Sunday 10 December 2023

The Elephant in The Room

A number of people in Blogland and also in my personal life have recently been commenting on the fact that we are all getting older and some of us are getting to the stage when there is one helluva lot more behind us than we can look forward to.

Although few of us mention it, many of my friends deep down wonder not so much how long we are going to live but how much longer we are going to function effectively physically, and in many ways far more importantly, mentally. As more and more people I know succumb to dementia of one type or another it is the condition that we all dread but all pretend is something that happens to other people. It is the untalked about elephant in the room.

My Dad was born in 1907 on 11 December so this would be his 116th birthday (and if I have the maths wrong I'm sure someone will tell me). He died at the age of 94.

I've blogged about him on a few occasions because he was a wonderful father and a lovely person.

Today's post is a little story from the last week or so of his life when he had been admitted to a nursing home as an emergency patient with chronic heart failure which meant that he was unable even to raise his hand to his mouth to give himself a drink.

On being told of his admission I drove down from the Hebrides to Liverpool and went straight to the nursing home.

Just after I arrived a Social Worker also arrived and was shown into the room. She introduced herself and said that she had come to assess my father for his suitability for the facility. 

She then started  with the usual questions "Do you know where you are and what time it is?" and so on. At that point I interjected and pointed out that this was a bizarre line of questioning for someone who was virtually blind, had no access to a clock, a radio or anything else and could not read a newspaper even if he had one and that I, who did but who had just driven from the Hebrides couldn't tell her the date, time or even what day it was.  

After she and I had exchanged a few more sentences Dad interjected:

"For heaven's sake you two!" "The date is...the day is... We had lunch about an hour ago. They presumably serve it around 1230. So it's probably about 1.30. The date is X (I never did know how on earth he knew that), and you are probably going to ask me who is on the throne and who the Prime Minister is etc etc." He then went on to answer the questions he had presumed would be asked. 

At the end of all that the Social Worker turned to me and said "Well that is you and I truly put in our place", put down her papers and started have a proper conversation with Dad and I. 

I keep clinging to the hope that as both my parents at the age of 94 and 93 had all their mental faculties there may be hope for me now that I've entered my eightieth year. 

(OK How many of you - apart from Bob if he read this - checked my maths?)

Friday 8 December 2023

Dr Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Zephaniah has never played a large part in my life although I do know of him and some of his poetry. A large part of his persona known to me was his delivery of his poetry. 

He was also a truly amazing representative of the Human Race. If one wants to read about the overcoming of adversity from leaving school illiterate to having many doctorates then I would recommend the Wikipedia entry.

Like almost everyone in the piece of land called 'Great Britain' he was British but.....

And here I was going to quote in support of a favorite theme of mine a poem of his entitled 'The British'. It's not a poem that I could quote so I Googled it and discovered that YP had already written a post about him and included the relevant poem. So I am not going to repeat it but include a link  to YP's post.

I have always avoided political and, on the whole, controversial subjects on this blog because there are other forums for arguments. However, if ever there was a person who overcame every single adversity with which he was born then Benjamin Zephaniah was one of the most shining example of which I can think.

Perhaps one of his most amusing poems is Talking Turkeys:

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos’ turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don’t eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I’m on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.

Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
‘I cannot wait for de chop’,
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.

I once knew a turkey called…Turkey
He said “Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?”,
I said “I am not too sure turkey
But itÕs nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash’.

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey’ll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends ‘FOR LIFE’.

Friday 17 November 2023


Everton Football Club has been 'fined' 10 points by the (English) Football Association for financial overspending. This puts Everton into the relegation zone.  They are by no means the only club facing such sanctions.

Do I care? Of course I don't, even though as a schoolboy I was an Everton supporter.

However, I do despair that with the atrocities in Israel and Gaza and the war in Ukraine both (and everything else of importance) have been knocked off the evening news top spot in favour of the punishment of a football club.

Thursday 9 November 2023

The Old Shop, Bayble

Yesterday afternoon I did a shift in The Old Shop, Bayble. I had rather assumed that I had blogged about it before but, if I have, it's not coming up in any searches. The Old Shop, Bayble is a not-for-profit community association, staffed entirely by volunteers. Any profits go to support local community projects.

The aim is to contribute to community life by keeping a much-loved historic building in community use, helping to reduce waste and show-casing locally produced crafts and many other interesting and unusual items.

A mixture of new speciality goods, eco products, crafts and "nice things to buy" as well as quality used clothes and other items you might find in a charity shop/op shop/goodwill store are available to buy.

You can also enjoy a cup of freshly ground coffee and 'home made' cakes and treats. A range of fine teas and ever-popular ices and vegan sweets are also available. 

