Sunday, December 27, 2015

Zoe's school play

Zoe was Cinderella in the school play performed in front of the local community. Almost everybody there remarked on how well she had performed

I managed to capture a bit of video, but for now here some stills:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Over the Jumps

Having been pulled out of a ditch last night, after losing control of the car in a blizzard, we finally made it home. Exciting Sunday! Amazingly, the only damage was to the valance at the front...the recovery company (based in Northampton) said conditions were too bad for anyone to come out and recover our vehicle. Anyway, they wouldn't recover us (the family) just the car! The insurance company had employed an answering service (out of hours). This was kind of amusing as I tried kiwi fit and Aviva because I couldn't remember who I was with; neither of them had any problem and I spoke to a real person each time. I do not think I will be staying with Axa, it was a poor service.

Anyhow, a couple of guys who were at the Ledgowan Lodge Hotel very kindly got a tractor on the road and dragged the car back onto the road...a huge thank you to Jamie & Jamie from Achnasheen. Now looking at calling themselves Achnasheen Recovery services.

We also learnt that Audi towing eyes are not compatible with VW cars! The back end of our car was hanging over a six foot hole were a burn ran under the road through a culvert. Not handy when you have to empty the dog partition, all the shopping, the boot liner out to get to the towing eye, etc.

Another seven or eight feet further along the rod and the car would have been tipped, rear-end first into the icy water of the burn with the nose pointing skywards! Probably un-driveable afterwards too Very lucky indeed!

Here's a clip of Zoe and Andrew at their horse riding lesson. I've reduced quality to get it on here; apologies in advance.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Skating and Horses

No pictures from today I'm afraid, but Andrew, Zoe and I were all skating at Inverness Skate Park today, then they went off riding horses on the Black Isle before fish & chips and a late journey home.

Pictures from our last skating session

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A few weeks later

We've been doing a wee bit of climbing and paddling in between the 'horrible weather we've been having as an excuse for a summer! At least kayaking only improves with a drop of water in the rivers.
Andrew has taken to unwinding from a week at school with a paddle in the river, and how he has progressed; crikey, if I had been as quick a learner as he is I would have reached Level 4 Coach status much quicker.
Learning by doing is the best method, second to none, and both Andrew and Zoe have shown a confidence and positive mental approach that gets them on the water and in the flow without any need for encouragement or cajoling. It won't be long before we're progressing through the grades;  the lower temperatures and lack of proper watertight clothing might become a problem before long. It certainly won't be long before a dry-cag and a neoprene spraydeck are needed.

Climbing in the Bealach, Andrew above and Sarah to the left. Just some clean, easy grade, enjoyable climbing when the weather permits.

Andrew seems to be keener, but that may be because we only have two kayaks and when the flow increases, there's no way they can both be on the water without me. So, given the river levels and the limited opportunities, it has mostly be Andrew and me that have been on the water.

Zoe and Andrew using hand-paddles (left).

Andrew practicing ferry glides on the river close to our house.

Bottom picture is on the sea, where a few wee waves provided a bit of sport.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


New Kayak Day

Andrew & Zoe take to the water to test out the new kayak. Seems to pass the test for both of them.
Despite this being the first time Zoe has been in a boat and only Andrew's third time; I was amazed at their ability and skills acquisition. I even brought out the hand paddles to see how they got on with those and then brought the paddles back into play; worked a treat, they soon forget about paddling and concentrated on what they wanted the boat to do...naturals, both of them. Looking forward to many more paddling exploits in the not too distant future.

The only downside was the length of time taken to get the boat and paddle to Inverness. I then had to go and collect it myself. For some reason, best known to the guys who sold it to me, they changed their minds and didn't use a courier, but decided to wait a couple of weeks before bringing it North. They originally said they were coming to Inverness, but then delivered the boat to Stirling. It then took a further week to arrive. Many thanks to friends John & Chloe and John & Jackie  for all their help in getting the boat to us.

Anyway, enough of my mithering. Take a wee look at the pictures below to see them enjoying themselves on the water.

Ready to Go

Smooth skills

Say hello to Eddy for me

Now that's what I call a funny look!

