Friday, December 29, 2006

Everybody Wants To Be A Cat


A wild and windy day on the sunshine isle, with winds gusting up to 70 mph in the morning. Driving was interesting. Coming across the reef today I had to steer left to keep going in a straight line. Oh and then I got bogged down in the machair at a friend's house over in Baugh. Good old Simon came to my rescue with his Land Rover and a sturdy nylon rope.

The Defenders are playing at An Talla tonight but unfortunately I can't attend, as much as I'd like to. I have a 07:00 rise in the morning and I don't want to wake up feeling 'tired'. All the best to the lads and especially Billy on his first outing as lead singer.

Today my song 'Easy Living' is featured in the Phedippidations Podcast. I've spoken about Steve Walker's excellent and highly entertaining podcast on this blog before so I won't bore you. The song features fairly early in the show so if you want to listen online or download the podcast go to www.steverunner.com

Thank you to everyone who emailed me to say how glad they were to hear about Connie's safe return to the bosom of her family. She's painfully thin and very reluctant to lose sight of us for very long. Just now all she really wants to cuddle in and feel warm and secure.

Needless to say, she's confined to quarters for the meantime.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Wanderer Returns


I heard a commotion outside the house at about four o'clock this morning. Two cats having a fight. Next door's cat, Tabby, likes to mix it a bit with the local felines so I just assumed some stray had been caught out crossing our lawn. But I decided to check it out anyway. It simply couldn't be Connie out there, getting duffed up by Tabby - not after nearly three weeks.

So I lumbered downstairs, opened the door.

And in she ran, my wee cat Connie!

She was meowing like crazy and she was obviously starving. After cuddles - which revealed that she has indeed lost a tremendous amount of weight - we fed her and took her upstairs where she slept on top of our bed.

Today's photograph was taken in our kitchen at about 04:15.

What a relief to have her home.
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Monday, December 25, 2006

Shurely Shome Mishtake?



Surely not. A seven course meal? No, really. That's what they served up today at The Elephant's End over at Gott. As it was I had to forgo the cheese and biscuits and mince pies. I made a fair old go of the home made fudge cake but by that time I needed to lie down fast.

The place was packed and there was a really nice family atmosphere.

We were the first served and we were the first to leave. And thank goodness. I am looking forward to my new training regime so much! As it was I really struggled to get into my trousers today and by the time the meal was finished ... well, let me put it this way. I was instructed to walk around a little before I got in the car.

Major hassle of the day is this: we bought Jenny broad band wireless but we can't get it to work. I can get the communication going between our laptops and the unit OK but it just doesn't want to connect with the phone network.

On the bright side, though, all my presents are working wonderfully well, especially my Christmas Camera, which captured today's lovely shot, taken by my missus.

Folks: when you smile the muscles seem to pull up the old double chin.

Think about it.
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What a happy looking guy ...


Well, good morning all, and, of course A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Isle of Tiree. Going by the picture above, wee Gordon got everything he hoped for this Christmas. He got a new digital camera, the new Bob Dylan album, a Maglite for reading comics under the covers, a boxed set of The Doors' albums, a Celtic FC scarf and hat ... I'm a lucky little lad, today.

And talking of today we're heading off to Elephant's End across at Gott Bay for our Christmas lunch. The three of us. Never before in the history of our family have we gone out for Christmas lunch. Joanne wasn't amused when I announced it was part of her Christmas as it meant she didn't have to cook food this Christmas.

After we get the lunch out of the way I think it's back here for Christmas TV or DVDs (Superman Returns or Pirates of the Caribbean 2? Hm, decisions, decisions ...) and of course a little snooze will be worked in there somewhere.

The one present I really wanted is the one I didn't get. I suppose my cat Connie must be dead. That's nearly three weeks since she went missing. She just disappeared, hours before we got back from Oban. Somehow I just knew at that time that something was wrong ...

Oh well, that's 12.30 and we sit down to lunch just before 2 o'clock. Time for the Scott's to start queuing up to use the shower!
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Friday, December 22, 2006

Ben Williams in Tiree/My 2007 Challenge/IOTON Archive

First of all: apologies for being away all week. 'Tis the season to be jolly and all that kind of stuff. It is all the season in which to eat and drink too much and voluntarily embrace near penury. I am skint, as they say in this part of the world. Note to myself: definitely review your contribution to the commercialisation of Christmas next year.

That apart, we Scott's are all well and looking forward to the big day.

Now, today's photograph: that's Ben Williams, from Balemartine, here on the Isle of Tiree. You can probably guess that this picture wasn't taken on the island, though! Ben is cycling the length of Vietnam this Christmas to raise funds for Save The Children's work in the far east. Ben has a fascinating website, full of information, a great blog, a picture section, communications from friends all over the world and - perhaps most importantly - instructions on how to sponsor him or even make a one-off contribution. To find out more, CLICK HERE.

Now, do you remember a few weeks back I was telling you that I had been selected to take part in a health and fitness programme organised by the Doc and Will Wright? After I made that posting I then said that the Doc thought I was already too fit and wouldn't benefit from the training. Well, it seems that decision has been reversed. Me and another four people - of all ages and fitness levels - will embark on the great experiment in the New Year.

There isn't an over-arching goal. We all had to state what we wanted to get out of the programme. Me? Well, since stopping training after my running exploits I have been piling on the weight. Of course, a lot of that is down to the time of year and the limited light. But I could have overcome these obstacles easily with a bit of will power.

So, here are my goals: I want to lose weight - maybe about 20lbs - so that I can not only continue to run in 2007 but run competitively in my age group. I also want to have a crack at a couple of Mountain Bike Veterans' fun races. I know that if I can do this I will be a happy man.
The other folks taking part will have different goals according to their lifestyle aspirations.
What's interesting about all of this is that our base recordings will appear in the local paper, An Tirisdeach and our progress (or otherwise) reported on a regular basis.

The aim is, of course, to demonstrate to others that everyone can adopt a healthier lifestyle through regular exercise and a sensible diet.

Hopefully Will and the Doc will let me reproduce the articles here on the blog for the wider, worldwide audience.

And so to this week's exciting instalment from the archive of Isle of Tiree Online News. Quite by accident I came upon a page which was posted in October 2001 and mostly covers the visit to Tiree by my good friends the Robertson's, from Winnipeg. Also on this page are photographs from a few other regular contributors. The link is in the sidebar. Hope you enjoy another wee delve into the past.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Isle of Tiree Online News Archive

A few days back my good friend Scott Cameron pointed reminded me that it was almost a year since we lost our dear friend and Tiree photo journalist, Neil MacKinnon. I still mourn his premature passing.

Neil, of course, was an enthusiastic photographer and his reportage from Tiree was renowned the world over.

Scott reminded me further that there is always a queue of people looking for images of Tiree. That's when I remembered the IOTON pages - Picture Store, and so forth - are still out there in cyber space. It's just that they're a little inaccessible at the moment.

So I've started to trawl the vaults again and make the best of IOTON available at this site. If you look at the sidebar you'll see a new heading - 'Isle of Tiree Online News Archive'. This is where I'll put the links to the rescued pages.

Today we kick off with a beauty, from October 2000. I called this one 'A Sunday Wedding on Tiree' and it was one of the first special features I put online. In fact, IOTON had just gone 'live' a couple of weeks before so I was still at the experimental stage. But I hope you enjoy looking at this, either 'again' or for the first time.

I also have loads of genealogy information in the IOTON posts and I think it's about time I made this available once again.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sad Old Sunday 2

15.45: That's when the power went down. The only thing is, is the power outage local or is it island wide? Will we be playing Cluedo tonight instead of watching crap on the television? I just checked out the readings from the Tiree Met Station. It's giving only a 32 mph constant with gusts of 42 mph - but I don't know about that. The barometer is going down rapidly although right now it's sitting at 991. But believe it or not this wee island is recorded as having the highest constant temperature over the last 24 hours - at 8.1 degrees centigrade.

16.17: God Bless the boys from The Hydro. That's the power back on. Seems it was a local fault. Good on 'em for going out on a night like this.

Sad Old Sunday

We just had a good laugh at the weather man on Sky Television. Due to the weather, so he says, there is risk of flooding in Scotland. Oh and something else: winds are set to gust up to 65 mph in the north west.

