Friday, 30 November 2007

Christmas Illuminations

Last Wednesday, the Christmas lights were switched on in Stornoway. Just wanted to share some pictures I took this evening between 5 and 6pm.

Walk in the Castle Grounds

Yesterday was quite a nice day, and I took the opportunity to make a 90 minute circular walk in the Castle Grounds at Stornoway. The Castle Grounds are a large park area surrounding Lews Castle, stretching for a mile or two. Yesterday's walk took me to the Water Wheel, which was restored 2 years ago and is currently in use as a hydro-scheme to generate electricity for streetlighting in the Grounds. My return trip took me across the Golf Course. It is fairly strenuous to play this course, because it is laid out over hills.

St Andrew's Day

Sybil reminded me that today, November 30th, is St Andrew's Day, Scotland's national day. The Government in Edinburgh has thought of turning this in a national holiday or Bank Holiday, but it hasn't come about. Don't think many people are really that fussed about it, to be honest.

St Andrew's cross is present across the UK and many other countries in the world as a danger symbol at railway level crossings.

As readers may be aware, Scotland is currently governed by the SNP, who aim to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom. My opinion is that the economic powerbase is too narrow. It is also little short of near-sighted to purely base it on North Sea oil revenue, which is likely to dwindle in the next few decades.

Splitting up the UK is a bad idea in my perspective. My impression is that it will be based on bad feelings going back to the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when the last pretender to the Scottish throne was defeated by the English. An episode of strife in Northern Ireland, justified by the Battle of the Boyne in 1688, has just come to a close. The antagonism between the English and the Scots is legendary, but is at most good-humoured, like two little brothers squabbling.

Gillian Gibbons

As I mentioned yesterday, this English schoolteacher is currently serving a 15-day prison sentence for insulting Islam. She has already served 5 days on remand, and only has 10 days to go. Conditions in the Omdurman prison near Khartoum are described as poor.

I was appalled at the scenes from the streets of Khartoum today, where a baying mob, swinging swords, were demanding the execution of Ms Gibbons. The demonstrators had gathered following Friday prayers.

I have repeatedly stated my respect for Islam as one of the great religions of the world, a close cousin of Christianity. I have also found out that provisions are made for those who are not adherents to that faith. Ms Gibbons made an honest mistake in allowing her class of 7-year olds to name the class teddy Mohammed, the Holy Prophet. Not all sections of Islam are opposed to that.

These scenes only reinforce the beliefs of some in the Western world who view Islam as an intolerant and violent faith. It also would appear that there are people in Sudan who do not appreciate foreign workers coming into their country, and will find any little fault to create mischief. Apparently, a school office worker reported the teddy incident to police.

Bearing in mind the current situation in Darfur (the region in the west of Sudan, scene of the displacement of hundreds of thousands in abhorrent circumstances), this incident does not come as a surprise.


I received some dangerously inaccurate information today, about the use of the emergency numbers 999 and 112 in the UK, when on a mobile.

The information stated that if you don't get through on 999 on a mobile, you will still be able to get through using 112.

That is not correct.
When you genuinely do not have ANY signal at all, you will not get through using either 999 or 112.

Everyone in the UK knows 999, but in recent years, 112 has been adopted as a Europe-wide emergency number, to be used in life-threatening situations.

When you dial 999 in the UK on a UK-registered mobile, the phone will go to maximum power output and make a connection using any mobile phone provider it can reach. The same happens when you dial 112.

When you engage in outdoor activities, you should never rely on a mobile phone to call for help. In the hills or mountains, you may not get a signal; out at sea, signals fade a few miles from shore.

Friday notes

A grey day, with the rain just starting. The weather radar shows very heavy rain over southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the Met Office have issued a severe weather warning. I reiterate my advance warning for high winds in southern England this coming weekend. The weather will remain very changeable.
A warning is also in order for the Canadian West Coast, which should anticipate hurricane force winds in the next couple of days. An extremely active low pressure system will pass northeast towards the Alaskan / Canadian border. This in turn will pull a low pressure system north out of Mexico across the Mid Western USA, with a large plume of moisture associated with it. NWS have issued a warning for a winterstorm likely to cause major disruption to transport systems.

Today is the last day of the Atlantic and East Pacific hurricane seasons.

A jetliner has crashed in southwestern Turkey overnight, and it appears that none of the 56 people on board have survived. The plane came down some 8 miles short of its destination. More information here.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Call for readers

Care to call round Nina's journal? I encountered Nina in the journals chatroom (where she is as I type) and would like to recommend her journal, if only for some supportive comments.

Earthquake in Martinique

The Windward Island of Martinique was shaken by a strong earthquake this evening at around 7pm GMT. The tremor measured 7.4 on the Richter scale and has caused two buildings in the capital, Fort-de-France, to collapse. The quake centered just off the island at a depth of 140 km / 90 miles. It was felt hundreds of miles away in South America.

Teddy row

Just heard that the English teacher, Gillian Gibbons, has been found guilty in a court in Khartoum, Sudan, of insulting religion. She was charged after she allowed her class of 7-year olds to name the class teddy "Mohammed". Apart from being one of the most common name for a male child in the world, it is also the name of the Muslim Prophet, whose name cannot be used idly. It would appear that a school official reported the teacher to the authorities.

Have to say that this is actually way over the top for an innocent mistake, and reflecting badly on Sudan as a country and as a muslim nation. The Muslim Council of Great Britain previously called on the Sudanese authorities to drop the charges. It would have been patently obvious that there was no premeditated intent on the teacher's part to insult the Muslim religion, and even if it is not in order to name a toy after the Prophet Mohammed, such a harsh line is totally uncalled for.

It is reported this evening that the Sudanese ambassador has been called to the Foreign Office in London to explain what has happened.


A little boy goes to his dad and asks, "What is Politics?"

Dad says, "Well son, let me try to explain it this way.

I am the head of the family, so call me The Prime Minister.

Your mother is the administrator of the money, so we call her the Government.

We are here to take care of your needs, so we will call you the People.  

The nanny, we will consider her the Working Class.

And your baby brother, we will call him the Future.

Now think about that and see if it makes sense." So the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what Dad has said. Later that night,! he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his nappy. So the little boy goes to his parent's room and finds his mother asleep.  Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room. Finding the door locked, he peeks in the keyhole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. He gives up and goes back to bed.

The next morning, the little boy say's to his father, "Dad, I think I understand the concept of politics now. " The father says, "Good, son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about." The little boy replies, "The prime Minister is screwing the Working Class while the Government is sound asleep. The People are being ignored and the Future is in deep s**t."

Thursday notes

The penultimate day of the Atlantic and East Pacific hurricane season. There are no hurricanes to report on anywhere in the world, neither does it look likely that any will develop any time soon. I did notice on the weathercharts a major depression in the Pacific, near the Aleutian Islands, which will carry hurricane force winds towards the western coasts of Canada and Alaska. The Atlantic is also getting into winter mode, with an advance warning to those in southern England to expect high winds on Saturday.

