01/09/2023.   Approximately, well September anyway.
Time to put out another newsletter, this one is from several months of intermittent writing.
No, don’t worry, it’s nothing you’ve done, it’s just one of those things that happens if the weather gets a bit grey and there’s nothing I need to do just now.
So what earth shattering events have been noted since the last one? Well, the first bit is the new roof I mentioned last time. Back in 1997 I thought the new roof would last for ages, although never actually refined the thought. Now I know 25 or 30 years is all you got with that type of concrete tile. Several builders around 2020 pointed out that they wouldn’t last past 2030. I would have left it for a while longer since we are still waiting for Mum’s house to sell and a new roof isn’t cheap, but it had a worsening leak, owing to incompetent construction, and I didn’t want to rot the timber, so off it came and a new one from a more reliable firm went on. Fortunately the leak hadn’t done too much damage and some small repairs to the woodwork were adequate. On consideration if I’d been able to find the leaks I could probably have squeezed another decade out of it, but that’s 20 / 20 hindsight and you only get that afterwards. Examination indicated it would have become significantly worse if I’d left it.
Not good timing however, as all my cash was tied up with Mum’s house, so a loan was required and I discovered that I must be getting officially older as my age was a significant factor in the calculations. The bean counters didn’t want to guarantee me more than 10 years to live which I thought was a bit mean. Just maths you understand, no signs of mortality yet. Personally I would expect to fall off my perch somewhere around the 90 to 100 area, but as long as I’m reasonably healthy and not dribbling too much I’ll not worry about it.
So being caught between a rock and a hard place we wrangled a reasonable deal and hope that inflation will erode the fixed interest payments. Inflation has certainly been higher recently, although I’d not trust the government’s official figures any further than I could throw a spin-doctor.
    They say, there are three things that’ll drive a chap out of his house.
§A reeking lum, (smoke blowing back down or a blocked chimney) 
§A leaking roof and 
§A nagging wife. Fortunately Fiona never nags because she knows that if I’ve said I’m going to do something I will do it and there’s no need to remind me every couple of years. The lum, or chimney, is fine although I will have to sweep it soon. The wood burning stove worked well, although the last winter went on for a long time and we got through more wood than usual, I guess we went out less often with the dangers of covid and there were fewer gatherings. The cats can be quite clear in their opinion of when a fire is needed so the wood-pile was reduced a little more than usual. 
    In spite of our precautions we did catch the Omicron version eventually. We both forgot our zinc treatment and went to a village party. It took both of us out for only a day or two, so presumably we had been infected by one of the previous versions but mildly enough to be unsure. Fiona gets more symptoms from flu and similar than I do, although I complain more. I would say it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. Our main reason for shunning society apart from the medical advice was actually to avoid putting our more vulnerable friends and neighbours at risk.

    Since my last newsletter was 5 months ago, probably more by the time I finish this, I’ve been occasionally writing the odd update and snippet, and sometimes gone back to edit, correct, rewrite etc, so the product may be a bit disjointed, like this next bit from Mid April when the roof was completed, or near enough.… 
    The solar panels are all working which came as a slight surprise as the guys taking them off and replacing them did seem a little vague, and had forgotten to wire up number 12, as seen hereabouts. I was expecting more snags, but they are all working again. Fortunately the house opposite us is now rented to the owner of a solar panel business, so I may also be able to find out why one of the panels, No.11, was for a while producing a third of what No.5 did. There again it has resumed normal function and there's nothing harder to track than an intermittent fault when it's not doing it. It might have been a precisely positioned bird poop.
    Of course the manufacturers often change the sizes so some tweaking may be needed, and I’ll avoid messing with the feed-in tariff. The main thing is that the roof is on and the leaks have stopped, I’ve juggled the roans (gutters) so they don’t block up quite so easily with pine needles and re routed the downpipes a bit. The only downside so far is the fact that Button the cat can’t get as good a grip on them and finds it difficult to ascend and especially descend the steeper part of the roof slope, so she can’t access the Velux windows as easily. To my mind that’s not a big problem as it means I don’t have to keep letting her in and out of them, but she has more difficulty getting to the shallower slope and so her crow scaring will be less effective. We haven’t had the problems that our neighbours have with birds nesting under the panels as yet, but it is a bit of a wind tunnel under there.
    There was one other snag, now cleared, with the roofing job. The verges, the plastic edge running down the sides of the roof, have open ends at the lowest points so starlings and blue-tits can get in unless blocked by verge end barriers. Roofers don't seem to include that in their plans, so I had to encourage them to tidy that snag up. Now fitted, they should stop the wasps as well, although wasps are quite quiet and I don’t mind so much. Starlings like to have a family argument on a fairly regular basis.
    Our Covid episode is now over, and may give us a short immunity. I had a flu jag last time with the last of the Covid jags, so hopefully my natural immunity will stop that from being a problem. There are or were at the time I wrote that bit, an estimated million or so active covid cases in the UK. I’m hoping that number will be monitored effectively and will fall as the population becomes immune. Government figures say it is dropping but the Zoe study says they are rising slowly. 