A small sample of some of the beautiful woodturning and wood products of one of the volunteers

Wednesday 25 October 2023


In a recent post Rachel made the point that, for her, 'One Task a Day is Enough'. Obviously when Rachel talks about 'one task' she is talking about something that is consuming of time and energy both physical and mental. 

Unlike many people I know and admire I have never been single-minded in anything.  Eleven years ago (I really can't believe that it's that far in the past) I wrote a post about ARADD (Age Related Attention Deficit Disorder) with a very amusing video. It was entitled 'Just a Thought'. Only one of my regular commenters today commented then so it may be worth a wee look although many of you will, I'm sure, have seen the video.

My latest visitor, Anna, has returned home after ten days here when we spent most of our time socialising, walking (when Storm Babet let us) and generally having an enjoyable and relaxing time and we got some gardening done too. Unlike many of my readers once I'm engrossed in looking after guests, I can't usually find time to blog and may only read blogs without commenting. 

So this morning was a day for catching up with laundry, ironing and housework and so on with a wee excursion at coffee time into Blogland. 

This afternoon I'm doing my stint in the Old Shop, Bayble. I've never blogged about it so I'll do that shortly. It's very quiet and very cold!

I've spent a lot of this evening on the telephone.

I was going to say that I have no idea how some of you fill your days with so much and still blog. But many of you are organised of mind and body and it is obvious from the fact that you can build a house or do a day's work at the office, feed the family etc etc and still keep us all up to date that you can concentrate properly on things as you go and thus achieve many things in a day.

I struggle to think and chew gum simultaneously. No. I'm not being self-deprecating nor modest. I am just someone who knows my abilities and limitations and lives with them. I have other strengths but concentrating on one thing at a time is not one of them. 

As a result this simple post has been written over a period of 14 hours. 

Anyway be happy and, above all, wake up tomorrow.

Tuesday 10 October 2023


I'm not really a 'pet person'. I kept mice and later white rats when I was a child and admired them for their characters and intelligence. They lived in very large cages and had pretty good lives with lots to do considering that they were in captivity. The rats were incredibly smart and worked out how to open the hasp and staple door lock by removing the peg. 

I inherited a cat at one stage. I can't remember his name but he was generally known as BP (short for Big Puss because of his considerable size). He died of kidney failure just a few days before my first trip to New Zealand. He probably knew something was up. He was at least 16. Until then he's never been to the vet apart from innoculations etc in early life.  When he came into my house for the first time and tried to come into my bedroom I said 'No' firmly and put him outside the bedroom door. For the rest of the many years he lived here he would lie down at the bedroom door but he never crossed the threshold.

Big Puss aka BP

However the piece de resistance of an animal outsmarting me was a border collie named Bobby whom I looked after for a friend  while he was away. I'd been given instructions on his walk routines and routes (he lived nearby) and at the allotted times he would sit at the front door and wait to go for his walk. He would walk to the intersections to see which way we were going on any particular day and the second he got an indication he was off. It was all very organised and routine for the first two walks on Day 1.

However, at 5pm on the dot he was again by the door and indicating that it was walk time. So I assumed I'd not understood my instructions and this walk was repeated when he went to the door at 5pm each day.   I never did understand how he knew the time down to the minute for each walk. I don't have any such routines so it was all a bit alien to me.

On the day when his owner was due home we were on the 5pm walk when his master returned in his car. He said it was very good of me to add in an extra walk but he hoped Bobby wasn't going to expect this in future because he wouldn't be home from work to give him it.

I could almost see Bobby grinning from ear to ear at having completely outwitted me.

I've never trusted an animal since!

Saturday 7 October 2023

An Interesting Flight

Many many moons ago in the '70s I was flying from Stornoway to Glasgow on a Vickers Viscount (a four-engined turbo prop passenger plane).

It was a fabulous day and the Captain announced that we were flying towards Fingal's Cave (Fingal's Cave is a sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, known for its natural acoustics and made popular in music by Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture.).  He went on to say that he was going to make a low pass and that passengers on the port side would get a really good view.  He then went on to ask passengers not to all crowd over to the port side or we would tip the plane over.

It was a really low slow pass which I'm sure would not have been countenanced by the Powers That Be.

However, he got a rousing cheer of thanks from his passengers and I think everyone on board would have retold that story many times.

In this risk-averse world where such actions could not be hidden or overlooked because of modern monitoring in and outwith the plane such experiences are unlikely. I think the world is a sadder place as a result.

Monday 2 October 2023

On Not Being Important

When I was 4. I used to go to Sunday School. It was fun. I thought. We sat in inward facing circles with children of our own age with about six children in each circle with space for a 'teacher'.

One Sunday we were singing a hymn. I have no idea which one but presumably one suitable for young children. At some point I opened my eyes and realised that no-one in my circle was singing except me. So I stopped singing.

When we finished The Teacher leading the Sunday School called me up to the front of the hall. My circle was one of the nearest to her so I didn't have very far to go.

