Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Wednesday 28/09/05

Yet another day with awful weather. Pouring rain with strong winds, but not the full gales we had earlier in the week. Mrs B goes out for a haircut, and returns rather wet. Rain subsides at 3 o'clock. I don't go out myself until 4 pm, when it has turned dry. Sun comes out at five, leaving a pleasantly sunny late afternoon. A few news headlines caught my eye today:

Highland Council reviews its renewable energy policy, and states they should not focus on just windpower. This is unpredictable and output intermittent.

A man is jailed for J-walking on the A9. He walked into the carriageway north of Perth to ask for directions. His movements caused a car to swerve and crash into the central reservation at 70 mph. The vehicle flipped over and caught fire. One of the occupants was ejected, the other managed to scramble to safety, both unhurt. In the meantime, the J-walker approached the shaken pair to ask "Which is the way to Inverness?"

Weather conditions awful in the Highlands too. Fort William was doused in 100 mm (4 in) of rain yesterday. This left 10 cm (4 in) of water in the basement section of the Nevisport store in the town.

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Tuesday 27/09/05

Although the wind has dropped from force 7-9 to force 5-8, it's still very blustery. Showers continue to rattle through from the southwest, and they're big ones. Behind glass, it's warm in the sun. Kids are taken to school at 8.40, in the taxi driven by their maternal grandmother. One minute later, I go downstairs for breakfast. I've recently asked mrs B to omit sausages from the menu, because I'm not walking (that much). The ferry is very late in leaving for Ullapool, at 3 pm. She goes way south, before veering east to make for Ullapool. Went into town shortly afterwards to get papers and a small pencilcase. As mrs B is making supper tonight, I can leave Somerfields to one side. At 3.50, Border Heather, our tanker, calls in to deliver liquid fuels. Natural gas is brought in on a different vessel. All fuels are held in a small depot at the corner of Shell Street and James Street. Large pipes take it through to the powerstation on Battery Point. Road tankers deliver oil to individual householders. Many houses are heated by kerosine; in the town there is piped gas. In outlying areas, people use propane (Calorgas) for cooking. The orange gasbottles are a familiar sight around rural Scotland. Kerosine is stored around houses in large plastic drums, which hold 250 litres. Fuel is piped into the house through a fixed line. These tanks are a target for fuel thieves. Discover that there are also 16x16 Sudoku puzzles, in which the numbers 0 to 9 and the letters A to F only feature once in each row, column and 4x4 square.

If I have more to report, I'll submit a separate entry.

Monday 26/09/05 - Late entry

The wind continues to howl through cracks, and it suddenly feels like winter. Dark by 7.30, and the ferry is not coming back until tomorrow lunchtime. We're really on an island ...

Monday, 26 September 2005

Monday 26/09/05

What a horrendous day, rain lashing, wind howling. Isles FM relays the usual panoply of misdeeds. It almost sounds like a song: "Car crashes, window smashes, drunken splashes on South Beach". Several of the culprits are due in court today. The kiddies all tootle off to school, bar one who suffers from school sickness. A check on the internet reveals we're having winds of force 7, with gusts up to force 9. The ferry is 2 hours late leaving at 4 o'clock, instead of the timetabled 13.45, and will not return out of Ullapool tonight. The Lochboisdale ferry isn't running at all. Rain lets up after 4, although hefty showers continue.

Sunday 25/09/05

Reasonable if cloudy day weatherwise. Today I carry on working on weblogs, doing Sudoku puzzles and other minor activities. Too lazy for a walk, ahem. Mrs B cooks supper for her young charges, one of whom doesn't turn up until 2½ hours after the others. She serves me supper as well, a nice roast with veg and spuds. We finish with a jelly and mandarin orange segments and custard. Catch up with some of my on-line contacts in the USA, who complain of a drought!

