Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Where did November Go?

I can see that this is now going to be a very occasional blog indeed as we seem to be very busy - or at least the time seems to vanish very quickly. I have been getting up to speed with the membership side of the golf club, as I have to get this year's renewals in the post by mid February. We are changing the system we do this on, so I have been doing trial runs to ensure that it will all work.

November saw the Golf Club prize giving dinner - sorry about the photo - I had had a drink or two, having won a couple of prizes. The t-shirt was a present from the ladies section! Roz was over that weekend and our table ended up winning the quiz as well (Roz also won a bottle of wine in the Lifeboats raffle). Bronwen was away on Quaker business and visiting her mum in the Lakes for about 10 days. The following week we had a supper for those involved in building our house - apparently the first time in about 25 houses that they had ever been invited to such a thing. We also finally managed to get the solar panel fixed - so now we haven't had any sun for a few weeks! The weather has been much colder than usual so our electricity bills will be high (if we ever get one - we switched to B Gas on August 5th and have not had a bill since!). We are getting plenty of use from our multi-fuel stove though.

Last week saw our first "free" flight to Glasgow to take dad to a couple of hospital clinics. They are free in that the flight and (I hope) taxis are paid for, but nothing else - they do contribute to B&B if you have a receipt. However dad enjoyed staying a couple of nights with his brother in Milngavie and I stayed with Pam in Cardonald. The flights were very good - lucky with the weather, but killing several hours in Glasgow airport is not much fun.

We are now gearing up to our first Christmas on Islay, although things are very sad here with the recent terrible road accident (see BBC News) which happened about 2 miles from where we are. So far we have had the bridge club dinner, and this week sees the lunch club dinner(s) and Bronwen is at some ecumenical gathering for lunch today. Roz arrives on Saturday, Pam on Monday and then Ed and girlfriend Sue fly in from the States on the 27th. So I guess this will next be updated after the festivities. I had intended to produce Christmas cards using the photo below, but somehow it just never happened.

All the best for 2009

Monday, 3 November 2008

Too busy to blog!

As Scott has said, I am indeed fully employed at the moment (it's supposed to be 8 hours a week - but spread somewhat unevenly over the year) as Administrator for Quakers in Scotland, engaging (we Quakers don't go in for fighting!!) with the Filemaker Pro database which contains details of all our members and attenders and from which we publish an annual directory. So just now, not much time for blogging. But since I left you dangling at the end of my last posting, waiting in breathless anticipation to hear how we got on at the Mod.... Well OK, but I just have to say what a brilliant experience it was, and how good it was at my first-ever National Mod to see Islay as a whole do so spectacularly well. Not to mention (as a member of the winning Ladies choir) watching ourselves on the TV. I can't do better than point you to Susan Campbell's excellent account published elsewhere on the web (I'm fifth from the right by the way). We came home somewhat weary after two days and three nights of hard work plus a good deal of celebrating and socialising. A good part of my weariness could be put down to the fact that at 4.00 am on the Saturday I was still participating in a football-pitch-sized Orcadian strip-the-willow in a sports' centre in Grangemouth. Don't ask.... And we were up at 6.30 for the bus back to Islay. I slept from Inveraray to Kennacraig!

Friday, 24 October 2008

So Much for Retirement

Good grief - its 2 months since I updated this blog, though at least Bronwen put something in a few weeks ago. However the weather has turned rather nasty this week - lots of gales and rain, indeed the hail is thumping down as I type, so it must to time to update with what I can remember. One of the main reasons things did not get updated was that the hard drive on our PC went bang - so we've got a new PC, and I bought a new drive for the old one, so I've spent a few weeks restoring stuff and tackling Vista. Luckiliy this co-incided witha week's visit to Glasgow & Edinburgh to sort out Roz & Pam's flats a bit, so I was able to pick up the PC etc when I was over (only my second trip away since we got here).

We have not been idle, even without the PC blowing up - indeed our retirement seems to have come to an end as we both now have part time jobs. I'll let Bronwen explain hers (central administrator for Quakers in Scotland) which seems to largely comprise fighting with a FilemakerPro database. I heard that I'd got mine last night - general secretary to Islay Golf Club. This is basically subscription administration, organising things (but not golf events), and the usual minute taking etc. This of course means that I'll just have to turn out to all the dinners, golf outings to the mainland etc as I am being paid (not a lot) to do so!

As Bronwen mentioned in the last blog, then end of the summer was taken up by festivals. I went to three concerts in the Jazz Festival, the two local ones at Bruichladdich, so that I coudl stagger home, and the lunchtime one at Portnahaven, where is nearly got killed in the rush for the "famous home baking". It was a great weekend, though I did depart the last concert as the amplification was just way over the top (for a trumpet).

