Thursday, 30 March 2006

Wednesday 29/03/06

The day starts with a clear sunny morning, as I watch the ferry leave port at 7.25. Later in the day, a sleet / hail / snow shower (or two) passes. There is a total solar eclipse, of which I take images from TV, computer and through welding goggle glass. Over at Arnish, the Danish vessel Barbara is delivering 900 tons of steel plates for wind turbines, destined for Holland. The eclipse is one of the best seen for years. Here in Stornoway, occasional showers do no more than provide pretty pictures of anvil clouds. At 4.30, I go for a walk to Battery Point, behind the Coastguard Station and to Somerfields along Bells Road. A hailshower passes in the distance, leaving a rainbow behind. I provide mrs B in the evening.

Solar Eclipse - 29/03/06

Today, a total solar eclipse is visible in a track from Brazil to Togo (West Africa), then northeast to Libya, Turkey, Russia and ending on the Mongolian border at sunset. Here in Stornoway, the maximum percentage of the sun that is obscured is 15%. In the southern UK it's 25%, at 11.30. A live feed from southern central Turkey is available on the internet, from which I take a number of pictures. I join it the moment it starts at 10.30, as these links tend to reach capacity pretty quickly. Maximum in Turkey is reached at 11.55 BST and lasts for just under 4 minutes.

Tuesday 28/03/06

Today, the Council staff are all on strike - which is UK-wide industrial action. There are no buses from Point or Tolsta to Stornoway. No refuse collections, offices and libraries closed. The Town Hall and some schools are shut as well. The elections to the Stornoway Trust have to be transferred from the Town Hall to the Estate Office in Percival Square. The 10 trustees represent the residents of the parish of Stornoway. This stretches from Arnish to Tolsta and from Point to the moors. The parishioners of Stornoway were the only ones to accept the gift of the lands of their parish from Lord Leverhulme. He sold the island in the 1920s, and gave the islanders the rights of refusal. Bar Stornoway, all three Lewis island parishes exercises said right. Barvas, Uig and Lochs fell under private ownership, to their disadvantage. The day starts fairly bright, with the odd spot of rain. The MV Isle of Arran will take over from the Muirneag when that boat goes for its refit. The road outside is being tarred this morning. Only to be churned up again by the lorries. Just after 3pm, the Norwegian marine research vessel G.O. Sars turns up for a crew change. This boat monitors the amounts of different species of fish. I take pictures of her as I go to Somerfields. Sunset at 8pm, it's a nice evening.

Monday 27/03/06

Drizzle continues unabated as the day opens. The Muirneag comes in at 11 a.m., some 4 hours late. The radio reports the usual litany of misdeeds. Watched a program on BBC1 last night about the funding crisis that's hitting the NHS nationally. It would serve to explain some of the financial problems besetting the NHS Western Isles, £3m shortfall. The feedback from viewers on the issue quickly flooded in after the program finished. Today's weather includes a cold northeasterly wind. Contrasts sharply with a temperature of about 18C further south in East Anglia. Visibility is poor, can only just make out the Arnish hills across the water. The wind falls away as the day goes on, but the rain continues. Go to Somerfields at 6 for shopping. At 7.40, I head into town to attend a meeting of the Stornoway Historical Society. I introduce myself to the Treasurer, who quickly puts me on to the Secretary, with whom I've been corresponding by email. The Chairperson invites me to speak for a few minutes after a 1 hour presentation by the Royal Commission on Historical and Ancient Monuments Scotland. They record the above sites from past and prsent. After a short break, I do my little talk about the work on the list of Iolaire victims. The Secretary's grandfather died in the disaster. An appeal is issued for information, pictures etc. I'll leave a copy in the library and will send a letter to the Gazette next week. The meeting finishes at 10 pm.

Sunday 26/03/06

Today starts fairly bright, but is isn't long before the rain pushes in. It soon turns into a misty affair with a steady drizzle. I start the Orange theme with carrot and ginger soup and a roll. Later in the afternoon, one of mrs B's sons calls in with members of his family to celebrate Mothering Sunday. A couple of glasses of wine help proceedings along, up to a point. Dinner is also Orange, but the picture didn't do it justice. Carrots, potatoes, onions and beef burgers. Sweet consists of orange jelly with mandarin oranges. Goes down well with mrs B. Am also still working on an illustrated list of Iolaire victims.

Sunday, 26 March 2006

No Smoking

Since 6 a.m. this morning, March 26th, all smoking in public places in Scotland is BANNED. This includes restaurants, clubs, pubs, bars as well as offices. Please take heed.

Follow the link to this site by the Scottish Executive for more info.


