Monday, 31 July 2006

Hurricane Review - July 2006

July was quiet on the hurricane front; the Atlantic saw Tropical Storm Beryl.

In the Eastern Pacific, there were three hurricanes, but only one system, Emilia, affected land. Baja California had strong winds and a lot of rain. Hurricane Daniel was in existence for nearly a fortnight. At its peak, it had winds of 160 mph with gusts of 180mph, but Daniel was out at sea all the time.

Over in the Western Pacific, Typhoons Bilis and Kaemi brought flooding and high winds to China and the Phillippines. A new tropical depression has formed and is currently traversing the island of Luzon in the Phillippines. It will strengthen in the East China sea before heading for the area southwest of Hong Kong.

Picture: Shows Hurricane Catarina which occurred in March 2005 in the southern Atlantic off the coast of Brazil. This system turns clockwise as opposed to the anti-clockwise circulation in hurricanes in the northern hemisphere. Hurricanes are extremely rare in the Atlantic south of the equator.

Monday 31/07/06

Very late start today. Apart from the car crashes I mentioned in the separate entry, the news also reports that the chairman of the Western Isles Health Board is off work with work-related stress. So are many of his employees as a result of his style of management. Mrs B gets visits from two relatives after she went to the supermarket at lunchtime. I notice I seem to be getting about 50 emails a day, mostly journal - correction: blog alerts. The weather deteriorates through the day to yield a spot of rain late afternoon, but the evening is fairly bright. The pictures show the transition of conditions. Dinner tonight is lemon chicken (an Uncle Ben speciality). A program about hurricanes on STV is a year out of date. It goes on about hurricane Ivan in 2004, but was probably made in 2005, before the likes of Katrina. Tropical depression 7E forms in the Eastern Pacific, but is not going to be anything major.

Road traffic accidents

An unfortunately everyday occurrence on roads anywhere, but this morning's accident on the A9 in Inverness deserves a brief mention.

A car, carrying an 82-year old man and two exchange students, aged 15 and 16, from Peru, collided with a lorry. All three occupants were killed. Emergency services took four hours to recover the occupants from the wreckage of the car and clear the road. They had a very difficult scene to deal with.

Although northern Scotland does not escape its share of RTA's, this one was even more tragic than usual. The young students had been staying with the elderly man and were on their way to Ullapool to catch the ferry to Stornoway. Their visit had been organised by the Free Church. At time of writing, no details had been released as next of kin are yet to be contacted. The exact circumstances of the accident are not clear either.

Early on Saturday morning, a nurse from the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway was seriously injured when her car collided with a bus in the village of Coll, about 7 miles north of Stornoway. After initial treatment at the Stornoway hospital, she was transferred to a hospital in Glasgow. Her condition was lastly described as serious but stable.

Sunday 30/07/06

After the last two actionpacked days, today will be very quiet. The weather is very nice, and in spite of the brisk breeze, I sit outside for an hour or so, doing Sudoku's. A creel doubles as a table to balance cups of tea on. Received an email from a reader of the Iolaire website tells me that the captain of the ill-fated Iolaire was related to Admiral David Beatty, who served in World War One under Jellicoe. Upon his death in 1936, Beatty's estate sent each survivor of the Iolaire Disaster £10. A considerable sum of money in those days, several hundred pounds in today's money. We get a shower of rain late in the afternoon. I cook my Savoy Cabbage Special (see my Recipe Book journal). This weekend, there are no guests.

Magpie moth

Last Wednesday, I was called by mrs B to this unusual moth which had alighted in the porch outside her front door. I didn't know what it was called, so left a note with the picture asking for further info. Reader mssusyglossop pointed me to the RSPB website (moths are eaten by birds) which indicated that the magpie moth is not common in Scotland. I therefore reported it to the RSPB, who referred me on to the Butterfly Conservation. The website gave details on how to report the creature and to whom. Things fell a bit flat when the email address on the factsheet bounced, but I'll keep trying.


Some people have got some very warped ideas about "relationships on-line". And by relationship I don't mean a romance - I just mean the way you interact with other people on AOL, MSN, whatever. It is unusual, and not everybody can get their head round it. How can you relate to writing on a screen? I have never met anybody I encountered on AOL bar 1. I have received pictures from a few of you. One or two people have told me very personal aspects of their lives, through email and IM, and through their journals.

Can you be friends you only interact with through a copper wire? Not hearing their voice even, not seeing their face? I believe you can. I have also met people who think it's dangerous. Yes, there is an element of danger and risk, particularly if you want to establish a connection by phone or even a face-to-face meeting. There are plenty of horror stories about, of young teenagers being "groomed" on-line.

I think everybody will have to decide for themselves if they want to have contact with people via the Internet. There is always that little red box with an X in it. There is always an off-switch. YOU are in control. I am in control.

I won't deny that I have felt close with a few people on-line. But I also realise, after two years, that you have to play it very carefully, if you want to take it further. A lot more careful than I initially did.

Sunday, 30 July 2006

Links to other journals

I'm in the process of adding more links to this section of my journal. One or two appear to be idle, but belong to people who are quite unwell. I'll post the links of those I'm concerned about later in the week and maybe J-land could investigate. Most of them are over in the States.

Saturday, 29 July 2006

Smart or Stupid

I resat my stupidity test. Came out better than last time. Good.

Up to date

Everything's up to date - well, not in Kansas City obviously, but at least on this blog. My fingers have grown calluses with all the typing over the last 70 minutes, and everything else. I'm now going to view my mailbag. 52 emails. One item stands out, which I think I'll also post on here:

An on-line buddy of mine sent the following round, and this is a reliable source:
I got an email from AOL today saying it was a TOS with lots of numbers on it. I opened and read it. I said I had a TOS violation and I was to download a link they put in the email and then call them - but it said to download before I called so I could see my violation - well, I did NOT download, I called first! And thank goodness I did call first. The AOL rep told me not to download but to report as spam. He said it was a vicious Trojan virus and to please advise all on-line buddies. The advice was that it does no harm to open the email, but NOT to download. Click "Report as Spam".

Saturday 29/07/06

All guests leave for their next destinations before 10 o'clock in the morning. Weather is overcast but not cold. Just before midday, the schooner Thor Heyerdahl leaves port. She makes quite a spectacle as she disappears to the east. Half an hour later, the Hebridean Princess appears, carrying the Royal Family to the end of their weeklong cruise of the Hebrides. Security was inobtrusive but tight. A Navy frigate lay south of the Braighe, 5 miles east of Stornoway, police launches scuttle back and forth. I take pictures from the Coastguard Station, then head for the ferry terminal where the Hebridean Princess  is docking on the far side of the ferry pier. Hundreds of people gather there, several police and a security man scan the wellwishers. Ferry traffic is also building up, as the Isle of Lewis is scheduled to arrive at 1.15, and leave at 1.45 for Ullapool. The ferry turns up on time, with "dress flags" (bunting) flying slightly floppily from the flaglines. The gangway comes down, but I see no royals. Apparently, they will not disembark until the ferry has departed. Passengers arriving on the Isle of Lewis throng the windows on the starboard side of the vessel to watch the Hebridean Princess on the other side of the quay. I leave the scene at 1.10pm to have my lunch and to take mrs B to the Point Show. For geographical reference, Point is the local English name for the Eye (Aoidhe) Peninsula, 6 miles east of Stornoway. We head for the show, at the Aird Primary School, on the bus at 2.20. This goes up the road to the Sports Centre, then back down to Newton and up Seaforth Road to Sandwick Road. All along Sandwick Road, right into the village of Sandwick and further up at Park End and Branahuie residents are sitting out in chairs, flying the Union Jack, with cameras in hand, ready to meet their Queen. The monarch is due to fly from the airport, over to Balmoral near Aberdeen to start her summer hols proper. Prince Charles will leave Stornoway on the Hebridean Princess to go to Castle Mey, near John o'Groats, which was the home of his grandmother, the Queen Mother. She died in 2002, at the age of 101. This is a date that Prince Charles is unlikely to forget, as on 29 July 1981, he was getting married to Lady Diana Spencer. Meanwhile, the bus went right down Mealabost and back again, then went east across the Braighe. You have a fantastic view there down the Minch, to Loch Grimshader, Ranish and Kebock Head. Visibility does not allow anything beyond Kebock to be seen, but on a clearer day the Shiants and Skye may be discerned. We pass Aignish, Knock, Garrabost, Sulishader, Sheshader before a long line of parked cars announces Aird and the show. Entrance fee £3. On entering the Primary School, a tide of people sweeps up and down the corridors to such an extent that you barely have the opportunity to see anything. The stewards don't help much. We make our way to the assembly hall, where bakery, photography and crafts have been judged. Separate marquees outside contain flowers and produce. A barbeque provides endless supplies of beefburgers. On the other side of the school stand the lifestock pens, holding sheep and cattle. The cattle have been judged, the sheep are being put through their paces. From that position you have nice views over Flesherin and Portnaguran, a mile or two down the road. There are some magnificent rams and fine ewes on display; some are quite frisky, and the rams lock horns. The rain starts at 3.45, and the bus goes back to Stornoway at 4pm. The driver is in a crashing hurry, but he manages to deliver us to Newton in one piece. I go to Somerfields for some shoping, but the rain gets heavier and heavier. It carries on solidly until about 9pm. After that, the wind gets up. A French fishing vessel comes in for a crewchange, to leave again at 7.30pm. Interesting yet useless piece of statistic: I have now taken 3,000 pictures with my camera.

