Archive for December 2011

£75 for lost power

The Hydro Board are offering a £75 payment to everyone who lost electricity during the storm on 8th/9th December. To make your claim, send your name, address and telephone number to:

or write to:

Richard Westwood,

ESC Performance Manager,


Inveralmond House,

200 Dunkeld Road,

Perth PH1 3AQ.

Balvicar Stores

Christmas season opening hours for our local store:

Saturday 24th December – Christmas Eve – EARLY CLOSING at 4pm. Please note if you were planning on a late “Balvicar dash” for those last-minute forgotten bits and pieces!

Sunday 25th December – Christmas Day – Closed.

Monday 26th December – Boxing Day – Open 10.00am to 2.00pm.

Tuesday 27th December normal opening hours.

New Year opening details will be posted soon.

Here’s the BALVICAR STORES website. Do check out the epic film “Out of Milk”. A classic short! (Recognise anyone?)


Celebrate the Solstice tonight (21st December) or celebrate it tomorrow night, depending on which calendar you use and whether you missed it tonight.

Solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night, and afterwards we can count on 3 minutes more per day of daylight, as we begin the journey back upwards to spring. This will be tacking on at the end of the day for a few weeks, though, as the latest sunrise is not until mid-January, and dragging ourselves out of warm beds in the dark and cold will continue to be a trial.

So … get out your candles, hang up the holly and mistletoe


bring in a good-sized log for the fire, and let the mulled wine flow, because Solstice (or Yule) is the traditional mid-winter festival marking the change-over from dark to light, and the re-awakening of the sun from its slumbers.

It is possibly one of the oldest festivals in the world, and was celebrated by ancient cultures in many countries. Stonehenge and other circles are aligned to catch the last rays of the setting solstice sun – or the first rays of the next rising sun, depending on which website you read! Whichever, it was important to our ancestors to know that the year had really “turned”, and that the natural cycle of the seasons would continue. There always lurked the fear that the sunlight and warmth might not return, and that famine would result, so fires were lit to worship and celebrate the sun – and to remind it of what it was supposed to do!

Have a warm and bright Yule, and sit in front of the fire with the gardening books to start planning the spring planting (always assuming that the sun does wake up again, of course …).


Festive ferries

The ferry timetable over the Festive Season is:

Saturday 24th December – Christmas Eve – normal service, but there will be no 2300 hrs ferry

Sunday 25th December – Christmas Day – NO SERVICE

Monday 26th December – Boxing Day – ferries at 1030 hrs and 1630 hrs ONLY

Tuesday 27th December to Friday 30th December – normal service

Saturday 31st December – New Year’s Eve – normal service, but there will be no 2300 hrs ferry

Sunday 1st January – New Year’s Day – NO SERVICE

Monday 2nd January – New Year holiday – ferries at 0745 (if pre-booked), 1030hrs, 1630hrs and 1800 hrs ONLY

Thereafter, back to normal, weather permitting!



Originally published in “Private Eye” (please don’t sue us, Mr. Hislop!).


Ideally, this should be left to mature for four weeks before using to allow the flavours to meld, but it’s still excellent used straight away. It keeps very well indeed, so you could make some after Christmas to use up the packs of dried fruit, the fresh fruit and the plonk that you’ll still have lurking in your cupboards, and store it away for next year. How efficient!


500g  each of sultanas, raisins and currants

75g mixed peel

750g cooking apples (peeled, cored and roughly chopped)

500g suet

500g dark brown sugar

Grated rind and juice of 1 orange and 2 lemons

1tbsp mixed spice

50g blanched slivered almonds

4fl oz each of dry sherry and brandy (or whisky, or rum according to choice and what you have)


The traditional way to make this is to put the dried fruit and cooking apples through a coarse-bladed mincer – you know, the old-fashioned ones that you clamped to the table – but no doubt one of those food-processor gadgets will do the job.

Tip the coarsely minced fruit into a large bowl, add all the other ingredients and stir well. Cover and leave for three days, stirring several times.

Sterilise some jam jars by washing them in clean water and placing them in a low oven – this recipe will fill about seven jars. Fill the jars to within about 25mm of the top and, if you like, pour in an extra tablespoon of your chosen spirit. Cover, seal and label, not forgetting to write on the date – or the year, at least!

Merry Christmas!

Featuring on many Christmas cards that have come through the Twitcher household’s door, robins are in vibrant plumage at this time of year, both males and females sporting orange-red breasts. (And we always thought it was just the lads who wore the fancy waistcoats!)

The bright winter dress is in preparation for the courting season, which can begin as early as January if the winter weather has been kind. Unusually, it’s the female who builds the nest, but her chosen mate helps out by bringing her plenty of choice tidbits while she’s nest-building and laying her clutch of four to six eggs. Mother robin incubates the eggs on her own, but both parents care for the babies once they’re hatched and, in about a fortnight, the young birds are ready to fly. Robins normally have two broods a year but, in a good year, can have three or four, which could equal up to 24 “new” robins from each pair! Even allowing for that fact that around 50% of eggs and chicks never make it to the fledgling stage, that’s still an impressive family size, and because of this robins are far from endangered, having increased in numbers by 45% since 1970. (They are still protected by the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act, as are all wild birds.)

 They look plump and round right now, but that’s because their feathers are fluffed out against the cold weather, and they are very vulnerable in a cold spell, losing up to 10% of their body weight during just one cold night, so they need to keep well fed. One snack they particularly appreciate is mealworms – if you can’t face the yuck-factor of live worms, buy dried ones and soak them for a while in warm water to soften them up. They also enjoy meat scraps (turkey, perhaps?), fat, biscuit and cake crumbs and dried fruit, so a bit of Christmas cake should go down very nicely!

 The information above was taken from the RSPB WEBSITE, where you can find out more. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Robin” page to read about breeding, territory and threats, listen to the robin’s song or watch a short video.

Harbour Master

What ever happened to the Easdale island harbour master? In the spring of this year “Ken” was proudly promoted as the main man, the man to deal with for all things harbour, we had posters going up on lamp posts and in the phone box, there was talk in the summer news letter of his imminent permanent residency on the island, he took part in all the jolly fun and games on atlantic day and then……Nothing, he disappeared, and so did the posters, ripped down with venomous intent.

What could have happened?? As I recall, Ken’s departure seemed to coincide with the OSCR report coming out and the subsequent interview given by the Eilean Eisdeal’s chair Keren Cafferty to the charity’s magazine Third sector. 

Did Ken wake up and smell the coffee? Was the truth all to much for him? We could easily see how such a honest man would find it hard to put up with the lies and deceit that the directors of this charity peddle, as I have touched on before, the interview Cafferty gave to third sector was as far from the truth as pluto is from the sun, but then, she has learnt very well from her mentor Mike Mackenzie all about the use of half truths deceit and blatant lies, he’s the master at it.

So Ken, we wish you a fond fair well, thanks for the memories!