A couple of weeks after that was the Small Isles Film Festival where we went to a showing of The Maggie (which was filmed largely on Islay) and to a session showing several small films featuring the island. Some of these have been put up on Youtube, for example Portnahaven in 1948. While you are there look up Donovan singing "Isle of Islay", which he manages to rhyme with "stay" - it is truly terrible (unless you are a Donovan fan I guess).

A week or two after that I was a late substitute for the Machrie Team Challenge which was good fun, although Bronwen had the car on the mainland, so I was dependent on lifts and thus missed the dinners, quizes etc in the evenings, which was probably just as well.

On top of all that the usual round of regular golf, bridge and gardening has continued. We even gave a joint talk to the local church seniors lunch club, which we take my dad to each week, on the Internet for Beginners. It seemed to go quite well. That's all I can recall, except that we've figured out that the pump on our solar panel is driving the water the wrong way round the system, so we are not getting the real efficiency from it. Now we're just waiting on the plumber to turn up and fix it.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Autumn arrives

Six months to the day since we moved in and the sounds have changed. The chattering swallows and martins have all departed on their long journeys south, the lambs have mostly gone to market, along with quite a number of sheep, and instead intermittent honking from above tells us that the geese are arriving. And a couple of times now we have heard the distant roar of a rutting stag. Autumn is here! Today, after two wet and windy days and with two similar ones in prospect, we had blue skies and a warm, gentle breeze, and Bron got all the spring bulbs in (thanks Robin and Susie!!). And then we took Jim down to Port Wemyss and tested his smart new wheelchair (with pneumatic tyres) by pushing him round the Rathas nan Iasgairean and to Portnahaven for a cuppa and scone at the pub. We could see the seals hauled out on Orsay - there's no sign of any pups yet, but that won't be long.

Summer may be over (last time we posted to this blog, six weeks ago, we were swimming in the sea at Port Ban - don't think we'll be doing that again till next year!) but the golf hasn't stopped. Scott is gearing up for a full weekend of it - the team championship - and shows no sign of slowing down for the winter. Meanwhile there are whist drives, the Small Isles Film Festival has just happened - a whole weekend of Screen Machine parked up at the Gaelic College and some excellent showings of new and archive films about Islay, plus The Maggie, which was filmed in Islay in 1954 - and Bron has joined the Feis Committee. Not quite sure whether that was a good idea - watch this space!

And next Wednesday Coisir Ghaidhlig Ile (the Islay Gaelic Choir) is off to Falkirk for the National Mod. Three nights in sunny Cumbernauld! Seriously, I'm really looking forward to my first National Mod - news of how we get on in the next posting.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Visitors, Islay Show & Bronwen's Brithday

The photo shows the local community garden where we try to buy all our vegetables.

Been a while since I updated this - been busy with golf and visitors. The golf was the Kildalton Cross, which is the major event for members here. It comprises two medal qualifying rounds, on the Monday and Tuesday and then the top 32 play matchplay for the cross, the next 32 play for the plate or you can opt for the seniors competition of you are over 55. The matchplay takes the form of two rounds on the Wednesday, quarter and semi finals on the Thursday and 36 hole final on the Friday, so you have to be very fit to win the thing.

Needless to say I did not qualify for the Cross (starting 4,8,5,9 is not good) and ended up playing in the seniors, getting knocked out in the first round, by the guy who finished as runner up. The next week was taken up by Bronwen's brother and sister and their partners spending a few days with us, which upped the alcohol intake slightly. It also co-incided with some weather good enough for Bronwen (and later the others) going for a swim at Port Ban - our nearest beach. The Thursday, apart from being Bronwen's birthday, (photo shows evening meal) was Islay Show, when the whole island seems to shut down and you meet everyone you know at the show ground. I had expected to just spend a couple of hours there but we arrived about midday and did not leave until after 4. The highlight was making your own smoothie by cycling hard to generate the electricity (the co=op guy in the photo is Charles, who is the co-op manager and also happens to be the new golf club captain for 08/09).

Since then I've been to Foreland House gardens to buy some hedging plants - escalonia and fuchia, which has meant digging up a borders to put them in - not easy at all. I've also done a stint at the community garden - (photo at top of blog) on the one wet day we've had this week (until this afternoon - its raining now, show for the Open Day at the airport). Its been pouring all over Scotland, but not here. I also ordered a load of logs - not being sure just how many were in a "load" and the photo shows the result - took me a couple of hours to stack it all in the garage.

