Saturday, 29 September 2007

Paradise. . . no parking lot


Listening to: Come As You Are (Nirvana)
What's for tea?: homemade pizza
Eggs: Yep
Weather: sunshine all the way

No point going on too much today. I've been digging at the back of the barn, walking the dogs down on the Links at Westray and enjoying a quiet lunchtime pint.

The weather here is outstanding. It's a summer day only at the wrong time of year. The sky is blue in a way Coventry City can only dream of, while the sea is flat calm and a beautiful shiny, rich blue that makes you just want to dive into it.

It's one of those days when you are convinced you have gone to heaven just a little bit early.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Must have been smoking


Listening to: N17 (Saw Doctors)
What's for tea?: chickpea and aubergine curry
Eggs?: Nope
Broken anything today?: Not yet

It's nice to know it's not just me. A friend (let's call him Mr D) called by earlier this week to help out with some DIY issues.

He'd been on a painting and decorating mission at a nearby houseand was just about to leave when, forgetting that Orkney houses are built to suit the average Munchkin, he copped a fearful crack across the forehead.

That may have had something to do with his decision to try to reverse up our lane.

There's a ditch that runs along the length of the lane and. . . yep, you've guessed it, Mr D's Volkswagen van ended up in it.

So we set about pushing, shoving, revving, rocking, pulling and so on, but nothing would shift it. It didn't help that Mr D was stumbling around, slurring his speech, eyes looking in different directions like he'd just done four rounds with Ricky Hatton, while I went down with a serious fit of the giggles.

I tried to squeeze Lennox past so I could give a tow, but stopped moments before getting it wedged in as well. A passing real farmer with tractor helped us out and was kind enough not to laugh.

We got Mr D indoors and gave him hot, sweet tea and tried to bring him back to Earth.

"Don't put that on your bloody blog," he slurred.

Don't worry, Mr D, your secret's safe with me.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Nobody here but us chickens

Listening to: Sunflower (Paul Weller)
What's for tea?: Lamb's liver
Egg count: Five
Surf report: 4ft, clean
Nature notes: Lapwing and golden plovers in the top field
In the doghouse: Spike (buggered off again)

Mrs Wannabe Pig Farmer and Dangerous left on the ferry last night to go south, leaving me to my own devices for a couple of months.

First impression is that it's bloody quiet, but an absolutely beautiful day and the arrival of another egg from Fletch, Godber and the other hens has lifted my spirits. OK, so five in a week isn't exactly a lot and certainly not cost effective, but at least they are producing and breakfast is something to look forward to.

I'm going through a bit of an 'it came off in my hand'/'it was like that when I got here' phase.

The other day I was tidying up a pile of old creels (lobster pots) that were rotting away behind the pig shed when I heard a loud 'pop' and a gushing sound from inside Eric and Ernie's quarters. (Eric and Ernie are the pigs who are due to arrive in three weeks, don't know if I mentioned it before).

"That doesn't sound too good," I thought, picking up speed as I huffed around the corner of the shed. Sure enough it wasn't. The floor was awash, with water flooding out of a joint in the pipe that supplies the shed.

I grumbled my way back to the house, switched off the pump and went to investigate. A day or so earlier Eric and Dave had helped me put in a new cold water tank in the barn (when I say helped, they did the real work, while I held things, fetched things and made tea).

That meant the water pumped up from the well in the bottom field bypassed the concrete monolith/header tank in the top field and went straight into the new tank. Great except that meant a great increase in pressure on the 'branch line' into the pig shed - hence the burst joint.

Actually, I discovered that the joint seemed to have been plugged up with an old wine cork and some gaffer tape.

I fished out a connecter thingy, trimmed off the two ends of the pipe and put it together. Feeling a bit smug, I went to run myself a bath, preparing to break out the Lush bath creme. No bloody water!

Having put the toys carefully back in the pram, I climbed the ladder to find that the nice new tank was bone dry.


Back out to the pig shed and all that was needed was a diving board and a couple of sun loungers for Eric and Ernie to be in piggy poolside heaven. Water was gushing out of the new joint that I had been so proud off.

It's pretty depressing when you find you can't do even a simple job right, so I switched everything off again and went to bed a little smellier than usual.

Next morning Dave popped round, showed me where I'd gone wrong and we fitted nice new plastic joints and taps. The pigs will be so pleased, although it does ruin their hopes of gold in the synchronised swimming in Beijing next year.