Last night, the clocks went forward an hour. We're now on British Summer Time, BST.

Saturday 25/03/06

Overnight, mrs B and I were kept awake by the intermittent beep of a smoke detector with a flat battery. No, there was no fire. We turned off the power, removed the battery and went back to bed. At 9.15, I went into town to buy a new battery. Expensive things, they're £3.65 each. Once the heating is back on, the house rapidly becomes comfortable again. The ferry was 2 hours late leaving Stornoway this morning, and does not catch up through the day. She's back at 3.15, and leaves at 3.55. Still two hours behind schedule. Not warm today, just 6C. Went to the supermarket, which was empty of bread and milk. Prepared the meal for mrs B and myself, which consisted of a spicy chilli con carne. Forgot to mention the roadworks in Newton Street. The surface has been dug up and replaced by a new layer of tar - only to be churned up by lorries going from Island Road into Newton Street. Why they can't go along Sandwick Road, the main road into town, nobody knows.

Friday 24/03/06

Very hazy morning due to a lot of high-level clouds. Suggested to mrs B we go to Ness to visit the place at 10 Callicvol (Port Nis), but family problems put paid to that idea. Shame though, as it's turning into a fairly sunny afternoon. In contrast to recent days, the ferry is now on time, coming in at 1.15. Earlier this week, it was about 20 minutes early. The lifeboat went out yesterday to assist in a fire on board a fishing boat. The Coastguard are kept busy at the moment. Hop down to Somerfields for some bits and pieces. Write another piece on the Lighthouse blog relating to the failing industries in Lewis. On the subject of the NHS saga, I don't understand why the local MSP is not putting pressure on the Minister for Health to be more pro-active. On the contrary, Alistair Morrison is taking pressure OFF, rather than standing up for his constituents.

Friday, 24 March 2006

Thursday 23/03/06

Helen and Peter leave for Inverness on the 7.15 ferry. Tomorrow, they aim to visit Peter's ancestral village of Arday in Sutherland, having visited Helen's ancestral village in Skye. Mrs B and I rise rather later, at 10.30, with the after effects of too much wine still very much in evidence. The snow is still lying in the backyard and on the higher reaches of the Arnish hills (upwards of 50 m), but melts during the day. The morning starts grey, but brightens up nicely through the afternoon. On BBC Island Blogging, the spoof dating extravaganza at Dell Fank gathers momentum - it's due on April 1st. By late morning, the unfamiliar outline of the Isle of Arran pulls into port, apparently on its way through from refit at Aberdeen. It's not clear what it's doing in Stornoway. The Isle of Lewis is running as per timetable, if not 20 minutes early. After lunch, I go into town for a snapping spree of boats. The Hordafur has been rusting away at no 2 pier for nearly 2 years now. The pilot boat and a very delapidated fishing vessel are dwarfed by the Muirneag on no 1 pier. I find a cargovessel, Ronez, moored along the King Edward wharf, as well as the Isle of Arran. Find Lazy Corner empty, all the boats will be out to catch up with lost time due to bad weather. Buy food in the little Coop up Cromwell Street, as well as papers in two shops. It's a pleassantly sunny afternoon, with a temperature of 6C and little wind. Read in the Press and Journal that the snow caused a lot of disruption to schools yesterday. In Harris, the buses could not take pupils home from the secondary school in Tarbert (the Sir E Scott school), so the local hotel had to provide food for the youngsters while they waited for transport home. The road over the Clisham foothills was closed, and buses were stranded in drifts. Fortunately, no passengers were on board. The stowaway I mentioned last Friday should have been removed from Lewis yesterday. And the infamous Morsgail estate in West Lewis has changed hands. Its previous owner conducted an alleged campaign of harassment against a tenant crofter to force him off the land - unsuccessfully. See my entry of March 9, 2005. Keep a quiet evening.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Wednesday 22/03/06

Overnight lowest temperature was -4C in Stornoway. The snow has melted after daybreak, but flurries continue to fall, and it's getting worse as the day progresses. The forecast mentions drifting, blizzards and accumulations up to 7-12 cms (3-5 inches) deep. The easterly wind is bitterly cold as I venture out for shopping in the afternoon. The ferry is in on time, in spite of the conditions. The snow starts to settle after 2pm and it sticks to any surface exposed to the wind. Down in Skye, there is trouble on the roads. Visibility becomes so poor that I can barely see the causeway and the Coastguard Station, which are just 200 yards away. Daytime temperatures: 0C. Today is Helen's 56th birthday, and mrs B lays on a party with cake and wine. As night falls, the snow begins to relent. The lights at the Arnish Yard loom up ot of the gloom. The snow stops after nightfall. The atmosphere inside is rather warmer, and Peter plays the pipes. Leaves my ears ringing. He's good though. Mrs B's brother-in-law is invited along for the evening, which is a pleasant diversion for him. I have nice chats with Helen amongst others. We all stagger off to bed at midnight. There is much milder weather on its way in to southwestern England, but 600 miles further north, it's wintry.

