Title picture: Ath Linne, 16 September 2014

Sunday, 28 September 2014

10 years blogging

On 28 September 2004, I opened my first blog on AOL Journals and named it Northern Trip. For the next four years, virtually to the day, I made up to a dozen entries each day about my days in Scotland, what caught my eye about the Highlands and islands and the world.

In the autumn of 2005, I came across the on-line community of J-land. A collection of individuals in the USA and Great Britain, writing about their daily lives, trials, triumphs and tribulations. Leaving comments on their blogs, and getting comments from them. I became fully involved at Easter 2006, when one fellow blogger, Pamela Hilger, passed away following a 9 month battle with breast cancer.

Then, on 30 September 2008, AOL, in their definitely finite wisdom, decided to discontinue their blogging service. We scattered to the four winds, some regrouping here on Blogger, but it never got back to the way it was. Facebook became the choice medium for J-land, and many blogs now lie unused since that time, or were closed down.

At the moment, I copy Facebook posts on here (shame) and a selection of pictures for each day, basically reverting back to the way I used to post on Northern Trip during that first year. Every now and again, I'll make a special post (like this one) if I feel I need to write more extensively than Facebook invites you to.

I have enjoyed blogging immensely, particularly in those early years. It is slowly going out of fashion, which is a pity. But that's the way of things.

I have been promised a special graphic tag by J-land's tag artist Donna, which I shall post in the next day or so.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Tuesday 23 September

Can someone explain to Alex Salmond that if a referendum on independence results in 45% of people voting for, and 55% against independence that this means that the democratic majority of people have rejected the idea? There was no vote rigging. If people changed their mind through the intervention of certain politicians at the last minute, than the yes campaign have not done their job well enough to convince people. All is fair in love, war and referenda, and I thought Mr Salmond had graciously accepted defeat. Can someone also remind the 45 campaign that the rising of 1745 ended in crushing defeat for Bonnie Prince Charlie, the humiliation of Scotland and the sack of the Highlands?

Here in Stornoway, we face "traffic chaos" as the funding for the traffic warden is running out fast. The police who contribute towards her salary are no longer prepared to stump up half the money, so we will soon see double parking, parking on double yellow lines, driving through the pedestrian precinct - hold on, that's already happening...

Monday 22 September

Not all those who wander are lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Happy birthday, Bilbo Baggins! The Fellowship of the Ring opens with a celebration of the hobbit's special day. September 22 is also Frodo's birthday and the America Tolkien society proclaimed it Hobbit Day

Tipping it down this lunchtime, but the wind seems to have abated a little after veering sharply west. Here's the change to autumn. After a wet spell at lunchtime, the sun came out in the evening, and it looks like a nice end to the afternoon.

Two cars, four people - and a job for a recovery truck. The collision happened in Francis Street at a quarter to four this afternoon. There is no word whether anyone was hurt. One of the cars ended up against the wall of the Carlton pub on the corner of Keith Street.

Can someone explain to Alex Salmond that if a referendum on independence results in 45% of people voting for, and 55% against independence that this means that the democratic majority of people have rejected the idea? There was no vote rigging. If people changed their mind through the intervention of certain politicians at the last minute, than the yes campaign have not done their job well enough to convince people. All is fair in love, war and referenda, and I thought Mr Salmond had graciously accepted defeat. Can someone also remind the 45 campaign that the rising of 1745 ended in crushing defeat for Bonnie Prince Charlie, the humiliation of Scotland and the sack of the Highlands?

Sunday 21 September

A nice late September afternoon in Stornoway, quite hazy with a moderate breeze. A year ago today, the Muirneag had just completed her last crossing as our freight ferry. After discharging her cargo of trucks, she was relocated to Arnish for repainting, then to the eastern side of pier number 3. On 3 October, she departed Stornoway for good. The darker image below was taken on 21 January 2014 in a Russian port, by Vesseltracker.com user Torgachkin. Muirneag has been idle since 8 July, after plying between the Turkish port of Samsun and the Russian port of Novorossiysk. Although Muirneag was not without its problems, I somehow still expect her to pop into view from behind the Coastguard Station at 8 in the morning. But that will never happen again.

