Wednesday, 16 August 2017


It's not yet 8am. 

Just before 5am I rose and made myself a cup of hot water and lemon (the first of several consumed since then).

CJ and Partner Who Loves Tea left at 5.30am for the morning ferry to Ullapool and the start of their three day journey home.

I followed them to the ferry terminal 20 minutes later to deliver PWLT's spare spectacles which I'd found in their bedroom.

Now I am breakfasted with the second lot of washing in the washing machine and the first lot of bedding already out of the tumble drier and awaiting ironing. The dishwasher has finished its allotted task.

It's been wonderful having my brother up for so long and to spend time, short though it was, with PWLT.

Life will now return to what passes for normality.

I have to be back in town for 9am to get my three-monthly jab to help keep the Big C in check.

And that will just be the first 4 hours of the day. There'll hopefully be another 14 or 15 after that.

And to cap it all, particularly for those who think I'm not a Christmas Person, here is a thought:


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Behold, The Sky.

Looking from my garden towards the mainland with Suilven and Stac Pollaidh and lowering clouds.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Odds and Ends

Where does time go? What's absolutely certain is that it does go and, indeed, flies. Over the last few days we've been quite busy and today Gaz took CJ and I in his Land Rover Discovery (a 4 x 4 for those who are not familiar with the vehicle) as far as a vehicle can get to the Eilean Glas Lighthouse on the Isle of Scalpay. Afterwards we tried to get lunch in Tarbert but that turned out to be an impossibility: Tarbert seems to be a suffering from its own success. Mind you the fact that we arrived at The Harris Hotel almost exactly at 2pm and were given lunch menus and drinks only to be told that the kitchen wouldn't serve us with soup even because they closed at 2pm. We left. Obviously the hotel (which I have frequented for over the 40 years I've lived here) doesn't need the custom. The other hotel was happy to serve us but there was a wait for one of the many tables. The Harris Distillery where the lunches are very good was stowed out.
These miscellaneous photos are from my/our holiday so far. The first is a sculpture at the Ralia Café on the A9 near Newtonmore where I often stop on my way to or from Glasgow.

When I was staying in the Borders my friends took me to The Hermitage Castle. Unfortunately I thought we were just going to visit friends in the village but after that we spend the afternoon out. I didn't have my camera with me and my phone ran out of battery just after we arrived at the castle. I shall definitely be back fully prepared!

On the way down the valley.

Lots of free-range porkers in the area.

I met my boss from 43 years ago and his family for lunch on the way to my brother's. Outside The Dog and Partridge near Preston (excellent lunch) this couple were enjoying a pint in the sunshine with their horse and trap.

In Chester CJ and I enjoyed some pastries at Patisserie Valerie

The hotel in Ambleside was very good and I loved the fact that I didn't have to try and fill my kettle from the tap in the bathroom  (even 4 start hotels often subject one to that inconvenience) as water was supplied.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Rural Postal Services

As, I suspect, is happening all around the world small rural and urban post offices are closing down as more services (such as pensions) are paid into bank accounts, use of snail mail diminishes and private companies compete for the lucrative parts of the traditional business (such as parcels and even urban delivery of letters). The UK remains, I think, one of the few (and perhaps the only) country where the Royal Mail is charged with delivering mail everywhere in the country and, generally, to the door of the recipient's dwelling six days a week and at a standard rate of postage.

I do wonder how long such a wonderful service can continue.

As recently as a couple of years ago there were two sub post offices within a couple of miles of my house. Now the nearest one is in Stornoway 7 miles away. However, in Stornoway, there are many post office services available at at least one of the two sub post offices (the main post office keeps more conventional hours) from 7am until 11pm 6 days a week. I've never come across service times like that before although I presume that it happens elsewhere.

I recently discovered, too, that we now have a mobile post office which comes around to various rural locations on a regular basis as well. It visits Lower Bayble twice a week on a Monday and Tuesday for an hour on each day.

Add to that the fact that I can post a letter at a post box about 700m from the house which is emptied at 10.30am 6 days a week and I have absolutely no cause for anything other than praise for our postal service.

My local post box (Photo thanks to my brother).

Monday, 31 July 2017

The White Horse, Cilcain.

