Title picture: Natural arch, Pabaigh Mor, 19 July 2014

Monday, 4 August 2014

Monday 4 August

A fairly overcast day here, with occasional bright spells interspersed with typically Hebridean drizzle. A moderate west wind drives the weather today.

It is a hundred years ago today that Belgium and the United Kingdom joined the First World War. Belgium was invaded by German forces, who met with stiff resistance at Liège - the Eben-Emael fortress  proving to be a tougher nut to crack than the Germans had anticipated. History has recorded the events that followed over 4 years, 3 months and 7 days, claiming the lives of millions, and reshaping the map of Europe.

It left a legacy, consisting of all the ingredients for another conflagration, which followed just over 20 years after the First World War ended. In turn, the Second World War left its own legacy, which is continuing to reverberate in the world today. The Gaza conflict, as we are watching it on the TV news these days, is a direct offshoot of WW2.

Is it proportionate for the murder of three teenagers to be avenged by the summary justice of the demolition of a house, and the murder of another teenager? I condemn the use of missiles to terrorise the civilian population, even though this has not claimed lives. I roundly condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Force. They state that missile stores and launch sites in Gaza need to be destroyed, and in a sense, such is a justified aim. However, the civilian death toll is way, way too high. It could be argued that Hamas, in a cynical way, place their weaponry close to civilian sites - almost inevitable in Gaza. But three times over now have we seen the targeting of United Nations schools by IDF, shortly after being notified by the UN of the location of these schools. That too is a cynical approach, and comes close to deliberate targeting of such sites. There is no trust between either side, and there is no prospect of a lasting resolution.

Sunday 3 August

After a very rough night, the northeasterly wind took its time to abate from the force 7 it had been blowing at through the night. Cloud broke by midday, and it became quite warm and muggy - resulting in a large thunderstorm out at sea at 3pm.

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Saturday 2 August

Although the day did start bright and fairly sunny, the wind soon picked up and the cloud cover closed down the sky. The mercury has dropped from 17C around midday to 15C at the moment. For the moment, I do not expect rain, but the rainfall radar shows a band of quite heavy rain from Mallaig towards Northern Ireland. This will probably come our way through the night, according to the Met Office. Wind and rain duly arrived late in the evening, something we haven't seen to this degree for a while.

Friday 1 August

Bright afternoon here in Stornoway, but I'm not too confident we'll get away without a shower. The Dutch sailing ship Wylde Swan has just come into port - she featured in the Stornoway Tall Ships event in 2012. The vessel was crewed by, among others, 17 students from the Nicolson Institute, who had joined it at Bergen, Norway, for some experience in sailing a traditional sailing ship.

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Thursday 31 July

Just found out that the Island Blogging site has been pulled, without prior warning to users like myself. I can understand a lack of funding, I cannot understand rudeness like that. I did manage to salvage my Island Blogging blog Arnish Lighthouse. Archived for posterity on Blogger.


Wednesday 30 July

A thorougly Hebridean day of mixed fortunes, with the sun taunting us from amongst drizzle bearing clouds. The mercury is shying away from 60F, which doesn't make the breeze feel any warmer.

You may think "what's the fuss over 20 jobs", but Harris is a fragile economy, and 20 jobs in a community of only a little over 1,000 is massive. It would equate to 17,500 jobs being lost in the city of Glasgow in one fell swoop.

Sheep poo galore at our monuments and memorials, according to this letter writer. The only thing is that Callanish, Doune Carloway and Holm are crofting townships, and the monuments concerned stand in common land, on which sheep do graze. And they, like all creatures, well, :poop:

There are roadworks outside, related to a faulty electricity cable.



Tuesday 29 July

Quite a nice, fairly bright day, so I went for a walk around town. Local primary schools have made up large roadside boards on the occasion of Homecoming Scotland 2014, Tattoo Hebrides (August 9th) and the Commonwealth Games, which are being held in Glasgow at the moment. They always make a colourful sight round town.

