Thursday, 14 June 2018

Midges and Storms

After many weeks of no rain and pretty good weather the inevitable June scourge arrived: the Dreaded Midge.  Today, however, there will be no midges. Storm force winds blew last night and midges definitely don't like that.

It reminded me that many years ago I blogged about the Scottish midge and I decided that it was about time I did it again.

The midge bible is Midges in Scotland by George Hendry.  A must read for anyone coming to or living in the Highlands if only for the humour of which this cartoon is a taster (used on the basis that the copyright holder won't mind given that I'm giving this plug and using it as a 'quotation' for the purpose of honest comment).  The work is otherwise an exceptionally readable treatise on how and why the midge plays such a dominant role in the ecology and human life of the Highlands.

When I first came to live on Lewis in the mid '70s I was told that more people left the Islands because of the midge than because of unemployment, that every midge represented a sin of mankind, and that for every midge killed a hundred came to seek vengeance. I didn't believe such superstitious nonsense.  But do you know what?  There are days when I could believe that it wasn't superstitious nonsense after all.

These days however when the midges get bad even the hardy road workers wear midge protection clothing such as the Midge Head Net or Midge Jacket which were probably inspired by this Punch cartoon from 160 years ago.

Writing this post reminded me that some of my readers have been with me for a long time and I'm sure at least two will remember the first post.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

On Being Called Edwards and Wearing Tartan

Heron recently made the following statement in his comment on one of his posts: " what clan tartan is it that is aligned with the surname of Edwards because I have always thought that name was Welsh".

As a youngster I always thought that too and aligned myself with all things Welsh from an early age.

We then had a discussion on his blog on the subject of the tartan which I wore for my kilt. 

This raised various matters which I though might be of interest to those who read my blog.

Firstly the name 'Edwards'. This surname, with variant forms Edwardes and Edwardson, is a patronymic form of the early medieval English male given name Edward, itself coming from the Olde English pre 7th Century "Eadward", composed of the elements "ead", prosperity or fortune, plus "w(e)ard", guard; hence, "prosperity guard".  However apparently it is supposed to have arisen separately in Wales.
Edwards is the 14th most common surname in Wales and 21st most common in England. 

Examples of Edwards Tartan
So why the tartan question? Well the Welsh as well as the Scots wear kilts and have tartans. The Edwards tartan is a dour and uninteresting cloth (in my opinion) and the idea of having a kilt in the Edwards tartan did not appeal to me at all. However for my son's wedding I could not go kiltless so had to take a decision.

Having lived the majority of my life in the Western Isles of Scotland the obvious choice was the Western Isles Modern tartan and that was what I wore. For the record my son wore the Macrae Dress tartan in the old Scottish tradition of marrying into the bride's family (Macrae).

Tuesday, 5 June 2018


Introducing Brodie aged five months:

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

I'm Sorry About The Storms

However just to cheer those of you languishing in inclement conditions it's 2100 hrs on Lewis and this is my view:

It's a shame about the haar out in The Minch but that will doubtless burn off in the morning.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Blogger's At It Again

Unfortunately the latest Blogger update (they have, amongst other things, removed Open ID and third part app support)  has left many people, including me, with blogs that no longer provide notifications by email.  So without going to my blog and checking each post or the comments in the dashboard I have no idea who is commenting or when a comment has been made.

What is even worse is that I can't see comments on some of your posts without having to visit old posts all the time to find out what comments have been made. For some people that doesn't matter because they don't read other people's comments but for me that is an important part of the blogging experience. At the moment the only blogs I am sure that I am getting comments from are YP's, Cro's Monica's and Amy's.

