Saturday 28 December 2019

Cup Half Full and 40 Miles

I tend to look at everything in a positive way. Probably because I've been one of life's fortunate people in that so far I've woken up every morning and gone to bed every evening for the last 27,601 days. That's a lot of days and even more when you realise that it's 39,745,440 minutes minus what's left of today plus the number I lived on the day I was born.

I'd love to know what makes us essentially positive or essentially negative. Nietzsche and Voltaire aside (they only had the raw material to speculate about) some of us are definitely glass half full and some are glass half empty. I've always been the essential optimist even when I've faced the terrible things in my life. There is always someone who has had a worse experience who has come through to be a role model. I think it's what has carried me through. 

It's not, however, something of which to be proud or to boast about. It is simply a fact of who you are. I'm not even convinced that it's nurture although I'm sure that helps to mould our nature. My Mum was the eternal optimist but my Dad was a more cautious pessimist (at least that's how I perceived it). 

What's all this about? Well I was actually thinking about something so mundane and trivial that it made me think about the remarks I'd heard today about the winter and the weather (we're Brits so that's a mighty important topic and I live on an Island so it's a matter of ferries and to travel or not to travel and is quite a real part of life.).

My first thought is that the nights are now getting shorter but the person to whom I was talking said that it was a long time to the longer days and we still had the full winter to contend with. She pointed out that the weather today was atrocious. So it was. However Christmas Day was cloudless blue skies from start to finish. Ah yes she said "That brought the icy conditions". C'est la vie.

On Christmas Eve I took some photos of the mainland. To give you an idea of perspective Canisp in the first photo is 40 miles from where I was standing.

Canisp and Suilven

The township in which I live surrounded by nothing but moor. It looks better in the sun.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Happy Christmas

They say copying is the sincerest form of a flattery. Flattery, however, is insincere. This copying is a very sincere compliment to YP.

Graham GB Geeb HebrideanKiwi

The photo was taken on Christmas Day 2010 at The Big House above The Cottage in New Zealand

Tuesday 17 December 2019


I dislike disruption. I suppose that we all do. Midday Saturday and I'd just finished having coffee with a friend at The Woodlands. I'd been right as rain and twice as wet as the saying goes. I stood up and immediately felt the early signs of an onset of sepsis. I've had it so many times now that I'm pretty well attuned to the symptoms. It's just become part of normal life but it is disruptive because there is absolutely no knowing when it will strike. Anyway the Nurse Practitioner and Member of the Society of Master Bumjabbers had given me antibiotics to take should I be unable to get to an A & E (Emergency Room) in reasonable time. So I decided to try and stave it off at the pass and within half an hour of the onset I had taken my first tablet. 

I had friends coming for dinner for the Final of Strictly Come Dancing (good result but I did so want Anton and Emma to win) so decided to see how it went and rely on the oral antibiotics. The meal was already in the slow cooker (Moroccan Lamb if you're interested) so I went and had a sleep. I woke feeling quite reasonable so decided against A & E.

At 1.40 am I woke with rigours which were so bad I actually had difficulty phoning for an ambulance. Hospital. The usual cocktail of intravenous antibiotics. Brilliant care and attention (thank you once again NHS) and last night I was home again. Wabbit but well.

The disruption? Ah yes. Sunday had been allocated to getting my UK cards done. Monday was the day for icing the 5 Christmas cakes I still have to ice.

So now, after a fabulous and solid sleep, I'm playing catch-up. 

But first I have some Thank You notes to deliver.

Hopefully I'll get some blogs read this evening.

Monday 9 December 2019


On my phone I have an App called Life360. It is a location-based family networking app designed primarily to allow friends or family members to share location with each other and to communicate with each other in a closed group. It enables my brother to ask if I'm in hospital visiting or as an emergency patient (he'd know if I was going in routinely)

It's also a useful app if you have a family member who is directionally challenged. It makes finding them, telling them they are driving 25 miles down a motorway in the wrong direction and giving directions about what to do. I hear you say that you thought that's what sat-navs are for. It is. However that's perhaps not a route to go down at this moment (no pun intended - originally). 

Today I looked at it to see if CJ had gone down to Heswall (which would, prime facie, indicate a 'good day'). As I opened it I got an unusual message:

In itself the message was not unusual in that all the free app developers have a trade-off or price for being free. What is unusual in my experience is the open honesty and clarity with which the developers have named all 128 'partners' and allowed you to choose ones with which you do not want your information shared.

