Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nothing New Under The Sun

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

My Cat is Itchy, My Head Aches and a Gorilla is selling Cadbury's Chocolate.

 

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 GordoniiA 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

Feist - 1 2 3 4

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

Tiree Wave Classic and PWA World Cup

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

Video: Cairngorm Mountain Railway 20th September 2007



I had a wee break from Tiree this week. A friend drove Joanne and I up to Aviemore. Yesterday, in the morning, we took a trip up the Cairngorm Mountain Railway. The mountain railway - also known as a 'funicular' railway - runs for two kilometers through the Cairngorm ski area. In doing so it climbs 460m to the Ptarmigan top station, 150m below the summit of the mountain. Here is a video I shot of the ascent.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mexican Independence Day and the Tiree 10k

mijares 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

Video: More Roads of Tiree

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

Weather Depression/Mindfulness/Colin McRae

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

Video: James McFadden, Scottish Hero



The day after, the 13th September, the sports sections of the French papers were full of words like 'Catastrophe' and 'Disaster'. Watch the video to find out why.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Travelling People

Yesterday, late afternoon, Joanne, Jenny and I had a visit from two travelling people. A family of travelling people visit Tiree often and yesterday the old lady (whom I take to be the matriarch of the family) and her daughter came to call.

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

Video: Traction Kiting on Tiree 3








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

Rough Crossing Article/Flies

ROUGH CROSSING: Here's a link to an interesting article in today's Education Guardian: http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2166229,00.html

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

Gordon on 'The Zen Runner' Podcast

More music, I'm afraid. Sometime soon I will get round to writing something about the Isle of Tiree! Anyway, one of my favourite podcasts is presented by one of my favourite people, Adam Tinkoff - The Zen Runner. A strange thing happened recently. At 30,000, while crossing the Atlantic en route to London, Adam started jotting down lyrics for a song called 'I Do'. He sent them on to me and asked me if I would be interested in getting some music together to go with his words. So I put together a demo (when the idea of the tune came into my head the tracks were laid down in next to no time) and sent it off to him. Adam really liked what I did and he has featured it on his latest show. Listen in. And after you've heard my bit, listen to what comes after. Just listen. To hear the show, go to www.thezenrunner.com/tzr_23.mp3.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Slide Show with Music: Independence Day

I wrote the song with a dear friend, Brendan Melvin, back in 1984. This is a rough and ready recording. The pictures? Young men and women. Old men and a woman. Images collated during a bad bout of insomnia.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Poor Sam, Poor Me


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

£2 Million Runway Resurfacing Underway at Tiree Airport

Click here for a press release from Highlands and Islands Airports Limited.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Can I share this photograph with you?

I found this amazing photograph of Heylipol church while doing a random search in Flickr. It was taken by a guy calling himself Atomicjeep. That's all I can tell you, I'm afraid. It says that he took this photograph at New Year. I'd love to email him to tell him how much I like this but I don't think there's any way to do it. If you know him tell him I said hello. The photograph is in the public domain by his agreement and if you click on it you should be able to view and download quite a large image.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Video: Tiree Love Song

Raylene Rankin and Denis Ryan sing The Tiree Love Song and a bit of a mournful job they make of it too. I prefer it with a little more pace on it. Anyway, I thought you might like to see this. Click here to watch the video.

Actually, this song could be about anyone, anywhere: the only mention of Tiree is in the title.