There are lots of comments on the Blogger forum about the problem which seems unsolvable by users (or is the correct word insoluble?) and Blogger has so far made no comment.  Hopefully normal service will be resumed eventually but until then if I miss your comments please forgive me.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Glasgow's Wall Art

Glasgow has a lot of wonderful wall art. This is the wall of my favourite concert venue: the City Halls. It is one of several a wonderful concert venues in Glasgow and Glasgow's oldest purpose built performance space which has been entertaining visitors since 1841. The traditional shoebox style auditorium is renowned throughout the world for having some of the finest acoustics and the elegant and spectacular Hall is also home to the Scottish Music Centre. This exciting music complex houses top class rehearsal, recording, broadcasting and webcasting facilities.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Brief Encounter

It seems like a month since I spent a weekend in Glasgow 7 days ago. Since then my son has been home from Jakarta, been to Italy, got a new job and I took him to the plane this morning for his trip back to Italy where he will be working on a new-build super-yacht for the next year.

I have visitors whom I met through blogging and whom I feel I've known for ever we are all so comfortable together.

On their first night staying with me I was carted away to hospital at 2am by a couple of paramedics in an emergency ambulance. It must be very strange getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet to be met by a paramedic in the hall. However they took it in their stride and coped for the next day and night until I was deemed fit to be returned to life on the outside of a hospital. The irony is that I actually felt very well despite the fact that a kidney had closed down and my blood pressure had gone through the metaphorical roof. 

Anyway I was released on Sunday morning in time to prepare dinner for five that evening.

So that's why I've been absent from Blogland for a few days.

Talking of my trip to Glasgow, Anna came part of the way home with me (the first 70 miles) to Dunkeld where we had breakfast and then she got the train back to Glasgow to go to a luncheon.

She caught the 1033 train from Dunkeld station.

Hopefully normal service is resumed again.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

A Wee Jaunt

I've just been away for the weekend in Glasgow. It was lovely to be able to drive down for the weekend without worrying about hospital visits. I stayed with my pal, Anna. We had planned quite a few things including the Glasgow Contemporary Arts Fair where friends were exhibiting. Sunday was an afternoon Rachmaninov Concert at City Halls which is a delightful concert venue. On Monday I drove home via Ullapool and Anna came as far as Dunkeld before getting the train back for a lunch in Glasgow.

I'm finding that the 500 mile rounds trip plus the ferry seems to get shorter every time I do it.

We had an early evening meal out at a favourite Italian restaurant near the City Halls. When we arrived home we decided to go for a walk along the Forth and Clyde canal near Anna's home.

Through the Highlands there were quite a few hold-ups for road repairs after the severe winter. As I was sitting in the car on the moors perhaps 20 miles before Ullapool on the way home I couldn't help thinking that if I had to sit in a traffic hold-up this was as good a place as any to do it.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Carbohydrates, Nuclear Weapons and the Menopause.

How to delay the menopause. 
Various news media came up with all sorts of headlines from The Sun's 'Cutting carbs from your diet could delay the menopause for FIVE YEARS' to The Telegraph's 'Eating oily fish could delay the menopause by three years' whilst  The Scotsman backed both horses with the headline 'Oily fish could delay menopause while carbs may hasten it.' The BBC article came up with the neutral headline 'How your diet could influence the age of your menopause'. The BBC article is quite informative.

Two things occurred to me: how early does one have to start this diet alteration to delay the menopause or hasten it; and why would one want to delay it? In any case in my experience no one quite knows when the menopause is going to strike anyway. It's going to happen (with varying degrees of hellishness) so one is only putting off the inevitable at best.

I was going to mention the rather odd statement by Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran would only be developing nuclear weapons if it intended to use them. But that could be controversial so I decided not to do so.

On a more positive note I've progressed from 2 to 3 and now up to 6 mile walks in the morning (pushing wee Brodie in his off-road buggy round the Castle Grounds) and then 5 hours hard labour in the garden in the afternoon. The body is well on the road to it's pre-last-September condition.

Monday, 23 April 2018

News Addiction and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Unfortunately I am a news junkie. I have no idea why. I suppose there was a time when I had to keep abreast of what was happening and I also enjoyed knowing what was going on in the world outside the United Kingdom. I have, over the years, developed a habit of watching the BBC 6 O'Clock and the Scottish News every evening and I often switch the television on at 10pm and watch the ITV News. Of course every time anything happens of significance my iPhone lets me know instantly. So I knew instantly that the new Royal child was born (and gave a sigh of relief that we would not be watching days of pictures of St Mary's Hospital) and that people had been killed in Toronto before the van had come to a halt.

