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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

See you at the Mod!

Our last choir practice before the Mod out in Stornoway in the Western Isles was on Thursday.  We still lack a bit of confidence and technique but we aren’t bad!  If all goes well we’ll aquit ourselves quite nicely.  Doyle, from USA, had been learning the songs through Skype calls with Jackie, our conductor, and was with us in person for the first time that night.  He joined us in the pub afterwards, sounding really excited about singing with us and going to the Mod.  As the night grew late and choir members began to slope off, the farewell catch phrase went round – Bye!  See you at the Mod!

I was leaving the next day, to drive up the A9 to Carrbridge where I was to pick up Jennifer, then on to Ullapool to catch the afternoon ferry out to Stornoway in Lewis.   It was to be an early start – well, for me, the night owl, 8.OO a.m. is early – but I was up and out in good time.  The morning was pleasant and mild as I headed for Edinburgh city bypass and the Forth road bridge.  Soon I was feeling the holiday spirit as I reached the Perthshire hills.  near Kincraig The trees were beginning to show their autumn colours quite spectacularly the further north I travelled so by the time I reached the Kingussie area I decided to take a detour off the main A9 and travel a bit on the old road, so I could stop and tale a photo or two.near Kincraig4

There was plenty of time before I had to meet Jennifer at Carrbridge, so I took another detour and found the ….. Centre by Loch …….. where they advertised woodland trails, canoeing, yachting, etc. as well as a restaurant and shop.  woodland track kincraig3 The autumnal woodland trails were beautiful, the problem being there were so many directions to go in, which one to choose.    woodland track kincraig I chose well, though I daresay if I had chosen a different path I would still have been delighted!  beech kincraig2Alongside the loch, through beech and oak woodland,  the highlight was seeing a couple of tree creepers, birds I have never seen before.  There’s no doubt that’s what they are astree creeper they do creep up the tree trunks, and fairly well camouflaged too, I have to say!  Birdsong was all around and I could hear a robin or two, chaffinches, bluetits and great tits….. and they were just the ones I knew.

No time for a cup of tea but it wasn’t far to Carrbridge and I knew Jennifer would be up for having some lunch.  She was waiting for me as I pulled up at the horse riding centre where she had spent the morning, and having packed her bags in the car we made for the cafe/gallery on Carrbridge main street for soup and a sandwich.  Fed and watered, we were on our way again – just a brief stop at Dingwall for some groceries – arriving in Ullapool in good time.  ullapool The ferry was late, but we were happy to wait.  Ullapool is a pretty place and the harbour is always bustling.  I even bumped into a former neighbour from Peebles!

Once the ferry had arrived and the incoming traffic disgorged, it was our turn to drive on to the car deck.  leaving ullapool With all the cars, motor bikes, campervans, sheep lorries, and food supply vans, it is quite a task to get everybody parked safely in the right spots, but eventually everyone was on board, and we were off, leaving Loch Broom to cross the Minch, the area of sea between the mainland and the Outer Hebrides.    The Minch has a reputation for being a bit choppy, and let’s just say that although our crossing wasn’t too bad, I wouldn’t have liked to be in anything much smaller!   It was a bit of a bumpy journey – and the ferry is not that small!

The crossing took about three hours, which we passed quite happily, having a bite to eat, chatting to various people including members of the Carloway choir, and having a snooze!  Now, I mentioned Doyle learning the choir pieces by Skype, but the new Carloway choir have ALL learned their songs that way.  Carloway is a small village on the west side of Lewis, the next village to where Jennifer has a house and croft – a smallholding, for want of a better word.  Earlier in the year she came up with the idea that Carloway should have their own Gaelic choir - after all, Lewis is one of the main Gaelic speaking areas in the country - and brought the subject up with some of her friends and neighbours.  It seemed there was a good lot of interest but not everyone with the connection to Carloway or  the west side was actually still living there.  One was in Dingwall, another in Oban.  Two of the tenors were in Aberdeen and Inverness respectively ……and Mairi (MAAHree), who had volunteered to conduct the new choir, being a music teacher herself, lives in Somerset in England!  So, on practice nights everyone got together on Skype to learn and practise with Mairi.  Pretty novel, eh?  carloway choirApart from a general gathering in August, the members didn’t get together again till Saturday  – and on Saturday night gave a concert  in Carloway Community Hall!  What an achievement!  They were excellent!  I hope they do well on Thursday in their competition.

Well, we arrived in due course at Stornoway – in the dark -  and took the road for the west, pulling into Jennifer’s drive-in around 10.00 p.m.   On with the heating, a cup of tea brewed and supper eaten, it was time for bed!  It had been a long day!

