Saturday, 27 August 2005

Wednesday 24/08/05

The storm rages on through the night. By morning, the rain gives way to showers. The wind is a steady force 7 to 8, with frequent squalls to force 9 - 10. Spume flies off the crests of the waves, indicating force 10. Just after breakfast, we notice a boat in the basin being blown along by the wind in the direction of the Coastguard station. It should have been at anchor, but this is probably dragging. The owners manage to board it just as the boat reaches the causeway. I know that the boat has faults in its steering and engine, and those make it impossible to be sailed out of harms way. The vessel ends up against the Newton Street seawall, by which time the Coastguard has turned up. Half the town drives past to join in the drama and yours truly sits on the seawall to watch proceedings. Another boat tows the stricken vessel out of the basin and into the Inner Harbour. All the while the Lifeboat was on standby, as people's lives were in danger. By 10.45, everybody is in safety. Notice that the cruiseliner Arkonia has not left since arriving yesterday, probably as a result of the inclement conditions. Waves break over the seawall near the ferry terminal. Short sharp showers come along, but do not amount to very much. Hop on the Ness bus at 1 pm to watch the storm at the Butt of Lewis. Fair few people getting off at villages along the way. Arrive in Eoropaidh at 1.55, just as a shower is working itself up out in the Atlantic. I just manage to reach the beach at Port Stoth before it lets rip. Sit on a stone at the foot of a cliff, facing east, out of the wind. The tide is coming in, and by the time I've finished my rolls I have to lift my feet to avoid them getting wet. Continue to the lighthouse, where phenomenal waves crash into the offshore skerries, throwing up plumes of spray up to 50 m / 170 ft in height. The wind is strongest, force 9, immediately outside the lighthouse perimeter wall. I head off west, straight into the wind along the coast, then over a still and south to Eoropaidh. There are lazybed ridges about, which make things a little bit more difficult, particularly with the strong winds buffeting me from the side. Visibility is poor due to flying foam. Speaking of which, about a foot of the stuff is piled on to the beach. It's filthy, heavily contaminated with sand. The walk through the dunes is turned into a sandblasting purgatory, and the walk on the beach is unsafe because of quicksand. Drinking tea is made difficult, because the wind blows the tea out of my cup and into my face. The sand blowing onto the dunes has built very unstable dunes. Return to Eoropaidh village across a green but virtually flowerless machair. This is in contrast to my visit on July 27th, when there was a sea of flowers here. Bus arrives on time at 3.35, full of smelly primary school kids who are being delivered to their homes around the district. At 3.50, we pick up the S1 and S2 pupils from Lionel School. This is a lively lot, talking about you-know-what and whacking each other with NHS Western Isles waterbottles. Return to SY at 4.40. We have two German couples in; one set was already in last night, having been blown off a beach at Tolsta. They are going to Harris in the morning. The others arrive on a severely delayed ferry at 9 o'clock. This should have come in at 6.30. The gentleman looks a bit green around the gills and retires to bed straightaway. His girlfriend moans about the lack of choice in teabags. For goodness' sakes, she'd better be happy to have a bed for the night. I natter to the others in their native tongue. News comes in of a French trawler which lost power 60 miles / 100 km northwest of the Butt of Lewis. This happened when a 100 ft / 30 m high wave smashed the wheel house windows and flooded the electronics. Eleven of the 18 crew were airlifted off by the coastguard, the others remain on board to assist in the tow to Ullapool.

Tuesday 23/08/05

In the afternoon, I go for a walk to the Iolaire Monument. On the way I take notes and 'directive' pictures, in order that anyone else doing the walk knows what to expect. This is only a short, 7 km / 4½ miles, walk and acts as a trial-run. Go behind the Coastguard Station to Battery Point, then across to Lower Sandwick. There, I speak to a man who has just returned to Lewis after an absence of 4 years in New Zealand. I later learn that this was actually one of the island's GPs. Continue past Stoneyfields Farm to the monument, then retrace my steps. In the evening, the weather deteriorates, the barometer plummets and the wind picks up. We're promised force 9 to 11. Waves crash over the Goat Island causeway at 11 pm.

