Thursday, 19 May 2022

Balance of Nature - Otters

We all have a vague understanding of the balance of nature. I've been experiencing the balance of nature changing year on year since I moved into this house 3 decades ago and in the half century since I moved to Lewis.

My house sits on a croft which, until around 10 years ago, was full of sheep. The croft is possibly 30 metres wide and runs from the village road to the sea. Crofts were very frequently very long and very narrow. As a consequence they are often referred to as the farming of fences (about which I have blogged several times).

The grass used to be kept under control by the croft cow (eating the long grass) and then the sheep kept the grass short. Now there are no cows and no sheep on the nearby crofts. So it's now difficult to walk down the crofts and the chance of them returning to agricultural use diminishes year by year. 

This is part of the change in the balance of nature in the crofting communities which I'm hoping to write about over the next few months. Today I'm concentrating on the return of otters to the the area adjacent to my home.

Down the far side of the croft on which my house was built is a stream. When I arrived I was told the stream was an otter run from a loch well above the township to the sea below my house. Despite that and the knowledge that there are otters in the area, I know no one who has actually seen one here in all those years.  That all changed a few weeks ago when someone sitting on the rocks below the house saw and photographed an otter sitting eating a fish amazingly near to him. He posted some of his photos on Facebook. With his permission I'm reproducing a few of them here.

All otter photos courtesy of Jason Spinks.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Punctuation Mark's

What I can't understand is why there is no 's' on Welding.

However, Anna has had around 90 years to get this correct:

I don't really expect anyone to comment on this because......well, just because it's a sad reflection on our use of language. 

I've got it off my chest, though.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Nothing to do with Amazon

"Do you use Amazon?" came an email from a friend. I checked the email address. It was hers. "Yes" I replied with an uncharacteristic lack of verbosity. A short while later came the scam email. I rang to tell her that her email account had been hacked. She already knew. Unfortunately on this occasion the scammer had got hold of her password and taken over control of her account. It was a Yahoo account so possibly the scammer had got hold of her password from a very old leak when Yahoo had a lot of problems with security. 

The outcome is that the spammer has details of everything she has done via email and has locked her out of her email account too. As all her contacts are in it she's lost them as well.

I am often laughed at for my security measures which mean that I use a password app with a very secure password and that no two things requiring a password have the same password.  I know my master passwords for my computers and the password app and that's it. I use separate email addresses for different tasks after I learned years ago that the travel industry used to sell password lists.  

As I use Apple for all my computing/cellphone etc I rarely have to type in secondary passwords  and unlocking my phone and computer are generally by fingerprint and/or eye or facial recognition.

Anyway none of this would have been bloggable but for the fact that I decided the the loss of the rest of the day and evening to sorting out the outfall from the incident was exceptionally irritating.

When I was scammed I immediately went to change my password on that account. Google wouldn't let me. It locked my account saying that there was suspicious activity on it. The only conclusion to which I could come was that a potential scammer had recently tried to get in using an old password from one of the old Yahoo leaks. My passwords are usually changed every couple of years (or when I decide I want to waste a day looking at a screen and getting frustrated) but whatever it was Google decided I was a potential scammer. It took me many hours and a lot of coffee to convince their algorithms otherwise.

With scammers getting more and more sophisticated it behoves every one of us to keep all our passwords separate and secure. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Only Myself

I never ever say 'Never'. Well (to quote from 

That is how I started  a post last night at about 9.15. I'd had a long fairly physical day. I decided to vacate my usual computer position in the 'kitchen' and take the laptop through to a nice comfy armchair in the living room. I then did something fairly unusual for me: at 21:09 I fell fast asleep and woke up 1 hour and 9 mins later at 22:14. 

I must have had something in my mind to write otherwise I wouldn't have started in the way I did. The strange thing is that I have zero recollection of what I was going to say and, more to the point in some ways,  which quotation I was going to use.