Friday 6 December 2019

Art? Really?

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s work, Comedian, a piece of fruit duct-taped to a wall, has been snapped up at Art Basel in Miami for $120,000. One in a series of three, a second version of the piece has also been sold for a similar price.

Am I the only one who remains unconvinced?

Sunday 1 December 2019

A Winter Canal Walk

A month or so ago when I was down in Bishopbriggs we went for a walk alongside the canal. It was a driech morning. Yesterday we repeated the walk on a bitterly cold but beautifully sunny afternoon.

Berthed at The Stables pub in an iced-over canal
We walked under the bridge to the left of the photo and towards Kirkintilloch.

Pleasure cruise canal boats were operating.

Homeward bound into the setting sun

The reward back at The Stables.

Monday 25 November 2019


The Outer Hebrides is a wonderland of and for birdlife. I would love to be able to photograph a lot more of it but, if I'm truly honest, I just don't put enough effort into it. In other words I'm an opportunistic birdlife photographer. On the whole I've managed some passable photos over the years which have been good enough for proper identification at least.

Quite a few of my photos have, however, been taken through my kitchen window with the limitations that can impose in terms of reflections, distortion and, when the wind blows, salt on the glass. I'm also either photographing into the sun (in the morning - the house faces East) or in the shade when the sun is behind trees, buildings or the house. On the other hand if I'd tried to go out of the house to get the photo the subject would have long fled.

So it was yesterday. Two birds flitted into the garden and came right up to the window. I was pretty sure I'd never seen them before. I reached for the ever-present camera but by the time it was switched on they were in a lavatera bush 10 metres away. The light was poor but, in the 60 or so seconds they were in the garden, I managed some photos.

The visitors are Chiffchaffs. They are normally summer visitors, wintering around the mediterranean, but some have started to over-winter in the UK. There are also those that come to the UK in the winter from the east and look slightly different in appearance. They are much greyer than our normal green Chiffchaffs with just a little green in the wings and are known as Siberian Chiffchaffs which these visitors look very much like. They also sound different (but I couldn't hear them). This year there has been an influx of Siberian Chiffchaffs to the Outer Hebrides with 3 at Ness, 3 on Uists recently and 5 on Barra. (Information supplied by Yvonne Benting of Outer Hebrides Birds).

Monday 18 November 2019


On 30 September YP wrote a post entitled 'Now'. I thought about it then and I've been thinking about it on and off since then. YP posed the question "Why should we live with one foot in yesterday and the other foot in tomorrow?" He ended up saying "Grasp 'Now' while it is happening because there will never be another day quite like this one." 

Then I started thinking about the millions for whom today is the same as yesterday was and the same as tomorrow will be. For whatever reason (for example loneliness, health or poverty) there are many for whom there has always been a past but for whom the future may offer no hope of anything different and for whom that permanent 'Now' is far from a pleasant one. 

I have posted (several times) on the poem by W H Davies entitled Leisure which starts "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?"

Basically I think that is what is at the nub of what YP was saying.

All of us have a past which, to some extent and in some way, conditions us. We cannot ignore that past. 

Most of us have a future. How long it will be is usually unknown although the older we are then as a general rule the shorter our life expectation. How long we may hope and expect it to be will vary enormously.

When we are 16 to 18 then the last thing on our mind is likely to be our old age. However the future in terms of a career and all that flows from that is likely to be a consideration.  Some of the time. At that age, however, a lot of leisure time is spent in The Now but the rest of the time (school, university etc) is spent investing in the future.

At 75 we have almost reached old age. Our working life is like to be behind us. Our health will likely be less robust than it has been and we will probably have less energy and strength than at our peak. We will have far more of a past life and memories so we will live in the past to some extent. I think that is inevitable. In reality we are likely to be thinking about our future as well. Will we be able to drive for much longer? Is our home suitable for our impending old age? Should I plan for the possibility of dementia or infirmity.

I, like YP, am very fortunate to have an adequate income, all my faculties, lots of friends, family on the Island and superb health care which keeps my body serving me well.

However, whist I am out on this wonderful, cold and sunny morning for my walk in the woods I will be enjoying The Now whilst definitely thinking of the fact that in a short while I will be meeting an old friend for coffee in the warmth.

And that is, I would like to think, an allegory for life in general.

