Life at the end of the road

December 21, 2013

Well and truly ‘Hallaiged’ :-)

Filed under: daily doings, food, New hybrid ferry, pigs — Tags: , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:19 pm

Well it’s been a while that’s for sure, not my record of ten days without blogging but a fair ‘runner up’ at nine. Not lack of enthusiasm or even boredom with it as I approach its sixth anniversary, I’ve just been plain wrecked Sad smile If only it had been the good ‘wrecked’ induced by Sue’s case of fine red wines who’s names included, The black stump, Le XV du President, Cabalie, Pillastro and an Argentinian number who’s monica had something to do with a waxed bat Smile Nope, it was none of those it was simple tiredness induced by hard labour and late nights.

The three wise men

It all started on Friday the 13th of all days, when I arose early to prepare for the slaughter of the two Tamworth boars we’d been fattening for some friends. This past five or so years it’s become a bit of a ritual every Christmas, I kill them or get them killed and they turn up from the ‘deep sowf’ and beyond to do the butchery. It’s a ‘grey area’ for you’re only allowed to do ‘home kills’ for yourself and immediate family but I figure a stress free bullet in the head is far better than a 100 mile trip in a trailer. It’s their pigs, I’ve only just been feeding them, so if they want to chop them up into all manner of porky delights for their own consumption then that’s fine by me.

To be honest, as I have to take pigs through to Dingwall anyway it’s actually easier for me to do it that way. However the ‘surgeon, art dealer and film director’ want all the ‘pluck’ (lungs, trachea, heart etc.) and  blood for the black pudding, cotechino, chorizo, salami and sausage that they delight in creating.


Expecting them late morning or early afternoon I prepared by putting Ellie and seven wains out on the hill for the day as I didn’t want them nearby when I shot number 1.

013  008 

The .22 bolt action Anchutz would be the ‘weapon of choice’ but I had the Hatsan shotgun on standby just in case. The shotgun at ‘point blank’ is certainly guaranteed but it leaves the head fit for nothing afterwards. A single shot with the .22 to the imaginary centre of a cross drawn between the eyes and ears will dispatch any six month old pig if delivered properly. However, having recently heard the harrowing story of a sow that was ‘professionally killed’ with a captive bolt on a friends croft I had the big gun ready just in case.

A Burco 3kW tea urn was filled  with water ready for the labourious task of ‘de hairing’ and an insulated box made ready to keep the water hot.


011 012

The chain and ‘glocken’ that had mysteriously arrived from Germany  were made ready, as was the cast iron bath. The purpose of these ‘instruments’ that I received through the post in November became clear a few weeks ago when this link arrived by email.



1980’s German butchery

And don’t go watching that video if you’re squeamish Smile 

Of course it all went completely ‘pear shaped’ when my mates arrived at Inverness on the overnight sleeper from London to discover their hire car wasn’t there so they never actually arrived at Arnish until 16:00.

014 015 016

As I had to be back at work on Saturday we just got straight on with it, dispatching pig number 1 as soon as they arrived, draining off his blood for the black pudding and putting him in the cast iron bath.

De Hairing a pig

Now if you’ve watched that video then you’ll see how easy it is, aye right, Smile the one in the vid is a ‘skinhead’ compared to the Tamworth and it took three and a half hours of constantly scraping and pouring boiling water over Mr pig to remove his hair. The Calor gas burner under the cast iron bath helped but more hot water is the key.

  017 018 

  019 020

The reason these images are small is because they’re a bit gruesome if you’re one of these types that doesn’t associate their bacon sandwich with that lovely intelligent creature with a curly tail. So don’t click on them if you think your black pudding comes from Tesco’s and not a cute living and breathing animal.


After the Swiss surgeon had finished his work the film director invited us over to supper and the Russian art dealer cooked us some fresh liver Smile



Fresh liver and pigs brains on toast, washed down with a fine red wine takes some beating after a hard days graft that’s for sure.


The offal gets much bad press and derision in society these days but fresh and lightly cooked it takes some beating I can tell you.

Back to work

After ‘wobbling home’ drunk with no headlights on my quad I collapsed in bed and arose early on Saturday to yet another gale. A gale of biblical proportions accompanied with rain the likes of which I’ve NEVER seen. We had to move the bath behind the barn for shelter, abandon the gas burner and rely on more water heated in the kitchen but pig number two was dehaired in around two and a half hours.



