1 EAGLETON NOTES: December 2020



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 cafĂ©. 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!