Saturday 31 May 2008

Salar Salmon

I like smoked salmon. But it was only the other day when GB served it as a starter that I realised I had never had real smoked salmon before. This came from the Salar Smokehouse on South Uist and was absolutely delicious. I have never tasted salmon so good before.

At Salar Smokehouse the team use the finest ingredients including superior quality Scottish salmon from RSPCA Freedom Food approved farms, salt and seasoned oak chippings, to make their delicious Salar Flaky Smoked Salmon. A favourite witb Rick Stein the smokehouse has won lots of awards for its flaky smoked salmon and whether you want it for a starter or a main course I can thoroughly recommend you try it. It can be ordered direct from the smokehouse via their website and sent to anywhere in the world. Delivery to the rest of the UK usually takes between one and three days.

Holiday Purchases

So far this holiday I have been pretty economical with my purchases and apart from medical supplies (in which I include nicotine!) I’ve only bought a couple of cards and three other items.

The first was a walking sick. I forgot to bring my stick and whilst GB has a collection of them none had a handle to suit me. The stick I have got is plastic - who would ever have imagined I would buy a plastic walking stick? But it is great. It can be collapsed down to fit in a rucksack and it has adjustable height in case any one else wants to use (or I shrink).

The second was a biscuit barrel from a charity shop at the massive expenditure of £2.50. We don’t have a decent biscuit barrel but if I am honest that wasn’t the main reason for getting it. I just had one of those nostalgia moments - this being similar to the one my grandmother had. The only difference being that hers seemed bigger but as the lady behind the counter pointed out - my hands were smaller in those days. All I need now is the coconut macaroons to go in it.

And my third purchase was a £2.50 box of watercolour paints. Fiona gave me some paper and pastels to have a play with but I decided instead to have a go at watercolours. It’s been good fun and I shall do a separate blog to show you some.

Friday 30 May 2008

Letter box flap

Being a bit of a nut about letterboxes (see my website) I have been quite interested to see that on Lewis there is a special acknowledgement of the weather. (The normal weather, that is, not the wall to wall sunshine I’ve been having so far.) The primary weather feature is the wind. The second one is probably rain. Add the two together and you get horizontal rain. Elsewhere this phenomenon is so rare that the standard letter box flap is designed to exclude the rain.

Here on the island many of the lamp letter boxes have special additional hinged flaps that you have to lift to post your letter.



It is bad enough making a fool of oneself when alone. Even worse in company but this is the first time I can recall doing it on the internet - at least, doing it unintentionally on the internet. A few days ago I did a blog posting about strange plants. This was brought on by looking at a plant I didn’t know in GB’s hanging basket. When I went to ask Pat about it the other day I felt such a fool. What I had taken for flowers - and shown as such on the blog - turned out only to have been the buds and the plant was covered in the immediately recognisable yellow flowers of Musk. Oops!

Thursday 29 May 2008

Typing errors

Some words prove difficult to spell. A few of these may be common to a number of people - I know, for example, a few people who have had difficulty with ‘yatch’ - oops ‘yacht’ - over the years. Some are more peculiar to the individual. In work, Shelah was forever correcting my misspelling of ‘accomodation’ - oops ‘acommodation‘, err, ‘accommodation‘…
But what about all those other words that you know well enough how to spell but which so often come out wrongly when typed. It may be as simple a word as ‘the’ which comes out as ‘teh’ in one of my friends emails.
The ones which I find I have most commonly mis-typed include starnge (strange); Briatin (Britain); dwan (dawn); toher (other); ben (been); itslef (itself); trun (turn); and no doubt many more….

Earl Grey and Chardonnay crisps

Back home, when GB was due to pay a visit I discovered we were out of Earl Grey tea. I went to our local Co-op where the girl behind the counter, a friendly soul called Beryl, looked at me and said ”Earl Grey?” I explained it wasn’t for me - my brother was coming to stay.
“Can’t he drink ordinary tea?”, she asked.
'Ordinary tea' on Merseyside is the local supermarket’s super saver brand with Tetley’s for special occasions and Typhoo if you are really posh.

But GB’s tastes even surprised me when he made some egg sandwiches the other day and I asked did he have any crisps to go with them. The answer, of course, was yes but I was anticipating Walkers’ Ready Salted not “Truly irresistible sea salt and Chardonnay wine vinegar flavour crisps.” Allegedly these are locally cultivated, being “specially selected and hand cooked on Tyrrells Court Farm in Herefordshire.” In practice, when you live in the Outer Hebrides, Herefordshire is only marginally nearer than Stavanger in Norway. Local is a relative term !

