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View from my house

The view east in front of my house, "Taigh Na Bruaich", taken around 9 o'clock one October morning

14th December 2012

With Christmas hurtling towards us like an out of control truck, chances are I'll not be putting any more news on here till January, and you'll probably be too busy to read it anyway, so this is a good time for me to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy and successful New Year

I've suggested to several people, and had 100% support so far, that it would be a good idea to have Christmas once every two years from now on - we barely seem to have had time to recover from the last one! Mind you, I've not asked any children for their opinions yet. That might affect my 100% support somewhat.

Yesterday was a frustrating day. It snowed, quite a lot in fact, so working in the garden just wasn't going to happen. I also lost my broadband and eventually phoned Plusnet to complain (after getting their customer support number from my brother-in-law while speaking with him on the phone - I couldn't find it and, of course, could't look it up). They fixed the problem fairly quickly and did mention in the course of doing so that they'd had a problem in the morning (as I'd suspected). I don't remember an apology for me not having the service all day though.

Fortunately the snow didn't stop me getting to the golf club's AGM. It's a good job I went along as they'd have struggled for a quorum (10 members) if Id not gone. I kept my head low and avoided getting roped into any committee positions, though I think there's almost certainly a place on it for me next year if I want it and show willing, However, for the immediate future I really need to concentrate on my own business rather than anyone else's. It was interesting to hear how it is for a very small golf club trying to keep its head above water. For example, buying much needed new machinery for maintaining the course is a massive undertaking.

Before the snow came, I was able to get lay the Groundtex sheeting in readiness for the stone chips (which I don't suppose I'll get till January now). It has really helped to make the back garden look a lot tidier, and the mostly white chips will help further. In the summer months, with a barbecue built in one corner, this could be a lovely area for sitting out. I noticed it was a real sun trap during the summer afternoons. There's an awful lot more to do but this will be a large step in the right direction.

Rear garden

Oh, I've added a new section to my "Gallery" page for Panoramas. I seem to have shot quite a lot of these and it felt like they deserved their own section. I'd love to get some big prints of one or two of them. Some should be able to give high quality prints more than 30 inches wide.

7th December 2012

All the weather forecasts for Skye today showed about 90% blue skies and sunshine. All the forecasts were wrong! I was planning a second outing with the camera this week but the showers of rain hammering heavily on the roof of my conservatory very quickly put me off that idea. Still, I had such a good day out on Wednesday that I did't mind too much, and a couple of days next week still look promising.

So, what about Wednesday? I ended up taking several panoramas: multiple photos stitched together to give a wider view. Anything between 4 and about 10 photos make up each of the panoramas below. I've put them in order going from north to south:

Quiraing panoramaClose to the northernmost tip of Skye, this area is stunning in pretty much any conditions. I wanted to get to the lay-by at the top of the twisty road where the footpaths wander off into the landscape but unfortunately the car simply couldn't cope with the ice on the road and I was forced to turn back. This is looking up to the escarpment from a footpath lower down.

Looking over Rona to the mainlandFrom the road up the eastern side of the Trotternish peninsula, there are many places to enjoy the view over the low-lying island of Rona (just north of Raasay) to the Scottish Highlands. With hardly a cloud in the sky, it could not have been better for seeing the snow-covered mountains.

Sligachan panoramaThe Sligachan Hotel, a favourite resting place for the many enthusiastic mountaineers who visit Skye to explore the Cuillins, sits below the peak
of Glamaig (775 m / 2542 ft). This is where the picturesque old arched bridge spans the river that feeds into Loch Sligachan..

Loch SligachanJust about a mile from the previous photo, this is another roadside shot. Okay, it's not quite from the roadside: you need to wander down to the water's edge, but it's easy to reach. Being relatively sheltered, there's a good chance of some decent reflections.

Mountain pass near ScomerThe main A87 passes through the Red Cuillins range just south of Scomer (and the golf course). There's a lay-by where Highland Cattle can usually be seen in the summer months. It's from that lay-by that this panorama was shot, showing a tiny glimpse of the sea on the right.

After the little township of Luib, about 7 miles from my house, there are several places along the A87 to pull over and take in this wonderful vista overlooking Loch Ainort and the Red Cuillins.

I mentioned above that I was unable to drive up to the lay-by for the Quiraing walks. Here I've put a faint red line along the route of the road to help you see it. Frustratingly, I got to that sharp bend at the upper left but was unable to get any higher. I know that the next corner is even sharper, and quite frankly I didn't fancy the possibility of slipping off the road completely! The Audi would have met its maker and I might well have too. So, with "discretion is the better part of valour" ringing in my ears, I made a very careful 5 point turn and headed back down.

I later spotted a group of people standing on the horizon, looking down over the road. As I didn't see any vehicles going up or down my part of the road, I suspect they got there from the Uig end. That's something I might try next time. It's that or snow-chains.

Quiraing road
WTF?
This multi-coloured beastie shot across the road as I drove up to the Quiraing, so I stopped and tracked it down. Could it be the fabled wild haggis in winter clothing? Nah, it just turned out to be this ram. Great horns though. The poor thing jumped about a foot in the air when my camera shutter clicked. I didn't mean to scare it! I'm still puzzled by why it was almost completely covered in yellow, blue, and red dye. What next, tartan ewes?
Ahhhh
Trotternish Peninsula

There are a couple of bodies of water close to the Old Man of Storr which have potential for great reflection shots. The water wasn't as mirror-like as I wanted but I took this shot anyway. There were no people in red jackets to hand, but the local bus happened to pass while I was there so I took that fortunate opportunity to put a wee bit of red into the landscape. Should I claim to have checked the bus timetable and planned it?!

I'm rather fond of the composition though, with everything narrowing down into the distance on the right, and the reflection just accentuating that. The bus heading along the road into the landscape just completes the story.

I've been reassuring some friends down south who've asked if I'm snowed in here! This photo from the golf course on Wednesday should confirm that on the low-lying ground around the coast we've escaped all but a small amount of snow. It's certainly not inches deep! Anyway, that view from the golf club is worth seeing again. The ground felt a bit soggy underfoot and I certainly wasn't tempted to play. There was nothing to say the course was shut but I didn't see anyone except a greenkeeper out there.

The golf club has its AGM next week so I'll go along and meet some of the other members. I might find out more about how the club operates and how many are mad enough to play through the winter. I did think to ask what the dress code is for the AGM and was advised, "Warm"!

From the golf club

2nd December 2012

It's only in the past couple of days that I've come to realise how far it is to the mountain, Sgur na Coinnich, which sits proudly in the landscape in front of my house. I was surprised to learn that It's actually beyond the Skye bridge, at the back of Kyleakin, and so is about 7 miles away as the crow flies (and we've got lots of crows here). It's 2424 feet high (739m) so certainly more than a "hill". In the opposite direction, the steeply sloped Beinn na Caillich ( 2401 feet, 732m) looks like it's only just over the high ground behind my house. It's actually about 3 miles away. All the mountains around here are now capped in snow and looking particularly lovely. I really must get out with the camera, perhaps later in the week.

28th November 2012

WC before
WC after
Part of the WC wall removed to access the dry rot fungus.
Insulation in ready for plasterboard.

Boarded up and tiled, back to how it used to be.

Some visible progress at last! That's not to say I don't still have lots of "backward" steps to take but it's just been nice to see something that looks more like a step forwards. Indoors, the downstairs WC and the corridor wall next to it both had to have walls taken down to get to the dry rot fungus. I've killed that off in these places so have been able to put things back and restore some privacy to the WC! With the tiles back on the wall, it now looks pretty much as it was before I ripped it apart.