I took the dogs to the beach for a little R and R and all was well until I tried to put the electric window in Lennox's passenger door up. It took an age and just before it was completely shut, something went clunk, kerdunk, chunk-a-dunk, plunk, bang.

Ok, I thought, at least it's mostly shut. Then I found the door was jammed completely. The rear passenger side door has been locked solid for some time, so I now possess the UK's only totally passenger-proof Land Rover.

Monday, 24 September 2007

The frozen south


You've got to admit it, the quality of BBC comedy is higher than ever these days.

Here on Orkney, we are all just drying our eyes and holding our aching sides after the reports on the "news" from our favourite London-based broadcasting corporation that "extreme" weather conditions had caused "devastation" and "severe" damage to "scores" of houses in the Midlands and south-east England.

Winds of up to 60mph had been recorded! That posh weather girl's umbrella blew inside out! Sophie Rayworth got wet on her way to work!

Ooooooooooooh! Declare a state of national emergency.

I think I'm right in saying that a score is 20, so 'scores' probably means about 80. I'd say you got off pretty lightly.

And, yes, 60mph is pretty breezy - but, hey, if you don't want wildly unpredictable weather, sell your car, grow your own veg, stop taking flights for your holidays and start getting on the government's case to do similar and to put pressure on other countries to stop polluting.

In the meantime, put on a hat and a coat and toughen up, you wimps!

PS The weather presenter on the North Scotland news on ITV is called Gail.

Things are looking up

Listening to: Barbed Wire Love (Stiff Little Fingers)
Eating: pork sandwiches
Reading: The River Cottage Meat Book
Skiving: Burt Lancaster is on the telly.

Funny how 24 hours can change your mood completely. And funny how often it's a visit from Marcus that changes things. Yesterday morning I was burying a much-loved dog and resigning myself that my hopes of becoming a pig farmer were as forlorn as ever.

The four Saddlebacks seem to be stuck on their farm near Thurso for as long as the foot and mouth thing goes on and that looks like being a very long time.

I was stomping around the farm in a below-average mood yesterday evening when Marcus rumbled up the lane - well his tractor did the rumbling, but you know what I mean.

Understanding the accent in these parts is never easy at the best of the times (think a cross between Oslo and Newcastle with a bit of Aberdeen thrown in and you are somewhere close) and getting to grips with what Marcus is telling me is the single most difficult intellectual exercise of my life.

Once I had absorbed all the sounds and framed an appropriate response, I realised he was telling me that someone in the village had four piglets and might be persuaded to sell me some or all.

Hoo-fucking-ray!!!

I trundled down to Pierowall this morning and was shown four cracking-looking piglets with their mother. They're not pure bred - the sow is Oxford Sandy and Black crossed with Tamworth, while the AI sperm came from a Duroc boar - but they are in great condition and big for their age.

Can I buy all four? I burbled excitedly. No, just the two I was told and they are £40 each - just the price I had in mind.

So it won't be the fab four, but the dymamic duo - the main thing being is that it's a start. It's bloody lovely when something goes right.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

By George, I think he's got it


Listening to: Where's Captain Kirk? (Spizzenergi)
Watching: Scotland v New Zealand

This is all about this tagging thing that fellow-bloggers for some strange reason think is a good idea.

My dear old chum Reg tagged me last week and my reaction was 'wha?', quickly followed by 'eh?', 'uh?' and 'I don't get it'.

The penny has finally dropped, I think. As far as I can tell, it goes like this. You give one fact pertinent to your miserable existence for every letter of your name, then pass the 'ball' on to the same number of bloggers.

So. . .

Masochist - I must be, I support Wolves.

Astro-physics - something I know nothing about.

Liverpool - I've been there.

Clash - best band ever, ever, ever. Joe Strummer for president/prime minister/king, even though he's dead.

There. . . that should do it. And, no I'm not passing it on because everyone else seems to have been tagged already and I'm the kind of person who tears up chain letters and casts them to the four winds - which explains a lot now I come to think of it.

Unclean, unclean

Listening to: Pretty in Pink (Psychedelic Furs)
Watching: Australia v Fiji
Cooking: roast pork, spuds, all the rest

There are times when you can't help feeling that it's all your fault, even when you know very well it isn't.

News from Suffolk that a case of blue tongue virus has been found - the first in the UK - has sparked off a new round of panic in newsrooms up and down the country.

