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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Update, at Hogmanay!

debris2Well, the river is back where it should be and the debris left behind on the Green shows where the water was up to last night!bench debris

Here’s the bench a bit closer.  The river must have been at least 2.5 metres higher than it usually is!

debris3Across the river, debris was caught by the playground fence, and what managed to get through was caught against the fence on the far side.

debris4There’s another levee behind the playground.  It used to be the old railway line till the 1950s.


Well, this is Hogmanay, the last day of the year, a day to make sure all your outstanding debts are paid, and that your house is spick and span – basically a day of finishing off the old year ready to start afresh with the new one.  I’m afraid I’m falling short on all accounts.  My house is still as disorganised as usual, and I’ve forgotten to pay the parking fine from when I “lost” my car.  If you don’t know what that’s all about you can read about it here!

I’m not going out to celebrate the New Year, but will just follow my own wee traditions at midnight, when I open the back door – balcony doors in my case – to let the old year out, then open the front door to let the New Year in, welcoming it with a glass of whisky!  That was one of the traditions I learned when I used to go to friends in the highlands of Scotland in the late 1960s.  They were very big on their traditions.  They cleaned out the coal fire and laid it ready to be lit again after midnight with an ember of the old fire, and were just about frantic when their red-headed neighbour first-footed them one year.  Normally another tall dark-haired neighbour called first at their house with coal and whisky (a wish for prosperity)  just after the bells struck twelve, but he  having been held up, red-haired Peter, not knowing, thought it would be OK to call.  Everyone just walked in, no ringing or knocking at the door!  Poor Peter!  I don’t think he ever lived it down!  I have to say I am normally my own first foot sometime during the day of 1st January, as I wouldn’t expect anyone to walk all the way down the passage and the steps from the main road in the dark!  I found this website about New Year just now and it says just the things I learned up north!  Here’s another one with more information, like where the word Hogmanay comes from and more traditions.

So if you are going out celebrating tonight, have a great time of fun and laughter!  Look forward to 2014 and all it has to bring you.  There may be bad times and sad times  but there will surely be many happy times too!  Make the most of them!  and if you are singing Auld Lang Syne tonight, make sure you sing the proper words and only cross your arms in the last verse – Noo here’s a haun’ my trusty fiere and gie’s a haun’ o’ thine (Now here’s my hand, my trusted friend, and give me your  hand)

AuldLangSyne_thumb[3] cartoon courtesy of Historic UK

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

Happy New Year to you all!

Talk again soon.

Flood Alert

Excitement!  It has been pretty stormy over the last few days and the ground must be saturated after so much rain, which is still falling, though I’m glad to say not heavily now.

This morning I looked out of my window to see the river Tweed was pretty high.  I could see because of the debris that was decorating the banks just above the water, that it had come over its bank a little and gone back again, but as the day progressed the raging water rose again, and was soon edging the debris further and further back over the grass of Tweed Green.  On the far side the riverside path was already underwater, and the benches alongside had their feet well soaked!

This was the scene by early afternoon when I went for a walk round tweed green2the corner to the bridge. Do  you see the grey smudge in the water between the two right hand trees?  That’s the bench I look down on from my windows and it is normally about 6 or 7 metres from the river. You can see there’s a path that crosses the Green behind those trees in the middle of the photo.  It is actually on a raised ridge – I want to say “took my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry” if you remember your American Pie.  It’s that word levee I think I am looking for.  Don’t know if I’ve spelt it right!  Anyway the length of the path is higher than the grass on either side of it. So when you see some later photos bear that in mind.                                                                               flood stitchHere’s a panoramic shot.  Later practically all the grass was underwater.

I suddenly remembered my car was parked right beside the Cuddy Burn so realisingthe water there was likely to be high too I thought I had better move the car!  That done I walked a little way upriver to the metal bridge that crosses what used to be named the Boat Hole, where rowing boats were once hired out in the summer.  One of my readers, Andrew, might remember it by that name?  However passing the swimming pool I could see the cauld/weir  like a raging torrent almost flowing back on itself the water was so strong.  Tree roots were well under water, and the river trying to come through a small gap in the wall – probably a foundation wall of the old mill that stood here till it went up in flames in the 1960s.at the cauld   I’m sure it succeeded in time  – the water coming through that gap, I mean! 


boat holeThen I came to the bridge!  This is the path I take on my periodical saunters up the riverbank.  I wasn’t going to get far today!  I guess the water would be well over the bridge at its highest!