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Monday 28 July

An overcast day, but mainly dry. A cool breeze but not too cold altogether. The cruiseliner Sea Cloud II, a three-masted sailing ship, made a magnificent entry into Stornoway at lunchtime. The ferry also came in, just as she was docking. The Sea Cloud II departed at dusk. I went to an open-air meeting related to the Scottish independence referendum, which will be held on September 18th. Jim Murphy MP, for the No campaign, held a soap-box discussion with (what appeared to be) mainly supporters of his cause. He commented how nice people were, even those driving by with a Yes flag out of the window kept in 2nd gear and stopped at the lights to let people cross the road. In Glasgow, the air would have been blue and it would have been a noisy, heckling affair.

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Sunday 27 July

Back to normal for these parts - overcast but fairly bright, and occasional light showers. 17C on the thermometer, and light winds.

Anyone else felt the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games last Wednesday was the most excruciating, embarrassing, toe-curling load of tat ever shown on British television? I was expecting something along the lines of the Olympics or Winter Olympics opening ceremonies, but not a collection of off-key singing papier-mache has-beens making a total mockery of Scotland. End of rant.

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Saturday 26 July

This is the Outer Hebrides, so it's tipping it down with rain this afternoon after several days of temperatures well above 20C. We are now sinking back into 'normal' territory, 17C / 63F. Raining steadily in Stornoway, the supermarket was full of people in summer garb, covered in wet-weather gear. Nobody comes to these islands not prepared for rain at some juncture.

NOS.nl reports that Dutch police experts have not been able to reach the crash site of ‪#‎MH17‬ today due to heavy fighting in the area. Two experts were able to access the area yesterday, accompanied by pro-Russian separatists. The last coffins with remains that were recovered from the crash site have arrived in the Netherlands. The first body, taken to Holland from the crash site of ‪#‎MH17‬, has been identified. Only the next-of-kin and the mayor of the municipality concerned have been notified of the identity of the dead person, who was Dutch.

We had a cruiseliner in, the Delphin, anchored in the Glumag. Pity about the weather, but that can't be helped.

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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Friday 25 July

Another sunny and warm morning in Stornoway, with the mercury merrily cruising up the Celsius scale: currently at 23C / 73F. We could well clock up another mid- to high-20s day - the last one for a while. Although it has been very dry, the wind has not been strong, so I'm not too worried about wildfires. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, and we'll back in the high teens.

Russian paper Novaja Gazeta is offering a front-page apology for the crash of MH17. A page-sized photograph shows a cortege of hearses driving down a motorway. The caption, in Dutch and Russian, reads: "Forgive us, Holland".

Novaja Gazeta is one of the few independent newspapers in Russia, and does a lot of investigative journalism. Russian opposition is among its readership.

Another 75 coffins from #MH17 have landed at Eindhoven AFB in the Netherlands. By tomorrow, when 38 are due, the total number will have risen to 227.

So Hamas is lobbing rockets into Israel. That doesn't help.
So Israel is bombing Gaza. That doesn't help.
Neither protagonist has an attitude conducive towards resolution.
Civilians are the losers, and the numbers of dead will only harden attitudes. I totally despair of that bunch of idiots on both sides of this senseless conflict.

Thursday 24 July

Last night, the Commonwealth Games opened in Glasgow. I thought the opening ceremony was crap. Cheap tat. A disgrace to Scotland, and I wasn't anywhere near in the mood for the papier-mache ceremony we were being bored with.

Dutch national broadcaster NOS reports that tomorrow, Thursday, at least 74 bodies will be brought to Eindhoven AFB, to be transferred to Corporal Van Oudheusden barracks in Hilversum. The ceremony will be identical to today's, and a government minister will attend.
Profoundly moved by the dignity afforded to the 40 victims of ‪#‎MH17‬, who were flown into ‪#‎Eindhoven‬ AFB this afternoon. A group of eight servicemen carried each coffin from either plane to a hearse. The cortege of 40 hearses will travel to a military barracks at ‪#‎Hilversum‬, 65 miles north of Eindhoven. The A2 and A27 motorways will be closed for 3 miles either side of the cortege as it moves north. The same process will be repeated for all the coffins when they come in from Ukraine.
Wall to wall sunshine, and although it's just 10.15 am, the thermometer has already crested 70F or 21C. I imagine we'll easily cruise into the high 20s this afternoon - in fact, we reached 26C / 78F.

