Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Sad week

Well, on Monday I went to a colleagues funeral. It was very sad, but I took great comfort from the ceremony (humanist celebrants really are worth their weight in gold). He was great - fun, kind, gentle, great fishing stories and advice, hilarious aversion to lapsang suchong (and an amazing ability to smell it fro 50 paces). He met an untimely end in the hills while walking with some others from the office.

So this one goes out to you, JB. We'll all miss you.

And on that note, and becuase I haven't done any knitting for a good while, I might take a short break (though I will be back - promise) until I have something interesting to say or some good photos to show!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

More holiday photos....... Mingulay

So - after 3 days on Pabbay, Donald returned to the island and transferred us the couple of miles down to Mingulay. The first day there was the only bad weather, it rained for about 5 hours in the afternoon, and I sat in the tent and read my book, had lots of naps and then just in time for cooking it magically brightened up.

So the next morning we woke up to another day of brilliant sunshine, and the campsite looked lovely. We went on a little explore round to the peninsula to the north - where the puffins were reputed to be nesting. It's the one you can see on the other side of the bay from the campsite!

So it was down for a little explore in the ruins of Mingulay village. Quite a few people used to live on Mingulay, but it was abandonded due to the lack of a decent landing place which meant they would often go months without being able to get a boat to or from the island.

And the view back accross the bay - if anything it was the more spectacular than the one on Pabbay. The only thing that was spoiling it a little bit was the remains of a rotting whale that floated in and out of the beach for the week. It didn't smell that much, and was mostly white blubber with the most amazing consistency. If you (very gingerly) poked it with a stick the whole thing would wobble!

This is the main puffin nesting site on the island, but the weather was so hot that they were either rafted up on the sea or staying in their burrows. I was inconsolable.

But on the other side of the island. Instead of the puffins there were really big crashing Atlantic waves to watch from the top of the cliffs.

The next day we took the kayaks out to bother some puffins while they were rafting. They were great!

When they come in to land on the water they sort of flap madly until they are just above where they want to sit, then stall and just drop under the water. Then they re-emerge looking a bit surprised - though why the standard landing procedure should be a shock every time is beyond me!

So here is my favourite puffins on the sea photo - they all conveniently lined up and swam away looking comical.

Puffins taking off are almost as funny as puffins landing. They flap and flap and get their wings wet, then run along the surface of the water with their big orange feet until they get to the top of a wave and then finally manage to break free. I could watch them for hours.

The next day, the wind was right down, and we grabbed the opportunity to paddle over to Berneray. Berneray is the very very southern tip of the chain of islands, and is amazing. There will be a photo edition for this bit of the trip sometime soon, but we were running short of battery at this point and so the pictures of puffins and lighthouses are on a CD on their way to me!

But there was enough juice left for a couple of shots of the way back! The sun came out from behind the morning haze the minute we landed and didn't leave until we went home.

And then it was time to depart. It was a sad and traumatic parting, but we were running very low on food so on balance it was time to go. We had a really funny night camped on a verge in Castlebay, next to the ferry and right next to the refrigerated lorry and came on every half hour to charge the batteries. But the pub meal totally made up for it and the sticky toffee pudding and icecream was divine. The locals know how to have a good time on a saturday, so everyone got the wrong side of tiddly and some of the others were spotted dancing with the local talent when we left for bed!

I can't say I am glad to be back, it was a lovely lovely holiday, in fact one of the best I have ever had. It totally reinforces the fact that holidays don't have to be expensive (less than £200 each including food!) and that staying near to home can bring fantastic rewards. Work sucks, and I want to be out fishing in the sun with my boat and all the puffins. But it's only another couple of weeks until we are next away (the lake district for a week's camping and quite probably dropping in for Woolfest on saturday), but it is going to be very very hard to top this one.

I will also now confess that though I did take my knitting with me, I didn't take it out and I haven't picked it up since I have been back. I'm getting into the swing of DIY, and there is progress on the bookcase at long last.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Holiday Snaps - Pabbay edition

Well, we had a fantastic time! The weather was mostly gorgeous, and the holiday was just great.

This is the boat journey out to Pabbay. We were taken round by the wonderful Donald on his boat the Boy James, the engines were very big and powerful, and it was great fun to go so fast.

And then we were put onto an even smaller boat, and all our stuff was transferred to shore. It seemed like an enormous pile of stuff to lug, but in actual fact the photo makes it seem almost small. Trust me, it was a lot of stuff for 9 people and a dog for a week!

And this is a view of Pabbay Bay from just up the hill to the south. You might be able to just see our tents on the grassy patch just in front of the beach. It was a lovely place to camp - soft grass, sea views from the tent, high enough above the beach to get a little bit of breeze to keep the midges off......... Perfect.

This is a veiw from the very north of the island towards mingulay - it was a lovely walk exploring little crags, sitting in the sun, watching the birds, spotting flowers......

And admiring the very very very big cliffs. They come up on you very surprisingly and are absoloutly stunning.

This lovely little fellow came to sit on the rocks just below our campsite for the for a couple of evenings. He was amazingly unfazed by us all going along to admire his cuteness, and white fluffieness, and taking lots of photos.

There was lots of kayaking, it was lovely having them down there on the beach so that you could just jump in whenever you felt like it. It is so much easier when you don't have to put them onto the car and then unload them.

And here is an attempt at artiness on the beach (though it needs a bit of photoshop to make it straight)

And some more big cliffs, this time on the west of the island with some pretty thrift in the foreground.

One more installment coming from Mingulay, which will mostly feature puffins!