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.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Fathers' Day and The Longest Day

Midnight - Looking North

Not that Fathers' Day and The Longest Day are in any way related. It's just that this year they fall on the same weekend. Yesterday was the longest day. Apparently today is one second shorter up here. Given the weather it will feel a lot shorter. 

Speaking to neighbours and friends today we all had the same thing in mind. We've all been looking forward to the long days and short nights and now it's all down hill and in 182 days it will be the shortest day and 4 days after that it will be Christmas. 

I also took a photo last night looking East which, because the scene is being lit and I'm not looking into the sunset looks much lighter and is more like what the eye actually sees.  However when I woke this morning the weather had changed completely and I wasn't so keen on the view.

Looking East from my kitchen

I've never been one for observing Fathers' Day and my son, brilliant son though he is, is not a great one on such occasions either. So I was quite surprised when, a few days ago, a card dropped through the door with a big imprecation that the envelope was not to be opened until Fathers' Day. I had to look in my diary to see when it was.  This morning I opened the card. It's certainly topical:

Thursday, 18 June 2020

SID 92. Thankful Thursday - Piddling

What are you doing today?

Piddling around.

But you did that yesterday.

Yes but I haven't quite finished yet.

Today has been a strange day. It started very dull and totally windless with a moist atmosphere. Midge heaven. I fed the birds and the fish and retreated indoors. I wrote a blog post and read a few blogs and answered some emails, drank coffee chatted to various people on WhatsApp. By 10am I'd got a few things done in the workshop and  discarded the first blog post. 

A friend arrived with my shopping and a slight breeze. The two were, so far as I know, unrelated. We decided on a socially distanced coffee in the garden as the midges had retreated in the face of the breeze. We couldn't see the sea because of the haar but it was very pleasant listening to the birds and the water in the waterfall into the pond and being able to chat face to face.

I spent the afternoon in the garden in the sun mowing the grass, scarifying, weeding, and many such mundane and rewarding tasks. It was good exercise. When I had my afternoon coffee I wrote another short blog post. Then I discarded it. Not, I decided, my day for a blog post.

However half a day in the garden was good for the body and the mind and at 6 o'clock I decided that it was time for The News and to make some dinner. A wee libation whilst the dinner was cooking was a  bonus. 

This evening I have various emails and so on to write and I managed to get carried away and write another blog post. The fact that I have managed to say absolutely nothing in it just about sums the day up.

The wind has dropped and the midges are gathering in clouds. I have shut the conservatory door and battened down the hatches. I have put some strawberries in a dish and when I've finished the emails I shall add some ice cream and go and watch a recorded QI.

Life is good. I am content. For that I have every reason to be very thankful.

Friday, 12 June 2020

More Transport Nostalgia

I was contemplating a post on a current news topic but decided that that would require brainpower and could be a bit controversial so I decided to return to the theme of my transportation starting with my first car and my subsequent three cars.

The first car is a Standard Ensign WNE 193 bought when I was 20 or 21 with a loan from my Grandmother.  Apart from the opportunities she afforded for taking my Grandmother out (we were great pals as well as Grandmother and Grandson) it also enabled me to do my London trips, formerly undertaken on the Hippogryph, in comfort. This photo was taken when the family went to visit a relative in North Wales. (For my records, thanks CJ, it was Flora Scott, née Jarvis, my Mother's first Cousin, daughter of Aunt Edie, my maternal grandmother's - Nana's - sister).

The second car was a Humber Sceptre Mk I picture here on the banks of Loch Ness.

I think that I decided after a while that I should stop being an old man and get a car more suitable for my age. So I acquired an MG Midget Mk I. Oddly I have very few photos of it that I can find so this was provided by my brother CJ from his archives.

My fourth car came after I'd married and decided that we needed a car more suited to married life than to courtship and weekend excursions to the Lake District (where the Midget took us to our honeymoon staying at Riggside with the Roscamps at Grange-in-Borrowdale).  

