Friday, 27 March 2009

Reinforcements arrive!

Last weekend the troops arrived! Jo, Em, (with bump) Dan and Em's dad. It was brilliant. I was having a bad camera weekend, and only managed a couple of pictures. The felling of the two big trees I missed - I expect I was in the kitchen!
I failed to take the camera on the climb up Stac Polly and only took a couple of mediocre snaps of the visit to Corrieshalloch Gorge. You'll have to take my word for it that both were good. Despite rather wet windy  weather conditions - even Em who's nearly eight months pregnant made it almost half way up stac polly. At that point driving sleet and hail sent us back down again, apart from Dan who made it to the top and probably swung around on a few rocks up there enjoying the gales (spring is lovely here!)
When the troops weren't working on the Hoff Estate, they were allowed time off for good behaviour! I was sad when it was time for them to leave. I had a great time eating chocolate and drinking wine - I'm not sure what they did, I'm not sure that I left any!
On a sombre note. I was driving home early yesterday evening after having 'popped' out to do a food shop at  Tesco in Dingwall. Provisions were running low and another friend is arriving this weekend. I was almost home  when I drove into what had been a horrible accident. I must have arrived within ten minutes of it happening. I was told a man on a motorbike had driven round a bend and head on into an approaching car. We sat in a queue. I think I was about the fourth car back. A helicopter landed in the road and airlifted the man to hospital. The police then shut the road and I was told the only way for me to get home was via Gairloch. The accident happened a mile or so before Braemore junction (clicking on the map should hopefully enlarge it) on the A835. I had no alternative but to turn round and retrace my steps back to Garve,  pick up the A832  and drive some seventy miles on a circular route back to Braemore junction. I had forgotten my mobile phone and was low on petrol. The detour added about a hundred miles to my shopping trip! 
And it  made me think, yet again,  how easy it is to take this environment for granted. It is remote and at times hostile. There isn't a petrol garage on every corner with convenient towns to drive through. There are no shortcuts, just one lonely and often empty road. As I drove back in the dark, at one point  through a blizzard of snow, and yet another, swerving to avoid a deer,  I thought how  totally unprepared I am for the unexpected. At times, most times in fact, I still set off on a journey with the same mentality that I had in Woking. I have to pull my socks up. Always carry a phone, (fingers crossed for reception!) and a can of petrol. On a lighter note, if nothing else, I had food wine and chocolate provisions  in the car! I eventually arrived home safely feeling hugely relieved. The petrol guage needle on the red. Now where's that petrol can gone!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Finished, almost!

I've been busy! After much corner taping, sanding down and painting I've produced (in terms of decorating at least) the most finished room in the house - the guest room! Ok, there are still no floors or skirting board and the door frames need painting, but apart from that this is a finished room!
Oh, and the mirror has to be hung on the wall too! I need to buy a length of chain when I'm next in Inverness.
Sometimes when I get a bit despondent and think nothing is coming on and the house will never be finished I have to remind myself that this was our house a year ago almost to the day; still packed on a lorry! I took this photo (hopping up and down with excitement) on March 13th last year. The driver parked in a lay-by just before the turn into Letters while he studied the feasibility of maneuvering a huge lorry up a single track lane with passing places, that ends in a field with a not very large turning point
But he made it and so did the house!
Can one be proud of window sills? Well, I'm proud of these. I sanded down between coats and used a pad to apply the paint, and I think I've managed a superb egg shell finish, free of brush streaks, almost!

I've just heard the weather forecast and looked out of the window - I hate these dull, cloudy overcast days!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Band practice

Thursday afternoon is band practice. Niels is a drummer, a tapping on table tops sort of person. It didn't take him long to track down possibly, the only contemporary jazz band in the Highlands! They've only just started playing together and yesterday afternoon they met at our house. And on that note, I rolled up the corner tape and headed for the hills!
The following photos were all taken yesterday afternoon, over a distance of some 25 miles, and show the enormous diversity of weather. They say if you don't like the weather here, wait ten minutes, alternatively drive down the road!

These deer were along way off, and consequently out of focus. I'm looking for a new camera, but that's another blog!

This one was a lot nearer - and warned his mates that an old deer of the human variety was coming over the hill

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

It's back!

The view arrived back today in glorious technicolour and splendour. A smattering of snow on the higher slopes with blue sky and sunshine. I took this from the bedroom window this afternoon.
There's more snow on the mountains and up on the 'Dirrie' as it's known locally; the High Ascent as you drive up out of Ullapool on the A835 towards Inverness. But enough of looking out of the window.
Visitors arrive this month to stay. The guest bedroom had a hurried coat of white paint slapped on the walls last winter to make it ready for friends and family staying for Christmas and the New Year. However, it needs some finishing touches. The tape on the window sill is corner tape. It has a crease along its center and is for internal corners. When I first bought some I thought all corner tape was internal because it was used indoors! But that's not what it means at all. Outward and inward facing corners have different tape. Stick with it - I'll finish in a minute! External corner tape has two metal strips down the center to run either side of the corner and protect against bashes and knocks. Now, isn't that worth knowing? You never know when the desire to corner tape will pounce on you and at least now, unlike myself, you'll be able to stay ahead in the shop!
Corner tape covers up cracks and corner joints in the plaster board. It's easy enough to put on, what I'm less good at (really bad at in fact) is plastering over the tape. I've done one corner in the guest room and when finished it must all be sanded down and repainted. You're not supposed to see any joins in the plaster, or edges of tape under the paint?! I'm hoping guests will be so taken with the views, they won't notice lumpy corners, seams and stuff!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Going East

We've had a lot of this just lately. Yes, I agree the raindrops are pretty enormous, but then the rain has been pretty heavy. Better make the most of it though, while we still have it, tomorrow heavy snow showers are forecast!
Yesterday afternoon, we decided, enough is enough, and went to find the sun. It wasn't difficult the sun has been shining in most places, just not on the west coast. We drove to Dornoch, possibly more known in recent times for providing the venue for Madonna and Guy Ritchie's wedding in 2000. Typically we took a meandering, going in the wrong direction route to get there. On the map it's just opposite, across the page, but a large lump of nothing sits between the soggy north west and the sunny east coast!
But it was as if summer had arrived when we got there. I felt as if I'd just stepped off the plane.
Miles of sandy beach and a glow in the sky
Dornoch has a cathedral, and this photo demonstrates perfectly that I didn't take a picture of it. We didn't walk around Dornoch, preferring to head straight for the beach, park our towels on the sun loungers, and look out for the beach vendor selling coconuts and pineapples. Well ok, maybe it was a bit early in the season.
But it was great, just to feel the sun. It was a reminder too of how many places we haven't yet seen and how diverse the landscape is. I love the west coast for it's staggeringly, jaw droppingly, unlike anywhere else beauty that punches you in the stomach, and demands a reaction. It would be impossible to remain indifferent to its gloriousness and remoteness. The east coast however is also beautiful, if in a more rolling and maybe gentler way. Before I came to live here when ever I went somewhere that was lovely I always felt a pang of envy because I wanted to be there too, sometimes my feeling for wishing for something I didn't have, clouded the view. Now views can simply be soaked up - I should say, especially 'soaked up' on the west coast!
Tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, the rain will stop and the views will return here
I hope!
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