The pictures show the sequence of the walk. Further details on, walk ID 3281

Monday 22/08/05

In contrast to yesterday, Monday dawns sunny with some cloud. The cruiseliner Astoria lies anchored in the Glumag, off Arnish and tenders ferry passengers ashore for tours of town and island. A fleet of coaches is waiting on pier no 3 to take everybody round. This boat carries a whiff of notoriety. Two years ago, she was inspected for hygiene during a visit to Greenwich, near London. The galleys for passengers and crew were found to be infested with cockroaches. Although the captain pledged to quarantine his ship, he hightailed it down the river the next morning at 3 o'clock and turned up in Bremerhaven, Germany, later that day. Go into town at lunchtime for a haircut, a new pair of trousers and to scan a load of piccies in the computer. I've got to buy another pen, catching up with the old journal. As evening falls, the wind picks up strongly and heavy rain starts. That gale is not expected until Wednesday.

Sunday 21/08/05

Weather today is pretty awful, intermittent heavy rain and strong winds. Jimmy and Isabel head off for a drive round the West Side at 11.30. Everything will be closed today, but they can at least look at the outside of things. We're having a springtide today (full moon 3 days ago), and the difference between low- and high-tide level is 5 metres (16'8"). The old beacon at Arnish Lighthouse is completely submerged at the morning's high tide. Normally, the top of it remains above water. At low tide, during the afternoon, it is linked to the mainland at the lighthouse, which is not normally the case. Cloudcover sinks to about 200 feet, measured by the fact that the top of Gallows Hill is wreathed in mist in the evening.

Saturday 20/08/05

The group of 4 depart on the lunchtime ferry. I head into town to buy a paper, a book with 200 Sudoku puzzles (should keep me happy for a while) and have a look at new trousers. Nothing exciting at Underground. They have a sale on for jeans, but I don't wear jeans. It's pretty busy in town. A charity bike race is being held today. Two groups of 6 and 20 cyclists came whizzing round the corner from Island Road into Newton Street at 2.20. They would carry on to Lower Sandwick, Plasterfield, Laxdale, Marybank, Pentland Road, Achamor, Liurbost and back to the Castle Grounds and Bayhead. Spend some time on the library computer and writing up events that happened 11 months ago, if only to have a complete written record of the last 12 months.  In the evening, mrs B receives an Aberdeenshire couple, who are here to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. The man can only be described as a red-hot socialist, and I can only dig out a recording of the Internationale or Red Flag.

Friday 19/08/05

Nice bright morning, following overnight rain. My ideas about a walk go in the bin just before midday, when the cloud moves in from the west and the rain starts. A steady downpour ensues until 3 o'clock. The clouds break and the sun reappears. A very nice evening follows. It remains relatively mild. A group of four older folk take over from the Germans. They have come to celebrate a 44th wedding anniversary.

Thursday 18/08/05

It's newspapers day today, so I gather in the lot: Gazette, Free Press, P&J. Sudoku puzzles are beginning to pop up everywhere. Sunny but cool today. Hand in a film for processing, which I collect at 5pm. Join mrs B in talking to her son, whose own 15-year old boy is totally away with the fairies with his first love. Awwww. The only thing they want is to be together. Do go out for a walk after nightfall. At 11.25, the full moon hangs low in the southeast. As I stand at the Coastguard Station, a string of fishing boats come put-putting past. To the north, a very dim glow indicates where the sun went down 2 hours before. Nine months to wait until the midnight light returns. :-\

Wednesday 17/08/05

It's blowing a gale today and pouring with rain. I advise our German guests on a route to take, which will be the West Side circular. Callanish - Carloway Broch - Garenin Black House Village - Shawbost Mill & Kiln - Bragar Whalebone Arch. Don't do an awful lot myself. Discover a website that promotes walks in the UK. You can submit walking routes yourself, and receive commission for the walk, as well as payments for each time a prospective walker downloads your work. By 6pm, wind and rain relent and later on, the sun calls in for a smile before setting at 9.05 pm.

