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Sunday, 27 November 2011


Some time ago Linda and I picked up an offer on kgbdeals – on the internet, for a two night stay in a hotel in the spa town of Harrogate for £99 - £50 each, £25 per night each, including breakfast… in a hotel!  You can hardly get a Bed & Breakfast for that price these days!

Anyway, I was not long home from the Outer Hebrides than we were off to Yorkshire.  Linda drove – down the A68 to Corbridge in Northumberland, where we stopped for lunch and a stretch of the legs!  It’s an attractive old town, from Roman beginnings as Corstopitum, a supply town for the military on Hadrian’s Wall.  In fact much of the stone used in the buildings you see today is from the old Roman town.

Corbridge Golden Lion We chose the pub to eat at, because of the cat sitting inside the window, a very friendly cat by the name of Mittens, we found out.  corbridge mittens the cat In fact Mittens decided to curl up and go to sleep on the jacket I had taken off and laid on the bench seat beside me!  You can tell I love cats!

 corbridge church To work off our lunch we took a little walk up one street to the square where we found the old St Andrews Church dating back about 700 years – quite a bit of Roman stonework in there- corbridge in the squareand the Vicar’s Pele, a small tower house used by the vicars of St Andrews in centuries past.  The shops, inns and houses are very attractive, corbridge black bull the inns having very typical names such as The Black Bull, and the Golden Lion.  I’ll bet there’s also a Red Lion around somewhere.  I’ve a feeling that’s the most common inn name in the country!  From the square we took the other road back, and before getting back into the car corbridge old town hall took a look at some shops and an attractive gallery in the beautiful old Town Hall building – just as nice inside as out!corbridge gallery window

The gallery was well worth a browse, with some very interesting quirky objects and some great paintings.  misc 189There was also an exhibition showing strange people models, by Matthew Roby, corbridge bubblegum which quite amused us, like the Bubblegum Queen and Penelope Pincushion.  corbridge Thirteen

My favourite was Thirteen..  

corbridge a 3D in wire Then there was the most wonderful 3D wire picture by H Sharpley. The central double walls leading to the front door stick out from the picture.  It’s magnificent!   corbridge egg holder Holly Wright made the amusing little hen on it perch in the hen house.  It’s an egg holder!  Of course!  What else could it be?

So, time to move on.  We wouldn’t arrive in Harrogate in daylight, but I was confident enough of the centre of Harrogate to be able to find our hotel, the St George, and so it proved.  What we did lose though was the carpark… but it turned out the lane with the bollards across it was the entrance.  The park was full so we were directed into a side street with a permit.  We’d bring the car into the park in the morning after breakfast and leave it there while we went exploring.harrogate winter gardens restaurant

That night we had tea in The Winter Gardens! The glass roofed interior of the 1897 Winter Gardens was demolished in 1938, harrogate winter gardens stair but thankfully the entrance and beautiful marble staircase were retained, and now form the entrance to the new Winter Gardens!

Further up the hill is Betty’s tearoom,harrogate betty's at night with its arcaded frontage and appealing window display.  harrogate halloween cakes 2 Halloween coming up, the cakes were little pumpkins, owls harrogate halloween cakesand ghosts!

harrogate mouse bread I meant to get some Mouse bread to bring home, but forgot!harrogate westminster arcade  


The Westminster Arcade looked rather nice, all lit up.  We’d explore it the next day….  harrogate EC and more or less opposite our hotel was part of  the Harrogate Exhibition Centre, looking for all the world like a traditional Georgian theatre or hall, but it is mainly glass, as we were also to see the next morning!

So back at the hotel we had a drink in the comfortable bar before taking the lift to our room overlooking the car park at the rear of the building!  It was quiet at least!

Talk again soon.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Peter and Peeps!

I was blogwalking today – as if I had nothing else to do -  and found this on Dawn’s blog.  Dawn lives near Lake Taupo in a place called Whaka – something, New Zealand, and I’ve lost her blog!  It was interesting and I was going to go back and read some more.  I did put a comment on her blog though, so hopefully she will get back to me. 

Anyway back to the video – it’s about the rescue and rehabilitation of a baby humming bird who fell out of his nest.  It’s beautiful!

Talk again soon.

The last couple of days in Lewis

Friday had even seen some folk leaving the island, but most folk seemed to be going on the Saturday afternoon ferry.  In the morning it was too wet to do the usual massed choirs parade through the town.  Instead we were all instructed to gather at the school for a big sing!  tim catriona jackie and maggieThose who were left filled the hall and enjoyed an hour or so’s singing – Sine Bhan, Gleann Bhaile Chaoil, Illean Bithidh Sunndach, Suas leis a Ghaidhlig, etc.….each song conducted by a different choir master, and with a lot of humour from the master of ceremonies!  This is Catriona our Gaelic tutor with some faces you have seen before.  Catriona has just celebrated her 90th birthday.  She comes from Eriskay, which is where the SS “Politician” carrying crates of whisky to America, went aground in 1941, giving Compton Mackenzie the story of Whisky Galore.  Apparently Catriona’s father was one of the main characters in the real story.  She can tell a few stories of the goings-on to save the ship’s cargo, and evade the excisemen.finlay lisa and nuala sat stor

And here are my wee cousins with Lisa, their mum.  Not only was Lisa conducting her choir but Nuala was competing in her first Mod – AND she was second in her competition!!!  First next year?

