Sunday 31 December 2017

New Year Celebrations

There are no fireworks in Stornoway to celebrate New Year now. Not that there would have been today anyway because it's the Sabbath. Before I started spending the winter in New Zealand in 2006 the Stornoway waterfront was alive at Midnight with families all seeing in the New Year. It was wonderful. When I first came to the Island in the '70s the tradition in the rural townships (and perhaps in town too) was for people (usually men if I remember correctly) to see in the New Year through the night visiting all the houses in the township. In the early days we claimed immunity as we had two tiny children. By the mid '80s though for many years we had our own New Year dinner party at our house with friends. 

For me this New Year the celebrations are suppose to begin tomorrow at Gaz and Carol's with my grandson, Brodie, in Grimshader. It would be my first overnight in their new home. 

I have been in Purdah and haven't seen my grandson since Christmas Eve. After that I developed a bad throat. By this morning it was almost better so I had high hopes. Then by lunchtime I had started with a cold. I cannot remember when I last had a cold. So it looks as if I will have another period of Purdah and not be able to see the family. There is no way I could risk the family getting a cold at this stage of Brodie's development.

So my New Year will be a quiet one. I may, perhaps, go and infect someone else or I may simply stay at home and catch up with the dozens of letters and so on that I want to write. 

I am spending this evening in splendid isolation. I've had very little in the way of alcohol for four months - my wine stocks are better than they have ever been. Tonight, however, I have one big decision to take. Which will be better for me: a whisky mac or a Cognac? Tough one. 

Slàinte mhath!

Wednesday 27 December 2017


The King is dead. Long live the King. 

Christmas is over. Only 363 days to go until Christmas.

One of my Christmas presents was a book.

Another was The Real Thing. I am now a Grandpa.

I'm not sure yet what the 'official' social media policy is to be but pictures and details are unlikely to feature on this blog and certainly not on any of my other social media platforms.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Thankful Thursday

It's Thursday 21 December 2017. As I write this there are only about  96 hours to wake-up time on Christmas morning. Not that I'm celebrating that in particular. I shall doubtless enjoy Christmas Day in good company. Not having drunk alcohol very much in the last four months, and not at all recently, I shall doubtless enjoy a drop of wine during the day. 

However it is today that I am really celebrating. Today is the shortest day of the year: The sun (assuming that it rises at all) will not rise until 0911 and it will set (assuming that it rose anyway) at 1535. That will give Lewis about 6 hours and 24 minutes of what passes for daylight.

From tomorrow the days will get longer. 

It will soon be Spring and then Summer.

In the meantime I shall make the most of winter and the long nights and do 'winter things'.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Winter Stornoway

Stornoway has a splendid golf course. It's  well over two decades since I walked round it trying to hit a little white ball as few times as possible. What is the saying? "Golf is a way to ruin a good walk." However it can provide good companionship with exercise after a long day behind a desk.

I pass the course a lot because it is part of the Lews Castle grounds in which is situated The Woodlands Café which I frequent.

Earlier this week it was looking particularly attractive in its winter attire:

Sunday 17 December 2017


The beach below my house was positively crowded this sunny morning:

Saturday 16 December 2017

A Saturday Smile

Well if you want a quiet, restful start to the day do not drop a plastic overnight bag containing over a litre of urine onto a tile floor.

At this point I will warn you that there are scenes/language you might find to be of an indelicate nature not usually found on this blog.

I woke at 0630 after a good night’s sleep and decided to get up.

I then decided to go into the bathroom to empty the overnight bag (I often do it in the carpeted ‘en-suite’). 

I arrived in the bathroom and dropped the bag.

On with the latex gloves, out with the floor cloths, bleach, floor cleaner and finally Zoflora (thank you Marcel) and I had a clean, sterile and sweet-smelling bathroom again.

Glad Game: 

1. As it weighed over a kilo I was just happy that the length of the plastic pipe between my willy and the top of the bag was greater than the distance between my willy and the floor!

2. I dropped it in the one tiled room in the house.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Blame Europe

A couple of days after the Harris trip Mo went back to Canada and I popped down for an appointment at The Beatson (the West of Scotland's centre of excellence for cancer treatment) in Glasgow. A play and a concert were planned before I expected to fly home at the weekend.

By Thursday night I was unwell again and on Friday I was admitted to Glasgow's Royal Infirmary from whence I returned home late this afternoon.

I knew from my previous experience a couple of weeks ago that I was seriously unwell as I had a raging temperature, rigors and was tachycardic. They were easy to spot even from where I was lying. 

The hospital staff were fantastic. From the moment I registered at A and E until I was on the medical reception ward with intravenous antibiotics already administered took just two hours.

No-one does emergencies better than the NHS.