Friday 28/07/06

The engineer calls round to repair the central heating / hot water boiler. Early in 2005, mrs B's previous boiler suffered catastrophic corrosion in the combustion chamber, leading to a large escape of gas. The engineers finally recommended replacing the boiler, but not before hundreds of pounds worth of gas had escaped. I think that adequate ventilation in the boilerhouse prevented a major disaster. This morning, it's not very nice weather, quite dreich. One couple staying here are awaiting an improvement: they have a long wait ahead of them, it turns out to be a completely wet day. The German chap goes for a bustour of the West Side, Callanish, Carloway and Gearrannan. At 2.30, I take mrs B out to another ancient monument, the Homestead at Steinacleit, just outside the village of Shader, 15 miles north of Stornoway, 4 miles north of Barvas. Before we set off, she buys a raincoat and wellies. There is this very fine drizzle, and with the low cloud you can't see a lot. Arrive at Shader at 3pm. We slowly amble down the wee road towards Loch an Duine. This contains a Dun, a fortification on an island, linked to the shore by a causeway. A car stops along the road, asking us where the Steinacleit homestead actually can be found. The sign at the bottom of the track has disappeared, and unless you have a map or know the area (I fall in both categories), it's impossible to work out. The road turns into a bumpy peatroad after the turn-off for the monument. A muddy track leads uphill, through the open moor. The Homestead is more of a burial mound, surrounded by an oval shaped wall. To the east, an area of uncut peat, standing about 4 ft in height, was left to show what depth of peat the monument was dug out of. We walk along the oval wall, reflecting on those that built it, 3,500 to 3,800 years ago. After that, we make our slow way back to the main road, admiring the flowers. There is still a splendid display, but there are signs that this is now coming to a close for this year. The bus comes on time at 4.15. Today is the day of the Barvas Agricultural Show, which is being held in the machair behind Loch Street. There are no buses to carry people the 1 mile from the main road. I attended the show last year, when it was being held outside the community centre along the Stornoway road. Return to town at 4.45 as it pours with rain. Macaroni cheese for supper. Have a chat with the German, who is amedical doctor. He sailed in the schooner Thor Heyerdahl, which is still in port. He sailed in her to Shetland, the Faeroes and Iceland. Tomorrow, he plans to head to South Harris. He booked accommodation in Borrisdale, just west of Rodel.

Bank charges

To quote that infamous sign outside a farmer's field: "Access to this field is free, but the bull charges". And so do banks in the UK. One bank, I believe it's the Royal Bank of Scotland, charges for the following, to name but a few:

- depositing money into your account
- withdrawing money from your account
- writing cheques

I think it's a damned disgrace that people have to pay to handle their own money. The worst of it are the cash machines that charge you £1.50 just to make a withdrawal. Most ATMs in the UK do not levy this charge, but a substantial number do. A report earlier this week suggested that quite a few of these charging cashpoints are located in areas of economic deprivation. One Scottish bank has offered to install free cashpoints in such areas.

Irrespective of their location, I think ATMs should not charge to withdraw money from them. It's OUR hard-earned cash, and the banks make more than enough of a profit that they can afford to run charge-free ATMs in all locations.


Just a brief update about this morning's excitement; the schooner Thor Heyerdahl left port in a splendid display. Not an hour later, HM the Queen turned up on board the Hebridean Princess. As she came to berth on the other side of the pier, the ferry Isle of Lewis was leaning over to one side with all the spectators trying to catch a glimpse of HM. Latest info is that she won't disembark until the ferry has departed, which is scheduled for 1.45, about now. I'm off to the Point Show on the 2.19 bus, will be back at 4.35. This evening I'll give the full low-down on everything.

Late Friday

Well, it's been one of those days. Just came on-line and found 35 emails and more than a dozen alerts, but it's now midnight and after 3 glasses of wine, I cannot concentrate sufficiently to give them the credit they are due.

This afternoon, I braved the drizzle and joined mrs B on a trip to Steinacleit, a Neolithic monument outside Shader, 15 miles north of Stornoway. More in the diary entry, which also will follow tomorrow.

Those following the tropical cyclone updates: no cyclones at the moment.

Regarding the news, I was so disgusted with George W. Bush (sorry USA readers) and the MP for Texas Northwest (Tony Blair, sorry UK readers) waffling away over there in Washington that I switched the telly off.

Finally, if anyone has ideas how I can get my Add Pictures button to work again when adding a journal entry in IE 6.0 and AOL 9.0, I would appreciate it. Since the last Windows Update, it's stopped working. When I right-click and Open Link in New Window, it says page not found. Active-X controls, allegedly. Please?!

Friday, 28 July 2006

Thursday 27/07/06

Foggy start to the morning. The ferry blasts its way out of the harbour at 7.15, with Muirneag blasting her horn on the way in. The fog lifts during the morning and a German chap calls in at 10 am. This evening, he intends to go to the MacLeod lecture in An Lanntair. A couple is due later today, off the Berneray to Leverburgh ferry. Fog comes down again by 11.30, to finally dissipate an hour later when the wind starts to pick up. The German man heads for Point and I go into town. Discover the schooner Thor Heyerdahl moored behind Amity House. Two seals play in the harbour. Stornoway is busy with visitors. The Press and Journal paper has not come in today, but the Glasgow Herald, West Highland Free Press, Stornoway Gazette and Hebridean have. The Free Press, a radical weekly, reports that the nursing trades unions have threatened Western Isles Health Board with strike action if the situation in the NHS here does not improve. The Gazette carries an interesting article about schools in the district of Uig, in the remote west of Lewis. Remote settlements would send their children to a school in a larger village, sometimes up to 10 miles away. All but one of the schools mentioned have disappeared and so have most of the villages. I had never before heard of places like Luanachar and Crola near Kinloch Resort or Ardbeg near Hamnaway, 9 miles southeast of Brenish. I managed to find them on the OS Explorer map 458, with symbols denoting ruins. It is a sad read. The evening is very quiet with some sun. Thunderstorms herald the end of the heatwave down south, but the situation in London is quite severe, with lengthy powercuts on account of the heat. Supper is sweet and sour chicken, prepared by your writer. Sunset is now at 10 pm, and the difference with the solstice is now quite noticeable. Mrs B's boiler decides to pack in at 11.30pm; just as well it's not the middle of winter. Inside temperatures 21C.

Thursday, 27 July 2006


It would appear that there is an issue with alerts on journals. Well, if you get this alert, can you leaf two entries down, to an issue with putting pics on journals? I can't do it through Internet Explorer 6, but I can through Firefox. Anyone got any ideas?

Thor Heyerdahl

Today, the three masted schooner "Thor Heyerdahl" was in port. She hails from Kiel in Germany. I uncovered some interesting facts about her.

Year of construction: 1930
length 49.83 m
width 6.52 m
draught 2.55 m
height of main mast 29.5 m
sails cover area of 830 sq m
full restoration 1979-83
permanent crew 12
participants 32

I hope you enjoy the pictures. As stated in entry below, I had to jump through hoops to get them on.

Adding pictures

Anyone else got problems adding pictures to their journals? When I click "Add pictures" Internet Explorer 6.0 and AOL 9.0 both decide to hang; strangely enough, Firefox does cooperate :-(.