Wednesday 28 May 2008


They paddle with staccato feet
In powder-pools of sunlight,
Small blue busybodies
Strutting like fat gentlemen
With hands clasped
Under their swallowtail coats;
And, as they stump about,
Their heads like tiny hammers
Tap at imaginary nails
In non-existent walls.

Elusive ghosts of sunshine
Slither down the green gloss
Of their necks in an instant, and are gone.

Summer hangs drugged from sky to earth
In limpid fathoms of silence:
Only warm dark dimples of sound
Slide like slow bubbles
From the contented throats.

Raise a casual hand -
With one quick gust
They fountain into air.

Richard Kell

More from the notice board

Another item from GB’s notice board -

Tuesday 27 May 2008

"Motivational" Posters

I’m always on the look-out for material I can use for Jo’s counselling and training website.

Somehow, I’m not sure the latest lot of posters I found are quite suitable…

Shopping lists

Are you a shopping list person? If so, and you are like me, sometimes you’ll get to the shops and find you have forgotten the shopping list. But even more infuriating is going round the supermarket and checking the list - ensuring, quite carefully, that you have got everything - only to get home and find there was something you missed. As I said to GB the other day - “It isn’t a proper shopping list if you don’t forget something on it !”
Often when I am creating a blog posting I will put the subject on Google to see what other people have said. I put in ‘grocery list’ - the American equivalent of our shopping list (not sure why because not all the items are groceries) - and discovered there is a website on which can be found abandoned grocery lists “Why? Other peoples' grocery lists are fascinating. Plus, the internet is a great place to do stupid interesting things. So far 1,800 funny, crazy, weird, sad and/or mundane discarded scraps of paper have been posted.”
And if you have looked closely at the example above I should point out it isn't my list and I don't know what gooey butter is!
And I thought I was weird.

Monday 26 May 2008

A Thank You


Like lots of people, Jo doesn’t like seeing her picture. Hopefully she won’t mind me putting this one, taken at Bryony’s wedding this month, on this blog posting.

Here I am on Lewis, having a holiday with my friend and brother, GB. Jo is back at home in Pensby working for a living; counselling, lecturing; training; marking essays; handling the paperwork that life throws through the letterbox every day; making phone calls; cooking for Richard; mowing the lawn and watering the garden; washing dishes; feeding cats; emptying litter trays… All those things which a former Knowsley Councillor once, memorably, referred to as the ‘essentialities of domestication’. So thank you Jo for all your hard work…. And thank you also to Richard for doing all his college work without any need for chasing input from me.

I cannot recall when Jo last had a proper holiday - certainly not in this millennium. In the meantime, I’ve had a trip up here last year and lots of time at the caravan on the Lleyn until we gave it up a couple of years ago. I should like to win the lottery so that Jo could go away and soak up the sun somewhere for a few weeks. If there is a God of Lotteries can he / she please take note!

More about noises

On the subject of noises again, GB’s house has a greater variety of gadget noises than anywhere I’ve ever been. Apart from the occasional bleep, blurp, ding, clunk and whirr from the computer and the click of the mouse, there are the alarms on the bread machine, the washing machine, the microwave, the iron, and presumably the smoke alarms though the latter have remained silent to date. There are enough phone and mobile phone ringing and alarm tones to alert a whole fire station. The safe beeps, the iPAQ beeps and all the cameras beep.
There isn’t a doorbell - being the Outer Hebrides you just open the front door and shout that you’re here! But you could pick up and dingle the little brass bell on the chest in the porch if you felt so inclined. The cat scarer allegedly beeps but humans cannot hear it. The cat obviously can - it went up and investigated it one day before sitting down by it and washing itself.
Even GB’s bath has an audible self-cleaning process for its air jets. It is a wonderfully beepy little world.

The Tenth Commandment

What is the Tenth Commandment for every girl who has ever asked ‘Does my bum look big in this?’

Exodus 20:17 "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour's."

Sunday 25 May 2008

The HEB Magazine and Pictorial

GB got an advance copy of The HEB 2008 (ISSN 1477-1950) from its editor, Fred Silver, the other day and I have just finished reading it. Well worth the £3.95 asking price in my view. It’s a fascinating mixture of articles, ferry timetables, events, adverts, route maps and people news.

