Home & Garden

With Easter and May yielding a number of holidays from work a proper it has given us lots of opportunity to get out in the garden, well at least when the sun shone. Easter weekend allowed an inventory of tools and a clear down of the shed, with all the bigger mechanical items being rehomed under a tarpaulin in one of the outhouses. As per usual there were mixed results in the restarts for the first time of the year but I can report success with two lawnmowers, the hedge trimmer and the brush cutter. Neither push-along strimmer has yet responded to coaxing back to life.

Strummers at the ready…

Easter weekend itself saw a social organised in aid of the Sound of Gigha festival tobe held later this year. A treasure hunt around the island allowed collections of a variety of object and many wrong answer to location questions passed to other teams. A hastily crafted cocktail umbrella proved the difference as our team, Last past the Post, finished…….. first; huzzah!

Keith counting pontoons
Decent prize too

On the house front, the work has largely been about taping and filling. So no step change in building work but a word of appreciation to our builder who is performing that painstaking task. I guess it is one up from watching paint dry on the boredom scale. The caravan remains very much our home for the moment but moves are afoot to change that.

Tape, fill, repeat

Karen has been the star of the show when it comes to making the shepherds hut into the fantastic space we want it to be. First the roof has been sanded and varnished, before the same operation was applied to the floor. Several coats of varnish with a sand in between to ensure a good finish have resulted in a great look for the hut in my opinion. Then the practical job of insulation, with sheep’s wool being the chosen material for it’s green credentials. One wall has been finished with a combination of plywood and tongue and groove, as the rest will be once first fix of plumbing and electrics are complete. The kitchen has been (largely) purchased and assembled curtesy of an IKEA delivery, but again cannot be placed before the aforementioned work. It is also keeping the purchase of the bathroom bathroom company in the middle of the hut.


Purchases do seem to be a bit of a theme at the moment with decisions made (and purchased) for ground floor flagstone tiles, first floor flooring (re-engineered oak) and bathroom. We are also ruminating on bathroom tiles and lighting across the house. The bank account knows.

Chosen for the first floor

Lastly, for this blog, another glorious show of the Northern Lights. Once again missed by me, but captured by the keen eye of Argyll Aurora group Leader Robert.

Meanwhile, back at The Old Manse

Whilst Karen and I were away in New Zealand the re-build of the Old Manse was gathering pace back in Scotland. We had left the property in the capable hands of our builder and a communication link back to the Island through our neighbours, Viv and Andy. I am very grateful to the latter for a number of photos that appear below.

At the end of January, first fix by plumbers and electricians appeared to be complete. Karen had spent much time in front of PowerPoint planning sockets and lights, hopefully it proved straightforward to the contractors who carried out the work. We were complimented that the house made a change from ripping through plasterboard and excavating, leaving them to do ‘proper electrical work’.

More ripping out was completed in early February but the house saw a major addition of steel also. One of the features of the 1816 build was that rafters spanned the walls front to back. It was difficult to see how they were fully supported without the new addition and the bow of the floor is indeed notable on the first floor. This has been cured to a large degree but still remains the characteristic slant of lesser degree. It is an old house after all.

With support in place for the upper floors a top down approach was taken to the framing out. Our builders mantra seems to be insulate, insulate, insulate. Something that is mirrored in the advice of the local authority who encourage spend on this item, if only grants were so easy to access. Anyway February saw the attic rooms take shape and the wall between the bathroom and bedroom re-instated.

My return to the Island was timed just too late to catch the most amazing display of Northern Lights that has been seen here for many a year. I am both thankful to my neighbour Keith and very jealous that I didn’t take the image myself:

Late February and our return also saw the top floor mostly boarded out. Arriving in time to make decisions that took space from the larger bedroom for a better sized bathroom on the top floor and addition of storage. The rooms already have a better feel in terms of space but decisions to expand the size of Velux facing North will have to wait for a future planning application and more funding.

Early March took work down one floor and we got a clear look at the space with virtually no walls. Decisions were taken to use space that was the old bathroom as a dressing room in the new layout as the walls went back up. The downside of exposing more of the build was a realisation that many of the lintels were rotting and in need of replacement. Another hit to the budget, but I’m still planning for a little luxury and have sized the recess for the TV accordingly!

