Monday, 28 February 2005
Saturday, 26 February 2005
Friday, 25 February 2005
A cold night, in spite of 2 duvets. Draft through window didn't help. At least the electricity is back to normal. Heard that Francis Street in Stornoway is closed between the County Hotel and Keith Street as rooftiles are flying around off the roof of the Post Office. Only people with a doctor's appointment are allowed through Francis Street. Even if you haven't, you may still need one if you get hit by a tile... Bad joke, I know.
The Kershader Centre is full of hard-working folks again. The shopkeeper is checking the contents of the freezer, which has been off for 48 hours. Some items had to be thrown out, as they had thawed. A van from Western Isles Council comes in to repair the roof next door. Papers arrived at midday, but without the Gazette.
Other people are reported to nearly have been swept off the Uist causeway, one man saved a family of 4 from a submerged car. All had fled homes in terror of shingle and debris being flung against their houses.No networks on the mobile, so even the Laxay transmitter is off. It's still a bit windy today, also cold at 7C. Drizzle and poor visibility. The garden pond is still sitting in the wrong garden on Ivor Hill. A member of the Scottish Executive, Kathie Jamieson, spoke on Isles FM about recent events. Any request for financial assistance from Comhairle nan Eileanan Siar would be treated sympathetically. Isles FM still run that misleading ad for Air Caledonian - they don't fly out of Stornoway anymore and their railtravel vouchers don't work. Still no TV or mobile signals until 4pm. Ferries are cancelled in Orkney and the Clyde. Later in the afternoon, news comes through that all 5 bodies of people drowned off the Uist causeway have now been recovered. Advice being issued that people should keep candles, a torch, a battery-powered radio and some family handy in a cupboard <sigh>.
Thursday, 3 February 2005
Tuesday, 1 February 2005
Tuesday 11 January
Gales forecast for today, so decided not to go out for walk. Could have done, in retrospect. The sun was out at 3pm, but then all hell broke loose. Alarming reports on Radio Scotland, no ferry, the Isle of Lewis did not leave Ullapool after the early sailing and Western Isles Council has closed libraries, schools for tomorrow. Calmac has cancelled sailings on ALL its routes. At 5.20pm the power went off. It's off in Uig (Lewis) and all of Lochs. There is no signal on the entire FM-band; the transmitter at Eitsal is off. Isles FM is still going as this has a separate transmitter in Stornoway. Power briefly came back at 6.23, but didn't last. Blue lights at Laxay, apparently police telling people to abandon their car journeys. Bins flying about at the back; I'll be retrieving them from the loch shore in a few days time. Isles FM keeps me posted with my battery powered radio. Radio Scotland on 810 kHz mediumwave reverts to football. What a night! Oh there was no TV signal either, when the power came back at 6.23. Pity it's dark. Before dusk, the caps on the waves were sheered off by the wind, at 4.15. People are being advised to stay in. Scaffolding on a site at South Beach Street in Stornoway has collapsed through the window of a restaurant across Kenneth Street. The A859 in Stornoway is shut between Newvalley and the Manor Roundabout. Only light indoors is from the emergency lights and my own little torch, by which I write this account. Storm rampages through every nook and cranny. All sorts of meetings are being cancelled. The causeway between North Uist and Benbecula may be closed. The hostel building is shaking in the wind. Skye Bridge closes at 7.15, other bridges in Scotland follow suit. No traffic goes down the A859 - it's pitch dark. Isles FM went off air at 7.32, leaving me with a silent FM band. The transmitter keeps going, but there is no signal from the Newton Street studios. Radio Scotland on mediumwave only has bloody football until 9.30, aaargh! I'm already bored. No lights anywhere, not in the village, not in Laxay across the water either.
Rain and strong southerly winds. It's not very cold, so I set off for an amble across the moors as far as the waterbutt. It's very very wet and not much fun. Even the sheep don't like it. Returned after 45 minutes. Have no mobile coverage, not even from the hilltops. City of Carlisle is well under water, electricity off and people being plucked off rooftops and from upstairs windows. Warwick Road, where I stayed in July was reduced to a river. The roundabout at the northend of the town was a 5 feet deep lake. Incredible. On return from walk found an old mitten, one I lost weeks and weeks ago. I keep losing the blinking things! Shipping forecast predicts force 7-9, occasionally force 10 from southwest. Again. Later that evening, great curtains of rain sweep down the road in the light by the war-memorial.
Went to Stornoway for the shopping. Tried point1 (a computershop on Bayhead) for internet access, but their screencolours are awful. Mobile coverage returned at 10.50. Had lunch at HS-1, with "the usual". Met my West End acquaintance on the bus and had a wee chat. Returned to hostel at 3pm.
Friday the 7th was spent in idle sloth - I should be ashamed. Chatted to the Ravenspoint manager for a bit.