The car was a Volvo 221 Estate. When we had done the deal we noticed that the letters on the bonnet said VOOVO and not VOLVO. The dealer was mortified but the deal had been done and we refused to have it changed. It was sold 80,000 miles later and was still known as The Voovo, The picture was taken at the top of Honister in the Lake District. The person shown is my Dad. I think we were all on holiday together. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

SID 77. Music - Another First

I was brought up with music. My parents had catholic tastes and a wide selection of music when I was a young child. It was, of course 78 rpm records played on a wind-up gramophone which was a wedding present from my Mother's place of work. I still have lots of old 78 rpm records even though I got rid of my hundreds of LPs. Except, that is, for the first one that I bought. I was 16. I bought it at Rushworth and Draper in Liverpool on the corner of Whitechapel and Richmond Street. How is it that I can remember all that but not how old I am?

The record was, rather predictably I suppose at the time, some Tchaikovsky pieces played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra C Sir Malcolm Sargent. It was an orchestra I listened to at the "Liverpool Phil" almost every week during the season. 

As time goes by our tastes tend to alter, some would say mature, and that probably wouldn't be my first CD now. On the other hand in 'classical music' terms my tastes are still late Classical (Mozart and Haydn for example), Romantic and post-romantic. 

I wonder how many of you recall what your first record/CD was. It's interesting that in another 10 years people may well not be buying CDs in any number and music will generally be streamed.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

SID 71. A Matter of Trust

I've not been in Blogland much for a few days. The garden has needed my time again and it's been a welcome escape from the fact that I've been strangely unsettled. What has unsettled me? Something that I would never have thought would have even made me give it more than a disgusted or disdainful thought. After all I worked with politicians all my working life. I've learned to take their sincerity and their insincerity and treat those two qualities with an equal degree of detachment.

Despite the effect that President Trump is having on the world and it's economy it's not something I can influence so I've ignored it. Living in Scotland we've been fortunate in having a First Minister who has a very high acceptance rating in her dealing with the present Covid-19 pandemic. However our British Prime Minister now has a negative rating. Why? Largely because of his support for and total reliance on his chief special adviser (Dominic Cummings - a political appointee not a civil servant) who has been the architect of Brexit and the Government's response to the pandemic. In this government he is arguably more powerful than the Prime Minister and certainly than any member of the Cabinet. 

Despite the Stay at Home slogan and edict, of which he was the author, DC ignored it and drove, with symptoms of Covid-19, with his wife, who also had symptoms, and their 4 year old son 260 miles to stay in a family home on the family farm "to be near child care if needed". There is a great deal more to it than that, of course. However what is absolutely clear is that he disobeyed the spirit and the letter of the instructions in many ways. He has refused to resign and the PM has refused to sack him and told the public to 'move on'. The furore rumbles on. The whole point that no one at the top seems to grasp is that the author (or approver) of the rules has broken them. It does not matter how small the break. It does not matter that you and I would have been hauled over the coals for doing what he did. It's a matter of trust and credibility.

Regardless of his ability, the ability of the PM and their political colour the sheer arrogance, the sheer treatment of the populace with total contempt is on a scale that I cannot recall in my lifetime. And, let's face it, we've had some pretty significant scandals in that time.

It's unsettled me and made me feel sad for the future. 

However this really was what the sunset from my conservatory looked like at 10.30 pm last Sunday:

So life's pretty good really.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

SID 64. Condescension

We all have our personality traits and habits. Some are more annoying than others. Some are annoying even to ourselves.  

I'm not referring to things like picking one's nose in public (although that is both annoying and disgusting to most other people) but more subtle habits or traits. For example one trait I have that I find annoying is that I am often slow in finishing a sentence. Most of my friends, fortunately, now just find that slightly amusing and exasperating and several automatically finish off my sentences for me. This shows that I am also fairly predictable and tolerant of being helped/corrected. 

Possibly one of the things I find most annoying is condescension (an attitude of patronising superiority; disdain).

All of us have strengths and weaknesses. Some have great intellects. Some do not. Some have common sense. Some do not. Some have good dexterity. Some do not. Some have good memories. Some do not.

As a person who was born with an appalling memory (I call it my forgettory), has a modicum of intelligence and manual dexterity and, if I do say so myself (demonstrating my modesty) a good dollop of common sense, I am probably more aware than many of people who are condescending.