Oh, and what's Europe got to do with it?

I had urosepsis but, in my befuddled state, all I could think of Eurosepsis. I think Brexit is getting to me.

So I've still not read any blogs, done any Christmas cards, made my Christmas cakes or, in fact done anything much to speak of at all. For three days I hardly even ate. 

So this is just to bring you up to date. Hopefully I've seen the back of hospitals for a few months at least when the routine stuff kicks in again.

However Pat and I have made a pact that we are starting the gym again in the New Year. Come on Pat: now more than ever!

More soon! 

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Harris on a Winter Monday

My almost-lifelong friend, Mo, from Canada and I drove south to Harris yesterday. It is a drive with views of landscapes varying from wild areas of 'moonscape' rock bare of habitation and much in the way of vegetation to world-class beaches stretching for miles. We started in the late morning with coffee and Christmas cake at the Harris Distillery in Tarbert. It was a good job that we did because we did not find another single place open to get any food or drink on the entire South Harris. Fortunately there is a good scattering of well-maintained public toilet facilities.

The weather varied between dreich, heavy mist and rain to occasional flashes of blue sky and sun: The Outer Hebrides at it's varied winter best.

I only took a few photos but they will give you a flavour of our trip.

The East side of South Harris south of Licasto
A rare sunny moment turning the hillside golden on the East Side near Geocrab
On the West looking North to Northton and Northton Sands

Thursday 30 November 2017

Cal : RIP

I confess to having been a tiny bit apprehensive this morning first thing. However the brilliant staff in the Bruce Day Care Unit at Ayr Hospital and visits from the anaesthetist and the consultant surgeon soon had my mind at rest and I drifted off to sleep without even having time to wonder what was happening.

When I came to I was back in the Day Care unit and in a much more bleary state than usual. Of course my first question was whether the procedure had been a success to which the answer was in the affirmative, so I just drifted in and out of a blissful haze for a while until they brought me black coffee and toast (why does that first piece off toast when one comes round taste sooooo good?) and I regained full consciousness.

After more tests and so on the consultant surgeon came and had a look, explained all that he had done and decided I was well enough to go back to my friend's for the night and come in again tomorrow morning for a check-up and some tuition by the nurses on how to cope with some of the procedures I might have to perform for a while. It would appear that Cal had not been the only problem and there were complications caused by the radio-therapy that I had 10 years ago.

All being well I shall be on the plane home on Saturday morning and life will return to normal.

Friday 24 November 2017

Twelve 'Lost' Days

It is 13 days since I arrived home from my last visit South when I started on the Drugs Trial and had the last attempt to get rid of Cal. It seems like and age. I know that I've done things. I remember  having my 3-monthly bum-jab to help keep C (the Big Yin, not Cal) under control and hugging Lisa when she told me I was not diabetic as had been previously diagnosed. I remember coffee one afternoon with a friend in The Woodlands. I think I was compos mentis  that afternoon - I hope that I was.  I remember long periods sleeping on my recliner or in bed. I know that I must have done a lot of other things too. However for the most part my overwhelming memory is of just not functioning and being so unwell last Sunday and Monday that I couldn't even persuade the medical practice receptionist that I really, really did need to see a doctor ungently. I must have been very non-compos mentis.

On Monday when I did see a doctor she took one look at me and rang the hospital. I emerged yesterday afternoon a tired, but new, person after enough intravenous antibiotics for an elephant and, apparently, a worrying (for others - I wasn't able to think clearly enough to care) time. Apparently the various medical teams here and in Ayr have agreed that the team here clean up my infections and next Thursday the Ayr Team will have another go at Cal.

In the meantime this evening an almost-lifelong friend who lives in Canada arrives to stay with me on her way home from Africa.

The Glad Game: 

I woke up this morning.
I didn't have MRSA and sepsis did not set in.
The medical staff at Western Isles Hospital are BRILLIANT!
I slept so soundly last night I didn't wake, turn over or even crumple the bedclothes for EIGHT hours.
My life is never, ever, boring.
I have wonderful friends and family who look out for me.

Tuesday 14 November 2017


As a result of a comment by Helen on my last post I decided to name my recalcitrant  and unmoving kidney stone. The name I gave it was Cal. I thought it was quite a clever name and that I could get a blog post out of it. Helen immediately noticed the most obvious link for an Isle of Lewis kidney stone: Cal as in Callanish Stones. Fortunately it's only 5mm and not 5 metres. However there was also another thing in my mind. What is a common ingredient of kidney stones? Calcium. In addition Cal as a male name means 'devotion'. Given how difficult it is proving to get rid of the little chap I'm convinced that he's become devoted to me.