The reason we laughed is, well, we've already noticed. Our back yard is more or less a shallow pool. The sheep in the field across the road are stoic but I daresay their wool will seem very heavy when they start to float around. The wind is whistling under the door and water is appearing on the window sill in this, my 'study'.

The sky is slate grey.

Sorry, am I depressing you? If you're reading this in the UK you're probably having to put up with the same crappy weather. If you're in Australia or South Texas can we come to your place on holiday for a few weeks? Months, even?

Tomorrow I am 51. It's incredible. A whole year since I had my big party at An Talla. 2006 went by so quickly. I achieved a lot of the goals I set but there are a few biggies lined up for 2007.

A few things have changed. I'm no longer singing with The Defenders, for instance, but I'm glad to report that the new line-up will be playing at An Talla on the 29th December. If I can possibly make it I'll be there. It'll be strange watching the band as opposed to actually performing but I still don't regret my decision to leave. I've got so many things going on just now.

The recording continues to go well. Four hours I was at it last year. But there won't be any CD in time for Christmas. My original plan was to give the CD to friends as a gift but the project is taking longer than I thought.

I was intrigued to read Scott Cameron's piece on the junk packaging that came with his new Gillette razor. He made some good points in his blog (see sidebar for the link). What gets me about these razor manufacturers is that they seem to bring out a new 'improved' version every couple of weeks.

About a month ago a friend and I were looking at the razors in the Scarinish Co-op here on Tiree. I drew his attention to the 'new' four bladed razor and joked about how long it take for the manufacturer to find a way to sell us the concept of a five-bladed version.

Well wouldn't you know it? It's here. It's in the Co-op. Right next to four-bladed vibrating wet-shave razor David Beckham seems to like so much.

Is it possible to make a six-bladed razor? Surely not ...

Friday, December 08, 2006

An Island Ferry Tale

http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/76223.html
This is a link to an article in today's Glasgow Herald about a new book co-authored by local lad Professor Donald Meek. Entitled The Kingdom of MacBrayne, this now publication is being tipped as 'the definitive history' of Caledonian MacBrayne.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Have You Seen This Wee Rascal?


This is Connie, last seen in these parts on Sunday by our neighbour Donna. We were still in Oban at the time of course. Wherever she is - and presuming she is still alive - she's bound to be wet and cold. The weather just now is just awful. We woke up this morning to find a loch where our lawn used to be. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Still no cat

Still no Connie. I don’t know how many times I have been out and about today looking for her. Listen – I know that cats do this from time to time. In fact Joanne reminded me today that she’s gone off on a long ‘vacation’ before. The last time she went away – so Joanne says – she was gone for a week.

I hate this. After the last cat died – Dibble, who came to a messy end in the field opposite when he got taken out by a tractor that was grass cutting – I swore I would never get so attached to any animal. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Anyway, here we are in front of the television, with my Celtic top on, watching Copenhagen V. Celtic in the Champions League. If the Celts win this game they will win their group. That would be quite an achievement.

21.16: Celtic score their first goal. Now it’s only 3 – 1 to Copenhagen. Things are so bad I’ve started plunking away on my guitar, working some more on the current track.

I like being on holiday on Tiree. The reason I mention this is because your first instinct as a Tiree resident is to make for the mainland when you get the chance.

But when I stay here when on holiday I get a taste of what it must feel like – for instance – to retire here.

Carefree. Calm. Serendipitous.

If only I could find my bloody cat.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oban



Ok. So you want to see all the wonderful photographs I took for the blogspot while I was away for a few days in Oban. See above. Yes folks, I'm afraid that's the extent of it. Oban was wet, wet, wet. But then, so was the rest of the country. I must admit though that Oban was not as windy as I had expected. But we decided to cancel our trip down to Glasgow on Sunday because apparently down there the weather really was pretty rough.


So what did we do. Well here's a clue: I had two women with me and it's nearly Christmas.

Well done! Yes, we shopped. And then after that we shopped. And then we shopped a little more.


I must admit, I like a wee bit of the shopping myself, so don't be fooled.


The prize discovery of this trip was the board games Joanne and I played when we were younger. We bagged 1930s and 1940s reproductions of Cluedo and Monopoly. It was great trying to remember the rules in the flat in Oban. We had a great time.


Oh, the innocent days of our youth!


I suppose the highlight entertainment-wise was the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale. I had been looking forward to seeing this and I was not disappointed. There great action and the new Bond looked super cool and even a little dangerous, something that's been missing since dear old Sean was in the part.


But I must admit I don't enjoy going to the cinema like I used to. I don't know if it's me or my eyesight but I much prefer to watch a good quality DVD.


I must tell you - I was in Argos in Oban and I stood transfixed by a plasma High Definition TV for ages. I have never seen a picture like that ever. More real than life, honest.


Anyway, we are back on the good old Isle of Tiree. But I'm a bit upset. My cat Connie is nowhere to be seen. When we came home this morning, the next door cat was sitting in our kitchen, in the very spot where Connie usually sits. I know cats come back when they're good and ready but the fact is that I'm very fond of Connie and I want her to come home now. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Well, we didn't but we are now ...

In the end we decided not to try for the boat last night. It was wild again but we were and are optimistic we will get away this morning, off to Oban for some R & R. And of course spending!

I'll leave you with this piece of bizarre news: Scotland has just won the Elephant Polo World Championship in Nepal.

Apparently this is the third time we've won it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

To go or not to go ...

Tomorrow - or tonight, we're just not quite sure at this point - the three of us are heading off to Oban to do a little Christmas shopping. We hope to squeeze in a trip to Glasgow as well.

A boat on a Friday night in the winter time on Tiree? What happened was that yesterday's regular sailing was cancelled due to 'adverse weather conditions'. Violent Storm 11, actually.

So a boat - not sure if it's the Lord of the Isle or the Clansman - is coming out to Tiree this morning, going on to Barra and Lochboisdale, and then coming back here this evening.

We think tomorrow's boat - the one on which we're booked - will come in but I just had a look at the forecast for tomorrow and it's talking about 40 mph during the night, calming down to 29 mph as the morning wears on. So now I'm sitting here at 8.20 AM and I'm not sure what to do.

A quick conference with Joanne I think. And of course the pier, just to make sure we can get on tonight.

By the way, I have Google alerts set up to tell me every time a new item featuring the word 'Tiree' appears on the Internet. Every other day I get a false alert because the writer intended to write the word 'tired' and accidentally wrote 'tiree'.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tom Cruise

I watched a great movie tonight.

On Sky Television.

When we came to Tiree 13 years ago we didn't have Sky Television. In fact, as far as I can remember the technological revolution was really yet to get into full swing, here on Tiree or anywhere else.

Back when I came here I remember finding it difficult to get typing paper. I had to order from the mainland and have it sent over. Same with cassette tapes. If there was an 'Internet' movement in the UK in those days I don't remember hearing about it.

In fact when I came to Tiree fax machines completed amazed and baffled me.

Everyone had a catalogue.

Over 13 years everything has changed. So much so that - by the wonders of the internet - I can contact my boss in Oban quicker than someone down the corridor from him. I will email him or I will phone him on his mobile.

Fax machines are old technology.

As for the catalogue you can always get it cheaper online if your 'shop around' on the world wide web.

For four years I hosted a very popular Tiree website which kept folks living all over the world in touch with this little island.

Every thing has changed.

When we came to Tiree we had trouble getting TV reception wherever we stayed. Then we finally bit the bullet and got Sky. It hurt me because Rupert Murdoch isn't one of my favourite guys. But we did it anyway.

Now we have great reception, something like a thousand channels (if we want to pay a little more) and still nothing to watch.

But I have to admit, Joanne and I just watched a great movie. It was called 'War of the Worlds', it was directed by Spielberg and it starred Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise. What a guy.

Like most people on this planet, I find Tom a strange guy.

I've more or less always liked him as a 'blockbuster movie' actor. I don't ever expect to see him do Shakespeare but that's not what expect or even want from him.

But he's not a terrible actor. Far from it.