Saturday 24/09/05 - Hurricane Rita

Spend the day glued to BBC and CNN to monitor the progress of Hurricane Rita. This weathersystem is due to make landfall near Galveston TX, and is a tropical hurricane of category 4. As soon as it is over land, the system collapses into a deluge of rain. Wind speeds of up to 200 kph / 125 mph. Although there is a lot of damage and flooding, the anticipated devastation on the Katrina scale has not materialized. It is still horrendous though.

Saturday 24/09/05

Today we are getting 4 new guests, but they don't pay. We're talking about mrs B's grandchildren, varying in age between 10 and 15. Their parents are away to Paris for a few days. The weather is very, very cold all of a sudden. The wind is a bitter easterly, and the mercury is stuck at a miserly 12C. At least it's dry. The equinox has passed, and it gets dark at 7pm now. Spend the day working on weblogs, the project and other things. Late in the evening, the eldest grandson has not returned by midnight, so mrs B pulls out all the stops to get hold of him. He duly reappears 20 minutes later.

Friday 23/09/05

Started the morning by attending the performance by the puppetteers in the local Sports hall. It is directed primarily at 6- and 7-year olds. Very nice, good set. Read a few chapters in the Roll of Honour (1914 onwards), but they do not add anything to my knowledge. Weather pretty awful, heavy showers with the odd glimpse of the sun. Not cold, that's due for the weekend. The showers subside by nightfall.

Thursday 22/09/05

Another day with pretty awful weather. Go out before lunch to get all the Thursday papers in. The Gazette decided not to print my letter, OK, I was cheeky to them. But then, would you respect a newspaper that prints Bulling instead of Bullying, and Oppostion instead of Opposition? Received some more emails regarding project HMS Timbertown, but whether I want more background information regarding the Lewis contribution to WW1 and 2, I don't know. My Dutch weblogs do elicit some responses. The entry regarding the windfarm drew a surprisingly positive one: cover the country in windturbines. There are 3 more guests in, puppetteers from Ireland.

Sunday, 25 September 2005

The Iolaire Disaster

On New Year's Eve 1918, a group of sailors from the Isle of Lewis were heading home after 4 years of war. They had gathered at the dockside of Kyle of Lochalsh, 80 miles west of Inverness. The group was too large to be carried on board the regular ferry, the Sheila. The Navy decided to charter HMY Iolaire [Eagle] to carry everybody home in time for Hogmanay. Unfortunately, the weather was poor at the time, and the vessels sailed too late for an arrival at Stornoway before midnight. At 7.30 pm, Iolaire cast off and headed north into the Little Minch. Six hours later, after a rough crossing, the yacht approached Stornoway Harbour. A fishing boat noticed the Iolaire on its approach to the harbour and the skipper did think it was bearing quite far to starboard. This assessment was correct. At 1.30 a.m., on January 1st 1919, the Iolaire ran aground on the Beasts of Holm, a reef 2 miles south of Stornoway. Although these rocks are only 20 yards from shore, it proved to be very difficult to gain the shore. There was quite a swell running, and the strong winds made it practically impossible to launch a salvage operation. Furthermore, the flares, let off by Iolaire as a distress signal were observed in the town, but people thought they were let off in celebration. Sailors jumped overboard from Iolaire  with a cable round their waist to establish a link to shore. The lifeboats were unusable. Ninety minutes after the stranding, the boiler exploded, the Iolaire turned 90° and sank. Two hundred and five sailors drowned in the dark waters of Stornoway Harbour. The coastguard managed to save 75 men. The bodies of 205 were retrieved from the waters around Stornoway in the hours, days and weeks after the disaster. The fiery beacons that were due to be lit to celebrate the homecomings after the war remained dark and cold. Every village and family has been affected by this catastrophe. Remember that the population of Lewis at this time was only 14,000. The last survivor of the Iolaire disaster died in 1992. The people of the island have always found it very hard to discuss the catastrophe. After the loss of 205 souls, the island plunged into a deep depression. In 1923, the Canadian government advertised in the Stornoway Gazette for young folk to come over to work in agriculture and industry. Four hundred boarded ships like Metagama to start a newlife in the new world. To this day, young people leave the island after secondary school to go to university on the mainland or find a job.