Fi suggeated Calculi. I didn't realise that urinary calculi are solid particles in the urinary system. Fiona is a vet so she saw a genuine meaning that I missed.

The Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Nothing Can Go Wrong

if you don't make a plan. Hmmmm.

That was, I suppose, my mistake. Not so much that I made a plan but that I expected a plan imposed by circumstances to work out. Things started to go awry when, at a day's notice, my appointment was brought forward a day to 1st November. It was a day surgery 23 hour appointment. (ie a late afternoon procedure to be kept in overnight for observation and recovery).

I left the hospital in the afternoon 149 hours and three procedures after I entered it. The kidney stone is still there and instead of a nephrostomy bag I have a bag into which my bladder empties. 

However, whilst those 149 hours may have mucked up my arrangements they have opened my eyes to many other things:
How enormously some things have changed in medicine in the last 20 years. For example, my prostatectomy in 1998 involved major invasive  surgery, 5 days in the High Dependency Unit and weeks in hospital recovering and a very great deal of pain. This week during my 149 hours several people appeared on the ward having had a prostatectomy by keyhole surgery and were discharged a day or two later.

A nurse may come on duty at 0730 and find herself at the end of her shift trying to get a patient sorted and out of severe pain and discomfort 15 hours later, having already had a full day of  dealing with patients.

If a patient becomes a major problem on a ward in the middle of the night there's no first-line defence against violence other than calming talk and hope.

If at first you don't succeed in trying to get at a patient's embedded kidney stone through damaged tissue then just calmly move on to the next option, and then the next and then the next. Then schedule a period of R and R and tissue healing until the next try in four weeks time.
I could write enough to fill a book but this is neither the time nor the place.

Suffice to say that by Saturday night I hope to be back on Lewis and in Blogland for a week or two before coming South again.

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Life With a Bag

No. It's nothing to do with human co-habitation. I've done that. Been there. Got a few tee-shirts. Which is odd because I've never worn a tee-shirt in my life.

No. This is a reference to a real bag. A receptacle for holding something: in this case, liquid. In this particular case one attached to my back into which a tube from my right kidney drains.

Why am I telling you this? “Too much information.” I hear you saying. Well I’m going to tell you anyway.

This train of thought started when I was listening to a chap on the radio or television bemoaning the fact that he had been told that his operation for prostate cancer might leave him semi-bladder-incontinent and that, at worst, he might have to wear a leg-bag. He railed against everything and everyone involved as if it were someone’s fault that he had the cancer that had got him into this situation and that, even if it were not, then it was someone’s fault that he might be left incapacitated after the operation. His life would be ruined. Never would he be able to live a proper life in that situation.

I suddenly realised that I had not one iota of sympathy for the man.

Firstly he might never have the problem. Secondly if he did then the alternative would be likely to be death.  Which would you choose?

Then I though just how many billions of people there are on this earth in a worse situation.

Then I narrowed it down to the millions worse off with conditions like Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, paraplegics, people in constant pain and so on ad infinitem. There are so many people, too, who have inconvenient complications because the NHS and medical science have managed to keep them alive when otherwise they would have died.

Many of those people really do have lives changed far beyond anything they can do to help themselves.

Being wholly or partially bladder incontinent is NOT one of those things. It is an inconvenience to be overcome and overcome it can be. I know because, in 1998, I was left bladder incontinent after my prostate removal.

The surgeon said how sorry he was that I had become a statistical 1 in 20. My response was that, as the alternative to taking the risk had been death, (there was no further treatment for prostate cancer 20 years ago) I was just glad to be alive to have the problem.

I did a lot of training and eventually got rid of the bag. Now I’m not much worse off than millions of ladies who have had children and dread sneezing! No one who met me would ever know the situation.

Returning to the bag on my back, hopefully tomorrow when I have another operation I will wake up with a stent, no kidney stone and no bag on my back.

In the meantime I have walked a mile in another man’s shoes and will have a greater appreciation of what he has experienced.

I will not, though, expect him to tell me how badly life has treated him.

Friday 27 October 2017

The National Health Service (NHS)

I wrote this a while ago.

On Friday I had my scans to see how my cancer was doing.

On Saturday I was called into the hospital because an eagle-eyed doctor had seen that my kidney stone had moved and was blocking the exit to my kidney.

On Sunday I had an ‘emergency’ procedure which was not successful (because of previous cancer operation damage).

On Monday I had a Nephrostomy.

On Tuesday I had a day of waiting.

On Wednesday morning I had an exploratory dye-scan and was discharged in the afternoon to come back another time for an operation.

That was 96 hours and four nights in hospital.

Four nights when I slept well.

96 hours when I didn’t have to think but had all the time in the world to think.

96 hours when the NHS looked after my every need.