"Why did you stop singing?" she asked me.

"Because everyone was looking at me." was my lame, but I assume truthful, reply.

"What makes you think you are that important?" she responded and sent me back to my seat.

That was about 75 years ago and I can remember it as if it had happened yesterday. 

It was an unspeakably cruel thing to do do to a child that age and at the time it stung and made me self conscious and, of course, made me the butt of teasing for a good while.

On reflection though it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. I rarely get embarrassed when something potentially embarrassing happens to me  I automatically remember her words and realise that, in reality, no one is looking at me. Everyone is far too concerned with their own world. 

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Act in Haste

...and repent at leisure. 

I volunteer, when I can, to do a shift in a local community interest charity/opshop/thrift shop which has at its roots a desire to assist low-impact living. Perhaps I might blog about that another time.

Today a delightful couple came in for coffee and tea. She had local connections and she and I had a chat while he was otherwise engaged. He is a retired clergyman. He said they lived in Inverness.

On their way out there was a discussion about the fact that I was "not from here".  Although I suspect that I have lived here longer than they did given that I'm not far short of having lived on Lewis for half a century.

He then asked if he could preach me a short sermon. I declined the offer, gracefully I hope. There was an ensuing discussion as to why I'd declined his offer during which, of course, I refused to be drawn. He said that I had obviously seen The Darkness and not The Light.

Since that occurrence an hour or so ago I have been asking myself why I did that. What would it have cost me to just accept? I would not have created the possibility of him losing face in front of his wife. He could have gone away a happier man having felt that he had helped another sinner on his way to salvation.

"Act in haste and repent at leisure." is believed to have been adapted from the proverbial saying first expressed in print by William Congreve in 1692. It's been around a long time. I wish that I had remembered it earlier.

Sunday 24 September 2023

Punctuation Day

Today is Punctuation Day. 

Quoting from Brian Bilston's book Days Like These "Punctuation Day, which occurs annually on this date, is a day on which pedants come together to criticise the punctuation and spelling of others, as they do on all other days. Things can become rather heated in the process, with arguments often spilling over into violence. This has led to colons being extracted, infinitives split, bullet points fired, and commas inverted. And for the improper use of ellipses...

He follows that, as he does for every day of the year, with a poem. Today's is entitled "Greengrocers Apostrophe's: and other Punctuation".  It is an amusing read as are most of his daily poems.  

It made me think, though, that the subject of sloppy and just plain erroneous punctuation seems to have fallen off the agenda.  

I wonder if anyone these days even remembers Lynne Truss's book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"?

Does anyone know if punctuation is taught in schools nowadays?

Does anyone care about punctuation any more? 

Friday 22 September 2023

The Drive Home

Many of you may already have seen and even viewed the return journey from Gisla. If not, here it is.

If you want to avoid the bits you have already seen, albeit going the other way so the view is quite different, then at 11mins 30 seconds into the journey, when you come down into the first roundabout in Stornoway just after the 30 mile per hour speed limit starts, you can get the journey through Stornoway and out to my house in the sticks.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Blogger - Spam - Again!

Well I have caught Blogger well and truly this time.

I have become fastidious in checking my 'Comments' folders ever since comments I was certain had been posted and had not been there previously have suddenly appeared later. I have just completed today's check. It contained amongst other comments:

which is dated 23 August.  So I went to the 23 August post and found:

Which shows, pretty conclusively I think, that Blogger is now removing random comments from old/previous posts and placing them in 'Spam' and, presumably, heaven knows where else.

I've now removed the comment from Spam and, guess what, it's back where it belongs.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

A Drive Across Lewis

Over the years I have been asked by many to publish more photos of the Islands and I've tried to oblige. One aspect of living somewhere for half a century is that, as a general rule, I don't stop and take photos because when I'm travelling I'm usually going somewhere as compared with travelling as a tourist to view the scenery. I just accept it and take it in and be thankful for the beauty around me.

However whilst an old friend was alive in recent years I travelled across the Island every week to visit her. One day it occurred to me that the dashcam footage could be made into a YouTube video. Not by me but Adrian (who many of you will remember) is a real whiz at this sort of thing. So he offered to do the video for me.

The journey itself takes a while and could be very boring so what Adrian has done is speed the footage (is it now called meterage?) up. So please note that I was NOT exceeding the speed limit and travelling at rocket speed in some parts. 

This is just the journey from The Woodlands where I spend so much time with friends drinking coffee to Gisla. There is another video of the return journey which includes the 7 miles from town to Eagleton. 

I'm sure that most of you will know that to view the video in full screen you can tick the wee square in the bottom right of the YouTube front page.

Sunday 10 September 2023

Cookery Books

This morning I read Jabblog's post about about cookery books and the collection or otherwise thereof.

