Thursday, 5 October 2017


It's hard to have faith in weather forecasts when the Met Office weather app on my phone gives me two different forecasts at the same time for the same place. The top one is for where the phone is (it was at home) and the second is a pre-set choice of my home (for when I'm not at home).

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The View

Someone, a recent follower obviously, asked what the view from my house was like. Well this is the view as I sit at my breakfast/lunch/everything else bar.

Friday, 29 September 2017

For YP

I had lunch with old and dear friends in Glasgow last week. The fact that She is from Yorkshire (despite having lived in Scotland for perhaps most of her life) means that She never forgets her roots. So on this occasion, and this occasion only, I shall happify YP with a motto on Her kitchen cabinet.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

A Walk in the Woods

The Islands are not known for their deciduous trees but the magnificent 270 hectare Stornoway woods were created in the 1850’s by Sir James Matheson and have been in community ownership since 1923.  Being adjacent to the town centre they are very popular with walkers, cyclist and a dog lovers. Anna and I went for a reasonably brisk 2¼ mile walk on Monday afternoon ending up, of course, at The Woodlands for coffee. So this is a little bit of Stornoway for you.
Stornoway's Marina and Cromwell Street
Ness Sgoths
The Lews Castle
Stornoway Harbour
There are lots of donated seats throughout the grounds
The mouth of the River Creed
A walk up The Creed
Smiths Shoe Shop - a legend in Stornoway - donated this rest place.
The walk continues
A place of rest at the far reach of the walk

Sunday, 24 September 2017


Apologies for my absence from Blogland. It was simply caused by a lack of broadband connection at my friend's house. We travelled back to Lewis yesterday and arrived home about 10pm. Normal service should now be resumed!
I think most of us are more comfortable with certainty than uncertainty in our lives.

Returning to the cancer theme. The scans were all clear. This leaves the medics with a conundrum as to what to do next given that the indicators are increasing quickly.

Some of you may know that there are trials going on into almost every form of cancer and, doubtless, many other illnesses as well. Trials are something ’other people’ go on. One of my close friends has just participated in a trial for a treatment for people with advanced prostate cancer.

There is one for people with prostate cancer where there are no visible cancers. There is a chance that I might get onto that trial. The closing date is very shortly. Wheels are turning.

In the meantime I shall await developments.

Monday, 18 September 2017


I called in at Another Tilly Tearoom  in Dunblane on my way south a couple of weeks ago. I like Dunblane. It is a great shame that, for many, the only thing that it means to them is the terrible Dunblane Massacre 21 years ago when 16 schoolchildren and one adult lost their lives. 

It has an attractive Cathedral, The Leighton Library, A Museum, (the last two of which I have never visited). However, although it is doubtless a pleasant place to live (and about 50 minutes by train from the centre of Glasgow) it's not a great tourist attraction and the main street has little to offer except several first class butchers (selling famous pies and the like in addition to raw meat), some small shops and charity shops and some cafés.

I have stayed and visited many times (a number of times with CJ) and passed through many times in the last half century. I hope it continues to prosper.

The gold post box painted in honour of Andy Murray's Gold Medal 2012 Olympics win over Roger Federer. The tearoom is on the left up the road just past the red car (in case you are ever looking for it).

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Blip: An Update

Just a quick update in answer, partly, to the myriad of lovely messages I have received. Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge with phone calls, texts, Facetime ,WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger, emails, blogs and Facebook (does anyone use Skype these days?) all going at the same time and I hope none have gone unanswered. 

I drove home to Lewis on Thursday in order to sort myself out mentally and physically. I had done something I cannot ever recall doing before (as close friends know only too well) and travelled light with one small case and only enough of everything for the four days I intended to be away (plus an extra day of course just in case). 

Next Wednesday I have the results of my cancer scans and should learn what is going to happen in the next phase of getting more post-cancer-operation use out of this body that I inhabit. After all next month it will be 19 years since the diagnosis and operation. Nineteen years which have included some of the best of my life. Indeed, with the ten New Zealand years, one could say that I actually had a whole new life during that time.