Thursday, 22 September 2005

The Lewis Windfarm

Late 2004, an application was submitted by multinational company Amec to construct a park of 234 windturbines on the Isle of Lewis. Each turbine would measure about 450 feet in height. These machines would be built over a distance of 40 miles, from Ness in the far north to Stornoway in the east. A simple calculation shows that this means one turbine for every 250 metres. Local people are fiercely opposed. Western Isles Council does not see it that way. They are quite pleased with the anticipated profit of £166m per year, which would more than annul the Western Isles trade deficit, currently at £163m per annum. A public consultation exercise took place, and objections were raised. By the RSPB, local trout breeders, naturalists and others. The centre of Lewis is one huge peatbog. Peat to a depth of 20 feet, which is a unique habitat for various species of wildlife and plantlife. The construction of these windmills would cause irretrievable damage. Only for the construction alone, 100 miles of road is required. In spite of the fact that 90% of the population is opposed, Western Isles Council has approved the windpark. The community councils have previously approved the proposals as well. However, there have been three separate instances where councillors were called in for a carpeting by their local populace. The complaint was that the councillors allegedly failed to represent local opinion.

It is central government policy that fossil fuels be phased out by 2020, to be replaced by windpower. The people of Lewis are not opposed to wind energy. If they had their way, each village would have a few turbines for their own energy requirements. The huge turbines envisaged are to generate electricity for industry in the Scottish Central Belt, between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It should be taken there along a 400 kV high voltage cable from Ullapool to Denny, near Stirling, along a 200 mile corridor. This requires huge pylons, and these proposals have already generated a vociferous campaign of opposition. Current state of affairs is that the proposal has been put in front of the Scottish Executive. I think it will be approved. Jack MacConnell, the Scottish First Minister, is a pal of British PM Tony Blair. The fierce discussions in the community councils of Laxdale, Airidhantuim and Ness, give an indication of the reactions to an approval by Holyrood. I doubt however that it will make any difference.

There is a second windpark foreseen for the island. 133 turbines are to be built in the derilict district of Eishken, in southeastern Lewis. Its population was forcibly evicted in the 1820s. Current estate owner Philip Oppenheimer can do what he pleases, and this could make him a billionnaire. The surrounding districts of North Harris, Aline, Kinloch and South Lochs are home to 500 people. They have been promised a share in the profits, provided they join the relevant Trust. If they don't join, they will not share. The only thing is, that the area of Eishken and the adjacent Harris mountains, are of great scenic value. This will be severely damaged by a row of turbines.

I await the decision by the Scottish Executive.

Wednesday 21/09/05

Speak to the Aussies at breakfast. Eila, the mother, is here to visit her very elderly sister elsewhere in town. It's likely to be the last time the two will meet, as Eila lives in Queensland, and is not in great health. Her son, daughter and daughter-in-law are along as well. Weather: wet and windy. Go to town for a filing case, pens and a stint at the library computer. Find long emails from Donald MacLeod, my Aberdeen contact, who has provided me with a lot of info on the website I quoted yesterday.

Tuesday 20/09/05

Nice and sunny if slightly breezy day. My project on Lewis internees in Holland during the First World War is yielding some reactions. Have look on Unusual piece of history. I am now going to put it in front of the 13 historical societies in Lewis in order to find more names and backgrounds. Went into town to browse for books and papers. There is a huge lack of accommodation in Stornoway, strangely enough. Loads of people knocking on mrs B's door, but she is full tonight. We have four Aussies coming off the ferry at 8. They head off for supper at half past eight, but only the Chinese restaurant is open for business. Bought a book "Isolation Shepherd" about a man who lived in the wilderness around Loch Monar, west of Inverness, in the late 1950s. After the construction of a dam, this area is now under water.

