite chilly without the big radiator on.  The Conservatory gets wonderfully warm whenever the sun shines but, again, it's very bright when using a computer screen.  The living room has no view although it does have my wonderful and homely roll-top desk: it's a good place to write letters in the winter.  My kitchen, on the other hand, is always warm and, if needs be, I can move the laptop screen out of the direct sun without losing my view of the sea and across the valley and bay.   So when I'm on my laptop I'm usually sitting in the kitchen.  That means I'm usually looking out of the window as well.  I really am a fortunate fellow and for that I never cease to be thankful.

Especially as I can watch the changing weather and seasons and the birds: in this case a young blackbird having a bath in the garden waterfall.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

I'm Not Cooking

In fact today has been a very productive day with me not being the principal contributor.  David woke in a mood of  'we are going to achieve today' and achieve we did. The first target was the fences which had become rather slack and in need of attention: the posts have been knocked home where needed and the wire has now been retentioned.  The afternoon was spent doing other jobs in the garden.  We gave up when I'd reached my use-by date and David decided that breathing in midges was a step too far (I should add that most of the afternoon was midge free but my arms and neck pay testament to the persistence of the little blighters.  Thank heaven they don't affect me or itch: they just look a mess.).   A friend recently described it as a 'low maintenance' garden.  We obviously have completely different concepts of the amount of work maintenance requires.

Anyway this evening for the second evening running David is doing the cooking.  I love cooking but it is good to have someone else do it for a change.

Monday 12 August 2013

Earwigs and Moths

No.  Not the catchy songs that get into your head.  Oh no.  They're earworms aren't they?  I mean those rather unpleasant Dermaptera that I really have never been able to bring myself to like.  These:

I'm not even sure why I don't like them.  They don't don't sting or bite people. Contrary to popular folklore they don't crawl down people's ears and lay eggs in the brain. (They much prefer dark dank habitats to nice warm bedrooms).  They don't as a rule do much harm to our gardens.  For all that so far as I am aware I don't know anyone who likes them. 

On the other hand I've had a good haul of moths in the last few days as well.  These are a few of them. If I've got the names wrong please do correct me.

Scorched Carpet Moth 
Absolutely No Idea Moth 
Antler Moth

Antler Moth 
Garden Tiger Moth

Saturday 10 August 2013

Home and All's Well

The trip to Uist didn't turn out as planned.  It was to be a simple day trip.  One of the pre-requisites of a day trip is that it takes place in a day.  Our day trip took two days.  Therefore it can be demonstrated by the use of a simple syllogism that it was not a day trip.  It was a trip.  Given that neither of us had even a toothbrush with us (why would one on a day trip?) having to stay in a hotel overnight (thank you David: it was a very good evening with very good food and wine in a very good hotel)  was not at the top of the things we wanted to do yesterday.  We arrived at the ferry terminal for the journey home just 3 minutes after the ferry left.  I am irritated by the fact that I forgot to get a photo of it steaming into the distance - without us.  I should add that we thought that we were 17 minutes early.

We eventually arrived home at 1pm today.  

There were other ramifications.  Pat aka Spesh had very kindly agreed to look after Molly for the day yesterday.   Briagha and Molly rub along pretty well in that Molly does her own thing and plays with all Briagha's toys and Briagha is very accepting of it all and tries to follow Molly as she gallops along the beach.  Unfortunately Briagha is not built for speed.  However when Molly's ball went in the sea at a depth where Molly would have had to take her feet off the ground, it was Briagha who swam out and rescued it.  Good teamwork.

For those of you who don't know the Islands of Lewis and Harris here is yesterday's journey from Eagleton on Lewis's Eye Peninsula to Leverburgh in Harris (I had the iPhone app set for New Zealand where kilometres are used).

The ferry sailing across the Sound of Harris from Leverburgh to Berneray and across the causeway to North Uist (I reset the app to miles):

I took enough photos yesterday and today to fill a large album and I'll use some in the future but for now here are some reminders of the journey:

View across Sound of Harris from Ferry leaving Leverburgh
West side of North Uist on an indifferent afternoon shooting into the sun from a fast moving car!
West side of North Uist on an indifferent afternoon shooting into the sun from a fast moving car!
The road from Lochmaddy to the Berneray Causeway and Ferry to Leverburgh
Ferry from Uig on Skye arriving in Lochmaddy
West coast of North Uist in the sun this morning
West coast of North Uist in the sun this morning 
More of the same
Same again 
The Causeway to Berneray
Leaving Berneray