Wednesday, 29 March 2023


I arrived back from my Mainland trip with an old friend with whom I stay when I'm in the Glasgow area. We originally met in 2006 in New Zealand when our respective Families had barbecues. We have been good friends ever since. After a week visiting mutual friends she left on the plane yesterday evening and I am catching up with visiting those of my friends who are now house/bed bound. 

Age cometh not alone.

The medical aspects of my journey South all went very well and hopefully that is me sorted for another 4 months. If I say it quickly I can forget that an eighth of the period has already gone.

On Monday I took the car to the carwash because it was a lovely day and the car was showing the dirt of 2 weeks travelling. I went to pay the car wash fee and remembered that I had left my phone at home. I am totally lost without my phone. Apart from anything else since the banning of cash during Covid I have used it to pay for everything. The only cash I have is £1 and 50p coins I keep in my coat pocket for the car park in town (which still uses coins) and tips in the caf├ęs. 

So I pulled out my credit card but that wouldn't work because I need to verify it using the PIN and I've never done that. The other card was new and also needed verifying. 

I stood there stumped for a minute when one of the girls said "You can use cash." Cash! Of course, banknotes! There in my wallet was a lonely £10 note. My car would be happy! 

I have completely got out of the habit of using cash for anything at all and more and more places realise that electronic transactions mean no cash counting at the end of the day and it's cheaper to 'bank' electronic transactions than it is to bank cash. 

Some businesses and people prefer cash, of course, because it can be 'banked' at home rather than via the taxman but, on the whole, the electronic world has arrived.

Despite that I still find it hard to believe that I actually forgot that I could use cash for my carwash.

Thursday, 16 March 2023


I'm in Glasgow. It's cold, wet and windy. Sometimes I just yearn for some sun.

I was supposed to leave the Island on Monday with hospital appointments on Wednesday in Glasgow for a bone scan and cancer trial review and my operation to change my uretic stent tomorrow (Friday) in Ayr. I always plan to leave early just in case of ferry delays.

Because of the weather the ferry was seriously disrupted and I eventually got away at lunchtime on Tuesday and drove the 270 miles to Glasgow that afternoon/evening. So I got to my appointments yesterday.... just.  The only delay being a half hour extra to get through roadworks in Glasgow which I need to go through every time I leave Anna's for just about anywhere. Not to mention that it took me over 30 minutes to find a parking place within walking distance of the the appointment. So I was late. Anyone who knows me knows that one thing I cannot cope with is lateness. I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've been late in my life. Either that or I have a selective memory! 

For various reasons I have flown down to hospital for my previous two visits to the Mainland. However, I have developed a serious dislike of air travel. Not planes which I quite enjoy but airports. In fact not airports per se but security queues, boarding pass queues, queues, queues and more queues. And waiting. Lots of waiting.

I'm seriously thinking of becoming an Island recluse. Of course that's not practical if I want the NHS to keep me alive (which, thank heaven, they seem keen to do) or do a myriad of other things. 

But as I write this sitting waiting for my car parking camera to be sorted by the dealer and have time to think, I just want to be back in The Woodlands with friends having coffee and saying how fortunate we are.

Sunday, 12 March 2023

It's Oh So Quiet!

 It’s oh so quiet.

I can’t believe how much background noise there was in the house. The washing machine and the tumble drier are in an annex to my kitchen. The ‘kitchen’ is the room where I tend to live and write all my letters and emails and posts etc and generally do things because it is a lovely room with a fabulous view. It’s not a noisy room unless there is an Easterly or North-Easterly hammering rain onto the windows. Of course there are the sounds that you don’t hear consciously: the fan over the cooker or a kettle boiling or the many other subliminal sounds which we do not hear or rather which our brain filters out including computer, phone and gadget warning noises. For many years I’ve had tinnitus. I don’t hear it because if I did I’d probably go mad. But when all the other noises stop I realise just how noisy the tinnitus is and I want it to go away or rather I want something as a distraction.

I used the past tense because an hour ago from the time I am writing this the house went absolutely quiet. Not a single sound could I hear. The sudden quiet was deafening.

The power went off. I still had a 3G (instead of 4G) signal so immediately went onto the app of the electricity generating company. There was no indication of a fault in the area. Messages on WhatsApp told me I wasn’t alone though so I reported the outage.

Then the phone signal went off as well.

Since then there’s not been a sound in my house because, for once, there’s not a breath of air outside either.

My emergency generator is kaput as well and I’ve put off getting a new one. After all, power cuts these days are rare.

