Friday, July 28, 2006

The Scent of a Woman

At around 7 p.m. tonight I suggested to Joanne we go for a ride on our bikes.

I would have made my suggestion earlier only there was this 38 year-old episode of Star Trek on the Sci-Fi channel in which Kirk and Spock encounter the Klingons for the first time. The fact that we own every episode of the original Star Trek series in two different formats didn’t dull my enthusiasm for putting off doing anything.

But you know there’s only one thing worse than having to get your backside off the couch and go do some exercise and that’s how bad you feel if you don’t.

It was calm night, barely a breeze to be felt. We set off down from our home in Cornaigmore and headed in the direction of Kenovay.

I really needed to get some work done on my bad knee. I’m falling way behind with my half-marathon training schedule but high impact exercise seems inadvisable. So it was out with the mountain bikes and off we went.

Seven miles ought to do it, we felt.

I was pleased with the way it was going by the time we climbed that short but sometimes wicked little hill at Rossdhu, heading in the direction of Crossapol.

And then, just over the cattle grid, it happened.

We’d pulled over in to a ‘pocket’ to let an approaching car pass, me in front. Then I heard a strangled cry behind me. I looked behind me just in time to see Joanne complete a tumble on to her left side. Thank God, she’s laughing, I thought, running back to her.

And then, holding up her gloved left hand I saw it. The cow crap. The fresh cow crap.

The car we’d pulled over to let pass us stopped and the lady driver enquired after Joanne. She saw that we were laughing and she saw the funny side too. As Joanne stood up we learned the awful truth: her backside was covered in the stuff.

The car left and we decided to head back the way we came. I soon decided to lead the way as cycling behind Joanne at this point – downwind – was a very unhealthy option.

We were barely started back on the road when the lady driver came back with some kitchen roll and a bottle of soapy water. We used the roll and the water to clean the crap off Joanne’s trousers. How kind. This lady was staying at Kenovay and had rushed home to get some stuff to help out.

After this kind Samaritan left we headed back to Cornaigmore and took the commemorative picture you see above.

Now, there is a school of thought that accidentally making contact with this substance ensures good luck. Whether you step in it, whether it lands on your head from above, whatever, this usually spells a reversal of fortune.

Watch this space.

The Sting

Here are yesterday’s scores in the Bad Luck League.  And what do you know, folks, it’s a draw: Gordon 1 – Joanne 1.

The results in more detail.

I picked up my spectacles from bedside cabinet yesterday morning and one of the legs came off in my hand.  Nothing to do with a missing screw or anything so mundane, of course.  No, the hinge has completely sheared.  These spectacles – varifocals – are less than a year old and neither Joanne or I are able to remember if I took out insurance when I bought them.

Joanne’s bad luck happening was more straight forward.  She got stuck on the *** by a bee.  Now, before your mind starts running riot I’ll explain what seems to have happened.  Joanne jumped in to the car at tea-time in the late afternoon to join me for a shopping trip over at Scarinish.  She got in to the passenger seat and immediately began complaining that something was sticking in to her.  Off we went.  She reached under her and pulled something out.  She looks at the offending object for a second before letting out a screech and yells ‘a bee!’ and out the window it goes.

I offered to pull over and do a field operation as my Swiss army knife has a set of tweezers in it.  But I am informed that unlike wasps bees do not leave their sting behind them.  I am not sure if this is correct having only ever been stung once before in my entire life and by a wasp on that occasion.  I momentarily consider whether I should offer to suck out the poison but decide to let that one pass.  

I mention that Janet Bowler is conducting research into bumblebees and wonder if we should have kept the assassin instead of launching him out of the car.  I ponder also whether the ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’is in the key of B flat.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wednesday evening postscript

Late evening, sun’s gone down.  All the baling done in the field opposite.  Tractors now move in the not yet night with dipped headlights and yellow warning lights on top.  Corncrake calls to my left.  On the school road I see the lights on in Margaret’s kitchen as she prepares the supper for herself and Fraser.  The midges are tormenting Connie, my cat.  I lean against my fence and wish I could really feel as if I’m here but I can’t realise the moment.  My disaster of a backyard.  My house.  Purple clover, queen anne’s lace.  It’s so still out here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Definition of Stupidity

This lunchtime at Sandaig

No pictures as yet of the wild weekend in Coll. Well, it wasn’t really all that wild. As far as the gig itself went it was a pleasure to meet up again with Robbie and John Allan – aka ‘The Rise’ – who played a couple of acoustic sets while The Defenders sort of headlined. I have mixed feelings about the gig itself. I think I was tense because I was having to replace James on electric guitar while he is on sabbatical. Also I still wasn’t feeling 100%. Into the bargain we had huge problems with the PA system. In the first half of last Saturday night’s gig we were so loud that people couldn’t bear to come near the stage. Sophie’s voice couldn’t be heard. My electric guitar seemed to loud. When we rested at the interval Bruce went round and turned everything down a few notches and that certainly seemed to help in the second half. In fact all reports about the second part of our gig are very positive. But I found it incredibly hard work to play and sing after such a time away from that type of thing. I was sweating buckets under the lights and – how’s this for rock ‘n’ roll – I couldn’t see the fret board of the guitar unless I wore my glasses! Imagine – the old man of rock had to put on his glasses so that he could see what the hell he was doing! It was all a bit of a party atmosphere and I duly got in to the swing of things – along with the rest of the team, I have to insist.