Tuesday 16/08/05

Another drizzly day with poor visibility during rainfall. And again, it improves as the day goes on. We're expecting 4 German tourists, who will be staying for 3 nights. In the evening, another German comes in for a social visit. He stayed with mrs B last year. Stefan brings his bagpipes and regales us to an earshattering and not quite noteperfect performances. He retires to his digs, with mrs B's brother-in-law, up the road at 10.30.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Monday 15/08/05

Today starts cloudy and rainy. News comes through of a French tourist who has gone missing from the hostel at Gearrannan Youth Hostel. The coastguard is searching the coastline between Dalbeag and Linsiadar after 9 o'clock. Later that day, I learn that the man was found dead at the bottom of 30 m / 100 ft high cliffs near Gearrannan. He must have slipped in wet conditions. Today, the Arnish Yard starts production of the 3 wave power generators for Portugal. Not for the Western Isles - why not? The usual weekend mischief includes a car damaged in Francis Street, a mountain bike stolen from Cearns and a girl assaulted in the town centre. Would never merit a mention on local radio elsewhere in the UK. The weather improves as the morning progresses, with the sun coming out at times. I go to the shops and library at 2 pm. It's only then that I notice the large cruiseliner Bremen tied up alongside the ferry pier. In town, I find the usual cruise passengers wandering about: elderly, clad in red anoraks and looking lost in Cromwell Street. Spend quite some time writing in the library, pop a present in the post, then head back.

Saturday 13/08/05

Today starts wet and grey, but around midday the rain moves away east, the sun comes out and it all cheers up a bit. Watch the basin where a cormorant is doing battle with a flat fish, taking a long time to swallow it. Even after it has gone down, the fish keeps popping back in the bird's croup. Otherwise an increasingly sunny day.

Sunday 14/08/05

Although it's fairly sunny today, I keep inside all day. Nattering to mrs B, monitoring the news regarding the crash of an airliner north of Athens.

Friday 12/08/05

Right, that was a complete off-day. Felt feverish and kept to my bed all day. A couple of herrings in vinegar revived me at 5 pm. Weather grey and getting dark rather earlier than the official advertised sunset time of 9.15 pm. The open fire is very pleasant in the evening.

Thursday 11/08/05

Close and muggy day today, overcast but fairly mild. The elderly guests depart on the lunchtime ferry. The Stornoway Gazette makes a complete dog's dinner of the report on the poor soul who fell off An Sgurr on Eigg last Sunday. Apparently, the coastguard helicopter that airlifted Robin Cook off a mountain in Sutherland subsequently had to fly down to Eigg. There is no such place as An Sgurr Bheag on the island, and neither is there such a thing as 'Eigg Police'. Dear oh dear. If it weren't so serious, it would be farcical. Isles FM are auctioning off a four-day trip round Taransay, Scarp, St Kilda and the Monach Isles. Normally, this would cost £400, but bidding has now started at around £80.

Thursday, 11 August 2005

Wednesday 10/08/05

The elderly guest continues his stories over breakfast, telling us that he served in Belgium and Holland in 1944/45, with the Royal Artillery. He came within a hair's width of marrying a Belgian lass. He gave me name and address, which I will not quote here. The lady might still be alive today. The gent is quite happy with his current wife. WAP access is restored to my phone later in the day. It's fairly mild with sunny intervals.

Tuesday 09/08/05

Find that I do not have WAP (Internet) access on my mobile. Virgin Mobile is obviously not interested in my custom. Watch the Space Shuttle land safely in California at 12.12 GMT. It's a warm, muggy day outside, in complete contrast to the forecast, which had predicted rain. In the morning, one of Mrs B's relatives calls in for a cuppa and a yarn. As soon as I've updated the journal for last year, I'll adjust the page counter in my handwritten journal. It stands at 417 at the moment, but it'll probably be 220 pages more once I've finished the entries up to October 7th. A two-master windjammer leaves SY at 12.30. We have an elderly couple staying. The husband is originally from Point, and has many a story from his younger days. His family had to relocate from Port Mholair to Marybank after TB killed one of his siblings in the 1930s.

Monday 08/08/05

Spend the morning chatting to mrs B about the subject described in the entry for 07/08/05. The afternoon finds me in the library, writing up last year's journals for my trip round Orkney. Did I say that the Press and Journal printed my letter last Saturday? The Scottish Executive apparently does not know how many people don't hand in their prescriptions for filling. The reason appears to be the prohibitively high prescription charge of £6.50 per item. In my letter, I told the Executive how to find out how many prescriptions are not handed in for dispensing.

