Wednesday 30 December 2020

Never Hate Anything

Warning: This post may be regarded by some as containing politically incorrect words or sentiments.

When I started blogging 1n 2007 my blog was simply a way of telling my family and friends in the country I wasn't living in at the time, what I was doing on the other side of the world. Since then it has altered and so has my Blogland friend base. The only people, so far as I can recall, who still follow regularly who followed in the first couple of years are Monica (Dawn Treader) and Adrian with Meike (Librarian) following on. There are some who still pop in and out who were New Zealand friends in the very early years too. You may find this post familiar.

There have been a lot of bloggers and non-blogging commenters recently who have become rather controversial and, for me, that takes a lot of the fun out of blogging.

If, as a child (and when I was an adult come to think of it), I ever said that I hated something my Dad always responded by saying "You should never hate anything in this world". I don't think he ever did. I'm not sure that I have ever hated either. I abhor things like intolerance and discrimination but I don't hate them. I have certainly never hated a person. Hate is too self-destructive an emotion.

When I was a child growing up in Liverpool there was a joke which went "What's green on one side, orange on the other and has a white line down the middle?" The answer was "Netherfield Road North". That road was notorious for being the boundary between the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities in Liverpool. The area was poor and largely comprised of slum dwellings. It was not wise to walk down the 'wrong' side of the road.

I digress. When I was 21 I was the deputy in the Housing Committee Section in the Town Clerk's Department (the legal and administration department of the Liverpool Corporation - City Council). That Section also dealt with slum clearance and compulsory purchase. Anthony Wedgewood Ben was the Minister of Technology at the time. He was visiting Liverpool. Even in those days (1965) politicians had press officers spinning for them. We were told that he had to be referred to as WedgeBen of MinTek to make him look modern and with it. He arrived and decreed that the word 'slum' was no longer to be used. Houses were henceforth to be referred to as 'unfit for human habitation'. Never use four words where one will do - unless you are trying to make your own title look modern.

Back to the story. Netherfield Road North was a hotbed for the violence of man on man caused by religious hatred. I recall, for example, the discrimination where the Lybro Overall Factory had a notice in huge letters outside the main entrance "No Roman Catholics (or was it Protestants?) employed". I was a Protestant but I had been sent to a Prep School owned and run by an Irish Roman Catholic family. So why did religions hate each other? Even as a very young child I wondered that and found it incomprehensible.

Liverpool Corporation in one of the most courageous and far-seeing practical acts of anti-discrimination almost eliminated the physical divisions of religion in Liverpool when it cleared the slums to the new high-rise blocks in Kirby. They took a decision to mix the orange and the green. People became next door neighbours with people whom they would not previously have tolerated on their side of Netherfield Road North.

But nothing has changed in the world. Liverpool may no longer have a significant problem with religious hatred. But the rest of the world.......

One amusing thing that always sticks in my mind was my partner's daughter who whenever she said that she hated something and I responded as my Dad had done, used to stamp her foot in mock annoyance and say "OK, Graham, I don't like it a very lot then!". And she wasn't yet a teenager.

As Andy used to say "It's a funny old world, Dad."

Saturday 26 December 2020

Boxing Day

Well that was Christmas. This morning Scotland woke up to new lockdown statuses. The Outer Islands have gone from Tier 2 to Tier 3 and everywhere else is now Tier 4. The only difference for me is that I won't be able to meet family or friends in their houses just in a café. At least I saw The Family on Christmas morning however, as only two families are allowed to meet in one house I left my in-laws to enjoy the day with their family and, for Christmas Dinner, I went to friends close by my home who were alone because their family is in Edinburgh so unable to visit the Island. 

After I retired from being a bureaucrat I went full-time into our pottery business and ceased to wear ties. The pottery involved a mixture of manual jobs as well a running the business which at it's busiest (ironically at the time when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer) had 22 staff.

Since lockdown I have started wearing ties again - happy ties. I'll show you some time. 

However, I have always worn plain socks (blue, black or brown). Yesterday my Goddaughter surprised me with her family's Christmas present. So in future I shall be wearing happy socks too (except at Lewis funerals!). The following was taken after Christmas dinner yesterday in front of my friends' roaring fire. 

Some of you still haven't been able to see what the fox was looking at so here is the solution: rabbit or hare ears:

Thursday 24 December 2020

A Christmas Catch-up

The shortest day and longest night have come and gone. We can now look forward to more light in the evenings and less getting out of bed when it's still pitch black. We are in the third day of meteorological Winter. It will be the 20 March before Spring is upon us. And yet there is something rather magical about one's increasingly positive outlook on life once the days start getting longer. I appreciate that many of you may not be living in a place where the hours of daylight at this time of year are little more than 6 but, for those of us who are, believe me every extra minute added to daylight counts.

Of course, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere your Spring is over officially and you are entering summer. It's at moments like this that I get very homesick for my New Zealand life. Of course I accept that it's over and I can't realistically travel there again but it is still emotionally very hard at times.  With Covid rampant in so much of the world I wouldn't be travelling anyway. 

In many ways this is all eclipsed by the Covid restrictions but, at the moment, we in the Scottish Outer Islands are, I think, less restricted than anywhere else in the UK and Northern Ireland. That will change on Boxing Day when we will have more restrictions because of the new variant. However our cafes and shops can still open. 

