Monday, 15 September 2014

Seals

When we came back from our recent trip to Skye I really did intend to try and get blog posts up quickly, given how few I've written for this blog this year. Alas, I seem to have failed alread as it's now over a fortnight since we got home and so far you've had one post, albeit with a video of Dolphins. So here we are with a second post ... all about seals.

So having seen the dolphins playing right up against the boat, we eventually headed back towards the short and Loch Coruisk. The harbour entrance is protected from the worst of the weather by a number of small rocky outcrops and this, on a good day at least, is where the seals bask in the sun.


The boat did a number of turns around the rocks to make sure we all got a really good view, before heading into the harbour so we could disembark and visit the loch, but that will be for the next post, which hopefully won't take another two weeks to appear!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Dolphins

So in the previous post I blogged about a wonderful weekend in Inverness at a family wedding. Now driving to Inverness, or anywhere else in the north of Scotland, takes quite a while. It's made worse by the fact that I don't drive so Bryony did all the driving; approximately ten hours each way. You would think this would rather limit our trips to Scotland, and it does, yet just two weeks after the weeding we were in the car heading north, this time to stay with friends on Skye. Fortunately my mother-in-law was joining us as well so there were two people to do the driving. There will probably be a number of posts about the holiday as we had a great time, but I thought I'd start with the dolphins.

Ever since we first visited Skye back in 2009 (you can see all my previous Skye posts here) our friends have suggested we take a boat trip from Elgol to Loch Coruisk which is right in the heart of the Cuillins. Unfortunately either the weather hasn't been great or we've visited too late in the year and the boat trips haven't been running. This year we were there at the right time and had glorious weather (for the first three days anyway) and so over dinner on the first night while planning the week the boat trip finally made it onto the schedule.

There are a number of companies that run boat trips from Elgol but we went with Misty Isle Boat Trips; this is the company our friends always use when taking visitors out to Loch Coruisk and as everyone involved is so friendly they've never seen any reason to try any of the others. One of the reasons for the trip, other than to see Loch Coruisk, is that you can be pretty much guaranteed a close up encounter with seals which bask on the rocks on the entry to the harbour where you disembark for the short walk to the loch. Of course it is likely that you will get to see other wildlife as well (we got a golden eagle soaring over our heads as we re-boarded the boat) but there is obviously no guarantee. Fortunately we were lucky and had a pod of dolphins playing around the boat on the way out.


Apologies for the quality of the video. Firstly this is straight from the camera with no sensible editing and secondly for some reason it looks horribly blocky once uploaded to YouTube. I'm not sure what the problem is but I'm guessing it's down to a reduction in file size to make the streaming possible on "normal" internet connections. Anyway... this should at least give you an idea of the experience we had which was best described as magical, and that was before we got to the seals or to see Loch Coruisk, which will be the subject of future posts.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Perfect Weather for a Wedding

The weather last weekend, throughout most of the UK, was appalling thanks to the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. Fortunately we managed to find a nice dry and sunny spot to spend Saturday; Achnagairn Castle just outside Inverness. A trip to Inverness for the weekend isn't something we would normally do, the ten hours it takes to drive there usually rules it out, but on this occasion, even a full on hurricane wouldn't have stopped us from getting there as we were attending a family wedding.

When we got up on the Saturday morning we couldn't believe the weather as it was wonderfully warm and sunny, although the forecast was still suggesting rain for the afternoon. By the time everyone started to assemble there was still no sign of the rain. At this point I should probably introduce the happy couple; Gareth (Bryony's cousin) and his wife Carol.


Having been to a number of weddings in recent years I find this photo extremely interesting. At every wedding I've ever been too, I've either not seen the register being signed (this happens with church weddings when the bride and groom wonder off to sign the register), or have been explicitly told that photography during the signing is prohibited (some legal reason that I've never understood). Yes you'll have seen plenty of photos of people signing the register at their wedding, but they are all staged with a blank register, not the actual one. It appears, however, that in Scotland the laws are different. This is the first civil wedding I've been to in Scotland (we went to a church wedding in St. Andrews a few years ago) so the signing took place in front of us, but this time we were actively encouraged to take photos.

Anyway it wouldn't be a Scottish wedding without lots of men in kilts, including the groom and his father.


