Thursday, 30 June 2005

Wednesday 29/06/05

Nice sunny day today, quite warm as well. Sit outside, on the steps behind the seawall. Updating my diary for August 2004, yep 10 months behind. Surprising what you still remember though. In the evening, news comes through that Western Isles Council have approved a planning application for both windfarms in Lewis. The social and economic benefits were said to outweigh the environmental disadvantages. Unfortunately, I believe that they are looking at the wrong figures. Number of jobs promised: 300 - 500, which is actually closer to 100-200. Number is based on the assumption that the turbines will be constructed at the fabrication yard at Arnish, south of Stornoway. The Council forgets however that such an order is subject to European rules, which requires that this project be put out to tender. Even if Arnish is to do the work, they'll have to adopt 7-day working, and I somehow don't see that happening just yet. But, it is all subject to Scottish Executive approval and possible European Court action on the part of the RSPB, who have vowed to fight this tooth and nail.

Tuesday 28/06/05

Was told this morning that someone would be flying to Ullapool today, under a parachute towed by a fast boat. As it's a nice, sunny day, I head off into town to view the event from a nice vantage point. However, the crowds I had been warned to expect at the launch site, Cuddy Point, were nowhere to be found. On the way there, I passed the lawn in front of Lews Castle where a very colourful chut was laid out. In the Inner Harbour, two fast boats were manoeuvring between North Beach and Cuddy Point. By 1pm, the parascentist (that's what it said on the boat) had finished his on-camera interview and proceeded to his chute. A cable was rigged up between the towboat and the chute. This was deployed using the force 3 easterly wind. The boat gathered speed * snap * the line snapped. The parascentist dropped to the ground and the whole shebang had to be rigged up again. Two seals bobbed about in the harbour, very inquisitive as to what was going on. At 2pm, we started from the top. Unfortunately, the chute got caught in a gust of wind and veered off into the trees. The parascentist crashed to the ground, taking a few branches with him and thereby breaking his fall. He ended up on the bench, but was not hurt. The chute was left hanging in the tree. It was quite some bother to get it down, and it was torn. Brand new and all. The wife told the spectators, all ten of us, that the man was quite devastated. Everybody drifted away after that. I went to the library to have lunch (a bit late at 3 pm) and update this journal. Went back to mrs B. Ended the day with a colossal stomach upset, which took some time to subside.

Postscript: Read in the Stornoway Gazette on Thursday 30th June that a Good Samaritan had been found, who had supplied a new parachute. A picture featured in the Gazette, showing the man flying past the Beasts of Holm, 2 miles south of Stornoway. He arrived safe and well at Ullapool later in the day.

Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Monday 27/06/05

Today, the American ladies, Susan, Katie and Ginny, will be heading back to Washington DC. There was a bit of confusion about their flights, but that got sorted. On Wednesdays and Fridays of the weeks from now until September 3rd, we'll have 3 ferries a day. They leave here at 6.15, 12.40 and 19.00, arriving back at 12.15, 18.35 and 0.45. Mrs B is delighted with that prospect (not), because it means that guests going on the early ferry will have to leave at 5.30 a.m.. The weather is not great today, dreich is the word. Over the last two nights, it's been fairly gloomy around sunset time, 10.30pm. There is a man in this town who walks his dog from his car. In wet weather, I can see a wee white dog going up and down the causeway, followed closely by a light coloured vehicle. This is apparently someone in the money, who cannot be bothered to invest in a brolly or waterproofs. Ministers of the church sometimes conduct services on the wards in the hospital. As from now, they are required to ask for consent from all on the ward before proceeding. And they have to wash their hands before touching anyone. The Monday morning newsbulletins on Isles FM relay the usual weekend crimewave. Drugs, children found in possession of alcohol, cartheft, smashed windows and drunken behaviour. It appears that a Landrover collided with a deer on the A858 just west of Lochganvich late on Saturday. Car was damaged, but nobody was hurt, even the deer just ran away. Mrs B had a domestic disaster with the Americans who reported breaking a bed. They are well built, these young ladies, and they were mucking about. We suspect they flopped on the side of the bed and broke the spar on the side of it. The Americans duly went on their plane at 2.25, whilst mrs B's son organises a repair of the bed. Is that what you call "having a crack"? Unearth a Gaelic phrasebook in the Baltic Bookshop. Heard that a ship had lost power in the Minch near the Isle of Rum and had requested a tug. Tug went off at full steam - only to turn up off Norway. Meanwhile, the vessel concerned was left drifting in the Sea of the Hebrides. Well done.