Monday 19/09/05

The gale continued until midday. Big sheets of water coming over the causeway and Green Island, white riders in Newton Basin and out in the Minch. At 12 o'clock, the clouds broke, the sun came out and a cruiseliner sailed into port. The Alexander von Humboldt has been in before. She had arrived today out of Invergordon, on the east coast, after a pretty lively 20 hours at sea. By 8 pm she blew her whistle three times to say good-bye; for me it was the good-bye to summer as well in a way. The cruiseliner departed for Tobermory, Mull. It's not cold outside. You can find out about all the cruiseliners on the net. The ferry had trouble docking tonight on account of an unusually high tide. It was so high that the pedestrian walkway could not be used. Footpassengers had to disembark along the vehicle deck.

Sunday 18/09/05

Well, not much to say about today either. Did not show my face out of doors at all, just looked out at the ever-changing aspect of the Arnish hills. As the afternoon wore on, the wind began to pick up and come evening time a gale had blown up from the south. I noticed that the streetlamps on the causeway to Goat Island had not come on at dusk. There are sheets of water coming over, which may have disrupted the electrics.

Saturday 17/09/05

Headache has virtually disappeared by morning, thank goodness. When the lunchtime ferry comes in, the volume of traffic in Newton Street reaches a crescendo. Went into town to pick up a prescription for mrs B - strange to be on the other side of the counter. After an abortive visit to the library (no terminals available), I buy my weekend meals at Somerfields. This supermarket is to start home deliveries as of October 5th. I am invited by mrs B to join her in her supper, so as my motto is When temptation comes, you give right in, I take her up on it.

Sunday, 18 September 2005

Friday 16/09/05

Another bright if cool morning. The cargo ferry was late in arriving, 8.45 a.m. as opposed to the usual 7.30. Had a chat about island affairs with the other guests. Headache bothering me again today, to no small extent. Caught up with some writing and went into town for shopping. The sick sailors are being returned to their boat by helicopter. Prior to departure, their picture was taken in Francis Street. Went for an amble to the bottom of Miller Road to see whether the boat was visible across Sandwick Bay, but no such luck. I reckon she was anchored south of Holm Point, out of sight. It stays nice and sunny throughout, albeit with highlevel clouds. Later in the evening, thicker cloud moves in. Make it a very early night to shake off that rotten headache.

Thursday 15/09/05

The American disappeared on the early bus out of Stornoway to Callanish, Gearrannan and the Westside. The Spaniards left before I came down for breakfast. Two people arrived off a plane at 9, but they immediately set off for work. As I was suffering a cracking headache, I didn't do much until it was time for an appointment with the local chiropodist. An ingrowing toenail turned into a bloody affair, unfortunately. Bought myself a little MP3-player at Woolworths. The documentation was all hidden on a mini-CDROM. Weather today bright but very cold, temperature barely touching 10°C. Wind northeasterly. The moon rose brightly above the coastguard station at 8.45 pm.

Wednesday 14/09/05

Found out that there had been a medical emergency on board a cargoship in the Minch. The crew of the Yeoman Bridge fell ill early on Tuesday, all 39 of them. They had eaten a fish meal that had given them food poisoning. The captain, ill himself, radio'd for assistance. Six of the most severely ill were transferred to hospital in Stornoway, the rest were treated on board by one of the island's GPs. It was initially feared that all 39 crewmembers would have to be admitted to hospital, a number that Western Isles Hospital would not be able to cope with. But this was not necessary. Otherwise, a much better day than yesterday. There were light showers in the morning, but those faded as the day wore on. Two sets guests in tonight; one Spanish couple and and American man who was exhausted following a 30 hour journey out of Salt Lake City.