Up here, it is a bright and sunny day, but with some high clouds indicating the change in the weather. We'll get strong winds tomorrow, but a secondary area of low pressure will scoot across the English Midlands, carrying high winds to its south.

On the Internet front, an major attack on people's PC security has been thwarted, but a call was put out for people to get their copies of Windows and Internet Explorer up to date. Read more here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Main road A9

The A9 is a single lane highway, with broken white lines down the middle for most of its length. The main villages are by-passed by stretches of dual carriageway, allowing drivers to overtake slower vehicles. The A9, in UK parlance referred to as a trunk road, passes the grand total of just over a dozen villages along its width, and passes through otherwise featureless moorland, surrounded by rounded hills and distant mountains. It allows people to either doze off behind the wheel, or get worked up behind that slow lorry, caravan or what have you, tempting them into dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

Dualling the road will not reduce the accident rate to zero, but should at least enhance safety.

Labour trouble

Staff at Comhairle nan Eilean (Western Isles Council) had a very unpleasant surprise yesterday, when some of their number were told that their salaries would be cut by anything up to £12,000 per annum. This was reportedly due to an exercise in awarding people doing similar jobs similar rates of pay. For 11% of people, this would mean a cut in wages. Staff trades unions have recommended that no contracts be signed by individuals, and are organising meetings to plan a way forward.

Meanwhile, a petition is circulating amongst staff at the local Health Board against the sitting management for failing to address a £3 million shortfall. This deficit has existed for the past three years if not more, and was one of the reasons why the top tier of management was nearly completely replaced a year ago. Next Monday, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health will come to Stornoway to conduct the annual review of the Health Board.

Wednesday notes

Another grey day in Stornoway, but at least it's dry today and no wind. The sea is as smooth as a mirror.

Over in France, the situation has eased somewhat, with only relatively minor disturbances. It is always worrisome when reports say 'only a few police officers were hurt, and only 20 cars were torched'. A judicial review has been promised to the relatives of the two young men who died in a road traffic accident, involving their motorbike and a police patrol vehicle. It was this incident that sparked off three nights of violence across France.

Up here in the north of Scotland, our main trunk road, the A9 between Perth and Inverness, is a source of frustration and accidents. It was suggested last month that it be turned into a dual carriageway along its entire 110 mile length. Costs of that project are put at £600 million ($1.2bn), and may not start for another 3 years, in April 2011. The (devolved) Scottish Government has reiterated its pledge to improve safety on the A9, which has claimed 80 lives in the past 5 years.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Of mice and men

Tracy mentioned that she had a mouse in the house last Sunday. That put me in mind of my own mousey experiences from the past, when there were cats in my life.

At the time, I lived near a forest and the cats had plenty of mice to get along with. Sometimes, they would bring one home that was still in working order. Cat would throw the mouse in the air, allow it to run away, then catch it again.

One other time, a mouse was found sitting on the doormat. Someone stood on the mouse, then went to get the cat. Cat sniffed at the mouse, looked up as if to say "it's my job to kill the mouse, you whatsit" and walked away. Another time, three little mice were found in a flowerbed. Cat was brought in, who immediately despatched two before proceeding to torment number three prior to its demise.

The best story is about the logfire. A basket of logs was brought in, and a mouse jumped out. Cat went after the mouse and finally caught it. Cat was thrown out the door, mouse and all. Every occasion the log basket was brought in the house, the cat would start sniffing the room to see if another mouse had jumped out.

After one of the cats died in 1988, the mice had a field day. They ate the fruit, including oranges, they gnawed the potatoes. I hate mousetraps ever since I found a mouse cut in two by the infernal apparatus. There was only one thing for it. A new cat was brought into the house, and after it grew up, it proceeded to catch three mice a day, every day for years. I don't know where those tens of thousands of mice came from, to be honest.

Light effects

My attention was drawn to John Scalzi's Monday Photoshoot, which was all about Light effects. As far as I am concerned, the best light effects occur between sunset and sunrise, strangely enough. I have a large number of sunset pics, but decided to feature this eerie image of the moon rising.

I took it late in the evening of 29 June this year, when there was a Lunar Standstill at Callanish. Contrary to the druid worshippers who congregate at the Callanish Stones at either of the solstices each year, the Stones are actually a Lunar monument. On 29 June, the moon rose at sunset (it being a full moon), passed behind Roineabhal to reemerge to the right. That is the point at which this photograph was taken. Roineabhal, a hill some 8 miles south of Callanish, appears to be the head of the Sleeping Beauty Mountain. It is a range of hills in the east of Lewis, which are shaped in the form of a reclining woman, when viewed from Callanish.

Although it was close to midnight, it was not dark (as can be discerned in this picture) and there were dozens of people at Callanish to witness the phenomenon.

I am a wee bit melancholic, viewing this picture. It is now late November, and the sun barely puts in an appearance. Particularly on a day like today, with grey skies and continual rain, it hardly gets light. Sunset will occur at 3.45pm.

Tuesday notes

Good afternoon from a very wet Stornoway. There is a bit of wind as well.

A major discussion is going on in the islands about ferry services on Sunday. The Lord's Day Observance Society is opposed to instituting a Sunday ferry, as it would violate the Sabbath. I can say a few things about that. First, planes already fly in and out of the airport. Second, ferries already sail between Harris (which is contiguous with Lewis) and North Uist on Sunday. Thirdly, ferries also sail on Sunday from North and South Uist to the mainland. Legally speaking, they haven't got a leg to stand on.

The rioting in a Paris suburb has escalated severely, with further clashes in Villers-le-Bel leaving 80 police officers injured, several by shot-gun pellets. Despite calls for calm from the families of the two teenagers, killed in a roadcrash between their motorbike and a police patrol car, riots have been more intense than 2 years ago. A degree of organisation, drawing in people from outside the area, is being discerned. A hint of more severe responses by police, other than rubber bullets and teargas, was given.

Journals Chat - access rules

It would appear that the Journals Chat is only accessible for over 18s. This has seen Morgan (sneezy7125) barred, as she is under 18. Nonetheless, those who have used the service over the past 10 days will be familiar with the trickle of obnoxious young brats, patently under 18, who defile the place with their language and behaviour, putting off genuine journalers. An example of someone deterred from further visits can be seen in the comments section to my previous post.

I have emailed Malika (one of the admins), as I'm not very happy with this situation.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Journals Chat

Very empty chatroom this evening, I suppose the novelty has worn off. Admittedly, it can get rather addictive. Perhaps some more coordinated chats could be arranged, like we had last year.

Communal guilt

Petar (pvodogaz) has written an extensive comment to my Monday notes post, earlier today. He specifically commented on the decision by the Australian PM-elect, Kevin Rudd, to apologise to the aboriginal people of Australia, for the way they have been treated in the past. Petar raises an interesting slant on this, in that individuals may not feel it incumbent on themselves to be part of this apology.