So, since I moved to Orkney in July and tried to restyle myself as a farmer, the UK industry has been hit by a series of foot-and-mouth outbreaks in Surrey and now this. Coincidence? I'm not sure.

Blue tongue has been expected here for a long time and it isn't anywhere near as serious as foot and mouth. It isn't contagious and animals do eventually recover. It's carried by insects that - from our point of view here in the relatively cold and very windy Orkneys - are unlikely to make it this far north.

Defra in England and Wales and Seerad in Scotland have contingency plans that are similar, but not as drastic as those for foot and mouth - that's only responsible from those who ought to be looking after an industry that has had its fair share of health issues over the years.

The news that the blue tongue outbreak is being investigated at Pirbright does not inspire confidence, however. Nor does the over-the-top reporting of the outbreak by broadcasters today, many of who would be hard-pushed to tell a cow from a kangaroo. (Let's face it, the BBC's output on countryside issues is laughable, amounting pretty much to The Archers and the pathetic Countryfile. Farming Today is stuck away in the early hours of the morning).

Anyway, the reason I'm ranting a bit is that I phoned the Seerad helpline today and the prospect of us getting any pigs on the croft are disappearing faster than you can say "pass me the baseball bat, I'm off to Pirbright."

The very nice lady at the other end of the line said that the situation in Surrey (700 miles away, remember) meant that it was unlikely that the ban on transporting animals from mainland UK to the islands was unlikely to be lifted any time soon.

Which leaves us pigless for now and pretty fed up about it. Couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy when I passed a butcher's shop in Kirkwall yesterday selling pork from the neighbouring island of Sanday. There's a small herd of Berkshires there. We're having a bit tonight.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Tired and weary

Listening to: LA Woman (The Doors)
Eating: cheese on toast
Reading Vinland (George Mackay Brown)

We made the trip to Kirkwall today and brought Milly back to the croft in a Reebok sports bag. A little undignified, but the full coffin and hearse seemed ostentatious.

I started this intending to write something funny about deep-fried macaroni cheese pies (yes, you read that right) and vanilla-scented kitchen binbags, but I'm drained and off for a bath and bed. Night, night.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Chicken and egg

Listening to: the clap of thunder
Eating: omelette (very small one)
Drinking: Orkney Red McGregor

It's a very small start, but it's a start nonetheless. The croft has produced it's first err. . . produce.

We have an egg, just the one, but we've got it. The hens arrived yesterday and the early signs were not good. We went to pick them up, threw them into a box and set off for the two-mile journey home.

The box thing was probably ill-advised, in hindsight, as we put the box in the middle of the henhouse and only five out of six hens popped out. One had snuffed it on the way over. It does happen - panic, confined spaces and all that - but it never makes it any easier.

The survivors were fed, watered and shut up for the night to investigate their new surroundings. They were found this morning, gathered underneath the shelf I had made for them to roost on. I scattered some food on the floor to encourage them to peck around and opened the little door into the hen run.

I went off to break things and dig, keeping an occasional eye on the run. No sign of any hens. On closer inspection, four were still in the huddle, presumably muttering to each other about the quality of the room service.

The other was showing good signs, strutting about on the straw, having a bloody good nose (or should that be 'beak'?) around.

This brave adventurer was later seen emerging from the hatch into the run, pecking at some of the nettles growing there before going back in.

Confidence had obviously soared as I did a quick head count and found only four hens, still pecking tentatively at the henhouse floor. A deep sigh and a look to the heavens was followed by a scout around the barn and 'Fletch' as I can't help thinking of her, was strolling off in the general direction of the beach at Valdigarth.

I skirted around the edge of the field, trying to whistle in a nonchalant manner, imagining that, even at 46, I could outpace a two-foot hen. Tell you what, hens can bloody shift when the fancy takes them.

Somewhat out of breath, I headed her off and chased her back towards the veg garden where we became involved in a poultry stand-off, eyeing each other like western gunslingers waiting for the Milky Bar Kid to arrive and break the whole thing up.

She cracked first, dashing off down past the pig shed and towards the front of the house, only for a sharp, icy shower to lead to second thoughts and she headed back towards the hen run, giving me just enough time to clip the gate shut.

The exercise did me a power of good, and must had done something for Fletch because when Dangerous checked the hens at tea-time, there was a lovely brown egg there - I may have it framed.

