Wednesday, 31 May 2006
Tuesday, 30 May 2006
Tonight (May 30th), there is an increased chance of seeing the Northern Lights. You need to be south of the 55th parallel (USA readers are fine, unless in Alaska), have an unimpeded view of the northern horizon and NO light pollution on the northern horizon, or in your immediate vicinity. Those using shortwave or mediumwave radio may experience severe interference.
Have a look on http://www.dcs.lancs.ac.uk/iono/aurorawatch/
The season for tropical hurricanes is upon us once more. At the moment, there are no active systems in the Atlantic, but the National Hurricane Center has warned of another very active season, like 2005. The USA can expect several major systems to come barrelling through, not just into the Gulf of Mexico, but also veering up the East Coast.
Atlantic Tropical Hurricanes can come to haunt the UK as well. Although they require seawater temperatures of 27C / 80F or over to be sustained in their intense state, their remnants regularly get incorporated in the North Atlantic jetstream. One such remains caused the October 1987 hurricane in southern England. It was an "ordinary" Atlantic depression, but with a nasty sting in its tail. Beware.
You can keep an eye on the storms (sic) by visiting http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/, which incorporates an RSS-feed. You can select which area of the world you want to have warnings for. Although some of the pages are quite technical, the advisories are in plain English.
Sunday, 28 May 2006
Jeannette, over in Jeannette's Jottings featured a ghost story in her last entry. Which I thought was a pretty good excuse to tell a ghost story I read about a year ago. It centres on a village which is now derelict; it's called Kinloch Resort (pronounce Raysort), on the border of Lewis and Harris. Today, it's a mournful place, difficult to reach. You need to traipse across 5 miles of the soggiest moorland you'll ever find in the island, or across the Harris hills.
Years ago, when Kinloch Resort was a small but thriving community, someone sent for a carpenter. He had to come over the hills from Harris, and brought all his own timber. After the job was finished, he was going to leave any timber left over in the village, but the villagers told him to take it back with him. So, the carpenter loaded the timber onto his horse and started the trek up into the hills. After a while, he heard a strange tapping noise. As if a hammer was striking wood. Tap, tap, tap. The man turned round, but nothing could be seen. The wind was sighing through the moorland grass and the river gurgled in its bed. He shrugged and continued the climb. The tapping sound returned. Tap, tap, tap. He whirled round, expecting the children from the village to be scarpering downhill, back to Kinloch Resort. Nothing. At length, the tapping sounds ceased, and the carpenter returned to his home. He found his wife seriously ill, and although he tended to her immediately, she died that same night. The next day, the carpenter gathered up the wood he had brought back from Kinloch Resort and started to build the coffin for his wife. Tap, tap, tap, his hammer went. A shiver ran down his spine, as the sound was awfully familiar. Tap, tap, tap. The same noise that had echoed across the empty moorlands above Kinloch Resort. As if to say - you'll be hearing this sound very shortly. When you're building your wife's coffin.
Saturday, 27 May 2006
I gather that tomorrow, Sunday 28th May 2006, is Memorial Day in the USA. Did not know that until this year, shame on me. Although I am not British, I make a point of observing the Remembrance, Memorial (etc.) days of those countries who helped to liberate occupied Western Europe in the Second World War. In Britain, the date is November 11th. In most of Western Europe, the day is May 8th, VE-day. In Russia, it's May 9th. They lost 20 million people in the Second World War.
Have a good Memorial Day over there in the USA.
Have a nice Bank Holiday in the UK.
Friday, 26 May 2006
After yesterday's nice evening, we're confronted with a wet and miserable day. A fine to moderate drizzle falls throughout the day. Willie calls in during the morning, as does one of mrs B's relatives, who is helping her with the ironing. One guest cancelled his stay, after he decided to leave for the mainland straight after his bikerun up from Tarbert. The other guest does turn up. She is an American student at Oxford, up here for the Half Marathon. Her luggage was mislaid at Edinburgh. Although it is not formally lost, it is no use to her as it cannot reach Stornoway until 12.30 tomorrow afternoon. The race starts at 10 a.m.. The young lady goes off for a flying visit to the Callanish Stones (grand total of 37 minutes there). Later on, I assist her in planning her trip south to meet up with a friend. Two problems crop up. (1) It's a Bank Holiday. (2) The prospective meeting place (Fort William) is packed out with folk attending the World Championships Mountain Biking. I suggest she travel through Skye. She won't arrive there until 9.40 tomorrow evening. A German / Spanish couple take the place of the man who cancelled. They had come to Stornoway, expecting to find a ferry leaving at 7pm. Not until the end of June, folks. BBC Island Blogging is off air all day, after a fault prevents everyone from logging on. The rain stops at 6pm, leaving a cloudy but relatively mild evening. Night falls at 10.40.
