Second Foot Forward


That’s how to start the day. Put one foot down, the second foot forward … and away you go. It’s easier if there’s a routine to follow – at least until breakfast is done. Our lives are a patchwork of routines, or rather a patchwork that’s never quite put together – lots of blocks, but still no bed cover. Thank heavens, it’s the bits in-between – where we improvise, where life is most interesting. That said, even the patchwork blocks vary from day.

Here’s this morning. Up when it was still dark, moon sailing high.

Moon over the Sound of Eriskay

After ablutions and breakfast, I will – at this time of year, certainly – spend some time checking emails, re-working the task-lists, catching up with facebook, looking out for when it’s light enough to go and feed the livestock. If it’s light enough to drive with out headlights, then it’ll be light enough to see my way around at the croft.  It’s three and a half miles to the croft, a third of that on the causeway across the Sound of Eriskay.

This morning I set off later – it was fully light (or as light as it’ll ever be on such a dreich winter’s day). I waited for Denise to come back from her morning walk with Tilly. Welsumer chicks on their way to the world of work at the Big Garden Croft, Isle of EriskayThere was an extra job this morning – two pairs of hands needed. The young Welsumer chicks in Greenhouse 1, now seven weeks old (Lucky’s three week’s older) are ready to join the main flock over at the croft.  It takes two of us to get them ready to go: one to catch and snatch them as they scurry about, the other to pack them and keep notes: six hens (including Lucky), one cockerel, all with yellow rings on their left legs.

At the croft, the sheep get fed first. That’s because the Welsumer chickens are still under lock-down, shut in the hen-house all day and every day until the end of February: they won’t run around after me, stealing all the food I put down for sheep, for the geese … in fact that’s why we live three and half miles away, across the sea, because otherwise the hens would eat our breakfasts too – from under our very noses!

The chickens have been locked in for six weeks now, but they don’t seem too put out by the experience. They’re warm and dry, there’s daylight of sorts thanks to the windows high up in each gable, and plenty of ventilation to keep things pleasant. They’ve lots of company, plenty of room to get about – socializing with those they’re on good terms with, avoiding the others. And of course that nice man brings lots of lovely food – and fresh water too – every morning.  They’re used to being indoors from time to time, anyway: who wants to go outside when there’s a wild storm and cold cold rain with it? ; and when young birds are brought along from the walled garden to join the flock, they’re locked in together for three days until the old girls have shown the new recruits around their new world. Welsumer chicks arriving at their new home at the Big Garden Croft, Isle of EriskaySo there was a routine of sorts in putting today’s box of young Welsumers down, where daylight fell (rather dimly, on this dreich day) on the floor, and opening out the top of the box.

Being older and taller, Lucky was out first … the others needed a helping hand!

Beside the box I’d placed the feed bowl they’d been used to at Greenhouse 1, so they were more interested in the grain than exploring … those strange, un-seen, older voices could wait for now … couldn’t they.

But those strange, un-seen, older voices couldn’t wait to investigate those strange, un-seen, younger voices!

Welsumers young and old getting to know eachother, The Big Garden Croft, Isle of Eriskay

By now, the geese have tracked me down. Mr Jackson is knocking on the door demanding to be let in … or is he demanding I come out to serve him with breakfast? I finished the routine in the hen house, and then led the geese to their favourite feeding ground …

C'mon you lot, breakfast time. The Big Garden Croft, Isle of Eriskay

At this point I fell off the edge of the morning block of patchwork, launched into free-form living until lunchtime.  I say free-form, but my life over the next 2-3 hours would prove to be very much linear: cutting a slit-trench and burying the new armoured cable that’s to supply the hen house.  The tools for this job consist of (a) a Spear & Jackson Neverbend spade with an ash T-handle, circa 1948, and with hardened steel blade worn by three generations of use to a tapered shape and the corners rounded off ; and (b) a 600mm length of treated off-saw 38 x 25 used to push the cable down into the slot.  Oh, and (c) my booted foot.  And a trained eye, and calloused hands, an aching back, and too many years studying at the university of pointless triumphs and glorious mistakes!

