Tuesday, August 28, 2012


It's been a busy few weeks since my last post.
 The camper van behaved well while I travelled around England and Scotland and during the last month or two, I've visited family and friends in Manchester, Yorkshire, Nottingham, Somerset, Derbyshire, Skye and Uist. It's been a very liberating experience just pottering around without time pressures or the need to find a hotel for the night and it's been lovely catching up with friends I've not seen for some time.
As always though, It's a great pleasure to return home after being away for a while and I love the feeling of approaching the croft, unlocking the back door of the house and wandering around upstairs and downstairs to find that nothing has changed in my absence.
It takes just a couple of hours to get the stove on, rooms warmed up and water heated before the house starts to feel cosy again and begins to acquire a feeling of homeliness and the smell of occupation.

When I'm away, I always feel slightly guilty that the birds are not being fed, but the twenty or so Rock Doves that use my bird table usually return within a day or two as they fly over and see seed on the table again. I'm fairly sure that the doves that visit me roost under the spans of the bridge at Great Bernera, which is about a mile away as the crow flies and fifteen miles by road - not that the birds travel here by road.

When the house was being renovated four years ago, I had endless problems with tradesmen, particularly plumbers and joiners, who let me down repeatedly by failing to turn up to do the job,  producing poor quality work, arriving drunk and inflating the price quoted to me. I thought all that was behind me, but I now find I seem to be going through a similar experience again.
A couple of years ago, I found myself sufficiently financially recovered from the house renovation to start thinking about turning my attention to the croft and garden area in front of the house. Much of the croft fencing, having had no attention for 30 or 40 years, now needs replacing. As a consequence of working full time though, breaking my leg badly and difficulties in finding contractors who wanted to do the work, I lost momentum and failed to get the job done.
Having retired and feeling much better now, I decided last week to get on with organising the refencing of the croft, with the aim of keeping out stray sheep and cattle, keeping sheep of my own and being a good neighbour. Using a list of approved contractors given to me by the Scottish Agriculture College office, I phoned the first company, who advertise regularly in all the  local papers. They seemed keen and we arranged for the man to come and prepare an estimate at 4pm last Saturday afternoon. It's Tuesday now and I'm still waiting for him to arrive or contact me with an excuse for not turning up. I also phoned a second contractor two days ago and left a message on his voicemail asking him to contact me if he was interested in doing the work. He has not replied and I have an overwhelming feeling of 'here we go again'. The fencing is not a small job. It needs about 700 metres of replacement fence and several gates, so will be fairly lucrative for whoever eventually does the work.
More reliably, an aquaintance, who is a landscape architect, is preparing a plan for me to turn the area in front of the house into a garden that will make the world gasp with admiration. The idea is that I will follow his plan/suggestions to create the garden during the next year or two with the fantasy that I will open it to visitors under the open garden scheme for charity, in about 3 years time. Well, It's a good thing to have goals, even unrealistic ones.  

On the wildlife front, another dead Minke whale was  washed up here yesterday, on the beach at Port of Ness, in the North of Lewis. This creature is about 8 metres long and while washed up whales are not uncommon throughout these islands, they do seem to be occurring with increasing frequency in recent years.

Finally, It's now less than two weeks before I become a student again and start my Archaeology course. Pencils are sharpened, text books purchased and the first symptoms of self doubt are beginning to intrude in on me. I woke up in the middle of last night consumed with thoughts about being too old, not being able to keep up with the youngsters and doubting whether I will be able to take in and remember all the course material. I know it's silly and I am looking forward to beginning a newlife, but I can't help feeling anxious about it just the same.