Saturday 31 May 2014

Death by Bedsheet

Today's news that obesity could be linked to sleeping in a room with too much light may or may not be scientifically sustainable but it did make me think about some of the odder correlations that have been shown such as this one

How on earth did 5886 people manage to die by becoming entangled in their bedsheets?  In fact how do you die that way?  I'm sorry but I think I am just about to make a request that if I die that way it's not declared.  I want people to be happy at my funeral and celebrate my life but I don't want them so completely struck down with mirth that they can't even participate in the service.

I finished a rather smelly camembert last night before I went to bed.  I slept soundly (and had no nightmares) and woke up this morning with the bedsheets as pristine as when I went to bed.  So far as I am concerned this was a Good Thing because I am here to finish this post and I haven't become a bed sheet statistic and my fridge no longer has that terrible smell (which was there even though the camembert was in two sealed plastic containers).

The correlation came from one of 244,470 correlations on the site tylervigen.com (and one is free to copy anything on the site).

Friday 30 May 2014

Midges in May

Yesterday afternoon the Minch was so quiet and placid

that last evening the dreaded midges arrived.

This morning there was an eerie stillness over the sea

and the midges were pleased and were still here.

Don't they know that it's still May?!

This is a Common Bistort.  It grows wild hereabouts but I love it so have a patch growing in the garden.  It spreads.  It will soon be a bigger patch.

It has absolutely nothing to do with midges.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Thankful Thursday: Lifeboat

When you live on an Island which is nearly three hours away from the mainland of Scotland by sea and it's a stormy winter night and the sea is running a colossal swell and the wind is howling storm force in opposition with huge waves, then, just occasionally, you wonder about what would happen if the sea got the better of the ship.

To be fair these days the ferry doesn't sail in the sorts of seas that it used to traverse.  People complained and in the usual way that everything is done these days, instead of saying 'well get the next ferry' they just stop the sailing when it gets that rough.

Anyway here in Stornoway covering The Minch we have the Lifeboat and the Coastguard Helicopter.

Well I am astonished.  I can't find it.  But I'm certain I've done one.  What?  A post on the Stornoway Lifeboat practising in the Bay below the house.  The funny thing is that several years ago I started a post in a similar vein.  I couldn't find it then either.  Well when the Stornoway Lifeboat was practising a few days ago I took some photos from the house.

When one lives in a country surrounded by sea and where there are thousands of ships and boats at sea at any one time one is profoundly aware of how many lives rely on the Lifeboat and Coastguard services.  This is a map, taken as I write, of the vessels carrying locator beacons in Scotland's waters in sight of a receiving station.  And there will be many more that aren't.

(Map from marine traffic.com)

So today, looking across that stretch of water that I have to cross to reach the mainland I am very, very grateful for the fact that we have people and resources devoted to our rescue in times of need.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

'If''. The alternative (by Frances Garrood)

If you can fill your room with junk and clutter, 
And still contrive to find your (unmade) bed.
If you withstand your parents' angry mutter
And play your music extra loud, instead.
If you can hoard your dirty mugs and dishes
And grow green mould therein, and cease to mind,
Stand fast against your teachers' well-meant wishes,
And, stalwart, keep your place in class (behind).
If you can eat three plates of food at mealtimes
And still have room for cereal in between,
And leave your dirty garments where you dropped them,
So everyone can tell where you have been.
If you can leave the jobs you're meant to do, lad,
And make quite sure that they remain undone,
Yours is this room, and everything that's in it.
You've now become a teenager, my son!

Frances Garrood

Dedicated to T, B and J.( But particularly T.)

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture, and apologies to Kipling)

Frances Garrood writes books.  In my humble opinion, and I am not alone in that view, very good and certainly very enjoyable books.  She also pens limerick after limerick and poem after poem on her blog (usually in response to Magpie Tales whatever they are).

This particular adaptation really appealed to me: possibly because Son 2 who is now one of the most meticulously fastidious of young men went through this phase with a vengeance.

I apologise for the repetition to those of you who have already read it on Frances's blog (with image). 

