Saturday, June 17, 2006

We're All Going On A summer Holiday ...

Greetings from the sunshine isle ... which is currently under a blanket of cloud. And it's raining. (But, as they say in these parts, 'the ground was needing it'.) Well, no news update, I'm afraid. Except to tell you that it's 7:45 and every inch of floor space in our house seems to be covered with stuff to go in the back of MPV. Travelling light? No, not us. We - or more properly 'I' - seem to have decided to take everything with us. I even bought myself a little 4 inch screen TV so I can watch the World Cup games in the tent.

Joanne and I first went camping something like 25 years ago. Hitch hiking through France, as i recall. Two big rucksacks. We'd saved all our money throughout the summer with the specific aim of blowing it in a three week orgy of foreign sights, sounds and aromas. Needless to say this was something we managed with remarkable ease.

In those days we lived in a town in Lanarkshire called Wishaw. A place more different from Tiree would be hard to imagine.

25 years later I'm on the Isle of Tiree where I have to blow about £120 on a ferry trip and that's before we even go anywhere. But we just accept that. Sure, there's disadvantages to living on a remote Scottish island but believe me the advantages make up for it big time.

So the plan at the moment is to get Jenny, our daughter, off to work and then come back and load up the Doblo. It doesn't matter how thorough our preparations are, by the way: we're bound to forget something, something really crucial.

Joanne is the practical member of the team. I'm more scatter-brained and tend to remember all the worthless stuff. For instance, I actually have a 16kg weight in the hall ready to go on holiday with me - you know, just in case I feel like doing some weight training while I'm gone. Oh and a huge DAB radio which I'm looking forward to experimenting with (we don't get the DAB signal yet on Tiree). And the lyrics for all the Defenders songs I have to learn while I'm away. The Geographic, is a must, of course ...

All the really necessary stuff in today's picture - food preparation kit, for instance - is all Joanne's work.

The ferry will be in this morning at something like 10:45.

Now here's the curious part. I love Scotland dearly and yet most years we spend our main holiday in England. Of course there's no reason why I shouldn't go to England occasionally.

But what I'm saying is that almost every summer holiday we take ends up with us driving south.
Here's why: England is one of the prettiest countries in the world. Especially East Anglia. Over the years we've made many good friends down in those parts.

But first of all we're heading for the Lake District where you'll find some of the most awe-inspiring scenery on the whole planet.

Unfortunately for me - and again here's a 'disadvantage' of island life - this means a long, long drive south once we come off the boat mid-afternoon in Oban. Oh well.

And so my friends I leave you for the moment.

Jenny is stirring and must be taken to work. Joanne is coming with me and no doubt she will purchase some of that 'practical' stuff.

Me, I just need to get 10 AA batteries for the little TV and 8 CR14s for my massive DAB radio.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More A' Bhuain Photographs

Greetings! I have just posted a whole load of A' Bhuain photographs (see link in side bar, right) but somehow the first lot didn't get sorted into a 'volume'. The photographs I intended to form volume 3 were uploaded but are only available for viewing in the general list on the left - the one which shows the previews. The next fifty-odd are sorted under volume 3b. I called it 3 'b' just to remind you that there were others before this that you shouldn't miss.

(I'm not sure if I understand what I'm trying to say myself so you'd be as well just to click on the link and start viewing!).

As I mentioned last time, these are random images and it's not possible for me to put the photographs into a context. Thanks to Jessie Gray for supplying the images we are seeing currently.

As Joanne and I are off on holiday for two weeks from Saturday I thought I'd try to get a load of pictures online before we leave. I'll also try to do a little news round up before then.

Nothing too exciting for this vacation. We're heading first for the Lake District where we will do some gentle hiking. After a few days of that it's back up to Glasgow so Joanne can see her all time heroes, The Eagles, perform live at Hampden Park. Then it's a quick drive down to Bedford and Suffolk to see some old friends and to indulge myself in a little off-road mountain biking.

Joanne is hoping to get back to work soon and we don't want to do anything to jeopardize her recovery at this point. So, some gentle exercise for Joanne is on the cards but nothing crazy.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Napier Play Cast

Here is a photograph of the Director and Cast of the Napier Play which was such a success during A' Bhuain week. This photograph was taken just prior to the second performance of the play in the week after the Homecoming.