Outside, the rubble where an extension once stood is now looking much tidier, with all the breeze-blocks and large chunks of rubble moved away. (Unfortunately I now have a long pile of rubble on the other side of the road!) There's still some more to be done but it shouldn't be too long till I'm ready for the terram (a weed suppressing material) and then stone chips to create a sheltered area about 30ft by 10ft which can be used in the summer. Who knows, with a little imagination and some old breeze-blocks or bricks, maybe I'll make a barbecue out there, inspired by the one Dave Foster built in his garden in Exmouth perhaps (for those of you who know it).

I've been busy hunting for bargains on eBay too, buying some things I will need for the winter. Most prized amongst these is a new Keela Munro jacket to keep me warm and dry in the worst of the winter up here (which I'm told is likely to be January & February). These jackets are supplied to mountain rescue teams (except they get the red or yellow versions and I've gone for the olive green so the red deer don't spot me 5 miles away). All reviews rate it very highly. I just need some waterproof trousers and boots as good as the jacket and I'll be all set.

Over the weekend I met the former owner of the house as he's back here on a visit from Argentina. It's been interesting to talk with him as he's been able to pass on some interesting and useful information about the house, answering many of the questions I've had. He reckons that, over the harder winter months, red deer forage at the back of the house and they've even wandered up the road on occasion. Now that would be neat to see.

22nd November 2012

Yesterday, while much of the country seemed to be suffering atrocious weather, my friend, Marcia, and I enjoyed a sunny 3 hour walk around the Quiraing area in the north of Skye. For my friends down in Devon, this is like Dartmoor on steroids. It is a truly spectacular location, even if you just stop to look at what you can see from the lay-by at the top of the twisty road, but the views just get better and more spectacular as you follow the well-trodden walkers' paths. Rock formations with names like the Needle, the Prison, and the Table grow out of the surrounding landscape and on as good a day as we had the view over Staffin towards the Scottish mainland is awesome. It's an area I am certain to be visiting many times to learn more about the lighting and to do some more serious photography. However, this first exploration and sequence of "snaps" along the way should give some idea of the potential here. I enjoyed it enormously.

Today brought rain (and Marcia enjoyed a long lie-in after I had tired her out yesterday!) but it eased after lunch and we set out to visit an otter / wildlife hide at Kylerhea, which looks across the narrow straits to Glenelg on the mainland. Indeed, there's a small ferry that still crosses here. The hide is modern and extremely spacious, with loos on the path to it. It's a good place to spend a peaceful hour or two. We saw mostly only grey seals, herons, and a large number of cormorants but I'm sure with more time we'd have seen much more. The weather there remained dry and very calm, almost as if this quiet wee backwater was totally unaware of the weather around the rest of the UK. On our way back, just as it was turning dark, we caught a glimpse of the first red deer I've seen on Skye, leaping across the road as our headlights swept round a corner. As we stopped to peer up the hillside after them, we saw an unusual bird on the verge of the road. I first thought it might be a snipe but we later identified it as looking more like a woodcock.

. Woodcock
Woodcock

Quiraing views
Quiraing view 2
Another distant view from up amongst the spectacular Quiraing rock formation
Quiraing Needle 2
Marcia scrambling down from the Needle
 

Several dozen were feeding along the roadside as we drove on. I managed to grab a pretty dreadful photo of one - 1/4 sec exposure (hand held), ISO 3200, shot through a dirty car windscreen and only the headlights to illuminate it are my excuses!

Tomorrow we're planning to visit another friend of Marcia's on Skye for lunch and to take in some more sights if the weather permits. Gushing waterfalls are the most likely sights we might find! Marcia's friends, Sam and Ingrid, have lived on Skye for about 4 years but in a more remote location than Broadford, beyond the Talisker Whisky distillery. Sam has skippered a lovely old boat for some of that time, though I understand he's hoping to sell it next year.

18th November 2012

WaxwingWaxwing

Last week, with Mike & Linda's visit, I forgot to mention the waxwings which arrived a day or two before them. I had heard about these winter visitors to the north of Scotland - and to other parts of the UK - but I'd never seen one, and harboured hopes that I'd be lucky enough to see one here on Skye. However, I'd not reckoned on a flock of about 100 turning up and roosting in a nearby tree. This shot was taken simply by crouching down on the far side of the road from my house and watching for one of the flock landing in a suitable spot. One even flew over about 6 feet above my head, so they seemed comfortable enough with my presence. They're slightly smaller than blackbirds but with that lovely colourful and velvety plumage, and of course the crest.

Over the past week I've mainly been lugging tons of rubble and breezeblocks out of my back garden - and I still have a long way to go! Once I've reduced the level of infill where an old extension used to stand, I'll be able to tidy it up and create a pleasant, sheltered outdoor space immediately behind the house. Well, that's the plan anyway. All this rubble has to go somewhere and for now it's accumulating in a long pile alongside my parking bay on the other side of the road. Plan "A" (the most ambitious one) is to use this rubble as hardcore to build a path down the very steep slope to the river below where, ultimately, I'd like to build a bird (and possibly otter) hide. Much of that old rear extension was actually dumped down this slope when it was demolished, and putting in a pathway would allow me access to tidy that up too. Plan "B" is to advertise free hardcore for anyone who wants to collect it. There's a plan "C" too - allow it to grow over and form a low bank along the side of my parking bay. Time will tell which plan works out.

Moving back indoors, I've received another pair of curtains from Linda in the post and these are now hanging in my lounge. She had taken them back to Exeter to finish because we couldn't find anywhere on Skye selling curtain tape! They certainly make the room feel cosy on a cold winter's evening. and yes, that's Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager on the telly!

I've also started to reconstruct the internal walls of the passageway next to the kitchen and the WC off that. At least there's now a degree of privacy in there!

I'm expecting a visit from my friend, Marcia, who flew up to Glasgow on Friday to visit friends and family. We actually grew up just about half a mile from each other in Glasgow but went to different primary schools so never met, and it was only when she moved to Exmouth and a mutual friend, Jo Damsell, introduced us that we got to know each other. As Jo said, "You're both Scottish, you must know each other!" Marcia's hoping for a few days away from the hustle and bustle here on Skye and has brought warm and waterproof clothing so we can get out and about. Looking at the weather forecast, I fear we'll need it.

LoungeLounge curtains

10th November 2012

Ceilings, Curtains, and Rainbows

The past few days with Mike & Linda here have been extremely productive. It felt like much longer (in a good way). They had spent a few days with Mike's mum in Peebles, who has just turned 92, and then drove on up to see me. They arrived with barely a square inch of space in the vehicle. (A fair amount of the contents now adorn my kitchen ceiling.) I'm pleased to say they had lovely weather while driving through the Highlands to Skye, though it's been a bit drab since they arrived here. At least Skye provided one of its magical rainbows for them.

I am hugely indebted to both Mike and Linda for their kindness and generosity. I really don't know how I'll ever be able to repay them. Maybe I'll let Mike win next time we play golf... or maybe I'll not force him to watch any more "Big Bang Theory" episodes smiley
We didn't have time to completely finish the ceiling but the plasterboard is all up, along with new insulation which should help with keeping sound out and heat in. Since Mike & Linda left yesterday I have started to fill in the gaps in between boards but I will need to bring in a plasterer to skim the ceiling and put a proper finish on it. It's that or I learn how to artex...

rainbow
Ceiling
Insulation installed
ceiling
Plasterboard up and lights in place
working
Mike having fun with his new toy
Outside
...the results of Mike's hard work

Mike spent more time outside with his new jackhammer than we'd planned but to great effect. As well as breaking up an old concrete plinth in the middle of the garden (where the oil tank once stood), he removed concrete about 6 to 8 inches deep which had been laid along and against the back wall of the house. THIS, we feel sure, has been a big contributor to the damp issues as it raised the outside ground level to 3 inches above the floor level inside. Whether or not a damp proof course (DPC) was built into that wall, raising the ground level in such a way would have compromised any protection against damp and was just asking for trouble. Mike removing it has, therefore, been a more important use of his time here.