By the time I got home, having stopped off at the Tatler cafe for my bacon and egg roll and a drink, it was getting dark, but I could see the water had risen right to the trees along the path, and in fact that was as far as it got as the height of the path stopped the water.  Last time the river flooded this much the water came round from the bridge and began to flood our road, leaving the path high and dry, but this time the council had brought out the sandbags in time and blocked that route.  Some of the neighbours had sandbags across the fronts of the buildings too.  However, the rising water had to go somewhere, and at the other end of the Green where the land is lower, it forced its way onto the wider part of the Green and back along the road, swirling round several of the trees on the roadside!  The main part of the path was still above water,  and several people who had come out to see the river walked along it as far as they could which I think was nearly all of the way to the footbridge.flood

This strange photo was taken from my balcony looking down at the sandbags at my downstairs neighbour’s front door.  I’m presuming that the sandbags had been delivered by the vanman in the nick of time as you can see the water is right up over the pavement and lapping against the bottom of our wall.  The camber of the road meant that the middle of the road was still dry, and in fact it stayed dry, while the water trickled along the side of the road and  pavement a little more. flood retreatI suppose I know what I’m looking at in this photo.  You can see the lights of the houses on the far side of the river, the footbridge lights on the left of the photo,  and the river on this side running alongside the raised path.  The tree in the foreground escaped the floodwater, but you can see the water beyond, and the road is in the left bottom corner also covered in water!  I adjusted the lighting in this and the next photos so you could see better what was going on

I kept going out onto the balcony to check the water’s progress when I suddenly realised the water had retreated from the door downstairs, and that the water in the gutter was in fact trickling back the way it had come!  Was that as far as the flood was going to rise?!  It seemed like it but I was left wondering where the water was going so quickly.  The river wasn’t going any further back on the other side of the path.  flood retreat2I was out again  probably 15 minutes later and what a difference!  The water had retreated even more!


And I’ve just been out again!  clear road againThe whole road is free of water, and yes indeed the river is going down.across the river   I wonder if you can make it out here, but beyond the path there’s a triangle of green that wasn’t there before!

One last look!  Well, not a lot of difference, maybe just a slightly bigger triangle of green!  However, it means that the river is going down.  Maybe by the morning it will be back where it ought to be – and let’s hope we don’t get any more rain for a bit.

Talk again soon.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The treasure hunt

I have a couple of posts to catch up with but I want to share with you this poem that came from cousin Ken in Cornwall.  I told him on the phone one day recently of my misadventure with my car, so this is his response!

Firstly though, I must put you in the picture….. Where I stay/live, we don’t have any dedicated parking area.  On my street the parking is restricted to 2 hours at a time, so I have to park in surrounding streets wherever I can find a space, which can mean one of several places, but usually on the road at the bottom of a pathway that leads to the High Street.

I often forget which place I have left it as I don’t use the car very often these days, but generally find it without too much bother … somewhere!  That is until about two weeks ago, when I went down to my usual spot, convinced I had parked it there last time (which was a week before!).  No car!  I think I told you of doing this before.   I hunted round all the places I normally use, but couldn’t find Sukie anywhere!  I searched and searched but with every second car a silver one it was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. 

Even a friend came round with me and we even checked the supermarket car park in case I had forgotten I had it and had walked home, as it’s not too far away.  Not a sign of Sukie’s number plate or flat back with deep back window/hatchback anywhere. 

Eventually I had to give in!  I phoned the local police and told them the story.  “Do you think it has been stolen?”  I was asked.  “Well, I don’t know!”  I told the operator, “ but I can’t find it in the usual places, so maybe it has been.”  She told me a policeman would be round to take details.  Several hours later he arrived.  (Policemen are all very young these days!).  He asked me lots of questions, and said he’d get the local patrol car to have a look round the town for it!  He must have been as good as his word because about twenty minutes after the constable had left, I got a phone call.  The police!  “Good news and bad news!” said the guy I was talking to!  “The good news is “that we’ve found your car!”  “Wow, great! Where was it?”    “In the Station car park!”  That’s the other end of the High Street, and was not somewhere I would ever think of leaving my car.  I couldn’t believe it!  “Is it alright?” I asked.    “Yes, it’s fine.  All secured and in a space in the carpark.  You  can come and pick it up anytime!”  Locked! But how did it get there then? I was blowed if I could work it out.  “So what’s the bad news?” I asked.   “You have a parking fine because it was there at the weekend without a ticket.”  (We only pay for  car park parking on a Saturday)

I was dumfoonert as we’d say in Scots.  Bewildered!  To this day I have no recollection of parking it in the car park.  Why would I have parked it in the main town car park at the opposite end of the High Street to home?  Who knows!  Anyway that’s the story. Now read Ken’s poem!  There’s a little poetic licence in it concerning timings but who cares!

