Thursday, 31 July 2014

Thankful Thursday

I really must get my bum into gear.  When I arrived back in my Island home I started in a whirlwind of getting things done and catching up.  Last week a friend came to stay and it made me relax.  Now I can't get myself back into gear mentally or physically.  Of course I've been doing things: mainly indoors since the perfect summer weather we were having turned back to our normal summer weather but there is a big difference between just doing things and Doing Things!

So today I've resolved at least to start blogging again whilst I'm setting up my new Network Cloud Drive and this afternoon I'll get into the garden and also do some outside house maintenance.  Didn't you just want to know all that?

The fish are doing really well.  They are huge now.  The plastic bag was about the size of a large waterlily leaf so you can get some idea of how much they have grown in two years.

Ah.  Yes.  Thankful Thursday.  I look out of my window at the peace of my garden and the children down on the beach and the pier, swimming and pier jumping and the dog walkers along the shore below me and it makes me realise just how thankful I am and, I presume, everyone of you who read this post should be, for the fact that we are not living in a zone of conflict where even the basic necessities of life, never mind the things we think we 'need' to maintain our pleasant life styles, are denied us.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Mystery Solved

One of the problems with getting all your up to date news about the Island from a web-based news provider is that if you have no access to the internet you don't know what is happening.  There's no way the North of Scotland is going to make the Scottish TV news either at the moment because the only news is the Commonwealth Games.  So last night when I went onto Hebrides News I discovered why we had had no usable internet access.  

What irritates me is not that BT had the problem but that they didn't tell their call-centre staff so many people wasted lots of time getting false information and new routers which were completely unnecessary.  I spent 75 minutes whilst a very efficient and helpful lady in India did every test known to her and said there were no line faults that she could find (and who didn't patronise me when I told her that I'd done all the usual tests on my own equipment) before eventually referring the matter to a 'special unit' who would ring me back between 5 and 7pm the next day.  They usually do.  This time they didn't.  Black mark BT.  I've been a customer since the age of 26.  You won't lose me over this but you certainly lost a lot of brownie points.


Communications fault black outs internet and maritime radio  23/7/14

Some 3,000 island homes and businesses have been hit by a major communications blackout over the past two days.

Faulty equipment at BT’s mainland telephone exchange at Gairloch resulted in a very poor quality signal being transmitted over the main microwave link from the mainland to a receiver at Holm, by Stornoway, which feeds into the islands broadband network.

The parts of Lewis - mainly around the Stornoway area - served by BT were hit with many users having no service at all while others suffered slow broadband speeds over the period.

BT pledged the broadband network would be repaired by Wednesday night.

A BT spokesman said: “A faulty card in the telephone exchange at Gairloch has resulted in a degraded broadband service on the radio link to Stornoway.

“Around 3,000 broadband-users in the Western Isles are affected.

“A replacement card has been sourced and is being couriered to Gairloch with an estimated time of arrival of around 5pm.

“We’d like to apologise for the current poor quality of the broadband service but we’re aiming to restore normal service within the next couple of hours.”

Important coastguard and maritime radio services for the west coast of Scotland were knocked out and Stornoway coastguard was unable to transmit weather and navigation warnings.

In case of an emergency at sea, volunteers coastguards were sent to prominent hills with hand-held radios and mobile phones to relay any distress messages or situation reports with the main coastguard control room in Stornoway.

Coastguards radio systems’ were back on air earlier on Wednesday but the island’s  BT’s broadband links continued to be affected.

People paying fines by bank card at Stornoway Sheriff Court were turned away as their IT systems were down completely.

Many island businesses could not get on the internet to check e-mails or get in touch with clients. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Life Without Internet

The internet on the Island has gone berserk.

I've had big problems for a week or so but yesterday it disappeared.  I am not alone.  Far from it.  I went into The Woodlands (in Stornoway) this morning after having my fasting bloods done.  I wanted a bacon roll and a large black coffee!  And to use their wifi.  I managed to download my emails but then their wifi went down too.

Back home and I have wifi - just.  For how long I don't know so I thought that I'd post this so that you, dear reader, know why I am not posting and not visiting your blogs either as frequently as I would wish.