Wednesday 26/07/06

Last night's guests were doing the sound at a gig in the Town Hall until 2 a.m. this morning. The band was called the Hayseed Dixies and are of the Bluegrass variety. Heard some of their songs on local radio, sounded OK. American Midwest readers will probably know more about this sort of music than I do. Anyway, the sound guys had to get up at 5 a.m. to catch the 6.15 am ferry. At that exact time, I go downstairs and join mrs B for a cuppa in the early morning light. Sea is as smooth as a mirror. Return to bed at 6.45 and resume slumbers. Radio Scotland carries a report on bullying, 1 in 5 have experienced it in the nursing profession, according to trades union RCN. Reminds me of the situation in the local health board, where bullying stretches all the way to the top-management. The Canna mice were returned to their island after the 5,000 rats were exterminated last winter. I told the story a couple of weeks ago in this entry. The oldest living woman in the Western Isles has died in Scalpay, aged 110. She put her longevity down to a healthy diet and no drinking or smoking. The oldest woman in Scotland is aged 111 and lives somewhere near Aberdeen.
Weather is sunny but hazy and fog descends over the tops of the Arnish Hills. Two motorcyclists arrive, who come from Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. They are quite taken with the quiet island life. Later in the evening, two French guests appear who booked sort of 4 months ago. All 4 guests are due to leave on the 7.15 ferry in the morning. The fog descends and covers town and harbour. The 7pm ferry sails into a thick fogbank and blasts her horn. There is a high demand for accommodation in Stornoway and one German chap calls round to book in for the following two nights. I learn that Clan MacLeod are celebrating a 400th anniversary and doing so in 5 events in Skye and Lewis.

Postscript: With thanks to reader mssusyglossop for helping to identify the moth in picture 14.

The end of an era

So now we're all suddenly writing Blogs instead of Journals. Right.
Joe, the Journalseditor, advised us yesterday of the advent of R7, and everything appears to have gone pretty well. There are all sorts of new features, the majority of which I'll never use, but anyone that does - enjoy. If you don't know about it, give Joe a visit.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Tempting fate

Last year by this time, the Atlantic had spawned seven hurricanes. This year, not one. Yes, we had Alberto in June and Beryl this month. But they were not proper hurricanes, just tropical storms. We were promised a busy season. Not so far - but it's not even August. The Pacific has been flexing its muscles; Hurricane Daniel (now devoid of any tropical status) at one point had 125 mph winds with gusts of 180 mph. Two typhoons on the western side have done quite a bit of damage in eastern China. As I said, I'm probably tempting fate. But after last year's disasters I hope the NHC gets it wrong. I'll plug my Tropical Cyclones journal one more time; I've had the grand total of 2 hits on it so far, the rest are from myself making entries.

Tuesday 25/07/06

The family from Lancashire depart on the 7.15 ferry, without saying very much. Next to leave is mrs B's son, who never likes to go, so it's a last-second affair. With two pancakes in his pocket, he dashes by taxi to the ferry terminal, just in time for the 1.45 departure. Fairly bright day (see pics 1 and 2). The 3 tropical storms in the Pacific all head for extinction. Daniel comes to a dead stop 850 miles east of Hawaii; Kaemi storms into mainland China, dumps a load of rain and simpers out. Only Emilia intensifies temporarily, sweeping Baja California (the 800 mile long peninsula south of San Diego) with 50 kt winds and 4 inches of rain. I get the shopping in, admire the honeysuckle in the backgarden (picture 3) and have a quiet evening, watching rubbish on the television. I mean, you have 500 channels on Sky and not one is really worth the bother of watching. Yawn.


Entry taken from the Lighthouse Blog, January 2006

As an avid walker in the wilds of Lewis and Harris, my sole companions tend not to be fellow walkers, but sheep. Or at least, those tend to be the most numerous four-legged creatures alongside the path. They are not normally very taken with my (or anybody's) presence, so they scuttle off helter-skelter out of the way. There have been exceptions, as the accompanying gallery will show. Sheep have this unfortunate reputation of being stupid. Tend not to agree. They're not the brightest card in the pack of creation, but then which creature would be able to find the spot in the moor where they themselves were born to give birth themselves? It is only bettered by the salmon, which manages to find the very river where it spawned after a journey of thousands of miles and of many years. Sheep are also said to know their farmer. Don't believe that. Look at the reception I got at Dalbeg - picture in gallery. As winter progresses, the condition of the sheep deteriorates, and by the end of the 2004/5 winter, I came across a sorry procession of animals that had not survived. The look on the face of the Tolsta crofter who had piled up another two carcases at the bottom of his croft said it all. I still wonder what happened to the sheep that panicked to such an extent that it jumped clean into a fast-running and deep river north of Tolsta. It was carried downstream, and managed climb on to the riverbank. It was a freezing cold day, and that can't have been healthy. The track from Bogha Glas to Langadale, just across the Lewis / Harris border has seen me quite a few times at the beginning of 2005. I also became quite acquainted with the location of the dead sheep. Even not seeing them did not prevent me from knowing they were there - the smell said it all. In April, I discovered this dead sheep that was lying in the ditch beside the Marybank cattlegrid. As the days and weeks progressed, it was not moved, and deteriorated gradually. By August, only the fleece was left, and by October, even this had disappeared. Worse than that were the few unfortunate creatures whose eyes had been pecked out by a hooded crow, a corvine I have come to dislike. The poor animal was pedalling its legs, but could not get up. When I approached, I could see its eye was missing. I retreated as there was nothing I could do. Even more painful was the sight of the little lamb near Kinloch Seaforth in late April, standing uncomprehending near its prostrate mother, which was dying after losing its eyes. I was able to help the dumb animal that I found stuck in a bog a mile north of Laxay (Lochs). Managed to pull it out single-handed, and as soon as the animal realised it was free, the sheep started to feed like mad. To compensate, there was this ewe near Bragar who gingerly approached me with its lamb at foot, almost as if to say "isn't he beautiful?" And the twin lambs at Huisinis, Harris, which lay together in the bright sunshine.

Not one of my most pleasant entries, I agree, but it's all part of island life.


(I first published this entry in the Lighthouse blog in January 2006)


Living on an island, I have noted a degree of panic creeping in when the ferry is cancelled. One day, I ventured into Somerfields to be greeted by empty shelves for fresh vegetables.You would think that people would be prepared for this sort of eventuality. After all, virtually everything comes here by ferry, and that cannot sail in all conditions. So you have to be prepared for the chance that the ferry doesn't sail, sometimes for days on end. Nope. It would appear that a mainland mentality is creeping in that everything should be available 365/24/7 - 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And it can't be. Police issue advice about severe weather. Have an emergency pack ready - containing matches, candles, a battery-powered radio + batteries, food to last a day or two. I'll add to that. Put stuff in the freezer, in case the ferry is off for days at a stretch. It happens! Canned food, whatever. Have food ready that you can eat if the electric goes off, and you're cooking on electricity. Buy packs of candles for that same eventuality. Be prepared to forgo the fancy foods. Makes sense, I would think?


Thanks to Cathy at One Summer's Day, I can now formally inform you that

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Hebridean Celtic Festival

Well, this is as close as I got to the HCF this year. On the other side of the Inner Harbour, sticking an MP3-player with recording capability in the air and trying to catch some of the - sound - that came from across the water. Full volume required!


This is one of the local history projects I have involved myself with over the 1½ years I've been in Lewis.

The English Camp at Groningen, Holland
It is little known that during the First World War, just over a hundred islanders were interned in The Netherlands. They were men of the First Royal Naval Brigade, who had been drafted in to assist in the defence of Antwerp, in October 1914. When the order came to retreat, they literally missed the train. To avoid detention in a German PoW camp, the 1,500 men were ordered to march into Holland, only a few miles away. As The Netherlands were neutral in that conflict, they were taken into internment, for the duration of the conflict.

Amongst them were about 105 people from Lewis.
Click on this link for a list of names. This webpage has a link to the full story of the Lewismen in Holland, and about the camp itself.

Not many stories appear to have been handed down. It would seem that quite a few men found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that they had had a relatively 'cushy' life in the camp, whilst their friends and family were dying at the Western Front. Life in the camp was not cushy. There were severe food shortages in Holland during that war, and at times people were reduced to eating horsemeat or rats. Although several men undertook training courses (one person obtained a second mate's ticket, and another became a minister), the general picture was one of excruciating boredom. By 1916, arrangements were made for some people from Lewis to be allowed home for harvest leave. Although the temptation was great to abscond, the men always came back. Absconding would mean that everybody else would be denied leave. A few men died at the camp, through ill health. When the Armistice came in November 1918, everybody was released and sent home.

In Calum Ferguson's book "Children of the Blackhouse", reference is made to "men who had just returned from internment in Holland ... celebrating noisily", just before Christmas 1918.