My bad luck pursued me all the way to Coll: while walking towards our van later that night I stepped on a sheet of plywood which was lying in the grass for some reason not realising how slippy it was after a brief shower earlier. I went flying up in the air, landing awkwardly and putting a slight twist in to my left knee. I was hobbling about all Sunday and Monday. So let me just recount for you the sort of week-and-a-half I’ve had health wise: last week began with gastritis, followed by a retching-induced injury to my left side, followed by a twisted knee. All these injuries and illnesses are, of course, playing havoc with my training for the half-marathon in October. I can do nothing but plead with the person who has that damn doll of me to have pity, to take it as read that I’ve learned whatever lesson you’ve been trying to teach me, and let me get on with life as normal.

Gigging apart, I was mightily impressed with Coll this visit. Saturday was clear, beautiful blue skies and boy, was it hot! Walking about needed a lot of effort never mind about playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band. If you’ve never been to Coll it’s worth a visit. Even if you go for nothing other than a visit to the Coll Hotel for a meal, do it! The menu is varied and inventive. The seafood is wonderful. Presentation, price, everything, just perfect. The only slight criticism I would make is that this is perhaps the third time I’ve had a meal in the place and all the staff look incredibly harassed. A little work needs to be done trying to look a bit more chilled even if it isn’t the case.

I was incredibly tired when I got back to Tiree on the Sunday boat. I had intended to sit and watch the final stage of the Tour de France and started out to do so. I feel asleep of course and woke just in time see Floyd Landis pulling on the yellow jersey.

My new bike hasn’t arrived yet but even if had I’m not sure I could use it. The injury to my knee is hurting a bit but it only really bites if I make sudden changes in direction. After last week’s lay-off due to gastritis, etc, I know I’ve also put on a few pounds, something I didn’t need to do.

It’s Wednesday, lunchtime, taking half an hour to myself to eat something until I have to go to my next job. I’m at Sandaig. That’s the Atlantic out there. Lovely blues and aqua marines, seagulls circle endlessly, a slight breeze, the sound of the water lapping against the rocks. But I can’t shake this feeling I’ve had for ages that I’m on the wrong path, that I’m not where I’m meant to be, or maybe just that I’m not doing what I’m meant to be doing. But hey, there’s only one person who can tackle those kind of problems and that’s me. I need to be a little more proactive with my life decisions instead of allowing myself to be swept along like I do falling into the same old snares. I suppose the definition of stupidity really is doing the same things over and over and thinking the result will ever be any different from the time before.

Friday, July 21, 2006

How Ironic ...

I spent most of this week suffering from a gastric bug. Then, since mid-week, I've really been having quite a bit of pain in my left side. Something seems to have gone 'rip!' What the latter ailment means is that even if I could make it to the Show this afternoon (which I won't) I wouldn't be able to do any work when I got there. How ironic is that?

I'm supposed to be going to Coll tomorrow to play two full sets of music with The Defenders. Thankfully, the tummy bug has settled although a little queasiness remains. Maybe my insides will have returned to normal by the morning. Here's hoping.

As for the pain in my side, luckily the guitar I will be playing on Saturday is a Fender Squire, a very light guitar. So as long as I am sensible and pace myself I'll get through it and not let the band down.

I feel like such a fraud when I'm off work. A guilty feeling stalks me. I know a lot of people who feel the same. It's all to do with living in a small community. Anywhere else you might think to yourself, 'hey, the sun is out today, maybe a little slow walking might help my recovery'. But I'd feel such a fake if I was spotted by someone who knows that I'm on sick leave - and on such a small island there's more chance of meeting someone in this category than not.

Anyway, there's not been much opportunity to do any 'slow walking' in the sun. We've been mostly overcast this week. And yes, the rest of the country has been basking in a heatwave, some places in the UK even reporting their hottest temperatures ever. Things may change today, who knows? I can actually see blue sky out there.

The picture at the top of today's blog was taken in St. Andrews Church in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, during our brief stop-over there in June. Joanne can be seen in the bottom left-hand corner.

Finally, a link to a story about a dog named Quinn. Quinn is coming to Tiree to sniff for bumblebees. (Bet that got your attention.)

