Saturday, December 08, 2007
Thanks to everyone who wrote and emailed regarding the ill health with which our household seems to be cursed at the moment. Joanne is feeling much better, thanks.
Over the next week I will post a few video or slideshow features. I wish I had gone down to the beach today and filmed something: the weather here today was wild and awful.
Just one other thing to mention: if you made a 'comment' recently you might have been surprised that it didn't immediately appear. This was because I received a 'spam' comment and decided to moderate the comments for a short while. The threat seems to have passed.
Thanks for bearing with me: normal service will be resumed soon!
Saturday, December 01, 2007
All is well. Joanne has just about fully recovered from her latest health scare. I should be blogging regularly some time next week. Today, we are leaving the island for a few days. The day is windy, wet and dreich. We'll see you at the other end.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Hi folks. Here's just a couple of lines from to confirm that Joanne got home from hospital yesterday. She's doing really well, taking it easy and I'm doing all I can to pamper her. Things here at the blog should be back to normal soon. Thanks for putting up with the erratic posts.
Monday, November 19, 2007
As some of you may know, Joanne, my wife, was evacuated by air ambulance on Saturday afternoon. This post is just to say that she is comfortable in hospital. Joanne is undergoing various examinations and there will be a small operation on Tuesday. Remarkably, she expects to back on Tiree before the end of the week.
Thanks for all the texts, emails and phone calls.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
There's a great wee article in today's Belfast Telegraph about Tiree's John Archie MacKenzie. Johnny, now 81, has recently been inducted into Partick Thistle's Hall of Fame. In addition to playing for The Jags Johnny also played with Dumbarton, Derry City and, as the photograph proudly shows, Scotland's national side. You can read more about Johnny, a truly lovely guy, here.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Yesterday (Sunday): the New York City Marathon. The women's race was won by the UK's Paula Radcliffe, running her first marathon since the birth of her daughter, Isla, 10 months ago. What a sensational race it was too. Apart from about three seconds, when the Ethiopian runner who more or less drafted her from the beginning tried to overtake, Paula led from start to finish. She is truly one of my athletic heroes. Recently, I ran a half marathon, completing the 13.1 miles in 2:46. Yesterday, Paula Radcliffe ran twice the distance in 2:23.
I hear today that British Airways are about to ban surf boards from their planes. They just take up too much room, it seems. Probably The Scotsman article is rather over the top: to suggest that events on Tiree would be threatened by this proposed ruling is not true. Most of the folks who come to surf on Tiree bring their gear by car or van. I imagine this is the same for Thurso. Still, it may be a real problem for a few people. We'll just have to wait and see. (UPDATE 8th NOVEMBER: See 'comments', below.)
The poor wee Corncrakes are struggling again, apparently. Or are they? This article seems to suggests that livestock farming on the islands and elsewhere is in decline and this has a knock-on effect to the environment in which the birds prosper. But towards the end of the article we learn that the number of birds is increasing. Confusing. (The 'readers' comments' at the bottom of the page are quite amusing.)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Ah yes, Halloween. Last night, daughter Jenny made a pumpkin lantern. Making Pumpkin lanterns is a fairly recent trend in the UK. Like outdoor Christmas lights , yellow ribbons and the invasion of Iraq, we have imported this idea from America. Anyway, this creation will be sitting in a window at the Scott residence tonight.
During the process, Jenny was watched closely by her Familiar, Connie.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Yesterday, the clocks went back (to GMT). That means it gets brighter sooner in the mornings - for the moment anyway. That should cheer us all up.
Again, yesterday I did something I'd never done before which was go out for a training run with someone else. The 'someone else' was Fifi Munn. Fifi started running about three months ago and is doing great. We ran 3.2 miles at her pace. We covered the distance in 35 minutes and fifteen seconds. This works out to 11 minute per mile pace at an average speed of 5.45 mph. Not slow!
There was a sale at the weekend but to be honest with you I don't understand the complexities of livestock sales. I should have asked Fifi how the prices went but I forgot.
I'm still under doctor's orders, running with his blessing I have to say. But I'm also trying to make myself useful in the house while not at work. This morning I have done all the washing, hung it out, watched it get soaked again in a shower; I've mopped the kitchen floor, done the dishes, and I've vacuumed the sitting room. I've partially prepared tonight's dinner - a chicken stir fry, I reckon - and that's that.
As I pointed out to my daughter Jenny this morning, "I'm a man of the 90's." She got the joke.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Yesterday, I received this message from my friend Michael Gibson:
H.M.S.Sturdy Oct.30th 1940
The survivors and relatives of the crew of HMS "Sturdy" still remaining would like to place on record their gratitude and thanks to the people of Tiree for the help , assistance and compassion shown and given to them in their hour of need. We also thank you for looking after those that sadly are left behind at Balemartine.
The Royal Navy remembers
To learn more, CLICK HERE.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
That's the Internet for you: this afternoon I got a message from Dennis, a fellow runner from Ohio, telling me that Tiree was featured on the latest Lonely Planet travel podcast.
This is a really nice show, brief but interesting. If you would like to listen CLICK HERE.
I can't wait until the next time I meet up 'local hunk', Suds ...
Saturday, October 20, 2007
#52: Jane's Nut, Mushroom and Tomato Bake
Recently, I began cooking. By this I don't mean micro-waving fast food or even opening cans. I mean cooking, taking raw food and making something of it. To the amazement or my family and friends the stuff I've been making is edible and even tasty.
I have the Samye-Ling cookbook to thank for this. As this wonderful book is published by a Buddhist monastery it will come as no surprise that all the recipes are vegetarian. The food is yummy, nevertheless, and my taste-buds are enjoying the novelty.
