Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Monday 27/02/06

After a night of pouring rain, things clear up by 11 am. Muirneag is late coming in at 9.30. Two French fishing boats come in for a crewchange. The brightness is soon replaced by heavy showers. In Islay, a distillery has produced a whisky with 93% alcohol. The showers turn wintry as the afternoon progresses. Go out at 4pm to purchase a plug adapter for recharging. And to collect my winnings from the National Lottery. Snowfall commences around 5pm, with frequent showers. My announcement on Metcheck that it snows on the webcam brings 80 visitors in. Supper - more of last night's lasagna. Visitor numbers to the webcam eventually reach 229 by midnight, just over 100 more than the previous daily record.

Monday, 27 February 2006

Sunday 26/02/06

Late start today (oh well, it's a Lewis Sunday). There is a ferocious and too personal debate on the VisitHebrides site about Sabbath Observance [note: this debate has now been removed due to complaints]. On another board, I was invited with my heathen friends to man the ferries, buses and shops. Just for inviting debate, dear me. Warnings in the forecast for up to 30 cm of snow. Very quiet day, also in terms of weather. Variable amounts of cloud, some sun and a little wind. In the evening, the Closing Ceremony for the Winter Olympics is screened from Turin, Italy. The next games will be at Vancouver, Canada, in 2010.

Saturday 25/02/06

Occasional sunshine this morning, after a late 11.30 start. Bird flu fright continues to grow with French turkeys now dying of the infamous H5N1 strain. Discover that the Arnish Lighthouse blog was included in the BBC Ticker on its website. At 2.40, I join mrs B on the bus for a brief visit to her sister elsewhere in Stornoway to celebrate that lady's 78th birthday. She is a dapper lady of frail health, and everybody is more than pleased she has reached 78. Her husband runs us back to Lewis Crofters for a stone (6.35 kg) of potatoes. Nearly got locked in as we forgot the time, looking at all sorts of bits and pieces in there, a lot of outdoor gear. Mrs B serves supper tonight - and I win a tenner on the lottery. Grey weather, with a bitter northeast wind.

Friday 24/02/06

It's a drizzly sort of day today, with not a lot happening. Try to print out the Iolaire lists which I received from the Stornoway Historical Society, but the fonts are illegibly small. Notice a worldwide spread of viewers to the webcam. Receive an email from the lady I partnered up with in Orkney in September 2004. She is now in Kenya, which she is leaving shortly because of food shortages.

Thursday 23/02/06

Viewers on the webcam overnight include someone from the Faroes, at 2.30 a.m., as well as Thailand. At 10 a.m., I go to the Caladh Inn (formerly Seaforth Hotel), on James Street, for a public meeting by the local health board. I am welcomed in the Garry Room by controversial Chief Executive, Dick Manson, who pulls up a chair for me. I am issued with a wad of papers for the meeting. Items on the agenda include the impending flu pandemic and the Western Isles response to it, waiting times and delayed discharges at the local hospital, dental services (W.I. doing better than average), community health and social care partnerships (26 page document), Chief Exec's report (60 pages). The Finance Director announces proudly that the deficit for the current financial year stands at a projected £2.5m, 500k down on last month's projection. The service redesign update elicits expressions of concern about staff involvement, or more correctly, staff withdrawal from the whole process. Although two boardmembers express concern, one senior board member denies any problem at all. The annual report on public health is curtly curtailed by Board Chairman David Currie. Proceedings close at 12.30 - a private meeting will follow. I return to mrs B's after doing my shopping at Somerfields. No Free Press today. It's a cloudy and chilly day. Receive an email from Malcolm MacDonald with a full list of those involved in the Iolaire disaster of 1919. Work the list of links to pictures into the pages and put it on the Internet. Publish another video over the webcam, which attracts 7 viewers at 13.30.