Anyway on Monday after a nurse has changed the bag on the tube sticking out of my kidney I shall be getting the afternoon ferry to Ullapool and then driving to friends near Inverness. On Tuesday I shall leave for Glasgow and at crack of dawn on Wednesday I shall head off to Irvine and an appointment with the person in the NHS who has been my liaison and point of contact and mental brick in my cancer treatment, to see what awaits me. We agreed that this time she wouldn't tell me anything until we were face to face. Whatever the scan results we know that the cancer is developing and has to be treated.

Then I'm hoping that, whilst I'm down, they will finish playing around with my innards and get my system up and running again.

Why am I telling you all this? I suppose it may be partly therapy. However I see people all the time who have cancer or get cancer diagnoses and see every emotion from pure negativity, to fear, to 'Why me?', to just ignoring it and hoping it will go away all on its own (it won't so deal with it!), to determination and positivity that would blow your mind (like Jaz in New Zealand who has been my inspiration for so long). I want to impart some of that positivity to others who may face that which I have faced and am about to face.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Patients' Attitudes

Those who have been reading this blog for any length of time know that if I wake up in the morning and go to sleep the same night then, for me, it’s been a Good Day. This week I have had much time to reflect on that and haven’t altered my view one little bit.

I shall do (another) post in praise of the NHS shortly but this post is specifically about the attitude of the people I have encountered this week since the phone call that led to the blip in my plans last Saturday.

I was on a hospital ward from last Saturday night for 4 nights. That made me (apart from a gentleman of 102) the longest stayer on the ward whilst I was there. The second a bed became empty it was filled again. Unlike the last time I was in hospital (in Stornoway) having a knee replacement when I was acquainted with almost everyone who came into the ward this week I knew no-one. I felt like an observer.

There were no Highland or Islands accents, no Gaelic and, indeed, no English accents (I have a sort of English accent) all of which one finds in the Highlands and Islands and everyone was ‘Hen’ or ‘Pal’. Nor were there were any thin people (Mr 102 and I excepted). I felt positively emaciated.

However, by far the most noticeable thing was patient attitude. There seemed to be a strong air of negativity. I wondered how people expected to get better with such attitudes. I wondered how on earth the staff coped and put up with such attitudes. Most of all I wondered ‘Why?’.

There were the Waiting Complainers who seemed to take the view that the hospital had no one else to look after. There were the Food Complainers (I eat well and appreciate good food and I can say without hesitation that the large choice and quality of the food - which was, where appropriate, always piping hot - was pretty darn good for an institution delivering thousands of meals a day out of public funds. But then there was no junk food.). There were the They Don’t Know What They’re Doing Complainers. (Who made life even more difficult for the medics by saying that they no longer drank but surreptitiously topped up their beverages with something out of a concealed bottle). And there were the just plain Miserable Complainers.

I could go on but I’m sure that you get the picture.

My conclusion? Well I suppose it’s like every other trait and attitude we have and as I have no idea whether these things are inherent or learned or both I shall leave it at that.

However what I can say is that if you have a positive attitude then you are more likely to be happy and whilst a positive attitude won’t necessarily make you better a negative attitude is very likely to make you worse. As Mr 102 observed (rather too loudly) ‘How can that chap in the corner expect to get well with a miserable face like that?’

Saturday, 9 September 2017

A Blip In Plans

We were enjoying a lovely lunch a few hours ago in an Italian Restaurant in the centre of Glasgow. A friend of very long standing had come over from the other side of the country just for lunch. It was all going well until my cellphone rang and I decided that I aught to answer it.

At this point I should tell you that yesterday was a day of scans at Ayr Hospital.  

"This is Dr X at Ayr Hospital. Where are you? Are you back on Lewis?"

"No. I'm in Glasgow."

"Good. How quickly can you get to Ayr Hospital? I need to see you."

All of a sudden things didn't sound so good. As the scans were cancer-related my mind was having difficulty computing why I should need to be seen at a weekend.

"You have a kidney stone."