This year I made a Christmas card to send to all my friends and family. In 1969/70 there was a national exhibition at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery of paintings by amateur painters. I liked one enough to buy it. It's a winter scene and I recently thought that I would use it for my Christmas card. It takes a bit of doing but can you see what the fox is looking at? I think it was that tiny spark of humour which so endeared me to the artist.

Wishing you a 

Happy Christmas.

I hope that the New Year brings 

you good health, contentment,

 and a happy heart.


Sunday 13 December 2020


How often do we hear the sentence "You don't understand" in relation to something someone is going through? One blogger in my Blogworld recently said that she had been suffering from a bout of clinical depression.

I often think about the experiences in my life and think about how they have made it easier for me to understand what other people are going through or what other people may think.

The latter is easier to understand because my whole professional training from my short period on a medical ward when I was straight out of school to my professional career as a bureaucrat involved being able to see all points of view of a situation. 

I originally read public administration and my post-grad was business administration. 

In the short period when I was reading for a law degree and then for the English Bar it was drummed into one that a lawyer must always be able to see both sides of the case in order to win whichever side he represented.

I came North and never did become a lawyer (English and Scots law are different). However the ability to see all points of view was absolutely invaluable when preparing a case to present to politicians either at local council level or, as was often the case, trying to persuade the Scottish Office to accede to one of the Council's requests. 

When it comes to understanding what people are going through I fall back on my experiences in life from post-operative depression after having part of my lung removed when I was 16/17, the death of our elder son in 2006 and living with cancer since I was operated on in 1998.  

I must stress that in their own way though they were awful experiences - particularly Andy's death - they were also a way of making it possible to understand what other people may be going through. That in itself makes real empathy possible. 

Depression is different though because when you actually are going through it you don't have control. Even then I was sure it would pass and when it did I've been fortunate in that it never returned. However it was a superb experience because it's enable me to understand what it's like and empathise with those who suffer. However I still do not to go for long walks on my own as I did then day after day, mile after mile because 60 years later it still brings the experience (not the depression) back to me.

After all:

Sunday 6 December 2020

Lewis Memories: Moving and Gardening

When I was looking for a house on Lewis in 1975 there were two available outside Stornoway within commuting distance.  I opted for the one nearer to Stornoway in the township of Coll, 7 miles from my office. It was an old 3-bedroom bungalow with an upstairs room reached by a loft ladder in the hall. However it had a large 'barn' built as an agricultural building but in effect a large double garage capable of housing both a caravan and a car or, in our case, a Bedford CF Autosleeper.  There was also the original byre attached. In addition on the ¼ acre plot was a good sized garden and a plot of trees. The latter was very unusual.

I had come from a village in Cheshire where houses were both expensive and sought after,  However on Lewis I had to pay very substantially (over 60%) more for a similar sized but detached house. Moving was not going to be cheap. Ironically when I sold the house in 2005 it had almost trebled in price whereas the house in the Cheshire village had multiplied in value over 10 times when I last looked in the '90s.

C'est la vie.

When I bought the house the neighbour opposite said "Oh. You're English. That's okay. The house has a garden so you'll be at home. You can always tell the English. They have gardens."

Outwith Stornoway it was true that few people had gardens in the '70s. They didn't have the time because they were tending the croft nor the inclination to have a hobby which was more of the same. For me, desk-bound during the day, the luxury of manual labour in the garden was wonderful.  

How things have changed. Within 15 years the neighbour's sister (they both lived in the family home) had insisted that her brother fence off a garden area for her. Nowadays there are so many gardeners that there is a Western Isles Gardening Facebook page and two substantial garden centres and quite a few people growing plants and food on a part time commercial basis too.  

Mind you when I came to the Island incomers were relatively rare. Now the place is full of them!

Sunday 29 November 2020

Lewis Memories - 1

When we bought our first house on Lewis we moved in in February 1976. I had already been here for 3 months. I, and a colleague, had been boarding with Mrs Thompson (or was it Thomson) in Stornoway. Mrs Thompson appeared to know everyone on  Lewis and certainly was an excellent person to tutor my colleague and I in the ways of the Stornoway world that we might otherwise have missed out on. There didn't appear to be anyone nor anything that Mrs Thompson didn't know and we were the beneficiaries of that knowledge in the three months I lived there.

The first, and most important lesson, was that before any food or drink was taken at any time grace was said. Mr Thompson's graces could be very long. It was not unusual, therefore, for our evening supper cup of tea and Scotch pancakes to go cold whilst the grace was said. Mrs Thompson always quietly took our tea away and refilled the cups with a hot brew. However, occasionally, there would be a gap between the supper being laid before us and the grace being said. Occasionally without thinking my colleague or I would take a bite of the pancake. We would then have to sit there for a long time with this morsel in our mouth frightened to chew and unable to swallow. Those were the longest graces. 

Monday 16 November 2020


Long ago I was once asked, in the days of Blog memes (remember them?), what the most recent CD was that I had bought. I said that I had at the same time just just purchased the complete piano sonatas of Mozart and Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler's 'Bat out of Hell'. The point being that my tastes in music are pretty catholic.