Elsewhere on the croft, I did some digging and found that we have a moat. It's actually a storm drain that goes right the way around the north and east side of the house, but I'm calling it a moat, so there. I've been on the phone to Jewsons, but they don't do drawbridges.

On the very down side, the news of Milly isn't good. The poor love has gone blind, her kidneys have failed and she has high blood pressure. We are going over to Kirkwall tomorrow on the ferry to say our goodbyes. She's been a lovely little dog, a real pal and we'll miss her.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Milly

Listening to: My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Ramones)
Drinking: G&T

Just back from a couple of days on Orkney Mainland and the news is mixed.

We've got hot water at last - it's been just the four weeks without. The new cylinder has been fitted and we can have hot baths. Can't wait to break out the lavender bath oils.

Bad news is that our little terrier Milly is not at all well. She's 10 (we think) and has been below-par for a few days. She's normally very bouncy, affectionate and actually capable of getting into all sorts of trouble.

Apparently she hasn't moved off the sofa for two days, drunk only a little and eaten nothing. She looked painfully thin when we got in so I made her some very milky porridge which she lapped up. She looks a little better, but I'm worried enough to be arranging a trip over to Kirkwall on Friday to see the vet. (We don't have a vet on the island).

Milly was abandoned as a puppy and my stepdaughter rescued her from the dog's home/death row near Wolverhampton.

She's always been 95 per cent sweetie-pie, five per cent hound of Satan. At least two neighbours' rabbits have fallen victim (she's an expert escapologist) and we have had more than one trip back to the 'pound' to pick her up after she has, as Mrs Wannabe Pig Farmer likes to put it "just fucked off".

If Spike is the clever one in our house, Owen the nice-but-very-dim one, Milly is the one neighbours would later describe as "a bit of a loner", "liked to keep herself to herself". She hates other black dogs and has mugged several wire-haired terriers. We keep her on quite a tight lead.

But she's in no state to chase anything, attack anything, or do anything much, and we're worried.

So it's fingers crossed for the old girl, any wishes, prayers and so on would be much appreciated.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Way out West


Listening to: Better Days (Jimmy Cliff)
Eating: out

It's Mrs Wannabe Pig Farmer's birthday today so we decided to get the waterproofs and binoculars on and set out to the cliffs on the west side of the island.

There's a five(ish)-mile walk along the edge to the Noup Head lighthouse where there's an RSPB reserve. We spotted gannets, fulmars, black-backed gulls, great northern divers, turnstones, oystercatchers, shags (pause for childish sniggering), lapwings, rock pigeons and (maybe) a hen harrier.

We hadn't got round to going before and it was hard getting my head around the idea that I wasn't on holiday, just taking a day off a couple of miles from home.

Oh yeah. . . Spike isn't pink any more. He's gone Dale Winton orange. Don't know which is worse.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Chicken run

Listening to: Paint It Black (Rolling Stones)
Eating: bacon and cabbage
Not mentioning: the rugby (Georgia! Get a grip lads)

Small signs of progress here on Westray, just when I feared we were grinding to a complete halt.

The chicken wire finally arrived from the agricultural merchants in Kirkwall - only four weeks late - and we set about putting up the fence around the hen run which we did in galeforce winds and bright sunshine.

I'm pretty damn pleased with the poultry set-up and the first inmates are due to take up residence later this week. We are getting six hens from a family on the west side of the island. Three are laying and the others are due to start soon.

It's a tiny step forward, but one which has done my morale a lot of good after the foot and mouth business. The area around the back of the house, which was covered in 5ft nettles when we arrived in July, is actually looking reasonably well organised with chicken wire, pig fencing and the start of a veg garden. With our neighbour Marcus keeping a few cattle in the top field, it's starting to feel like a farm.

I've also managed to put a front door on the place. Up to now, the porch door kept the weather out, but with the porch leaking like hell, the water was bouncing back into what we like to refer to as 'the hall'.

The front door-less frame was rotten, so, after a little thought and a great deal of world-class swearing, I bodged up a new one and then managed to hang the door. Should keep the water out for the winter while we wait to put a nice smart new one on next year.

And, with the arrival of a new hot water cylinder, it looks as if we might have hot water some time this week, so no more popping down to our friends for showers, although I'll miss the Ailsa's coffee and currant buns afterwards.