Tuesday 21/03/06

Awake to the sight of snowshowers with temperatures barely above freezing. In Lerwick, the mercury is stuck at -4C. Although it's now spring, the weather has turned firmly wintery. The Kiwis are staying until Thursday morning, but were getting worried about getting stuck under the Clisham. No such concerns were called for, the road was clear and open by all accounts. They were made very welcome by local folk. Up here in Stornoway the wintery theme continued, in spite of this being the first day of spring. It's quite a contrast to a month ago, when the flowers were all out - look back to 25 February. I am once again being spoiled by mrs B who very kindly provides dinner for me. After nightfall, the snow settles and by midnight it gives quite a nice image. There is trouble on the Hebrides related messageboards, with people leaving abusive and destructive comments.

Monday 20/03/06

Rather colder than yestterday, with temperatures of just 5C. Occasional glimpses of the sun. Health Board saga continues apace, with the Health Minister once again declining to become involved. Sounds as if he's in league with the management, quite a deliberate wrecking exercise, over the heads of patients. Write quite an acerbic piece about it on the Lighthouse blog. Weather remains changeable. We have two guests in from New Zealand, who came up from Harris and reported sleet under the Clisham. They are in the country to look around ancestral home villages. Tomorrow, Helen and Peter will be going round Harris, and Ness the day after. The lifeboat goes out in the morning; the man who had gone overboard off Shetland on Saturday has not been traced. Apparently, his dad was lost in the same area and in the same fashion 27 years ago.

Sunday 19/03/06

Forecast was well out for this morning. Awoke to fog over the hills, followed by rain at 9 or 10. The sun comes out by 11. At 8, a large fishing boat came into port. She ties up at no 3 pier, opposite the ferry. Very nice cloudscapes behind the frontal passage. Lifeboat canters out at 1130;. It's a mainly sunny afternoon, but with occasional bursts of drizzle. Although it's Sunday, boats go in and out, including a yacht. Sunset just after 6.30, after a chickendinner with mrs B. Day was mild outside, with temperatures of about 9C. Darkness after 7pm. Next week BST (British Summer Time) will be on. Another 3 hours will be gained on the sunset side from then on.

Sunday, 19 March 2006

Saturday 18/03/06

The boat carrying the wavepower units has left for Portugal. It's another bright day. The ferry is very early, coming in at 12.55. In the afternoon, I watch a rugby match. Now, I'm not a rugby fan and know very little about the game. Although it's very physical, it seems to be better regulated and the players work with the referee (and vice versa) to keep the game within the rule. Works better than in football. The referee carries a small microphone, which allows viewers to hear what he shouts. England loses to Ireland 24-28. Late in the evening, a fisherman is reported overboard 75 miles southeast of Sumburgh, Shetland.

Friday 17/03/06

Another sunny if cold day. By the end of the morning, I notice a large ship at anchor behind the lighthouse. I cannot see much of it, as I look into the bright sun. Radio Scotland informs us that it's the Russian bulkcarrier Alexandr Newski, bound for Murmansk. Last night, they were off the Mull of Kintyre, northbound from Newport (Wales) when they discovered a stow-away on board. The captain immediately contacted the Coastguard, who put them in touch with police. They advised him to put him ashore at Stornoway. The harbour here cannot accommodate vessels of this size (20,000 tonnes), so she's anchored off Arnish. At 2.30, I amble down to the Coastguard Station to view proceedings. A coastguard cutter is heading for the ship to take the stowaway off. I later learn he was barefooted and jacketless. He was put ashore behind Amity House, in the presence of police and coastguard officials.
Meetings have been taking place today between health unions and staff regarding the management crisis in NHS Western Isles. Staff have passed a motion of no-confidence in the Chairman, Chief Executive as well as the Medical Director. The unions are taking this to the Scottish Executive, with the recommendation that the aforementioned officials be removed. The other guest with Mrs B has been out cycling today, the 40 miles to Callanish, Carloway and back via the Pentland Road.

