Sunday, 25 September 2022

A Holiday and Irritating Blogger

I'm on holiday. I left the Island yesterday for a week in Bishopbriggs (a 'suburb' of Glasgow although its residents would never agree to that description and it is outside the City boundary so a taxi home from Glasgow a few yards over the boundary attracts a bonus fare!). I can't recall when I was last off the Island for a holiday. I am usually off for a hospital appointment even if I have also enjoyed some time with friends down here.

I apologise to some of my readers who have left comments which have gone to spam and which I haven't picked up in good time (I was going to say 'timeously' but the spillchucker was having none of it).

I also had the problem that some of the 'spam' comments appear to have disappeared so if you've commented and it's not been published then I apologise.

I'm hoping that I'll actually get a bit more time in Blogland whilst I'm away

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Heinz Vegetable Salad

Cro posted this morning about his love of Heinz Sandwich Spread. It is a love that I share. However, Cro, eats it spread on toast. Yuk. It has to be on bread - preferably home made - and, to be really decadent, with vintage Cheddar or Red Fox cheese on the side.

The mention of Heinz Sandwich Spread made me think of Heinz Vegetable Salad and that made me think made me think of the Heinz products that have disappeared since my youth. The only one I really mourned was Heinz Vegetable Salad followed by the Potato Salad. For some reason the consistency of bite and the flavour are completely incapable of replication.

Heinz obviously stopped it because they were no longer making it profitably. I wish that they had sold the recipe to a niche market delicatessen company so that those mad enough to pay premium prices for it could still savour it.

  No photo description available.

Sunday, 18 September 2022

Garden Wild Flowers

JayCee at The Diary of a Nobody mentioned that her wild flowers were coming to an end. Interestingly many of mine (and I'm also on an island but much further North) are still in flower although a lot have also died off.

I think that it may be due to that fact that I leave the seeds from the previous year in the ground and then do a fresh sowing in the spring as well. I'm not sure how much longer a season that gives the flowers but they certainly have a few weeks left yet.

Thursday, 15 September 2022


Why is nothing ever simple? I’m tempted to say that there was a time in all our lives when things were simple relative to today and, in a way, it’s true but in many other ways that seeming simplicity wasn't as simple as we sometimes make out.

For example if your bus was cancelled or any transportation was disrupted you had no way of letting the hospital know you’d be late for your appointment or any of the similar things which were daily occurrences. Indeed I would say that communication is a huge way in which life has become simpler and yet more complex.

Another example is meeting people when you went into town. You had to make prior arrangements and if anything went awry then I, for one, can recall aborted meetings which caused considerable worry and angst at the time. Now if I go into town with someone we do our separate shopping and then say “Phone me when you’re almost done and we’ll decide the best place and time to meet.” Or if I'm meeting at a particular time a call or text message lets each other know what's happening if something goes awry.

We used to book phone calls at Christmas with our relatives in Australia and Canada. They were expensive and short. Telegrams and their international equivalent could be used in extremis but it could still be ages before you knew a relative had died. Now we can chat every day to friends and family anywhere in the world if we want using a myriad of audio visual or 'written' messenger applications.

Ordinary written conversations with relatives and friends abroad took up to 5 weeks between each letter being written and received: sometimes more. A friend at Prep School had a father at sea (he was a Chief Engineer like my son) and he often arrived home 9 months after he’d gone away and, on one occasion, arrived home before the telegram about his impending arrival. I recall that because my friend’s Mother was cross to say the least.

I mentioned at a gathering recently that I write or send at least a dozen snail mail cards and letters a week. Most of the others present neither receive not write missives sent by snail mail at all. Christmas cards on a reduced level seem to be an exception.

Obviously a book could be written on this subject and many probably have been.

Thinking about it it seems to me that the number of things where simplicity in life these days compared with my youth is absolutely colossal. 

What I can't decide is what is good and what is bad and how many things in our general life are so vastly different now.

Sunday, 28 August 2022

The Clock

 For a long time my natural instinct has been to use the 24 hour clock.