On Saturday Joanne and I go on holiday. We're heading first of all down to the Lake District for some gentle hiking before heading back up to Glasgow to see The Eagles perform at Hampden Park. From there we head back down south to Bedfordshire and Suffolk. I'm looking forward to catching up with friends and hopefully doing a little off-road mountain biking.

Before I leave however I will upload another few volumes of A' Bhuain photographs.

I hope you enjoy looking at this photograph: it brought back happy memories!

Mining The Archive #2

Greetings! Recovering from his running of the Ottawa Marathon recently Scott Cameron told me by email that 'coming down the stairs backwards isn't all that bad'. After running my first ever road race on Saturday - a modest 6 miles as opposed to Scott's 26.2 miles - I found out on Sunday what he meant! However, my old muscles are now regaining something of their ability to stretch and I feel like getting back on the road.

And who is this handsome chap pictured atop Ben Hough in August 2000, I hear you ask? Well it's none other than Scott himself. And that brings me to today's link: Picture Store June 2001. This extract from the IOTON archive is a miscellany of news and general interest items and photographs. CLICK HERE to go to the page. REMEMBER to click on the thumbnail images to see the bigger version AND that if you click on the link at the bottom of these pages you will go to the next page in the sequence.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


One hour, six minutes and seventeen seconds, to be exact. Second last only but only because someone failed to finish. In training the best I had run the 10k distance was something like 1:12 and I had hoped adrenalin would have pushed me along a bit faster on the day. Alas it was not to be and I can’t even blame the fact the wind was right in my face for almost all the distance – it was the same for everyone.

All of the people who overtook me were much younger than me – all of them apart from the 70 year old lady from the Lothian Running Club.

If I sound negative about my experience I want to assure you I’m not. I said all along that my goal on the day was to finish and in fact another way to look at it is that I actually scored a personal best.

Ok. That’s the moan over.

It was a great event, so well organised, and everyone who was there was out to have a good time. There were three races: a 10k walk, a 10k run and a 4k fun run for the kids.

Joanne joined up with our friend Rona Campbell of Scarinish to successfully complete the 10k walk.

Will Wright was the man who put the thing together and the event was sponsored by Wild Diamond Surfing, Chocolate and Charms, Concise Aerospace and The Surgery.

Doctor Holliday was the course medic and he trailed along at the back of the field to look after any casualties. This meant of course that for most of the time he was trailing me.

Thankfully the weather wasn’t just as hot as I’d feared. It was a little overcast, actually, and that headwind – something like 20 miles per hour – kept everyone cool.

The course was Balevullin, Moss, Heylipol, Balinoe, Crossapol. There was quite a buzz among all us sweaty walkers and runners afterwards. Lots of high fives and hugs. Recovery teas and coffees and snacks were provided by the ladies of the Women’s Rural Institute.

The chocolate fountain provided by Chocolate and Charms was a real hit. Joanne and Rona got stuck right in! Of course I ended up with more chocolate over my fingers than on my strawberry on a stick.

After the prize giving I said a few brief words to thank Will for his efforts in making the event happen. The guy put in such a lot of hard work and it all paid off. Will has made a terrific impact in the short time he and Becky have lived on Tiree. He’s a great coach, a great motivator and an inspiration.

As I told Will last night at the Lodge Hotel (my second visit of the week!), at the start of this year I couldn’t run the length of my body. As a result of his keep fit classes and programme I was inspired to take on the 10k. Yesterday I run the entire distance, albeit slowly. Will has to take 50% of the credit for that.

Today’s picture: a thorn between two roses: that’s Joanne on the left and Rona Campbell on the right.

If I get a picture of me crossing the line (somehow I managed to sprint home!) I’ll post it soon.

I actually feel like going for a long cycle now but as we have old friends visiting this week and there’s the British Grand Prix and more World Cup to be watched on the box I may not get time. Feeling pretty good today all things considered.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Mystery of the Missing Blog

Good morning from sunny Tiree! I must remember to complain about the weather more often if this is going to happen.

Now, here’s one for Jessica Fletcher: The Mystery of the Missing Blog!