Friday, 17 March 2006

Thursday 16/03/06

Very nice sunny morning, hardly a cloud in the sky. Isles FM reports a sheep loose in the town. Might be going to Woollies for a shop. Typical. Barometer very high, reading 1040 mbar, but high pressure system is in transit to Greenland. More cold weather next week, sigh. Just after midday, I head off on the bus to Tolsta to picture more headstones of Iolaire victims in the graveyard. The bus is full of shoppers, who get off at various points along the way. I alight outside the church in North Tolsta and amble down the road to the cemetery, which is situated near the beach. I find the 9 headstones within half an hour, which leaves me with 75 minutes to spare until the bus goes back to Stornoway. I walk down the Traigh Mhor / Long Beach towards its northern end. Nobody around, except for a few seagulls. Head up the road at the end, and myself followed by some sheep. Bus comes at 2.30 to take me back to town. Two young mums with toddlers in prams get in along the way. Nice evening, good sunset. The Pelamis wavepower thing is still being loaded over at Arnish. I receive a guest on behalf of mrs B while she's away to town. Nice moonlit night.

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Wednesday 15/03/06

Hear that the boat at Arnish draws 15 ft of water. Very important news on Isles FM, innit. Nice sunny weather, but with dark clouds to the north. Forecast suggests another northerly blast by Sunday. Barometer is rising steadily. Hear that 6 men who took part in a drugs trial suffered an extreme reaction and are now in the Intensive Care Unit of Northwick Park Hospital, London, with multi-organ failure - a life-threatening condition. Cloud takes over after lunch, rendering it a very boring afternoon. Until 5pm, that is. The lifeboat returns with a fishingboat in tow, which suffered mechanical failure and is slewing from side to side. By the time the two reach the Glumag, the lifeboat ties the other boat alongside and slowly brings her in. We have a new guest in today, who will be here for 5 days. Mrs B's nephew plus his wife call round for a visit at suppertime. Watch The Apprentice on BBC2, what a load of rubbish. It's a program in which a wealthy industrialist, Sir Alan Sugar, selects a candidate who he will take on as apprentice from a group of 12. Over the course of 12 weeks, candidates are fired one by one as they are found to be wanting in management skills. The lot that are on the program this run are all pretty awful, which is acknowledge by Sir Allan.

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Tuesday 14/03/06

Morning dawns overcast but quiet. The wind dropped away overnight. Mrs B's other guests had their breakfasts quite early, but I'm rather later. Some quite hilarious emails, and the story of the Navy ship disputing passage with a lighthouse being used in an ad for navigational equipment. The file is too large to upload, else I'd put it on the Web. After a nice lunch, Mrs B's nephew takes her and myself over to the Arnish Yard. Since this morning, a large ship lies docked there, ready to take three wave generators (for electricity) to Portugal. She came to the area yesterday, but had to seek shelter in Broad Bay due to the gale. The transportation of the wave generators was mentioned on the early morning bulletin of Radio Scotland's Highland News. From Charlie's Monument, the views are spectacular. It's a clear day, and the departure of the ferry is a complete contrast to yesterday's. Return to town at 2.30, and everyone piles into Somerfields for shopping. There, two lorry loads of goods are being unloaded. On Monday, the Muirneag did not sail, and the lorries were unable to get up the A9 from Perth due to snow. Temperature here at 9C. This contrasts sharply with the 3C in the east of the country. I forgot to air the video of yesterday's conditions on time. One of the local councillors was blogging on Blogspot, but he pulled his blog. Pity. I reckon he doesn't want to blot his copybook as he wishes to stand for MSP next year.

Monday, 13 March 2006

Page 1000

I have reached

Page 1000

in the written diary. I started handwriting the diary in January 2005, when the computers in Stornoway library were off-line for weeks. I have since transcribed the diaries onto this weblog.


Monday 13/03/06

Day dawns wet and windy. It's blowing a force 8 gale, but Lerwick reports a full storm, force 10 to 11. Many ferries are cancelled today, such as Barra - Eriskay, Kennacraig - Islay, Gigha, Ardnamurchan, Uist - Harris and the Oban - Castlebay run is delayed. Milosevic is reported to have taken the wrong drugs, which might have counter-acted his heart tablets. Or he was taken them NOT as prescribed. There have been more heavy snowfalls elsewhere in the country, once again causing disruption. Rain stops at 1.30, but the wind does not drop. Sustained force 6-7, gusting to force 9 all day. Ferry is 50 minutes late coming in at 2.05, and leaves more than an hour late at 3pm. It held well to the south, due to the severe southerly gale. The coastguard tug follows it in a little later. After lunch, I head for the coastguard station to watch the ferry leave for Ullapool. Quite interesting, as it's so windy. I tape the vessel sailing past. I then go to Somerfields for my shopping - it's very cold outside. Mrs B is very busy with guests this week, the season appears to have started. At 5pm, she fell down the stairs, leaving her shaken and with a small gash in the back of the head. Cold, wet cloths do the trick of stemming the flow of blood.