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Wednesday 22/02/06

Very cold start to the day, with a touch of frost (0 C), frozen puddles and rime on grass. In the afternoon, I accompany mrs B part of the way to a party that she has been invited to at her sister-in-law's. I go with her as far as Island Road and Smith Avenue, but one of her relatives picks her up at the buspark. I carry on up the road to Leverhulme Drive and Westview Terrace. Cross over Percival Road to Sand Street, to gain the Cockle Ebb, the estuary and mudflats of the Laxdale River. I turn right at the bottom and follow the soggy coastline to Steinish. It's very flat, lots of gulls about as well as cockles. Sun shines brightly, and the wind is light, easterly. Temp about 7C. Run into a spot of bother on the approach to Steinish, as deep water bars my progress. I have to wade through two tributaries, one 50 cm, the other 10 cm deep. Water is cold, but bearable. Sun is nice and warm, and at 3.55, an hour after starting out, I sit down just outside Steinish to sun myself. Walk up past a house where a little dog is yapping at me. I proceed towards the perimeter fence for the airport (all of 4 feet high). Go up a farmtrack, where the farmer is spreading muck in an adjacent field. Eugh. Wind is blowing the other way. His farm is surrounded by seas of mud. I walk down the road to North Street, Sandwick, enjoying the views out to the mainland, with snowcapped mountains. The Harris Hills are lost in the glare of the low sun. I cross into Lower Sandwick and walk past the cemetery into Newton. Great views of Skye, the Shiants and Kebock Head. Return to Newton at 5pm. Have to scout around for a lottery ticket, as the machine in Somerfields is out of commission. Mrs B returns at 6.30, and she cooks dinner for me. A spot of tellywatching closes the evening.

Tuesday 21/02/06

Fairly sunny morning with changeable cloud. Cool, as I wash the windows. I take a lot of pics through the windows, and one of yesterday's crop was fuzzy because of the salt on the glass. Today, I'm showing another online video, this time the Tolsta to Ness and Dell walk. Lasts about 4 minutes, and comes out well. Unfortunately, Camstreams cut off the last few frames. This is due to the delay in transmission, of about 30 secs. But as soon as the link goes off-line, so does the showing on the website. I tried to make a third video, but the result crashed the computer. Doesn't happen that often. Mrs B buys me my paper, and I already had food in for today. So, I only show my nose outside for the purpose of washing the windows.

Monday, 20 February 2006

Monday 20/02/06

Before breakfast, a shower wets the pavement. Two dunlin run along the top of the seawall. Afterwards, it's bright and sunny, but with a regular build-up of cumulus clouds. None reach the shower stage over the town. The Isle of Lewis ferry is back on its normal run, and comes in on time at 1.15. Today, I'm doing the video through the webcam link. At 11 a.m, I'm a few minutes late after I cannot find the file on the computer. At 3 and 7 pm, everything goes fine. One person even asks for a rerun. At 3pm, 3 people are watching. One from Glasgow, one from London and another from Leeds - all UK. Viewers internationally, not to the clip, but to the webcam generally come in from Russia, Hong Kong and Switzerland. Mrs B cleans out the front garden, and is plain to see on the webcam LOL. She pots some daffs in anticipation of spring. At 5pm, a rainshower moves across, giving a very nice rainbow and spectacular sunset colours. Temperatures a very acceptable 8C. Watch some more of the Winter Olympics, whilst enjoying a Berserker. That's 7% v/v alcohol ale, very heady indeed.


Found this little test on-line:

***You Have a Melancholic Temperament***

Introspective and reflective, you think about everything and anything.
You are a soft-hearted daydreamer. You long for your ideal life.
You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you.

Given enough time alone, it's easy for you to find inner peace.
You tend to be spiritual, having found your own meaning of life.
Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times.

At your worst, you brood and sulk. Your negative thoughts can trap you.
You are reserved and withdrawn. This makes it hard to connect to others.
You tend to over think small things, making decisions difficult.

What Temperament Are You?

Sunday, 19 February 2006

Sunday 19/02/06

Sunny start to the day, but cloud bubbles up in the early afternoon. Nithing untoward, initially. Yesterday, the Isle of Lewis returned from its refit, so at 3pm, the Clansman sails south to its homeport of Oban. I go for a short stroll along the shoreline from the Coastguard Station to the bottom of Millar Road. It involves a lot of clambering over rocks, and takes much longer than the normal road route. The weather produces some nice cumuli, and even a brief shower over Arnish at 5pm. I do not have the camera at my personal disposal (I've been given the loan of it by mrs B son, who needs it today). Mrs B serves me a Sunday roast with a sticky toffee pudding after. I manage to convert my pics into a movie, which will be shown on the webcam in the course of tomorrow.