She left the house on a treasure hunt – left the house at eight. – Did not get home till ten at night – Really in a sorry state. – The make and colour of what she sought – was imprinted in her mind – Although she sought the whole day through – what she sought she could not find.

It was not a classic car – like a Jaguar or Merc – It was something she used socially – as she did no longer work  (I’m retired) – Next day she rose up early – the local area she went round – By the time the dusk was falling – her desire had not been found.

Next day in desperation – she thought to seek some aid –Leave us with the details – A decision will be made – She gave the man the details – of the car she sought – and prayed the help she asked for – would not come to nought – Later on that evening – a knock upon her door – We have found what you are looking for  -- so be happy, everyone.

Just one thing, said the caller – not a whisper, more a bark –Next time do please remember – where you chose to park.

Isn’t that just so much fun?  I love it!  I just don’t think I’ll tell Ken he didn’t put enough’s worth of stamps on the envelope (it was a big card he had chosen to send, and recent regulations about pricing have confused a lot of people.) and I had to pay £1.09 to get it from the Post Office!  I’m glad I did though!

Talk again soon.

Monday, 16 December 2013

The road from the Isles

Carrying on from my last posting, we are now back in Mallaig (MAL aig) – still a busy enough wee place. mallaig harbour There are still fishing boats coming in here, prawn boats; lobster and crab boats, and from several highland harbours.  SY on the blue boat in the foreground for example, indicates it’s from Stornoway.  Mallaig reminds me of a Scandinavian port somewhat, with its boatsheds, shops and houses clustered round the pier area.  It was once a lot busier when big herring catches were landed here.  Fish was the reason the railway line was extended to the village from Fort William, while now its fame lies in the beautiful scenery along the length of the line.  In summer there are regular trips to and from Mallaig by steam locomotive, always popular!  See, trains are meant to run under steam.  These diesel whatsits may be all very well, but don’t we all really want to travel by steam train?  Sadly it wasn’t running the day we arrived back at Mallaig.  Margaret, Marge, and Lisbet were travelling back to Glasgow in the comfort of a modern diesel train.

I was returning home with Morag and Mike, so we meandered around the coast by a mixture of old roads round the coast, through lots of little settlements all with their own tiny station, and the fairly recently completed new road that takes at least half off the old route time.

morar bridgeFirst we stopped at Morar to look at the silver sands.  The sand feels like silk between your fingers, it is so fine.  Walking barefoot on the beach is a wonderful experience!!  In the picture above, is the “new” bridge across the river Morar.  Flowing from Loch Morar half a mile upstream, the river has the distinction of being the shortest river in the country.  I’m just not sure where river ends and sea loch begins – probably at the waterfalls beneath the old bridge!

morarWe strolled along the beach a fair distance and found several little bays where the sand was dry, but the evidence of wet sand showed these bays to be cut off at high tide.  It would be rather pleasant, I think, to be in your own little bay with the sea lapping against the rocks on either side of you.  However there is a pathway  behind the trees and bushes on the shore, so I don’t think you could be completely cut off! 

mike swingingWe found a swing made of a rope over a tree branch and a fishing buoy, and got Mike swinging on it for the photo!