Almost forgot to mention that mid March also heralded the return to caravan living. Yes back to surviving in a tin box with little more than 8 foot * 12 of floorspace (inclusive of double bed). The caravan has acquired a novel feature over the winter; the back window seal appears to be letting water into the double glazed unit (not the interior fortunately) but a very narrow fish tank it has been created.

March also saw the upper and first floors framed, insulated, plasterboarded, taped & filled. We are starting to get a real impression for the space on these floors now with decisions over stove and bathroom coming to the fore of our minds. Our major commitment this month has been the kitchen and with a programmed delivery date that is very real.

Lastly, and bringing things right up to date there has been a swell of contractors here in the last two days. SSE have brought 3-phase power into the Old Manse and this has allowed us to run power and water out to the shepherds hut. A second team have been cutting the channels required for both ducting and waste pipes to give the shepherds hut the services we have been longing for. Still lots to do but the trajectory feels like we are moving forward now.

A land down under

So we have returned from New Zealand and both temperature and time zones are noticeably different. Last month I enjoyed an average of 25 degrees, falling once to sunburn through my own stupidity; since return to Scotland a digit has been lost with the computer telling me it’s a balmy 2 degrees outside. I was, until yesterday, waking at 4am and being useless after 9pm. No more the night owl, one reason why I haven’t committed thoughts to a blog yet since our return. A warning also that this is largely going to be a translation of my Instagram account with some words added to fill the gap at the start of the year. Another blog post to come to bring you up to speed on all things house later.

Anyway, flew to Auckland via Fraernkfurt and Los Angeles, leaving Glasgow on the 24th January. I recognised this as a ridiculous route when leaving Frankfurt we flew directly back over Glasgow. Two hours there, a two hour turnaround and two hours back that could have been avoided could the flight from Glasgow have been available. The second point I would caution anyone to note is the lengthy and (IMHO) disorganized security process to be endured when visiting the USA even for just 6 hours. A two hour wait in line for photography and fingerprinting, then collection of bags to load onto the connecting flight personally seemed somewhat overkill.

Our arrival on the 26th was met with a surprise airport meet and pick up from our daughter Heather. A lovely day unfolded in Auckland with a visit to the Weta workshop exhibition, but despite excitement, an early night beckoned. Not too difficult the next day for an early breakfast and a walk around the city. And then rain, Auckland experienced devastating consequences from the arrival of a month’s worth of rainfall in a single day. I could joke about it being a typical Wednesday in Glasgow but the next 24 hours saw devastation to homes, roads cut off, and worst of all loss of life. The clean up still continues I assume.

Heather and Devina (a friend in New Zealand) picked us up on the morning of the 28th for a transfer to the Island of Waiheke. The island is most famous for it’s wine production so it would have bee rude not to visit a number to sample their fare. Pick of the bunch for me was lunch at Casita Miro, excellent food and probably the pick of the wines too. This is definitely the place to go if you love wine, but also be aware that those tastings are going to hit you in the pocket! Some lovely memories over the three days there and whilst the weather wasn’t at its best there was no disaster to speak of (although I did receive a text care of NZ Government warning me of such).

Then to Cambridge (now the last day of January) and guests of Hayden’s parents. I should explain also that Hayden is Heather’s partner of 6 years, the two of them meeting as guides at Hobbiton all those years ago. Our lovely 3 day stay included lots of shared family time and traditional father / daughter feuds over board gaming. Both our children have developed a strong competitive streak and Heather (who appears to introduce rules to games as she goes along), like me wears her heart on her sleeve.

Quieter days were spent at Hamilton Gardens & Hobbiton respectively. The latter found a splendid morning at daybreak where H&H used their connections to gain access to Hobbiton as first tour of the day and the village to ourselves. I am not the LOTR (Lord of the Rings) fan that both daughter and wife are, but I still find tremendous pleasure in the joy it brings them both as hopefully comes out in the photos.

