Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Home Alone

Joanne is heading off on Sunday for a routine hospital check up. She’s back on Tuesday and the big question is will I make it through two days by myself? Last week I managed to operate the washing machine all by myself although I was later informed that the garments I had selected the wrong programme and washed my stuff in a colder wash than necessary. But hey, it all looked clean to me and in any case it was a great improvement on my last effort: on that occasion all my whites came out pink. I do try in my own small way not be helpless about the house: I like to Hoover and I fill and empty the dishwasher on occasion.

I ‘blame’ my Mother, God rest her, for this poor state of affairs. We never had to do anything for ourselves when we were kids. I can’t iron for peanuts. Every time I try it ends in disaster and I ruin whatever it is I’m experimenting with.

Even apart from house work, Joanne is much more practical than I am. She’s a dab hand at hanging paper and has a go at DIY jobs about the house. Believe it or not she has HER OWN electric screw driver and drills.

I’m all for equality, me. Especially when it covers up the fact that I’m a useless eejit with not one practical bone in my body.


Well, my mate Will Wright won the penultimate stage of the Scottish Cross Country Mountain bike Championship and it looks like it’s going down to the wire. Will and I are now toying with the idea of travelling up to Aviemore together for the final stage which takes place – I think – on the 25th September. Hopefully we’ll have enough space in the vehicle for me take Brigitte along as well and we’ll get some road cycling done into the bargain. I’m a bit wary of cycling anywhere with my young friend but I’m sure he’ll be gentle with me.

Talking of cycling, it just goes to show that Joanne isn’t the only one who can fall off her bike for no apparent reason. Tonight I went out for a spin and on the road over to Balevullin I stopped to let an oncoming car pass me by on the narrow road. Somehow my foot got caught up in the foot strap and over I went. I was laughing even as I was falling. The car pulled up. The driver was Eilidh Campbell and her grandmother Maggie. I offered them a tenner each if they would promise not to tell anyone what they had just witnessed.

It wasn’t until I was down the road a bit – in fact I was at Hough – when I realised my cycle computer was missing. I reckoned it must have come off when I took my tumble and sped back to scene. It was nowhere to be seen. I went up and down that stretch of road on foot about four times looking for it but with no success.

I cycled home, got Joanne, and we came back in the car and carried out another search.

Could it have come off when I went over one of the cattle grids? We looked into both the grids I had crossed. Lachy Brown, cutting grass in an adjacent field, came over and jokingly asked if there was a reward for whatever I was looking for.

But the darn thing seems lost. I’m a wee bit upset about it because the computer was given to me by young James MacLeod for my 50th birthday. James is now in Australia and for all I know he reads this blog. If you’re reading this, James, I’m sorry mate to have lost your present: it meant a lot to me and I’m disgusted with myself for being so careless.


I was sorry to hear that the Church of Scotland minister, Irene Gillespie, has resigned from her post through ill health. Neither Joanne nor I belong to the Church of Scotland and we’ve never actually heard Irene preach. But we know Irene socially and we always found her to be a very likeable, down to earth person, with a great sense of humour to boot. Although Irene’s departure is not imminent I know we’ll miss her when she does eventually leave Tiree for good.
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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Brigitte et Moi

After some deliberation and consultation with friends my recently acquired Giant road bike is called Brigitte.  The short list of names also included Simone, Colette and Chantele.  Why all the French names?  Well, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this already but I’m currently taking lessons via a pod cast put out by The French Ecole – www.frenchecole.com - and I’m actually getting somewhere.  I’ve tried to learn French before but never really stuck with it.  Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll readily admit I’m driving everyone mad with this at the moment.  If I think you have any knowledge of French at all, no matter how little, I will pounce on you and demand phrases, advice and clarification.  

Joanne and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary next July and we’re toying with the idea of going on a package tour to follow The Tour of France.  But that’s not really why I’ve decided to learn the language.  I took my first lessons before we started planning our anniversary arrangements.  I just happen to think it is a beautiful language and would like to have a little knowledge of it.

Down through the years I’ve lived on Tiree I’ve tried on several occasions to learn Gaelic.  I can manage a few phrases and I suppose I can hold a very basic conversation – especially if it concerns the weather! – but I just can’t get my head around how the language works.  French, being a Latin language and one which has much in common with English, is far easier.

It is Sunday morning and I have to work a little today.  The weekend has not turned out as I had hoped, weather wise.  I was going to make a concerted effort to do a little running today and hopefully that will still happen but it has been quite windy and a little wet.  I have been quite diligent about going out on Brigitte but I have a half-marathon about 5 weeks from now and I should be further along in my training programme.  My left knee, the one I twisted a few weeks back, seems to get better for a while and then the pain returns.  I need some advice.  I want to do the run so badly!  Perhaps a knee support might do the trick?  Can anyone advise me?