Sunday 26/06/05

Day starts sunny, but cloud increases rapidly on a brisk westerly wind, force 5. Drops of drizzle are carried on the breeze, but not much else happening. Mrs B cooks me a meal tonight. Updated the walks records, by using an on-line OS map. I don't have all the maps I used over the previous 10½ months with me.

Saturday 25/06/05

Fairly bright day, with even some sunshine. Talk to the Americans, who are off to Laxdale. After lunch, I take a bus to Tolsta to wander about on the beach and the moors. The bus is a new, demo type, which kneels for the passengers to step on more easily. Busdriver isn't very pleased with it, long wheelbase and large turning circle. Have a bit of a natter with him at New Tolsta. Go down the road to the beach and wander around on the tideline. Notice a tern being attacked by a skua. A gull comes to the rescue. I retrace my steps and proceed down the track towards the moors, which is the route towards Muirneag. I trod this route fully exactly 3 months ago. Don't have time to go all the way to the hill, but go round the east end of Loch Diridean, as far as the cairn at grid reference NB517490. It's fairly windy out there. Retrace my steps through the broken country, and time my arrival at New Tolsta perfectly to coincide with the departure of the 4pm bus back to town. Nice view coming down the hill between Tolsta and Gress, where you see all the way down the east coast to the Shiants. Back in Stornoway at 4.45. The Americans go out to pubs and clubs, but forgo the pleasure of the first when they find the police inside, busy breaking up a fight. Saturday night does tend to be rowdy in Stornoway, reason for me to avoid it. The ladies don't return until 1.15 am, when it's still light to the north. They went out to Callanish during the afternoon, and caught the wrong bus back. So they went all the way through Carloway and Barvas.

Friday 24/06/05

Another cloudy day, with some drizzle. Forgot to mention last Friday about the two very pretty Swiss girls who were touring Scotland prior to launching their professional careers. The salmon are running in the island's rivers at the moment, subject to heavy rain. We've had some rain in recent days, but no huge amounts. An American lady arrives in the evening with her teenage daughters (15 and 19) in tow. She is over to visit relatives in Laxdale / Lacasdail. Heard a story of a relative of mrs B's who went across to St Kilda one day. He had a companion with him who started to panic when the weather turned nasty. Six hours into the trip, there wasn't a sign of the islands, and the companion was wailing: "We've missed St Kilda, we're lost". "Ach, shut your mouth and tend to the boat", was the snappy reply, and the relative went down to plot a course for Barra Head. As he was working on that, a shout came from above deck. "We're there! If we hadn't seen it, we would have knocked St Kilda clean in half!" The storyteller has to go shortly afterwards, because his sheep are out of their field, and straying down the road in Lower Sandwick.

Thursday 23/06/05

Weather remains wet and grey, although it does clear up during the afternoon. Help mrs B with a few notices, like a breakfast menu and a fire safety notice for the rooms. The inspector duly arrives at 4pm sharp, with favourable results. There is a major row going on up in Ness. A heated meeting took place regarding the proposed windfarm up there, to which 93% of people are opposed. The community council and Comhairle nan Eileanan Siar (Western Isles Council) were given a serious earbashing for not listening to the people, not representing the overwhelming majority. There are to be no negotiations with Amec, the windfarm developers. As a result, 4 members of Ness community council have resigned, as they favoured talks with Amec. Next week, CnES is to make its decision on the windfarm, which I await with bated breath. This is not the final say, their conclusions will be submitted to the Scottish Executive. Heard a report that 2 people were hurt in a collision on Cromwell Street, near the pedestrian crossing. All those hurt were backseat passengers, so my idea is that they were not wearing seatbelts.