Saturday 18/02/06

Brilliantly sunny day, not too cold. After lunch, mrs B and myself go for a walk in the Castle Grounds. Island Blogging wants to see spring pictures, so my mission is to take spring-related images. It starts at Somerfields, where a crocus and a lily poke through the rubbish by the roadside. It's pretty busy in the town. We walk up Kenneth Street, past the Free Church and the Masonic Lodge to Bayhead. Cross the bridge and go into the Woodlands Centre for a cup of soup and a roll. We arrive at 1.45pm, but service is so slow. It takes them 15 minutes to serve 4 people. Lots of wee kids about, a dad talking to his wife on the upper level asks: "Is she being awful? Is she being dreadful?" Resume the walk at 2.20pm and go up the path through the Shoeburn Glen. See a bluetit, lots of small purple flowers and white ones as well. Come out under Lews Castle and cut through to Lews Castle College. From there, a path leads on to Strawberry Hill. This path is very mddy, and just leads past the hill, not over it. Once at the far side, the main trails from Marybank lead us neatly back to Lady Matheson's Memorial above Cuddy Point. See a bunch of snowdrops, ferns, budding horse chestnuts. Return to town along Cromwell Street, to do some shopping. Notice that visibility is excellent, allowing plain views of the mainland hills. Sun sets at 5.40. Supper provided by mrs B, lottery wins us nothing.

Saturday, 18 February 2006

Friday 17/02/06

This was one of those days where I kept very quiet. It was a nice sunny day, bit on the cool side. One or two light showers pass through, otherwise quite acceptable. The Free Press has arrived in Somerfields. Also had a look in the Basin, but the tide was coming in fast at 4pm. The ground is very soft in there, but what do you expect in a tidal area. Found an article which gave an eye-witness account of the Iolaire disaster. The moon rose just before midnight, see picture.

Friday, 17 February 2006

Thursday 16/02/06

Nice if blustery morning. During breakfast, waves can be seen crashing over the Goat Island causeway, but as the tide goes down, this ceases. The tide was very high this morning. The strong southerly winds are blowing at force 6, gusting force 8, ease as the day progresses. The 7C feel cold in the wind. The sun is very warm. Go into town after lunch to buy a replacement printer cartridge, which I have exhausted personally. Go to Somerfields to buy food for a meal for mrs B and myself: carrots, potatoes, onions and minced meat balls. On the way back, I can see the snowcapped mountains on the mainland and even manage to take a picture of An Teallach. Sunset by about 5.20. The days are lengthening rapidly now. No West Highland Free Press in Somerfields, didn't come up from Skye apparently. Still a nice day, only one or two showers. Further south, there is hail, thunder and lightning. Barometer still low, 967 mbar. The centre of the depression is a few hundred miles out in the Atlantic. After dinner, we watch Seaside Rescue on BBC1, always an interesting program.

Wednesday 15/02/06

The gale has blown itself out by morning, but the barometer has gone through the floor. It remains gloomy and very wet. Pressure readings slide down from 973 to 968 mbar as the day progresses. Although sustained winds are only a moderate force 4, gusts exceed 30 knots, force 7. Several heavy showers pass through, but the cloudscape remains interesting. Have a problem trying to broadcast a short video through Camstreams. Initially it would appear the bitrate, 864 kbps, is too high, but even a 48 kbps version cannot be transmitted. The Winter Olympics provide entertainment through the evening. I make 2 more films, one featuring the Tolsta to Ness and Dell walk, the other Carloway to Bragar. I only have a limited collection of background music. Discover that a Brazilian website has hijacked my webcam stream, but an email dissuades them from further such actions.

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Ships' inspections

The Coastguard carries out checks on shipping attending British ports on a regular basis. Equally regularly, ships are detained as they are deemed unfit to put to sea. Sometimes it's a relatively simple matter which can be put right fairly quickly. The below account of the Gloria is an extreme case. Further examples can be found on this MCGA website.