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Kelvingrove Revisited

On my way home from New Zealand nearly a month ago I stopped off in Glasgow for a few days with Anna.  One of the things I love doing in Glasgow is visiting the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.  So, not for the first time, I shall post a few of my favourite things which some of you will have seen before.

Monday 26 May 2014

Nothing is Secret

Warning:  This post contains indelicate language (but only in the first and last paragraphs).

When I came to live on Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland four decades ago those of us who came from outside the area to work that year realised quickly that life here had a different quality to that to which all of us had been accustomed.  David (of David and Molly fame) turned to me one day shortly after our arrival and said "You know, Graham, people here know that you have farted before you have eaten the beans."

Things are no longer quite the same: amongst other things there has been a significant population change with outward migration of many Island people and an inward migration of people coming here to retire from England.

However the principle of our every move being known has far from lessened.

If you use Amazon, then, every time you look at it, the pages you visit are logged and you will soon receive an email making suggestions for things you might like to consider buying or, perhaps, tempting you with a price reduction in the thing that you were looking at.  Amazon are by no means alone.  Lands End has altered its marketing strategy in a number of ways but targeting you when you look at their site is one of them.  There are many companies now doing this.

Have you noticed, for example, that when you visit some websites with adverts that the adverts are tailored to you personally?  I suppose because I live in two places and move around a lot it is much more obvious.  British websites that I visit when I'm in NZ will have adverts tailored to my NZ life and even to Napier.

The obvious thing if one is concerned about one's privacy would be to disable cookies on the computer.  It is amazing, though, how many websites will not work if you disable cookies.  I discovered this when I tried to log in to British Airways one day. Their website said that I could not access it because I had cookies disabled.  I think I am writing saying that some banks do the same.

Today, however, even I was surprised when I realised that one of the posts on Facebook was from FlyBe telling me the cost of the flight I had looked at a few days ago and suggesting that if I went back to their website then I might get a better offer (leastways I think that was the temptation being offered):

For those of us with a computer and who use the internet and who also have a cellphone (and particularly a smartphone with GPS) our every move is logged, our every thought is logged, our every want is logged and there is no escape.  Now my neighbours may have precious little idea about what I'm doing but Google, Yahoo and just about everyone else knows that I have metaphorically farted before I have eaten the virtual beans.  And they know about you too!!

Friday 23 May 2014

Bentley at Le Mans

A few months ago when I was in New Zealand the subject came up somewhere in Blogland of pictures which we had in our houses.  I have brought some of my pictures back from New Zealand this time and the question has arisen as to where they will be shown.  I have many more pictures than I have space to show them so I swap some pictures around.  This has the advantage that I become more aware of the pictures and I actually get to see more than I would see if they were always static.  Of course some pictures just live in 'their' place and never move.  This is happening to more pictures as time and the collection progresses.

Anyway I thought I would accede to the request and show you some of my pictures over the next few months.

The first one (for no particular reason) is one which John and Sue bought me for my 60th Birthday.  The story is that John and Sue and I had been having lunch in Angoul√™me when I was staying with them in France and we went to a gallery and I happened to see this picture and remarked that I liked it because it portrayed the Le Mans race of 1929 and a Bentley 4½ litre 'Big Six' similar to the one which my Uncle Eric had possessed.  No 10 shown in the picture won the 1929 race.

The picture is now in my living room over the roll top desk which was also Uncle Eric's and which was and is one of the few 'things' I possess which is of exceptional importance to me.  It lived inside the front door of the cottage in Clophill in Bedfordshire that my Uncle lived in when I was knee high to a grasshopper.  I always wanted to roll my marbles along the roll-top but Mum forbid me to do so.

Thursday 22 May 2014

On Giving Your Country a Bad Name

I don't know about anyone else but I judge people on who they are and I have no interest in where they come from insofar as judging them is concerned.  I was born and brought up in a city in England  where there seemed to be hardly any English people.  This was in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  Almost everyone in Liverpool seemed to have come from somewhere else.  People were Liverpool Welsh; Liverpool Irish; Liverpool Scots; Liverpool West Indian; Liverpool West African; Liverpool Chinese  and so on.  I do not recall there being any Liverpool people from the Indian sub-continent when I was small because they seemed to live in the more central Lancashire towns.  It is rumoured that there were Liverpool English but I am not sure that I ever met any.

