1 EAGLETON NOTES: August 2014



Sunday 31 August 2014

Fashion: Really?

An email from John Lewis containing this image dropped into my inbox a couple of days ago.  I know that I'm not into suits nor fashion these days but, really, is this what Savile Row now regards as suits for the fashionable?

Saturday 30 August 2014

My Last Climb of The Clisham

On a day in March 2004 Gaz and I had planned to climb The Clisham: the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides, at 799 metres (2,621 ft) the archipelago's only Corbett  Not long previously we had climbed Ben Lomond: at 974 metres (3,196 ft) and situated on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, it is the most southerly of the Munros.   My photos, however, show the former on one of the most glorious of days.  

For Gaz, who the previous week had climbed Mont Blanc, this was just a  stroll in the park. 

Thursday 28 August 2014


Perhaps it's youth.  Perhaps it's being a Kiwi.  Perhaps it's being one's mother's son.  Perhaps it's a combination of all those things.  Perhaps it's just because James is James.  Whatever.  When people stay with me I take the view that this is their temporary home and whilst I would like to think that I look after my visitors I accept that both our lives have to carry on as well.  So when, for example David and Molly come it's the sort of  easy relationship that comes from 40 years of friendship. It's a similar story for most of my friends who stay.  We do things together and we do our own thing as well.  When I've met James up until now it's been in his family home in New Zealand.  From the moment he arrived last week until we left for me to take him to the ferry at 0610 this morning it's as if he had always been here.  An easier, more amicable house guest could not wish for.  I am sorry to see him go.  James I wish you a safe journey back to your temporary life in Germany.  I hope that we will meet again soon.

Fortunately the weather for his visit has shown the Island at its best and James has managed to get some tramping as well as a bit of cycling and serious 'tourist sightseeing'.  Yesterday James discovered that the bike he had not been using had a puncture which he just set about mending whilst I spent one of those wonderful days pottering around the garden and getting lots and lots done whilst expending relatively little energy in serious hard labour.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

A Visitor From New Zealand

On Wednesday a friend from New Zealand who is on a gap year teaching in Germany came for visit to Lewis.  The weather's been varied but it hasn't stopped James from exploring the Island's tourist spots with me and also going tramping on his own and exploring lesser known spots.  Today with the sun shining out of a clear blue sky and the temperature quite respectable out of the wind we went off to do the tourist trail in Harris.    I should, at this stage explain that nowhere, absolutely nowhere, is out of the wind in Harris and the wind was cold, very cold.  That didn't stop James from going for a swim.

No one can say that we don't have beaches and scenery here to match, or better, the rest of the world. What I do have to admit is that we don't have the hot, sunny weather that makes other beaches full of people and ours rather less so.

James using Google Photo Sphere (of which more in another post)

Very tempted!  I last climbed The Clisham in 2004 with Gaz
At Horgabost with Taransay Island in the background.
...and what is James doing standing in the water?  Using Google Photo Sphere again
Horgabost looking north
Enjoying the (very cool) water 
At Luskentyre
...can't wait to get to the water
That's James...the wee dot in the centre of the photo.  It's a big beach. 
....a huge one in fact.
and looking south from the same spot towards the Horgabost beach.

Sunday 24 August 2014

ICE Challenge

Gareth, happily ensconce on his honeymoon with Carol in the heat of the hills of Mallorca and having very stylishly had the champagne ice-bucket tipped over hime, even-handedly nominated me and his new Father-in-Law for the ICE challenge.  As every second post on Facebook seems to be an ICE challenge at the moment and given that it's raised over $50 million so far I think I'd have felt a bit left out if no one had nominated me.  Anyway this afternoon with the help of a friend, Carol, to pour the water and James from New Zealand taking the video the operation went ahead. Fortunately at least the midges thought the water was too cold as well.  Many of those who view this blog are not friends on Facebook so you can have a laugh at my soaking here if you wish.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Ban Powerful Vacuum Cleaners

Is it just me?  Apparently new EC Regulations ban the production and sale of vacuum cleaners over 1600watts.  I can appreciate why and I'm sure that designs can be made to be very strong and efficient at that power but I do wonder whether our lives are becoming just too regulated.

On a lighter note can you see the face in the Agapanthus bud?

I upset a rhino,
That you and I know,
By saying it was verminous.
How was I to know
That that rhino
Was thin skinned
As well as pachyderminous.  

A zebra, it is said,
Is an equine quadruped.
It is, of course,
A striped horse.

Well they filled some of the blank space!

Thursday 21 August 2014

A New Family

When Gareth and Carol married two families were joined.

It is only now that the festivities are over and I have returned from my all-to-brief sojourn in Glasgow that the reality of that joining has struck home.

When Gareth and Carol announced that they were marrying Carol’s family made it clear that if Gaz married Carol he married her family as well. I cannot think of a more loving and wonderful family with which to be associated as an in-law.

