Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More old friends get in touch

Another surprise email last week, this time from my old friend Davy.  Davy and I attended Nursing college together and he wrote to tell me that it was now 25 years later.  He and some other folks from our class were talking about a reunion, and would I be interested in coming 'down' to Lanarkshire for it?

It took me about three seconds to decide.  Of course I would!  I am so looking forward to seeing everyone.  Nursing is one of the most challenging disciplines there is to work in and, as student nurses, we all went through a lot together.  Our experiences were exhilarating, heartbreaking in some cases and personality building.  We all went into that job as who we were and came out the other end someone else.  Hopefully, we all emerged better people.

Having said that I eventually switched from working in the NHS over to Social Work and I think it was the right decision.  Social Work suited me better and I eventually built myself a reasonable career.  And, of course, it was through working with the Social Work Department that I came to be on Tiree. 

Things have a habit of working out.  As the old Scottish saying goes, Whit's fur ye will no go by ye.

The reunion is scheduled for sometime in late November.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Bizarre Coincidence

I received a nice email last weekend.  It was from a chap in Maine, in the US.

In 1974 I was a bartender at the Ceilidh Grille somewhere near Cornaigmore. The owners were Flloyd and Donniel Kennedy. Unfortunately after I left for school in late August the place burned down. Flloyd and Donniel moved to 100_2180Langbank but I heard that Donniel later moved back to Tiree, where I believe he died, perhaps during your time there.  Anyway, I was wondering if you knew Donniel, if you know the old Celildh Grille building (or ruins) and if you can fill me in on any other missing things I should know about. I enjoyed my time on Tiree and would come back if it weren't so darn far away from Maine (a direct flight would be nice).  Bruce

The bizarre thing about this is that I have lived on the site of the 'Grille' since 1994.  The rebuilt house bears no resemblance to that in which Bruce worked, it's true.  But I have it on good authority that my living room is where the dining room was situated.  I replied to Bruce immediately and boy, was he surprised when he realised that I was writing to him from the very site!

We've since had a very interesting email correspondence.  Bruce has enjoyed catching up on what's happening on Tiree and I've enjoyed his reminiscences of what Tiree was like, some 20 years before I arrived here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Food and Mouth

A good rehearsal last night with the lads in the band.  Extremely sensible to.  I actually managed to come home on the same day as I left the house.  We have no idea when we'll be ready to gig but it's looking likely it will be sometime in the early New Year.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm letting myself go.  I haven't exercised at all since Loch Ness. Maybe it's only right that I should take a rest after all the effort I put into that little expedition. I'm really wary, though, of letting myself go on to long without embarking on some kind of a challenge. For one thing I'm sure to start piling on pounds of weight. Come to think of it, since the marathon the most exercise I've had has been putting food into my mouth.

There is a cyclo-cross race on Mull in December and I had seriously considered entering. But the specialist equipment needed - including a good cyclo-cross bike - does not warrant the expenditure as I don't think I'd be doing another one, ever.

Of course, there's the list I published last time and perhaps I should be asking myself whether I'm serious or not about doing some of those things.

The debate in An Tirisdeach about beach access and damage being done to the machair by visitors has had its last airing. I hope someone manages to come up with some kind of a compromise so that no damage is done either to the Tiree landscape or to the goodwill extended to visitors to the island.

(As I write, Joanne has gone on to my treadmill and is doing some exercise.  How bad does that make me feel?)

The atrocious weather continues. I have one main job outstanding round about the house and that is finishing off the new drive I started putting down way back in July.  We were doing great but then the men came to install a new kitchen and there were vans a lorries all over the place. Then, when the workmen left, we forgot to start up again on the work.  Important, though, to start in on that before winter begins to take hold.

After that I must turn my mind to my man-shed. I have decided to build a shed which will contain all my rubbish.  My treadmill, spinning bike, books and all sorts of assorted crap will be shipped out.  I include myself in this. It will be the place I will go to do 'my thing' without tormenting the life out of my wife and daughter.