I would like to discuss it further by placing it in a broader historical perspective, but in doing so am liable to cause offense. I want to state in advance that none is intended.

There are several historical parallels to be drawn in the case of the Aboriginals.
First of all, the Native Indian people of America. The Spanish Conquistadores slaughtered and brutalised them under the pretext of a religious imperative. European settlers fought them, and treated them equally like savages. Having subjugated them by the end of the 19th century, the Indians were stuffed into reservations and treated like the last-rate citizens. Their land was taken from them, their culture destroyed. I have yet to hear an apology from the US administration, although it was in fact genocide on a stupendous scale. It happened a long time ago, and nobody alive today was involved in that. Still, the United States carries a communal guilt in this field, which they are not prepared to confront.

Many of the conflicts in the world today are born of colonial rule by European powers, Great Britain, France and Portugal being the prime suspects. The legacy of British rule in particular can safely be described as catastrophic. I am talking about Pakistan and India, at perennial loggerheads for 60 years, nuclear powers in opposition to each other. I am talking about the Middle East, a colossal mess far, far worse than India, which was left in total disarray after the British pulled out at the end of the first half of the 20th century. I'm not expecting an apology soon from the governments in London, Paris or Lisbon.

World War II left two nations with a gruesome legacy to come to terms with. Germany, which has the death of tens of millions on its conscience, as well as Japan. The barbarity of both regimes is well documented. There have been a few expressions of regret from the government in Bonn, latterly Berlin. Very little has been forthcoming from the Japanese, who were not so utterly vanquished as the Germans were. Emperor Hirohito was relieved of his status as deity, but never faced a war crimes tribunal, unlike leading surviving figures in the Nazi regime in Germany.

Saying sorry for past misdeeds does not undo the past. Apologising is about recognising by present generations that a wrong has been done by the nation in the past. I appreciate that legal repercussions may ensue of an apology in the case of the Aboriginals.

I headed my post Communal guilt, as that what this is about. This is not about individuals, this is about a nation. In my personal opinion, it would show Australia as a matured nation, that is prepared to stand up for its actions.

Recommended reading

Zoe pointed me to a blog called "A journey of another kind...." by a lady called Jane, who is currently undergoing treatment for renal cell carcinoma (cancer of the kidney). She says she's keeping the blog as a form of therapy. It's a pretty matter-of-fact account of what those treatments are like. Do call round, if only to give some moral support.

Monday notes

Quiet morning in the islands, with mainly overcast conditions and some wind.

Was pleased that everybody survived the sinking of MS Explorer, but it must be a disconcerting thought that the contents of your suitcase lie at the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean until the end of time.

Riots are once more blighting the 'banlieues' (suburbs) of Paris, following an incident where two youths on a motorbike collided with a police car. Back in 2005, days of rioting resulted from a similar incident. The then interior minister (now president) Nicolas Sarkozy branded the youths responsible as 'scum'. There are serious problems underlying the riots, because the perpetrators, black and muslim youths, feel excluded from the rest of society. Calling them scum is a fantastic way of pouring oil on the flames, and I hope Mr Sarkozy will confront the problems in his backyard, rather than pull up a smokescreen and calling names.

I am very pleased that the Australian prime minister elect, Kevin Rudd, has announced his intention to apologise to the indigenous people of his country, referred to as Aboriginals. Between 1915 and 1969, Australia adopted a policy of forced integration, where Aboriginal children were fostered with white parents. They are referred to as the Stolen Generation. I think it is more than time that the Australian administration apologised to their indigenous people, for destroying their culture, way of life and health. For plying them with booze and discrimination.
The flag? It's the Australian Aboriginal flag.

Sunday, 25 November 2007


A few useless figures about my blogging etcetera

Number of entries: 3,800
Number of photographs taken: 11,500
Number of pages in hand-written journal: 1,830
Number of days on Northern Trip: 1,200
Length of time in Lewis: 3 years and a few days

Hurricane notes

The hurricane season in the North Atlantic is coming to a close on Friday of this coming week. According to the preliminary review, the season was below average, in spite of two category 5 hurricanes. This comes as a sharp contrast to the dire warnings in May, ahead of the start of the season, which warned of above normal hurricane activity. Not so.

Mother Nature is unpredictable, and it only goes to show that forecasters are still only able to forecast 5 days in advance - at 80% accuracy.

I don't like shopping either

This is why women should not take men shopping against their will.

After Mr. and Mrs. Fenton retired, Mrs. Fenton insisted her husband accompany her on her trips to Wal-Mart.

Unfortunately, Mr. Fenton was like most men--he found shopping boring and preferred to get in and get out.

Equally unfortunately, Mrs. Fenton was like most women-she loved to browse. One day Mrs. Fenton received the following letter from her local Wal-Mart.

Dear Mrs. Fenton,

Over the past six months, your husband has been causing quite a commotion
in our store. We cannot tolerate this behavior and may be forced to ban both of you from the store. Our complaints against Mr. Fenton are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras.

1. June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in people's carts when they weren't looking.

2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

3. July 7: Made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women's restroom.

4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice, "Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away."

5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&M's on layaway.

6. September 14: Moved a "CAUTION - WET FLOOR" sign to a carpeted area.

7. September 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told other shoppers he'd invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the bedding department.

8. September 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he began crying and screamed, "Why can't you people just leave me alone?"

9. October 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.

10. November 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the clerk where the antidepressants were.

11. December 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the "Mission Impossible" theme.

12. December 6: In the auto department, he practiced his "Madonna look" by using different sizes of funnels.

13. December 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled "PICK ME! PICK ME!"

14. December 21: When an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed "OH NO! IT'S THOSE VOICES AGAIN!"

And last, but not least...

15. December 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile, then yelled very loudly, "Hey! There's no toilet paper in here!"


Hurricane update - 25 November

The Philippines are surrounded by three cyclones at the moment. Typhoon Mitag is about to graze the northern tip of Luzon, the northernmost island, with winds of 100 mph. Six people have already lost their lives as a result of high winds, heavy rainfall, floods and landslides ahead of its arrival.

Tropical storm Lando / Hagibis is on its way back from Vietnam, but will probably be little more than a depression by the time it passes through the archipelago. It will wave hello to the third system, which is just forming east of the islands.

Vanuatu has a tropical depression forming in its midst as well, but no major problems are anticipated from that in the short term.

Sunday notes

Afternoon all from a cloudy but fairly bright Stornoway. It was raining earlier on, but that has passed to the east and fizzled out. We had a nice chat in the Journals Chatroom last night, although Lisa [wwfbison] left me slightly dizzy, with herself, her husband and various animals whizzing in and out of sight of the family webcam. It is always nice to be able to fit a face to a name, although I'm afraid my policy on showing my face on the Net (rather, not showing it) prevents me from returning the favour.

