Life at the end of the road

August 6, 2018

An extra day :-)

Filed under: animals, boats, daily doings, stonework, Trucks and plant — Tags: , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:05 am

It’s 8:45 here at ‘Green Pastures’ and our host, James Macleod let us have an extra day. Dunno what we’d have done without that right enough for we missed the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool yesterday. The trusty ‘Egg chariot’ broke down just outside Marybank as we were heading for the 8:00am sailing with plenty of time to spare. Sadly not enough time to repair (once more) the Subaru’s fuel leak. The diving regulator hose I’d used as a temporary repair last week had failed Sad smile Luckily I had collected the correct hose and clips on the way to Harris on Tuesday. Sadly I’d been too busy enjoying myself to fit it. Bad mistake cos the car was now fully loaded with the trailer on and a Subaru’s jack is under the boot floor Sad smile After getting covered in petrol I managed to sort it and siphoned the fuel out of the boat to replace the stuff deposited on the A859 but by then it was almost 8:00 and the Loch Seaforth would be going without us. Shame, cos I’ve never been on CalMac’s ‘flagship’  and it would be a Raasay man and friend who was Master, so was kinda looking forward to a wee tour Sad smile

MV Loch Seaforth Departing Stornoway For Ullapool, 24 February 2015.jpg

This little episode was a real ‘fly in the ointment’ of what had to date been a brilliant break and had left us stranded on Lewis (on the Sabbath) with little chance of getting off and no chance of reaching Raasay. Sure there was an extra sailing by Seaforth at 15:00 and one from Tarbert by MV Hebrides at 16:20 but these two were fully booked. We may have got on but the only one we could be guaranteed a place on was the 16:20 today from Tarbert.

A trip to the ‘Edge of the World’

So, after managing to contact our Airbnb host James, who was somewhere between here and Brazil we opted to stay another night and ‘chill’. Yesterday’s visit to St Kilda had fair taken it out of us, at 12 hours it’s a full day and most of that is taken up by the journey there and back from Leverburgh.

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There are several folk who’ll take you out there, indeed you can charter a RIB from Skye but opted for Angus Campbell’s Kilda Cruises . Quite simply cos he’s been doing it the longest and his two boats, Hirta and Orca III are the best. Knowing we’d a couple of ‘poor sailors’ in our party we opted for the catamaran Orca III. Cats are generally more stable than monohulled vessels and just look at the size of her accommodation. If folk start throwing up, it can turn even the most seasoned sailors stomach so you want much room as possible between you and your passengers Smile 

With a good Westerly F4/5 ‘on the nose’ it wasn’t the most comfortable ride out and it was forecast to freshen to a F6 at around 15:00. Still the cat handled it well and whilst one or two of the passengers were a little ‘green at the gills’ none were sick and all forgot about it as soon as they set foot on Hirta.

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The Hirta is a wee bit faster right enough and gradually overtook us but we dropped off something on the way.


The Hjalmar Bjorge was anchored in the lee of one of the islands at the mouth of the Sound of Harris awaiting a rucksack or something.

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This mustn’t have delayed us by much cos by the time we got to the very sheltered (in a westerly) Village Bay, Hirta still had her passengers aboard. Both vessels have their own moorings to pick up in Village Bay which saves anchoring and time. Passengers then being ferried ashore in an inflatable.

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The first thing we came across was a Foden recovery truck a Land Rover and a 4” gun. The truck belonging to the Army the Land Rover to the construction company building more ‘sympathetic’ buildings for them and the gun, well the gun has ‘never fired a shot in anger’. It was placed the ‘after the horse had bolted’ so to speak. During the ‘Great War’ the submarine U90 paid St Kilda a visit.

U-90 had an interesting career. Built in Danzig she was launched in January 1917 after more than a year of construction. Some 66m in length, she carried a compliment of 32 men and 4 officers. Between September and November 1918 she undertook seven patrols, and, in May that year, most famously sank the USS President Lincoln, a former German steamship used as a troop transport. U-90 was surrendered on November 1918 and broken up in Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth.

Our interest here, however, are the activities of U-90 two weeks earlier when she nosed into Village Bay, St Kilda, apparently intent on causing damage. St Kilda had been manned as a Naval wireless station since January 1915 with a group of about 15 men stationed there. With the help of the islanders, the crew manned a series of watching stations on the high hills of the islands, and maintained contact with the outer isles reporting on enemy shipping and actions.