    Much has happened in the last few months, although nothing startling. I’ve disassembled and re-built the trampoline that was left in a neighbour’s garden by his ex tenants, so Fiona can have a decent sized bounce if she wants and I can offer the facility to neighbours and friends. I don’t bounce myself as I have difficulty in orienting myself with reality at the best of times. Part of the older trampoline that came with the original polytunnel has been recycled by Andy with some convenient (and free) lengths of recycled tubing as a poly tunnel for short people or a big cloche for tall plants depending on which cover it gets. 

    The rental house came free as our tenant went on to buy his own, and our letting agent has found new ones. I was able to squeeze in a few repairs, added a spot of insulation and some fresh paint. Unusually I hired a painter for some of it as the Shetland holiday loomed and it was getting a bit close to the deadline. 
    The Shetland trip went well, Fiona having done most of the packing over a week or so. I needed several minutes of packing before I was ready to head off to Aberdeen, and still managed to forget the bit that joins the EV to the awning. Fortunately it turned out to be unnecessary as the awning can be set up 'free standing'. Shortly you’ll spot the modern version of the three wise monkeys…well there are three of us anyway. Here posed on the top deck of the Aberdeen to Shetland ferry MV Hrossey. That was the 21st of July. The return was aboard the Hjaltland on the 31st of August. None of them seem easy to pronounce unless you sneeze at the same time. Both crossings were warm and flat.
    We picked up Andy on the way to the ferry which mysteriously only moves at night. (That's the ferry not Andy). I assume it’s something to do with slipping quietly from UK reality to Shetland reality without upsetting the space-time continuum. 
    One bit of sea is much like another but there are quite different worlds at each end. Not as swift as a Tardis, but the destination is more predictable. Just in case there is some weird trans-dimensional travel involved It’s best not to ask the crew what the date or time is while moving. It can give them a headache. I suppose it gives them time to make the beds, swab the decks and do all the nautical things needed on a floating short stay hotel. Our only slight challenge was a perforated beer can, but fortunately the ruck-sack was waterproof and the spill was minimal. The hole was made by a USB/ Mains charging plug. I can't help thinking the metal can was too thin, but the hull of the ferry may be proportionately thinner. If the can was 180mm long with walls 0.1016mm thick then the thickness to length is 1/1,771.  If the ferry is 125 metres long with an 18mm thick hull then it is 1/6,944. About a tenth as thick! Mind you that's with Jim maths, so you may want to recalculate.
    Marine engineering and design notwithstanding I'll trust to luck and the fact that the ferry keeps coming back.
     I generally have a light supper on board if the crossing might get lumpy. Having a full stomach would always risk losing it later to mountainous seas. The crossing being overnight and the prevailing wind is south-westerly so the meals are usually served while we are in the lee (ie to the north-east) of the land, but if the waves are larger or the tides are against us, caution is advised.     We book a cabin if we can, it’s much more comfortable and easier to sleep especially when there’s a cross-wind and the ship does a curious spiral roll. You'd get the idea of the actual path of a passenger if you lay a long floppy coiled spring over an open egg box. This time however the weather gods smiled and it didn’t even rain significantly. I'll spare you the images of a small metal cabin and that of breakfast although both were satisfactory.
    Incidentally we popped over to the Orkney Isles on the way back, well the ferry did, but it was quite late and the dock is now well away from the town (Kirkwall) which used to be worth a visit when the shops would open for the foot passengers. Now there’s nothing to see but the dock so we didn’t bother and remained bunked below decks. The foot passengers and vehicles were reasonably quiet, as were the big doors which make most of the noise if the crew ignore the ‘Close Quietly, Passengers Sleeping.’ signs. Fine, as long as they are properly closed.

