Tuesday 30 December 2014

Power Outage

We seem to be having more power outages than usual this winter. Forty years ago they were very common and on the rare occasions when gales and snow brought down power lines we could be without for days. The last time I can recall that, though, was in the ’80s one Christmas. It was an ‘interesting’ few days and the linesmen did a fantastic job working up the poles in horrendous conditions. 

The most recent outage that lasted a few hours gave me the opportunity to check my armoury of emergency lighting and heating. I cook by gas and have a gas ‘coal’ fire in the living room and I bought recently an emergency gas room heater. There are LED battery lights in all rooms which come on automatically if the room is dark and someone walks in. I have emergency gas lights and I was given two ‘old fashioned’ paraffin hurricane lamps for Christmas: one of the few occasions one gets a present one actually hopes not to have to use. Well they are in use now. It’s not helped by the fact that the weather which was glorious yesterday is overcast and very dark this morning at 0845 and the outage is over an hour long already.

So life this morning isn’t too bad here and there are plenty of things I could be doing without needing electricity. However the things I would be doing normally all require power and it’s quite good sometimes to step back and realise just how much we depend on it and how much we take it for granted.

David and I decided just before 10am to go into town early and have a proper breakfast at The Woodlands.  We arrived home after noon and the power was still off but only in our township.  Apparently three or four poles had been taken out by a lightning strike. I went over to see Pat and Dave on the other side of the valley and this is what met me:

Somewhere around 2pm the power came back on. Life is returning to normal.

Wednesday 24 December 2014


I am not a Christmas person.  I'm not quite a miserable bah humbug type but I have 'views' about Christmas. Although I have no religious beliefs I am quite happy to accept that other people do.  However Christmas seems to have almost nothing to do with religion these days and given how PC we have become as a society I'm surprised that one is even allowed to say 'Happy Christmas'.  It would be interesting to know how many people in the UK now know the true significance of Christmas.  And no, I don't mean its pagan origins.

It seems to me that what we now really worship is the god of Christmas trade.  The news doesn't say anything about how many people went to church but just how much money they have spent in the shops.

Anyway the last time I had a Christmas tree was back in 2004 or 5 when FWKTM brought her children round and made it a condition that I had a tree. I even had three sets of lights on it and lots of baubles.  The first set of lights went kaput when I switched them on in the morning. The second went about half an hour before they were due to arrive and the last set went off when they were walking up the drive.  The lights were disposed of when the tree came down.  I gave the (quite large) tree away after that but kept the decorations for sentimental reasons.  I looked at them this Christmas and now they,too, have gone to a more appreciative home.

However I still have two trees and they mean much more to me than any other tree could ever mean. One was given to me by Catriona (my New Zealand Family's daughter) when she was knee high to a grasshopper and she gave me the other more recently.  The only decoration I have is my Father Christmas given to me years ago by FWKTM. 

So over the next few days I shall enjoy the companionship of friends, eat too much and have to walk  the mile home from Christmas Dinner in weather which will likely be less than pleasant.

Anyway for all that I hope that you enjoy your festive season whatever you believe.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Back in Blogland

It's been a rather odd week since I returned to the Island.  Little or no Internet access has caused me more than a little irritation and wasted time communicating with India.  I shall not go on about it too much, I promise, but after being, in effect, called a liar by a lady who, in all probability, has better degrees than I have but, unfortunately, could neither easily understand me nor make herself easily understood to me, I got the bit between my teeth.  After many days and being told that an engineer would come on the afternoon of 12 January, I eventually gave notice that I was going to institute the formal complaints procedure against BT.  I'm sure that it was sheer coincidence that within an hour my broadband had returned to what is normal here.  Given that BT tell me that they are only contracted to provide a download speed of 0.2 Mbps (which is just about adequate to get emails but not really to blog) I'm doing pretty well.