Gaz’s Mum and I have not lost a son nor just gained a daughter-in-law: we too have gained a family.

For me having lived on the Island for four decades it has the special significance of cementing my bond to the Island.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

What Happens Afterwards?

I'm referring, of course, to the Referendum as to whether Scotland should become independent.

One of the first things anyone learns who is doing a job which involves advocacy of any sort is that in order to win an argument you must first know and understand the other person's case or point of view.   So when a friend who was round for dinner last night asked me why some Scots would wish to vote 'Yes' I embarked upon an explanation.  I had little difficulty partly because my head has been here long enough to understand and partly because I spent my early years in the North West of England and people there had a similar view of being dominated by the South who, in our minds, regarded anyone north of Watford as a teuchter.

I should say that unless asked a direct question I always try to avoid the subjects of politics and religion when in company: especially the company of people who may hold strong and differing views from my own.

To cut a long story short one of the party took umbrage at the case I made and left in a towering and apparently uncontrollable rage.

Wind back the clock a few months and I joined Collaborative Scotland whose website started with the paragraph:  "Whatever the outcome in September’s referendum about independence, we all need to work hard to ensure that we can live well together after the referendum. That this is so within Scotland seems fairly obvious and, of course, the same can also be said about our relationships with the rest of the UK."  I'm not sure that the organisation has really got very far although I like its objectives.

How I will vote remains my business and, in any case, whilst I started off with my head ruling my heart, on the day my heart may well rule my head or perhaps my head will have seen reason (whatever that might be!).

Whatever the result I fear that the recriminations and effects will be far more bitter and far-reaching than anyone can at this moment imagine.  I hope that I am wrong.  I very much hope that.

Monday 18 August 2014

Competitive? Who says?

One of the things that Gaz organised for the day after the wedding was an archery contest.  Despite the fact that it was raining heavily and quite windy quite a few of us took part.  Some were more competitive than others.  Some were more expressive (and therefore more photogenic) than others!  The Best Man clearly thought that at this moment he had the upper hand on a rival: competitive

Saturday 16 August 2014

Do You Read The Manual?

Spesh has been having a go at the cat for (allegedly) having a go at the new rug.  It's a very opulently sculptured rug in pure wool.  A few days ago she discovered that it says very clearly on the label on the bottom that it should not be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner but simply with a hand brush.  Who does that nowadays?  Anyway the cat has been exonerated.  I think that not reading the manual is generally regarded as a man thing.   That's what I'm told by my female friends anyway.  Spesh is quite open about the fact that she's too impatient to read manuals.  (and even more open now that I've written this!).  

However it made me think that perhaps I should read the manual for the new microwave/convection oven and grill that I've just bought to replace my ageing microwave oven.  It's amazing what one learns when one reads the manual.  I never knew, for example, that you can use aluminium foil in a microwave to stop certain parts of something you are cooking from being overdone.

One of the reasons I bought it was to bake the occasional potato without having to put the main oven on for a single potato.  I had rather hoped to be able with this splendid piece of equipment to produce a baked potato faster and more economically but with a nice fluffy inside and a well-cooked crispy skin.  However the manual assumes that you will microwave your potato.  That's quick but the skin is far from crisp.  So I think that, despite being a good boy and reading the manual, it's still going to be down to experimentation for my perfect potato.

Do you read manuals?  Now, come on, be honest.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Oh How The Gods Did Smile

It rained the day before The Wedding.  The Scottish Highlands saw some of their worst floods the day after and yesterday.  The Day started a bit dubiously too but by the time of The Wedding the sun shone out of a clear blue sky and those men dressed in full Highland Dress and the Bride and Bridesmaids were definitely not cold! 

Frances, having just posted on a very pertinent subject, might have had quite a lot to say about what was by far the most photographed wedding that I have ever been to.  There was a photographer and a videographer and their two assistants and the day was photographed from beginning to end.  I, on the other hand, took a couple of photos at the start of the day (because, with a female stranger in the room that Gaz and I shared on the eve of his marriage photographing every move, I felt disinclined to get changed) and one much later on in the day.  I probably took fewer photos than I've taken on any day that I've actually used my camera in the last 10 years.  I should add that it was organised in such a way that none was just hanging around waiting as you can tell from the background of the last photo.

I'm now down staying with a friend near Glasgow.  There will doubtless be more posts but this is a start.