    We stayed mainly in a rented cottage in Mid Yell, which was the village that Fiona lived in when she was on Shetland (the island is called Yell). The house was the red one in the two pictures. The tall ships were visiting Cullivoe on the East coast of Yell and later we drove to the mainland to catch them in Lerwick, The holiday cottage was for a week and at the end we had a couple of days camping on the mainland (the biggest island). It all worked nicely and was warm and sunny enough for a light sun-tan. We saw several seals, sadly missed the Orcas (too busy chasing seals) and quite a few sea-birds. There was a Puffin but Fiona will have to bring you up to date on the others, I only remember birds starting with a P. It’s not forgetfulness, it’s a short attention span. 
    I've grown used to the Shetland accent and some of the vocabulary, although I suspect the islanders moderate things to avoid endless explanations. I’ve never decided whether to say 'on' or 'in' Shetland. I think it’s optional. Fiona can do the Shetland Wordle. Me? No chance.
    Mid Yell the village is much more spread out than you’d expect in the rest of the UK, The land is lumpier, which might account for it, but I think they like a bit more space and are less fond of straight lines than most planners. Shetlanders have been known to Visit London and other cities, but I doubt they stay long.
    The EV managed to get everywhere and, apart from the log-jammed car-parks owing to the Tall Ships, we had no trouble charging, and were able to get a top-up from the rental house. In fact, after a pleasant crossing the only problem was in Aberdeen where a conveniently placed Shell garage was selling electricity at an extortionate rate. I don’t think Shell is really taking EVs seriously, that or they want to pay for the chargers in a couple of months. No matter...there was a much better station a bit further south.
    After our return the village had a Fun Day, the first event of any size since the covid measures were officially relaxed. I don’t think it was specifically to celebrate our return but didn’t like to ask. I was on parking duties, with a high-vis jacket and clipboard of course, but no arm-band. Some useful money was collected for various funds including the village hall. The hall is quite an asset, although very badly designed by an architect who had delusions of cathedral. The running costs are quite high on account of a stupid oil fired heating system so we’ve had to rationalise some of the expenses. The local council out-sourced (privatised I guess) waste disposal which jacked up the fees to the point of not being able to make a profit on a party. The knock on effect means volunteers dispose of the waste cans, bottles, cardboard etc with the application of recycling, compaction and re-use. Skips are available but expensive and the quantity of debris, about 10 black bags, was much smaller than a skip would warrant. I’ll simply process my ‘share’ through my wheelie bins (recyclable containers, paper and landfill) although I may add some to those of any unfilled and convenient neighbours’. A small amount of contaminated paper can be composted. 
    I remain completely baffled by governments and councils that think private companies can do a better job for less money without running the system into the ground. I know that in theory they can, but it seems nobody has ever noticed that they never do.
    Our domestic wheelie bins are quite large in practice because I compress the cardboard boxes (Why doesn’t everybody do that?) Apparently crushing cans doesn't help as the automatic sorting can handle a can shaped one better. We generally seem to produce less waste than most. There’s no food waste, no garden waste like lawn mowings or hedge clippings, that all gets composted. We don’t dress in and dispose of fashionable garments as you can see from my photo, and of course no children means much less generally. My habit of refurbishing equipment means most of that gets passed on to new users or the scaffie. A word from the Doric which means scavenger. Currently projects include some bicycles and a small foot operated Singer sewing machine, a lawn mower, (make one out of two), a grass trimmer that was considered unrepairable and the odd clock. Some of my clocks are very odd, but most work now. Sadly they lack real purpose since I have a phone that is accurate to a few picoseconds and a watch that is usually less than 5 seconds out and it takes me longer than that to focus on it.
     I like to have a few projects and have considered changing my middle name to Scaffie but it sounds a bit clunky. Disassembling and servicing the espresso machine can provide a few hours of fun, and occasionally one of the house security cameras needs a bit of tinkering. The Gaggia (espresso) is the lower one. I photographed them to make sure I remembered which wire went to which place. A technique that has saved me quite a few puzzles. Now, if I can remember which is which, I should be able to stop coffee dribbling out of the monitor.

    The EV got an annual MOT now that it’s 3 years old. No great discount for all the bits it hasn’t got, so they just take longer looking at the bits it does have. The electric motor is a bit more complicated but it’s a sealed unit and the battery check is a matter of looking for the red bits on a print-out. Garages will be feeling the pinch with all the exhausts and oil disappearing, so my main concern is the manufacturers making the suspension weaker ‘to save weight’.
Hopefully the gradually extending warranties will mean that manufacturers will make sure nothing fails on our next EV for a decade.
Well that'll do for now. I've missed some exciting bits out, but If I don't end this one I'll never get started on the next. Have fun and keep moving.

Red Holiday Cottage  l
I appreciate that I look as though I have been assembled in the dark by a second hand clothes shop trainee. It was a bit breezy and I had been scuppering the halyards and had only a few minutes to splice the mainbrace.