A very warm visit to Gress cemetery, 9 miles north of Stornoway. The adjacent beach was well frequented, and quite a few people were in the sea. The temperature of the sea here is about 14C / 57F, so it's not too cold. I didn't go in myself, as I didn't have time until the bus back into town.

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Wednesday 23 July

Very warm in Stornoway today - 22C / 72F and rising. The mainland could get 27 or 28C (around 80F), and we're probably not going to be very far behind. A cruiseliner in today, the good ole Marco Polo. She is a regular, and knows better than to be swinging around on its anchor chain, unlike the Adonia yesterday.

The new MV Loch Seaforth will not come on service now until October, due to delays in fitting out at Flensburg.

A transport plane is heading west from Charkiv in Ukraine to Eindhoven in the Netherlands, carrying the bodies of about 200 victims of the MH17 aircrash. Another 100 are still unaccounted for, and some may never be found as they could well have been obliterated in the rocket strike. Sorry to be so blunt. It has been established that the downing was not intentional, but the idiots in eastern Ukraine obviously didn't have the brains to operate a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system.

At 3pm this afternoon, the plane carrying the remains will touch down at Eindhoven. It will be met by King Willem-Alexander and various other high-ranking officials, amidst a day of national mourning in the Netherlands.

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Tuesday 22 July

There was no broadband service today, due to a fault in the BT exchange at Gairloch, on the mainland. All telephone and broadband service is provided to the island via microwave link, which seems to have failed.

I paid another visit to the Eye cemetery, where I chatted to the gravedigger about my own activities. He pointed me to another stone I had missed previously, and told the story of a village boy of 14 who went to join up in Inverness during WW1. He managed to persuade everybody he was 18, until he met the recruiting sergeant. He said to him in Gaelic: "Go back to school, I know fine you're 14. You're my neighbour's son".

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Monday 21 July

Quite a nice day, with plenty of sunshine, but with a slightly chilly breeze. We still managed 21C / 70F, would you believe.

Only goes to show how wrong your impressions can be. One of my local internet contacts (not on Facebook, but on Twitter) was up in court on Friday, accused of possession of indecent images. Haven't heard from this person in ages, and their blog is now private, but I still am not a happy bunny about this.

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Sunday 20 July

A few years ago, I attended an island funeral. Last week, the ceremony was enacted when the remains of a ferryman, who had unexpectedly died, returned to Stornoway.

Mainly overcast today, so not much else to comment on.


Saturday 19 July

Absolutely magical tour by boat around Great Bernera this afternoon, from Kirkebost and Callanish in the south to Gallan Head in the northwest and over to Old Hill in the north. Although the weather closed in, it stayed dry. Took no fewer than 250 pictures - with a replacement camera, as my Panasonic is now most definitely finished.

Friday 18 July

Only half past ten, but we're already at 19C / 66F, so that promises a very warm day. Sail Hebrides is on today, with a regatta in Stornoway Harbour starting about now. One of the craft managed to run aground near the Coastguard Station. The rising tide allowed them to float free, but the yacht had to return to the harbour.

I have several Russian friends. I have several American friends. Friends from all over the world. All governments engage in, or condone, actions that others find reprehensible. That has no impact on my friendship with individuals. People who blame citizens from a country for the actions of their government are not fit to be around me, in person or on-line. Just sayin'.

192 Dutch people were on board flight MH17, which was downed over eastern Ukraine. Leaving the political ramifications to one side, I reiterate my condolences to the friends and families of the deceased - of all nationalities.

In the afternoon, I revisited the Eye cemetery to GPS the location of the war-gravestones. Went out to dinner at the Cross Inn in Ness this evening. Managed to go out on the 6pm bus from Stornoway, to return on the 9.20pm bus back. Very convivial there, to be recommended.

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