Walking back – you can see our footprints in the wet sand – morar silver sandsthe sun was shining on the beach ahead.  Where did we put the sunglasses?  It was that bright!  Dazzling!

arisaigBack to the car and on to Arisaig where we knew the cafe there would do us a good cup of tea and something to eat!  You look from the cafe window to the sea loch which is very popular as a mooring spot for yachts exploring the west coast.  The street lights here are fairly recent, imitating the style of old gas lamps from years gone by, and the log amused us, being the place to park your bicycle!  Take a look at the undiscovered Scotland webpage for more pictures.  The top left photo is the cafe we were at!

arisaig m&mWe had a bit of a daunder over the rocks and the seaweed on the coast nearby.  The rock pools are always interesting, and in one I found a cowrie shell, not the most common of shells round our coast, though further north in Sutherland there’s a beach where they are reasonably easy to find and on the Isle of Iona a beach on the west side certainly used to be, if it isn’t still, a good place to pick up the odd few.  arisaig rock poolThere’s the cowrie. looking like a thumbprint just waiting for me to pick it up.

arisaig daisies






The grassy area above the shoreline is called “machair”, taken directly from a Gaelic word, and used in Scots too.  All the wildflowers grow in the sandy earth, and these daisies are very prolific in such conditions.red admiral

We found this peacock butterfly having a siesta on the sand.  It’s one of our more common butterflies as far as I’m aware.  I get loads of these in my garden in August/September.

glenfinnan monumentSo, next stop Glenfinnan, famous on two accounts these days.  First, historically, this is where Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) raised his banner in 1745 to call on the clansmen to support him in his mission to regain the British throne for his family.   (History lesson coming up!) His father was the ousted King James VIII, the rightful heir to the throne of Great Britain, but because he was of the wrong religion in the eyes of the law of succession, King George of Hanover in Germany was invited to take up the reigns of governing Britain.

Of course not everybody agreed with this decision, and in Scotland, as well as England, many took on the mantle of Jacobism, supporting James, instead of George.  In 1715, a rebellion took place that was quickly quashed, but thirty years later James’ son Charles was persuaded to head another army in a bid to regain the throne, so he soon found himself sailing from France to land in the Outer Hebrides (HEB rid ees) and from there make his way to the mainland to the agreed spot at Glenfinnan where his supporters were to gather.

The troops marched south and into England, gathering support all the way, but before they reached London, the Jacobite army were getting tired and hungry, and by the time they reached Derby, they felt they couldn’t go on.  Some say that if they had entered London, the result would have been quite different, but instead, the Jacobites turned back, eventually to face a battle with King George’s army, not far from the highland town of Inverness, at Culloden (CullODDen).  It was all over for the Jacobites.  In a matter of minutes they were overwhelmed by the Hanoverians, and many killed, the rest retreating into the hills, invariably to become outlaws whose heritage was all but destroyed by the laws that followed.  Prince Charles survived the battle but spend many weeks hiding in the mountains, being taken in by supportive families and gradually getting back to the west coast where he was spirited off to France in a sailing ship.  The last Civil War on British soil was over.

P1050979The monument in the photos, above and right, is the Highlander monument raised to commemorate the ‘45, as it was known, and the many who died for the cause.  It can be climbed and the view from the top admired, but we didn’t do the climb that day.

The second claim to fame is that the railway viaduct curving around and across the Glen (narrow valley) appears in the Harry Potter films.  glenfinnan viaduct and visitor centreLooking from the path to the monument, the viaduct is not easily seen, but it crosses about the centre of the photo above individual trees but below the grey looking forest on the hillside beyond.glenfinnan flying car You might see it better if you click the photo to enlarge it.

Remember the flying car?  Obviously not my photo, but thanks goes to the film makers.

So, on our way once more the weather deteriorated and there were no good views of Ben Nevis this year.  We drove on and were back “in civilisation” before too long.  Our holiday was over, and we had so many memories to look back on, and plans for next time.  It can’t come round soon enough!

Talk again soon.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

I “heart” Doune!

I meant to show you more photos of Doune in Knoydart, but have never got round to that yet!  Then there are photos of a couple of autumn river walks too, and I am sure lots more to write about, so what will I do first? 

I’ll show you Doune again, I think, and keep things in some semblance of date order! So where do I start?  Scenery – it has to be scenery! blaven

On a good day we can look over the water – the Sound of Sleat – and see the Cuillin mountains, stretching in a long often jagged line behind the southernmost part of the Isle of Skye.  The highest peak you see here is called Blaven (BLAH ven).  When the mist covers them and they can’t be seen we, the lacemakers, say the Cuillin is down, but on this day the Cuillin was very much up and looking beautiful.  That little yacht on the water just added a little touch of alternative interest!!

