Sunday 24 April 2016

My Secret Treat

... but perhaps not so much of a secret, as I am writing about it here...!

But, yes, I am planning to give myself a treat - a toy - an extravagant luxury that I really do not need, but I know I will enjoy, and will give me a great deal of pleasure, and probably some financial pain.

To explain further...

For my everyday transport for the past 12 years or so, I have been driving a VAN. This has been a necessity, and so has been OK. The van is great for hauling about all sorts of stuff, but it's really not too much fun to drive. Now, at last, I am finding myself in a financial position where I can buy for myself a PROPER CAR...!!!

I'm not talking 'practical' or 'sensible' here... It's no Toyota or Skoda for me. I'm historically a car-nut. Previous Dorrell-drives have included (among many others) an MGB, a Reliant Scimitar, A Daimler Sovereign and a couple of V8-engined Triumph TR7s.

My next car will be a Jaguar XK, with 4.2 litre V8, 300bhp engine, full leather interior, and sleek, sublime coupe bodywork. Here's a picture of one (though I prefer black...).

I have already bought my number plate... PS55 KAT... The plate is as close as I could get to 'Puss Cat' at a sensible price (think ... Jaguar.....!)

I am still a few months away from having saved enough £££s to go shopping for my toy, but be sure the car-search story will unfold on this blog!

Friday 22 April 2016

The Barn Garden

During the spring and summer, I write quite a bit about the allotment here at Roskhill, but I don't say a lot about the garden. I suppose that's basically because there is not a whole lot to say! On the whole, flowers don't do too well in our harsh and windy climate, and our rather busy lifestyles make it difficult to put as much time into the garden as would be ideal, so most of the garden here is just grass, with a few shrubs and a bit of stone wall on which Sue has grown some pretty little wall-plants. We have some evergreen trees, and the surrounding moorland vegetation edges its way into the garden through the fences.

Last autumn I was a bit savage at 'trimming' some of the shrubs (and was told off by Sue for doing so) but they are sprouting again now, so I'm confident that they will become bushy again eventually, and then we'll keep them under better control.

Just this week, I have spent some time gathering some lovely rounded rocks from a nearby building site. They had been exposed during the excavation for a septic tank - the ground is just full of them, and the site owner was happy for me to 'help myself'. I have laid them as a border between our driveway and the lawn, where we think they look great.

Here are a few photos taken today...

No spring storms means that the daffs have had a better year
You can see where I was a bit hard on the shrubs...
Notice the new lawn edging rocks
Roskhill Barn, Spring 2016

Sunday 17 April 2016


This number came up on the dashboard of my van the other day – on the odometer – so I thought I should record this ‘milestone moment’.

99,999... and one mile later...
100,000 miles!
I didn’t buy the van new. It was first registered 10th October 2009, and I took ownership in November 2010, with the mileage then about 18,000. So I have done my 82,000 miles in five and a half years.

It’s a cracking little van, and just a perfect size for carrying my tools, lawn mower, strimmer and Cupar’s dog-crate. Though of course, it has also been put to use moving furniture (a double bed with mattress can be squeezed in), large quantities of wall and floor tiles, and a wide variety of DIY and decorating materials.

For the record – the van is a Citroen Berlingo 625 LX HDi 90. I know I tempt fate by saying this, but it has been almost completely reliable thus far, having just routine servicing plus a couple of visits to the garage with a sticking rear brake caliper. It still has its original battery and exhaust, and apart from the CD player and one illumination light on the dashboard, everything still works. It drives fine too, and according to its trip computer returns an average of about 54 miles per gallon.

I’ve no immediate plans to replace it – and if I did, it would be with another Berlingo. The new ones are not a lot changed from mine, so there doesn’t seem much point. So let’s see how it’s going when 150,000 comes up on the odometer!

Thursday 14 April 2016

Rosalind Burgess, 1944 - 2016

We lost a friend the other day.

We first met Rosalind shortly after we moved to Skye, and in the eight or so years in each other’s company, we became very close. She was a wonderful and unique person, and I will deeply miss the ‘come for lunch’ visits that lasted well into the evening, and the many discussions about how to grow vegetables on Skye.

She had a full and interesting life. In her 20’s, she travelled the world - backpacking and alone. Highlights were working on an Australian sheep ranch and hiking to Everest base camp. Once back in Scotland, Rosalind made her living by becoming a cook, and prepared meals in cottages and castles, often for hunting and fishing parties. Rosalind had a lot of stories to tell.

Rosalind lived on Skye for some 40 years. Most of that time, her home was a tiny ancient cottage at the very tip of the Waternish peninsula. When she first lived there, she had a partner, and together they began to restore what was then a roofless ruin. However, he shortly moved on, and Rosalind knuckled down to continue the work the pair of them had started.  She continued to improve the cottage, and its garden, for the rest of her life.

But it was a harsh place to live – exposed to every whim of the weather. The winds blow relentlessly, and often cold. The location is wonderful when the day is calm and the sky blue. But for the other 48 weeks of the year, crouching down behind the ancient stone walls is the most sensible defence against the driving rain and icy winds.

Rosalind has two sisters who live in the south of England. They will inherit the cottage, and are likely to sell it. Meanwhile, Sue and I find ourselves ‘caretaking’ Rosalind’s home.

We spent the afternoon there yesterday. We are hoping to find someone to look after the grass cutting, as I really don’t have time to do it myself, but being in Rosalind’s garden, seeing all the new growth sprouting from the plants and shrubs, and doing the tasks that she would have so enjoyed doing herself, has helped Sue and I cope with the loss of our dear friend. Rosalind now lies peacefully and without pain, in a beautiful burial ground not half a mile from her cottage.

We miss you Rosalind.

Rosalind's cottage

Sue working in the flowerbed

It's a big garden

The rear of the tiny cottage - just 3 rooms

From the front door

The location - the cottage is on the right, and the Outer Isles are on the horizon.

Trumpan churchyard - the ancient church is a ruin, and steeped in history and legend

Resting in Peace

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Spring Skye

We on Skye are currently enjoying a super spell of spring sunshine - much needed after a another very wet winter! The air temperature is being kept in check by a chilly breeze, so coats and even scarves are still needed outside, but the sunshine is warming the soil, and the spring flowers are bursting into life. I have dug over all the allotment beds now, and am beginning to plant seeds in the hope for a better summer season of produce than last years poor results.

As is common all over the UK, it is popular to have daffodils around your garden, and we inherited quite a few bulbs when we bought the Barn. They have been undisturbed for years, and some don't flower too well, but this year, they are putting on a better show than usual. We have our fingers crossed for a sunny summer. Skye is just awesome when the sun shines!

Roskhill roadside, Spring 2016
Allotment daffs
Below the allotment - the grass is full of bluebells which flower soon after the daffs go over

Monday 4 April 2016

Eilean a' Cheo

Skye often lives up to its romantic Gaelic name -  'Eilean a' Cheo', which translates as 'The Misty Isle'. So far this spring, periods of rain or drizzle are being followed by magical still, clear days, when the mist swirls around the hill tops. The nights are even more magical, when the dark-sky heavens become dotted with more stars than you can ever believe. I'm sorry I am not up to photographing night skies, but here's this morning's mist - over MacLead's Tables and seen from the garden at Roskhill Barn.