Thursday, August 30, 2007

Video: The Isle of Tiree by Stuart Greer, New Jersey

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

Coll Community Centre: How You Can Help

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 you can find out more about the project.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Whale bones on Coll ...

Jaw-bones? Sorry for my ealier assumption that they must be rib bones. Go to

The Roads of Tiree

I found this short but very nice video on YouTube.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Slide Show with Audio and Coll Half Marathon Race Report

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

Misty #4

For the fourth morning in a row Tiree is shrouded in mist.  This morning there's a slight variation on the theme: it's raining, not heavily, but enough.  The wind is about 20 mph WSW which should be OK for the 10k route on Coll this afternoon.  But you know, it's also warm.  The word from the Met Station is that it's currently 15 degrees Celsius out there.  As you can imagine, that's making for a muggy morning thus far.
The forecast is that the sun will break through in the early afternoon so keep your fingers crossed for us.
Last night I visited Fifi, and Joe and Anne and picked up their stuff.  Only slight unknown at the moment is that when I booked we had to be placed on the waiting list.  But we're only going a short way, just across Gunna Sound.  Surely they'll squeeze us on somehow ... ?
If not we could face a last minute panic as we'd have to carry everything on the boat with us and that would be a nightmare.  There's three tents and associated camping equipment in there.
We had a lovely evening last night visiting Joe and Anne.  We spoke about running and power walking and shared the fact that we all go through our personal battles with that wee voice that whispers into your ear why are you doing this, stop it you fool!  A good laugh was had by all.
So: we pick up Fifi at 09:45 so that we can get down to the pier in plenty of time and suss out the situation.  Lots of photographs, hopefully, when I get back.  Catch you later.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tiree and Coll

Folks who don't live on Tiree may be surprised to know that there are many Tirisdeach who have never visted Coll. I know loads of them. And I'm not just talking young people, here: this includes people my own age and older.

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

My Friend Adam

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,

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


All day long the Isle of Tiree has been shrouded in a sea harr. The chore of driving to work had to be undertaken with caution. Vehicles coming in the opposite direction (on single track roads, remember) were impossible to see until they were nearly upon you.

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.


I frequently extol the virtues and benefits of this lovely little island. I know for a fact that many of the readers off-island, especially those who live in urban areas, dream about coming here to live. They imagine it to be a crime- and hassle-free part of the world. And really, you know, it is.

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

David Peach and Family

Do you remember my friend David? A little while ago he sent me a video from Long Beach, California, which I put up here on the blog and he wrote and produced the Podcast about David Livingstone which I helped to voice. He also contributes regularly to the 'comments' section. Well, David and his family live in Merida, Mexico. As I write this, Hurricane Dean is heading straight for their town. So please spare a thought for him and all the folks on the Yucatan peninsula. This storm has just been upgraded to a category 5 - that's winds in excess of 155 mph. According to CNN, Dean is gusting up to 200 mph. Man, that's scary.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A High Wind in Jamaica

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

Video Clip: Clydesdales on Tiree

This video clip was recorded at the recent Tiree Agricultural Show by my mate Beachcomber. It shows two lovely Clydesdale horses called Annie and Jock pulling an old fashioned plough.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rumours, Burping Dogs and Running

I've heard from a number of people this week that I've a) handed in my notice at work and/or b) that I'm leaving Tiree. One or two people have said to me that they 'read it on my blog' but then go on to say that they didn't actually read it themselves: someone told them that's what I wrote.

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

Audio slide show experiment: My Late Grandparents

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!


Last Tuesday, I think it was. Just an ordinary day. I was at home at home when Billy the Post drove in. I went out to meet him. We briefly discussed the weather.

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.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Which of the following activities would you like to see developed on Tiree?

This morning I have set up a poll for you to participate in. Whether you live on Tiree, or you're a regular visitor or you've never been to Tiree before, maybe just thinking about it, I'd really appreciate your input. The poll, opposite right, asks what new activities you would like to see developed on the island. You can select multiple answers. Voting closes at the end of September and I'm sure the results will be very interesting. Apart from your votes no other information is recorded.

Monday, August 06, 2007

MacLean family take a hat-trick at Tiree Show

Here's link to an article in the The Farmer's Guardian about the recent agricultural show. Go to

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Gordon Sings! An Talla 28th July 2007

Okay: the sound is awful but at least you can get into the spirit of the thing. I sing '500 miles' by The Proclaimers and 'With a little help from my friends' by The Beatles. Click on the screenshot above to watch the video. (Thanks to my mate John Andel for making this available.)