The only cloud on the horizon just at the minute is that my dog appears to be turning pink. Spike, as regular readers may recall, is not a big one for the words 'heel','walk', 'good boy', 'come by'. He's keener on 'pull', 'choke', 'gag', 'attempt to dislocate owner/best pal's shoulder'. Actually I'm not his owner. We have a kind of agreement that I'm allowed to live in his house.

We can't let him off the lead because he would be down a rabbit hole faster than you could say "where's the little sod got to this time", so we decided that a harness would be a good idea.

Mrs Wannabe Pig Farmer went off to Kirkwall on the ferry with instructions to visit the pet shop. I had visions of something in good, old-fashioned brown leather with studs and maybe a slogan (Bone to lose?). A kind of doggie biker jacket, if you like.

What came back was red with pictures of green, yellow and blue puppies on it.

It's very useful, but looks very girlie and Spike hates it. Now he's been out in it a couple of times in the rain and the colour has run. I don't know which of us is more embarrassed.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Duvet day

Listening to: No Quarter (Led Zep)
Eating: these really nice little choccy biccies 'Dangerous' bought yesterday
Revelling: in the wonders of nature

The foot and mouth thing genuinely upset me today, so it really was a case of "take a deep breath and get on with it Malc, having first put the toys back in the pram".

Mrs Wannabe Pig Farmer has just finished a hectic couple of weeks as assistant cook at the local hotel and decided to have a duvet day - the latest Rebus novel taking one hell of a battering I suspect.

I decided to head for the the beach with surf gear and the two younger dogs in tow.

The waves were not as good as I'd hoped, so getting stripped down to my smalls in a stiff westerly didn't hold too many attractions. Not only that, but a group of about 30 seals were hauled out on the sand.

So I sat on a rock with the binoculars and watched for half-an-hour while the dogs flushed rabbits out in the dunes. We're home now listening to the rain batter against the windows, hoping that the one held in with duck tape doesn't give way.

Pigs in limbo

Listening to: Tres Hombres (ZZ Top)
Scratching: midge bites
Excited: Led Zep reunion!!!

As Napoleon said when he saw Blucher riding to Wellington's rescue at Waterloo: "Oh bollocks!"

I try to keep this a no-swearing zone, but what the fucking hell is going on in Surrey. Hilary Benn is on TV now and, much as I love his dad, he clearly has no idea what he's doing. Who thought it was a good idea to put a vegetarian in charge of livestock farming anyway. Give me strength!

Another foot and mouth outbreak means my pigs are stuck on the farm near Thurso. At this rate, by the time they get here they will be complaining about their arthritis and swopping stories about the Great War.

It's a huge blow because we are grinding to a halt here on Westray. We can't touch the house while we find out whether we are eligible for grants, the chicken wire hasn't showed up yet so we haven't got any hens, I've cleared the veg garden, but can't plant anything, we're still waiting for the new water tank and hot water cylinder (that's right, we're still going to the neighbours for a shower).

But it's a lovely clear morning, the wind is clearing away the midges who came out and mugged me yesterday. It's hard to be really grumpy on a day like today. Sod it, I'm off for a surf.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Dangerous Ray

Listening to: Surfin Safari (Beach Boys)
Watching: Ireland struggle to beat the Dagenham Girl Pipers at the Rugby World Cup

Martin and Kathy caught the boat to Kirkwall this morning to start their journey south, the last of this summer's visitors to leave.

There's a kind of 'holiday's over' feel about the place today and I tatted around, trying to get some stock fencing in place - not easy on your own - and digging out another bed in the veg garden.

I've also applied for a job - as a fireman. Titter ye not. Had a very nice chat with the firebosschappy in Kirkwall and providing I pass the fitness test (yeah, right!) the helmet and boots are mine.

We've also had to get the father-in-law patched up after his latest escapade in the field of extreme sports.

Having set himself up as a sort of latter-day Hemingway with his pursuit of fish, large or otherwise, Ray has clearly decided to branch out.

A few days ago, he decided the leak in the porch needed attention and started rigging up some kind of frame to divert water away. To attach the frame he needed to climb up a ladder and knock it in place.

Now, bear in mind he's 79, 5ft 4in and not exactly porky. . . and he decided to do the work at about 9pm. Sal was alerted to a clatter outside the front door and rushed out to find Ray had taken up base jumping without the parachute and was laid out on the flagstone path at the front of the house.