Tuesday 13/09/05

What an awful day. All it does is pour with rain and blow a gale. Visibility is very, very poor. At times, the hills over at Arnish are not visible at all. I only venture out at around 5 o'clock to get food in. Not nice to be out and about. The only positive note is that it is not cold. The heavy rain causes flooding in Sandwick Road - up to 3 feet / 1 metre of water there. The sorting office in Portree, Skye, is flooded as are several roads on the mainland. The Jacobite steamtrain is stuck at Arisaig, and the firebrigade needs to come in and top up the steam engine with water for the trip back to Fort William. The railway to Mallaig is blocked because of flooding.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Monday 12/09/05

After the customary rundown of weekend mis-demeanours on Isles FM, I continue my efforts to record my keyboard strokes on the PC. Fairly successfully. It's cloudy and windy today. Go into the library at 3 to photocopy from the three volumes of Songs of the Hebrides. It totals 64 pages in the end. Some nice and well-known songs in amongst these. At 5pm, it starts to rain hard and it pours for the rest of the day. A rainfall total of 110 mm (4.5 in) is forecast for tomorrow.

Sunday 11/09/05

Today dawns overcast but dry and every now and again the sun peeps through. Four years ago today, the New York WTC was destroyed in a terrorist attack, claiming 2,749 lives. Now, the US is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Heard on Countryfile that someone is in the process of updating the famous Alfred Wainwright pictorial guides to the Lakeland Fells. Written between 1955 and 1991, they are now out of date. Using GPS technology,one man has made it his life's work to update the guides. During the afternoon, I manage to rig the keyboard up to the PC. After downloading the required software I am able to play back what I put in. Not very good, a computer is merciless. Good exercise in itself. Mrs B serves me a very good evening meal, which fills me up quite adequately.

Saturday 10/09/05

Perfect morning with only high cloud about. The Irishmen leave on the ferry at 7.15. I rise 45 minutes later, just as the Muirneag is tying up. Head out after lunch for a stint in the library. Whilst waiting for computer to become available, I discover 3 volumes of "Songs of the Hebrides", by Kenneth MacLeod and Marjery Kennedy-Fraser. MacLeod was a minister of the Church of Scotland around the turn of the 19th/20th century and collected songs in the islands. His companion adapted them for piano &c. The volumes are available through Birchwood Books for £50. Disappear up Bayhead for a walk round the Castle Grounds, to Creed Island and the Iron Fountain, back to the Castle. Encounter blackberries, a lady with purplish red hair, several dogs and lots of midges. As I sit on the seat just before the Creed River, one nips me in the finger. The little blighter. Although it's sunny, it is cool today. The weather is better than further south, where massive thunderstorms are coming through. Return to town at 5pm for shopping. The moon sets behind the hills again, at 8.33 pm - two minutes earlier than yesterday.

Friday 09/09/05

Brilliantly sunny but very cold morning. We have northeasterly winds, and heavy rain is forecast for northern England and southern Scotland. For a change, we've got the best of the weather. Temperature a very meagre 12C. The musicians returned from their performance at 3.30 a.m., hence their sleep-in until 11 o'clock. I head into town at 2 pm, to put some things on the web. Otherwise, not much is happening. Sunset at 8 pm, quite a transition from the late June time of 10.35. Moon sets at 8.35 pm, could watch it sink behind the Arnish hills. The MSN website had some horrendous English, look closely at the attached screenshot. Under the heading "In the News" the second item reads: "Katrina: less dead than thought".