I was particularly interested to learn about Aline Forest - the largest community-owned woodland in Scotland - and its boardwalk path around a little loch. I have booked a trip there with GB in the near future so it should get its own blog posting - weather permitting.

Among the other articles I found of particular interest were ones on Stornoway Trust, boat trips to the Shiants, the whaling industry, Mingulay, and Napoleon’s MacDonald.

Good work, everyone at The HEB, keep it up!

Super !

Once more unto the crossword….
During our knocking off the morning crossword at coffee time we had a clue that led to the answer “superstitious”. This then engendered the question - if you were only slightly inclined to irrational beliefs and consequential fears would you be stitious? And if something was only slightly unnecessary would it be fluous rather than superfluous?
This led me to realise that the ‘super’ at the start of word is not, as I had unconsciously always thought, simply a prefix to existing words. Once more to the Concise Oxford which demonstrated, as I had by now worked out, that the expression is a prefix but the second part of the word does not always stand alone.


Beware - people stealing television sets !

Saturday 24 May 2008

Sound and noise

The other day GB and I were discussing the big difference between noise and sound. Sitting outside his house there is a great deal of sound - the wind, the breakers on the shore, the Skylarks twittering on high, and the occasional scream of a passing gull, or the peeping of the Oystercatchers. (Although there are animals on the nearby crofts it is rare to hear a cow moo or a sheep bleat though the cockerel lets us know when it‘s dawn - in case we cannot see.) How different all this sound is from the man-made noise of a urban living - traffic, shouting, machinery, engines, revving, alarms going off, doors banging….
The former is often described as the peace and quiet of the countryside. In fact it is anything but quiet. But, unlike the latter, there is no noise!

GB’s ornaments

Not only are GB’s ornaments largely tasteful and stylish - I shall do a posting about the definite exception to that rule another day - but I also find them quiet fascinating. Few of them can be considered ordinary.

This was bought at the Scottish Potfest in Perth and is the work of Toon Thijs, a Dutch artist from Nijmegen. It was one of series of Life Plateaux.

A clock for Jo

This is Pat and Dave's kitchen clock - hope they don't mind me photographing it while GB was doing some jobs for them. I just had to put it on my Blog for Jo!

Friday 23 May 2008


It doesn't really matter what life throws at GB. His philosophy is simple - so long as he keeps waking up in the morning he'll keep smiling.

Actually it's the prospect of seeing himself on a blog posting in these 'cranberry' (???) shorts that's made him laugh.



They must be little boy lambs...

Walking all over their mother, like that ! More fool her for letting them, that's what I say.

Letters for that LDR


In the ‘olden days’ young gentlemen or ladies, when feeling bold, might write SWALK across the back of an envelope to their beloved. SWALK (Sealed with a loving kiss) has plenty of modern equivalents for that text or e-mail including –
NORWICH – knickers off ready when I come home
.LDR – long distance relationship
PAW – parents are watching
TIME – tears in my eyes
TOY – thinking of you
YOYO – you’re on your own
MUSM – miss you so much
ROR – relationship on rocks
TOPCA – till our paths cross again
WOS – waste of space
OLR – On-line relationship
B@TM – busy at the moment
CWUL – chat with you later
O2L – out to lunch
VH – virtual hug
VK – virtual kiss
and my favourite
WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get.

Thursday 22 May 2008



Work - I love it !
I could sit and watch it all day !

New words


Occasionally, when doing the daily (or bi-daily*) crossword GB and I come across a word neither of us knew. Plangent (loud and sad) was a recent one but even better was crapulent (suffering from excessive eating or drinking) from the latin root crapulentus meaning drunken which in turn leads back to the Greek kraipale - a drunken headache.
*The word bi-daily is itself an interesting one. My usage of it was to mean twice a day. So far as I was concerned the prefix bi- generally means to divide into two as in bi-annual, meaning twice a year, as opposed to biennial, meaning every two years. But upon checking I discovered that it is used to mean either twice a day or once every two days - the Met Office, for example, uses it to mean every two days but then decides that the meaning is so unclear it resorts to putting ‘two day‘ in brackets afterwards.
So I resorted to my favourite book in the whole wide world - The Concise Oxford Dictionary. That sorts the issue once and for all - NOT. It gives bi- as meaning anything from twice, doubly, or having two; lasting for two or appearing twice in a …. In the end it recommends using semi- as an alternative so perhaps we do the crossword semi-daily.

