Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Access problems

Anyone else struggling to access journals? It's terrible this evening :-\

Anyone feeling cold?

Spare a thought for the people of Omyakon in Siberia. This month, January, they have had to endure temperatures varying between -40 and -60C. Mind you, in summer, they get positively balmy, with daytime maximum temps of +25C. Strange place. Omyakon holds the record for the lowest recorded temperature in the northern hemisphere: -72C.

Read more here

Crystal Meth

Police in central Scotland have swooped on the base of a company, which is alleged to have supplied a drugsring in the USA with chemicals, required for the manufacture of the illegal drug methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth. CM is related to 'speed', amphetamine, and causes profound dependency, paranoia, elevated bloodpressure, coma and death.

The materials required for the manufacture of CM include iodine crystals and red phosphorus. In the UK, these chemicals are freely available, but their import into the USA is banned. The couple arrested in Bo'ness near Falkirk, midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, is alleged to have had several hundred kgs of either substance. They would sell it via the Internet to buyers in the USA. They would then, allegedly, use it for making crystal meth. The supplies seized would have been sufficient to produce 750 kg of the drug.

The couple were seized upon indictment by a Grand Jury in Phoenix, AZ, USA. More details in this BBC report.


During an hour's swimming at a municipal pool you will ingest 1/12 liter of urine.

In an average day your hands will have come into indirect contact with 15 penises (touching door handles, etc.)

An average person's yearly fast food intake will contain 12 pubic hairs.

In a year you will have swallowed 14 insects - while you slept!

Annually you will shake hands with 2 women who have recently masturbated and failed to wash their hands.

Annually you will shake hands with 26 men who have recently masturbated and failed to wash their hands.

In a lifetime 22 workmen will have examined the contents of your dirty linen basket.

At an average wedding reception you have a 1/100 chance of getting a cold sore from one of the guests.

Daily you will breath in 1 liter of other peoples' anal gases.

...and wash your damn hands

Hurricane update - 31 January

Tropical cyclone DORA is in the open Indian Ocean, and not posing a threat other than to shipping. Latest information suggests winds of 85 knots, 100 mph. Further update on Dora is expected at 9pm GMT.

Northern Australia is watching a low pressure system east of Darwin, and the hurricane centre at Darwin has issued the following

A CYCLONE WATCH has been extended to include coastal and island communities from Elcho Island to Port McArthur, including Nhulunbuy and Groote Eylandt.

At 9:30 pm CST a TROPICAL LOW was centred in the southern Arafura Sea about 135 kilometres north of Nhulunbuy and 155 kilometres northeast of Elcho Island moving east northeast at 20 kilometres per hour. The low is expected to move southeast into the Gulf of Carpentaria on Thursday.

There is the possibility of a TROPICAL CYCLONE developing but GALES are not expected in coastal areas within the next 24 hours, however gales could develop later.

Freedom of Religion

I'm got some curious feedback on my picture of the Lord Provost's lantern yesterday. A Lord Provost is the Scottish equivalent of a Lord Mayor, incidentally. The motto on the heraldic crest of Stornoway is "God's Providence is Our Inheritance". One reaction said that in certain parts of the USA and possibly the UK as well, the reference to God would have been slapped down immediately. I find that sad.

Under legislation in both countries, we all have a freedom of religion. And a freedom of expression. I am also aware that there are lots of folk out there who are not Christians; Muslims and Buddhists, to name but two. Apparently, all references to a Christian background are removed from public places in order not to offend those professing a different faith. Which I think is just plain ridiculous.

The UK  and USA are Christian nations at heart. They began life with a Christian background. Others arrived who belonged to another religion. They were allowed to build places of worship, whether they were termed mosques, temples, what have you. In Islam, Christianity and Judaism are recognised as great religions of this world, even sharing common forefathers. Provision is made for them in the Quran, the Muslim's holy book. I don't understand why Muslims therefore would be offended by seeing a reference to God in a Christian country, which is where they are at the end of the day. Should add that the Muslims I know aren't bothered at all.

So I don't see why you can't make reference to God in a public place.

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Missing fishermen - June 2006

On 1 June 2006, the fishing boat The Brothers went down off Eilean Trodday, north of Skye, with the loss of its two crewmen.
An investigation by the Marine Accidents Investigation Branch has found that fatigue most likely played a role. The MAIB has issued advice to fishermen to take regular breaks. Apparently, both men had worked long hours, not had sufficient sleep and had taken some alcohol before departing Gairloch to fish for prawns in the Minch.

The MAIB has issued a flyer to fishermen to advise on procedures.
NOTE: This is a PDF-file, requiring Acrobat Reader.

Following the accident, the body of one of the crew washed ashore in Gruinard Bay on the mainland; the body of the other man was never recovered.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Let there be light

John Scalzi's Photoshoot, thought I'd participate for a change.

Well, this lantern is the Lord Provost's lantern in Stornoway. Each time a new Lord Provost came along, they'd shift the lantern. Now they have abolished the position, so the last Provost has this thing sitting outside his house.


When a foreign dignitary came to visit, the BBC reporter was at the airport and he dutifully described the scene. "Mr X came down the aircraft steps, encumbered with various items of luggage and his wife."

Actual medical chart notes

  1. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
  2. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
  3. On the second day, the knee was better, and then on the third day it disappeared.
  4. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
  5. Discharge status: Alive, but without my permission.
  6. Healthy-appearing decrepit, 69-year-old male, mentally alert but forgetful.
  7. The patient refused autopsy.
  8. The patient has no previous history of suicides.
  9. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.
  10. Patient's medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40-pound weight gain in the last three days.
  11. She is numb from her toes down
  12. Occasional, constant, infrequent headaches.
  13. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.
  14. Skin: somewhat pale but present.
  15. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

Medical problems

I can't not make an entry on a subject that cropped up this afternoon (British time). I am writing to make a general point, which is basically a copy of comments I made in Robin's journal [ceilisundancer] on the subject of hypoglycaemia, low blood sugars.

There is a website ( which contains a questionnaire to help you determine whether your blood sugars might be low. Having taken a look at the questions, I think it's misleading to help people make a 'diagnosis' on the basis of symptoms that could point to dozens of different ailments and diseases.

Generally, if you feel you have a problem with your health, you should see a doctor.
Now, I appreciate that I am writing from the British context, where the National Health Service covers a large amount of the expenses involved in health care. In the USA, people have to pay for much of that, and the fees for a doctor's visit sound horrendous.

Nonetheless, I am staggered at the sweeping statements left on that website, and the unethical attitude of trying to cash in on people's health problems and perhaps being unable to pay doctors' bills.

Hypoglycaemia in healthy people is easily corrected - by eating.
Hypoglycaemia in diabetics can lead to serious symptoms, such as confusion and unconsciousness.

I am not going to write an essay on diabetes here. I'll just reiterate:

Any problems with your blood sugars: speak to your doctor. Not the quacks.
The doctor can conduct the appropriate tests, and if required prescribe medication.