Not sure what that face is for

Friday, July 31, 2015

Just a walkin' the dog

A quick walk up onto the top despite the 'seasonal' weather, that is cloud level at about 350 metres, visibility down to about 50 metres, wind about 20 mph and frequent showers! As you would expect there was not a lot to see and unfortunately for Tarquin I decided to go with the wind at our backs. You see, I didn't much fancy walking into the wind for any length of time when the showers were quite heavy. So, he didn't get much chance to scent anything that wasn't already behind us. Still, he managed to stretch his legs quartering the hillside following the ground-scent and deer tracks.

Even though not yet a year old, he is able to cover miles running over really rough terrain. Whenever, deer are within reach, he is off. He just seems to love the chase. I say that because on one occasion, he chased a young buck into the swollen burn and while the deer managed to get itself broached on a rock Tarquin was swimming madly against the current in the pool below it. I called him off and gave the deer a chance to get away whilst we walked on upstream. On our return journey back down stream he pointed to a bush, where the young buck was taking shelter. It seemed absolutely tired-out as, when Tarquin ran at it, it fell over when it tried to stand.

I feared the worst and expected blood and fur as my lovely, gentle pet dog turned into a ferocious killer ripping the poor beasts throat out; however, Tarquin jumped all over the poor beast apparently trying to sniff it to death. I finally managed to get his attention, not easy when the distraction is as powerful as that, got him on the lead and pulled him off the young deer; which got to it's feet and tottered unsteadily away whilst I dragged a reluctant hound in the opposite direction.

My lovely, gentle pet dog... a ferocious killer?
I allow myself to be distracted by our fortunate position in this country, i.e. top of the food chain, and forget that to the rat, a cat must be a monster. By reducing the wild animal population to smaller that the average dog we have protected ourselves from the dangers of being a part of the food chain. Without bears and wolves to worry about the only thing to be wary of is the occasional rutting deer and insects. If we could, would we would try to eliminate the ticks, midges and mosquitos...I bet we would.

Clay shooting at Rothiemurchus for Andrew, Sarah and Angus whilst Zoe was looking after a pony for a day at Broomhill stables in Fortrose.

 Definitely at the top of this food chain...those clay pigeons don't stand a chance!

Even so, I think we gave 'em a sporting chance. A new experience for us all, we had never fired a shotgun before. There is something quite satisfying about seeing those clay discs disintegrate in mid-air almost instantly. Especially when you get to shoot two discs with two barrels one after the I'm starting to boast about my prowess with the gun. We all enjoyed the experience although Sarah admitted that she felt quite nervous of the guns. Andrew settled into the thing quite well and started to hit discs consistently by the end of the session, which lasted over an hour.

Sarah said that she preferred archery, but I must admit that I just seem to enjoy shooting anything that can be shot accurately whether that is a catapult, bow and arrow or gun. Not sure quite what it is about, but a big part of it seems to be about skills acquisition rather than any actual outcome of the act itself. A bit like golf I suppose, it is all to do with progress and improvement, the moment it's not challenging, the moment there is not anything 'more', then it gets discarded as soon as another challenge can be found. So there it is, it is much more about the challenge and achieving progress with perfection as the goal rather than the outcome. Still, the closer to perfection it gets the greater the satisfaction. Then I can move on to something else...of course.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hound and about

Well, it has been a while since posting here and lots of things have changed, too many to mention here; so, I'll just stick to current events.

It is now like we cannot imagine life without Tarquin. At nearly 11 months old he's become a large part of the family. He comes to work with me, and guards the van whilst I'm cleaning windows, grass cutting or chimney sweeping. I can run or cycle and he runs along. Although, he's always on the lookout for deer and hare whenever we're out on the hills.

After a hot day conducting chimney surveys over in the Black Isle and Ardersier we stopped by the Upper Blackwater to cool off. Tarquin's still a wee bit hesitant around water, but his confidence is developing every time we get the chance. Andrew and I went kayaking in the river the other day and Tarquin was swimming alongside a couple of times.

On a ride over to Sand and back we only spotted two stags; so, Tarquin decided to add a good 3/4 of  mile sprint across country. Just to go and see how fast they could run :-)

We are very fortunate to have a lovable and caring companion who does not seem to have a bad bone in his body; several obstinate ones, but then he is going through adolescence at the moment and everything should settle down in the next six months to a year.

He adores Andrew and Zoe and seems to love being a part of the family; hopefully, not just because we feed him ;-)