Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Happy New Year folks.
The holiday was over far too quickly and there was not enough time to spend with all the people I wanted to see. It was lovely seeing family and to have the opportunity to do some serious bonding with my grandaughter. I did enjoy seeing friends and exchanging gossip, news, triumphs and failures that have occurred in our lives since last meeting. It's easy to pick up the threads with old friends and to forget that it is now over two years since I arrived in these Islands.
Talking of failures, my heart sank when I got back to the house on Saturday. Not a jot of work has been done since I left the Island before Christmas. Phoned the builder, who was embarrassed to tell me that the latest plumber, the third, has not turned up, and like the first electrician, seems to have gone missing. Back to square one. Although there is still a fair bit of work the builder can do just now, the absence of a plumber to install the bathroom, oil central heating and kitchen pipework is something of a blow. All this seems to be the consequence of it being a sellers market here. A large amount of houses are currently being built on Lewis and there are not enough tradesmen, especially electricians and plumbers, to go round. Colleagues at work tell me that they have been waiting months to have quite urgent repair work done, so I suppose I'll just have to join the queue.Still, the weather is decent, the birds are flying and pressures at work are not too great.
So there I was, sat at at the kitchen table on Sunday morning listening to the radio, when I looked up to see a beautiful russet coloured long tailed field mouse sat on top of the curtain rail, looking at me hungrily. Whilst I do understand that these creatures belong in the fields and not in the house, it was raining outside, so I decided not to evict it immediately. The beast seemed utterly unperturbed at my presence and after a few minutes, I managed to get it to eat small chunks of the very finest Scottish Cheddar from my hand. St Francis eat your heart out. The mouse disappeared during the morning - at about the time the Archers theme music started - Tum ti Tum ti Tum Ti Tum- So we'll see if it returns. Incidentally, my landlady tells me that the garden birds have become so tame that she is able to feed thrushes and a robin on her outstretched hand.
Anybody even vaguely interested in Outer Hebridean flora and fauna might want to look up http://www.western-isles-wildlife.co.uk/. The section headed 'Recent Sightings' usually lists a variety of rarities spotted by enthusiastic souls with nothing better to do than take expert pictures of birds most of us are never likely to see, or recognise if we do. Another Hebridean birding website worth looking up is http://www.heb.birding.org.uk/.
One unexpected arrival here was a forty foot dead sperm whale washed up on a beach at South Dell on the Westside of Lewis last week. Although whale sightings and corpses are quite common, they always attract a lot of attention and cause the Environmental Health Department a bit of a headache in disposing of them, particularly if the dead animal is a large one. Because of the remote position where the whale was beached, the local council have now decided to leave it exactly where it is in the hope that Winter storms will take it back out to sea.For those desperate to see photos of this whale, go to the Western Isles Wildlife link above and look for recent sightings for 30 December.
Would be Robinson Crusoes will enjoy the website at http://www.boreray-island.co.uk/. Boreray is a 500 acre island in the sound of Harris, West of Berneray and about 4 miles North of North Uist. The island is occupied by one man, who seems to eke out an existence by keeping Hebridean sheep and letting out a holiday cottage in the summer months. I've never met this man, but his island looks stunning and I'm quite envious of his life, although not keen to have that degree of permanent isolation myself.

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