Tuesday notes

Pretty dreadful weather up here, strong winds and heavy showers punctuate the day. So, the UK will see its first supercasino in Manchester, and another 16 smaller ones dotted across the country. What's the point, anyone that wants to gamble will do so on-line.

Hurricane update - 30 January

Tropical cyclone DORA is winding itself up into a hurricane in the Indian Ocean, some 470 miles north northeast of La Reunion and Mauritius. Winds at 0900 UTC today were 55 knots [65 mph] and these are expected to increase over the next few days to 90 knots, 105 mph. Current forecast would appear to steer Dora to the north of the aforementioned two islands, but a close eye needs to be kept on that situation. Tropical cyclones are notoriously unpredictable.

Queensland, Australia, is keeping a beady eye on a tropical weather system over the Cape York area. If that moves out into open waters, a tropical cyclone could well develop. The Northern Territories are watching another tropical low over Melville Island, which could also develop if repositioned over open water.

Yes, it's January - but the Cyclone Watch remains on alert.

Monday, 29 January 2007


Just a note or two on the various webmail providers that are available. Only my opinion, feel free to disagree.

I am annoyed with Hotmail, although I started life with email with that crowd. I think everybody did. It attracts large amounts of junkmail, and I usually spend my time deleting all the junkmail and unsolicited email from it. I am also on its Beta-version (Windows Live), which takes forever to load, and sometimes chokes on itself. OK, it's Beta.
Oh, nearly forgot. Don't forget to use Hotmail at least once every 30 days, or you lose the account.

Yahoo does not have the junkmail problem, but it cannot be bothered to give you anything larger than a peephole to view your mails in. You also have to be sure that you wait for the message to be declared "read" before actually opening it.

AOL/AIM is working fine, although the advertising takes forever to load, and I have the added bonus of messages stalling whilst loading the zillion links from advertisers. Even if I have the pleasure of paying AOL every month for a dial-up connection I don't use. Free AOL UK? Don't think so, now that Carphone Warehouse have taken it over.

Lycos is a provider I rarely use, because it's superfluous to requirement. Also, I have already lost all the emails I did have in it, because I forgot about it for months. Annoying.

I'm not going to express a preference - for the moment, I use AOL most often, even if emails in there mostly consist of Alerts.

Call for support

I don't think I need to remind, but just a pointer for Carlene, who lost her husband Danny exactly a year ago on 29 January 2006.

Monday jottings

Weather doesn't know what to do with itself today. Low cloud passes along, drops some drizzle (did that all day yesterday), then moves off again to leave us with some brightness. It's not cold, 8C / 46F today.

Our ferry service is being carried out by a new ferry, the MV Clansman, pictured below.
MV Clansman

Our own chuggie-boat is now in dry-dock at Birkenhead, west of Liverpool, for its annual refit. Once the Isle of Lewis is out of dry-dock, the Clansman will go down for its own overhaul.

The local radiostation, Isles FM, wasn't quite up to speed with the news this morning. On Saturday, a carcrash near the airport left 5 people injured. Not worthy of a mention on the local news. Oh, the revamp of the ferry terminal with new lights and seats was news. Elsewhere in Scotland, 13 people died in road traffic accidents this weekend alone.


Barbara (Life & Faith in Caneyhead) made an entry about advertising for alcohol. Suggest all read it. As far as I'm concerned, I think advertising for alcohol should be scrapped, just like tobacco advertising was banned in Europe.

We all know the dangers of nicotine. And there are quite a few in J-land who have seen the devastation wrought by alcohol. Either by losing friends of relatives to drunk drivers, or by seeing a relative or friend struck down with alcoholism and all that it entails.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Hurricane update - 28 January

A tropical cyclone has formed in the Indian Ocean, which does not appear to threaten land. There is one ship out there that I am concerned about, the CSCL Fuzhou. When I plotted the position of cyclone 10S on this website, she came up in fairly close proximity. Her weather reports did bear that out, with winds of 31 knots at 1800 GMT today. The course of the Fuzhou takes her on a direct collision course with the cyclone as it makes south.
I'll check during tomorrow to see whether she's weathered the storm; I have emailed the company.

Image courtesy Nordcapital.

Calmac Song

YouTube user Chrismatheson made this tribute to the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries, which serve our islands. If you want to leave a comment specifically to him, please follow the link.

Sunday notes

Very quiet Sunday afternoon, as per usual. The ferry looks as if it's been drilling with the lifeboats, and a big buoy was beached in the basin - low tide was at 8.40.

This weekend, thirteen people have died on the roads in Scotland, 5 of them in one accident outside the town of Crieff. The circumstances surrounding this two-car collision on the A85 Perth to Lochearnhead road have not yet been cleared up.

Anyone with videos on YouTube - that they hold the copyright to (take note) - stands to gain a share in ad money in the near future. Sounds like a good time to weed out all those funny ads from my YouTube account. Got quite enough of my own cam-videos on there.

Call of nature


Even if you aren't a skier, you'll be able to appreciate the humor of the slopes as written by a New Orleans paper. A friend just got back from a holiday skiing trip to Utah with the kind of story that warms the cockles of anybody's heart.

Conditions were perfect... 12 below, no feeling in the toes, basic numbness all over... the "Tell me when we're having fun" kind of day.

One of the women in the group complained to her husband that she was in dire need of a rest room. He told her not to worry that he was sure there was relief waiting at the top of the lift in the form of a powder room for female skiers in distress. He was wrong, of course, and the pain did not go away. If you've ever had nature hit its panic button in you, then you know that a temperature of 12 below doesn't help matters.

With time running out, the woman weighed her options.

Her husband, picking up on the intensity of the pain, suggested that since she was wearing an all-white ski outfit, she should go off in the woods and no one would even notice.

He assured her, "The white will provide more than adequate camouflage."

So she headed for the tree line, began lowering her ski pants and proceeded to do her thing.

If you've ever parked on the side of a slope, then you know there is a right way and wrong way to set your skis so you don't move.

Yup, you got it!!!

She had them positioned the wrong way.. Steep slopes are not forgiving... even during the most embarrassing moments.

Without warning, the woman found herself skiing backward, out-of-control, racing through the trees...somehow missing all of them and onto another slope. Her derriere and the reverse side were still bare, her pants down around her knees, and she was picking up speed all the while.

She continued backwards, totally out-of-control, creating an unusual vista for the other skiers. The woman skied back under the lift and finally collided violently with a pylon. The bad news was that she broke her arm and was unable to pull up her ski pants.

At long last her husband arrived, putting an end to her nudie show, then summoned the ski patrol. They transported her to a hospital.

While in the emergency room, a man with an obviously broken leg was put in the bed next to hers. "So, how'd you break your leg?" she asked, making small talk.

"It was the stupidest thing you ever saw," he said.