Given the long trip home, we called it a night at around midnight by which point it still hadn't rained and everyone seemed to have had a fantastic day. I've lots more photos to sort through so there might be another post, but I'll end this post by saying congratulations again to Gareth and Carol and thanks for inviting us.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Large Skipper

Last year we were fortunate to see a Dingy Skipper butterfly in the garden. On Saturday we had the much more common variety, a Large Skipper, visit the garden. It seemed to really enjoy sunning itself on some bricks we've been using to mark out sections of the garden as we continue to work on adding borders.

I thought we had seen one in the garden before, but there is nothing written in my butterfly book, so it might be a new species for the garden. Either way it was a nice diversion from working in the garden!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Garden Bunting

While the garden is beginning to look really good after the hard work we've put into it this year, we aren't about to start hanging out the bunting. That doesn't stop a bunting enjoying the garden though. Specifically a Yellowhammer visited this evening. Sorry about the rather poor photo, but it was taken hand held in poor light (we lose direct sunlight to the garden by about 4 o'clock due to the railway and trees) and through the kitchen window which is definitely in need of a clean.

I haven't heard it sing the traditional "little bit of bread and no cheese" song yet, but I'm assuming it is primarily the male that sings, and this would be a female. Either way a nice new addition to the species list for the garden.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

No Post On Sundays?

It would appear that, at least in the UK, Amazon are now using owls to make their deliveries. I ordered a small item from Amazon late on Friday and didn't pay any attention to the expected delivery date, I just assumed that, as I have Amazon Prime, it would arrive on Monday.

When I got up this morning I had an e-mail which said that my parcel was out for delivery today, i.e. Sunday. My initial thought was that it was a glitch in their system, and that it had actually only been dispatched today and would be delivered tomorrow.

Given that the weather today has been great, we spent the afternoon in the garden working, but I did keep an ear out for a delivery vehicle just in case. When it got to 6pm I decided that it really was just a glitch in Amazon's system as who would expect a delivery after 6pm on any day let alone a Sunday. So imagine my surprise when at 7:10pm there was a knock on the door and my parcel was delivered!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Keeping The Milk In

The fridge in the kitchen is old. I don't know quite how old, but we've been using it for over 10 years and before that it was in my Mother-in-law's kitchen. However old it is it still works and we'll keep using it at least until we redecorate the kitchen. For the last year or so there has though been a small niggling little problem. Periodically you would open the fridge only for the milk to go flying across the kitchen, usually leaking everywhere in the process. The problem was that one of the brackets holding the shelf edge on was broken.

I initially fixed the bracket by super-gluing the retaining pins back on, and while this works for a short while it will let go again after a few months. I also tried numerous varieties of tape to keep things together but this was worse than gluing; I'm guessing due to the cold temperature and moisture. Just after lunch last Friday I opened the fridge and yet again the milk went flying. This time it had been less than a day since I'd tapped the shelf edge in place and I'd had enough. Given how old the fridge was I didn't hold out much hope of being able to just buy a replacement part, and sure enough a quick web search didn't turn up anything helpful, so I set about creating a replacement part instead.

Long term readers of this blog may remember that almost two years ago I experimented with 3D printing for the first time. Since then I've designed and printed quite a few model railway items and even opened a shop on Shapeways. Given how easy simple geometric shapes are to model and print, I decided that it would be eminently feasible to design and print a replacement bracket.


It took me about half an hour to model the bracket in Blender using a set of digital callipers to measure the matching unbroken bracket. The part was quick to model as I focused on function rather than form (the model consists of just four cubes, a cylinder, and few mirror and boolean modifiers); it certainly isn't going to win any design awards!

After creating the model it was simple to upload it to Shapeways and less than 45 minutes after deciding to 3D print the replacement part I had one on order in the white strong and flexible material. Yesterday, just four working days after placing the order, the printed part arrived. A quick comparison with the original and it looked as if I'd got the measurements right, and indeed it fits perfectly, so now I can open the fridge without worrying about the milk going flying across the kitchen!

Whilst I really enjoy using 3D printing for producing small models, I think using the process to produce replacement parts is even more useful, especially when there is no other way to source the parts you need. Having proved how well it worked in this case, I'm sure this will be my first choice for any similar situation in the future.