Next time: all about our visit to Coll.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wheelchairs at the Agricultural Show (Part 2)

Today I received a letter from Caroline MacLean written on behalf of the Tiree Agricultural Society in response to my blog dated 6th July entitled Wheelchairs at the Agricultural Show.

I’ll let you read it first before I make any comment.

Dear Gordon,

At our committee meeting this week, it was brought to our attention your Blogspot article. Although this is not addressed to Tiree Agricultural Society, it was agreed to respond to the points raised.

First, the issue of going public rather than approaching the committee. The date of the Annual General Meeting in November of each year is advertised well in advance where the public are invited to attend and raise any matters of concern.

Tiree show is highly regarded for the show of livestock, a ‘shop window’ for the crofters and farmers, as many mainland farmers attend each year from all over the country. We receive letters from judges complementing the committee on the Show and Tiree’s standard of livestock.

We rent the site from Tiree Rural Development for the Show day, it is not a permanent site, therefore making it difficult to provide permanent paths. Last year we paid for the main area to be levelled and reseeded. This produced a firmer base and permanent grass easier to mow than the rougher natural grasses. Next year we hope to improve the upper area. It is a compact site with short access to all sections.

Agricultural Shows are held in grass fields often with a distance to walk to the main area. The committee have experience of attending many mainland Shows and the point raised was that Tiree’s Show is situated on the most level and compact area.

At mainland events people are seen using wheelchairs and also battery operated mobility buggies. From my own personal enquiries last year I know that these buggies can be hired, for a donation, from all Mobility Scotland shops. The closest is in Oban.

We shall assist all we can to give access to the front of the Rural Centre for a drop off and pick up point. We may have to ask you to park the vehicle in the car park thereafter.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Show,

Yours sincerely, Caroline MacLean.

First of all, I’m not entirely convinced that a few lines posted in an online diary which is read by very few people can actually be called ‘going public’. Neither would I call these few lines an ‘article’. It's just me, a guy in Cornaigmore, exercising his right to freedom of speech.

In any case, this is not the first time the Agricultural Society has heard about this problem. Some time ago Tiree Elderly Forum wrote to the Society and asked if anything could be done in the way of installing a pathway of some kind. Unfortunately, the Society could not help.

I sense from the letter that they feel I may have done the Show a disservice. I thought I had been quite complimentary about the Agricultural Show and those who put it together:

“Every year we all look forward to the Tiree Agricultural Show held at the Rural Centre. The organisers do a fantastic job and I’m full of admiration for them.”

Anyway, well done to the Society for the improvements they have carried out and those they have scheduled in the future. We all realise that some kind of a pathway would be ideal but as I pointed out in the blog of 6th July, the Show’s organisers could not be expected to provide such a permanent solution for the problem:

“The organisers of the Show probably don’t have the financial resources to install some kind of temporary causeway to and around the main field for wheelchairs. And let’s face it – it would only be used once a year!”

In my concluding paragraph I wrote:

“No one is to blame here.”

I then threw the matter open for any of my site visitors to suggest ways to overcome the problem. I was hoping that one of my readers might be able to come up with some solution which could be put in to place by wheelchair users themselves and/or those who assist them get around.

I know it's beyond the Show's resources to make a pathway. I made that clear. That's why I thought perhaps my internet readers and I could come up with a solution. Well that's what you get for trying to help, I suppose.

I will be happy to pass on the suggestion regarding mobility buggies to the people concerned although I think the cost of getting them here would be prohibitive to the (in this case) elderly people I'm thinking about.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

And so begins the task ...

I don’t know if any of you out there are in the least bit interested in my alternate life as a rock ‘n roller. Probably less of you are interested in this than you are in hearing about my pathetic attempts to transform myself into a long distance runner before senility quite rightly overtakes me. But this is my weblog and it’s supposed to be about my life on the Isle of Tiree so I thought I’d tell you how the ol’ Defenders are getting on.

Take a look at the picture above. Have you ever seen such a goofy looking specimen? This man is the vocalist with The Defenders. In the past week he has – by popular vote of his co-band members – been voted replacement rythmn guitarist in view of the fact that James is going to miss the band’s next two performances.

I can’t pretend that playing electric guitar in the band is exactly a new experience for me. But the last time I did that was back in 1987. I pointed this out to Bruce Kemp, the lead guitarist, at the start of this week.

“Well at least that’s less than 20 years ago!”

I was justly admonished.

So last night Bruce, Iain MacDonald (bass guitarist) and I gathered round a few bottles of beer and tried to play our songs.

When I got back home at about 11 p.m. the first words I said to Joanne were, “I think the guys have more confidence in me than I have.”

But you know last night I felt my self getting in to a groove I haven’t been in for – yes – 20 years. It’s all coming back to me. But let me take you a little further along the road with this performing kick. Being the vocalist in any band is the best job you can have, especially if you suffer from pre-gig nerves. All that adrenalin coursing through your body translates itself in to energy and an almost supernatural ability to hit those high notes.