Or am I guilty of complacency as considered in YP's subsequent post bearing that title.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

My Few Previous Days

This is what my last post was really intended to be about. Much more mundane and requiring no thought whatsoever. My 'average day' tends to involve getting up and abluting and footling about with a mug of hot water and lemon and eating my breakfast of banana, blueberries and muesli (possibly with some Grapenuts) whilst checking emails and so on.

I then try to go for a walk in the woods in the Castle Grounds in Stornoway followed by a coffee in The Woodlands often with friends. Then I'll do what I need to do in Stornoway before home for lunch. The afternoons and evenings are varied well beyond 'average'.

In pictures the following has been part of life on Lewis this last week or so.

Last Saturday my son and daughter-in-law's home village of Grimshader had it's belated Novemver 5th bonfire night:

My son, a very keen cyclist, decided that one of the bikes he had made as a project was perfect for a child seat. Brodie absolutely loves it.

My daily drive into Stornoway involves driving over the 'spine' of the peninsula on which I live. This photo is of a heavy shower right over the top of Stornoway where I was about to walk. As it happens when I started on my walk the rain had disappeared and the sun had emerged.

The autumnal woods in the Castle Grounds were basking in glorious sun.

A couple of days ago I finished baking the last of the six Christmas cakes I've made over the last few weeks. The new oven in the new kitchen has been the best thing I've purchased for a long time.

Talking of the new kitchen I fitted a blind  this week.

This morning's sunrise over the Scottish mainland as seen from my kitchen was a mixed bag of snow showers and brilliant sun:

My garden pond was frozen over which is very rare here just above the sea

Now it is almost time to think of Christmas.

Monday 11 November 2019

My Last Few Days

Actually I'm rather hoping that they were not my last few days. I've got a lot more I want to achieve in life. In a recent post Kate mentioned both Lucy Ashton singing "Easy live and quiet die" in Room With A View. It is in fact from Sir Walter Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor.

Look not thou on beauty’s charming,
Sit thou still when kings are arming,
Taste not when the wine-cup glistens,
Speak not when the people listens,
Stop thine ear against the singer,
From the red gold keep thy finger;
Vacant heart and hand and eye,
Easy live and quiet die.

Kate also mentioned Dylan Thomas's Do not go gentle into that good night.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I have to say that if I interpret Dylan Thomas's poem correctly then he feels that I should be less than pleased if the last few days were, in fact, my very last. In fact I hope that when my end finally comes (which I'm hoping will not be for a good while yet) I shall be able to say that I have had a Good Life and, latterly, an "easy life" in the poetical sense and that I shall be able to "quietly die". 

However that was not what my post was supposed to be about. Never mind. I won't test your patience with any more in this post. Perhaps tomorrow....or the day after.

I did wonder, however, whom amongst my friends and acquaintances would rage and whom would quietly die.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

The November Garden

This year has been one of the strangest in my garden. The early warm spell in April fooled everything and then the constant rain thereafter cause everything to grow more than I've ever known. The exceptionally wet late summer and autumn combined with all my commitments has meant that virtually no maintenance has been carried out. I am hoping for some clear, dry winter days without the debilitating winds to get the garden ready for next year.

In the meantime I've just had a look at what is left in the garden:

A lone and lonely stray marigold, a tiny sisyrinchium among some miniature hebes, a lone remaining Japanese anemone, and one of a hundred little wild strawberries which I have allowed to colonise the garden because they flower from spring until winter.

Saturday 2 November 2019

The Riotous Oldies

It’s 1030 pm. This, you understand is New Zealand 10.30 pm. All self respecting 60+s are in bed and asleep. I’m in a motel unit with three croquet ladies. The next but one unit is occupied by another 4 croquet ladies. This is the Veterans Tournament (The Vets) so all are over 60 and anyone in their 60s is probably on the young side. But these are fit people able to play for 8 and 9 hours a day on their feet concentrating and walking many many kilometres during the day.

And in the evening they ‘relax’. A small libation may be taken…..many times. A large libation or two as well perhaps.

So picture the scene. A group of six or so, an hour after everyone’s usual bedtime sitting in a smart motel unit making enough noise to keep the rest of the smart motel awake. Croquet person turns up from another motel. It’s his first ever croquet tournament tomorrow. He’s forgotten his handicap card (golfers will understand). He’s come to see what he should do. As if anyone can sort the problem at this hour of the evening. But... he’s taken a sleeping tablet and is half asleep already. It’s decided that he should be taken back to his motel. He’s a teetotal, good-living retired methodist minister and he’s being shepherded down the hight street by an extremely ‘happy’ gang of veteran ladies (some in their night attire). 

