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17 October 2014


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January …….. oh January. By Pilot, 1970 something. The B side sounded like the Beatles, but I forget what it was now.

January means two things, the end of Christmas, and the start of Spring (I am an eternal optomist).

Last night we enjoyed the end of Christmas by opening a box of Quality Street. We ate half of them, but it wasn’t a very big box so we weren’t being very greedy, just one of those upright ones that are handy to say ‘thank you’ (or, as this box said, Happy Christmas). As usual the rubbishy chocolates came out first, which was why we had to go on eating them. Eventually we had had enough, and folded the lid back, which was when we read the box. I have a long history of box-reading. I don’t remember not being able to read ‘thiamin, niacin and riboflavin’ from the Cornflakes box, although no-one ever told me what they were, they were obviously a ‘good thing’. (My favourite current boxes to read are the Innocent Smoothie cartons, with the line ‘if we don’t, you can tell out Mums’) The Quality Street box had a panel on recycling. The coloured plastic outer layer on the wrapper is not plastic, and it can go in the compost bin. The tin foil bit can’t, it needs to go in with the drinks and dog-food cans. The cardboard box can be recycled with other paper and card, although we will put it in the compost bin. There is a small triangular clear window on the box. This isn’t recyclable, it needs to be torn out and put in the rubbish bin. Now, in ’sales-speak’, trying to attract customers with shiny flashy stand-out products the Quality Street box probably works quite well, but now I know how fussy it is to de-construct for recycling I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather start with something simpler, so it may not be the sales ploy they hope it is.

Moving on to Spring, January is seed catalogue month. I don’t need any more seeds. Did I tell you that last year? It’s still true. Nice Mr Fothergills sent me a £10 voucher I can use if I spend £30. I was very good. I did not buy seeds. But the potatoes were very tempting, and I have a sure-fire way of growing great strawberries in polystyrene fish boxes, except I didn’t have any strawberry plants, and my lemon bush had died so I needed another, and if they were sending all that I might as well get the 3 for 2 offer on blueberries so I spent a tad more than £30, although with the random weather and boats I’m no longer sure when the letter actually went. Last weekend was very good weather. We ripped out bramble bushes and measured the broken polytunnel and made big plans, and I sowed a few seeds. It is absolutely ludicrous to sow tomatoes this early, even in a propagator, but I have lots of tomato seed (did I tell you I don’t need any more seeds?) and I only sowed a pinch. Honest! More sensibly, I also sowed onions, rocket, broad beans, sweet peas, and a few seeds from four different, very old packets of leek seeds, just in case they were okay, because if they aren’t I may have an excuse to buy seeds. So far there isn’t a sign of a leek, but the onions and rocket had germinated after three days, closely followed by the sweet peas. The tomatoes are probably waiting for February because they are more sensible than I am, but the rocket is beautiful. It may only be a quarter of an inch high but it carries so much hope and anticipation on its tiny leaves. Remember, happiness is a pot of just-germinated seedlings.

I was just wondering if anyone visited here any more?
Anyone there?
Posted on NiconColl at 23:13

I am SOOO lucky

Yup. Lucky lucky lucky. I was supposed to go away today (back to the other pub). I have been packing for some time. We got the call to say the boat was only coming once today (normally it calls here, goes on to Tiree, calls back here and then goes to Oban. This is especially important in the winter as we only get two boats in the working week and it gives a two hour slot for deliveries/workmen (we have Coll International as well now). One call makes loading the boat tricky logistically). Anyhow, today was going to be a one boat day.

We are there at nine. There is a lot of wind. The tide is high (Blondie). Actually the tide is very high, water is crashing over the pier where the pier ratings stand to catch the ropes from the boat. I wonder (very quietly to myself) how much I would want to be paid to do that today. A very few hardy souls are optimistically hoping the boat gets in. A few half-hopes it won't and the rest are just down to see the fun. The boat appears out of the murk a long way out and very slowly sails past the pier, it slowly turns round, creeping closer. The waves crash over the pier again and the boat zooms past the pier back to Oban with the wind behind it. And very wise too, some days are just too dangerous. We rush into the office to re-book for Saturday before Tiree finds out and fills the boat up first (passengers originally booked for Saturday get priority).