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

Wednesday 22/06/05

The Germans left for Harris today, but they are not having very good weather with it. The wind increases to galeforce, as NOT per forecast. The rain is relentless. Temperature not bad, at 16C. The rest of the country is suffering under a heatwave, but NOT the Western Isles. No guests in tonight, as mrs B is expecting a visit from VisitScotland tomorrow.

Tuesday 21/06/05

Spent the day processing the pictures which I scanned in in the library. Due to the time constraint of 60 minutes, I only had time to basically scan them in, and had to use mrs B's comp for further sorting out. Weather started out as wet as it did on Monday, but it cleared up for the afternoon. Three Germans staying with us at the moment: mum, dad and daughter.
Petra is about my age, and works as a Procurator Fiscal Deputy in Dundee. Parents are from Nuremberg in Germany. They had been up and down the Westside all day today. Last night, mum had left her handbag with passport and money in a restaurant here, but has now got it back. Mrs B offered them a traditional Lewis welcome after they had been out for dinner, but that went clean over their heads.

Monday 20/06/05

Not a lot happening today, been trying to get some info together re. project HMS Timbertown, which I commenced back in January. Have translated the articles from Dutch into English, but the results of my research were all previously sent off to Holland. Got the pictures back from the Shiants - very foggy!

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Summer solstice 2005

Today, 21st June, is the longest day of the year. Here in the Isle of Lewis, we're at latitude 58°N, which puts us within 8° of the Arctic Circle. Up there, the sun shines for 24 hours each day. Down here, it is 18 hours 15 mins, sunrise 04.19, sunset 22.34. This leaves 5 hours 45 minutes without sun, but certainly not without light. I have been mentioning since May that it was still light at 1 a.m., and I have included in previous entries pictures taken after midnight. This entry includes pictures taken last week, which shows how light it still was between midnight and 1.20; the latter time being the 'darkest' point of the day. From now on, the nights will lengthen (as they will all over the northern hemisphere), until we're back on sunrise 09.15 and sunset 15.35 (21st December). I'll miss the long evenings, when it is broad daylight until well past 11 o'clock...

Pictures - 21/06/05

Have uploaded the latest set of pictures, which I'll sort out in due course. Have a browse in the meantime. This being the solstice: check out pictures 10 (facing south, towards the crescent moon) and 11 (facing north), which were taken at Stornoway at 00.15 hours, just last week. Picture 12 was taken facing north at 01.20, the nadir of the night.

Monday, 20 June 2005

Sunday 19/06/05

Fairly sunny day, spent in idle sloth. Mrs B serves me dinner, as per normal on a Sunday. The weather worsens in the evening, with strong southwesterly winds and dark clouds. It is supposed to be 32C (90F) down south; well, they can keep that down there. Quite happy with the local 17C (63F).