Sunday 12/03/06

Overnight, the gale subsides. Further south and east, there are heavy falls of snow. Glasgow reports up to 8 inches / 20 cm. This results in massive disruption. Airports closed, trains stopped and 3000 clubbers housed overnight in a busstation, a nightclub and a hotel. Winds here force 6 to 8, Northern Isles report force 8 to 10. There are small riders in the Basin, and the odd whirl of spindrift. Mrs B provides me a pork dinner. The Planet Earth program at 9 pm shows some more stunning images. As the weather is wet, windy and cold, I do not show my face out of doors.


There is an on-line community called J-land, which comprises everybody that blogs on AOL. These blogs are referred to as Journals on AOL. Many people describe their daily lives, and their particular trials and tribulations. Some write about their or their relatives' illnesses.

One lady today told us her husband passed away. I had never seen her journal before, and do not know anything about her. I only know that she lost her soulmate after a battle with cancer. Please offer Kasey support by visiting her journal.

Many thanks

Saturday 11/03/06

Mrs B's second son leaves on the ferry this afternoon, and I join him and his mother to walk to the ferry terminal, 5 minutes' walk away. There is a very cold easterly wind blowing today. The forecast is way out, as a gale blows up in the evening. It is gusting force 11 in Tiree and Benbecula. Elsewhere, snow is causing excitement on the bulletinboards. Get the Free Press, which was late in arriving this week. It's not busy in the supermarket. In late evening, it's absolutely pouring down with sleet and rain. Manage to record some of it on video, but the webcam won't play it. Temperature drops away to +2C.

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Friday 10/03/06

When morning comes, our guest has not returned. We continue to fear the worst, until we are advised that he was located safe and well. It would appear he spent the night out in the open, but knocked on a friend's door at 8 am. His disappearance was reported on Isles FM, BBC Radio Scotland's Highland News as well as in the Press and Journal. Police come to collect his belongings later on. He was very down, and may have tried to take his own life. Coastguard vehicles were seen speeding around the town, and the lifeboat went out. This was due to an alert at the airport, where a plane had radio'd in to report engine trouble. Police closed the A866 Braighe road, but it landed safely. Trade unions are having a severe row with the Health Board, threatening action now that the management has not met its 14 day deadline. And today as well, the World Sudoku Championships are taking place in Lucca, Italy. The weather darkens in the afternoon, and drizzle sets in at 4.40. Supper, two hours later, includes lasagna and an apple pie. Finish just in time for the 7pm showing of one of my videos.

A whale of a time

Earlier this week, a whale got entangled in the propellor of a small boat off the island of Taransay, west of Harris. It was a miracle the boat didn't sink, but unfortunately, the 48 ft / 14 m long sperm whale, weighing 30 tons, died and was washed up amongst rocks near Nisabost, Harris. Read the sailor's account here.

In order to dispose of the whale, the Council had to employ a large low-loader. Suggestions to blow it up were rejected after an episode in the USA where a whale of similar size was blown up on a beach near Florence, Oregon. It showered everybody within a quarter of a mile with putrid whaleflesh and blubber, and wrecked a car when a large chunk landed in a carpark. Have a look at this footage.

I am endebted to Cllr Angus Nicolson for drawing this to everybody's attention.


Just to report that Slobodan Milosevic died in prison in Holland this morning. He was found dead in his cell. His death is thought to be of natural causes, but an autopsy is to be carried out to confirm this.

Slobodan Milosevic had a very disturbed background, with his parents committing suicide when he was but a child. After Marshall Tito died in 1980, he took over as president of Yugoslavia. He was a protagonist of a Greater Serbia, wishing to avenge a Serb defeat at the hands of the Turks in the year 1389. He stoked up resentment and anger between various factions within Yugoslavia, which came to flashpoint in the early 1990s, when the constituent republics of Yugoslavia started to declare independence. Milosevic would not hear of it, and when Germany's Chancellor Kohl recognised Slovenia and Croatia, he responded with force. A bloody conflict ensued which raged between 1992 and 1995. At first it was between Serbia and Croatia, but the republic of Bosnia-Hercegowina quickly became involved as well. The nightmare of Sarajevo is not easily forgotten, as snipers picked off residents from surrounding hills and buildings. The worst atrocity of the conflict happened in Srebrenica in July 1995, when Serb forces violated the so-called UN safe haven. They rounded up 7,000 men and boys, and forced the UN peacekeepers to cooperate with their job. All captives were taken into the woods and shot dead.