Monday 24/07/06

Cloudy and breezy start to the day. Mrs B's son is due to leave today, but this is postponed for 1 day. Mrs B herself is cleaning the whole house this morning. Her friend from the next village is on hand with her great-granddaughter (aged 7) to help. The cruiseliner Deutschland lies anchored behind the Arnish Lighthouse. She is swinging round on an anchor chain. Tenders ferry passengers ashore in between drizzle and sunny intervals. The drizzle gets the upper hand and hides the view by 1pm. It gets so bad that even the Arnish Yard is hidden from view, 1 mile away. Luckily enough, it clears up a bit later. Mrs B's brother-in-law, a spritely 83-year old from up the road, calls in for a visit. I head for the shop for a large load of goodies. The guests for tonight are on their way to Orkney - via the Western Isles. They have their 9 year old son in town, a lively lad. Tomorrow, they are leaving on the 7.15 am ferry to go to John o'Groats, a road journey of 170 miles from Ullapool. Supper tonight is spaghetti bolognese. The evening ends wet and dreich.

CarnivAOL 18

Paul of CarnivAOL has published another set of good reads, so I'd say: pop over and have a look.

Hurricane Hunters

Found this emblem on the Hurricane Hunters website, which you're invited to download.

Tropical Storm EMILIA - 8 AM PDT

The Mexican government has issued a Tropical Storm warning for southern parts of Baja California (from Buenavista to Bahia Magdalena) as TS Emilia is set to pass the peninsula to the south, on a northwesterly course. The system is located at 20.6N 111.3W, 185 miles SSW of Cabo San Lucas. Stormforce winds, reaching speeds of 65 mph (58 kts) extend 140 miles from the centre of Emilia, and could increase further today.

Further updates will be issued at 11 am PDT.

This image was taken from the Cabo Surf Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California at midday local time. Looks pretty grotty, doesn't it...

Sea Turtles

Last year, I attended a meeting by the Marine Conservation Society in Stornoway. They highlighted the plight of marine turtles who come ashore or end up in fishermen's nets.

Among one of the activities that people can engage in to monitor the turtle's environment is spotting jellyfish. These creatures are the staple diet of some turtles that are found in British waters. Visit the MCS website for more details.

Today, news came through of a loggerhead turtle that had been found hypothermic and emaciated off the coast of the Isle of Skye, 50 miles south of Lewis. The creature was recovered from the sea and taken to the Sea Life Sanctuary in Oban. It will probably end up in a similar facility in Weymouth, Dorset (England). The picture shows two marine wildlife experts with the 66cm / 26 in turtle, a young male.

Monday, 24 July 2006

Hurricane watch

Still on hurricane watch. Although Tropical Storm Emilia [just south of Baja California in above satellite image] is turning her back on Mexico in the Pacific, a new tropical depression could form off Tampico (Mexico) in the Caribbean [the mass of cloud on  the far upper right]. Currently, the suspect low pressure area is off La Pesca. Obviously, Texas is not too far away. Hurricane Daniel is now heading for Hawaii, where it is expected to arrive on Friday as a tropical storm. The swirl of cloud is near the left edge of the picture Typhoon Kaemi / Glenda is passing over Taiwan at time of writing. She is the large blob of bright white at the bottom right of picture below.


Last May, I went to a duckrace in the village of Borve, 17 miles from here. This weekend, one competitor in a duckrace on a slightly larger scale made landfall at Traigh Uige on the western coast of Lewis. It was a plastic frog. The frog had reached the end of a 14½ year journey around the world. What had happened?

It was a dark and stormy night back in January 1992 when a container ship, en route from Hong Kong to the USA, ran into trouble in the Pacific Ocean. As the ship rolled violently in heavy seas, several of the containers tipped into the sea. 

At least one of the containers burst open and one of the world's great journeys started for around 29,000 plastic bath toys. The thousands of yellow ducks, blue turtles, spinning red beavers and green frogs set off on a long voyage that was to see them become unwitting celebrities – providing scientists with a heaven-sent opportunity to see how the ocean currents of the North Pacific really work.

BBC Radio 4 will feature this story next Saturday (29 July) at 10.30 BST. Check the BBC Radio 4 website ( nearer the time to see if  you can get a live feed. If you're outside the UK, please bear in mind the time-difference (5 to 8 hours if you're in the USA). Some programs can be played back after the time of transmission.

I should add, for those that cannot get Radio 4, that the toys floated through the Bering Straits between Russia and Alaska, into the Canadian High Arctic. Then down the seas between Greenland and Canada and finally into the Atlantic. Some of the toys have ended up on shores of the eastern USA. And now one has reached the Hebrides.

Extreme heat

It would appear that summer this year is going to be one of the record breakers. I am not talking about my neck of the woods - 25C is not excessively hot. I am talking about for instance the USA, which has seen temperatures rocketing to a staggering 50C / 122F in Phoenix AZ and temperatures in triple figures Fahrenheit across much of the southwestern states. This has placed huge strains on electricity supplies (airconditioning units!) and some companies have imposed voluntary electricity cuts. Involuntary cuts may yet follow. The heat is also a huge strain on people with frail health, particularly those with breathing difficulties and heart conditions.

Over in eastern Holland, the annual Four Day marches around the city of Nijmegen were cancelled after two walkers died on the course. Hundreds of walkers and spectators became unwell in the oppressive heat (mid 30s C) last Wednesday. Contrarily, these conditions will set off severe thunderstorms which will give rise to flooding. River levels in continental Europe are going down and drought conditions are settling in.

Let's hope the weather turns a lot cooler soon - it's very nice to have sunny weather, but extreme temperatures do exact a toll.

Photo Scavenger Hunt #85

The assignment was GLASS. I decided to take this picture, which I took early in May in the village of Borve, about 17 miles outside Stornoway. The bottles you see are part of someone's garden fence. I would also like to point to the entry that I took the picture from, as it's one of the nicest in the blog, if I may say so myself.

Promising drugs

On the AOL (UK) frontscreen, mention is made of a drug, which researchers claim may have potential in treating Alzheimer's Disease. The compound, PBT2, has shown promising results in mice. Patients in Sweden will now take part in a trial in humans, to see whether the drug is suitable for use in people. A more extensive trial will be started in 2007.

I tend to pour cold water on the expectations raised by this sort of promises. It is very early days. Alzheimer's Disease is an emotive subject, and I am reading at least one blog on AOL which describes the emotional pain suffered by those around a loved one who is struck down by the illness. Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive brain disorder, which is ultimately fatal. It cannot be cured; so far, the drugs used in its treatment have only served to delay further deterioration.

Before a drug can be prescribed by a doctor, it has to be proven to be "efficacious", i.e. do the job and not have side-effects disproportional to the condition being treated. This balance is best illustrated by the two extremes of the headache cure paracetamol and any chemotherapy agent for treating cancer. What happens if you don't take paracetamol? You have a headache, but it'll probably be gone the next day. What happens if you don't take the chemotherapy? You're likely to die a lot sooner than anticipated. Would you find it acceptable to be profoundly nauseated and sick, have your hair fall out and be susceptible to all sorts of infections just to cure a headache? No. Is this acceptable to tackle cancer, where the only alternative is death? I'd think so.

As noted above, new compounds are usually first tested on mice, guinea pigs and other animals. The number of laboratory animals has decreased hugely after efforts were made to find alternatives for live animals. If the drug is promising in animals then it is usually tested in volunteers and finally in groups of patients that the new medicine is likely to be used in. If anything untoward happens there, it's curtains. An extreme example was shown earlier in 2006, when six volunteers fell dangerously ill after being injected with a new compound. They required days and weeks of intensive care treatment and I'm not sure that they have all recovered.

Normally, a trial involves one group of patients receiving the new compound and another group receiving a blank (placebo) or the accepted norm of treatment, if "no treatment" is unacceptable. The patient nor the health professionals around him (doctors, nurses etc) know which one he is receiving. A trial can be halted if the new drug is working so well that withholding it from the other group would be unethical or if it is giving such catastrophic side-effects that it cannot be continued.

This is only one of several methods to try new medicines. After they have been marketed, the licensing agency asks the healthcare profession to report any untoward effects, in order that safety is kept at the highest possible level. Sometimes, this leads to a newly introduced drug being withdrawn from the market.