Whilst I was away we went for lunch with friends and on the way back Anna and I went into the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery which we visit frequently.  This view looking over to the University tower on the way out struck me:

I've been experiencing weather during the last month that I haven't experienced for 9 years and whilst a lot of the time it has just been dark and grey and wet and windy some of the skies have been quite spectacular:

I've also had a frosty morning (which is unusual for my house which is so near the sea) when the pond froze over.  That's the first time I've ever experienced that.

Obviously coming up to Christmas most of us are very busy with one thing and another but now that I'm back in Blogland I'll hopefully do my usual catch-up with everyone.

Friday 12 December 2014

Back to My View

I used to entitle my posts when I arrived home simply "Home" or "Home Again" but this causes Blogger all sorts of problems.  Well it causes Blogger to act in a way which causes me problems to be precise.

We set sail last evening at 1745 from Ullapool.  ETA Stornoway 2h 40mins later.  However the freight ferry which had also not sailed since Monday was just ahead of us and had to unload at the same berth in Stornoway.  It had 38 commercial vehicles from Transits to huge artics on board and the shops and hauliers were set up to work through the night to get shelves filled and things sorted.  

The skipper said that we should be careful because the swell left from the storms would likely cause a less-than-pleasant crossing.  As it was he managed to read the seas perfectly and the journey was very pleasant.  Unfortunately we had to wait a long time wandering around outside the harbour for the freight ferry to unload and leave the berth and I eventually arrived home somewhere just before 11pm.  I unloaded everything from the car and apart from putting a few perishables in the fridge was in bed and fast asleep by 2340.  I slept until 0813 without as much as an opened eye during the previous 9½ hours.

I've woken to 40 mph gales and more cancelled ferries and an intermittent internet showing a download speed of 0.02 which is next to useless even for emails on the iPhone never mind blogging.  I shall seriously start looking at satellite broadband I think.

I've spent the morning with all the usual chores and the enjoyable catching up and after a bite to eat I shall catch up with Gaz in town and then pop in for coffee and catch-up at Pat and Dave's.

As I never tire of saying it's a hard life but somebody has to do it.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Communications and Helplessness

I'm in Callander.  I love Callander.  It is a small place and one where I feel welcome and at ease.  Thanks, of course, to friends I have here. The plan was to return home on Wednesday but things have not turned out well for travelling in the Western Highlands this week.  Ferries have almost all been cancelled on the West Coast of Scotland today as storm force winds and heavy seas batter the north-west of the country.  This morning at 6.25 I woke to a thunderstorm which appears to have knocked out the Vodafone cellphone network (although I'm told that Vodafone is exceptionally unreliable in this area anyway) and twelve hours later I still have no cellphone.  Fortunately I went into Stirling today and was able to catch up with people whom I needed - yes, it a need - to contact.

Calmac (the ferry operator) would not change my booking from this evening to a ferry tomorrow because they say the whole situation is too uncertain to take new bookings.  Given that many of us returning to the Islands will be the best part of a day's journey (through uncertain road conditions) from the mainland ferry terminals of Uig and Ullapool not even knowing if there is space on the ferry if we turn up is an irritation.  So tomorrow I shall have to take a gamble and set out for one of the ports and hope that I can get home.  There is no Met Office warning for severe weather on Friday but the windspeeds at Stornoway at the ferry times on Friday are worse than they are for tomorrow.

So it's been a couple of days of mixed weather and emotions.  The weather has ranged from cold, icy conditions to storms with some of the worst seas I've known on the West Coast and I've had most of a day without a cellphone signal.  On the plus side I've had a good time with friends, I've acquired a Philip Raskin and I've managed to get a few Christmas presents sorted.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Stories My Suitcase Could Tell

Every now and then something one reads hits a chord.  

People get sniffy about all sorts of things: the popularity of Cav and Pag or Mozart Forty or  Classic FM or Jack Vettriano.  Some I know add Facebook to that list.  I like Cav and Pag. I like Mozart's Fortieth.  I would doubtless listen to Classic FM occasionally if it were available in the Hebrides. I enjoyed some of the early Vettrainos long before he was as popular as he is today.  I enjoy Facebook as a way of keeping up with news and friends in different parts of the country and the world.

