I’m back!

First off, my profuse apologies to anyone who has been waiting with baited breath for this, my latest post. This delay was due, not to some nefarious virus or anything of that ilk, but simply lack of internet connection. We were innocently sitting watching television – as one does on a dark winter’s evening! – when there was a loud crack from the direction of my husband’s office. We looked about and saw nothing amiss, but next morning found that we were unable to connect to the outside world via the computer. Fortunately, the phones were operating and Himself phoned our provider and said that he thought that the router had blown up – it seemed as dead as the proverbial dodo! They assured him that that wasn’t the case, and that it was the wee black box that was broken and that they would send another forthwith. Three days later, the said box arrived but still nothing worked…

Cuineag under a lowering sky So then the provider said that they needed to “do tests” their end and that this would take a couple of days. The following Monday – this over a week later – Chris phoned and was told that they would have to send out the engineer and that he would be with us on Thursday. Come Thursday morning, bright and early, Scott Taylor – the BT engineer from the village – turned up on the doorstep, tested the lines, and pronounced that it was indeed the router to blame for the lack of connection! So, our provider had to allow then that it was time for them to send the right piece of equipment, and it would take 4-5 working days for it to be here!! This has all turned into something of a saga… Fortunately, although Himself uses the internet a lot in his work, he has had other things he can do meantime and was not on a heavy deadline – thank goodness for small mercies – but it has meant that I haven’t been able to post any entries for the Diary for a couple of weeks.

When we first found we were without the internet, I thought it would be like a holiday – no emails means no communications from Facebook telling me that I have “notifications “– which I normally find I don’t have after all – or messages from twitter advising me that I might like to follow certain people, and especially NO SPAM – but I have to say that I have not enjoyed being without the net at all, at all! Sometimes, something would pop into my head, and I would think “oh – I’ll just look that up on the computer…” only to realise of course that I couldn’t! Quite frustrating really 🙁 and then there are those emails that one actually needs to receive and to which one should respond! I have had to phone Robert a couple of times and ask him to check my mails for certain messages which I have been expecting – or just to check my mail generally. In many ways, I prefer to pick up the phone, especially now that we have free calls to land-lines. For one thing, you know that the message has got through when you use the old-fashioned method – but not everyone prefers to do that. All round, I have found that being without the internet has not been a pleasing experience – it would seem that it has become an essential part of our lives…

In fact, it has been a very odd couple of weeks with or without the net. On the Wednesday, after we lost the router on the Sunday – i.e. a fortnight ago at the time of writing – we were without electricity all day. We found out later that all points north of Ullapool had similarly been without, which must have annoyed the secondary school pupils in that they had to go to school but their younger siblings had the day off! The culprit was a terrific storm on the Tuesday night – the gusts were recorded up to 84 mph which was probably the biggest wind we’ve had since the famous hurricane of 2004 and although I can’t be sure of that, it certainly felt like it! Our house sits in the direct path of a wind coming from the south-west which funnels between Cnoc a’ Chlamhain (which translates as The Hill of the Buzzard) to the north and Cnoc Innis nan Each (The Hill of the Place of the Horses) to the south, a gap through which the road runs. We are not infrequently the only house in this part of Strathan (which runs along the road for a couple of miles) to receive any damage from the wind – as was the case this time, albeit the damage was very minor and eminently repairable. The day after the storm, with the power lines down, was a day for battening down the hatches and staying indoors. We are very well prepared for such eventualities as we have lived for more than 30 years in places where power cuts are not wholly infrequent. One set of neighbours we had in Lincolnshire actually kept a car battery to run the tv to keep their children happy when there was no electricity – cuts were that frequent!! So on this day, we were able to keep warm round the fire in the sitting room, reading and, in my case, knitting by the light of a gas lamp and were able to cook on the hob which is also gas-fired.

Obviously, we have to have bottled gas up here, which puts some people off having a gas hob for cooking – they are worried about having to have gas bottles near the house – but really it is no more dangerous than having any form of gas, and we are really thankful for it when the electricity supply is disrupted. We have learned from long experience that it is better to have different sources for heat, light and cooking facilities. Of course, for some folk like Morgana who lives in a flat, there is no choice but to be all electric – and she said that she went to bed for the day to keep warm!! Fortunately – very fortunately for me! – we were able to get our hair cut as Jackie, our brilliant local hairdresser, was able to carry on working as normal as they have a generator. Phew – that was indeed lucky, but it added to the rather surreal feeling we experienced during this generally cold, windy, foul sort of a day.

The one area where there is little choice is the water supply – and the following Saturday, we were without water! This was a very localised break in the water mains, but it was off for most of the day. I came to the conclusion that basically I prefer being without power than being without water – at least we can enjoy the luxury of the hot water stored in the tank when there is no electricity – for a while at least 🙂 We have a stack of bottled tap water in the garage – supplied through the years by the water company – and we have water butts which collect rain water which we can use to refill the cisterns if necessary, so we can manage for a wee while without water in the taps. Our neighbours, Pearl and Kenny John, just take water from the burn – as their parents did before them…

So there you have it – all in all, a rather odd fortnight. As I write this, we still have no connection to the internet, but are hopeful that the router will arrive in the post this afternoon and I will be able to send this down the wire for posting. This morning, I walked down the brae to the Mission, as is my normal habit on a Wednesday morning, and took a few pictures to put with this post. It is a grey, wet, miserable day and I thought that would make a change from photos taken in bright conditions…

Journey's end

[Photos by Clarinda]

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