Linda, meanwhile, was working miracles inside the house with curtains, cushions, and even bedspreads appearing everywhere I looked, using material and curtain linings she had brought with her as well as curtains and material I had in the house. She has transformed the lounge, dining room, and three bedrooms! I'm still feeling a wee bit bambozzled.

I may put up some new curtain rails as we've found some minor issues with the old ones.

The window seats in two of the bedrooms also now have wonderful new cushions, made by Linda using material she sourced and foam I sourced. They've turned out just as I'd imagined and I am extremely pleased with them!

Bedroom 2Bedroom 2
Bedroom 3Bedroom 3
LoungeLounge

Although the weather wasn't very kind while Mike & Linda were here, we did at least get out for a drive on Thursday afternoon but I wasn't able to let them see the true majesty of Skye. Maybe next time.

2nd November 2012

November already?! I can't believe it. I'm pleased to say the crazy bit of plumbing I described last week was sorted by my plumber. I can now remove the redundant pipes and get rid of one more weird thing on the back wall of the house. Yesterday I got the bill for the electrical work so far - ouch! (I'll resist the temptation to use the word "shocked".) Thank goodness we're almost done with that. Jimmy will be back on Tuesday when I hope he will be able to tidy up a few loose ends. The plumber was here again today to fit the new water heater in my en-suite, and another weird thing came to light. With the mains water turned off, the water supply to the en-suite was still gushing! We found that there's another stop-cock outside that controls water to the en-suite and a nearby outside tap it, so I have 2 mains water supplies. Actually, I seem to have 3 - there's also a garden tap up behind the shed that appears to have its own supply (and stop-cock). So the voyage of discovery goes on.

To be fair, the cost of the plumbing and electrical work combined is not much over what David Clark had suggested it might be, so I'm fairly well on budget, and, thanks to David's help, the damp problem in the kitchen has added only a few hundred instead of potentially thousands to my costs (so far), so that's a big relief financially. I've got the kitchen just about ready for Mike to put up a new ceiling next week, with me helping him where I can, and learning what I can. I'll be relieved to see that up. It should help the house to feel a bit less like a building site.

I decided today would be a good day to clean out the inside of my car, which had become a bit of a tip. I found something that I think was once an apple lurking under the passenger seat. More pleasantly, two £1 coins were also lurking there, even if one was wedged into the seat runners and all greasy. It washed up fine though. Takes you back to the days of ironing £1 notes, huh? No? Really?

en-suiteJust a little decoration needed now!
House and rainbow

A friend in Devon asked if I had any photos of my new house and it dawned on me that I didn't have anything recent, so I popped out this afternoon and took one. The sun had just appeared after a rain shower and I was fortunate enough for another rainbow to appear in just the right place. Still no pots of gold though.

David & Sheena moved to Torquay this week to start their new lives in Devon. I wish them every success and happiness but I hope I'll see them back up here from time to time. They'll be another excuse to add to my list for me to make that long drive south occasionally too.

 

29th October 2012

Kitchen ceiling
This past week I've been concentrating on issues to complete before the new kitchen ceiling goes up. I am particularly pleased that I spotted a way of getting rid of some microbore central heating pipes that have annoyed me intensely since I (or rather since David Clark) discovered them going outdoors through the kitchen wall and running (unlagged inside a plastic pipe) for about 20 feet before re-entering the house in the middle of an internal wall. It appears that this was done to feed 3 radiators, one in the utility room, one in the kitchen, and one between them in the passageway between the two rooms. It's some of the most bizarre DIY I've seen. With the ceiling removed, the pipes can easily be run about 9 feet through the ceiling joists and down inside the internal kitchen wall as they ought to have been. From there they can feed the 3 radiators using existing pipework. I had hoped my plumber would make these changes today but he was delayed by a couple of emergency call-outs, so he'll be here tomorrow to do it.

In the photo above you can see the new beams David put in, strapped to the old beams which have had the rotten ends removed. I've also had the electrician wire up 6 lights in 2 rows of 3. The single row of 3 previously there produced insufficient light for the size of the room.

The weather recently has been entertaining. As you might have spotted in last week's weather forecasts, it has turned a bit chilly and in the past week I've seen snow on the surrounding hills and mountains for the first time. It didn't last. Two days later it was gone again but I'm sure it will be back soon enough.
First snow
First snow

The quickly changing weather on Skye certainly provides frequent conditions for rainbows, and yesterday I saw the most perfect rainbow I've ever seen. It was complete and vivid. Even a fainter, outer rainbow formed a complete semi-circle.

They're awkward things to photograph well and I still don't feel like I've produced many photos that properly capture what our eyes see. On the other hand, a photograph sometimes shows things we don't otherwise notice. For example, have you noticed that the area inside a rainbow is lighter than the area outside? I hadn't until my friend, John Perriam, pointed it out. It shows up clearly in the photos I took of this perfect rainbow.
Perfect rainbow

Rainbow

22nd October 2012

What beautiful weather we've been having here, albeit a little on the chilly side. I'll definitely be recommending autumn workshops on Skye. The light is wonderful and there's always that outside chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

Yesterday my friends David & Sheena drove back south, though after next week they'll be living a lot farther south - in Devon! The irony of this has not escaped me. I wish them every success down there, and they're giving me another excuse to visit Devon, as if I needed any more.

While here, David has given me invaluable help in sorting out problems with the kitchen ceiling beams which were rotten where they met the outside wall, and also in replacing the window in my bedroom's en-suite room. That window was broken before I bought the house and has had temporary glazing to see me through (no pun intended). In the end we replaced the whole window rather than just replace the double-glazed units (you may remember my drive to Skye a few weeks ago with a big window frame strapped to the roof) and David & Sheena brought up the new sealed units for it on Wednesday. Result: the best window in the house which, unfortunately, is tucked away out of sight!

window

He has also shown me a couple of very tasty recipes which I'm keen to try out, though I'll not be attempting to create three dishes all at the same time as David & Sheena did on Saturday evening, making enough food to last me half of the coming week!. We had a day out enjoying Skye earlier on the Saturday which included a boat trip out of Portree where we saw the pair of white-tailed sea eagles that have made that area their home. Unfortunately (for us) they were well-fed and quite content just to perch on the cliffs and trees, so I don't have any good photos of them, but I'm sure that will be rectified in due course. Before the boat trip we had chips from the harbour chip shop (I can recommend that) and we sat in warm sunshine to eat, quite unexpectedly for late October on Skye.

cooking
working
Sheena working
sea eagle
Sea eagle on cliff
sea eagle
Sea eagle in tree
Elgol
Rock formation at Elgol

Portree
Portree harbour panorama

Have you seen the new Ridley Scott (director of "Alien") sci-fi film, "Prometheus"? I've only seen trailers but I've just found out it was filmed on Skye and if you know this place then you should recognise the background scenery. Also, the film "Stardust", which was on television over the weekend, was filmed here and some of the scenery (when it's not computer enhanced) is quite clearly Skye. I've been hearing tales from locals about all sorts of film stars, including Robert de Niro, turning up in bars and shops.