Today a neighbour shared a post on Facebook: a post from an Islander's blog.  That post hit a chord.

 It was from a blog by Katie MacLeod entitled "Stories My Suitcase Could Tell".  Katie writes:

"I’m Katie, the owner of this ‘suitcase’ full of travel stories.  I’m a twenty-something Scottish islander and International Relations graduate with a love of politics, reading, coffee, chocolate, writing, and of course, travelling.  When I’m not blogging or trying to see the world, you’ll find me busy with my day job as a local journalist, which I love – every day is different."

The post was entitled "On Leaving Home, and Loving the Hebrides" and describes the bond between Islanders and their Island.

I wasn’t brought up on the island and have only lived here for forty of my seventy years but I feel the feelings she described. I am the first generation of my family living here. The second generation was brought up here and is married into the island as well. I think my son would write as Katie has written. I hope that his children will feel as she does and write as she has.

Friday 5 December 2014

A Concert and a Reminisce

Half a century ago Peter Roberts and I were members of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society and attended all the Tuesday Subscription Concerts, Saturday Concerts and most of the Industrial Concerts: having season tickets for the same seats year after year.  Then life got in the way of our shared times together.  I married and moved into darkest Cheshire and Peter went into the Church and became an Anglican priest eventually in South Africa where he died.

During that half century I never lost my love of the music which has been a constant companion through the Bad Days and the Good Days.  Yesterday, for the first time since I moved to Lewis, I went to an orchestral concert.  I went with Anna to The Glasgow City Halls (a wonderfully refurbished modern venue) to hear a concert by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra which was being broadcast on Radio 3.  There is something quite engrossing in watching a pianist (Javier Perianes in this concert) play a concerto one thinks one knows so well having played the CD scores of times over the years.  And there is something wonderful about not being able to do anything other than watch and listen and be swallowed up by the emotion of the music and the performance.

We are going to another concert at the City Halls on Monday evening. I'm quite excited.

[The images are downloaded from Google images.] 

Thursday 4 December 2014

Life, An Update

On Tuesday (is it really Thursday already?) we ('we' being Anna - a friend who had been staying - and I) drove down from Eagleton to Bishopbriggs.  We came via Skye and the Western Highlands and it was a beautiful drive.  Until, that is, night closed in as we left Fort William.  For me it was a foretaste of something I've not experienced since 2005: driving with temperatures around zero and the threat of ice on the roads.  The car is getting shod with winter tyres tomorrow.

It's great being down here are catching up with folk, shopping, going to a concert and the theatre and so on.  In theory I should have just as much time for Blogland but I've hardly read a blog this week.  I also miss the Big Skies which you just don't get in towns and cities. This is the sunrise a few days before I left: 

As we left the little township of Tarbert on Harris to cross to Skye I left a little bit (quite a lot actually) of 'me' there.

Boarding the ferry MV Hebridean Isles
Tarbert is on an isthmus between North and South Harris 
The barren landscape of Harris made even more rich and brown in the low sun of winter. 
The splendid bridge between the mainland of Harris and the small island of Scalpay

Monday 1 December 2014

Wednesday 26 November 2014

New Kids on The Block

I am now surrounded.  Well that's a bit of an exaggeration because I only have houses to the South of me.  However all but one of the nearest houses have animals.  In fact in the nearest three houses there are five dogs and three cats!  My garden with it's potential crop of birds is heaven for all the cats in the area.  Fortunately the way I've designed things the ability of cats to catch the birds is minimal. 

The latest additions to the local menagerie are Oscar and Sandy who were cavorting in the croft in front of my house yesterday.  Unfortunately winter light isn't perfect for capturing fast moving labrador pups.