That's all for now - Bronwen is away for a week's hill walking on Wednesday, having been all this week at a Gaelic course along with a friend of Pams who has been staying with us.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fenced in at last

Major progress on the house with the last of the really major items now complete - the fence round the garden. This was put up by a gang of guys in just a few days - all done manually. They even rebuilt the fence round the vegetable patch and put a gate into it to save me climbing in each time - and moved it slightly to accommodate the polytunnel. We also now have a proper farm gate to hang the house name plate on. The first photo shows the sheep trying to figure out why they can no longer reach the house and the second is the gate with the newly reconstructed vegetable patch fence in the background.

With all the bills now in the total build cost is just over £200K which does not seem unreasonable to me for what we have ended up with. We have now prepared half of the patch which will be as close as we'll get to "lawn" and I hope to seed it whenever today's rain stops - yet again we've had a very dry spell, so the ground has been really hard. We can also start to plant hedging etc to make the place look a little less bare.

The past two week's have seen a gap in activities, before my golfing week and Bron's brother and sister arriving, so we've had a sort of internal holiday, doing things we've not yet got around to. First up was a trip to Jura with Pam, who was over for 10 days, partly with us and partly camping on Islay and Jura, and Roz, who came for a long weekend. The photo shows us all having lunch in the sunshine at the Jura hotel. Unfortunately the Jura House gardens were not friendly enough for dad's wheelchair, but we sat on the beach until the rain finally arrived.

Bronwen and I have done a couple of walks and a very long bike ride. One walk was along the Sound of Islay to a bothy (in photo) on a very hot but quite misty day. We could not find the return path "just behind the bothy" as the bracken was above head height. Bronwen was unlucky in that she seemed to pick up a couple of ticks - we are now expert at removing them, in fact the surgery sells a small kit for doing so. Finally a photo of Pam paddling in a frisky sea at Lossit Bay on the west coast of Islay - quite near where the experimental wave power generator is located - you may have seen if being officially connected to the grid on TV. You can see why they put it there!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Gridlock on Islay

Been a while since I posted - been waiting for a wet day with nothing else to do - and there hasn't been one yet, so I'm watching the golf and updating this.

One of the highlights of the last couple of weeks was the visit of the "Liberty Belle" - one of the few remaining B-17 Flying Fortress bombers from WW2. This was organised by Bruno Schroder (of the bank of that name) who owns one of the large estates here and happens to be friendly with the B-17's owner. He even organised a prize draw for a flight in it (I was not successful!). The horrendous costs of bringing the plane over from the states ($120K in fuel alone) means that this will probably be its last visit to the UK, and Islay was one of its few ports of call - and the only one where a trip was possible. Amazingly small and very noisy I'm told. On the way back we met an accident at a narrow bridge (someone rushing to catch the ferry I believe) and got diverted onto the single track road by the bird reserve - unfortunately the traffic coming the other way was diverted to that road as well, which resulted in total gridlock as all the passing places filled up . We had to get out and direct 4 wheel drive cards into fields etc to create enough capacity to get things moving again.

Another highlight was a home visit from Bronwen's Gaelic singing class, (see last blog) including the tutor Ishbel MacAskill, who were out and about and came in for a cup of tea and to sing to myself and my dad - though I had been at the concert the night before.

On the house front, the fencing man has turned up for a look and to figure out what materials are required - he claims he will be back next week, but that could be an Islay week. This also forced me to actually measure the boundaries again and I'm now quite close to the measurement on the deeds, so that should do - its more difficult than you think when there is no fixed starting point at all. Otherwise the builder has sheepishly confessed to leaving out the costs of the bathroom fittings, which I told him he'd missed, but he insisted were included, so a slight increase on the costs. No bill as yet for the house painting and I'm still chasing the electrician for the remaining missing heater for the bathroom. The polytunnel has arrived but I'm waiting for the fence to go up before I decide its final position.

We are also having fun with the VAT man, trying to claim back the VAT we've paid out on the house kit and other stuff. They only had two queries - first demanding our bank details to pay the loot into, despite the guff saying they'd send a cheque - and indeed nowhere on the form to tell them the bank details. The only other query is they want to know how much was for the house and how much for the garage - goodness knows why.

Otherwise life continues at a relaxed pace. I am now officially on the Bridge Club committee and am getting dangerously close to the golf club one. We had our neighbours Jackie & Dougie round a few nights ago and had an impromptu bit of fiddling (Jackie being a very good fiddler indeed).