Shiant Isles - 18/06/05

Right, getting out and about today for a change. Set off on the 1020 bus to Balallan and from there to Lemreway. There is a trip to the Shiant Islands leaving from there, as from 1130. Have a look on At frist the islands' proprietor, Adam Nicolson, gives a talk. Unfortunately, my bus doesn't arrive until 1125, just in time to catch the end of the lecture. Pay £15 for the boattrip, for which 153 people are booked in. I'm number 130 on the list, so I'm in for a bit of a wait. Come to chat to various people, including a lady from Isle of Wight who complains bitterly about incomers and a local man who has been across several times. Two fast boats are in operation, although three were booked to do the work. The third has developed a fault, and a replacement was seemingly unavailable. Each boat can only carry 11 or 12 people, and the return trip takes 45 to 60 minutes. One boat is a RIB (rigid inflatable boat), which covers the 8 miles to the Shiants in 20 minutes. The other is the slightly slower Eishken estate boat. I don't leave until 4 pm, which means I have to wait for 4½ hours. By that time, the mist has come right down to sealevel, the tide has come in and it's raining steadily. The Eishken boat takes its time, flapping about in the seas off South Park, in thick fog. There is no swell at all. We finally arrive at the Shiants at 4.50 pm. The anchorage is on the eastern bay between Eilean Taighe and Eilean Garbh. These two are joined by a narrow isthmus. Eilean Mhuire lies a mile to the east. The islands all rise steeply out of the Minch, 400 to 500 feet. Eilean Garbh (Rough Isle) can only be accessed if you're prepared to climb 450 feet up a very steep incline. Once over the awkward access ridge to Eilean Taighe, lush meadows roll towards the one solitary house, appropriately named Shiant Isles. A party of Czech archeologists have taken up residence there for a month. Facilities basic, one person expressed a yearning for a bathroom with four walls. Food is available, but the expiry dates should be checked. Coffee was found there which should have been discarded in 2001. Nice views - once the fog lifts. I chat to a group of men who have arrived here in a yacht. They had a mishap, in that the towline for their dinghy fouled the propellor as they came in to anchor in the bay. On Monday, I heard that the Stornoway lifeboat had to go and tow them to safety because the batteries on their boat had given up the ghost. Carry on south across House Island, with the 400 ft highest point shrouded in thick fog. It's clearer on the western seaboard, but I can still hear the deep boom of a foghorn out in the distance. The biggest islands of the Galtanach, which stretch out west from Eilean Garbh, slowly materialize out of the fog. I presently stand on the top of a 250 ft high cliff and veer south southwest towards Mianish. The gulls do not appreciate my presence, and hover over me. I see no nests on the ground, though. I speak to an American lady who has been camping out at Lemreway over the last few days, in anticipation of this trip. She is a nanny to the filthy rich, which means she also earns a nice dollar or two. On return from the south point, the fog starts to lift. By the turn I return to the strand, half an hour later, Eilean Garbh is clear. Scalpay looms up, 17 miles to the west, the hills of Park (to the north) unwrap their foggy cloaks and Skye is clearly visible, 12 miles to the south. The Ascrib Islands are dotted in front. The boat leaves Eilean Taighe at 7.30, to arrive in Lemreway at 8.10. The fog has lifted off sealevel, but bits and pieces of cloud hover low on the hills. Carol from Bayble, Point, runs me back to SY and while I go on a trip down memory lane during the 14 miles trip up the B8060 (where I stayed between last November and February) we have a bit of a natter. Carol is a field archaeologist, and as such walks about as much as I do, at least until recently. Return to Stornoway at 9 pm, me very hungry.

13 to 17 June 2005

Monday 13

Quiet day, what with the weather cold, wet and windy. Sun comes out at 2.30. Do some translation work on the Timbertown project, which I started in January.

Tuesday 14

Mrs B is being connected to Broadband today, for her Internet connection. Meanwhile, the weather outside was quite acceptable, although a bank of high cloud did move up from the south. It produced rain in the evening. One guest who had booked in failed to show up. This was a lady from the Uist who was due to attend hospital. It later transpired that she had missed her bus. Bedtime at 1.30; I'll want to stop keeping late nights.

Wednesday 15

Spent today sorting out mrs B's broadband connection, which fouled up for a reason best known to myself.

Thursday 16

Broadband connection now back in working order. Go into town to work on internet and to collect the Thursday papers: Stornoway Gazette, West Highland Free Press and Hebridean.

Friday 17

Get the pictures back, and am quite amazed at the quality of the pictures taken at midnight - without flash! Weather not unreasonable.