Add to that the fact that the weather here is as good as I can recall it in the last 40 years and I am  spending as much time in the garden as I can.  As I type this in my kitchen overlooking the bay with every window and door in the house open the temperature is just a whisker under 30ÂșC.  That's hot. 

Hopefully I'll be back again soon.

'Bye for now. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Solution - I Hope

Yesterday, and most of today, the weather was as perfect as it can get on Lewis.  The sun shone, the heat heated, the zephyrs gently caressed us and the midges, flies and clegs disappeared from whence they usually come.  All was well in the world - so far as the weather was concerned anyway.  So over the two days I've repaired paths, cleaned and repaired the UPVC porch and part of the study, cut hedges, weeded, and when I was sitting having a coffee break and indulging in some rare thinking I realised the solution to The Seagull Problem.  It occurred to me that the gulls dive into the pond and then need space to fly out of the pond itself.  So this should, I hope, be enough to thwart their efforts:

I will still have access to the pond and area around it and, hopefully, the goldfish will be safe.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

I Googled it.

The gulls are still making frequent overpasses to see if they can get at the meal they so desire.  Lazy creatures that they are: there's a whole bay full of sand eels a hundred metres away.  I decided that Jean (Jayview) had come up with the answer I would pursue.  Unfortunately when I looked at the practicalities of it for the moment it's on the back burner.  So tomorrow I will go and buy some net and make a frame to cover the surface.

When I Googled (should 'Googled' have a capital letter used thus?) I had an absolutely fascinating read.  I read that gulls don't eat fish.  I did, however, also come across a fascinating treatise by  Dr Adrian Lawler entitled Predatory Birds and Small Fish Ponds in which he concluded:
we are left with the following ways to try to protect our pond fish (methods that physically exclude the birds work best; killing or trapping methods are not listed because of protection laws):--stock out fish that are not easily visible in the pond (not brightly colored, or whitish, fish), --cut limbs that birds can dive from that overhang pond,--plant screens or other cover to prevent birds from getting (flying to, or walking to) to pond, --put fencing around pond to prevent larger herons from walking up to pond (also serves as deterrent for children), --make pond steep-sided and deeper than 18" at edges to keep wading birds out of pond, --put overhangs around edge of pond that prevent birds from getting to fishes that like to circle ponds at edges (overhangs should be high enough off water so they will not serve as fishing platform), --put a greenhouse around pond,--install bird netting (keep tight) to discourage diving or wade-fishing or bank fishing birds, --use decoys of competing large herons (to discourage other herons), --use various noisemakers (e.g., gas exploders, fireworks, or bird distress calls) (but not too effective unless noises made at irregular intervals, come from changing directions, etc.),--use fireworks for several evenings to disperse cormorants from their night roosts (can result in dispersed birds not going back to fishing at previous feeding sites),--use visual devices as foil and cloth strips, flags, balloons or objects with or without eyespots, irregular flashing lights, scarecrows, and artificial decoy hawks or owls, --use motion detector devices that spray water, or make noise, or turn on lights when activated,--avoid using logs and rocks, etc. around/in ponds that can be used as fishing perches,--get an aggressive dog trained to chase birds (this can be one of the best bird deterrents except when there are several ponds and the dog gets exhausted chasing the birds).
In the meantime the fish (not subtly camouflage coloured you will notice) keep swimming:

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Deterring Hunters

The goldfish are thriving.  The largest has grown from 3" to about 9" in the two years since I got them.  Until a few days ago when David was here I had never seen a seagull try to take one.  Then one evening a Black-backed Gull flew into the pond, attempted to get one (but got a beak full of pondweed instead) and flew off: all within a few seconds.  David was in the study and I was in the kitchen.  We both raced out.  We immediately erected a rough and ready defence-against-the-maurauding-gulls contraption.  It's still there and still deterring the enemy who makes constant forays to see if he can get at the fish.  So my next challenge is to see if I can find an acceptable deterrent which doesn't spoil my enjoyment of the pond and rockery but keeps the fish safe.  

I would perhaps understand a bit better and be more sympathetic to the seagull if there wasn't plentiful stocks of sand eels down in the bay a hundred metres away. 