Friday, 11 July 2008

What Bron's been doing

There's been a theme running through my 3 months on the island. Though I 've done a good bit of digging in the garden, climbed a few hills (see a couple of posts ago) and done the usual domestic things, the rest has been virtually wall-to-wall music. Won't my big sis be proud of me! The past two weeks has been no exception. First there were 3 days of fiddle-playing at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile - the Gaelic college - taught by a young and brilliant neighbour here at Conisby. Very inspiring, but I do need to practice! Then I went off to Glasgow for a few days with Roz for the wedding of a couple of young friends. Then back home and into 5 days, again at ICCI, of Gaelic song with Ishbel Macaskill. Huge fun, and I've gathered a number of new songs to learn and had a tremendous week. I do seem to have spent an awful lot of time memorising song lyrics since I arrived, but I'm sure it's all a good Alzheimer's preventative.

So I've no idea what Scott's been up to and will be interested to read his next posting! We seem to have a few clear weeks coming up now, before the next visitors arrive, so we plan to spend some of it together exploring a bit more of "our" island. Can't do much more in the garden until the fencing arrives. Yes... we still have a patio full of sheep!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Busy week down on the farm

It hasn't all been wet and windy. Thursday was a beautiful day and all was quiet until about coffee time. Then came a thundering of hooves, the theme from Rawhide echoed in the background, and the garden was full of ewes and lambs - and Mary and Helen on the quad bikes (and sometimes off and just waving their arms). Many attempts were made to avoid the inevitable by diversions behind the vegetable patch and back up the drive behind Roz's car, but Mary and Helen were too fast for them and they were soon penned up down at the sheds. And an hour or so later back they came - free of their heavy, oily, mucky fleeces at last. So for the rest of the day they baa-ed, and they baa-ed. It's the only way to find your mum when she's changed out of all recognition and doesn't even smell the same. You know that silly ice-breaker game when you're given an animal name and you have to shut your eyes and make the appropriate noise till you find all the others with the same name? Well....

Meanwhile, tractors and trucks charged round the fields and up and down the lane, cutting the silage and piling up the bales beside the Bruichladdich bonds. It really wasn't a sensible time to go for a run, but Roz and I did anyway. I was a bit worried about the corncrakes, but actually little islands of growth have been left somewhere in each field, so I'm hoping they're OK

We had another visitor this afternoon. The lambs were giving him a hard time and he seemed very keen to take refuge in our house, but I think Mum must have come and collected him because he'd disappeared by teatime.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Wet & Windy Week

Looks like the long dry spell is over - rather wet and very windy all week this week with more to come. This has meant the loss of two competitive rounds of golf, but I discovered on coming back from holiday (also a bit wet & windy) that I'd won the last competition, the Guy Quaich, whatever that is, so my first trophy, and my handicap has been cut to 11.

We managed four Munros on our hols, including the two most northerly ones, (piccy shows Ben Hope, the most northerly, with typical clouds on the top, taken from our hostel bedroom) not that we saw anything from the very tops of them. However we stayed at Tongue youth hostel, which is excellent - as can be seen from the picture of our room/suite.

Back at home the house painting is now complete as can be seen from the "before, during and after photos). I am still trying to get a hold of the fencing man, which is the last major bit of the project and will allow us to get the grass seed down. The vegetables are coming on - lots of "enviromesh" now in play to keep the wind, rabbits and slugs away. Highlight of the week was the performance by Fred McAulay at the Bruichladdich Village Hall, which was packed out ( I think it holds 140 officially). At least the rain has meant some catching up with some internal jobs, like updating this blog.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Islay Mod - and still no rain

Yes – still dry and sunny, and our friends with a croft above Port Charlotte, with their private water supply, are getting desperate. The pig consumes a couple of gallons a day, and there’s nothing to spare for watering. And since the tourists are all outside enjoying the sunshine, their art business isn’t attracting many visitors either.

Scott and I have just had a post-dinner stroll down across the fields to the shore – a bit midgy but OK if you’re smothered in Avon Skin-so-Soft, which I was. We walked back up the hill admiring our gleaming white house, which you can now see clearly from the other side of Lochindaal. Eddie was up a ladder painting the barge boards while we were having lunch. Knowing the bad fall he had a few years ago, and bearing in mind the distance between the top of the ladder and our patio slates, I didn’t really enjoy my lunch much!

Yesterday was Islay Mod day. If I’d been working all week I might have resented a stunning June day spent indoors in Islay High School, wearing a kilt and tights (and one or two other items too!). But since I wasn’t, I didn’t, and really enjoyed it, sitting in on the 5-9 year-olds and the adults own-choice competitions in the morning before the choral competition in the afternoon. Before we moved I talked about joining Coisir Ghaidhlig Ile in time to be at the National Mod in October. Couldn’t quite believe that, less than 8 weeks from arriving on the island, I was on the stage with CGI, competing against the Glasgow Islay Choir. We didn’t win of course, but it was extremely close, and given that they have the whole of Glasgow to recruit from and don’t even compete in the same section at the National Mod, we were delighted. Scott came along to support us, and since we were running late, got most of the junior choir competitions too. The prize-winners all performed at the evening concert, and were brilliant, from the P2s upwards.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Drought coming to an end?

