Jonathan: Guests leaving Carrick recently left a couple of complaints in the guest book. One was that the ventilation system ‘pumped’ pollen into the living room and made hay fever worse. You might have thought that they might consider the legal minefield created for us by suggesting to our subsequent guests that any serious episode of hay-fever might be caused by specific and novel features of the house theye are staying in; you surely would have thought that if they were suffering so badly they would have asked what could be done about it. Had they asked I would – as an acute hay sufferer myself – have suggested that they did not have windows open much of the day, as they did: in fact the ventilation system feeds air to all rooms in the house (except shower room and wc – where air is extracted), but the air intake has pollen filters fitted. I would also have pointed out that if there was one thing that grew well in the islands it is grass, and it is grass pollen that is worst for hay fever.
The other complaint was ‘lack of privacy due to early morning activities’ on the croft. Our website states clearly that it is a working croft, with photos showing the relationship of the house with the land. Not only that, but last year these guests actually stayed in the house next door (directly adjacent to and overlooking our croft) and liked the look of Carrick so much they actually came round to our house there and then to pay in cash for their holiday this year. You would have thought they might reflect on that before putting it into the minds of guests after them that there was something unreasonably intrusive about me walking past the house quietly at 8am and back half an hour later, and possibly spending half an hour or so down the croft head-down amongst the bushes picking fruit (I was doing that when they were here last year!), always mindful of the need to avoid intruding on guests’ privacy (though actually many guests come out to chat with me) . Some guests can be far too quick to leave complaints without considering whether they are reasonable or justified (today’s complaining culture?), and do not stop to think the trouble it causes, providing spurious grounds for complaint for subsequent guests who, annoyed by nothing more than poor weather, are all to ready to find fault and take it out on us (oh they do!, they do!). They complain simply because they know have the power to do so. They never apologize for causing damage: in fact all too frequently they will try and cover it up! But what opportunity do we get for complaining of guests who, for example, willfully ignore basic house rules (or even defy ordinary common sense!): these guests went out for the day leaving several windows open, doors unlocked, and the house key on display! Just before the next guests arrived I discovered the new sliding door track is damaged – probably from being slammed open too roughly: it could cost about £300 to £400 to put right, but even if I’d noticed it before D had gone home ahead of me and posted the cheque for the balance of the deposit (she’s too efficient!!) I wouldn’t have recovered much more than about £60. And what can I do about that now apart from burden you with this lengthy moan? To paraphrase myself, some people moan simply because they know they have the power to do so! ;~) Okay, I’ve got that out of my system – time to get back to work!
Jonathan: The life of the crofter in the 21st century. Up 6am – shower, get dressed. Breakfast and washing up the pots with Denise. 7am – check emails, and into civil engineer mode for a quick reply about changes to the railway crossing at Royston in Hertfordshire. 7:30am – into crofter mode for drive to the Eriskay to feed and the hens and collect eggs, scatter some grain for the geese and make sure they all have access to clean water. Then the sheep – a quick count and a small offering of sheep nuts, just to keep them friendly – not that 0008 needs any encouragement! 8:30am – start work on fixing guttering to Hi Hen House, but discover I need a ladder to reach one corner, but ladder at home so decide to do something else. Walking back to the car our guests at Carrick come out to speak to me. Everything okay? No! Ah but nothing wrong with the house – it’s lovely – but alas their 12-yr old spaniel died this morning. They’d rushed to the vet in Benbecula but it died in the surgery. Apparently it had pneumonia. But they have a problem: where to bury the dog? So switch to grave-digger mode for half-an-hour or so whilst I struggle to find somewhere where the rock has more than just a few inches of soil over it! Ah yes, at the head of the peaty valley, where we’ve been planting trees. Wet ground, but easy digging. I got some straw to line the grave with and then left our guests to a private moment to bury their dog. Switch to builder mode to continue a drystane wall I’m building to provide more shelter by Hi Hen House. And then back to tidying up the grave. Off with the trailer to the skip at Acarsaid Mhor to dispose of accumulated cardboard boxes, rubbish from the shore etc; and then put up some notices about us buying this year’s sheep fleeces. Home for a clean up, a good coffee and toast with D’s amazing lemon curd. 11:30am – half an hour or so of work designing a website for someone’s holiday cottage business. Noon: A simple lunch of bread, cheese, home-grown salads, fruit and a very welcome cup of tea. Back to engineering for some emails about geotechnical report for a beach landing of wind turbine in Barra. Then boiler suit back on, and load up the car with tripod, total station, a flame gun and a petrol strimmer. 1:30pm drive to Askernish, and thankfully the guests are out for the afternoon so I got straight on with strimming the grass and burning off the weeds – a very noisy and smelly job all told! 3:15pm – tools back in the car just as guests return to cottage, and drive back south to the mill stream outfall at Tipperton on the very SW tip of South Uist. Clamber all over the rocky shore marking spots with red spray paint to come back to later to survey; set up total station over permanent marker I installed a week ago (when I came this way to walk the dog) and sighted five trig points on distant hills (one in Barra about 9km away!) to establish my position by a procedure called re-section. 4:30pm – back to the house to persuade D and Becky that we should have an early meal and then go and do the survey work. But Becky has gone out for a walk … Wound up a skein of hand-spun merino wool into a ball for D. D reports that whilst I’ve been out she’s sold almost £200 of items from The Hebridean Woolshed, plus eggs, preserves and fresh produce, all whilst she’s been spinning wool and making two batches of spicy marrow chutney and one of gooseberry and raspberry jam. When Becky is back and we’ve eaten, I drive over to Tipperton to set up ahead of D and Becky only to find the tide is already too high. Back to the house just in time to stop them leaving in D’s car. What to do now? Ah yes, make first ever order with Tesco Online for delivery to a carrier in Glasgow and forwarding to us here in Uist (Tesco have until now been unwilling to deliver directly to anything other than a mainland residential address). Carriage charges saved twice over by savings on staples for jam making. And then a little light browsing on the internet, looking up various things of interest … and watch the news … and some time together with D and Becky and the cats and Tilly talking and making things. 11:30pm – still light as I take Tilly for a walk along the road and then a run back along the crest of Cnoc a Deas, but Tilly comes back with a limp and blood dripping from her front offside paw, so a bit of a fuss and a palaver as we persuade her to keep still whilst we bathe it in TCP solution. The doggy treat helped. 11:30pm – talked to the goose eggs in the incubator – it encourages them, you know – and would you believe it there’s chirruping back from inside the eggs! On closer inspection there’s cracks in the shells of some, so they’ll start hatching tomorrow!! 11:45 – still not dark as eventually we all climb into our beds and fall soundly asleep at the first drop of the eyelids.
Jonathan: That’s what’s half filling the wheelie bin at 8 Askernish just now. Empty paint pots a-plenty, and two old boiler suits covered in spots and smears of white and grey (and more beside from years of the dirtiest jobs). The back of the car is full of paint brushes, rags, dust sheets, tools and all the detritus of hard work. There’s still a bit of tidying up to do: paint spots to scrape from the windows with a razor blade, flakes of old paint to collect up, and come to think of it the paths need weeding. But stand back and … the house looks absolutely fantastic! And here’s a nice photo to prove it!