As for nationality I have always adhered to the fact that being born in a kennel does not make you a dog.

Which brings me a tiny bit nearer to the point of this post.....just a tiny bit nearer.

This afternoon I received a phone call from an 'Unavailable' number.  I did as I usually do and put the phone back in its cradle without saying anything as soon as I heard the familiar patter.  The phone rang again.  I did the same.  It rang a third time this time showing 'International' and then 0017324521133 and a very indignant voice wanted to know why I had hung up on him.  He was, after all, a technician from Windows who needed to help me.  I broke with my traditional silence and said words to the effect that I wasn't prepared to listen to a rogue, thief, charlatan, scammer and so on and did he really think I would stand having my intelligence insulted in such a way.  I quite surprised myself.  He hasn't rung back.  He probably thinks I was very rude and inconsiderate.

The voice was one typical to my ear of someone from the Indian sub-continent.  It did fleetingly make me think that people like him give people from his country a bad name.  Then I though about that loathsome (I accept that is a personal judgement based on hearsay because I've never met him) ex-city trader and professional politician Nigel Forage's comment about Rumanians.  I only know two and nicer, better educated, honest and more beautiful people you could not wish to meet.  They give people from their country a good name.  Then I thought about all the rogues and scoundrels from petty thieves to billionaire fraudsters from the UK (some of whom we have even managed to incarcerate away from society for a while).  And then I stopped thinking.  

After all, despite having lived the greater part of my life in Scotland and with no residential affinity now with England, I might shortly be classified as an alien and have to apply for residency or citizenship in what I consider to be my own country or, if Scotland joins the EU, be treated as a visiting resident from another EU country (just like an Italian or Rumanian or Pole or....the list is endless).  Just as all the persons born in Scotland and now permanently resident in other parts of the UK might be in a similar situation.

Friday 16 May 2014

I Am an Ecological Vandal (Apparently).

I have often been accused of being an ecological vandal and having far too large a carbon footprint.  I live alone but I have two homes on opposite sides of the globe and I use an aircraft to commute between them.  I have two cars.  In fact I have two of most possessions where others only have one and often that one is shared between a whole family.  In other words I utilise a far greater quantity of the earth's resources than I would do if I had an ounce of green in me.  I've never really seen it like that but I am making no attempt at defence.

However even I was a little surprised at the carbon footprint of a purchase I made this week.  I use plastic storage boxes (a non-green thing to do anyway) and the ones I use in New Zealand are  designed and made there and are far superior to the ones that I use here in Scotland.  Needing some more I ordered some of the same design and make as the ones that I use in NZ.  They arrived this afternoon.  Much to my surprise they are not made in Europe under licence but are made in NZ and transported here.  They do not stack so take up a huge amount of space for their value.  So not only do I use plastic boxes but I use plastic boxes with a huge carbon footprint.

Would that stop me buying more?  I'm sad to say that it wouldn't.

If you are wondering why I think they are so superior it is because the clip is on the base and clips onto the rigid lid.  The others all seem to have the clips on the lid and eventually the less rigid sides of the box make it less easy for the clips to hold.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Thankful Thursday

I am not a Grumpy Old Man.  I'm not old yet for a start.  However this evening whilst trying to log into a bank account I received the following (amongst many other) message:

I have no need of an overdraft nor any loans and the account is not a premier one with benefits related to income so why do I need to tell them my income?  The problem is that if you don't answer the questions you can't access your accounts.  Whyyyyyy? 

The last few days I have felt overwhelmed.  So many emotions have been churning around.  The number of things which need attention, the amount of clutter to be sorted, the things I want to achieve and the planning for the summer have all seemed to be much bigger tasks than they are in reality.  And I've been visiting friends and none is as fit as when I left 6 months ago.  