I was married to a lady who was a superb cook and hostess (and mother for that matter). After we were married my wife announced that she would do the cooking and the ironing and I would do the housework.  I asked if that was negotiable and the reply was in the negative. Having said that I can't say that I did all the housework all the time.  However, I was not allowed into the kitchen to cook. 

So when we separated I had to rely on what knowledge I had gathered and cookery books. I was fortunate in that my Mother believed in her children being taught all the elementary aspects of running a house including cooking. I thoroughly enjoyed cooking and a dinner party for 12 (the maximum my table can take) held no fear whatsoever and as people kept accepting invitations I assume that they were reasonably happy with the results.

As for cookery books, like any other subject in which I became engrossed, I collected many. Very many. Far too many. Indeed a few years ago I had a massive cull of my bookshelves and, despite a few recent purchases including "Bosh" I only have 21 now (just counted!).  Having said that most of the time when I want to try something new now I search the internet for ideas and rely on my books for old favourites. In addition I have a folder with favourite recipes and tips in it and I also keep quite a lot of recipes on my computer.

The Hamlyn Books were my originals and I still refer to them. By far the most important at one time when I was doing a lot of dinner parties was "50 Great Curries of India". I learned a lot about curries but they can take days to make and I rarely make them from scratch now.  I've kept the book though because my late son gave it to me because, I think, he was friendly with the author's son. 

Whilst writing this post I thought I'd see just how popular cookery books are these days. The answer according to Google is that a great many are written and published. and bought - many probably as presents. Many end up in Charity Shops and apparently some are used. 

Thursday 7 September 2023

Friendships and Safaris

I have been one of the luckiest people on this planet in so many ways. Today I was reminded of one of the things which makes that true for me. My life in New Zealand and the wonderful friendships I made there: many of which endure today albeit, for most of them, at a distance.

I started a New Zealand blog because my UK friends and family kept wanting to know what I was up to. The blog was more a diary than anything else. Which, in many ways was how this blog started off.

One day (I can't remember the details) because I had never been up to Northland a fellow blogger suggested that if I went up there she would show me around. It sounded like an opportunity far too good to miss. So on 11 December 2009 I pitched up at Whangerei Airport having made absolutely no arrangements apart from a return flight. I was sure that my fellow blogger would know the most appropriate hotel etc where I could stay. 

The person concerned turned out to be both a superb tour guide and real 'people person' so my natural shyness which can manifest itself in so many different ways completely evaporated. 

We drove out to the Whangerei Heads and I saw a New Zealand that I'd never seen before. It is a country of many many different geographical, geophysical and human personas. I was loving the new sights and the commentary and the company.

By the time we got back to Whangerei it was getting on a bit and I wondered about accommodation. But my hostess just kept on driving....and driving... into the wilds of Northland.  Until we reached her home. Just as it had never occurred to me that someone I had never met except via our mutual blog comments was going to house me for the stay it had obviously never occurred to her that she wouldn't be offering hospitality. 

And so started a truly wonderful friendship with a number of safaris in Northland, Hawkes Bay, Lewis and Harris and the Scottish Highlands. 

What made me think of this today? Pauline's post here.

My first view from the plane of the 'Uppity Downities' although I didn't know that at the time

Whangerei Heads

My first Northland Coffee at Reva's in Whangerei

Reva's Café, Whangerei

The Vodafone Mast on The Uppity Downities - the locator beacon so I knew where I was.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Travelling (A bit of a waffle)

This post was originally inspired by Jayne's post here.  However since then Jayne has posted with more adventures and some of her commenters have added very much to the discussion. Jayne has also added a post Going it Alone. which is a guide to travelling by camper-van alone.

All in all the whole question of travel is so significant in many of our lives that books rather than simple blog posts have been written on the subject. 

It made me realise that we travel for different purposes: work (when I was a young man the 'commercial traveller' was often the most-travelled person I knew);  relaxation and exercise (YP and my Munro-bagging son immediately come to mind); to visit friends, family, second homes and so on; to go on holiday to (often far-away) places for rest and relaxation; and then there is travel undertaken for the pure pleasure of being a tourist. 

When I was a youngster most of my travelling was to spend a fortnight in a country cottage somewhere in Wales or The English Lake District to go walking and visit anything of interest that we could find in the area. Generally most people were not well-travelled unless they were wealthy. Most people when I was young had two or at most three weeks holiday a year. In the UK that would generally be considered derisory today.

Much of my 'travelling' as an adult has simply been driving or flying from home to Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Balearics or Canada and Australia  to stay with friends or stay somewhere on holiday. Ultimately I flew between my home in Scotland and my home in New Zealand for 9 years. In the grammatically correct use of the word all this was travelling.  

However, in reality, the journey was not the point of the exercise. It was simply a means of getting from home to where I was staying. On the other hand I have travelled to and around some of those countries and California, Australia and New Zealand as a tourist a well.