"I was riding up this ski lift and suddenly, I couldn't believe my eyes! There was this crazy woman skiing backward, out-of-control, down the mountain, with her bare bottom hanging out of her pants. I leaned over to get a better look and fell out of the lift." ...... "So, how'd you break your arm?"

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, as it is the 62nd anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz/Birkenau in present-day southern Poland by Russian forces moving against Nazi Germany. Auschwitz was not the first concentration camp to be liberated, but it has achieved extreme notoriety.

Auschwitz ended up being a slaughterhouse for human beings, set up specifically to kill and destroy on an industrial scale. During the early 1940s, the Nazi regimes in Germany and countries occupied during pushes in 1940 and 1941 had a policy of isolating those sections of society that were deemed to be inferior. A special focus was on the Jews, but the nefarious race laws meant that anyone who did not fit the description of the Aryan race was liable to be removed.

Following a period of social isolation, Jews and others would be rounded up in pogroms (raids, in some places referred to as razzias) and taken to the railway station. From there, trains would take them to concentration camps. This is not a Nazi invention; they were first conceived by the British during the Boer Wars in South Africa around the turn of the 19th/20th century. Apart from Auschwitz/Birkenau, there were hundreds of concentration camps across occupied Europe. Infamous names include Dachau, near Munich, Mauthausen in Austria, Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbrück to name but a few in Germany; Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia; Westerbork in Holland.

At the concentration camps, people would be stowed on board cattle trucks, box cars, without any facilities whatsoever. Water, toilets, food were all NOT provided. The journey could take days. The train would carry an armed guard, and anyone trying to abscond was liable to be shot on sight.

On arrival at Auschwitz, people would be hounded off the train like animals. Men, women and children would be lined up and brought in front of an SS officer [SS were the elite soldiers of the Nazis; the letters stand for Schutz Staffel, Adolf Hitler's Lifeguard]. He would decide for anyone to go right or left. One direction meant imminent death; the other meant survival in a labour camp. Those sent to the wrong direction would be directed into a changing room for the purpose of de-lousing. They were ordered to remove all their clothes, and everyone would be crammed into a small chamber with showerheads dangling from the ceiling. The last to leave was an SS officer who would throw some Zyklon-B crystals into the room. These would release hydrogen cyanide gas, which can kill in minutes.

After half an hour, the room would be opened and all inside were dead. The bodies were propped up into the walls as high as they would get to escape the gas which was at its densest nearest the floor. None would escape its deadly effects. The bodies were removed and any gold teeth extracted. The belongings would be meticulously sorted and logged. The bodies were then taken to furnaces and incinerated. This was done at an industrial scale. One to two million people were killed in this fashion at Auschwitz alone.

When Russian forces approached the camps, the Nazis tried to obliterate all traces of their evil work by blowing up the ovens. Sufficient evidence remained though. Auschwitz remains today as it was found 62 years ago. The gate with the euphemistic quote "Arbeit macht frei" [Labour Liberates], and the barbed wire fences, which were electrified. The sheds, housing those working in the camp. For the Nazi soldiers couldn't operate this death factory on their own. It was inmates that fed the ovens.

People visit Auschwitz to this day, and find it an overwhelming experience, to visit a place where so many died - because of sheer malice. Personally, I have not been there, and am not likely to visit.

This entry is dedicated to Holocaust Memorial Day, to those that died at the hands of the Nazi doctrine. There is plenty of further, detailed reading on this subject; I suggest this link.

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Bird flu

This being winter has once again brought the bird flu to the fore. Outbreaks are reported from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia as well as Japan. The on-going concern is that the H5N1 strain of the virus could mutate into a form that could transmit from human to human. Although people have died of bird flu, which they contracted following close contact with birds (such as chickens and ducks), nobody has caught the virus from another human.

A report came through yesterday that cats in Indonesia had caught the virus off birds, by eating contaminated meat, which caused some concern, as we are usually a lot closer to and with cats than with birds. At present, cats do not seem to spread it among themselves.

Just to reiterate: there is NO flu pandemic imminent, you CANNOT catch flu off cats, and it is unlikely that you can contract it from birds.

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Friday, 26 January 2007

Double plug

Well, my evening is made. TWO plugs for my journal tonight. First, Robin (Random Threads) very kindly recommended me to Joe the Journalseditor for a special mention on account of Burns Night yesterday, and Dornbrau includes me on account of participating in the Blog Crawl.

Thanks to both!

Hurricane update - 26 January

The tropical cyclones I mentioned a day or so ago occurred in the southern hemisphere, near Tahiti, midway between New Zealand and South America. It is summer there. The last two, Zita and Arthur, briefly blew at hurricane force (60 to 65 knots), but have now dissipated as tropical systems. Sailors in the Southern Ocean will catch a whiff of both of them, but as the weather below latitudes 30 to 40 South is dreadful as a norm, that won't make much of an impact.

Am keeping an eye on two developing systems, one near Sri Lanka and one west of Diego Garcia. Not formal hurricanes (yet), but you never know what may happen.

I only mention hurricanes on here that threaten land. Summaries of tropical cyclone bulletins from around the world appear in my Tropical Cyclones blog.

Thursday 25/01/07

It's Burns night tonight, and mrs B has invited a number of her relatives round for supper. No we don't get haggis, but mince and tatties, as well as neeps and brussels sprouts. After I get the papers in - we may get a miniature railway in Stornoway, between Cuddy Point, the Waterwheel and Cromwell Street Quay, to tempt drivers out of their cars - then assist mrs B in the preparations. The first two guests arrive at 6.30pm, and the third by 7 o'clock. Some Burns poetry is recited in amongst the food, and a couple of songs do the rounds. A lemon torte and a trifle close proceedings foodwise. Spirits keep spirits high afterwards.

Wednesday 24/01/07

Bright day with sunny spells and temperature of 5C / 41F. A fair number of interesting news items, including the stop being put on looting from the cargo of MSC Napoli in Devon. People who don't report that they have retrieved goods washed up on shore are liable for prosecution and a fine, double the value of the goods taken. In the case of the BMW motorbikes, this could add up. The Health Board is still £3m in the red, our ferry services are up for review.
Go out for a walk round town at 3pm. The MV Sava Hill is discharging its cargo of coal. The lorry carting it away are being weighed at the weigbridge near no 2 pier, and they leave a lot of coalmess around. The quayside behind Muirneag is occupied by four black-backed gulls. One of them has caught a fish, but drops it from its beak nearly on to two passers-by. They throw the fish into the sea. Walk on to the Cromwell Street Quay, where a few fishingboats lie tied up. Cross the bridge outside the new YM, and carry on to the Golf Club. The greens look very - green. Pass through the Porter's Lodge to the Coop, where I get the papers and the lottery tickets. Return along Matheson Road and Sandwick Road.