Quite a contrast, isn't it. Yesterday, I had 80 pictures, today's grand total - 3. Just to show you what it was like through the day.
Thursday, 25 May 2006
Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Tuesday, 23 May 2006
Sunday, 21 May 2006
Saturday, 20 May 2006
In recent times, quite a few new readers have picked up on my blog. A note of warning: it has been going for a year and a half, so you have more than 600 entries to go through if you want to read it all. Not to mention the hundred or so in the preceding blog Northern Trip - The Start. Link in linklist.
I commenced Northern Trip in October 2004, two months after starting my travels around Northern and Western Scotland. A month later, I settled in the Isle of Lewis. Things have been on the change since then.
At first, I did a lot of walking in the islands, in all sorts of weather. Later on, I began to get more involved in the local scene, although I am afraid that this has now deteriorated more into an observer's role. That is actually the premise under which I operate my other main blog, Arnish Lighthouse. Again, link in list.
I observe the weather, watch shipping coming and going and go walkabout around Stornoway. This is the capital of the Western Isles, pop 8,000; the islands themselves have 25,000 people. Occasionally, I'll go further afield within Lewis.
I rely heavily on Internet websites for my information, although local and national radio and TV play their part as well. My rant against errant sailors a few days ago links to the MCGA (Maritime & Coast Guard Agency) website, which lists press issues, of everything they have had to deal with. The drunken captains, dangerous chemicals and wrecks at sea are all part and parcel of it.
Characters: Mrs B and her family and friends; I don't name names. I sometimes give a name of a guest, staying in her B&B.
Isles FM is the local radio station. Manned by volunteers, they mean well but their rate of trip-ups is high. To quote one presenter: "I need electrocution lessons".
Ferries: The Isle of Lewis is the main passenger ferry. She sails daily (except Sundays) for Ullapool at 7.15 and 13.45, arriving back from there at 13.15 and 20.00. The weather tends to wreak havoc with those schedules. The Muirneag is the freight ferry. She carries lorries and trailers in on aseparate schedule, departing for the mainland at midnight and returning at 8.30 a.m.. I am staying on the waterfront, so I see everything that comes and goes.
I have been involved in two historical projects, both relating to World War One. At that time, about 6,000 islanders went out to fight for King and country. 1,000 did not return, having fallen on the field of battle or perished at sea. An additional two hundred drowned on their return from the war. They were on board HMY Iolaire, which was wrecked 2 miles south of Stornoway. Only 75 others survived.
About 100 islanders were interned at Groningen, Holland, for the duration of World War One, after retreating into Holland following battle at Antwerp in October 1914. They were allowed home for the harvest each year, provided they returned to Holland afterwards. Which they did, to a man. That was at a time when a man's word still stood.
Do I work? No.
Am I going to find a job here? Maybe.
Do I have a family? No. My relatives live outwith the island.
How long am I going to be here? Dunno.
Any questions? Send me mail, and I'll try to answer.
Thursday, 18 May 2006
Wednesday, 17 May 2006
You're sporty, yet practical, and you have a style of your own. You like to have fun, and you like to bring friends along for the ride, but when it comes time for everyday chores, you're willing to do your part.
Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.I'm a Mandarin!
You're an intellectual, and you've worked hard to get where you are now. You're a strong believer in education, and you think many of the world's problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. You have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates you when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power. You believe that people can make a difference in the world, and you're determined to try.