When I was a young man I read the Russian novels with ardent enthusiasm. A friend and I (he became a Church of England priest) planned to go to Russia but I met my wife and got married instead. I never did get to see Russia although I got a taste of what it might have been like when I visited East Germany before the fall of The Berlin Wall.

I'm conscious of the fact that this has been rather a waffle but I'm genuinely interested to know what makes people travel and who travels simply for the experience of travelling rather than, say, business or visiting family.

A few photos of me being a tourist in South Island, New Zealand:

Hele-hiking on a glacier

From a helicopter above the glacier

Flying over whales.

The Chain sculpture, Stewart Island (the most southerly inhabited Island in the New Zealand chain)


Saturday 26 August 2023



I just read Red's post about exceeding the speed limit.

I'm obsessed by a fear of exceeding the speed limit. It's something that has been with me almost ever since I started to drive on the roads at the age of 16 when I had a 50cc Vespa called The Hippogryph. 

When I was in my late teens or early 20s I went on a police driving course for civilian drivers. It was incredibly instructive and I still have my copy of 'Roadcraft' the Police Driver's Manual although many of the techniques from those days are no longer relevant. Who, for example, can still double de-clutch (my car now is an automatic anyway) or uses hand signals?

However the thing that stuck in my mind more than anything else were the images of the damage to a child being hit by a vehicle at different speeds. It was gruesome and those images have lived with me for ever. 

If I killed a child who ran out into the road I'd not be able to live with myself. The idea of going to prison is, however, very real deterrent too. 

The "It can never happen to me" principle is not one that I have ever subscribed to.  Too many things that 'could never happen to me' have happened to me! 

Another thing many people fail to realise is that they must declare all speeding penalties to their insurance company and failure to do so could nullify their policy. It can also lead to an increase in premiums.

* this was the slogan of an anti-speeding television campaign in New Zealand which has stuck with me.

Wednesday 23 August 2023


Over the last two years I have lost four gloves. However I have only lost the right hand glove on each occasion. It is infuriating to say the least. In each case I kept the remaining glove. Statistically each time one loses a glove there is a 50% chance of losing either glove. However after 4 attempts I cannot believe that it is the right hand glove in each case. I shall now throw the blue ones away but I shall keep the leather gloves on the grounds that next time....... An irony is that prior to these losses I've always worn my gloves out and thrown them away - never lost them.

Saturday 19 August 2023

Plus ça change

My visitor has gone. I'm back in Blogland. This time I may never catch up with previous posts but hopefully I'll at least find out how everyone is. 

Wendy from my New Zealand family was alone this time for the first time. Having 'family' staying is very different to having visitors and, as I put her on my car insurance, Wendy was free to go and visit friends whist I could catch up in the garden and polycarb. Of course we have lots of friends in common too and visited or met for coffee. It was strange to be a passenger in my own car and very relaxing.  

We've had some fabulous weather (including yesterday and the previous day when Wendy flew to her Mother's in Edinburgh) and some not so good. However this morning I woke to very strong winds, heavy rain and wild sea. 

Heavy sea and strong wind from my kitchen window

I was just about to rail against such weather in August when I decided, instead, to see what I'd posted about 10 years ago on this day. What a coincidence. I was posting about the gales in August.

Well I'm not intending to go out today. I went to the postbox and posted a birthday card, Yesterday I did my shopping for Sunday dinner - friends are coming - and visiting and my Saturday morning coffee date is off to Sicily for a few days.  The weather will probably prevent any gardening.  

Post script: A couple of hours after the previous photo above:

Saturday 29 July 2023


Thank you all for your supportive comments on my last post. It really did make a difference and I didn't feel so alone. I will respond to all the comments individually but I thought I'd update everyone just now. 

I managed to get onto the freight ferry. There was room for six cars. I had stood at the door of the office (which opens at 1am) since 0030 which was a good move because everyone else turned up not long after. 

However the day had been far from smooth. There had been a serious crash on the A9 (which closed it for 5 hours) requiring a detour on the old A9. Unfortunately in places 2 HGVs (very big lorries) cannot easily pass in many places and the 15 mile detour took 3 hours. So when I arrived in Ullapool I'd been driving for nearly 8 hours. 

I arrived in Ullapool and parked up at about 2200hrs. 

The relief when I got the booking was colossal and I went back to the car and fell asleep until we boarded. Seeing the ship with only 6 cars' passengers was really weird. Of course there was no catering or anything else. I then slept until we arrived in Stornoway. 

As we were about to leave the vessel one of the staff told us that Lewis had had a power failure during the night and they couldn't get the linkspan to work. So we were stuck on board for a further hour.

I always look for a positive in everything: at least by 0630 the supermarket was open for milk and bread. 