I have another fairly physical day coming up starting with an appointment for my bum jab and then I go to one of my new "jobs" helping mow the lawns at the bowling club where the two usual volunteer groundsmen are out of commission. 

As I have to be in town at the medical practice in 40 minutes this is very short.

This post is boring enough so I'll enliven it with a picture of a sock. It's one of my more interesting socks in the it's not plain and it has a Christmas Robin on it. Over the washing at the weekend it disappeared.  Everyone has a disappearing sock story but the effort I've put into finding this far outweighs the importance of the sock.  I have looked everywhere including places where I looked simply for the curiosity.

Now I have to fly. Bye for now.

PS This was to let you all know I'm alive and well.

Friday, 8 April 2022

Personal Responsibility

This is, of course, a huge topic on which every one of us who read and write blogs doubtless has an opinion. However this is a very narrow area where I see a lack of personal responsibility which has led to inconvenience for the many.

Like, JayCee, I live on an Island. Off the top of my head I can't think of any others of my readers who rely on seagoing ferries as part of daily life. We need to go to the Mainland and we are reliant of goods coming in on a daily basis for our fresh food etc. In the last year or two Covid has exacerbated the situation by depleting staff and  requiring the ferry to get a new crew or to be thoroughly cleaned. The principal problem, however, is the weather.

Almost 50 years ago we had a ferry plying between Ullapool and Stornoway called MV Suilven. She was a boat originally built for use in areas with potential ice floes with which to contend. She was an incredible seaboat and all the Masters I knew sang her praises. She sailed in all weathers and, on occasion, the 3¾ hour crossing could take many more hours. She had been known to run down and hide behind the Shiants because she couldn't get into Stornoway Harbour. Everyone who sailed on her will have a tale to tell. I used to travel quite a lot and have many tales that would put you off ever coming here except in high summer.

Some years ago, I was told by a member of the ferry staff, that there had been a big outburst one day when the ferry sailed and it was very rough and people were sick and, apparently, afraid.  I can understand that because I have been afraid on several occasions when the Good Ship Suilven plied the route. 

However, it was always our choice as to whether, given the weather, we wanted to sail or go another day. 

That choice is still available and anyone who lives on the Island knows the weather conditions and what to expect and, in any case, the ferry company used to post sea conditions at the passenger entrance.

The result of all the complaints received by frightened passengers with no sealegs was that the Masters decided that if the conditions were so adverse that complaints may be forthcoming then they wouldn't sail. It appears to have been thus ever since. So the many suffer because of the decisions of the few (to sail when they could have decided against it). 

Isn't this mirrored in every area of life now? Personal responsibility has gone. The responsibility is always that of someone else - preferably of someone "in authority" and preferably someone who is employed by an organisation which can be sued for compensation.

Monday, 4 April 2022

New Home

Anyone with an exceptional memory (so that excludes me for a start) might recall that I have bird nesting boxes in the garden. The one that I've shown on the blog in the past was a 'three bay' box sitting on the north wall of my garage and visible from the house window that overlooks The Minch.

I'm sure that the view is the last thing in which  the sparrows who occupy my boxes are interested. The old box succumbed to the ravages of the Hebridean weather and old age in a northerly gale at the end of last last year and is no more.  The new boxes were too late for last year's nesting season but this year the alpha male sparrow has invited his potential mate to view the property.

"Look pretty much the same to me!"

"Well!  What do you think?"

"I think we'll have this one."

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Could Do Better

I'm not sure that I ever got those words on my report cards at school - do schools still issue report cards? - but if I didn't they would still have been very appropriate.  I never worked hard at school. I detested school. My parents were good enough to save on other things and sent me (and, later, my brother) to a small private prep school in Liverpool where I was born.  The discipline was ferocious. The preparation for the 11Plus was second to none and all but the most educationally challenged (in our parlance of the day 'the thickest') did exceptionally well in the 11Plus for the Grammar Schools or entrance exams to the many private public schools in the area (my apologies to anyone from the US who is probably totally lost in the terminology). 