I have an unexpected free day. I ring the pub and explain, I feel guilty, it should be John's day off. The phone rings, it is the pier. There is a extra boat on Friday, would I like to transfer my booking. Yes please, thank you very much. The boat will be in at nine, I need to be there at 8-30. I smell a rat. The boat will go on to Tiree. And then Barra!! It gets to Oban at 8-40pm. Eleven hours 40 minutes on a Calmac ferry. Nothing to do but eat Calmac breakfast, Calmac lunch, Calmac supper and feel sea sick. I have never been to Barra, although sometimes I can see it on the horizon. If I am lucky I might have to drive off and back on again, I could stand on Barra soil. I could even order a curry as a change to all the Calmac food. I have decided. I am going to Barra. I am SOOO lucky.

Weather permitting.
Posted on NiconColl at 21:31

Not Moved Yet

Haven't moved yet. I will, but soon, not quite now. Part of me thinks IB is all about those who write and comment, and then I go down the pub and meet a load of folk who just read. I'm not sure how many of my personal readers will cross over, and anyway, at the moment I want to write, not wrestle with logic, and I'm already peeved because IB has not published my last blog, and I've lost this one when I went to play with some pics (I know, there is a 'save' button but I didn't use it) and I had some great lines in here which were really funny and now they are lost forever where-ever it is lost pixels hang out at.

So, to repeat myself, 2008 will be remembered as the Christmas of the cheese. There was a slight surplus of cheese over the festive period. At the moment there is still leftover cheese in our fridge. There is white Stilton (because he doesn't like blue cheese), Dolcelatta (because I do), brie (banished to the microwave because it is making the fridge smell, and for a long while we blamed the Stilton) and some more recent Cheddar (because we needed normal cheese for a change). Once upon a time there was the cheese I bought before Christmas to eat at the mother-in-law's, but we ate too much turkey and didn't finish the cheese and had to take it away. This was added to by the cheese our friends supplied while we were visiting them in the wood in Essex. Two lots of friends so two lots of cheese! They had friends who visited. They ate some cheese but also bought some, so every time we opened the cheese box(es) to consume some cheese when it was time to put it away there was more of it. Small squares with rind and sticky wrappers which were always too small to cover it, even though there was only half as much as there was when it was unwrapped!

Men with Cheese

In between eating cheese we felled a few trees. We had a new toy to try out this year. We have been playing in this wood in Essex for about fifteen years now, originally using chainsaws and muscle power. A gizmo and a VERY BIG chainsaw appeared and is used to mill the bigger logs into planks and two years ago a very old dumper truck appeared. This revolutionised the log moving and for two years we have been building a very impressive wall of four foot long logs along the ride near the gate. Various raids on this has supplied a lot of firewood to London and Coll and several places in between. Our earlier piles of logs were carried to small random heaps and in many cases were abandoned to the brambles, although this year was frosty enough for a car to rescue many of them. However the saw logs had to be converted where they fell, and although the dumper made this easier we dream of having a dedicated saw area. Three years ago a friend (no cheese) lent us a log arch and since then various plans have been drawn on envelopes and a defunct boat trailer has been measured several times. However, another friend (still no cheese) is moving his timber business to France, and thought it would be easier to build a new log arch there, so donated his old one to the good of the wood. And it is brilliant. Two of us (fortified by cheese) can move a nine foot long, two foot diameter beech log quite easily. The most difficult bit is getting the first chain under the log halfway along it, then connect it to the log arch frame, think heavy (think more cheese), jump/lean on the shaft and the log lifts up, another chain underneath and it can be pushed about by two people. A nice quiet job involving two people working as a team and doing something pretty impressive.

OK OK, I admit it, we towed it with the dumper, it was quicker (and noisier and smellier and men like their mechanical toys) but it did push quite easily on the frosty ground.

It is still a wonderful piece of kit, and because it needed new tyres, and because they came on new wheels, and because they were too wide there are two plywood spacers to stop the tyres rubbing on the frame. Wood is such wonderful stuff!

And on the last day I almost started the dumper. Two of us were getting quite frustrated at not being able to start it, so we were taking it in turns, one turns the handle, one moves the compression lever over, and at last, it fired. I was on the compression lever, timing is everything you know, and it was 50% my start.
Posted on NiconColl at 23:07