So everyone then began to disperse, and I found Catriona wandering around looking quite lost – not like Catriona.  She’s as with-it and as fit as someone half her age.  She was looking for Jackie and May so I offered to help her find them – which we never did, due to mobile phone batteries fading and others switched off!  However I spent the afternoon with Catriona, drinking wine and tea at the County Hotel, hearing some of her stories and getting a couple of Gaelic lessons forbye!  Soon it was time to get her to the ferry terminal , which was where we eventually found Jackie and May. 

We all said goodbye as they and several others from our choir went for the boat.  I was booked for the next day but in the meanwhile was going back to Shawbost.  maddy jennifer and tim at shawbost Tim, Maddy, Jennifer and I paid a farewell visit to Ann next door before heading out to a Beer Festival Tim had heard about!  As it happened, when we got there we found that the cost for the evening was astronomic so in the end we about turned and came home.

On the Sunday morning Tim and Maddy left early. bound for Harris for the ferry to Skye.  Jennifer went to church, and I packed up my car and headed back to Stornoway again to wait in the queue for the boat. Jennifer would be along later.  fishwife The ferry was late in, so there was plenty of time for a look around the terminal building with its amazing batik banners hanging round the octagonal cupola. That’s the ferry terminal in the background, behind the other fishwife statue I mentioned the other day.

terminal bannersThe banners were amazing, and these are just a few of the 24. terminal banner callanish

 terminal banners 2

terminal banner dun

You really will have to click them to see them clearly.

terminal mosaic stones3 There are so many pieces of artwork in the building.  I just adored this  mosaic of the Callanish stones.

tapestryIncidentally, I forgot to show you a fabulous Harris tweed wall hanging in the centre where we sang on Friday.  While we’re on the subject of artworks I’ll show you now, with some close-ups of some of the motifs.tapestry isles map It was specially made by Isle of Lewis Quilts for the Mod and not only celebrates it tapestry harris tweed orbbut also the hundredth anniversary of the Harris tweed logo – the famous orb. There was a map of the islands -  Lewis being the top part of the most northerly island - gannets flying high above.  You’ll recognise the standing stones,  and a Celtic cross,tapestry cross and below is one of the hoard of chess pieces found buried on a beach on the Lewis west coast, in the 19th centurytapestry stones. 

tapestry chessman




I just loved this, and the talent of the needlewomen.

 lewis ferry So back to Sunday morning in Stornoway.  The ferry was late in arriving but finally she was sailing into the harbour.lewis ferry 2

The prow opened like a giant mouth and soon the arriving traffic was being disgorged.  There wasn’t much of it.  The Sunday sailing is quite a recent innovation and still many of the islanders don’t use it as they are against breaking the Sabbath. lewis.th .to.sun. peebles. leaves 110 The Stornoway streets were quite desertedlewis.th .to.sun. peebles. leaves 112, not a shop open, as I took my final look around. Just a few views of the town before the ferry journey…..

lewis castle 3

 Lewis Castle overlooking the river flowing into the harbour,an lanntair stornoway

An Lanntair – the lantern – the arts centre, and the County Hotel in the background to the left of the church,stor town hall

the Town Hall, where we sang our first competition on Friday morning…..

At last we were directed onto the boat and finally set off  for Ullapool.leaving stornoway

We’ll be back!  In a few years…. after the Mod has been in Dunoon, Paisley, Oban….

Talk again soon.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

More from Lewis

Rena drove up through Harris having arrived on the boat from Skye on Wednesday morning.  She eventually found her way to Jennifer’s and after a quick cup of tea we set off in her car for a drive.  She hadn’t been up to Ness before so off we went, up the road to the north again – well, “again” for me!  butt of lewis sea stack At least the weather was a good deal calmer than it had been the other day so at the Butt of Lewis we were able to get out of the car with relative ease to take the photos I hadn’t dared to take before.  camera crew at butt of lewis

There was a camera crew filming shots where they wouldn’t have dared to stand the other day.  It appeared to be screenshots for a film called Funeral!  Keep your eyes peeled!We were able to walk around the other side of the lighthouse that day too so that’s it on the right of the photo above. 

but seas 3 I have to say, the waves were still crashing at the base of the cliffs but weren’t anything like as ferocious as before,butt of lewis seabirds on stack

and there were seabirds resting on the top of the seastack.  You could hardly even see the stack the other day. 