I won my first choice and followed a couple of years behind the exceptionally talented and totally way-out John Lennon at Quarry Bank. Quarry (Motto: Ex hoc metall virtutem - out of this quarry came virtue) was an excellent and very small (680 pupils) Grammar School which concentrated on only one thing - getting pupils to Oxford or Cambridge. Anyone else was a failure and left to drift. I was never Oxbridge material.

My Mother had always wanted me to go to Quarry because she had gone to the partner girls school next door and had loved every minute and left with flying colours and very good academic results. 

I could have done better. But I didn't.....then. 

All that was by way of trying to say that recently my blogging record has been parlous and, although I have been reading some blogs, I'm feeling a bit out in the cold. 

So I'm going to try and do better.

This was the view from my window this morning: clouds dumping snow over The Minch and Mainland Scotland.

Friday, 11 March 2022


I cannot even begin to imagine the loneliness of being in prison.  

I am staying in the Golden Jubilee Conference Centre Hotel which is attached to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow. At the time it was opened in 1994 as a private hospital it was quite controversial but now it is Scotland's NHS specialist hospital for reducing patient waiting times. Referrals are received from across the country in the specialties and services provided. The hospital is also home to the West of Scotland Heart and Lung Centre.

In the morning I shall be having my MRI scan which will determine whether I had a TIA and whether I will be able to drive and whether the operation to replace my uretic stent will be able to go ahead next week. 

To return to my opening sentence. I am fortunate enough to be housed for the night in a large, moderately luxurious in an understated way, bedroom. Because the hospital was originally designed as a private one it had a large hotel 'built in' so to speak. I assume that the reason the bedrooms are the size they are (generous by the standard of many UK hotels) is because it was an American company that was behind the original venture. 

When I arrived last night I had every intention of spending the evening catching up with emails, letters, blogs and things I never seem to make enough time for at home.  However, all of a sudden I felt constrained, imprisoned almost, by these four walls. The view of the hills from the window had by then disappeared into the night sky. All of a sudden I wanted a glass of wine. All of a sudden I wanted to see other human beings. All of a sudden I wanted dinner. So I left my room and in under two minutes was sitting in the beautifully spacious bar with a (very indifferent) glass of sav in my paw. I ordered scallops with black pudding followed by goats cheese and beetroot risotto. The black pudding was not Stornoway black pudding and was, therefore, distinctly inferior but the scallops were done to perfection and the risotto was tasty and creamy. The malbec was distinctly better than the sav. All was well with the world.

I got back to my bedroom and opened the laptop to write this post when I realised the time and wondered about an early(ish) night in front of that large black screen on the wall. "Bangers and Cash" is on at that time of night! I don't often get to watch it. It's a great programme. Why not? So I did. Hence I'm writing this after my shower this morning. My scan is at 9.50.

So being holed up in a hotel room for the few hours I was actually awake hasn't been so bad. But I know that in a few minutes I will be walking out of the door. I won't be serving a prison sentence in a cell, I won't be incarcerated in quarantine in a hotel room because of Covid or for any other reason. I won't be spending hours and days in a bunker trying to avoid bombs and missiles. I am, for the moment, a free man. I am grateful and I am not taking it for granted. 

PS I wonder what this post would have been like if I had stayed in my room and written about 'imprisonment'. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

A Wee Update

Life has been getting in the way of Blogland yet again. 

The Good Thing is that we have had five days of (mainly) sunny weather which has, about half the time, been free of the bitterly cold and strong wind that makes working outside in the garden a bit of a trial even when dressed up to the nines for the occasion.

It has meant that I have been getting up well before 7am and spending the vast amount of daylight in the garden and the polycarb doing hard labour. Well, that's the theory. When possible it's been the practice too. I would spend 12 hours a day in the garden if I could.