I arrived home and slept. Woke mid-morning and emptied the car. Slept all afternoon. Shopped in the quiet of the evening so that I'd not have to shop on a busy Saturday morning. 

Today has been catch-up day with folk and in the garden and polycarb which ran amok whilst I was away. 

Now it's 9pm and when I've published this I'm going to sit in the living room and perhaps answer yesterday's comments and perhaps chill out for an hour if there is anything on the television.

Thursday 27 July 2023

Travel Update

I was supposed to be home and on Tuesday.  Instead I ended up in the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow in agony. Problem solved and a couple of nights in hospital and I was released late yesterday afternoon after a wait for most of the day for my medication. 

On Monday I rang CALMAC to tell them that I would not be on the sailing on Tuesday evening and could I move to the Thursday evening sailing. No more room until the 2 August.  WHAT? If one lives on Lewis one cannot get back home for 7 days!  

The implications of that could be colossal for lots of people. It could be a serious problem for me because I have commitments as well as no clean clothes nor enough of my medication (the cancer medication is not generally available on prescription nor in any pharmacy) nor of my 'external plumbing' stuff.  Why did I chose this occasion to break the habit of a lifetime and travel light?

Apart from that a hotel or other accommodation in Scotland in the middle of the holidays is impossible or prohibitive anyway. 

My son is away on the mainland but I do have friends and neighbours who will look after watering the vegetables in the polycarb and garden, the birds and so on.    

What if I had a job to go to? As it is I have missed a funeral, medical appointments and a civic reception at which a friend of nearly half a century is to be awarded the Freedom of The Western Isles. In the greater scheme of things none of that matters.

What matters to me as I write this is at lunchtime on Thursday 27 July is that I just want to be home!

I'm about to drive up to Ullapool and try and get on the Freight ferry at 3am tomorrow. 

Please wish me luck. 

Sunday 23 July 2023

Dressing for Bed

“Would you like some pyjamas instead of the hospital gown?”  Asked the nurse when I was going for my shower the morning after my operation. 

This seemingly innocuous question then sparked a discussion on nightwear no one had anticipated. 

Once I left my parents' home I vowed never again to wear pyjamas. What I really dislike is not pyjamas <i>per se</i> but what they represent which is getting formally dressed to go to bed. 

When I was young in the Forties and Fifties and even the Sixties to some extent, of course we lived in cold houses heated by a coal fire or a gas fire or an electric fire in the main rooms. Bedrooms were invariably freezing in the winter. 

Conversely in the summer I recall the house being unbearably hot at bedtime on occasions. 

So when I left home I ditched my pyjamas for good. However, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospital over the years and one can hardly wear nothing but one’s birthday suit in hospital. Apart from anything, approaching 80 years of age the human body is rarely a thing of beauty. 

So I have always worn the far more comfortable hospital gown. 

Anyway we had a good laugh and a discussion on who did and who did not sleep in their birthday suit. And I got my gown.

I'm now out of hospital and back at Anna's. Home on Tuesday. 

(Apologies to those who read this yesterday. I didn't realise that the font size had changed from normal to tiny. Yet another Blogger mystery.)

Thursday 20 July 2023

Catching Up (BP Warning)

I'm sitting in a car showroom waiting area in Glasgow. I'll be here for a couple of hours. My car is having it's annual service, checkup and sat nav update. If I'm lucky the car will have been washed as well. Having just driven down from Lewis yesterday it's a tad dirty. Not that that concerns me overmuchly. There seem to be two sorts of car owner that I know of: those who look after their car but so long as the dirt hasn't significantly altered the weight of the car (and thus the fuel consumption) and those who are fanatical about their car(s). I am definitely the former and my next door neighbour and my son are definitely the latter. It's not just a man thing, by the way, my next door neighbour is a lady. Don't misunderstand though: my car is meticulously looked after mechanically. 

I like moments such as this. There are no pressures: no garden, no house distractions and, indeed nothing to do other than read (but there is nowhere to buy a paper between where I am staying and the garage) or write letters or play on my phone or laptop. There is a comfy waiting area and as much coffee as I can drink.

Oddly a few weeks ago I started a post entitled "A Trip To Gisla". Every week I used to drive on a Thursday morning to a wee place of perhaps 6 houses on the other side of the Island to visit a friend of nearly half a century who was in her ninetees. However before I came away I had an exceptionally full couple of weeks and my weekly routine altered as well because my friend died: peacefully in her sleep. The previous day I had had a lovely visit. Although frail my friend had a mind as sharp as a tack. We had had a longer than usual reminisce. So her demise was a significant surprise. 

I had started the post trip post because YP has been suggesting for a long time that I show more pictures of the beautiful Island on which I live. After a particularly beautiful drive I saved my dash-cam footage but it will need a lot of editing before it's ready for posting. 