I was recently given an appointment at the dentist for a rather odd time 1435.  [I erroneously said 1535 in the original post] However the receptionist said to me that the appointment was at "25 minutes to 3.'' Writing it in my diary and so as to keep it on the 12 hour clock I said "Right. That's it in at 2.35".  "No" she responded "It's at 25 to 3". I immediately apologised and was just about to erase it and re-write it when it occurred to me that we were just misunderstanding each other's format for the same time. I laughed and, apologised, and asked if we could agree on 1435. Quick as a flash she responded with a smile "Oh heavens, I don't know. I've never managed to use decimalisation for time!".

That's not all though. 1230 can also be "half 12" as in "I'll meet you at half 12" ie at half (an hour) past midday. 

In fact 'a quarter of an hour' 'half an hour' and 'three quarters of an hour" are still in common usage in the UK at least. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2022


The problem is that you can't have a discussion with an algorithm. You can't tell it that it doesn't fit your case. Well, that's not strictly true, however if it doesn't fit the algorithm then it will be ignored or spat back at you.

Amazon recently made a rare (in my experience) error. I ordered Bootledrops quantity 150 Price £12. They arrived 18 hours later. Correct product but quantity 50 (usual price £6.20). Presumably either someone had misread a bar code or something had been miscoded.

If this was a human interaction situation one would, for example,  go into the shop, explain that they had given me the correct product but the wrong package size. It would be swapped. One would leave satisfied.

Obviously in this case I would have to return them to Amazon and ask for the correct quantity. However having got as far as the return algorithm the only thing the algorithm would allow me to do in this particular case was 're-order the exact same product' (the assumption being presumably that it was damaged or faulty which didn't fit) or order another product. 

As it so happens in the 24 hours since the transaction only the 150 size was on sale on the Amazon site.

So I filled in the return form and received the appropriate QR code on the email response. 

This morning I went to the dentist. I had an X-Ray during which I had a chat with the dental practitioner who used to be a teenage best buddy of our late son, Andy. That was totally irrelevant but, wotthehellarchiewotthehell. I then went into the post office, gave the lady at the counter the package and showed the QR code.

I arrived home shortly afterwards and received an email saying [actually it wasn't saying anything but it was telling me something] that Amazon had received the item and refunded my Amazon account.  

They had.

Then I ordered the items I wanted direct from the company selling them. 

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Celebrating Life

It started with my Maternal Grandmother in 1971 at the age of 93. She died. She sat down, her heart stopped and she died. Rather like Francis Garrood's Ernest, nobody had expected it, least of all my Grandmother. 

Some years before she died she had had influenza. That was in the days when the doctor would come to the house in the middle of the night and pronounce that the climax would be in a few hours and the patient would either die or, if she got through that, the would be fine. Nana had got through it so was invincible. After that she gave instructions that no black was to be worn at her funeral.

In the nearly half a century I've lived on Lewis I have been to a great many funerals. A funeral is a very important occasion and in the earlier days a thousand people could turn up. I still wear a dark suit, black tie and, in winter, the Crombie I bought in George Henry Lee (John Lewis in Liverpool) I bought around 60 years ago. 

At my Grandmother's funeral I wore a tie of red and black tiny diamonds the overall effect of which was a muted red. At the gathering afterwards I was very publicly berated by a relative. Mores hadn't moved forward.

When our son, Andy, died in 2006, he made all the arrangements for his farewell: it was to be a celebration of his life and there was to be no mourning and nothing black. There was a Humanist celebrant: Andy was atheist. The service opened with a song by The Smashing Pumpkins. Apart from that I can recall absolutely nothing whatsoever of the day: not even where we went afterwards. Mind you it was all in London where Andy lived. 

At the beginning of this week an acquaintance of 40 or so years died. The Celebration of Life Service was held in the Salvation Army Hall. Those attending were asked to wear bright colours. Everyone made some effort - even those who probably had nothing even semi-bright in their wardrobe. I wore my bright red waistcoat, a colourful tie and no black whatsoever. She had a wonderful send-off with lots of happy moments recounted. The irony of it was that probably more people were crying than I've ever seen at any Lewis funeral before.

