1 EAGLETON NOTES: December 2014



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