In the early hours of the 15th May she approached St Kilda in order to establish whether it was being used as a military base and radio station. As the U-boat surfaced in the bay and the crew manned the deck gun – some 100 people were seen in the village, many of whom fled to the hills behind. After sounding an audible warning, the crew opened fire on what they took to be a power station and barracks near the shore. Their efforts to bring down the masts proved ineffectual and, due to the presence of some armed men, they elected not to land.

The islanders had rather a different experience. While some did indeed run to the hills, and their cattle became mad with distress, others toyed with the idea of rowing out to bargain for tobacco. Damage was considerable – the islander’s storehouse, church and three of their houses, parts of one of the wireless sets, seven military huts, and the nurse’s house (used as wireless office). Of these it was the late 18th century storehouse that was put out of use permanently. Despite the efforts of the owners to recoup compensation, it remained a ruin until the late 1980s when it was restored by the National Trust for Scotland.

Such a blatant attack, one of only 15 on British shores, caused a strong reaction in the Navy. Two patrol vessels were stationed in the bay and carpenters sent out within a month to enact repairs. With armed trawlers overstretched in the area, it was decided to set up a permanent defence and as early as August 1918 construction began on a gun emplacement and a magazine. Working from 6am to 6pm a group of five builders, assisted by the St Kildans, toiled away for much of the next seven weeks and the gun was announced ready for action on 13th October. Armistice was announced a month later.

A Gun that Never Fired

Not far from the gun is the ‘feather store’, a substantial building with two storeys, chimneys and a slate roof.


More than can be said for the dwellings of the people of St Kilda, and that’ll be the modernised ones with chimneys Smile Prior to the mid nineteenth century they lived in ‘black houses’ that didn’t have one.

You cannot help but marvel at the resilience and fortitude of the people that lived here for centuries with little or no help from the outside world. You get around four hours on the main island of Hirta and it’s enough time to do some exploring. It is certainly not too long, there’s a small museum and gift shop run by the National Trust but nowhere to buy food, though there are toilets.


There must be hundreds of these on Hirta, indeed that link says over 1200!!!! They were supposed to be used for storing and drying stuff but 1260? That’s an awful lot of stuff, methinks it must have been a ‘guy thing’ you know, my cleit is better than yours or I’ve got more ceilts than you. I kid you not, they are everywhere.

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Whatever the cleits were for though, the St Kildan stone work is amazing.

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Me, I spent most of my time admiring this kind of stuff.

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It was too windy for the adventurous hike up Conachair, St Kilda’s tallest peak but we did manage to peak over the edge at Boraray

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Or was it Soay Smile dunno, but it was pretty spectacular anyway.

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Quite apart from all the wildlife we met lots of Soay sheep and a pigeon Smile

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These sheep are more like goats than sheep, for a while we had a flock of them at Arnish. We got them as they’re allegedly ‘low maintenance’ being very hardy, easy to lamb and most importantly, they don’t need shearing. They’re also difficult to catch and spent most of their life trying to escape back to Plockton from where they came. We ended up eating them Smile Not much on them but what was was delicious.

Around 15:00 we were picked up from the pier and once back aboard Orca taken to the outlying islands and stacks where the vast majority of the seabirds reside.


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It’s after 11:00am now and we should be going so I’ll leave you with Orca departing Village Bay for now.

January 24, 2015

Goodbye Vodafone :-)

It’s been a while I know but I’ve just not had the time as most of the spare bits in between work have been spent trying to restore communications at ‘past the end of the road’.

Now I may do much ranting on here from time to time but I’m not actually one for complaining much when it comes to ‘goods and services’. Some people seem to make a career out of it but not me, if it’s carp I generally just go elsewhere and slag it off on here. Life is too short and I’ve far better things to do with it than spend hours on the phone trying to get refunds or freebies.

However my ‘communication dilemmas of late have driven me ‘right to the top’ of both Vodafone and Talk Talk. Not that it’s done any good yet, but we live in hope. As you know from my last ramblings, we’ve been living half a mile down a rough track without any means of speaking to the outside world since we moved into ‘The Old Schoolhouse’ a couple of weeks ago. The mobile phone signal at Arnish an Torran, IV40 8PF having ‘gone west’ sometime in December. Initially it being of little concern as we had a landline at ‘number 3’ and to be perfectly honest we were not going to bother with a new one at the new house.

The mobile works fine up there and you can get an unlimited phone calls SIM only contract for £10 a month. So what’s the point of having a landline I thought? A few weeks without a mobile phone signal soon put the brakes on that idea Sad smile Being a loyal customer of Talk Talk for years I thought I’d stick with them and just move my phone and number the 160m to the new house.