To tell you the truth, I find meal preparation incredibly relaxing, therapeutic, even.
So, here's what the Scott family will be eating later on:
Jane's Nut, Mushroom and Tomato Bake.
8 oz. wholemeal breadcrumbs; 8 0z. nuts (for today's meal I used mixed nuts); margarine (although I used a little olive oil instead); mixed herbs; 2 large onions; 1/2 - 3/4 lb. mushrooms; 1/2 lb fresh tomatoes.
Chop the nuts finely. Fry them together with breadcrumbs in the margarine (or oil) until browned. Add the herbs. Separately fry the onions, mushrooms and tomatoes until soft.
Arrange alternate layers of mushroom mixture and nut mixture in a greased casserole dish, finishing with a layer of bread crumbs.
Bake in a moderate over for 1/2 hour.
I think there would be enough to serve 4 adults.
#53: Book tickets to see a nice men who has also shaved his head
Still on the Buddhist theme, it turns out the Dalai Lama is visiting Nottingham in May 2008. So we have booked tickets to go hear him speak.
A truly wonderful human being, the Dalai Lama never fails to inspire me with his unconditional love, compassion and message of peace.
His hair is rather longer than mine at the moment, mind you. I may have to have a word with him about this.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
At last, irrefutable proof that the Loch Ness Monster exists. I met Nessie on the banks of the River Ness after my recent participation in the Baxters Festival of Running. Joanne commanded me to smile.
Last week the Tiree Wave Classic seemed a little stalled by the lack of wind. Of course, the wind picked up almost as soon as the competition came to an end. This morning, for instance, the wind is gusting to 37 miles per hour from the south. And it's even howling. Raining, too.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Some of you may know that I've not been all that well recently. However, the advice from the doctor was to keep up my running. It might even help to cheer me up. Something to do with endorphins.
Last Saturday Joanne and I left the island and headed up to Inverness where I was to take part, the following day, in The Baxters Festival of Running 10k event.
Autumn. Here on Tiree we don't really sense Autumn in the same way as people on the mainland. I think it's because there are no trees on the island we don't see the leaves turning brown and gold. So it was a delight to drive up the A82 on such a lovely sunny afternoon. It made me feel mellow and relaxed.
It was strange being back in this particular campsite. Joanne and I had last been here some 26 years ago!
An early night was followed by a fairly early rise on my part. I wanted to get some nutrition and fluids in me in good time to feel the benefit. The race started from the Royal Academy at 11:00.
It was a cold morning but by about 09:00 the sun was out and I was able to get out of the breeze in the back of our MPV. As you can see from the photograph above I was doing my very best to get relaxed and focused before leaving for my run.
This is the 5th 'event' I've entered since taking up running for fitness, early in 2006. But this was something different. There were over 1,700 runners in my event alone! After the run started it was difficult to pass slower runners and the narrow country lanes and roads which characterized the first two miles made it even more difficult. However, passing people is not a thing I do a lot of in these things so it wasn't really a big issue for me!
I remained focused by listening to a strict 175 beats-per-minute soundtrack on my mp3 player. Until the last mile, that is: I had set things up so that when the music had been playing for 55 minutes (when I would need inspiration) the theme from Rocky would come on.
As soon as it did my stride got longer and I ran past about ten fellow runners before I reigned myself in, reminding myself not to do anything stupid.
It was a great event and, true enough, I did feel the better for having done it. I ran ever inch of the way and never felt in any distress or pain.
After the race Joanne and I came back to the campsite. I went for a shower, we took some pictures to record my completion of the run and went back round to stadium. Then it was up to the city centre for some food, applauding the marathon runners who passed us on the way.
After another early night we woke up feeling refreshed and looking forward to the trip back to Oban. I remember saying to Joanne that as we weren't in a great hurry we would take our time, enjoy the scenery.
About four miles south of Inverness I glanced into my rear view mirror and noted a white pick-up van overtaking me. But there was something weird going on: there seemed to be another van overtaking the van overtaking me.
That was the last thing I was ever to see out of that mirror.
The white pick up van had hit us broadside, badly damaging our MPV from rear to front, driver's side. It may be that the third vehicle forced the white van into us, I can't say. All I know is that I was driving along at 40-45 mph on a clear road when the accident happened.
I nursed the car back to Oban and that's where it is at the moment, undergoing repair.
I didn't spend any time wishing this had never happened. What was the point? It did happen and nothing was going to undo it. If we'd left the campsite 30 seconds earlier or 30 seconds later, who knows?
So, all in all, that was quite a weekend. It was nice to be back in Inverness, particularly when the weather was so agreeable and I needed a 'tonic' in the form of a change of scenery.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
There must be some mistake. It's the morning of the first day of the Tiree Wave Classic and it's actually windy out there. Thank goodness. I mean, is it just me or has the TWC been dogged by unnaturally calm weather for the past couple of years?
On the downside, it's a rather overcast morning and the forecast isn't really all that great for the rest of the day.
The TWC web site doesn't have anything new on it so far but I expect it will begin to be updated from today.
This year there is no event village at Gott Bay. Instead, the organisers have commandeered An Talla.
Click here to visit the event web site.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Great to hear from my old mate Mark Jennison. A lot of you on Tiree will remember Mark as the leading light of Tiree Community Business and one of the main advocates of the proposed wind turbine at Ruaig. Mark confessed to me today by email that he is a bit of a wind turbine 'nerd' and that my picture from Newtonmore (see post for September 29th 2007) really intrigued him.