When I go, and like everyone else I surely shall, please make sure you are wearing a bright colour to remember me. If you're wearing black and talking of the things that await me, I shall come back and haunt you.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Football Finance

In the past I've made it quite plain that my relationship with football has been a fairly disinterested one over the last half a century.

At school I couldn't play because I had a lung disease. Unfortunately Quarry Bank, alma mater of John Lennon and many Oxbridge scholars, wasn't the sort of school that allowed you to get out of sports just because one had a lung disease and I had no choice but to play. [As an aside they would happily kick me out of lessons because my constant coughing was 'disruptive'] 

After I had had part of my lung removed when I'd left school and was reasonably fit I decided that I would become an amateur game linesman. I did and was thinking of taking my refs ticket when I became disenchanted by the way the amateur game was going.

I also became disenchanted by the way the professional game was going and I have had absolutely nothing to do with football as a sport since it became nothing more than a business (whatever many supporters dream could be otherwise). However, on odd occasions I have watched the women's game. I have been impressed. It reminded me of the football ethos in the Sixties. The game mattered. There was respect. To me the superstar era has meant that the concept of 'sport' has been totally superseded by money pure and simple: ridiculous money for 'superstars' and profits (or tax sinks) for the billionaires who finance them.

Last night's result was wonderful. It will do great things for the women's' game. 

I hope that it doesn't spiral out of control but brings some sense to the finance of sport. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Supermarket Checkouts

Recently someone in my Blogland mentioned or blogged about supermarket payment systems comparing manned and self-service tills. I think it may have arisen because of the superfast manned tills at Lidl and Aldi. I cannot recall which the person preferred but he/she was very adamant about it.

So far as supermarkets are concerned it all boils down to money. Fewer people = less cost = more profit potential. Lidl and Aldi have limited employment down to a fine art together with easily scanned bar codes and staff who work their socks off. 

So far as we, as customers, are concerned a lot is personal preference. Going through a manned checkout is rarely fast. An aside - a wonderful irony used to be that one of the fastest checkout staff in our Coop was also one of the most sociable. People would join her queue just for the craic (Gaelic - enjoyable social activity). Sometimes other staff would be free. However, if you are in a hurry with a few items self-service is invariably the fastest way out of the shop.

So far as society is concerned our Coop (which I believe is the largest in Scotland) employs a lot of staff and is an important employer. The more self-service checkouts the fewer people employed.

Amazon has gone one further with a trial shop, in London I think, which has no payment facilities at all. You register your phone when you go in and as you put something in your shopping bag it is automatically charged to your card.

Of course the fewer the staff and the greater the automation the less attention can be given to 'confused' people (usually elderly) or the disabled who need help. 

I do not look forward to a day of complete automation, I'll pay the price and help employment. Am I alone?

Saturday, 16 July 2022


The Mum of CJ and I would have been 113 years old today had she not died at the age of 93, 20 years ago. 

Flora Edith Irene started her named life by creating a family upset. Not intentionally and in fact she had no hand in the matter as she was only months old at the time. At her Christening her Godmother, Edith, when asked "What do you name this child" answered "Flora Edith Irene" adding her own name in between the family's chosen names of Flora and Irene. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with the name Edith if ever there was a person who didn't fit that name it was our Mum. She just didn't!

Flora (flowers), Irene (peace) Edith (rich gift)

Mum was a lover of peace and nature and eschewed any form of conflict and she was, of course, a rich gift for her parents. 

Mum was born into a reasonably well-off family. However Mum's Father's business was a luxury business and the slump and the war put an end to any hopes Mum had of going to Oxford (which had been her Mother's hope) which, academically, she could have done if her Father could have paid the fees.  

Mum never complained about missing uni. In fact Mum rarely if ever complained about anything and, like most people of her generation living through two world wars, she had plenty about which to complain.