96 hours when I observed hard-working dedicated staff at every skill level each doing their bit to provide a wonderful service.

96 hours when I had a lot of time to ponder on how darn lucky my generation has been with its free-at-point-of-delivery health service.

I do not have an extensive knowledge of the health services of other European countries and our press regularly says that the French and German services are superior to ours. They may be. We do not have a monopoly on being the best at everything.  

However one thing that my research has thrown up is that other countries which are held up as paragons to us have critics in their own countries just as we do.

I do know that in many countries I would have been dead in my teens because I had a disease that is often fatal today.  My parents could never have afforded the operation and treatment that I received.

So I, for one, have a great deal of praise for the NHS.

Thursday 26 October 2017

War Games

I looked out of my window one dismal morning recently just before a spell of really nasty weather hit us and lo and behold NATO was at it again. The Minch is obviously regarded as a good place to practice whatever it is they practice doing. I suspect that chasing submarines plays a big role. Apocryphally whenever these war games take place our cellphone and other communications all go haywire. It certainly happens but I'm sure it's just a coincidence! 

The Marine Traffic app gave a good indication of what was going on. It only identifies one vessel at a time unfortunately but if it is assumed that all the vessels the same colour as the identified NATO warship are also NATO warships then there were a lot of them around.

Hello! What's this? HNLMS Trump? Surely he's not had a warship named after him already.  No. Actually it's a Dutch frigate named after several Dutch 16th/17th century naval heroes.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Be What You Wanna Be

Back in the '60s (1962 to be precise) I made the journey from Liverpool to London's West End Adelphi Theatre see a Lionel Bart musical called Blitz. It was my first London musical. I may still have the LP I bought at the time (I don't think it went with the hundreds that went to Oxfam recently). Mind you I bought the CD years ago and I still play it. It was a very uplifting musical as well as being nostalgic. It included the song 'Be What You Wanna Be'.

I was thinking about something recently and the song came back to me. The 'something' I was thinking about was Blogland and social media and the use of cellphones and the like to keep in touch. I think it was triggered by a newspaper article which suggested that we should wean ourselves away from our general enslavement to the god of social media  and our cellphones.

Of course the term cellphone or mobile phone is a misnomer now because they are generally used less for telephone conversations than anything else. In fact several years ago a quarter of mobile phone users never made a phone call. Bucking the trend I have now got rid of my 'free' weekday and overseas calls with BT (the landline provider) saving myself about £20 a month and spending £3 of that on 'free' overseas calls on my cellphone bearing in mind all my other calls are included in my monthly fee (which is considerably less than £20) anyway.

I digressed.

What I wanna be is back in Blogland. It is, generally speaking, a far more comfortable environment than the Real World. Why? Because you can choose the environment in which you want to live. I've been so busy in the Real World (including travelling between Lewis and Glasgow - where I am at the moment) that I keep losing touch and catching up gets harder. So I'm reading as much as I can on Feedly (I can do that on my cellphone when I'm in the airport or in a hospital waiting room) but it's difficult commenting. So I'm still with you all and I'll comment as soon as I'm able.

Thursday 5 October 2017


It's hard to have faith in weather forecasts when the Met Office weather app on my phone gives me two different forecasts at the same time for the same place. The top one is for where the phone is (it was at home) and the second is a pre-set choice of my home (for when I'm not at home).

Saturday 30 September 2017

The View

Someone, a recent follower obviously, asked what the view from my house was like. Well this is the view as I sit at my breakfast/lunch/everything else bar.

Friday 29 September 2017

For YP

I had lunch with old and dear friends in Glasgow last week. The fact that She is from Yorkshire (despite having lived in Scotland for perhaps most of her life) means that She never forgets her roots. So on this occasion, and this occasion only, I shall happify YP with a motto on Her kitchen cabinet.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

A Walk in the Woods

The Islands are not known for their deciduous trees but the magnificent 270 hectare Stornoway woods were created in the 1850’s by Sir James Matheson and have been in community ownership since 1923.  Being adjacent to the town centre they are very popular with walkers, cyclist and a dog lovers. Anna and I went for a reasonably brisk 2¼ mile walk on Monday afternoon ending up, of course, at The Woodlands for coffee. So this is a little bit of Stornoway for you.
Stornoway's Marina and Cromwell Street
Ness Sgoths
The Lews Castle
Stornoway Harbour
There are lots of donated seats throughout the grounds
The mouth of the River Creed
A walk up The Creed
Smiths Shoe Shop - a legend in Stornoway - donated this rest place.
The walk continues
A place of rest at the far reach of the walk

Sunday 24 September 2017


Apologies for my absence from Blogland. It was simply caused by a lack of broadband connection at my friend's house. We travelled back to Lewis yesterday and arrived home about 10pm. Normal service should now be resumed!
I think most of us are more comfortable with certainty than uncertainty in our lives.

