1 EAGLETON NOTES: November 2019



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)