The situation in Zimbabwe does not just affect humans, it also has a negative impact on wildlife. Protected species, like rhinoceros, can no longer be protected, leaving them vulnerable to poachers. I will not link to the BBC story, as it contains a gruesome image of a rhinoceros, shot through the head. I did complain to the BBC, but they have decided not to change the image.

The passengers and crew of the MS Explorer, which sank off Antarctica on Friday, have been flown to Punta Arenas in Chile, from where they will be repatriated. Nobody was injured in the incident, although many were left shaken after their ordeal.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Jokes off the seawall

Made a journal, dedicated to just jokes. And as I am just behind the seawall in Stornoway, I've called it Jokes off the seawall. Copied the first lot out of this blog for the months of October and September, and will continue to extract funnies. Enjoy!

Genuine complaint to Leith Police station

Dear Sir/madam, automated telephone answering service

Having spent the past twenty minutes waiting for someone at Leith police station to pick up a telephone, I have decided to abandon the idea  and try e-mailing you instead. Perhaps you would be so kind as to pass this message on to your colleagues in Leith by means of smoke signal,carrier pigeon or ouji board.

As I'm writing this e-mail there are eleven failed medical experiments (I think you call them youths) in West Cromwell Street, which is just off Commercial Street in Leith. Six of them seem happy enough to play a game which involves kicking a football against an iron gate with the force of a meteorite. This causes an earth shattering CLANG! which rings throughout the entire building. This game is now in it's third week and, as I am unsure how the scoring system works, I have no idea if it will end any time soon.

The remaining five walking abortions are happily rummaging through several bags of rubbish and items of furniture that someone has so thoughtfully dumped beside the wheelie bins. One of them has found a saw and is setting about a discarded chair like a beaver on speed. I fear that it's only a matter of time before they turn their limited attention to the bottle of calor gas that is lying on it's side between the two bins. If they could be relied on to only blow their own arms and legs off, then I would happily leave them to it. I would even go so far as to lend them the matches. Unfortunately they are far more likely to blow up half the street with them and I've just finished decorating the  kitchen.

What I suggest is this : after replying to this e-mail with worthless assurances that the matter is being looked into and will be dealt with,why not leave it until the one night of the year (probably bath night)  when there are no mutants around, then drive up the street in a panda car before doing a three point turn and disappearing again. This will of course serve no other purpose than to remind us what policemen actually look like.I trust that when I take a claw hammer to the skull of one of these throwbacks, you'll do me the same courtesy of giving me a four month headstart before coming to arrest me.I remain sir, your obedient servant ?????????

Mr ??????,
I have read your e-mail and understand you frustration at the problems caused by youth playing in the area and the problems you have encountered in trying to contact the police.As the Community Beat Officer for your street, I would like to extend an offer of discussing the matter fully with you. Should you wish to discuss the matter, please provide contact details address / telephone number) and when may be suitable.
Regards PC ??? ?????????????Community Beat Officer

Dear PC ?????
First of all, I would like to thank you for the speedy response to myoriginal e-mail. 16 hours and 38 minutes must be a personal record for Leith Police station and rest assured that I will forward these details  to Norris McWhirter for inclusion in his next book.

Secondly, I was delighted to hear that our street has it's own Community Beat Officer. May I be the first to congratulate you on your  covert skills. In the five or so years I have lived in West Cromwell Street, I have never seen you. Do you hide up a tree or have you gone deep undercover and infiltrated the gang itself? Are you the one with the acne and the moustache on his forehead or the one with a chin like a wash hand basin? It's surely it is only a matter of time before you are headhunted by MI5.

Whilst I realise that there may be far more serious crimes taking place in Leith, such as smoking in a public place or being Muslim without due care and attention, is it too much to ask for a policeman to explain (using words of no more than two syllables at a time) to these twats that they might want to play their strange football game elsewhere. The pitch behind the Citadel or the one at DKs are both within spitting distance as is the bottom of the Albert Dock.

Should you wish to discuss these matters further you should feel freeto contact me on ??? ????. If after 25 minutes I have still failed to answer, I'll buy you a large one in the Compass Bar.

Regards ???????

P.S If you think that this is sarcasm, think yourself lucky that you don't work for the cleansing department.

Call for support

Please call round at Krissy's. Her husband John, who has had a long struggle with myelo-dysplasia (a form of blood cancer) has had to be rushed to hospital with a high fever . I was pleased in recent times that John had been keeping well for such a long time.

Saturday notes

The overnight gale has ceased, but that doesn't mean that the winds have dropped away completely. Latest reports still give strong westerly winds, gusting to 54 mph. Occasional showers pass over, although the bulk of them appear to head further south.

I was very sad to hear that the MV Explorer, which was holed in the Southern Ocean yesterday, has gone to the bottom. The Little Red Boat will never call in here again.

The two typhoons in southeast Asia have both changed course. Typhoon Mitag will strike northern Luzon tomorrow, with winds of 110 mph. Reports from the Philippines that it could pack winds close to 140 mph appear exaggerated. Having just pushed out the latest tropical cyclone update, I would say that atmospheric conditions do not favour such a strong strengthening.

Tropical storm Hagibis was about to strike land in Vietnam, leading to mass evacuations along the coast near the resort of Nha Trang. However, Hagibis scratched its head, decided it didn't like Vietnam and preferred to head back out to sea again. It will pay a farewell visit to the central Philippines on Wednesday - although it already passed through the country earlier this week.

Friday, 23 November 2007


What is 2 inches long
And can satisfy a woman


When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else---the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Please share this with someone you care about.

Stormy weather

Weather has turned nasty, with lashing rains and howling winds. Gales expected soon, and the overnight freight ferry is cancelled. It sailed through the daytime today, instead of late tonight.

Afternoon amble

Took the bus to the village of Melbost, 4 miles away near the airport, at 2pm today. From there, I walked the half mile along the beach to the old church at Aignish, to find more war graves. It was perishingly cold, if you'll pardon the pun, but mission accomplished. Light was very low, meaning I had to use flash to get decent images of the relevant gravestones.

There was a strong southerly wind, with temperatures of 7C, but it felt more like freezing out there. The church stands near the eastern end of an isthmus (the Braighe, pronounce Brye), linking the peninsula of Point with mainland Lewis. The graveyard is very exposed, and I'm STILL trying to warm up.

Hurricane update - 23 November

Typhoon Hagibis is expected to be so kind as to fizzle out prior to making landfall in Vietnam. Typhoon Mitag won't be so nice; landfall in Luzon will see winds of 115 mph.

This is the last week of the Atlantic hurricane season, but it came to a close with Noel. Last May, the 2007 season was hailed as one of the worst to be expected. It has turned out to be a below average one.