In the UK, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence NICE has to make recommendations to Health Authorities (England and Wales) or Health Boards (Scotland) as to the suitability of the new drug in treatment. This determines whether government will fund HA/HB to prescribe and supply the medicine. A sharp example was shown in the case of the breast cancer drug Herceptin recently. This was initially only licensed for use in the treatment of breast cancer which had not responded to first-line treatment. It was found to be effective in first line treatment, but is a heck of a lot more expensive than chemotherapy. Herceptin also only works in certain types of breast cancer. Campaigning by breast cancer support groups led to Herceptin being allowed for all stages of breast cancer.

It should be born in mind that funding for Herceptin may well have displaced funding for other, less high profile but equally devastating, illnesses which are just as costly.

The new Alzheimer's component is a few years away yet from introduction on the open market.

Any questions? Leave a comment.


At 9.15 this morning Shetland Coastguard received an emergency call from the Hamnavoe ferry which undertakes a regular route from Scrabster to Orkney, and which alerted the marine emergency service to a woman in her 40s who had gone overboard.

The ferry crew advised the Coastguard that their rescue boat was being lowered into the water and that they would attempt to recover the casualty. The woman was in the water for about 10 minutes before being recovered.

Shortly afterwards the crew reported that there were two doctors on board and in attendance on the casualty who was breathing but was not fully conscious, and that the ferry was now heading towards Stromness and due in to the port at 10.40 a.m. this morning. She was being given oxygen on board the ferry. Shetland Coastguard have arranged for an ambulance to meet the ferry upon its arrival. Stromness Coastguard Rescue Team will also meet the ferry to gain further details of the incident.

Katrina Hampson, Watch manager at Shetland Coastguard said;

Fortunately for the woman, the sea temperatures at this time of year around Orkney are around 17 degrees Celcius, whereas any earlier in the year cold shock can reduce the chances of survival quite dramatically.

Sunday 23/07/06

Bright and sunny start. The two German ladies head out for church and a walk round the Creed. Clouds start to increase through the afternoon. By the time we go for an amble to Sandwick, it looks quite threatening. The walk goes round the back of the Coastguard Station to Battery Point then down Millar Road to Sandwick Bay. There are millions of pebbles along the path there, and we take back 2 or 3 each for mrs B's garden. A visit to Sandwick Cemetery, where mrs B's husband lies buried [he died in 1993] closes proceedings. Showerclouds surround us but it stays mainly dry. Supper is a wee bit on the late side, at around 9.15pm. Chicken with a magnificent array of salads and freshly boiled beetroot was worth waiting for. Applecake with custard tops things handsomely. We say good-bye to the German ladies, who were here for 4 nights. They are leaving on the 7.15 ferry in the morning. A glass of whisky is traditional hospitality, but in combination with 2 glasses of wine, the Wrath of Grapes is incurred. Rain lashes down all evening.


Well, found this on another blog, did the quiz and think WTF. So I'm the number 41 bus, am I? I live 700 miles outside London, so I haven't got the faintest.
        Which LRT bus route are you?    

You are the 41!
Take this quiz!

Quizilla | <a style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);"  ="" target="quizilla" href="">Join | Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Sunday, 23 July 2006

Saturday 22/07/06

A warm and sunny day, which our guests spend on Tolsta Beach - all of 6 hours. Meanwhile, I keep myself updated on the three Pacific cyclones. Daniel is raging his way towards Hawaii; Kaemi / Glenda is going to batter Taiway and Emilia is making ominous noises at Mexico. During the afternoon, I enjoy the sunshine out the back. I'm glad I'm not further south, what with all the hot and thundery weather. The Middle East gives me this sinking feeling (haven't we been here before with that bunch of ****'s). The Ronja Pioneer (see tomorrow's pics for an image) makes its 3rd entry into port this year. She is a Norwegian fish research boat. Supper is a microwaveable meal. The lottery does not make any of us any richer. The sunset, just after 10, comes in glorious colours. In terms of time, we have now lost 30 minutes of daylight in the evening; by the middle of August we won't be seeing much of a midnight dusk anymore. The nights are very sticky, with a bedroom temperature of about 25C. Outside, the max is about 19C.


I know, this is a very distant picture. I encountered this group of 14 red deer in the Harris hills, quite high up. At the time, I was returning from climbing a 2,011 ft hill called Mullach an Langa, and I was heading east along the northern shoulder of a valley called Glen Scaladale. The view the other way looks like this:

The mountain towards the left is called Clisham; it stands 799 m above sealevel and is the highest summit in the Western Isles.

On the subject of deer, these roam the islands of Lewis and Harris (which are one landmass) from the point where I took the top picture right to the Butt of Lewis, which is the northernmost cape of the island. They also roam the derelict district of Eishken, in the southeast, and swim across Loch Seaforth to make their way north. The map below shows the route of their migration.

The first picture just about allows you to make out that it is actually deer you see - (hence the size). The picture below gives a better idea. Further info on the species you'll encounter in the UK can be obtained from, which I also credit for the picture of the stag.

Sea Safety

I monitor the Maritime and Coastguard Agency website and two incidents caught my eye. In Norfolk, a sailing regatta was ravaged by what appears to have been a tornado. Fifty craft were in the water off Hunstanton when the wind suddenly increased to force 8 or 9 in seconds. 48 craft overturned and 82 crewmembers ended up in the water. Fortunately, all were safely retrieved as were the craft.

On the other side of the country at Swansea, people found themselves trapped on a tidal island by the incoming tide. Some, very foolhardy, attempted to wade across into the incoming tide, and managed to make it. Others rang the bell, placed on the island to gain attention if visitors found themselves cut off. Rescue services attended and everybody was returned safely to dry land.

The Coastguard issued the following advice, which applies anywhere

<> Don't think you can beat the sea as a swimmer - it's far stronger than any of us

<> If you go out to sea in a boat, carry some means of communication (VHF radio) with you. Mobile phones cannot be relied upon, and cannot be used for pinpointing your location if you don't know. The radio requires a licence, but is a small price to pay - in an emergency it could save your life.

Saturday, 22 July 2006

Hurricane Daniel

Picture courtesy www.bigisland.orgJust an advance warning that Hurricane Daniel (currently peaking with winds of 130 knots, 145 mph and gusts of 160 kts, 180 mph) is heading straight for Hawaii. By the time it reaches there, later next week, it will have gone well off the boil, perhaps nothing more than a tropical depression. Keep an eye open though, via webpage


I've made a decision on my Creature Albums - the first one will be on my favourite animal: the Cat. These are the ones that I've seen in and around Stornoway, I found one or two in outlying districts such as the villages of Tolsta Chaolais, Bragar and Port Nis. I'm not a doggy person, and 90% of dogs in the island are Border collies, which basically all look the same. Cue howls of protest from dog lovers.

Tropical Storm EMILIA

Tropical Storm Emilia is situated west of Mexico, and there is a possibility that she could affect the westcoast of Mexico. This is likely to become an issue early next week - please advise anyone you know in the area (incl. Baja California) to keep an eye on the NHC website.


Indeed, we have a plague of flies in Stornoway. They are a pain in the rear. Whenever you open a window, you'll soon have a dozen buzzing about. I've seen them in about every shop I went into the other day. You just can't win, can you. Do you get a decent day's weather - flies are out, midges are out. They breed in the seaweed, exposed at low tide in the basin. Oh well, I suppose we shouldn't grumble. Just mrs B, who keeps asking me to remove the scars of battle from her windows, walls, doors &c.

Friday 21/07/06

The Queen is reported as starting her hols on the isle of Islay, a lot further south. Her trip, once past S'way, will end at Castle Mey in Caithness. This used to belong to her mother. A local blogger (not me!) very scathingly reports that "an old woman comes on holiday to the Hebrides", linking to the BBC Online report about the Queens' visit. There are still some who do not think that Elizabeth II is "their" queen, they want a Scottish one. For reference, England and Scotland united in 1707 to form one state. Next year, 2007, will be the 300th anniversary of that event. It will also be the year of elections to the Scottish Parliament, in which the Scottish National Party could do well. Weather today starts overcast, but the sun comes out later. The afternoon is sunny and various people start to faff about in boats. I go into town and stumble across a book on the culture of St Kilda. The heatwave carries on down south, with temperatures in excess of 30C. Here: about 20C. Tropical depression 6 forms in the Eastern Pacific, and it heads northwest, parallel to the Mexican coast. Something to keep an eye on. Last Sunday, I reported that the ferry went out for 3 hours. It now transpires she took part in an exercise with the coastguard and the fire-service. The hottest day of the year so far, last Wednesday, saw Shetland wreathed in fog. It still is. The tanker is in again, on one of its frequent visits. The day closes on a bright and sunny note.