Mark wrote, Looks to me like it's a Lucas Freelight wind turbine, built before the war to charge batteries. Apparently there were quite a few of them on Tiree at the same time. Alistair at An Iodhlan remembers them being on various crofts, used to power light bulbs inside. The blades were made of wood and apparently were quite noisy! Wonder if any are still lurking in old sheds?
Mark also sent me picture of another example from Orkney. They used to carve their own blades, Mark continued, and there were obviously lots of different sizes made. The machine was probably the same, just small blades. My picture makes it look big, but it’s actually rather small.
Thank you so much Mark!
Now, as for my itchy cat (see post for September 27th 2007): Janis wrote suggesting we alter Connie's diet as she may be allergic to something she was eating. A great suggestion, Janis. We have tried this and so far no great success. When we go to the mainland in a few days we intend to visit the pet store in Oban to check out the availability of hype-allergic pet foods.
Janette suggested that pollen might be affecting Connie. A friend had a cat which required brushing every time it came back into the house. Now, this is strange because I started combing Connie on her return from the garden about two weeks ago - with some improvement in her agitation. So I think Janette might have something here. I'll keep you posted.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Here are the results of the poll which has been running on the blog for the past few weeks. The question, you will recall, was which of the following activities would you like to see developed on Tiree?
Guided Historical Walks
Guided Bicycle Tours
Family MPV Tours
Meditation and Relaxation Classes
Thirty-eight of you voted in the poll. A big 'thank you' to all of you who took the time to participate. Now to put this information to some use ...
Saturday, September 29, 2007
You will recall I recently went to Aviemore. On the way back home I dropped in to the Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore. It was there that one of my traveling companions brought my attention to the object in the picture. It is a wind turbine. So what? I hear you say. Well, the amazing thing is that this turbine was built sometime in the 1920's. According to the description, it cost something like £30 to erect. Of course, it is a rather puny affair when compared to the mighty structure at An Talla (which is puny enough when compared with the colossi to be found in some parts of our green and pleasant land). Actually, I have no idea whether the thing is ever put to use or if it is even capable of still undertaking the task it was built for (which I presume to be the generation of electricity). Perhaps someone out there in the blogosphere knows.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
What a lovely day it's been. The sun has shone on Tiree all day long. Only light breezes. As I sit here in the kitchen and write this blog the sun is still visible over the top of the school. The washing is in and the midges are out. Joanne is pottering about, Radio Scotland on our old Roberts Radio.
This morning I had a great run on the beach at Gott Bay. Only about three miles but run at a good clip. No pain. Got a bit of the sun, actually.
This afternoon my cat, Connie, and I sat round the front of the house. My poor cat is a matter of great concern to me. She is tormented most days by an itch. She doesn't have fleas and she has been wormed. It seems she has an allergy of some kind. In fact, the lady we got her from has told us that Connie's mother suffered from the same thing. We give her anti-allergy pills but these have only limited success. Does anyone have any ideas? Calling all you cat-lovers out there: help!
(Joanne just gave me a piece of chocolate: Cadbury's Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut. The first chocolate I've eaten in about a week. Delicious! But can it cause problems with excess bodily hair? See Above.)
And while we're on the Call For Help theme: for a long time I've had a pain above my left eye when I breathe in. Well, not a pain, exactly, more a dull ache. When I close my left nostril with my finger and breathe in through the right nostril the pain disappears. It's taken me a long time to figure out that this is a sinus problem of some kind. I've tried every kind of pain killer on the market and a couple of sprays but nothing seems to help. Suggestions are very, very welcome.
(I ended up eating three pieces of the chocolate. Well you know what they say: a little bit of what you fancy is good for you.)
I see the Tiree branch of the Scottish Women's Rural Institute are holding a coffee afternoon at the Resource Centre on Saturday afternoon. It's in aid of the Macmillan's Cancer Research so that should be worth a visit.
(Joanne is looking through a vitamin catalogue. There's an item she's spotted: Hoodia Gordonii. A slimming product used by bushmen while out hunting to suppress their hunger and maintain energy levels. Not only does it seem to have been named after me, it also seems to target two of my biggest problems in life!)
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Not much in my mind these past couple of days, blog-wise, regarding the Isle of Tiree or anything else for that matter, so I thought I'd share my tune and video of the week with you. I first heard this song on the new iPod Nano advert. The song is by FEIST and the song is called 1 2 3 4. This video is amazing.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Yes, this year, on the Isle of Tiree, not one but two major surfing events. What's more, they are back to back.
The Tiree Wave Classic runs from 3rd - 5th October
The PWA World Cup event runs from the 6th - 13th October.
This year there's also a Tiree surfing 'community' web site. There's a link in the column right, down a bit.
Find out more at www.tireewaveclassic.com
Friday, September 21, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
September 16th was Mexican Independence Day. My friend, Janis Cuevas, who lives in California, sent me this photograph of her husband, Manuel, at the Mijares Mexican Restaurant at Pasadena, north of Los Angeles, where the family were celebrating. And is that a Tiree 10k T-shirt Manuel is wearing? You better believe it. I sent this across to them as a wee memento from Tiree.
Some weeks back Janis actually sent me a T-shirt publicizing this very restaurant and I feel compelled to have a picture taken of me wearing it and adopting the same pose next time I happen to be in a pub or eatery. ¡Viva la Independencia!
Monday, September 17, 2007
A few weeks ago I featured a video entitled 'Roads of Tiree'. It went down so well that I've made one of my own. This morning, after I dropped Jenny off at work, I stuck the camera on the dashboard and away we went. So why not join me on the journey from Scarinish to Cornaigmore, via 'The Reef'.