Explorer - update

MS Explorer has been evacuated of all passengers and crew after it struck an iceberg at around 0500 GMT. The vessel is now listing at 45 degrees and expected to sink. All those on board were transferred to another tourist ship, the Nordnorge, which has transferred them to King George Island nearby.

It is a dramatic end to a £5,600 cruise for all the passengers. This sum does not include international flights. Explorer was an old lady of the sea, which has been plying polar waters for 38 years.

Friday notes

Brilliantly sunny morning - deceptively so, as force 10 winds are forecast for the Outer Hebrides (my neck of the woods) for tonight. Our Italian guests were due to leave on the early ferry, which was cancelled, but they will now depart at 1.45pm.

Local news did not mention the imminent closure of one of the prawn processing plants in Stornoway. Stornoway Shellfish, which employs 14, is located outside the busstation but has not had deliveries of shellfish from local boats for 3 weeks. It had allegedly failed to keep up payments to said boats..

Have to say I once more enjoyed last night's journals chat, this time without disruptive or rude elements.

Going down

The above ship, MV Explorer, is currently listing at a 25 degree angle and taking on water near the South Shetland Islands, off Antarctica. She is a cruiseliner, the leading name in cruises to the polar regions. It is not known at this stage what has caused this emergency. All its 100 passengers and 52 of its 54 crew are in liferafts, and another vessel, the Antarctic Dream, is within an hour's sail.

Explorer visited Stornoway twice in the nearly three years I've been in Stornoway, the last (and by the look things final) time on May 12th this year.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Call for readers

Mleppard06 has just this evening set up a new journal (Eternity), and is a complete novice. So, I've left instructions with 'mrs T', and hope that J-land will give a good old welcome.

Thursday pictures

To give you an impression of our weather today. It appears to be improving; latest satellite images showed the showers moving away east. Temperatures still nothing to write home about; 3C at the moment.

I have this nifty gadget from the Met Office, which shows latest weather readings, radar and satellite images. Only works on Firefox or Windows Vista.


Looking at the latest snowshower disappearing south over the Arnish Hills. A gale is blowing through the Minches (the sea channel between the Western Isles and mainland Scotland), which has led to the cancellation of the ferry to and from Ullapool until tomorrow morning. The snow shows beautifully on the webcam.

Wednesday sunset

Yesterday's sunset, pictured between 3.30 and 4pm.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends across the pond.

Here in Stornoway, Thanksgiving will be celebrated next Thursday (if not today) purely as a church event. It tends to coincide with the November communions.

Internet gripe

What I find annoying when browsing the net is waiting for all the blessed advertising to load. The main page is up in a flash, but then you've got to wait for the ad-servers to jump into action. Then, when you do a spyware sweep, you find all the blessed cookies that they've left behind. And I still don't like the advertising above our journals, for the simple reason that you have to scroll down before you can start to read.

Thursday notes

Very cold today, with the mercury barely above freezing at +3C / 37F. Temperatures have fallen through the night and are still going down. Hail, sleet and snow showers are passing us at regular intervals.

The English Football Association have sacked national team manager Steve McClaren after last night's 2-3 defeat to Croatia. Why the entire 11 am news bulletin had to be given over to that is beyond me. It is said though that England's failure will lead to an economic slump. In the sportsware sector. And also more widespread, because the feel good factor is gone, so workers will be less motivated. Tsk.

The data crisis (you know, personal info regarding 25 million people gone missing) is deepening, as it now appears that senior management allegedly sanctioned the actions taken by the junior clerk at HM R&C in Newcastle, to download sensitive informatin, put it on a disc and send it through the internal mail. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take political responsibility and quit.

Some real news that caught my eye. A freight rail service has been agreed between North and South Korea. Although the logical next step, passenger services to Pyongyang and China, has been opposed by the North Korea, this is very encouraging news. Particularly as the North Koreans have been persuaded to shut down their nuclear program.

Iran's president, Mahmood Ahmedinajad (pronounce: I'm a dinner jacket) has come in for criticism in recent days. That's rare. It is another encouraging sign in the uncertain and dangerous times we live in. Yesterday, a female writer came out with some critical notes, and now a newspaper in Tehran has described his actions as dangerous. Well, let's hope we get some more criticism to moderate our little firebrand on the peacock throne.

Hurricane update - 22 November

Two typhoons in southeast Asia, and both on a collision course with land. That is usually the eventual end to any tropical cyclone, although one will reemerge over open water. The details.

Typhoon Hagibis is heading for southern Vietnam, and will make landfall tomorrow near the popular beach resort of Nha Trang, with winds of 75 knots or 85 mph. I cannot read Vietnamese, but hope they have their precautions in order, such as mass evacuation to high ground.

Typhoon Mitag is approaching the Philippines from the east and will slam into Luzon Island on Sunday, with winds at 110 knots, that is 120 mph. The Philippines weather agency PAGASA is raising warnings ahead of Mitag's arrival.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


Geography is not everybody's cup of tea, but you'd expect an airline to have a beginner's grasp of it. Not so Flybe. In recent promotional material, they place Inverness firmly on the Firth of Forth, at the location of Edinburgh.

Just as well that their pilots know where to find the place.

It was also claimed in a recent newspaper column that when president George W. declared war on Saddam Hussein, many of his subjects didn't have a clue where eye-rack was. Worse than that, many people in this country point out their local DIY superstore as a major local landmark.

The spate of sat-nav mishaps continues, with non-celebrity Jade Goody driving blissfully up Oxford Street (a pedestrianised area) in London, telling police that her sat-nav told her to go there. Why is it that people can't read a map anymore? I mean, I'll never forget the American numbskull who drove into a river because her satnav told her to.

Tree reprieve

A 150-year old tree in Amsterdam has won a last-minute reprieve from a felling order, issued by the city's council. It is not any old tree. It sits outside the Anne Frank house, where the Jewish teenage girl by that name hid for 25 months during World War II until her arrest in August 1944. She was taken to Bergen Belsen concentration camp, where she succumbed to disease in 1945. Anne wrote a diary during her time in hiding, a diary that was found after the war and published in print. It makes for painful reading, particularly as we all know the outcome.

The tree was a symbol of hope for Anne Frank, as it was always there, outside the one window open to the outside world. It is now disease-ridden with fungus, and in danger of falling down in high winds. Amsterdam City Council did order it to be cut down, but a legal move has opened a window of opportunity to explore other avenues for it to be preserved.

The Anne Frank House has NOT opposed the felling of the tree, saying that the safety of its neighbours and hundreds of thousands of visitors each years is paramount. More on this story here.

J-land death

A J-lander that came to my attention only a few weeks ago has passed away. Sugar told us that Barb (My Reason for Reasoning lost her fight with cancer and is now at rest. Please call by her journal to leave a message for the family.