We could learn a lot if we hearkened back to the time of Mum's youth. Yes. There is a huge amount of real poverty in the UK now but the privations of the slump and war were worse than most people now can even believe never mind understand and public financial assistance was not readily available. 

I managed to get this photo with no time to focus,  aim or indeed think as I walked towards Mum and she struck the pose. I had the camera at my side and just pressed the button. That it turned out was well as it did was a miracle. It is one of my favourites amongst the very many photos I took of Mum.

Friday, 15 July 2022


Over Christmas and New Year and for a while after that I was not at all well. I isolated the whole time despite never testing positive for Covid. Whether I had Covid or not I'll never know. However ever since then I've had days of extreme tiredness where functioning normally has either been a huge effort or downright impossible. Fortunately it hasn't interfered too much with my life because I'm long past the age of having to work to keep food on the table. So if The Ennui hits me I just grumble and accept it. Fortunately one has to be pretty far gone before one can share a morning with friends over coffee in The Woodlands. On the odd occasion I have simply fallen asleep I've managed to avoid falling off my chair in public and when I wake up I'm just expected to catch up with the chat. That's what it's like with true friends. 

When I cam home from hospital last week the airport security was absolutely rammed with people and they were obviously short staffed. So getting through security took the best part of an hour I reckon. My metal work and exterior plumbing is always met with consideration and good humour on both sides but it does hold things up a bit for them. Few people were wearing masks.

The plane was full and  only a few of us were wearing masks.

So a couple of days later I tested positive.

Oddly a friend travelling from a different hospital, through a different airport on a different plane arrived home on Lewis the day before me and tested positive the day before I did. 

Neither of us is particularly unwell. 

However on the too frequent 'Ennui Days' when the feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction is so strong that even thinking about making a meal is an effort, it makes me realise just how many people there are who can't just sit down and say "Bugger it!" are now having to cope with the aftermath of this disease. 

When I was flying home last week I was reminded that, however thick the clouds, the sky above them is always clear:

Wednesday, 6 July 2022


Well this isn't going to plan. 

I left home on Sunday afternoon and few to Glasgow and then, given the parlous situation with trains and busses and the fact that I was supposed to be isolating as much as possible before going into hospital, I took a taxi to Ayr and stayed the night in the Ayrshire and Galloway Hotel. It was lovely to stay in a smallish non-concrete, glass and steel box hotel. The staff (yes there were staff) were exceptionally helpful and friendly and the food was excellent. I'll not hesitate to stay there again.

The hotel is unprepossessing and at the end of Ayr High Street which, like many other town centres has, unfortunately, passed its sell-by date.

I went for a walk along its length and got the impression that more that half of the properties were empty.

I came into hospital in Ayr on Monday morning with a view to getting my uretic stent changed and being home and back in harness on Tuesday evening.

I'm still in hospital. The operation went very well. It's always good to see a surgeon who's been working on you looking happy. Mr Meddings looked delighted. So was I. He's been my saviour over the last 5 years.

On Tuesday I started off feeling fine and then went downhill with my temperature going up and my blood pressure plummeting.  I slept for 10 hours Tuesday night and woke this morning still feeling less than great. My temperature was higher again and my BP lower this morning but as I write this I'm feeling a bit more chipper and hoping, once again, that everything will sort itself out and I'll be home tomorrow. At least I'm in a hospital and have a bed. The worst possible scenario would be to be discharged and then have to end up in an A & E in another hospital. 

The oddest thing about this hospital visit has been being on a mixed ward. I recall when they were mooted many moons ago in hospitals there was a huge uproar. Women wouldn't be able to cope with men in the same room in hospital circumstances. As it happens I'm the only man on this ward. No one batted an eyelid when I was wheeled in. There doesn't seem to be any fuss on any side.