It has been helped by the fact that some of my social and other activities (like the gym) have had to be cancelled because I've been forbidden to drive until I've had an MRI scan to confirm that the incident that saw me ending up in hospital in the middle of the night, yet again, was labyrinthitis and not a TIA. 

Needless to say people have been very good and I've had lifts to town when needed.

I'm flying down to Glasgow this week for an MRI scan but it is looking uncertain as to whether I will get the hoped for resulting confirmation that I can drive in time to get down to Ayr for my delayed uretic stent replacement. This could mean another delay or very inconvenient travel arrangements on public transport.

C'est la vie.

I found some accidental potatoes left in the grounds when I emptied the potato grow bags from last spring/summer. 

Over the years I've shown some lovely sunrises from my kitchen window. This was yesterday's view 

Tuesday, 22 February 2022


A few weeks ago I mentioned 'Wordle' in one of my posts here. YP explains more about it in his post here.

I play it each day and so far have been reasonably successful and enjoyed it. I've never been unable to find the word but to be fair that's probably not a great accolade because I only know one person who had not had a 100% achievement record. 

I compare results and the words we have used each day with friends in New Zealand, Sweden and the UK. One of us, not me, seems to be just slightly better than the rest who are all pretty much the same standard.

However this game seems to have sparked international rows since it was taken over by the NY Times a few weeks ago, with claims that words have been Americanised,  simplified, 'properfied' (my own word for removing such abhorrent words as, 'wench, 'slave, and 'lynch') and that some were far too esoteric and unusual such as 'caulk' I have to say that the last one mystified me because I got it in 4 lines and thought it was a perfectly ordinary household word.

No doubt that’s the case, but just at this moment it’s difficult to imagine anything more exciting than five squares turning green – the most satisfying five-letter word of all.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Highland and Island Travel

I travelled home on Saturday. I had to plan it on the basis of the snow from Storm Eunice having gone and the lull in the wind between storms allowing the Saturday evening ferry to sail. 

Unfortunately my second lot of hospital plans (ie my stent change) didn't quite work out. I was supposed to have the procedure on Thursday but as I was getting into the car to drive to the hospital I got a call from the hospital to say that they had no beds. They could do the procedure but couldn't stick me in a bed afterwards. I'm now scheduled for the middle of March. Hey ho.

The drive from Glasgow to Ullapool was one of the best I've had. There was very little traffic.  The sun shone out of a blue sky and the hills, forests and fields were covered in snow. The ferry wasn't overly busy and the sea was reasonably calm.

Unfortunately I discovered that my dashcam had not been recording onto the SDD card so all the fabulous winter footage of driving through the Scottish Highlands doesn't exist. 

The weather forecasts all seem a bit out of kilter for us at the moment. The storms don't seem to be coming our way despite the predictions on the various weather apps. However, I don't think I'd be relying on the ferries for the rest of this week notwithstanding.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Hi Folks

Just to let everyone know that I'm doing my best to dip into Blogland when I can.

It's been an interesting week or two and I'm now in and out of hospitals for the next week. It's all routine with no need for any concern but it is very time consuming.

In the meantime here's a photo for Jill. I'm sorry it's not a magnolia but the jacaranda trees gave me extraordinary joy when I lived in New Zealand and we had them in the drive as well as in many of the roads in and around Napier. 

Monday, 31 January 2022

Heart Attack Time

I've just read a post by Bob (as in Mr Brague who rhymes with plague) upon an incident he had and a reminder that we should all listen to our bodies. 

Assuming you have either already read or now popped over to his post you will see that I commented as follows:

"Unlike you, when I thought I was having a heart attack (same symptoms as yours and age 56) I immediately went to the nearest doctor (I was away from home at a trade fair). He pronounced me A1 after doing all the tests. To be continued..... "   I am continuing.

Later that evening after my friends and I had been for dinner we were walking back to the place we were renting for a few days. It was a very bitter, windy October evening in Aviemore in the coldest part of the Scottish Highlands. I was breathless and when I eventually made it back I asked them to get an ambulance.