Can I just add that the beautiful weather we've had the last few days has kept me from Blogland during the day and the fact that the internet has been down a lot and I've had visitors has kept me off in the evening and first thing in the morning.  It's a hard life.  My new bed has arrived though and is ready for occupation tonight so perhaps tomorrow...... 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Peace and Tranquility: A Study in Blue

with a little bit of red.

I can't make up my mind whether the beautiful weather yesterday and today with sun and blue skies intermingled with amazing high clouds giving an almost surreal effect at times.  It's been very warm too (by Hebridean standards).

Monday, 7 July 2014

It's Not My Fault

Many people complain about the nanny state.  Until, that is, someone does something that annoys us.  Then the first thing many say is "Someone should do something about that."  Which, of course, means the government in one of its many central or local forms.

At the weekend I came across last winter's magazine from the company that provides my vehicle breakdown service.  The fact that drink-driving is on the up caught my eye.  Then I saw the question "Who's to blame?".  What?  Surely there is only one person to blame when someone drinks and drives and that is the person who drank and drove.

The government may be able to help prevent it by executing drink-drivers or even by imposing some lesser penalty but does that make the government to blame for drink-driving?  You could outlaw alcohol production and sale (fat chance!) but are the producers and sellers of alcohol actually to blame for its misuse?  

Isn't it about time we actually started taking responsibility and blame for our actions?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Concreting: Day Four: Conclusion

The rain finished exactly at the time the Met Office had predicted late this morning and the blanket grey sky gave way to a mixture of blue and high cloud.  The rest of the weekend looks pretty dire so we uncovered yesterday's work to discover that the rain damage was minimal.  We set to work to do the final piece of the job which we had scheduled to be done when the rest was dry.  We decided that Molly had suffered enough being shut in the house and was unlikely to walk in the bit to be done today.

 Molly loves hoses!

She will do her best to 'catch' the water

Molly loves to know how things are done.

Job done

I still have to make a new flush manhole cover.  So hopefully from now on I'll not be tripping over the uneven surfaces and through puddles to get to the garden shed.  A job well done which I am sad to say I could no longer do alone.  Thanks to David and The Gazelle.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Concreting: Day Three

Before breakfast and the weather forecast was for rain at 4pm.  "Let's start early."  said David.  So we did.  The Gazelle was brought into town by his Mum and I picked him up whilst David started making the concrete.  Half way through we realised that a ton of concrete mix was nowhere near enough.  I ordered some more.  Would it come this afternoon?  Possibly.  It didn't.  However The Gazelle wondered whether the pile of coarse sand and stones that I had inside my gate would do.  Duh.  How could I have forgotten about that?  So we used them but when we had used all the cement and mixture we were left with this tiny bit to do:


A phone call to a friend up the road and we were in business again.

I'd show you a picture of the final result but for the fact that at 4pm the rain started and we had hastily to cover all the new concrete up before the rain did too much damage. When the rain stops I'll show you.

There's a Front Coming Through

Yesterday was a day off from concreting.  Involuntarily.  A weather front with gales and torrential rain came through.  We are hoping for better today although the forecast is far from good.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Concreting: Day Two

Today I felt my age.  My right knee has passed its use by date (I'm not complaining because I brought it on myself: I used to be a fencer and fencing coach).  It doesn't give me a lot of pain but it does make lifting heavy concrete or wheeling wheelbarrows down slopes rather difficult and very tiring.  Fortunately David did most of the really heavy work and his thirteen year old grandson went up and down the slope with the wheelbarrow like a gazelle.  Not that, I have to admit, I've ever seen a gazelle pushing a wheelbarrow.  Today we managed two panels of concrete.  The cement mixer is effective but doesn't have a very big capacity.

Yes, something or things did crawl across the first panel!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Concreting Day One

Yesterday was the day for doing the shuttering for the area between the house and the toolshed which I am intending to concrete after I had to dig up the previous concrete to lay a new drain.  Today the plan is to start the concreting.  Why, today of all days, did the wind have to drop and the midges descend in their thousands?

David surveying the afternoon's work