WAITING FOR BREAKFAST
First of all, the good news. I now have a new grandson, born fit and well at 4:30am on Christmas Eve. For those who are interested in this sort of thing, he was 8lb 6oz at birth and mother and child are both healthy. The poor mite will probably regret having his birthday at Christmas when it comes to presents, but we will have to ensure that he doesn't lose out.
I took three weeks off work over Christmas and New Year, to visit family and friends and do my yearly shopping on the mainland- Shoes, clothes, household goods and an annual pilgrimage to B&Q for DIY stuff- all for items either not available here on the Island or for which there is very little choice.
As expected, the weather was dreadful when I left home and it took me three days to drive the 700+ miles to my sisters home in Sussex. A lovely Christmas was followed by a nasty dose of flu. By that time, I'd moved to stay for a few days with a friend who lives on a canal narrowboat and spent most of my time there lying in bed overdosing on paracetamol and lemsip.
To my great surprise though, I did eventually recover and started to work my way home again, with some anxiety.
Before I left Lewis, the oil central heating boiler had broken down and there was a problem with the ball valve in the cold water tank, causing a permanent overflow. Both the central heating engineer and the plumber had promised to turn up before Christmas, but neither of them materialised, leaving me in the lurch. Consequently, when I left here for the holidays, I had no choice but to turn the heating and water main off, when the temperature outside was -8 degrees.
On the way back home, I couldn't help but be consumed with worry about the prospect of returning to find burst pipes and floods throughout the ground floor.
Fortunately, by some miracle, no pipes had burst, although the house was incredibly cold.
Within a day or two of getting home last week, I managed to get reliable plumbers and heating engineers to come and sort out the boiler and ball valve and all was well again for a while. Unfortunately, the boiler has broken down once more and the only working heating I have just now is the solid fuel stove in the sitting room and a small electric fan heater.
To make matters worse, I went into the shed when I got home and found the electric plug to the freezer was sat on the workbench and not in the socket, where it should have been. I have vague memories of removing the plug and using my electric sander just before Christmas and I can only assume that I forgot to plug the freezer back in when I finished. Predictably, the contents of the freezer - 2 complete lambs, a whole salmon and a side of venison - had defrosted while I was away and were completely inedible and had to be disposed of. By good fortune though, the weather was so cold while I was in the South that the meat had not rotted and clearing the mess up was not too much of a problem.
It's been one thing after another then since I got back, but in spite of these tribulations, it was such a pleasure to return home. I love this house and croft and always feel a sense of mild excitement when I arrive home after being away for a while.
Sadly, the birds seem to have suffered during the freezing weather while I was away. I did have a resident Blackbird, Wren and Robin, but the Wren and Robin have disappeared and I fear that they may have succumbed and died. The Rock Doves and Starlings are still plentiful though and the Ravens and local Buzzard are visiting the croft daily in search of food.
Away from the Chateau, life carries on.
An RAF Tornado crashed into the Minch a few days ago, but mercifully, both pilots managed to eject, were rescued quickly and have survived with only minor injuries.
Following Calmac's successful establishing of a Sunday ferry service from Stornoway to Ullapool last year, the company is now attempting to impose a regular Sunday service on the Tarbert, Harris to Uig, Skye ferry. There is much opposition from the good citizens of Harris, but they will have to fight fairly hard if they hope to keep Sunday special and the ferry in the harbour.
Several of the primary schools earmarked for closure on Lewis and Harris have been reprieved by the Government, which is excellent news, but the Government has blotted its copybook by failing to support the bid by Harris to achieve National Park status, which would have brought great economic benefit to the area.