It arrived as did the local doctor I'd seen that afternoon. The general assumption was that I'd had a heart attack. I was carted off to Inverness and spent the night having tests and so on. 

In the morning I was declared A1 fit for discharge with them being able to find no indication whatsoever of a heart attack. I was very surprised but happy. However as I had nowhere to go and no clothes and no one to collect me (they were all at the trade fair 30 miles away) I was shoved into a private sideroom until the next day. During that day I wandered up and down the three flights of stairs (with the permission of the doctor!) to the ground floor, had lunch in the café and generally amused myself.

That evening my friends brought in my clothes and agreed to collect me the next morning. Whilst they were there two doctors and three nurses entered and, very accusingly, asked why, at 11pm the previous evening, I had had an ECG. No one had ordered one. 

My response made it clear that it certainly wasn't me who had asked for it and they were the medics. Apparently no ECG had been ordered so far as anyone could find. However, you guessed it, it showed quite the opposite to everything previously done. I was to go back onto the observation ward that very moment and, no, the bed would go with me in it, I was not to move a muscle until the morning.

The next morning a consultant whom I hope I never meet again came in and  told me that I was being flown to Edinburgh for an angiogram and probably angioplasty. (See sub-story below).

Next day I was duly loaded into a helicopter ambulance and flown down to Glasgow. In those days angioplasty was a much bigger job than it is today where they pop a line up your arm and bob's your uncle. So I'm told by people who have had recent stent insertions.

I found myself in a huge theatre with two consultants and heaven knows how many support staff and a television set to my left showing an x-ray view of my heart and its surrounds. This had the advantage that the consultants could see into my body and work out where the stents were going and, for me, it stopped any potential boredom. It was a long afternoon! I won't bore you with the details although some were very amusing and some were a tad unpleasant. I had 5 stents inserted. The 6th just wouldn't play ball. 

The Sub Story

I didn't know anyone in Edinburgh and it's the diagonally opposite side of the country to Lewis. I know lots of people in Glasgow and life would have been so much easier in hospital there. The Consultant was not having any of it and dismissed my request for Glasgow 'if possible pretty please" with an "I send people to Edinburgh!" Behind him the Sister gave me a kindly smile and a wink. I knew I was in good hands.  The next morning she explained that, regretfully, she hadn't been able to find a bed in the Edinburgh Hospital so I was going down to the Glasgow Western Infirmary.  

Friday, 28 January 2022

This Week Miscellany

The wind took me by surprise this morning and as I was slightly off balance it blew me into the fishpond. It wasn't even that strong - possibly force 5. It was supposed to be much worse this afternoon and evening but it's all petered out and it's just an ordinary "somewhere below gale force" breeze outside. Sorry, I didn't manage a selfie.

We learned today that The Western Isles has broken new records. We have had the dreichest, dullest  January of anywhere in the UK since records began. No wonder everyone is a bit under the weather and waiting for some signs of Spring.

Wordle. People kept mentioning Wordle to me at the end of last week after being mentioned on the radio and television. Now I'm hooked. Advantages: it's just one game played once every 24 hours. It's a mixture of luck, skill and judgement. Disadvantages: There is no phone app (but it can be played on a phone). Beware a myriad of copies which have sprung up including "Wordle!".

Tai Chi (Not Quite). I’d done all my usual gym exercises this morning when I was persuaded by an ex olympian who runs the Move More class I attend to join a sort of Tai Chi class "just to see what I thought". I had the time before going to visit a friend for coffee so spent 45 minutes discovering that less is more and that it’s far harder than I imagined.

Road Rules UK. Under the existing rules a person crossing a road at a junction gives way to a car turning left. From tomorrow the car must give way to the pedestrian. The stronger must always give way to the weaker is the new rule. I have no problem with that. However, I will predict that the number of cars running into the back of cars turning left and suddenly stopping in the middle of flowing traffic will increase significantly.