Not to so with REAL MUSICIANS. Imagine being the guitarist who has to play a two bar riff before the rest of the band come in when your hand is shaking like a leaf and you've suddenly become convinced that you're a social outcast for ever having thought you had any right to be on stage.

Well, now I'm one of those guys - again. Not only will I be singing at the Coll gig and the Tiree gig but I will also be playing electric guitar. The last time I did that was long ago and far away - London, in fact.

But being in a band on Tiree with such like minded individuals is a gas. Last night, before we started work, me and Bruce went outside at the invitation of his kids. His daughter and son put on a 'show' for us on the trampoline. How we whooped and wailed. The late evening sun was hot on our necks, the corncrakes were calling, and once again I knew why I was living here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Bottle of War

Here's the way of it: Friday morning on Tiree, the sun is shining, the cat is meowing, I've been out for a run already although it's just gone 8:00 a.m., the email is picked up, and a frantic working week - which has included everything from working flat out for my employer to trying to play the chords to 'American Idiot' while singing at the same time - comes to an end.

The forecast for the day is good. The Tibetan prayer flags outside the window are barely stirring. Of course this will mean squadrons of midges but hey you can't have everything.

We must get out hiking some time. We haven't gone for a walk up Ben Hough in ages. This is the weather to do it. Joanne should be just about up for it. She's feeling a lot better than she did a week or so ago. Oh and she's just back from Oban where she dropped in to see her favourite male after me: the chiropodist. I have to do a little work this weekend but I'm sure we can fit something in if we put our minds to it.

Away at the top of Ben Hough there is a wartime lookout post. In a rock in front of the outpost are a set of initials with the date - 1943 I think - have been roughly engraved. Whenever I am up on top of Ben Hough I can't help but have at this wartime memorial. I wonder to myself if the guy or guys who wrote in stone are still alive and if so whether they ever think about Tiree.

When I announced to my people lo those thirteen years ago (next month) that I was moving my family to Tiree my Uncle Willie piped up and said: "Tiree? I was stationed there during the war. It's a terrible place. Don't go there!"

I remember when I was a young lad working in a factory back in Wishaw while on holiday from University an old guy telling me that he had no desire to visit foreign countries as he had been to so many during the war. I didn't understand this point of view then and I don't understand it now. How can you compare the experience of being in a country as a traveller with being in the same country when someone is trying to kill you?

On a completely different note I received an email from my wife last night. "Hey, Gordon, I thought you said Joanne was back from Oban?" Yes, she is, but that doesn't mean I don't get emails from people who actually live under the same roof as myself. I'll explain in a moment.

Joanne was emailing to say two things: she'd just read my blog (while I was out at work) and she wanted to point out that in yesterday's blog I surely meant to write that I wished I'd gone to the co-op for a bottle of water and not a bottle of war. She is of course correct but I wonder if there is a subconcious connection that and what I have rambled on about above? The other thing she said in her email was, "did you have to tell the folks how much the bike cost?" I don't know if that's because she thinks it's an excessive price or what.

But back to the household emails: my family learned a long time ago that if they want me to remember something or wish to pass on a vital piece of information it's almost a waste of time to tell me to my face. They used to leave me notes but over the years everyone has noticed that my first stop in the morning is my email inbox. That's pretty pathetic, I know.

It actually benefits me to receive email from my daughter Jenny. Despite living in the same house days can go by without my actually setting eyes on her (apart from when I take her to work in the morning - and we don't tend to talk much on the way!). So an email from Jenny is actually reassuring confirmation that she is still alive.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cycle of Depression

The other day an Estonian friend – that’s right, an Estonian friend here on Tiree – told me something I think already knew.

“So many people here in this country are suffering from depression. Why is this? So many taking pills. Back home no-one takes medicine for depression, no-one gets depressed.”

While this is probably a bit of a generalisation on her part I think I know the pont she is trying to make. When we in this country re so comparatively well off, what can anyone be depressed about?

(As I am writing this I am listening to Radio 1. A young person has just texted to say how depressed and suicidal they’ve been recently. Weird, eh?)

Look around you, look at the international news: wars, famine, plague, murder and mayhem, all of this so widespread throughtout the world. And here I am in my cosy wee room writing my blog before going to work and the biggest hassle so far today has been that I wish I’d bought some bottled war last night in the co-op as I prefer it in my coffee.

I used to hear my granparents saying that when they were young no-one had the luxury of being depressed. Back then, in their young day, they had to work very hard for what would seem like a pittance by today’s standards. In their way of looking at things life was tough for everyone and ‘you just had to get on with it’.

Of course, psychiatric illnesses existed then just as they do now. In a previous life I was a staff nurse in the largest psychiatric hospital in Scotland. I helped looked after patients who had been in hospital since the 1920’s. People who had been in care for such an extraordinary length time tended to suffer from serious psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia or what we now term bi-polar affective disorder.

