Probably not exactly, but certainly a ‘ball park’ figure and kind appropriate as it’s the title of the CD I’m listening to just now.
Not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ I’m sure but me I’m a great Underworld fan ever since Ewan Macgregor shoved his head down a toilet in Trainspotting and I saw them at T in the park shortly after.
Anyway, as everyone keeps reminding me, ‘you’ve not posted since March’. Well I’m sorry peeps but it’s been kinda hectic up here at ‘the end of the road’, and much as I’ve wanted to, I’ve kinda been pure wrecked at the end of each day. It’s not like there’s been a lack of any news, for an island of this size there’s been plenty and over the next few nights I hope to enlighten you.
Two weeks on
Well, so much for that measly attempt at posting, two weeks on and I’ve still not managed a line. Better just get on with it hey. So, it’s Sunday midday now and I’m still probably way over the old ‘blood alcohol’ limit, never mind Scotland’s new one. Twas a brillig ‘sesh’ last night at Sonas with a shoulder of Donnie Oliphant’s Dexter beef, a bottle of Glenlivit and a house full of neighbours and friends.
I guess the main reason for blogging at this time of a perfectly dry and reasonable day is that I’m too wasted to be doing anything else, certainly not operating any machinery or fixing wifey’s Subaru. That and of course the multiple complaints, emails, phone calls and being accosted in the street for not blogging
Where to start
After such a long time without ‘putting pen to paper’ so to speak it’s hard to know where to start. I don’t even have that many photographs to remind me of what’s happened this last hundred days or so and I never even bothered filling out the proper diary either. Truth is we’ve been so busy here at Sonas that I’ve not had the time, it doesn’t get dark until 23:00 and when I do come in I get distracted by the amazing views from the living room.
An unwelcome American import
Much worse than Halloween, Black Friday, Windows 10 and the odious Donald Trump is the American mink which has been plaguing Raasay, Rona and particularly Arnish.
Brought over here after the last war and farmed for their fur, a combination of escapes and misguided ‘tree huggers’ releasing them into the wild has introduced a ferocious predator into the Highlands and islands. With no natural enemies these cute little creatures can decimate ground nesting bird populations, rabbits and of course our hens. This wee one killed and injured around eight before I blew its brains out. They have no fear and have started taking the hens during the day, another eight or so over the last couple of days in broad daylight. With an almost constant air of ‘barbecued chicken’ around the house due to cremating the corpses my wife has quite lost heart.
Consequently ‘Arnish Eggs’ will no longer be available in the shop Still, you can now buy Donnie Oliphant’s excellent Dexter beef seriously, if you’ve not tried it you’re missing out, it’s the ‘real deal’ with proper fat that leaves the meat all succulent and not dried out like your regular Sunday joint.
Since ‘Storm Henry’ fried my Kingspan/Proven 3.2/2.5 turbine I’ve been doing quite a lot of most enjoyable tinkering on the turbine front. I think I described the fitting of the new core/stator earlier https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/flying-again/ However, since then I’ve had it down again and done some mods after speaking to the most helpful team at Kingspan.
Due to a series of bizarre coincidences and synchronicity I’ve acquired another Proven/Kingspan turbine, this time a 6kW one.
A friend who lives out ‘in the sticks’ near my wife’s mum had one lying around with his collection of military vehicles. It was minus blades and the frame had been hacked to bits but the rest of it was fine. A chance meeting with a fire eater led me to a set of the latest carbon fibre blades.
As I was in the area collecting the turbine and blades from two different locations a hundred miles apart I called in at Kingspan Wind in Stewarton. They had a second hand frame and shaft and gave me a great quote for fitting both and supplying all the required hardware I was missing, covers, blades fixings and new bearings. They also programed a suitable MPPT power curve into a newly acquired Aurora wind inverter.
I left it with them and we collected it a few weeks later,
fully overhauled and guaranteed at a fraction of the cost of a new one.
It was after dragging the trailer and turbine 200 miles back home that I felt a strange sensation from my rear end, well not mine personally but the ‘Old Girl’s’ Upon checking in the rear mirrors I noticed the rear axel moving out to starboard This was not good!
The rear ‘A frame’ cross member was pure infested with the old ‘tin worm’ and I spent a whole week making a new one and welding it onto the chassis. In the process I hurt my back, wrecked my knees and had to got to casualty with rust in my eye!! The sanity of keeping a thirty year old vehicle as my ‘daily driver’ was becoming questionable. However after spending weeks looking for something that would replace it I came to the conclusion that I’d be stupid to, unless was prepared to pay 10 or 15K. Even then I’d probably not get a winch or locking rear diff, both of which had proved their worth extricating a 9ton machine from a bog recently.
I seriously considered several L200 pickups, Rangers and Isuzu Rodeos, I just love them but these days you cannae fix them, they’ve all got ‘dual mass’ flywheels that cost an ‘arm and a leg’ to replaced and in few years their all rotten. The price of Defenders has gone through the roof since they stopped making them so I decided to keep my own. Though I’m gonna have to replace the bulkhead shortly, mind you I’ve been saying that for ten years
Portree lifeboat, Stanley Watson Barker
MV Hebridean Princess
MV Spanish John II
MV Emma C and another who’s name escapes me
The Sunday ‘boat drill’
The PS Waverly and MV Hallaig.
That’s it really, well of course it isn’t, but it’s after 14:00 now and I reckon I’m sober enough to go and do some work. Wifey’s Subaru is needing a few finishing touches after the clutch fiasco.