Talk again soon.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Farewell to Doune for another year

Well, it had been another great week at Doune – lots of lace made, though not by me,  good walks doune here– I even managed the climb up the hill,  me at the fank

                                                                    though this photo (right) was taken by Morag at the sheep fank.  rosti, cream cheese and smoked salmon           We had the most wonderful food,autumn fruits pavlova 

                       lots of conversation and fun, good company, wonderful surroundings, and even the occasional beautiful sky.doune skies1                                                     

 stormy sea

                    We had rough seaswaves1


       a beautiful dayand calm seas,                   

                sunoutside the lodge

      and  rain,rainbow over sabhal mor ostaig                                             

                                                                and all too soon it was the end of the week and we found ourselves saying goodbye once again.

prawn night2Our last night is usually Prawn night, and this year was no exception.  Here’s Joan about to dig into the marvellous array of salads and the huge dish of local prawns…..  A close up of the prawns, anyone?prawns

After breakfast on the Saturday, our luggage loaded, and ourselves aboard Gripper, it was time to go. goodbye Steve threw  off the mooring ropes and we were away, waving our goodbyes to Jane, Martin, Liz and Frances who had come to see us off.  leaving doune behind                                                            Soon we were bumping through the waves, leaving Doune behind……..to doune and back 865   

and in a while we were back in Mallaig. steve in mallaig

                               I had one last photo to take – of Steve, our lovely young lad the boatman….and didn’t he blink just at the wrong moment!  Shame!  Hopefully he and Frances, his girlfriend, will be at Doune again next year, along with the fabulous folk who make Doune the most wonderful place for a holiday – and lace week.  Thanks and love as always, to Liz and Andy, Martin and Jane, Steve and Frances.  See you next year.

Talk again soon.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Now for the Fauna

(I had hoped to get the Doune blogs finished by now, but have been holding off to see if I got permission to use a certain photo in this posting.   However I’ve heard nothing back so I won’t be able to use the photo, more’s the pity.  Never mind!  I’ve also been pretty busy with loads of other stuff, so I’m sorry I’ve not been here for a while.  By the way my Peebles blog is back!  I haven’t been doing the photos but I have a guest photographer in the form of Iain Mackay.)

Well, fauna  covers animals and insects, bugs and birds, so I guess I can include the Doune pets!  ron and morag You’ve seen Ron, the little black female dog belonging to Ewan, Liz’s son, so here’s Steve the boatman’s dog too –eilean aboard a rusty coloured Patterdale terrier with a Gaelic name.  She’s called Eilean (AYlun) which means island.  She’s a cute wee thing!  Seems to like being on the boat – just as well, as she spends a lot of time on it – and would give you a heart attack to see her standing on the edge like this.  Apparently she has been known to fall into the sea at times, but thankfully she didn’t while we were there.  She and Ron are great friends!

to doune and back 488 Not quite pets, but not far off it, are the exceedingly free –range hens that wander at will, on the grass, through the heather and down on the shore amongst the seaweed, always grubbing up something tasty to eat.chooks2


This one is finding something good in the seaweed.  Is this what makes the egg yolks so yellow they’re almost orange?  Good source of iron too!

Outside the dining room windows are bird feeders which were very rarely without a chaffinch or two at them, attempting to polish off the peanuts.  There was a bit of a queuing system – a pecking order? – so while waiting their turns we had the pleasure of having them sitting on the rail of the decking outside, watching us watching them.chaffinch2


I think these two photos have to be the best of the several I took, though I do rather like this one of the fluffy youngster.chaffinch youngster Strangely, there only seemed to be chaffinches around this year. 

Down on the shore there were occasional gulls,but nothing else really.gull on rocks  We have seen other LBJs

           (Little Brown Jobs – small brown birds) on other occasions, just not this year! 

Something else I didn’t see this year was the deer that came down to the front of the lodge during the night.  Someone was up and about, looked out and spied the beast, and alerted one or two others, but they know not to bother waking me, as once I’m in my bed I don’t like getting out of it – even to see a deer!  We never get good photos of the deer at night in the dark anyway.

a hairy oobit On days when we went walking over to Dun Head and beyond, we quite often encountered these huge caterpillars among the grasses and wild flowers - some kind of moth, I believe.  We call them hairy oobits! I did look them up once and keep meaning to do it again, but right now I’m not on-line, so it won’t be today!  Sorry!

The highlight of the week though occurred one morning – not the best of days – but Steve had just headed out in the dingy to fetch Gripper from her mooring in to the pier, had rounded the point and was in the bay.  Someone in the dining room, our work room,  must have been looking out of the window and suddenly the shout went up “Dolphins!”  Lacemaking was forgotten as we all leapt out of our seats to make for a window.  There must have been five of them, and for the next twenty minutes we were treated to a tremendous display of leaps, twists and splashes, as Steve took the dingy in a roundabout journey around the bay encouraging them to follow, splashing his hand on the water to hopefully get them to jump into the air.  It was fabulous, but sadly my photos were too blurred – with excitement? -  to do anything with dolphins_  too lateor by the time the shutter clicked it was too late and they had leapt and disappeared back into the water.   This photo indicates the residual splash!   Actually I did get one photo that was not bad!dolphin

Later, Marge and Lisbet did  some little paintings of what we saw, marges dolphins though there to doune and back 466weren’t quite as many dolphins as in Lisbet’s scene,(below) and they didn’t all jump at the same time!  This is really a combination of the whole show. It was certainly quite a thrill to have been entertained by the dolphins , especially as it was only the third time all summer they had come into the bay!

So, I was going to continue to the end of my visit to Doune, but I think I have enough here for you to read and look at.  I’ll post the  last episode next time.

Talk again soon.