House Guests
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My family of house martins left three days ago. The last night that I saw them in their mud nests under the eaves was Sunday night. That's really late for them. they normally leave at the end of August. It's due to the much better summer this year that they stayed and produced a second brood. The first brood left with older siblings from previous years at the normal time but Paw & Maw took the chance to have a second brood which they have not done in about 10 years. Anyway, there were 4 fledglings and I counted the last one out hanging by his toenails for long minutes before finally taking that heart rending plunge loose off the earth. How must they feel when their wings expand fully that first time as they enter their true element? So only four short weeks to bulk up on flies etc then head south for Africa. Where are they all now? I saw them grouping and gearing up for departure on Monday lunchtime. I felt the same dread I feel every year of that sense of loss; of being left behind. It's silly but it always makes me cry. It looked like Maw & Paw were shouting instructions and giving pep talks to the little ones, psyching them up for that great bold leap into the unknown world. And now its all quiet, the shouts are ended, they are off on that great race around half the world, some fated never to return. They could be over France by now or possibly Spain, if the winds have been kind. This time last year I was climbing in southern Spain and watched the birds' steady migration south towards Africa. Could these even have been MY birds? Who knows.. Amazingly no-one knows yet exactly where in Africa they all end up. It is a big place but what sights my little ones must see. All I know is that the old place seems so quiet, forsaken even, without them. I miss their aerial aerobics and song. I miss the whisper of the nestlings under the eaves, as they settle for the night. How do they know their way back home, from Africa across all of Europe, thousands of miles, to this little speck? All I know is that I will think of you all, my little ones, this long cold winter, imagine you flying in hot, purple African skies, over the roars of lions and elephants, (no wonder you ignored my dog barking this summer) on the edge of your known world. Stay safe my courageous and indomitable little travellers of the earth. And know too that someone will be watching our rain laden April skies, in hope of glimpsing your safe return, when my heart too will soar. God speed, all my pretty ones, 'til then, God speed.

Aging
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My Mum lives with me and she is starting to get a little forgetful. She's 80 next year but sometimes when I talk to her she looks like she's fighting back to where my voice is. Sometimes she looks sad or angry or frightened. And,I hate to admit it, but I get annoyed with her at times. When I have to explain something to her a few times. Then she'll snap at me, that of course she knew what I meant. I think it scares me that the person who has always been my rock, my anchor in life, is unsure about anything, in any way. Well, what has made me look at my relationship with my mum more closely was brought home to me in our local supermarket. I was on my own just doing the usual shop when I spotted ahead a couple with an elderly lady. There were raised voices which caught my attention and as I passed them in the aisle, i had to wait 'til they pulled their trolley over so I could hear everything they said to one another. The couple were oblivious to me, as they were hell bent on scolding the very frail looking lady, whom I gathered was Mum to one. She had placed in the trolley a packet of yogurts. The couple were taking it in turns to berate her for her choice: 'What are you buying that for? That's far too much. You'll never eat all that. I'm not eating that. We can't take it home with us. It'll just be a waste. This brow beating went on and on. I felt so sorry for the little lady who had quietly said, but they are on special offer; it's a good buy. She was literally shouted down. She then just stood there with her head bent, listening to this as if resigned to it. My heart went out to her. I felt so bad for her and angry at them. Then she looked up and our eyes met unexpectedly. A world of meaning passed between us. So much unsaid. I did not want her to see any pity in my eyes but I was afraid she had. Yet she had nothing to feel ashamed about. The couple were treating their Mum like a child. Role reversal, I thought, cynically. Then I thought on my shortness at times with my own mum and I was the one who felt guilty. Not that I have ever spoken to my Mum that way; nor would I ever. I just thought, OMG one day they won't have their mum and will they then wish she was there to place some yogurt into the shopping? Later on I passed them again and they were STILL going on at this poor lady about, well I can't even remember what it was now, but they were making it clear that she had no voice or choice as if she was their slave or a complete nonentity. I caught her eyes deliberately this time, and I did not flinch, I gave her a big smile, went up to her and gave her a quick hug, looked straight in her face and I said, 'I think you're wonderful and bloodly well get what you want'. She laughed and said, 'You know I think I will at that!' Then when I got home I gave my Mum a big hug. She said 'what's that for'. 'Nothing, Mum just for always being my hero and you always will', I said. She laughed too. Amazing things, hugs. Very life affirming.