16th October 2012

Before today I didn't feel like I'd done very much since installing that new extractor fan, though I have at least now got the whole ceiling down in one part of the kitchen in readiness for a couple of visits from extremely helpful friends. (I'm afraid I'm soon going to run out of friends!) However, today my LED lights arrived and I've spent most of the rest of the day removing the old fluorescent lights and installing the LED strip with its 12V transformer. The photo (right) makes them look brighter than they actually are but I hope you'll agree that they're a worthwhile addition. They weren't technically difficult to install, just awkward. I spent a fair bit of this evening lying on my back on the worktop.

The rest of my day was spent putting together something else. Last night I picked up a set of bunk-beds from someone local who was selling them. They had ordered two sets of bunks but decided to use just one set in the end, so they advertised the other unused (and un-built) set, still in their delivery boxes.

New kitchen lights
Bunks
Don't worry about the odd angle of the bunk bed ladder upright. It's a result of photos being badly stitched together. As you can see I now have beds ready for 3 people to sleep in (the top bunk has no mattress yet), though the rooms still have to be decorated - and some boxes unpacked!
Bedroom 2

My friends David & Sheena are due to arrive late tomorrow and we've got a couple of major fixes lined up for the next few days. I'm hoping we can get the kitchen beams sorted so that, in early November, when Mike & Linda from Exeter visit me, we can get the new ceiling up.

11th October 2012

Sometimes the simplest fix to the house can give a lot of pleasure, and let's face it, I've been doing more taking apart than fixing recently. Today I received a replacement extractor fan for my bedroom's en-suite room, and now that I've fitted it, I no longer have to endure the buzzing, grinding noise of the old one each time I switch on the light. Bliss!

I've also just ordered a 5 metre strip of LED lights, a 12v transformer to power it (very efficiently), a soldering iron for a bit of DIY wiring to make the stuff fit where I want it, and some heat-shrink for putting over wire joints. For a total of about £30 I should soon (I hope!) have some splendid kitchen worktop lighting - or I could put it around the top edge of the wall cupboards, or even in the camper van (where it can run directly off the 12v circuit). This should be fun.

8th October 2012

New screens
Awesome new LG IPS234V monitors, 23" full HDMI (1920x1080)

They're here! Finally I've got my 2-screen set-up and it looks awesome. One is running off the DVI connector, one off the VGA, though it's hard to tell any difference between them. They'll also accept an HDMI cable. Straight out of the box the colours look excellent, and at their native resolution (1920x1080) they look as sharp as tacks. The IPS colour management seems to be as good as the marketing-speak suggests. As yet I've not tried any calibration but reviews say they have excellent controls for that. If anyone is in the market for a new monitor, you could do a lot worse than these. Last time I looked, Amazon had them on sale at £112 each. It's worth noting, however, that they come with a VGA cable and no DVI cable.

Amazon have been great, it's just Citylink who messed up a bit with their tracking system. According to that, the monitors got from Milton Keynes to Skye in just 3 hours this morning!

With the amount of dust I'm creating in the house, the shiny black stands and bezels are, unfortunately, dust magnets, but the displays are so good, I'm not really noticing much else!

6th October 2012

I had hoped to be posting a photo of my new PC set-up this evening as I was expecting delivery of my PC monitors today but it seems that, for some couriers, meeting expected delivery dates is a bit too difficult. I've been tracking the two packages (two identical monitors, two identical packages!) and Citylink shows them as leaving Milton Keynes (presumably a Citylink or Amazon depot) on Wednesday 3rd at 11.38am. Until today I had seen no further "events" recorded. I can see that one package (but, oddly, not the other) is now logged as ARRIVING at Milton Keynes at 10.25am yesterday, two days after it was logged as leaving there. What are these numpties playing at? Were they trained by Bill & Ben, the Flowerpot Men? In fairness, I should point out that Amazon has answered my query about this very promptly, promised that they'll follow it up with Citylink, and reassured me that they'll take full responsibility if anything is lost during delivery. If they or Citylink don't contact me within 48 hours, they've given me a freephone number to follow it up. Once again, I'm impressed by Amazon's response to a problem, so credit where it's due. I remain unimpressed by large courier companies.

Back in the house, I've not done any more brick removal today because the drilling to remove bricks is noisy and would prevent me hearing my doorbell, or pretty much any attempt to deliver a package. Anyway, I'm not keen to remove too many more bricks and maybe have the whole wall collapse. As you'll see on the right, I've made a couple of holes but I can't reach everything from these, not by a long way. The cavity is narrow which makes it hard to reach all the fungal growth that's in there. Nevertheless, I've spent the afternoon with my heavy-duty marigolds on, reaching around as far as I can inside the wall and I'm pretty pleased with what I've managed to remove. It's awkward though: I have to use a mirror to see what I'm doing and so all my movements are reversed. It reminds me of a game I used to play as a kid: we would draw a winding road with little "lay-byes" spaced along either side, which we called "pubs". We'd then put the road behind a barrier and, using only a mirror to see, we'd try to "drive" (draw a line) without veering off the road, and not forgetting to call in at each "pub" along the way. Not very "PC" when you look at it now: this was before the drinking & driving law!. Anyway, never in my wildest 7 year old's dreams did I imagine that this "training" would come in useful for poking around inside a wall 40-odd years later! For a while, the sunshine streaming through the kitchen window proved very useful as I could use the mirror to reflect it up inside the cavity. (Yes, for those of you suffering long bouts of rain, that's what sunshine looks like.)

I think of my friend Marcia each time I mention the marigolds! (Blushing yet, Marcia?!) Seriously, she gave me a good tip: sprinkle talcum powder inside the gloves and it makes them much easier to remove when you're finished. It works.

Kitchen

2nd October 2012

Last week I asked myself the question, "Does Skye have hedgehogs?" and on Sunday I had my answer - in my garden! Okay, it's not the best photo you'll ever see of a hedgehog but it serves as proof that they're here. It was dark and I thought someone had left a large round stone in my garden. The flashgun showed it for what it really was though.

Over the weekend I had a problem with my PC. The monitor suddenly went blank as I was typing an email. I suspected either the PC's graphics card or the monitor itself had failed. Although the monitor would be far more costly to replace, I hoped that would be what was at fault as I had planned to replace it soon anyway. Today I received a VGA cable in the post to let me swap some things around, I'm now convinced the monitor IS dead (apart from the power light still happily shining). New monitor it shall be then.

Hedgehog

Actually, it will be two new monitors. I've long been thinking about getting a two-monitor set-up which is a great help when processing photos. Now that monitor prices have dropped so much, and my old one has died, I've taken the plunge. I have a couple of LG IPS234V 23" beauties on order at a tad over £100 each with free delivery from Amazon. In the meantime, I've hooked up my 22" TV in the bedroom and have it running at a pretty impressive 1920x1200 pixels.

In the ongoing house repairs, I've managed to get some bricks out of the kitchen wall to give me access to the cavity, which unfortunately is full of the dry rot fungus. I was pretty sure it would be. The bricks do not come out easily and it was taking me about a day a brick. Mind you, I was being distracted, but more about that in a moment. I shall have to remove a lot more bricks, judging by what I've found, but I don't really have much choice. At least I've had some practice at bricklaying recently so putting them back shouldn't be a problem.

Now, about that distraction... the Ryder Cup of course! Did you see it? This chapter of Ryder Cup history will live long in the memories of all true golf fans. I found some free Internet coverage and was able to follow the stories unfolding throughout the day instead of having to wait for the BBC's highlight programmes around midnight (which I watched anyway). For the first two days my spirits were sinking a bit as our lads struggled to stay in touch with a rampant USA team but the whole team showed great courage, passion, and determination, spurred on by Olazabal's moving speeches to his players, and the last day's play was just amazing. All of Europe's golf fans must surely have been jumping up and down with excitement by the end. Thoughts everywhere turned to the late lamented Seve, and I have no doubt he played a part in that win. Jose Maria Olazabal, who captained the Europeans to this amazing victory, was overcome with emotion whenever Seve's name was mentioned. I feel so happy for him being able to win this for his old friend.