I know loads of people who have suffered or who are currently suffering from some form of clinically diagnosed depression. Some of them are my friends.

My friend was genuinely baffled as to why depression appeared – to her at any rate – to be rampant in this country. What was it that was so different about Estonia and Scotland?

“The obvious difference,” I said, “was that Estonia is not enjoying prosperity. By comparison people in this country must seem quite well off.”

It’s just convenient to blame all this depression on the misplaced values of the western world but I bet this is at least a contributory factor.

“If only I had that widescreen television I would be really happy … if I make that promotion then perhaps I could get a flashier car … how about a conservatory? That’ll make the neighbours green with envy!”

Deep down each and every one of us knows that possessions cannot bring lasting happiness. Getting a new toy might make us happy for a time but it won’t be long before the novelty has worn off and we desire something different, something new, something ‘better’.

I write this on the same day I have ordered a new bicycle, a ‘road bike’ with drop handlebars, a triple chain-set, carbon forks … a snip at £405.00. Do I need this? The answer to that is probably ‘no’: I already own an off-road mountain bike and a hybrid urban bike. But do I ‘want’ this? The answer is a resounding yes. Why? Because it will make me happy … for a while. I convinced myself that I needed this bike to start putting in some training at speed, something which the other bikes are not built to do.

You can convince yourself of anything if you try hard enough.

So when you see me out on my new bike, whizzing about Tiree, feel content that I am a happy man and will be continue to be so ... for a little while, at least.

[People] become unhappy and vicious because their preoccupation with amassing possessions obliterates their loneliness. This is why production […] seems to be on such an endless upward spiral: every time we buy something we deepen our emotional deprivation and hence our need to buy something. - Philip Saltier

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Voodoo Chile

I’m sure someone has a voodoo doll in my image. And maybe they have one made to resemble Joanne. What a year so far. Bad luck all the way. It’s now weeks since I went to sleep really and truly content and optimistic about what I’d be doing tomorrow. And all because of our bad luck. We’ve been through the whole thing with Joanne getting sick, followed by the less than fulfilling annual holiday when we were swept along in the currents of a Lake District monsoon … I haven’t even mentioned the crappy hotel in Glasgow where we stayed after The Eagles gig (£75!). And there’s all those flat tyres: one, a week before we set off on holiday, and one in the week after we got back. This latter flat tyre really hurt: while we were on the mainland I drove over 1,600 miles. As soon as we got back here – blowout!

To add insult to injury I set out on a bike run last week, really up for a good workout, and what happened? That’s right: a flat! Honest, I give up. Maybe I need to contact one of the local ministers or a shaman, someone – anyone – who can halt our run of bad fortune.

And now James can’t make the Coll gig. James Christie plays rythmn electric guitar in The Defenders. He’s also one of the airport fire fighters and he has to be on call that day. That’s right: he’s on call, so he can’t be on Coll. So I have to do something I haven’t done in a rock band since 1987: play an electric guitar on stage. This should be a laugh. Bruce, Iain and I are getting together tomorrow night to see if this is feasible. Knowing my luck the amp will go on fire or I’ll immediately break all the strings on my daughter’s Fender Squire Stratocaster – which I have begged the use of for the gig – or possibly even both.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Nice to hear from you.

Greetings from the land beneath the waves. Well, all I can do is apologise for not being around the last couple of days. It was a bit of a hectic weekend work-wise and I just couldn’t get organised enough to sit down at my note book and write.

In fact I had thought of updating the blog last night but the World Cup Final on TV intervened. I just love the World Cup and already I’m starting to sense withdrawal symptoms setting in. Oddly enough I have never been able to play football. I’m just useless: I have no foot-to-ball coordination. One or two people I spoke to yesterday (Sunday) had expected I would be taking part in the 5-a-sides on The Reef. No way. I have more efficient and less time consuming ways of making a fool of myself.

I gather the Tiree Land Fair went well. I made it to only one of the talks, all about organic farming and making better use of local produce at the school, etc., and that seems like a cool idea. While I was at the talk – well-enough attended but no one had to worry about not getting a seat, if you know what I mean – I sensed that the local audience thought many of the ideas being put forward were impractical or not grounded in the realities of modern crofting.

What I know about crofting could be written on the back of a postage stamp but the programme looked interesting and if I’d had more time I would have gone to some more of the talks.

Once again I missed out on John Bowler’s bird walk and talk. John, the local RSPB man is a really nice guy and he knows his topic inside-out. I’ve missed every one of these he’s organised because of work commitments. Maybe next time.

Ok, on to your emails.