My mate Will Wright is somewhere in the borders competing in the Scottish Cross Country Mountain Bike Championship.  I still hope to see him in the last event up in Aviemore but I haven’t made a firm decision yet.  

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fitness Rocks

I met a nice man online today. His name is Doctor Monte Ladner and he runs a website and puts out a pod cast entitled Fitness Rocks (http://www.fitnessrocks.org/). I heard Doc Monte’s name mentioned in a couple of my favourite running podcasts – Phedippidations and Burning 20 – and decided to check him out. At the back of my mind was the recent injury to my knee and that maybe I could get some hints for a speedy recovery by listening to his – hopefully – words of wisdom.

Well, for sure Doc Monte has lots of really interesting stuff to say about maintaining a healthy lifestyle but that’s not the reason why I’m talking about him tonight. No: I’ve decided to write a few lines about him because something he talked about on a recent pod cast really touched Joanne and I deeply.

The good Doctor was talking about the recently run Falmouth (Massachusetts) Road Race. Quite unexpectedly, somewhere near the middle of his pod cast, Monte tells the story of his wife Jenny and how, a few years back, she became very ill and how he and his wife dealt with the situation. Now I’m not going to tell you what happens – that would spoil the show. But what I will tell you is that when I first listened to the programme while cycling to work I almost had to pull over, such was the impact his words had on me.

A couple of nights later I played the show to Joanne and she was similarly touched by what she heard. I think we were both reminded of how sick Joanne had been at the start of the year, of the confusion and worry and sense of helplessness, and of how her illness was a big ‘wake up call’.

You really don’t want to miss out on this one. Go to Doc Monte’s site – http://www.fitnessrocks.org/ - and click on the ‘listen now’ link on the right hand side. A list of podcasts will come up and you want to select pod cast number 007. As I said the story of Jenny’s illness will appear somewhere near the middle of pod cast.

I wrote to Doc Monte and told him how much his pod cast had meant to Joanne and I and he was kind enough to write back. He also said that he liked my blog and - get this - he wished he was more like me - a musician! This from a man whose job and passion it is to preserve and save life. Doctor Monte Ladner is one humble dude if I ever met one.

Rock on Doc Monte!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Saturday Shore

The Old Man of Rock 'n' Roll

Saturday, Saturday, oh how I long for, yearn for Saturdays. My old Mother used to say ‘don’t wish your life away’ but I can’t help myself. From the moment I get to work on Monday mornings I begin a mental countdown to Friday at 5pm.

It has been a good Saturday so far. I rode out on my bike this morning and covered almost 18.5 miles, burning up nearly 1000 calories in the process. Or at least that’s what the computer tells me. I hope the computer has it right: as soon as I stopped running because of my knee injury I began putting on weight. You can see my double chin and middle-age spread re-emerging in the photographs from last week’s gig at An Talla. Now, I’m not one of these people who thinks that exercise is the key to eternal youth. But I have discovered that I do like to run (even if I tend to run very slowly) and that it makes me feel good. And I’m beginning to tinker with the idea of going in for the London Marathon next year. I know, however, that I need to drop a stone and a bit to undertake that particular challenge.

Left to right: Andy (on the drums), Bruce, Iain and me.

This winter I’m determined that I’m going to spend my evenings doing something useful. For one I’m going to keep going out on the bike and if I’m serious about London I will have to keep running through those dark, bleak months.

Then there’s the drama classes that are being run by Argyll College. Oh yes, I caught the bug for that too during the Napier Commission play. And hopefully Will Wright will find time to get his fitness classes for us oldies going. And there’s bound to be more Defenders’ gigs.

I’m also planning a little CD of my own compositions but more of that in the weeks to come. I now have the software installed in my computer for doing this so I have no excuses.

We had a nice evening last night with the Andels over at Balephetrish. We sat under the van’s awning all night. The weather yesterday and today has been superb.
Hope you enjoyed looking at the first batch of pictures from our gig with The Rise last week at An Talla. More soon.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Woman in White

If any of the locals who read this are wondering where my wife has got to, well, the reason you’re not seeing so much of Joanne in the shop itself is because she now does the Cuisine de France bakery goods. So she spends quite a part of her day away at the back of the premises baking those lovely rolls and baguettes and other stuff that we all love to wolf on down. She seems to be enjoying it. You'll see her wearing the white cap and white tabard. On the down side she starts at 8 in the morning but she gets finished about 2.30 in the afternoon. That’s cool. This earlier start means that yours truly has to pull himself out of bed some time before 7 to drive her to work. What I then do is just drive over to Crossapol and start work earlier myself. That’s a good time in the morning to catch up with paper work, before the phone starts ringing or I have to go out and see someone or set about some other routine task.