Of course there is occasionally Good News. Very occasionally.

When the news programmes that I have mentioned are on the television I find it hard to do anything else so that is 90 minutes a day wasted apart from the times when I have my evening meal between 6 and 7 pm (when I can't then do a crossword whilst I eat).

I gave up cigarettes in 1967 and never missed them from the moment (just after 9 in the morning in my office) that I threw the box of 48 Piccadilly Tipped across the office (I'd smoked 2) and said that I'd never smoke another cigarette as long as I lived. I stopped my habitual 2 glasses of wine at 6pm (when the news starts) last September and, whilst I haven't given up alcohol in general or wine in particular I no longer drink anywhere near the 14 units per week recommended as a maximum and I don't miss it. I didn't even take a conscious decision to cut down.

So why can't I stop watching the news programmes?

I have made a wee start tonight. I stopped watching the 10 0'clock news before the programme ended and decided to watch a Prom concert from the 2017 season that I recorded (I record most of them).  The conductor is Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. She is a Lithuanian conductor who has been music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra since September 2016. She is only about 32 and is exceptionally talented and brings a breath of fresh air to established works. Few things could persuade me to go to Birmingham again but the opportunity to watch her conduct the BSO would be one of them.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Walking: Continued

Yesterday morning I walked twice the distance (3 miles) of the day before in 1½ times the time (just under an hour). I then spent 4 hours in the garden doing some pretty physical maintenance work. Today I repeated yesterday's walk. It's a while since I've felt this physically fit and it feels pretty good.

In fact I'm really looking forward to this spring and summer in all sorts of ways: spending time with my grandson; the garden; visitors; starting a new pastime in the form of bowls (I just can't see me getting to Glasgow often enough to play croquet again to the level I had become accustomed in New Zealand); more walking (made possible, ironically, by my latest series of hospital visits); and so many more ways. Life is pretty darn good. 

A few photos from this morning's walk:

The Lews Castle. The open ground is where, amongst other things, the Celtic Festival is held each year.
The historic Gaff Ketch 'Tecla'. Webpage here.
Setting sail past me walking along the harbour-side path
Another memorial seat has been added for walkers wanting some contemplation time

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A Walk In The Woods

Well it's a start. Since my hospitalisation last September I've been unable for much of the time to go for 'proper' walks i.e. ones that get the muscles going and the heart pumping.  I've not even been to the gym very much. Since my visit to Ayr Hospital last week things have improved immeasurably and today I decided that I would don my trusty walking shoes and go for a short but purposeful walk in the Stornoway Castle Grounds. 

It was just  a mile and a half with a few short gradients to tackle. Along the shore road the wind was very strong and that always makes catching one's breath difficult. In the woods, however, it was very pleasant indeed.

Since the 1987 hurricane which brought down a great many of the very elderly trees the woods have undergone a huge transformation with hundreds of trees felled and hundreds planted. The main difference for those of us acquainted with the woods for over 4 decades is the removal of almost all the rhododendrons which had grown wild and covered every available free bit of ground. This has allowed much more light into the woods allowing new trees to flourish.

Wild daffodils on the shore roadside
Great paths for prams

Now that's the sort of helpful notice I like
Cuddy Point and Stornoway Harbour
There's still a few wildish bits

Sunday, 15 April 2018

It's Spring Again

I was in Glasgow, Ayr and Callander this week. I didn't see the sun at all. However the Isle of Lewis basked in the sun whilst I was away.  I arrived back late last night and spent a good bit of today settling back in. I also spent some time in the garden. I had made sure that the lawnmower was emptied of petrol and cleaned when it retired for the winter so today I decided to see if it would come back to life. It did, so I cut the grass. I also adjusted the water in the pond and cleaned out lots of pondweed which had suddenly been activated by the sunny weather. It must, therefore, be Spring. 