On the 3rd of February we travelled to Napier and found a charming B&B via Booking.com – the Bluff Hill Light House. The property stands on the site of an old prison that was home to a lighthouse. It is believed to be the only lighthouse to be run and maintained by the prisoner / guards, whilst it is one of three lighthouses connected to prisons (the most famous being Alcatraz). It served fantastic views and it’s quirky nature had a well stocked kitchen for home cooking that night.

Wellington next and a reunion I was very much looking forward to. Wayne-o, who played host to us on the Lions tour, has become my Southern Hemisphere brother. Our bromance that came about because of a mutual love of rugby continued over much beer, steak (large, rare), a car show, and an early morning alarm to see the Scottish win another Calcutta Cup. The weather was improving rapidly, perfect for BBQ, a stroll around Wellington, some live Jazz/Swing and beer.

The 6th of Feb saw us take a ferry over to the South Island and onward trip to Bleheim, the largest wine region of the South Island. We were introduce to Caro and Hugh, who were our host for the next 3 nights and what a stunning property they own! Our three night stay allowed visits to more vineyards and the Marlborough Sound where we fortunate to see a pod of Orca on our 4 hour mailboat tour (something I would recommend to anyone visiting Picton).

Food was very much on the menu with fabulous cooked breakfasts, a cracking Thai meal and some of the best lamb I’ve tasted at a venue called Frank’s. We had a brilliant night of fun with our host and two friends Aaron & Debbie. Aaron is an oyster farmer and was proud to tell us he supplied the restaurant. Two dozen oysters for the table later I can understand why he is proud of his fare – comparable with what we have here on Gigha – although I’m not giving the crown to NZ yet.

Our journey on to Christchurch was punctuated by a stop at Kaikoura for some sea kayaking. My wife was understandably nervous, after last time in a canoe in France we capsized causing loss of phone and scars on the memory. Whilst I quite enjoyed being out on the water I know now Karen only endured the experience for me, so a thank-you to her for indulging me.

Three nights in Christchurch included highlights of a tram tour of the City, the Botanical Gardens, a toy museum and another early morning victory for Scottish rugby. Perhaps more a town for the young at heart and those seeking high adrenalin thrills but enough to keep us happy for 3 days. Food highlight here was the Riverside Market – multiple stalls producing great food and some lovely local produce. I took away some fantastic prawn for a risotto on the second night that was hugely better than the bars we found for pizza and burger that bookended it.

The 12th saw a long drive to Queenstown and disappointingly a dinner date with Belinda and Pete wasn’t going to happen due to their early return to Cambridge because of (this time) cyclone warnings. However, the booking at Aosta in Arrowtown still stood for Karen and I and produced the most memorable meal of the holiday. A tasting menu of Italian food of very high quality in equally pleasant surroundings, with a paired wine menu for the passenger (reward and apology for sea kayaking) was pure indulgence and delight.

Milford Sound was our destination the next day and the wettest place on the South Island saw blue skies and 28 degrees the day we visited. A lovely destination, but couldn’t help comparing to the Fjords of Norway after our 4 hour drive to get there. I shouldn’t because it is a truly splendid natural and unspoiled region, tremendous narrated by our tour guide Eric. A trip to Queenstown for Valentines day and cruise on a Steamer ship on a beautiful evening; fish and chips did not quite match the earlier mentioned meal but it was with the woman I love so largely inconsequential. Queenstown provided us again with some great memories but again couldn’t help feel it was a town for the youngsters.

Back driving north the following day for 2 nights at Lake Tekapo, stopping at the beautiful Lake Pukaki for a photo stop and the bluest water I have seen. Lake Tekapo is in the middle of the South Island’s dark sky reserve and is a must for any amateur astronomer or stargazer. So to be greeted by cloudy skies on my arrival didnt bode well. I should not have worried though because on the second night, stargazing tour booked, we were rewarded with clear skies. Shooting stars graced the black canvas dutifully explained by our guide, Daniel, as we had access to three scopes pointed at various targets in the night sky. A night I won’t forget, but I must also mention the day excursion. That was to Mount Cook National park and our chosen route of the Hooker valley. A walking route chosen for it’s 3 hour return time and easy gradients. It afforded us beautiful views of Mount Cook and the stunning scenery around. What I didn’t realise were the three suspension bridges crossing the route and after the sixth crossing I felt I had almost conqured vertigo with aversion therapy.