I'm away for a routine operation at the moment and then I have a New Zealand 'Family' member visiting and then other friends of many years staying so this might be a thing for afterwards.

(PS: BP is short for Boring Post).

Friday 7 July 2023

World Chocolate Day

World Chocolate Day celebrates the anniversary of chocolate's introduction to Europe in 1550. The day was established in 2009. On this day, candy stores and local suppliers offer their best chocolate treats for people of all ages to enjoy. Leastways that's what Google told me.

Today is World Chocolate Day.

Until today I had never heard of World Chocolate Day.

Having just read up on the subject I have discovered that other Chocolate Day celebrations exist, such as National Chocolate Day in the United States on 28 October. The U.S. National Confectioners Association lists 13 September as International Chocolate Day, coinciding with the birth date of Milton S. Hershey (September 13, 1857). Ghana, the second largest producer of cocoa, celebrates Chocolate Day on February 14. In Latvia, World Chocolate Day is celebrated on July 11.

I love chocolate. How can anyone not?

However I will not be celebrating World Chocolate Day any more that I celebrate World Football Day (December 10th); International Joke Day (July 1st); International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism as and when Conducive to Terrorism (February 12): International Day of Happiness (March 20).

I could go on and if anyone is eager to see what day it is on any particular day then HERE is a good place to start.  

So far as I am concerned there are 365 or 366 Chocolate Days and as for the rest.....I didn't know about them before and I'm not really sure that I need to know about them now.

Tuesday 4 July 2023

Instant Gratification

This post disappeared. I have absolutely no idea how it happened.

The comments are still there however. 

I'll try and find the original but if anyone has it I'd be grateful if the could send it to me.

Sunday 25 June 2023

Coffee and Strawberries

Last year I grew my strawberries outside. Big mistake. The blackbirds get up at first light. Given that during the strawberry season we don't have total darkness at all 'first light' for a blackbird means anything after 0330. So I never saw any of my strawberries and attempts at covering them were futile. Anyway I like blackbirds and I forgave them.

This year I grew them in the polycarb from last year's plants. Everything seemed to be going well. They were not huge but were fairly plentiful and very very tasty. I ate many of them with a box of rather luscious chocs I was given for my birthday. I limited myself to one choc per day. The strawberry harvest lasted about 3 weeks worth of coffees. The chocs were supplemented by my favourite chocolate orange segments.

However the strawberries suddenly stopped growing much bigger than a large pea. They appeared healthy but were throwing out runners at an alarming rate. So a few days ago I trimmed them all back and decided to leave them for next year. In the meantime I bought another 5 plants of various varieties to see if I could get a second crop. When I asked about a second crop I discussed with the owner of the market garden the fact that my crop had suddenly come to a rather unexpected end. "Ah! You're growing them in a polycarbonate tunnel are you?" Indeed I am.  Apparently it's been far too hot for "indoor" strawberries the last few weeks. Despite keeping windows open and using  a large fan the temperature in the polycarb has often got into the 40s ºC. The strawberries just go into survival mode and throw out runners instead of fruit. One lives and one learns.

If it gets warm again I shall ensure that I have a blackbird proof home for the strawberry plants. That's a job for tomorrow. 

Sunday 18 June 2023

It's Warm

Ten years ago I posted a similar post to this entitled Costa del Bayble. I may have posted similar scenes since then. The beach was actually more crowded than Friday evening when this picture was taken. That was probably because it was taken on a Sunday afternoon and not a Friday evening. 

It's interesting that 10 years ago no one wore a wet-suit. The kids were hardier then!

On that post only three of you who are likely to comment today commented then so I'm happy that most of you will not find the repetition boring. Indeed I'd forgotten that I had even quoted Bob Dylan  (which I have done several times in my blogging career as it happens). The reason on this particular occasion was that the hordes had been out on The Sabbath which would have been unheard of when I came to live here.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Wednesday 14 June 2023


It's hot. sunny and still: three unusual things to meet one at 5.30am on a Wednesday morning  on Lewis.

In an ideal world I would have had three or four hours in the garden before I toddled off to town to get my bloods done for my cancer review in a week or two. However I decided that I couldnae be earsed wearing my midge suit this morning so would do indoor things instead. That unsettled me because I usually prefer to do indoor things when the weather is less clement (ie more like its usual Lewis self).  So I've actually done a fraction of the things I wanted to do. Apart from anything else I couldn't find some of the pictures I needed for birthday cards. 

Anyway I decided I'd do a blog post instead. I'd been given the idea by Marcheline's use of 'sitooterie' a day or so ago.

Every place has it's language quirks and, often, its own unique or special name for something. In Scotland a place to sit out in your garden is called a sitooterie.

This is my sitooterie

This is my rear conservatory (and my polycarb)

And this is I suppose my sitinerie - which reached over 40 ºC  today even with the doors open.

