One more week of work -well, the charade that currently goes under the name of ‘work’.
I’ve now got a train ticket for next Saturday, Welwyn Garden City to Oban (changing at Stevenage, Edinburgh and Glasgow) for £52 (including card fee and insurance!). My bike has got tickets too – at least for Stevenage to Edinburgh and Glasgow to Oban: for the two shorter legs there’s no reservations you just have to take pot luck! I shall stay overnight at the Oban Backpacker’s hostel, then on the afternoon ferry to Barra and South Uist. I’m really so excited about it, it’s hard to believe that I’m simply going home. It really does feel like an adventure – setting out into a new life. Which I suppose I am, because I – Denise and I – will no longer be dependent on civil engineering for our living.
During the week, Denise posted some poultry feed bags to me. I’ve now packed up four feedbags of all sorts – clothes, toiletries, kitchenware, books, food, bedding -varying between 10kg and 16kg and costing a total of £53. There’s probably two or maybe three more to send yet during the week. In the opposite direction I’ve got to send to Donna and Paul the bed cusions for the luton: that’s going to cost almost £100 because of the length.
Beautiful day today – very sunny but also very cold. I had intended to make a second trip to St Alban’s, but as you can see I’m doing this instead, and to be honest I really don’t want to risk it being a disappointment compared to that lovely day I spent there back in September.
I just now need to fix up my campsite for the last few days here, as it’s half term and they were fully booked: I’m hoping for a cancellation, most likely if the weather is bad. So I’m hoping most for bad weather!
Well it’s almost a full year since I sent it off for spinning, but at long last the wool skeins have now arrived! All the wool is worsted spun from selected first clips, and very dark and lustrous. Most is DK weight, some we ordered as Aran weight. About half of the DK will go to pay for Hebridean lambs we bought last year. We really could do with either more sheep or access to more wool to buy!
‘Trouble up’ mill’ meant they didn’t start our wool until a month or more ago, by which time we were actually able to add fleeces from this year’s clip!! Unfortunately that means the wool we now have left to sell (after paying for the lambs) has got to last us even longer.
We’ve talked it over many times – each time coming to a firm conclusion the opposite or at least diffent to the last time. But now we are definitely and finally decided. More or less as soon as Jonathan is home for good in a week or so’s time, he’ll start work on a new studio/shop for the Hebridean Woolshed. The scandinavian log-style garden cabin we put up (it cost us about £1250 all told!) back in 2003 as a general-purpose garden shop really just isn’t up to the job: not big enough, no enough protection from the weather, from damp and insects; and above all it just looks NAFF!
The new shop will still be in the style of a shed, but more like a traditional Hebridean outbuilding (no I don’t mean falling down and surrounded by old cars!), but solidly built, and at least 50% bigger than the existing shed. It will be positioned so that its outline will be softened with with trees and shrubs.
Jonathan: Last summer – before starting work here in England – I worked with a small team of volunteers doing a very detailed survey of the huge Hallan cemetery near Daliburgh.
With the help of Sandy (chief instigator of the project) I surveyed the position of all graves – with headstones and without – together with boundary walls, roads, buildings etc.
That formed the framework of a database of all the graves and their occupants going back many generations. Believe it or not, this information was until now stored mostly in the heads of successive sextons. That reflects the importance to the gaels of kinship, and is what lies behind the question ‘Co as thu’ – literally where are you from, but really meaning from what family (and thus place) are you descended?
The database is now complete and is accessible on-line at http://www.hallancemeterysouthuist.co.uk
Photo shows Jonathan with a Topcon 210 at Hallan Cemetery in July 2009. Cille Pheadair in the middle distance, and Eisebhal beyond. Sandy was holding the camera perfectly horizontal: The lean to the left is due to prevailing westerly winds.
Early in my week at home in Uist recently I was supposed to be taking the five Hebridean wedders/wethers to the abbatoir near Lochmaddy. The day before Denise and I agreed that the young ram lamb would have to go too, as we had no means to manage him properly. I got everything ready the day before to transport them early in the morning.
Morning came and Denise and I went over to the croft to drive the sheep into the fold and extract the sheep we’d be taking off. The sheep had other ideas! It became apparent that during my six weeks away a fault had developed with the electric fencing and not only was the dividing electric fencing not active, even when I reactivated it the sheep were completely unafraid and ducked and dived through the gaps! Even with Iain Ruaraidh’s help (a near neighbour in Bun a Mhuillin) we hadn’t a chance. We had no choice but to cancel.
Later in the week, thinking about re-scheduling the trip to the abbatoir to November, I realized we urgently needed to get the young ram out, or otherwise he’d start to take an interest in any female, his sisters or aunts or mother or whatever! In the end I asked my neighbour Seonaidh MacInnes, who not only is very experienced with livestock but also has sheep dogs, and asked his advice. No problem, he said, he could get the ram out. But rather than take him to the abbatoir, why not put him on a small island between Eriskay and Stack: he was going to take some sheep down to Stack and could drop him off on the way. He’d have to stay there until the spring (that’s the ram, not Seonaidh!) but the grazing was good, and though the weather might be wild it would at least toughen him up: Hebrideans are supposed to be a hardy primitive breed!
So, let’s hope that goes smoothly! But I’ve still yet to organize the wedders off to the abbatoir, and a tup for the ewes, all in November.