1 EAGLETON NOTES: April 2018



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