Friday, 21 January 2022


 On the way home from coffeeing with a friend at The Woodlands  I stopped  at a garage to get a latte as a surprise for a friend whose office I pass on the way home. 

The two youngsters serving were chatty and another customer in his 20s appeared, ordered and commented on the terrible loss of Meatloaf. 

"How old was he?" the customer asked.

"70" one of the servers responded.

I was just about to correct him and say "74" when the customer said "What did he die of?"

The assistant looked at him and said "He was 70 for heavens sake when you get to that age you're old and you die.  You don't have to die of 'something'. "

At this point I felt compelled to have my tuppence-worth so I said something like "Hang on.  70 isn't old. I'm nearly 80 and I'm not old and I'm certainly not thinking of "just dying" anytime soon."

I was reasonably appeased by the look of astonishment about my age but then I suppose if you are walking without a stick and wearing a tie with yellow ducks on it you're not exactly a typical Lewis bodach. 

The conversation continued on the agreed merits of Meatloaf until the latte was ready and I drove off into the morning gloom and delivered the coffee and wondered if my friend looked at me and though "Ah well, he's survived another day."

R.I.P Meatloaf. Thank you for all the pleasure you have given to so many of us.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Use By....

This morning I had, in the fridge, a small amount of milk left in a 1.1 litre plastic container it was supplied in. It was labelled 'Use By 2 Jan'.  I've been using it until today and it smelt okay but then I've just had a dose of not being able to smell anything. So I disposed of it down the sink. That's not good because milk is quite a pollutant.

I was eating my banana and muesli quite happily with the fresh milk when I was informed on the news that the supermarket chain Morrisons is to replace the  'Use By' date on milk with a 'Best Before' date.

Doubtless other supermarkets will all follow suit. I hope so. In any case I will now continue to rely on the smell test.

This has made me think about milk in glass bottles and delivery of milk to the doorstep both of which were common when I was a child. Perhaps another post in due course. 

In the meantime I hanker for the days when the bluetits used to peck through the milk bottle top and drink the cream floating at the top.

Saturday, 8 January 2022


I don't often write serious posts. However some of the recent goings on in the world really have tested my ability to sit back and ignore them. I'm not talking about the riot at The Capitol which might well have resulted (and might still result) in the end of democratic rule in the U.S. but in more minor and insidious incidents which gnaw away at the fabric of the Rule of Law which keeps us all in the UK safe.

Anyone who, like I, who worked with politicians all his professional life, knows that politicians are often economical with the truth. In order to save their political skins and jobs some tell downright lies on BIG THINGS as well. They always have done and always will do. On being found out the majority do not survive.

That, however, is becoming a thing of the past.

We now have a Prime Minister who is liar both as a politician and in his previous incarnations as a journalist and editor in our prestigious press. I was going to justify that statement with examples but as a friend said the PM not only doesn't try and defend himself from those incidents but, on occasion, actually boasts about his survival.  They are, in any case, very well documented.

The problem is that if the most senior person in the Government is seen to be a liar it gives a blank cheque to everyone else. If he can get away with it why can't I?

In my mid 20s I knew a lady who was a Justice of the Peace (JP, the most junior member of the judiciary). She regarded exceeding the speed limit as breaking the law and therefore if she realised she had knowingly exceeded the speed limit by even a few mph it would have been a resignation issue. Regardless of the legal niceties of breaking the speed limit  I know of no one else who has been that extreme.

However, I heard that the Chief Justice in Northern Ireland attended a golf function recently which was illegal under the current regulations in that Country. He accepted that he did it. He said that it was not a resignation matter.

How, I ask, can any member of a country's judiciary never mind the most senior one, make such a statement and then expect anyone to respect him or his decisions ever again.

I'll try not to do this again. 

Monday, 3 January 2022

Two Days; Two Views

From my kitchen window on New Year's Day


Of course it wasn't like that all day on either day.