Tuesday 23/01/07

Another dreich day, with occasional rainshowers. Snow in the Highlands caused a MacAskills lorry to jackknife on the A9 south of Inverness. This snow is now headed for England. The scavenging around the Devon shipwreck has greatly reduced after the authorities threaten arrests and prosecution. One family, who were retiring to South Africa, watched their possessions being looted and strewn along the beach.  The Health Board has a new chairman, who is/was chairman of An Lanntair. The Health Board were forced by the people of Scalpay to keep open the health centre on that island. It appeared to have been earmarked for closure, as little had been done about its upkeep. The HB thought people could travel to Tarbert to see a doctor and pick up their medicines. No, said Scalpay. Supper consisted of sweet and sour. A cargoship entered port just before 11pm, lighting its way in with its searchlight.

Monday 22/01/07

Bright morning, but hail and sleet showers bear down from the Arctic. Tropical cyclones are developing in the South Pacific, which I'll be keeping an eye on over the next few days. The ferry is late coming in at lunchtime, don't know why. Hop off into town for papers, post-its and some food. Get a computer magazine, which is full of Windows Vista. Mrs B is doing a wholesale clean of the house, whilst I catch up on diary entries for the preceding week. After sunset, the new moon is out. Yesterday's Indonesian earthquake was feared to have caused a tsunami, but nothing happened. The Christmas lights are being taken down in the town centre. Tried out something new for supper: a Mariner's Pie. Quite acceptable.


With thanks to Rhonda for sharing -

"OLD" IS WHEN .... Your sweetie says, "Let's go upstairs and make love," and you answer, "Pick one; I can't do both!"

"OLD " IS WHEN ... Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you're barefoot.

"OLD" IS WHEN .... A sexy babe catches your fancy and your pacemaker opens the garage door.

.... Going braless pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.

"OLD" IS WHEN .... You don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along.

.... You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police.

.."Getting a little action" means you don't need to take any fiber today

"OLD" IS WHEN .... "Getting lucky" means you find your car in the parking lot.

.... An "all nighter" means not getting up to use the bathroom.

.... You are not sure these are jokes

Deleted from my diary

Today I will delete from my diary two days:
yesterday and tomorrow...

Yesterday was to learn and tomorrow will be
the consequence of what I can do today.

Today I will face life with the conviction
that this day will not ever return.

Today is the last opportunity I have to live intensely,
as no one can assure me that I will see tomorrow's sunrise.

Today I will be brave enough not to let any opportunity pass me by,
my only alternative is to succeed.

Today I will invest my most valuable resource:my time,
in the most transcendental work: my life.

Today I will spend each minute passionately to make
of today a different and unique day in my life.

Today I will defy every obstacle that appears
on my way, trusting that I will succeed.

Today I will resist pessimism and will conquer the world with a smile,
with the positive attitude of expecting always the best.

Today I will make of every ordinary task
a sublime expression.

Today I will have my feet on the ground, understanding reality
and the stars' gaze to invent my future.

Today I will take the time to be happy and
will leave my footprints and my presence
in the hearts of others.

Today, I invite you to begin a new season where we can dream
that everything we undertake is possible and
we fulfill it,
with joy and dignity.

With thanks to Lily

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Broadband woes

Leaving my own personal problems with broadband this week to one side, I came across this warning on MSN against taking up cheap broadband offers. They cite AOL as having an excellent customer service record. Oh yeah? I'm not with AOL for my broadband, but my customer service appreciation of AOL is downright abysmal.


Our very own Ste [stevietwain] has gone private, for legal reasons to do with the band he has joined. If you read his journal, and got an alert saying he's gone private, just drop him a line on, and you'll be added to the list.

Robert Burns - II

This poem was written by Burns on the back of a banknote

Wae worth thy power, thou cursed leaf!
Fell source of a' my woe and grief,
For lack o' thee I've lost my lass,
For lack o' thee I scrimp my glass
I see the children of affliction
Unaided, through thy curs'd restriction
I've seen the oppressor's cruel smile
Amid his hapless victims' spoil;
And for thy potence vainly wish'd
To crush the villain in the dust.
For lack o' thee I leave this much-lov'd shore,
Never, perhaps, to greet old Scotland more.

Robert Burns

Today is the 248th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland's famous poet and writer. Contrary to popular belief, Burns was able to write in the King's English as well as Scots dialect. Unlike last year, I will not be indulging in haggis (stuffed sheep stomach), although the neeps and tatties [potatoes and turnips] will feature.

I'll copy Burns's most famous poem here:

Is there, for honest poverty
That hings his head, and a' that;
The coward-slave we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, and a' that
Our toils obscure, and a' that
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that -

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and a' that,
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A Man's a man for a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show and a' that;
The honest man, though e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that. -

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that and a' that.
It's comin yet for a' that
That Man to Man the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that

Technical problems

After continually losing connection on the DSL this week, I wasn't even able to access Journals this morning. Have complained bitterly to the ISP, and am awaiting a reply.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

More chuckles

I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, "Mom! That lady isn't wearing a seat belt!"

On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read, "The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents."

A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup out of the jar. During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone. "Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle."

A little boy got lost at the YMCA and found himself in the women's locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, "What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a little boy before?"

5) POLICE # 1
While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, I was interrupted by a little girl about 6 years old. Looking up and down at my uniform, she asked, "Are you a cop?" Yes," I answered and continued writing the report. "My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right? "Yes, that's right," I told her. "Well, then,"she said as she extended her foot toward me, "would you please tie my shoe?"

6) POLICE # 2
It was the end of the day when I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me "Is that a dog you got back there?" he asked. "It sure is," I replied. Puzzled, the boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said," What'd he do?"

While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, "The tooth fairy will never believe this!"

A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, "Daddy, you shouldn't wear that suit."
"And why not, darling?"
"You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning. "

While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently, his 5-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased.
The minister's son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said: "Glory be unto the Faaaather, and unto the Sonnn, and into the hole he gooooes."

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. "I'm just wasting my time," she said to her mother . "I can't read, I can't write and they won't let me talk!"

A little boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages "Mama, look what I found," the boy called out. "What have you got there, dear?" With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered, "I think it's Adam's underwear!"

Baby boomers - the fun is over

Baby Boomer Blues
It was fun being a baby boomer... until now. Some of the artists of the 60's are revising their hits with new lyrics to accommodate aging baby boomers.

They include:

Herman's Hermits--- Mrs.. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Walker.
Ringo Starr--- I Get By With a Little Help From Depends.
The Bee Gees--- How Can You Mend a Broken Hip.
Bobby Darin--- Splish, Splash, I Was Havin' a Flash.
Roberta Flack--- The First Time Ever I Forgot Your Face.
Johnny Nash--- I Can't See Clearly Now.
Paul Simon--- Fifty Ways to Lose Your Liver
The Commodores--- Once, Twice, Three Times to the Bathroom.
Marvin Gaye--- Heard It Through the Grape Nuts.
Procol Harem--- A Whiter Shade of Hair.
Leo Sayer--- You Make Me Feel Like Napping.
The Temptations--- Papa's Got a Kidney Stone.
Abba--- Denture Queen.
Tony Orlando--- Knock 3 Times On The Ceiling If You Hear Me Fall.
Helen Reddy--- I Am Woman, Hear Me Snore.
Leslie Gore--- It's My Procedure, and I'll Cry If I Want To.
And: Willie Nelson--- On the Commode Again

Don't blame me, I only relay. LMAO

Isle of Eigg

For about 17 or 18 years, I've visited the island of Eigg at irregular intervals. It's a small isle, measuring 5 miles north to south and 3 miles east to west - at its broadest point. Its highest point is An Sgurr, Gaelic for The Rocky Peak, 393 metres above sealevel [1294 feet]. Population is in the 70s, and served by ferry from Mallaig, 15 miles to the northeast on the mainland.