Sunday 07/08/05

A late start today. Hear that a 76-year old walker has fallen from the summit of An Sgurr in Eigg, and went down 300 feet. He did not survive the fall. Keep it nice and lazy again today. At 4 pm, I go for an amble round the backstreets, which are at best rundown and unsightly. Many of the buildings on Inaclete Rd, Bells Rd and Rigs Road used to be part of the Harris Tweed industry, partially owned and operated by mrs B's late husband, who died in 1993. Local shenanigans meant that several conglomerates squeezed each other out of business, rather than helping each other to keep the industry afloat. The result was a slump in the industry, and only two or three mills now remain. After one conglomerate went down, the competition bought all their premises and left them empty, in order to prevent anyone else from setting up in business. Read The Islanders and the Orb, by Janet Hunter. Suffice to say that it was an old-fashioned and highly successful exercise in shooting yourself in the foot, together with some very short-sighted business dealings. The mills would take in raw wool, card it, dye, spin and turn it into yarn for use on weaving looms. This yarn would be taken to the crofters for weaving. At a requisite time, the company lorry would go round and collect the end product. Obviously crofters being what they are, they also have other things to attned to, such as sheep and cattle. On the whole, an ideal industry for the Hebrides. Quality is governed by the Orb scheme, and allegations that its products were sub-standard led to the recent closure of a mill in Carloway. Now, the backstreets of Newton echo to the sound of silence, and there are only very few weavers left in Lewis. The sound of the loom has died off. On return from my walk, mrs B gives me an ice cream. A ray of sunlight reflects off the plaque on Bonny Prince Charlie's monument across in Arnish.

Saturday 06/08/05

My birthday today - another year older. Receive some presents from mrs B and flowers from family. The latter consists of a sunflower, lilies, chrysanthemums, carnations. Go to see the Lewis Carnival at 2 o'clock. In Willowglen Road, several lorries are lined up. One has a group of Irish folklore figures, dancing to lively Irish music. Another lambasts the arrival of opiumbaron Matheson in the 1840s. Carloway Youth Club has an empty lorry, with just a sound system. Multistorey carparking is advocated by stacking cars on top of each other, and suggesting that carparking augments the price of a house by £100,000. A Galson Motors half-open topped bus carries Miss Lewis and Harris. The procession is billed to set off at 2 pm, but is 15 minutes late. The pipeband leads the way, then comes the procession. The rear is brought up by another pipeband. It goes down Macaulay Road to Bayhead and Cromwell Street. Children and adults run alongside, waving collection boxes in spectators' faces. At the bottom of Kenneth Street, everything comes to a temporary halt. Oh forgot about the fantastic dragon, carried by a number of youngsters. The pipeband was handed drinks during their break. I have never seen the town centre packed the way it was this afternoon. There were only 5 floats in the procession. Last year, a man died after he fell off a float and was crushed under the wheels of the lorry. Since then, stricter safety measures were imposed, like handrails on all floats. The Carloway float did not have that, so they had to run alongside it.

Friday 05/08/05

Franzesca leaves on the 12.40 ferry for the long journey home, via Inverness, Edinburgh and London. I end up being lazy again. There is another Dutchman in the B&B, Mike from Amsterdam, who plays the recorder and wants to learn the keyboard. An older couple arrive from Tarbert, who intend to attend a marriage in SY that evening. The newspaper carries the story of a man who was taken to court for emptying a bucket of dog poo over the head of a minister of the church in Shetland. The culprit must have been running after all the dogs in Papa Stour to collect that much s**t.

Friday 04/08/05

Another dreich day, with rain on the wind. Join Franzesca for breakfast, after which she heads off on the 10.10 bus to Callanish, Gearrannan an Ness. I am lazy and spend the day in the library, updating journals. The Swiss lady returns at 7.30 pm, in the rain. She is a student from Berne, who has just been on a 10 month exchange program to Stockholm. She's into political history. Franzesca and I share a similar taste in Celtic music, so we spend late evening listening to tracks by Runrig and the Proclaimers

Wednesday 03/08/05

Day of predominantly sunny weather, although with quite a few showers in between as well as a lot of wind. Today sees the Carloway Show over on the Westside, but I've seen enough shows. In the evening, two young ladies arrive who are planning for two and one nights respectively. The first, a young Swiss lady, has spent the last month travelling the UK. She came up from Skye today. She arrived in London on July 7th, the day of the bomb attacks. This resulted in travel chaos, with locals asking the tourists for maps. The other lady was Swedish and arrived on her motorbike, having travelled from Berneray (N. Uist). She had been trawling the town for a room all evening. Malin told the story of the Swedish hurricane in which millions of trees had been destroyed. As wood is a major industry in Sweden, this ruined several people, some of whom subsequently committed suicide. Franzesca, the Swiss lassie, also speaks Swedish, so she can converse with Malin in her own language. A nice hot fire keeps things going until 10.30.