Sunday 12/06/05

At lunchtime, I kick myself out to explore the moorland just north of Stornoway. Walk down Macaulay Road, down the hill past the hospital and up the road to Guershader. The War Memorial looms up on the hillside,  but cannot be approached through that route. Go downhill, north into Lacasdail / Laxdale. Notice that the lambs have grown big, and the sheep are being shorn. It's very quiet now. Take the cross-street into Newvalley, and walk up the moorland track as far as the ford. This is negotiable, if awkward. Finally call a halt to proceedings at Hogaraid (GR 394354). It's a very pretty location, amidst low hills. The river is not fordable. I could conceivably follow this stream uphill into the Barvas Hills, but it's mid afternoon now (3 pm), and I just don't have the time. Traverse the hills to the radio relay mast and come down past the quarry. Then on to Marybank and back into town via the Castle Grounds, by 4.20. A few folks are out walking dogs &c.

Fri 10 and Sat 11/06/05

Friday 10/06/05

Breakfast an hour later than usual (which is 8.30 a.m.) because I didn't hit the sack until 2 a.m.. It's an overcast but fairly bright morning.

Saturday 11/06/05

Although the weather is quite acceptable, I'm not going anywhere at all today. I take the book with Runrig songs from the library, this band will be playing at the Hebridean Celtic festival next month. This festival gives the tourism industry in Stornoway and the island a headache. They are expecting 15,000 to attend - compare this to the town's population of 7,000 and the island population of 22,000. The songs prove difficult to reproduce on the keyboard. One guest arrives in the evening, but he keeps very much to himself.

Sunday, 12 June 2005

Photo competition BBC

I have entered 5 photographs for the "A Picture of Britain" competition, being run on the BBC at the moment. Check them out (and rate them as high as possible please) on (and 17913, 17899, 17869)
I am aware that there are only 4 references on the list, but I am awaiting confirmation on the 5th. Thanks for your support

Saturday, 11 June 2005

One for the pot - The Politician

Earlier this week I mentioned a colourful Stornoway character, who will remain unnamed, save for the initial W. I'll try to recount the main stories he told me over coffee on Monday, as they are absolutely priceless.

The Politician

As the Politician lay stranded on a rock between the islands of Eriskay and South Uist, she was abandoned by the crew, and left until salvage or other fate effected by officialdom. However, this being 1941, and officialdom never doing anything fast, the locals decided to salvage some her cargo themselves. The cargo consisted of whisky, Jamaican banknotes, bathroom appointments (baths, washbasins) and much more. (Read Roger Hutchinson's The Politician, The Real Story). Obviously, the whisky was the most desired, and there were thousands of cases of various brands and blends on board. Each case measured several feet in height and length, and was awkward to handle. W. sent several cases off to Stornoway in a large box, marked Engine. He himself got on board the Lochmor (the then island ferry) to go to Tarbert, Harris, also in possession of a case. It was blatently obvious that the whisky was illegal, as it was marked Not for resale. The case was spirited on board the Lochmor and hidden in a cabin. On arrival at Tarbert, the police came on board and spoke to a member of crew. Both men watched W. walk through the village with his case on his shoulder. However, the policeman took no further action, as the crew member told him to let this one go. Only a few hundred yards from the quayside, the case fell off W.'s shoulder, and he hailed the hotel taxi. "Sorry, I've got a fare", the driver said. W. showed him a bottle out of the case. "I'm really sorry, but I've got this fare from the hotel". W. showed him a second bottle. "OK, put it in the boot", the driver said and took him to Stornoway.

Fifteen years later, W. was speaking to a neighbour, who answered to the same name as the Tarbert police constable in 1941. The copper was telling some stories, including that of the young man with the case of whisky, and that the crew-member had told him to let go. "Aye", said W. "That was me, man".

As I mentioned above, the Politician also carried bathtubs and the like. One Eriskay family helped themselves to a bathtub. This being 1941, there was no mains water supply. Nonetheless, they planted it next to the stream running past their house. In 1986, W. visited Eriskay again and met the family. Outside the house sat the bathtub, in which various generations of the family had been washing themselves over the past 45 years. And it was still in use at that time...