A night back in Picton after a long drive was intended to position us for an early morning ferry. Fate had other ideas as our first ferry was cancelled and the second ferry we found as a substitute was delayed until midday. Logistics meant we didn’t arrive back on the North Island until 4pm and stamina ran out around 10pm on our intended drive back to Cambridge. A comical drive of trying to find a restaurant included a stop at a ‘fried chicken’ restaurant that only served beer by the time we got there and a MacDonald’s visited at 8.10pm that closed precisely at 8. A realisation that we wouldn’t make Cambridge caused us to book a B&B at Lake Taupo, once visited on a previous trip and an interesting stopover once again.

Our 2 nights in Cambridge became one, sadly, and we departed the next morning for our penultimate holiday destination of Papamoa. Very much looking forward to family time with Heather & Hayden we spent four nights at a batch where there was little planned other than relaxing. Hayden had found a cracking property with beach view and hot tub, which he drove us to via supermarket for provisions. Afternoon Martini’s and showering of sun tan lotion before spending extended time in a hot tub proved my first sun burn of the time here. A more painful 4 nights than I had hoped for.

It didn’t spoil the vacation and a mixture of home cooked food, board games and more martinis were a great time spent with the youngsters. Catan and Betrayal at the Haunted Mansion caused arguments as you would expect of us but all shook hands at the end. Some great Ribs at Papa Moas proved to be a good end to the trip.

Finally, back to Cambridge and with big thanks again to Hayden’s parents B & Pete who gave us a bed once again. The last night’s saw a Trivia quiz with kid’s Hobbiton family and a family party where Jack Daniel’s seemed to be the currency of choice! There was one more secret mission that I cannot mention in print yet but hopefully soon. A tearful goodbye at the airport had to be expected and it certainly was that. Almost 5 weeks, countles driving miles, friends and family both old and new met along the way. Bank balance reduced but the experience mattered more , as always.

We are going on an Adventure

This quote is borrowed from Tolkien for two reasons. Firstly, 2023 itself is going to be a big adventure with work starting on the house (by hired help rather than ourselves) and shortly we are about to embark on a trip to New Zealand. The latter is long overdue, our daughter moved to NZ in late 2016 and her round the world excursion never got beyond her first port of call. The dream job secured and boyfriend acquired later in 2017 stuck, and now six years later, she is a NZ citizen.

Last time in the Southern hemisphere.

First, a look back at year so far. A tremendous Christmas break was had, a fantastic Christmas meal that supplies boxing day (and beyond) buffets. Whilst I do say it myself, the process of curing salmon (using Laphroaig whisky) may be long, but very worthwhile. New Year was quiet but very pleasant, enjoyed with a glass of single malt and a large helping Jool’s Hootenanny. Singular mention in the food extravaganza goes to turket-flette. I’ve bastardized a recipe I first found on the ski slopes of France that used leftover ham, onions, cream and as smelly a cheese you can find to top of this calorific consumption. Diets starts soon, as I can feel my arteries screaming in submission.

Onions, cream, turkey oh how I love thee

We did manage to walk off some of the indulgence over the holiday being blessed with good weather for part. But only part as the wind and storms have reeked havoc both with ferry cancellations and tree felling. Achamore Garden, where we often walk saw trees fall across paths which put the one up-rooted apple tree in our walled-garden into perspective. The woods at the rear of the Manse will need further inspection and management this year.

Apple tree no more

I’ve been very grateful during my time in the contract market to find work on a regular basis, I also hope this says something about the experience and work ethic I’ve learned over the years but most of the time I have been fortunate to work with good people to manage. I am very fortunate o n this occasion to take a long sabbatical with a contract to come back to and, undoubtedly, funds are more important than ever this year.

The first spend against materials

Having visited both kitchen and bathroom showrooms during the holidays we are moving closer to understanding the look and feel we would like for The Old Manse but equally understanding better the budget for our aspirations. Conversations have progressed with builder and heating engineers and quotes obtained to pursue energy efficiency grants but let us say that retirement is postponed for now.