After twenty metres or so, I judged it might just take me long enough to drive home and get there just in time for lunch if I set off in just a few minutes. I straightened my beck, looked out across the sea and the hills of Uist … and I just got the feeling I might be … you know … watched. I picked up the tools, climbed back over the fence into Home Park, and … there was Mr & Mrs Jackson letting their breakfasts settle, considering what else might be done with the rest of the day, and where they might go for a spot of lunch, but in the meantime quite content to watch me work.

Mr & Mrs Jackson. The Big Garden Croft, Isle of Eriskay


Fotoless Friday: Floundering


J just can’t seem to settle to anything at the moment. He’s floundering about, a lot of activity but no results. Other than that J is not comfortable to be with.  He can’t cope with things hanging in mid air, not knowing how they will fall, when or if, or – when they do, things will be as they should. He likes linearity: problem > thinking > activity > solution. Preferably thinking-with-activity.  The WordPress updating problem has not resolved. We’re now paying for support, but all that seems to have come of that is J hunched over a computer into the small hours tinkering with this and that, and no solution in sight. Apparently Priority Support is more of a brand than a promise.

It’s very frustrating and demoralizing to know that the observation, thought-taking, creativity, technical know-how (though just now that seem more know-not!) and sheer dedication that go into our blogs is simply ignored by the WordPress Reader’s Followed Sites view (which, increasingly, seems to be how most folk catch up with our blogs).  It makes us feel it’s just not worth bothering.

Meanwhile, with my mother’s passing, there’s many things needing doing that are – truth be told – more pressing and more important than blogging. Yet it is certainly true that, at times like this, that our blog seems all the more important to us.


WordPress Gremlins – again


WordPress Reader is ignoring us again. It’s now 5 days since WordPress updated the feed for this blog.  This is the third time this has happened in as many weeks. I understand that self-hosted WordPress sites are lower priority than WordPress sites ; and as we don’t actually pay WordPress for the services we use, it might be unreasonable to expect we’ll be at the front of the queue, but if this is what anyone using the free accounts can expect, then really there’s little point in posting at all, since when a new post does finally appear it will be so far down in the Reader it’s far less likely to get read at all.

I’ve composed this post on the WordPress app rather than on the ‘native’ dashboard for  Will that make any difference?  Let’s see …


Betty Barbara Gregory, 2014


My mum, Betty Barbara Gregory, pictured here in 2014, passed away yesterday afternoon.  J and I warmly thank the staff at Taigh a’ Chridhe Uile Naomh [Sacred Heart care home, in Daliburgh] for their loving care of Betty, not just during the 18 months and more that she was a resident, but since she first went there for day-care twice (later thrice) a week in late 2013.

Betty’s wishes were to be cremated, and her ashes to join those of my sister Barbara, my father, Keith, and and other family, at Hutcliffe Road Cemetary, Sheffield.

We will remember her in the midst of our daily lives.


Smartphone Syndrome

Jonathan: The internet must be awash with photos like this!  Denise is not a technophobe, but she doesn’t like technology for its own sake. She’s been quite content with a phone that makes and takes calls and text, and the advent of anything more sophisticated has always been met with derision and contempt!  I had an early-ish Samsung smartphone for a few years until it succumbed to bootloop (the smartphone equivalent of dementia) shortly after I ‘retired’ from civil engineering and construction work, and I have simply had no need for anything like that at all since.  Denise’s 10-year old Nokia feature phone on pay-as-you-go has been more than enough for both of us.

But …

Denise is soon to embark on a wee escapade which involves taking photos, dealing with reservations and such like, as well as keeping in touch with back home, all whilst travelling light.

And you know what, the answer to all those things is …

The old Nokia has been passed over to me (or rather back to me – it started life as my work phone!), and Denise has got a shiny new …  Yes, that’s right!

And what utterly astonishes me is that she’s not at all grudging about it’s advanced features. Look, her face says it all!

[D] Okay, Okay – Point made!