Thursday 08/09/05

Fairly bright morning. Read in Westword on-line about the tragic accident on Eigg last month. Today and tomorrow the prime minister of the Faroe Islands will be visiting Lewis. He will focus on arts, industry and council activities. He'll see the Morven Gallery, Shawbost Mill, Arnish Yard and a lot more. Papers carry a good set of reports about renewable energy sources. Free Press is welcome back with me, although I'm quite disappointed with the letters from Lewis councillors, backing the windfarm project. Spot the certificate of registration of one of the Stornoway pharmacists in KJ MacDonald's pharmacy. This lady registered in 1946, which means she is in her eighties now. Day remains sunny but not warm, about 15C. Mrs B prepares my supper. The two young ladies we had in last night have left. One dealt with energy savings in the home, the other was a chartered surveyor. They are replaced by two Irish musicians, who are up for two performances in the British Legion. Between main course and afters mrs B's second son takes us on a spin in the car to Grimshader. The sun has just set, leaving a brilliantly coloured sky in the west. Reds, gold and blue are the dominating colours. We go up the Lochs road, where little signs advise caution with walkers. Tomorrow, the annual bogslog takes place. This takes place across the Arnish Moor and the Pentland Road, and involves pupils from the Nicolson Institute. We turn off for Grimshader along a winding road. I recognise the section between the bridge and the Loch Orasay pumping station. Shortly afterwards, another road branches off for Crosbost and Ranish. We continue into Grimshader, a long drawn-out village which sits high above Loch Grimshader. The road ends 1½ miles short of the loch's end. On the way, sheep keep flitting along in the roadside. We get out at the road's end to be welcomed by a barking sheepdog. The owner in vain tries to call her dog off. The animal shuts up once we disappear off its patch. There is a short gravel  track, which terminates by the ruins of a few houses. Quite spectacular views even in the fading light. Because of the cold wind, we don't hang about. On the way back, a cat sits in the middle of the road and refuses to budge. I get out of the car, and only then does it move. Stupid lambs don't have the sense to move out of the way either, until the last minute. Return to SY at 9.15 to complete dinner. There was also an interesting program on ITV Grampian, which highlighted the appalling conditions in St Kilda, until people were evacuated in 1930. There was an 85% infant mortality rate, which recent investigations put down to severe pollution of houses and soil. Heavy metals accumulated in seabirds and the soil. As the bird's carcasses were used to fertilise the soil, this worsened the situation. The peat, burned in an open firepit, had a high chlorine content (remember, salt is sodium chloride). When burned, this produced to dioxins, one of the most toxic components known to man. Ashes were spread on the floor, all contributing to a very polluted environment. The houses had no chimney, smoke just dissipated through the roofthatch. Other factors contributed to the decline in the fortunes of St Kilda, until its population was finally evacuated on August 29th, 1930.

Friday, 9 September 2005

Wednesday 07/09/05

Wind and rain have gone by morning, to be replaced by drizzle. The newspapers report a 700% increase in the sales of pencils and rubbers, to fulfill the requirements for the currents Sudoku craze. I myself am tackling a book with 200 puzzles by Carol Vorderman and do every puzzle in every newspaper. Otherwise, I'm being ever so slightly lazy..

Tuesday 06/09/05

The mist has lifted and it's a clear day. High level clouds indicate a change in the weather. Chat to an Australian and his wife over breakfast. They are touring the islands. He originates from near Oban, but she is an Aussie. Norman was a sea-captain, latterly a pilot in the Torres Straits north of Australia. In the afternoon I go on a walk with mrs B's 2nd son, in the company of 15 other people to view cast iron railings in Stornoway. In the space of 2 hours we see cast iron railings, until I'm reeling with them. In the evening, a young lady arrives who will be going round the island to focus on possibilities for energy savings in homes. She is from Kirkwall, a town I know fairly well from my stint there in September 2004. We have a square meal followed by a ceilidh round the fire as the rain pours and the wind howls.

Monday 05/09/05

Today dawns even mistier than yesterday. It's clear to see that this is early September. Isles FM reports a fire at Stoneyfields Farm, in which a brand new car burned out. I saw the vehicle last Thursday, 1st September, when the new '55' registration plates were introduced. I suppose it was a bad idea to park the thing outside the fuel depot, that was a bad premonition. A man was apprehended in Benbecula who was in a house that was not his own. Local taxidrivers complain that their fares no longer cover their fuel costs; prices at £1.08 / litre. Visibility remains very poor through the day. At one point the red buoy and the old beacon-stand appear to float in the air next to  Arnish light. Went into town to buy a rubber and pencil sharpener, as well as the papers.

