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. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2023

Housekeeping and Spam: Mea Culpa

Dear Readers and Commenters

I apologise profusely. I thought that I was assiduous in checking my comments folder for comments awaiting moderation and for spam. It would appear that I am not. The principal reason I tend to check is that a lot of people's comments do not show up in my emails. I have never discovered why. With some (such as Rachel) they never appear. With others it is totally random - or so it appears.

Kylie has just made the point on my previous post that her comment had disappeared. It was waiting to be moderated! Why? Heaven (or Google) alone knows. Although I expect neither of them do. Fortunately Kylie persisted and her second comment (unlike a previous second comment by Neil) was published. 

A number of you have suffered similar fates.

I have now got rid of all the genuine spam and allowed all your previous comments that went to spam.

Please don't give up commenting. I will be more careful in future. 



Saturday, 22 April 2023

Old Books

Anyone who goes near a charity shop these days realises that books are two a penny. Indeed our biggest charity shop recently offered CDs, DVDs and books for 1p each simply to clear stock and make room for more. They have thousands (and that is not an exaggeration).

Over the years I have been clearing my loft of books and have given many hundreds to charity shops. Indeed on one occasion a few years ago I filled my very ample estate car (US station wagon) with boxes of books and vinyl records and took them to Glasgow where the Oxfam University Bookshop and the separate Oxfam Music Shop were delighted to take them. The books included a complete original Heron set of the Russian Classics which I'd had from my early twenties when I devoured them all with great relish. 

I recently came across a 150+ year old set of books on painters in my bookcase. I have a rule now - one out for every one in. I needed space for a couple of new books. I hadn't used these reference books for many years and would be unlikely ever to do so again. I'd just ask Google. I knew they would have no value in an ordinary charity shop so I looked on line to discover that the set had been reprinted many times and was still available as a 'new' book. The condition of my set wasn't good (good sets of that age were selling for a few pounds) so they went in the bin (refuse). I think it's the first time I've ever disposed of a book that way.

Although I use a Kindle, physical books still have a place. Apart from anything else digitised books go out of date very quickly. The format changes. Old formats are frequently not readable by newer programs. There's an interesting and straightforward article here. If I pop my clogs whilst living in my current home then there will still be books here for my son to dispose of. There will probably still be my CD collection of over a thousand (I've just done a rough count of the ones in the living room and there's many more in the loft). My very extensive DVD collection isn't going anywhere anytime soon either. I know I can stream what I don't have but I still like watching the occasional DVD. 

I've not mentioned digital newspapers. I only buy a paper when I'm going to have to go into hospital or spend a day on a plane or train. Apart from anything else the paper I buy has lots of puzzles which I can do without an internet connection.

It made me wonder how many of my Blogland friends and acquaintances have decided to go entirely or even mainly digital.

I've made a few guesses in my mind.

Monday, 10 April 2023

On A Visit To The Supermarket

To serve, or not to serve, that is the question:
Whether 'tis easier on the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous waits,
Or to take one's self to the sea of troubles
That is the self-checkouts. To wait - to fume,
No more; and by betrayal of the check-out staff
The heart-ache and the thousand natural redundancies
That time does come when we, Consumer, shall do the work
For free and Business shall rejoice and profit more.

With apologies to The Bard.

I confess that when I have a few items and there are queues at the checkouts at either of our supermarkets (The Coop and Tesco) I will use the self-checkouts. 

However, Tesco is about to get rid of almost all it's serviced checkouts. I can just imagine the chaos that will ensue as many people try to adapt to putting a huge basket of a week's shopping through the self service till and pack it into their bags. Apart from that this is a small community. The checkout is a sociable place as well as a place of commerce. Tesco's plans may or may not go smoothly but with no realistic competition so far as price goes Tesco will have it their way like it or not. The customer is only a cash supplier: a feeder of profits. 

And when they ask to go through my shopping and check that I did it correctly what will I say? I will respond "No. You may not. If you insist that I do your work then you will trust me. After all you have probably seen every move I've made and every thing I have bought on your CCTV. "

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 cafés. 

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.