I have plenty of light and emergency gas heating and a big camping stove.

So I think I’ll get myself some lunch.

It’s now an hour since the power went off and it’s returned. It’s possible that if there is a major outage off the Island or the subsea cable has been severed again then the Island’s old huge diesel generators have been started up.

I can now hear odd sounds again. We have power. It was or maybe still is for many a major outage. Looking at the map it would indicate that there is a supply break on Skye. It would not be the first time we have been affected by a power line down in Skye because our supply come across Skye and under the sea to Harris and up overland to the main distribution station outside Stornoway.

Thursday, 23 February 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle: New Zealand

A week or so ago I intended to write about the catastrophe that was caused by Cyclone Gabrielle as it tore through much of North Island between February 6th and 16th. 

My first reaction was, obviously, the wellbeing and safety of my friends and The Family as the cyclone made it's way through Northland and right down the country until it largely blew itself out over Wellington. 

Fortunately although one family was evacuated for the day none of my friends or The Family were hurt or suffered serious damage although some were without electricity for many days. 

However the damage done to property and communications is enormous and will take years to repair. 

I was initially surprised at how little coverage there was in the UK and then I realised that however much devastation and heartbreak and loss of property and livelihoods there was there were, thankfully, few lives actually lost. Compare those figures with Turkey and Syria and the war in Ukraine and they are hardly 'newsworthy'. We have become almost inured to the horrors of war and catastrophes and, well, a cyclone is just strong wind and the UK has had a few of those in recent history.

However in New Zealand a State of Emergency was declared for only the third time in the Country's history. The first was after the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake and the second was at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic.

As I write this I think 11 people have died and 'many' are unaccounted for partly because communications in some parts of the country have been destroyed. The damage is mind-blowing given that communications including roads, electricity and radio communications and thousands of acres of wineries and agricultural land and many businesses are very badly damaged. 

The Family hold a dental clinic in the little town of Wairoa in Hawkes Bay about 50 miles from where The Family lives. It was cut off completely but can now be reached with great difficulty and only by a 9 hour road journey from The Family's home. It could be a very long time before all the road communications are reinstated simply because of the number of landslips and lost bridges. That is one tiny example.

I could show a thousand photos but many will have seen some in the media and on social media and most will mean nothing to people who don't know the areas. They will be 'just' more disaster images. In Hawkes Bay there are at least 100 emergency distribution centres with local volunteer staff and a huge mobilisation of people just helping get mud out of properties.

I'm not going to publish lots of photos but if you want to see the scale of the devastation and misery there is information with images on stuff.co.nz and INews.

However this is the Expressway between Napier and Hastings which, as you can see, has been devastated. There is at the moment only one road between the two adjacent areas and one of the staff at the dental practice in Hasting took two hours to get the few miles home yesterday. 

As Fi who lived in and through the Christchurch Earthquakes said on my last post "The loss, homelessness, insurance battles, and ongoing fear of it happening again.... sigh."

My thoughts go out to everyone in the areas affected -  Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.

Sunday, 19 February 2023

Blogland and "Real Life"

It had been my intention this month to spend a lot more time in Blogland. Unfortunately my "other" life has been dominant. I was going to say my "real" life but in truth Blogland has been a very important part of my life, real or otherwise, since 2007 right through my New Zealand life and through the thick and thin. I have also made some of my most important friends through Blogland and despite the fact that I don't see many of my New Zealand friends in person now we are still in touch frequently. Indeed during these awful times for New Zealand we have all been in touch a lot.

Other friends I've met through Blogland but whom I've never met in person have become a significant part of my life too - you know who you are and I thank you for that friendship. It's one of the things that keeps me in Blogland even though a few of us are in contact outside of Blogland and Monica and I still play Words With Friends (Scrabble) every day which we have done now for, I think, 10 years. Kate and I communicate daily too and have been in touch since a day (which I remember well) lost in the mists of time but which I could go back to in my New Zealand blog.  Gosh, tempus fugit

My Blogs are also my memories. 

This was actually going to be a post about New Zealand but that will have to wait because there are far too many other things on the agenda today and I want to do it justice.

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Ferries and Electric Cars.

The Havila Ferry Company in Norway (which has state of the art hybrid ro-ro ferries wandering around pristine fjords for 4 hours on electric motors) has banned carrying electric cars.

Lithium batteries burn longer and hotter than conventional car fires and require thousands of gallons of water to extinguish. That is not something you want sloshing around inside a boat any more than you want a fire in the first place.