He was rushed down to the surgery where he received some stitches and a few strong words of 'advice' from Sal concerning the whole area of heights, ladders, upcoming 80th birthdays and how she'd like him to see it.

Seriously, he's a lucky boy, and has had an outing to Kirkwall today for an x-ray which revealed that his foot wasn't broken, at least.

He followed that up a couple of nights ago in the Cleaton House Hotel, our local, by leaping Peter Shilton-like across the bar for no apparent reason. Mind you, he didn't spill a drop of his Talisker - my hero!

PIG UPDATE: The foot-and-mouth restrictions were lifted last weekend for every animal - you've got it - except pigs. I swear they are doing this to annoy me.

So, the lads will be ready to rock in a couple of weeks - arriving here on Westray at the end of the month.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Let's go surfing now, everybody's learning how

Listening to: Rock and Roll Music (Chuck Berry)
Reading: The American West (Dee Brown)

Yesterday was pretty damned good. I gave myself the day off, partly to recover from the fuzzy feeling in my head after a bucketload of Dark Island the previous evening, but also to enjoy the company of my wife's brother and his wife who are visiting.

Brother-in-law, having ignored advice and got stuck into the 12-year-old Highland Park, was in a poor state and we spent much of the morning stumbling around, bumping into each other, groaning pitifully.

An hour or so's dog-walking revived spirits and the appearance of the sun in the sky - a rare occurrence here recently - persuaded us that a beach outing was in order.

Wetsuits, boards and Owen the spaniel/collie cross were thrown into the back of Lennox the Land Rover Discovery and we set off for Grobust beach on the north of the island, the only beach that supports a regularly surfable wave. It's no Hawaii, or even Newquay, but it's fun and you have the place to yourself.

Well, not quite. We wriggled into wetsuits, pulled on hoods and gloves, alerted the coastguard and staggered down to the water's edge.

The wave was a bit sloppy for any serious surfing, but it's hard not to have fun in the water and the arrival of some local wildlife made it a day to remember.

We'd been in about 10 minutes when I realised there were four heads in the water - me, Mart, Kath and a grey seal keeping a close eye on us from about five or six yards.

Seals, of course, are not an uncommon sight around the island, but it's rare to come into such close contact. We carried on splashing about for half-an-hour while the seal hovered around, occasionally dipping below the surface or catching a wave.

Kath, enjoying her first time in a wetsuit, was captivated and was still in the water as Mart and I trudged back to the car.

By the time we had towelled down and I had realised I had forgotten to bring my boxers, a couple of other seals had arrived, one hauling out onto the beach. I'm sure that once I've been here a while, such encounters will be commonplace, but for now I'm happy to act like a tourist.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Back home

Listening to: Death or Glory (The Clash)
Drinking: black coffee
Watching: weather coming towards us at an alarming rate

I'm back on Westray after my trip south and it's astonishing the difference 10 days can make. The weather has turned and winter is clearly on the way, migrating birds are gathering on the beaches, seals are hauled out on the rocks and killer whales and dolphins have been spotted in the seas around the island.

We are still pig-less. I had planned to pick the chaps up from Thurso on my way to the ferry, but sadly the holding I was due to collect them from was under a 21-day standstill, an emergency measure introduced after the foot-and-mouth scare.

The breeder's son had bought a new sheep and took it to the holding a week ago, meaning that no animal could leave for another three weeks. This restriction is in the process of being lifted, but that's no help to me now.

It's nobody's fault other than the careless numpties at Pirbright Laboratory and successive governments who either believe that private firms can operate with the best interests of the community at heart or who couldn't give a toss as long as it makes money. That's not a political point, it's a question of what's right and wrong.

And many people are unaware that imports of Brazilian beef into EU countries including Britain are going unchecked, despite the inability/unwillingness of the Brazilian authorities to tackle foot-and-mouth, which is endemic there. So, if you can't prove exactly where your meat comes from, don't buy it. Better still, find a local, small producer and buy direct (cash, no questions asked, wink, wink).

Anyhoo. . . back here on Westray, we've had the report from the building inspector who has basically recommended we pull the house down and start again, so I'm pretending that hasn't happened and spending time out of doors, banging in fence posts and tensioning barbed wire in readiness for the day that the pigs finally arrive.

Oh. . . and to cheer us all up, it's sausage roll day at the bakery on the island. . . and the rugby world cup starts tonight. . . O'Driscoll's fit. . .