We tried to find somewhere to have a bowl of soup or a sandwich but the cafe at Eoropie was closed, so we decided to head for Stornoway for a bite to eat instead, passing through Upper Barvas again on our way.upper barvas no 13  Do you remember I mentioned the old guy at Upper Barvas who lived in a blackhouse similar to the one at Arnol?  Well, I reckon his house stood somewhere in the region of these two houses.  I must do some digging in the attic to see if I have the photo my mother took all those years ago.  The bodach – old man – was very keen to have a copy of the photo and I am sure my mother sent one on.  I wonder who he was.  Maybe he lived there all his life and was a young man in the 1911 census….. If I could find his name I’d go to the Barvas cenetery next time I’m out there, as I should think he’d be buried there.

county ceilidh Rena was staying in a Stornoway B&B so after finding our way there and finding Jackie and May there too, we all went out to eat, followed by a bit of ceilidhing in one of the bars.

On Thursday Rena and I met up in town to go to hear the Rural Choirs competitions.  tarbert choir wth hilary and neil My cousin Neil was singing with the Tarbert Loch Fyne choir, conducted by his wife Hilary – that’s Neil on the right, standing at the end of the row,though it looks like he’s second from the right lisa's  choir

and their daughter-in-law was conducting the very new little choir from the Inchnadamph area.  They had only one man – Piotr from Poland, no less, and while he sang bass some of the women sang the tenor part.  carloway gaelic choir Mull choir was also competing – Tina from Bunessan was in that choir - she was on the same Gaelic course I went on last year – and of course Carloway choir  - left - made their Mod debut, to great cheers from the audience who knew the story of them rehearsing their parts through Skype!

The next day was our big day, competing in the Puirt a Beul (mouth music) competition in the morning and for the Lovat and Tullibardine Shield in the afternoon.  We were on first thing at 9.00a.m. so were all up early at Shawbost.  Tim and his wife Maddie had joined us on Thursday evening as had Chera, our Canadian member, so a rota for the bathroom had been worked out the night before!!  Jennifer prepared bacon butties for breakfast so well fortified we all piled into Tim’s car for the 40 minute drive to Stornoway again.  The town hall is right on the main esplanade by the harbour front, and with a car park right opposite it was very handy for us.  After a quick voice warm up in a side room, we were on!  Four judges sat at a table in front of us – two for the music and two for Gaelic – and a small amount of people had gathered to listen. We sang well, and then, gathering up our belongings from the side room, came down into the hall to listen to the rest of the choirs.  There was a visiting choir from Canada too, who were delighted at being awarded third place when the results were read out later!  Surprisingly, we were considerably further down the ratings!  Not last though!

At the Nicholson Institute, Stornoway’s school for the 11 – 18 year olds , a room had been allocated to us for practising before the L&T, so as we were not singing till well into the afternoon we had a good time to prepare.  One thing about the Mod is that there is a lot of hanging around, being moved from one holding hall to another before finally reaching the stage.  We had one of the squash courts as one of our moves, where there was sufficient time to take pictures.  barbara and maggie This is not the whole choir by any means but a selection of my favourite photos.maggie and linn3  

You can see that nerves haven’t got the better of us!  Barbara and Maggie..and Maggie and Linn. elspeth monica jackie and may

Some of my fellow altos pose with conductor Jackie.john and doyle2

John, chairman of An Comunn Gaidhealach, the Gaelic Association, member of not only our choir but the Carloway choir as well, exchanges a few words with Doyle from Washington DC.Mairi Rena and Hilde

Mairi, Rena, and Hilde, from Holland, enjoy a laugh.          

lewis.th .to.sun. peebles. leaves 017 John, John, Martin and Tim are tenors while Stuart, Ranald Angus and Doyle sing bass.parts basses





There are always more sopranos than anything else, and these are only the ones who could come to the Mod!

Finally we were up on that stage standing in our two rows in front of the An Comunn logo, and ready to go.  The hall was dark but we could see there was a big crowd out there, as well as the judges looking very official at their table down the front!  Afterwards Jackie said we had sung very well, so it was a bit of a disappointment to find ourselves in last place.  They say it’s because the standards are so high, but we didn’t deserve that.  Anyway, Jackie took it on the chin and said we had done all that she expected of us and more, and not to worry about our placing!  We STILL haven’t actually received our adjudication, a month after the competition!  Hmmm!

So that was that!  The serious work was over and it was time to ceilidh – and ceilidh we did!  below the salt After a choir gathering to eat in an Indian restaurant  where we sang a few songs to the delight of the other diners, choral singing several of the choirs met up in the same pub and we sang our hearts out, and drank a few Coca - colas (well, I had to as I was driving home, but the rest had smaller glasses, taller glasses, or glasses with stems, containing varying tipples.)  Despite being quite sober my ceilidh photos weren’t brilliant – personally I think it’s because no-one else was that sober!!!!!audrey conductsraymond and friends 

I think it was about 2.00 a.m when I arrived home at Shawbost and I had left early!  I bet there were a few sore heads next day!

Talk again soon