Sunday 04/09/05

Went out with mrs B and her 2nd son (who arrived yesterday) to Traigh na Beirigh in Uig. It is very hazy but fairly sunny today. After a light lunch, we set off at 1pm down deserted streets and roads to arrive at Kneep one hour later. Here, mrs B's 3rd son has a caravan in a very nice location, overlooking the beach (see picture). Mrs B plants herself by a table and chats to her daughter in law and her kids. The eldest two boys run me over to Pabaigh Mor, about half a mile to the north. The water is cool if not cold. There is a small beach at the southern end of Pabay, which is where we land. A group of 4 is just leaving for Bhalasaigh in Great Bernera in a RIB. Just off the beach stand two small huts, both locked.  Behind them are two vegetable patches, both sunken into the ground. The greens are burned by sand and salt. Head north across the island, with one of the lads in tow, bare footed and silent. Pabay is a nightmare to negotiate, thistle, bogs, rock and what have you. Some fairly steep ridges traverse the island. After 40 minutes we reach the natural arch, near the narrows to Pabaigh Beag, to the north. The arch is 9 m / 30 ft high, a large cavern. Rocks have been spewn out on the far side. A fine lagoon lies inland. To the northwest a tidal race can be discerned between Bhaltos and Pabay. To the northeast lie the islands off Gt Bernera and Old Hill. Unfortunately, I did not bring a camera. Return to the beach at 5, which sports a nice clump of wild mint. Am ferried back to the caravan at 5.30. After a cuppa and a cake (and an abortive attempt at riding a trailbike) we return to SY. The strange thing was that there had been rain at Loch Ganvich and points east, judging by the puddles in the roadside. Stornoway town centre is busy, with everybody leaving church at 7.45.

Saturday 03/09/05

Had an inside day today, continuing to watch the developing horror story in New Orleans. I do not understand why this has gone so badly out of hand. After 5 days, there is still no enforcement of law and order, no drinking water, food or healthcare. The mayor of New Orleans had a 12 minute rant on local radio, parts of which were relayed by CNN. Classic. It appears that president Bush is at a total loss as to what to do about this situation. Play about on AOL for a bit. Mrs B's son from Glasgow has arrived today for a 1 week stint. This coming week there will be celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the opening of the original town hall, and he has a part to play in that. The present day town hall was erected in 1925, seven years after the first one burnt down.  

Friday 02/09/05

Over breakfast I advise the Canadians on a walk they ca'n do in Harris and one in Skye. It's a nixe sunny day today. Forgot to mention that I found some ripe blackberries in the Castle Grounds yesterday. Last year, I didn't find them until early October. Also forgot to mention that I met up with my friend Sally from Balallan. Her daughter, aged 16, has had to leave Lewis because of bullying at school. The bullying was both verbal and physical, and was also directed at her mother. This had been going on for the two and a half years that they have been living in the island. Although she could have gone to the secondary school in Tarbert, this was not possible because the local council was not prepared to foot the taxi bill for the 40 mile roundtrip. The girl now lives with her grandparents in Derbyshire, as Sally cannot afford to move there herself. The secondary school in Stornoway has a bad reputation in dealing with bullying, as it appears to be tolerated by teaching staff. In recent years, there was one suicide as a result of bullying.

Went into the library after lunch, but could not complete the 60 minute timeslot you are entitled to.

Friday, 2 September 2005

Thursday 01/09/05

Early in the morning, the clouds roll away east. By breakfast time, 8.30, the sun is shining brightly. The cruiseliner Prinsendam is back, anchored behind the Coastguard station. The Isles FM newsreader reads out an item on the American hurricane as if it's just been a rainy day over there. Head out for a walk at 2pm, going into the Castle Grounds as far as the Iron Fountain and the Creed River. I'm stopped by two cyclists who ask me for directions back to town. They are keen to avoid any inclines, so they head back along the foreshore. They have arrived on the Prinsendam, and have a mere 5 hours to explore the island. Others went out on a coach tour, but they didn't fancy that. Chatted to these Dutch folks for a bit, before they had to speed off into town. The Prinsendam had shifted across the bay to Holm Point by 4 o'clock. Two guests arrived off the ferry, Canadians from Quebec travelling around Europe.