I need to change my house insurance.  I have been with the same insurer for years.  I am, as a consequence, paying over twice as much as quotes I have had from other reputable companies and nearly £1000 more than a friend with a larger house in an urban area is paying with an equally reputable company.  Now I haven't checked the wording of all the policies.  Have you?  Of course you haven't.  Why?  Well one reason could be that if your car is insured with Endsleigh the policy will run to 37,674 words.  That is more than Orwell's classic novel Animal Farm.  Apparently 73% of people do not read their car insurance policies.

On the bright side Nissan is trialling a new 'self-cleaning' paint that's resistant to rain and dirt.  That should cheer us all up no end.

Oh yes.  It's Thursday.  I should be thankful.  I am.  There is an hour and forty minutes (BST) to go until it's tomorrow.  There is a sporting chance that I will have survived another day.

Sunday 11 May 2014

0444 - Again?

Twice this week I have woken with 0444 showing on the bedside digital clock.  That's the trouble with digital clocks:  it's never 'a quarter to five' or 'half past six' any more.  It's time accurate to a minute.  Assuming, that is, that the clock is accurate.  Mine tend to be.  I'm just like that.  An accurate clock person.   My main clock in the house is one of those clocks controlled by the radio time signal from Rugby and, of course, all the internet devices automatically correct themselves.

Sometimes this accuracy causes me problems.  When I drove one of The Family's cars in New Zealand the time was never accurate so it would throw me because I automatically made the basic assumption that it was.

It's all part of the Edwards Family need to be on time for appointments or at least not to be late.

What I was really thinking when I started this was just how coincidental it was to wake twice at the same time within three days given that my bedtimes vary within a three hour time gap.

Each year when I return I forget just how much catching up there is to do and how much adjusting.  Whilst I am away Pat aka Spesh looks after my affairs and without that my stay away would be, if not impossible, certainly very much harder.  Thank you Pat.  

David and Molly leave tomorrow.  Where did the week go?

 Molly looks rather sinister don't you think?  She's not.  She has a lovely nature (unless you're a cat!)

The RNLI Stornoway Lifeboat has a new home since I left last October.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

What a Difference a Day Makes

I know most of you will have seen this view before but I thought that, after yesterday's dreich photo, I would show the view from my kitchen window in a more favourable light as it was this morning.  It really is a beautiful place.

This afternoon David and I went to see how Gaz was spending his few days of leave.  He was playing with his big boy's toy and digging a trench from the house to the road for the mains services.  I really would like one of those to dig the trenches for the proposed polytunnel I'm hoping to put in this summer.

Monday 5 May 2014

Home and Dry

I arrived home on Lewis yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.  So home, yes but dry? Who am I kidding?  

There is a good Old Scots* word, dreich.  There is no finer word for describing a particular Scottish weather: the type of Scottish weather that we have been having since I returned to Scotland last Tuesday.  The type of weather seen from my kitchen window at 0630 this morning:

It's cold.  It's wet.  It's miserable.  It's misty.  It's dreary.  It's dreich!   It's my Scottish HOME!

It is one week ago New Zealand time that I left my New Zealand home for my Scottish one.  Where did that week go?  Well apart from spending about 30 hours in the air and what seemed like the same amount in airports I spent a lovely few days with a friend in Glasgow catching up and having a rest.  I'm fortunate in not suffering from the ill effects of jet lag and, on this occasion, despite sitting next to a couple snorting and spluttering with cold (there would appear to be cultures where the handkerchief is considered bad manners but spreading germs isn't)  on the leg from Auckland to Brisbane I haven't got a cold either.

A bonus is that David and Molly arrived last night.  I'm sure there will be photos for Molly's adoring public.  David is good company because there are lots of jobs to be done and David loves doing jobs! It must be something about the name because Pat's Dave has been keeping my grass cut.  Thanks Dave!  Gaz arrived back on the Island the day before me for a short break.  So that'll be more catching up.

Anyway I thought that I'd let you know that I have arrived and that this is going to be a busy and wonderful week.

* There seems to be considerable debate as to its origin and a trawl of the different dictionaries this morning would seem to indicate anything from Greek through Scandinavian and Norse to Middle English.