Tuesday 02/08/05

Not done very much today, because I'm still knackered from yesterday's expedition. The weather is awful in the morning, lashing rain and high winds up to galeforce. The clouds break at lunchtime, in time for our Hungarian guests to leave on the ferry in relative sunshine. Went to the library at 4 pm to do some writing on my Orkney experiences last September. There were hoards of people requiring Internet access, and the terminals shut down at 4.45, 15 minutes before the library closes.

Monday, 8 August 2005

Monday 01/08/05 - Bank Holiday

Have reached page 400 in the written diary - yippee!

Isles FM starts the day with the usual rundown of the weekend's crime wave. This time it's broken windows, theft and what not. At 11 a.m., I head out on today's walk to the Barvas Hills. It's cloudy but mild today, around 18C / 64F. I go up Macaulay Road, past the hospital and up to Laxdale. Then up the road past the bunkhouse and campsite, branch off right into Newvalley. The road degenerates into a track until this peters out at a ford. It's a simple step across the water, the track disappears altogether and it's moorland walking from here on. Keep to altitude well above the river. After a little while, you reach the Stag's Crag, Creagan an Fheidh. There, the river forks, but keep on northwest. I cross the river and start heading through the moorland. pass near a small lochan. The insect life is quite extensive here, and a right pain. Have to cross a barbed-wire fence, but in retrospect (when everything is easy), I should have aimed for Loch nam Breac. The fence leads to the loch, and there is a gate right at the shoreline. As things stand, I carry on northwest, and aim for the easternmost of the Barvas Hills, Beinn Bharabhais. Finlay's Shieling lies to my left, which in turn is tucked in to the south of the line of the main hills. After recrossing the barbed-wire fence, I start the ascent of Beinn Bharabhais, which is arduous. Close to the summit, a posse of 5 quad-bikes slowly ride off the hill. Traffic can be seen moving on the A857 Stornoway - Barvas road. At 2.15, just over 3 hours after leaving SY, I reach the summit of Beinn Bharabhais at 280 m / 919 ft. The views span 130 miles. To the northeast lies the indistinct coastline right up to Cape Wrath, with a gap for Sandwood Bay. The mainland mountains march all the way to Kyle of Lochalsh; I can easily discern Dun Ca'an on Raasay, the Storr north of Portree, the Red Cuillins and the saw-toothed ridge of the Black Cuillin. To their left is a double hill which is either Beinn na Caillich outside Broadford, or the hills to the south of Kyleakin. A lone hump to the right of Skye could be the Isle of Rhum, 80 miles south of here. Eilean Mhuire, in the Shiants, is immediately to the left of the Lochs Hills. Veering west, the familiar outline of the Harris and Uig hills runs across the southern horizon, but due west my view is blocked by the next hill, Beinn Mholach. The hump of Beinn Bragar marks the position of the West Side village of Shawbost. The entire sequence right up to Upper Barvas is laid out, about 7 miles to the north of me. A large loch, Loch Sgarabhat Mhor, lies directly below Beinn Bharabhas. Behind it is Loch Sgarabhat Beag. To its left a boggy looking collection of lochs below Roiseal Mor, a double hill of 160 m / 525 ft and 174 m / 571 ft. Beyond lie the large lochs to the south of Bragar and Arnol. It's cloudy but warm, with temperatures tipping 20C / 68F. Descend from the summit of Beinn Bharabhas  and head due west to the cairn on Beinn Mholach. This is hill is slightly tricky to ascend from the east, because of extensive bogs. Fortunately for me, the recent (relatively) dry spell has dried out the bogs to the point that you can walk on them without fear of sinking right in. I end up too far to the south and have to walk north along the hill's crest for a little way, until I reach the summit cairn at 292 m / 958 ft. This is the highest of the Barvas Hills. I now have a nearly unimpeded view west. The next two hills, Beinn Bhearnach and Beinn a'Sgridhe, are lower and positioned further south. Can now see Old Hill off Bernera and the low humps of the Flannan Isles on the far western horizon. It's impossible to see St Kilda, because it's obscured by the Uig hills. At 3.15, I proceed to Beinn Bhearnach. The view shifts round a little way as you move west, but remains essentially the same. Some of the villages in Lochs are visible, such as Cromor and Garyvard. The water tower in Crosbost stands out on the hillside there. Stornoway can be seen, including the 3 chimney stacks on the Newton power station. Looking north, a spurr runs off Beinn Bhearnach in the direction of Loch nan Caorann. A dry watercourse curves northwest past Loch an Ois, with Roiseal Mor to the east. During the traverse of this ridge, the souther spur, with two double summits jutting out towards the Pentland Road is clear to see. I leave Beinn Bhearnach just before 4 pm, and head south. I'm leaving Beinn a'Sgridhe, as time is pressing on. Within about 30 minutes, I have covered the distance between Beinn Bhearnach and the low pass between Beinn Chailein and Beinn Lite. I have decided not to make for the valley of Allt Airigh Bhradhad, which leads directly southeast into Laxdale, as this requires miles and miles of bog sloggin. I'm knackered. As I'm having another cup of water, the number of midges is slowly edging up to the 'disconcerting' level. There is no wind, so the beasties are getting geared up for a party out here. I trudge up to the pass and have to navigate my way through some horrendous bogs, of the sort that dissuaded me from proceeding back in April. The entire southeastern and eastern slope of Beinn Chailein is covered in very broken ground. It's better not to stay on the higher levels; aim for the 150 m contour, to the south of the summit. The same rule applies to the next two hills, Beinn Mholach and Meannan. I have another break on the southwestern edge of Airigh Lite - staying out of there, a very boggy area. From there on, I'm in 'familiar' terrain. As I descend beyond the pass, I aim for the western end of Loch nan Caorann, which I have some bother reaching. The Allt nan Beinne Mholaich renders the entire valley boggy and wet. I finally do reach the edge of the loch at 5.05, pretty good to cover 2 miles in an hour in this sort of terrain. I drink 3 cups of water out of the loch, cross the boggy inflow (not marked on the map) and head due south to the right of Cleiteachan Loch a Chocair. The monitoring mast on Beinn Thulabhaig is to my left. The tall Beinn Mholach had a similar monitoring mast on its summit, which had been blown down. I reach the Pentland Road at 5.30. Had this idea to sit down for a bite to eat, but the midges stop me, They're out in their zillions. During the 7 km into Stornoway, I not only have to contend with cars, but also with midges which attack every exposed area of skin. I'm forever slapping myself, with my hands coming away with flattened midges. It's too warm, in the sun which has now come out, to cover up. So I suffer in silence. The sheep hide amongst the tall bulrushes at the roadside. The wind picks up when I approach the town, and the mozzies disappear. On return to Newton at 7.20, I have the two pies which I'd originally bought for lunch. I survived in the moors on Mars Bars and appels. The two Hungarian Glaswegians are still with us, and we're left to enjoy their silent feuding.