Date & Place of detention: 08/08/2003 – Tyne
Vessel Name: GLORIA (General Cargo) 657 GT
IMO No: 6523107
Flag: Estonia
Company: Timant Ltd, Tallinn, Estonia
Classification Society: None
Still under detention at the end of October. 57 deficiencies recorded prior to inspection being suspended. Vessel unsafe due to condition of ship’s hull structure, deck transverse beams holed with corrosion, numerous side frames distorted due to operational damage, vessel failed to meet the stability requirements for a vessel loading bulk grain, evidence of insect infestation in cargo hold.  The vessel has been sold and is being prepared for a single voyage to the Mediterranean, where it is understood the vessel is due to be scrapped.r
The GLORIA under detention at Tyne Dock
Above: GLORIA under detention at Tyne Dock

GLORIA under deck frame corrosion

Above: under deck frame corrosion

Valentine's Day 2006

So it's Valentine's Day again. Well, I'm sufficiently pleased to see the WeatherPixie having received a Valentine. Incidentally, she tells me that at 9.50 am today it was:

7C / 45F in Stornoway
Relative humidity 93.3%.
Wind southerly 15 kts (force 4 on the Beaufort scale).
Barometer reading 996 mbar.
Weather: Showery rain

Monday, 13 February 2006

Monday 13/02/06

Another dreich start to the day, but the rain stops at 11 a.m.. Isles FM reports more foul play in the NHS Health Board saga, where a letter from councillors to Health Minister Andy Kerr is leaked back to the council, with the question: "Who did this?" Nobody is prepared to own up. On the buspark at Smith Avenue, a pedestrian was run down by a cardriver. A man has fallen into the Inner Harbour yesterday morning, but was fished out by local fishermen. A youth was apprehended in possession of controlled substances. Four French fishingboats from Lorient come into port at 10.30 for a crew change. At midday, a taxi arrives to take mrs B and myself to An Lanntair for the official opening by Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell. As we arrive, a lot of well-dressed folk go in as well. I recognise a few local councillors. Mrs B introduced me to some of her friends and relations. One of them was familiar with my work on HMS Timbertown. Another had a brother working near Nijmegen, Holland. There is also the development officer for CnES. Proceedings are due to start at 12.30, but as we sit down the film about the scenic side of the islands continues to roll, until 12.40. There are 4 speakers on the podium: Angus McCormack, who conducts proceedings; Alex MacDonald (council convener, speaking in Gaelic); Jim Tough (arts director for Scottish Arts Council) and Jack McConnell. The gist of all the speeches is that this is a good day for Lewis, a good day for Gaelic and for culture. The Gaelic Act came into force today as well, which cements Gaelic's status as a main language in Scotland. There is currently a debate about Gaelic medium education (basically: teaching kids using Gaelic). Mr McConnell also announces that islanders may see 40% off their airfares to the mainland as of this summer. You pay more for travelling to Stornoway from Glasgow than you do for going to New York. The First Minister does not touch on the vexed question of the Health Board. I take some pictures, as does the assembled press corps. After the speeches, we see a speeded-up film made of time-lapse images of the construction of the new arts centre. Most remarkable was seeing the tide rising and falling in a matter of seconds. Anna Murray and Christine Primrose, of Lewis Women, close proceedings with some Gaelic songs. We are now invited to the buffet. After a considerable delay, we finally reach the salads by 2.15. Jack McConnell has left by now. Once lunch was consumed, we had a look round an exhibition of furniture and clever woodcarvings by the late Tim Stead. One of his pieces was a chair, specially made for the Pope's visit to Scotland in 1982. At 3.30, we returned to Newton via the butcher's for eggs. Last week, one of the boxes of eggs sported an expiry date of 30 February 2006. Like you do. These are freerange eggs from Shawbost, West Side. They go like hotcakes. Supper consists of a cheese sandwich, with a jelly after. Try my hand at animating a picture, but find I've got a lot to learn. Mrs B's son calls in with one of his boys and his mates in tow. The BBC News mentions two serious medical errors. One involved a GP injecting a baby of 7 weeks with the MMR vaccine - this jab is normally given at 12 months. The other, worse, occurred in a Glasgow hospital. A lady was given medication, prescribed for the previous occupant of the bed. She died. How COULD that happen.
Tomorrow's weather will be ditto today.

Sunday 12/02/06

A very dreich and wet day, not a lot of wind, force 4. Breakfast nice and late, 11.30. After catching up with the Internet, we sit down to watch the Winter Olympics. Pretty impressive events, such as snowboarding, skiing and ice skating. Am pleased to see the Dutch longtrack skaters doing well. The rain moves away after 1pm, leaving a misty but bright afternoon. It's not cold, 10C. Sunset at 5.10, see pic above. Mrs B prepares a Sunday roast for her and myself, with a jelly afterwards.