After a very hot & dry start to the week, Wednesday afternoon saw some significant rain (not enough), followed by more on Thursday night. But still not enough. Bronwen has come back from the big city, so I'm blaming her for the rain starting.

Fairly quiet, normal week, - some golf, some good, some bad, talk from a local on his time in charge of cruise ships in the far east. Phil & Tony came for a meal so that we could sort out the bridge club scoring on our computer and I've ordered some enviromesh protection for the garden. The house is almost painted, despite Eddie taking a small tumble off a ladder.

As we are away on holiday next week, Roz looking after my dad while we're away, there will be a gap before any more blogging.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Drought continues

Brownwen has gone back to the mainland to empty dad's house,which is now back on the market, but we had to empty the stuff for Roz for move it to her new flat in Glasgow. Meantime I am trying to get Skype to work, the painting of the outside of the house has started and I have made contact with the man who will be putting a fence round the place. Luckily someone who had seen the house before but not bid as there was too much competition, went to see it again when she was there and have put in a bid just below what we had fixed it at. If no-one betters it over the weekend I guess we'll take it, although it is a long entry date of end of August.

I have also "volunteered" to be the official scorer and record keeper for the bridge club as the man in charge of that is about to depart the island, for Cardiff of all places. Took dad to the Thursday lunch club again and had an excellent talk about a trip, in a very small sailing boat, to Antartica.

The whisky festival week has had great weather, with the exception of Wednesday when we had some welcome rain. This coincided with Bowmore's open day and the brewery open day. I went to the brewery one as Eddie, who is painting the house, was playing there (he plays guitar and sings - a man of many talents). I met yet another couple who are about to build a house and think that Kenny is going to build it for them - that makes three, and I think it is a race to get a building warrant and that's the one Kenny will do.

I have been chasing our building completion certificate, which Argyll & Bute insist was sent to our agent at the end of April. David denies every have seen one, so we've agreed it must be lost in the post and another will be issued. STOP PRESS - it has turned up - sent to our old address in Dalkeith.
The cat is going out a bit more now - still not too sure about those sheep, but they seem to have been moved away from our field just now, so she is happier.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Some vistors and a trip to Colonsay

Dorothy, who has bought (almost) the plot next door came to visit with her daughter and granddaughter on Monday- she cannot wait to get going on the build. Final trip to the skip with the last of the "removal" rubbish and filled up the car with even more expensive diesel (£1.33/litre). Got the first produce (lettuce) from the community garden.

The next day, Colin & Ann from Edinburgh arrived in their camper van, bearing goodies from the Bowmore bakery. We went with them on Wednesday (the only day you can do it due to the ferry timetable) to Colonsay (photo above shows Colin & Bronwen) for an excellent day's cycling - including a mile over the sand to reach Oronsay at low tide. The photo below shows Bron on the return journey, where this time her chain did not come off half way. Finished off with a couple of pints of the local brew and rushed back in the evening to catch the second half (and extra time) of the Champions League final. Managed the 14 miles from Port Askaig to home in just over an hour (wind was mostly helping).

One good night's rain has not made much difference to the ground, (I had to water the veggies again this evening and got caught by the midges for the first time) and as usual the whisky festival has started with excellent weather - well actually it is always the Sunday, Bruichladdich Open Day, which has the good weather, and this year was no exception. As you will have seen from her contribution, Bronwen features strongly in the programme as one of the "local entertainers".

A present from Ed, currently in deepest Peru on holiday, means that we now have a webcam and will be installing Skype for those of you out there who have it.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Bron's first contribution

I never got around to contributing to the original blog - was just happy to read Scott's take on things. But I really do exist and it's time I added to our account of island life.

I'm sitting looking out over Lochindaal as the martins and swallows swoop backwards and forwards past the office window. Scott has now learned not to leave the garage door open. Even while he was loading his golf clubs into the car this morning they were in and prospecting for a home!

Friday night, and a busy weekend ahead at the start of Feis Ile. Scott came back from Debbie's shop yesterday to announce that my name was "up in lights". I was doubtful, but then remembered that I had agreed to sing at the opening concert on Saturday in Bowmore. "No", said Scott, "It's Sunday, in Portnahaven." On investigation (a trip down to the shop to read the notices) I discovered that somehow I appear to be singing both on Saturday in Bowmore and on Sunday at the Clootie Dumpling Ceilidh in Portnahaven, in addition to singing with the choir at Lagavulin on Saturday afternoon and at Islay House for the ecumenical service on Sunday afternoon. That's what comes of whispered conversations in Gaelic in the back row of the altos with a Feis Ile committee member. One too many "Tha sin ceart gu leor"! Just as well I have four songs in my repertoire!