Who says the over-sixties are dull. 

Oh and by the way I retained my Veterans'  Association Croquet Handicap Singles title. So I'm happy too.

(From A Hebridean in New Zealand, November 2013)

Friday 25 October 2019

I'm Out

No. I've not been behind bars. In fact I've not even been in bars. I've been in hospital for my routine kidney stent change. Mind you that was only a small part of my two weeks away. During those two weeks I stayed with a dear friend (with whom I usually stay when in the Glasgow and whom I originally met in New Zealand in 2006 because our two families were friends). As always we did lots of things including seeing Mozart's Requiem at The City Halls, a cinema simultaneous live performance of Mozart's opera Don Giovani from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and we also went to a Scottish Opera  Mozart and The Bard (Burns) workshop.

Glasgow is a wonderful city and very reminiscent of the city of my birth, Liverpool. Both were built on shipbuilding and trade and were, 'in their day', cities of great wealth and centres of culture and homes to a large and varied immigrant population largely used in its building and construction industries. Both have had a renaissance.

One day we went to the West End for coffee in Byers Road. Byers Road is in the centre of 'studentland' being near the University and a large student population. It's always been a great place to explore and eat and I've been very familiar with it since the late 80's when our elder child started University there. I go there often. We had coffee in Café Françoise

It was NOT a day for sitting outside
We'd missed the breakfast rush
Studentland encourages a slightly more 'alternative' approach

Sunday 13 October 2019

A Canal Walk

What could be better on a cold, dreich Scottish morning than a coffee? Well Anna likes cappuccino so had the decorative skills of the barista. I am boring and just had an Americano. It was a good reward for our brisk walk along the canal bank from Bishopbriggs to Kirkintilloch.

On the way back and despite the weather I managed some decent autumnal photos:

Friday 4 October 2019

Yesterday's This and That

I haven't been out today....yet. If the weather doesn't deteriorate I'll go out early evening to play bowls. I have played very infrequently this summer. A neighbour popped in for coffee this morning and I prepared and primed the kitchen window surround this afternoon. It's been a sunny day but the wind is cold and very strong.  So I've been reading and catching up with blogs (but not doing much commenting). 

I find it very odd that when I'm busy (which, thankfully, is most of the time) I get a lot more done than on those days when I've got all the time in the world to do things. By that I mean that when I have the time I seem to ignore my extensive 'to do' list instead of tackling it.

All sorts of blog ideas have passed through my mind over the last week but I've just not made the time to write a post. So now that I'm making that time all the ideas have deserted me.

I was reading of an insurance company which had turned down a claim after a burglary because the person had been posting on social media when they were on holiday with the obvious conclusion that they were not at home. It is a condition in many policies that the cover for burglary and the like will not apply if there has been such a post. That can be a major problem in the case of a claim, given that many people post where they are on Facebook  when they are on holiday (and Facebook can be set to track you anyway). I rarely post on Facebook but occasionally comment and it can be obvious from that that I'm not at home.

It did make me think about the fact that I often blog to explain where I am or even blog about places where I am: many of us do. Living in a place where burglaries are virtually unknown I'm not too worried however if I lived elsewhere I would certainly curtain my activities.

Someone mentioned the use of car horns recently and the fact that they signified aggression and thus caused upset.  I have been looking for a car horn which says 'thank you' - eg a two tone sound but I can't find one. Of course it's use would be illegal but it would be better than trying to give two sharp beep-beeps (which is also technically illegal). When I was young I undertook a police driving course for civilians and was, of course, guided by Roadcraft: the Police Driver's Handbook. That advised a press to warn of danger and a light tap accompanied by a raised hand as a polite warning. On the whole I find that this still works although the horn on my present car requires a lot of force to activate it.

PS The weather was windy and cold but I was able to play bowls under floodlights for the last day of the season. I played well enough to be quite pleased given that it's months since I last delivered a bowl. 

Sunday 22 September 2019

I am Puzzled.

I am puzzled by many things in life and the list grows longer as I grow older.

Why do people (now) clap themselves when they achieve anything ie getting a question correct on a TV game show?