Guido Blokland's photo.

Saturday 20 September

About 15C on the thermometer, with a northerly breeze. Should I complain? Nah. My thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim of the fatal road traffic collision at Creagorry, Benbecula, on Thursday evening. He died after being struck by a car between the Co-op and the South Uist causeway.

Out for a creditable fish & chips at An Lanntair tonight, vastly improved since my last meal there, a while back. Town was heaving with people, mainly a lot younger than moi, so didn't hang around.

Friday 19 September

Scotland voted NO to independence, by a margin of 55% against and 45% in favour. This was confirmed at 6.08 am, after the result from Fife pushed the outcome beyond doubt. Of 32 local authorities involved, only the people of 4, Dundee and three in and around Glasgow, had a majority in favour of independence.

To my friends who voted Yes, I understand your disappointment and respect your conviction. However, given time, I believe it is important for all Scots to join together to work for change towards a better country, given that such a large proportion of voters (45%) did vote Yes. We can do it. Let's get on with it

David Cameron gave an impressive speech acknowledging the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum and promising devolution within England as well. Interesting. However, as far as Scotland is concerned, quite a few people voted Yes because they wanted to be rid of Cameron, and not ruled by Westminster politics anymore. Lack of trust, I believe, is the key phrase here. It is therefore imperative that Mr Cameron et al deliver on their promises, and turn their words into decisive action, yielding tangible results. It is also imperative for the Scottish government to work positively and constructively with the Westminster administration to deliver these results for the people of Scotland.

Thursday 18 September

The day dawned with dense fog, visibility down to about 50 metres. The 7 am ferry didn't leave until about half past nine, when the fog had lifted sufficiently for visibility to rise to 250 metres. The Clipper Ranger didn't come in until after the ferry had gone out. The Sound of Harris ferry cancelled its morning crossings due to the fog. This crossing is very tricky, and the vessel is only licensed to ply the passage in the hours of daylight. In other words, the crew have to navigate by sight, as they literally sail from buoy to buoy. The Sound of Harris, which the ferry crosses, is full of rocks and shifting sandbanks, and at one point the ship will come to a full stop, perform a 90 degree turn, before proceeding. The margins for error in that stretch of water are too narrow for relying on radar. By early evening, the fog returned, but lifted after dusk.

There is a bi-annual testing of the gas alarm here in Stornoway. This involves a wailing siren - which we can only hear when the windows are open. When you hear it, you should close the windows.

Today is referendum day. The polls opened between 7 am and 10pm. The ballot boxes from Uist came by plane from Benbecula to Stornoway after 1 am; this was in doubt due to fog, but that had been blown away.

Wednesday 17 September

The sun is blazing down, but noticeably lower in the sky, now that we're approaching the equinox - next Tuesday, 23rd September. The mercury remains high, 18C / 64F is very good for mid September.

Today is the last day of campaigning in the Scottish independence referendum. Voting takes place tomorrow between 7 am and 10 pm, with the results expected the next day. It is a momentous occasion, and I'll reiterate what I wrote on Monday: I hope people make the choice they feel is right for their country.

I have been posting about the Scottish referendum campaign and expressed my support for the No campaign, to stay in the United Kingdom. That is a long-standing conviction, going back to the late eighties when my interest in Scotland first emerged. The reasons are economic; latterly, those espousing a Yes vote would not have managed to change my mind, had this been required. Too many questions remain unanswered, and although everything may well come out in the negotiations (after a Yes vote tomorrow), you need to know what you are working towards. The Yes campaign, on too many issues, does not know what it's working towards. It is indicative of the Scottish National Party which, during its 7 years in office, has too often changed policies to suit popularity. I am seriously concerned, shit scared not to mince my words, what will happen after a Yes vote. I'm not scare-mongering. Too many assumptions are being made, to suit popularity. My faith lies with the quiet, canny Scot, who will work out what's best for him. My faith lies with those who were not prepared to express their preferences in public - sometimes for deplorable reasons. The campaign is virtually over. Voting starts in a little over 12 hours from now. Whatever the outcome is, I shall respect it. There will be no going back.