What bugs people about Tom is Tom. Tom's been acting weird lately. I don't go in for putting people down for their religious beliefs and while Scientology is a bit 'iffy' in my book no one is getting hurt and there are some positive things you can say about it.

Most of the criticism has been down about Tom in Love. There was that totally strange episode where Tom was leaping about Oprah's settee, shouting out his love for his then fiance.

Everyone knows how he has criticised people for taking medication to heal their ailments rather than ... well, whatever Scientology prescribes.

So when I lined up War of the Worlds tonight for our evening's entertainment I had a reservation or two at the back of my mind.

But the movie was brilliant. As always, Spielberg's direction was superb. And there wasn't the usual overly sentimental conclusion which mars a lot of his work.

But Tom was great. The script was great. The special effects were awesome.

The movie had me and Joanne on the edge of our seats. It was scary and exciting.

Fast paced. And unpredictable. Well , unpredictable up until the point where the aliens got the flu and died. Or had a tummy bug. Something like that.

Tom needs to wise up. I think it's a shame - but totally understandable - that Paramount let him go. By all accounts it's a shame, too, for Mission Impossible: 3. Those is the 'know' think it's a really good movie. It's just that no-one wants to go and see it because they're all pissed off with Tom.

He's married now, of course. That should calm him down.

Friday, November 24, 2006

RANT ON FRIDAY: I hate this stupid man and his stupid wife.

Recognise these two?

Yes, it's that couple from the 'Picture Loans' advert on the telly.

You know the one: he's on the phone to this guy from the loan company, talking about the loan, punctuating this very important conversation with talk about football, the weather. All the time his stupid wife is following him about with a camcorder, recording the moment when they got into £42,000 debt.

"You know," he says when he's put down the phone, "it's really easy to talk to those people at Picture."

Yeah, you'd better believe it mate. You just borrowed £25,000 to 'consolidate' your debts and, according to the figures on screen, that will cost you £42,000 in total repayments.

I'm not necessarily knocking the fact that some of us do accumulate too much debt and can't seem to live on a week to week basis without scrimping and saving. In certain circumstances it may be a good and sensible thing to consolidate.

As long as you don't get into any more debt.

But when I look at this advert and I think about how this couple are portrayed it's hard to feel any sympathy for them. You can just tell they're stupid and they will continue to spend, spend spend. No doubt another call will be made to those 'nice people at Picture for another wee top-up.

Of course the people in the advert are just actors. And let me tell you, they do their job well.

So much so that I wish I could reach in through the television screen and give him a slap about the ears.

When debt overwhelms you need to do something about. But it's a serious issue and presenting it in such a blase style annoys to chuff out of me. Consolidation will help in the here and now. But is it worth paying £17,000 interest? They present this little domestic scenario as if it were a public service announcement.

Better to grin and bear it in the short term, perhaps. Or take real advice from someone like the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

Picture this: a few years tightening belts and £17,000 in your pocket.

And this: a 'picture' broken over the heads of this lovely couple, the frame around their necks like a collar. That's an accurate image.

It's really easy to hate those people at Picture.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Radio Dallas

22nd November 1963. A date forever etched in my memory. GMT, I remember the events of that night with crystal clarity.

Just going online now a mix of music, 'live' radio reports made at the time and samples.


It's called 'Radio Dallas' and I hope you ... well, take something from it.
It's being uploaded as I write this so hopefully it will be available very soon.

Click on the link, top right, the one that takes you to my 'work in progress'.

A Minister for the Islands

Interesting to hear Tiree man, Councillor Ian Gillies, on the radio the other morning. Ian was promoting the idea of the Scottish Executive appointing a minister for the islands.

Ian told the press, "We might never expect to realise the full potential of our islands unless they are represented at the highest level within the Scottish parliament by a minister responsible for their development, fate and future."

Iain is urging the Scottish Executive to look to the Republic of Ireland, which has only 30 inhabited islands and 3.4% of Scotland's island population, but for almost 10 years has had an islands section in a government department.

Ireland - and by this I don't mean Northern Ireland, which is, of course, part of the UK - provided Scottish Ministers with the inspiration to press on with the smoking ban in public places (even though this yet to be adoped completely south of the border in England).

Here's hoping MSP's take another leaf out of the Irish book.

My boss arrived on Tiree today. Among other things he told me how much he enjoyed reading my blog. I had no idea he did.

Days go by without my blogging. I think that's because sometimes not too much happens out here and I don't want to necessarily bore you with my reflections on nothing in particular.

Meanwhile, across in Ontario (got it right this time), my friend Scott Cameron is blogging like a man possessed and showing me the way. Check out his site down below in the side bar.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wild Weather 2

Storm Force 11 here according to the Met., Office. Strangely enough we're not hearing it so much now because our gable end faces sound and that's where the wind is coming from.

Wild Weather


Man, it is wild outside and probably set to get wilder. I was out at work fairly early this Sunday morning - before 8 AM - and it was fairly mild then. Just about 10 AM the wind picked up. It's now gusting at anything up to 60 mph out there and set to get stronger.

I had another one of THOSE days. I stopped by at a skip to throw a bag of garbage in for a friend. I had stowed it in the foot well of the passenger side of the car. I pulled up at the skip, rolled down the window, picked up the rubbish and threw it into the skip.

Next thing is I see my mp3 player go flying past my nose, out the window and into the skip after the garbage bag. The little earpieces had fallen over the passenger seat and somehow got tangled up with the bag.

So it was out of the car and into a skip full of crap to retrieve my mp3 player. It could only happen to me.

Today's photograph was taken on our recent trip to Oban. We'd gone out one evening to the place down by the north pier (I think that's what you call it), the one that specialises in Italian food. I put the camera down below the ice bucket with our bottle of wine and took this rather grainy photograph.

It looks rather incriminating but I have to admit that Joanne drank little of the white wine and the lager bottle was also mine. Still, she looks rather merry, don't you think?

So anyway, we're battening down the hatches tonight. The gale force/storm force weather is set to continue into the morning and way beyond. The Met., Office is forecasting gusts up to 70 mph.

See you at the other end - I hope!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Something In The Bedroom


When I got home from work today my dear wife Joanne insisted I follow her upstairs to the bedroom. She had something she wanted to show me.

Well folks, I was tired, it had been a hard day. But when you get an invite like that from the missus, well ... what else can you do but follow.

Turns out she'd bought us a new matching pillow-case and duvet set. And yes, that's it in the picture above. Kind of cute, eh? As for the motto 'sleeping is an art' I endorse that whole-heartedly.

My friend Scott Cameron, the guy I was talking about in this morning's blog, sent me back an email to remind me that he actually lives in Ontario, that he ran 12 miles a week after he completed the NYC Marathon and that he finished that race in 3:26:59 - not 3:27 as I stated.

Of course the last correction is offered by Scott somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But I have to say that if I was him I too would want that single second back.

Oh and by the way Scott - I'll be going to see Peggy and Bobby in a couple of days - I'll say you said 'hello'.

It's been one of these days. Today when I was parked in the company vehicle transporting people to the Lunch Club I tried to put on my fleece without taking off my seat belt, mistook Heylipol Church for a private residence and even attempted to put a coffee jar lid on the teapot.

Next Year Beckons

Well folks I seem to have emerged from my encounter with the dreaded lurgy. I started back to work today, a little tired to be sure, but glad to be back on my feet.

I have now passed the bug on to my wife and daughter. Generous to a fault, that’s me.

I was delighted to hear from my mate over in Manitoba , Scott Cameron, that he’s started his own blog.

Scott is a remarkable chap. Mid-40’s (I think), runs like the wind. Can’t get enough of it, actually. He finished the New York Marathon (26.2 miles) in a time of 3:27.

The next day he went for a 12 mile run to loosen up.

Yeah, guys like him drive me nuts.

I have to get some goals set for 2007. First of all I have to lose some of the weight around my middle. Then I have to get back into training – for what, I don’t know. I have to do some web browsing and sign up for some events.

I’m already thinking about a few events coming off in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I had seriously given some thought to the London Marathon but I think I may be taking things too far.

As I write this I’m aware of an annoying ache in the fingers of my left hand. And the discomfort in my left knee seems to be doing something of a comeback.