Actually that’s a bit of a ‘porky’ I tried various other companies online but no one is interested unless you take up ‘a package’ of carp that we neither want or can actually access. Eventually I gave up and went to Talk Talk’s website to do the ‘three easy clicks’ and was very quickly pointed in the direction of an 0800 number. Which of course I could not access cos I don’t have a working phone!!! No bother, I’ll do it from ‘number 3’ thought I and was eventually connected to the usual Bangalore call centre and told to phone back in 24 hours. Sareena did tell me why but I couldn’t tell what she was saying and gave up.

Another week passed by and still no hone signal so I thought I’d give Talk Talk another bell, sure enough it was the Indian Subcontinent once more and this time Rajeev who assured that he’s have me sorted in a few questions. First of which was “what is the postcode” whereupon I informed him that it was the same, so far so good, hurdle number one out of the way. Then came question two “what is the house name or number”, “Sonas” I replied, “that will be Gaelic for happiness” though I think that was wasted on him cos he didn’t know what Gaelic was. When he informed me that he couldn’t find it on the Royal Mail database alarm bells started ringing, ‘here we go I thought’ and said “well it wouldn’t be, it’s not finished yet and we’ve just thought of the name”.

Rajeev then informs me that he cannot install a phone in a house that’s not on the Royal Mail database, “how no” I replied off the cuff. That will be a bit of Glasgow speak I picked up from the wife and I could hear that it threw him off balance. Sorry, I mean why not to which he told me that it was impossible, but if I was lucky Royal Mail would have it on their database with 28 days after which I could apply again and they’d aim to get me the phone moved in 10 Sad smile 

He then apologised and asked me how I felt he’s dealt with my enquiry???? Well says I, “you’ve been polite, courteous and well spoken but I’m not very chuffed with the outcome”.  Chuffed? says he, pleased I replied Smile As soon as I was off the phone I was on the net looking to register my address with Royal Mail. Well what a joke that was, they want you to create an account, password and ask you everything bar your shoe size!! Beggar that I thought and dug further into the bowls of the Internet and found an email thanks to some dude who had been through the same performance with ‘big brother’.

Sorted methinks, not a chance, the day after they replied telling me they couldn’t do it because I wasn’t registered with the council. Straight onto the council website goes I only to discover the sharks want to charge me £88 for the privilege. You could not make this up could you, £500 planning, £900 building warrant, £50 to extend building warrant, God knows how much for the ‘completion certificate’ and the next 25 years council tax and they want £88 so they can send the bills to the right friggin address.

Fortunately my good friend Andrew just happened to give me Dido Harding’s email address last year and I still had it Smile Must be the time of year for our landline was off for a month last Christmas too.

Hi Dido,

it’s me again, Paul Camilli from Raasay. Of course I’m not expecting you to remember me but it’s a year since I wrote and I don’t think I ever thanked you for getting my phone fixed. Since then I’ve been very pleased with your service and thought I’d stick with you when we move next door. If only it were so simple!!

I am building a house 160m away and would like to install a landline there, you would think that to be a pretty simple request from a long time customer wouldn’t you, not a chance. Firstly I tried to do it online and never got by the ‘three easy steps’ before being told to phone instead, so I did. I was then told by the nice Indian lady to phone back in 24 hours!!!! what’s all that about? Anyway, I got distracted and never managed it for a week. The second time I called, Rajeev told me he’d be glad to help and it would be a easy task, just a few simple questions. Whereupon he asked for my postcode, same one says I, IV40 8PF all the houses at the north end of Raasay share this postcode. OK so far, then he asked for the house name to which I replied Sonas, which if you’re interested is Gaelic for happiness. I can’t find it says he, to which I replied, well it is there I can assure you, but it’s not registered with Royal Mail he replies. So what I says, my wife is the post lady so she’ll be able to find it don’t worry. No good says Rajeev I can’t install your phone until it’s registered with Royal Mail, that’ll be 28 days and then we’ll try and install your phone within ten!! But the house is just next door says I, what’s the problem. Can’t do it without it being registered he assured me then proceeded to ask me how I felt he’d dealt with my enquiry. Well says I, you’ve been polite, spoken clearly and done a great job but I’m not very chuffed with the outcome. Chuffed was a word I don’t think you must teach at the ‘Talk Talk’ training school so perhaps you should include it. I’m not actually from Yorkshire but it’s a very common word there.