Picture problems

Is anyone else having problems with "Image currently not available" on their blog? I have noticed that dozens of pictures are suddenly coming up with "Corrupt picture" in my albums.

Postscript (13.45 GMT): The problems with pictures appear to have been resolved.

Friday, 21 July 2006

Creature pictures

Been categorising my pictures this evening (about 3000, gulp), using Picasa which is a very handy picture tool. I've found that I've got

25 pictures of sheep
1 of deer
1 of highland cows
5 of cows
25 of cats
1 of ponies
1 of a hedgehog
1 of a dog
2 of pigeons
4 of finches
7 of sparrows
9 of starlings
4 of robins
5 of herons
2 of ducks
1 of a bluetit
5 of oystercatchers
8 of blackbirds
1 bullfinch
14 of gulls
1 of hooded crow
3 of a skylark
1 blackheaded gull

give or take one or two. I would like to show some in separate entries. Some pics are of questionable technical quality. But if anyone has any requests, please drop me a line.

Thursday 20/07/06

Cloud rolls in as the morning progresses, and the sun disappears after 1pm. I swat dozens of flies and another handful are despatched using flyspray. It's close, muggy and warm. The mercury rises to 25C. On the rainfall radar, the wet stuff has progressed to Uig and Harris. With the increase in cloud, the temperature sinks to 20C. Today sees the return of the cruiseliner Alexander von Humboldt, previously in port on May 25th. When she leaves at 7.30 pm, the ferry goes close to allow passengers to have a look. In the morning, we take delivery of two German ladies, who were due to go to Uig but had to settle for the West Side instead; you need to book the return journey well in advance. The two workmen left early this morning. Local press is full of Health Board matters, Tong Games and the like. The Press and Journal tells us that the Queen will come to visit us around 29 July. Her transport will be the cruiseliner Hebridean Princess. It is a windless day today.

Photo Scavenger Hunt #84

This week's assignment was about a picture related to the first letter of my first name - G. Having scratched my head over the last 4 days, I finally came up with the answer. The above picture shows the Geo Bhan [Geo Vahn], located along the coast at Lower Sandwick. A Geo is a small inlet. Pretty isn't it?

Tropical Storm BERYL

Tropical Storm warnings for coastal districts of the USA and Canada have been discontinued.

Thursday, 20 July 2006

Tropical Storm BERYL - Boston (incl Canada)

An update has been issued on the Tropical Storm advisory regarding Beryl.
It would appear that her wind and rain will impact the coasts from Long Island east and north, including south coastal
Rhode Island and south coastal Massachusetts.
Repeating the link at the NHC

As this system may also affect southern maritime districts of Canada, I am now also including the link to the Canadian hurricane center. There are currently NO tropical storm warnings outstanding for Canada, but they may be required later on.

I repeat my request for anyone who knows people in these district who may not know of the warnings to point them to these on-line bulletins, or tell them.


Tropical Storm Beryl - New York

A Tropical Storm advisory has been issued for parts of Long Island and Connecticut. Please check the full advisory on and inform all in the area who may be affected, and may not be aware of this warning.


This is a view of a deserted village in North Harris, about 5 miles east of Tarbert (the main village in Harris). The map above is a very detailed one, and it features Molingeanais, the Gaelic name. It is actually of Norse derivation, meaning the shingly beach at the heathery headland. I copied the picture from the Molinginish blog on the BBC Island Blogging project.

You can visit the village either by boat or on foot. The walk there is not too horrendous; you leave Tarbert along the Scalpay [Scalpaigh] road, until you come across the Lacasdail Lochs, after a few miles. Once past the lochs, set in a deep mountain valley, a roadsign will point to Rhenigidale along a rocky path up the hill. Just after the top of the hill, a path branches off to the right. There should be a small wooden sign at groundlevel, but it has recently been refurbished, and I have not been that way since then. Follow the track down (may be boggy) until you reach a seat overlooking the village bay. Climb over the wire fence and continue down until you reach the village. There are three buildings left with a roof. One is a byre, a second doubles as a shed and the third is a house.

Molinginish was abandoned in the 1960s. The owner of the land, local solicitor Simon Fraser, very kindly sent me this information via the VisitHebrides message board:

The village was occupied as part of the large farm of Scalpay and was like Scalpay sparsely occupied until the 19th century. The village was occupied until the early 1820's by shepherds of Campbell the tenant of the tack, or farm of Scalpay. In 1823 the whole population was cleared out of the land on the west of Harris from Bunamhuinneader round to Loch Resort. A family of Campbells, evicted in this clearance from Teilisnis on West Loch Tarbert, were given the lease of Molinginish and moved there with their stock. One or two others came and went, or married in. The population grew rapidly and the village grew to a maximum of about 40 people in the 1880's. While agriculture was the original occupation, it was very much on a subsistence basis. Through time most of the able bodied men became employed in fishing mainly for herring and fished around the mainland coasts. The women when not employed in agriculture dyed wool amnd made tweed for sale. The herring industry died with the First World War and the village seems to have gone onto a long terminal decline from then on although it did not go without a fight.

After the war the Board of Agriculture encouraged families in Harris to relocate to Portnalong in Skye where new crofts were established. A number from Molinginish went there. The school was however built in 1921 and continued until 1935 when the authorities withdrew the teacher and paid a lodging allowance for the children to go to Tarbert.

The last two occupants were brothers in one house. One died in 1963 or 1964 and the other had to leave then.

There is only one person left alive who ever lived there.

Info supplied 9 January 2006.

Molinginish is situated off Loch Seaforth, the western boundary of the district of Eishken. This is uninhabited, but until the 1820s, there were 36 townships. All were cleared to make way for sheep and latterly deer. This forced evacuation led to great congestion and hardship in other parts of Lewis, where the villagers were sent to, if they weren't forced to emigrate.

The map below shows the location of 27 former villages. Their names are printed under the map; the 6-digit number is the Ordnance Survey grid reference.

1 Bhalamos Beag - 291010
2 Bhalamos Mor - 298016
3 Caolas an Eilean -
4 Bagh Ciarach - 251021
5 Ceannamhor - 223067
6 Scaladale Beag - 220100
7 Scaladale Mor - 218120
8 Stromas
9 Brinigil - 277159
10 Bagh Reimsabhaigh - 258025
11 Smosivig - 273049
12 Glean Claidh - 253066
13 Brollum - 322031
14 Ceann Chrionaig - 311055
15 Mol Truis - 359056
16 Mol Chadha Ghearraidh - 367066
17 Ailtenish - 368088
18 Budhanais - 332100
19 Ceann Loch Shealg - 294107
20 Eilean Iubhard - 380100
21 Isginn [Eishken] - 326119
22 Steimreway - 346116
23 Cuiriseal
24 Gearraidh Riasaidh
25 Bun Chorcabhig - 263033
26 Gilmhicphaic - 217083
27 Ceann Sifiord - 295163

Note on pronounciation: an H in a Gaelic name alters the sound of the preceding consonant, as below:

BH = V or W
MH = V or W
CH = guttural G (as in the word Loch)
PH = F
DH = voiceless at the end of a word

Hurricane Daniel

Just wanted to share this classical image of a tropical hurricane from space. Hurricane Daniel, currently packing 125 mph winds, can be seen just below the centre of the picture. The black dot in the middle is its eye. Daniel is moving west and is expected to intensify further, with sustained winds up to 140 mph by the weekend. The hurricane is not expected to make any landfall.

Royal Visit

It was announced in a regional newspaper, the Press & Journal, that Stornoway will be visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on July 29th. She will arrive on board the cruiseliner Hebridean Princess, but further details of her visit have as yet not been publicised. The HP is a former CalMac ferry, which was converted into a luxury, 49-passenger liner, which charges up to £7,500 for each cruise. The HP will be escorted on her travels by a state-of-the-art warship, the HMS Argyll.

At this rate, I'm gonna need a haircut, need to dig out my three-piece suit and Union Jack hat and put on my most gracious smile. At least I'll be able to see her coming, watch with the binoculars and shake my head at all the fuss. I mean, 5 months ago I came across the Scottish First Minister, and you don't want to know about the entourage that Jack McConnell has in tow.

Four years ago, I attended Pop in the Park, part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in central London. As I ambled forward, towards Buckingham Palace, the atmosphere became threatening and aggressive, and an elderly couple had to be escorted away from the madding crowd by police. For reference, the Queen was witnessing the series of performances from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. I watched proceedings from half a mile away in the park on a big screen.