But I have to do something. I feel for the first time in many years that I’m managing to do something constructive, something with meaning. I never in my wildest dreams thought I could run a 10k or a half marathon but this year I did both.

Joanne says I am much more adventurous now than when we met, 28 years ago.

And on the subject of years we still haven’t decided how to celebrate that big 25th anniversary when it comes along next July. Hopefully, it will be abroad – either France or maybe Canada. But nothing definite has been decided yet.

I had hoped last year that we could go trekking in Nepal, maybe catch sight of Mount Everest, but we abandoned that soon after Joanne had her slight stroke at the start of 2006. Even though we had decided on an ‘easy’ fairly low altitude trek ANY kind of altitude could be dangerous for her. Well, at least that’s the way it seems to me.

Never say never, however.

We’ve been rather storm lashed this past week. As far as I know the weather observations for Tiree are still off-line. That tells you how bad it’s been.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not Intended As Medical Advice

An email from good friends in Canada:

Good Evening Gordon

An old fashioned Manitoba cure for colds and flu:

(1) get a large bottle of whiskey
(2) set out a rather large glass (8 oz or larger)
(3) Need to have a spoon and honey
(4) Fill kettle with water and Put the kettle on to boil.

Mix 1/3 glass whiskey, add a hearty dollop of honey, fill glass to top with hot water and stir.

Put on your flannel Pyjamas, place a hot water bottle beside your sock covered feet, and get into bed. Pull blankets up to your chin. Then slowly sip the above medicinal drink.


Keep repeating until you can't see your feet...(they may seem fuzzy).

Than go to sleep. You should be fine in the morning.

Keep well!!!

Warm regards from Wallace & Jeanette

Fortunately, I only just checked my email this morning.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sick Report

Hey Guys, sorry I've been away from the blog for days and days. Truth is, I haven't been very well for the past couple of days. Just a cold but needless to say I've been feeling very sorry for myself. Today (Monday) I missed work and I'm not sure what's happening tomorrow. I had a lousy night's sleep last night - lots of feverish tossing and turning - and for most of today I've been asleep on the settee or clicking through the Sky channels, watching crap like Baywatch.

Yes, Baywatch.

Actually, it's just the kind of weather to be ill. For days now the Isle of Tiree has been lashed by fierce gales. In fact, the weather has been so bad that the weather data transmitting service at Tiree meteorological station went offline sometime on Saturday morning!

So I'm really just checking in here to say that yes, I am still alive. I hope to have something of substance to tell you shortly. In the meantime, it's back to the cough medicine for me,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Germany Calling

Just got word by email tonight that I was featured last week on some obscure German radio programme. The theme of the programme - which I listened to online tonight - seems to be experimental music. The song of mine they played was Family Demands. I'm quite pleased about this, needless to say. Most of the other music played sounded very professional and accomplished so I'm additionally pleased to be categorised with the other artisits featured from all over Europe. You can listen to three of my whacky compositions by clicking on the link in the sidebar. More soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Slip of the Pen

In my last blog I incorrectly stated the maker of the fine scarecrow at the Children In Need fundraiser was Hugh MacKinnon. Of course this is wrong: it's Hugh MacInnes. The thing is I know Hugh's surname is MacInnes. A slip of the pen! Sorry Hugh.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Children In Need

After this morning's Circuit Training at An Talla we went next door to the small hall to look in on the folks organising the Tiree contribution to this year's Children In Need fund raising efforts. The folks in the Royal Bank of Scotland in Scarinish never fail to make a really concerted effort to raise money for this very worthwhile event and this year was no exception. The theme this year was The Wizard of Oz. Serving up the tea and home baking were the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy (played by Dorothy Connor), the cowardly Lion and the Tin Man - who was doing a sterling job of selling raffle tickets the last time I saw him. Oh, the scarecrow was there too - a fine scarecrow made by Hugh MacKinnon of Salum. Here's hoping it all went well and their efforts were rewarded with lots of cash for the kids. If anyone still wants to make a contribution get in touch with the folks at the Scarinish branch of the RBS.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Boom

At about 3.30 yesterday afternoon the building in which I was working shook. So did An Talla, a mile down the road. So did my house in Cornaig, three miles away, where Joanne felt the house shudder. Everyone rushed outside. We thought a plane had gone down.

Turns out it was a sonic boom. Joint operations going on in these waters at the moment between the navy and the air force. First time I've ever heard one of those things. Honestly, it was like a bomb going off somewhere nearby.

Later that same afternoon I joined a team representing Argyll College (Tiree) in a video conference quiz. Our team came 4th out of the eight taking part throughout the highlands.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Scratch That

Spoke to Doc Holliday today regarding fitness monitoring (see yesterday's blog). He says I'm too fit.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Lab Rat

I know that a lot of people log in to this blog because they remember my Tiree Online News website. Of course, this isn't the same deal. So I'm sorry if I'm boring everyone with my tales of circuit training and near-death experiences while trying to run a half marathon. Or composing my wacky songs or whatever.

Will and Doc Holliday are thinking about running a serial in An Tirisdeach and on the web where they take someone who is not completely fit and make them - well, fit. They're asking me to take part.

And of course I will do it. I need that target, that goal, that challenge, to know that people are wanting me to succeed/fail and that they're watching and waiting. So yes, I will do it.

I thought I was supposed to mellow out when I became 50?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

After the Circuits

Saturday afternoon … well, that was quite a workout! Since I stopped circuit training sometime in March and went over to road running a lot of muscles – particularly my hamstrings – seem to have gone to sleep. They certainly felt the burn this morning.

There was a good turn out. I saw my mate Ronnie at the Co-op before this morning’s session and asked him if he wanted to come along. Ronnie is a real runner, about my age but very dedicated and very good at long distances. He actually RAN to the hall this morning and then took part in the session.

The circuit comprised left and right-leg lunges, crunches, shoulder presses, press-ups, step exercises, star jumps, upright squats, triceps lifts and shuttle running. We did the course three times. My first run through was a bit of a disaster but the second was much better. Everyone found this, in fact. In the second run through I really tried to go for it. The result was that come the third run through I had as much energy as a wet rag.

But Joanne and I really enjoyed it. It’s a great feeling when you get through something really difficult, something that really causes you to extend your limits and, yes, to go through that personal endurance boundary.

Our coach, Will, took a note of all our performances and will work out a schedule for us based on these.

After the circuit training we did a simple pilates session. Some of these exercises are really tough. Joanne and I are really in awe of our friend Bella. Bella is a little bit older than I am and she has been doing pilates for years. As a result she has a great figure and she is very physically fit.

This afternoon we’ve been chilling out a little bit. I had hoped to go for a bike ride this afternoon but those hamstrings are yelping.

Tonight we are having some friends from the drama class over for wine and nibbles. We’re trying to get ideas together for a presentation we have to make in front of some kind from Argyll College in about a week or so. No one is really prepared for this so we’d better get our skates on.

3.30pm – I think a bath to soothe those aching muscles would be a good idea.

Circuit Training

Here on Tiree we have a gymnasium of sorts. It’s in the Baptist Church Hall in Baugh. Some of the local lads set it up. I’ve only used it about twice, though. I have a multi-gym at home. Then of course if you’re looking for somewhere to run or cycle Tiree is just the place to indulge yourself … when the weather is with you.

And that’s the problem. All week – well, at least since we got back from Oban last on Tuesday – it seems to have been raining non-stop. Of course a bit of rain never hurt anyone but there’s also been a bit of a strong wind blowing throughout the course of the days.

I’m not so bothered about missing out on my running at the moment. To be honest with you my knee is seriously aching at the moment. I really blame it all on that fall I took while over gigging with the band in Coll, way back in August. This injury is taking a long time to heal.

But there’s poor Brigitte (my Giant Road Bike) who seems to have been stuck in the shed for the longest time.

So it is with some relief that I tell you the Saturday morning circuit training resumes in An Talla this morning. I notice with some interest that what was a one hour session at the start of the year has now become a two hour session. I have no idea why, unless our coach, Will, is going to include Pilates as part of the work out.

Will is talking about some kind of project where he takes me – a fairly fit guy for my age (50) – and helps me achieve all I can without (hopefully) actually killing me. I’ll get some feedback from him this morning.