I wonder which trait or traits annoy you.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

SID 62. Commercial Loyalty

I have been a customer of  BT (British Telecom) and it's predecessor the General Post Office for the last half century give or take a week or two. They have provided my landline phone service and my broadband. I have very little to complain about these days because the service is pretty good and fairly reliable given the ancient final delivery infrastructure ie the clapped out cables down our road. However they are expensive. 

I have been a customer of Vodafone since 1992 for my cellphone/mobile phone when it was actually difficult to have a contract directly with Vodafone because they marketed through intermediaries. I still have the same base number I was issued with then.

BT have gradually, and sometimes not so gradually, increased what I pay for my service. They keep telling me how good my package is. My package is a landline and broadband. I make no calls on my landline. If I did I would be paying considerably more.

Vodafone, on the other hand, have given me a better deal year on year either increasing what I can use or decreasing what they are charging me.

Vodafone will now provide broadband too over my landline. They will charge me about £30 per month less than BT. 

The contract will start on my birthday. Happy Birthday.

Bye bye BT. 

Friday, 15 May 2020

SID 58 The Hippogryph

In February - is it really that long ago? - I posted about my first bike. 

As soon as I could have a driving licence I bought myself a Vespa 90 motor scooter. I named it The Hippogryph. I can't really remember why (after all it was 60 years ago) I gave it that name. Presumably I had visions of it being like the legendary creature which had the front half of an eagle and the hind half of a horse.

I had booked a driving test but the scooter was only delivered the night before so I took my test the next day with one evening and half a morning's practice. I passed. Then I learned to drive!

I had it until I got a car when I was nearly 21. During those years I drove it thousands of miles. I would leave the office at 5 o'clock and get onto my trusty steed and drive to London to stay with friends - a distance of nearly 200 miles. On Sunday night I would drive home. Other weekends I would drive to Wales or The Lake District to climb hills and mountains. Looking back I find it astonishing that I had the stamina to ride such distances on  a 90cc seat on two tiny wheels with virtually no weather protection.

The Hippogryph in The Lake District
The Hippogryph in The Lake District

Sunday, 10 May 2020

SID 53. Obsessive Compulsion

This one is for Rhymes With Plague and, of course, everyone else who wishes to read it.

I like order. I dislike disorder.

I like decisions. I dislike procrastination.

I like reasoned argument. I dislike blind adherence to an unreasoned point of view.

I like compliments. I dislike flattery.

I suspect that there is a degree of the obsessive compulsive (OCD) in me.

The problem is that the missing percentage is sometimes 51%.

For example, I cannot cope with people who fill dishwashers at random or don't put things back in their 'proper' place. My reasoning is simple. I do not like losing things nor wasting time trying to find things. So this first picture demonstrates a Good Thing (with apologies to Sellars and Yeatman):

CDs (Bad)

OCDs (Good)

Thursday, 30 April 2020

SID 43 Catching Up - That Was April

Is it really 11 days since I visited Blogland properly. I used the word 'properly' because I have made the occasional Covid-19 type skirmish there hoping that The Authorities would not notice that I was travelling further than strictly allowed when on gardening leave. We, on Lewis, have had one of the longest spells of constant sun that I can recall for a couple of years. We have had the occasional shower in the last few days and the wind has been very chilly from the North East but I have managed a great deal of garden and external house maintenance. Much, I have to say, to the detriment of my letter writing. My coffee's in The Woodlands have been replaced by virtual WhatsApp and Zoom coffees (or G & Ts depending on the time of day).  Well, everyone has to have coffee breaks.

I have discovered that it's easy to walk 4 miles in a day when gardening and add to that the 'hard labour' humping 100l bags of compost and removing small tree/shrub stumps etc and it's a good workout each day. Apart from trips to the local postbox and a trip to the medical practice for my Trial Review bloods and my 3-monthly bumjab I've not been off the property. 

Of course I miss the family (who are now out of quarantine but still subject to lockdown rules which are not quite as strict as my self-isolation) but I confess that the days are flying by at an alarming rate and I've hardly scratched any of the items off the 'To Do' lists. I am fortunate generally to sleep well but a day in the garden certainly leaves one pleasantly tired (I was going to say 'knackered' but that's not very polite). Apart from the news I've hardly even watched television.