The other night I heard a strange sound from nearby, a sort of squealing or crying. Was it otters? I asked a friend who works at a nearby otter charity headquarters if they've got any there at the moment but she said they don't. However, she suggested that it could have been wild otters. Apparently they use the river that runs along one edge my property! Then again, maybe it was just a hedgehog...

27th September 2012

Sometimes the positives outweigh the negatives, and we need to savour those times! I've had such a week come my way. For a long time I've made no further mention of the liferent situation I've found myself in. Well, we're close now to having it resolved, or at least resolved as far as it is likely to be. The liferent agreement will remain but with a psychiatric report saying that the lady in question will never regain the mental capacity to make any life or financial decisions, an insurance company will issue an indemnity policy to cover me for the unlikely event that she ever does. With that policy in place, the property title deed can finally be signed over to me.

The second bit of news to brighten my week is that my friends in the Exmouth Photo Group have decided to give me an honorary membership of the group. I'm absolutely thrilled, flattered, and humbled by this honour. It makes me feel that I'm still a part of the group, and I hope that by submitting digital entries to competitions, they'll also feel that I'm still involved with them.

23rd September 2012

Holes in walls and ceilings, floors up, mouse nests uncovered... the plumbing and electrical work around the house have been progressing nicely! I'm very pleased to say that some of the ugly old pipe-work for the radiators has now been tidied up or even hidden completely inside walls, where it ought to have been in the first place. A big, heavy radiator in my bedroom, hanging on some warped old battens of wood, has been moved across under the window - where it should have been in the first place. (Anyone spotting a theme here?) Of course this all means a lot of disruption and decorating to be done, but that was always the plan and it's good to see things happening. My vision of how I'd like the house to look inside may not be fully achieved but a lot of the irritating and - let's face it - dangerous faults are being sorted out.

One minor problem - the only radiator not removed in the central heating overhaul is in a small room off my bedroom where I've been hiding old video tapes, books, all the boxes I've not yet opened after the move, and a bunch of other bits and pieces. Unfortunately we overlooked that radiator when we refilled and turned on the central heating. So, overnight it was squirting water out of the bleed valve at the top, and next morning I discovered the carpet, wall, shelves, and several boxes plus shelves of books and tapes all soppin gwet and mucky. Fortunately nothing of any great sentimental value has been lost, it's more an annoyance than anything really. Some expensive I.T. text books are ruined though, and the carpet, wallpaper, etc don't bear close inspection. Yuck. I'm not sure if it's worth trying an insurance claim: probably not by the time an excess is paid and subsequent premiums inevitably rise.

The next job for my plumber was sorting out the plumbing mess under my kitchen sink. I won't bore you with all that was wrong or silly about the plumbing there but it's now much improved. He's fitted isolator valves so that the sink can be completely removed without the need to switch off the mains water and drain the hot water tank. My dishwasher will be plumbed in properly as soon as we can get a replacement hose for it. The existing hose (not easily detachable) was actually fed through a hole in the wall and into a drainage pipe outside. (That should give you an idea of the level of bodging I'm finding around the house.) The plastic of the hose is not UV resistant (it was never meant to BE outside!) so of course it has cracked and split, hence, new hose required.

I've just fitted some LED bulbs in the kitchen. Although they are "warm light" ones, they still produce a colder light than the bulbs they've replaced. I'll need to see if I get used to that. Just 15W for running 3 bulbs is something of an incentive though.

All the above means there will be a huge amount of decorating to do over the winter. I'll not be short of things to do when it's too dark for photography or golf! My order for 1500 litres of heating oil arrived this week so I should be warm and snug for a while. Hopefully for a long while.

Heilan' Coo
Yesterday I decided to take a day away from the house and do some more exploring of photographic spots I need to get to know. First planned stop was a small waterfall I'd found out about near the Talisker whisky distillery, though some Highland cattle en-route distracted me for a short while. From the waterfall I carried on to Talisker Bay and spent a few hours there, spotting a couple of golden eagles circling in the sky during that time. Unfortunately neither was close enough for a worthwhile photo. Another date with the Highland cattle on the road home rounded the day off nicely.

Eagle
Carbost Waterfall
Heilan' Coo
While in the Carbost area I kept seeing strange figures around the place. A demonic character staring out from someone's garden shocked me, and a couple of workmen standing by people's bins seemed a bit odd. A drunk with "builder's bum" and then Her Majesty herself were the final causes of my double-takes. It transpired that there's some kind of scarecrow competition going on.
Scarecrow 1
Scarecrow 2
Scarecrow 2

 

17th September 2012

This weekend I visited my sister and her husband, David, in Troon. The 28th Ayrshire (Troon) Scouts put on a Ceilidh but it was more than just a fund-raiser or an excuse for a party, it was also to celebrate David's 50 years as a Scout Leader, and everyone managed to keep that reason for the Ceilidh a secret from him. With a letter and photo from Bear Grylls, the Chief Scout, to accompany his award, David was rightfully a very proud man on Saturday night.

I made good opportunistic use of the "trip to civilisation" to pick up some much needed bits & pieces that are difficult or very expensive to get on Skye. I've now got all the stuff I wanted for treating and fixing the damp problem (I hope). I also now have 14 new pillows, and a load of other things I wasn't expecting from my sister.

With award
Nearly speechless

I'd originally planned to drive the camper van down to Troon as the window would fit inside that. However, very strong winds made it a bad idea to attempt it. Consequently, the drive back to Skye was with a 4ft x 4ft window frame strapped to the roof of the car. I'm happy to say it didn't budge an inch on the trip back, though I certainly didn't ask any Scouts or Scout Leaders to give me a mark out of 10 for my knots.

David's surprise
David's surprise as unexpected guests arrive

Auld Lang Syne
Finishing off with "Auld Lang Syne"

11th September 2012

I remember on this day 11 years ago being shocked and horrified as news came through on a work colleague's PC about the events in New York. At the time it seemed like some bizarre accident. Then the second plane struck the other tower and our shock and horror reached new levels as we all sat or stood in stunned silence in the office. I'm sure you all have similar memories.

Turning to a happier note, did you see Andy Murray in the U.S. Open Final last night?! I hope that in another 76 years from now they're not speaking about Andy Murray in the same way as we've been speaking about Fred Perry recently. Well done Andy, you've worked harder than most people will ever know to achieve this and it's thoroughly deserved. When I started watching around 9.30pm I didn't realise I'd still be watching from my bed nearly 5 hours later, but it was worth every minute. My only regret is that it wasn't on the BBC and I had to suffer a Spanish commentary throughout on the only live feed I could access over the Internet. I did try using Radio5 Live's commentary but that was about 10 seconds ahead of the pictures and it was quite disconcerting to be seeing what I'd heard about just moments earlier, especially when Djokovic had won the point!

As I'm writing this the post has arrived and I've just received a letter from a very dear friend who lives over in Tain. We've been friends since we were 3 years old and although I've rarely heard from or seen Maureen since we left school and led our separate lives, it's always a treat when I do. She's not on the Internet but she's just told me her daughters are (obviously, what youngsters aren't!!!) so I hope we can hook up on-line through the girls sometime soon. That's made my day!

