Sunday, November 30, 2008

Off for a few days.

Sunday, and now we are to leave to island for a few days. I've never been one of those people who relish the idea of Christmas shopping unless, of course, it's to buy me things. I think I mentioned last time that I've basically done all of my shopping on the Internet anyway and that's true apart from a few bits and bobs. Amazon has taken all the pain out of this annual torture.

I have promised myself this year - again - to try not to be such a scrooge and get some kind of enthusiasm for the impending season of goodwill. Like many people I know deep down within myself that this whole Christmas malarkey has turned into an orgy of greed and spending. As much as I enjoy getting presents there is definitely something very unsettling about one feels one has to rather than one really wants to.

While in the Co-op yesterday I spotted a Christmas wreath. I thought to myself 'well, we've never had one of them before' so I bought it and stuck it on the front door. Yes, I know, it's not even December. My daughter has already pointed that out to me. But at least I'm trying.

It's good to get verbal communication with my daughter, Jenny. Although we live in the same house we seem to spend a disproptionate part of our time communicating with each other via the internet. It's true. Only two days ago I emailed her to pass on that he dinner was ready. On the downside, Jenny only found out I was going to the Himalyas when she saw me talk about it on the social networking site Twitter.

And so we look forward to a few days away. A change is as good as a rest, as they say. And it will be nice to see the Christmas displays in the shops and the streets.

On this note I was saddened to hear about the demise of Woolworths. I remember as a kid in Wishaw looking forward to going to Woolworths to check out the latest plastic and tin tat from Japan, ie., the toy section. In fact I can't understand why Woolworths do so badly: for the past ten to fifteen years they have been selling excellent products. Problem is, I suppose, you can get all their stuff plus the groceries in the likes of Tesco, etc.

A pox on homogeneous high streets. I shall no doubt come back from this trip a poorer and no wiser man.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Disappointment

Rain, wind, hail and now tonight patches of 'black' ice on the roads of Tiree.  You can see every star in the sky tonight which means frost.  Jings, it's cold!  Just the same I've been forcing myself out to walk every day this week (with the exception of Thursday when I just had to use the treadmill).  So, I'm back into some kind of training.  Okay, it's not running but c'mon, it's the off season.  One thing I know for sure is that I have to lose all those pounds I gained after the Loch Ness Marathon.  Jo and I have been attending Will's keep fit sessions at the school gym on Wednesday nights and I feel such an overweight slob when I'm there.  At the moment when I run bits of me jiggle.  I don't like jiggle.

Disappointment of the week is not to have been able to be in Wishaw tonight for the reuinion of my nursing class.  Things just didn't work out, the Scott family diaries couldn't be made to coordinate so I've had to forego seeing all my old buddies again.  I've sent them a message by text tonight to say that although I cannot be with them I am with them in spirit.

We can't get off the island until Sunday.  Time to do some serious Christmas shopping.  Well, at least that's how Jo and Jenny will look at it.  I've nearly done all my seasonal shopping online.  God bless Amazon.co.uk.

Tonight Jo is out with friends.  Jenny is upstairs.  To all intents and purposes it's just me, the cat and the TV.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lukla Airport

I thought you might like a look at this video. When I go to Nepal in April I will initially land at Khatmandu. The next day I have to take an internal flight to Lukla, where the trek really begins. But hold on - this is one of the most mental aiports in the world. Count how many plans come and go in the space of four minutes on a single airstrip measuring about 500 metres in length. Should be quite a ride!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Link

Here is a link to the Everest Base Camp Trek which I am hoping to be on next April. Nothing much to add to this other than I hope you enjoying reading all about it! CLICK HERE.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Chilly Walk

Me and Jo met up with Caroline and Myra this morning at Balevullin to go walking.  Will has devised a plan to walk the entire coastline of Tiree over the cource of the winter.  We're three weeks behind everyone else so Jo has suggested we try to catch up as soon as possible - starting tomorrow!

Boy, was it cold as we made our way up to Ben Hough and scrambled around looking for paths and tracks to take us on to Hough Beach and back to our cars at Balevullin.  I'd decided to turn up in running slacks and thought I'd made a serious mistake until we got going.  But running shoes and pebble strewn beaches do not mix, take it from me.

We were scheduled to walk for an hour but it actually took as an hour and a half to get back to the cars.  Thankfully, it stayed dry.

That's the way to start a Saturday morning.  Good company, good craic and a bit of a healthy trek.  Looking forward to the next outing already.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Things, Old Pals

This has been a week for learning new skills.  For the first time in my life I've mucked out a byre.  I've also been a joiner's apprentice.  That's on the plus side.  On the minus side, and just this very day, I've a) put towels into the washing machine while forgetting to add detergent and b) walked about on Tiree wearing a new pair of Wranglers from which I forgot to remove a sticker on the back on one leg saying what my waist and leg length is.

My reunion with my old nursing pals is scheduled for sometime at the end of the this month.  My old mate Davy emailed me with all the details tonight, minus the date when the great event is due to take place.  Urgent emails have been sent off.

Very much on the plus side is the news that I have decided - finally - to trek of Everest Base Camp sometime in April 2009.  I'll tell you all about this later.  I think it will be the main focus of my blogs for the months to come.