They are being trained to come to heel at a whistle and, whilst there is a supply of biscuits, they are pretty good at it.  'Obedient' is probably too optimistic a word. 'Treats' is the real incentive.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

What Is Going On?

Recently all my emails in connection with this blog have come to the public email address but appear as being sent to "Holidays in the United Kingdom".  Nowhere can I find any rationale behind that.  Has anyone else had a similar experience?  Does anyone know why or how this is happening?

Another Google problem I'm having is this:

I'm gradually getting one for each of my Gmail addresses. When one follows the links Google says that an access has been attempted from or whilst I was using a "less secure" email client.  However I'm not using any of the ones they specified: I use iOS8 and Apple's Yosemite E-mail client.  All my passwords are randomly generated of more than 12 characters and stored in 1Password.  Is anyone else experiencing this?

Monday 24 November 2014

Please Give To Charity....Or Else

Don't get me wrong.  I support charities and I understand that they have to run appeals to get money.  However I prefer to support the charities of my choice and to whom I give and how much is entirely a matter for me and not for the rest of the world.  The only general exception I make is that I wear a poppy to remember and out of respect for those who lost their lives in war: celebrated on Armistice Day here in the UK and ANZAC Day in New Zealand.

Yesterday the annual Red Cross appeal (one of many by different charities) dropped through my letter box: Christmas cards for me to send together with a pen to write them and stickers to let my friends know that I support the Red Cross. What this really is, though, is blackmail.  We've sent you these things so you will feel obliged to pay for them.  Well I don't.  I actually resent it.  

What it amounts to is that if I send a donation to a charity I will be bombarded with even more requests.

Most Saturdays it seems there  are  bag packers collecting for their own local cause (they are often not charities but the local football club or whatever)  on the tills of the supermarkets.  Many of these I will happily support but some I certainly am not.  I also prefer to pack my own bags.  I really don't like someone putting a bag of potatoes on top of my tomatoes.  If I feel like supporting the cause I will do so but otherwise I won't but it takes quite a lot of nerve to walk away.

I doesn't stop there of course.  We are bombarded at every moment on TV and radio with please text DONATE  £10 to 66666 or whatever. And, of course, there's Bob Geldof (but that could be a post all of its own).

I could go on but I'm sure you can think of plenty more examples without my assistance.

I know that charities have to raise money and that in some cases much of it reaches the intended cause but I think it's all gone just a little bit too far.  Or am I just being a grumpy old man?

Thursday 20 November 2014

Morning Fog

Despite the recent storms we've had some beautiful days.  Although it was clear and beautiful here on the day I took these photos the mainland looking over towards Canisp and Suilvan was wreathed in fog.

Monday 17 November 2014


PLEASE NOTE: In order to avoid unwanted searches picking up this article I have deliberately altered the main word in the post.

I read a rather good post by Yorkshire Pudding entitled Snapshots.  What caught my mind though was the first few paragraphs of the post in red.

It reminded me that watching a news programme a few days I heard that someone visiting a theme park to see the falconry display was refused admission because he was not accompanied and the policy was that adults must be accompanied for fear of p*philia. Being me I assumed that there was some other more rational reason for the refusal.  However something else yesterday made me wonder so I looked it up.  The Western Gazette has an article which sets out the story very clearly.  It seems that it really is true (even allowing for a healthy scepticism of the press).

As I am unlikely to visit a theme park on my own it is something I could probably have ignored but for its lack of logic and unfair assumptions.  My brother and I have visited falconry displays partly because we like the birds and partly because it's a good photo opportunity to catch the birds in flight.  I'm not a p*phile (but then I would say that anyway) and I'm darn sure CJ isn't either.  So far as I can see all that rule achieves is that p*philes have to travel with someone else who may or may not be an 'accomplice'.  More importantly to me, however, is that I strongly resent the assumption now being made that every single male is a p*phile and the burden of proof is on him to show that he is not.  