"I know. I've had it for many years. It's never given me any bother."

"Well it's moved and it's blocking the exit tube from your kidney and there is a considerable risk of problems and infection. Can you come in asap and I'll do an investigation today and I'll do a procedure tomorrow. You could be in until Monday."

Well I didn't see that coming when I woke this morning.

Somehow dreams don't seem so important just at this moment.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Dreams By Any Other Name

Yesterday I wrote about sleep. I have posted several times on the subject of dreams. It is not the lack of sleep that concerns me these days nor the number of times I actually get up during a night. What disturbs me most is the variety and number of dreams I have almost every night. If one gets up during the night the, as I understand it,  pre-waking time is often REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. I 'suffer' from that constantly.

The first post I wrote on the subject was on 2 September 2008 entitled
Dreams and Things

For some time now I have been having vivid and prolonged dreams. Unfortunately most of them are not particularly pleasant. I have got to the stage where I classify them as dreams (ok, perhaps even pleasant but I'd rather just sleep), night ponies (I'd rather have had a dream and, in any case I don't usually remember them), night mares (not very pleasant at all but usually forgotten within a day or so) and, worst of all, night stallions (which cause me to wake in a fearful sweat, which often remain with me for weeks and which come back again and again both when I'm asleep and awake).

I'm up early this morning because of a most unpleasant dream. I slept very well indeed and was, I thought, awake listening to the cockerel as the dawn was breaking - the bedroom windows were wide open. All of a sudden I was in Stornoway at the harbour and a lady I was talking to fell into the harbour and was trapped under the water just out of my reach and still blowing bubbles. I can still see her face. It was one of the most realistic dreams I've ever had and all the more horrible because I was convinced that I was awake. Every time I thought of sleep I could see her face again so I got up.

Somewhere out there there must be an explanation or a reason or even a cure. Has anyone any ideas?
Things haven't changed much apart from the numbers of dreams which have increased substantially. I wish that they hadn't.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Thankful Thursday: Sleep

It's far too long since I wrote a Thankful Thursday post. Thank you for reminding me  Fi (of Four Paws and Whiskers) in our recent chat.

Anyway I woke up this morning (in itself always something for which to be thankful) and really was thankful. Thankful for the best night's dreamless sleep I can remember having for many, many years. The recipe? Get up at 0430 after a very disturbed few hours. Drive 250 miles feeling amazingly un-tired having met up in Dunblane for afternoon tea with the pal with whom I'm staying here in Bishopbriggs  so that we could enjoy the last part of the journey catching up. Have dinner and a few glasses of wine and a small cognac as a nightcap. Watch a programme about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Fall into bed around 10.30.

I woke once at 0305 for a comfort break but was asleep again the second my head hit the pillow.

My next wakening was at 0630. I dozed 'till 0700 and got up and made a cup of hot water and lemon.

I had not even been aware of dreaming (which is, perhaps, the most unusual fact about the night)!

So the first thing I thought about as I lay in that blissful half hour was just how blessed I was for most of my first half century in needing little sleep: probably because once I put my head on the pillow I slept the sleep of the dead.

It's nearly 19 years since my first cancer operation left me with a need to get up frequently during the night and 8 since my radio therapy exacerbated the problem. Don't get me wrong I'm not complaining. I'm only too glad to be alive to have the inconvenience. It does make one appreciate a relatively undisturbed night even more though.

So this Thursday morning I am grateful, very very grateful.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Caution: Otters

I'm sure that there are unusual road signs all over the UK but this one on the Isle of Scalpay just before the Scalpay Bridge to the mainland of the Isle of Lewis is one of the more unusual that I have come across.

Scalpay Bridge - opened in 1997

Monday, 4 September 2017

St Mary's Church, Cilcain

One of my original purposes of blogging was to provide a diary of sorts or at least a reminder of things I've been doing. In Eagleton Notes I have rather lost track of that objective. When CJ, Partner Who Loves Tea and I went to Cilcain in North Wales in July and had lunch at the The While Horse about which I blogged we also popped over the road and visited the Anglican Parish Church of St Mary's The Virgin. If you are interested in knowing more about the church then there is information here and here so I won't bore you here.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

First Lines

I have a bad memory: I always have had. It is a strange irony that people constantly tell me what a good memory I have. Like most people I can recall certain things.