Sunday 31/07/05

Not doing an awful lot today, apart from watching little screens. The other guests, our Hungarian Glaswegians, have been to Harris today. They managed to miss Rodel Church - I don't know how that is done. The church sits right along the main road in from Lingarabay. Head out for a little walk at 9 pm with Yvette. We go round to Battery Point and Sandwick Bay. Nattering with mrs B takes the clock round to 12.30. Visibility was very good, could see the Torridon mountains 45 miles away. At Battery Point, you could see Trotternish in Skye, Eilean Mhuire (Shiants) and Kebock Head, east of Gravir in South Lochs. A boat sails along the horizon, and appears to be hovering in the air. This is refraction in the atmosphere.

Saturday 30/07/05

The breakfast table was pretty cramped. It can normally accommodate 4, but after pulling it out we can squeeze 5 in. The Canadians leave for Ullapool at lunchtime, following a walk in the Castle Grounds. The Glaswegians head for Callanish firth thing, then head for the Point Show. There is a flood of shows on at the moment; next Wednesday there will be one at Carloway. Last Saturday, the Lochs Show was on in Balallan. Hear that someone was severely injured at Barvas yesterday. While erecting a flagpole, a man touched an overhead power cable and was electrocuted with 33 kV of electricity. He survived it, but required transfer to a specialist burns unit in a Glasgow hospital.