Book Club

Book Club has picked up for the winter. The best meeting was obviously the one held here, with just one other person (I'm not taking it personally, although it took a long time to eat all the cheese). There have been three meetings since. I missed two of them (living it up elsewhere) but made it to the last one, although I hadn't read the book. I have now, it was a quick read (Willie Hogg by Robin somebody. It was bought second hand from a fish, chip and book shop somewhere way up north. It smelt of chips when it arrived and we are very curious as to whether books or chips are the mainstay of the business). I was asked what I was reading, but once I answered 'science fiction' everyone tried to change the subject. I'm re-reading all my Isaac Asimov books because I admire the way he joined his Robot stories with his Trantor and Foundation novels, although his style grates a bit and after three of his books I need a change. I've borrowed 'All Quiet on the Western Front' which was one of the books I missed reading. The next book is 'The Reader' - by Bernhard Schlink. At the moment it is sitting in my Amazon shopping basket while I try to justify hitting my wishlist at Christmas.
Elsewhere on Coll it is very wet. It is so wet the lakes have ponds and the ponds have puddles. The young pigs are the same colour (mud colour) and Mr Pig hides in his house. The same house Mrs Pig gathers reeds for to make his bed. The white sheep are almost the same colour as the black sheep and they are so heavy they waddle up for their food (Mr Pig gallops across, spraying water everywhere). The house has a wet bit of carpet and I am fed up of walking on it with my socks on and even the dog with the sponge coat can't mop up any more liquid. At least we don't have one of those lo-flush toilets which are so mean with water they don't quite do the job properly!
Posted on NiconColl at 15:52

Brave New World

I have visited the New World (not mjc's world) and now I'm confused (dot com). Am being thicker than normal (thicker than a home-knitted jersey made from handspun wool and then put in a too hot wash so it shrinks and the arms stick out sideways) or is it not all there yet. I don't want to be impatient but I go back into exile tomorrow for another long week and the **ap top doesn't always work and it is costing me a fortune in Rum and diet cokes for my new geek to keep it on the straight and narrow. I found and a page came up (not in red, but I will learn to like that) but I couldn't see where to create myself or read comments or other blogs. Am I jumping the gun and expecting too much too soon (sorry)?
However, I found another thewhitesettler. I couldn't find any comments there either, but perhaps that's a blessing in disguise.

Because of this blog you have been denied the interesting saga of putting up IKEA curtains. The world gets better every day.
Posted on NiconColl at 16:16

It must be Flying Cat's Bus

Two blogs in one night (spam fritter willing), almost as good as two guys for every girl.
However, I thought I'd shove in my thoughts on 'the end of blogging as we know it'. I was lucky enough to be included in the first group of islands to be part of IB, and mad enough to be one of the early bloggers. Mike from IB was very persuasive (and patient with my ignorant questions), and a dab hand at pool as well. To be honest I didn't see the point at all, but we had this new computer (courtesy of the Scottish Exec) and it wasn't getting enough exercise so I gave blogging a go and since then it has swallowed hours of (mostly winter) time, hugely expanded my idea of 'what a friend is', and been a bit upsetting on a couple of occasions. (Words don't always say what they were meant to) Meeting/discovering Gary from Tobermory Tales and Pondhead, both of Mull made Mull a real place instead of just a view (a very nice view, but very one-dimensional) and Island Wanderer added to my neighbourly feelings to Tiree. I can be very resistant to change and am ashamed to admit to a bit of jealousy when IB expanded, it was Argyll's and very nice as it was, but it got better. Flying Cat, Trevor, Tws (in all his guises), Arnish, Fred blog, Calumannabel - Lewis in blogland is so different to my perception of Lewis from TV. As well as more mad bloggers there were also even madder commenters, and a regular commenter is probably more of a mate than a blogger. Especially some of my staunch defenders. Back at the beginning Mike said Island blogging was about building a community. I didn't understand what he meant at all then, I do now, and I know it happened.
I could take my urge to write away to another site, and lost in the anonymity of the big world could probably write loads of stuff I wouldn't dare put on IB, and it might be very funny, in a cruel sort of way, but it would lack the friendliness, the 'don't lock the car' feeling of IB, which is the island way. And I don't want to stop being part of a group of people united in the way we a) criticise and praise Calmac in the same sentence (sorry Northern Isles, you have a similar cross to bear), b) get frustrated when Gail and Heather stand in front of the weather they are trying to forecast or c) know single track roads are normal, as are private water supplies and knowing all your neighbours too well for sanity. So if Barney or someone else can move us en masse out into the independent world count me in, and we will have become what we were supposed to be; an independent community not needing handouts any more. Thank you Mike and Richard, Carol, and all the moderators in between (daren't risk naming some in case of missing some out), you did it, job done!
Posted on NiconColl at 23:00

A Lost Bonfire Blog

The Spam Fritter thought it had claimed this blog forever, but ve haf vays ov rescuing blogs (sometimes), so I'm going to resubmit it again (it has been hidden away in the 'processing clinic').

