…or rather, historic houses: between 2009 and 2014 we embarked on a complete eco-renovation of our house – a Regency-era listed steading in Highland Perthshire. We took it back to the stonework, insulated it throughout and installed a ground-source heat pump (GSHP), biomass stove and solar thermal panels. It wasn’t cheap (our initial budget rapidly became a rounding error) but we now have a 270m2 (floor area of heated spaces), 200-year-old farmhouse that is both warm and comfortable – winning UK Renovation of the Year in 2014 was just a nice piece of validation for our hard work.
So, with now nearly a decade’s hindsight, what difference did it make?
Continue reading Heat Pumps and History
With the bowing out of the second Elizabethan Age, It probably won’t take much hindsight to see Elizabeth II as possibly the last unifying factor in the life of the rather nebulous entity we call the United Kingdom. Despite her accident of birth, she managed to embody a clear commitment to public service, to duty, decency and integrity, all carried out with unfailing good humour.
Continue reading The Elizabethan Age – A View from the Glens
We’ve just seen a weekend where, rather than reducing travel and staying at home, large numbers of people have flocked to the Highlands, treating it more like a Bank Holiday than a Global Pandemic.
So please, Protect us, Protect yourselves, and go home.
Continue reading Hordes of the Things…
I’ve lived more than six decades cheerfully identifying as English (where I was born), Scottish (where I was brought up and where I now live), British (when I couldn’t make up my mind), European (where I’ve spent a deal of my working life and where my greatest cultural resonance lies) and Human, in all other circumstances. And, for the most part, that hasn’t mattered a damn. My passport says I’m a British citizen and – again, mostly – that’s been fine, despite significant differences of outlook with most governments of my lifetime. Continue reading The Sound of Crowing in the Dark
So I did my democratic duty today and rocked up to the “Bollocks to Boris” demo in Glasgow’s George Square. There was a fairly decent turnout, with a diverse crowd pretty much filling the square, music at the east end and the speakers to the west. Lots of EU and Scottish flags at the musical end, whilst the speakers’ end was dominated by what I can only describe as the “Rent-a-Banner” contingent: The Communist and Socialist Workers’ Parties (bless their pointed little heads), assorted 1930s-style union showings and, in the midst, some white-bearded bloke mumbling away into a microphone. Now, I couldn’t actually hear what Corbyn was saying, but the cohort around was definitely pitching the same tired old mantras that we’re all familiar with, from any decade: Destroy the Tories; Resist Racism; Nationalise Everything; Soak The Rich (or whoever they consider “The Rich” to be at any given moment), not one of which is remotely germane to – and which in fact get in the way of – the issue facing us here and now. Didn’t they get the bloody memo?
Continue reading Read. The. Memo.
Health of Government Warning: this is an intensely political post. But it is not a party political post. And, yes, it’s about Brexit, two years after the referendum. Mostly though, it’s about the integrity and principles of politicians, and of our local MP in particular.
Still here? I commend you…
Continue reading Brexit Local
A solitary canoeist was enjoying himself this evening, powering his way up Loch Voil into a golden sunset. He rounded a headland, to see a large bloke lying prone on the shore, pointing a camera and long lens across the loch. At the other end of the scene, a Black-Throated Diver is floating serenely on the water.
Continue reading Evening on the Loch
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of rewilding: of restoring impoverished habitats and reintroducing species that we’ve intentionally or carelessly wiped out over the millennia. Re-establishing diverse, self-maintaining and resilient ecosystems can only help us weather the storms of anthropogenic climate change as well as reduce our species’ footprint on the planet. So I’m generally pro-Beaver, pro-Lynx, pro-raptor and, lest we forget, pro-random-small-but-useful arthropods. I’ve also previously noted that the re-introduction of wolves and bears would help simultaneously solve multiple local environmental and social issues, which itself is a metric for a successful re-introduction.
Continue reading The Darker Side of Rewilding
This is for the couriers, media (including the BBC) and assorted others who have no idea what this part of the world is called or where, specifically, Balquhidder is. Although it’s entirely true that they do have no idea, they’re not helped when they do try to find out, thanks to multiple and mutually contradictory databases. So we don’t get so much lost as regularly misplaced. Mis-spelling we take for granted.
Continue reading The Whatness of Where
It is an invariant law of the universe that books expand to fill the space allocated to them, plus ten percent. I call this The Bookshelf Constant. You can’t outwit this any more than you can gravity and it is entirely independent of how many books and bookshelves you buy.
Continue reading The Bookshelf Constant