Friday, 5 August 2005

Friday 29/07/05

Today, we have the West Side show over in Barvas. The day is windy and grey, mid-morning even sees some drops of rain on the wind. The sun makes a valiant effort, but on the way across the moor, there is more drizzle. Alight at the showground, a mile outside the village. On the approach, the lady traffic warden is stopping northbound traffic, as there is a line of cars heading south. A lot of cars are parked along the road. You can't park in the verge - that's way too soft. The show is very busy. From south to north, there is the arena for the heavy events, throwing the weight and the high jump are the only ones I witness. The bar for the high jump gets bent when one of the competitors falls right on top of it. Next are the animal pens, containing cattle and some very handsome sheep. Pure black, and one with 4 horns (yep, four). Sorry, didn't bring my camera. Cheviot, blackface, tups, ewes and lambs. A melodeon competition takes place, with youngsters doing a fair job on it. A tent contains home produce, bakery and knitting products, not for eating but to be judged. There is a tent which sells all sorts of things, including the Isles FM CD "B2B" [Butt to Barra], knitwear, you name it. SNH have a useful stand about moorland flora and fauna. There is a beertent, which I give a miss. The fire-, ambulance and coastguard services all have a vehicle in attendance. The little boys are having a whale of a time sounding the sirens. Apart from a non-alcoholic refreshment stand, there is also a make-belief shieling hut. Lesley Riddoch, famous Scottish journalist, opened the show and is now available for discussion. She attracts a lot of folk. I leave the show after an hour, in time for the 3.15 pm bus. It's actually very cold out there, with a stiff breeze and only 15C. When the sun does come out, it warms up nicely, but it doesn't last. Return to SY at 3.35. On leaving for the show, I recognised the Belgian car, belonging to the couple who left for Skye, only to reappear today. In the B&B we now have a young Canadian couple from Montreal for 2 days, and an older couple who come on the early evening ferry. They live in Glasgow, but originate in Hungary. John and Yvette left that country in 1956, following the abortive uprising against the Soviet occupation. Advise them on sights to see.

Thursday 28/07/05

Didn't do much today, apart from chatting to the Belgians over breakfast. They are due to cross to Skye today for a few days, then come back here to take the ferry to the mainland. Like you do. Lots of moaning about the weather, but I could do that in my mother tongue. Collected another batch of pictures and scanned them in at the library. Weather remains cool and somewhat cloudy, but dry. Better than in Birmingham, where a tornado raged through a housing estate. Several people injured, houses damaged, some irreparably, and cars wrecked. Prefer it here in the Western Isles. Sunset 10 pm, but it's still light at 11.30

Wednesday 27/07/05

Fairly cloudy morning with bright intervals and the odd shower. That reduces visibility dramatically. We have two men staying who work for a Glasgow firm. They have to return earlier than anticipated as one man's wee one is in hospital. I decide on an afternoon's excursion to Ness, as the weather is fairly bright. So, off I go on the 1pm bus. The sun promptly packs it in as we cross the Barvas Moor, and it's raining at Barvas. Fortunately, the rain is very localised, although other lines of showers can be seen moving across the island. One line runs unmovingly from a few miles west of Ness across Barvas to the Barvas hills, another goes down the spine of the island. I alight at Suainebost, just before the shope. From there, a road runs in a dead-straight line to Traigh Chumail. Here I sit in the the sun for a wee while, having a cup of soup, and a tea. At 2.30, I cross the machair to Traigh Shanndaigh. The machair is ablaze with flowers of all colours, including a host of orchids. The rabbits have re-excavated the holes I had plugged back in May, and it's a small miracle that the ground does not collapse under my feet. Walk up the beach and over to the children's playpark. This is well used. On the road a group of German tourists are walking towards Lionel. Finally, I go to the Eoropie crossroads, to wait for the bus. I thought it went at 3.30, but the Galson Motors coach appears 20 minutes later. On return to town at 4.30, I notice a large number of foreign cars, Dutch, German, Norwegian and Belgian. The latter belong to a couple who are staying at Mrs B's.