The Big Book Clearout made me think about first lines and I wondered how many I could recall. The answer is that the number of first lines I can accurately recall is remarkably small. However the number that I can almost recall surprised me.

I can recall several verbatim:

“No one had expected Ernest to die, least of all Ernest.” from Dead Ernest by Frances Garrood.

"The Mole had been working very hard all [the]* morning, spring cleaning his little home." The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Graham.

"It was morning and the [new]* sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea." Johnathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.

"I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson.

"Pip the pixie was doing the washing for his Aunt Twinkle." The Adventures of Pip by Enid Blyton. 

There are many of which I can recall the general wording but had to check:

"The French are proud of the fact that they are the last people to invade the British Isles." 1000 Years of Annoying The French by Stephen Clarke.

"I have very pale skin, very red lips." Skin by Joanna Briscoe. (An odd book for a man to find intriguing, I suspect.)

"It is always difficult to find a beginning." An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan. (A book that had a very very profound effect on me.)

"The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it." Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

I was ashamed not to be able to recall the first lines of Tolstoy's War and Peace given that I've read it three times or The Piano Shop on the Left Bank which is one of my favourite books but whose author (T E Cathcart) I could not recall either.

I'm sure that there are very many other books which should spring into what passes for my mind but they haven't. 

Does anyone else remember first lines?

* Not quite verbatim, having checked.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Sadness: RIP Merlin

I should have had the courage of my convictions. The raptor in the last post was, indeed, a Merlin. After everyone had convinced me to look for a reason as to how I could have been so mistaken after being so sure, The Fates intervened. I wish they hadn't. On Saturday the Merlin made an attempt to take a sparrow from the birdtable, overshot, crashed and broke a wing. Although I called the SSPCA and gave her water from a dropper she soon went into shock and died. This morning the ornithologist and vet confirmed that she was a Merlin and that she was far too small to be a female Sparrowhawk even if the markings had not been sufficient identification.

I'd rather have been wrong and that she had lived.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

A First: Merlin

It's not the first Merlin I've seen on the Island by any means but it's the first one I've seen sitting on a post in my garden. It was there for only a short time and, sod's law, I had a macro lens on the camera and the Big Lens was in the boot of the car. So I had to make do with a 200mm lens through a window at an oblique angle. I just managed a shot before it departed at speed. I say 'it' because it's either a female or a young male. The garden has been strangely devoid of sparrows this afternoon so I assume it's still lurking.

Post script to this post: Well I apologise for misleading everyone. I have seen many Sparrowhawks and photographed them too. What made me not even think of this one being a sparrowhawk was the fact that it was so small: about the same size as a blackbird. However I have now had a more analytical look at it and the determining factor is the wings. I should immediately have noticed. When one sees a sparrowhawk the short stocky wings are very noticeable when compared with the long sharp wings of the Merlin.

Post post script: As my next post will show. It was a Merlin after all. I should have had the courage of my convictions.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Books: Keeping and Disposing

When CJ was staying we had a concerted clearout of my loft. I had already disposed of hundreds of vinyl LPs to the Oxfam Music Shop in Glasgow and now I had seven large (I have a trolley!) boxes of books for the Oxfam Book Shop in Glasgow's Byers Road as well. It's the University area so Oxfam and the charity shops have a big presence.  The local charity shops here are inundated with books and many of the books I was disposing of were not really local charity shop material anyway being, perhaps, more specialised or in the case of the complete works of Somerset Maugham (I had two sets) rather more likely to fetch a reasonable price for charity in a specialist bookshop.

The result is that my loft which has about 10 metres of bookshelf space which are now full as are the bookshelves in the living room. But the rest of the loft has no books all over the place impeding passage and impossible to find when needed.