Seventy years ago, the airborne landings around the Dutch city of Arnhem heralded the start of an abortive attempt by allies to cross the river Rhine by capturing the bridge. A major commemoration has taken place at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, in the town of Oosterbeek, a few miles west of Arnhem. It was there that some fierce fighting took place, as allied forces sought to advance east from their landing places on the Ginkelse Hei near the town of Ede, west of Arnhem. German forces were found to be far stronger than intelligence had suggested, forcing the allies to abandon the captured bridge. The operation ultimately failed, prolonguing the war by 8 months.

Tropical storm Odile is fading over the northern Gulf of California, and will bring large amounts of rain to Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas. Its impact in southern Baja California, is only just beginning to emerge. Want to know what the impact of a category III hurricane looks like? Just look at Baja California at the moment. The airport at Cabo San Lucas, at the southern tip, is closed with serious damage. Looting has broken out. Powerlines down, mobile phone service down for at least a month, fighting at La Paz airport for flights out of the disaster area - more info on BajaInsider. Meanwhile, the remnants of Odile are moving into Arizona, and will dump up to 9 inches of rain there. Did I hear you say "desert"?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Tuesday 16 September

Hurricane ‪Odile‬ has hit Baja California head-on, and there has been no update on the BajaInsider website since midnight local time, 10 hours ago. The airfield at Cabo San Lucas has stopped issuing weather reports twelve hours earlier. I just hope all are well over there. Odile reportedly carried winds of 110 knots / 130 mph at landfall, and is the strongest storm to hit the peninsula since 1948. The system will now slowly weaken as it drags the length of the peninsula, 1000 miles or 1670 km. Odile will turn up at the US border, in southern Arizona, on Friday, no longer a tropical cyclone but certainly a very wet area of low pressure.

Two days of campaigning left in the Scottish independence referendum. I take the liberty of echoing HM Queen Elizabeth II - people should think very carefully about their future. Without attribution I'll say this: If you feel passionately that Scotland should be independent, go for it. Shout it from the roofs, plaster the streets with your views. It's a free country. If you feel that Scotland should stay part of the UK, shout it from the roofs and plaster the streets with your views. That's the beauty of democracy. Thursday's the day. 18 September 2014. Speak then, or be forever silent. There will not be another chance. Not to rejoin the UK, nor to go for independence at a future date.

I went on a boattrip today from Maraig (Maaruig) in North Harris. A small powerboat took 5 passengers, including myself, on a two-hour tour of Loch Seaforth. This showed a close-up view of South Pairc, a derelict area of the island which is normally only accessible after a lengthy walk from the nearest road. Weather was dry, but with variable amounts of cloud. Fair bit of splashing going on, which prompted the skipper, from the Scaladale Centre, to slow down his craft.

Before setting out from Maraig, I had nearly 3 hours to spare, which I filled in by walking up the path towards Urgha. At the highest point, above the Laxdale Lochs, I had a lovely view of said lochs. A group of mountain bikers turned up, who were doing a circuit from Tarbert to Maraig, round to Reinigeadal and back to Urgha via the postman's trail.

More pics here

P9160296 P9160293 P9160285 P9160275 P9160266 P9160261 P9160251 P9160250 P9160241 P9160235 P9160231 P9160228 P9160226 P9160219 P9160221 P9160213 P9160204 P9160199 P9160196 P9160186 P9160182 P9160173 P9160168 P9160160 P9160157 P9160150 P9160148 P9160144