However the birds have been enjoying the garden even with me working in it. 

Bird box in use. Note to self: clean it up next autumn.
Meadow Pipit: Bathing; Checking claws; Under wing clean?; Aren't I a pretty pipit?

 Blackbird. "These raisins are good." 

Golden Eagle exiting over the sea. 

Female sparrow looking for extra nourishment for egg laying in the form of delphinium leaves. 

Blackbird bathing in the waterfall.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

SID 32 My Garden Needs Me

Sunday: I woke to the third consecutive dry day of full sun. Day one with a cold North Wind was a full warm clothing day but yesterday was very pleasant and almost warmish. Today looks even better. It's meant that the garden which has had two years of less work than it required, now has my undivided attention: 7 hours of it yesterday. So I apologise for my temporary occasional skirmishes into Blogland (usually during a mealtime). This weather won't last for ever and I'm making the most of it.


Wednesday, 15 April 2020

SID 28 A Feast of Monarchs

Ten years ago today I was preparing to get ready to leave my New Zealand life for my annual 6 months in Scotland. Before that, though, I had a visit to make to Pauline in Northland. We stayed with a friend of hers near Warkworth. I had posted about Monarch Butterflies on my New Zealand blog many times but what I saw on that visit was special. In these trying times the beauty of nature looms large in my thoughts.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

SID 25 A Penny Farthing Diversion

Sometime last year I sent a card to a friend in New Zealand. He is an engineer and a cyclist and he and his wife both have electric bikes. During Art Deco Weekend in Napier one usually sees some penny farthing bikes being ridden. So the card I sent had this picture with a challenge to electrify a penny farthing. Over the next four ot five exchanges of letters I received his suggestions.

This morning I woke to a golden orb shining out of a bright blue sky. "What happened to the horrible weather forecast?" I thought. Ah well. Two hours later at 9 o'clock there wasn't even a hill opposite to be seen through the rain and mist. It's blowing a hoolie too. C'est la vie.

Anyway to provide a little light relief I decided to share the modified penny farthings with you. I, for one, won't be in the garden today.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

SID 18 Busy Skies

Gaz, C and B are on their was home. As I write this they are above the Indian Ocean just over half way between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur. It is one of the wonders of modern science that I can open my phone and find out where a plane is on a live map. Anyone who often picks up people from planes knows how unreliable airport sites are with their arrival and departure information. However, if I can see that a flight is in the middle of The Minch on it's way to Stornoway then I know exactly when to leave home so that I will be at the airport at the correct time.

So I shall track their progress across the globe until they land in Glasgow and are safe and sound on Scottish soil. 

When I took the screenshot to the right they were half way across the Australian outback. Their plane is the little red one with the route shown. 

However what really struck me was that with every airline apparently closed down what are all these planes doing in the sky? 

Lots of them will be cargo planes but lots will not. I thought the numbers flying over China and the Far East in particular was particularly interesting . I know from Marcheline that the skies over the US are almost empty. Which made me realise that if there are that many planes when the skies are 'empty' how many are there usually. Actually looking at the pictures now (10:04) London airport looks quite busy and the Frankfurt to Los Angeles flight is somewhere above me. It suddenly brought it home to me that if this is the 'empty skies' level of aircraft pollution what is the 'normal' level. Somehow my academic knowledge had not computed with my perceived knowledge. In short there is one helluva lot of planes up there and, therefore, one helluva lot of pollution.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

SID15 Thankful Thursday

I am now limiting myself to a couple of news bulletins a day. Of course my iPhone beeps every time there is some piece of news that AppleNews decides I really must be told straight away. On the whole it's been reasonable and not sent me trivia. I was chatting to neighbours (at a distance of about 20 metres so hardly a 'chat' really) and we agreed that this isolation isn't too bad. Of course, we are fortunate to have big gardens and lots of space. 

My Woodlands coffee buddies and I chat either on the phone or on video chat for a virtual coffee. The phone is forever pinging with another WhatsApp message. The rest of the time messaging, emails and snail-mail are all going full pelt. Communication is at a remarkably high level.