Just a few of the hundreds of daffodils in the garden
The first batch of tadpoles have left their spawn embryos and are now a writhing mass.

What really struck me today, though, was the fact that it was still light at 9pm. In two months on a night like tonight (ie cloudless) there will be no night-time.  How fast the seasons come and go.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Travels and a Mathmatical Limerick

On Monday I left the sun and sand of the Isle of Lewis for the rather less sunny and sandy streets of Bishopbriggs via a night with friends in the Highlands. First thing this morning I drove the 60 miles to Ayr Hospital for what I hope was the last hospital visit until I have the stent in my kidney renewed in three months. I arrived back late this afternoon feeling pretty darn good. The staff in the Bruce Day Surgery at Ayr Hospital are absolutely first rate at making their patients feel good as well as looking after their physical ailments. I shall be catching up with friends over the next few days and hopefully managing some photos and perhaps a blog post or two of some places which don't usually figure in my posts.

Recently, whilst renewing my acquaintance with Zeller's Formula (which I tried learning many years ago with the object of trying to impress people with the trick of telling people what day any date fell on), I was reminded of mathematical limericks.

In particular this one:

12 + 144 + 20 + (3 x √4)  + 5 x 11 = 92 + 0

Sunday, 8 April 2018

A Sunday Smile

Well, actually, I suppose it's a smile for any day that you happen to read this. Well I hope they make you smile. They certainly happified me. 'They' being these envelopes (and their contents) from my brother, CJ. I would love to have had some of his artistic talent.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Spoons, Vegetables and a Question

I was recently interviewed for the Scottish Health Survey. It's an interview that lasts for an estimated hour. It took two hours in my case - and you may understand why when you've read this post.

Image result for tablespoonFor one of the questions I was shown a true to size picture of a tablespoon. Some of my readers will not be familiar with a tablespoon. For all practical purposes a tablespoon looks like this but, of course, this gives you no idea of the size. Measuring mine the bowl of the spoon is 8cm x 5cm. In strict measuring terms it is equal to 15ml.

Armed with that information I know that you can all now envisage exactly what a tablespoon of, say, flour or rice looks like. Or perhaps not!

One of the questions in the Survey was "Measured in tablespoons how many spoons of vegetables do you ear per day?"

Eh? I responded that a lot of my vegetables were eaten in the form of home-made vegetable soup.  Soup, however, is classed as a  drink and does not count. I mentioned that the people who set the question had obviously never seen my soup. As for the rest of the vegetables I eat daily I could not even make a guess at how many tablespoons are involved. What, for example, does a tablespoon of cauliflower or asparagus (of which I eat a lot) look like?

A rather conservative (and, in my view, totally meaningless) guess was made.

That is the one question that has stuck in my mind but there were quite a few other which elicited much discussion.

How many spoons of vegetables do you eat each day?

Monday, 2 April 2018

Easter Sunday, Materialism and Transience

I'm going out to friends for dinner. I'm being collected and brought home so that I can have a glass of wine. I've drunk almost no wine since the first of my current series of hospitalisations in September last year. It's been the longest period for many many years that I've gone for 7 months and been so abstemious. I used to do my best to keep to the 21 units a  week which was the recommended guideline for men. Since I was told at my last well-man MOT that the limit for men over 65 is now 14, I have hardly reached 14 units in a month never mind a week. The fact that it was just before my first hospitalisation in September is, I'm sure, a coincidence.

Anyway by 5pm I decided that all the chores that I am doing today were finished. I sat down in the lounge with the sun shining in and a book on my knee. When did I last do that? I can't remember.

The new, wonderfully fresh, recording of Brahms' Symphonies with Robin Ticciati conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (which I go to see in Glasgow as often as possible) is playing on my Italian 'Opera' speakers and has stopped me concentrating on the book.

I have been looking around the room. In this room and through the open doors of two other rooms. I can see the paintings hanging on the walls and the various other works of art sitting on shelves. I can see an entire wall taken up with books (many of which are available on my Kindle if I wished to save space). There is a 'bookcase' filled with over a thousand CDs (now largely obsolete because of streamed music).