Regarding my last piece about wheelchair access at the Agricultural Show, I received the following suggestion from Barry Beesley, Kamloops, BC, Canada:

“If a group purchased 3 sheets of plywood or particle board or similar material and ran the wheelchairs on the boards and moved the one from behind into the front they would have an easier time. It would take two men to handle each piece of board to move them, but you would save a lot of energy and frustration. I don't know what you have out on Tiree, but even hides would work. Hope this suggestion is useful.”

Thanks for that Barry. That’s a very practical solution and would certainly work. As I said last time I am one of the people who has to do this pushing and pulling and sweating buckets in the process. The problem with your suggestion is that every time we wanted to move anywhere we would have say ‘right, we’re heading in such-and-such a direction’, rather than being able to make our way about as the fancy takes us, like everyone else. The other problem is that the Agricultural Show is usually a packed event with crowds of people and the thought of trying to make our way through the throngs of people with large boards probably wouldn’t work. That apart, this idea would undoubtedly work. Thanks again.

My good friend Kim O’Keefe recently moved back to Australia with her kids, Tor and Keir. Kim wrote me a brief note recently:

“I’m keeping up with the ‘goss' on your website Just making sure I’m not missing anything and to keep the boys updated. (Especially good to hear we're not missing an amazing summer - PHEW!) It’s Winter here and it is hotter than Tiree's best summer- water still 22 degrees Celsius!”

Hey, Kim, Tor and Keir: it was lovely to hear from you and I’m so glad everything seems to be working out for you. When we get that kind of heat here on Tiree in the middle of the Summer I feel like climbing Ben Hough, erecting an impromptu altar and giving thanks to the Almighty. Send a picture of you all sometime and I’ll post it to the Blogspot.

Peter West wrote to me after the Tiree 10k:

“Liked your bit on your blog spot about the 10k, liked your comments about Will, liked the 10k itself, and liked being back on Tiree, albeit briefly last weekend. Depending on timing, I think there will be quite a sizeable contingent from Lothian Running Club there next year. We had a great time. Is there any site where some of the many photographs I saw being taken are going to be posted?”

Peter, thanks for your email. Will Wright is definitely one of my heroes. He’s so motivated and committed. I wish I could have met someone like Will when I was his age. Someone like Will would have provided me with a great role model, someone whose example I could have lived up to. As it is, I’ve come to serious fitness training about 30 years too late. Having said that, it’s never too late.

I’ve been in contact with Will following your email and we both agree that a website where the 10k photographs could be recorded for posterity is what we need to organise. Failing that I can make a page and link it to this Blog. Neither of these options are difficult to put together. At the moment, however, I still don’t have any of the ‘official’ photographs.

Hey Will! Are you reading this? Any chance of burning the pics on to a disk?

Regular readers will be aware that in my spare time I am a 50 year old rock-vocalist/runner/cyclist. As John Campbell said to me after playing at the New Year celebrations in An Talla, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you must be one of the most eccentric people on Tiree!” Far from being offended I was delighted.

But then Bob Grant emailed and suddenly I had the sneaking suspicion that he and I may have been separated at birth:

“I play in two rock bands (lead guitar and some lead vocals in one and bass guitar in the other). I'm also 50 by the way.”

Bob goes on to ask me about road cycling on Tiree (one of my favourite pursuits) and that he hurt his knee some years ago (as I did during my 2004 ‘epic’ ride up through the Western Isles) and that he’s overweight at the moment (as I am slightly) but that he likes to get out on the bike whenever he can (as I do). Bob hasn’t been to Tiree yet but I feel a visit can’t be too far away. Look he up Bob – I have a couple of bikes and we could go out for a ride. I’m not much when it comes to cross country but if you fancy a pedal around for an hour or so give me a shout.

Today's Tiree photographs come courtesy of Bev Richmond.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wheelchairs at the Agricultural Show

Every year we all look forward to the Tiree Agricultural Show held at the Rural Centre. The organisers do a fantastic job and I’m full of admiration for them. Quite apart from the judging of the livestock entries – which I know absolutely nothing about – there's always a host of interesting exhibits and demonstrations.

The Tiree Agricultural Show always has the atmosphere of a real event and everyone has a great time.

There’s just one thing about the Show that always bugs me and that’s wheelchair access.

Now before I write another word I want to throw my hands up and say that I don’t know what the solution to this is either.

I know all about this problem at the Show because year in, year out, myself and a colleague from work take at least two wheelchair-bound people to the show in the big blue Council bus.

If you’re familiar with the Rural Centre you’ll know that the parking lot is not wheelchair friendly. But then it doesn’t have to be: near the main entrance to the Centre itself there is a concrete platform intended to be used by people wheelchair users getting out of a car. Access to the Centre is then straightforward.

Full marks to the Rural Centre.

The problem at Show time is that the most interesting stuff happens away across the parking lot, in the field adjacent. Getting a wheelchair across here is a nightmare. I’m reasonably fit and I really struggle.