The good news on the fitness front is that yesterday lunch time I managed a 2-mile run with no pain whatsoever. I might make that half-marathon in October yet. Also, my new bike is so sweet. Heading home via Scarinish today I smoked four cyclists and a car on a hill. At some point on the reef I hit 24 miles an hour. Bearing in mind that with this kind of bike you have less than half an inch of tread-less tyre on the ground these kinds of speeds are scary but exhilarating. I must remember always to wear my helmet!

Yesterday on Tiree that weather was just wonderful. The sun was very hot and there was only the slightest hint of a breeze. Last night at about 8.30 the rain started but it sounded like a light summer rain rather than a good old Scottish downpour. I think today is not to be so good but then we might get some good weather back.

Tonight we are heading over to Balephetrish to see our friends Fran and John whose camper van has been parked there for a few weeks. John is a 54 year-old surfing maniac. I notice this year that Balephetrish seems to be very busy, busier than I’ve ever seen it. Kite and wind surfers abound. I like those people, I really do. They’re nearly always sociable and good natured.

Talking of my mate John, he’s the guy who took most of the photographs from last week’s Defender’s/Rise gig and I’m getting them put on a disk when we go over. That means I’ll be boring you rigid over the next few blogs with photographs of me and my mates living out our rock ‘n’ roll fantasies.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Good Gig

Last night was a good 'un. My mate John Andel took lots of photographs of The Defenders and The Rise at An Talla last night. I should have them within a day or two so I'll spare you the details until then. Yes, things are finally turning around.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Two Pictures from Coll

Dig those crazy specs. Shades of Buddy? Bruce on the left playing a 50th Anniversary Fender Stratocaster

No one could accuse me of being an old fogie. The Defenders were rehearsing until almost midnight last night in An Talla. We were really in 'the zone' and ear-drum bursting songs like the Artic Monkey's I bet you look good on the dance floor had us all excited about how good it sounded. I just love being a 50 year old old guy still playing hard, fast and VERY LOUD rock music. I'm not one of those guys who thinks back to the days of The Rolling Stones or The Beatles and wishes music could be as good now as it was then: it is, believe me. In fact in many ways it is even better.

But I was really exhausted today. My boss was over from the mainland too. By about 5 o'clock I could hardly keep my eyes open and crashed out on the couch as soon as I got home.

So anyway, I got some pictures back from Coll. Most of them didn't turn out very well. Low light. That's me and Bruce at the top of this blog. And here's one which was taken at about 10 o'clock the morning after the gig. Believe me, none of us are as well as we look!

Bruce (lead guitar), Billy (roadie), Gordon (vocals, guitar) and Iain (bass guitar)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Collywobbles, Mountain Biking and Driving to Mongolia

Starting to get the collywobbles regarding Saturday night. This is quite unlike me, by the way. Although I'm always 'up for it' before a gig I'm worrying, once again, about playing the electric guitar on stage (even though I only actually play guitar on less than half the songs). Part of the problem is lack of confidence in the guitar: I'm playing Jenny's Squier Strat. She loves this guitar and basically there's nothing wrong with it. But it needs re-strung badly and it has a buzz on the 'D' string which indicates to me that someone who knows what they're doing needs to do a little servicing. If you don't play guitar this, of course, means nothing to you. Believe me, if you're going to stand in front of a crowd of between 150 - 200 people and blast them with an electric guitar you need to know it's not going to sound awful. Especially when you're trying to sing at the same time. Oh, woe is me! Anyway, the guitar will be re-strung by Saturday and someone who knows how to solve the problem of the buzzing string (Bruce) will have tackled that problem, hopefully. I enjoy performing so much that when things just aren't right I get really stressed out. Bear with me.

On a lighter note good news about my mate Will Wright. You'll remember Will, who lives in Heylipol, is, among other things, an intrepid mountain biker. On 5th August Will won the Sport M section of the 5th event in the Scottish Cross Country Mountain Biking Championship. Way to go, Will! This guy just blows me away and I'm very proud to call him my friend. The race comprised four laps of tough terrain racing. Will told me tonight on the telephone that he came off the bike twice. Undeterred, he fought on and finished over a minute ahead of the second placed rider. The next event is in September.