They are simply material possessions. Transient. But in a way they define a part of who I am.

All of a sudden I burst into tears.*  All this might not have been. All this will not always be. 

If I were YP I'd write a poem. Unfortunately I think the last poem I wrote was over 40 years ago.

So prose will have to suffice.

* That's one of the potential side effects of prostate cancer treatments.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Ullapool: The Starting Point

The first time I saw this sight was 1975. MV Suilven had been commissioned and the new route between Ullapool and Stornoway had been opened. In some ways Ullapool has altered little since then but on the other hand the new ferry terminal and pedestrian access to the ferry completely block the view of the town's central junction and much of  Quay Street and the Shore Street seafront from the aft passenger deck. I shall try and find some of my original photos of the seafront before the new piers and terminal were built.

West Shore Street
The recent passenger gangway.
Loaded and ready for sea
A view of the passenger facilities on the quay
The new harbour and pier development.
Looking back from the ferry along West Shore Street

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

An Alarm , A Lesson and Luck

On grounds of good behaviour (or possibly because I was actually considered well enough) I was released from hospital yesterday.

I have to return to hospital on 11 April for what I hope will be the last visit in this 7 month 'episode'. So I decided to undertake the 8+ hour journey home today to re-charge my batteries. As always I left a good margin for unexpected happenings. It was a very good thing that I did.

It's also very fortunate for me, the Volvo and possibly other people, that I had fitted tyre pressure warning devices. As I was about 12 miles from Perth the alarm went off - my offside front tyre had suddenly lost significant pressure. I could see no obvious nail or problem so re-inflated the tyre and drove, albeit fairly gingerly, to Perth and found a helpful private tyre supplier. On the inside wall of the offside front tyre (ie where it could not be seen) was a huge blister about to blow out. Which could have caused loss of control of the vehicle at 70 mph.

Replacing one tyre means the other on the same axle has to be replaced too. That was very fortunate because there was a cut of over 12" in the circumference of the tread of the nearside tyre (which looked like it had been deliberately cut with a Stanley knife).

An hour later I was on my way with two new front tyres having avoided what could have been a fairly catastrophic morning.

I caught the ferry and I'm home. I shall sleep tonight.


Had I not had the alarm which told me the tyre was deflating after it had lost 5 psi and bearing in mind I had been driving for over an hour on 70mph roads a blow-out could have proved fatal to me and anyone else caught up if the car had become out of control. I reckon the cost of that tyre warning system was possibly the best value for money I've had for a long time.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

A Fire and An Allegory

I'm in Glasgow. Tomorrow I go into Ayr Hospital and, hopefully, the Surgeon will sort out the problem that has been contributing to my bouts of sepsis.

Today Anna and I went into Glasgow City Centre. As we were driving in and were still some miles away we could see and smell smoke. It became obvious that there was a pretty serious fire somewhere in the City Centre. As we drove along the street into the car park we could see the flashing lights and the fire engines and the tall water cannons with the firemen mounted high into the sky above the buildings.

In fact the fire had only started or been discovered an hour or so before we left Anna's. It was in Sauchiehall Street - one of Glasgow's main shopping streets (although a shadow of it's former glorious self).

We went to John Lewis for coffee. The main windows in the café look right up Sauchiehall Street and the fire and firefighting were there for all to see.  I put my stuff down on a table and went to get the coffees and cakes. Anna came into the café as I was getting the food and went off to the table. 

As I sat down with the tray Anna announced that she had got the news on her phone and regaled me with what was happening - as I was looking at it. Anna had been so busy going to the table and looking for the information on her phone that she was blissfully unaware of what was unfolding in front of her eyes.

And that, I thought, is the story of so much of our lives these days: it's all happening in front of us but we are too busy looking for it (whatever 'it' happens to be) elsewhere that we miss what is staring us in the face.

