Life at the end of the road

December 27, 2014

Seven years on

Filed under: daily doings — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:39 pm

Well, that’s me exactly ‘seven years on’ and I’m still, just, perhaps I’ll get back into it in the New Year. Certainly once I’m in the comfort of the new house I will but that could be a while yet, the days may be getting longer but I reckon the worst of the weather is yet to come.

Officially homeless

Well, not actually without a home but no longer the owner of ‘number 3’, that cosy wee cottage that kept me warm and dry for a quarter of a century. Fortunately we’re still actually living there for a few weeks yet but we’ve just spent our last ever Christmas around the ‘Squirrel’


but more of that later.

I think I last posted from the Torran Schoolhouse and then got distracted on account of the ‘gazillion and one’ things that I had to the moment I finished work.

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Judging by the pictures the weather was pretty spectacular towards the end of November and miraculously all my commutes into and out of the schoolhouse were in fine weather.


There must have been at least some rain to make this though Smile

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On the ‘work front’ we had Simon down from Raasay Engineering to ‘trial fit’ some access ladders prior to removing them again and taking them for galvanizing.

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Once I finished my shift the real work started, first of which was taking fuel and coal over to the schoolhouse to keep ‘the home fire burning’. For this I used my newly acquired 230v pump which I wish I’d purchased 20 years ago. I seem to have spent a good portion of the last 30 years moving barrels of petrol, kerosene, diesel and oil to ridiculous out of the way places on Scottish islands. Scalpay was the most difficult when we’d drive to Broadford in a Land Rover and fill four barrels with unleaded fuel. Even at 1984 prices it cost an ‘arm and a leg’ but nowadays you’d be looking at well over a grand for 800lts.

The barrels then had to be rolled down the shore and up a ramp into the waiting boat to be taken to Scalpay whereupon they’d be rolled up the beach at the other side. Needless to say this job would be done when the tide was high Smile It’s no wonder I have a bad back, my second island home proved equally awkward but at least you could drive to the door. This pump just makes it so easy to transfer the fuel to smaller containers without spilling a drop, though I still had to take one barrel of ‘kerro’ over for the heating.

No sooner had we got settled in


with a bottle of Kraken rum


than we had to move out.

The Swiss surgeon, the Russian art dealer and the English TV producer

We were having to temporarily vacate our fine accommodation to make way for the annual butchery session. This will be when three of my mates do the ‘planes n trains and automobile’ thing from the far corners of the Kingdom and beyond to get to Arnish. Just prior to Christmas they make the annual pilgrimage to the north end of Raasay to butcher a couple of pigs that I fatten for them. Not just your regular ‘rolled and boned’ with a few sausages and chops but the ‘Full Monty’ , salami, chorizo, cotechino, black pudding and everything. 

After last years epic with the bath

014 I’d have thought that they would have had enough, but not a bit of it. The blood for the black pudding was still warm when they ordered another two for this year.

The hardest job when butchering a pig, especially a rare breed hairy one in winter, is removing the bristles as it requires an ideal temperature of 85 degrees, so lots and lots of hot water. The abattoir does it with a huge tank of hot water but with a ‘home kill’ that’s simply not possible so an endless series of pans on the cooker, fire and water from an electric ‘Burco boiler’ are required. I have heard of folks burning the hair off by lying the pig on a pallet full of straw but I’ve never tried it. This year an email arrived in November from Switzerland, closely followed by a large cast iron boiler from Germany.

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With a fire grate in the bottom, a flue on the back and a 100lt capacity it turned the three hour chore into around 45 minutes.


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Three days later Dick and Tracy where nicely parcelled up in the back of two hire cars and on their way to Inverness airport, though I don’t think they’d have been ‘hand luggage’.


That was the beginning of my fortnight off vanished in the ‘blink of an eye’, the rest of it being taken up by emptying my old workshop and filling up my new one. In truth, it was about a days work to move 25 years worth of tools and stuff but as usual I turned it into an epic. Wanting as I did to get everything on shelves, in cupboards and bolted down.