When I was down in Dover visiting Jeff, my cousin, I happened to mention in conversation an occasion when I 'took the cold'.  He thought this was hilarious.  Down there you don't take the cold: you get the cold, you catch the cold but you never, ever take the cold.  
Well, I really have taken, caught or got something.  No sore throat, no runny nose, but I definitely have the dreaded lurgy.
It can only be ... man-flu!
The Australian journalist Naomi Toy put it best:
For those unfamiliar with this insidious condition, man flu is a lot like the common cold. So much like it in fact that many believe it is just a common cold. However once it takes hold in its victim — always male as the name suggests — it is completely debilitating and only complete bed rest and mollycoddling by the nearest and dearest female can treat it.
Not much you can disagree with there, is there?

The worst mistake a man can make.

In yesterday's blog I recorded my wife's birthday as August 7th. Of course that is incorrect. It was her birthday yesterday and that was the 3rd. Why I gave the incorrect date I have no idea. That's got to be the worst mistake a man can make. I would edit it but Jo has left a comment. The important thing is that she got her cards and kisses yesterday.

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.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Happy Birthday Darlin'

It's my wee wifey's birthday today.  It wouldn't be right for me to tell you what age she is but she was born on August 7th 1957.  In a reversal of tradition, though, she has given me something - namely, the sore throat, upset stomach and shivers that she had last week.  How generous, how utterly selfless.  That's my girl, always thinking of others before herself ...
The provisional arrangement is to go to The Defenders gig tomorrow night at An Talla to celebrate her half century in the company of our friends Jackie and Bill and Fran and John.
If you see this lady today feel free to remind her that she is a year older. Say the man she gave her cold to sent you.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Not so useless

Sometimes a certain amount of time has to elapse before you realise a great event has taken place. Today, Thursday, I suddenly realised what a momentous weekend I had. No, I'm not talking about Rona's fundraiser for The Beatson (the total of which is now running at over £4,000). This time, I'm talking about the fact that I managed to repair our washing machine and vacuum cleaner. I use the term 'repair' loosely. They weren't working properly but only because neither Joanne nor I had thought to clean the filters for quite some time. Credit where credit is due though: before last weekend I didn't know there was such a thing as a filter in a washing machine and the inner workings of the vacuum cleaner (which is the Dyson type) had gone clean over my head.

Oh and on Saturday I was wandering about Balephetish Bay with friends and the police, trying to relocate a 'bomb' the former had found. It turned out to be the starter engine for a World War Two aircraft. That was one job I kept well away from!

Video: Seagull thief in aberdeen

With yesterday's blog in mind and in view of the fact that I am half-Aberdonian I thought I would share this clip from 'Reporting Scotland' with you. You see, THIS is how it's done, folks!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Can you die of the darkness?

Here's the scoop of the day: you don't have to work. If you're tired of your job, feel like life is passing you by, want to spend days meditating on your favourite Tiree beach, write a book or sit about doing nothing in particular, just do it. Quit your job today. Me? I have to give four weeks' notice. How about you?

There is a catch of course. Unless you intend to be totally self sufficient, you may find you need a little money. Maybe not a lot, maybe just a little, but sooner or later you know you will need some.

In this country if you give up your job you cannot apply for unemployment benefit (or whatever they call it these days) for six weeks. And even then you will face some rigorous questioning about why you decided to let go of a perfectly good job.

Basics like food, shelter, electricity bills, car fuel - these all need to be paid. Unless, that is, you want to live like a stray dog.

But I'm guessing here that you are looking for a completely new lifestyle. Maybe you don't have any intention of working again or at least for the near future. You want to take some time out. So in fact to receive unemployment benefit would be fraud on your part: you don't intend to work, at least not for a while, so you can't take handouts from the State.

Things are easier if there is someone else in the household bringing some money in. You can live off their income, with their agreement. And if there's not enough money coming in you can apply for Council Tax and Housing Benefit. That's the shelter aspect taken care of, isn't it?

Food? Here's a great strategy for getting by on a low income: eat less. And don't drink alcohol because you really can't afford it. Besides, it's bad for you. Hey man, there's loads of people out of work who have great figures. I just realised, this must be why!

Electricity? Get one of those card meters installed. No more bills, ever again. If there's not enough credit in the meter the lights go out until you put credit in. I mean, ask yourself: whoever died of the darkness?

The car? Use it less. Tiree is only 14 miles long (and even that's a debatable point). Walk a little or walk a lot.

It's very easy to live like a pauper if you really want to. Loads of people are doing it.

(c) 2007 tongue in cheek productions