Category Archives: out and about

Honda Gorm MSX125 meets the Big Boys

Had the Gorm off the island for the first time yesterday – her little wheels and 125cc motor did so well that I mixed it with the holiday traffic and builder’s vans and rode all the way into Oban Waterfront to park with the Big Boys.

Only to find that touring riders from Liverpool and Cardiff had nicked all the Bike Parking slots —

They were a friendly crew and were tickled pink when the tiny Gorm pulled in beside them – where – even parked up on the pavement as she was – they still looked down on her 🙂

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Posted by on September 12, 2017 in out and about


The Land That Time Forgot

With Scotland full to bursting as tourists from every part of the world take advantage of the weak Brexit pound it has been difficult to find accommodation for our few days away.

The west coast in particular is under pressure so we dumped our plans to introduce Helen to the over-used NC500 route around the north of Scotland and headed north and east to The Land that Time Forgot in search of the wooden hut I was born in during a howling March snowstorm over seventy five years ago. My two older brothers have tried to find the hut and failed so I didn’t hold out much hope of stumbling across it either.

This thumbnail photo taken in 1942 with me in my father’s arms and my non-impressed older brothers – two years old Jim and four years old Charlie has the hut for a background.

The hut looked sort of ‘well worn’ back then so I doubt very much if it would have lasted the intervening seventy five years till now. The old man was on leave from his regiment in ’42 prior to being posted to the Mediterranean war zone and had a lot to go through before he would return to us unscathed in 1946.

Judging by our smart new clothes his demob pay would appear to have gone a long way and there’s a bit of ‘army discipline’ evident with our normally unruly hair brushed and bryllcreamed into submission  —

The only bedroom to be found for our four nights away was the one with the four-poster where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert rested on the night of Sept 4th 1860 – exactly one hundred and fifty seven years ago. All good Queen Vic left behind was the bed – the wallpaper and a picture of herself looking very regal —

A quick ‘shufty’ outside showed that things hadn’t changed much in these parts either for I can remember pulling a two furrow trailing plough with one of these old Fordson tractors when I was sixteen years old —

Ah – the grey Fergie – going even further back I ‘drove’ a petrol/paraffin version of this as well —

Fortunately for me my new-found friend was steeped in tractor lore and was able to explain the starting procedure for the single cylinder Field Marshall similar to the one my dad drove in the early nineteen fifties. My memory has my dad whacking a cartridge with a hammer to start her but my new buddy tells me there was much more to it than that.—

First you turn the flywheel by hand to put the piston at top dead centre – then there was more fiddling – probably with a decompressor before inserting said cartridge – give it a good whack with the hammer and if god is in his heaven she will burst into life!

Who would have thought way back then that wee Danny Finnie would grow to a height that would make a big Field Marshall look small —

The simple little red Massey Ferguson 35 was to be the last tractor I drove before leaving the farms for a job in engineering —

They transformed the workplace on the farm and I couldn’t believe it when the whole manufacturing process was sold and moved en-bloc to the former Yugoslavia. Even to this day every small farm in Croatia has an as-new Massey Ferguson 35 working in the fields and I believe they are still produced – around Zagreb.

Still with the vintage theme – there were Morris Minors galore on the street —

An occasional Triumph —

matched with a very tidy MGA —

and so on —

and so forth —

My favourite was the Toyota Stout similar to the one I drove in Dubai a long time ago. I think it had only three speeds plus a high/low box – with very wide balloon tyres running at low pressures she was the best thing I ever came across to tackle the seventy miles of sand dunes and dry wadi beds through the inhospitable mountains between Dubai and Al Fujiera —

Helen had bumped into an old Sherpa friend from her time in the Himalayas – Nima Kanchha Sherpa to be precise —

I resorted to playing ‘tunes’ on the singing bowls to get her on her way or we would have been there all day – for I had found the impossible – a Helen sized car —

It was a surprise to find something modern – a UFO had arrived overnight from who knows where —

A three wheeler based on motorcycling principals – it tilts up to forty five degrees either side when cornering —

Didn’t I tell you – UFO – I understand they are all the rage in Jupiter —

Enough of motor cars n stuff – we had a train to catch and go find our missing wooden hut —

We were offered this beach hut but the paint looked too fresh to be the one we were looking for —

Our route took us over the heather and pine clad hills —

to Strathdon – I could tell we were getting close to my birthplace when even the village was named after me —

Here running is their thing and one passing athlete offered to take our photo while he jogged on the spot with me holding his gundog on the lead – it kept running too – oh how we laughed —

A snippet of ordnance survey map given to me by a friend many many years ago had survived under lock and key with my passports and was my secret weapon. My old buddy Ronnie was also from this area originally and had marked a spot on the map to within a few yards of where I was born —

A chance meeting with a former neighbour – ninety two years old Annie Bain put us in the right direction as she seen our old woodcutter’s hut burn down while standing at her back door. It was shortly after my mum – brothers and I had left the area and my dad had gone off to fight a war. Annie was seventeen at the time and said it had gone up in flames when a paraffin stove was accidentally kicked over by it’s new occupant who had come home from a village dance slightly worse for wear after too many drams.