Saturday 11/02/06 afternoon

Later on, an occasional light shower drifts by, but nothing too serious. The wind decreases slowly. Northern England reports snow. The ferry is its usual 20 minutes late coming in and leaving. Still the Clansman. Notice the webcam being viewed from Montevideo, Uruguay; Tenerife, Canary Islands and Northern Norway. The Uruguayan viewer is placed in the Avenue General Flores, which leads NNE from the Aguanda in Montevideo. The Tenerife viewer is on the northern side of the island, between Puerto dela Cruz and Los Realijos. Ostensibly in the middle of a vineyard! The Norwegian visitor has been before, and is resident in the town of Budejju, 775 km north of Oslo. Go to Somerfields for papers and a copy of the Scots Magazine. This contains a letter from Donald MacLeod of Aberdeen, about the Iolaire Disaster. I cook spaghetti bolognese for Mrs B. Later on, I point the webcam inside. Position it on a small lamp, high up on a wall and direct it at the fire and the keyboard. Only 3 people actually see it. I reposition the camera to its normal position by 11.15.

Saturday, 11 February 2006

Saturday 11/02/06 morning

The rain subsides by daybreak, but the wind only slowly drops. The Met Office reports windspeeds of 27 knots sustained at 9 am, which goes down to 22 kts at 1pm. Gusts are up to 37 knots, which is galeforce. It's very busy with ships going in and out. In spite of the weather, Muirneag shows up at 9.30. The lifeboat dashes out at 10.10, preceded by a tugboat. The lifeboat encounters heavy seas at the Arnish Point bar, and is covered by waves. Next, a French fishing boat, the Jack Abri II from Lorient calls in for a crew change. She arrives at 10.30 and leaves at 12.15. The new crew will  have been flown in on a chartered flight, and the relieved one will return to France on the same plane. This saves the boat the 1500 mile return trip to Lorient. A fast crew change, within 24 hours, also brings a 25% reduction in harbour dues. Stornoway Port Authority encourages shipping companies to use this facility, in view of the proximity of the airport (4 miles away). The gastanker Sigas Champion leaves at 11.15, again aided by a pilot. Took the mickey out of the Small Isles folk, not half helped by Westword. Muck recommends crushing plastic by running the tractor over it, Canna didn't have a boat for a week, so the residents were staving off urges of cannibalism and Eigg spent its days watching whales in the bay.

More later

Animated picture

Whilst browsing some of the many journals in AOL J-land, I came across the animated designs by MyDsDesigns. She very kindly turned one of my pictures into an animated one, which shows below:

Friday 10/02/06

Fairly bright morning, but cloud increases gradually as the day wears on. It's breezy with a force 4-5 southerly wind. Outside temperatures very subdued, 5C. A large depression sits out in the Atlantic to propel milder air this direction. Enjoy the sun, until it goes in after 2pm. The people from North Uist go to Isles FM and were greeted with open arms, once they declared an interest in setting up a service from there. The Comhairle had been pressing for Isles FM to get a move-on. A good day for the station in other words. Complete mrs B's webpage by inserting a nice picture or two. At 4pm, the gastanker Sigas Champion slowly moves into port, assisted by a pilot. This vessel has a capacity of 1970 cubic metres, and can refrigerate to temperatures of below -48C. Not seen it before. The list of nations from where people view my webcam lengthens to Russia, South Africa and Latvia. I'm amazed at the level of interest from Brazil and Argentina. After nightfall, the wind increases and rumbles in the chimney by 6pm. Mrs B prepares my dinner, chicken tikka massala with rice. Later on, the Winter Olympics kick off in Turin (Italy), with a spectacular ceremony. Rain commences by about 10pm.

Friday, 10 February 2006

Thursday 09/02/06

Cloudy start to the day, but gaps in the clouds allow rays of sunlight through. Yesterday, Muirneag was late coming in at 9.30 - today it's even worse, as it comes in at 10.40. It's Thursday, so it's papers day. Received an email earlier this week saying that my work on HMS Timbertown had been published in the magazine Seanchais, from the North Tolsta Historical Society. Nice list of names, with nicknames, and an acknowledgement of my work. Another chilly morning, with temperatures of about 3C. Mrs B has two guests in from North Uist. I take a few more birdie pictures, of a robin. The local papers do not make very cheerful reading. The new arts gallery An Lanntair has had to be bailed out by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar over a deficit of £750,000, accrued over its first 4 months of operation. The formal opening of the gallery will take place next Monday, in the presence of Jack McConnell, the Scottish First Minister. In the evening I meet the two guests, who are building a new house between Balranald and Clachan. He was involved with BBC Alba, and she with the Landward programme (the Scottish counterpart of Countryfile on BBC1). Until recently, they lived in Spain, but have now returned to the land of their roots. The sunset this evening was something spectacular. The low temperatures today, 4C, are not noticeable as there is no wind.