The one thing I have discovered though is that men and women discuss completely different things on my small sample of mixed wards. Women don't talk about football. Men don't talk about their operations or procedures. Women, where they can, race for a shower in the morning. Men don't. Men and women are equally squeamish about having blood removed and needles stuck in them. Men keep asking when they can get out. Women don't. Women are very friendly on the ward and interact a lot (including with the man). Men tend to look for some common acquaintances or past connection with others in the ward and if there isn't one then then football takes over.

I'm feeling a lot better. Hopefully I'll be home tomorrow. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

A Friend Stayed

I have just taken a friend to the plane for her journey home to Glasgow. We've known each other a couple of years shy of half a century.  It's a very comfortable relationship. Sue and her late husband had lived here on Lewis until 2006 but our friendship remains as close as ever. 

During the last week we have been blessed by a few days with stunning weather and we made the most of it to see some of the Island's scenes and beaches that we tend to take for granted.

Garry Sands

Traigh Mhor

Uig Sands

Uig Sands

Cliff Bay

Plus a walk in the Castle Grounds

We also enjoyed plenty of good food and the occasional (as in 5.30pm is an occasion) gin and tonic.

The television hasn't been on for a week. After dinner (by which I mean around 9pm) we played Rummy or dominoes. Unfortunately for me I managed to win only one of the evenings. C'est la vie. 

Saturday, 25 June 2022

The American Language

Why are we in the UK so hung up on the use of British English versus the use of American English?

In Shakespeare's time English was totally different to that used today. There was no 'am ...ing', 'is ...ing' or 'are ...ing'. If you read Shakespeare you will read "I go." not "I am going". That's a pretty fundamental change in our language. That's before I start on all the other 'archaic' words and forms of a language as written 400 years ago. I'm sure that there are many books written on this paragraph's subject alone.

No one holds a candle for a return to Shakespearean or even Victorian English. 

Years ago someone very close to me was appointing a new PA. He offered the job to an existing employee who happened to be American. He made the appointment conditional on the person ceasing to use the term "trash can" for the waste paper basket. On her first day in the job when he arrived at the office, in the centre of his blotting pad was a small treatise on the origin of the term "trash can". As you have probably guessed it was originally a British term.  

There are also many American words in daily use in the English language which originated in America bur are generally accepted in the UK. Some examples are: commuter, double-decker, do-gooder come immediately to mind as do many words of native American derivation. Examples being: avocado, barbecue, cannibal, chocolate, husky, kayak, jaguar, opossum, potato, quinine, squash and tobacco. However my all time favourite is mugwump. I'm sure I did a blog post about that many moons ago.

I recently mentioned Wordle. Some people in the UK really have got their knickers in a twist because the game - owned and published by the New York Times - uses American spellings for some words. 

I think that it's about time that we on this side of the pond stopped being so precious about our strange, and often bizarre, spellings.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Scruples and Empire

Great Britain (the title of England, Wales and Scotland in use since 1474) is getting to the end of its credible life. It is, indeed, true that in world terms Britain was great and had the largest empire ever (in terms of land area). Once upon a time it was true that “The sun never sets on the British Empire,” because the empire consisted of colonies all over the world. After World War II, British imperialism began to wane as the United Kingdom granted independence to most of its colonial possessions. 

Britain's wealth and place in the world came as a result of its power and the fact that it subjugated or conquered so much of the world. Britain was great and few could deny that. During the last 70 years we have still been amongst the countries in the world with a major say in, and influence on, world affairs.

However reality has now to be faced and whilst Britain leads the world in many areas it is no longer an imperial player and it has to accept that size matters. The USA and Chinese blocs may fight it out and the economic might of the European Economic Community will be a massive player but Britain, despite its residual economic power and its armed forces and, of course, being a nuclear power, is no longer the great power that it once was.  At present we are in danger of becoming irrelevant and, worse still a laughing stock.

Why? Well, amongst many other reasons, we withdrew from the EC. So we think we can do as we please but have no clout against a bloc of such powerful nations. We are no longer of any use to the US as an insider in Europe. I should not be surprised if The Commonwealth slowly (possibly speedily) ceases to exist as we become less and less relevant to the individual countries involved. Indeed when Queen Elizabeth ceases to be monarch a huge emotional Commonwealth loyalty will disappear. 