I forgot to say in the credits that the soundtrack is by DJ Steveboy of Podrunner fame. He makes some great 'beats-per-minute' mixes for runners. Check him out at www.djsteveboy.com
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Oh my goodness - look out the window, Joanne. Do you see it? Do you see the patches of blue in the sky? Praise the Lord, we're saved!
The weather was awful yesterday, one of those days on Tiree when you just wanted to curl up on the couch and go to sleep. Which I more or less did for an hour or so in the afternoon. Lazy bum.
I wanted to go out running for a bit. It just wasn't on. Then I thought about a walk but I couldn't even get it together to put on my walking boots.
That kind of weather just makes you depressed, doesn't it? All you want to do is sleep and eat.
Having said this, I did notice some of my crofter friends out working at fences. Which just goes to show: a little wind and rain is not lethal.
I've been away from work for a couple of weeks now, a sort of sabbatical, you could say. I've been using the time off to re-focus, think hard about the future and generally get my head together.
One of the things I've been working on is what I call 'mindfulness'. Buddhists are heavily into this and that's where I picked it up from. A few weeks ago - or maybe it was longer - I was waxing philosophical about 'who am I' ... something along those lines anyway. I think I mentioned at that point that many of us never live in 'the present'. We're either taken up with thinking about the past or planning the future.
So this past wee while I've been working on living in the here and now. One of the ways I've been doing this is by trying to exercise mindfulness along with whatever task I may be undertaking at the time. So, when I'm driving the car I'm only driving the car. When I'm loading the dishwasher I'm only loading the dishwasher.
This means undertaking each and every task consciously, not automatically, becoming aware of where I am, what I am doing and how I am doing it. This technique helps to centre you in the present - it does for me, anyway.
A major benefit of this is that you start to see common everyday objects, places and people in a new way. Or perhaps not new but rather you start to see many things that have been taken for granted for so long as if you were seeing them again for the first time.
I like what the French novelist Marcel Proust had to say on this subject: The only true voyage of discovery is not to go to new places, but to see with new eyes.
COLIN McRAE 1968 - 2007
So sad to wake up the news today that another of my 'Scottish Heroes', Colin McRae, died yesterday in a helicopter crash near his home in Lanark. Colin's little son, Johnny, also perished, along with two others. Colin was the first Briton to win the World Rally Championship, back in 1995.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
The purpose of the visit was to offer us knick-knacks which they had for sale. But what was more important was the opportunity just to sit down in the kitchen, have a cup of tea and a good old fashioned 'blether'.
The old lady told me something I had heard from other people on Tiree: she'd been visiting Tiree for years, back in the days when folks like herself were adept at making tin-ware. Doctor Holliday had just had her across at An Iodhlann the day before to share her memories of visiting Tiree and reflections about her way of life.
It was a pleasure to have these folks visit us and I can only marvel at their hardiness and fortitude. The weather yesterday was very rough and the thought of spending the night in a tent on Tiree wouldn't have appealed to me at all.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
A few weeks back I run through a bunch of these dudes on the beach at Gott Bay. They were doing amazing stuff with their kites, karts, boards, etc. It was only when I picked up on this video online that I remembered that I had seen some folks wearing the promotional t-shirt.
This is an amazing 12-minute long video. Very well edited and with a great soundtrack. Congratulations to all concerned in putting it together. (The only one I know personally is Owain.)
Next time these guys are organising an event on Tiree I might go along for some tuition. Check out www.tractionkiting.co.uk
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
This is all about how secondary school kids on the neighbouring island of Coll have to go to Oban to continue their educational career. Strange when here, on Tiree, a mere two miles across the water, we have an almost fully staffed school. Our kids don't have to leave the island to finish their education.
I remember a few years back a feasibility study was commissioned by Argyll and Bute Council all about establishing a causeway or bridge between Tiree and Coll. Click Here. I can't find the results on the Council's web page. It is a long time ago, after all. If memory serves me well, there was no great enthusiasm for the plan on either island.
It has always seemed to me a great shame that the kids on Coll have to leave home for such long periods of time. When I was offered a job here on Tiree the first thing I wanted to know was if Jenny would have to go to Oban for her education. If the answer had been 'yes' we wouldn't have come. That's just a personal thing and is not meant as a criticism of anyone who sends their kids away from the island for their education.
It's an interesting read, this article. Click on the link and tell me what you think.
FLIES! I always sleep with the bedroom window open. Even if there's a gale blowing outside. I just can't sleep in a room that doesn't have a good supply of fresh air.
Last night I was pretty tired and went up to bed at about 9:30. I soon fell asleep. Next thing I know Joanne is waking me up, telling me the entire upper storey of our house is infested with flies. Little green flies.
I looked up. The ceiling was covered in them. I got up. The hall was heaving with them.
Evidently, they'd seen the light coming from my bedroom, assumed the open window meant 'come on in' and took up residence.
We just could not sleep in that room! So we got out the sleeping bags and went downstairs. We slept on the living room floor.
And guess what? I had the best night's sleep I've had in ages!
Anyway, this morning I bought fly killer. I hate to kill any living creature -yes, even a fly. But I had no choice. I explained this to my little buddies before I massacred them.
Now I have a house littered with the corpses of thousands of green fly. Oh! and how it pongs! I am writing this in the kitchen, the only place I can go in the house without my eyes watering.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Here's a blast from the past: an article I wrote for IOTON or AN TIRISDEACH back in 2003 0r 2004.