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Wednesday 08/02/06

A cold but bright start, temperature 4C. Showers are about, moving along on a northerly breeze. Nonetheless, it's a nice sunny morning. Good program on Radio Scotland between 11 and 12, about the effects of passive smoking. In a bar where only two cigar smokers were present, the nicotine levels in the saliva of the barmaid rose from 1 to 2.7 nanograms per ml [1 ng = 1 billionth of a gram]. At 12.00 a shower moves down, with a faint rainbow. Manage to snap starlings on the birdfeeders. The feed from the webcam is interrupted at 1pm because of a fault on the Camstreams network. There are 0 watchers on the whole of camstreams. Until that, about 80 viewers from around the globe have been to watch Stornoway's weather. Countries include Chile, Slovenia, Brazil (as ever), Alaska. Go to Somerfields and encounter an acquaintance along Newton Street (the man who came firstfooting on New Year's Night), who is very, very drunk. It's only 3.30pm. He made a beeline for a half-full bottle of whisky which had been left on the seawall. He managed to utter the grand total of three whole sentences in the five minutes it took me to walk to Somerfields. Get a Chinese ready-made meal from the supermarket, to celebrate 1 year with Mrs B. It's been a rollercoaster year. The meal goes down well, and she supplies the wine.

Visitor 3000

I'm flattered to notice that visitor number 3,000 has come past my pages. Many thanks.

Tuesday 07/02/06

It's a wet start to the day, but the rain ceases at noon. After that, it's a few showers. Temperature is starting to drop noticeably. Manage to snap some pictures of birds in the garden, and cloud formations over the Basin. Emails regarding the Iolaire project tell me I'm duplicating work by others. One overseas visitor leaves a comment on the page, to correct an inconsistency. An Italian lady left feedback on the main Hebridean Isles page, and says she might come back to Lewis following earlier visits in 1991 and 1995. I take more pictures at dusk.

Monday, 6 February 2006

Monday 06/02/06

Well, that's unusual for Stornoway: IT RAINS. For the first time in two weeks, it's very windy and wet. Temperature still high, 10C. Mrs B's brother-in-law comes for coffee and a yarn or two. I spend the morning churning out emails to those who previously helped me with project Timbertown, hoping they are prepared to review my Iolaire list. The Clansman is late coming in, at 1.35. I go into town to doublecheck my own list in the library, which doesn't take very long at all. Mrs B cooks supper for us, goulash with rice, which is nice.

If anything else happens, I'll report it in a separate entry

Sunday 05/02/06

Although the day started bright enough, the sun disappeared after midday and the wind began to pick up. The lifeboat from the ferry can be seen in the harbour, unusually for a Sunday. Watched a group of goldeneye ducks in the basin. Herons fish there too at low tide, as do cormorants. In the back garden, the two birdfeeders are not attracting as much attention. Late in the afternoon, mrs B's son and his kids come for supper. Nice sunday roast, convo restricted to the adults. I continue to work on the Iolaire list, putting in hyperlinks to all the pictures. Finally, iolaire.htm sits on the web (http://modmusic.bravehost.com/iolaire.htm). Tomorrow, I am going to publicise it further. In the Red Sea, a ferry has sunk with the loss of about 1,000 lives. Other unpleasantness erupts in the Middle East when Danish embassies are torched. Someone published a cartoon in a Danish paper, which was offensive to Muslims, who do not permit the depiction of the Prophet. It is idolatry. It was stupid on the Danish part, and lack of control on the part of the Middle Eastern authorities.

Saturday 04/02/06

Another grey day with the odd bright interval. After last night's party, we take it VERY easy. Breakfast and lunch get merged into a brunch. A policeman comes round to ask if we heard anything last night. Apparently, the rear window of a neighbour's car got smashed in overnight. We heard nothing, but mrs B voices her concern over the rowdiness in the town these days. I go into town to collect papers and get some food. The lottery yields nothing.

