Hello world, it's been so long since I had the time to write a newsletter that most of you may have drifted away to look at kittens on Facebook, or whatever the new media of choice is. I did write one at the end of January, but since I realised much later that there was a lack of response, perhaps the email notification failed. No matter, it's the second one down on the home page if you want to check or here.
So, why so busy? You ask, or would do if you could get a word in edgeways.
A great deal of it has been Midge work, apologies to all uninterested in old cars, the quarterly Magazine takes a fair bit of time to make up, and explaining how to join, offering advice, buying and selling (mostly buying) and very occasionally getting out into the garage to actually work on a Midge. Of which more, no doubt, later.
Various activities have occupied us, since spring there's been a regular walk on the miles of track, path and field around here. Fiona is the driving force of the two of us and there's a chap from Woolfords who bullies us into action, I sort of tag along. It's enjoyable, and undoubtably healthier than sitting at a computer, and you can generally pick up a bit of local history and have a good blether. There are usually several other walkers from the area getting a bit of fresh air, though in winter it can get very fresh around here, and the Scottish 'Right to roam' serves us well.
There are so many large land owners in Scotland that it became necessary to have such laws. They were preventing ramblers who provide a useful income steam for the country. There are a surprising number of estates, often foreign owned, where they would 'keep out the riff-raff' given half a chance. The hunting and shooting may well bring in some cash, but it supports the spirit of the clearances even now. Just as the Lairds felt they could do as they wished there are plenty of owners who only visit in the hunting season and ignore their tenants, the Scottish public, and indeed the laws, such as raptor persecution.
We, Fiona and myself that is, went looking at electric cars. It's a bit early as yet but I'm hoping our next one will be all electric. Having seen a Kia, a Nissan Leaf and a few hybrids at a recent display nearby, we took a drive in a Kia. Not really finished as a design and the 90 miles range is far too limited at present. We'll take a look at a Leaf next, although I'm waiting for a 200 mile range due out around September. The systems becoming available mean that, given a bit of cash which may be available as an interest free loan, you can cut out fossil fuels entirely and as they progress, it means the price comes down.
The car manufacturers, except for Elon Musk's Tesla company, are not exactly pushing the idea but the numbers are climbing. Now, even in Scotland, if you covered your garage roof with solar panels, assuming a good position, you should be able to charge your own battery for free and buy a fast charge when out for long runs for not very much. There will be nay-sayers of course, but our panels now pay for all our electricity bills including the electrically driven ground source heat pump. Once I get a couple of batteries and a garage roof of panels I should be able to run the car at zero cost and carbon. I really enjoy not having the money in the bank where it evaporates slowly and putting it to work for us. Of course the bankers may not feel the same way.
The WATIF? (Woolfords, Auchengray and Tarbrax Improvement Foundation) we help with has held its second Heritage Festival and that went well. Seen here just after setting up. There were walks and talks, the inevitable bouncy castle, well attended by small villagers, cakes, tents, displays, beer music and tug-of-war. Races around and up the bing and of course the heritage collection of maps, photos and stories. The weather held well enough and it was breezy enough to keep the midges away. One of the walks, shown in the two photos from the top, was focused on the kind of plants found on the low fertility surface of the bing. 'Spent' shale or blaes being the residue of the Shale mine that caused the village to exist in the first place. Blaes confusingly means blue, which is the colour of the stuff for the first few decades. Our house is the little white bit in the trees to the left of the picture.
The village church, or kirk seen in the middle of the row of houses is being repurposed in these secular days as a house, part of the process left some fencing redundant so I used it to replace a particularly decrepit bit by our house. There's a fair bit more, so I hope to put the rest up when I develop the necessary enthusiasm. I can't say I'm a very good fencer, but it hasn't fallen over yet. My excuse is the fact that there's about 50% rubble in the ground around here, which makes my posts (staves) shoogly.
Most of the signs of mining are fading into the landscape, but it'll be a while before they disappear altogether, the walks often reveal bits I hadn't seen before and many are completely incomprehensible because the heavy machinery around and on top has long since been recycled. The building on the right is now in a field, but must have had a road leading to it.
Continuing the walking theme we wandered around Shropshire recently and had a look at Ludlow and Shrewsbury. It has always looked interesting and might do as a home if we downsize. We have no particular reason to move from Tarbrax at the moment, but it is always worth checking out alternatives. Shropshire certainly has possibilities, we were impressed by the friendliness of the locals, the property prices are reasonable and the climate, while a bit wet, is mild. They've also got a very 'active' population in that they all seemed to be doing more than the commute, work, commute, sleep, thing. Ludlow had some rather attractive buildings like the one on the right, though I imagine trying to fit double glazing would be a challenge.
It's all a bit academic for now, and it would be difficult to find a place with so much going for it as here, even if it does look like the back of beyond from outside, but as they say, it takes all sorts.
Part of the visit included a hike around the Stiperstones part of which seen on the right, another attraction of the area is that they have proper geography in abundance. One of the reasons I dislike most cities is the lack of the natural, London for instance (sorry Bill) obscures most of the sky/clouds/rocks/rivers/ and soil. The pollution makes breathing dangerous, the stars invisible and the birdsong inaudible, though I have heard some have taken to shouting to be heard above the traffic. I just hope the stars don't start going nova just to be seen.
Not that I'm encouraging you urbanites to move, that would make the countryside too crowded but I think conurbations larger than a market town inadvisable. Mind you, I recommend having TV, mobile and internet free days, so I'm classified as a bit odd anyway. Electronics have their place, but on a sunny day it's more fun tinkering or dozing (after a bit of gardening), and it means you can filter off another layer of the less attractive stuff thereby improving the average quality of the rest. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. (I did think that was Absinth makes... but after a few serious hangovers I checked the spelling.)