Moths and Bird Song

When I get stuck identifying a moss or lichen or fungus I can get a bit frustrated but at the end of the day I accept it. Apart from the more common species these can be hard for the non-expert to tell apart.
I find it extremely difficult to accept being unable to identify a British macro-moth because I consider myself to be something of an amateur expert. But the hardest thing of all for me to acknowledge is my inability to identify bird songs. I am hopeless at it.
I would have loved to have been taught bird songs at an early age. I have tried using CDs and tapes and the sometimes wonderful verbal versions of what a bird sounds like but I remain very poor at it. The other morning I was attracted by the sound of an l.b.j. (“little brown job”) sitting on a telegraph wire against the light. It looked like a bunting in outline but most distinctive was its call which I cannot remember having heard before. “Tooo-eee; tooo-eee…” When I tried to get a photo it flew off. Most frustrating. It will have to be added to those many dozens of natural history species that I have seen but not identified…

In the meantime I am refusing to give up trying to put a name to this Geometer moth that is to be found among the long grasses on the croft. I have tried my two favourite books - which go everywhere with me - but when I get home I shall delve into my dozens of other moth books until I find it.

Wednesday 21 May 2008



GB and I watched an episode of the TV drama “Lewis” (a spin-off from “Morse”) the other night. One of the characters with a personality disorder spent hours in front of paintings by Constable marvelling at the clouds. He was fascinated by the fact that clouds were only to be seen at that time on that day. Never again would the clouds be the same. I feel somewhat similar as I look around at GB‘s. The sky is visible in every direction - something that is so lacking in an urban environment. And the clouds are ever-changing. Because of the windy nature of the climate the changes are rapid. It gives me such a sensation of being a tiny thing on the planet and of the fleeting nature of my own being as I watch these clouds which will never be the same again.

This is Stornoway (not Merseyside!)

Richard will probably tell me off for insulting Merseyside but can you imagine the following scene in a café anywhere on the mainland?

This is the Woodlands Centre in the grounds of Lews Castle, Stornoway.

This is the café.

Such is the lack of crime here that a young girl felt quite safe going to the loo (for quite a long time!) and leaving her mini-laptop and notepad on her table. Not only was it was still there when she came back but she had expected it to be - both unlikely scenarios on Merseyside…

Tuesday 20 May 2008

A plant in a hanging basket


At home, when I look around at my neighbours’ gardens it is rare to see a plant that is totally new or strange. Many of their plants appear in my garden and if they don’t they all tend to have come from the local nurseries. However, when I go away to ’foreign parts’ like Lewis I see various plants that we don’t commonly have on Merseyside. This one, in a hanging basket at GB’s, is one I don’t recognise at all.

Foosty or Gozzy

GB’s friend Fiona, brought up in the Western Isles, commented the other day that something was foosty.
Foosty ?”, I said. “Can I have a translation please?”
It turned out to mean mouldy smelling and, upon checking I found it in the Scottish Vernacular Dictionary - ‘Foosty - Damp, Dark.’
Ann, originally from the Midlands, said she had heard the word - spelled and pronounced “Fusty” - and sure enough that was in a couple of dictionaries - meaning “That which has lost its freshness, stale-smelling, musty, as of a wine-cask; of bread, corn, meat, etc. …”
A new word for me, however you spell it!

No sooner had we resolved the issue of “Foosty” than GB said one of his pictures was “Gozzy”. Now it was Fiona’s turn to request a translation. We hadn’t realised it but gozzy is Scouse and meant nothing to a Hebridean. The two submissions to the Urban Dictionary came from Merseyside:-
Gozzy - To describe an object that is not aligned straight, it is askew.
Gozzy - a person who is cross eyed or has a lazy eye.
We live and learn. Well, we live and sometimes we learn….

Monday 19 May 2008



I think you can tell a lot about a person from their bookcases - or lack of them. This is just one of GB’s. It is wonderfully universal in its variety. Reference works on Native Americans are cheek by jowl with books on art, foreign lands, gardening, language, natural history and many other subjects. Nelson’s War sits next to a book on the Crosville bus company and William Hazlitt is in close proximity to Billy Connolly. There is a book here for everyone. Even the fiction ranges from Marie Corelli to Philip Pullman.

Street Art


Stornoway has various sculptures and other pieces of art in public places. There is a themed approach to a number of these items with barrels forming either a background or a major part of the display.

Outside An Lanntair, the arts centre, is a wagon with barrels on it and seats made out of half barrels.

By the harbour a woman is cleaning fish over barrel and near the ferry terminal a woman carries a basket.

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