Wednesday notes

I wish our friends across the pond luck in preparing their Thanksgiving dinners for tomorrow. Gobble, gobble, gobble. Meanwhile, winter is lurking on our doorstep, with a distinct drop in temperatures due in a day or so. Time I put one of Donna's creations up.

French public transport has been severely disrupted by a strike over terms and conditions, including special benefits. To make matters worse, signal equipment has been destroyed or damaged by allegedly militant strikers, determined to scupper attempts to reach a deal between government and trades unions. As a result, high speed rail services across the country have been delayed. The action has been condemned by union leaders, as it jeopardises the safety of the travelling public. The government, led by president Sarkozy, has pledged not to give in to the strikers' demands. The strike is unpopular with the French public, as it has played havoc with their daily commutes.

French trades unions are very militant, and have a record of successfully thwarting government proposals that they deem go against their members' interests. A militant element is a known part of that. British trades unions used to be like that, but were emasculated by Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s, following a year-long strike by coalminers.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Hurricane update - 20 November

Two tropical cyclones are affecting southeast Asia at the moment. Hagibis has traversed the Philippines as a tropical storm, and will make landfall in southeastern Vietnam on Friday, with winds of 55 knots / 62 mph. The main problem will be excessive rainfall.

Another tropical storm, Mitag, will be at typhoon strength when it makes landfall in the eastern Philippines on Friday, with winds of 65 knots / 73 mph. The Philippines weather agency PAGASA will issue warnings nearer the time of landfall. Please note that the Philippines will use a different name for Mitag.

Missing in transit

The British Government in London has announced it has lost the personal and financial details of a trifling 25 million of its citizens. Like you do. They were contained in two computer disks, sent from HM Revenue and Customs office in Newcastle to the National Audit office in London - three times over, never to arrive.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (the Finance Secretary) has made a statement in the House of Commons and the head of HM R & C has resigned. The implications are extremely serious. Although no evidence has so far emerged that the data have fallen into criminal hands, people are urged to carefully check their financial details, like bank and building society account statements and credit arrangements.

This affects 7.5 million families, 10 million adults and 15 million children.
Further details on the BBC News website, including recommendations on actions to take.

Although it is not strictly speaking the Government's fault, it is the actions of a Government agency that are in the spotlight here, and the head of HM Revenue and Customs has already quit. Chancellor Alistair Darling, barely 5 months in post, should consider his position, also in view of the Northern Rock disaster.

This bank had to be bailed out, to the tune of £25bn, this summer. Thousands of customers rushed to withdraw their deposits, and there are now questions over the safety of taxpayers' money. Should the bank have been given all that money, I wonder.

Animal notes

Not a good week for animals it would seem. Lisa (wwfbison) has lost another of her cats, making it the 4th animal to die in her house within a matter of weeks. Robyn (ndnhunny30) has a sister who lost a dog in a fatal attack by another dog, as yet unidentified.

In the news, a two or three week old piglet was discovered among a load of toilet paper, being delivered in Ilkley, Yorkshire. The poor animal, since named Andrex for obvious reasons, was bruised and had suffered cuts to its snout, and was suffering from hypothermia. The RSPCA has taken it into its care. It was probably deliberately put in the lorry as a prank.

Well, at least there was the nest of kittens who made a mummy out of a pet rabbit.

Tuesday notes

Quite a nice day, with clouds but a fair bit of sun around in between as well. Webcam shows more.

Bangladesh continues to plead for more aid, following the devastation wrought by cyclone Sidr last Thursday. 150 mph winds and 20 feet high waves have basically flattened the south of the country, wiped out crops that were ready to harvest and killed more than 3,000.

On the cyclone front, a tropical storm is passing over the Philippines, and will finally make landfall in southern Vietnam on Friday. A second storm is brewing in Micronesia, and is set to bring a rerun to the Philippines over the weekend. Tropical storms tend to bring torrential rains, flooding and landslides to the Philippines. Finally, cyclone Bongwe is slowly getting its act together, 1300 miles east northeast of La Reunion. Whether it will reach the island cannot be predicted at this stage.

Monday, 19 November 2007


I have to say that it is nice to be able to hear the voices and see the faces of the journalers in the chatroom - Jeannette (jeanno43) and Yasmin (cayasm) being the most prominent so far. Unfortunately, it is company policy with me not to show face nor voice on the Net, although I may change my mind to a certain extent. Later tonight, you may hear me playing the keyboard.

Off to the chili con carne with sliced peaches and rice. Anybody hungry?

Journals Chat outage - resolved

Journals Chat is back open for business, I'm happy to report.

Monday pictures

The sun will be setting in about half an hour's time, but it's been a reasonably nice day here. Just feeling cold outside. Was out a minute ago for some shopping and to have a look at the burned-out remains of the trailer, which went on fire last night. It was lucky the fire-brigade were there quickly, as a stack of gas-cylinders were within feet of the blaze. As you saw on the pics and video yesterday, it was getting dark at the time.

Journals Chat outage

The Journals Chat will be unavailable today between 3 and 3.30pm British time, which is 10 and 10.30 am EST. With thanks to Malika from Magic Smoke.

Monday notes

Cold but fairly bright in between infrequent showers today. Yesterday's fire in the trailer was headline news on local radio this morning. A child has been reported to the Children's Panel in connection with the incident. The CP deal with juvenile delinquents in Scotland.

A tropical cyclone has formed in the Philippines, just east of Mindanao. The storm will track west across the archipelago and may strengthen rapidly. The Philippines weather agency has named it Lando; the Joint Typhoon Warning Center has not named it yet, as system 23W is below tropical storm strength. A cyclone that has been hovering off Queensland for days has finally given up the ghost, as it was lacking sufficient warm ocean waters to keep it going. Another cyclone has formed in the central Indian Ocean, and Bongwe will reach hurricane strength later today. It is not threatening land; it lies 1,600 miles east of La Reunion.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


Looked out of the window 20 minutes ago, when I noticed thick, black smoke drifting past. Went outside and found that there was a fire in a trailer (normally mounted on a truck) on one of the backstreets. It was well alight, and the flames threatened to spread to adjacent trees and houses. The firebrigade rolled up in short order to put it out.

Call for support II

Please call round to the journal Beloved Princess by a woman who appears to be in an abusive marriage. I've tried to give what help or suggestions I can - anybody out there who knows more on what to do in a situation like that please help in whatever way you can.

Found her journal courtesy the Journals Chatroom.

Call for support

I cannot link to the journal concerned, as it is private, but please spare a thought for Jeannette (Welcome to my Travels) who is having a very difficult time at the moment. Those who read her will be familiar with the details, which I cannot discuss on a public blog.


Last month, I visited the Falkirk Wheel, and it put me in memory of another ships' lift that I visited 12 years ago in Germany, near the Polish border. Unfortunately, the website for the "Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow" is in German. I will link to it, but will also show this picture.

