Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Out With The Old...

The other day, and with a little sadness, I bade farewell to my trusty Citroen Berlingo van. We had been together nearly seven years, and in that time had travelled approaching 100,000 miles together. Much of the time, the cargo area only carried Cupar's dog-crate and my tool boxes, though in summer, a lawn mower, strimmer and other tools would also be carried. At other times, the van had been pressed into service to transport various items of furniture, DIY materials, and huge quantities of shopping bought on trips south or to Inverness.

The Berlingo has never once let me down, but with its increasing age, I had become more and more aware that expensive repairs were inevitably 'just round the corner', so a replacement vehicle was sought. I find it invaluable to own a van. It is so easy to simply pile any kind of stuff in the back in a way that I am quite sure would not be possible with a hatchback or estate car - even a big one. Additionally, the Berlingo is a very convenient car-like size on the road, is adequately comfortable to drive, and very economical on fuel.

So, it will come as no surprise that its replacement is a near-identical sibling. Yes - the Berlingo is still in production, albeit with a few completely un-necessary updates to equipment such as air conditioning, a digital radio and reversing sensors... But the engine has also been updated and is now Euro 6 compliant - so although a diesel - it is not the 'dirty' variety that we currently read about so much.

Here's my 'spot the difference' photos of the old and the new. Not too difficult to see a different registration number - though my 200 XMF plate was also on the 'old' van until a week or so previously.  The slightly more observant may notice that the 'new' van is silver - not white. I am no longer a 'white van man'...! Lastly - yes, the new van is badged as a Peugeot Partner, and not a Citroen Berlingo. The two are, in all but name, the same van, but I was not able to find a Citroen version of the age and specification that I was seeking, so for the next few years at least, my workhorse will be a Pug, and I hope will prove as trusty as the outgoing Citroen.

The Old...

The Old...

The New...

The New...

As a footnote - it is interesting to see how much greener Roskhill is looking today than it was a week ago when the first pictures were taken!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

They're Back!

Skye Winter is turning into Skye Spring. Mostly, this just means that the drizzle is slightly warmer and the wind gets a chance to blow daffodils about, and not just blow at dead grasses. But Spring also brings a noticeable increase in traffic on the roads. The visitor season is upon us again. Brand new shiny rental cars trundle in convoy towards the most infamous beauty spots and attractions, vying for space in the tiny car parks, and struggling to pass the inevitable camper vans which lumber along even more tentatively than the rental cars.

Since almost the entire Skye economy is fed by the tourist industry in one way or another, the permanent residents do not complain too much about the summer invasion. Litter, inconsiderate parking and dangerous driving antics are the topics most likely to raise a comment. We know we have our cosy homes to retreat into when the weather is inclement and the B&Bs have pushed their visitors out for the day. We face the queues at the Co-op with a smile, and avoid the now overcrowded pubs and restaurants. Most of us know some secret places where we can get away from all the cameras and foreign voices.

For Sue and I - the visitor season is a pretty busy time. We look after our self-catering cottages ourselves, and that includes all the admin, all the washing and ironing, all the cleaning, and all the gardening and maintenance. As Sue has her homecare job, I take the lion's share of the chores. In a move to reduce my workload in future years, we are planning to offer Rowan Cottage for sale later this year and cut back to running just two cottages of our own. We have no idea how readily we will find a buyer for Rowan - some properties linger unsold for months and even years. I'll write more about the sale in due course.

But, dear readers, don't be put off by what I write! Skye is a wonderful place to visit, with spectacular scenery everywhere, which gets better every bend you go round. Come, experience and enjoy - but be sure to book your accommodation well in advance, and see if you can seek out some special secret parts of Skye for yourselves...!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Skye Summer...???

Here on Skye, we take every opportunity to rejoice in wonderful weather. Let's be honest - we really don't get wonderful weather very often (unless you are in the very tiny minority of folk who rejoice in horizontal drizzle...)

The last few day's weather has been MY kind of wonderful. Calm winds, overnight light frosts, and daytime temperatures reaching 17C. The sky has been blue, streaked with thin high cloud, with lots of dots and dashes of slightly thicker cloud at lower levels. The sun has actually felt warm!

We haven't had much of a summer for the last three or four years, so we are 'fingers crossed' that the weather we are experiencing now will not be all we will get for 2017, but will be a pre-cursor of a proper Skye summer to come...

Evening sky - Roskhill - 27 March 2017

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Trips South

Almost all ‘incomers’ to Skye will have friends and family somewhere else in the UK or in the world. As Skye is a long way from everywhere, it can be a bit of a trek to keep in touch with everyone. But for us, it is an important part of our life here. I know I’ve mentioned before that, three or four times a year, Sue and I both make trips to the south of England to visit family and friends. These days, Sue takes the train, while I prefer to drive. I bought my fabulous Jaguar XK with the specific thought that it would be the ideal car for my regular long road trips.

Puss just above Glencoe.
The main road was clear of snow.
I am just recently returned from one of the most enjoyable visits south that I can recall. The weather and the traffic were on my side. I encountered a bit of snow on the way down, but the roads were OK. I didn’t meet a hold-up anywhere in 1,700 miles of driving. Puss, my Jaguar, is indeed purrfect for the journey, and the miles flash by. On my way back, for my overnight stop, I enjoyed one of the best B&Bs I have ever encountered. I’ve already booked to stay there again in June, when Sue and I will have a three-night mini-holiday there.

Big  comfy bedrooms at
Wallamhill House B&B, Kirkton near Dumfries
View over the garden from front bedroom
Wallamhill B&B, Kirkton, near Dumfries.
Even better still, I was happy to catch up with my sister and brother-in-law, who are both turned 70, but remain fit and in good health. I was also delighted to meet again with my niece and nephew and their families, all of whom seem happy and enjoying life, with Jeremy, my niece’s husband, having some especially good news about a new role he is shortly to undertake in his work-life. Well done Jez!

During my trip, I was even able to meet up with a couple of Jaguar people and make a visit to the excellent Haynes Motor Museum near Yeovil.

Puss makes friends at Haynes Motor Museum
As for friends – my dear friend Val, in Torquay, does not always enjoy the greatest of health, but certainly looks better when we meet in person than she sounds on the phone – maybe I should visit her more often…? And I always have a great visit with Sara and Rod near Southampton. Rod will be fully retired next time I see them in July. You will love it, Rod – I promise!

Sara, Rod and Lucy-the-Pooch
Peninsula Barracks, Winchester
For Sue and me, being able to regularly travel south to visit our family and friends is very important to our happiness here. But be sure – having been south for a visit, as we travel back into the Highlands, and see the hills of home ahead, we know for certain that we did the right thing by making our new life on the Isle of Skye.