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Iolaire disaster

I have devoted one or two entries on this blog to the Iolaire Disaster, in January 1919. I have now written a webpage, with a link to a list of names and pictures. There are about 256 names; 204 of those perished in the seas. Some were never recovered from the water; others washed up in the immediate area, around Holm, Sandwick, Stornoway, Arnish and Lochs. This episode in the island's history is little known, yet it's one of the worst peace time maritime disasters of the 20th century.

Lest we forget the Men of the Iolaire

Saturday, 4 February 2006

Friday 03/02/06

It's a fairly quiet day once again, with variable amounts of cloud, see picture above. Temperatures have risen nice and high, to about 9C / 48F. It would appear the Clansman ferry is with us for a while. Continue to work on the Iolaire project. I have found the names of 204 casualties and 52 survivors. Some of the bodies were found as far away as Lochs, 12 miles to the south; others have never been located. It is very sad to see the faces of all those young men, who virtually all perished in that disaster on New Year's Day 1919. I have 65 images. Even after 87 years, it still carries a punch.

At 7pm, I accompany mrs B to a Burns Supper in the County Hotel, hosted by local MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) Alistair Morrison (Labour). Mrs B goes with trepidation, as the last dinner in the County had been a disaster. We are the first to arrive at 19.10. I get us a drink, and await developments. Alistair Morrison and his guest Margaret Curran (the Labour Chief Whip in the Scots Parliament) arrive by about 7.50. Next we're served cockaleekie soup (something with chicken en leek). After a considerable wait, the haggis is piped in. One man addresses the haggis using a Robert Burns poem. A haggis consists of a sheep stomach, stuffed with mashed up internal organs, such as heart, lungs and liver. Laced with onions, salt and pepper and cooked for 3 hours. It's served with tatties and neeps (potatoes and mashed turnips). I wash it down with plenty of wine, to be oblivious to the contents of the haggis. It's basically offal. A raspberry sweet concludes proceedings. Margaret Curran delivers a very good speech, ridiculing George Galloway. He is an MP for a London constituency, who is in parliament on a ticket of opposition to the war in Iraq. He went into the Big Brother House, for the sake of publicity, but was reduced to an object of ridicule. One of the events that brought that on was a scene where he was imitating a cat, lapping imaginary milk from the hands of a female contestant. Miaow. It's a pity, because Galloway is a fantastic orator, who even managed to outwit US Congress. Mrs Curran tonguelashes a local party worker and cracks some rather good jokes. After supper, the dining room gets transformed into a dance hall of sorts. I meet various people, such as the councillor for Payble (North Uist), who is trying to get a Sunday ferry from Berneray to Harris. Others include local MSP Alistair Morrison and former MP Calum MacDonald. After a strip-the-willow and a number of yarns, I accompany mrs B home at 12.30 a.m.. Outside the Sea Angling Club, a man shouts obscenities against Roman Catholics - not very nice. Apparently, Rangers FC have lost their latest match
0-3, so someone isn't happy.

Friday, 3 February 2006

Thursday 02/02/06

Cloudy day today, but with fair breaks in cloud. Discover that a link to "Stornoway Webcam" on the Shipsofcalmac website directs people to my wee cam. One blogger on Blogspot feels that the view through a rain-spattered window is strangely evocative. Others find it addictive viewing. The Shipsofcalmac site says that the Isle of Lewis and Muirneag can be seen leaving and entering port. The Isle of Lewis has left for its annual refit, months overdue. The Clansman is covering for the time being. After a bowl of soup at lunchtime, I go to the library to scan a few pages from the Roll of Honour in connection with the Iolaire Disaster, New Year's Day 1919. Mrs B's grand daughter is unfamiliar with this story, so I give her a brief outline. She's only 10, so I don't go into too much detail. Her dad calls round a few times. His wife is heading off on the ferry at lunchtime to go to London for a few days. The tide is very low at 4pm. I haven't been off the island for 15 months. Supper is my Savoy Cabbage Special. The Health Board saga continues to smoulder, with extensive reports and acerbic comments in the local press. The Chief Executive was apparently removed from a similar position in the State Mental Hospital at Carstairs (Lanarkshire), after similar problems.