After the Dayton agreement ended hostilities in 1995, Milosevic did not stop his nationalistic cruisades. The district of Kosovo wished to secede from Serbia, and again he used deadly force. A NATO intervention, including bombing raids on Serb cities, put paid to that. Milosevic was taken into detention for trial by the International War Crimes tribunal in The Hague, Holland in 2002. He conducted his own defence, and vociferously argued his case.

Like Adolf Hitler, Milosevic was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. The damage has been done, and the seeds for more bloodletting are sown.

Friday, 10 March 2006


The guest who was reported missing in yesterday's blog entry has turned up safe and well at a friend's house. As I mentioned, I cannot go into details.

Thursday 09/03/06

Today the funeral will take place of the carbon monoxide poisoning victim, a relative of mrs B. The morning conversation centres inevitably around funerals and the Lewis rituals. Apparently, after the church service is over, the menfolk line up in two parallel lines and lift the coffin in a succession towards the cemetery. This is Sandwick Cmy, about a mile and a half outside Stornoway. Mrs B and her son leave at 12.50, I go to Eye Cemetery on a different mission at 1.18. After waiting at the airport for a few minutes, the bus arrives at Mealabost road end at 1.38. I walk down the northern side of the Braighe to Aignish. The weather changes gradually as time wears on - the sun goes behind high and medium level cloud and the wind picks up. The old cemetery at Aoidh Church has no Iolaire graves. The new Eye Cemetery has a lot - I find 15. I nearly sink into somebody's grave - aaagh! I walk back to Mealabost, where the bus leaves at 3.20. It passes Sandwickhill Primary School, where all the youngsters board who are bound for Lower Sandwick, Plasterfield and Newton. I video part of the journey. Call into Somerfields on the way back for the Thursday papers. Mrs B and her son return not much later than myself. Apparently, the youngest son of the victim nearly collapsed into the grave, poor thing. Since yesterday, we have a guest staying with us. He has had problems in his private life, but I have a nice enough chat with him. After supper, mrs B has occasion to go into his room, and what is found there (which I'm not quoting on a public blog) causes her to ring the police. He does not return all night, and apparently the police had been looking for him since 5pm. The guest left here at 10pm. We fear the worst as we retire for some sleep at 3.30 a.m.

Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Wednesday 08/03/06

NOTE: I promised an entry about the meeting re. NHS Western Isles last Monday, 6th March. I take the liberty of pointing to the Lighthouse Blog, where I've written what I want to write about it, in an entry entitled "Meeting".

This morning dawns foggy, but with a cloudbase at 50 m. After 10 o'clock, the cloud drifts east and lifts. It leaves a bright morning, with nice clearances but little sun. Hear final confirmation that last week's death up the road was due to carbon monoxide poisoning. On the morning in question, there had been a cold night with heavy snow. When the boiler came on, the fumes rose up the chimney, but cooled down rapidly. An atmospheric inversion (cold air at the bottom, warmer air higher up) stopped the smoke rising and it sank down again. It deprived the boiler of oxygen, causing it to form carbon monoxide, as opposed to the normal carbon dioxide, which is not nearly as toxic. The inversion is attributable to the geographical location of Newton. It is surrounded, at about a mile's distance, by low hills, about 50 m /170 ft in height. Cold air will sink down into the harbour basin, and it will be capped by warmer air. The family dog died first. When the victim came to see to it, she opened the door to the boilerhouse and was overcome by the fumes. When the sons came downstairs, the concentration had been reduced through dilution although one developed severe headache and nausea. It could have been even worse.

After lunch, I head across to the Iolaire Monument at Holm. The weather turns wet as I pass through Lower Sandwick and Stoneyfields Farm, but the rain stops when I reach the top of the path to the monument. I video the 8 minutes it takes me to walk to the monument on the shore. I return to Sandwick, and spend 40 minutes in the cemetery, looking for more headstones for Iolaire victims. Eight of these are dedicated to unknown sailors. A couple are located in the old cemetery, but they're easier to spot due to the brilliant sunshine. Return to Newton at 5pm.

If there is anything else to report, I shall do so in a separate entry.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, which can strike without warning. Please take heed - even with everything technically in order it can still claim victims.

Carbon monoxide cannot be detected using your normal senses.
It has no smell. Low concentrations of the gas cause headache and nausea. High concentrations cause loss of consciousness after only a few moments. It can KILL.

Carbon monoxide is formed when fuel is burned with inadequate oxygen supply.

This can happen under the following circumstances:
- poorly maintained appliances 
- with any type of carbon-based fuel (coal, gas, oil, wood). 
- in appliances installed without adequate ventilation
- chimneys or flues blocked or poorly maintained
- certain weather conditions, which do not allow the ventilation of exhaust-fumes from the burning process

An example of the latter is very cold weather, where the chimney is so cold that the fumes cool down during their rise up the chimney. As a result, they fall back down and choke off the oxygen supply to the appliance.

