Monday, May 27, 2013


I know we are not alone in experiencing some strange weather for this time of year. Apparently there has been snow in upstate New York and frosts in Virginia. We have been experiencing less that perfect weather here in this corner of the world. We've had rain and sleet and temperatures in the 30s (Fahrenheit). Not what you would hope for or expect this time of year. We made a trip to Skye on Thursday of this past week and it was a horrible day. It was lovely to be on Skye, but the rain and drizzle were ridiculous. We have heard tales of people driving through three seasons on their way around the north of Scotland. Spring and summer are long overdue. Unfortunately, the cold and rain will not keep the midges at bay. I've been informed that the cold and rain, because it hasn't been cold enough, will mean the midges will be as bad this year as any. Oh well.

Rising moon
But, for the last four or five days, the weather has been a bit better. The other night the moon was so large as it hung low on the horizon before rising and shining down on the loch. It was lovely to see it shining so brightly in a sky that wasn't nearly as grey as the nights before. We can only hope that each evening will be more beautiful than the last. The days do seem to hold more promise. The grey doesn't linger in the sky as long as it did a week ago. Perhaps spring will come, with summer close behind because spring has left it so late to arrive.

Today we had rain and sun, which means we had rainbows. I love the rainbows up here. Like the sky itself, the rainbows are so much bigger than those I remember back in the States. They seems broader and brighter. This evening there was even one that was dipping its toes into the sea. I used to be awe-struck by rainbows because I saw them so infrequently. Up here, they are part of nearly every day. But I hope I won't ever take them for granted. Such a beautiful phenomenon should never be taken for granted. They are far too lovely to dismiss as every day.

Evening rainbow
At one point this evening, I looked out the window to see a very broad rainbow whose arc was interrupted, making it look like a slice of rainbow instead. And to the right of it, another rainbow slice fainter than the first. It was the kind of rainbow that causes you to convince yourself that you aren't simply seeing a phantom rainbow because you have stared so hard at the first one. We get lots of double rainbows up here, too. And I will always look upon them with wonder.

The nights are longer now. It is now 10:55 pm and it isn't dark yet. It is not light by any means, but it is definitely not dark. I can still see the silhouettes of the hills and the sheep on the field next to us. The lambs have been scurrying about today, leaping and jumping, enjoying the sunshine when it was here and cuddling next to their mothers when the rain put in an appearance. We hear them in the morning, baa-ing happily with the light of day. But then, the light of day starts about 3:45am. This 'highland wake-up call' may be charming, but it is far too early.

Tonight, before the sun set, the light on the hills and the houses in the distance was beautiful - rich and deep. The photograph below was taken at 9:45pm. I often think about the theatre group I belonged to back home. The theatre is outdoors in a grove of oaks (hence called Oak Grove) and shows during the summer don't start until 8:45 so that it is dark enough for the lighting to be effective. If there were an outdoor theatre here, the shows wouldn't be able to start until after 10pm.

Nearly 10 pm!
The days are certainly getting warmer - albeit slowly but surely. I am sure it won't be that much longer until we will be enjoying some true summer weather. I look forward to our first summer up here. The summer event for Exclusively Highlands is taking place at Eden Court in Inverness on July 13 and 14th. I am really looking forward to it. Chris was asked to join and he will start taking part in the autumn with the events leading up to Christmas. I know he will do well. His photo-art has really made an impact and we launched his new website last week. His first order came within 12 hours. (His website is

We were supposed to take part in markets in Torridon this summer but may have to pull back on those. Chris has been dealing with some fairly serious health issues lately. We are still working with the doctors to try to find the source of the problems. While we are sure it is nothing sinister, it hasn't been proved that it's not. So, we continue with Chris having all sorts of tests and scans in hopes of discovering the problem and then how to treat it. At least he is enjoying his photography again. That means a lot.