Last night (Thursday (several Thursdays ago now)) was Bonfire Night. It was supposed to be Saturday (High schoolers are home then) but plans change on Coll with the weather, and the weather forecasts. When we aren't talking about the weather we are talking about weather forecast sites; we are complete weather freaks! Anyway, all the best Coll events have back-up (or forward-up dates). However, for burger van drivers it meant a more drastic change of plan, as I was due to flit back to my other pub on Saturday and wasn't expecting to be there at all. So defrosting rolls and checking the ketchup was easy, but a tyre had gone flat so that meant a trip to the village to borrow a compressor. Half an hour later (and a cup of tea) I left with a foot pump; the compressor was needed to remove the back chassis on a landrover. On the plus side the foot pump was lighter and easier to set up, and it had a handy guage telling me when there was enough air in the tyre. Also it might increase my heart rate in a healthy way and if I counted twenty pumps with each foot it would help my arithmetic, except it kept falling over on pump 16. At 25 psi there was an audible hissing from the tyre. Not a good sign! A quick visual inspection and my untrained eye (and hand) discovered the sidewall of the tyre was badly split and chucking out air quicker than my foot could pump it in. However, plan B included using the spare, which had a shiny new cross ply tyre on (I thought they were obsolete, wrong again). Never buy a burger van trailer on price, if you go for a cheap model it will irritate endlessly. So to change the wheel, first deflate the tyre, otherwise it won't tilt sideways enough to come free. Out comes all the fresh hard-pumped-in-air and off comes the wheel. Then deflate the spare, this is OK, it was pumped up in Oban by someone else, but once it is 'persuaded' on it is back on the footpump again. I put in an 'acceptable' amount of air, and promised the tyre it could have the rest courtesy of the petrol station compressor (left full out of hours - but diesel is £1.57).
So down in the village at the bonfire, that is, parked at the bottom of a big rock with the action above, I was terribly popular until I admitted to not enough burgers. Or rolls. Or to not having any water for tea and hot chocolate, fortunately the generator came to my rescue and ran out of petrol (£1.3?) so I had nothing of anything left.
The fireworks were noisy, bits were colourful, but to get the best out of fireworks they are best not watched (or at least, not seen) from inside a burger van; next year I am going to rent it out to under-fives who would rather be not so close to the action. Back at the top of the rock the bonfire had slumped to a very hot glowing pile. A significant part had been the old 'Climbing frame/Pirate ship' from the play park and as it reached the glowing charcoal stage it was easy to see the number of nails needed in construction - they were the dark straight lines in the multi-oranged glowing heap. (In construction I am a screw fan, preferably stainless)
And from the rock, looking down over the village, I offered my opinion that the village looked quite large; with all the lights on I thought it looked a prosperous optimistic place. However, from an Isle of Man view-point, it is still small.
Posted on NiconColl at 22:00

The Wisdom Tooth

The appointment day finally arrived. I had wangled a lift to Oban. The bus was either going to be one hour too early, or twenty minutes too late, so the lift was much appreciated.
Ten o'clock.
I was directed up to the day ward but fortunately they didn't suggest getting into bed. The nurse took my blood pressure, it was very normal. I had a book (Mudbound - very good) and two cups of tea and several warnings that it was being a bit slow.
Eventually I was transferred to the theatre ward. I'm still in a chair but I have left the book behind, there isn't much to left read and I can tell something bad is going to happen to Ronsel. A man in overalls walks past clutching a drill and masonry bit, I hope he isn't the dentist.
It happens, I have to lie on a trolley. I want to see where I am going, they want me to lie dowm and keep my elbows in.
I am wheeled into theatre and connected up to the blood pressure machine and some kind of monitor is put on my finger. I am covered in a blue cloth (to catch the blood?) and warned to keep my eyes shut when they turn on the bright lights (the bright lights are very bright). My mouth is jabbed with local anaesthetic, but it is far enough away from my lips so I don't go through the 'can't drink because of dribbling stage' later. The dentist asks me to move my jaw this way, I have my eyes shut but fortunately guess which is the right way. There is a crunching noise and I realise the tooth has broke and it is going to be a big job, but they turn the bright lights off and remove the blue cloth; it has no blood on it at all. My tooth is much smaller than I expected.
I have a thick piece of antisceptic string hanging out of my mouth to soak up any blood and am wheeled through a door clearly marked not to be used for trolleys with patients. I keep my elbows well-tucked in. In the recovery room I am allowed to get off the trolley and back onto a chair. They take my blood pressure again. The piece of antisceptic string is removed and my tongue explores the new contours of my mouth.
I walk back to the day ward. They don't take my blood pressure. I wait for a prescription: mouthwash and paracetamol.
I leave the hospital.
I scoot round Tesco and buy chocolate and a french stick and catch the bus. The anaesthetic has worn off but I am not going to need the paracetamol, in fact I feel well enough to test the Pipers Gold all evening.
In conclusion, this particular wisdom tooth couldn't have been more accommodating if it had tried.
Posted on NiconColl at 13:26