Often at past shows I’ve had to pull the wheelchair backwards across the gravel as this was the only way to make any progress. Quite apart from the sweating, the grunting and the breaking of many health and safety rules on my part I feel this is quite embarrassing for the person who is actually in the chair. We tend to attract attention!

When we get to the grassy area things are only slightly better.

Most years we have to leave earlier than we would like to simply because the journey to and from our vehicle is so arduous and takes so long. Also, within a very short space of time the people pushing the chairs are completely worn out. Me included.

The Rural Centre and the Tiree Agricultural Show are two separate entities.

The Rural Centre, I’m sure, feel they have met their obligation to provide wheelchair access. In this I believe they are correct.

The organisers of the Show probably don’t have the financial resources to install some kind of temporary causeway to and around the main field for wheelchairs. And let’s face it – it would only be used once a year!

So, I don’t honestly know what the solution is. All I know is that what I do on that day is not easy for the person in the chair or the person doing the pushing. I probably shouldn’t be doing it and neither should my colleagues. But our refusal would mean that these folks would not be able to attend one of the main annual events on the Tiree calendar.

No one is to blame here but I think we have to realise that an unfortunate set of circumstances may lead to wheelchair users being discriminated against.

Do you have any suggestions about how this problem could be resolved? Are you also a wheelchair user or do you assist someone who is? Leave a comment (click on ‘comments’ below) or email me at

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

July Diary of Events

Here’s a quick round up of what’s happening on Tiree in the coming weeks.

The annual An Iodhlann exhibition opened yesterday, the 4th of July. This year’s exhibition is entitled ‘Sil an Eorna – Children of the Barley’ and is billed as ‘a fascinating display about the history of emigration from Tiree’. Throughout July, August and September the exhibition will be open Tuesdays – Fridays between the hours of midday and 5pm. An Iodhlann will be closed on Mondays during these months.

Here’s something new: The Tiree Land Fair. Organised by Tiree Rural Development Ltd this is billed as ‘a celebration of Tiree’s crofting industry past, present and future and takes place on the 6th, 7th and 8th of July.

Feis Thiriodh 2006 runs between 10th – 14th July at Tiree High School.

The Agricultural Show takes place on 21st July with the usual very popular dance being held that night at An Talla, time to be confirmed.

Other dates of note in July are:

22nd: Tiree Association Sports
24th: Parties Family Dance
27th: Concert (An Talla)
28th: Tiree Association Dance
29th: Tiree Regatta and in the evening the Pipe Band Dance
31st: Parties Family Dance

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Apologies, Work, Gigging on the Isle of Coll and now for the Half Marathon.

Ok, Fran Andel of Ampthill near Bedford, when I said that we’d had a miserable holiday I wasn’t including the four days we spent enjoying your hospitality and that of your good man John. In fact, that’s when we started to turn the corner, I suppose. The weather was much better, the scene at the Brogborough Lake Windsurfing Club was cool (even though the weather was incredibly warm!) and we enjoyed the two nights we spent in your great camper van. Sorry for that.

To make up for it here is a picture of Fran, on the left, Jo and a new friend named Lu getting out our camping gear out the back of our vehicle down there at Brogborough Lake. Of course I am doing the really important work: documenting what they are doing for posterity!

Joanne starts work today after being on sick leave these many months. It was a bit touch and go for a while though. She certainly didn’t need the laryngitis or the cold on top of everything else that’s been happened to her. Hopefully all will go well and if she will only be sensible and take things slowly at first she’ll soon be back into the swing of things.

It’s always hard going back to work after a period of absence. Heck, even going back to work yesterday after my fortnight’s holiday was bad enough. Of course after all the inclement weather we had to put up with before we got to the sun and our friends the Andels we’ve come back home – to work – while Tiree is basking in what looks like is going to be a week-long heat wave. This doesn’t surprise me in the least.

We got back to Tiree last Friday. That evening I headed over to Bruce Kemp’s place for a min-Defenders rehearsal with him and Iain MacDonald. We had actually hoped to get a full band rehearsal in at An Talla before the dance that night but there was a mix up with who was supposed to get the key from Liz at the Business Centre so that didn’t happen. So myself and my two buddies started working out arrangements for new songs.

We have our first gig of the summer over on Coll on the 22nd. I’m really looking forward to it although I’m a bit anxious about whether the new material will be ready in time. The Defenders first played on Coll last summer and we had a great time. It wasn’t like playing at a dance at all, actually – more like being at a big party. And boy, did the folks on Coll know how to party!

The one mistake we made last year was playing gigs on consecutive nights. No great effort for most bands, it’s true, but remember we’re not a traditional band – we’re a fully fledged rock band and we put everything in to each and every performance. The gig here on Tiree on the Friday night had been amazing and the audience reaction was brilliant and when that happens you tend to give more and more until you almost have nothing more to give.