doune headThe promontory across the bay here, is where there’s evidence of a prehistoric vitrified fort  or dun, which gives Doune its name.  doune bay_thumbThis next photo is of the other end of the headland, and the dun is more or less above the group of people standing at this side of the bay.  The two boats out there are the Mary Doune and Gripper II.  Poor old original Gripper went down in a stormy winter journey back from Mallaig some years ago, after a gas or an oil canister managed to come loose from the fixtures that held it, and  its moving weight unbalanced the boat and tipped it over.  The Dounies got very wet but thankfully survived the accident with not much more than shock and bruises, but Gripper went to the bottom of the sea and there she lies to this day.  When the name was being discussed for their new boat, some time after, the name Gripper seemed just not to go away!  I suggested they call her “Gripper too”, but she became Gripper II, though in general she’s just Gripper!chaffinch_thumb[1]

Here’s one of the many chaffinches that come to feed off the peanuts in the bird feeders outside the dining room.  They are such fun to watch.  This one looks as if it’s eyeing up a feeder,  waiting for an opportunity to get in there before another bird does!  sandaig_thumb[1]

Another hill view – this time of the hills behind Doune.  The cloud patterns throw such beautiful shadows onto the landladhar bheinn2_thumb[1]

Here’s another view, of Ladhar Bheinn (LAHR ven) in  cloud. 



Introducing Tally, the West Highland terrier, who has the run of the place.   How exciting for a wee dog to have so much freedom!  She wasn’t too far from home the day I met her on the path to the wooden lodge.  She kept running ahead of me, often turning back to see that I was still following, and waiting for me to catch up with her.  When we finally reached the grassy area in front of the lodge, she suddenly started to bark at something quite unseen by me.  She kept turning her head to see where I was, always positioning herself right in front of me, and sometimes backing right up to my legs, barking like crazy in front of her, as if she was trying to protect me from something only she could see!  It was quite endearing – though I’d love to know what she thought she could see!  Maybe there were deer in the bracken and she could smell them.  Whatever it was, she was looking after me!  Such a cute little dog!

deer below liz's_thumb[2]Talking of deer, we saw this one, one early evening, on the path from the White House up to Liz’s, but then on our last morning we had our big treat!two deer_thumb[2]


Not just one but two deer were grazing outside the lodge.



Sometimes they are here during the night when it’s dark, but to see them there in daylight was great.

tide's out_thumb[1]We hadn’t had a trip out in the boat during the week but on Friday, when Martin said he was going to pick up the prawns for dinner that night, there was an eager group of lacemakers ready to go with him.  I think I showed you the picture of the prawns changing hands in my first Doune blog a few weeks ago, but I have put in this picture of the pier as we waited for Martin to bring Gripper round from her mooring in the bay.  When she arrived, we had to sit down on the edge of the pier and slither down into the boat.  We use the verb to dreip (dreep), in Scotland, to describe that action!  We all dreiped onto Gripper and soon were off down the Sound of Sleat towards Armadale on Skye.  The prawns were picked up and we set off back to Doune.  the pier's gone_thumb[1]

Um!  Where has the pier gone?  All we could see was the crane thing.  The tide had come in and covered the pier, so we had an amusing time climbing off the boat, this time dreiping from it to the pier, and coming ashore  into several inches of water – P1050851_thumb[1]cold water I might add!ooh that's cold_thumb[5] 




All part of the Doune Experience!

brambles_thumb[1]OK!  One or two flower pictures before I go!  Here are some brambles, the fruits not yet turned purple-black, and a few white flowers still in bloom and still tcinquefoil_thumb[3]o turn to fruit!  The yellow flower is only about 50mm in diameter.  It’s a cinquefoil, from the French for the five leaves gathered round the stem. wild scabious_thumb[1] There are plenty of these wild scabious flowers to be found here in the later summer, looking like little blue spots among the grasses.  I love the blue!


P1050718_thumb[1]I did know the name of this little pink flower, but my brain has gone AWOL, and I can’t get at my flower book right now.  Anyone?

Well, at last it was Saturday and time to leave.  Weeks here go by far faster than weeks at home, and it will be almost a year before we are back at Doune – Counting down the months now already!way to travel_thumb[1] 

This is how our luggage gets from the lodges to the pier.  It’s a bumpy ride!both boats at the pier_thumb[1]


Both boats were at the pier to take us all back to Mallaig.the lodges from the path_thumb[1]


Goodbye to the lodges, and the White House.boat house and white house2_thumb[1] 

Goodbye and Thank you to our wonderful hosts, the “Dounies”!




We’re off – but we’ll be back!

Talk again soon.