The old farm steading next to the site of our old wooden shed was converted into a beautiful home by it’s current occupant Paul several years later —

and after tea and cake at his kitchen table Paul kindly showed us where this double garage now sits on the site of my birthplace —

Could have been worse I suppose —

Being born into an old woodcutter’s hut in a forest with grass growing up between the floorboards and a wild March snowstorm raging outside then seventy five years later sleeping in a queen’s four poster – can’t really complain now can I 🙂

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Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Isle of Luing, out and about


OOps! My Favourite Vase —-

Bites the dust!

She reminded me of the wooden statuettes I bargained for at a stall on Cairo Road – Lusaka on a rare ‘away day’ from my job at the Kariba Dam back in the 1960’s —

Sadly they came a cropper along with my first marriage in the early nineties – could’ve been the same lively model for both vase and statuettes in fact as they are so alike – even down to the glass beads —

Now sadly the lovely if unusual vase I found in a junk shop cum cafe along Hadrian’s Wall a few years back is a gonner too thanks to our Seamous who can’t bear to look at the damage he caused while chasing a Danny-Long-Legs around the house —

does he look suitably contrite?

Not for long – he’s a proper tiger really —

king of the Bardrishaig jungle 🙂


Fishing from an Otter’s Toilet

There are times when a bloke feels he needs a holiday somewhere warm and sunny like down here behind the Kariba Dam wall —

To think that I fished for Tiger fish down here in the gorge below the dam almost fifty years ago – and water skied in the 173 miles long by 48 miles wide holding area above the dam back then. When I went looking for a photo to use in this post I found reports that the dam wall is in danger of collapse due to the plunge pool where the white water lands eroding and under-cutting the integrity of the whole wall.

All that water stored up behind has got to go somewhere and it is reckoned that 3.5 million souls could or would perish in the floodpath – I almost wish I hadn’t gone looking for that photo. The biggest danger to life back then were from rocks falling from the tunnel roofs as we constructed the North Bank Power Station after the dam had filled – from crocodiles while fishing from the bank in the gorge below and from the most dangerous wild animal in the whole of Africa – the flotillas of hippo in the still waters of Lake Kariba. The clear waters allow you to see the hippos ‘running’ at speed along the lake floor and their favourite food is the fibreglass boat.

Changed days – there is talk of a barrage complete with tidal powered turbines being placed here at home in Cuan Sound where I fished in the rain this afternoon. Judging by the amount of water that rushes through here at the ebb and flow of the tides there should be enough current to drive the things and give enough power to boil my kettle.

Well I enjoyed being out there in the fresh air – just as well for it won’t be fish for tea although I’m told the mackerel and occasional sea bream are running. The only thing I saw move in the water besides the kelp swaying in the currents was a lively seal which popped up next to me and gave me the eye for a while before the ebbing tide swept it onwards.

I won’t blame the seal altogether for today’s lack of fish – it was most likely down to my motley collection of tackle. I picked up my reggae beach bag in Jamaica several years ago and it now carries my growing collection of line spools – hooks – lures and other nameless things that don’t get chucked away until the smell becomes too much for the faint-hearted —

Back in the day when I fished in the Zambezi I carried a two piece twelve foot beachcaster everywhere I went.- it would hardly be worth the trouble getting it through security at airports now – changed days indeed. My lightweight 5 piece spinning rod which I came across in a tackle shop in Dumfries may not lob a lump of lead very far but it is much easier to live with.

Nope – I could blame my tools but I won’t – it was more than likely the local otter group that had beat me to it —

Judging by the many otter ‘poo’ piles I encountered not very far from the water’s edge as I trudged forlornly up the bank fishless on my way home they were a darn sight better at catching fish than I am —

They were all over the bank – some tidy —

and some just squirted out any old how —

Thanks to the seal and shitty otters frightening the Cuan Sound fish, I had more success at Kariba hunting Tiger Fish —

and that’s not me holding the thing – I’ve got more respect for my fingers than to put them anywhere near those teeth 🙂


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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in Isle of Luing, out and about, Wildlife


Weekend Wandering

With all that’s been going on since the wedding – flitting – trying to fit furniture from two houses into one and various bits n pieces – it hasn’t all been about counting spuds from the garden at Bardrishaig – or watering the sweet red pepper plants that appear to be flourishing on an upstairs – south facing windowsill —

