1 EAGLETON NOTES: January 2019



Thursday 31 January 2019

A Little Bit of Culture

One of the advantages of being in Glasgow for a while is the opportunity to go to live concerts.

Today we are going to see the concert pianist Stephen Hough play at the Glasgow City Halls - one of several splendid concert venues in the city. 

Last night, however, was an opportunity to see Verdi's opera, La Traviata. It was being streamed live from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to one of the cinemas at Glasgow's Cineworld (together with cinemas around the world).

I was brought up in the era when cinemas were huge, cramped, crowded and smoke-filled and, as a youngster, trying to see round the head of the person in front could be a real challenge. The luxury of the modern cinema with its big, comfy seats, plenty of room and no heads to be looked round or over never ceases to amaze me. 

Of course there is nothing like  the atmosphere of being in the audience of a live performance but the detail that one sees on the big screen as well as the wonderful sound makes up for the lack of atmosphere. 

The lead role of Violetta was played by the magnificent Albanian soprano Ermanelo Jaho.  She made her Royal Opera debut back in 2008 in this role and is, without a doubt, the most convincing and emotionally challenging interpreter of that role that I have see. I unashamedly shed tears through a lot of the last act.  Alfredo was sung by Charles Castronovo who has played in the role opposite Jaho on many occasions and the chemistry between them showed. Alfredo's father was sung by Pl├ícido Domingo who has now played all the leading male roles in the Opera at the Royal Opera House.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Life - An Update

I'm now out of hospital and getting some R and R before my scans and cancer review next week.

Before I respond to the comments on my last couple of posts (and I hope you will forgive me if I give general comments and just answer specific ones where a specific point has been made) I just want to update you and show you a few of the things that have amused me and kept me going over the last week or so.

Several post-cards from my brother, CJ/Scriptor Senex:

Although, as CJ pointed out, this is an unrealistic representation of life - libraries no longer have books and pigs trotters cannot manage the keystrokes (although he supposed that they could have asked the librarian volunteer member of the public behind the counter.
The cartoon arrived in one of the messages I received although I can't recall who sent it - sorry. I think it encompasses so very much my philosophy of life and is an important part of playing The Glad Game. Anyway it's Saturday, the weather here near Glasgow is wet, breezy and very uninviting.  I have little doubt that we shall venture out at some stage but for the moment I shall visit Blogland and write good old snail mail letters: I have a lot of people to thank for helping me through the last 10 days.

Monday 21 January 2019

Thank You Once Again

I never cease to be grateful to the staff of the NHS in particular and the concept of the NHS in general. I’ve said it before and doubtless I’ll say it again. 
Last Thursday I came into the Day Surgery Centre of Ayr Hospital to have my kidney stent changed. It’s a necessary routine every 3 to 6 months. My particular surgery is complicated by all the damage done by radiotherapy back in 2008. The last change was 5 months ago and has been problem free since. 

I went into surgery at 0930 and was up on the ward for observation overnight an hour or two later bright eyed and bushy tailed. The operation had gone well and, for the first time, no ‘cutting’ to get the instruments in had been necessary. 

I was more than a little surprised therefore to be showing signs of imminent sepsis within a couple of hours. By late afternoon I was totally poleaxed and a lot of concerned medical staff were either taking readings or taking fluids out of me or putting fluids into me. 

Today I woke feeling fairly human and at lunchtime had my first solid food (apart from two bananas) since last Wednesday. It was a baked potato with baked beans and cheese. Heaven. Discharge beckoned. 

However I’ll have to be a patient patient. Apparently I won’t be leaving the ward until Wednesday or Thursday. The infection was both in my blood and urology systems and had threatened my heart

Hey ho. I feel unbelievably fortunate, however, having just learned that a friend in the States had a severe internal rupture which  allowed everything inside to become one big mess requiring an operation with a 20% chance of survival and ages in ICU (and that’s just the barest bones of the story). He has survived but he’s a long way from the end of the story. 

I’m writing this on my phone so I’ll end here and be back with you all properly as soon as I can. I might even try and catch up with some comments. Who knows?

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Never Let It Be Said

that I don't use public transport. 

The Isle of Lewis has, for a rural area, a pretty good bus service. Some people may not agree but then they don't they are unlikely to have ever lived in a similarly remote area of, say, rural France or Italy.  

It is strange that so many people equate 'public transport' with bus services. Someone once 'accused' me of never using public transport. I pointed out that, on the contrary, I flew everywhere and often used a train to complete my journeys. On the Island, though, my car is my lifeline. I'm far too busy to wait for buses and, if I'm truthful, I'm not yet willing to change my lifestyle to suit bus timetables. That time may, on the assumption that I am fortunate to get older and that there are still buses, arrive.

However, yesterday, Anna and I (I'm down in Glasgow for three weeks for hospital appointments and some socialising in between) went into the City Centre on a bus. We returned on a bus too. I have to admit that it was quite a painless experience. It was also considerably less expensive (to the extent that it was free using my Scottish Entitlement Card) and I didn't have to pay the usual £8+ parking fee. On the downside we had to put off any 'big' shopping until another time. 