A few of the ones I have kept are:

Friday, 18 August 2017

Communications: An Update

About a month ago I posted about the trials and tribulations of communications via broadband here on Lewis and the feeling of frustration with the seeming insensitive incompetence (am I being too hard?) of BT. Well things have changed.

Shortly after my post a neighbour sent me a message saying that we (the three houses at the end of the township) could now get hi-speed broadband. Her son popped over to show me the actual message on his laptop. Within a few hours I had ordered hi-speed broadband from BT and been given this morning as the date for the engineer to install it and make the necessary changes at the 'green box' and the exchange.

The many (and I mean many) messages by text, email and phone reminding me that I had to be in this morning to receive the engineer were greeted with some scepticism by friends and family who have had such messages but not had the promised visit.

However by mid morning I had hi-speed broadband. Whoopee.

Within an hour, however, I had no broadband and no telephone. What's the opposite of 'whoopee'?

Long phone call to Laura at BT (very helpful), and many texts from, BT and I eventually got a call mid afternoon from a (different) engineer saying that he had mended my line between the green box and the exchange and all should now be hunky-dory. And so, this evening it seems to remain.

Instead of 1.6 Mbps I now have 32 Mbps. 

Long may it continue. Now, perhaps, I'll be able to read a blog and make a comment without having to wait ages for every stage to load. 

Why BT have told my other two neighbours  that they cannot get it remains one of those interminable BT mysteries which I really hope will soon sort itself out.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


It's not yet 8am. 

Just before 5am I rose and made myself a cup of hot water and lemon (the first of several consumed since then).

CJ and Partner Who Loves Tea left at 5.30am for the morning ferry to Ullapool and the start of their three day journey home.

I followed them to the ferry terminal 20 minutes later to deliver PWLT's spare spectacles which I'd found in their bedroom.

Now I am breakfasted with the second lot of washing in the washing machine and the first lot of bedding already out of the tumble drier and awaiting ironing. The dishwasher has finished its allotted task.

It's been wonderful having my brother up for so long and to spend time, short though it was, with PWLT.

Life will now return to what passes for normality.

I have to be back in town for 9am to get my three-monthly jab to help keep the Big C in check.

And that will just be the first 4 hours of the day. There'll hopefully be another 14 or 15 after that.

And to cap it all, particularly for those who think I'm not a Christmas Person, here is a thought:


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Behold, The Sky.

Looking from my garden towards the mainland with Suilven and Stac Pollaidh and lowering clouds.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Odds and Ends

Where does time go? What's absolutely certain is that it does go and, indeed, flies. Over the last few days we've been quite busy and today Gaz took CJ and I in his Land Rover Discovery (a 4 x 4 for those who are not familiar with the vehicle) as far as a vehicle can get to the Eilean Glas Lighthouse on the Isle of Scalpay. Afterwards we tried to get lunch in Tarbert but that turned out to be an impossibility: Tarbert seems to be a suffering from its own success. Mind you the fact that we arrived at The Harris Hotel almost exactly at 2pm and were given lunch menus and drinks only to be told that the kitchen wouldn't serve us with soup even because they closed at 2pm. We left. Obviously the hotel (which I have frequented for over the 40 years I've lived here) doesn't need the custom. The other hotel was happy to serve us but there was a wait for one of the many tables. The Harris Distillery where the lunches are very good was stowed out.
These miscellaneous photos are from my/our holiday so far. The first is a sculpture at the Ralia Café on the A9 near Newtonmore where I often stop on my way to or from Glasgow.

When I was staying in the Borders my friends took me to The Hermitage Castle. Unfortunately I thought we were just going to visit friends in the village but after that we spend the afternoon out. I didn't have my camera with me and my phone ran out of battery just after we arrived at the castle. I shall definitely be back fully prepared!

On the way down the valley.

Lots of free-range porkers in the area.

I met my boss from 43 years ago and his family for lunch on the way to my brother's. Outside The Dog and Partridge near Preston (excellent lunch) this couple were enjoying a pint in the sunshine with their horse and trap.