Alistair Boyd from Cornaigmore is engaged on another adventure. A few years back Alistair and a friend cycled from Cape Town to Sheffield and then on to Tiree for charity - a 10,000 mile unsupported journey. Best to sum up his latest adventure with a quote from the website he and 'Team Flashmen' have put together:

Flashmen is a team of four budding, heavily disillusioned adventurers who will be racing from London across Europe, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Russia, to Ulaan Baatar, in an effort to raise money for charity in this year’s Mongol Rally.

The race is well underway. You can find out more about Alistair's team at http://www.flashmen.org/ To find out more about the race itself go to http://www.mongolrally.com/

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Bagel and a Cup of Java's Worth

I really must get Joanne to fall off her bike and in to fresh cow crap more often. Ever since that happened (a week past on Friday) our luck has taken a change for the better. My new bike is on it’s way, the opticians say there is absolutely no problem with getting my glasses fixed and my knee is starting to feel ever so slightly better this morning. In fact I’m going to have a run just after I’ve got this bagel and cup of java juice down me.

On Friday evening I was experimenting with some audio software. I listen to a lot of podcasts these days and I have an idea at the back of my bed that I could do a podcast or two from Tiree – ‘Radio Tiree’ if you will. I don’t have any portable equipment but I think what I’ll do initially – if I do this at all – is to record a simple programme, something right off the top of my head, something in Mp3 format, and then send it out by email to anyone who wants to listen to it. An experiment, if you will.

If that comes together it would be like this Blogspot – really about me and my life on Tiree. Maybe I could rope a few friends and other locals to talk about their experience of Tiree. Even I don’t know what I’m on about here. Humour me.

My major goal for the remainder of the year is to run the Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon on the 7th or the 8th October. I may have mentioned this before. The inspiration behind this worldwide event is a guy called Steve Runner – aka Steve Walker – who podcasts from Oxford, Massachusetts. Steve and a bunch of his friends are organising people all over the world to run in unity on these dates. There’s no overt aim here other than to get a bunch of like-minded people out pounding the road. You can find out more at http://www.steverunner.com/

I can’t make up my mind yet whether I should try to raise sponsorship for some community projects. I know the eventide home and the district nursing team could always use a little more equipment to help them in their work. Getting sponsorship and collecting the money takes a bit of an effort – in some ways it’s harder work than the actual run, I find.

BUT HEY! I JUST HAD A BRAINWAVE! Why don’t I get Joanne to organise all that stuff? What a generous soul I am to involve her in my hobbies, don’t you think?

By the way, THE DEFENDERS are playing next Saturday evening at An Talla. I see the posters refer to us as ‘Tiree’s greatest ever rock band’. Actually, I think we are probably Tiree’s only ever rock band. Tickets are £8.00 and it’s a very full programme. We have a little amateur slot when Jamie Beese and John Issacson will be playing a few tunes. Then we have our good friends, The Rise, over from the Isle of Coll. And then, of course, Tiree’s greatest ever rock band. Should be a great night. Oh and by the way: the profits from the bar (yes, the gig is licensed!) go to Tiree Regatta Club.

Although I say it myself I’m not usually quick to think the worst of people. I don’t really think this is because I’m a lovely person. More likely it’s because the most obvious things in life tend to go right over my head. Ask any of my friends: I can’t see the forest for the trees. Maybe that’s why I just cannot believe that Floyd Landis (the winner of this year’s Tour de France who was sacked today by Team Phonak when his ‘B’ test was positive was testosterone) is a cheat. Everything we know about the man – his religious convictions, his humility, his generosity – tells us that this is not the type of guy who would take a performance enhancing drug to win a race. One day the truth will come out. I hope that day is soon. This man is not a cheat.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Me and MI5

... Although thinking about this overnight the fact that the British Government is on the case is highly unlikely to deter any spammers. For instance, what would Tony Bliar - sorry, Blair - do about the situation?

"I'm sorry Gordon, I can't possibly do anything about the spammers hitting your old email account until we have a solution which is going to last. There's simply no point in any kind of a 'quick fix'. This problem has been with you for years now and simply stopping the spammers will achieve nothing in the short term."

Yes, that all sounds kind of familiar, Tony ...

So if you have my old email address on any of your round-robin emails be assured that if you get a message back to say that MI5 is tracking you - well, don't worry. It's just my little joke. Even if it wasn't nothing would happen.

I must say that I've hardly ever had any junk in my Hotmail account.