When I was a child my father used to take me (and later me and my brother) walking in the hills of North Wales. One of our favourites was Moel Fammau (of which I have blogged previously including this one). We often ended our walk at Cilcain. Later in life I used to drive there for lunch with friends or for an evening out. When I was staying with CJ and his Partner Who Loves Tea we went to North Wales one day and stopped at The White Horse for lunch. It had hardly altered since my last visit perhaps 30 years ago although I don't recall tables out at the front in those days.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Apostrophe

One of CJ's favourite places for breakfast in Heswall near where he lives is a rather lovely café which calls itself Isabelles (sic).  We went there for breakfast when I was staying with him a few weeks ago.

Last time we went there was last year and I got into trouble for inserting an apostrophe on the place mats:

Under strict instructions not to disgrace myself this time I'm afraid that I was unable to resist.  They didn't throw me out.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

A Car's a Car For A' That

(With apologies to Robert Burns).

I’m sure it’s not that I just can’t forgive myself for parting from my beloved Nighthawk. I’m sure that I’m sure - surely.

I just haven't become close to the Volvo yet. Why on earth would that matter? It’s a car for heaven’s sake not a friend. However I spend more time with it than I do with almost any other thing with which I have a relationship except my home.

My first Volvo was, in fact, called VOOVO. The car had been incorrectly badged on the bonnet (hood) because the letters were, as on my current car's boot (trunk) separately attached. That car was made in 1965 and I’m sure no such thing could happen now. We were together for 80,000 glorious miles. I’ve had two more Volvos since that time. Each served me well.

Voovo on Honister, English Lake District,  c 1970 with my Dad
I want to get close to Volvo. I really do. It’s a very comfy means of transportation and we’ve already done 4,000 miles together in two months.

One problem is that the salesman (in the London dealer from whence the car was sourced) and I really didn’t get on. I never met him but I know that if I had I’d not have bought a car from him.

The other is that the car was beset by vibration squeaks and rattles from the dashboard area. The technician (mechanic to people of my age but now he probably has a degree in applied electronics) at the superbly helpful Volvo dealer Taggarts in Glasgow  sorted the first one I identified in the sensor housing on the windscreen which had obviously been removed at some time but that still left some more in the floating centre console. I never had a squeak from the Nighthawk in 13 years (except one of my own making). I seem now to have managed to cure them all but I am still living with the fear that they may return.

Hopefully in a while I'll feel comfortable and Volvo and she will develop a personality and acquire a name.

Volvo below The Clisham on Harris
Volvo by the Forth and Clyde Canal

Monday, 24 July 2017

Harris Hawk and Peregrine Falcon

Last year CJ and I visited the Chester Cathedral Falconry. We thoroughly enjoyed it and got some good photos and, of course blogged about it. CJ blogged about it here and here.

We visited it again this year and I think I managed to improve on my photos:

Harris Hawk
Harris Hawk
Harris Hawk
Perigrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Grounded having taken the lure
Harris Hawk

Saturday, 22 July 2017

I Asked The Zebra

I cannot recall where I first saw this but it was on a blog a long time ago. I came across it the other day when looking for something amongst my papers. I though I'd share it.
“I asked the Zebra,
are you black with white stripes?
Or white with black stripes?
And the zebra asked me,
Are you good with bad habits?
Or are you bad with good habits?
Are you noisy with quiet times?
Or are you quiet with noisy times?
Are you happy with some sad days?
Or are you sad with some happy days?
Are you neat with some sloppy ways?
Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
And on and on and on and on and on and on he went.
I’ll never ask a zebra about stripes...again.”

Friday, 21 July 2017

BT (British Telecom)

Warning: This post contains what might be considered a boring rant. 

Yet again I received a missive from BT after I arrived home from holiday. It is not the first such missive so I didn't get my hopes up too high. Which was just as well. 

After having jumped through the hoops that BT has managed to created when one does log in to bt.com/upgrade-now I discovered that for over twice the price that I am now paying I could have ......... wait for it ....... The speed I'm getting now (when I'm actually getting that speed)  which is between 1 and 2.5 Mbps. 2.5 not even 25. That's an improvement because last time I complained that my speed was down at between 0 and .5 Mbps when they tested it they got .9 Mbps and told me that that was all they were contracted to provide.

Now despite Jeremy Vine (who on his BBC fee alone can doubtless afford high-speed satellite broadband wherever he lives and it will doubtless be a tax-deductible necessity for his work anyway) uttering the inanity that people in the country live there 'because they want to get away from broadband and things'  life today relies in so many ways on having access to the internet. 

As we get older and the more remotely we live the more communication ability we require not just to keep in touch with people (which is a very important part of our physical and mental health and for which Skype and Facetime and the like are a real blessing) but for our everyday requirements even in dealing with the government where almost everything is now done on line.