This lift links the River Oder, which runs on the border between Poland and Germany, and the Finow Canal, which goes west towards the town of Eberswalde. The canal has been in use for many years, although the new version was only constructed in 1914.

When I visited the area in 1995, I found it carried an air of sadness. It was only 6 years after the Berlin Wall came down, and East Germany was stuck in a timewarp. It looked like it was still 1950. The other thing was the former state orphanage near Eberswalde, called the Anne Frank House. It was for children who were NOT orphans at all, but taken away from parents who had fallen foul of the former communist regime, led by Erich Honecker. That made me positively sick. The electricity meters in the homes were marked "Volkseigentum" [People's Property], although the access to communal housing were paved with coal rubble.

On returning west, we passed the former crossing between East and West, and the paraphernalia of the border were still intact. Like the clearing, running the length of the border from Stettin in the north to the Czech / Polish / German border triangle in the south. The clearing was paved with deep sand, designed to show any footprins. Watchtowers, from which any fugitive were shot on sight still loomed.

If it wasn't for that, I would have found East Germany quaint. I remember from the 1980s the radio broadcasts on 188 kHz longwave, telling those who could be bothered about the skiing holidays in the socialist paradises of Zakopane and Sochi. But it was all deadly serious. Literally, deadly. We lost nothing with the demise of communism in Europe.

New journaler

Please call round at "Seconds", who has recently set up this new journal, and hopes to find friendly faces in J-land.

Heart attack!

If it hadn't been for that billboard poster along a motorway, a man from Bedfordshire would be dead today.

He noticed the poster, and remembered it when he got chestpain himself. He dialled 999 instead of waiting for the pain to go away. Had he chosen latter course, it would have been a fatal mistake. Read the full story here.

* Further background information on heart attacks can be found here, which is a US orientated link.
* For those in the UK,
NHS Direct has more information as well.
* Please ignore those who say that heart attacks in women manifest themselves in a different way. THEY DON'T.

Sunday notes

The death toll from cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh keeps rising, and will continue to do so. A nationwide power outage and roads blocked by fallen trees and other debris means that it will be quite some time before the final figure is known.

Three tropical cyclones around in the southern oceans today. They are all weak affairs and too far away from shore to constitute a threat. Guba is meandering offshore, 300 miles north of Cairns, Australia. Lee (now Ariel) is in the middle of nowhere, about to be torn apart by yet-to-be-named Bongwe to its northwest. Bongwe lies east of the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, and has a distant possibility of constituting a threat to Mauritius or La Reunion. Those who have been with me through this year may remember cyclone Gamede back in February, which caused a lot of hassle in those islands.

The Atlantic hurricane season appears to have come to a close; there is only 2 weeks left of it, and atmospheric conditions are not conducive to cyclone formation. I don't expect cyclones to hit Florida when the overnight low there is -5C / 25F.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Resumed blog

Sylvia (m100addy) has resumed A Scrapbook of Pics and Poetry, which I'd like to recommend for reading.


A man has been put on probation for 3 years for simulating sex with his pushbike in a hotelroom. He was discovered when hotel staff opened his room and found him in flagrante delicto. Puts a different slant on the expression speedhump, doesn't it.

Evening notes

So Scotland did not qualify for the Euro 2008 football finals. They lost 1-2 to Italy at Hampden Park, Edinburgh. Next subject.

Two young women who went missing in 1991 have been traced to a house in Margate in Kent, where their remains were found buried in a garden. House and garden will now be scoured for possibly other corpses. A man has been charged with one murder. For legal reasons, I cannot give further details about Peter Tobin. One set of human remains is yet to be formally identified. A parallel with Rosemary West, whose house at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester turned out to be a house of horrors, with a dozen corpses buried in and around it, cannot be avoided. Her partner Fred committed suicide, but she is serving life for her crimes

Off to supper - vegetable curry.


That is Zimbabwe's inflation percentage. Meanwhile, the fuel shortage in the country has grown so severe that president Robert Mugabe engaged the services of a witch, who promised she could produce diesel from rocks. She was given cattle, a home and a car. However, rather than troubling the spirits, she bought refined diesel from truckers and poured it over the rocks. Ms Mavunga was finally found out after a year. Police were reportedly reluctant to take action, as they are scared of witches. The president himself said he wasn't going to be too hard on her.

Saturday notes

Overcast day with occasional rain. Looks like more is on its way. Fairly quiet on the TC front, although Guba is still out there off Queensland. That storm has weakened to a tropical storm and is wandering aimlessly north of Cairns. Lee is heading west, 900 miles east of Diego Garcia, also at tropical storm strength. No land is being threatened by this system.

Cyclone Sidr is no more, but its after effects are of catastrophic porportions, as could be expected from a category 4 storm. Although the deathtoll is "only" 1,100 at this stage, (I say "only" as previous cyclones have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives), the devastation in the country is huge. Suggest to read this overview by the BBC.

Tomorrow will be the 20th anniversary of the deadly fire at Kings Cross in London, in which 31 people died. The fire engulfed the underground station and swept up escalators, to devour the tickethall in temperatures of 600C. A family dinner will be held in memory of at least one of the victims.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Printer inks and chatroom

Got some new colour inks for the printer for only £18; remanufactured inks, but they appear to work well. For that money, we got two cartridges of black ink, one with coloured inks and a pack of 20 sheets of photographic-quality printing paper. Results: very good indeed.

Enjoyed the journals chat this evening, with people trying out their audio and video links; some worked, others didn't. Was weird to see the folks over in California in bright sunlight, whilst I said goodbye to the sun some 6 hours previously.

Evening notes

Rain has just started after the winds continued to pick up from this afternoon.

The deathtoll in Bangladesh has continued to rise; the latest number is 700. The Daily Star has said that the number could exceed 1,000. Cyclone Sidr has now disappeared off the weathermaps, but its impact on Bangladesh has been immense. There was a nationwide powerfailure, with obvious impacts on infrastructure. The above link gives all the latest info, and I dread to think what the eventual toll might be.

Queensland, Australia, is on cyclone alert between Lockhart River and Cape Tribulation, as cyclone Guba grumbles 250 miles offshore. The storm is currently quasi-stationary, but is expected to commence a southsouthwesterly motion - straight for the shore. Forecasters think the cyclone could strengthen to 95 knots / 110 mph. It is slow moving, so landfall is still quite a few days away.

Shared blog

Connie has opened a blog that everybody can make entries on. If you click on her name, you'll get to read the few rules that apply. Great idea, spread the word!

Visit to Sandwick Cemetery

During my time in Lewis I have spent quite a few afternoons browsing the local cemeteries, including the one at Sandwick. It lies just 20 minutes' walk from here. I was looking for war graves from the First World War. Last year, as well as this spring, I trawled the island's churchyards for gravestones of victims of the Iolaire Disaster. I would now like to add other tombstones to the collection.