A couple of days away with me mam and our new caravan recently turned into a disaster. We set off for the excellent Sands caravan park just out of Gairloch http://www.sandscaravanandcamping.co.uk/ last week. Plan being to stay a couple of nights there and go and visit me dad in http://www.isleview.co.uk/ at Aultbea. All went fine until we took my dad out for a run to Gruinard Bay a few miles to the north.
The sandy bay and beautiful views giving no clue as to its sinister past, the site of the first live testing of anthrax bombs in WWII. It was whilst we were there that the clutch on the Subaru failed spectacularly, leaving us with a collapsed release bearing, some expensive noises and no way of disengaging the gearbox from the engine Not the best situation to be in 100 miles from home with a caravan, luckily it was still relatively early in the day and I’m well used to driving without one. Having said that I’ve never driven so far on a summers day on single track roads without a clutch. So, after a quick call to the neighbours and the ferry I got the ‘Old Girl’ driven to the south end and put aboard Hallaig for the 14:30 sailing. After a couple of hair raising hours on the road we dropped the Subaru at Sconser and headed back to Aultbea in the Land Rover. A Chinese ‘carry out’ from Hai Yang takeaway
and a walk along the beach rounding off the day nicely.
A hundred years on
It seemed fitting that 100 years after the Battle of Jutland that I should finally donate some artefacts from there to the museum in Gairloch. Whilst not from the battle itself the lumps of brass I had been hauling around for forty years had seen action there. I had many years ago dived at the Cove point gun battery at the mouth of Loch Ewe, see below from https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/the-five-year-droit/
And I thought the Crofting Commission were slow
Upon turning in for the night I checked my emails to find one titled Droit No: 430/09 !!! what on earth is that methinks and almost deleted it. Curiosity however got the better of me and I opened it, not having a clue what a droit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droit was. Turns out it relates to another clear out I was having five years ago, this time from my garden.
Can’t remember exactly how but around five years ago I rekindled my interest in Loch Ewe, a former convoy marshalling area in WWII. I had spent time in diving there in the early seventies, mainly around the Cove Point gun batteries on on the wreck of the American ‘liberty ship’ the William H Welch.
I think perhaps the boys were doing WWII at primary school so I took the Dude and Lightning up there for the day to see the many concrete structures that remained.
Below are a couple of souvenirs I lifted in 1976 from the 6” MkVII breach loading guns that once saw action on the flagship at Jutland.
These guns were actually the secondary armament from HMS Iron Duke
and were removed for coastal defence purposes at the beginning of the second world war. Some of them being mounted at the entrance to Scapa Flow and at least two finding their way to http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/71894/details/rubha+nan+sasan+cove+battery/
The extensive remains of a Second World War emergency coast battery, built in 1941. Surviving structural elements include two gun houses in each of which a 6" Mark 7 (naval) gun would have been mounted, two searchlight emplacements, a battery observation post, engine houses or generating rooms, magazines and two emplacements for (possibly 20mm Oerlikon) anti-aircraft guns.
From January to September 1942 the site was manned by 308 Independent Coast Battery (Royal Artillery) and from September 1942 until April 1944 by 154 Independent Battery, after which date it was placed on a care and maintenance basis. There is no record of the battery ever firing in anger.
Information from Historic Scotland, June 1992.
This coast battery is situated at Rubha nan Sasan, at the end of a track from Cove. The battery observation post, two gun-emplacements, two searchlight emplacements, engine rooms, magazine are all extant. In an area some 100m to the SW are many hut bases which formed the accommodation camp for those serving at the battery. The battery was armed with 2 x 6-inch MkVII guns on Naval mountings from HMS Iron Duke which were installed in July 1941. The battery was placed on care and maintainance in April 1945. It has been suggested that the gun barrels from the mountings were rolled into the sea, but there is no evidence for them now.
Well, there is in my garden and five years ago I tried to rectify this by donating them to the local museum http://www.gairlochheritagemuseum.org/ ‘tried’ being the operative word.
Feeling somewhat guilty, OK I know it’s a little late, I phoned up the museum last week to see if they wanted them as I could drop them off on the way past. After all these bits of brass had fired several rounds at the battle of Jutland when they were firmly bolted to the then flagship of Admiral sir John Jellicoe. I spoke to the curator and was told in no uncertain terms that they could not accept donations without filling in reams of paperwork which would take weeks! I could barely contain myself, the world has gone mad! “what’s all that about”, asks I in disbelief “Oh it’s in case somebody tries to claim title to them” more likely in case some plonker drops it on his foot and tries to sue the museum thinks I. For heavens sake it’s a lump of brass not an ‘old master’, needless to say this 100 year old bit of history that was present at the largest engagement ever of capital ships in World War I and sat watching over thousands of sailors as they passed in and out of Loch Ewe in World War II is still in my garden collecting dust, well dead leaves actually!
So I contacted the ‘Receiver of Wreck’ in September 2009 to make sure nobody had ‘title’ then I could give them to the museum, and five years later they replied!! The wheels of bureaucracy turn very slowly indeed Anyway the news is good, HMG no longer require 6” naval gun spares in this time of defence cuts so the museum can have them 102 years after the keel of HMS Iron Duke was laid. Though, in the unlikely event that you are interested it actually takes far longer to make one gun barrel than an entire battleship.
So, almost eight years since I initially offered the parts from the 6” guns and William H Welch the award winning museum http://www.gairlochheritagemuseum.org/ finally had them.