My Queen is not called Elizabeth II, and when she goes amongst the population, the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed and convivial. Security is in attendance (as well), but it's a far cry from what I witnessed that day in London, in 2002. I once met her future successor in a public toilet, and he motioned for me to go first.

Tropical Storm Beryl

The NHC has issued a Tropical Storm warning for southeastern Massachusetts from Plymouth to Woods Hole, including Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard. This means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 24 hours.

Please advise anybody that you know in the area, and who may not be aware of these advisories. More detailed advice can be found on

Additional watches and warnings may become necessary later today for the New England coast and portions of Long Island.

It is imperative for residents of above mentioned areas to monitor the NHC website for further updates.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Wednesday 19/07/06

Warmest day of the year elsewhere in the UK, but not here. Some high level cloud passes over occasionally, but it's very calm. In the morning, the lighthouse and the yard at Arnish reflect in the waters of the outer harbour. Muirneag sailed into port at 8 am, and she appeared to float in the air rather than in the water. Sorry, no pics of that; only of conditions later in the day and in the evening around sunset time. Went to Somerfields for some bits, but don't do much else. In the sun, it feels a lot warmer than 22C at 1pm. It's also very warm to engage in exercise. We have a tuna roll outside in the backyard; mrs B's son stays outside to do some painting. Supper consists of the lamb casserole (see my journal Recipe Book). At 10, go out for a stroll to Goat Island. It is perfectly windless - wind force 0. Beautifully coloured sunset.

Warm day

It's the warmest day of the year in the UK, and even up here in the far northwest it's quite warm. Further south, temperatures into the mid 30s (mid 90s F) are giving rise to concerns about health - see my previous entry Heatwave for advice on how to handle the conditions. Readers in the UK should consult NHS Direct for more comprehensive advice; if you feel unwell, consult a doctor.

Current temperatures here in Stornoway stand at 20C (with a maximum of 22C so far today). Further south in England, the mercury reached 35C in several places at 2pm.

Naughty man

This was reported from Stornoway today, tut tut.

A 70-year-old thespian who spanked a young female actress has been placed on probation for a year and ordered to pay his victim £500 in compensation.

Frank Harrison, from Stornoway, had earlier admitted assaulting 21-year-old Gemma McGhee in February. The incident took place during extra rehearsals for a play he was directing for Stornoway Thespians. Stornoway Sheriff Court was told that Harrison felt "shame and remorse" for his actions.

Dining chair

The court heard how he hugged and thanked Ms McGhee after the practice at the Thespians' premises in the town. He then produced an old dining chair, sat down and grabbed the 21-year-old. He pulled his victim over his knee, muttered the word "temptation" and smacked her on her bottom about five times. He then told her it was "a light spanking, as all pretty little girls deserve to be spanked once a day".

'Thoroughly ashamed'

The court was told that the "bizarre" incident was a "personal tragedy" for Harrison, who was "haunted" by his actions. His lawyer said that rather than being ostracised, the actor had received the apparent support of many in the community. Sheriff David Sutherland said: "I have no doubt that you are thoroughly ashamed and regret your actions." But he said the "momentarily aberration" had affected a "young lady who did not deserve to be treated in that way".

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Tuesday 18/07/06

After the morning preliminaries, we went on the 1pm bus to Ness. It's fairly bright, but with some measure of cloudcover. As the bus heads north towards Barvas, clouds descend below the summit of Muirneag, 7 miles to the north. On descending to Barvas, the whole of the West Side can be seen to be covered in fog. It is grey, overcast and drizzly on the way up to Ness. The bus is fairly full and people get off at regular intervals. We reach Port Nis at 2pm, and first of all we're going to find a place to sit down and have lunch. There are benches down at the harbour, which has been cleared of about 7ft of accumulated silt. Fulmars wheel above the beach as we quietly eat our rolls and have tea. The haar comes down and envelops everything in a thin fog. Next stop: 10 Callicvol. We enter and are confronted by a choice: either go to the Quilt Floor or to Enquiries. We decide on the latter. We are greeted by an elderly man who remains seated behind his computer as we're interrogated to the Nth degree. Although I explain that I have conducted historical research, the man is not interested, saying my subject is too recent in history. I am advised to go to the Stornoway Library - have been there more than he'd think. He never introduced himself, and left it to us to deduce who the hell he was. When a phonecall came, he never said "excuse me" as he walked out. I was about to walk out myself in the opposite direction. Upstairs, we were forced to sign the visitors book - mrs B did not. The lady upstairs, the man's wife, said that when they moved here, she met 5 men who had been to Tasmania, so she felt immediately at home. His empathy with Lewis was born of a 9 day stay in the Flannan Isles, 35 miles west of Uig, in 1950. Arrogant, obnoxious and rude. More interested in fishing money off the enterprise company and everybody else. Return to Stornoway at 4.40 to buy some rewriteable CDs at Point1 on Bayhead. It's quite warm and sticky, about 21C. Temperatures elsewhere in the UK went up to 33C / 91F today and are expected to peak at 37C / 99F tomorrow. Result: buckled railway tracks and lots lots more. Breakdown of this heatwave as of Thursday. North Carolina is threatened by Tropical Storm Beryl. By 8pm, seahaar drifts in across the island and gradually envelops the town in fog, visibility down to about 100 metres. At 11.30pm, the fog lifts, as we watch Muirneag sailing into the fog, still lingering in the Minch.

Monday 17/07/06

Quite a dreich day. It's mrs B's birthday today, so in the evening we go out for supper in the lounge bar of the Crown Hotel. The food there is very good, and I'm the only one that manages to finish both courses of the meal. Monkfish tail in parma ham, with sticky toffee with dates pudding after. I had to help mrs B finish her plate of halibut. Although the main course took a while to arrive, we polished off the lot in 2 hours. Restaurant was quite full for a Monday evening. Apart from monitoring hurricanes, working on the messageboard and rejoicing at the reinvigoration of the BBC Island Blogging project, I also went into town. This in order to buy a present for mrs B. The boat I showed in the entry for Sunday, lying on its side, was now in a more normal upright position. On leaving the restaurant after the meal, at 9.20pm, a fine drizzle had been falling, so fine that a coat was not needed.

Hurricane Local Advisory

The National Hurricane Center has issued a local hurricane statement for Morehead City NC at 11.30 EDT on 18 July, which is directed at residents of Carteret, Dare and Hyde. Tropical Storm conditions could arise in these areas. Please follow this link for the full advisory. If you know people in this area who may not be aware, please tell them.

This advisory was cancelled on 19 July

Monday, 17 July 2006

Cyclone Watch

I have created a separate journal for news on tropical cyclones, I've also created a link in the All about me sidebar (below the Sitemeter counter, saying Cyclone Watch), which will be active as long as there are active cyclones. The hotlink will always point to the latest entry.

I'll periodically highlight the Tropical Cyclones journal, particularly if land is threatened.

Bloggers in trouble

Well, that was a bit of a shock, reading about a blogger who got sacked for writing about events at work in her journal. If you look at the Technorati tag Busted for blogging, an amazing list of experiences turn up.

At the end of the day, everything you write on here is public knowledge and can be read by anybody. If you decide to let off steam about your work or even things in your private life, in the community at large - keep at the back of your mind that it may be a huge relief to call someone or their actions all sorts of names on a blog, but the very people you're vilifying could well be reading! And take you to court, sack you...

Yes I know, freedom of expression. Isn't it a sad world...

Weather, weather all the way?

Northern Trip seems to be turning into a weather blog at this rate. Not really the remit, I'm thinking of dedicating a separate blog to it. Anybody got any thoughts on the matter? Are you bored with all this jabber about tropical cyclones &c? Do you find it useful? Would you like a separate blog for these items?

Please leave a comment

Tropical cyclones - update 17/7

Tropical storm Daniel, recently upgraded from tropical depression 5E, was located at position 12.4N 112.2W at 1500 UTC today. Daniel is moving W at 10 knots, 12 mph. He will become a hurricane late on Tuesday local time, and is expected to pack winds of up to 90 knots. This system is not expected to affect land at any time.

A new tropical system could form within the next 24-36 hours east of Daniel at position 10N 99W. Further advisories will be issued by the NHC as necessary.

In the Western Pacific, three tropical disturbances could develop into a significant tropical cyclone - if and when this happens, I shall report. These are located within several hundred miles of Guam, Manila and Iwo Jima.