I've got the plumber here this week and he and his work-experience lad are making progress with the central heating. I've got a new heated towel rail in the upstairs en-suite, replacing a radiator that barely worked, and he's worked through all the other upstairs radiators, replacing a couple that have started to rust, and making sure all is working as it should. I can always find him just by listening for the mutterings about the shoddy plumbing and general DIY he finds as he goes. I've stopped feeling surprised about anything I find in this house! I'm hoping that he'll be able to re-route a lot of the horrible visible pipework feeding the downstairs radiators which would please me greatly. Pictures to follow soon I hope!

The damp problem in the kitchen has, unfortunately, affected the ceiling beams where they meet the outside wall. I'll need to investigate further to be certain but, if things are as I suspect, the beams don't run the full length of the ceiling, only as far as what was once the rear wall of the house. If so, we ought to be able to replace them. If not, there are special metal plates which can help with cutting out the ends of the beams and replacing just that part of them. It's all very frustrating but, I'm hoping, manageable. I'm soon due to be visitng Troon and should be able to pick up some necessary supplies from a company I've found in East Kilbride, much better than that £125.40 delivery charge I mentioned before.

Happily, my shoulder felt a lot better by Sunday and almost completely better by Monday, so I risked playing badminton last night. I played like a drain but the only injury was to my pride so I was content with that. If I could only sort out my knees, hip, and neck I'd be like a new person!

8th September 2012

I know some of my old friends will be concerned - or relieved - that I've not had a chance to photograph any gannets for a while.

Well, I'm happy to say that I've seen gannets feeding around Skye and even though they are not particularly close to shore most of the time, it's still a joy to watch these remarkable birds diving for fish.

On the right are shots of a single gannet against the distant Black Cuillin mountains, a side shot of a gannet diving for fish, and a sequence of a gannet diving, combined into a single image, all taken from the small rocky beach in Elgol's harbour.

Elgol is a lovely spot which I hope to visit often for the beautiful scenery so I expect I'll see the gannets there regularly. I have no idea where the gannet colony they belong to is located - doubtless on some inaccessible island out in the Atlantic waters. Maybe one of the local boat trip organisers will know more.

I've had no proper chance to check out the local birdlife or wildlife yet, though I see herons almost everywhere around the island's shores. There's an otter hide not too far away where the ferry crosses between Skye and Glenelg, and I'd like to visit that even though I've heard stories of people spending a day there, seeing nothing, and getting home to a message from Granny saying that otters had been playing at the foot of her garden all day. Sometimes I think wildlife has a sixth sense and just enjoys frustrating us.

Glenelg was home to the naturalist and TV broadcaster, Terry Nutkins, who sadly passed away this week. I didn't realise until I read obituaries that he had spent several years with Gavin Maxwell, author of "Ring of Bright Water". In fact, Gavin Maxwell became his guardian and Terry spent many of his teenage years on and around Skye at Gavin Maxwell's home. Terry was well known to millions in the UK as the presenter of "Animal Magic" (following on from the incomparable Johnny Morris) and "The Really Wild Show", and he inspired a love of wildlife in a whole generation of children.

Gannets

Oh, and I'm pleased to report that my aches and pains are better today than they were yesterday. I think most of the pain left in my shoulder is bruising from where I kneaded and massaged the muscle!

7th September 2012

Last night's badminton has left me feeling like an old crock. I hurt my shoulder, my knees, and in the final game, a hip joint. Not fair! Painkillers today have eased my aches a bit though I'll be surprised if I'm ready for another go by next Monday evening.

It's perhaps as well that I'd suggested today for another visit, this time from a friend, Phil, in Devon whose twin brother lives in Beauly, about a 2 hour drive from here. While up visiting with his friend, Alan, they took some time out to pop over and check out my new home. We had reasonable weather and, after a pleasant lunch at the Claymore in Broadford, we drove up to Sligachan which is a beautiful spot. Once again, it was not the right time of day for proper landscape photography but it's a location I'll certainly be including in workshops, especially, perhaps, in winter months when the snow on the mountains will make it even more special.

With my injuries, it's too hard to do any work on the kitchen so perhaps I'll get some time to work on the photos I've taken this week and see if there's anything worthwhile to be had from them. I bought a dehumidifier yesterday which is now running in the kitchen and extracting a surprising amount of moisture, which should help to fight the damp problem.

Here are a couple of pics from this week out and about with friends and family...

Trotternish Peninsula
Trotternish Peninslue from Old Man of Storr
Sligachan
Old Bridge at Sligachan

 

4th September 2012

I've just spent a lovely day with my cousin and his wife and daughter who are all over here from Australia. We battled a bit with the weather as it seemed to be ignoring all the forecasts for sunshine but we had a quick trip across to Elgol before driving up to the Trotternish Pensinsula to walk up to the base of the Old Man of Storr.
Trotternish Peninsula

The weather wasn't promising, and some walkers were returning to the car park looking pretty bedraggled, but we went for it anyway. The first adventure was getting past the extremely muddy track made by forestry vehicles. It turned out not to be half as bad as it looked, but it was still a relief to get to the other side without dunking ourselves or our cameras in the mud. It's quite a walk to the actual rock pinnacle (over a mile in distance and 1000ft in elevation) but well worth the effort. Windy gusts nearly blew us off our feet occasionally but we avoided any rain. Clouds scudded quickly over our heads and provided us with a series of brief sunny intervals. From there it was back to Portree for a lovely early evening meal and then back to my home in Broadford.

To round off a thoroughy pleasant day, I got home to the news that my nephew, Stuart, and his girfriend, Rebecca, have announced their engagement! I wonder if they'll accept a week on Skye as a present... !

1st September 2012

How time flies: it's September already. The damp problem in and around my kitchen has taken over much of my time and energy in the past week or so. Outside, the rain is lashing down and not helping to lift my spirits. On a more positive note, I've found how far the damp fungus has travelled along the outside wall, which is something of a relief. I've received the wood treatment needed for existing timber and the new wood that goes in. I'm trying to get another treatment I need for the masonry (because the fungus eats into the mortar so needs to be eradicated from there) but I'm struggling with that. I found a tub of what I need on-line, costing £10.50 and supplied from the manufacturer, Permagard, near Bristol. Delivery, by TNT, was an astronomical and outrageous £125.40. No, that's not a typing error, £125.40. Needless to say I laughed, perhaps a bit like one of those cartoon character mad professors, and declined to order it. I'll find another way, perhaps picking it up from somewhere in Glasgow when I'm next there, or if someone is coming up from there they could bring some. I've been unable to find a supplier on Skye so far.

My electrician, Jimmy, has been here and familarised himself with the house's wiring and then sorted out a few problems upstairs He's part-way through replacing the ancient fusebox and sundry bits with a modern consumer unit with RCD switches for each circuit. This will make the house wiring so much safer as circuits are shut down if there's a problem of any kind, often tripping even for a light bulb failing. It will also be so much neater and tucked out of sight. Jimmy is back next week to finish that off and sort out some more issues. He's already replaced the pull-cord light switch in the en-suite, which also operated the noisy extractor fan, with two switches, one for the light, one for the fan. That's so much more sensible for anyone visiting the loo in the middle of the night.

The week after next my plumber will be here to start fixing problems with the central heating and making sure each of my smaller bedrooms has a working sink unit. The upstairs en-suite will have a new heated towel rail to replace the old radiator. Each room will have a thermostat on its radiator so my guests and I can control the heating properly. It should be sorted out in time for the winter when I hope I can turn my attention to some decorating during those colder, darker months.

If the weather clears up during September then I hope I'll get some photos of the fantastic display of heather that's flowering here.

 

27th August 2012

Do you like my natty new suit?

Some mixed news today after yesterday's trauma. Starting with the damp issue, it doesn't appear to have gone up into the ceiling. I may still replace the ceiling anyway as it's all over the place and hey, how am I meant to hang a picture straight if the ceiling slopes and bulges? I want to change the lighting in that ceiling too as the three recessed 35w spots are totally inadequate.