Its recent history has been nothing short of chequered, but has repercussions that reverberate in Lewis today.

Over the last few weeks, I've mentioned that the Galson Estate, in the north of Lewis, was taken into community ownership. Eigg was the second privately owned estate in the Highlands and Islands to go down that route in the 1990s. The way that came about is actually beyond belief.

After being owned by shipping magnates, the Runciman family, Eigg was sold in 1966 to the first of a series of madcap private landlords. One had the idea to establish a school for disadvantaged children on the island. The idea fell through because the man in question couldn't get the idea off the ground. The second fellow grandly called himself a Captain, but his captaincy stemmed from a stint in the fireservice. By 1975, the island was falling into decay and heading for depopulation. Along came Keith Schellenberg, a member of the UK bob-sleigh team in the 1964 Olympics in Rome. He turned Eigg into his private playground, organising mock-ups of Jacobites vs Hannoverian battles (a reflection of the Battle of Culloden in 1746), using tennis balls. He would drive his friends round the island 5 mile road system in a 1927 Rolls Royce car. On the positive side, Schellenberg promoted tourism and got quite a few new residents to move to Eigg. They were crafts people, from various parts of the UK and beyond.

As so often, Mr Schellenberg's private life caught up with him, when, in 1992, his then wife filed for divorce and wanted her cut. He had to sell Eigg - which he did, to one of his own companies. The relationship between Keith and his islanders deteriorated rapidly when he ordered a family with 5 children to move out of one of the estate's main houses. The islanders rose in revolt, and he retracted the order, saying he hadn't meant it like that. Unfortunately, the bad blood was out. One January morning, the island's firecrew was called to the pier to extinguish a blaze. A shed, containing Schellenberg's vintage car, was consumed in flames. The island meanwhile, was in a state of neglect and stagnation. Schellenberg's spirit was broken, as far as Eigg was concerned, and he sold the island.

To whom? To Marlin Eckhardt Maruma. He was a fire artist. You load a gun with paint, fire it at a canvas, and set the paint alight. Mr Maruma bought Eigg for £2m, an amount he had loaned - secured on the island. He promised much, but delivered nothing. When it turned out that Maruma, who only visited Eigg twice, had nothing to show for his 2 million pound debt, the creditors called in their loan and placed the island on the market.

In the years 1996 and 1997, the islanders of Eigg collected £2 million by private subscription and bought it for their own community. And they haven't looked back since.

Mission Statement - Lewis

Was going through my files the other day, after discovering that you can do word- processing through Google. I came across this piece that I wrote just over a year ago, which pretty much summarises why I like the place where I am.

I was amazed at the colours at sunset these past days. And at sunrise as well. Normally, I expect light to start to fail 25 minutes after sunset, but at this latitude this is extended to 40 minutes. I am not a native of the islands, but one of the reasons I have come here is the natural beauty. Whether it is in the images shown above, at a time of good weather - or in bad.

Being caught up in a thunder, hail, snow, sleet (and kitchensink) shower back in January, whilst going down the Lochs Road at Leurbost, with the bus driver being forced to reduce speed to a crawl. No snow or ice at the next village, Keose.

The many rainbows in the spring, going down the Lochs road.

The joy at seeing the first green shoots, in April, out at Keose.

Hearing the first bleating of lambs in a pasture at Breascleit late in March. Walking the island in the bitter winds of February, and seeing the sad remains of the sheep that did not make it through the winter. Or the sheep that was knocked down at the Marybank cattlegrid in April, and was slowly decomposing in peace in the ditch that it was dumped in over a period of 6 months.

Seeing the days lengthen to an incredible extent, sunset at 22.30, with the light lingering to the nadir of the night at 01.30, then returning fully at 03.30. But also shortening of the days, with the daylight hours of 09.15 to 15.35 at Christmas.

The howling of the gales. Clattering of hail and thumping of the wind against the window at night - waking up in the middle of the night because there is no noise.

Watching the breathtaking coastal scenery at Filiscleitir, or the stunning mountain scenery from Rapaire, Teileasbhal, Mullach an Langa. Or beautiful Glen Langadale, where I'm forever fording that river under frown of Stulabhal. The little mouse on the slopes of that mountain, the one that allowed me to stroke it.

The yellow grasses on the moors of South Lochs, finding your way in amongst a myriad of lochs, streams and bogs. Loch nan Eilean, south of Garyvard.

Place seems to have gotten under my skin.

[original version: December 2005, revised January 2007]

Wednesday jottings

Nice bright day today with good sunny spells. It's not too cold, with a temperature of 5C / 41F. Down in Devon, the looting of the cargo of the MSC Napoli, which was beached off Branscombe Bay late last week, has been stopped. Police and Coastguards have secured the beaches and restricted access to nearby villages to residents. It is bad enough that cargo was illegally removed; seeing people's personal possessions strewn across the beach was distressing for the owners.

There was a man in Inverness who bought a plane 10 years ago - a DIY plane. He got all the bits and put it together himself. After acquiring a pilot's license, he flew in it within the last few weeks. Well done to this 74-year old.

Up here in Lewis, a consultation has started into the future of our ferry and the Ullapool service. Over the past weeks and months, there were numerous cancellations and much disruption of service. Complaints about the vessel MV Isle of Lewis are frequent, and even more so about it freight counterpart MV Muirneag. This is not just from users, but also from those sailing the vessels. The latter boat was involved in an infamous incident in November 2005, when the captain decided to sail in the face of stormforce winds, and ended up 60 miles off course, battling force 12 winds.

The Health Board in the Western Isles remains in the news today, after the Finance Director announced a cumulative deficit of £3m. Over the current financial year, the shortfall is £800k, but deficits of preceding years raise the total to £3m. Stringent measures have been put into place to curtail spending, and staff have been asked to cooperate with management. Let's hope the new management team do manage to get their personnel on board; the previous lot got a vote of no confidence from staff last March and lost their Stornoway posts five months ago.

As I went out for an amble over the last hour, I came across the MV Sava Hill, which is discharging a cargo of coal. The town is being painted black by the lorries carting it away. I walked round the water's edge to the new build of the Bridge Centre and on to the Coop on Macaulay Road. After getting the papers and the lottery tickets from there, I returned down Matheson Road.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Tuesday notes

Not a terribly exciting day - grey and dreich. Weatherwise, we're in the battlezone between cold air, pushing south to our east and milder air over the Atlantic. A tropical cyclone has formed in the Pacific, 300 miles west of Tahiti, but that is a shortlived affair.