Islay is a wonderful place for drying washing (at least when it's not raining!). You can actually hang out the washing, go back inside and do last week's ironing, and then collect and do this week's! Here are some instructions, should you happen to offer when staying with us:

  1. Load basket carefully - the heaviest and wettest article at the bottom, the socks, knickers and hankies on the top, covered with one final large article.
  2. Go outside and assess wind direction. Position self and basket on upwind side of line (to avoid being blinded by shirt sleeves or strangled by sheets.)
  3. Leave peg bag in basket. Do not attempt to hang on line unless you wish to spend next ten minutes retrieving pegs from 20 square metres of mud.
  4. Now carefully extract socks, knickers, hankies one at a time from under large article and peg to line. Continue pegging out washing (never less than four pegs to a garment) until the final article.
  5. Before lifting final article out and pegging to line, wedge basket firmly between lower legs.
  6. Stop. Look at view. Listen to the lambs. Wave to Duncan, Mary, Peter, or whoever else happens to be passing. Check whether any eagles are in sight. Pinch yourself to make sure it's real.
To collect washing in, reverse operation, making sure you leave the socks, knickers and hankies till next to last. Use peg bag to anchor them down whilst retrieving a large article to cover them with.

And you only need a prop if you have really long things which will drag on the ground. Otherwise the wind at ground level is quite adequate for all drying purposes!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Broadband at last - and some bad news

By default you can take it that each week I will play golf on Wednesdays and Sundays and play bridge on Mondays. Bronwen will go to choir on Thursdays (and sometimes Tuesdays) and we shop on Fridays. The blog will only note serious deviations and other events.

Mon 12th – Off to the doc before breakfast to give blood (new patient induction process) then gentle day with more vegetable gardening (peas planted) and got the hose out for watering as things very dry. You can see from the pictures below the progress made in 2 weeks.

Wed – the broadband finally arrived – seems to work fine, so I should be able to update the blog a bit easier. Decided to give up on Nationwide B. Soc who have made a complete fist of changing our address (you only seem to be able to do it within a branch) so we’ll put our ISA elsewhere.

Thursday – Busy day – took Dad to the “old folks” lunch club (one of many on the island – this one is run by the church and actually welcomes everyone). We enjoyed it, especially the talk on gardening on Islay held after it. In the evening I took dad to a talk on Islay’s Geese from the local geese (and much else) expert, Malcolm Ogilvie. Excellent talk with lots of interesting facts.

Friday – bad news day – the buyer of dad’s house, who has been delaying the missives, has now pulled out. His lawyers say they are no longer representing him, so goodness knows what has been going on. We’ve offered it to the next highest bidder and will hear on Monday. On a positive note dad’s community alarm arrived, we dug lots more garden and planted lots of celery, broccoli, cabbage and curly kale which the Ogilvie’s (as per last night’s talk) had going spare.

Sat - good grief - its raining, and cold. Built the last of the flat pack bits of furniture and Bron went off to Tarbert for the weekend to go to the Quaker Meeting.

Sun - went to Foreland House garden (photo) open afternoon and bought some escalonia for hedging round the vegetable plot.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Trip to Cinema (really) and a hillwalk

Mon 5th – Golf (rubbish), garden, bridge - excellent day.

Tues 6th – First visit to the doctor as I needed a repeat prescription – you get plenty of time with the doc here and I’ve to go back next Monday for blood to be taken and a sort of general going over which they give to new patients. Went out in the afternoon down to Portnahaven to sit with cup of tea and biscuits in the sunshine looking over the sound to Ornsay. Then in the evening Bronwen and I went to the cinema – the visiting Screen Machine which is a lorry which folds out into an 80 seat cinema. It travels the highlands and islands and we saw Juno (Oscar nominated). Excellent evening.

Wed 7th – First competitive golf (31 stableford points, so reasonable) in hot but windy conditions. Out first real power cut (1 hour) at breakfast time. More seeds sown in the afternoon as it got hotter, the wind dropping. BT left their usual “text message to an ordinary phone”, which is largely incomprehensible, to say that our broadband will be activated on the 14th – so much for “within 5 working days”.

Thurs 8th – Bronwen and I had a day out, climbing the highest hill on Islay, Beinn Bheigier (pronounced Ben Vicker), only 491m high. Day was very warm but hazy, so views not perfect. The photo shows Bron at the top with our house just to the left of the dangling staps. Managed to take this arty photo of a boat in the Sound of Islay while walking along the ridge – looks the med eh?