From the bottom of Sauchiehall Street just below the window we were looking out of.
Aerial press photo
Aerial press photo

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Heinz 57 Varieties

YP's  post yesterday was entitled Pictures.  It had absolutely nothing to do with Heinz Beans. However in the esoteric comments that followed he mentioned "Heinz 57 Varieties" and Kylie of Eclectica asked "57 varieties of what?"

It made me wonder. Having grown up with the brand of tinned and bottled foods Heinz 57 Varieties it occurred to me that our antipodean readers might not be aware of the significance of the reference. So I decided to enlighten you and myself at the same time.

I have always assumed that the original Heinz brand produced 57 varieties of tinned/bottled foods. I also assumed that it was a British company. I was wrong on both counts.

Heinz 57 is a shortened form of an 1896 advertising slogan "57 Varieties of Pickles" by the H. J. Heinz Company located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. It has come to mean anything that is made from a large number of parts or origins. It was developed from the marketing campaign that told consumers about the numerous pickle products available from the Heinz company.

The reason for "57" is unclear. Heinz said he chose "5" because it was his lucky number and the number "7" was his wife's lucky number. However, Heinz also said the number "7" was selected specifically because of the "psychological influence of that figure and of its enduring significance to people of all ages". Whatever the reasons, Heinz wanted the company to advertise the greatest number of choices of pickles. In fact by 1892, four years before the slogan was created, the Heinz company was already selling more than 60 products.

In Britain I would think that Heinz is best known for its baked beans. I didn't know until I looked for some pictures for this post that Heinz Baked Beans had been  re-branded as Heinz Beanz. So the Heinz tin showing the 57 very clearly has been relegated to less prominent type.

For my antipodean readers Heinz is branded as Watties in New Zealand (where it is a very large company) and as Heinz Watties in Australia.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Elderly Nurse

When I was in Glasgow's Royal Infirmary last December my first ward after A and E was the Medical Reception Ward. Whilst there I received lots of questioning, tests and so on. When one has sepsis one is often confused but I was alert enough to know what was happening when  a nurse walked across the ward towards me announcing "I'm the elderly nurse.".  My response was quite simply that she didn't look anywhere near as old as I am and I don't think of myself as elderly.

"No. I'm the Elderly Nurse." Ah. That was her title. Of course I knew that but it did seem a very strange moniker.

The standard questions followed: did I know my name?; did I know my address?; did I know where I was?; and did I know why I was here? Able to answer the questions without a problem I was pronounced not to have dementia and off she went to find another patient who might not have been so fortunate.

So when the nurse taking all my details when I got onto the ward last week said "And now for The Questions." I knew exactly what was coming and answered them without her having to ask. Without batting an eyelid she then asked me to recite the months of the year...backwards. As it happens I can do that almost as fast as I can recite them in the correct order: something I was totally unaware of until that moment.

Monday, 12 March 2018


I'm home: back on Lewis. It was a lovely day's drive and sail on Friday. I've unpacked and regrouped (Glasgow = shopping as well as concerts, visiting etc etc as well as hospital, hospital and hospital). Yesterday was spent corresponding: snail mail, email, WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram. Today was soup making day; a visit from Gaz and wee Brodie for lunch; and a general clearing up in the garden in the lovely weather this afternoon.

When one is in hospital one has all the time in the world. Everything is done for one. And yet with all that time at my disposal I achieved nothing in the time I was sitting in my nice little room with not even a television for distraction. So I listened to music, read the previous Saturday's 'Times' from cover to cover and did all the Mind Games. And almost nothing else for three and a half days.

I did gaze out over the Glasgow Necropolis occasionally. A great view from a hospital! Glasgow's Great and Good of old lie there.

Okay. I was rather ill for the first day or so until the intravenous antibiotics worked their magic but why didn't I actually use a pen and paper and draft some of the blog posts I wrote in my mind whilst sitting or lying there? Why didn't I write letters? (I write at least a dozen snail-mail letters/cards each week - usually more). Why didn't I read more than 3 chapters of the McCall Smith book I had with me? Why?