POOR SAM, POOR ME
Gordon D. W. Scott
I wonder which of the twitchers was first to speak and what he or she said after a rare visitor to these shores, an American robin, was suddenly taken and eaten by a sparrow hawk in Grimsby? If I had been Graham Appleton of the British Trust for Ornithology, the man responsible for telling everyone to come see this miraculous sight, I think a few choice Scottish expletives on my part would have sent the faint hearted amongst the observers stampeding back to their four-by-fours.
By great coincidence, on the same day as Turdus migratorius got a taste of British hospitality (or, perhaps more accurately, our sparrow hawk acquired its taste for American cuisine) I had a birdie encounter many miles way over land and sea which resulted in the use of a little bad language.
Admittedly, here on the Isle of Tiree I was some three four miles removed from the scene of said encounter when I took out the front driver’s side wheel of my Fiat Punto.
Nevertheless I maintain a link of causality, and more: for me what happened on Monday morning has acquired cosmological significance. I got what was coming to me. Maybe some of twitchers in Grimsby that day shared a similar fate.
Everything was going well until I came across the dying herring gull (that’s Larus argentatus, if you’re interested). The morning was sunny, with hardly a cloud in the sky, and the southerly wind, although strong, was refreshingly invigorating. As I set out for a lap of the island on my mountain bike my mood was light and my feelings for mankind in the ascendant.
Up ahead of me on the single-track road I see this seagull lying on its back and I think, road kill, what a shame.
No hardened country dweller, me. Although I’ve now lived on Tiree for something in excess of 10 years I remain in essence a townie – moreover, a wimp of a townie even by townie standards.
As I cycled slowly past its head turned and it looked right up at me. No other part of its body moved, just the head, as if the body of the bird was being imperceptibly absorbed by the tarmac beneath.
I know it is a psychological weakness on my part which led to me to interpret that look as meaning anything. People tend to interpret the looks of their pets in terms of human qualities. But surely few people have anthropomorphising a dying seagull on the road.
Here’s how I interpreted that look:
‘Will you look at what’s happened to me?’ And then, ‘Out for a cycle are we?’
I was not ten feet past poor stricken Sammy (OK, it could have been a Samantha) when the guilt set it in the form of an inner conversation:
‘You’re not just going to leave it lying there in terrible agony are you?’
‘It didn’t look too distressed to me ...’
‘The only RSPB member in the country who can’t spot the difference between a crow and a rook (and probably that of a hawk and a handsaw when I come to think of it) feels he is able to determine the signs and symptoms of distress in a bird that’s just recently been smacked by a couple of tons of guided missile on wheels?’
‘Well since you put it like that …’
‘It can’t move below the neck, Eejit!’
For the benefit of relatives who reaching for the telephone to have my (perhaps) long overdue committal finally put in motion I would point out that I am merely restating the confused jumble of thoughts and emotions going through my head at the time.
The bit about the RSPB is true, though: I joined because I like the idea of birds, I think they are nice too look at. Apart from sending the RSPB money every quarter, however, I cannot think what else to do about them, to do with them, except appreciate them. I suppose that’s basically the difference between someone like me and a ‘twitcher’. I like birds for just being what they are while the twitcher obsessively pursues sightings of the rare and exotic in much the same way as a train spotter is enthralled by sightings of a previously unrecorded locomotive number.
The twitcher is the anorak of the ornithological world.
I looked back. Poor little Sam (there, why didn’t I think of that before?) was craning his neck to view the large flock of seagulls currently circling not far above him. The namby-pamby in me wanted to believe the hue and cry the new arrivals were setting up could be interpreted by an expert birder as shouts of encouragement directed to a stricken friend.
‘Come on Sam, stand up and pull yourself together. You’ve had a little knock but don’t make a meal of it.’
But the realist in me said that they were more likely to be debating who would get the eyes.
I would have to do something to end this birds suffering. But what?
In these circumstances could someone be excused for wringing poor Sam’s neck? Since that day I have wondered if it is against the law to do this. But even if I knew the technique the pedalling pansy would not have been able to do the deed.
I got back on my cycle again and carried on my less than merry way - for maybe another 50 yards.
I stopped and looked back again. The diners club of the air had yet to partake of their feast.
Now I felt compelled to do something even if it meant overcoming my long nurtured squeamishness.
I saw a car coming along the part of the road I had just cycled. Hope sparked within me. If the car simply ran over the top of the seagull it would all be over in an instant.
To my amazement the car slowed and drove around the bird. From the driver’s seat it would be very difficult to recognise the fact that the bird was still alive. The only way I’m able to explain the driver’s reluctance to drive over the bird – and it meant quite a manoeuvre on his or her part – was revulsion at the thought of that slight bump he or she would feel as the vehicle ironed it flat.
I thumped the saddle of my bike, turned it around and cycled back to the bird, without pausing this time. The little head stirred again but I quickly looked away, somehow embarrassed. I would have to take matters into my own hands. So I cycled quickly home – a matter of about a mile - and jumped into my own car determined to do the deed.
Oh the bright day, the promise of springtime, just around the corner, or so it seemed that morning. The young calves gambolling in the fields, the good clean Atlantic air pouring in through the car’s open window.
The soon-to-be flattened pancake of a dead seagull, its innards glistening in the late morning sun …
Just round the bend I would see my target, the ‘hit’. I would do the deed and drive on, try manfully to forget what I’d done, maybe even exult in the melancholy duty I had this morning performed, pondering the mysteries of life and death as I watched the waves crashing against the rocks at Scarinish.
But the seagull was gone.
Not only was the seagull gone but also there was no trace of it ever having been there. Not so much as a feather. I was puzzled, perplexed, double checking that this had indeed been the spot where my stricken friend Sam had been.
