Thursday, 30 March 2006
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 March 2006
Friday, 24 March 2006
Thursday, 23 March 2006
Sunday, 19 March 2006
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 March 2006
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Monday, 13 March 2006
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.
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.
Saturday, 11 March 2006
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
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
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 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
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.
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.