For me, a vocalist, that can be a problem but I usually manage to get to the end of the gig still able to sing reasonably well. But the next day sees me barely able to talk. In the minutes before last year’s Coll gig I still wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I opened my mouth to sing. Somehow we got through it. We agreed, though, that we shouldn’t ever do two consecutive nights again.

Just like last year we’ll be sharing the Coll bill with local duo ‘The Rise’. In fact when we play on Tiree in August the guys will be coming over to share the bill with us here. I think folks who like The Defenders will definitely like The Rise.

The other main project I have going at the moment is training for a half-marathon in October. I know, I know, I must be off my head. Me, the guy who came in last at the Tiree 10k, now wants to run a half-marathon. What’s that all about?

For a few months now I’ve been listening to a pod cast called Phedippidations which comes out of a small town in Central Massachusetts. The show is hosted by a guy called Steve Walker. Here’s what the show notes say:

A Pod Cast for, and by runners: Thoughts, opinions, observations and rambling diatribes composed during distance long runs. Steve Runner is a mild mannered middle-of-the-pack distance runner who shares the output of his oxygen starved cranial stimulation with his audience while training for his next marathon.

Phedippidations is a “RunCast” named after the legendary Greek messenger: “Phedippides”. A modern day “messenger” of sorts; Steve runs near his home in Central Massachusetts. Each show is dedicated to an aspect of running, covering topics such as: training, injury, gadgets, nutrition, strategies and Steve's pathetic attempts at breaking four hours in the marathon. Subscribe to Phedippidations at

The show has been a complete inspiration and I sincerely urge you to visit the site and listen to a couple of Steve’s shows. Episodes 41 and 42 are particularly recommended in which Steve records himself while he is running the 110th Boston Marathon.

The reason why I mention all this is because Steve has organised what he’s a called a ‘world-wide half marathon’ which can be run by those who register for the event either on the 7th or the 8th of October. The idea is just to get runners from all over the world running in unison, a sort of ‘bonding’, I suppose, between like minded people no matter where they are. The half-marathon isn’t to raise money for anything specifically (although runners can raise money for their favourite charities if they wish). It’s just all about celebrating a lifestyle.

So that’s what I’m aiming for in October. Since coming back from holiday I’ve launched myself in to the training schedule and you can have a look at my training log online if you wish to. Go to and type ‘Gordon’ in the search box. My training log should pop up. It will detail what I’ve done so far and what I should be doing in the days and weeks to come.

Quite a few things coming up on Tiree in the next few weeks: the agricultural show, the Feis, etc. I’ll get dates and details up before the week is up.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Charlie and Jen, More photographs from A' Bhuain, Our Miserable Holiday pt. 1 and last, but not least: Oh, Canada!

I received a very welcome email recently from Siobhan Perry.

While IOTON was up and running Siobhan sent me a delightful picture of her daughter Jen sitting next to their dog Charlie on the machair on Tiree.

I’m sure many of my former readers will remember it.

Siobhan has very kindly sent me this update.

In the picture to your left Jen is about 10 months old and Charlie – their dog – is 8 years old.

In the picture which heads up today's blog Charlie is now 12 and Jen is now the ripe old age of four and a half.

Charlie has hardly changed a bit. As for Jen, well, she’s changed a lot.

Siobhan, I look forward to hearing from you again in another four years with a further update.

I’ve just added another 109 pictures from the Homecoming on to the Flickr page.

HERE’S AN IMPORTANT NOTE: these new photographs have been added to Volume 3b.

This is because the people who run this service have informed me that if I want to create any more volumes it will cost me money. Or, as they put it, I have to ‘go pro’.

I think I’ll pass on going pro, meantime.

The photographs, as always, can be accessed on the right hand toolbar, not far from the top.

I think that’ll do it for now with the Homecoming photographs – but if you have something special you’d like me to head up a blog with send it to me.

I know you must be wondering how well our holiday went. Well all I can say is that in 2006 Joanne and I have been jinxed. Or maybe that’s not quite the way to put it. Joanne, certainly, is having continued bad luck with her health. While we were away she developed a bad cold and laryngitis. She felt miserable for the most part but still managed to struggle along to Hampden Park on the 23rd June to see The Eagles, her all time favourite band.

More soon. I’m still at that post-holiday stage where you wake up in your own bed in the morning and can’t remember where the dickens you are.

But in the meantime, a big shout out to the Robertson’s in Manitoba who sent the Scott family a lovely package of t-shirts and stuff. This arrived while we were away. I’d mentioned to them in an email that I’d seen a great t-shirt in the A’ Bhuain raffle – the words ‘Oh Canada’ against a large maple leaf – and that if they ever saw it could they buy it for me and I’d send the money to them. The very t-shirt – the exact one! – was waiting for me when I got back. A gift. Well, Robertson Clan, I can’t thank you enough. What a lovely gesture. I’ll wear it with pride!