Friday 14

I'm away from home again, although coming back here felt familiar and comfortable. I brought my wellies (and a lighter fleece) so I can explore the muddy tracks this time. Yesterday was very rainy but Cabin Fever kicked in (I really miss having to go out and feed the pigs) so I walked along the North Road, which is very puddly, and did a bit of splashing, and re-arranged the streams of water running off the hill and along the track. The fallen leaves provided plenty of dam material and I felt the years fall away. The previous night we had a discussion on how not to act ones age, so I'm trying to do something juvenile more often. Then it was up a footpath to join the (not very) main road back to the village. Dumped on the grass are two probably commercial cookers. I hope they weren't dumped from where I'm working. I would like to say my first thought was how stupid to dump stuff in such a nice (but very wet) place, but actually my initial reaction was to admire the very fine beefy castors, which showed up quite clearly because they are up-side-down. I'm trying very hard to not borrow a spanner to liberate them, because I have no use for them, but they look so useful.

Walking back down the hill I am struck again how odd the village looks. It is a 'new' village, a bit like Stevenage although not built with tax-payers money, and must have been designed by a prophet who had known Balamory was going to happen. I was putting postcards in the post-box outside the shop (postcards are the original email, a message that cheers you up and doesn't need an immediate reply) when I noticed the postbox is a Queen Victoria one. How does a new village get an old postbox, or was it specially requested to add some authenticity? There isn't a war memorial, which isn't that surprising as most of the houses are holiday homes but it got me wondering how new towns cope with adding that kind of civic building. A war memorial with no names, waiting for the first new resident to be killed in action would be rather depressing, but not having somewhere to remember the fallen would also be rather odd.

The novelty of a new newspaper everyday is wearing a bit thin, but there isn't much else to do apart from splash in puddles and pour pints. There is a sudoku blog to come, but I have abondoned trying to read all the serious articles, and now I just flick through the headlines. Yesterdays headline was 'Ferry held in Custody'. Customs might want to hold a fancy yacht if they suspected drugs, but ferries are normally public vehicles so I read the article, and was disappointed to discover it was Bryan Ferry's son, and not a Calmac ferry.
Posted on NiconColl at 17:46

Back home

It's good to be home.
I got a lift to Oban in a normal rattly car and I didn't feel car sick at all. (While I was away and the laptop wasn't talking to the internet I had a weekend away from being away, which involved a two hour drive, with three stops so I could re-arrange the contents of my stomach. One downside of living on (in?) a very small island is I have lost my being driven tolerance and need to do a Snoopy act and hang my head out of the window or feel awful.)
In Oban, once I had raided the bookshop for reading matter and the deli for cheese (it is bookclub on Sunday and it is my turn to be host and supply food), I reluctantly headed for Tesco. I dislike supermarkets on principle (principal?) but it is the best place to meet people and I didn't want to eat alone that night. I sat in the cafe bit nursing my coffee until I felt far too sad and had to go shopping (for more cheese, and a pineapple (we have volunteers this week and give them fruit salad on the first night)). Three circuits of Tescos later, ruthlessly filling and changing the contents of my basket (because my b&b is a trek from the ferry and my case doesn't have wheels and I was watching the weight of my rucksack) I sadly concluded I was the only person I knew going to Coll tomorrow, and it was eat alone or don't eat. By now my basket was very heavy but at the top were 4 half-price croissants and some double choc chip muffins. The croissants were very light and if I ate the choc chip muffins they would be easier to carry so I decided to skip a proper meal.
Back at the b&b I packed and re-packed my bag, rucksack and laptop bag and tried not to drop chocolate crumbs on the bed. I wanted the heavy stuff on my back and the light bulky stuff in the bag, but the only way it was going to fit was if I ate four pounds of cheese or wore six layers. When I go back I am not (am NOT) taking that coat, it has been nothing but a nuisance!

I didn't eat the cheese, but I was very hot by the time I got on the boat the next morning.
Posted on NiconColl at 20:46

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