I suppose that I am like most people who love music in that I play music to match my mood. By that I don't just mean happy music when I'm happy and sad music when I'm sad but more a music to match my emotion of the moment. So it may be Laura Brannigan at full volume - emotional times (the advantage of living in a detached house) or Garth Brooks to remind me of driving along the Highway in the Californian sunshine or The Smashing Pumpkins when I think of Andy. Actually the latter are not really my scene but they were Andy's. However I'm more likely (especially on a Sunday morning) to play Grieg's piano music (Andy bought me his complete works) .

New songs are written constantly for pop and rock music and other modern genre.' 'Classical' music is, on the other hand, by its nature limited to an extent by historical output although there are modern composers to whom I can listen without being challenged too much. I'll give Stockhausen ("Just play as you feel") a miss thanks but Simeon ten Holt has produced fascinating piano music and there is always Nyman, Reich, Glass, Góreki, Pärt and Taverner to name but a few. In recent years there is a huge amount of music by female composers being 'discovered' and played.

So what is the purpose of this posting? Well I have a pretty large collection of music of the major composers in the baroque to romantic eras and can be pretty confident of finding something to suit about any mood I may find myself in. 

My Apple Music program tells me that I have 17,651 tracks available. That's a lot of CDs. However after constantly playing such music for the last 50 plus years I sometimes find that I'm a bit bored with some composers. 

Alleluia!  Never before has so much new 'classical' music become available and never before has it become so easy to explore it and listen to it. I listen to various BBC Radio 3 programmes which constantly bring new works and 'new' composers to my attention.

I was thinking yesterday though just how my (our?) listening habits have changed: 
  • 78rpm records
  • 33 rpm records
  • cassettes
  • CDs
  • iPods
  • Music streaming services
I haven't played a CD for ages and my music is always available to me via Apple Music and the various gadgets available to stream it, whether I'm walking in the Castle Grounds or working in the Polycarb or sitting writing this post.

How do you listen to your music now and have you  abandoned your 'old' physical storage and gone digital? 

Thursday 12 November 2020

Thankful Thursday - 10 years on

Ten years ago today I posted the following on A Hebridean in New Zealand: 

It was never my intention to make this a weekly blog posting but during this week I have learned of several people who have had news that they will be less than thankful to have received.   Two involve news that I can well understand having had similar news given to me.  So the first thing I am grateful for today is the twelve years and a few weeks I have had since I was first given that news.  I sincerely hope that those people will be writing a similar post in twelve years.  In fact in one case I have already agreed the place for lunch this time twelve years hence.

During that 12 years so many things have happened: some good, some not so good, some mindblowingly wonderful and some heartwrenchinly bad.   They have given me the outlook on life that I have and have taught me to live life for the moment.  So that is the second thing for which I am grateful today.

And I'm thankful that I was persuaded to visit New Zealand and circumstances have allowed me the privilege of seeing Milford Sound (West Coast, South Island, New Zealand) and on a fine day and with a good friend, Steve.

We never know what the next day will bring.

Saturday 31 October 2020


Call me a party-pooper if you wish but I have always detested participating in Guising or Trick or Treat (depending on where one was brought up) and other Halloween shenanigans.

The only thing I can ever recall getting involved in at Halloween, and enjoying, was as a child in Liverpool where we called it Duck Apple Night and had a tradition of ducking or bobbing for apples as well as trying to eat apples suspended from a line across the room suspended between the picture rails. Somewhere I have a photo which I had hoped to use of my family dookin' apples (they were brought up in Scotland) but it hasn't been digitised and I can't find it. However we used to host a party of our friends and their children in our barn with a firework display added:

Years ago the following appeared in, I think, the Liverpool Echo:

I'm recalling bygone traditions
That never cost the earth
Do you remember duck apple night?
What a gear family night!
Apples bobbing up and down
In an enormous enamel bowl
A silver tanner embedded in a bruised apple
The winner takes all
Snap apple was next on the agenda
A line of string rigged up
By my ever-resourceful mam
Rosy apples strategically places
Some high, some low, our hands tied securely
Behind our backs, quite a difficult task.
Laughs galore as well as crafty cheating
By the older siblings of course
How sad our old-fashioned traditions
Have been sabotaged, duck apple night
Has been Americanised, trick or treat, 
Halloween, witches and broomsticks

Author unknown (to me). 

Having said all that, when I was in Canada in 2005 visiting a friend from my teenage years I happened to arrive at the time when they were getting the pumpkins ready. Pumpkins like I had never seen before. (It was just before my New Zealand life). I carved my first, and only, pumpkin.

My friend (who died last year) and her daughter.

Monday 26 October 2020

It's Not Edgy Enough

Kay recently posted on being positive. In the post she used the term 'Pollyanna' with the words "but I hesitated because there is always someone who will take me for a "Pollyanna" with my head in the sand and not fully comprehending the problems of the world.".  I stood up for Pollyanna and Kay said that she thought that people thought it "not edgy enough" for the modern world.

Ten years ago on Thankful Thursday on A Hebridean in New Zealand I wrote about the best-selling novel Pollyanna by written in 1913 by Eleanor H. Porter"

Pollyanna's philosophy of life centres on what she calls "The Glad Game", an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "we don't need 'em!"  Of course it didn't end there.