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Life - An Update

I’ve been in Glasgow for a couple of weeks.  I should have been home last week.  I came down for routine scans and an appointment with the drug trial coordinator for my cancer treatment. Once more things have not turned out as planned: partly because of the snowy weather and partly because I’m back in hospital with an infection again. One of the problems of being in hospital is that I’m separated from my laptop. This makes Blogland laborious using my iPhone. 

All my British readers will likely have seen plenty of pictures of snow much worse that the snow we’ve had in Glasgow but the chaos here has been considerable with trains cancelled en masse and general transport disruption. At Anna’s where I’m staying the road was totally blocked for cars except a few 4x4s for several days. I eventually got to The Beatson on Friday by walking out to the main road 25 minutes away on foot and getting a bus. In places the snow was over the top of my wellingtons.

I had planned this post with photos but despite all my efforts I cannot find a way that Blogger will post the photos from my phone. The original Blogger app was discontinued long ago and using Google’s Chrome app on my iPhone as my browser elicits the same message as do all the other browsers ie that it is not a Google supported browser for Google Blogger. How strange.

So that’s all folks: for now.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


I’m not the world’s greatest analytical  thinker. In fact I’m probably not the best in my own household which is amazing given that I live alone. So the following comments are simply musings.

There can be few people who have seen Blue Planet 2 who are not to some extent now anti-plastic.

I have for years been wondering about the use of plastic in supermarkets. I think it began ten years ago in a small town in France called Civray at a chain supermarket called Intermarché . It was the first time that I had seen every single orange wrapped in plastic. Since then it has become a challenge to get into almost any food without removing layers of plastic.

This is a huge subject but I shall just make a few observations.

Plastics help keep food fresh and without them we in the UK (and presumably much of Europe) would be denied many all-year-round foods. Indeed we would be denied many foods that we now take for granted. It was very obvious when I lived in Napier (the same may not be true of the more cosmopolitan cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) that, generally speaking, fresh food was seasonal. There were exceptions: oranges always seemed to be from the USA for example and were available all the time. They don’t need plastic to stay edible! Apples - one of New Zealand’s big crops - were held in inert gas in massive storehouses so were also always available. In fact I don’t remember anywhere near as much plastic being used for packaging as is used in the UK.

One of my greatest joys in New Zealand was to stop at the roadside in The Handbag and buy a punnet or paper bag of cherries right off the tree that morning. I would then drive home and arrive having devoured the lot with not a bit of plastic involved. (Don’t tell anyone but, given that The Handbag was open topped, I used to curl my tongue and expel the stone).

I digressed.

Just about every food that is transported across the world (at great air mile environmental cost) is wrapped in plastic and probably could not be transported without it.

I’m not advocating no action. Indeed there are many things we could and should do and we should do them quickly.

However we should also think before we commit to alternatives.

Bioplastic much beloved by the vegan food industry takes 1.7 sq metres of arable land to provide each kilo. I think I read that Europe consumes about 60 million tonnes of plastic wrapping a year. If all this were grown in fields then it would take 40,000 sq miles (one tenths of Europe’s arable land).  It also tends to compost to methane very quickly which has 20 times the potency of CO₂.

Lots of ‘plastic’ things are being made of bamboo derivatives. That sounds good to me but, apparently, the bamboo crops of the world (it’s not the fastest growing plant) are being decimated fairly rapidly.

I have no idea what the answers are but there are great analytical  thinkers out there and perhaps the politicians should employ some to solve the problem before it becomes unsolvable as the world sinks in a plastic mire.

As an aside I think the hardest problem to solve is going to be secure bottle tops. You can’t press the side of metal caps in to release them from a medicine bottle.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Spelling Bee

Rainbow today over Bayble Bay, Isle of Lewis

I can spell 'rainbow'. In fact I can spell lots of words pretty well. I should be able to too. Words were my stock in trade. However, I have always had some bêtes noir. Diphthong, diarrhoea and, oddly, muesli spring immediately to mind. I also went for much of my life convinced that 'across' was spelt 'accross'.