Sliding doors then tractor beams!
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They've boldly gone: a team of Scots scientists have helped to create a type of light beam that has only previously been seen in the Star Trek movies.

They've boldly gone: a team of Scots scientists have helped to create a type of light beam that has only previously been seen in the Star Trek movies.

A real-life miniature version of the "tractor beam" – which can draw objects towards the light source – has been created, with the breakthrough being touted as one which could benefit medical testing in the future.

Although light manipulation methods have existed since the 1970s, researchers said this is the first time a light beam has been used to draw objects towards the light source, albeit at a microscopic level.

In the science fiction show, a tractor beam was a method of using a beam of light to pull spaceships and other large objects.


The Birds
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Feeding the birds religiously in the garden now since end of October. Slowly my early morning first footers have increased in size and variety as word has spread through the sky pinned. I even have three large corbies (a murder of crows who sinisterly dog my footsteps afield cawing short insults with each wing flap), an unkindness of blackbirds, one with an interesting 'necklace' of white feathers around its neck, a tribe of sparrows, a charm of chaffinches, a wobble of blue & great tits, a vein of goldfinches, a lonely, blushing robin, and others I cannot recognise but all are welcomed and worshipped as miracles of winter bound survival. The fields are bare, the ground hard, the waters icy, the frost biting, so it is imperative to keep the feeders full of the life sustaining sustenance. I sacrifice sunflower hearts pre bought online. This is best for all sizes and rich in warmth giving proteins which the murmurations need to see each grey winter dawn. Also any left over brown bread can be crumbed, ground & fried in any oil and spread in a scattering of 'the good seed on the ground'. A bowl of water with a ping pong ball floating. The movement of the ball stops the water from freezing, mostly. I also hang fatballs among the pleading arms of the stricken treees for the more acrobatic birds. The cats, the gods of garden death are out all night and as soon as it is light the two felines cat door is locked. They sleep afurred all day on the beds during the light and only stir and their door of Hades unlocked only after it is dark and all the winged wonders have departed (whistling in the creeping gloaming to the god of death a defiant 'Not today') to huddle togther in their roosts for another freezing night. Damn. these little birds are tough! It gets light around 8 a.m & dark here now about 4 pm ish. On the shortest day (22 Dec) it was only light from around 9 until 3 p.m. so things are slowly getting warmer but bitterly cold today with strong winds adding to chill factor. Must go to silently adore my birds who thank me in the song of the ages of the seasons heard by the mammoth followers to the twichers of today and remember me with every little plant eating bug & snail they devour  in my honour in summer's glory. 

NFL enquiries continue...
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Spoke to Phil who, amongst other things, like 'Katie Morag delivers the mail' around here. Phil was delighted to indulge me in my football enquiries and confirmed he was a football pro and played in Canada for Toronto Argonauts ("way back when Noah was a boy") amongst whole lot of other teams with weird football names. Phil played against Warren Moon in the Grey Cup (Canada's superbowl) and Moon is now in USA's Hall of Fame, says Phil. Phil was once considered by the Patriots. "So is it hard to learn the rules" I asked Phil this morning? Solemn nods ensued, along with emphatic, 'Oh yes. In the huddles...' ('Cute,' I interjected, 'rhymes with cuddles', which illicted a blank stare from Phil the Hound would have been proud of), who proceeded, 'In the huddles some guy decides on the 'plays'. Plays are listed in a big book; big enough to 'choke a horse'. Excellent!  Pretty cool to learn this from such an erudite source. Must find out more. e.g. must ask Phil what a 'sacking' is. I imagine it is NOT a man running onto the field and putting a player into a sack so that he has to hop around the field in a sack for the rest of the game?