Tuesday, 16 May 2006
Monday, 15 May 2006
Sunday, 14 May 2006
Saturday, 13 May 2006
Thursday, 11 May 2006
Wednesday, 10 May 2006
Tuesday, 9 May 2006
Brilliant day today, but still a bit hazy. The Russians disappear to the West Side; I declined their offer to join them. I am advised that the first cruiseliner of the season, the Black Prince, has docked. After snapping some pictures of flowers in the garden, I go into town, and decide I can go without a coat. Pity about that cool wind. Other residents in Newton are sitting out in the sun and out of the wind. The Black Prince is moored alongside pier no 1, where the Muirneag is normally docked through the day. Muirneag herself has relocated to the far side of the ferry terminal. I return to the town centre to buy papers, including a copy of “Back in the Day”, which is a look back at events earlier in the 20th century here. Back in Newton, Mrs B receives two lady guests. The Black Prince sails at 5.30, heading for Norway. A few local people joined her this afternoon. Another ship hovers off Arnish Point, but then disappears after half an hour. A glance through the binoculars shows it’s the Dutch fishing vessel SCH 302. One of the Russian guests briefly reappears to drop off the hire car. By 7pm, the third guest turns up. He is an elderly gentleman, whose wife is in hospital here. Prospects are not good unfortunately.
Grey start to the day, sun tries to poke through the clouds but doesn’t make it. Three young Russians come to stay. They want to go to a beach. Nearest one is at the Braighe, 6 miles away behind the airport. They’ll need a taxi to go there. It’s Sunday, so no buses. They are going to walk back from Melbost along the main road. How nice. Mrs B tries to organise a car for them, as they want to tour the West Side tomorrow, prior to travelling down to Tarbert. They regret stopping in Inverness for 3 days (a waste of time by anyone’s standards), as they now only have limited time before flying back to Moscow on Friday. The haze persists through the afternoon, and by 5pm mrs B starts to worry about her Russian guests. She sends her son and myself out to look for them along the Braighe road, but just as we pass the airport, she rings in to say the wanderers have returned. Yuri, Yakov and Anastasia ask me if I’ll join them on a spin up to Tolsta Beach. I say yes – something I’m going to regret. They first of all go to HS1 for a meal, but end up eating at the Balti House because HS1 was full. Jacov drives the 4 of us to Tolsta, but appears to be remarkably oblivious to the rules of the road. He doesn’t pull up at the stop stripes at traffic lights and commits a frightening mistake on the roundabout by the Coop. He has to turn right there, which in the UK means you go ¾ round the roundabout. Not our driver. He cut straight through against the flow of traffic, ending up facing a jeep head-on which stops well short of the roundabout, to allow us to disentangle us from this mess. I tell him in no uncertain terms never to do that again. He is extremely lucky that there is hardly anybody on the road, let alone police. No further mishaps as we crawl up the road to Tong at 30 mph, in an area where the limit is 60. OK, on to Garry beach, which is very quiet. Just one camper and a field of rams. They are very placid. I’ve heard stories of a car being attacked by a ram, leaving the bodywork well dented. The mist lifts as we walk onto Traigh Mhor. Return to Stornoway at 10pm, with another hairy moment on Sandwick Road, as our driver forgets to turn right.
Sunday, 7 May 2006
Today, we're off to the races - a duck race to be precise, at Borve, 17 miles north of Stornoway. Head into town just before 11, where mrs B attends a craft fair in the Town Hall. The bus for Borve leaves at 11.45, but mrs B can't find her buspass. The driver lets her on. The bus, heading for Ness and the Butt of Lewis, carries a few tourists who want to visit the Butt. Alight at Borve at 12.22, outside the minimart, which supplies us with a drink. We then amble down to the bridge, where the fun is due to start at 1pm. It's fairly bright with a lot of high-level cloud. This puts a halo round the sun, which persists for quite some time. Towards 1pm, a lady comes down to the bridge where we're sitting, to sell us some ducks. It would appear that out of the 260 ducks only 9 are available for sale. Or their numbers are. I take up position on the riverbank, where a barrier has been erected to catch the ducks as they come downstream. Kids are playing in and around the water while a sizeable group of adults assemble on the two bridges. Then the sack of ducks is emptied into the river, about 150 yards upstream. A number of volunteers shove the things downriver freeing them from rocks and shallows. They are only 5 - 7 cm big. After the first one reaches the barrier, the rest is scooped up with nets &c. There is a second race, but a straggler comes downstream. Once the second race is over, the barrier is dismantled and all and sundry troop into the home next to the Borve Pottery place. Bottles have been incorporated into a fence. Tea and cakes, quiches and a lot more are available for £3 pp. hear that the race went well, but last year it was nearly impossible because the river was too low. The proceeds go towards the cost of a new community centre, the Clan MacQuarrie centre, to be built on the southern side of Borve. The name is taken from a ship which foundered on the rocks here during the hurricane of 31st January 1953. This same storm sank a ferry in the Irish Sea, caused widespread flooding in East Anglia and drowned 1,850 people in southwestern Holland when the sea defences were swamped by a tide, 5 m above normal. After lunch, watched over by an old pussycat and an old dog, we head off for an amble down the river towards the sea. The path is muddy, and mrs B, not very nimble at the best of times, nearly ends up in the river. We pass the remains of a few watermills, and see sheep with their lambs on some verystoney crofts. The wind is cool, but otherwise it's a very nice day. After a lazy hour or so, we return to the Pottery. It's been there for quite a while, but is professionally laid out. The bus back is a few minutes late, but manages to return to Stornoway 5 minutes early. The driver puts his foot down, and races from Barvas to Newmarket in 9 minutes. Very summery in Stornoway, lots of folks out and about. We have the lunchtime rolls for dinner, as they were not required at lunchtime.
