1 EAGLETON NOTES: August 2017



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.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Rural Postal Services

As, I suspect, is happening all around the world small rural and urban post offices are closing down as more services (such as pensions) are paid into bank accounts, use of snail mail diminishes and private companies compete for the lucrative parts of the traditional business (such as parcels and even urban delivery of letters). The UK remains, I think, one of the few (and perhaps the only) country where the Royal Mail is charged with delivering mail everywhere in the country and, generally, to the door of the recipient's dwelling six days a week and at a standard rate of postage.

I do wonder how long such a wonderful service can continue.

As recently as a couple of years ago there were two sub post offices within a couple of miles of my house. Now the nearest one is in Stornoway 7 miles away. However, in Stornoway, there are many post office services available at at least one of the two sub post offices (the main post office keeps more conventional hours) from 7am until 11pm 6 days a week. I've never come across service times like that before although I presume that it happens elsewhere.

I recently discovered, too, that we now have a mobile post office which comes around to various rural locations on a regular basis as well. It visits Lower Bayble twice a week on a Monday and Tuesday for an hour on each day.

Add to that the fact that I can post a letter at a post box about 700m from the house which is emptied at 10.30am 6 days a week and I have absolutely no cause for anything other than praise for our postal service.

My local post box (Photo thanks to my brother).