The first thing that I noticed from the 14 stones I photographed this afternoon was that I didn't recognise about half the names. I am familiar with the 1,150 names of people that died during hostilities in World War I, but other names turned up at Sandwick. These were presumably men who died when their ship went down, and their remains ended up up ashore.

The afternoon was cold, with a strengthening wind. Sandwick lies quite exposed, open to the wind. The sun shone between the clouds, offering opportunities for some great pictures of cloudscapes and shadows.

The last picture is our current petrol price: £1.11 per litre. This equates to $10.40 per gallon.

Surprise, surprise

Check out this link. What goes before is only rewarding for the first 25 to 30 years, a study shows. However, the first thing to happen after the final end product emerges, the giving of a name, has been withheld from a hurricane, making it all the more terrifying.

Friday notes

Morning all. It started out brighter than it is at present, and rain is moving in across the Arnish hills. It's not going to get any better, I'm sorry to have to say.

Cyclone Sidr is fizzling out over northeastern India, having killed at least 200 people in Bangladesh. A 5 metre / 17 feet tidal wave swept ashore as a result of the storm surge. It is still too early to fully assess Sidr's impact, but reports compiled by the BBC talk of flattened houses, downed trees and powerlines and the coastal strip cut off.

Regarding AOL Journals, I notice that the UK journals now also have Journals Chat. The disclaimer regarding the ads in the top banner has now been restored. Doesn't mean I'm too happy with them, but I've learned to ignore them.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Hurricane update - 15 November (II)

Tropical cyclone Sidr has made landfall in Bangladesh - apparently in the middle of a mangrove swamp. However, the effects of this severe storm will have been felt far and wide, and the Bangladeshi authorities say it is too early to assess its full impact. Sidr will take 48 hours to dissipate over land.

Following a catastrophic cyclone in 1970, when half a million people were killed, Bangladesh built a cyclone rescue network, including shelters, across the country. The impact of subsequent storms has been greatly reduced.


I dislike this subject, but feel I need to formulate an opinion.

Tasers are used by police and other security services for temporarily disabling people who are behaving in a violent or disorderly manner or resisting arrest. They work by having two electrodes fired into the subject and a 50 kilovolt discharge of electricity passed through the prongs. This is very painful, provokes a temporary loss of muscle conrol and makes it possible for police to restrain the person concerned. The devices have been hailed as a non-lethal restraining aid, alongside the truncheon and teargas.

Tasers are not without danger; in Canada, 18 people have died after the devices were used against them. High electrical voltages disrupt the body's electrical currents, which are essential for it to function. Nerves and muscles work by virtue of electricity. A severe electrical jolt could disrupt the function of the heart and cause death.

A Polish man, who spoke no English, became agitated at Vancouver International Airport. He had come to visit his mother, but she could not see him, as the arrivals area at Vancouver is screened off. She had left after 6 hours, and he panicked. The gentleman threw furniture around in a waiting area, police arrived and tasered him twice. He became very still, and an ambulance team found that he had died.

This is a tragic case, which is subject to a formal investigation. I can therefore not comment on the specifics. I appreciate that situations can arise where a measure of violence may be required to bring someone under control. We often see on TV people behaving disorderly as a result of alcohol consumption. My personal opinion is so severely slanted against violence of any sort that it is not possible for me to make a balanced judgement on the matter.

Artsy Essay

This month's Artsy Essay by JudithHeartsong will have as its theme Sharing the Gift of Thanks. Read the actual entry for more details. I have to admit that, like last month, I will probably not enter this time round. Nonetheless, if you feel inspired, give it a go!

Changes to Journals

OK, I dilute my rant regarding the changes to journals. An entry was put out on the Magic Smoke journal - at 9.30pm EST last night, which is 2.30 am in the morning over here. So, we in the UK had no warning at all. Left a comment on the Magic Smoke blog. I can foresee another exodus happening at this rate.

Three years ago today

I arrived in Lewis on 15 November 2004, from North Uist. I copy the diary entry for that day.

At 8.10 this morning, the basket-ball team left for their match at Lionacleit, Benbecula. I had barely time to catch my breath, when a new group of people marched in. Seven folk, about to set off by sea-kayak to the Monach Islands. Heard that before. I left for Lochmaddy at 10 o'clock, and headed north by postbus to Berneray one hour later. Spent about half an hour rattling the keyboard in Tigh na Chearsabhagh, the sound of which drove one person mad. Not me! Some of you may be aware I'm a fast typist (70 wpm), and it is quite a noise when I'm in my stride. The postbus lady very kindly dropped me off at the road-end in Berneray, where you can go down to the Burnside B&B (prop. Mrs McKillop) where I stayed in 1995. Memories of being asked to join in the fun at the Berneray week, in which I was nearly drowned in the Knockout. And Mrs McKillop horrified that it was her new guest, all bedraggled, asking for a cup of soup afterwards. Now there was nothing in that field. Only a selection of rams. It's that time of the year when the rams are put to the ewes. Yep, necessary, else you don't get those cute little lambs in spring. The rams have a block of waxy dye bound to their chest. When the ram does his job, the dye rubs on to the ewe's shoulder, and thus the farmer knows that she has been served. The sheep on Berneray do not have horns, they have large black floppy ears, which gives them a funny look. It was quite chilly out there in the field, so I quickly hobbled back to the ferry terminal and waited for the MV Loch Portain to turn up at 1.20 to take me to Leverburgh. There was a fair queue of traffic waiting to go, including a fuel tanker. This led to a complete ban on smoking on board. You are normally allowed to smoke on the outer deck. The ferry made a tortuous and at times slow journey across the Sound of Harris, circumventing reefs and other underwater dangers. It took an hour, arriving at Leverburgh at 2.20. Had to wait for 40 minutes for the bus to depart north to Stornoway. Forgot to mention that at 1pm the sun came out, and it made the crossing quite beautiful. When the bus finally departed it was a picture postcard journey, with the beaches and views of West Harris in a hazy late autumn light. The sands were yellow, not white, due to the light. Arrived in Tarbert at 3.40, left there a few minutes later. The trip through the mountains was quite familiar, from my earlier journey in August of this year. After Balallan darkness began tofall. Arrived in Stornoway at 4.50. There were only a few other people on the bus. The route can be very busy in summer, with the driver giving a running commentary on the scenery. Now he greets every local customer by name. Having done the shopping, I headed for my hostel for the night. Fairhaven, on Francis Street. Easily found, but not exactly a model for organisation. Had to wait for 2 hours for the proprietors to turn up to take payment. Went for a very good meal at the Crown Hotel in the meantime. There were two dorms in the place, one being taken up by Polish workers in the local fish factory. The kitchen was a pokey little place, with dry rot up the walls. Yuk. The kettle was filled with brown water, although the tapwater was clear. Yuk again. Went to bed early, Stornoway is not noteworthy for its nightlife. Oh, gave two USA lassies some advice re. a trip around the island by car