Saturday, 6 May 2006
Thursday, 4 May 2006
Tonight (May 4th), Scotland was rocked by thunderstorms. As I'll write in today's entry, even Stornoway had 3 lightning discharges, one power dip and one powercut. I'm told that Glasgow had a huge electrical storm.
Thunder in the Hebrides is rare. It can only occur if the difference in temperature between the bottom and the top of a cloud is more than -40 degrees C. As I speak, there is very warm air over England (temps reached 29C there). Stornoway reached 15C, but the air 'upstairs' must be extremely cold to spark off a thunderstorm. The last time I had thunder was in January 2005, in the middle of a snow, sleet, hailstorm. It left 2 inches of ice on the spinal route of the island, reducing traffic to a crawl.
I have written before that I keep an eye on various other journals on AOL. Back in the autumn of 2005 I obtained a list of journals that were nominated for the VIVI awards. I'm trying to latch on to some of them, but boy, am I having trouble. Since 15 November 2005, AOL in the USA has banner ads over the top of journals. This has led to a huge outcry, and a large number of people have left AOL. They are now blogging on other providers. AOL UK does not have banner-ads over their journals, and some American bloggers have therefore defected across the Atlantic.
To American readers: Pamela Hilger, (his1desire) who died at Easter, kept a directory of journals and blogging tips. Is anyone going to take over?
Wednesday, 3 May 2006
A cloudy start to the day, with a bit of wind. I head to the library at 10 a.m., expecting to meet the Secretary of the Stornoway Historical Society. He had promised to hand some pictures to me. Unfortunately, I didn't see him during the 50 minutes I waited, so went out again. The hairdressers has closed down, the Post Office resembles a can of sardines and the Baltic Bookshop charges me the earth for a ream of paper. When I leave Somerfields at 11.15, it starts to rain. Two American guests arrive at 12.40 after an 18 hour journey from Arizona. It's pouring with rain at that point. The Arizonans had a bumpy flight up from Glasgow. Mrs B goes out shopping with her nephew. I inform the new guests about where to eat and much more. Their jetlag catches up with them on their return from An Lanntair and they flake out until about 10pm. Rain ceases at around 8.15 and the sun comes out at 8.25. I put together a travel itinerary for our American guests. Our Skye friend of fire-extinguisher fame turns up for another week's work in SY.
Forgot to mention that the ferry came into port at 7.45. As it approached the beacon, a wee fishing boat was in the channel. The Isle of Lewis imperiously blew its horn and the boat scooted off into Sandwick Bay. See pic above.
May Day Bank Holiday
Today I'm doing a Video Extravaganza through the webcam. A different video every hour on the hour. Day starts horrible and wet, pouring with rain. This moves away by 2.30, to be replaced by cumulus clouds. Not very warm, only 9C. In the south of England, temperatures are expected to reach 24 C by the end of the week. Isles FM blandly denies that there is any local news today. Read yesterday's entry. The afternoon ends breezy but sunny. Pictures on the Lighthouse Blog fail to show, don't know why. Get papers and shopping in after 6pm. The Local History File on Isles FM mentions mrs B and her relatives by name.