Wednesday 01/02/06 afternoon & evening

Continuing with the problems in the local Health Board, there are now appeals for direct action from the Scottish Executive. In the evening, mrs B and I take one of her relatives out for supper in the Crown Hotel. We start with soup. I carry on with lasagna and chips and vegs. Liberally sprinkled with wine. Sweet is sticky toffee pudding. We're driven back home by 10.20 pm.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Viewers on the webcam

I get some unusual visitors on my webcam. On Webstats4u.com, you get a breakdown of the countries where visitors to your website come from. I was astonished at this morning's list, which included people from:

Saudi Arabia
Palestinian Occupied Territory

February 1st, 2006
America Online
10:29 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
11:01 Blueyonder, United Kingdom
12:35 CNC-Group, China
13:27 America Online
14:52 fibertel TCI, Argentina
15:10 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
15:31 Kingston Communications, United Kingdom
15:32 Kingston Communications, United Kingdom
15:33 Kingston Communications, United Kingdom
15:39 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
16:22 Blueyonder, United Kingdom
18:09 Telepac II, Portugal
19:57 NTL Internet, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
20:06 Energis Communications Ltd., United Kingdom
21:36 NTL Internet, United Kingdom
22:58 Eclipse Networking Ltd., United Kingdom
23:17 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
February 2nd, 2006
00:31 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
00:45 United States (hacc.edu)
07:56 Brightview Ltd., United Kingdom
08:00 Brightview Ltd., United Kingdom
08:15 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
09:07 Kingston Communications, United Kingdom
09:08 Energis Communications Ltd., United Kingdom
09:09 America Online, Germany
09:11 Blueyonder, United Kingdom
09:34 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
09:46 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
10:15 Eclipse Networking Ltd., United Kingdom
10:21 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
11:02 Türk Telekom, Turkey
11:02 Virgin Net Ltd., Manchester, United Kingdom
11:03 CyberCity A/S, Norway
11:39 NTL Internet, Luton, United Kingdom
11:41 Verizon Online, Erie, United States
11:44 EarthLink, United States
11:45 America Online, United States
11:51 Saudi Arabia Backbone, Saudi Arabia
11:55 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
12:02 America Online, United States
12:03 America Online
12:03 Blueyonder, United Kingdom
12:12 Sonera Plaza, Finland
12:35 NTL Internet, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
12:39 Skynet Belgacom, Belgium
12:49 British Telecommunications plc, United Kingdom
12:59 Eclipse Networking Ltd., United Kingdom
13:01 Palestine Telecommunications, Palestinian Territory, Occupied

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Wednesday 01/02/06 morning

Into the second month of the year already. Doesn't time fly...

No sun this morning, it's a blanket of grey and misty cloud. After yesterday's record 128 viewers on the webcam, we now only have a few. Helped mrs B set up a website last night for her B&B. The art centre man, who has helped to dismantle the Sharmanka exhibition, is leaving for Glasgow. The chap that works for the security firm is back with us again. Sunrise today 8.32, sunset 16.45. NHS Western Isles is reported to have a £ 3 million shortfall (American readers: $ 5 m). The Health Board was planning to announce this in a meeting in Tarbert tomorrow, but local councillors spilled the beans early. A high-ranking official within the Health Board was sacked on the spot last Saturday for blowing the whistle on mismanagement within the organisation. His pay was stopped with immediate effect. He had worked within the NHS for 32 years. People are now really scared to speak out.

Tuesday 31/01/06

Awoke in the middle of the night, to see the bright stars of Orion and Canis Major peeping in from the southwest. The morning dawns bright, but the weather is on the change. Occasional tufts of cloud waft across. On the mainland, there was a severe frost. Aviemore reported -12C, Tulloch Bridge -10C. Once the sun is up, at 8.30 a.m., temperatures there rise rapidly. A climber was reported missing on Aonach Mor and the Steall Gorge near Glen Nevis since Saturday. Go into the library in the afternoon to dig out the names of all of those involved in the Iolaire disaster. Spend more than 2 hours trawling through the Roll of Honour, only to find the information neatly compiled at the back of the book. The new moon peeps from behind the clouds just after 5. The tanker comes in at 6pm. It's still cold outside, but 7C is not too bad. A collision is reported between two ships in the English Channel. One vessel, laden with 10,000 tons of phosphoric acid, is holed and later sinks. The 22 crew on board were rescued by the Coastguard. An exclusion zone is established, as the extremely acid water could literally dissolve a metal ship's hull. The local council is deferring debate on the Sunday sailings in the Sound of Harris ferry.