Why does no one mention that all the wars and military action being taken across the world are a major contributor to the world's greenhouse gas problem?

Why does anyone gives a monkey about who "celebrities" sleep with (apart, presumably, from the celebrities)? Of course I exclude celebrities in a position of trust such as politicians because, unfortunately, I've got to the stage that I just assume most of them are lying anyway.

Which way round do currency conversions go. I started off my (proper) working life as a trainee accountant. I abandoned it very quickly for lots of reasons: one being that I could not understand double-entry book-keeping. It wasn't until I had my own business that I really came to grips with it. Strange because it is absolutely logical and I had taken, and enjoyed, a course of logic many years ago. I lived in New Zealand with the need to be aware of the fast diminishing value of my UK £ income when converted into NZ$s. I still got/get confused. Please don't tell me it's simple. I KNOW it's simple. That just makes it worse.

Why did my maternal Uncle have a photographic memory even when he was in his 90s and yet I am, infamously, the man who, when introducing his wife to someone, forgot his wife's name?

Why do people crack their knuckles? It's not good for them (it's not harmful either) and it's unpleasant for those around them.

Why do so many women (sic) I know say they can't reverse parallel park? Most of them are excellent drivers but seem to think that that particular affliction is an expected virtue in women.

I am even more puzzled as to why I should think anyone might think this post interesting. Perhaps you don't!

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Home Again (Again)

I arrived home late on Sunday evening after a good journey up the road and a remarkably calm ferry crossing given the huge storm on Saturday. 

Sailing out of Ullapool and down Loch Broom to The Minch

It had been a Good Week. The scans were clear and I'm continuing on the drugs trial. I've spent a couple of days getting back into my daily 'routine' (a silly term because I have few actual routines). I'm up at crack of dawn in the morning to take Gaz to the airport and his return to Italy.

Settling back in wasn't helped by the fact that the internet had, once again, disappeared in my absence. This time it was because the box on the telegraph pole had been destroyed in Saturday's storm. I was reinstated yesterday.

An Engineer up a telegraph pole. He's spent a lot of time mending my phoneline one way and another

My last day in Glasgow included a visit to one of my favourite (and much blogged about) places: Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. A visit is never complete without seeing the Glasgow Boys exhibition.

Old Willie - The Village Worthy -  Sir James Guthrie 1886

The Last of the Clan -  Thomas Faed 1865

A Highland Funeral  Sir James Guthrie 1882 
The cottage in the picture still stands but is in a derelict state.
It can be found alongside the Black Water river just up the lane from The Byre Inn public house in the village of Brig O'Turk,
As can be seen women did not generally attend funerals at that time

Tuesday 10 September 2019


Was it Yorkshire Pudding who, not too long ago, wrote condemning the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife? Whoever it was let me assure them that you were wrong so to do. I have carried a SAK for over six decades since when I was a teenager.

I think that I may have mentioned before how puzzled I've been by sandwich packaging. Today I had chosen a chicken salad sandwich at the Beatson Charity Café in the Beatson Cancer Centre. I'm recently good at puzzles (as well as being reasonably modest) but this sandwich packaging really floored me. 

In the end I used my trusty SAK's largest blade (an ordinary domestic knife having proved useless). The effort was worth it. The sandwich was delicious.   

Saturday 7 September 2019

The Last Summer Visitors

Yesterday my last visitors of the summer left. Summer is over so anyone hereafter is an autumn or winter visitor. In a couple of hours I am off on the ferry to Glasgow for my 16-week review for my drugs trial. It is a great privilege to be on a drugs trial for many reasons: you may get lucky (as I have) and see a huge improvement in the cancer indicators, and it gives you an insight into to the billions  spent on development and trials to see if they work and enable worldwide licensing.

I have known my last visitors since the '70s but they left the Island a few years ago (daughter many years ago). So they spent the days meeting friends and re-visiting places and the evenings allowing me to enjoy their company.

MV Loch Seaforth berthing with my visitors on board

A quiet moment on The Minch with the Mainland visible under a lowering sky

Walking in a very strong wind to Dalmore on the West Side of Lewis

Photographing the waves - we all used to play on this beach together with our families

A peaty river, glorious heather and some sun at Traigh Mhor, Tolsta

A moment when a shower threatened - the beach is a mile long

You don't have to photograph 'big'

After we left (having missed the showers) we left as a shower swept across Broad Bay
 Traigh Mhor is below us on the other side of the sheep