Sunday 16 November 2014

Holly's Cat Ate His Finger

It's not often that a headline in the Stornoway Gazette catches my eye in that way that this one did.  It's the sort of article that makes the weekly worth buying.

I'm hoping that the Stornoway Gazette will regard this as a publicity exercise to help stem their dwindling circulation and overlook the possible copyright breach (if such a breach it is).  Unfortunately the article is not available on line.

Saturday 15 November 2014

A Different Perspective

Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time are bound to have seen many pictures of the bay below my house photographed from my house.  Few of you will have seen or are likely to remember the view from the pier down in the bay.  Yesterday the sea was boiling whipped up by 40mph winds from the East so I decided to go down to the pier and photograph what, from above, looked quite a maelstrom.  Oddly from down at the pier it didn't look quite so bad when photographed but, believe me, the wind was pretty fierce and the spray soon covered me, the camera and the Nighthawk parked quite a way back in salt.

Friday 14 November 2014


A friend on a recent trip to London was asked by a lady (with a North American accent) if she was from Britain.  On replying that she lived in Scotland the lady said displaying some surprise and admiration that my friend had 'good English'. Perhaps some people already think that Scotland is a foreign country as far as England (aka Britain)  is concerned.

Discussing something this morning with a lady, who shall be nameless but whom I admire for her dedication to reason and truth and who is an ardent feminist, she made the comment that "...women are still better multi taskers."  I asked whether there was scientific evidence for such a statement.  The response was "No evidence but I say so....want to make something of it???"  Of course my response was Noooooooo!!!  Thus demonstrating a severe lack of backbone when faced with a lady of intellect and conviction (whatever the potential flaws in her point of view).

There have also been some rather unusual posts in my Blogland this week.  Frances wondered "Whose bits are they, anyway?" and followed it up with a post starting
Her tits are on the mantelpiece,
Her gallstones in a jar.
(If that doesn't send you scurrying to her Blog then I don't know what will.)

She was suggesting that we aught to be given the option of having any parts removed from our body by surgery.  Given that most removals are because the offending piece is diseased in some way or another I can't really see why one would ever want such a piece regardless of any other arguments.  Certainly my diseased lung removed when I was 16 would have been a revolting acquisition as would my cancerous prostate.  Is Formaldehyde readily available to the public or does one really want such a thing in the deep freeze? I think the question might have been made with a lightness of touch.  I know one is often offered one's gallstones but then they aren't really body parts are they?  And just imagine the new set of rules and the number of people who would have to be employed and the number of waivers signed if one were allowed to leave the hospital with a leg in a bag. Not to mention the police time wasted trying to find out whose it was when it was put in the bin. Yuk.

Thursday 13 November 2014

A Realisation

This is the first year since 2005 that I have been on Lewis on the 13 November and this morning the realisation of one of the things that means hit me: I couldn't actually see the sun as it came over the horizon.  I am fortunate in that I live with big skies and can see the sun pop over the horizon for much of the year and for much of the summer I see it coming over the horizon behind the mountains of the Scottish Highlands on the other side of The Minch.  Today for the first time (the stormy weather means I've not seen a sunrise for a week or more) the sun rose just to the right of the little headland in front of my house.  Mind you what I could see was still pretty spectacular but you know what they say "Red sky in the morning sailor's warning" and we are supposed to be in for another big blow and torrential rain by this afternoon. 

At the summer solstice the sun rises where the yellow line points and sets where the orange one points and just dips below the horizon for the other few hours.

Today the picture is quite different with the sun rising and setting as shown below and there are still two more months to the winter solstice.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

A Heavy Heart

Yesterday I did something I thought I would never have to do and I did it with a very heavy heart:  I removed a comment from this blog. 

Of course we all remove spam and such like but on this occasion the post contained the apparent views of one of our community: a friend in Blogland.

The person concerned is well known to many of us for his unusual approach to lots of subjects and is generally very entertaining and, yes, often controversial.  Whilst having a deep intake of breath when I first read the comment I decided that free speech overruled my desire to delete it immediately.   I prevaricated.  Then a very close friend who to whom fairness is absolute and injustice anathema pointed out that it crossed the boundaries by any standards.  So I removed it.