Interestingly since I wrote this I decided to have another go at the upgrading procedure:

Now I don't know about you but my gut reaction is that 'Up to 17Mbps' may be strictly accurate but is totally misleading in that 3.5 (my previous offer said 2.5 which is the maximum that I can get and even then it tails away a lot) is nowhere near that. I should add that a engineer for BT Openreach said that I should get 8Mbps with no problems. However the line between the Green Box (where the fibre goes up to) at the top of the village about 750 metres away from the house is probably in a poor state of repair except for about 100 metres where it has  been renewed when my phone went off.

How do the rest of you fare and is anyone else still with BT? I've been with them since I bought my first house. I understand alternatives are now available here but until quite recently Sky and others refused even to countenance provision to my number.

Interestingly today I have discovered that my next door neighbour is eligible for fibre broadband.

Let battle commence.

Thursday, 20 July 2017


I love Chester. I always have. It means a great deal to me. Most years my brother, CJ, and I go there. It's only a half hour drive from his home on The Wirral. This year was no exception. 

Chester is a very old walled city famous for its Rows - first floor level shops and houses.

The Rows and a staircase up to them.
I like people who smile whatever the weather
I can remember when traffic drove through the centre of the city. Now it's all pedestrianised and much the better for it.
This was at the entrance of the Cathedral. No explanation. Totally bizarre.
This colonnade of shops comprisisng St Werburgh Row
And a licensed TukTuk which was not what I was expecting in Chester

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Thinker

I've titled this 'The Thinker'. It was taken at Brunch where CJ and I sometimes have our coffee and a bacon roll. CJ wasn't sleeping. We were having problems with the last crossword clue. We spend a lot of time doing crosswords with our coffee.

I'm home. In fact I've been home since Friday evening. CJ and I arrived after a week's journeying from his home on The Wirral, via his daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter in Exeter, thence to the Lake District, Anna's in Bishopbriggs (Glasgow) for a couple of nights and a night almost on Skye. 

Since then we've been catching up with some relaxation, coffees and crosswords at The Woodlands and I've nearly filled a wheelie bin with weeds from the garden. 

Before all that I spent some time in Glasgow and then a week with CJ and Jo when we went into Wales and Chester.

Three weeks. Such a long time. Such a short time.

However I'm hoping to be back in Blogland more now that the dust has settled. After all there's certainly plenty to write about as well as catching up with your blogs.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Fisherman's Cot, Devon

Rarely do I blog specifically about a hotel in which I have stayed but this is a very notable exception. I first experienced The Fisherman's Cot in Devon some years ago and would not have thought it exceptional. Now, however, it is exceptional in many ways: the setting, the accommodation, the ambience, the value for money and, above all, the service. It is a long time since I have experienced a place with so many staff and not managed to find even one who did not appear to be happy and who was not exceptionally pleasant and good at his or her job. I would actually come this far south just to stay here again (and I have never said that before!).

The hotel is on the River Exe and for those who are interested there is plenty of wildlife on the river at the hotel including heron, egrets (which I have only seen in France), dippers and otters. 

Apparently a dozen people one morning were watching an otter with lots of rapt oohs and ahs. Then a duck with six chicks came along and left with only five: the otter having breakfasted on the unfortunate one. The otter went from hero to zero instantly. C'est la vie.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Travelling: The Scottish Borders

I have so many things to blog about I don't know where to start. I wish that I was organised like YP or Cro who manage to blog almost every day regardless of distractions. So far, since I left home, I've spent 4 nights near Glasgow, 3 nights in the Scottish Borders and this will be my fourth night on The Wirral before my brother (CJ) and I go to Exeter for three nights. Then we embark on a long journey back to Lewis where we should arrive five days later. 

I have gathered enough material for dozens of blogs but I'll try and get a few posted before I get home.

After a few days with a pal near Glasgow, I spent some time in the Scottish Borders with friends whom I was surprised to realise that I've known for 35 years (where do the years go?).

We set out to walk round the paddock and ended up starting to walk to England (which, I was assured, was just half a mile along the line of the old Waverley railway). Well after a mile and half I decided to check the map on my iPhone. Hmmm. England was still a good distance away so we turned around and walked back. An enjoyable walk it was too (but very cloudy, wet and green).  

Sue striding forth  (Brian and I following but you can't see us!):

Not far now!

I did meet some Blue Grey Cattle. The first I'd ever seen. They have a reputation for being unfriendly. I got that impression just from looking at them looking at me.