As I mentioned a few days back I am certainly overweight for all the things I want to achieve next year – things like a couple of half marathons and a few other sporting challenges. I also need to discipline myself a little more when it comes to workouts, training and cycling. I can’t afford to just train when I feel like it.

So here’s the low-down: I weighed myself this morning and I weigh 186 lbs. I’m about 5’ 8” tall – but that’s just a guess. As you can see if I want to keep running without causing my knee joints to fuse up I have to reduce the impact in some way.

Losing some of that weight would help.

And that brings me back to the rain. Both Joanne and I were stuck in the house yesterday so we ate. And ate. In other words we were a little depressed at not being able to get out. That’s one of the penalties of living on a small, remote island. I mean, you’re not going to pop out to the theatre, club or cinema on days like that, not on Tiree at any rate.

To our credit, though, both of us have been eating a lot of white meats and we’ve been trying to cut out bread and potatoes and all that stuff and replacing it with rice or salad.

So it’s off to An Talla in about half an hour from now. Actually, Joanne was there last night, at a ‘ladies night’ organised by Norma and Fifi. Virgin Vie and Party Light products. I don’t think the balance to our bank balance is in any way substantial.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Glencruitten Road

Maps are wonderful things. Maybe if I'd looked at a map of Scotland before yesterday's posting yesterday's blog I would have known that the road Joanne and I walked was Glencruitten Road.

But we can't make up our mind about the mountain featured in yesterday's photographs, away in the distance. We think perhaps it's Ben Ghlas but we're not absolutely sure. Anyone know?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Weekend in Oban

Ah, great news! My laptop is back in action. I found a repair tool online which has sorted the thing out for me. What’s more, it’s going better than it did before. What a relief!

Well, folks, we had a nice few days in Oban. By the time we got over there on Saturday there wasn’t much else to do other than settle in to our B & B and then head out for something to eat. Whenever we are in Oban and we’re thinking of going to a restaurant first thoughts are of ‘The Light of India’. For my money LOI serves the best Indian food in town.

Next day, Sunday, and the highlight of our weekend. We walked a short but lovely route called – we think – the Argyll Coastal Route (North). This is the road which goes past the golf course, past the Rare Breeds Park and comes out at Connel.

It was a lovely morning and I was so glad I took my camera with me. We set out on this walk just after nine in the morning. What a beautiful day, a day when Joanne and I felt completely chilled. One of those days when you’re out and about and you don’t have to say all that much to each other. One of those days when every now and again you sigh with contentment without realising you’re doing it.


Anyway, the pictures should speak for themselves. This is the second time I’ve been on that road, actually. The first time was last year and on that occasion I was cycling.

When we got to Connel we didn’t have the heart for walking on the busy main road so the nice man at ‘The Glue Pot’ (that’s the pub adjacent to ‘The Oyster Inn’ phoned us a taxi.

That night we ate Chinese.

Monday was mainly shopping. And eating. At lunch time we had soup and sandwiches in ‘Mondo’s’. This cost about £5.50 and it was worth every penny.

In the evening we went to ‘Piazza’. That’s right: Monday night was Italian night. REAL pizza, this, with freshly cooked base. I had hot and spicy while Joanne had regular. With a nice little bottle of Spanish white to go with it! A lovely meal. And then out and about for a couple of refreshments.



On Tuesday we came back to Tiree. Last night it was our drama class. We have a presentation to do in a couple of weeks so things are getting a little more serious. No, I take that back. We had a great laugh last night while, at the same time, actually learning something.


I had the rest of the week off now and I intend to do some cycling and other exercise. I am overweight for the challenges I have set myself for the coming few months and I intend to shame myself into losing a few pounds by recording my progress – or lack of it – here in this blog. More of this later.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Not Again

Greetings ... from Joanne's computer. My laptop has crashed. Well, crash is probably not exactly the right word. More like it slumped to the floor this morning, made a few noises which convinced me it might still be alive. Now it's flat-lining.

For the past few days my laptop had been getting slower and slower. I began to suspect a bug. But my virus scanner showed up nothing. I tried defragmenting and I tried cleaning the disk. I tried launching my spy-ware. And of course I tried a full system scan with my virus scanner. Nothing. But still the laptop got weaker and weaker.

I am not given to violence but at several points today I felt like just picking the damn thing up and smashing it off the floor.

But hey, wait a minute: a good part of 'my life' is in there. I use my laptop to communicate with people all over the world, to download podcasts, to keep my music in, to surf the net.

The I remembered that feature of Windows XP: the System Restore. I decided to go back quite a few weeks to get back to where I was before the problems started.

Half way through the System Restore - while I was not in the room - the laptop powered down. Now I have half a 'restored' computer. Some things on it work. Unfortunately the things I care most about - like internet access - don't. I can't even 'undo' my last System Restore because that program doesn't work anymore!

So I have to get myself an up to date disk which will allow me to reinstall XP.

What a drag.

Any suggestions what I can do?

On a brighter note I really enjoyed this week's Tiree Wave Classic. As I was explaining to my friend Doc Holliday earlier tonight I know absolutely nothing about wind surfing. But I know a good atmosphere when I feel it. Everything on Tiree this week was perfect apart from the fact that there was no wind.

On Wednesday the T15 (kids) competition was held here in Cornaigmore. It was great. Even if there was no wind out there on the loch everyone was hollering, the burger van was there, the sound system was blasting out Pink Floyd ... we had a 'wail' of a time.

Congratulations to the organisers, both local and from the mainland, who make this wonderful event such a success.

Joanne and I are off to Oban tomorrow for a few days rest and recreation. Joanne hasn't been feeling too well of late so this is a timely visit. Some 'retail therapy' will do her good, I am sure.

If I find an Internet cafe (do they still call them that?) I will log on and give you and update.

In the meantime, goodnight from a very PC user. Maybe I should get a Mac ... ?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Easy Living/Hands Up For Trad

What I ended up doing today was not cycling or doing any kind of exercise. I became totally focused on the new tune I was recording and spent hours on it. The new song is called Easy Living and you can listen to it by following the link under 'listen to my music'. It's about how Joanne and I met - 28 years ago or something like that - and I hope you enjoy the underlying humour of it all.

I've been meaning to tell you for days now about Hands Up for Trad. 'Trad' in this case refers to traditional music. There's an award being set up and I think we should all vote for A' Bhuain. There are probably two categories you can vote for the Homecoming under: best community project and best event of the year. At least I think that's the categories ... Och, you'll work it out when you get there.

Here's the link: http://www.handsupfortrad.co.uk/tradmusicawards/index.htm

The way this works is that we nominate A' Bhuain first of all using this online form. (Only one set of nominations is allowed from a single computer thus there can be no multiple voting.) If A' Bhuain gets enough votes it goes on to stage 2 which, presumably, involves judging.

I took the picture above this afternoon when Joanne and I went over to Gott Bay for a cheeseburger. How healthy! Still a great buzz surrounding the whole Wave Classic thing.

Tiree Riding The Crest of a Wave ...

... as the top stars blow in. Click here for an article in yesterday's Sunday Herald.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sleepy Head/Making Your Wishes Known To Santa

A fine day on Tiree, today. With so much activity going on here on Tiree at the moment I'm rather ashamed to say that I spent most of the day either lounging about in the house (while Joanne was out at work) or making a few half-hearted attempts to record a couple of tunes.

Then again I was dog tired up until I had my afternoon nap. Let me re-phrase that in the current politically correct parlance: I had a power nap. I'm a great believer in power napping. I have been ever since I was about seventeen.

This is probably the reason why I am such a poor sleeper. I seem to spend hours awake every night, just staring at the ceiling, making my plans for the day ahead. But when it comes time to get up I'm so tired I don't have the energy to do any of them!

If I had the luxury of not having to work for a living I reckon I would sleep when I was tired and do stuff when I felt like it, whatever of the time.

I mention this because an elderly friend always asks me - as she did today - how well I am sleeping. She sleeps remarkably well and is rather bemused when I tell her how I lie awake half the night listening to Radio Five Live.