Tuesday 26/07/05

Weather remains unchanged in the morning, still fairly sunny if cool. Set off on the bust to Cameron Terrace, Liurbost, for a walk back to Stornoway. Fifteen minutes later, at 1155, I'm dropped off and I head into the filling station for some sandwiches. After that, I go up the road, north, for a few hundred yards. It's fairly busy, and the verge is not suitable for walking in. I finally reach a gate, which leads to a peatroad. I follow this to the shore of Loch Sanndabhat. After a quarter mile, I leave the loch and head for higher ground. Have to cross some barbed-wire fences. View very nice, back to the lonely clutter of buildings around Cameron Terrace, the Harris and Uig hills to the south and west, the Lochs hills just about visible. Also Eitsal, Stacaseal, Beinn Bragar, Barvas Hills and over to Point and Stornoway. The Lochs road can be seen snaking north thorugh the moors, but I should not be following its course. So, I shift my bearing from Cellar Head to Tiumpan Head. Pass to the north of Loch Ard Airigh A'Ghille Ruaidh (Loch of the High Shieling of the Red Lad). Walk down a steep slope and head towards the next two lochs, Loch nan Laogh and Loch Airigh an t-Sagairt. The eastern end of the latter is marshy and covered in reeds. A river flows out of it, going east. Cross a tributary coming out of Loch Beag na Craoibhe. After that, it's a straightforward if tussocky walk to the Grimshader road, which I reach at 1.10, 70 minutes after leaving Cameron Terrace. Have some fun with a sheep and her lambs before settling down on the top of a nearby hill. There are myriads of flies about, but the wind keeps them at bay. Eat my sandwiches and a cuppa soup. Resume the walk at 1.40, going up the road to the Loch Orasay pumping station. From there, a short peattrack leads back into the moors. There are few reference points, but the trick is to head into the river valley, and follow the water. Loch Innseag can be seen to the south. Allt na Craoibhe veers sharply around a rocky outcrop. There is no path, but it's best to follow the river northeast, right up to the point where it changes course southeast; it's the Abhainn Leireabhagh. It's very green and pleasant. A flock of sheep run off. Cross the river at a shallows with boots off, even if it isn't really necessary to do so. Take a 60 minute break on the top of a hill. It's still sunny and warm, and the flies are a pest. Cross the line of a fence at 3.30, and head just east of north. I get myself fairly high up Cnoc Arnish, and catch sight of the monument to Bonny Prince Charlie's visit here. The cottage he stayed at was burned down just before the yard was built in the 1970s. The sheds of the fabrication yard and the lighthouse peep across the rim of the hills, being lower than my current position. Have some problems with escarpments, which I have to circumvent. Finally come out on the road at GR 420309. The route into town is the one I normally take out of Arnish: through the Castle Grounds. Most of the storm damage has been cleared, but one path is still blocked. Can see evidence of the festival concerts in the grass of the Castlke lawn. Only the metal fences remain. Return to Newton at 5pm, as planned. Later in the evening, I note that we have lost 30 minutes of daylight since the solstice.

Monday 25/07/05

Bright but cool day today. Chat to mrs B about local characters, and continue to update last summer's diary, using OS maps from the library, which I have to consult there. The weather is cloudy and cool, but dry. The northeasterly winds we had all winter are back with us. The mountains on the mainland stand out crystal clear against the horizon, and the binoculars show the sun to be shining on the Torridon mountains, 45 miles / 70 km to the southeast. At 9.20, seven fishing boats are visible. Two people are fishing off the rocks at Arnish

Sunday 24/07/05

Nice sunny day, but cool. Go to church in Matheson Road. Regular clergyman, Revd Black, is on holiday, so a church elder takes the service. He mumbles and talks too fast. Sermon is a bit overlong, as the congregation was growing rather restive. The elder did not shake hands at the door. Left church at 12.15. Spend the rest of the day indoors, enabling WAP on the mobile. It's a convenient way to quickly check your emails, but it is expensive.

Saturday 23/07/05

After a dreich start, the sun comes out after 2pm. Go into town for a wee bit of shopping, a new pair of trousers for a start. After all the murk of the last week, the return of the sun makes a welcome change. Today, the Lochs Show is on, but the Saturday bus timetable makes my attendance a bit bothersome

Thursday, 4 August 2005

Friday 22/07/05

Manage to oversleep by half an hour. Mrs B comes in to wake me up at 9 o'clock, she had expected me at the breakfast table by 8.30. Situation in London continuing volatile. One man was shot dead in hot pursuit on the Tube! Anyway, up here in little Stornoway, the ferry was half an hour late coming in last night. Usually, it's about 5 to 10 minutes early. In the morning, I have a chat with the couple from Banchory, who have been touring the island over the last two days.