Returning to the cancer theme. The scans were all clear. This leaves the medics with a conundrum as to what to do next given that the indicators are increasing quickly.

Some of you may know that there are trials going on into almost every form of cancer and, doubtless, many other illnesses as well. Trials are something ’other people’ go on. One of my close friends has just participated in a trial for a treatment for people with advanced prostate cancer.

There is one for people with prostate cancer where there are no visible cancers. There is a chance that I might get onto that trial. The closing date is very shortly. Wheels are turning.

In the meantime I shall await developments.

Monday 18 September 2017


I called in at Another Tilly Tearoom  in Dunblane on my way south a couple of weeks ago. I like Dunblane. It is a great shame that, for many, the only thing that it means to them is the terrible Dunblane Massacre 21 years ago when 16 schoolchildren and one adult lost their lives. 

It has an attractive Cathedral, The Leighton Library, A Museum, (the last two of which I have never visited). However, although it is doubtless a pleasant place to live (and about 50 minutes by train from the centre of Glasgow) it's not a great tourist attraction and the main street has little to offer except several first class butchers (selling famous pies and the like in addition to raw meat), some small shops and charity shops and some cafés.

I have stayed and visited many times (a number of times with CJ) and passed through many times in the last half century. I hope it continues to prosper.

The gold post box painted in honour of Andy Murray's Gold Medal 2012 Olympics win over Roger Federer. The tearoom is on the left up the road just past the red car (in case you are ever looking for it).

Saturday 16 September 2017

The Blip: An Update

Just a quick update in answer, partly, to the myriad of lovely messages I have received. Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge with phone calls, texts, Facetime ,WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger, emails, blogs and Facebook (does anyone use Skype these days?) all going at the same time and I hope none have gone unanswered. 

I drove home to Lewis on Thursday in order to sort myself out mentally and physically. I had done something I cannot ever recall doing before (as close friends know only too well) and travelled light with one small case and only enough of everything for the four days I intended to be away (plus an extra day of course just in case). 

Next Wednesday I have the results of my cancer scans and should learn what is going to happen in the next phase of getting more post-cancer-operation use out of this body that I inhabit. After all next month it will be 19 years since the diagnosis and operation. Nineteen years which have included some of the best of my life. Indeed, with the ten New Zealand years, one could say that I actually had a whole new life during that time.

Anyway on Monday after a nurse has changed the bag on the tube sticking out of my kidney I shall be getting the afternoon ferry to Ullapool and then driving to friends near Inverness. On Tuesday I shall leave for Glasgow and at crack of dawn on Wednesday I shall head off to Irvine and an appointment with the person in the NHS who has been my liaison and point of contact and mental brick in my cancer treatment, to see what awaits me. We agreed that this time she wouldn't tell me anything until we were face to face. Whatever the scan results we know that the cancer is developing and has to be treated.

Then I'm hoping that, whilst I'm down, they will finish playing around with my innards and get my system up and running again.

Why am I telling you all this? I suppose it may be partly therapy. However I see people all the time who have cancer or get cancer diagnoses and see every emotion from pure negativity, to fear, to 'Why me?', to just ignoring it and hoping it will go away all on its own (it won't so deal with it!), to determination and positivity that would blow your mind (like Jaz in New Zealand who has been my inspiration for so long). I want to impart some of that positivity to others who may face that which I have faced and am about to face.

Thursday 14 September 2017

Patients' Attitudes

Those who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that if I wake up in the morning and go to sleep the same night then, for me, it’s been a Good Day. This week I have had much time to reflect on that and haven’t altered my view one little bit.

I shall do (another) post in praise of the NHS shortly but this post is specifically about the attitude of the people I have encountered this week since the phone call that led to the blip in my plans last Saturday.

I was on a hospital ward from last Saturday night for 4 nights. That made me (apart from a gentleman of 102) the longest stayer on the ward whilst I was there. The second a bed became empty it was filled again. Unlike the last time I was in hospital (in Stornoway) having a knee replacement when I was acquainted with almost everyone who came into the ward this week I knew no-one. I felt like an observer.

There were no Highland or Islands accents, no Gaelic and, indeed, no English accents (I have a sort of English accent) all of which one finds in the Highlands and Islands and everyone was ‘Hen’ or ‘Pal’. Nor were there were any thin people (Mr 102 and I excepted). I felt positively emaciated.

However, by far the most noticeable thing was patient attitude. There seemed to be a strong air of negativity. I wondered how people expected to get better with such attitudes. I wondered how on earth the staff coped and put up with such attitudes. Most of all I wondered ‘Why?’.