I’m told Winston Churchill oft worked from his bed

…. And a Happy New Year

2023 here already and this is going to be a short blog entry as I don’t intend to write about the amount of food and drink I have consumed over the festive period. Instead I want to put down a quick marker to set intentions (not resolutions) for the year.

HNY everyone!!

Building work starting on The Old Manse is imminent. I hope to be bringing news of developments to the blog soon but will wait until I have a confirmed date for that work to start. That hopefully will give Karen and I time to concentrate physical exertions to the garden, having completed all we can inside The Old Manse for now. Equally, we need to furnish the shepherds hut as a prospective dwelling whilst the renovation continues.

The garden & hut

Travel is very much on the cards. We have been waiting for covid protocols to cease before visiting H in the Southern Hemisphere once again. That trip to New Zealand is already booked and will not be the last of the year. Portugal is the base for a significant birthday celebration for a friend this summer and Paris for a weekend of Rugby World Cup action beckons later again in the year. More of all that later.

Last time in NZ 2017

And lastly, looking back. I did eat a lot of turkey & these were some of the favourites from Insta last year.

Kept me going for a few days.
Best of 2022?

It’s coming on Christmas

Like most men, I think, I’m not very good at present shopping. Truth is I failed miserably come birthday present time this year and Christmas may not be a whole lot better unless I get myself into shape on the next planned trip to the mainland. Island life brings about a whole new dependency on the Amazon parcel service but I still like to hold and feel an item before I buy (old school). So one chance to get this right next visit…..

But before Christmas there is another month to look back upon, including that birthday I didn’t plan well for but others did. A surprise visit from four of our friends to coincide with Karen’s birthday saw some great weather for walking. The picture below is one of us on Liem beach where we stroll to work up an appetite for the lasagna that lay in waiting for us back at the cottage. Elaine’s cooking never disappoints and was happily washed down by copious amounts of red wine to celebrate another year.

The weekend also saw myself and other friends on the island put the finishing touches to the infrastructure that will be the Dark Skies Theatre on Gigha. Benches have been waiting at the Manse for a while and with a plinth and information panel there time had come to be anchored in place. Fortunately, some good weather whilst doing the job allowed everything to complete without a hitch.

The Dark Skies Festival including an opening of the now prepared ‘Theatre would take place the following weekend. A mobile planetarium was deployed at the village hall and exhibits of local photographs, space suits and Virtual Reality kept visitors amused for the evening. A special mention to the troops from Cosmos Planetarium who, in the day, had hosted events for the local primary school before two shows in the planetarium that evening. A formal opening of the the theatre on the Saturday was followed by an evening lecture on robotic telescopes and an informal ‘ask the expert’ session hosted by yours truly. Very proud of what we as a group (take a bow Keith, Kenny, Casey-Jo & Julie) have achieved and my small contribution towards that. Much happens on this small Island to make it punch above it’s weight in terms of population and is evidenced by this and the support received from other groups and individuals. More than a third of all residents (guessing with the kids closer to half) attended events over the course of the weekend and input from Gigha Brewery (Dave & Anna), the Gigha Hotel, local comic book authors (Adam & Lisa), OGAM Project (Maggie) and Bookbug (Hannah) all made for an astronomical success (pun intended). My apologies if I have missed anyone from the list.

December has brought with it some clear skies and cold weather making for some great scenery both around the Island and at the Manse itself. It has also reminded me that whilst the caravan would have continued to provide us with cheap accommodation it would not have been warm accommodation. The log burner at the cottage has been well used.

Our friend Wendy commented, when she visited the island recently, that much of the social life revolves around food. No event can take place without the expectation of at least one of a sandwich platter, bowl of soup or (mostly present) cake. It isn’t helping my waistline but it has been comforting to share in the traditional whist drives with a perfect example of this catering.

Meanwhile, we continue our own traditions of a martini on Sunday afternoon before a traditional roast dinner. The apples that we have in abundance, are being steadily dealt with and cooking remains one of my favourite hobbies. So much so we have already had our first Christmas dinner when our son and his partner visited last weekend. More clear skies and walking on Sunday to walk off the excess of food completes the summary of the month.