I can't express how sad I feel.

Will it matter a couple go days from now?  Of course not.  But at this moment it weighs heavily upon me.

Sunday 9 November 2014

A Rather Unpleasant Journey

David and Molly the Collie left last Tuesday after a visit which I enjoyed very much.  David came up when I knew that I was going to have The Thing removed from my neck.  It was good having the company and David is a very good cook!  The weather was pretty atrocious for most of the time they were here and given the gale force winds combined with an unfavourable tide I was surprised that the ferry left Stornoway for the morning sail.  As it was it was rough.  You always know that it's going to be bad when the ferry, MV Isle of Lewis, comes past my house going North up The Minch.

Travelling North
Turning South to run with the wind and tide to Ullapool

Saturday 1 November 2014

No Complaints = No Problems (Q. E D.)

I am a fan of BT (British Telecom for those of you who might not know) who provide telephone and broadband services here in the UK.  I have been a customer for the best part of half a century.  Living in the wilds of the Scottish Outer Hebrides I am very much aware of the problems of providing services to remote communities and am always grateful for the fact that we have, generally speaking, good and relatively inexpensive communications (thanks in no small part to large Government  and EC subsidies).  

Many of my neighbours have little or no time for BT.  So it comes as an even bigger disappointment to me when they let me down.  For a long time now broadband on the Island has been very poor both in terms of speed and reliability and there have been petitions and news campaigns: all to no or little avail.  Basically there is not enough capacity to meet demand and it will be a few years before the exchanges are brought up to date and new fibre-optic cables laid.  I can live with poor broadband but not without it!  Recently BT asked me to run some tests because their equipment was showing that I had a connection.  I did and I do (at this moment).  Unfortunately I couldn't run the tests on my Macbook Pro (which can connect to the router by ethernet) because the Flash Player needed updating and there was not enough capacity in the broadband signal to do so.  Catch 22.  

An engineer was due to visit last Thursday afternoon because there is a problem with the phone line too so that may be affecting the broadband.  He didn't and there was no apology or explanation.  Another call to India.  Another visit arranged for Monday morning.  Hopefully he will find a fault and rectify it.  If he doesn't he'll be able to tell them that. The more complaints the more likely it is that action will be speeded up. Unfortunately 'the system' is such that if complaints are not made then there is no problem.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Thankful Thursday

I'm hoping that in order to send this I have an internet connection sometime today.  If I do, then that alone would be enough for me to feel very thankful this Thursday because I've had no really usable internet since Monday morning.  A great deal of my communication relies on an internet connection not just because of the computer but also because the mobile/cellphone signal here is such that we cannot get data and therefore cannot use many of the apps on the phone without wi-fi.

So I may or may not be visiting blogs depending on my access but I'm doing my best.

The other thing for which I am thankful is our wonderful health service.  I know that many of you in the US are not in favour of the public national health service we take for granted here in the UK (and some other countries in Europe too) but I owe my life to it and yesterday I benefitted, yet again, from the services of a first class surgeon and the team who provided her backup and support.

I had a cancerous growth removed from my neck.  It wasn't there six months ago and when it was removed yesterday it was affecting an area of about 20 x 15 mm - perhaps more.  Certainly the area of tissue removed was larger. 

It's removal will allow the treatment for my prostate cancer to carry on without any complications.

So this morning when I woke from a remarkably good sleep in the circumstances I was very thankful indeed for our health service and the people who staff it.

Now all I have to do is wait for an opportunity to get this post into the ether.

Sunday 26 October 2014

It's That Cat Again

It's a horrible day.  We have been besieged by storms and serious blog posts (well a few anyway) so I thought I'd show some pictures of Wesley (or whatever his/her name is).  S/he will get a surprise tomorrow: Molly arrives this evening.