Here in Lewis, money has been earmarked for a feasibility study into turning Lews Castle into a 4-star hotel, which is something that is apparently lacking in these parts. At the moment, the Castle, which features in my pictures every now and again, is crumbling at its prominent position overlooking Stornoway Harbour.

The Western Isles Health Board continues to make headlines, after a new chairman was installed. John Angus MacKay is the current chairman of the Stornoway Arts Centre, An Lanntair. Health Minister Andy Kerr has expressed full confidence in Mr MacKay's commitment to public service. The previous chairman resigned in August after the Board found itself spending £4.5m in excess of its income. There were also problems with bullying and intimidation, which led to a breakdown of trust between staff and management.

Unfortunately, the people of Scalpay are not impressed with the Board's activities or lack of them, surrounding their health centre. Until 1997, you needed a ferry to reach Scalpay; it's a small island 5 miles east of Tarbert, Harris. Now that a bridge has been built, the Health Board argued that the Scalpeachs could go to Tarbert to see a doctor. An angry populace has risen up and demanded that the service be retained in their island. It would appear that the Board's plans have fallen flat on their face, as they have allowed the health centre in Scalpay to fall into disrepair. The walls are paperthin, allowing people in adjacent rooms to overhear confidential conversations. In other respects, the building is unfit for purpose. Net result: the Health Board is forced to spend money doing up the Scalpay health centre, money that it can ill afford to spend at the moment.

I should add that there are two islands called Scalpay in the northwest of Scotland. The other is an uninhabited island to the northwest of Broadford in Skye.

which has a view like below

Monday, 22 January 2007

Sunday 21/01/07

After a late start we have a brunch of bacon and eggs. Catch up with the news, such as the sad case of Molly Campbell, who will now remain with daddy in Pakistan. Her mother thinks she has been influenced by the family over there, and that she is a sad, confused child. Nonetheless, she is unlikely to visit Misbah (Molly's Islamic name) any time soon, because of death threats uttered against her. Mrs Campbell converted to Islam, and converted back to Christianity on the divorce from Sajed. Louise is now concentrating on her young baby daughter Rachel, 6 months old and her partner. Her relationship with that man broke down under the strain of Molly's abduction; Molly didn't like the man to start with. The containership Napoli now lies grounded off the South Devon coast and is shedding its cargo of containers and its fuel oil under a 30 degree list. Supper tonight is pork fillets with potatoes, ratatouille and home-made apple sauce. A blackberry and apple tart topped with custard leaves us well replete. Hail and snow showers clatter down through the evening - it's very cold outside.

Saturday 20/01/07

Carry out some on-line research into the sinking of the fishery protection cruiser Vaila, the results of which feature on a separate entry. Showers pass through, leaving some great cloudscapes. One person died in the Cairngorms yesterday, the fifth to die on Coire an t-Sneachda [as reported separately]. One chap falls 1,000 feet on a mountain near Loch Treig and survives. Sends you wondering whether people are prepared or equipped for the mountains or the conditions on them at all. Today is cold: 4C. Have a microwaveable meal for supper. The lottery yields no gain.

Friday 19/01/07

Weather has turned grey and drizzly. The big storm is now causing havoc in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Big Brother row leads to its inevitable conclusion, with prime culprit Jade Goody booted out. She was met by a deafening silence, and is now fighting for her career. Davina McCall has grown decidedly gaunt and unattractive, in the 3 years that I did not watch Big Brother. I cannot sit out the program, as Jade Goody's voice and utterances grate on my nerves. The forecast for next week is wintery, with a cold northerly blast. All the weekend's shopping is in now, so I just need to nip out to get the papers and lottery tickets. Hop into town for a haircut and some other bits and pieces. Catch up with the week's puzzles from the papers. A new edition is out of Back in the Day, featuring quite a few interesting historical pictures and stories.

Thursday 18/01/07

A major storm is lashing England and Wales, with sustained winds of 45 mph and gusts up to 99 mph at the Needles, Isle of Wight. In total, 13 people lose their lives through the day. The first perished in Shropshire, when a branch fell through his windscreen. A young child is crushed by a 20 ft wall in Manchester. Others are killed by flying debris. A container ship, measuring 62,000 tonnes, gets into difficulties in the Channel when a plate works loose on its hull. The 26 crew abandon ship, and are rescued by the Coastguard. Fifteen lorries are blown over on the country's roads, with one driver being killed. When the storms move across the North Sea, they leave 140,000 people without power. In Holland, winds increase to 55 mph, blowing over a building crane at Utrecht and shutting down the rail network. Six die in the Netherlands; eleven die in Germany, which also sees its railways closed for the first time in their history.
Here in the islands, it's a bright day with only light winds. Went for a walk to the Battery, where I found the new tanks positioned behind the powerstation. Hobble down to Somerfields for the papers. It's not warm at all. Meet Mrs B at the supermarket and carry her shopping home.

Wednesday 17/01/07

Today, the new webcam arrives. Ordered it through Amazon last Thursday, and spend a few hours jiggling about with it. A huge row erupts over Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother. Ignorance and a loud mouth make a poor mixture. It prompts questions in Parliament, and almost a diplomatic incident. The wide load is taken down the street at lunchtime, in the shape of two oil tanks on low loaders. These are so wide that all parked cars have to be removed. The tanks stand more than 20 feet tall. Molly Campbell will be staying with her daddy in Pakistan, after mum gives up the custody fight. Something morally wrong there. Go out shopping at 3.30, and return at 4pm, just before a major downpour. Chat to our guest, who is here on a course at Lews Castle College, related to his job as a marine engineer.

Tuesday 16/01/07

Sunny interlude with a few showers today. It's cold this morning, but at least we have the sun. Ferry came in early this morning, and departed at 8.30. It returns late, at 2pm. During the afternoon, cloud gradually increases on the approach of yet another depression. Winter is promised for next week. The Scot Isles is now unloading its cargo of a large tank onto a trailer. It is a slow process, which would have been impossible yesterday. The lifeboat is hauled up onto the slipway all day. Residents are once again requested to clear the street, but the wide load does not come through. Later in the evening, I go for a walk to the Coastguard Station. As I look around for a place to take a pic, I hear a cat miaow below me, and presently a familiar looking tabby jumps up from the boulders lining the basin. I fuss over it for about 10 minutes, then return.

Monday 15/01/07

Dreadful day, lashing rain, howling gale. The wide load that is due down the street today does not come, too much wind. The new webcam is being despatched today, and it should come within the next few days. Ferry crosses to Ullapool at 7.15, but does not return until 8pm. All services to and within the Outer Hebrides are off. When I go to the shop at 3pm, the winds and rain are abating. One guest was due up from the Berneray ferry, but no such luck. She'll come tomorrow morning. Mrs B gets an acquaintance in to do a few jobs around the house. The ferry leaves port at midnight, taking over from the Muirneag, whose captain is off sick in hospital.