I live on an Island 2 ½ hours by ferry from the mainland. 

This could be a problem if the same ban were to be introduced. Given that the ferry company, Calmac, is ultimately owned by the Scottish Government (with it's green ambitions) they could be between a rock and a hard place if the operators decide it's too dangerous. 

I travel from home to Glasgow through the Scottish Highlands where electric charging points are notoriously few and far between and unreliable. Because of that I have absolutely no intention at the moment of buying and electric car anyway. Indeed as they are just becoming slightly more expensive to run (according to my car magazine) and are seriously more expensive to buy, my current chariot may well see out my driving career notwithstanding the ban on new emission-emitting vehicles after 2030.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

A Cloud

Yesterday morning I looked out of my kitchen window early morning and saw a strange cloud. I wandered through the small conservatory to the door and took a photo with my phone.  I was busy and gave it no more thought until a bit later when I realised I had just witnessed an unusual phenomena: a Nacreous ("mother of pearl") cloud. The irony is that my SLR with a far more suitable telephoto lens was on the table within easy reach had I realised what I was witnessing. C'est la vie. For all that it was a splendid sight.

Saturday, 28 January 2023

"You're Welcome"

In a recent post Bob Brague of the blog Rhymes with Plague said:

An example of slower change [in customs] is the way people respond to being told "Thank you." In my age group (the Older Than Dirt crowd), we were taught to say "You're welcome".  Around the time my children became adults, people didn't say "You're welcome" any more, and everybody was saying "No problem." Now that even my grandchildren are adults, "No problem" has fallen by the wayside. and Gen Z'ers and millennials say "Of course!"

I commented that I was never taught to respond "You're welcome".  In my view when someone says 'Thank you" no response is needed.

Bob's reply was "Not to respond to 'Thank you' strikes me as very odd indeed. It seems to indicate the feeling that the 'thank you' is well-deserved. I could be wrong, of course, but it smacks of a lack of humility. Not you, of course, but others. Other responses I used to hear often (but don't any more) include "Don't mention it" and "Not at all" and "It was nothing". The Spanish say "por nada" and the French say "Il n'y a pas de quoi"."

This is something that genuinely puzzles me. I am roughly of an age with Bob. I was brought up in a family and at schools where good manners were important and were insisted upon. However I can never recall at any stage in my life being told that a response was needed to a "Thank you."  Over the last few decades I've been well aware of the response "You're welcome" being used and, of course, when in Italy I would never dream of not responding "prego" to"grazie".

So I am genuinely very puzzled indeed. My readers come from many generations and many countries. So I would ask you all whether I am living in a bubble of ignorance and whether, particularly where the UK is concerned, my lack of a response is out of order.

Monday, 23 January 2023

Waiting For Service

Today I tried to order some central heating oil. The local office of Certas Energy is in Stornoway but since Covid you can no longer pop in and order anything over the counter. You telephone Certas Energy and give your details and eventually someone will hopefully ring you back at a time when you are not half way through climbing a ladder onto the roof or some such other inconvenient moment. 

If you live on a western Scotland Island there is a good chance a great deal of your life is involved with the Country's ferry operators, Caledonian Macbrayne Ltd. At the moment residents of Lewis have the opportunity to pop into the Stornoway Port Office for tickets and bookings. That's fair enough given that it's a lifeline service and we frequently have to change booking because of cancelled mainland hospital appointments or cancelled ferries because of the weather or breakdowns. 

However it's not possible for everyone to get into the office. So they have to telephone the main booking number or use the website. This is where Calmac have absolutely excelled themselves and, in my experience of using websites they have managed a first: a waiting list to access the website. The other day this popped up in response to me trying to access the website:

It's all very well for business to do everything they possible can to streamline things and keep costs down (if they reward customers with fair prices) but it seems to me that the last person ever to be considered these days is the service user - whatever it is.

Sixty years ago I joined Liverpool Corporation. When I was given the job I was told by the Assistant Town Clerk "You have joined Liverpool Corporation. It will look after you  (and it certainly did in that it sent me to University and much more) and ALL YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER IS THAT YOUR JOB IS TO SERVE THE PUBLIC! NEVER FORGET THAT." 

I never did. I just wish that the same could be said in any organisation today.

ADDENDUM: A friend pointed out yesterday that he had started off at with, let us say 3000 people in front of him and when he went back at this expected time he was further down the queue with 800 odd more people in front of him and even more time to wait. That looks like a system in turmoil to me.