I've noticed, too, that the term 'Pollyanna' has been used a lot recently about Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. (Whom I happen to admire as a person with humanity who can also act decisively with an iron ruthlessness).  The references have not appeared entirely complimentary. 

In this day and age a good positive outlook is no bad thing because the world and its news is centred on negativity. Not just with Covid-19 but with politics in general in many countries. Okay, there are a lot of positive initiatives but even then organisations like Extinction Rebellion concentrate on a negative way of putting over what is supposed to be a positive message.

So I'm very sad that we feel it necessary to be 'edgy' to get our message across.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

There's No Such Thing As Bad Weather

, just soft people.

The weather is part of the British (and I use the word with care) psyche. We can't have a conversation without it cropping up, we can't write a letter without mentioning it (as if anyone really cares what my weather is like when I write to them), so much that we do is dependent upon it and our moods are so often governed by it. Generally speaking I claim (incorrectly of course) that my moods are not governed by the weather. I am too logical and independent of thought. 

What rubbish. What cant! Who am I to be so superior and different? Never has this been made aware to me as it has this morning. After a full day's rain and wind yesterday this morning has turned out to be even worse. I'm not sure whether it is the state of semi-lockdown we are in with socialising so restricted or whether it is just a change in me but this morning I am really peed off with the weather. Yesterday I didn't set foot outside the house. I didn't even visit The Polycarb. Mind you I got one helluva lot done indoors. 

Usually I'd don all my wet weather gear and set off for The Castle Grounds and walk in the relative calm of the woods and end up at The Woodlands, divest myself of all my wet weather gear and settle down to a companionable coffee. Not today. Even if The Woodlands was open for morning coffee (it opens late for lunches at the moment) I'm not in the mood. I'm sulking and I don't like this 'me'.

Even the poppies in my garden, which were in profusion at the weekend have all been blown flat. That's the last straw.

Fortunately by the time I've had my virtual coffees and discussed the weather ad nauseum I will doubtless feel on top of the world again.

Monday 19 October 2020

The Polycarb

If you live in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland the term 'Polycrub' is trade name synonymous with a polycarbonate garden tunnel which is the updated equivalent for windy places of the ubiquitous polytunnel. Mine is not a Polycrub but is similar so instead of calling it a polycarbonate polytunnel which everyone understands but is long-winded I have decided simply to call mine a polycarb or The Polycarb.

I've already posted photos of it when it had just been constructed. I don't thing they are actually 'built'. Or are they? One builds lego models.

The very first creature (apart from humans) that I am aware of entering The Polycarb was this Red Admiral Butterfly. I thought it had decided on a winter hideout because after two days it was still very reluctant to leave. However it did eventually just fly out of the open door. I regarded it as a good omen. Had it been a cabbage white I might have been less sanguine.

I decided on just one raised bed along one side of The Polycarb. 900mm x 5m will give me quite a bit of space and then any extra I need for growing things, in the first season at least, can be large square planters.

One of the problems as anyone trying to do DIY in the UK at the moment will know is that, because so many people are spending money on improvements instead of holidays, there is a national shortage of wood. Anyway having ordered wood in lots of time, a few days ago the wood suddenly arrived and I built the staging for working and bringing on potted plants.

The Polycarb has ventilation at both ends in the form of a barn door (to keep cats out) and a window at the other end. Despite that the biggest summer problem will be keeping plants shaded and cool when needed. In the few weeks since it was constructed the maximum and Minimum temperatures have been widely apart. Particularly given that the outside daytime temperature even in the sun has hovered around a maximum of 12ºC. 

Friday 16 October 2020

Following Blogs

When JayCee commented on my last blog it made me go to my side-bar to see whether she had started blogging again. I discovered that somehow I had missed the fact. I went to my sidebar where the blogs I read are mentioned and it wasn't there. Possibly I had deleted it when I thought JayCee wasn't going to blog any more. Who knows?

Anyway the real point was that if it's not in my side bar then I don't regularly check for posts.

Now a lot of people don't have other blogs in their sidebar so it started me wondering how they decided which blogs to follow and read. I know one person who only reads another blog when someone comments on his blog so he could follow the link back. However, I like a bit more structure to things.

Many years ago I used a program which allowed me to read all blogs and posts and comment outwith the blogs but that was discontinued.

Anyway I decided recently to do something about it and started writing this post to seek suggestions. When I got as far as the preceding paragraph I suddenly had a brainwave that perhaps there was something in the Dashboard which perhaps wasn't there in the 'old days' or which I had simply overlooked. Ecce! There at the bottom of the Dashboard was 'Reading List'. So I went through it only to discover that JayCee wasn't even on that. Then I realised that I had never actually followed her blog even though i read it. Now remedied. The question then came into my mind as to how I managed to follow YP's blog because he doesn't have a followers widget. Then I discovered that I can do that in the Dashboard too. Sorted. 

Do readers ever look to see who is on the blog list on other blogs?

Another question. Does anyone know why someone who comments on Eagleton Notes appears in the comments but never in my emails?

To lighten this post I thought I'd show a photo of a Rozanne Geranium with a little visitor. The Rozanne is unusual in that it is a perennial Geranium but does not spread or reproduce via runners or seeds. 