Anyway I got in touch with Royal Mail and they told me they cannot register my address until it’s registered with the council!!! So I toddles along to the council website and the sharks want to charge me £88 for registering my property!!! They also advise me to do it very quickly as it can take a long time, though how long is not very clear.

So in a nutshell you have a long time and faithful customer here who just wants to transfer his phone next door and you won’t do it because the address is not registered. That’s a bit bonkers is it not, my account is set up, my credit good and I’m only moving 160 meters!

Cheers, Paul

Well Dido has someone who obviously is not from India ‘on the case’ and I’ve to phone her on Monday Smile

The Vodafone debacle

The phone signal finally returned to the schoolhouse on the 19th, only problem being it was on a network that none of us use. I’ve been taking the ships phone home at night which is on 3, and ‘lo and behold’ a constant signal on that phone and none on the three VF ones. Well I gave it a further 3 days and reluctantly signed up to 3 network. I’d emailed Jeroen, spoke to numerous help lines and wasted hours on line and all to no avail. I got my SIM and welcome pack two days later, stuck it in my phone and that was that, went home last night, full signal on my phone and none on the three other VF phones in the house. And there I would have left it, had I not got a letter today from Jeroen’s office telling me they were sorry I was leaving now and they had fixed the phone mast on the 22nd!!

Well, I was ‘spitting feathers’ and phoned them up, sadly it was once more ‘the script’ and the ‘merry-go-round’, this time from the delightful Catherine who kept me on the phone from Raasay to Sconser. She assured me that it was fixed and that the phone signal was patchy in my location because I was 12.5km from the mast, blah, blah, blah. Of course telling her that 3 had managed to give a signal from the same mast cut no ice, as did the fact that the phones have worked there for over a decade.

When I mentioned that my wife and son’s phones didn’t work she quickly told me she could not discuss those. To which I told her that I was so Pi55ed off with Vodafone that I was going to keep my contract going just so I could hassle them Smile

Better calm down now before I bust a blood vessel. I won’t even start on my other preoccupation of late, my solicitor and the Crofting Commission. That would really ‘wind me up’ Smile

Fourteen years

After such an absence, and with such a poor memory I’ll just have to scan through the pictures  and see what turns up. Fortunately I have some ‘crackers’ sent to me by a couple of readers.



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This will be the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ in the 1970’s courtesy of Mark, a former ‘inmate’ and geologist. I dunno if he’s in the picture but that is our bedroom!!!


Another great picture from Mark, this time the Nicolson’s house at Torran, which was at that time the Post Office and you can see the telephone wires in the shot.


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The electric shaver somehow got lost in the move, consequently darling wife said I looked like a pirate so gave me a pirate outfit as an anniversary present Smile I don’t think she could find anything else to go with the olives, roll mop herring and Dorito’s she bought me. well it was unusual to say the least but I got ‘in the spirit’ of things.

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Though I’m sure there is something in the company manual about ‘improper dress’ Smile

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It’s been a while, but our old friend Fraser turned up with one of Hugh Mackay Plant’s diggers on the back of his immaculate Scania.

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Digger in

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digger out, telephone Hugh on 07861 457 260 for all your roads and ditches, it’s not just Raasay he serves.

The house has also been getting much attention from Lachie, Donald and ‘John Norman’ and his team.

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Chris and Jamie came over despite heavy snow and treacherous roads, did the ‘roughing out’ and much more. Unasked for they put a power supply in the roof space for antenna booster, added extra switches and made some excellent suggestions on the positioning of phone an TV sockets etc. I was severely impressed by their quality of work, cheerful disposition and enthusiasm for our renewables.

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MV Loch Seaforth

Next to progress on the house, the highlight of the week so far has to be yesterday’s visit by Cal Mac’s newest and largest ever vessel the 7800t, MV Loch Seaforth . With both her Master and Mate from this fair island it seemed like a good place to do ‘anchor trials’ on her way south to Gourock.

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She certainly has a good turn of speed, the AIS clocked her at over 20knots down the east side of Skye.


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Those were mine taken from Hallaig


but these are from Perry who snapped the Hallaig and Seaforth from the shore at Braes on Skye.




great pictures for sure, thanks Perry.

Three Network 5 Vodafone nil

Well, that’s me back home after a long day, it’s 22:30 and guess what,

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it’s Vodafone nil and 3network 5, and this will be after Catherine from Vodafone assuring me that "We can confirm that the issues affecting network service across the Highlands, Scottish Isles and Inverness-shire are now fixed."  Aye right. Look at that, a full five bars on the 3 phone and sweet FA on Vodafone and I’m not the only one Kath has problems too.

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