It looks as though Gaz, C and B will arrive home early next week. They will, of course go straight into quarantine. They will, however, be home and, hopefully, safe.

The weather has been very varied so today I spent several hours in the garden in a coldish wind but a beautiful cloudless sky. Then suddenly a snow squall came through and I abandoned the outdoors. Within half an hour the sun was back.

I had not done a jigsaw for about three decades but a friend gave me one last year and I've started in in the conservatory. I won't be needing the big dining table for the foreseeable future.

At 8pm I joined the country in clapping for all those who are keeping things going. I think, today, I've been particularly thankful for my neighbours who do my shopping, the delivery drivers and the postmen who keep us supplied. 

For all this I am very, very thankful.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

SID14 Inevitability

Yesterday's news was that there are now 2 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the Island. Even though the Island is shut to tourists at the moment, it was eventually always going to be inevitable given all the students and workers laid off who returned home and those who are still trying to get home from abroad (like my son, daughter-in-law and grandson stuck in Australia).

I was having a virtual coffee with a friend yesterday afternoon when the news came through on my phone and at the same time she got a call from her husband. It has strangely altered everything in a way that I can't explain. 

This morning I was regaled by a 'news item' that the Scottish Government has abolished alcohol sales in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak. Then I realised the date and said "Rabbits". At least we haven't lost our sense of humour.

In the meantime Jules mentioned in a comment a recent post of mine that she was off on her Boris Bimble. That's as good a name for a short walk as anything in these strange times so I have adopted it too.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

SID10 Spring

For two days now (today isn't sure yet) the sun has shone out of a predominantly blue sky with no accompanying wind.  Today the sun is winning the battle against the clouds but the wind is from the North, is strong and is bitterly cold. The atmospheric pressure is bumping against the stop at the top of the scale (this photos was taken before it quite got there). 

I worked outside most of the time for two days but today it's indoors things. 

This morning I made a list in six sections: outdoor jobs; indoor jobs; garden; garage; paperwork; and today. It should keep me going for 12 weeks. Hopefully by then it will be almost empty and one job after another finds its way onto the "Today" list.

The birds are now attacking the provisions on the bird feeder which is a sure sign of Spring. I have absolutely no idea why 'my' birds eat hardly anything from my feeder in the winter (but flock to a neighbour's). Well over a decade ago I fixed a bird nesting box to my garage wall about 15 feet from the ground. Unfortunately I fixed in on a North facing wall which is where the cold winds come from. It's been used occasionally (I have opened it up in the winter sometimes to have a look). However I have never actually seen a bird taking nesting material into it. This year it's definitely being used. I will definitely have to give it an overhaul when the autumn comes.

Meanwhile I heard the melodious call of a Stonechat from the top of one of my trees. I nipped inside, grabbed a camera and from 25 metres or more through the kitchen window managed to get a recored if hardly a good photo. 

On Thursday morning (the first sunny day of the week) I decided to go for my allocated daily exercise by walking the long way round by road to the pier below my house, along the shore and then up the croft back home: around 2 miles with plenty of gradient to exercise the heart and lungs. The view from the beach looking into the sun was one I could look at for ever.

Looking up from the bottom of the croft my house seemed a long haul up. Unfortunately now that the land isn't grazed it's virtually impossible to walk straight up the croft because of the huge tussocks of thick grass interspersed with deep ditches which are partly covered up now. A broken leg was not what I needed at this stage of the game. So I walked along the shoreline and up the track.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

SID8 Thankful Thursday






Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Feart o' Heights

Today Cro posted about repairing his roof

I am exceptionally wary of heights. 

I used to rock climb but only because I loved abseiling. Don't ask me why I had no fear of, and actually enjoyed, abseiling but I did. However climbing up in order to do it scared the pants off me.

A friend nearly died when he was us a step ladder and it slipped. He could not have fallen more than his own height. We all have many such stories.

Friends had a house in the Poitou Charente. He was not good with heights to the extent that anything over a few inches from the ground was a problem. So, in the early days of this century, he asked me if I would "walk the roof". I understand that is what the French call the practice of getting onto the pantile roof and walking along it putting back into place the tiles which had been dislodged by the winter storms. In this case my task was also to photograph any more serious damage.