Sunday 11 October 2020

Blogger's Block

I'm conscious of the fact that it's a while, even for me, since I posted. I've had Blogger's Block. It's not quite the same as writer's block because I write a lot of letters and emails constantly. The difference is that on my blog I have various 'don'ts': I don't do controversial topics (and almost every current topic is controversial); I don't go long walks in interesting places most days (so I don't have a variety of photos to post every day); I lead a busy life in my garden (not the greatest blogging topic in a garden like mine) and socially (definitely not of interest to anyone else) and whilst croquet gave me a great many interesting blogs in New Zealand and when I won the Scottish Golf Croquet Open but bowls is probably as boring a topic for blogging as I can think of (not that I've been bowling this summer with lockdown); and I don't generally blog about my family (my grandson is of great interest to me but many people have their own grandchildren). 

Do you ever do aides memoir for blog topics or anything else that happens to take your interest? I do all the time. Today, however, I found one that I'd put in my phone shopping list when I was out on Friday because I didn't have a paper and pencil handy. It reads "A stake through the heart is not a good way to die." The problem today is that, although the words are crystal clear, I have absolutely no idea what they are supposed to remind me of. That and many other things can join the 190 draft and partly finished and occasionally incomprehensible blogs that I have started and languish in the dashboard.

Despite the atrocious weather we've been having and despite the fact that I don't think poppies are generally associated with this time of year my poppies are still flowering daily:

Monday 21 September 2020

Monday Miscellany

Well last week was, from the point of view of Blogland, a complete write-off.  On Tuesday I was up before 0500. I got the early ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool and at about 0945 set off on the 270 mile drive to Ayr. As I'd come out of quarantine it was a question of go straight there without passing Go and without collecting £200 (I hated Monopoly but still use Monopoly analogies). 

I arrived at the Hospital and was immediately tested for Covid-19. I passed - negative.

Next day I had the kidney stent replaced. Unfortunately the fact that it was around 7 months overdue meant that the surgeon had a rather difficult time extracting a stone from some passage or other and the work proved a little sore for a day or two and it took a few days for the infection I'd had for the last few months to be conquered. Anyway by Saturday all was back to normal and I was released into the big wide world once more. I stayed overnight with a friend because I couldn't get a ferry until the Sunday evening on which, fortuitously, I was already booked. 

So today has been sort out and try and get back to normal day. 

The ferry on the way over was awash with barking dogs. What is it with people who can't control their dog? If you can't control your dog and stop it barking at every passing shadow then don't bring it on public transport (or muzzle it)! It's bad enough having a massive mountain dog 100 yards away at home that barks constantly but at least I can close the windows and go into the other side of the house. I detest barking dogs - in case you hadn't noticed. Rant over.

Social distancing on the ferry is very good and, unless eating or drinking their coffee masks are the order of the day. However a chap walked past me (duly masked) a few metres away and as he did so a massive wave of tobacco smoke from his clothes followed him. Apart from the distinct unpleasantness, it occurred to me that the aerosols that contain the smell are presumably the same ones that can contain the Covid-19 virus. Food for rather unpleasant thought. 

On a lighter note one of the chaps in the hospital had been feeding his neighbour's two dogs for a couple of days. He let them out into the garden (their back gardens were adjacent and could be accessed without going through the house) several times a day and fed them too. He was puzzled after the first night as to why one dog came out and then after eating and doing what it had to do went in and the other one came out. After this ritual had been repeated for the whole weekend he went in to see what was happening in the house. He followed the second dog into the house and it immediately went upstairs (they usually lived downstairs). He followed and found a chap on top of the wardrobe with the dog standing guard. It turned out that the chap was in fact a burglar and when he broke in on the Friday evening the dogs had chased him upstairs and he's been on top of the wardrobe all weekend with one or both of the dogs on guard! Yuk. The chap next door is a police dog handler/trainer.

Friday 11 September 2020

Garden Addition

I am very content with my age at the moment. Which is a Good Thing given that I have absolutely no control over the hours, days, weeks and years as they march relentlessly on towards life's end. 

Today I moved the best part of a tonne of gravel from near the gate to my property to the other end of the garden. Oddly it wasn't walking with the wheelbarrow that was the tiring part. It was shovelling the gravel into the barrow.

When I bought the house 27 years ago there wasn't really a garden just some grass at the back of the house and bare croftland filled with builders rubble at the front.  I barrowed lorry loads of soil, gravel and debris over the years when the garden as it is now was formed. It was in the days when Sabbath manual work was 'forbidden' on the Island so most was done after work in the long summer evenings because I worked 6 days a week until 2005.

Somehow I don't remember barrowing being so hard and tiring back then. Today I was quite tired by the end of it and once or twice I did wish that I could be 20 years younger for the day. 

Why was I barrowing so much stone? I have had a new gardening aid constructed. A polycarbonate tunnel. I had to lay a new gravel floor.

Thursday 3 September 2020

Home and Isolation

I'm now home from my pre-op and in isolation (as compared with the restrictions of lockdown) for 14 days whilst I wait for my procedure to replace my kidney stent. 

I'm perfectly happy. I have enough in the way of provisions for 14 days and if I run out of anything (milk being the most likely) I am fortunate to have friends and neighbours who will shop for me.

