Title picture: Approaching Stornoway, 17 January 2015

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Wednesday 28 January

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Tuesday 27 January

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MV Isle of Arran, replacing MV Isle of Lewis whilst the latter is in drydock

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MV Gripfisk up the Goat Island slipway

Monday 26 January

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day

I was very pleased today to note the extensive coverage of this commemoration, across the television and internet. I was equally pleased to see how children and young people have become involved, now that the survivors are getting fewer and fewer, to tell the tale of horror. I know the facts as well as anybody else, although I was born some 20 years after the war. Each year, on 9 November, I mark Reichskristallnacht on my internet output, and this day, 27 January. But do I truly comprehend what the Holocaust actually meant? I've read Anne Frank's diaries, although I have not visited the museum in Amsterdam. I probably won't - accounts by others who have visited speak of being frogmarched through the building at speed, without opportunity to stand still and contemplate. Neither will I visit Auschwitz, but for a totally different reason. I could not take in the concept of visiting a site where over a million people were massacred on an industrial scale, and as an industrialised process - simply because they did not match the definition of a 'desired' human being. Whether that was on the grounds of religion, ethnic provenance or whatever - there was no justification.

This afternoon, 70 years after Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, several survivors stood up and spoke of their experiences and impressions. Clergymen spoke out in prayer, according to the rites of their religion.

Politics was also given a place at the Auschwitz commemoration, as controversially as ten years ago. When seventeen people were shot and killed in Paris on January 7th, four of them were in a Jewish supermarket. I am still aghast that their remains were spirited out of France, for interment in the state of Israel. These were French citizens, born in France. One of the dead was a Muslim policeman. I watched an unsanitized version of his death on TV. I am fiercely opposed to discrimination. I am fiercely opposed to the persecution of Jews, Muslims or Christians (or adherents to any faith), on any pretext. I am just as fiercely opposed to what is sometimes termed positive discrimination, giving someone preferential treatment, again on account of faith or whatever. We should not single out Jews for protection against persecution. All people should be able to profess their faith, whatever their faith may be, without fear of persecution.

That should be the message of Auschwitz.
That IS the message of Auschwitz.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

MV Loch Seaforth

In my postings of the past week, you will have seen images of a new ferry, the MV Loch Seaforth, coming and going at Stornoway. The vessel arrived from the shipyard in Germany back in November, but has been unable to enter service. The reason is that her berth is not ready. Works to upgrade Stornoway ferry terminal started last May, but a series of setbacks (let's put it that way) have caused a delay of at least six months. The Loch Seaforth is sailing up and down the coastline of northern and eastern Scotland, a ferry without a port. The ship costs £42m and although it is good that any teething troubles become apparent now, it would have been better if she had been on the run.

Another problem is that the linkspan at Ullapool suddenly needs to be replaced. A linkspan is the adjustable bridge for driving on and off the ship, and the one at Ullapool is 42 years old. As soon as the works in Stornoway are complete, the Loch Seaforth can start operating the route. And that will be without vehicles. While the linkspan works are being carried out at Ullapool, only foot passengers can come to Ullapool. Vehicles will have to travel to Uig, Skye on a different ship. This is a 3 hour journey, and because of tidal conditions at Uig, timetables will vary day by day. At times, this means a 3 am departure. The distance by road from Ullapool to Inverness is 55 miles; the road distance between Uig and Inverness is about 125 miles, and add to that the road distance between Stornoway and Tarbert, 40 miles.These works are due to start in late April, when the summer tourism season is well and truly underway. You can imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth that is currently going on in these islands about this whole unholy saga.

Sunday 25 January

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Saturday 24 January

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Friday 23 January

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Thursday 22 January

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Tuesday 20 January

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Wednesday 21 January

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Monday 19 January

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Sunday 18 January

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Saturday 17 January

After an early breakfast, headed for the bus station. The Ullapool bus left at 8.10 sharp, following an explanation by the driver about facilities on board. It soon got very snowy, particularly west of Loch Glascarnoch. A minor blizzard gave us a taste of things wintry. At Ullapool, the ferry was just arriving, so we did not have to wait long to go on board. I esconced myself in the observation lounge, and soon enjoyed the views down Loch Broom and across the Minch. It did get a little choppy after an encounter with the new ferry Loch Seaforth, but the snow clad hills of the island made up for all of that. Arrived into Stornoway at 1.15pm, and had to drag the case through about half an inch of hail and snow on the ground.

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