Friday, 10 June 2005

Thursday 09/06/05

It's volunteer day in town, so around midday I go out to have a look. The police are recruiting special constables and put up a demo in how to deal with aggressive people. Bystanders are allowed to bash a well-padded man with padded baseball bats. Have a chat in the townhall with people from Uig about beach cleaning. Sounds as if that happened earlier in the year. Also have a word with a lady from local radio station Isles FM. Its star presenter, Kenny There you go MacLeod is hosting a show from the townhall. Finally, I head for the coastguard station. Nobody is there to see me, although I'm allowed in. All out for lunch? Ring them up later to report the whale that's been rotting outside South Dell for the last 4 months.
Once back at Mrs B's, I play the Isles FM CD Langass (that's a village in North Uist) and read the Uig Recipe book. Later in the day, two Dutch guests arrive, one of whom was a colleague of a close relative of mine. Have a bit of a chat with them, and continue that once they return from a night out in the pub. They bring a fiddle and melodeon, and accompany me on the keyboard until nearly 2 a.m.. It's getting light again by that hour...

Wednesday 08/06/05

The three Norwegians are back with us. They were considering to cycle from Castlebay to Stornoway, but I think they are over-ambitious in thinking that they can achieve that in 2 days. Once again, little activity on my part. An Australian couple joins us in the evening; the man is tracing his ancestors and is very successful.

Tuesday 07/06/05

A rather windy morning, with sunny spells rather than the wall-to-wall sunshine of yesterday.
Weather closed in at lunchtime with a sharp shower. Went into town for a minute, during which it felt very mild. The yacht Air sailed at 5pm, after more crew were ferried in by the helicopter. It gave 3 hoots on the whistle prior to sailing.

Monday 06/06/05

Sunny if windy morning. The helicopter on the big yacht is flying around the boat. Can see quite a few people moving about on board. They are just under a mile away, but my binoculars are strong enough to offer a good view. Anchor is aweigh at 10 o'clock, and Air leaves her anchorage in Cala Chlumaig. This ship has a crew of 26, and was launched from a yard in Bremen, Germany, only 7-10 days ago. She is currently undergoing seatrials. Mrs B's brother in law calls in at half past 10 and proceeds to tell some stories that happened in his life.
He was involved in the democratic salvage of the cargo of the Politician which sank off Eriskay in 1941, prompting the famous story of Whisky Galore. It was a story of help yourself to plenty of whisky. There were also some fantastic stories about democratic culling of deer on the hills of Lewis and Harris, on the estates of Morsgail, Scaliscro and Eishken. Latterly in 2002. Nowadays, poaching is much more difficult, with nightsight goggles and what have you.
At 12 noon, the cruiseliner Alexander von Humboldt comes into port. Two hours later, the Hebridean Princess follows suit. Town is full of people around 2 pm. I walk to Arnish, through the Castle Grounds, in 1 hour 15 mins. Look around the lighthouse, then divert to the small cape that separates Cala Steornabhagh from Cala Ghlumaig. Am only a few hundred yards from Air, which has now returned to her anchorage. The crew is cleaning, painting, polishing and skiving -crewmember engaged in latter activity is hiding on the steps at the stern of the vessel. I have a look by the BPC monument (I have previously ranted about Bonny Prince Charlie, so will spare you the ordeal), then return to town at 5.30. Two guys were climbing the rocks just outside Arnish. Stornoway was buzzing with cruise passengers. It's sunny, but with a chilly wind. The day closes nice and sunny