A dull, wet morning here, folks. Nevertheless, I am about to set out on a long bike ride just to keep my knee in shape. I'm determined that at some point this weekend I will have a little run but it's just a little dreich at the moment.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cringe, Spammers!

Every time I look at my fsnet.com email box I find about 200 emails full of advice on where to get the best viagra, online sex or .... viagra. I'm so fed up about having to keep checking that old unused email inbox that I set up an 'away' message tonight to say that the FBI have informed MI5 that I have reported this to them and that all mailers are being tracked. Stupid, I know. But I just need to know I'm getting back at them somehow.

Am I Having Fun Yet?

Question 1: Is it really a week since I blogged last?

Question 2: Where would we be without rhetorical questions?

Yesterday, Joanne celebrated her 49th birthday. Unfortunately, both Jenny and I miscalculated how long it would take for the presents we’d bought online to reach this rocky outpost in the Atlantic and for that reason she still hasn’t had any gifts. Poor Joanne! Maybe we’ll get a chance to make up for things at the weekend.

This has been a tired week. Basically, I’ve been going about in a bit of a daze. Oh, I’m not down or anything. I’m still bugged by a bit of pain in my left knee so I haven’t resumed running yet – again, maybe in a day or two – so I’ve been at a bit of a loose end. All I’ve really done this week was visit Bruce on Tuesday night for a little bit of a play on the guitars.

As I was leaving Bruce’s place we had an short conversation which can be summarised thus:

Gordon: I have a problem with my self confidence. If someone tells me they think I’m a good singer I accept it there and then but then afterwards I’m sure they’re only being nice to me.

Bruce: Yes, so that when someone tells you they like you, you’ll eventually convince yourself that what they’re actually saying is ‘you’re crap’.

G: So … next time someone tells us the band is really good, we say - ?

B: - Are you saying we’re crap?

The rather odd flip side of this is that whenever people tell me they thought something I’ve done was rubbish I always take that at face value. Strange that. I’m one of those people who always wants to think the worst about himself. I know I’m not alone in this. I guess I’m just a sensitive soul. Then again perhaps I need therapy.

People tend to think I know all about computers, their intricacies, what to do when something goes wrong with them … I don’t. This myth got about because people assume that because I used to have a successful website that I must know the technicalities inside out. Let me put it this way: I drive a car but I only have a vague idea of what’s happening under the bonnet.

One thing is true: I spend a lot of time either on the computer, downloading stuff to my computer, listening to music on my computer and so on. But when I say ‘I spend a lot of time’ what I really mean is that I spend probably about the same amount of time at the computer as another person might spend watching the television.

For the life of me I can’t remember the last time I actually wrote a letter to a friend, put it in an envelope, bought and stamp and posted it. All my written communication with friends happens through the computer. I’ve met people who actually think this is awful but I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re Luddites or they think and email lacks value somehow.

I download a lot of podcasts from the internet, mostly amateur programmes on topics which are dear to me: running and other endurance sports, for instance, or general discussion programmes. I’m a real radio fan and enjoy loads of spoken word broadcasts, particularly the type offered on Radio 4 and Radio 5 but podcasts allow me to zero in exactly on topics which interest me. And the great thing about podcasting is that you can set up your computer to automatically download the latest edition of the programme to your computer.

I’ve ‘ripped’ most of my favourite music in to my laptop. Currently I have about 100 hours of music stored in Mp3 format. This means that when I want to take some music with me on a run or a bike run I just copy the music file in to my Mp3 player.

Then of course there is the internet. I do a lot of shopping on the ‘net but only on sites which are tried and trusted. I’m glad to report that to date I have never had any bad experiences with online shopping. I also keep up to date with news topics I am keen on through Google alerts as well as broadening my mind by having what is undoubtedly the world’s greatest educational resource at my finger tips. That’s not to say that you can believe everything you read on the internet. At least there are so many resources you can pull together when doing any kind of research that you should be able to determine what is true and what isn’t.

Amazingly, someone somewhere is sure to have some kind of an opinion on almost anything you care to be interested in, no matter how bizarre.

A website I’ve been visiting a lot recently is called http://www.wefeelfine.org/ We Feel Fine is a site/programme which trawls blogs like this and looks for complete sentences which contain the words ‘I feel’ or ‘I am feeling’. Once you’ve loaded up the programme hundreds of dots begin to swirl about the screen and when you click on one of these a blogger’s thoughts will appear on the screen. You will be told when the comment was made (always within the last couple of hours) and where.

For some reason, every time I click on one of the swirling dots I get a statement or comment which somehow strikes me as profound. Probably, if I knew the context of the comments this would not be the case. Check it out for yourself.