Fri – Gardening morning and then shopping afternoon. Bought some leeks and red onion to plant, beer from the brewery and had coffee with Dave and Liz Sykes. Day seemed to just drift past.

Sat – Lots of gardening – the veg plot is coming on with parsnips, carrot, and beetroot seeds now planted, and bought plants (callabrese, red cabbage and sprouts) already in the ground.

Sun – First medal at the golf club (early start, though, I have to get up at 6.30 to be there in time for the 8.00am draw) and I played to my handicap (12) in near perfect conditions, shirt sleeves etc. Had the day “off” and watched the Man U v Wigan championship decider in the afternoon. In the evening Sarah and Jimmy came for a meal. We used one of their cottages for several years and they have provided excellent advice to us over the years.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sky Tv Arrives and Vegetable Patch Started

Monday 28th

Excellent start to the week with a round of golf at the Machrie – I even managed to start par, birdie, par before it all fell away a bit. However my partner and I beat our opponents after a great comeback over the inward 9. There is a regular group of retirees who play Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so I won’t go short of a game.

In the afternoon I recovered some of my old fence posts from the field and started to construct a fence round the eventual vegetable patch. Only got as far as excavating a big hole with lots of rocks before deciding I was too tired, especially as it was bridge club night. Bronwen meantime had had an eventful morning with the electrician’s mate tracking down the faults in the phone wiring. All working apart from two in the living room.

Tuesday 29th

Busy day between the garden – getting the rest of the posts in thanks to a borrows sledgehammer – mind you if this is to be permanent they’ll need to be cemented in, and watching the Sky TV installer at work, even fixing the phone sockets so that he could plug the Sky box in. It all took about 5 hours but we now have an excellent TV picture on both TVs, so it can rain when it likes.

Wed 30th

Did not spend all day watching TV, though tempted. Finished off the vegetable stockade and did some more of the “lawn”. Spent the evening being well entertained by two of our new neighbours who built a new house here a couple of year’s ago. Tested out the Sky+ box by recording the football and watching it (speeded up a bit) when we got back in.

Thurs 1st May
Chased up BT to find out that yet again one part has not told the other part that we are ready for the broadband transfer, so it will be another 5 working days. Spent quite a while putting up pictures on the walls including re-framing a few.

Friday 2nd May

Luckily was up in time for Peter to deliver the topsoil which Ian had offered us earlier in the week – two dumper trucks worth. The weekly shop thus included some vegetable seeds, and indeed plants (sprouts, cabbage & callabrese) and in a fit of enthusiasm managed to start the vegetable plot by planting parsnip seeds in the afternoon (you can see the area where the fork is - quite a bit of digging to go). I’m following the “gourmet” plan in Joy Larkham’s book on growing vegetables – 4 narrow beds each 1m wide and 7m long, just digging up the bits I need. Too late for seed spuds this year though.

Sat 2nd May

Spend the morning helping with a beach clean at Machir Bay – managed a lorry load between only 6 of us which should raise some money for the Lifeboat. Lots of plastic bottles and especially rope and twine. Watched yet another football match at lunchtime (its that time of year) and tackled the flat pack chest of drawers in the afternoon. Decided after seeing the forecast that my first competitive round of golf would not be tomorrow morning, though I now have the membership bits and pieces.

Sunday 3rd May

Good call on the golf – first really wet day we’ve had. So put up almost all the remaining pictures and started to sort out the “office”. First though I helped our neighbour try to rescue a large tree like plant which she has in here house. This thing (don’t know what type) is about 10 feet high and looks like its in trouble, so it was re-potted between myself and a Swiss visitor. Bit of a messy operation and I suspect we might just have finished the thing off.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

The first hectic week

Monday 21st April

Continued to clear out the garage and put up more shelves. Had a chat to John about something to use as a water butt and also rough grass seeding for the plot – he will source the seed and sow it for me on the back of the tractor.

I went to the Bridge club in the evening to meet my partner for the big match at the weekend. The technology has changed since I last played with bidding cards etc, so it was a rapid learning curve. My partner, a retired major in his ‘80s, was great and very tolerant of my errors. We had a bad evening though with lots of funny hands with bad breaks. The only hand I played and made was the very last one!

Tuesday 22nd

Clearing out the garage, I decided that a trip to skip was justified with a completely full car. This meant I could buy the mushrooms required for tea, saw Kenny, our builder about a few items (and getting the keys he still had). I also filled up car (£1.29 a litre for diesel), in view of the impending Grangemouth refinery shutdown, and bought hollow wall fixing screws. In the evening, wrote some letters for dad to various building societies the (he has nothing in his name at this address yet which is proving a problem). Bronwen at special female choir practice - apparently in Gaelic choirs they have completely separate parts and the women have more to do for the upcoming local Mod.