It will give me the opportunity to catch up in Blogland and, if the weather will calm down a bit, get into the garden to start some autumnal clearing up. I last posted about my garden on the 20 July and it is astonishing to look at the photos then and the photos now. This is the garden as it was at the end of last week. Having said that the Lavatera has far more flowers and there are far more poppies now but the weather is too wet and windy to take a photo.

The rose is a 'Peace' and is the first tea rose I have ever grown. In fact this year is the first year I have ever grown roses. My Dad and my Maternal Grandmother were both successful rose growers.

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Where's Schrödinger’s Cat?

In the 5 months up to the beginning of August I had used the car for a handful of miles - principally for medical visits in Stornoway. In the last three weeks I have driven around 1500 miles including two round trips to Glasgow. In the next three weeks I will make another two trips to Glasgow and Ayr to have my two pre-op appointments and my kidney stent replaced. In between I will have to isolate for 14 days at home on Lewis. I've gone from the peace and quiet of lockdown with no deadlines to meet or appointments to keep to a hectic 'up at 4am to catch the morning ferry' lifestyle again. I know which I prefer....and it isn't the latter.

So my recent visits to Blogland have been few and far between and my life is the poorer for that.

However I did visit Bob's post "I wish they would tackle world peace instead." which, as the title might not readily suggest, was partly about the Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox. 

I have, on several occasions, with Wendy (of my New Zealand Family) sat up into the wee smae hours with a bottle or two of New Zealand's finest red discussing the topic. So the post made me sit up and take notice. The first thing I did was go to a particular place on my bookshelves for the book entitled "Schrödinger’s Cat" or something containing those two words anyway.

To my puzzlement it wasn't there. A search of the rest of the bookshelves and the shelves in the loft all drew a blank. I'm not going to pretend that the loss of the book about Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox is going to change my life.  However the fact that a book, any book, is missing from its proper place is disturbing. What next?

Monday 10 August 2020


It wasn't easy. Saturday morning at 6am and the ferry was very busy with people and their cars leaving the Island. I sat in my usual part of the ferry by the now-closed-for-the-time-being Coffee Cabin. There were half a dozen other small family groups in the area all very well socially distanced and, initially until they started having breakfast and coffee, fully masked as is required by law on public transport in Scotland. It was a beautiful morning for a sail and I spent some time on deck enjoying the fresh air and the views.

It was my first time off the Island since early January. It was the first time I had been amongst people since early March. Because everyone was well spaced apart I didn't feel particularly apprehensive. The journey itself is 2½ hours and I was on my way down the road to Bishopbriggs by 0930.

I'm down for my drugs trial review. I can't think of anything else that would have got me off the Island at the moment.

A loo-stop in Kingussie and soup and another coffee from my flasks and I was in Bishopbriggs by mid afternoon. I was heartily glad I was not going North. The traffic around Perth must have seen delays measured in hours rather than minutes. Traffic in both directions was very heavy.  Presumably it was largely due to staycationers.

What had not been anticipated was family turning up at Anna's unaware that I was coming and that was a bit traumatic and I left to make a delivery I'd brought from the Island for another friend. Once I returned and had settled down with a sizeable g'n't in the garden the 6 months of isolation started to become a memory rather than a problem for me.

On Sunday we decided on a walk around Hogganfield Loch in Glasgow. It was a beautiful morning and with my recently re-awakened desire to know the name of every flower we passed was a very pleasant way to spend a morning. We had arrived fairly early ie around 9am but it was quite clear that that was late for many of the walkers, cyclists, runners and the rest. 

There are many types of waterbirds on the loch

I didn't envisage ice being a problem

I don't think it was personal

Too enthusiastic for me
It's quite sizeable

Tuesday 28 July 2020


This is just a brief post partly to apologise for some missed comments and partly to simply get it off my chest.

This morning I went to comment moderation in settings to do some housekeeping. I thought I did it most days but I've obviously slipped up in the last week or so. 

In moderation there were 166 spam comments to be deleted and 3 comments for allowing through that I had missed. I apologise to those whose comments I'd not moderated. The trouble with so much is that the good gets lost amongst the bad,

I have to say that some of the spam I've had recently has been of a nature that even I found offensive. 

Given that I presume we all mark these as spam I cannot fathom why Google's algorithms don't pick them up and automatically send them to junk. Particularly as some of my incoming ordinary mail gets occasionally sent to junk for no apparent reason.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Some Garden Thoughts

It's been a bit of a battle in the garden the last few weeks. The weather has been distinctly unfriendly and today although the sun has now come out the wind is very strong so the plants are suffering a bit if they are in full bloom. Midsummer weather it ain't, even in the Outer Hebrides.

The yellow pansies have been putting up a good show for many weeks from my kitchen window even though some of the plants were actually blown out of the ground in one gale and the heavy rain has given them a real battering. They are hardier than I could have imagined.

I have said before that one of the thing that has helped me to enjoy isolation has been the garden. It's not only working in it that is a pleasure though. Just looking out of my kitchen window as I type this I often just sit and gaze at the view and admire the plants, the birds and the sea and mountains of the Mainland in the distance - hidden by haze in the pictures on this post taken today during a sunny few hours in between the rain.

One of the joys of a garden, though, is getting to know the individual plants.