Saturday dawned cold and clear after a silent night. No wind blowing at the windows, no rain clattering. According to the MET office, a deep depression passed right overhead, with a central pressure of 963mb. After 9am, the first shower came, and when I went to buy a paper in the shop nextdoors, it was quite cold. The 11.39 bus was packed, and the driver had no change. Have to buy a ticket on the Harris bus. Two more people came on at Tabost, and they had to sit in each other's laps. During the ride to Stornoway, a spectacular hailshower slowly rode up from the northwest, with white curtains of precipitation over the Barvas hills. Some looked like white tornadoes. On arrival in town, the rain/sleet/hail/snow came down. Library still has no internet access, but I sat down anyway to read some books from the local history section. Pity I cannot take them away, they're for reading in only. Went for lunch at the Coffeepot in Kenneth Street, which is a snackbar. Fish and chips for £5.00, outrageous. Small serving of fish, chips not bad though. At least the food was brought to my seat. Was horrified to find the Co-op practically out of everything. Had to improvise dramatically, cubed beef instead of chicken fillet, no mince either. Aaargh! Bought myself a little radio, the size of half my handpalm. Went to the Baltic for the papers (Press & Journal + national paper), then to the busstation to wait for the 2.20 bus back to Lochs. Once on the bus got to chat to an elderly lady from Balallan and a couple I've encountered on the bus before. They told me of a nice Hogmanay at the Cabarfeidh Hotel, a good chinese to be had in town and that Lewis was so much nicer than the Isle of Man. Added my approbation to that, except I'm unfamiliar with IoM. The journey down the A859 got more and more interesting as it progressed. A very heavy shower threw a layer of solid ice across the road at Cameron Terrace, Leurbost: hail, snow, freezing rain and a spectacular thunderstorm. Cameron Terrace is very exposed, so we had frontrow position for the views. The thunder is caused by very cold air, temperature 40 degrees lower than at groundlevel, in the upper atmosphere. The bolts were blinding, the thunder deafening. Two young teenagers behind me screamed at every bolt. The driver slowed down to a snail's pace, to 10mph (15 km/h) at one stage. Traffice coming the other way also slowed to a crawl. We crept down the road to Laxay, where the air started to clear from the west. Even the sun came out. Only 5 minutes late at Balallan, we all wished the driver luck for the rest of his journey to Tarbert, across those hills. Back at the hostel at 3pm. In the evening, news came through about dramatic flooding at Carlisle. Warwick Road in that city, where I stayed in July, is under water, as is the big roundabout at the top of town. Incredible.
Didn't do much on Wednesday on account of the weather - strong winds and rain.
Thursday found me making another trip to sunny Stornoway. One lady had a go at the driver on the Harris bus, as he had overlooked her standing by her gate. In town, I bought another Runrig CD, currently my favourite folk-rock band. As there is still no internet access in the library, I decided to head to Tarber, 37 miles away. The weather had deteriorated dramatically, in that it was now pouring with rain and blowing a gale, force 8-10. Ferries are cancelled, and the trip down the A859 not much fun for drivers. The busdriver kept going at a steady 50mph, but lorry drivers had big trouble. One kept stopping at corners, and arrived in Tarbert a full 15 minutes after the bus. In Balallan, a dustbin was lying across the road. It's binday today, so they're all over the place. Once into the Harris hills, things got quite spectacular. Waterfalls blew upwards, there were white-capped riders and rollers on any body of water. The descent into Tarbert was even more windy, due to the funnelling effects of the mountains. The firewall in the Tarbert library prevents me from accessing Hotmail, but nonetheless, I was busy for 75 minutes. Went for a drink in an empty bar in Tarbert. Returned on the 3.45 bus, where the onset of darkness stopped me from seeing much. Encountered my West End friend on the outskirts of Balallan, but we could not talk a lot, as I had to get off a few hundred yards up to the road. On the South Lochs junction, I could wait in the bus, and chatted to the drivers about storms. The southbound Harris bus disgorged a load of schoolkids. Returned to Kershader at 4.45. It was mild, if anything, today: 12C.
Well, a busservice at last. Wished the driver a happy 2005, and chatted to him on the way to Balallan. It's a nice, clear day, but showers are forecast. My friend from Balallan West End was on the bus as well, so we chatted briefly. Went into HS-1 for lunch once more, then set off for the shopping. Quite a few shops are closed for the Bank Holiday. New Year's Day was on a Saturday. Bought a book called Portrona which I find singularly difficult to read; it keeps switching its perspective and time, so I'm completely confused. It's a history of Stornoway (Portrona) at the height of the herring fishery, early 20th Century. Should appeal to me as a Dutchman, bearing in mind it was the Dutch who discovered commercial herring fishery in these parts. Co-op was still waiting for the boat to come in with supplies. Shelves quite bare. Went for an amble down Newton Road, and back along the A866, the road from the airport.Got overtaken by a hailshower. Nice views of Broad Bay to the north of the town. Bus left at 2.20, returning me to Kershader at 3 o'clock.