So I duly, walked the roof. I repaired all that I could and photographed that which I could not. 

The plan was that the materials would be purchased at the local bricolage and I would repair the roof. 

I should now tell you, dear reader, that it was a large roof comprising the house and barn. To the front the drop from the roof was only about 2½ times my height but at the back there was a very much more considerable drop. So being the feartie that I am I got a climbing rope that could be anchored on the front of the building enabling me to repair the back of the building. If I slipped I would not fall off the roof and could be hauled back up to the ridge. 

As it happened my friend abandoned the plan for that spring and I never did have to get up and do the full repairs.

That is me!

Monday, 23 March 2020

SID5: The Good and The Bad

The days seem to be flying past at an alarming rate. Saturday was another pleasant enough day and I carried on working outside doing maintenance. Sunday was not pleasant and I spent the day doing household chores, reading blogs, drinking coffee and doing crosswords and then making a huge blitz on all the emails in my inbox. I hardly watched any television and eventually fell into bed just after midnight. 

At the weekend The Highlands (of Scotland) were inundated by camper vans and cars of people 'escaping' from the cities of the Central Belt and England. Many are heading for their holiday homes. The infrastructure of The Highlands can hardly cope in the summer these days but no one was expecting such a raid on the already panic-buying-stricken shops. All public gathering places such as pubs and restaurants had already been closed by the Scottish Government.

The Independent needs to use commas where appropriate.
 I'm not sure why the Army needs to help McDonalds to close
All ferry services  to the Scottish Islands have stopped carrying anyone except island residents and essential services personnel and freight. The ferry and air services have been very much reduced.

So far we have no known cases in the Outer Hebrides and we'd like to keep it that way. Our medical infrastructure would struggle. Indeed the RAF had to send an Atlas A400M Transport Aircraft to Shetland to transport a critically ill virus patient to Aberdeen Hospital at the weekend.

Our weather today is storm force gales and rain and the ferries are storm-bound in port anyway today and tomorrow. I'm not going out for a walk today that's for sure. The forecast is the same for tomorrow.

Talking of storm bound my son, daughter-in-law and 2 year old grandson (who live on Lewis) are marooned in Australia. Their flights home were 'suspended' this morning (UK time). Likewise two daughters of a friend staying with a sibling in New Zealand are also marooned. 

In the meantime we must all maintain our sense of humour. The Duke of Wellington Monument in Glasgow has been the battleground in the past for students who kept putting a traffic cone on the Duke's head and the Council who kept removing it. Eventually the Council conceded that it was a huge tourist draw for photos and selfies and left it there. So it was inevitable that someone would add a mask at this time. I assume it's photoshopped but who knows.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Self Isolation Day 2

Don't worry. I'm not going to bore you with a blog diary of my self-isolation. I'll just do a diary type post every now and then depending on how things pan out.

I am in the 'at risk' category for quite a few reasons. Although on the face of it I'm very fit and well (which I am 99.5% of the time) and certainly don't feel nearer 80 than 70 which is what I technically am, I do have underlying health issues. They started with part of a lung removed when I was 16 because of a respiratory disease. 

So far there is no known case in the Western Isles so, in fact, I'm not completely isolated yet. I've decided that I'm going to almost self isolate for a while first. This means that I'll socialise very little. If I do shop it will be when the crowds have gone and the shops are quiet. I will go out walking and in the car but on my own. The rest I will play by ear as things develop. 

Today was chilly but wall to wall sun so I decided to drive to the Castle Grounds and do the Creed River walk. The irony is that it was such a lovely day that the world and his wife were out walking and I met and chatted (at a safe distance) to more people than I have ever chatted to in a single walk before.

After lunch I decided to make a start on the cleaning of the outside of the house. Living where I do  moss is a very big issue on the outside of the house and on all my paths. So I spent the afternoon making a start on that. 

Spring has come and the frogs are filling the pond with spawn.

The schools have closed. So, down on the pier below the house, the children seemed to be celebrating what is, in effect, the end of the school year. Not quite obeying the distancing suggestions. I can foresee problems particularly if the weather is good.