In Chester CJ and I enjoyed some pastries at Patisserie Valerie

The hotel in Ambleside was very good and I loved the fact that I didn't have to try and fill my kettle from the tap in the bathroom  (even 4 start hotels often subject one to that inconvenience) as water was supplied.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Rural Postal Services

As, I suspect, is happening all around the world small rural and urban post offices are closing down as more services (such as pensions) are paid into bank accounts, use of snail mail diminishes and private companies compete for the lucrative parts of the traditional business (such as parcels and even urban delivery of letters). The UK remains, I think, one of the few (and perhaps the only) country where the Royal Mail is charged with delivering mail everywhere in the country and, generally, to the door of the recipient's dwelling six days a week and at a standard rate of postage.

I do wonder how long such a wonderful service can continue.

As recently as a couple of years ago there were two sub post offices within a couple of miles of my house. Now the nearest one is in Stornoway 7 miles away. However, in Stornoway, there are many post office services available at at least one of the two sub post offices (the main post office keeps more conventional hours) from 7am until 11pm 6 days a week. I've never come across service times like that before although I presume that it happens elsewhere.

I recently discovered, too, that we now have a mobile post office which comes around to various rural locations on a regular basis as well. It visits Lower Bayble twice a week on a Monday and Tuesday for an hour on each day.

Add to that the fact that I can post a letter at a post box about 700m from the house which is emptied at 10.30am 6 days a week and I have absolutely no cause for anything other than praise for our postal service.

My local post box (Photo thanks to my brother).

Monday, 31 July 2017

The White Horse, Cilcain.

When I was a child my father used to take me (and later me and my brother) walking in the hills of North Wales. One of our favourites was Moel Fammau (of which I have blogged previously including this one). We often ended our walk at Cilcain. Later in life I used to drive there for lunch with friends or for an evening out. When I was staying with CJ and his Partner Who Loves Tea we went to North Wales one day and stopped at The White Horse for lunch. It had hardly altered since my last visit perhaps 30 years ago although I don't recall tables out at the front in those days.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Apostrophe

One of CJ's favourite places for breakfast in Heswall near where he lives is a rather lovely café which calls itself Isabelles (sic).  We went there for breakfast when I was staying with him a few weeks ago.

Last time we went there was last year and I got into trouble for inserting an apostrophe on the place mats:

Under strict instructions not to disgrace myself this time I'm afraid that I was unable to resist.  They didn't throw me out.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

A Car's a Car For A' That

(With apologies to Robert Burns).

I’m sure it’s not that I just can’t forgive myself for parting from my beloved Nighthawk. I’m sure that I’m sure - surely.

I just haven't become close to the Volvo yet. Why on earth would that matter? It’s a car for heaven’s sake not a friend. However I spend more time with it than I do with almost any other thing with which I have a relationship except my home.

My first Volvo was, in fact, called VOOVO. The car had been incorrectly badged on the bonnet (hood) because the letters were, as on my current car's boot (trunk) separately attached. That car was made in 1965 and I’m sure no such thing could happen now. We were together for 80,000 glorious miles. I’ve had two more Volvos since that time. Each served me well.

Voovo on Honister, English Lake District,  c 1970 with my Dad
I want to get close to Volvo. I really do. It’s a very comfy means of transportation and we’ve already done 4,000 miles together in two months.

One problem is that the salesman (in the London dealer from whence the car was sourced) and I really didn’t get on. I never met him but I know that if I had I’d not have bought a car from him.

The other is that the car was beset by vibration squeaks and rattles from the dashboard area. The technician (mechanic to people of my age but now he probably has a degree in applied electronics) at the superbly helpful Volvo dealer Taggarts in Glasgow  sorted the first one I identified in the sensor housing on the windscreen which had obviously been removed at some time but that still left some more in the floating centre console. I never had a squeak from the Nighthawk in 13 years (except one of my own making). I seem now to have managed to cure them all but I am still living with the fear that they may return.

Hopefully in a while I'll feel comfortable and Volvo and she will develop a personality and acquire a name.

Volvo below The Clisham on Harris
Volvo by the Forth and Clyde Canal