Enough of that. I eventually pulled myself out of the house at about five o'clock and took myself over to Gott Bay, where most of today's action - in the competition at least - appeared to be taking place. Of course by the time I got there things were winding down. I tried to take a couple of pictures but my little digital camera is woefully inadequate for the kind of pictures I want to take.

Maybe I'll ask Santa for a new camera.

Joanne, Jennifer and I have established a new method for working out what to buy each other for Christmas. What we do is we make a 'wish list' and email it to ... Santa. But we make sure we copy each other in to the email.

I know, I know.

I was going to tell you how to vote for A' Bhuain in the Hands up for Trad awards but I think that deserves a post of it's own.

Tonight I am recording. Tomorrow - apart from a couple of quick little tasks - I have the day off. Hopefully I will get on my bike and go check out the surfing scene. I am no surfer, I just want to make that plain. But I always find the folks who come to the island at this time of year a really good bunch of people and I like to enjoy the vibe. I will take my woefully inadequate camera with me (please take note, Santa) just in case.

Have a nice night, everyone,

Windsurfers' Hebridean Paradise

Click here for a report from BBC News.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tiree Wave Classic


Here we are again, first day of the Tiree Wave Classic. This world famous week-long windsurfing competition never fails to attract many competitors and perhaps many more who just enjoy being part of the scene.

I've put a link to a dedicated website, top right. The website is updated daily so check it out to keep a tab on how the competitions are going and great photographs.

The organisers have produced a really helpful little booklet. It describes the competition rules in a few simple sentences (they must have had me in mind!) and there are also thumbnail photographs of the main seeds. A great little innovation, this, and I hope we'll see this booklet being updated every year.

On a completely different subject, later on I'll be telling you how you can nominate A' Bhuain for a couple of awards. More later.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Girl's Got To Do What A Girl's Got To Do ...


Joanne and I had intended to go out along with our daughter Jenny to celebrate my running of the WWH on Saturday evening. However the gale that blew during my run got worse that night and we just didn't feel like going anywhere.

Instead, Joanne and I flopped down on the carpet with a refreshment or two and listened to music from way back when. Mostly it was stuff that was going around when we started going out with each other, back in 1978.

Oh - and Joanne rubbed my aching tootsies for me. What a gal! What a Kodak Moment!

Now in those days, kiddies, we listened to our favourite bands and artistes via records and cassette tapes. If you young readers look up Wikepidia all will be revealed.

Saturday evening, Joanne and I were listening to all our favourite 'oldies' courtesy of the laptop inked up to our stereo amplifier.

We couldn't even have begun to imagine such a thing would exist when we started going out with each other, lo, those 28 years ago!

I'm not one of those people who thinks things were necessarily better in 'the old days'. And I certainly don't think there are no good bands about anymore. Quite the reverse. There are excellent rock bands out there, more so than ever.

Even politicians on the world stage have become BETTER at making VERY BAD decisions.

When I was a little boy an American president named John Fitzgerald Kennedy rein in his Chiefs of Staff during the Cuba Missile crisis. If he had not managed to do this it is unlikely any of us would be here at the moment. He remains the hero of my lifetime. A man with many faults but I think that when you balance these against saving the world from nuclear destruction they don't amount to much.

I despair as I witness the antics of Bush and Blair. I just don't know how much worse things have to get before they start to get better. Perhaps they never will.

It's good, then, to be able to remember that life has purpose, that we can set our own goals, that we can make things meaningful. People like you and I don't get their names written down in the history books and when we're gone we'll probably be soon forgotten.

That's why the NOW is the most important thing. And how we treat each other.



(How did I get from Joanne rubbing my toes to President Kennedy saving the world?)

I'm a 50 year old guy making new discoveries about myself on a daily basis. I see the guy in pictures and I think 'he looks like he's getting on a bit' but that's not how I feel inside. Inside I feel alive, fit and ready, willing and able to be excited by new stuff.

The world is what we make it folks. Why not make it a nice one?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Into The Teeth Of A Howling Gale

Well, I did it. My time is not remarkable. I ran the half marathon course I set out for myself in 02.48.03.

The omens were not good this morning. Never mind that vicious wind coming out of the north-west first thing this morning. WE HAD NO POWER. Cornaigmore seemed to be the only place affected. BUT I NEED MY STRONG COFFEE BEFORE I RUN, I thought. So it was out with the camping stove and on with the little kettle which whistles when it's ready.

Breakfast was an energy gel-pack, a bagel and some energy drink. And then it was out and on with it.

Now let me tell you, if I could only have run due east for 13.1 miles I would have logged a personal best. Well, actually, any time I logged would be a personal best because I haven't run a half marathon before. So let me put it this way: if I could have benefited from that tail wind for the entire run I would have put in an impressive run.

Part of my route meant going down the pier road and turning around and heading back to Scarinish once I went round the tear-drop island. As soon as I did that, boy, what a difference. From there on in, it was tough.

Going over the reef took ages but by this time the wind had swopped round to a south-westerly so I had a little help going up Kenovay. By the time I turned left to head back to Cornaigmore it wasn't so much the wind as the inevitable fatigue I was battling.

But I got there. It was weird stopping moving. And boy, were my legs protesting. I went upstairs to run a bath and it was like climbing Everest. Some stretching has alleviated the discomfort and my legs don't feel too bad tonight.

One scare along the way was when I was just past Parkhouse and suddenly there was an almighty pain in my left calf. I had to pull up sharp. I thought I had pulled a muscle but I guess it was only cramp. I've never had trouble in this calf muscle before so I was completely surprised. I stopped another couple of times to stretch it out and although it was tight and sore for the rest of the run it was bearable.

My co-timer, Joanne, was waiting for me with a hug and a kiss and she took a photo of me crossing my imaginary finish line. Unfortunately, Blogger does not want me to upload pictures tonight for some reason but I'm sure you will not be too disappointed that you can't immediately see a picture of a worn out me arriving back home after running the half marathon.

Tonight I will relax, watch other results coming in at Phedippidations.

I am a tired but a happy man. I am now a half-marathon runner. Who'd have thunk it?

Friday, October 06, 2006

The 1st Annual World Wide Half Marathon/Seamus Heaney/Basking Sharks/New Song

Well, folks, the World Wide half-Marathon is nearly upon me. If you've checked the weather for Tiree this weekend you'll have seen that it's a rather disgusting forecast - especially when you've decided to run or run/walk 13.1 miles with a trick knee. I checked with Steve Walker of Phedippidations and he assures me that I'll be able to log a time up until the 17th of this month so I could wait for better weather if I wanted to. But heck, I've had my sights on this weekend for months now. Joanne, Jenny and I are even planning to go out to celebrate tomorrow night. (How's that for optimism!)

So the running gear is all looked out and the energy drink is mixed and in the fridge and I'm 'good for go'.

On a completely different theme, Bev, Tony and Harry Richmond have been in touch to tell me about Seamus Heaney, a bona fide northern Irish poet. Of course. I had him at the back of my mind but to be honest I haven't read much of his stuff. But here's an example kindly sent to me by the Richmonds.

More about Tiree Coconuts in this week's edition of An Tirisdeach. I must get on to the editor and make her aware of Charles Nelson's recent communication with this blog.

Once again another week has not gone past without Tiree being featured on the BBC radio news. This time it's those beautiful creatures, Basking Sharks. Apparently the stretch of water between Tiree and Coll is one of the 'hot spots' for observing them. In all the years I've now lived here I've yet to see one. One day soon, I hope. Anyway, here's a link to the story.

And finally, I recorded a new song this morning and it's available for listening online. If you thought 'Buddha Bill' was an aberration this new offering should convince you that I have a rather odd style of song writing. This song is called 'Family Demands' and is a breezy little tune ... about an unhappy childhood. Honest, I just pick up the guitar, I start singing and what comes out is what comes out. Click on the link near the top right column to hear 'Family Demands' - if you dare!

Hey folks, I'll see you on the other side of the finishing line.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Monkey Mind


This picture was sent to me by our friend in Bedfordshire, Fran Andel. Sunset over Balephetrish, she calls it. It’s lovely. If you click on it you will see the full size image, one worth saving I would imagine. I don’t think Fran will mind at all.