There have been problems with over the past few days although you wouldn’t have known it if you were just visiting the blog itself. For quite a few days this week entries and phtographs wouldn’t let me in and sometimes I couldn’t get logged in to my account at all. On Wednesday, after the Napier Play, I logged in and thought I had posted a short report - in fact, I’m SURE I posted a short report. I’m even sure I saw it online. But it’s nowhere to be seen. So –

I was absolutely exhausted after work on Wednesday. I have no idea why other than to say I always wake up early at this time of year because it’s so bright outside. While I was waiting in the car outside the co-op at about 5 pm waiting for my daughter Jenny to finish work I was dozing on and off. Mabel wanted us at the hall for 6 pm to set up the props and run over our lines.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I said that panic and pandemonium preceeded that night’s performance. Mabel wanted some of the props on little platforms so that people at the back could see. The cart and the boat didn’t arrive until about 6.30. Word was that Pat Boyd (who played the manager of the seaweed company) was very ill with the bad cold that is going about and wouldn’t make it, the lighting rig had to be reset, a new lighting man had to be drafted in and was still learning how to work the desk and learn the cues fifteen minutes prior to the play beginning …

Mabel’s face was a picture.

But of course it all went reasonably well. No major hiccups. Even Pat struggled out to get there although he was obviously quite ill.

I think everyone who was involved agreed that the atmosphere wasn’t just as electric as it had been during the A’ Bhuain performance. I think some of the players would admit that it was much more nerve-wracking performing before an exclusively local audience.

The way I played my part – Hugh MacDiarmid, the Factor in 1883 – was basically down to how I was directed to play the part. Mabel wanted it ‘sleazy’ and I palyed him that way and somewhere along the way poor old Hugh became something of a pantomime villain. But in actual fact it transpires that Hugh MacDiarmid was one of the more tolerable and likeable factors. Character assassination? Perhaps. But I don’t think we’ll be hearing from Hugh’s lawyers anytime soon.

We were all very relieved when it was over and the show was, once again, very well received. And with that, I bring my acting career to an end – for the moment at least!

The cast and crew were all brought down to earth with a bump when we found ourselves dismantling that cart and loading it onto the back of a trailer, stacking chairs, taking down a stage and so on..

I reckon there was maybe 100 people at An Talla on Wednesday night. And yes people are back to booing and hissing at me in the co-op and anywhere else they come across me. I quite like it for some reason! All just a bit of a laugh of course. Having said that I was in conversation with Liz Lapsley on Thursday morning and we agreed it would be nice to put on a pantomime at Christmas.

And as I related in an earlier blog there is talk of an HNC in performance arts being run on this tiny wee island. I must admit I really enjoyed this experience and wouldn’t mind doing something else.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

More A' Bhuain Photographs

Volume 2 of the A’ Bhuain photographs are now online. To view these look down the sidebar on the right hand side and under the heading ‘Tiree Related Links’ you’ll find ‘A ‘Bhuain Photographs’. The well known saying about ‘it’s either a famine or a feast’ is true in this case: I took delivery of 285 photographs from Jessie Gray last night. Each volume will contain something in the region of 30 photographs. Unfortunately it won’t always be possible to title the photographs or put them in some kind of context. But then, if you were there you won’t need this kind of information anyway! Over the next few days I will publish another volume or two so keep checking back.

Smoke Free Zone

A couple of things I forgot to mention last night.

Before the play Jessie Gray handed me a CD of A’ Bhuain photographs. I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet but these should be uploaded before the day is out.

After the play Joanne and I went over to the Lodge Hotel for half an hour to have a nice, relaxing post-play drink. Apart from having a meal in the dining room of the Lodge last night was the first time I’ve been in either of our pubs since the Executive implemented the smoking ban in public places. What a difference! The air was so clean, clear and fresh. The place even LOOKED fresher.

Last year Joanne and I spent our summer holiday in the Irish Republic. At that point they’d introduced their smoking ban for maybe six months. I’d been off smoking for roughly the same period. Joanne was still on the evil weed at the time and she found herself using having to go outside and stand under a lean-to when she wanted a smoke. More than once she found herself in the midst of a gaggle of elderly Irish gentlemen who were interested to find a Scottish lady among their number.