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The walls needed lining and wiring run prior to the shelves, sockets and lights being installed. Then the bench grinders, belt sander, pillar drill, band saw and vices had to be installed. All this at my snails pace whilst listening to Radio 4 and being followed about by Bumblefoot the hen. Though after a few days of wiping hen pooh off important and expensive things I put my foot down and moved her into the garden.

Christmas is here

The luxury of the big shed came into its own during the week of the 8th of December when many of the west coast sailings were cancelled and three days of electrical storms played havoc with power supplies up and down the land. Pretty much one continuous westerly gale  rarely abated throughout the whole week, this had us leaving electric heaters on 24/7 and me running my lights all day in the shed. Throughout all this we only lost power for minutes when the RCD’s tripped due to the lightning and our broadband never dropped out once. All the while the Proven 2.5kW wind turbine belting out so much power that we shut down one of the hydro turbines.

The Proven wasn’t totally unscathed though and on Monday morning when at last the wind eased, I heard an ominous clunk from the trusty turbine. Further investigation revealed a broken spring, so without further ado I lowered it to effect a repair and give it the ‘once over’. I really cannot sing the praises of this turbine highly enough and in nine years I’ve not spent a penny on it. Sure I’ve serviced it annually and it has broken a few springs but I’ve always been lucky enough to pick up second hand ones FOC.

This time however I gave it a special treat and changed the complete spring set from the ones off my spare turbine. However, whilst the whole job only took a couple of hours it did kind of set me back. It was after all my last full day off before work and Christmas and I’d lots to do.

Not that I can really remember much about it as I never took any pictures, however the whole family were coming around for the last Christmas at ‘number 3’. And Christmas wouldn’t be complete without one of Brian Green’s fresh free range turkeys.

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I’m not sure which one it was but I met it in July whilst delivering pigs to Brian and he delivered it to the ferry on Christmas eve.


Christmas day here was a pure peach



and after all the present opening we all went for a walk over to Torran.


Ostensibly it was just a leisurely perambulation along the track to the schoolhouse and back, but as usual I got distracted.

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One of the Tri Star controllers had tripped due to over voltage and I traced the fault to a broken connection in the 24v immersion heater element that acts as a ‘dump load’. Luckily the old air dump resistors were still at hand so I hastily connected them up instead and all was rosy once more.

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That was it really, today was a bit of an epic with me having to return home at 6:30am to collect the Land Rover because the Nissan would get up Cnoc nan Uan, ‘the hill of the lamb’



Still, on the whole it wasn’t a bad day, in between the showers.



  1. nice to see you back on the scribbling front… i must admit though, my effort has been sadly missing for a while. the FB page has the attention at the moment. all the best for the new year paul, have a glass for me, i’m working 😦

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — December 28, 2014 @ 1:08 am

    • Morning Steve, I’ve tried the Facecloth thing, just can’t make any sense of it, walls, pokes, shared this and that, it’s way over my head.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 28, 2014 @ 8:01 am

  2. goodness, poor Dude on a tight download budget! Does this mean you must string a new wire over the hill to the new house? May Hogmanay bring good fortune … And first footing will get easier now that you have neighbors. Good tidings to your whole family.

    Comment by drgeo — December 28, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    • Good morning Texas and ‘Good Tidings’ to you too, one day we’ll come and visit the ‘Lone star state’.

      Cheers, Paul and all

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 28, 2014 @ 8:00 am

  3. Thanks for the blog Paul, I really appreciate the time and effort it takes for you to commit yourself to it especially with every thing you have going on at the moment. Hopefully, you can see some light at the end of the tunnel? Great pics as usual. Cheers and all the best

    Comment by Iain-Down under — December 28, 2014 @ 9:02 am

  4. lovely to hear from you Paul … must be strange “squatting” at no.3 when it doesn’t legally belong to you any more … when are the new neighbours actually moving in? … thank goodness you got the Dude into the school hostel, it was difficult enough for him to get to school from no.3, from the Old Schoolhouse it would be doubly so

    Comment by cazinatutu — December 28, 2014 @ 6:04 pm

  5. Great to catch up on your news. Good luck with the move to the new house Hope you and the family have a happy and healthy 2015.

    Comment by chrisbbbbb — December 30, 2014 @ 9:48 pm

    • Thanks Chris.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 31, 2014 @ 11:28 pm

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