The Photographer starts her day
Abandoned by a Bridesmaid
The Father of The Groom having a relaxing moment during the formal photographs

Thursday 7 August 2014

The Garden's Birds

A few days ago Pat and I saw a Merlin chasing a small bird into the hedging nearby.  Then I saw a Sparrowhawk chasing a pigeon (I think it was a pigeon) across the garden.  Yesterday I saw all the usual daily birds plus a Wren, two types of Pipets, a young Wheatear (I'm sure she's been around here since she fledged) and a Robin (who was too quick to be caught on camera)

Meadow Pippit
Young Sparrow who's trying to impress - 9 months early
Fuzzy Wren
Female Wheatear
I'm off to The Wedding on the lunchtime ferry and I'll be away for a while but hopefully I'll have plenty of blogging opportunities once the weekend is over.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Age Doesn't Matter

Unless you are a cheese. 

On the other hand there are advantages to being a senior citizen or and old age pensioner: you can get free bus transport throughout Scotland (if you are a Scottish resident) and you pay less for a haircut!  So today, mindful of our son's wedding at the end of the week I went in for a haircut.  The (23 year old) hairdresser, whom I had not met before this morning, was very chatty and pleasant and when it came to pay said something like "I'm terribly sorry and I hope you won't be offended but I didn't manage enough clues during our chat.  Are you over 60?"  Given that I'm 70 I was pretty chuffed.  

It reminded me of a day many years ago (I was around 50 at the time) when a barber in Liverpool where I was visiting my parents assumed that I was an old age pensioner (at the time 65) and I was so taken aback that I just accepted the insult, paid the reduced charge, and left.

Overall it's been a Very Good Day.  It's a shame that the two 'contestants' in the Scottish independence debate this evening are doing the usual debating thing and making complete arses of themselves.  Whatever else they are doing they are not increasing my knowledge.  They are, however, confirming my despair at the politicians that govern us.  There was a great deal of heat and very little light.

Monday 4 August 2014

The Garden

Well not the whole garden just the 'front' garden which is on the east side of the house between the house and The Minch looking out towards the Scottish Mainland.  When I posted about the garden a few days ago some people have mentioned to me that they don't know what it looks like now.  So I thought I'd post a few general photos and also show the Lavatera (which may have been confused with a Hibiscus).

Looking South South East
Looking South
Looking East
Looking North
Montbretia (also known as Crocosmia and often incorrectly spelt Mombresia or Mombretia)
Lavatera - a seaside loving plant

Saturday 2 August 2014

I Hope Service Still Lives On

Somewhere around 1965 I was taken ill in the middle of the night.  I had completely forgotten about the incident until today when I was thinking about the department store John Lewis and the remarkable service I used to get from George Henry Lee which was their Liverpool Branch back then.  I had shopped there independently since I was 16 as had my parents before me.  The doctor was called in the middle of the night and the next morning an ambulance arrived to take me to the nearby hospital (where I had been born and had subsequently worked for a while).  This took me a little by surprise (I didn't even possess a dressing gown).  I rang George Henry Lee and asked if they could send a dressing gown and some pyjamas to the ward.  A couple of hours later one of the young men from the menswear department arrived on the ward with a green paisley dressing gown: the perfect choice.  I have no idea what the pyjamas were like (I have always had a detestation of wearing clothes in bed).   Many years later that young man was still working in the menswear department and I was still buying clothes from him.

When my Uncle who lived on Anglesey was taken in to Bangor Hospital about 9 or 10 years ago he needed extra pyjamas and a dressing gown and, as I was over 500 miles away I wasn't in a position to do anything immediately.  So I rang the M & Co branch in Bangor (in those days it was Mackay's).  I told them what I needed and said that I would try and arrange for a taxi to collect it (how I would manage to get a taxi to do that without cash I wasn't sure).  The assistant asked me to call back in a short while.  I did and she had arranged the whole thing.  One of her colleagues with a car was going home shortly after and she would go to the hospital and take the clothes to the ward for me.  For the record I wrote to the head office and expressed my appreciation.

I have never ceased to be loyal to John Lewis nor to M & Co nor to sing their praises.

I wouldn't mind betting that even with though sales are so the impersonal these days those two companies would still help out in a crisis.  I would like to think that they are not alone.  Just don't try and ask Amazon!

Friday 1 August 2014

It's Taken 20 Years

When I bought this house in 1993 the garden didn't exist.  It was just bare croft land like the land on the other side of the fence with the addition of building rubble from when the house was built in the 1920s and extended in the '70s and again in the '80s.

Local customs made it impossible to work on the garden on the Sabbath and I worked six days a week as a rule.  So transforming the bare land into what I have now took a long time working mainly on summer evenings.  After 10 years of moving tons of soil and stones I had got this far with a retaining wall built and a level that could be used (it had previously been too steep to contemplate a 'lawn' area).  Most of you will have seen many photos of what the garden is like now but I'm not sure that the the work is any less: just different.

There is still lots of planting and alterations to do and it still needs weeding constantly.  So when friends come to stay (especially gardening friends)...

But it's worth it:

Primrose (sic) though they look like Primulas to me
Primulas (sic) though they look like Primulas to me
Geranium 'Rozanne': a low ground-covering geranium