At this point in time I’m feeling really guilty, for my ‘back to back’ is covering for me and the wind is storm force southerly with just about every ferry in Scotland cancelled or severely disrupted. I’m thinking he’s not going to get home and it’s all my fault,



but I head down for the 14:30 ferry anyway to let him away.


In 25 years I have honestly never seen so much water


and that’s not blue sky, it’s the windscreen tint.

I did get to the Hallaig before 14:30 and it didn’t sail until 15:30 but my mate got away and I took over in the engine room.

With no 20:30 sailing I headed over to Torran for yet more ‘piggy delights’ and wine, this time


kidney and cream, kale and mashed potato care of the Russian art dealer.

MV Hallaig

Sunday once more dawned with a gale the likes of which I’ve not seen in years,




with  the power intermittent on the rest of the island the MV Hallaig took a little coaxing into life. The grid fluctuations had tripped the ships supply, the UPS (uninterrupted power supplies ) had gone flat and ‘all hell had broken loose’ on our ‘hi tech’ ship. Me, I don’t agree with all this chip and computer pish, I’m more of an agricultural ‘old grey Fergie’ tractor type but unfortunately that’s the ‘way of the world’ these days days.

Now don’t go getting all sanctimonious about this for we’re all driving about in cars that don’t have spare wheels, need a tow truck for everything other than running out of fuel and can’t be fixed without plugging into a fecking computer. All of which  is fine if you live in Milton Keynes or 90% of the ‘first world’ but here on Raasay the phones don’t always work, the power fails regular (unless you live at ) and the internet aint always functioning.

Sadly the people who design and build cars, ferries, networks or anything in fact don’t appreciate this  and a good spell of ‘west coast weather’ can mess things up spectacularly.

Our new ship is very capable, fit for purpose, can sail in weather that would keep the trusty old ‘loch class’ tied to the pier and is very comfortable. Sadly it has had a few glitches that have resulted in the odd disruption, but the weather has been exceptional and there would be precious few sailings from the old pier this last few days anyway. However it has given ‘yours truly’ a few sleepless nights and I’ve not had a lunch break in almost two weeks but I’ve every confidence in her and I’m sure she’ll be a valuable asset to Raasay.




It may have taken a little while to fully restore all the systems to Hallaig on Sunday but I made sure that the cooker was working for the ‘big breakfast’ Smile


Wednesday we had a total blackout on the island and had to press MV Loch Linnhe into service as Hallaig another ‘wee glitch’. It was nothing serious but caution prevailed and I have to say it was very reassuring to press a proper rubber starter button, listen to the Volvo roar and watch the shaft turn Smile The old ‘loch class’ is definitely the ‘grey Fergie’ of the ferry world Smile

File:Ferguson Tractor on an exhibition.jpg

I’ve lost track of the rest of the week, my camera is in the Land Rover, it’s after 23:00


and I’m off to bed.


  1. So glad all is well up there, I had heard the weather was bad in the NW of Scotland, but that is an awful lot of water coming off the hill. Still the next day heralds spectacular skies. Thoroughly enjoyed reading about the two Tamworths that liver does not get more fresh, will look into the ‘brains’ I have never tried them.


    Comment by Arthur T Bomber Harris — December 22, 2013 @ 7:33 am

    • Yup brains fried in egg and breadcrumbs is a real treat Michael, it was my first time too.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 22, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  2. I’d been watching the packed isobars on the weather forecasts and wondering how you were getting on, epic weather indeed. Glad to hear you’re all safe and sound. And that’s the first time I can remember you saying you were drunk.

    Comment by cazinatutu — December 22, 2013 @ 8:26 am

    • Did I say was driving the quad drunk!!!!!! I’m sure there must be a law against that sort of thing 🙂 must have been drunk last night too to admit to that.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 22, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

      • well you obviously can’t have been really drunk or you’d not have remembered it … anyway you weren’t on a public highway, although these days there seems to be a law against absolutely everything, how anyone can get through an average day without contravening something I don’t know

        Comment by cazinatutu — December 22, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

  3. Glad you’re still blogging. I was beginning to wonder. Great shots of the stormy weather you’ve been having and particularly liked the silhouette of Brochel Castle. Hope you have a good Christmas and New Year and look forward to more good posts in 2014. All good wishes, Carolyn.