Sunday 14/01/07

Weather not much better than yesterday. A heavy hailshower passes just after midnight, with stones measuring up to 8 mm, 1/3 inch. They take 2 hours to melt. Our guest does not show up until well into the afternoon. Keep a quiet day myself. Things begin to liven up on the weatherfront after nightfall. A gale blows up, with gusts in exccess of 60 mph; up at Eoropie they go at 70 mph. North Rona has sustained winds of 70 mph. Mrs B's son & family call round for their showers in the evening. Supper is a very creditable goulash with rice. Will the ferry be going tomorrow? I have my doubts.

Saturday 13/01/07

Cold, wet and grey today. Do not show my face outside, partially because mrs B has gone out to get my lottery ticket alongside with her own shopping. My paper, the Press & Journal, has not come today. A note is being left in the neighbourhood, advising people to remove their cars from the street on Monday, to allow a wide load to pass to the power station. Sends me wondering how they are going to squeeze through the turn from Seaview Terrace into the Battery, which is an awkward passage. Our guest goes out for the night at 6pm, only to return much the worse for wear after midnight. Weather deteriorates through the evening. Dinner is a microwaveable meal.

Friday 12/01/07

Heavy showers and strong winds, bordering on galeforce. It's binday as well, with the bins all going walkabout in the street. After the binlorry has emptied them, the bins take off. Today is the day that the management of the Galson Estate is taken over by the Galson Trust, a community run body. More than half the landmass of the Western Isles is now in community ownership. AIS shows about 10 fishermen in the Minch. The Jan Maria is discernible off Arnish just after midday, as does the Dirk Diederik. Between 11 and 1, there is a bit of a clearance. The tiling is being finished off today. This week's guest from Skye returns home - via Inverness strangely enough. The Lochmaddy to Uig ferry couldn't dock in Skye, so she ends up sheltering in Tarbert, Harris. Two days ago, our long term guest returned after the Christmas break. At 3.45, we have a powercut, which brings out candles and paraffin lamps. Electricity is restored after 10 or 15 minutes. Candles are not easily obtained, as they were sold out before the winter, when people were preparing for precisely this sort of eventuality. The Stornoway Gazette, only in today, contains a letter from a resident complaining bitterly about people racing the streets in their souped-up cars. His daughter's cat was knocked down and killed, leaving kids in the street to discover the mess left behind. The powercut leaves Isles FM off air for more than an hour. The powerstation at the Battery is fired up, and our supplies continue uninterrupted.

Canna mice and men

Over the past 15 months, I have reported a few times on the eradication of rats on the island of Canna, already mentioned in previous post. The full report can be read on the website of regional monthly newspaper West Word. It is contained in the January 2007 edition, under the heading The Canna Seabird Recovery Programme, headed by a map of Canna showing where all the baitstations for the rat poison were located, as shown below.


Monday jottings

Fairly bright but pretty cold up here today. Occasional showers of sleet, interspersed with nice sunny intervals. You only experience the warmth of the sun behind glass.

Down in Devon, people think they are having a field day beach combing on Branscombe Bay, near Sidmouth. It is there that the stricken container ship Napoli lies stranded, and some 200 of its containers have floated ashore. Its contents now lie strewn along the coastline, varying from BMW motorbikes to clothes to battery acid. The Receiver of Wrecks reminds people that anything washed ashore is the property of those that lost it, and he who collects items from the beaches should report it or face prosecution.
Fuel oil from the vessel is leaking into the sea and is affecting wildlife.

The 18 people shortlisted for life in Canna have until today to submit their business plan for making a living there. The thing is that the small island has no roads and no mains infrastructure of any description. You have to do it all yourself.

In the Cairngorms, two men were helped down from the mountain Lochnagar, near Braemar, after spending the night on the summit in freezing conditions. They had become disoriented and had shared a bivvy bag to keep out the cold. The two, aged 26 and 37, were otherwise unhurt.

A few lines for bedtime

I dialed a number and got the following recording:  
~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~
"I am not available right now, but  
Thank you for caring enough to call.  
I am making some changes in my life.   
Please leave a message after the   Beep. 
If I do not return your call,  
You are one of the changes."  
Aspire to inspire before you expire.
My wife and I had words,
But I didn't get to use mine.
Frustration is trying to find your glasses without your glasses.
Blessed are those who can give without remembering
And take without forgetting.  
The irony of life is that, by the time  
You're old enough to know your way  
Around, you're not going anywhere. 
God made man before woman so as to give him time to think
Of an answer for her first question.  
I was always taught to respect my elders,
But it keeps getting harder to find one. 
Every morning is the dawn  
Of a new error.

Sunday, 21 January 2007


Not much, this snow, but this is the best I could do


Winter has sort-of arrived here tonight. Wet snow was falling for a while earlier on, and hail has been clattering against the windows all evening. Although the mercury isn't noticeably lower than it was last week, it does feel bitterly cold outside.

Yes, I know, +4C is higher than it is in certain areas of the USA. Nonetheless, it's very chilly. Winter should now feed down the length of the UK (I'm at the northern end), and snow is expected to affect many parts of England and Wales over the next few days, causing disruption to travel.

Alfred Wainwright

This month is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Wainwright in Blackburn, Lancashire. He is famous for writing a set of guidebooks on the Lakeland Fells, in which Wainwright himself drew very accurate pictures of the views at key points. He is also credited with the Coast-to-Coast Way, from St Bees Head, Cumbria, to Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire, 199 miles long.

Alfred moved to Kendal in order to indulge his love of the hills of the Lake District, and has managed to convey his love to thousands of ramblers and long distance walkers. Wainwright died in 1991.

Further information on his work can be found on this website, from which I have also linked this portrait of AW.

Earthquake - Indonesia

An earthquake measuring 7.3 has struck near the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the US Geological Survey has said. The quake struck in the Molucca Sea at 1927 (1127 GMT), some 160km (100 miles) south-east of the city of Manado. Indonesian officials put the quake strength at 6.5 and said it could pose a tsunami risk. A spokesman for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there were dangers of a "localised" tsunami, stretching from 100-200km (60-125 miles) from the epicentre. The Associated Press news agency reported a witness on Sulawesi as saying that at least three residents were injured by the quake. The earthquake was centred some 51km (32 miles) under the seabed.

Source: BBC

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has updated the bulletin at 12.16 GMT, stating the magnitude at 7.6 on the Richter scale.

Sunday notes

Quiet Sunday here in the Isles, as per usual. The odd hail shower passes through, indicating it is quite cold today. Latest report mentions 5C; our weather will be coming from the far north this week.

