Saturday, November 03, 2007

Good progress with the house this week. The builders have now laid new concrete floors in most of the downstairs rooms and have started to reline walls and ceilings. The place is just a shell at present but I'm hoping that an ugly duckling will turn into a very fine swan when the house is finished. Having to learn to live with minimum communications in the temporary rented flat, 'cos there's no mobile phone reception and the best television picture is pure snow. Feels like an austere existence just now, but there are compensations. The Uig district of Lewis, where the flat is, is very remote and extremely beautiful. The house is surrunded by hills and this is Golden Eagle country. On arriving in Lewis, I had two unfulfilled ambitions. One was to see eagles at close quarters.They can regularly be seen soaring from half a mile away, but that doesn't count as a real sighting in my book. So, picture the scene. There I was at eight o'clock this morning, standing at the kitchen door with coffee in hand, when the sky darkened. Looked up to see that day hadn't turned to night, but a pair of eagles were circling just two or three hundred feet away above the hill at the back of the house. Amazing sight. These birds are so impressively big, with wing spans of eight feet or so. Managed to grab the binoculars and watch them for about ten minutes before they flew off to hunt down the valley.
The other ambition, sadly not yet realised, is to fly into Barra in the Southern Isles. Barra is a lovely small island at the bottom of the Hebridean chain and has the distinction of having the only airport on the planet with daily scheduled flights which use the beach as a runway. The timetable changes according to the state of the tides and the plane, a British Airways Twin Otter, often throws up spray as it lands. The pilots make the choice of three approaches depending on wind and other weather. Very elemental! Folks who have done this flight tell me it's one of the great experiences of life to fly into Barra. I've often watched the plane land from the warmth and cosyness of the terminal building cafe with envy. Well, the day came this week when I found I had to go to Barra to do some work and the flight was booked with considerable excitement on my part. I usually go to Barra in my car and cross from Eriskay to Barra by ferry, but It's a long journey from here and not a good use of time, when there's a work deadline to meet. So there I was at Stornoway airport on Thursday, in decent weather, when the pilot came in to say he didn't think the plane would fly because of claggy conditions over Benbecula, where the plane goes first. Crossed my fingers and waited in the airport lounge for two hours to see if conditions improved, but regrettably, the pilot decided not to fly. A real disappointment, but the good news is that I'm rebooked on the flight to Barra next Thursday.

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