However, whilst all these mighty issues march on, Great Britain is free to reconsider its use of the Metric System and revert to the post 1826 Imperial weights and measures (previously or otherwise known as the English System). 

It is this latter possible debate that brings me to consider whether there is any chance that there might be any situation where our Government and Downing Street in particular considers the return of the scruple.

NOTE. For those unaware of Britain's former weights and measures a 'scruple' was a small amount of something equivalent to 20 grains used in the system of apothecaries' weight used by pharmacists. In plain English a 'scruple' is a sense of right and wrong that keeps a person from doing something bad or a feeling of guilt from doing something bad.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Wonderful hens?

Well that's one way to start the day. I ate two of my wonderful neighbour's hens' eggs. By which I mean my wonderful neighbour. I have no idea whether her hens are wonderful. Firstly I have never seen them because they live on her croft up the road behind loads of trees. Secondly I couldn't tell a wonderful hen from any other sort. I'm rather glad she doesn't have room for them in the garden next door. If she did have room and they did live there, they would come foraging into my garden and do even more damage to my plants than the dreadful cold winds over the last few days have done.

The journey down on a beautiful Sunday had been driving hell and took well over an hour longer driving time than usual. I returned from Glasgow on Friday with little traffic. I crossed The Minch yesterday evening on a ferry full of vehicles but with the area I usually sit in virtually empty. Given that I was almost the last car on and therefore almost the last passenger upstairs I was fortunate and got 'my' usual table. Despite the southerly gale the ferry crossing wasn't too bad.

I was down for my final drugs trial review. The trial is now over. It's been a great success and I'm still on the drug but the NHS is now paying. The best news for me, though, is that I shall remain under the care of the Oncology Prof who looked after me during the Trial. My visits to The Beatson will be fewer for reviews and scans but the intermediate interviews will continue but by phone or video. My August appointment is already in the diary.

My relatively short time in Glasgow was partly because I wasn't having scans and partly because Anna went to the opera in Glyndebourne and partly because I was very anxious not to leave my garden for too long despite neighbourly help watering etc. 

I left Lewis after the best day of the year so far on Lewis and arrived home to wind and rain. The photo is me getting ready to feed the birds this morning

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Scots (Language)

I happened to say to my brother this morning that I'd got myself into a bit of a fankle. It's a stoater of a word and I use it frequently and have done for as long as I can remember. CJ remarked that it was a wonderfully descriptive word. I commented that it was like so many Scots words that I use and hear used on an every-day basis. It made me realise just how many Scots words there are that fall into that category but which are not every-day words even in other parts of the UK. 

I am assuming that everyone can imagine what 'fankle' means. Can you? Do you use the word outside Scotland?

Dreich (dreek - but the k is gutteral) is another adjective and it's used to describe dreary, bleak weather but no words really describe it better than it sounds.

Having started this it occurs to me that I could go on for ages just with the words that I know and I'm sure there are many hundreds or even thousands more. I'll mention a few more favourites that come to mind.

Wabbit (as in rabbit. Although posh people I'm told say wahbit) is used if one is slightly unwell or in low spirits or 'under the weather'.

Scunnered  is a feeling of revulsion or loathing although many people just use it to mean 'fed up'.

Gallus is a word one doesn't hear very often. I have a friend (of my generation) who calls herself Gallus Lass so obviously regards it as a Good Thing (thank you, Sellars and Yeatman). Generally it means forthright or bold or possibly cheeky. I think a lot depends on the context.

Finally 'stoater' which I used in the first paragraph. I think it's principally a Glasgow dialect Scots word used to to mean it's a great example, fantastic, excellent. It's not to be confused with Scots, 'stotter' which means to stumble.

I would be really interested to hear what 'unusual' words you may have from where you live - or anywhere else for that matter.

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.