September has treated us to some great and latterly not so great weather. Today is definitely one for indoor activities and blog writing. Fortunately, when Murdoch visited earlier in August the weather was much kinder and he has recently sent me the fruits of his labours.

The Old Manse looking great externally now..
.. set in a beautiful part of the world. The photo also shows the progress on the walled garden.

A trip to Glasgow next for the wedding of Maria and Euan, a lovely event to be part of. The McGrorry family made us most welcome throughout and the venue for the reception of The Cruin provided a beautiful backdrop to a lovely weekend.

Always making the most of our time back on the mainland we transferred quickly to the East coast and Coupar Angus. Our friend Steve and his family have renovated a farmhouse that has been in their family for approximately 100 years and what an excellent job they have done. We spent the days admiring the workmanship and stealing ideas for our own build,

I particularly liked Steve’s tartan carpet

Back on Gigha and some good weather allowed us to turn our attention to the garden. Our niece, Hannah, had donated a polytunnel to the cause and the 2 days it took to assemble and carefully bury the skin underground seemed worthwhile. Well, until today, when it was undone by wind gusting at 50+ mph. Back to the drawing board and a repair job tomorrow (maybe).

The frame assembled before skinning and de-skinning by the wind today
We were quite pleased at this stage

A more pleasurable pursuit though has been picking the fruits of our labour, quite literally. The brambles have provided a plentiful supply of blackberries and the orchard is heavy with apples. The first picks have been made in pies and around the island apple and chili jam. Cider making is also planned.

A few windfalls from earlier in the month

Completing the social activities for the month we went back to the mainland to see the Book of Mormon. An event placed on hold by covid but lovely to be back in a theatre again and good company provided by Elaine & Graham

Great night, good friends


Looking back at the blog after a return from holiday I realise that I haven’t made time to commit words to the page since early May. Plenty to tell you about but much of a distant memory so I’m relying upon the photos on the iPhone to prompt me of topics to write about. The routine of desk work and renovation at evenings and weekends is my excuse, that and a (well deserved) holiday too.

Chronologically as things appear on my phone then and back to early May. Focus needed to shift to the interior of the Old Manse and the rip out of the kitchen commenced. Dan visited and was, as always keen to lay his hands on power tools and start the demolition process. He is however, not so clean on the tidy up. The baton was handed to me for some of that but with the desk calling Karen took the lead on bringing down the lath and plaster ceiling. Not an easy job and have to give wifey a lot of credit for doing this – the room being transformed and starting to see the potential of the space we have for the kitchen and dining area.

In tandem with the interior rip out the plan was to keep the garden under control by continually mowing the meadow and walled garden. Still areas to clear to ensure that the lawnmower comes across no significant rocks or hazards still being uncovered from previous ownership. However, punctures to our new lawnmower and the pace at which nature fights this process mean that the pictures from mid & late May have seen significant growth again and on return from holiday there is work to do once more.

It wasn’t all work in May though, we did manage to visit Achamore with the rhododendrons in full bloom and walk the newest of Gigha’s path network to be opened. A night with the Gigha food group taught me to fillet the famous halibut and I also managed a few oysters from dinner at the hotel that are very much in season. The final photos in this section demonstrate more of the natural beauty of the island with a couple of sunsets from the end of May.

Preparations of clearing rubble from the building paid dividends this month as Michael Ross returned for a week of pointing. The exterior of the build is pretty much ‘chipped out’ and estimates tell me that Michael needs a further week to complete the task. Lewis, our joiner, returned also to snag the windows and all is running smooth now. The exterior of the build is certainly looking more as we expect.

An unexpected distraction during the pointing came from the bees who decided to swarm. Quite an experience for me as new to beekeeping but guided by Karen we managed to shepherd the ejected queen and swarm into a second hive.

And finally to the holiday, a week of luxury in sharp contrast to the caravan living we experience at the moment. A week aboard P&O’s Iona, food and drink plentiful and better still no washing up! A lovely week in Norway cruising through Fjords with time to read books (Richard Osman’s excellent second offering for me) and to see some live music. A lovely phot of Mum, Karen and I to finish, hope you will agree we don’t scrub up too bad?