Monday, 6 June 2005

Sunday 05/06/05

Pleasantly sunny day, although there was some cloud first thing. Went out for a walk at 3.40 pm. Head out east along Inaclete Road, to Seaforth Road. It's windy and not at all warm. Cross Sandwick Road and continue to Steinish. Go down to the shore to overlook the tidal mudflats of Tong; it's not possible to cross over there, as the water is too deep and the sand is treacherous. I throw stones for an old dog, who likes to retreive them. Walk down Steinish towards the gate leading into the airport. It's actually a bit hilarious, because the gate is 8 feet high, but the adjoining barbed-wire fencing is rickety and barely 3 feet high. I watch a small red plane take off from runway 07, followed by the service plane from the adjacent main runway at 4.30 pm. Go up the road towards Sandwick, then return to Newton along the cemetery and the shore. Pass through Viewfield Terrace, where the accident took place last night. Bike and bicycle had only just been removed, and a roadsweeper was cleaning the road. Position of everything had been marked out in yellow paint. The road is closed to traffic, and nobody was allowed to move their cars. It appears that the crash took place outside no 14, but the debris came to rest outside no 22, four doors down. The 17-year old bicyclist was flown to hospital in Glasgow, and is very seriously ill.

Saturday 04/06/05

Three Norwegians staying here at the moment, two of them from Kirkenes, in the Arctic north, close to the Russian border. They experience problems with brown bears, which eat pigswill. And you're not allowed to shoot them, unless they actually attack lifestock or people. The Norwegians are planning a cycletrip round the islands. Later in the morning, a bank of seafog (haar) drifts in and obscures the view of the Arnish moors. The midge season is said to have begun. After lunch, I head for the library, which has a computer problem. Only 3 terminals available. Carry on for a stroll down to Willowglen and Marybank, then back to town. The sun is warm, in contrast to the cold wind. A girl decided to choke in Willowglen, but her mate is standing by. The big yacht still lies anchored off Arnish. Late in the evening, word goes round that a 36-year old motorcyclist was killed in a crash just up the road. He collided with a cyclist in Viewfield Terrace, only 200 yards away. Police and ambulance service attend. I've seen the biker concerned many a time, roaring up and down Macaulay Road. It turns out he lived out in Tong, about 4 miles away. He rode a yellow machine, and was decked out in garishly coloured leathers. The teenager, who was riding the bicycle, was seriously injured.

Saturday, 4 June 2005

Marine turtles (addendum)

The link I quoted in the entry for tracking sea turtles does not work. Try

Friday 03/06/05

Rain has given way to heavy showers. Have an extended breakfast with the cyclists, who are an interesting bunch to talk to, as they are also walking enthusiasts. All sorts of tales out of bothies &c. They are heading off on the lunchtime ferries. Showers continue more on than off through the morning. The yacht in the Glumag is swivelling around its anchor. The showers clear by mid afternoon, leaving warm sunshine. It's June after all! Walk over to Goat Island to take a picture of the yacht. Share an Indian meal with mrs B, and close proceedings with a game of Scrabble, which I lose this time round. It's still light at 1 a.m.

Marine Turtles

There are 7 species of marine turtle left in the world. The leatherback turtle is the larges; the biggest ever found measured 2.9 m (nearly 10 ft) in length and weighed 915 kg. They eat jellyfish, which is why they occur in British waters. Eggs are laid on tropical beaches. The temperature during the incubation period dictates the gender. Anything above 29C creates females, under 29C and it's male. The hatchlings head for the light horizon, where moon and stars reflect off the water. The land behind the beach is usually dark. Threats include egg poaching, development of beaches (hotels) and light pollution. Turtles die of starvation at sea after ingesting plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish. They can drown after becoming entangled in static fishing gear, like ropes for lobster cages.

All sightings of marine turtles should be reported on

Turtles that are fitted with a satellite transmitter can be tracked via

Organisation that are concerned with sea turtles are SNH (in Scotland), and the MCS (Marine Conservation Society).