    Comment by Carolyn — December 22, 2013 @ 8:48 am

    • I just need to get back to ‘normality’ that’s all 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 22, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

  4. Glad you survived the storms intact Paul! Some rotten weather still in the picture for the next few days, but thankfully nothing like the amount of rain you had recently.
    Having finally had the chance to sail on Hallaig last night, I’m really impressed! She’s amazingly quiet and so smooth. I was also very impressed at the speed – quite a bit quicker than the Loch Striven at a guess. There really is some power there and it seem so very controllable too. Having arrived on Raasay, duly very impressed, I got the “glass half empty” view of it all! I’m certain you will all get it right and after all, the benefits are very well worth it. Grey Fergies are OK (we call them the “grey menace”) but if you really need get the job done you need a 6R!

    Comment by fingalextravaganza — December 22, 2013 @ 9:01 am

    • Glad you enjoyed your trip on the Hallaig, lets hope it’s the first of many.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 22, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

  5. Glad to see you still here. Have a good rest and Merry Christmas & Happy 2014 Eileen

    Comment by eileen1929 — December 22, 2013 @ 9:03 am

    • Thanks Eileen, same to you.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 22, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

  6. Here, (rural Asturias, Spain) San Martín is still quite common. You get a piglet in spring, feed garden and kitchen waste and butcher at or better after St Martin (11-11) and turn into chorizo, tocino and more. It quite a festive occasion because all the family gathers for a few days do all the work and have some fun in the mean time.

    The point of interest, I think for you is that they use a burner to burn of the hairs. probably a lot faster 🙂

    Love your blog.

    Comment by thomas van putten — December 22, 2013 @ 9:23 am

    • Hi Thomas and welcome, love yours too. Never had great success with the burning but perhaps I need more practice 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 22, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

  7. Great to read your blog again. I guessed you were having a few Hallaig glitches. The weather has just been terrible this month – I smiled at CalMac’s disruptions post ” we have no telephone contact with the vessel” for Raasay (or words to that effect.
    Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family


    Comment by Nigel Macleod — December 22, 2013 @ 10:36 am

  8. Hi Paul,

    Looks like I picked the right weekend to come visiting, even with my driving skills the C63 – 507 would not have got to your croft!! NO WAY!! next time I will bring the range rover!!
    I 100% agree with you about the ” fergie” way of doing things and count myself lucky that my trip back was on the loch striven, as I said to Grant I much preferred it!!
    but that’s the old motorman in me I suppose!!!

    have a good one and see you in the new year with grant for strong drink!!

    Comment by v8mbov — December 22, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  9. Good to hear that you haven’t actually been washed away altogether but it looks like it was a close-run thing! Have a peaceful Christmas and a good New Year. Anne

    Comment by Anne Macdonald — December 22, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

  10. Your post was well worth waiting for, Paul. How did you ever cross that flooded road? And is there a term beyond ‘burn in spate’?
    Have a wonderful Christmas and 2014. I hope all your new techie stuff on croft and ship runs ‘grey fergie’ smoothly.

    Comment by Flora — December 22, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

  11. Hi Paul
    Just seeing all that lovely pork and piggy bits makes me hungry
    We have a Butcher/Restaurant in Ottery St Mary who does lovely things with his pigs well worth a look and on http://www.tripadvisor
    Hope you all have a great Christmas and good luck throughout 2014
    Chris & Chris Tim and Paul

    Comment by chrisb — December 22, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

  12. sounds like several stressed out days. i am kind of stunned the cyber ferry can’t best its own weather, but i also understand if there won’t be too much news about it from you. i hope you and yours stay safe, warm, dry, connected to the intarnets and merry. thanks for coming back, we missed you.

    Comment by jeannettesmyth — December 22, 2013 @ 11:46 pm

  13. Wellcome back on blog Paul, had a feeling you’d been side tracked with more pressing things and its nice to read about them. I’m surprised how long it takes to de hair a pig. Hope the Hallaig sorts it’s problems out especially if it’s going to be the future in ferry transport. Not like our Mersey ferries being layed up because the Councils are to hard up to keep a subsidised service going even for the Tourists.
    Seasonal best wishes to you your family and all your readers.🎅🎄🍷🍻🐖🎁🎅

    Comment by Polite Scouser — December 23, 2013 @ 9:55 am

    • Hi Walter, the Mersey councils are probably skint from paying out to halfwits who trip over pavement cracks. I read somewhere recently that Merseyside council spends more in compensation than repairing pavements, ‘the world has gone mad’, when are people going to open their eyes.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 24, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

  14. Woah! Look at the Burn flow! I saw some of Tekela’s pics too – heck, hope nothing got too mushed up! Love that last photo of the moon – now that’s how I remember it! Love for Christmas xx

    Comment by Kyla — December 24, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    • Thanks Kyla and enjoy the summer down there 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 24, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

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