There were the Waiting Complainers who seemed to take the view that the hospital had no one else to look after. There were the Food Complainers (I eat well and appreciate good food and I can say without hesitation that the large choice and quality of the food - which was, where appropriate, always piping hot - was pretty darn good for an institution delivering thousands of meals a day out of public funds. But then there was no junk food.). There were the They Don’t Know What They’re Doing Complainers. (Who made life even more difficult for the medics by saying that they no longer drank but surreptitiously topped up their beverages with something out of a concealed bottle). And there were the just plain Miserable Complainers.

I could go on but I’m sure that you get the picture.

My conclusion? Well I suppose it’s like every other trait and attitude we have and as I have no idea whether these things are inherent or learned or both I shall leave it at that.

However what I can say is that if you have a positive attitude then you are more likely to be happy and whilst a positive attitude won’t necessarily make you better a negative attitude is very likely to make you worse. As Mr 102 observed (rather too loudly) ‘How can that chap in the corner expect to get well with a miserable face like that?’

Saturday 9 September 2017

A Blip In Plans

We were enjoying a lovely lunch a few hours ago in an Italian Restaurant in the centre of Glasgow. A friend of very long standing had come over from the other side of the country just for lunch. It was all going well until my cellphone rang and I decided that I aught to answer it.

At this point I should tell you that yesterday was a day of scans at Ayr Hospital.  

"This is Dr X at Ayr Hospital. Where are you? Are you back on Lewis?"

"No. I'm in Glasgow."

"Good. How quickly can you get to Ayr Hospital? I need to see you."

All of a sudden things didn't sound so good. As the scans were cancer-related my mind was having difficulty computing why I should need to be seen at a weekend.

"You have a kidney stone."

"I know. I've had it for many years. It's never given me any bother."

"Well it's moved and it's blocking the exit tube from your kidney and there is a considerable risk of problems and infection. Can you come in asap and I'll do an investigation today and I'll do a procedure tomorrow. You could be in until Monday."

Well I didn't see that coming when I woke this morning.

Somehow dreams don't seem so important just at this moment.

Friday 8 September 2017

Dreams By Any Other Name

Yesterday I wrote about sleep. I have posted several times on the subject of dreams. It is not the lack of sleep that concerns me these days nor the number of times I actually get up during a night. What disturbs me most is the variety and number of dreams I have almost every night. If one gets up during the night the, as I understand it,  pre-waking time is often REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. I 'suffer' from that constantly.

The first post I wrote on the subject was on 2 September 2008 entitled
Dreams and Things

For some time now I have been having vivid and prolonged dreams. Unfortunately most of them are not particularly pleasant. I have got to the stage where I classify them as dreams (ok, perhaps even pleasant but I'd rather just sleep), night ponies (I'd rather have had a dream and, in any case I don't usually remember them), night mares (not very pleasant at all but usually forgotten within a day or so) and, worst of all, night stallions (which cause me to wake in a fearful sweat, which often remain with me for weeks and which come back again and again both when I'm asleep and awake).

I'm up early this morning because of a most unpleasant dream. I slept very well indeed and was, I thought, awake listening to the cockerel as the dawn was breaking - the bedroom windows were wide open. All of a sudden I was in Stornoway at the harbour and a lady I was talking to fell into the harbour and was trapped under the water just out of my reach and still blowing bubbles. I can still see her face. It was one of the most realistic dreams I've ever had and all the more horrible because I was convinced that I was awake. Every time I thought of sleep I could see her face again so I got up.

Somewhere out there there must be an explanation or a reason or even a cure. Has anyone any ideas?
Things haven't changed much apart from the numbers of dreams which have increased substantially. I wish that they hadn't.

Thursday 7 September 2017

Thankful Thursday: Sleep

It's far too long since I wrote a Thankful Thursday post. Thank you for reminding me  Fi (of Four Paws and Whiskers) in our recent chat.

Anyway I woke up this morning (in itself always something for which to be thankful) and really was thankful. Thankful for the best night's dreamless sleep I can remember having for many, many years. The recipe? Get up at 0430 after a very disturbed few hours. Drive 250 miles feeling amazingly un-tired having met up in Dunblane for afternoon tea with the pal with whom I'm staying here in Bishopbriggs  so that we could enjoy the last part of the journey catching up. Have dinner and a few glasses of wine and a small cognac as a nightcap. Watch a programme about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Fall into bed around 10.30.

I woke once at 0305 for a comfort break but was asleep again the second my head hit the pillow.

My next wakening was at 0630. I dozed 'till 0700 and got up and made a cup of hot water and lemon.

I had not even been aware of dreaming (which is, perhaps, the most unusual fact about the night)!