* Please ensure your boilers and other appliances burning fossil fuels are properly maintained by a qualified and certified engineer.

* Ensure your appliance is freely ventilated, and any ventilation holes are not unnecessarily blocked off

* Ensure your chimney is swept annually, and the exit inaccessible to birds who may want to nest in there

A tragedy happened recently as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Please do not become another statistic.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Tuesday 07/03/06

Awake to a green scene - the snow is practically gone. The snowman is reduced to a small lump of snow with a scarf around it. The boat that does cruises out of Miavaig, Uig, is on the Goat Island slipway. At 1 pm we go into town for lunch at An Lanntair. Service slow, food mediocre. Had a BLT "sandwich", which was bacon fried to a crisp on toast. For goodness' sakes! View very nice, but this is the second time it's been below standard, they're off my list. A cargoship is discharging a load of road salt. They have to drive to the ferry terminal to be weighed, as the weighbridge by no 2 pier is not working properly. At 2.30 we go into town for some shopping. Once that is complete we head up Francis Street to the Western Isles Museum, where an exhibition on St Kilda is set up. This small archipelago was evacuated in August 1930. There is also a focus on present-day workers on the islands. Dinner supplied by mrs B.

Monday 06/03/06

There will be another protest meeting against the management of NHS Western Isles. The Board Chairman has dismissed the meeting out of hand, so it's effectively a wasted effort. Heard that the RAF helicopter abandoned last week on Cairn Gorm is still there. A whale washed ashore at Scarista beach over the weekend. It's 48 feet long / 14 metres. The Council have chartered a lowloader to take the 30 ton monster to the dump at Bennadrove, just outside the town. Initially, they were going to blow it up. After lunch, mrs B's nephew drives us all into town. I buy a new battery for my watch, as well as a CD with music related to St Kilda. Then I walk to Sandwick Cemetery to trace the headstones for Iolaire victims. There is about 4 inches / 10 cms of snow on the ground. The cemetery is very large. I find 10 graves, 4 are marked with names, 6 others are Sailors of the Great War, HMY Iolaire, Known unto God. That always makes me very, very sad. Webcam viewers from Algeria, and someone at Eurocontrol, Brussels. They found viewing Stornoway more interesting and important than their job of air traffic control. It's a miracle nothing went wrong today. Mrs B's brother-in-law calls in, still stunned by the death of his daughter-in-law. The formal cause of death is yet to be identified. In the evening, I head for the Town Hall to attend the Health Board meeting. I video the first 25 minutes, then log the remainder of the 2 hour meeting. On return, a warm fire awaits me and an interesting political discussion.

I have placed an account of the meeting in a separate blog entry.

Monday, 6 March 2006

Sunday 05/03/06

Bright morning, but a few snow showers about. A thaw seems likely by Tuesday, with temperatures set to exceed 10C in the south of the country. This morning, we're stuck at 4C. The rise in temps will be accompanied by more snow and sleet, before turning back to snow. Strange webcam locations include Kuwait, Syria and Korea as well as Lebanon. A viewer on a South Texas ranch, west of Harlingen, returns. Some heavy snow showers pass through, but the temperature between 3 and 4pm is too high for the snow to settle. Lunch, at a late hour, consists of olives, beetroot, lettuce, melon, parma ham, garlic bread and cheese. The heavy snow is succeeded by a spell of bright sunshine. Go out for a short stroll to the Coastguard Station, but the snow showers return quickly. Supper consists of spaghetti bolognesse, much along the lines of the lunch. Watch Planet Earth, a very good documentary on BBC1.

Saturday 04/03/06

Once again, a little snow has fallen in the night. The snowman has lost his hat - conjecture as to the cause. The sun is very warm, and he looks like he's melting. Snowshowers carry on through the morning. The ferry is well on time at 1.05. Overnight low was -2C. Lunch, at around 3.45, consists of soup and garlic bread. There are rumours about the death of the lady up the road, but their source is a bit doubtful.

Saturday, 4 March 2006

Friday 03/03/06 - later

Forgot to mention that Stornoway was shaken by a violent thunderstorm last night. Mrs B was out in it, and it scared her badly. Her 2nd son comes home for a week's visit at around 6pm. The plane was pretty much on time, although there has been disruption to flights all day in Scotland due to snow. Webcam viewers from Romania, Russia and the Orkney Isle of Sanday. Occasional snow showers. The Gazette publishes an article on a boating disaster off Brenish, with an erroneous illustration of Molinginish. The beach in question is called Mol Linnis, the end of the Uig road in Mealista.