I've also now cut away a section of the wall in the passageway leading out of the kitchen into the utility room, as I could see that the damp had got through behind the door pillar. I can now see the construction of what is the newest part of the house. I can still see fungal growth all over the back of the brick wall, so might have to bite the bullet and pull down the WC wall (tiles and all) to get access to it. Not good, but you can't afford to leave any growth untreated or it'll all just come back, maybe worse.

I have also heard this morning (after I contacted my solicitor to say I'd heard nothing in almost a month) that the Office of the Public Guardian has requested that a psychiatric examination be carried out on the lady who has a liferent agreement for this property. It has been arranged for this Thursday afternoon and the seller's solicitors should receive the report within about a week. All being as expected, this should allow the transfer of the title deed to take place and I can then stop worrying about ripping bits out of the house as it'll be mine to do with as I please (within planning regs!).

Protective gear

26th August 2012

David & Sheena left this morning to go back down to Glasgow. Dare I tell them the sun shone after they left?! We managed a nice afternoon out for golf on Thursday and both Sheena and David enjoyed the charms of the Isle of Skye Golf Club, set amongst some spectacular scenery. My apologies to Sheena if my chipping lessons in the back garden have left her confused! Our drive around the Totternish Pensinsula yesterday left the warm sunshine behind us in Broadford, and we found it windy & overcast up there. The Quiraing still managed to be spectacular though, and the waterfall at Kilt Rock was sending almost as much water upwards as downwards, such was the updraft at the cliffs.
David & Sheena

My thanks again to David for helping me with some things I was uncertain of tackling on my own. He has now made moulds for the concrete pillar cap stone, and cast it, and has made the mould for casting the coping stones I will need for the rest of the new wall.

He also managed to persuade the kitchen cabinets out from around the sink to expose the damp problem I knew was there. Although at first it looked not too bad, It's actually a lot worse than I expected and it will need to be sorted out soon. We feel reasonably confident that we've found and repaired the cause, which was bodged work on the outside wall of the house. At the moment I'm still taking down bits of wall and discovering horrors so it's too soon to say just how bad it is, but it's bad. I would suggest that any social visits before it's fixed are delayed. If, on the other hand, you've got a full protective suit and face mask and have good carpentry and building skills, I'll be more than happy to see you.

Right now I'm thinking that I'd like to get my hands around the throat of whoever was idiotic enough to make holes in the outside wall and not repair them. I have my suspicions as to who that might be as someone did call at my door a few weeks ago and was surprised not to find the former owner. He said he'd helped remove the extension. Well folks, I'm thinking that was when the damage was done by this cowboy, and I was also very unimpressed by the dumping of the extension rubble down a bank across the road. Rest assured he'll not be doing any more work here. I have pity for anyone else he's "helped".

I'm not going to show you photos of the problem areas yet. (I AM taking them though.) When it's fixed I'll post the before and after shots.

To finish on a slightly more positive note, there are signs that we've found and stopped the cause of the damp, though until I've uncovered all the damage and fungal growth, I really can't be sure. I've finished my tea-break and better pull on my protective clothing again before hacking down more bits of wall and ceiling.

16th August 2012

For the past couple of days I've been strimming, strimming, strimming. I've reached one landmark: a fencepost at the farthest corner of the garden. Most of the back garden is now looking a bit more under control. The last part is the nastiest though, and I'll still have to go back over all of it, digging out roots of the reeds and docks, and clearing the years of accumulated grass, moss, and flattened reeds. (Parts look like a thatched roof, it's so thick with old flattened reeds!)

The garden refuse pile is rapidly growing and I think I'm going to have to take advice from one or two people and pour petrol over it, throw on a match, and stand well back! Maybe I can put it off till 5th November...

This evening I've heard from both my plumber and electrician and I'm getting close now to having them come in to do work on things that desperately need attention, so I'm feeling a bit more up-beat about that. I needed something positive after finding out that I'm probably going to have to rip out some kitchen units to get to, and fix, a nasty little damp problem.

Next Wednesday my friends David & Sheena will be back for a visit. I'm really looking forward to that becaue they're great fun but I also know that David will get me back on track with work in and around the house. I've stuttered a bit, though it's largely because I've been putting so much time into clearing the garden. (Okay, and watching the Olympics!)

Back garden

15th August 2012

I've applied a few small changes to the site, lightening the background colour a little and creating buttons down the left side of the Services and Workshop pages instead of just the text links.

Today's wee stories from Skye include getting one over on Barclaycard and a tale from the garden. Barclaycard first.

About a month ago I moved my bank account to the local RBS branch which meant that my old accounts from down south had to be closed. Of course, all DDs and stuff like that had to be moved to the new accounts. Just prior to moving the accounts I went on-line to update my Barclaycard payment (I pay the card off in full each month by DD so that I don't have to think about it) and I followed their instructrions, which were to delete the existing DD and then create a new one. ONLY when this was all done did I get the warning that the new DD would not be in place in time for the next due payment, some 2 weeks away. Well, I was not happy and I told Barclaycard so, complaining that I would have done things differently had they thought to inform me BEFOREHAND that payments would not be continuous, and that in these days of computer-controlled systems, a 2 week lag time was just plain ridiculous. They answered my complaint, apologised, and said that they would ensure the DD was in place in time for my August payment.

Yesterday I was awoken by an early morning call from a person with a foreign accent claiming to be from Barclaycard. Of course, in these days of telephone and computer scams, I was extremely suspicious, especially given the accent and that, like all those other scam calls you get, I could hardly make out a single word the girl was saying through her thick accent. Eventually, after most things were repeated at least 4 times, we managed to establish that she was calling to say that my Barclaycard payment had not been made by the due date and how was I going to pay it? I lost the rag. To cut an already long story short, she agreed to refund the £12 non-payment charge and the interest accrued, and to take the block off my card (though not until I'd paid and the payment had been processed in a further 2 to 3 working days).

I was still very unhappy though, and so after this phone call I looked up my earlier email conversation with Barclaycard to confirm that I wasn't getting my facts mixed up, and sure enough, I had it in writing that they would ensure my DD was in place in time for the August payment, so I repleid to that message, explaining what had just happened and how I felt the way they'd treated me was despicable, and to insist that, as this was THEIR fault, they take the block off my card immediately, not in 2 or 3 days' time. I got a phone call from them within 30 minutes, apologising and agreeing to take the block off the card AND to credit me with £30 as a gesture of goodwill for my inconvenience.

So there you go, if you are in the right and you make enough noise about it sometimes it can be worth the hassle.

In other news from Skye, locals are expressing concern about an "incomer" who seems to be trying to recreate scenes from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in his back garden.

Compost heap

10th August 2012

My new website, is finally taking shape but is not yet ready for "public consumption", as details I don't have or haven't figured out will need to be included, along with a lot more photos! I However, I can't hold it back forever and so for friends and family only, here it is. I intend to update this "blog" at least once a month so if you've not been following my progress on Facebook, you can do so here. Just add it to your "Favourites" and check back from time to time.

If you find any mistakes or if you have any suggestions for things you think I should include or change, do please get in touch and I'll take it all on-board.

8th August 2012

It's been a difficult journey, and I'm only just at the start really. I'm in the house now and starting to sort out the things that need sorting out - like the hugely overgrown "garden". It's perhaps as well I have that to work on as some unusual legal problems mean I'm playing a waiting game before I can do anything substantial to the house. However, I'm going to press on regardless with some things that need to be done for safety reasons (like electrical work) or to make the house comfortable enough to see me through the winter (like having the central heating overhauled) as I've made it abundantly clear that I simply cannot wait.