Molly Campbell's mother has spoken about the anguish over having to abandon the custody battle for her daughter. She has had to come to terms with the fact that Molly / Misbah wanted to be with her dad, rather than with her. Molly was fairly happy in Lewis though. Mrs Campbell has said that a visit to Pakistan is not on the cards in the near future. Louise adopted the Muslim faith during her marriage to Molly's father Sajed, but reverted to Christianity. She has received death threats over this, and claims she needs 24/7 police protection if she goes to Pakistan. The other consideration is that she will not leave her young baby daughter behind.

A casualty of last week's storm, the container carrier Napoli, was deliberately beached off the Devon coast in southwestern England on Friday. The ship has developed a 25 to 30 degree list, and is in danger of capsizing. 150 of her container cargo have already washed overboard, some of which pose a danger in terms of marine pollution.

Closer to home, a fishing boat put out a Mayday at 6.40 this morning, saying they were taking on water off the Isle of Soay, just south of Skye and west of the village of Elgol. Stornoway Coastguard scrambled the helicopter, which flew pumps to the FV Our Heritage. Meanwhile, the Mallaig lifeboat was launched and took just 40 minutes to reach the casualty. The pumps helped to bring the situation quickly under control, and the lifeboat towed the stricken vessel back to Mallaig. Stornoway Coastguard stated that the relatively calm conditions had been helpful in the situation.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Mountain casualties

Within the last 48 hours, two accidents in the Scottish mountains have claimed one life, and required one man to be airlifted off a mountain.

Coire an t-SneachdaThe fatality occurred in the Coire an t-Sneachda area of the Cairngorms (pictured left, image courtesy BBC), and yes I have unfortunately have had to mention that name before. The Snow Corrie has now claimed 5 lives since November. The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team have stated that snow conditions are such that there is less deep snow about, and more rock protruding through it. Any falls are not cushioned by snow, and a fall on ice will at least cause injury. CMR have described this year as one of the worst ever encountered. Coire an t-Sneachda is located within an hour's walk of the carpark, and apart from poor climbing conditions, relative inexperience may also have played a role, and any mistakes will have dire consequences. The man who died on Friday has not (yet) been named. The sad roll call includes: Aberdeen University student Richard Hardy, 18, from Milton in Hampshire, and graduate Graeme Cooper, 23, from Aberdeen, who died in November. In December, Neil Batchelor, 26, from Inverness, perished in a climbing accident. Bristol University mechanical engineering student Hugh Pitcairn, 20, died on 10 January, while climbing Crotched Gully in Coire an t-Sneachda.

The injured climber was on a mountain called Stob Coire Easain, about 15 miles east of Fort William. For those familiar with the area, the mountain is located due north of Creaguaineach Lodge on Loch Treig, to the north of Corrour. A picture gallery can be viewed here.

Call for support

Some people's bad luck is just beyond comprehension.

As I indicated in an entry, now deleted, Gina (whose brother is terminally ill with cancer) had opened a new, private journal. She did not get round to adding screennames to the journal because of yet another family emergency.

Gina asked me to relay with a request for prayers. I do not think she is currently monitoring journals, but I suggest to leave any messages in her public journal.

at three in morning friday... my mom called...she throwing up a great deal of blood... i rushed her to the hospital... she was beeding out... they took her to surgery...where they removed a very large tumor from her lung that was cancer.... she had a cyst inside if the tumor that was bleeding.... she also has a tumor on her other lung.. but they didn't want to even look at that one... my mom is in critical condition.... i just came home to shower and go back.... please pray for her.... they have her hooked up to every machine imaginable.... she is completely sedated....... i dont understand any of this......joey passed out when we saw her in the recovery room... please ask for everyones prayers....... please......gina


The Vaila was a fishery protection cruiser, built in 1940 at Ardrossan, west of Glasgow. She started life as HMS Acacia, a minesweeper. In 1944, she took part in the Normandy landings, as a unit of the 15 MS Flotilla off Sword Beach. After the war, in 1948, she became the Scottish Fisheries Protection cruiser Vaila. Vaila is an island in Shetland.

At 5.30 on the morning of 6th January 1957, Vaila was in waters off Lewis when she ran aground on Eilean Iubhard, a small island just south of the village of Lemreway. By road this is 32 miles from Stornoway; by sea it's about 15 miles. As she became stuck fast on rocks, the captain ordered abandon ship. Three lifeboats were launched, but one became fouled and sank, leaving its occupants in the water. Of these, only the captain was saved. Five men drowned in Loch Shell. A mayday call had been sent out, picked up by the Coastguard in Stornoway, and a lifeboat and "l.s.a." (sic) were sent to the scene.

The authorities were unaware of the mishap with the lifeboat, assuming at 8 am, when the Vaila sank, that all were safe and well, as they were in fairly calm waters.

Survivors were brought to Stornoway and clothed and fed. They later left for home on the ferry, together with their comrades who had drowned. Mrs B takes up the story, as she was travelling down to Glasgow a few days after the incident. At the time, the mast of the Vaila was the only thing left visible above water, looking like a cross over a grave. The crew looked dejected and demoralized, small wonder when you remember that five of their crewmates were down below in coffins. They were all wearing the same type of boilersuits. The weather was foul that day, and you have to remember that until 1975, the Stornoway ferry sailed to Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig. Normally, the crossing would take about 8 hours to Mallaig, but that day it took 12 hours. On arrival at Mallaig, the train had long gone. Another train was organised, which transported the ferry passengers and their mournful cargo to Fort William, 45 miles to the east. A bevvy of reporters mobbed the poor sailors, eager for the shot and the quote. The photographers showed more concern over the quality of their pictures, and whether they had survived radiographing to their office in Glasgow.

As a result of this accident, an inquest was held at Stornoway Sheriff Court. None of the crew were found to have been at fault. Questions were asked in the House of Commons about the provision of inflatable rubber liferaft on board Royal Navy ships, which were
later introduced on board all vessels.

Top image courtesy, image taken by John Bell
Facsimile of notes: National Archives of Scotland

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Friday, 19 January 2007

Disappeared desktop on AOL

Just noticed that my desktop on AOL has (also) disappeared. I seem to remember that Connie had the same problem, and I'm missing my kitties :-(

Mission Statement - 2007

In May 2006, I wrote a Mission Statement. Now that the year 2007 is firmly established, I thought I'd revisit and revamp.

In recent times, quite a few new readers have picked up on my blog. A note of warning: it has been going for more than 2 years, so you have more than 2000 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. In November of that year, 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. 

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.

What is my blogging remit?

To relay to readers news items I think are of interest. Not just from Lewis, but from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. There is an emphasis on matters maritime, bearing in mind my position in a small port.

I take a special interest in the weather, and try to relay hurricane warnings where possible.

I have also taken on a role as general blogger, commenting on everything I see fit to comment on. Or not.

Since the spring of 2006, I have become involved in the J-land community here on AOL, and try to adopt a social role, pointing out those in J-land who could do with extra attention for various reasons. If any new blogs come to my attention, I sometimes give them a mention as well.

Any questions? Send me mail, and I'll try to answer.