My little wild strawberries would take over the garden given a chance, creeping around under all the taller plants and popping up wherever there is a chink of light. 

It's always a good idea to look at both the whole plant and then marvel at the the flower heads. This Persicaria campanulata or Lesser Knotweed is not much to look at in the garden because it's straggly. However if you look at the individual flowers they are pure works of art.

I am hopeless at remembering names off the top of my head even if I know the names somewhere in my memory banks. So I have started keeping photographs of those in my garden with names on them in the hope that they will eventually be recalled more easily. Two tiny flowers of great great beauty are:

When we look closely there are all sorts of creatures living off and on the flowers. In this case these were all on the Leucanthemum: 

The first is, I think, a Myrid bug of some sort, perhaps a Common Green Capsid.

And these two are a fly (and don't ask me what sort) and a bug (a Myrid Bug again perhaps):

Hopefully Adrian or CJ or someone else who knows about bugs and flies can identify them although I know from my brother (CJ) that flies can be extraordinarily hard to identify without a very powerful microscope to look at parts no self respecting reader of this blog would look at.

Friday 17 July 2020

A Good Honest Burglar

I am not sure how many readers will know what burglary is. In case anyone does not it was, in English Law at the time of this incident, it was the act of breaking into a dwelling-house by night with intent to commit a felony. In short it was usually prosecuted where there was breaking and entering into a house to steal something at night. The term 'burglary' does not appear in Scots law. It is probably understood in most countries inheriting the English Legal System.

I was walking into the Stipendiary Magistrates Court in Liverpool back in the early '60s  with a police sergeant for a case about which I remember absolutely nothing.

On the way into the courtroom we bumped into a man of completely forgettable stature and demeanour ie he would not be noticed in a crowd of three. I will refer to him as Fred. The conversation between the Sergeant and the Accused (for that was what he turned out to be) went like this:

S: What are you here for Fred?
F: The ??? job in Childwall.
S: Did you do it?
F: What do you think?
S: Can we prove it?
F: Nah. Don't think so.
S: Good luck.

In my inexperienced naive youthfulness this exchange was an eyeopener of major proportions.

I asked the Sergeant what all that was about? 

"Fred is one of the good, honest old fashioned burglars. Breaks in cleanly. Finds what he wants without creating any mess and leaves. If we can prove it he accepts the punishment and if not he's on a winner." He then went on to describe what he thought about the sort of burglar the police were now concentrating on who were the scum of the earth who broke in and wrecked the house in the process of looking for anything they could sell. The difference was that for Fred and his ilk it was his trade and he was proud of it. With a bit of luck it might be days or weeks before anyone realised something was missing.

Thank you Ursula for the idea you gave me for this recollection in your comment on my last post.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Only On Lewis

could you see this:

When I came to live in Lewis in 1975 leaving the beautiful Cheshire village of Lymm and my excellent job in the Manchester satellite of Trafford (and with a membership of the Lancashire County Cricket Club which was right opposite my office), never did I for one moment think that the Outer Hebrides would end up being where not only my body but also my heart would end up. After all I only intended to come for two years.

Back in the 70s no one locked doors or took ignition keys out of cars. Theft of something from a private individual was a rarity. Okay it's true that occasionally sheep went missing from the common grazing and were 'found' in another township. Sometimes a car left in Stornoway's main car park in the town centre would disappear on a Friday or Saturday night when someone needed to get home.  I recall one chap who regularly took a car and parked it outside his house. 

It was an interesting peculiarity of the law that it was very hard to prove the theft of a motor car. Theft involves an intention permanently to deprive someone of something. A person who 'stole' a car would always argue that it would have been returned the next morning. So the only thing actually stolen was a few bobs worth of petrol which was hardly worth a prosecution. Of course all that's changed now and the loophole has been closed.

However theft of personal property is still relatively rare.  Where else could you leave a parcel for collection by the Royal Mail propped up against the township post box?

Sunday 12 July 2020

Compressed Reconstituted Meat

Well there was no way I was going to use the 'S' word was there? That would really get the bot[toms]s going wild. So instead of the 'S' word I'm going to use CRM. I was going to use 'corned beef' but thought that was just a bit too silly even for me.

During the last couple of weeks I've had 98 CRMs posted to my blog. That doesn't count the odd ones that have been deleted when I've seen it on my phone first. Nor does it include the dozens and dozens which I have deleted in my emails because I have ticked the 'Notify me' box in the comments section of other blogs. I always click it because I like to know what going on. I know some people don't because you get a lot of emails and as someone once said to me 'Once I have commented on a post it's mental history. I never go back to that post'. I do and I know a lot of those who read the blogs I read do as well.

I have always had comment moderation activated for posts over 14 days old. That is mainly so that I could make sure that I don't miss comments made a lot later than the post. Nowadays I don't usually post more than once a week. I have noticed that most users of CRM and their bot[toms]s do not usually post to the current post. So to ensure that you, dear reader, don't also get inundated with CRM I have now reduced that. Not many genuine commenters will be inconvenienced but, hopefully, you and I will be spared the majority of the CRMs actually appearing (other than in the Blogger interface comments section).

On a happier note it's this time of year again. I've posted about the Damselflies before on several occasions with much better pictures, so I'll just leave this as a reminder.