Wednesday 31/08/05

Very dreich day with the promise of sunshine later. Go to town at 1130, only to find the shoeshop closed for today. Have to wait for an hour for the computer with the scanner. Read an interesting book by Tex Geddes, the 1940s sharkhunter who teamed up with Gavin Maxwell of otter fame. Together they ran the Isle of Soay Shark Fisheries. When I leave the library it's pissing down with rain and this never stops for another 8 hours. By then, a last ray of sunshine peeps through to light up the Arnish hills. A small rainbow stands above the Coastguard station. Later on, the rain resumes. Devastation by Hurricane Katrina is just beyond belief. The states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, have basically been flattened.

Tuesday 30/08/05

Nice sunny morning, but still windy. News from America is bad, extensive flooding and catastrophic damage and loss of life. The course of the storm gives me cause for concern. It is set to merge with a cold front over southern Canada on Thursday, which means that we run the risk of getting a swipe of Katrina's remains early next week. Isles FM reports that a dog owner was fined £40 for not cleaning up after his dog. This fining system was recently introduced by the same councillor who has the windfarms in his portfolio. I.e., the shit is hitting the fan. When your dog fouls in a public place, you have to clean up after it. Public places include streets, parks and beaches. If you bear in mind that Kenny MacLeod on Isles FM pronounces 'beaches' as 'bitches', the statement that "dogs on beaches" need to be cleaned up takes on a very smutty meaning. Finished writing down the diaries for dates up to October 7th, 2004, and readjusted the page counter in the written journal by 236. We're now on page 673 instead of 437. A couple of other odd-ball stories in the paper, such as the oil workers who put on an average of 10 kg since last survey, which means that fewer of them can travel in a helicopter. As a result, more flights are needed to ferry them around. Finally, there was this German woman who wrecked her car because a spider crawled over her face. Both the spider and herself survived.

Monday 29/08/05

Bright but very windy morning. Not as windy as it is in New Orleans, which has to put up with winds of 155 mph / 250 kph. One million people are being evacuated from the city. Norman sets off for Leverburgh at ten. As the morning progresses a very dramatic picture emerges from the States, and I go into full newshound mode. CNN is available on Sky, so that remains on. Norman returns from his Harris expedition at six, bringing back a bottle of Jura whisky.

Sunday 28/08/05

What an awful day, weatherwise. Rain and wind virtually the whole day. The rain relented, but during the afternoon the wind starts to pick up. Norman, the other guest, is due to sail for St Kilda tomorrow in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of its evacuation. The shipping forecast predicts force 6 to 8, with force 9 to 11 in northern sea areas. No surprise then when the trip gets cancelled. Convivial evening with a cheerful coalfire. Norman collects postcards from Scottish islands; he has 18 on Shetland, 27 on Orkney...

Saturday 27/08/05

Cool day with a cold westerly wind. The digger has taken out the concrete slab in five hours. The men working it are relief crew with Calmac, the local ferry company. One of them is from Tobermory, and favours the run across to Kilchoan in Ardnamurchan. Nip out at 1.30 to take additional pictures for my walk. Go to town for yet another new pen and a paper. Also do some more writing in the library on last year's expeditions in Skye. Have reached October 5th by 4pm, and only have 3 more days to write up.

Friday 26/08/05

Nice sunny weather today, but I stay indoors updating last year's diary. A digger appears in mrs B's backyard to take out the concrete slab tomorrow. We're now left with the one guest; Stefan and Suzanna leave on the midday ferry. Had a cracking ceilidh last night, because Stefan turned out to be a magnificent guitar player who gave a very creditable rendition of a Jimi Hendrix song. He also accompanied me on the keyboard with Gaelic and other tunes.

Thursday 25/08/05

Agnes and Philip head for Harris on the 10 o'clock bus. Chat to another guest who has come to attend a conference on the evacuation of St Kilda. Could go there myself, but can't get through on the phone. Go to the library to catch up with more writing. Weather a lot better today, if rather cool in the wind. There is the odd shower. Apparently, there is serious flooding in Germany and Austria, as well as much further downstream the Danube in Romania. This concerns our German guests.