Thursday 02/06/05

The day dawns dreich and it gradually starts to rain by 10 a.m.. In the afternoon, it's absolutely tipping down, so once again no outdoor activity. I'm in town three times, first to get papers and a haircut. Second time round I use the internet in the library and borrow two books. One book is a droolingly sweet and inaccurate account of a journey through the Hebrides. I'm left to ponder how on earth they can manage to stretch the 10 mile hike from Tolsta to Ness to 13 miles and where was the Doune Tower Hotel. It's supposed to be 6 miles north of Tolsta, but there is no indication of any permanent building anywhere along the route. Walked it twice myself. Four totally soaked cyclists book in, who cycled from Gearrannan to Butt of Lewis to Stornoway, all of 55 miles. Very unpleasant conditions. I head off to a meeting about sea turtles at 7.30, but the meeting suddenly turns out to be commencing at 8.30 pm. A separate journal entry is dedicated to this meeting. Afterwards, I chat to our brave cyclists who hail from Banchory on Deeside. They are on a sponsored trip to raise funds for a project in Nigeria. They are cycling from Barra to Butt, south to north in order to have the prevailing (SW) winds in their backs. The weather being what it has been for the last few months, they have had headwinds all the way. Oh a huge yacht lies anchored between Arnish and Goat Island. It even has its own private helicopter!

Wednesday 01/06/05

Mrs B has left for Inverness for the day, and I'm left 'home alone'. With the weather being its atrocious worst - tipping down with rain - I do absolutely zilch. My landlady returns at 8.20, and we share a meal she brough back from Inverness

Corncrake walk - 31/05/05

My only activity of the day took place in the evening, when I went across to Shawbost to listen to the corncrake. Bus left at 7.30 pm, but it managed to leave town 10 minutes late. Changed into another minibus at Barvas to head into Shawbost. This was full of teenagers in Shawbost School uniforms. The driver dropped me off in the wrong part of the village, Carnan Park instead of South Shawbost. Had to walk across from the Fibhig end to South Shawbost and the cross street to Loch a'Bhaile. As I went down the last street, I noticed a group of 15 people, some with telescopes. Heard two corncrakes and 2 folks actually saw the birds concerned. Also saw a diver and a mallard flying past. Very nice and peaceful, although when we left at 9.30, it did get a little nippy. Got a lift back to town with some tourists and had a pleasant journey back.

Monday 30/05/05

So, on Saturday the undercarriage of the mailplane collapsed as it landed at the local airport. Got drawn into an all day social natter at mrs B's kitchentable. The kitchen table is incidentally the focal point of island life. Turned slightly sour when one gent alleged I knew nothing of island culture. He has never spoken to me before at all, so that was not very nice. At half past midnight, went on a walk to Goat Island and heard a corncrake!

Sunday 29/05/05

Today was spent in idle sloth, apart from writing an acerbic letter to the Free Press. This was in response to a report in last week's edition, which recounted some of the utterances by local councillors re the Lewis windfarms. So, if you stop the grouse shoots, this should offset the effects of the windfarms - because they have an adverse effect on what they eat! Grubs, heathershoots??? The £16m being pledged towards the South Lochs economy will only benefit those that have subscribed to Nick Oppenheim's Muaitheabhal [Muyaval] trust. I just do not believe that the Free Press blindly swallows all this crap. 80% of people in north Lewis are opposed to the windfarms. Anyway, had my dinner served by mrs B, again. The weather was wet to start with, but cleared up later on. It was not fully dark at 1 a.m.

Saturday 28/05/05

Awoke to some atrocious weather, easterly gale and pouring rain. The Muirneag  was unable to dock, and had to go out again. Heard that Kenny There you go MacLeod and AJ Kennedy, Isles FM presenters, were both arrested on air yesterday morning on allegations of torturing listeners for years and a breach of the piss. The arrests were carried out by the top brass of Stornoway police. If listeners pledged £250, they would be released after an hour. Or not. Good laugh. This morning, the Stornoway Half Marathon is being run, nice weather! The wind drives the rain through the woodwork round the windows. Two of mrs B's sons are coming back on the ferry at lunchtime, provided it sails. Heard that the duckrace at Ballantrushal (near Barvas) is cancelled. The wind slowly abates through the day, although it does remain unpleasant. Was served dinner by mrs B.