1 EAGLETON NOTES: March 2020



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.

Sunday 15 March 2020


This post was started before there was any talk of the UK Government isolating over-70s for four months which is what I have just heard is a possibility.

A friend has decided to self isolate. Not because she has a cold or any similar symptoms but because she has not. Nor does she want any such symptoms. She is just younger than I am and has underlying chest issues as a result of cancer treatment (nothing to do with lungs as such).

It has made a lot of us, her friends, think. Apart from some obvious panic buying of toilet rolls, paracetamol and anti-bacterial cleaners, life seems to be going on as normal here. Certainly the walking groups were out in the woods yesterday despite the bad weather and The Woodlands was much busier than usual.

A lot of my friends are widowed or otherwise on their own and some have no family living on the Island. So self-isolation is quite an undertaking both physically and mentally. However when we all thought about it it made us realise just how fortunate 'we' all are: we all have a good social life and lots of friends and interests and many of us have family living here too.

It made me realise just how many elderly people are isolated without making it a choice. Many have no visitors. Many have no hobbies or interests. Many rarely get over their doorstep.

What is self-isolation? I live in an exceptionally sparsely populated place so can I go walking if I promise not to talk to other people close up? Can I go out in my car if I stay in the car?

Very selfishly I wondered what will happen to my drugs trial tablet supply? What will happen when, as it inevitably will especially if my kidney stent is not changed, I get another bout of sepsis?

Perhaps the least of my worries would be how I would cope with self-isolation. It won't be fun. I like going out. I rarely have a day without going out. However I have instant communication with so many friends all over the world via WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype and the like as well as social media which, in my case, is mostly this blog. I will still write my letters (but will they be delivered?).

On the plus side I have a reasonably sized house with fabulous views and a garden which could occupy my every sunny day if we have any. I have enough unread books to keep me going for years never mind months. I have music and I have television.

More than that, though, I would have no excuse for not doing the things I've been trying to find time for: sorting 70 years of photos; drawing and painting; attacking the huge list of DIY jobs in the garage, garden shed, garden and house. The list is endless.

I'm okay for food for a while. When I worked I always kept a good stock so that whatever I fancied when I got in in the evening I could probably cook it. It could be bangers, mash and beans to a Thai green curry or a stir fry. 'A while' isn't very long though if one is isolating for any length of time.

But the loneliness and the inevitable anxiety will undoubtedly take its toll.

Friday 13 March 2020

Friday The Thirteenth

I have never been superstitious. Touch wood I never will be. However there was a moment today when I felt that Friday The Thirteenth might not be my lucky day. It started very well indeed. I woke up. So far, and allowing for the odd change of time when travelling when I lived in New Zealand and Scotland, I have woken up on 27,676 mornings. So I am always thankful when the trend continues. I know that one day it will not. I suspect on that day I shall be truly p****d off. 

Anyway by the time I had abluted it was 0730. I looked out of the kitchen window to see my bushes being cut. I can no longer reach the tops of the bushes

to cut them so a local handyman was commissioned. He had already finished making a great job of replacing my ancient gutters. His next job was to increase the concrete area which is my wheelie-bin store. I built it for three bins and we now have four.

So far the day was having a great start.

I was meeting a friend for coffee at 1030 so decided that, as it was a truly beautiful morning, I would go into town and get a few odds and ends, go for my walk in the woods and be at The Woodlands in perfect time for coffee. As an aside, as I thought I had an infection where I'd had a partial extraction on Tuesday, I'd pop into the dentist first for antibiotics. 

Apparently that meant seeing a dentist again. My dentist wasn't available but at noon another dentist could see me. At noon, Friday The Thirteenth kicked in. The rest of the tooth had to come out. The rest of the tooth displayed a marked reluctance to obey. Having had two extractions in the last year I've had no pain from either. This afternoon nearly five hours after the extraction and painkillers taken I am in pain. I don't like toothache.

Mind you I did manage to spend much of the afternoon in the garden. So life isn't too bad.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Getting There

YP wrote a review recently of a book written by a map obsessive. It was interesting and most who commented (I read it after YP's next post had been published so didn't bother commenting) were, like me, very much lovers of maps. Indeed if it hadn't been for my love of maps and my knowledge of glaciation I would not have done so well in my Geography GCE 'O' Level back in the dark ages. 

The author was also obsessive in his hatred of satnavs. I have never quite understood why  so many people think that it is a virtue not to use satnavs in the same way that they feel superior to us mortals who use smart-phones. I have even been told satnavs are dangerous. They are not. The  chap I caught driving down the M6 in the middle lane with his road atlas on his steering wheel however was, I would suggest, exceptionally dangerous. 

My brother and a late friend who lived part-time in France both have/had a remarkable talent. A talent that I very much coveted. They could look at a map and memorise their chosen route. Put the map away and in the case of my late friend, drive all the way from Scotland to wherever he was going in France. I, on the other hand, have aphantasia. I cannot memorise images. In the 'old days' before satnavs I used to spend ages making flip boards so that I could get into my car on Lewis and navigate myself to the Poitou-Charante. Now I set an address into my satnav and relax. I have been using one since the early 2000s.

I have, of course, heard of them taking people down unsuitable roads and software used does vary. I have driven all over the UK, through and France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy with never a blip that I can recall.

Saturday 7 March 2020

Hybrid Powered Cruise Ship

Last week MS Fridtjof Nansen arrived in Stornoway. I believe that she was on her maiden voyage. Stornoway is a popular destination for cruise liners and many of them are specialist 'explorer' cruises. By any standards her accommodation looks luxurious. What made her stand out in Stornoway apart from her striking shape and colours was the fact that she is a hybrid ship. 

The residents of Scotland in general, and Scottish Islands in particular, are well used to hearing about hybrid ferry vessels. They were commissioned by Calmac for Island ferry services some years ago and are now running several years late and millions over budget. It may be several years before they are in service and in the meantime the existing fleet is struggling.

Hybrid power is particularly suitable for ferries and, as many operate in densely populated areas (eg Hong Kong) the less (fewer?) the diesel emissions the better. 

The reason that I mentioned her explorer cruises was that on the morning I was having coffee with friends in The Woodlands when we saw a posse of cruisers going up the path past the café with a leader, placard identifier held high. When a second group went past we realised that this placard business was for real and was obviously so that the groups (of 20 or so) wouldn't get lost amongst the hordes of natives. This was a first for Lewis we believe.

Monday 2 March 2020

Spam and Clouds

Today I noticed a comment from a Chinese blogger. It was a perfectly satisfactory and 'real' comment so I actually replied even though the person concerned runs what looks like a perfectly respectable and legitimate on-line shop and is, presumably, simply trying to increase whatever the on-line equivalent of footfall is. A while later when going through blogs I realised that this was a spammer  who was rather more subtle than others. A comment was often 'borrowed' from elsewhere in the comments and used. It was only because I recognised one of the comments that I realised it was a duplicate.

Spammers are certainly going through a prolific phase at the moment and there will be times when I'm not in Blogland for a day or two when they will appear on my blogs for a little longer than I would like.

However I am not going to use comment moderation (unless comments are for a post over a couple of weeks old where I might otherwise miss them) because I think it ruins the whole conversation aspect of blogging. I don't want to comment in isolation and I'm sure that some of my readers don't either.

Nothing to do with the minutiae or mechanics of blogging I saw this cloud formation over the middle of The Minch a day or two ago. I'm not very knowledgeable about clouds except a select few like Lenticular Clouds. These over the Minch are, I think cumulonimbus capillatus anvil.