So, there you have it. The latest from the little house on the loch. Hope this finds all of you well and I hope it finds all of us slowly thawing out and enjoying warmer weather.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ups and downs and improving weather...

It has been far too long (again) since I've written anything here. Truth be told, I've become a very willing slave to my business. Things are ticking along very nicely and the invitation to appear in the UK's oldest magazine, Tatler, was issued to me about 6 weeks ago and I've been working like crazy ever since. Hits have increased, sales have increased and I'm feeling very confident and happy about the business. I think it is going to be a good year.

On the personal horizon, it has been a time fraught with all sorts of drama. My daughter has been having increased pain in her joints and a visit to the rheumatologist this week resulted in her receiving the official diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome III (Benign). This is characterised by acute hypermobility and is a genetic syndrome effecting the connective tissue of the body. It is inherited, and all fingers point to me. In fact, it is accepted now, by my GP as well, that my severe osteo-arthritis is, in fact, the result of my having suffered from EDS my whole life. One of the telltale signs of EDS III in children is the frequent occurrence of sprains and twists. Anyone who knew me as a child can tell you that a spent a great deal of my childhood in ace bandages because of extremely twistable ankles. Had I been a child now rather than back then, I probably would have been given the EDS diagnosis. What it means for Caroline is management. Nothing more can be done. Surgery, which may still be on the cards, would offer a temporary respite from some of the pain she endures when walking or standing. But, perhaps saddest of all, is that she will probably have to drop out of her nursing degree. She has been a shining star - both academically in her university assignments and exams and theoretically in her placements. It is a huge setback and we are trying to figure out what to do next. She hasn't withdrawn entirely as she needs to speak to her mentor about the situation, but her future as a nurse is problematical at best. Catherine has begun to show signs of EDS as well. She is often 'clumsy' when walking and has twisted her right ankle a couple of time. The rheumatologist said that she will be monitored from the age of 5 to see what can be done to lessen the effect of the syndrome. Caroline has been referred to a bio-mechanical podiatrist (nope, not kidding, that is the term) who will work with her to find the right footwear to ease some of the effects. Catherine may end up having to have special shoes as well.

The syndrome has many characteristics and I find it remarkable to find that so many weird issues all come under the listings for symptoms. We bruise quite easily - I had always put that down to the fact that my father's side of the family bruise. (I have always kidded that we are part banana.) Scars don't heal nicely; for instance, I have a hell of a scar on my right knee from surgery I had when I was 12 years old. It should not be as large and noticeable after all these years. The skin on Caroline's abdomen separated from the muscle wall during pregnancy - a sign of the EDS. I find it all quite amazing. And, in this case, I am wondering if the gene isn't from my father's family. Among the suspicious signs are my father's fairly low clotting ability if he bled, one of his sisters being bedridden during her teenage years because of leg problems and, as I said before, the excessive bruising. As with any illness, disease or syndrome, both Caroline and I are finding some solace in knowing what it is that has caused our problems. It doesn't mean it is easier to deal with, but at least it has a name.

On to brighter topics - the weather was lovely yesterday and we treated ourselves to lunch at our friend Claire's new business, The Gairloch Pantry. Lunch was delicious and it is a treat to sit in the welcoming cafe and look out the windows to the harbour. The tide was coming in as we sat and enjoyed our lunch of delicious food make fresh with care and attention. The Pantry has been open for a little over a week. I know it will be a great success. It was the dream of both Claire and her late husband Mark to make the business a success and I know it will be. It can stand on its own merits and it has the support of the community as well.

As I alluded to in the first paragraph, business is going well and you can catch up with all the ins and outs on my business blog, Ailleas Designs.

Hope to have some photographs for you in the coming weeks and months. The summer is just around the corner and I can't wait to see the sun on a more regular basis. (We can't really complain though. When the rest of the UK was digging out from under the snow left by really severe storms, we were enjoying fairly mild days). We have friends from the States visiting next week, so will enjoy showing them this beautiful corner of the world.