So the first thing I thought about as I lay in that blissful half hour was just how blessed I was for most of my first half century in needing little sleep: probably because once I put my head on the pillow I slept the sleep of the dead.

It's nearly 19 years since my first cancer operation left me with a need to get up frequently during the night and 8 since my radio therapy exacerbated the problem. Don't get me wrong I'm not complaining. I'm only too glad to be alive to have the inconvenience. It does make one appreciate a relatively undisturbed night even more though.

So this Thursday morning I am grateful, very very grateful.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Caution: Otters

I'm sure that there are unusual road signs all over the UK but this one on the Isle of Scalpay just before the Scalpay Bridge to the mainland of the Isle of Lewis is one of the more unusual that I have come across.

Scalpay Bridge - opened in 1997

Monday 4 September 2017

St Mary's Church, Cilcain

One of my original purposes of blogging was to provide a diary of sorts or at least a reminder of things I've been doing. In Eagleton Notes I have rather lost track of that objective. When CJ, Partner Who Loves Tea and I went to Cilcain in North Wales in July and had lunch at the The While Horse about which I blogged we also popped over the road and visited the Anglican Parish Church of St Mary's The Virgin. If you are interested in knowing more about the church then there is information here and here so I won't bore you here.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

First Lines

I have a bad memory: I always have had. It is a strange irony that people constantly tell me what a good memory I have. Like most people I can recall certain things.

The Big Book Clearout made me think about first lines and I wondered how many I could recall. The answer is that the number of first lines I can accurately recall is remarkably small. However the number that I can almost recall surprised me.

I can recall several verbatim:

“No one had expected Ernest to die, least of all Ernest.” from Dead Ernest by Frances Garrood.

"The Mole had been working very hard all [the]* morning, spring cleaning his little home." The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Graham.

"It was morning and the [new]* sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea." Johnathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.

"I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson.

"Pip the pixie was doing the washing for his Aunt Twinkle." The Adventures of Pip by Enid Blyton. 

There are many of which I can recall the general wording but had to check:

"The French are proud of the fact that they are the last people to invade the British Isles." 1000 Years of Annoying The French by Stephen Clarke.

"I have very pale skin, very red lips." Skin by Joanna Briscoe. (An odd book for a man to find intriguing, I suspect.)

"It is always difficult to find a beginning." An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan. (A book that had a very very profound effect on me.)

"The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it." Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

I was ashamed not to be able to recall the first lines of Tolstoy's War and Peace given that I've read it three times or The Piano Shop on the Left Bank which is one of my favourite books but whose author (T E Cathcart) I could not recall either.

I'm sure that there are very many other books which should spring into what passes for my mind but they haven't. 

Does anyone else remember first lines?

* Not quite verbatim, having checked.

Monday 28 August 2017

Sadness: RIP Merlin

I should have had the courage of my convictions. The raptor in the last post was, indeed, a Merlin. After everyone had convinced me to look for a reason as to how I could have been so mistaken after being so sure, The Fates intervened. I wish they hadn't. On Saturday the Merlin made an attempt to take a sparrow from the birdtable, overshot, crashed and broke a wing. Although I called the SSPCA and gave her water from a dropper she soon went into shock and died. This morning the ornithologist and vet confirmed that she was a Merlin and that she was far too small to be a female Sparrowhawk even if the markings had not been sufficient identification.

I'd rather have been wrong and that she had lived.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

A First: Merlin

It's not the first Merlin I've seen on the Island by any means but it's the first one I've seen sitting on a post in my garden. It was there for only a short time and, sod's law, I had a macro lens on the camera and the Big Lens was in the boot of the car. So I had to make do with a 200mm lens through a window at an oblique angle. I just managed a shot before it departed at speed. I say 'it' because it's either a female or a young male. The garden has been strangely devoid of sparrows this afternoon so I assume it's still lurking.

Post script to this post: Well I apologise for misleading everyone. I have seen many Sparrowhawks and photographed them too. What made me not even think of this one being a sparrowhawk was the fact that it was so small: about the same size as a blackbird. However I have now had a more analytical look at it and the determining factor is the wings. I should immediately have noticed. When one sees a sparrowhawk the short stocky wings are very noticeable when compared with the long sharp wings of the Merlin.

Post post script: As my next post will show. It was a Merlin after all. I should have had the courage of my convictions.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Books: Keeping and Disposing

When CJ was staying we had a concerted clearout of my loft. I had already disposed of hundreds of vinyl LPs to the Oxfam Music Shop in Glasgow and now I had seven large (I have a trolley!) boxes of books for the Oxfam Book Shop in Glasgow's Byers Road as well. It's the University area so Oxfam and the charity shops have a big presence.  The local charity shops here are inundated with books and many of the books I was disposing of were not really local charity shop material anyway being, perhaps, more specialised or in the case of the complete works of Somerset Maugham (I had two sets) rather more likely to fetch a reasonable price for charity in a specialist bookshop.