Helen and I have spent a few hours out and about this weekend —

From a weather point of view Saturday was the best day and a couple of shots from Helen across Oban Bay set the tone —

On Sunday it was back to rain and reduced visibility – nevertheless we were on the road again – this time to the picturesque Glen Orchy which I have promised to show H for some time.—

Still very beautiful but I did struggle to remember it from my many previous visits by car and motorcycle over thirty years ago —

Probably down to the tree growth – as I seem to remember the river as being more accessible back then —

No worries – I did get a chance to wave to the camera —

Here I am – over here – the ijit in the green jaikit 🙂


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Posted by on July 9, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about


While the Cat’s Away – the Mouse Will Play

and for once I don’t mean our Seamus – although he doesn’t always come home at night now either.

No it’s the new missus that’s gone south on a bit of biznez leaving my idle hands to get up to no good.

This time I was up at first sparrow fart – whipped the covers off the Honda 250 Rally —

slipped a rucksack on my back and rode over to South Cuan to catch the early (7.30 am) ferry to neighbouring Seil island and a quick blast had me over the Atlantic Bridge to the mainland and in Oban for 8 o’clock.

What’s the rush? The street’s are empty —

Seems nobody get’s up at this time – even the main newsagent where I’ve come for my weekly comic to keep up with motorcycle racing reults and gossip doesn’t open till 8.30.

Aha – I see a hint of movement behind Kronk’s coffee shop window – perhaps a stiff Americano-to-go will put my world to rights.

It must have been a twin-shot belter for I was soon along the front – cup in hand – checking out our new Council backed marina which is currently being constructed in the bay —

no – not that bay – nor this one —

but this one round the corner —

where the guys are setting the running posts —

which will allow the floating walkways to rise and fall with the tides — times like this I wish I was still working —

but all I need is the feel of grips in my hands and I quickly get over it —

Yes that ford was deeper than I expected on an Old Drover’s Road down in Wales about twenty years ago – it filled my boots —

when it drowned the spark plug on my tough old XT600 right in the middle of the crossing 🙂


Two Wheels to the Trig Point

I suggested to my ‘lad’ last time he was home that it would be nice to try a run up to the Trig Point that marks the highest point on the island. Him on his 300cc Scorpa Trials bike and mesel on the new CRF 250 Rally.

Bugger me if he didn’t just slip away and do it by hisel and came back with photographs to prove it.

I reckon he was getting his own back for the times I went off over the hills competing in long distance trials – leaving him to play and practise wheelies in the paddock on his Yamaha TY80. Here he is in the pic on the left giving the front wheel a little air up on a farm on Rannoch Moor about forty years ago.

He must have thought a ride up to the Trig Point was out of my league and that I would probably hurt myself in the process. We will see about that.

Most of the way up there was quite easy —

It was just on the last little bit —

that I had to take the bull by the horns —


and go for it —

But I got there —

without even raising a sweat —

Wouldn’t be surprised if he takes my bike keys with him to keep me out of trouble next time he goes back to the rig 🙂

What a day to be up there though —

and the way down was just as much fun —

and home without so much as a scratch 🙂


Honda 250 Rally on Wishing Tree Lane

A quiet Monday after what has gone before – time to take the covers off the CRF and go for a spin.

There’s a hill way over there I would love to cross —

But first there’s a spot of TLC to attend to – the final drive chain for instance – she looks to be on the dry side. I’m using Putoline Chain Lube on this bike – a first for me. I’m quite impressed with the flow from the aerosol and the job it does.

But – the CRF hasn’t got a centre stand and up till now it’s been a bit of a wrestling match to get the rear wheel off the deck – spin it and spray chain oil with my third hand – which I haven’t got. It’s probably why I needed a wife but they are seldom around when you need them —

No worries – a couple of wood blocks and my scissor jack did the lifting job just fine and set the 250 Honda up in the air quite safely.

Even the hill crossing turned out to be a piece of cake on the 250 Rally —

Some of the steeper parts on the far side had been torn up by tractors or four wheel drive vehicles but they were of little consequence to the CRF which just sailed up them —

I didn’t even bother switching off the ABS on the rear wheel for the long – loose surfaced downhill section with it’s occasional steep bits leading into tighter turns and cruised on down —

The wee bike is proving to be as sure-footed as a mountain goat —

The downside being that tea break arrived far too early —

and the reminder clipped to my binos was hardly necessary as I never raised a sweat on the whole ride – sorry about the picture quality —

just could n’t get ’em right today —

which is a shame —


as the views were out of this world 🙂


Auld Claes n Parrich

Or ‘old clothes and porridge’ – I can still hear my mother saying it in her Aberdeenshire dialect when I had returned from doing something out of the ordinary that had no doubt cost more than was sensible. She meant I would be living frugally until there was cash back in the kitty.