As I drove on I didn’t feel relived. In fact if truth be told I felt rather disappointed. This caused me to fall into a period of deep reflection.
I drove on.
Did I really feel just a little cheated that I hadn’t got to enact my projected mercy killing? If so, why?
As I pondered these deep matters driving home I hit a rock at the road side which took out the tyre, the tube, the wheel rim but thankfully left the tracking intact. As I got out my cheque book at the garage I couldn’t help but think I deserved it. It was instant karma, cosmic payback time.
Why had I felt so compelled to hasten Sam’s end?
Here’s what I think: I wasn’t really so interested in ending Sam’s suffering as much as I wanted to end my own. My suffering, instigated by not knowing what to do.
Oh well, I got what was coming to me. The bill for the wheel, tyre and tube was severe. Someone up there taught me a lesson - and I don’t mean a seagull or, for that matter, a sparrow hawk.
This brings me back to the Twitchers of Grimsby. No doubt they were appalled by what they witnessed. They’d come all this way to see a certain rare bird. What they got was a bonus: they saw the rare bird being snatched and eaten, and by one of the most beautiful of predators of the skyway, the sparrow hawk. They couldn’t have had a better display of nature red in beak and claw in their wildest dreams and they know it. Some of them will dine out on the story at ornithological meetings for years to come.
But don’t expect any of them to admit it. Instead here’s hoping none of them took time to reflect deeply on the way home: Range Rover wheels are rather expensive, I believe.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Actually, this song could be about anyone, anywhere: the only mention of Tiree is in the title.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
A few minutes ago, Stuart Greer from New Jersey, dropped me this email:
My name is Stuart Greer and I wrote to you a few months ago from New Jersey to let you know I had found your blog site and was enjoying reading all about Tiree. Well, I actually made it to Tiree for the weekend back in June, although it was on extremely short notice, and got to spend a couple of fantastic days exploring. My Mum's family was from Tiree and she used to spend her summers on the island so it was great to find my Grandpa's old house and she thoroughly enjoyed seeing how things have changed (and stayed the same!).
I had a great time and fell in love with Tiree, the people that we met and even the weather!
Anyway, I saw the youtube video you had embedded on your site with somebody driving the roads of Tiree and that inspired me to put some of my photos together. I put them to music and thought you might like to see them.
Anyway, keep up the good work. It's nice to have a window into the other side of the world on my computer screen and I enjoy keeping up with your site. Cheers, Stuart.
This is a truly stunning slide show and I am sure you will enjoy watching it as much as I did.
Thank you Stuart.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
As you may have gathered, I had a great time on Coll at the weekend. I've been across to Coll on a few occasions now and I've had many a good night at the village hall at Arinigour. However, no one can deny that the folks on Coll need a brand new hall, a 'community centre' capable of fulfilling a number of roles.
By clicking on the screen-shot above or going to http://www.collcommunitycentre.co.uk you can find out more about the project.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Audio Slideshow: Remember to turn on your speakers. When you press play the pictures should transition without you having to click on the 'forward' arrow. Enjoy!
We came, we saw ... and ... No, we didn't conquer. But we had a great day and a great evening over on the Isle of Coll at the annual Half Marathon. What lovely people and what a well organised event.
Joanne and I picked Fifi up at about 09:45, nice and early. As I mentioned yesterday we were actually on the waiting list and I wanted to find out as soon as possible whether we would have to carry our gear on to The Clansman. As it turned out we had nothing to worry about.
Joe and Anne and their kids turned up with their vehicle, kids and gear and we loaded it into my van-cum-mpv.
All the way across I had visions of getting to camp site and finding it absolutely choc-a-bloc. But this just wasn't to be. As it turned out there were only about six tents using the field adjacent to the community hall, the site of the Race HQ.
Anne and I ran the 10k. Fifi and Joe walked it. Joanne decided to set her sights on competing next year.
We were bussed up to the 10k start point, over on the western side of the island at Totronald. All the races - the half, the 10k, the 5k and - all started from their different locations at 15:00 hours.
Do you remember that wee voice I was telling you about? You know the one that says man, you are never going to do this. Do you realise how bad you feel? It came back, as predicted and it was as powerfully persuasive as ever.
The first mile of our route was on sandy track and even though I had been doing a lot of beach running here on Tiree this mile stretch of bumpy sand and earth felt tough. Later, Anne reported that she was struggling here as well. She had her own 'wee voice' to contend with.
I was so glad when at last I gained the road at Ballyhaugh. Coll really is bafflingly different from Tiree, something I also mentioned yesterday. With it's rocky outcrops, hills, steep gradients and lochs it's as different from Tiree as you could imagine. This all made for interesting scenery and I was glad of the distraction. But I must tell you, those gradients were a challenge.
Although I was very glad that the 20 mph wind was at my back it wasn't long before I began to feel seriously hot. I remembered something Joe had told me the night before. He said that when he saw me at the last Tiree 10k he thought I was suffering from mild heat stroke and I think he was right.
Thankfully, this superbly organised race had many, many water stations. In fact, on our stretch of the route there were no less than six - one for every kilometre. Not only did I take a drink at every station - I also poured whatever was left in my cup over my head. This was always a great shock to the system but it also gave me a jolt and set me off on my weary journey again.
By the time I got to Grishipoll I couldn't see anyone in front of me and I couldn't see anyone behind me. In fact, a lady I had passed earlier in the race had left me for dead at this point. I thought I must be the last 10k runner in the race. However, I had resolved before I even got to Coll that I was going to enjoy myself and not bother about times or setting a new personal record.