The result is that my loft which has about 10 metres of bookshelf space which are now full as are the bookshelves in the living room. But the rest of the loft has no books all over the place impeding passage and impossible to find when needed.

A few of the ones I have kept are:

Friday 18 August 2017

Communications: An Update

About a month ago I posted about the trials and tribulations of communications via broadband here on Lewis and the feeling of frustration with the seeming insensitive incompetence (am I being too hard?) of BT. Well things have changed.

Shortly after my post a neighbour sent me a message saying that we (the three houses at the end of the township) could now get hi-speed broadband. Her son popped over to show me the actual message on his laptop. Within a few hours I had ordered hi-speed broadband from BT and been given this morning as the date for the engineer to install it and make the necessary changes at the 'green box' and the exchange.

The many (and I mean many) messages by text, email and phone reminding me that I had to be in this morning to receive the engineer were greeted with some scepticism by friends and family who have had such messages but not had the promised visit.

However by mid morning I had hi-speed broadband. Whoopee.

Within an hour, however, I had no broadband and no telephone. What's the opposite of 'whoopee'?

Long phone call to Laura at BT (very helpful), and many texts from, BT and I eventually got a call mid afternoon from a (different) engineer saying that he had mended my line between the green box and the exchange and all should now be hunky-dory. And so, this evening it seems to remain.

Instead of 1.6 Mbps I now have 32 Mbps. 

Long may it continue. Now, perhaps, I'll be able to read a blog and make a comment without having to wait ages for every stage to load. 

Why BT have told my other two neighbours  that they cannot get it remains one of those interminable BT mysteries which I really hope will soon sort itself out.

Wednesday 16 August 2017


It's not yet 8am. 

Just before 5am I rose and made myself a cup of hot water and lemon (the first of several consumed since then).

CJ and Partner Who Loves Tea left at 5.30am for the morning ferry to Ullapool and the start of their three day journey home.

I followed them to the ferry terminal 20 minutes later to deliver PWLT's spare spectacles which I'd found in their bedroom.

Now I am breakfasted with the second lot of washing in the washing machine and the first lot of bedding already out of the tumble drier and awaiting ironing. The dishwasher has finished its allotted task.

It's been wonderful having my brother up for so long and to spend time, short though it was, with PWLT.

Life will now return to what passes for normality.

I have to be back in town for 9am to get my three-monthly jab to help keep the Big C in check.

And that will just be the first 4 hours of the day. There'll hopefully be another 14 or 15 after that.

And to cap it all, particularly for those who think I'm not a Christmas Person, here is a thought:


Tuesday 15 August 2017

Behold, The Sky.

Looking from my garden towards the mainland with Suilven and Stac Pollaidh and lowering clouds.

Monday 7 August 2017

Odds and Ends

Where does time go? What's absolutely certain is that it does go and, indeed, flies. Over the last few days we've been quite busy and today Gaz took CJ and I in his Land Rover Discovery (a 4 x 4 for those who are not familiar with the vehicle) as far as a vehicle can get to the Eilean Glas Lighthouse on the Isle of Scalpay. Afterwards we tried to get lunch in Tarbert but that turned out to be an impossibility: Tarbert seems to be a suffering from its own success. Mind you the fact that we arrived at The Harris Hotel almost exactly at 2pm and were given lunch menus and drinks only to be told that the kitchen wouldn't serve us with soup even because they closed at 2pm. We left. Obviously the hotel (which I have frequented for over the 40 years I've lived here) doesn't need the custom. The other hotel was happy to serve us but there was a wait for one of the many tables. The Harris Distillery where the lunches are very good was stowed out.
These miscellaneous photos are from my/our holiday so far. The first is a sculpture at the Ralia Café on the A9 near Newtonmore where I often stop on my way to or from Glasgow.

When I was staying in the Borders my friends took me to The Hermitage Castle. Unfortunately I thought we were just going to visit friends in the village but after that we spend the afternoon out. I didn't have my camera with me and my phone ran out of battery just after we arrived at the castle. I shall definitely be back fully prepared!

On the way down the valley.

Lots of free-range porkers in the area.

I met my boss from 43 years ago and his family for lunch on the way to my brother's. Outside The Dog and Partridge near Preston (excellent lunch) this couple were enjoying a pint in the sunshine with their horse and trap.

In Chester CJ and I enjoyed some pastries at Patisserie Valerie

The hotel in Ambleside was very good and I loved the fact that I didn't have to try and fill my kettle from the tap in the bathroom  (even 4 start hotels often subject one to that inconvenience) as water was supplied.