Sunday, July 20, 2008


This is quite possibly the last flower picture of the year, so make the most of it.

The house. Oh dear. The tiler has been given notice to quit his rented house because his landlord wants it back for his own family. Consequently, the tiler, who has a young family, is understandably much more concerned with finding a new home than with my kitchen and bathroom. The work has ground to a halt again and I may have to search for someone else to finish the job - an almost impossible task here just now. Whilst the rest of the UK building industry seems to be going into terminal meltdown, builders and tradesman here have probably never been busier. The explosion of house building continues and it's quite difficult to find a village anywhere here that doesn't have new builds springing up in every corner. Still not absolutely sure what this is all about. These islands are too remote, too time consuming and expensive to travel to to attract many second holiday home owners with no connections here. Unlike Cornwall, the Lake District or the Cotswolds, it's not practical to bring a family here for regular weekends unless you're very well heeled. Many houses being built now seem to be for islanders who have made their way in the world, often offshore and are returning to work or to retire. Some crofters are selling off pieces of their land as house building plots to the highest bidders . There is a year on year increase in the number of incomers from England, Central Scotland and the EU, who escape to here for a better quality of life for themselves and their families. New arrivals are welcomed by most, but there are undercurrents of complaint that the islands are being taken over by outsiders, who are sometimes blamed for hastening the end of Gaelic culture and language.

Some good news is that the bedrooms, landing and stairs were carpeted this week, so the upper floor is now comfortable and usable. I can't start to decorate downstairs though, or have the flooring fitted, because I can't find a plasterer to skim the ceilings or decorator to paper the ceilings as an alternative.

Brother in law has now gone home for a rest after working himself into the ground for a week. He painted doors tirelessly, but his greatest use was as a shifter to help me take old fridges, washing machines and cookers from the shed to the tip, which I couldn't have managed alone. Have invited him back next week, but in spite of being well fed and watered whilst here, he doesn't seem very interested.

It's the Hebridean Celtic Music Festival this week and thousands of visitors have arrived to listen to musicians including Julie Fowlis, Saw Doctors, Red Hot Chilli Pipers and lots of local Gaelic singers. The headliners perform in a big blue tent in the Castle grounds, but there are many other festival concerts held in village halls and other venues all over the island. I went to see a wonderful band called the Hunger Mountain Boys a couple of days ago and would have gone to more concerts if this wretched house renovation was not pre occupying me so much.The festival creates a real buzz about the place and is probably the cultural highlight of the year, although there are lots of other good reasons and events to travel here for at any time.

The owner of the Macleod Motel at Tarbert in Harris is having extensive refurbishment work done and was concerned about loss of trade while his bar is shut. Being an enterprising character, he came up with the solution of buying an inflatable pub - really - which is now on site and is inflated and let down daily. Locals and tourists alike seem to love it and he's doing a roaring trade in hen and stag parties.

Following his recent 2-3 hour trip to Lewis to visit his family home, Donald Trump has been embraced as an esteemed member of the local community and has been made an Honorary Life Member of Stornoway golf club. Mr T has accepted this honour and indicated that he may play a round of golf on the course if he visits again in the future. This must make the golf club committee writhe with anticipation and excitement. I expect they will be offering similar membership to local care workers, bin men and fire fighters in the near future to demonstrate impartiality.

Fuel price watch.

I heard someone on the telly a few days ago whingeing that the cost of diesel on the uk mainland now averages £1:32 per Litre. We are much luckier than that and now have the privilege of being able to pay £1:49 per litre. What makes buying fuel more fun here is that no petrol station has the usual illuminated boards that show the prices before you drive on to the forecourt, so it's not easily possible to compare, unless you drive up to a succession of pumps and then drive off again. That is something of a pointless exercise though because limited competition leads to all of the petrol stations charging much the same prices.

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