Friday, 3 March 2006

Friday 03/03/06 - morning

About 10 cms / 4 inches of snow fell overnight, leaving a winter wonderland. The morning Highland News bulletin at 7.50 is taken up with a rundown of closed schools. Mrs B's niece calls in during the morning, as she is looking after the children of the lady who suddenly died yesterday. It's a nice sunny morning, with the odd snow shower. At lunchtime, I regress about 30 years to make a snowman. HOW OLD AM I???

Thursday 02/03/06

Nice bright morning, after a light fall of snow. News comes through that one of Mrs B's relatives has died suddenly earlier this morning. The lady concerned was only in her 50s, and was found by her teenage children. Her husband is out in the States, and obviously is flying straight home. In the afternoon, I go for a walk round the Castle Grounds. First to the Bayhead Bridge, then out to the Golf Club. After that, the path is blocked, so I cut across to the Watermill. I take a few snaps and videos of the wheel in operation. Continue my walk to the bridge where the millrace branches off the Willowglen burn. After finding the path stops under a high wall, I retrace my steps and continue across the golf course to the Marybank gate. From there, I walk back to town along the Castle and down some very icy steps to Bayhead. The Stornoway Gazette did not arrive today, although it's Thursday. When I leave Somerfields, I notice that the tide is very low, so I venture into the Newton Basin. I go as far as the outflow, but this cannot be crossed; too deep. Am about 5 metres below streetlevel. Return to mrs B's along the floor of the basin, which is covered in shells, seaweed, rocks and rubbish. A heavy hailshower overtakes me as I clamber out of the basin. Stones measure up to 1 cm, and I take a fair few inside on my coat. Hear a story of a group of people who were due to fly to Benbecula yesterday. On approach to the airport there, the pilot suddenly aborted the landing and turned back to Stornoway. The runway was a sheet of ice, and there was no chance to clear that up quickly. A very rough flight back followed, during which chunks of ice  whacked the outside of the plane as they flew off the propellors. During the evening, the snow starts again.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Wednesday 01/03/06

Calendar check: 1st of March - first day of spring? Hardly. Winter is still firmly in control. More than 300 schools are closed across north and east Scotland. The RAF helicopter which had been abandoned on the summit of Cairn Gorm is still there, two days later. The A830 Fort William to Mallaig road is not advisable for travelling on, and conditions in the north of Scotland are generally pretty awful. The overnight Sleeper train from London to Aberdeen was stuck in a snowdrift, 5 feet deep, for 5 hours. Stornoway gets peppered by frequent, heavy but short snow showers. Temperatures remain just above zero. A good layer of snow remains on the ground, about 2 inches deep. Only now is the council out gritting pavements. The sun is very warm, and any snow exposed to its rays melts. Ferry left an hour late, at 2.45. Go out into town at 3.30, and make my way through a sea of slush. The papers only arrive at 4pm, as opposed to the usual time of 10 am. The Press and Journal, my usual rag, isn't expected until 6 pm. Walk down Point Street to Amity House, then round to North Beach. Notice a yellow flare going up over the town, but haven't got the phonenumber for the Coastguard. A heavy snowshower blows by as I make my way back to Newton. Notice a fair few boats out on the horizon. Conditions do appear to be more benign today than yesterday. Overnight lows tonight -8 to -12. Cold spell is expected to last at least into the weekend. Supper is chicken curry, courtesy mrs B, neither of us hit the jackpot on the lottery. A large ship is slowly moving behind Arnish Point at 11pm, but it disappears from sight during a snow shower.

Tuesday 28/02/06

A very wintery scene presents itself at daybreak. About 2 to 5 cms of snow, a fair amount over the Arnish hills and in the backyard. The picture gallery shows what could be seen outside through the day. As the morning progresses, very heavy snow showers come through. Snow does not settle, but visibility is at times restricted to Goat Island, only ¼ mile distant across the Basin. The ferry is very late, arriving at 2.30 pm, and its second sailing of the day is cancelled. Muirneag never left for Ullapool last night. Strong winds today, force 6-7, with gusts up to force 9. Severe disruption in the Highlands and Northern Isles due to snow and ice with hundreds of schools closed. Webcam attracts about 120 visitors by 2.40pm. Have extensively publicised it on Metcheck, and everybody wants to watch falling snow. Heaven knows why. Snow penetrates further south in the UK. It's very cold outside, only 1C / 34F. The ferry from Stromness to Scrabster is cancelled. Continue to try out the new camera, which has a camcorder function on it. Odd visitors to the webcam come from South Africa, Egypt and Vietnam. The snowshowers continue unabated after dark. Total number of viewers on webcam 215 today.