Old Man Problems

Another month behind me when I look at the last blog date and will try and take things chronologically, jogging my memory from iPhone photos – first OMP (Old man problem) to note memory loss. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind though when titling the blog entry, another birthday has passed and the hernia I acquired through heavy lifting in the summer has been dealt with, but more of that later.

Knowing that the Manse needed emptied for imminent arrival of workmen we employed local joinery services to reroof the shed. A good solution to storage problems in the short term supposing we could make it waterproof. Very pleased with the new tin to keep out leeks and further application of sealant to the window seems to have done the trick.

Over the last month we have got back to walking, not as regular as I would like but the next photos on my phone remind me that at the start of the month in relatively good weather, we found the path from Ardailly Mill to Springbank. I say found as on at least two occasions we lost sight of the next waymarker making it difficult to navigate in a straight line. The walk though provided good views of the West Coast of Gigha and one I shall repeat with knowledge provided OMP#1 and my ever failing sense of direction doesn’t impede that.

OMP#2 lifting heavy things in your fifties can cause damage. I am very thankful though to the local health services that have speedily put me back together. A diagnosis of hernia in the summer was resolved on the 6th October with an outpatient visit to Oban hospital. The visit gave me the excuse to buy Richard Osman’s third book ‘The Bullet that Missed’ and read it in 48 hours of pre-op and post-op recuperation. All went well and, for the main, I have regarded the advice to ‘take it easy’ for a few weeks.

Pleased to report though, that I was in rood health for my birthday 9 days later and did the things I enjoy. The weather was less good for the scheduled walk of the new Southern loop but we managed all the same. A few difficulties again due to finding markers, but more to due to lack of strength in my core to clamber over slippery rocks. Came back very wet but a shower, bottle of good red wine and a steak dinner concluded birthday celebrations nicely. OMP#3 too many birthdays makes it difficult to buy for. However, I’m pleased to report new walking trousers, a new toy for the camera and a Scotland rugby shirt made for a pretty good day!

The week following my birthday saw the last week of our caravan summer. We are moving back to solid walls for the duration of the winter months but feel I should pay tribute to the steel box we leave behind as it has served us well this summer. Lately, also, the walk back to our home has provided great views of the night sky and when the skies cleared I was able to test out my automated shutter release birthday present (photo below). More of a concern in the Manse garden was the first mink attack on the chicken coop. Karen dealt admirably with the predator but a new chicken coop and mink trap had to be ordered as a consequence.

Last of the three walks this month I want to mention was the path to Fisherman’s cave. Another wet October day saw our mission to find the cave on the West Coast and after the first boggy field to reach the stone path, the effort was worth it. Some lovely views when you find the entry point and again a walk to be repeated on a summer day. I can tick the walk of the list I have from the book below that I would highly recommend to any visitor to Gigha.

So a flurry of moving into the cottage, attempting to pick any remaining apples and turn them into something worthwhile, building a new chicken coop before a weekend off-island fell largely to Karen. First batches of (experimental) cider underway and a complete coop below are evidence of what a tremendously hard working wifey I have. All of this set us up for a lovely weekend of seeing friends and family just gone. A chance to indulge my passion of rugby watching with our good friends proved an excellent highlight to start the weekend. A trip to the concert hall in Glasgow to see Squeeze book-ended a great three days of good food and the odd indulgence. But I don’t miss Edinburgh / Glasgow traffic.

See Food

It’s been a long while since the last blog, my apologies to my readership, it’s been busy. So I’m first going to talk about one of my great loves food before giving a more chronological account of the last couple of months.

We are blessed on Gigha to enjoy three fantastic food eateries who all thrive on the fantastic seafood this island offers. Before posting pictures of those I want to talk about the community on the island and how blessed I was to find a knock on the door asking if I could use a couple of lobsters. A swift yes to Ben B allowed me to make lobster, asparagus and pea risotto the following night and boy was it good!