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

The Time of Life

I am very fortunate. I admit it and am happy to shout it from the rooftops.

I'm not too far off the respectable age of 80. I appreciate that a good few of my readers have reached even more respectable ages but there's still a few of you youngsters knocking about too.

Despite the fact that I've got more metal and plastic inside me than many people (and have lost more parts than many people too)  I am still fortunate enough to be able to lead a very full, active and very happy life. 

Since my partial lung removal at the age of 16 and many other life-saving procedures for cancer and its effects and life-enhancing things like a replacement knee (due to the fact that I was a fencer and fencing coach at one stage of my life) everything that has been done to me has been done by our National Health Service. 

I hate to even begin to think of the cost over the decades. 

Of course if I hadn't had my lung operation (and as it was very major surgery in 1960) I wouldn't have needed the NHS for the next 70+ years because I'd not have existed much after my 16th year.

I would not be surprised if the gross income and national insurance taxes I paid over my lifetime was a net loss to the economy (although it did help pay a lot of NHS wages!).

Despite everything we hear in the news every day of the appalling situation that our NHS finds itself in, the majority of us still are net beneficiaries of the service.

So the fact that the hospital (on the Mainland) has had to delay my uretic stent replacement because there are no beds available, did not stop immediate treatment on Saturday when I presented myself to A & E (Emergency Room) in Stornoway. Longer term readers of this blog will know that I've got an unfortunate tendency to develop sepsis (because of the uretic stent) and constant UTIs. That's what I thought was developing on Saturday. As it happens the sepsis hadn't got established and after lots of tests and treatment I was out later that day feeling great again having been told that I'd done exactly the right thing and made their job easier because the sepsis hadn't got established.

I have no idea what the solution is to the problems of our increasingly aging and sickening population requiring more and more treatment but it's not just money and nor is it wholesale privatisation.

The one thing I am absolutely certain about is that I, and my generation, have lived through the best of the times Britain has seen. I think that subject may be continued at some future blog date.

Monday, 2 January 2023

My Name is Graham and I'm a Phonoholic.

Saturday was a fairly seminal day for me. 

At 0400hrs (on the dot) I woke and uttered the words "Hey Siri, what time is it?" The response from the phone at the bedside was "4am".  So I know that at that moment my beloved iPhone 14 Pro Max companion was alive and well. Alive, anyway.

At 0700 I got up, collected my phone from its charging cradle and went to the bathroom to ablute. Oddly my phone screen was blank. I automatically turned it on wondering why it had gone off. It wouldn't turn on. After a few minutes came the realisation that it was absolutely dead. It had been on the charger all night so had to be fully charged. Nonetheless I put it on a cable charge in the kitchen just in case. After a while it was still dead. 

In 14 years or thereby that I've had iPhones I've never had a fault of this magnitude so was stumped.

Still in my goonie I made coffee and looked up the Apple helpline. Using the landline (an exceptionally rare occurrence - I use my mobile for everything) I phoned Apple Support. Within seconds the phone was answered by Andrew who, after checking my credentials and phone details, enquired how he could help me. I told him my nice new phone had died. Andrew then went through the usual things to check that it was attached to a cable charger (iPhones are all capable of wireless charging). We then went through the usual start up and re-boot procedures all to no effect whatsoever. To which Andrew immediately responded by arranged for another one to be sent to me.

And it was not yet light outside.

Interestingly Andrew was in Tiree. So many work from home that didn't really surprise me. I was, I thought, chatting to someone 100 miles due south as the seagull flies, EXCEPT that he added. "Australia".  Oddly I hadn't discerned an Ozzie accent. 

So I was absolutely over the moon with Apple's service.

I then set about living with the realisation that with a Sunday and Bank holiday ahead I was going to be 3 days without a phone. Okay, I have a spare iPhone I keep in the car for emergencies such as leaving My Phone at home accidentally. However that is the very least of the uses for my Phone.

It is the way I communicate daily and sometimes hourly with my friends in this country, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden etc. using Telegram, WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage and so on. It's where we play Wordle and Scrabble. It's where I read and often write my emails.  

It is also where I can read using the Kindle app.

It operates my printers and scanner.

And, of course, it's my camera. No longer do I cart my big DSLR around with me everywhere.

I know that there are many of you are not phonoholics not least YP who would rather die with a broken leg and hypothermia somewhere on one of his beloved mountains than carry a cellphone. 

If I were a club joiner (I'm not) I would go to Mobiles Anonymous. My Name is Graham and I'm a Phonoholic.