Oddly enough Joanne stopped smoking two weeks prior to her mild stroke in January. Hey, wasn’t that a good idea, Gordon? Seriously, their couldn’t have been a connection. But in any case what ever way you look at it smoking is NOT an option for Joanne now and she’s been doing very well.

I myself had been smoking since I was 13! I’d given up on quite a few occasions in the past – on one occasion for a couple of years – but it was always there, lurking in the background. This time I hope it’s for good. The fact that I’m running a 10k on Saturday is evidence to the fact that my health has improved as a result of stopping. I exercise more, I sleep better, my blood pressure has fallen and I have a resting heart beat of 65 beats per minute.

The nicotine chewing gum has been a great help in the success of my stopping smoking but I MUST try seriously to withdraw from using it.

Weather-wise we’ve been in the doldrums for the past few days. Very misty on Monday, sun on Tuesday, but ever since it’s been overcast, warm, only a slight breeze. However, as I think I noted the other day, the forecast for Saturday is HOT HOT HOT. I hope all the runners are sensible and wear sunscreen.

Talking of running I was sorry to hear the Coll half-marathon has been cancelled. I think – but I’m not absolutely sure – that there hasn’t been the same interest this year. Here’s hoping it gets run next year. I might even take part.

Still on the subject of Coll I was delighted to hear that my colleague Esther MacRae, District Nurse, has been awarded an MBE for her services to the island.

Work beckons! If I manage to get the photographs posted tonight I’ll stick an update on to the start of this entry.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Big Day Dawns Again

Wednesday.  Another misty morning but not the way it was on Monday when the mist was so thick and low to the ground that the plane didn’t make it in.  When the plane doesn’t make it in it causes quite a bit of disruption.  Folks who had planned to leave that day have their plans completely disrupted; folks who were desperate to get back home can’t and end up depressed and frustrated; and then there’s the no newspapers and no mail.

Well, today is the big day – again!  Tonight the re-enactment of the re-enactment of the Napier Commission.  Last night I was rehearsing with The Defenders and so didn’t get time to run through my words again.  Hope it’ll be ok, though.  I am a bit wary of saying things like, ‘oh, it’ll be fine’ because then I think you become complacent and over confident and that’s when the problems start.

In a rock band that’s not so much of a problem.  If I find myself forgetting a line in a song (and to be fair it doesn’t happen very often) no one seems to notice if I just make something up.  Sometimes you can sing whatever you like as long as it rhymes with the next line.

But that’s not possible in a play.  Everyone is giving you respect and paying attention to what you’re saying.  If you start making up words in that kind of a situation I would expect you would not only loose your way but you’d always throw the other cast member you’re acting with into complete confusion.

As I said last night (when I finally managed to get back online to!) I’ll take along the camera and hopefully someone can take some pictures.  

Now don’t laugh at this next bit: I heard on the grapevine last night that a good friend of mine is hoping to run a High National Certificate course in performing arts right here on Tiree.  Wouldn’t that be something to add to my CV …

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Understanding Tiree’s Archaeology: The Stone Age

My good friend Fran Andel, who lives with her husband John in deepest Bedfordshire, has been visiting Tiree since 1997. She and John – not to mention their dog Beau – love their annual visits. You may have seen Fran and John’s white camper van parked in the vicinity of Balephetrish, usually in late July.

Fran has a wonderful website called ‘Lessons of History’. Today’s blog really consists of providing a link to a wonderful page Fran has put together on her website entitled ‘Understanding Tiree’s Archaeology: The Stone Age’. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

By the way the good people at were experiencing server problems and this is the first time I've been able to upload a blog in days. Sorry about that. Tomorrow night is the re-run of the Napier Play. Hopefully I will be able to do a quick report with a photograph or two.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Boo Hugh 2/Tiree 10k/A' Bhuain Pictures Link

The little flyer I have in front of me says ‘following its success at A’ Bhuain, a re-enactment of the re-enactment of The Napier Play' ...

Certainly the play definitely was one of the successes of Homecoming week. But then come to think of it there were no ‘failures’ during Homecoming week.