State of Kong-jugal Bliss
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Ross & karin went to New York last week. They are both huge movie fans so of course a visit to the Empire State Building was a 'must do.' Karin was engrossed in the view, then she turned to speak to Ross but he had disappeared. Then she looked down to see him on his knees with a ring and proposing to ask for her hand. Aww... She accepted. His hands were shaking so much. The other visitors all cheered and clapped! So every time we watch King Kong now, it will have a special place of romance  in our family's heart! The first King Kong, of course, forget the lumbering remake which was at least one hour too long. God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.

The End Is Nigh
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Met a weird old man recently. A neighbouring house had lots of old furniture to be removed so the house could be 'dressed' for marketing. To cut a long story short, I arranged to let this man into the house to collect various items. He arrived quite late and with a large young German shepherd. I love dogs and this one had a sweet temper. I helped the guy load up his jeep but then he clearly wanted to talk. His wife had died last year and he had had to nurse her for 13 years. Very sad. He seemed lonely as he did want to talk quite a lot so given the subject matter I was happy enough to hear him out. However it was then getting late (about an hour later) and when I started  to make noises about getting home to the kids, he started off at a tangent about how he thought the world was going to end in December. Not that whole Mayan thing? According to, let's call him John, according to John, not the whole world but most people in it will die on or around 21 December. Great I said, I don't have to worry about Christmas presents this year. Who though is going to die and from what? He moved here to get away from the big cities where it will start. What will start? Some kind of bug he said. Too much Walking Dead I thought then he really went off the richter scale of odd when he calmly advised me that he communicates with the virgin mary through the morning star and the world is inhabited with other beings. They are all leaving before the 'event'. What other beings and where are they going? Well I felt really sorry for the old guy as he seemed to believe all this but it was also quite unsettling too. I know nothing about John or where he comes from. He's English and his sister lives close by. He said he always has a dog because they warn you and are good judges of character. So I wrapped things up fairly quickly after that. Now it transpires he has struck up a friendship with one of my friend's sisters. I explained my conversation to her. But is it just a colourful new character or something more sinister? You know, if you think you are talking to the Virgin Mary, you must need prescription medicine? I'm sure she (VM) would not speak modern English but some form of Sumerian Hebrew.


'Se cyning ferth to Readingum'. That's Anglo Saxon for 'The King went to Reading' which will come in handy if I am ever stopped by an Anglo Saxon and asked, 'Where's the King?'  That's all the Anglo saxon I remember from my English lit degree.

Wedding on mainland on Saturday. Leaving 10 a.m. for ferry. We've arranged three self-catering accommodation from the laird 12 of us [plus 4 dogs 2 labs, 1 Jack Russell & 1 Keeshond - the cats have to fend for themselves for two nights they have their own cat flap & heated beds - and will of course leave out extra food & water - and Freddie & Assja  neighbours from Switzerland will check on them ]. The laird's three cottages are not far from from the wedding designation and the evening reception (on the shores of the Loch). Really looking forward to it. Storm blowing in from North tho'. Apparently Sandy which gutted NY headed up North then took a right and is heading straight for us plus snow. Great. Oh I'll tak the high road and you tak the low....

Moonstone OK Folks
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Fingers crossed, whatever was fighting Moonstone seems to have caught the stage out of Dodge. Moonstone fine and back to his truculent best, if a little bald on one side... Weather is getting colder by the day. 'Winter is Coming.' Mom is knitting me an Aran jumper. Now I know how the Weasleys felt. The last jumper she knit me was a Norwegian Laplander multi-coloured affair with matching hat. She kept asking me why I never wore them. I did, once, it silenced the whole pub...  Swallows have high tailed it back to South Africa. Lucky wee bastards. Have started filling up the bird feeders for the plucky ones brave enough to tough it out here. God, I miss Spain's sun. Starting a 'Return to Capileira' fund. Eilidh will love it there. Must take her after her exams. No wonder so many Brits sell up and move to Spain permanently. However I would rather stick pins in my eyes or train cobras than live surrounded by expat Brits in say, the Costa Del Sol.  I would like to live anonymously in old rural Spain. Oh, to  be able to visit the Alhambra whenever I wanted. Learn Spanish. Maybe speak to.. (well I know who) again one day.... Still on my mind. Dream the impossible dream.  