Summer is here

Is that so? Well, not here at any rate. I'm actually quite glad not to be living in the hothouses of England and the eastern USA, where temperatures are set to rise to between 30 and 40C.

drink plenty, just plain old water will do
- do not go out during the hottest hours of the day (11.00 till 15.00) if you can at all avoid it
- close curtains to prevent the sun heating up your house by shining through your windows
- regularly check on the elderly, infirm and very young
- if you have to go out into the sun, apply plenty of sunblock (factor 25) and reapply regularly to ALL exposed areas of skin
- open your windows after sunset to allow the cooler night air into the house
- seek immediate medical advice if you feel unwell
- do not leave animals in parked cars, even if the windows are open

I'm not trying to be a killjoy, but in the 2003 heatwave, thousands of people died in Western Europe as a result of the extreme conditions. Stay safe.

Tropical Storm Bilis (2)

Images courtesy of the TalkWeather group on Yahoo of the impact of Tropical Storm Bilis. Note that this was not even a hurricane; the damage was done as a result of excessive rainfall.

Tropical cyclones - 17th July

The low pressure system off the Carolinas has so far not intensified into a formal tropical depression.

The NHC has issued its final advisory on tropical depression Carlotta.

A new tropical depression has formed in the Eastern Pacific, and is provisionally called FIVE-E. Once it acquires tropical storm status (with sustained winds over 39 kts) a name will be assigned. Its location at 2 am PDT is 12.4N 111W, approximately 500 miles south of Baja California. The system is still at an embryonic state, but may yet intensify significantly later on; its maximum windspeeds are expected to top 80 knots, gusting to 100 knots.

Sunday, 16 July 2006

Sunday 16/07/06

The day starts overcast but fairly bright. Blue patches appear after midday. The ferry went out at 10 am (unusually). It may have been put on for festival goers who attended last night's concert, but need to be back at work on Monday. Further south, temperatures are likely to reach 36C this week; temperatures in this corner of the UK will stay in the low 20s. After midday, a large, two-masted French yacht comes into port. The pilot boat was out waiting by the beacon since 11.20. It is very windy, with a force 6 to 7 blowing. The Alba Volunteer sails at 12.45; the ferry comes back into port at 1pm. No idea why she went out at all. The Alba V is heading straight into the wind and only makes slow progress. I later hear that she put into Cromor, 9 miles to the south, for shelter. As mrs B and myself are driven to the Watermill for a walk at 4, the mast of a yacht can be seen, protruding at a crazy angle above the quayside of no 1 pier. She is lying on her side, in only a foot or so of water. The tide is still going out, low tide is at 6pm. The town and his wife is out there, having a look. Once at the Watermill, we go up and down the lade, then traverse the Golf Course towards the Clubhouse. Nobody is there, it's blowing hard and it's starting to rain. We carry on over the YM bridge and over the Cromwell Street Quay. We have a look round the Sail Loft conversion and presently arrive at the no 1 pier, where the yacht is now lying on its side on the sand. The coastguard is in attendance, but can't do much until the tide comes in; next high tide is at midnight. It is very cold on the way back along Newton and I'm only too happy to get back inside. Supper consists of a stirfry, provided by the butchers. Notice that North Rona is being battered by a force 9 gale with 53 knots winds. Although the rain stops at 9pm, it stays dark and gloomy.

Tropical cyclones - Atlantic

NHC Bulletin of 2100 UTC (1700 EDT)

An area of showers and thunderstorms associated with a stationary frontal system extends from off the coasts of South and North Carolina northeastward into the Atlantic for several hundred miles. Two areas of low pressure are located along the front.  The first low, centered about 290 miles south-southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, will likely move northeastward over cooler sea surface temperatures before tropical cyclone development can occur. The second low, centered about 200 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is expected to move little during the next day or so. Some slow development of the second low is possible.



Right, so the south of the UK can expect temperatures to reach about 35C / 95F in the next few days. A regular scorcher.

Well, just for reference, the northwest of the UK is spared that ordeal. Above picture shows the conditions here a minute or two ago. I'm talking about a force 8 gale and pouring rain. Worse than that, North Rona (a small island 70 miles northnortheast of Stornoway) reports gusts of 53 knots (60 mph), which equates to force 11. How do you mean, heatwave?

Tropical Cyclones - update 16th July

The 1500 UTC bulletin from the National Hurricane Center suggests that as many as three tropical depressions could form off the Mexican coast in the next 24-36 hours.

I keep repeating the importance of these bulletins. You can subscribe to them by email or direct your RSS-reader to poll the site. Google provides a free service called Web Clips on their Google Desktop and Google Gadgets features. It is not wholly reliable, but quite useful.

Tropical Storm Bilis

Although this storm disappeared off the weathermaps days ago, I managed to get hold of the above pictures, which show the aftermath and impact that this system had in the Phillippines and eastern China.

With thanks to the TalkWeather group on Yahoo!

A salutory reminder of the power of tropical hurricanes, I think.


I sometimes visit the Blogthings website, and today I came across this question: How Leo are you? My birthday is early next month, so I took the test.

***You are 33% Leo*** How Leo Are You?

There are similar quizzes for other star signs. By the way, I don't believe in astrology. I am infuriatingly rational.

The significance of my birth month (August) is:

***Your Birth Month is August***

Ambitious and strong, you find it easy to be successful.
You are brave and stubborn. No one's going to set your limits!

Your soul reflects: Strength, character, and devotion

Your gemstone: Peridot

Your flower: Poppy

Your colors: Orange, red, and light green

What Does Your Birth Month Mean?

Tropical cyclones - 16th July

There are no tropical cyclones around that threaten land.

Bud is dissipating in the central Pacific; Carlotta is weakening as it moves west, several hundred miles to the east.

A low pressure system west of Mexico looks as if it might develop further. The NHC will issue advisories if required.

Saturday, 15 July 2006


As you may know, I have a webcam pointing out of the window of the computer room which I occupy for a bit too long each day. It shows the Coastguard Station and the Arnish Lighthouse, plus any large ships that come into port. You can access it on

The other day, I looked at the webcounter (don't use webstats4u, they contaminate your site with pop-ups) and it shows the referrals, i.e. how do people reach the site. The list made my jaw drop (see bottom of entry). On line 11, it distinctly says "red light" and "webcam". The reason is simple. In the description for the webcam (I think it's on my Hometown page I refer to the red light of the beacon. This is a light to warn mariners of a reef in the shipping channel. I never expected a Swedish internet user to land on my poor webcam, expecting some babe in a window. Instead he was treated to the view above.


I am not as proficient as some in amassing, producing, drawing dozens if not hundreds of the most fantastic graphics. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy them. Just thought I'd share a couple that I dug out of my Miscellany file the other day, which made me smile or otherwise elicited a pleasant response. No, I'm not apologising for anything.

Who is prepared to admit that they work like this, when being on-line? Huh?





My, where did she come from...

Saturday 15/07/06

Although events today also happened before 11 a.m., I take the liberty of starting the diary at that point, which is when breakfast was over and the two friends of mrs B's son took their leave to return to Glasgow. It is a nice sunny morning with a good breeze, which helps the yacht race which is held in Stornoway Harbour. The yacht Alba Volunteer wins. Their crew came to mrs B's on Wednesday for a bath. The yacht is due to relocate to Tarbert on Sunday. Today is the day of the Highland Games at Tong, 4 miles northwest of Stornoway. We set off on the free bus service, which takes about 15 minutes, to arrive there at 1.45pm. It is very busy there. A lot goes on, and I'll just list the events - no attempt at completeness.

highland dancing
one man and his dog plus a few sheep
hit the coconut with up to 3 balls
a stall by the Coop
various drinkstands as well as a beertent
3 bouncey castles
several pipers
a brass band
helicopter flypast plus stunts
Spitfire flypast (one of them is called Lewis and Harris)
BBC Sports Relief "Run a mile"

Heavy events
tossing the caber (a long pole of wood)
lifting 100kg heavy spheres of rock
tossing a bale of hay up to 20 ft high
flipping tractor wheels (the hind ones)
pulling said tractor wheels

A few notes. The running was disrupted by a spectator blindly walking over the racing track, right into the field of runners. The helicopter was a wee bit low and close. Of course, someone parked where they shouldn't, so their car's registration numbers were broadcast. Refreshments were available in the hall adjacent to the fields.

On return in Stornoway, at 4.15, I go to buy papers, but find I'm 1p short. So, I go up and down to Newton for 1p. Why do they price newspapers at stupid prices like 56p? Supper was a pastabake. No luck on lottery.

A note on the Pacific cyclones: the last advisory is issued on Bud, as it fades into the ocean east of Hawaii. Corletta is rapidly losing strength as well.