Another drama class last night. I must say I wish I had taken this up earlier in life. I said this to one of the younger participants last night. She said ‘why? You’re doing it now, aren’t you?’

This year I’ve achieved the two goals that I set out with: I wanted to act (somehow) and I wanted to run. I’ve achieved both of these goals, what with the Napier Commission play and the Tiree 10k but I’m now a little greedy for more.

Talking of the Napier Commission I heard it mentioned on the Radio Scotland news this morning. Many people in the crofting universe are suggesting that there be another Napier Commission-style investigation into the state of crofting in Scotland.

The man I was listening to reminded the listeners that most of the recommendations of the Napier Commission were ignored.

Today I had to good fortune to spend lunchtime with the good folks of the lunch club organised and run by the Better Neighbourhoods Scheme. We were over at the Lodge Hotel.

Gott Bay looked wonderful in the early afternoon sunlight. The sea was flat calm and there wasn’t a single soul to be seen on the beach. That situation is about to change of course. In a couple of weeks it will be Wave Classic time again and wind surfers from all over the world will come to compete in this world-famous event.

I was sitting next to Duncan Gillespie in the dining room. Before he retired Duncan was a journalist – an agricultural journalist, if memory serves – and I believe he still writes a column for Scottish Farmer. Although Duncan does not enjoy the best of health he has, just last week, completed a novel. He’s an interesting and intelligent man and I always enjoy talking with him.

At one point two of our party gave us a rousing version of The Lord of Cockpen. Until recently I had not heard this song. One of our party told me she had learned this song when she was a child in school. She’s now 91 years of age and remembers every word.

I can’t remember any poems I learned at school. In fact I don’t remember the Scottish tongue being encouraged back where I grew up in Lanarkshire.

Last night at the drama class I – among others – was performing an excerpt from a play called Miss Julie. I played a Frenchman named Jean. I performed his dialogue in broad Scottish. Somehow it seemed quite legitimate.

It seems to be very much en vogue to be Scottish. The present Prime Minister is Scottish (not a lot of people realise that!) and his predecessor as his leader of the Labour party was a Scotsman. The next Prime Minister is likely to be a Scotsman.

My mate, John Andel – husband of Fran, my friend who sent today’s picture – a Czech by birth but very much an Englishman – is very much ‘into’ Scottish and Gaelic culture. But he was amazed when I told him earlier this year that I couldn’t stand Runrig.

And I might as well confess that I prefer Shakespeare to Burns.

I am very proud of being Scottish. I feel myself to be Scottish through and through. But I am also proud of the fact that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. I feel like I can share in being proud of – for instance - Shakespeare, an Englishman, or Dylan Thomas, another poet and a Welshman.

(Oddly enough, although I can think of lots of Irish artists, offhand I can’t think of any who are definitely northern Irish and thus part of what we call the UK. Please feel free to remind me!)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tiree Coconuts #2

On September 20th I featured on the blog a link to an online newspaper article about so-called 'Tiree Coconuts'. A few days back I was contacted by Doctor Charles Nelson. We both hope the following helps put these 'finds' into perspective.

Doctor Nelson writes,

Tropical seeds - variously called Mollucca beans, Caribbean beans, Mary's beans, sea beans, horse-eye beans, suil an asail, and nickar nuts - have been reported from the region since the late 1600s. FamousScottish authors like Martin Martin have written about them, and theywere illustrated as early as 1693, in James Wallace’s Description of theisles of Orkney.

Coconuts, in fact, are regularly washed ashore onbeaches in Cornwall, western Ireland, Scotland and even in Norway atlocalities well beyond the Arctic Circle. Alas they are usuallyoverlooked and very rarely reported to botanical authorities who collect data about these seeds.

Thus the most remarkable thing about the Tiree coconuts is fact they have generated so much interest - one might say"heat" but not "light" - and for completely the wrong reason. In short, tropical seeds washing ashore is nothing new! In the past theywere used as snuff boxes, charms, talismans, vesta cases, and evenornamental jewellery; there are examples in several Scottish museums. And some, especially Mary’s beans, were highly prized by Hebridean midwives.

Dr William Baker's careful explanation of the Tiree coconut records, illustrated with photographs of one of the Tiree nuts, is to be found in Palms 49 (4): 195-198 (2005).

Anyone interested in more informationabout tropical seeds stranded on beaches in western Europe is welcome to consult my book Sea beans and nickar nuts (published by the BotanicalSociety of the British Isles - see www.summerfieldbooks.com) or to contact me directly.

For contact details see www.tippitiwitchet.co.uk

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Getting There

I can’t believe  it’s exactly a week since I was in Aviemore with Joanne, Becky and Will.  And so far not a word written about it!  Sorry about that folks.  Actually, I’ve sort of promised to write about the event for An Tirisdeach, the next edition of which is due out this Friday, so I’d better get my skates on.

The big thing this weekend has been training.  Next weekend it’s the World Wide Half Marathon so the big things for me over the past couple of days have been running and cycling.  

Yesterday, Saturday, I ran/walked from Cornaigmore to Scarinish and back, a distance of 10.8 miles all round.  I’ll not tell you how long it took me to do this – it’s just too embarrassing.  But then again I mustn’t lose sight of the fact that I am a 50 year old ‘newbie’.  I hadn’t run at all until I started getting in to shape for  Tiree 10k.

While I was out on the road yesterday a very nice lady stopped in her car to ask me if I was Gordon Scott and when I said yes she went on to tell me how much she liked reading this blog and how much she’d enjoyed the old Isle of Tiree Online News site I used to run.  In fact she went on to say that she thought it was me when she saw I was sporting a knee support!  Her kind remarks made me very happy.

(By the way, I’ve decided to run/walk the half marathon due to the problems with the old knee and in any case it’s a recognised and legitimate way for an amateur to undertake a distance event.  I think my ratio of running to walking will be something like running 9 minutes and walking 1.)

This afternoon I went for a cycle on Brigitte.  Once again it was a case of going over to Scarinish and coming back, mainly to keep those muscles loose after yesterday’s long run.  But today it was colder, windier, and when I got back I found it hard to get warmed up.  In fact, I’m writing this huddled next to one of the radiators in the living room!

So, not much in the way of ‘creativity’ this weekend either.  I’ve got a couple of songs on the go at the moment, trying to get them recorded and mixed but not much is going to happen this week I don’t think.

That wacky little song, ‘Buddha Bill’, has now been heard online by hundreds – if not thousands – of people.  This week it’s going out on the very popular ‘Zen and Art of Triathlon’ podcast.  I’ll provide a link for that when the show airs.  It’s pleasing to me that the people picking up on the song are health and fitness shows.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Farewell to The Defenders; Aviemore Apology; My Music Online

Well folks, this is a sad one. After a lot of soul searching and procrastination I have decided to leave The Defenders.

Between writing a book, recording a CD, learning French, attending drama lessons, trying to run a half marathon and keeping up my cycling I am simply unable to give the guys (and gal!) the commitment they require.

On the plus side, The Defenders will not 'cease to be'. Their new singer is my very good friend Billy Byfield. Billy has been rehearsing with the band and hopefully it won't be too long before we hear news of up-coming gigs.

I've had a blast with the band. When I was much younger I played in bands - a lot of people have. But this band enabled me - a guy who is, let's admit it, getting a bit long in the tooth! - to live out his dream of performing with a top-notch rock band. I can honestly say that of all the bands I have played with in the past and out of all my public performances singing, The Defenders' gigs were the very best times I ever had. I don't know if that's good English but you get my drift.

I love the guys (and gal) in The Defenders with all my heart and I wish them every success in the future. Already I'm looking forward to seeing them as 'a punter'.

As for the promised Aviemore report - that should be along shortly. I haven't had a chance to draw breath since I got back. I can tell you however that I had a brilliant weekend and I'm looking forward to telling you all about it.

Returning to the music front for just a second I've begun posting my 'work in progress' on to the web. If you want to hear my strange take on country music you should click here. I'm making my music available on the Podsafe Music facility. As you will see the only track which is there at the moment is, indeed, Buddha Bill, the moral of which is that everything you do has a consequence. More will follow and I'll establish a permanent link as soon as I can. If you stick with me through my musical journey you'll soon realise that my music is just a tad off the wall.

