Sunday 28 June 2015


CJ and I are in Dunkeld (the local website is here) in the gateway country to the Scottish Highlands. We are staying at the Royal Dunkeld Hotel. I've stayed here a number of times and CJ and I stayed here a few years ago, or so we decided. In fact it was in May 2009.  Where did the intervening years go? Or more appropriately where did the years that we couldn't account for go?

It's a very good and welcoming hotel made all the better by the excellent and accommodating mine host, Neil. (YP it must be something to do with the name!).

There is something about Dunkeld which has always attracted me and it is unusual for me not to stop when I'm going down the A9 (though less often when going up and usually have a ferry to catch).

Whilst CJ was having a rest after the journey I went for a walk and went to the Dunkeld Art Exhibition which turned out to be enjoyable and fruitful. 

After dinner I walked over the old Telford Bridge (built over 200 years ago with its beautiful views (this one is to the South).

There I found a lot of Black-headed Gulls 

who seemed to think that any person crossing the bridge was carrying food for them. They have sight we could only dream of and within seconds they had left the bridge snd descended on a young lady with a take-away box of food down by the river. They mobbed her and she dropped it and fled.

Tomorrow CJ and I and the Nighthawk have a relatively easy day going to Ullapool for the late afternoon ferry over to Lewis.

Thursday 25 June 2015

Thankful Thursday

Rabbie (Robert/Robbie) Burns knew what he was talking about when he penned To a Mouse:

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Today has been a Very Strange Day.

It started off well enough as I left Anna's for Ayr Hospital and my cancer review. All seems to be well. For that I am exceptionally thankful.

A friend had major cancer surgery today and I've just heard that she's some through it. For that I am exceptionally thankful.

Another is recovering from a heart attack and angioplasty and for that, too, I am exceptionally thankful.

And as I drove down the M6 past Penrith and the Morecambe turnoff a white transit van suddenly and inexplicably with no warning pulled out in front of me at 70 mph. I braked severely and instantly and a collision was avoided. However I suddenly realised when I put my foot on the throttle that I had no power, the engine had cut and unfortunately would not restart.  I was in the centre lane with a car on my inside and no hard shoulder to escape to (a new access is being constructed) and I was on a bend. That was scary. The car drifted to a halt in the nearside lane with about 15 metres to a little break where I could get about half the car off the carriageway. So I drove the car on the battery and starter motor into the gap.

And from safety behind the barrier phoned the police and the breakdown service.

The Highways Agency came and removed the car to the hard shoulder about 100 yards further on having stopped the traffic on the motorway in order to do so.

Eventually the breakdown service came and, to cut a long story short, the car suffered from a moment of severe fuel starvation (which showed up on the inboard diagnostics) presumably as a result of my attempts to accelerate again after the severe breaking when the engine may have stalled.  However I'd done some damage driving the car on the starter motor to get it out of trouble.

So instead of having the car taken to my brother's on the back of a wagon

and sorting out a repairer tomorrow morning I decided to have the car recovered to a garage here in Morecambe who have ordered the parts and will have it repaired by 1030 tomorrow at the latest (they say).

So my beloved and faithful Nighthawk lies ignominiously in a garage in Morecambe and I'm typing this in a Witherspoon  near the Travel Lodge where I shall spend the night. So far as I can recall it's the first time in its 11 years that it has caused me grief. Or perhaps it was I who caused it grief. 

So whilst I was standing at the side of the motorway I played the Glad Game: it wasn't raining (it had been torrential with flooding when I left Ayr) and I wasn't hurt and neither was anyone else.

I have a great deal to be thankful for this particular Thursday.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Age Cometh Not Alone

I am used to travelling. As my regular readers will be aware one of the Edwards traits is timekeeping: lateness is totally anathema. If I am using any form of public transport I check and re-check my times and I always leave time for eventualities such as hold-ups on the road if I’m going for a ferry.

When I’m going for the morning ferry from Stornoway I just use the setting on my alarm clock and iPhone. It’s the only time I ever use an alarm to wake up. This morning I was vaguely puzzled after I’d had my shower by the amount of time I seemed to have to get all the other things done before I set off. I eventually set off good and early for the closing time for the ferry (which is 45 minutes before departure). I arrived, as I thought, 20 minutes early. In fact I was 10 minutes late. I’d got the ferry time wrong.

Fortunately the ferry wasn’t full and there were no weight-listed vehicles so I got on….just.

I am still recovering from the trauma. Missing the ferry would have been an irritation though not a disaster: there is another this afternoon. However the personal mental shame would have been just a bit too much.

The strange thing is that if I miss a flight connection or am late through no fault of my own then it doesn’t worry me in the slightest. What I can’t control is not a problem for me.

So far as I can recall this is the first time in 40 years of ferry travel that I’ve done this. It’s also the first time I’ve been 71. I’m beginning to draw conclusions I do not like.

(Written yesterday on the ferry).

Sunday 21 June 2015

The Hebridean Cycle Challenge

I spent a good bit of yesterday being a roadie for our son Gaz who was taking part in the Hebridean Cycle Challenge (or Facebook).  There are a number of possible options but Gaz chose to do do the road race from Stornoway to Meavaig and then the mountain bike stage from Meavaig to the Scaladale Centre. Even at my fittest that would have been a challenge too far for me. Because of the various permutations (one could do one or both stages or have a partner do the second stage either by mountain bike or running) when we left for home we still didn't know what Gaz's result was and as I post this it hasn't been published either.

Even bikes have GPS computers these days
The start
A slight respite
The long and winding road (and some trees!)
Climbing the Clisham
Finishing the road race
Setting off on the mountain bike stage 
Disappearing into the mist
The Finish

Friday 19 June 2015

The Hunting of Foxes

The debate over whether fox hunting with dogs in the traditional way should be allowed to continue in a civilised society continues to baffle me. Kill foxes if one must but do it as humanely as possible.

The one argument that comes across time after time is that it is simply a necessity rather than a sport and that foxes are vermin to be controlled and that hunting in the traditional way is the most effective.

So why, I ask, were foxes introduced into Australia? The answer is specifically to provide sport.

Cruelty is one thing. Hypocrisy is hardly any better.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

A New Colony

Oh dear. More emails. "Why are you not blogging?" It seems that if a week goes by and I don't blog (not because I don't want to but because I'm just living other parts of my life) that is the magic trigger for the 'are you ok?' emails. You know what? I really love that there are people out there who care enough to ask. Thank you.

One of the things that has been very rewarding this week has been seiing a new colony of Sparrows establish itself in the garden. As I said in a post a few weeks ago entitled Lucky I have a colony of sparrows living in the roof above my bedroom. Perhaps ten years ago I set up a nesting box on the wall of the garage. It was badly sited because it’s on the North wall and has never been occupied……until this spring. I first noticed a sparrow going into it a few weeks ago but now it’s clear that it has established itsef as a little overspill colony.

Sunday 7 June 2015


For weeks now I have been trying to get photos of fledglings being fed. Every day my bird feeders dispose of nearly ½ kilo of bird food so the sparrows are already on their second brood. I feel very protective of them because they live under the roof tiles above my bedroom. Houses in Scotland are constructed with wooden sarking under the tiles so there is no access to the house roof space for the sparrows and they are therefore not a nuisance. Usually I seem to have a ‘year of the sparrows’ or a ‘year of the greenfinches’. This year is a year of both. My cameras are nearly always within a metre or two of me when I’m in the kitchen or study where I have the best views of the birds. The light and weather (and no rain on the windows!) have to be just right for me to get a photo. That happens occasionally but then there have to be birds too. The day after my birthday I had a wonderful and slightly belated present:

And then they were gone