I have to say something about the people at the water stations: they were so nice! Even before you got right up to them they were hooting and hollering words of encouragement. They made all the difference.
By the time I 'turned right' and started on the last leg of the race the pain in my back had gone, the 'voice' had grown still and I knew I felt strong enough to get to the end. By the time Arinigour came into site my stopwatch was confirming what I already knew: I was about seven or eight minutes behind my Tiree 10k time. Blame it on the gradients. Bah! I wasn't caring. I was 'high' by this time.
The run to the finishing line at the Doctor's surgery - strangely appropriate -was wonderful. Just like they did for every runner folks on both sides of the road were cheering me and telling me 'well done'. I felt like a real runner.
I came in at 01:11:08. Anne had come in about five minutes in front of me.
I got a great little goodie bag which contained a fabulous t-shirt (a little too small for me as it turned out), nutrition and food.
Next to come in were the real athletes: the half marathon runners. Man, they were fired up and sprinting! In a little while I found out I wasn't the last 10k runner at all. I ended up third from last. But hey, that means nothing.
Fifi and Joe walked in together at about 01:30. They agreed that had been a hot and difficult course.
What came next for me? Why, re-hydration, of course! You must, of course, ensure you replace lost fluids after doing something like this. True, this advice usually refers to water and fruit drinks, not lager and whisky ...
We had a great night. Fifi, Joanne and I headed down to the Coll Hotel for our dinner. Then it was back to the hall. We didn't actually go into to see Piperactive. The hall was jam packed for one and we could hear them clearly outside. To tell you the truth, we just wanted to be out in the fresh air.
I've been to a few events at this wee hall now, mostly with The Defenders of course. There's always a brilliant atmosphere in and outside. Last night was no exception. Kids were running about playing, there was a game of softball rugby going on at about 21:00, the burgers and kebabs were great and, of course, I was continuing to rehydrate myself with great dedication and there were loads of people milling about, talking, laughing and just having a great time.
Things settled down quite quickly though and we had a good night's sleep in our tents (except for Fifi who decided to sleep in my car. Something to do with a creepy-crawly phobia.)
Up early this morning it was down to the village and The First Port of Coll for a massive fry-up. I was starving!
Before we knew it we were down at the ferry and on our way home.
On behalf of everyone who came over from Tiree I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to everyone on Coll who worked so hard to make this thing the brilliant success it was. We're looking forward to next year already.
The race was organised as part of the fund-raising effort for the new Coll Community Hall. I will write something about this in the course of this week.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
When I ask 'why did you never go to Coll?' the answer is usually something like, 'why would I go to Coll?'
Curiosity doesn't come into it. Hard working crofters and their families are not just going to stop off at an adjacent island just because 'it's there'. In the old days, I suppose, holidays were far and few between. When you went off the island it was to experience something completely different. Glasgow, for instance.
For those of you who have never been, Coll is very different from Tiree. It's not as flat for one thing and there are a few trees (gasp), although not many.
Because it is rockier, with more nooks and crannies in the landscape, Coll seems to harbour a greater amount of bird species. And, while Tiree has hares but no rabbits, there are plenty of little bunnies running around our neighbour across the Gunna Sound.
There is a hotel which serves excellent food. A local shop, a pottery at the pier and a self-service community run petrol station, too. I can't think of anything else in the way of facilities but there's bound to be more.
The population (according to Wilipedia) is 164 but I think it's probably about 180.
Tonight we will pack a few things into the car, pick up our friends' luggage and then head off to Coll in the morning for the Half Marathon.
I always enjoy visiting Coll. A few years back I went over with the specific intention of walking around the island. It didn't take long, actually.
I remember being surprised by how different it was compared to Tiree. Of course, this weekend I will take my camera with me and attempt to illustrate this.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Isn't the Internet wonderful? I live in a remote Scottish island, the Isle of Tiree, but I want to share with you something my friend Adam, who lives in Florida, said to me - and a lot of other people - just a few hours ago via his website, www.thezenrunner.com
Adam Tinkoff, aka The Zen Runner, is an events manager, runner, martial arts enthusiast and a pretty inspiring guy. He's also a buddy.
Today I share with you a video Adam just posted to his site. This is exactly how my mind works too, whether I am out running or just sitting around.
Adam has a podcast, also called The Zen Runner. You can subscribe via his website. Whether you are a runner or not his talks are always interesting, touching and motivational. Check him out.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The plane was unable to come out to Tiree because of the poor visibility. That means no newspapers and no mail, for today at least.
Again, these slight weather blips fail to compare with what is going on in other parts of the world. Just for the record, my friend David and his family literally weathered the storm out there on the Yucatan peninsula.
Now I am starting to think ahead to the weekend. Myself and Joanne, Fifi, and Ann and Joe and their kids are heading over on Saturday. I'm taking my vehicle so we can load the stuff up. It's only a short distance from the pier on Coll to the community hall, where we'll be camping but just the same having a vehicle means no one has to carry tents and other camping gear with them.
The Coll Half Marathon sounds very well organised. There are something like twelve water stations on the route but as I am only running 6.2 miles of the course (10k) less than six of these will be on my route.
That evening there's a barbecue and a dance in the hall. I don't find it easy to run 6.2 miles without stopping - I really don't! - so if it all goes well I will be having a wee celebration that night, for sure.
Fifi and Joe will be power walking. These two are remarkable. They've both lost a lot of weight and look really well on their training regime. Joe's wife Ann will be running. Unlike me she can really run quite fast so I expect to see her disappearing into the distance.
