Blind Kayakers Tackle Grand Canyon

Two blind adventurers are two-thirds of the way through a kayak descent of the Grand Canyon.  Erik Weihenmayer is 'world famous' as an adventurer, according to his KayakingBlind.org website, so my apologies for not knowing who he is.  He's joined by Lonnie Bedwell who is introduced in this video.

I came across them through watching some of the excellent Outside Online videos, in particular, this one.  I spent some of last week being cut open as a surgeon repaired two hernias.  I'm a bit sore and limited in what I can do for a few weeks, so I have plenty of time to trawl up stuff like this.

A Quiet Week

I won't write much this week.  Not because I'm working on stories linked to the referendum - I had to turn those down - but because I'm due to undergo surgery.  I will feel groggy after a general anaesthetic so it's probably best from me to stay away from the blog and twitter - goodness knows what I might write.  Especially in such a politically sensitive week as this...

An Independent Scotland?

One week from today, on 18th September, the voters of Scotland will decide whether we wish to live in an independent country.

The vote is the biggest constitutional decision any individual is likely to take.

It would be wrong for this blog to ignore such an event, especially since the title purports to chronicle our "Life in the Scottish highlands".

I have already voted by post a week ago.

All the last minute campaigning has no influence on my decision.  Our democratic system allows me to keep that vote private so if you think you can work out how I've voted by what I've written, then chances are you are wrong.

After thirty one years as a journalist - an avowedly neutral chronicler of events - I am unable to sit publicly anywhere except on the fence.  That can be a pain in the arse at times, but it's worth it.

The day after vote I have to be able to work with people who have publicly supported both sides.

How an individual voted may or may not become a genuine issue.  The divisions that have appeared during this two year campaign may be forgotten in the aftermath.

Yet how a person voted might be perceived to determine the outcome of a decision or the tone of a future relationship.  Could we hear comments such as, "We're going to employ someone more in tune with our thinking"?

If you're in any doubt, take a look at what the National Union of Journalists had to proclaim days before the vote.

In a job interview in 1983 to be a BBC TV reporter I told John Bird, the man who would become my first editor at BBC Newcastle, that my background in economics helped me see all sides of an issue.  Personally that was often frustrating because I found it difficult to form a strong opinion about even the most controversial subjects.  Professionally, I felt it would be useful for a TV reporter.  I got the job.

I stuck to those principals throughout my career.  Although I left BBC Scotland in 2009 and I have no day to day contact with the politicians and journalists whose world I once inhabited, the principals remain.

Over the last two years I have seen lots of spite and bitterness from both sides in the online independence campaign, but none at a personal level.

That said, the subject of independence is studiously avoided at most informal gatherings.

Go to a dinner party with strangers and everyone would rather tackle thorny subjects like abortion or religion before daring to utter the "I" word.

Passions which have run that deep are unlikely to fade quickly.

Let's hope there is no backlash regardless of the outcome of next weeks vote.

This country and its people are far too important for that.

Please don't troll me in the comments - I'll delete any which are rude.

Could You Live on an Island?

It happens every time we visit the Isle of Muck.

I can't help wondering whether I could live on a Scottish island.  Most people would consider our home in the west of Scotland pretty remote, but an island… that's one big step further.

We were on Muck again last week but rather than ponder how we'd adapt to island life we picked up a book all about the Laird, Lawrence MacEwan.

If this conjures an image of someone in luxurious thornproof tweed patrolling his island in a Range Rover let me set you straight immediately.

Lawrence is a hands-on, hard-working farmer who is habitually to be found in crocs or wells.  On a previous visit, the friends we were staying with invited Lawrence and his wife to dinner so we had a good chat.

It's all now in a rather good new book called A Drop in the Ocean: The Story of the Isle of Muck
written by Polly Pullar.  That's Lawrence (and Tara) on the cover and it's a series of perspectives of life on this island.

If all that sounds like too much reading then take a quick look at BuzzFeed's '26 Signs You Grew Up On A Scottish Island'.  It's focused on the Northern Isles of Shetland and Orkney rather than the Hebrides, but you'll get the idea.

Current Surface Wind




I have only watched it for a couple of weeks now but the graphical display is really useful for paddlers.

What's more, you can look at any part of the world.

Diversion Ahead. Uh oh.

When driving on roads in the Scottish highlands, you dread seeing road signs like this.

Usually you're on the only road heading to where you want to go.  A diversion is going to take you many, many miles and out of your way and add hours to your trip.

Or worse.

There's a good chance you'll be delayed as well, and that can also take hours.

Narrow roads mean no spare space on the carriageway for the safety of those carrying out the work, so there are often convoy systems in operation to keep speed down through the roadworks.

We've had these signs just outside our village for a few months now and, for all the reasons listed above, I've sniggered every time I've gone through this diversion.  If only all of them were as straightforward.


New Podcast - Double Ditch

The sea kayak podcasts return from a summer break with an absolute corker of an interview.

We hear from Scott Donaldson - that's him alongside.

He spent a staggering three months in his kayak  (it's longer than in that photo) as he attempted to paddle from Australia to New Zealand.

After 1,300 miles and just 34 miles from the New Zealand coast poor Scott had to call for rescue.

Imagine putting in all that effort and not making it!

How does he feel about coming so close yet not completing?  Come does he live with that decision? Does he feel he made the wrong call?

Check out Scott's podcast at SeaKayakPodcasts.com where you can subscribe free, or subscribe on iTunes and you won't miss a thing.  If you just want this podcast, right click here and save the mp3 file to your computer.