The garden is doing exceptionally well at the moment because my social life was curtailed by lockdown. I rather thought that these orange lilies would bring a bit of cheer to the post too. 

Tuesday 7 July 2020

A Face

Rachel recently re-posted some art from the Odessa Museum of Modern Art in the Ukraine. One of the works was this portrait:

On several occasions I have posted this picture by David Gauld which hangs in the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow.

My comment on Rachel's blog was to the effect that I could stand in front of it for a long time. There is so much in those eyes staring at nothing and that expression - such loneliness they seem to have gone beyond pain. It occurred to me that there is a great similarity in the expression in the two painting yet I've never felt pain in Gauld's portrait before. Now I'm not so sure.

Monday 29 June 2020

Monday Meanderings

Sunday is the last day of the week. It's usually, in normal times, a day when I'm at home. So I've got into the habit of making it my bedding change day and the day when I do all my washing - usually 4 loads. Thank heaven for a heat-exchange tumble drier which uses virtually no electricity because it has no heating elements. Drying clothes on the Island without a tumble drier is very weather dependent and I like my routine rather than being dictated to by the weather.

Now that's about as boring a start to a post as I've ever made. And that's saying something.

I've been in a bit of a lacklustre mood for the last few days. The weather has been really crappy recently (to use a meteorological term) so I've not done much in the garden. However the varnishing of all the garden furniture is now making more progress in the workshop. 

However I got a message this morning:

My brother, CJ aka Scriptor Senex, who has been my inspiration for a lot of things decided in his mid 60s to grow his hair long and have a queue (or were they braided?) or pony tail. Whatever, that is definitely not my style and, despite having relatively little hair, what there is is now long and unruly and undesirable. So in 17 sleeps I shall, once, again return to a degree of hairtorial (Why is there no such word? There should be.) normality. [Added later. Of course the word is 'tonsorial'. It suddenly came to me.]

I'm glad that after a number of revisions in the Blogger interface it seems to be possible to position photos to one side and type around them now.
I found the shell of a  Blackbird's egg by my front door this morning. The Blackbirds nest about 100 yards away from my house so how does an egg shell find its way here? Yet another mystery. 

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Welcome to The USA

I have just commented on YP's blog that he had "compounded the felony." 

I was immediately reminded of my very first visit to the USA. I was staying with a friend from my teenage years (with whom I had a strong and lasting friendship until she died last year) in Sarnia which is an oil industry town at the southern end of Lake Huron in Ontario. On the opposite side of the canal separating Canada and the US is Port Huron, MI. There is a lot of daily commuter and commercial traffic across the bridge between the two cities.

Mo decided one afternoon that we would visit one of her favourite hotel/afternoon tea/coffee places at Saint Clair on the Michigan side of the canal a short drive away.  To get there we had to cross the bridge which, of course, had a customs post. Most drivers, of course, just showed their passport/papers and proceeded without let or hindrance. Mo, with a British passport despite having lived in Canada for may years, just said "Canadian landed" and was about to be waved on when the customs officer nodded at me and said "Canadian landed too?" I replied that I was simply a visitor so was handed a red card and told to present myself to immigration. 

On entering a massive barn of a place with a huge counter with a raised floor on the other side so that even a person of small stature on the other side would have towered above me. As it was there was one person in this barn of a place. She was a female person of great height and build with a pearl handled gun on her belt. It is amazing the things one remembers. 

There were some gentle "Hellos" on my part. She did not look like the sort of person one wanted to antagonise. Eventually she decided to get out of her chair (from which she had looked up when I entered) and come and tower over me. "Well?" she asked. I presented my red card and my passport. After what seemed like an age she repeated the "Well?" This confused me so I told her I'd just been told to come and see her. After what seemed like an eternity she asked where I was going. I couldn't remember. For some reason this really annoyed her. I said I'd go and ask my friend. This set her off again and asked why my friend hadn't come in. I explained. Then, fortunately, I remembered. This didn't appease her. The questioning continued for some time and included the question "Have you got any venereal diseases?" (I realised from later questionnaires she was supposed to ask if I'd had any) to which I so wanted to say "No, why, do you want one?" but decided better of it.  Then amongst many others came the question "Have you ever committed a felony?" 

Now one of the things I remembered from my law lectures (I was a post-felony era law student) that felonies had been repealed in the UK by the Criminal Law Act of 1967 (I think that was the year). So I'd never had to know what a felony was. However I knew that in English Law felonies were Bad Things. So I was tempted to ask her to tell me what a felony was and I'd tell her if I'd ever committed one. I decided instead to say "No."

After what seemed like an interminable time I was released with my green card stapled into my passport and told that if I didn't surrender it when I left the country I'd not get in again. 

The whole episode was much longer than all that and included a lot more unfriendly incidents. I actually wondered if they were designed to make me lose my cool or whether she was just a bored bully. 

It rather ruined my afternoon and, more importantly, completely coloured my view of Americans because she was only the second (the first was the perfectly civil chap who had given me the card and caused all my angst in the first place) American I'd met on American soil. 

Other visits that holiday passed off without incident because I had my green card. Which, of course, I forgot to surrender at the airport when I left Canada. 

I may post a sequel at some time. Don't worry, though. It won't be soon.