At primary school spelling bees were a common way of testing and improving our spelling ability. They were also supposed to be enjoyable and, to be frank, I did enjoy them. So did Joan Rigby. Joan was the brightest person in the school by far (teachers included I rather think). On one occasion she and I were captaining two spelling bee teams. The teams were level pegging until she and I had to face each other. I cannot recall what I was asked to spell but I spelt it correctly. Really at my wits end, and definitely in awe of Joan, I asked her to spell 'bee' as in 'spelling bee'. Much to everyone's astonishment she either couldn't or she miss-spelt it and my team won.

I don't expect YP to have any such problems but I'd love to know what bêtes noir the rest of my readers have: if any.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Washing Machine Detergent

How sexy and grabbing is that for a blog post title?

So much has been said about plastics recently that I was drafting my tuppence-worth when I read the label on a bottle of washing machine detergent (it is called so many things these days). I actually wanted to see what the number was in the re-cycling triangle on the base. I was astonished. I've obviously never read one before and I was completely taken by surprise. 

How many of us have read the labels despite a message hidden amongst all that small print exhorting us to do so? How many of us knew that it is severely deleterious to eyes? All that and much more is in the small print on the back of the bottle. On the front in very large letters it is emphasised as being suitable for sensitive skin: so much friendlier.

By the way do you have any idea what the red diamond sign means? Well so far as I can gather it means corrosive substance to materials and flesh. That doesn't sound very good for sensitive skin (or any skin) so far as I can make out.

Friday, 2 February 2018


If there is a way of making someone homesick it is sending them lots of food and goodies that are unique to 'home'.  I recall my Uncle who had emigrated to Canada in the '50s saying the same. 

'Home', though, is a very strange concept in my mind. I was born in Liverpool and have a certain nostalgia for that great city which once rivalled New York for the size of its international trade and had docks larger than those of London. However the day I moved away was the last day I felt that it was 'home'. 

I came to Lewis for two years in the '70s and never left. Wherever I am now, Lewis is 'home'. I think that it always will be.

However I'm a Hebridean Kiwi at heart having lived a half-life there for a decade. Every time I flew into Lewis or flew into New Zealand or every time I left either, my heart would give a jump and my eyes would well up with tears of emotion.

So when The Family in New Zealand sent me a goody-box for Christmas I was overwhelmed. I'm still opening packets and eating memories.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Moon

Humans everywhere and through all time have been obsessed with The Moon and tonight's super-blue-moon has engendered lots of interest. It's not particularly easy to photograph the craters at a full moon because the direct light flattens it to the ordinary camera. My photo in the sidebar of this blog (taken with a far less powerful lens over 10 years ago) is not a full moon and some of the craters are more obvious because of the shadows. However despite the fact that everyone will have seen pictures of superb quality in every newspaper and on television I cannot resist showing my own effort. It was taken about 4 or 5 hours before the optimum time for this grid reference. 

When I think about it the words in the sidebar are even more poignant at a time like this when so many people everywhere in the world are looking at the moon. "We may be apart but when I look at the sky and remember that we are standing on the same earth, looking at the same moon, somehow you don't seem so far away after all." I love the notion imparted by those words.

Friday, 26 January 2018

My First Digital Photo

On the 18 July 2000 I took my first digital photo with my first digital camera: a Kodak DC280 Zoom Digital Camera. The zoom was x2.

The picture was of two of my parents' 'mascots' which lived on the settee.  The koala was brought back by me from Australia the previous year. I cannot recall the origin of the other one.

We went for a drive to Delamere Forest where the next picture was taken. This one is of CJ and I and is unusually rare in that CJ is outside but does not have his camera on him (obviously it would have been within easy reach). Interestingly, despite being the owner of a newfangled digital camera, I am still carrying my trusty Pentax SLR which, in fact, I continued to use in parallel with the Kodak for several years.

The Kodak with it's 2x zoom. A far cry from the 50x zoom of my last digital camera (a Canon SX50) before I decided a couple of years ago to go back to Pentax but with a DSLR.  I still use the Canon occasionally for its sheer lightness and convenience.