Wednesday 23rd

Some overnight rain, (first since we got here), so decided to start to dig the bit of garden which will be the “lawn” (i.e the rough grass which I’ll bother to mow, photo shows what we're dealing with). Hard going and we gave up after a few hours and two wheelbarrow loads of rocks & stones. Put the first coat of paint on “shaker style” hooks for bathrooms, shelf for larder and the bit that was missed under the bath panel. No sign of BT so I rang the man in Cambeltown who said he’d chase it first thing in the morning. Had an admin evening sorting out tax stuff re our Preston house and wrote to the taxman about capital gain on dad’s house.

Thursday 24th

Phone call from BT – looks like something fell down a crack, however an hour later I’m told they will arrive tomorrow morning to complete the installation. Put a 2nd coat of paint on the hooks and shelf and was just leaving to meet the fish van when Argyll & Bute council arrived to assess the house for council tax. Left him to it and managed to get the fish van, though nearly got drafted onto the RE-JIG (recycling) committee while I waited.

Tackled putting up the drying pulley, but decided half way through on a better way of doing it – however don’t have enough long screws, so they are on the shopping list for tomorrow. We were just about to start digging the “lawn” again when Keith Farvis rang to arrange to come and see us, so spent a nice afternoon doing our local little walk over the hill behind the house and having tea. Keith and Helen, who are our first visitors from the mainland, are here for 5 days or so and are regular visitors to Islay. Bronwen at Choir in the evening, so dad and I watched the football.

Friday 25th

BT arrived nice and early, however it turned out that our internal wiring is faulty (ring wire is wrong, so the phone was not ringing). The BT man fixed one of the outlets so we have a working landline phone. I took my father for his first chat with the local doctor – and chat it turned out to be (no great rush here and he got a good 20 minutes with the doctor). I then chased up BT on the broadband front (it should happen by the end of next week) and arranged for Sky to install the satellite dish (should happen Tuesday). In the middle of all this the deadline for bids for selling dad’s house passed – and we had nine bids (highest I’ve ever heard of) and are very happy with the winning bid. Entry is wanted quickly though so Bronwen will have to return to Edinburgh a week earlier than planned, thus missing most of the Islay Whisky festival week.

The afternoon was taken up with the weekly shop, along with getting longer screws, a new doorbell, a chat to Kenny the builder, who just happened to have the electrician with him, so I had a chat about the telephone wiring (half hour to fix), and a return trip to the doctor to get part of dad’s prescription. It also turns out that the bathroom heater/towel rail we wanted is no longer manufactured, so we’ll need to select something else. Finished the day by cooking the sea bass I picked up at the fish van yesterday to a Rick Stein recipe and a nice bottle of wine. Photo shows our local shop/cafe.

Saturday 26th

Entire day given over to bridge for me. We had an excellent morning, lying 2nd at lunchtime, but could not keep up the mental effort in the afternoon and our mistakes cost us dearly. Still it was an excellent day against a combination of people from Hamilton and Dunoon bridge clubs, both of which have links to the Islay club going back some years. Bronwen meantime had a long chat with one of our new neighbours who called to invite us round, and was most amused that we out to dinner tonight with the bridge event, and Monday was bridge night and Thursday was choir night. We managed to leave the dinner just before the serious drinking was about to start (even won 2 bottles of wine in the raffle).

Sunday 27th

Cracking day weather wise, so after some gardening (on the “lawn” again, photo shows the locals waiting for the grass to appear) and another shelf put up, and the doorbell installed, I accompanied Bronwen on our bikes down to Portnahaven (9 miles or so), where she was going to the Gaelic church service. I pottered about meeting a couple of local cyclists and via one of them and the owner of the pub I was introduced to the golf club secretary, who will send me the necessary direct debit bumf – and promptly invited me to join the regular cronies who play Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Came back by the hillier west road and was interrupted by a call from the Sky engineer who was quizzing me about cables etc for the installation. He will now phone Bill, the electrician, to find out just what has been installed, sp he does not have to poke external cables through the walls.

That’s the end of week one, got to go and get the golf clubs cleaned up.


We, Bronwen and Scott Currie, have just moved (as of April 13th) to the island of Islay off the west coast of Scotland. The story of the building of our house was the subject of another blog, and this one is the follow on about our lives here. Like the house building one, this is intended more as a record for ourselves but if anyone else wants to read it fine. This one is open to anyone and I will review the other one to open it up shortly (when we get our own broadband installed).

It is largely mundane diary type stuff, but we want to record it!