Me? I only want to finish. I have abandoned any ideas of setting personal records. I will put on my headphones and just plod my way to the end. I am determined that whatever anyone else is doing I will run at a pace which is comfortable and, above all, I will enjoy myself.
Joanne isn't taking part in the sporting side of things this time. Instead, at the end of my run, she has undertaken to cool me off with a towel and tell me what a great guy I am.
Actually, I made that last bit up.
You may be surprised to hear that here in Cornaigmore, Tiree, we hear gunfire all night long. Shotgun-fire, as a matter of fact.
Don't worry: it's not the 'boys in the hood' fighting off an encroachment on our turf by the Salum Sharks or anything like that.
It's a sonic geese 'scarer' which mimics the sound of a shotgun. When geese are ravaging crops the one thing they don't like to hear is a shotgun. It really puts them off their meal. So this device is set to off a random amount of shots every so often.
You'd think we'd be jumping out of bed in the middle of the night and running for our lives. Far from it. The first few times I heard it I thought I'd left the shed door open and that it was swinging in the wind. Then, after I convinced myself that it was actually a shotgun I was hearing, I wondered why anyone would be out shooting in the middle of the night.
Then our next door neighbour let us in on the secret.
We're so used to it we hardly hear it anymore. The sheep across the dyke seem completely unperturbed. But very importantly I haven't seen any geese about here for a while and that's a good thing.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I was a bit gloomy yesterday. One week to go before the Coll Marathon and I was bemoaning the fact that the wind and rain was stopping me from having a good training session.
This morning the weather is much the same but the outlook is better. The rain has eased off a bit and the forecast - for what it's worth - says the wind will die down in the course of the day.
I think I've mentioned before that I listen to the radio all night long. After 25 years of marriage Joanne is quite used to this. In fact, I'm not sure you could technically call it 'radio': my laptop serves as my digital radio, taking me to almost anywhere I want to go to in the world.
Some BBC station mentioned that Jamaica is bracing itself for a full-on encounter with Hurricane Dean, later this very day. Forget Tiree's north-easterly 25 - 30 mph. This baby is heading their way at 150 miles per hour.
I went on to my search engine and found Power 106 Radio. You can listen, free, to live streaming radio. When I went on to their live broadcast it was about 6 a.m. here, about midnight with them. In between songs, callers, I heard hurricane updates, safety advice, emergency centre numbers and encouragement from the broadcasters.
Just now it's just gone 9 a.m. I'm checking out the station right. Reggae. For a musical form which is not particularly speedy I find Reggae particularly uplifting. And this is probably the reason why they seem to be playing it back to back at the moment.
The song currently playing is entitled Lord Gave Me Strength Oh Lord to Face Another Day.
I think I'll get my act together, get out on the road and stop moaning.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
It must have been those two 'deep' entries I posted a couple of weeks past. I lost most of you there. I lost myself a bit too, to be honest. Anyway: in response to the rumours: I have not and I am not.
Most people who email me about the blog or leave a comment don't live on Tiree. I think I subconsciously assume that no-one on Tiree reads these ramblings.
Joanne and I had a nice time last night visiting our friends John and Fran who have their camper van parked over at Balephetrish. They have a mad dog, a collie, called Beau. Beau is the only dog I've ever known who burps. He also regularly sends me emails and rarely forgets my birthday. This isn't a shaggy dog story, by the way ...
Next challenge up for me is the Coll Half Marathon on the 25th of this month. Me, Joanne and a bunch of our friends are going over to Coll to take part. I'm not running the half marathon event, just the 10k. It'll be a bit of an adventure, I'm sure, and I'll keep you up to date with the preparations to get on and off Coll within 24 hours with a race, a camp and a party to somehow be squeezed in.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
This is an application called Voicethread. I'm thinking of using it to do Tiree slide shows with commentary. So, by way of an experiment, here's a couple of old photographs with a description by myself. Press play to activate and when you want to see the next photograph use the right arrow button. Things can only get better!
Then Billy handed over my mail. As well as the usual bills, flyer's and so forth there was a small box which had come from the States.
I took the mail into the kitchen and began to carefully open the small box. What could this be? I was not expecting anything from anyone across the pond ...
Inside the box there appeared to a small object. It was in bubble wrap. I began to discern that the object was a figure of some kind. I finally removed the last of the wrapping.
And there he was: a little red squirrel.
Let me share with you the note which accompanied the little parcel:
Sorry, but I couldn't resist! He's been a guest in my house for about 10 years and I think that it's time he saw a bit more of the world. Besides, on Tiree - NO trees = NO squirrels. Right? Please enjoy him and apologies to Joanne for sending clutter from my home to her. Janis.
So, my new little friend was sent to me by my Californian friend, Janis. No doubt this was to serve as a reminder forever of my near-death experience with a squirrel not so long ago in York.
Janis: I will treasure him always.
Oddly enough, as you may be able to see from the picture, our new little house guest is obviously a red squirrel whereas the demon who attacked me was a grey squirrel.
The grey squirrel are an alien species and were introduced to the UK from the USA in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. Their success has been to the detriment of our native red squirrels.
So it's nice that our new friend has actually come to us from, of all places, the USA.
We have decided to call him Tufty. If you don't come from these shores you won't understand. All will be revealed if you CLICK HERE.
Do yourself a favour and watch the video. You will never go to the ice-cream van without your mummy again.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
When I bought her card I picked up the wrong envelope in the shop and the card didn't fit Oh and the baggage handlers' strike at Glasgow Airport means that her other wee birthday present hasn't arrived yet in the post yet. And because I have some kind of a bug she is actually soothing my feverish brow.