Luckily my lovely and lively new wife get’s as much pleasure from the simple things in life as she does from the expensive —

Hence her undisguised joy to be back home on Luing yesterday afternoon while we walked in our wellies on the shore by the old slate quarry at Cullipool.

And Humph the horse from Calachally House has just messaged me to let me know why accommodation was in such short supply for our visit to the Isle of Mull —

It would appear that Clan McLean were holding a family gathering with bloody McLeans from all over the world attending. They had virtually Block Booked the whole of the Island of Mull.

Auld claes n parrich or not – It’s nice to be home 🙂


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Posted by on June 26, 2017 in Isle of Luing, out and about


Call the Coastguard – Act Two

Helen and I are newly-weds – legally married – something I never expected to be again in my life! Off on our honeymoon – not on a Cunard liner but something more down to earth – a Calmac ferry bound for the Isle of Mull.

OK – so this is not the actual boat – ours is even smaller – but it sets the scene.

We had tried to book a mid-summer hotel room on Mull back in January only to find the island was virtually fully booked – then Ian from the Calachally House called us back. We could have the ‘end room for one night on the 21st with a bathroom down the hall all to ourselves’.

Wonderful – that would be great!

About a forty minute drive from the Mull ferry terminal – we eventually found Calachally House hidden away under some massive beech trees.

Maybe not much to look at from outside but the interior is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – and a good one at that —

Book lined walls – even for an avid reader like me it would take the rest of my life to read but a fraction of them – and what books! Being an old Colonial family the books go well back in time and cover most parts of the world – as an old Africa hand they are right up my street – even the hallway to our room was lined with them —


Driving back from a nearby pub in the evening gloaming we spotted a red deer stag in the neighbouring parkland who slowly turned his massive head our way and watched our progress.

A little further on we were entertained by two beautiful horses having a ‘before bedtime’ canter around their paddock —

Did someone mention bedtime? ‘Step this way please’ said the spider to the fly —

Having a room with windows in three walls the morning was always going dawn bright and clear – but some thoughtful soul must have had their doubts as to the ability of two ancient honeymooners to make it through the night and had obviously called the coastguard —

Luckily there was no need for their assistance this time and they were soon on their way to more important issues —

By mid-morning we were also on our way- to tour the northern part of the island on it’s single-track – mainly coastal road.

A kindly photographer with a massive lens pointed out a pair of golden eagles huddling in a treetop in a roadside forest. We would never have spotted them without his help – so well hidden were they,

No photographs are available of the eagles who never stirred from their huddle —

but we did spot a resting buzzard posing by a roadside waterfall —

Next stop was at the famous Calgary Bay —

where the mahair has been nibbled almost out of existance by the local landowner’s sheep.

‘Bloody freezing’ considering it was midsummer’s day —

And it took a few cups of strong tea to bring Helen back to smiling life —

Or it may have been a coffee or two —


Next stop was Tobermory where we would catch an afternoon ferry to Kilchoan on Ardnamurchan.

I found us a comfy bed by the harbour while waiting for the boat —

We had a quiet crossing to the mainland made interesting by watching a small helicopter making numerous short trips while unloading supplies from a large vessel anchored offshore. It appeared to be a dangerous game carried out at ‘Bondstyle high speed but there were no mishaps. At least none while we were watching.

Bye bye Mull – for now – as Arnie says – ‘we will be back’.

We were soon on Ardnamurchan and heading down another twisting – undulating single track following the northern shores of Loch Sunart past Glenborrodale Castle and Salen Hotel on our way to Corran Ferry. A road I’ve driven and ridden many times in the past.

A chance meeting with my younger brother John and his partner Sandra over a cuppa at Strontian broke the journey.

They were on their way to their home near Glenborrodale in Ardnamurchan from our wedding the previous day and looked rather worse for wear having spent a lively evening in Oban with my son James and partner Diane. We did well to bail out of that one.

A brief crossing at Corran Ferry and a short drive to Appin had us in our lovely water’s edge room at the Pierhouse Hotel by 1800hrs giving us time to restup before dinner – and what a dinner! Having had very little to eat since the wedding lunch the previous day we went for it!

H settled for the ‘big’ salmon steak with dauphinoise potatoes. Probably doesn’t sound too adventurous but remember – we were in the recently crowned – ‘Best Seafood Restauraunt in Scotland’ and Helen described this meal as the best she has ever had – some accolade!

Against my better judgement I tackled the ‘Pierhouse Platter’.

There were no holds barred and last to go was the oyster —

Well a man needs all of his strength on his honeymoon 🙂

Bye for now ::-)




Posted by on June 25, 2017 in Isle of Luing, out and about