Moonstoning
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The great cat saga continues. Moonstone came home last night with a really badly bitten face and I could not believe it, but it was in exactly the same spot as the bite he received two nights ago! This time there was blood, easily seen on his white fur.A Lot of Blood. It was at 11.30 p.m. so I could not call the island's only vet. Cleaned th wound up as best we could (patient not happy) and disinfected the two fang wounds with Sudocream, for nappie rash. If it is safe for baby bums, it must be OK for a cat's head, you think? Wound just over his left eye and if any lower, we would have a one eyed cat. So the vet opens at 9 a.m. for a half hour surgery. I checked book. Plan was, block off the cat flap last night so he and the other critters stay in tonight then high tail it to vet's pronto in morning. The best laid plans.... Got up to find Cuilean had pushed the box out of the way and Moonstone had lit out. So that was that, I thought. Then at 9.10a.m. Moonstone puts in his usual breakfast appearance, wanting fed. I called Malcolm, the vet, and he said he was in doing ops this morning and bring him in asap, which we did. Raced over with him in his basket, wrapped up in 4 baby blankets, and yowling the whole way. He hates car rides and boy did he let us know. Thankfully he does not need any stitches but he was cleaned up again, his face fur trimmed and more cream put on the wounds. Plus a big painkiller and a strong anti-biotics dose. Then home to a treat of fresh roast chicken. He's up stairs on my bed sleeping it off now. Poor little guy. Looks beat up. Anyway we are all leaving him in peace. Malcolm said it was definitely another cat but a big one, possibly even a wild cat. I mean, a REAL Scottish wild cat. That would be bad news as they are very territorial and vicious, if crossed, i.e. they will fight to kill (like bald Shane in Walking Dead) and Moonstone is very Rick Grimes in nature,he just never knows when he is beat. So this is quite a problem. Anyway neither cat is going to be allowed out tonight and let's hope that our night time stalker was 'just passing through'.    

On happier note, tea went well last night, but Peggy & Janet are both pretty done. Both in their nineties and both still live alone. Peggy woud have fallen three times if I had not taken her arm up the drive. Great stories though, of the two of them as young girls during the Second World War, having to get up at 4 a.m. to milk cows then herd 50 stirks (young highland cattle) 23 miles from one town to another on their own. Also reminisced about a Mary, who never went to Church (very brave in those days, for here) but who could fell a tree quicker and fix any car better than any man left on the island. She was killed in the Clydebank blitz, towards the end of the war, she went home to visit her Gran. Only allowed home once every six months, so really unlucky. Her Gran died too. Whole street blown up.   

Moonstone's Progress
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Moonstone's face still swollen so went to get cat basket to take him to vet. I swear, that cat is psychic. Came back with basket and he had disappearred from his bed and no amount of calling brought him forth. He only came forth from his still unknown hiding place after hours as if he knew when the vet would be shut. Still he is eating OK, walking OK, grooming OK etc so I will just have to hope the swelling will be over soon altho' ould have been happier if I had managed to get some anti-biotics into his immume system. He's a tough little fighter though alhough he does let his big brother, Gandalf, (the white) boss him about too much. Two retired land girls are coming for their tea tonight. One old gal just turned 90 but still as sharp as a tack and knows the history of everyone hereabouts. Charlie, her son says the UK could save billions by scrapping MI5 and just employing his mom. Peggy worked a farm as a land girl during the war, ploughed fields, dug, grew crops, sheared sheep, and remembers the winter of 1945 being the worst winter in a century when sheep and horses would freeze to death if not taken inside. Very hard times and hearing the bombs explode further up river and watching the city brn, never knowing if she was watching friends and family dying. So looking forward to hearing more old war stories first hand tonight before these frailer voices but still indomitable, are stilled.  My Mom can still remember as a youngster sheltering from Luftwaffe bombs, and running out of the shelter to find her kitten. Then she, my gran (who ran after her) and the kitten sheltered under the kitchen table til the raid was over. She remembers dead neighbours' bodies in the bombed streets and 'Yanks' giving her sweets and fruit. She tried to eat a banana, unpeeled, til the US soldier, laughing, showed her how to take off the skin. Would I run out into an air raid to save a cat? Well, let's see.... 

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