Rehearsals with The Defenders are going well.  As well as they can go when you consider our drummer is at University in Glasgow.  We're getting it together though and really enjoying being back together again.  I'm much more into playing guitar this time and I think this incarnation of The Defenders - a four piece this time - will be strong and powerful.  Anyway, we hope to play our comeback gig early - very early - in 2009.

Yesterday, Andy Next Door came over and laid our new kitchen floor.  What a heroic effort he put in!  Honestly, if I'd worked as hard as Andy did yesterday I'd take the rest of the week off doing anything.  The new floor looks fantastic.  Andy put in a twelve hour shift in our house and he's the kind of guy you can't offer money to.  We'll think of something..

Today I got up early and re-installed the washing machine, dishwasher and tumble dryer.  After I dropped Jenny and Jo off to work I met up with my running buddy Fifi for a three mile walk.  Then it was back to the house to put everything else back into place, dust up yesterday's stoor and get on with the general housework.  A busy and yet a fulfilling day.

Sometimes it's enough just to have enough to do.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ubuntu Saves the Day!

Poor wee blog, I have been ignoring you again. Sorry! But then I did have another major computer problem lately. The lightning storm which took out about one hundred of the island's telephones was also probably responsible for the sudden demise of the operating system on my laptop. I know better than to leave a computer plugged into a wall socket during an electrical storm. What was I thinking? Anyway, the OS (Windows Vista) began to die slowly before my eyes. Had I backed up my iTunes purchases? No. What about the videos from my recent marathon? Don't ask. And so on, so on ...

Actually, I managed to rescue my documents, music and videos by transferring what I could on to my iPod and other removable storage devices. But what to do about the laptop? I put off phoning Dell for a couple of days while I pondered the dilemma.

Then it came to me: why not install an open source operating system?

You see, many people believe that if you run a PC it has to run on Windows but it's not true. There's a completely free open source operating system out there called Ubuntu. I went to their site, downloaded the operating system (about a quarter of the size of Vista), installed it and - Bob's your Uncle.

The only gripe with Ubuntu so far is that the procedure for downloading software is incredibly complicated compared to Windows. But then, I have resolved to do as much 'cloud computing' as possible - use online applications rather than downloading them to my computer. I also intend to become better at backing up purchases and other important stuff. And what have I got to complain about? This stuff is free and it works!

Monday, November 03, 2008

HMS Sturdy Memorial

HMS Sturdy was wrecked during a severe gale on the coast of Tiree on the night of 30th October 1940.  Sixty-eight years later to the day, Lt. Cdr. Michael. J. Gibson RN RD (Retired), whose father, E. J. A. Gibson, was the Engineer Officer of Sturdy, revisited the site of the disaster.

HMS Sturdy was on passage on the night of the 30th October 1940 to meet an incoming convoy, when she ran into severe gale force conditions that drove her several miles off course and onto the west coast of Tiree.

During the gale Michael’s father was caught by a wave that smashed him against one of the engine room ventilators, breaking his knee.

The ship was driven onto the rocks and broke in two. An attempt to launch the sea boat was made. This resulted in its immediate destruction, sadly with the loss of its crew who were drowned.

On shore the event was noted and a Merchant Navy Captain, on leave and living nearby, managed to communicate with the ship by Morse light advising the crew not to attempt to leave the ship until daylight. This advice was followed.

Michael understands that another destroyer, leaving behind a salvage party, picked up the crew of Sturdy. Meanwhile his father was taken to Oban cottage hospital from where he and his mother received word of what had happened.  They set off for Scotland as soon as they could. Apart from a fractured kneecap, his father was in good order.

Michael was dispatched to Tiree to see if I could recover any of my father’s belongings.

“I remember the hospitality and consideration that I received. I was treated as a guest, put up at the local hotel and transported out to the wreck site.”

An indication of the force of the gale was that the bows of the front section of the ship were actually in the grass on the shore. The stern section was about 40 yards off shore and only accessible by breeches buoy.

Through his father, Michael was well known to the crew of HMS Sturdy.

“The salvage party were pleased to see me and looked after me well. I recall some people who lived in a nearby cottage who had collected all the personal belongings that they could find and were holding them carefully against collection by the owners. I did collect some bits from them. I left Tiree with a great deal of respect for the considerate and concerned hosts and pleasant memories after an otherwise sombre visit.”

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.  To this end, a memorial plaque is planned, perhaps as part of a small cairn.

But where should the memorial be located?  At Sandaig, where the Sturdy ran aground?  If so, should it be near the beach or by the roadside?  Or should it be established in Scarinish?  Michael is anxious to hear what the people think about the appropriate location for the memorial.  Please contact him at mgibson829@btinternet.com 

HMS Sturdy was an Admiralty “S” Design destroyer completed in 1919. She was 1,075 tons displacement and armed with 3 x 4 inch guns and 4 x 21 inch torpedo tubes. At the time of her running aground, she was on the way to escort Halifax/UK convoy SC8. The five men who died were Leading Stoker A. Trahearn, Able Seaman P. R. Cornford, Stoker 1st Class T. W. Cowler, Able Seaman F. Greenshields and Ordinary Seaman J. H. Rivett.)