Until now I've had just a single bed and a double airbed (more like a 3/4 size really) for visitors to use. One or two of the bedrooms might be too small for twin beds and it was Guy Edwardes who suggested, when he dropped in to see me, "How about bunk beds?" so thanks Guy, I've ordered a pair of beds that can be arranged as bunk beds or twin beds. I'll be able to use them to experiment with room layouts when they arrive.

One of the major drawbacks of living up here is that the closest furniture stores of any worth are in Inverness (at least a 2 hour drive away), so shopping isn't easy. Ordering on-line is great until it comes to delivery. For smaller items that the Royal Mail can handle, no problem, but when a courier is involved then wow, the cost rockets. The beds I've ordered had a £12 delivery charge with a note that the Highlands would incur an additional £22. Not so. In fact, for my postcode it ended up being an additional £54, so a total delivery charge of £66. I'm still waiting for them nearly 2 weeks later so for the extortionate charge you don't even get a decent service. It's a pain: and an expensive pain at that.

I've not had much time to get out and photograph the locations I want to explore but when I have been out, I've been pleased with the results. (See the gallery page, Skye & Lochalsh.) Skye is as spectacular as I remembered it. The Olympics haven't been helping much - there's just too much great sport on view and too little time to watch it. However, I hope to have another morning outing soon and want to include a visit to a waterfall I've heard about which might produce some spectacular photo opportunities.

While at home working on the house and garden, I've noticed many rainbows, and a bigger variety of them than I've ever seen or even knew existed. As well as the pink one (see 18th June), I've seen one that seemed to hug the ground, and I've seen one that filled the sky above a distant lone yacht with the mountains on the Scottish mainland just visible through it.

Distant rainbow

 

16th July 2012

The skies up here are amazing and ever-changing. I took the following 4 photos from my garden in one afternoon. Who knows, they may come in useful at some future date to put some clouds into a plain blue sky..

Skies (1)
Skies (2)
Skies (3)
Skies (4)

12th July 2012

I've been working on the patio area at the front door. It was not only unsightly, it was positively dangerlous. The two layers of tiles on the ground were virtually all loose or missing, and the smaller pink tiles were very slippery when wet (as the postman confirmed when he saw, with some relief, that I'd lifted them). There's some way to go yet to finish but I need to lift about 50 very heavy concrete paving stones at the front of the house before I'm ready to take it to the next stage. Meanwhile, I've had my sister here helping me to get a start on the overgrown garden. As you'll see in the "before" and "during" photos, in 3 months the border of daffodils had turned into a field of 2ft tall grass.

Front patio - before
Before (April 2012)
Front patio - work in progress
Work in progress (July 2012)

4th July 2012

I've joined the golf club! It's only 9 holes and not a patch on East Devon as a golf course, but oh boy what views!

View from Isle of Skye GC

28th June 2012

I think I'm going to enjoy the bird life here once I get some time to devote to it. Aside from the obvious white-tailed sea eagles and the iconic golden eagles, there's plenty to see. Broadford Bay is visited by a good range of seabirds, as is most of Skye's coastline, and within a very short time of being here I'd spotted a couple of my favourite garden birds, goldfinches and bullfinches. I've not seen another bullfinch since but the goldfinches were here every day for a spell, enjoying the weeds in my front garden (now gone so unfortunately no longer attracting birds). I've seen buzzards and herons flying right in front of my house, with a heron even settling down in the river that bounds my property, and a couple of pheasants are close neighbours, coming into the garden occasionally. I've heard some bird calls, both familiar and unfamiliar, though I've not yet tracked down what's making them. A bird of prey of some kind was screeching (as they do) the other day but I don't know their calls well enough to say which sort it was. Late last night I heard a (for me) very unusual call that sounded like a large cricket, which it wasn't as I was able to follow its movement and briefly saw the small bird in the gloom but couldn't identify it.

Goldfinch

25th June 2012

I've had my good friend David Clark here along with his partner, Sheena, and they've not just been an enormous help, they've been a real breath of fresh air.

Alcove - before

David has been in the building trade all his working life and has been helping and guiding me with repairs, and Sheena has a passion for cleaning, so she's been going nuts with sponges, brushes, the vacuum cleaner, and my carpet cleaner.

One repair David has made for me (after checking that the wood was all okay) is to the underside of a piece of roof, which was untidy and open to the elements - and wasps. I need to paint or varnish it but it's a big improvement over how it was.

We've had a lot of laughs and I get the feeling they came up here with a mission in mind - to get me drunk! When I moved in, the house was damp, dirty, and generally feeling very sad. With the cleaning, repairs, and laughter of the past few days, the whole spirit of the place has been lifted.

Alcove - after

18th June 2012

Some accused me of being drunk, some even suggested I was on some sort of mind-altering substance, but let me assure you, I DID see it. I glanced out a window late in the evening as the sun was setting behind me and there it was, in the valley in front of my house, a pink rainbow! I knew nobody would believe me so I dashed for the camera and caught this shot of it (which doesn't actually do it justice I'm afraid)...

pink rainbow

I guess the photo above has given it away - got into the house on Skye on schedule. Massive, massive thanks to my very good friend, Dave Pendlebury, who has been an enormous help and support throughout, culminating in him helping me by driving the rental truck all the way up from Exmouth to Skye (via my sister's house where a big scary dog lives!) and then sharing the driving all the way back to Exmouth again after working his socks off with helping me unload all my worldly possessions. I simply could not have done all this on my own.

1st June 2012

Just a week till the move and it's STRESS time! Contracts have exchanged and I move out of my house in Exmouth on Friday 8th but thanks to a solicitor on Skye taking an age to do virtually nothing (and even the one thing she did was incomplete), my stress levels are off the scale. I still have no certainty of having the purchase completed in time to move into the house, to say nothing of some other issues that have been revealed far too late in the day (but that's a whole other story). Anyway, trying to remain positive, I should be in on the Saturday, though back in Devon to pick up the campervan and drive that up in the week that follows.

2nd May 2012

So, my move "back home" seems to be on, though anyone who knows me may have noticed I've slightly overshot - by around 200 miles in fact. It's about a 4 hour drive from Glasgow to Skye, but a glorious one to savour on a fine day.

It's still very early days. However, the journey (adventure?) should begin soon. I have just had an offer accepted on the property that I want in Broadford, Isle of Skye and hopefully the sale of my house in Devon will go through on time. If all goes to plan, I should be on Skye in early June. The house will need a lot of work to bring it up to scratch, starting with a complete overhaul of the electrics and central heating. This will be messy and disruptive work but it's best done during the summer months before winter sets in, and certainly before any decorative work can be started. Work on sorting out some problems that have caused dampness in the rear wall of the house will also be a high priority so the area affected will have time to recover while other work is going on. Some windows also need attention and will be sorted when the time is right.

Broadford is about 7 miles from the (toll free) bridge that now joins Skye to the mainland, so getting there is more straightforward than it used to be. It sits around the main A87 which runs from the bridge to the island's main town, Portree, and beyond. My house to be is away from the main road, up a single track road that ends a short distance beyond the house, meaning it is quiet and it sits in a lofty enough spot to have views across Broadford Bay to the Scottish mainland. A supermarket is just 1 mile away and the filling station next to it is open 24 hours a day, so there's a certain amount of convenience to being in Broadford, not something you could say for many locations on Skye. Also, being so centrally situated, Broadford is the perfect base for seeing the whole of Skye, from the lush southern area of the Sleat peninsula, to the rugged Trotternish peninsula which is home to such famous sights as the Quirang and the Old Man of Storr.

© David McHutchison (Deemacphotos)
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