For those who don't know, this is a bus - the bus we came back to Anna's on actually:

I should be in hospital tomorrow for a routine op so it may be a few days before I'm back in Blogland.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Wind Farms

Wind farms have been a very controversial subject on the Isle of Lewis for many years. I first posted about them 10 years ago here. I won't try and make a case here for or against them but will simply say that I am qualifiedly in favour of them in principle. There have been and still are many proposals for wind farms on Lewis but real progress has been hampered by the lack of the multi-billion pound interconnector which would be needed to transfer the power generated to where it was needed on the Scottish and English mainland.
I will, however, tell you a short account of something that happened to me a few years ago. I was sitting in a hotel on one of my journeys in England or Scotland. A small but noisy gathering sitting adjacent to me were discussing windfarms. I was taking no notice until someone very loudly pronounced that "You would never see windfarms in New Zealand. They are too concerned with their environment and their tourism. They would never stand for them." I was about to ignore that when he started up again and I politely said that as they were speaking so loudly and it was impossible for me not to be in their debate I'd like to make a small contribution. They were quite amenable. I pointed out that I lived part time in New Zealand and that, in fact, New Zealand had the largest windfarms in the Southern Hemisphere and that they were an integral part of their 80+% reliance on thermal, water and wind energy for their electricity. I was invited to join their debate but having made my point I politely declined.
Part of the Te Apity wind farm with The Handbag in the foreground. I do miss the decade running around New Zealand with the lid off.

These are two of the windfarms in New Zealand in the Manawatu at Te Apiti and Tararua Ranges having 55 and 134 turbines respectively.

Wind farms and turbines generate a wide range of opinions from outright opposition to widespread acceptance. Opposition is due to noise, aesthetics and ecological factors. However New Zealand has one of the lowest carbon footprints from electricity generation in the world. These two windfarms are very prominent and claim to be a significant tourist attraction. Certainly I've seen lots of people stopping in the carparks to look and take pictures.

Saturday 5 January 2019


My maternal uncle was able, in his 90s, to read pages from schoolbooks which he could see in his mind's eye. He had a photographic memory.  

Some people, though, have little or no ability to visualise things ie they have no visual memory. I am one of those people. If, for example, I am trying to compare two things (perhaps pictures or sets of numbers or whatever) even if they are side by side I have to do it tiny bit by tiny bit looking from one to the other constantly. If there are seven individually distinctive skiffs sailing in the harbour, the second I look away from them I have absolutely no idea what order they are in unless I've managed to commit that to words and can remember the words. I have pictures on my walls that I have gazed at for hours but could still not describe them to you in anything but the most general of terms.

Those examples are, of course, very simple and only a small part of what it's like not to have visual memory and it is only within the last decade that I've become aware that, apparently, relatively few people have this affliction 

If you are curious as to your ability to visualise things then close your eyes and imagine walking along a sandy beach and then gazing over the horizon as the sun rises. How clear is the image that springs to mind?

Of course, every police officer and defence lawyer will tell you how poor people's visual memory is as evidenced when it comes to describing an incident and those participating, in the way the police would require of a witness. 

I know someone with prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, which is a cognitive disorder of face perception in which the ability to recognize familiar faces, including one's own face (self-recognition), is impaired, while other aspects of visual processing (e.g., object discrimination) and intellectual functioning (e.g., decision-making) remain intact. Apparently it is a separate thing to lack of visual memory.

How alone am I in my blogworld?

Thursday 3 January 2019


Yesterday I was fortunate and privileged to be invited to go along when the Stornoway Rowing Club  went out from the Inner Harbour to the Beasts of Holm (the rocks on which HMY Iolaire foundered). I was not rowing of course but got a ride on the safety rib. Some yachts accompanied the skiffs as well. We were fortunate in that the Minch was calm with little more than a breeze but it was cold with a temperature not much above freezing.

When the skiffs arrived at the site of the disaster 201 paper boats were floated, the crews sang a hymn and saluted those who lost their lives. It was both poignant and moving.

Gathering on the marina pontoons
The 'Lewis Diver' rib I was fortunate to go out on.
Rowing across the harbour
Rowing around the Beasts of Holm
Floating the paper boats and singing a hymn
SY233 'Jubilee' the last original ‘sgoth Niseach’. Ideally suited to fishing in Scottish coastal waters, the clinker-built, lug-rigged ‘sgoth Niseach’ took their skippers and crews into the unpredictable waters of the North Atlantic
The Iolaire lies between the marker on the rocks and the shore.
The Salute

Tuesday 1 January 2019

HMY Iolaire

One hundred years ago today occurred one of the worst maritime disasters in United Kingdon waters since the loss of SS Norge in 1904. It was undoubtedly the most tragic single occurrence to befall the combined island of Lewis and Harris.

The Islands had already lost about 1200 men in their prime during The War. The addition of 174 Lewismen and 7 Harrismen within yards of the shore of home made the tragedy even harder to bear.

Only 75 of the passengers survived, and the death toll may in fact have been higher as the ship was overcrowded and passenger records were incomplete. Many of the survivors were saved by the actions of John F Macleod, Port of Ness, who jumped from the boat with a line, miraculously made land, wedged himself in the boulders and hauled ashore a hawser, along which most of the survivors struggled to safety.

The tragedy has  been the subject of a number of books and many articles and there have been and will be many acts of remembrance during this week in which I shall, hopefully, participate and about which I hope blog.

Last evening there was a torchlight procession to a service and concert of remembrance attended by Scotland's First Minister and HRH Prince Charles.

I will not try and repeat much that has already been written but for anyone with an interest in the Islands, history, maritime history or who are just curious to know some more I will provide some links.


The Darkest Dawn: The Story of the Iolaire Tragedy by Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John Macleod. (2018) Publisher: Acair. The most authoritative and thorough account of the event with details of those lost and those who survived.

When I Heard The Bell - The Loss of the Iolaire by John MacLeod. Publisher:  Birlinn Limited.

There are more which can be found by Googling "Books Iolaire disaster"