But mainly I will teach myself harmonica - or, more precisely, the blues harp.  I have been wanting to learn for ages but I am banned from putting the thing anywhere near my mouth when I am inside the house.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


A short video taken out back about 11:10. Dig that double chin!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Things to do before I die

When I finished the Loch Ness Marathon recently I took a seat on a bench while one of the volunteers removed the timing chip from my right running shoe.  Obviously, I am no spring chicken and when she found out it was my first marathon she said, "So, was this one to tick off the box before - "  There she halted, knowing she was about to put her foot in it.  I laughed.  "Well," I replied, "I haven't got any ideas to die any time in the near future but yes, you're right, it's something I've wanted to do for a long time."

Today I drew up a list of things I'd like to do before I die.  Probably, some of you will suggest adding 'see a psychiatrist'.  I don't know where this late-in-the-day notion for adventure has come from.  I think it's definitely got something to do with the realisation that I am, in fact, mortal and that it's time to get my skates on.

Skates. Now there's an idea.  I never did try skating ...

Here's my list:

  1. Abseil
  2. Bungie
  3. Trek to Everest
  4. Tour Europe in a camper van
  5. Walk to the top of Aonoch Mor
  6. Another Marathon or an Ultra-marathon (that’s anything over marathon distance, usually a minimum of 30 miles)
  7. Cycle 100 miles in a day
  8. Duathlon
  9. Rock Climb
  10. Sky Dive

Pop Star Mecca

Well, maybe 'pop star mecca' is a bit of an exaggeration but just the same in the past year we've had two of the biggest names in contemporary music playing and working here on Tiree.

During the Wave Classic, Paolo Nutini (pictured above) visited the island with his girlfriend.  She was taking part in the organising of the event and he just tagged along.  Good sport that he is, Paolo played a couple of impromptu gigs in An Talla.  I didn't get to hear the guy perform myself but everyone I know who spoke with Paolo said he was a really nice guy.

(There was a rumour going about that The Defenders would be supporting Paolo on the Friday night.  None of us know how this got about.  It would have been nice but we're not planning to play again until sometime nearer the end of the year.)

Earlier in the year, Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell came to Tiree and wrote the songs for the band's latest album while he was here.  You can read all about Johnny's time on Tiree here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Once again it's blowing an absolute hoolie outside.  How long has this been going on?  Days and days of it.  My new drive is still unfinished but I can't bring myself to go out there and start shovelling gravel.  I foresee a day in front of the telly, watching repeats on the Discovery channel, or pottering about in the kitchen.

'Where does he get all the leisure time?' I hear you ask. Well, fact is, since last I wrote to you, I have taken early retirement and so now my days are my own.  I'm almost 53 and I'll never be rich but you know what?  Money isn't everything.

Jo soldiers on.  She's had a really bad knee for months now.  We were down in Glasgow on Monday so she could get the thing x-rayed.  Turns out she has osteo-arthritis.  In a weird way my physical fitness is improving all the time while hers gets worse.  At least now we know what is wrong with her something can get done about it.

The island is returning to some kind of normality now that the Wave Classic  has come and gone.  Maybe it's just me but this event seems to get better with every year.  Using An Talla as the event HQ is an inspired idea.  I find most of these guys really nice and up for a good time.  Of course, you meet the occasional prat but that's life.

The big talking point in An Tirisdeach just now is beach access.  A lot of the crofters are upset about the damage done to the machair by tourists' vehicles trying to get as close to the shore as possible.  It's a real dilemma because the beaches here are such a tourist draw.  More later.

I recently fulfilled a long term wish and finally bought myself a Fender Telecaster.  For the uninitiated, this is an electric guitar made by the Fender company.  This particular model has been in constant production since 1950.  It's white and a delight to play.  I've been jamming with Bruce, Iain and Andy and it looks like there will be a Defendersgig before the end of the year.  In this manifestation we will be a four-piece band.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Loch Ness Marathon Finish

As of tonight, my blog is back online. We have a lot of catching up to do! Over the next few days I'll fill you in on what I've been up to since my 'Leave of Absence' post. In the meantime I thought I'd let you know that on October 5th 2008 I took part in and finished the Loch Ness Marathon. I covered the 26.2 miles in a net time of 5 hours 26 minutes and 31 seconds. Here's a video with my finish appearing towards the end. Dig those crazy compression socks!