Friday 9 June 2023

A Drink Called Wine

Today has been one of the best days on Lewis for some years so far as I can recall. It's been warm (just right at about 17ºC), there has been a breeze (not a wind) to keep the midges away and there has been wall to wall sun since 0420 this morning. 

I started in the garden. We've had no rain since, I believe, the 11 May so I spent a good bit of time making sure that my plants were not stressed and that the Griselinia was well fed and watered (I'd hate to lose my new eventual windbreak in it's fourth year). I met a friend for lunch at The Woodlands (where else?) and this afternoon a friend popped in for coffee and a look at the garden. The rest of the time I worked in the sun in the garden and the polycarb. Dinner was late! After all sunset isn't until 2225.

When I finally finished outside I was thinking about all the years I'd spent holidaying in France where the early summer early evening drink is rosé wine. That is a wine I rarely drink. However it seemed very appropriate this evening. As luck would have it I'd anticipated this during the afternoon and had put one in the fridge that someone had brought some while ago.

When I removed it I noticed that it was Piat d'Or. Now this might mean nothing to anyone who is not of my generation and was around in The late Sixties and early Seventies. In Britain. This was the era when Brits started to realise that there was a drink called wine. The 'ordinary' Brits had not been wine drinkers. Suddenly it became part of the culture. Brits suddenly embraced wine. Key contenders were German, Blue Nun and Black Tower, Mateus Rose from Portugal and Piat d'Or rosé from France. Doubtless there were others but I can't recall them.

Regarding myself as a bit more sophisticated than that I decided to take a bit more interest in wines and fell in love with red wine. The rest of that story could take up a page or two so I'll not pursue it. 

What I will say is that, despite its age and provenance, it tasted really refreshing and very pleasant and I enjoyed a couple of glasses very much indeed.

Saturday 27 May 2023


We are fortunate on Lewis in that in Stornoway - a town of about 12,000 people - we have 5 banks: Bank of Scotland,  Royal Bank of Scotland, TSB, Virgin Money and, of course, the Post Office Bank. 

When I came to Lewis nearly half a century ago the banks all had Managers and they were People of Importance in the community as, indeed, were the Deputy Managers and even the Cashiers were well known. 

As far as I know there are no Bank Managers in Stornoway now although I assume that all the banks are managed and, on the face of it, very well managed. 

I go into the bank quite a lot: partly because I like my bank (the Bank of Scotland), partly because I use my phone to pay for almost everything and therefore need £1 and 50p coins for tips and car parking (on the Island - mainland it's almost all via an app).

Recently I went in to change a large sum of old £20 notes into current currency which had to be done through my bank account. My Canadian visitor was with me (it was actually her money) and, as there was no queue after me (there was the commercial cash counter and another teller anyway) we had a good yarn. I've known the teller (I wonder if they are still called tellers - I bet they are not) since she was a new recruit to the bank as a teenager. Since then she had been in charge of the Tarbert Branch and was now back at her original branch.  She was telling me that she will be retiring this year. It made me very aware of my advancing years.

All except one of the 'original' staff from the '70s and '80s will then have retired and the final one will probably depart this year too. 

I wonder how much things will change. There will still be some familiar faces but it will be one way. I will know their faces but they won't know who I am. 

However, I am hoping that the sense of service will be maintained. When I had a problem with the B of S app on my iPhone recently I just popped in and one of the tellers who knows me found a 'youngster' who was very app aware and she knew exactly what to do. Now that is service.

Thursday 18 May 2023

Visitors and Things In General

There was a time, many years ago, when I wrote interesting blog posts. Now my life is of great interest to no one but me and I struggle to come up with a hopefully readable post every so often. And I really do appreciate the occasional message which makes me feel that I'm missed. Thank you. 

The last three weeks has seen a change in my usual routines. I've had visitors. It's been a wonderful time.

The first visitor was a friend of half a century who lived here on Lewis until not too long ago. That was a social visit ie not a sightseeing one. She visited all her friends during the day and I happily acted as chauffeur and sometimes joined her with mutual friends and sometimes did my own thing. In the evening we ate, relaxed and played dominoes (amongst other things). 

My second visit was by the daughter (Heather) of a late friend (Mo) from my teenage years who emigrated to Canada in the Sixties. Heather is a Canadian and a recent widow whom I have known since she was born. 

The last time we spent a lot of time together was in a villa in Belforte, Italy, to celebrate a significant birthday of her Mother. who died several years ago. I blogged about it here. Since that was written Heather's husband has died too. 

Heather's visit was a time of remembering and a time of new experiences for us both. She has lost a Mum, Aunt and Husband in the space of a few years and I have lost one of my dearest friends. However, I have got to know Heather so much better and I would like to think that we both benefitted greatly from the visit.