Lobster courtesy of Ben
Lobster, asparagus and pea risotto

In no particular order I’ve had the pleasure of eating at the Gigha Hotel, The Boathouse and The Nook in the past fortnight. I’m a regular at the Nook for their Fish and Chips but enjoyed the pickled fish platter today to celebrate finishing the deck (more later). I treated the deck builders to The Boathouse last night and enjoyed the Linguine Vongole, highly recommended. And the Hotel last week for a visit from a good friend, thoroughly enjoying Gigha oysters before a well cooked burger. Again more of this later but look out for the food in the stories.

Back to late July to pick up the story from the last post. We continued to remove parts of the first floor that were to no longer remain in the new version of the Manse. Ceilings came down and more lath and plaster were placed in front garden and wood piles respectively. Surprisingly one of the two bedrooms yielded three ceilings, one above another that was hidden at first look. It does give the height back to the room though.

Ceiling removal
When you take down a ceiling and find another ceiling
One of two rooms on the first floor now stripped of lath and plaster

We then tackled the last of the living room on the first floor. And thinking that was most of the demolition, we set about emptying the house. The decision prompted us to move the caravan to a location we could construct the awning. After a couple of false starts (to move behind the house) we settled on a sheltered spot in the front garden. As long as we don’t sink after the weekend’s downpour it will remain home for a while.

Karen became an expert with the motor mover……
…. but even with her skills it wouldn’t make the corner
So to the front garden it went….
…. and was adorned with awning

We have been blessed with visitors and a great social life too of late. Delighted to host Andy & Emily Peake for a couple of nights who both played a part in cutting the meadow. Their timing was perfect to join us for a great party down at Liem too, so much so I cannot recall the following picture being taken. Nedless to say we had a good time (and plenty of red wine).

Andy, Emily & I post red wine

I have also been working throughout August. And whilst I make no secret of attempting to transition away from the IT industry I am grateful for being able to work from home and earn a decent wage that all is going on with the cost of living at the moment. What makes the day at the desk easier is that I have moved into the shepherd’s hut and have some great views from there.

View from the desk.
And our own standing stone when I open the door

I got to indulge another of my passions as the days grow shorter, that of stargazing. Some lovely night skies and I managed to capture a moonscape of which, I am quite proud. Though not as good as my friends at Argyll Auroras who produced the latter stunning image that was then annotated by my good friend and Dark Skies expert Keith.

Moon in the meadow
Delighted to get the Nikon out again
Keith’s annotated photo whom I must credit to Robert Laing ( can you spot the Manse?)

Our social month continued with visitors aplenty. Murdoch and Rhona arrived by (push) bike as did Steve a week later. But the prize for most stunning travel to the island was taken by Julian who upstaged all by arriving by plane. Steve put in a great shift emptying the Manse and Murdoch has returned to photograph the estate for us. I think I need a whole blog on what he has produced……

Rhona meeting other Gigha residents
Arriving in style
My good friend Julian and I
We started with the oysters – Gigha has the best from anywhere I’ve found
A view from the plane – guess the island.

Either side of our wedding anniversary we spent time on the garden, something we both love. Whilst I dont put these pictures on to say look how great it is looking I’m still pretty chuffed that we are holding back the weeds to keep the canvass looking ok. Hoping for big things next year if we can keep control for a while longer. I must mention the wedding anniversary and a cheeky lunch at Skipness Seafood Cabin – a great way to celebrate with the woman I love more and more each year xx.

Happy anniversary xx
The not so formal, formal garden

And back on the house front there were decisions – again prompted by food – choosing the kitchen components. The layout though is still up for grabs so will talk about that in later months. We did come up with some novel design tools mind, or archaic possibly? We concluded we would order from Wren and do so now before prices escalated further.

Envisaging design into real life
CAD drawing?

Now bang up to date the bill of fare for this weekend was to build a deck in front of the shepherds hut. Lots of pictures on Insta for this one and a hearty thanks to our friends Kathryn and John who endured the wettest day of the year to build the frame. The weekend ended in glorious sunshine for me to screw down the last remaining boards and enjoy that decadent pickled fish platter from the Nook washed down with a glass of champagne delivered by plane earlier in the week. We have some great friends!

No worries mate, it will all fit..
Weather warning, not going to stop us
Sunny Sunday
Decadent afternoon to celebrate finishing
And what better than The Nook’s pickled seafood platter washed down with fizz?