All the best folks and goodnight from a wild night in Cornaigmore!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Off to Aviemore

Well folks, off to Aviemore today. And the really good news is that Joanne was able to get time off work so she’s coming with Becky, Will and myself. We’re heading up to Aviemore to support Will as he takes part in the Scottish Cross Country Mountain Bike Championship. These are the finals and of course Will has been doing really well and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for him winning his class.

I’ve just bought a new memory card for the cheap wee digital camera I got from the co-op. All of a sudden I went from having a memory of something like 60 pictures to 1186. So, naturally I hope to bring loads of pictures back from Aviemore.

We’ll be camping at least one night while we’re away and we hope to be meeting up with a lot of crazy Mountain Bikers while we’re away. Should make for an interesting read!

I was on holiday yesterday. It was a better day after a wild night. I checked the Tiree weather observations for during Friday morning and at 1 AM we were getting hit with gusts up to 70 mph. Hurricane Gordon, eh? But although it was breezy yesterday the sun was out and it was reasonably warm. I actually decided that as it was such a fine ‘drying day’ that I should get the laundry basket emptied. Yes folks, I did it. I managed to work the washing machine. Not only that but I hung it out. And I took out the Hoover - and used it - afterwards. And put stuff in the dishwasher. And I tidied out the little junk store I laughingly call my study. What do you think, gals? Hope for me yet?

The annual sale at the School was on last night. I bought a stack of books. ‘The Portable Nietzsche’ intrigued a few people. Then there’s the biography of Karl Marx. Oh, and ‘Leviathan’ by Thomas Hobbes, a book I read in first year philosophy at University. But perhaps the most significant find is a book called ‘Marathon Running for Mortals’. By John Bingham, I’ve been dipping in and out of this since I got it. Looks pretty interesting and helpful.

See you when I get back – which should be on Monday – with lots of pictures and a good tale to tell.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tiree Coconuts

You mean to say you didn't know we get coconuts on Tiree? Click Here

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Wonder Women #2

Here's an email I received a couple of days ago. It was so welcome and I was really touched by it.


Good Evening Gordon

I was sorry to read of the lady friends who have recently had breast cancer. My thought and prayers go out to them and I hope they come through it all ok. Take it from me, been there done that...once in a lifetime is an adventure...but I do not wish to repeat that adventure. I'm into my 3rd year...and taking high priced ($170) per month) aromosin. I was on tamoxifin for 2 1/2 years ($30 per month). and this spring my oncologist said this pricey drug was better for me. That price is definitely better for the makers of the drug and you almost need a magnifying glass to see the pill. Oh well, you do what you have to...

I do hope the ladies remember to retain a sense of humour, as it will get you through the days when you feel like crying buckets. And some days it is good to sit down with a "hot cuppa" and have a good howl, but for heaven sakes stay out of the "pity pot".

Does it change your outlook on life...for me it has..I grumble less, enjoy more and take less for granted.(Note: I didn't give up grumbling entirely...just ask my favourite hubby...Wallace.)

I recall my daughter-in-law calling, and saying Mom, you had better go and get your licence done before I come down south with Adrian. (Our birthdays are both in July and we usually do a mother/daughter thing by renewing our driver's licences together. I went and got my new photo taken, and renewed the licence. The next day, as I was coming downstairs, I happened to run my hands through my hair, and I came up with a handful. James our younger son was in the hallway and I jokingly said to him, "James look at this, you and your brother turned my hair grey and now you guys have it falling out." The poor guy blanched.

James was my drill sargent, when I had to do all those arm exercises to get it mobile again. Doctor said once a day...kid said Mom twice a day...morning and night...and he pushed for me to stretch a bit higher..and do a couple extra. It worked but I still firmly believe he was secretly getting even.

You probably don't have sales people or people collecting at the door for one thing or another...but while I had no hair, it was a real asset to answer the doorbell without my wig...The person couldn't get away fast enough.

The bottom line was , that I know for certain, that I look better bald than my brother.

The one thing that these ladies will notice, and my friends who seemed to have breast cancer that same year, is that some people that you feel you can really count on, ..."are not there."..and others who you feel are acquaintances, are there "in spades". Simply you just don't know.

Our friend Jon called from Ontario, and really nailed my shoes to the floor, when he enquired "Jeanette, how are you today?" I started to give a running average, then realized exactly what he said. He meant now, today, this moment. I now ask the same question when I run into people who have had a recent illness or problem..."How are you today?" and that is my question to you, Joanne and your friends.

Take care. God Bless! From Jeanette (Manitoba).

There's nothing I can add to that other than to say our friend is back home and she is feeling really good.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Buddha Bill: Listen to my song online.


Today's picture was taken at Gott Bay on Friday. It's kind of a complicated story but I had to take Friday and Saturday off this week rather than Saturday and Sunday - I need to work on Sunday. So anyway I went out for a 20 mile cycle. I went up to the east end of the island. I haven't really explored those parts in years. It was quite a revelation. Brigitte and I went to Caoles, Milton, all those townships. And I took plenty of pictures. Trouble is I keep on forgetting to check that little switch at the side of my digital camera, the one that lets you select close-ups or landscapes. I must have knocked the switch at some point because I had it set for close-ups and that's why the above picture is probably the only decent one to survice. Pity I look like a posing eejit. I wasn't trying to, honest.

Today, Saturday, I managed a very slow 8-mile run. I was very pleased with myself after it. Even though it took me an eternity to complete the run - Cornaigmore-Hough-Moss-Heylipol-Island House and back up to Cornaigmore - the pain in my knee wasn't too bad. I'm wearing a knee support at the moment and it does help when I'm running.

After burning about 1200 calories on the run I decided the one thing I needed badly was lunch! Joanne and I headed over to the Lodge Hotel. She had lasagne, I had scampi. And a pint. Well, two pints actually. Of course, it's important to re-hydrate after a long run ...

While I was out on my run I listened to the latest edition of 'Fitness Rocks'. And yes, my song Buddha Bill is featured. So please do visit Doc Monte's site and give my tune a listen. Not only that but if you are at all interested in hearing a guy who knows his onions talk about healthy lifestyle alternatives, listen to the whole show. Here's how.

Doc Monte's website can be found at http://fitnessrocks.org/ I have a permanent link down below and to the right. When you go to his page look for edition number 12 of the podcast. (As I write this is the latest edition.) Click the 'Listen Now' link on the right side. The latest edition of the podcast will start to play.

However, a little media player should pop up so that if you are reading this some time after I've posted this blog you should select show number 12.

If you would like to know more about the song see my previous blog.

I strongly urge you to consider subscribing to Doc Monte's show via iTunes or one of those other podcatchers. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I wrote a song called Buddha Bill ...

I wrote this song called Buddha Bill. I wrote it a couple of years back. I suppose you could call it a country tune. But the words in the song don't seem to sit well with the tune ... if you get what I mean?

I wrote a song called Buddha Bill. It only lasts two minutes and fifteen seconds. The song is about how you reap what you sow ... as a well known philopshper/messiah (take your pick) said about two thousand years ago.

I'm into Buddhism. I think Buddhists have the whole thing sussed out acutually. I'm not a Buddhist. Going by last night's post you probably think I'm a Christian. I'm not even sure about that anymore.

Maybe one day I will become a Buddhist, who knows.

One thing I do believe in is what John Lennon identified in his famous song: INSTANT KARMA IS GOING TO GET YOU.

I've noticed that I transmit vibes. Have you noticed this? If you're looking for trouble you'll find it. I also noticed some time back that if I look for peace I get this too. BUT I HAVE TO LOOK FOR IT FIRST.

More importantly I've noticed that when I'm mean to people someone is almost instantly mean back to me.

Instant Karma.

And that's what my song is about - and the reason why I'm telling you all this is because you can hear me singing soon online courtesy of Doc Monte's FITNESS ROCKS podcast.

I sent the good Doctor the track which I'd been working on for my 'friends only' CD just to let him know what kind of music I liked to make. To my amazement he wants to feature it on this week's show.

It should be on air later today or maybe tomorrow. I'll give you the details later.

All I can say is 'wow'.

And I still think women are great.