Although everyone who took part in the play breathed a sense of relief when it was all over, I had become aware of a rumour that Mabel wanted us to do it again in a week or so for the locals who hadn’t been able to come to the afternoon performance.

And so on Wednesday 7th June at 7.30 pm at An Talla we do it all again. Admission is £3.00.

Oddly enough following my performance as Factor Hugh MacDiarmid the phone has not been ringing off the hook with offers from Hollywood or The Royal Shakespeare Company. What comes next for me then is rehearsing new material with The Defenders.

Mabel Macarthur adapted the original transcript of the Napier Commission visit to Tiree and made it in to a great wee play.

Although the action takes place mostly in 1883 it seems to touch a nerve with folks today. Not only did the audience react and participate but people continued to hiss and boo at me for days afterward. So from a personal point of view Wednesday’s performance is Boo Hugh Two.

The running of the 1st ever Tiree 10k is almost upon us. I’ve been training for this since the end of January. I can now run the 10k – that’s six miles in old money – without stopping but only if I go very slowly.

I don’t see the other runners as my primary threat, more someone on the fun walk, perhaps someone on the fun walk pushing a pram.

I had hoped by this time to get down to 10 minutes a mile so that I could finish the run in an hour. If I really, really pushed myself maybe I could do it but I don’t think it would be safe for me to do it. I’ve tried running faster for extended periods but all I get for my trouble is a terrible stitch in my side.

Plus there’s this little voice in the back of my mind reminding me that I am now 50, that I’ve been training for less than five months and that pushing myself too hard might be a very bad idea.­

So don’t think you’re eyes are deceiving you if you think you see someone who appears to be running with a forward motion but who seems further away every time you look at him. That’s me, going backwards.

Anyway, here’s the details. The run takes place on 1 pm Saturday 10th June. Registered runners will be sent the details.

If you have not handed in your entry to Will you should do it ASAP. The course is Balevullin-Moss-Heylipol-Balinoe Beach-An Talla. If you are in these areas between 1 pm and 4 pm on Saturday afternoon please be considerate of the runners and walkers (especially the decrepit slow one with the crew cut and expression of great pain on his face).

I’ve put a link to the photographs on the side bar under ‘Tiree Related Links’ (which reminds me, I must think of a better name for that section). If you click on that link you’ll see a set of photographs entitled ‘Volume 1’. Other volumes will appear as I receive batches of photographs. The link is also to be found over at the A’ Bhuain website.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A' Bhuain Photographs

Photographs from A’ Bhuain are now being uploaded. To view the first volume of photographs to be uploaded (over 40 images) click here. Permanent links to the various volumes will appear shortly in the sidebar to the right.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

An Turas Royal Mail Stamp/BBC Gaelic Audio Online

Tiree’s An Turas has been chosen as one of six iconic post-millennium buildings to feature on a set of Royal Mail stamps.

An Turas means 'The Journey'. The structure is designed as a 'shelter' for those intending to board the island ferry but it is obviously much more than just that.

The 2003 Scottish Building of the Year allows visitors to explore different ways of looking at the natural and built environments on Tiree.

An Turas opened in 2003. It was commissioned by Tiree Arts Enterprise and sponsored by the Scottish Arts Council.

The intention was to design a shelter which is also a sculpture that stimulates public imagination by evoking the sensations of the island. The shelter takes the form of a tunnel and has been described variously as bizarrely unusual and an outstanding example piece of modern architecture.

Did you know that not only can you listen to Radio Nan Gaidheal and Radio Scotland live wherever you are in the world but you can also ‘listen again’ to a whole host of programmes which have already been broadcast? Perennial favourites such as Grace Notes, The Reel Blend and Take The Floor are among the programmes available.

When you click on the link for the following links or the player will open and begin streaming live content. However, you will see that there are also screeds of great programmes available on demand.

In fact from either of these players you can navigate to all the BBC radio stations including the much valued BBC World Service and Radio Five Live.

Pròiseact Thiriodh - - is still online and contains a treasure trove of archived Tiree audio. If you go to the site and put in a seach for ‘music’ you will be amazed at the wealth of material to be had at the click of your mouse.

By way of a taster select this link to hear Murray and Gordon Omand and Gordon Connell performing at The Scarinish Hotel in 1978.