View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sunday 30 November

Darkness has fallen on a grey and overcast day, pretty non-descript in actual fact. The Dutch fishing vessel departed late last night for the fishing grounds of the North Atlantic.

The post-mortem is in full progress on the attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, which has claimed nearly 200 lives, as well as more than 300 injured. Nine attackers were killed, one survived. He has admitted coming from Pakistan, but this does not imply that the attack was necessarily carried out or sanctioned by the government of that country. Western Pakistan is a pretty lawless place, outwith the control of Islamabad - Osama bin Laden is holed up there by all accounts. Although not bearing the specific wholemarks of Al Qa'eda, the attacks could well be attributable to that Medusa of the modern world. Security experts are still mulling that one over.

Today is the last day of the North Atlantic hurricane season.

I copy the review by the National Hurricane Center:

During this season, 16 named tropical cyclones occurred. Of these, 8 were hurricanes, and 5 were major hurricanes of Saffir-Simpson category III strength or stronger. This season was the first ever when 6 consecutive tropical cyclones made landfall on the US mainland. Overall, the 2008 hurricane season is tied as the 4th most active in terms of number of named storms and major hurricanes, and is also tied as the 5th most active in terms of number of hurricanes since 1944, when aerial reconnaissance was commenced. This is the 10th season to produce above-normal tropical cyclone activity since 1995, when the current active hurricane era began.
Finally, a total of 64 tropical waves moved off the coast of Africa this season, which is near the seasonal average.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Tomato sativa

The village of Shieldaig in Wester Ross is a quiet backwater on the west coast of Scotland. It was also the scene of a drugs raid a week or so ago. Police officers entered the home of a 79-year old widow to search for cannabis plants which were allegedly growing in the window sill. They put her, together with her son aged 47, in a back bedroom whilst the search was carried out. The lady's grandson, who lives in a caravan at the property, was also subjected to a rigorous search.

Problem was that there were no cannabis plants about. The suspicious plants were visibly bearing fruit - nice, juicy tomatoes. Having torn the house apart, and not recovered anything, officers insisted on taking samples of the plants. Anyone who has ever grown tomatoes, or even bought tomatoes on the vine, knows that the tomato vine carries a very distinct smell. Distinct from the cannabis plant in fact.

Northern Constabulary would only confirm that an address in Shieldaig had been attended, and that no illegal drugs or plants were found.

Oh, the title of this post? Cannabis plants carry the Latin name of Cannabis Sativa.

Saturday 29 November

Quite a bright morning with good sunny spells, although the good ole cumulonimbus (showerclouds) abound as well. The Barvas Hills wear white today. Oh, these hills is a range of 4, each rising up to 1,000 feet above sealevel. They are singularly inaccessible, surrounded as they are by miles of bog. I climbed them after a dry spell in August 2005. In the next few days, I'll put the pictures on Atlantic Light.

Also of note this morning is a large Dutch fishing trawler, at anchor in the Glumag, south of here. Glumag Harbour is a deep bay in Stornoway Harbour. The trawler is the Ariadne out of Scheveningen in Holland (get your tongue round that name). Scheveningen is a resort and fishing port situated between the city of The Hague and the North Sea. The Hague is the seat of government in Holland (which therefore does not reside in the capital Amsterdam).

Went out earlier on to take pics of said trawler and the cloudscapes this morning, which are much more rewarding than earlier in the week. Temperatures are mediocre, at only 4C, but better than yesterday's -1C at this hour. Will post pictures later today.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Friday 28 November

Many thanks for your expressions of support in response to my previous post. There are things afoot both on-line and off, which I cannot discuss on an open blog. It requires sorting out, which I find singularly hard. I am calling round the odd blog or two as I find time or inclination.

Out here in the Hebrides, it went dark after half past two this afternoon, with rain, sleet and snow falling on the town of Stornoway. It is also very cold, with the mercury barely above freezing. Officially, by the way, the sun sets at 3.45pm. With the clouds overhead, it just doesn't get light through the day.


With the apparent breakdown of yet another on-line friendship looming, I think it's time I took myself out of blogging for a considerable if not permanent period of time. I think I'm just plain wasting my time. I don't believe a word of it any more.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thursday 27 November

Just had a snower of snow out here - big flakes, which did not settle. Does show how cold it is outside, only a degree or two above freezing. Today is Thanksgiving, and not just in the USA. It is also a public holiday here in Lewis, with church services, schools and some shops closed. I am not aware of a turkey tradition, like in America, that is more commonly served at Christmas.

I was horrified to hear of a concerted series of attacks in Bombay (now Mumbai) in India, which have claimed more than 100 lives. Situation is still fluid and by no means under control.

Remember that infamous date on our calendar? 31 October 2008? The day AOL Journals was closed down. Well, I've got another date like that on my own calendar. BBC Island Blogging is closing down next January. For the past 3 years, I have been writing on there about life on Lewis, but I've just read that this will now cease. Unlike AOL, the BBC offers plenty cooperation and actually asks the community what it wants. Also, the blogs won't be deleted, again unlike AOL. I'm a very sad bunny at the moment, and it's been a crapola year altogether.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Wednesday 26 November

Blustery day with the odd drop of drizzle and the odd chink of blue sky or even ray of sunshine today. Gales anticipated for tonight.

The North Atlantic hurricane season is coming to a quiet conclusion, but it has been far from quiet this year. Jeff Masters, who runs a very useful blog on Weather Underground, has written a summary. Cuba had 3 major hurricanes, and there will be a few names withdrawn from the rotating list on account of damage or loss of life. Ike will probably be one of them, but we need to await a decision by the World Meteorological Organisation on that.
At the moment, a cyclonic storm is battering northern Sri Lanka and the far south of India with winds of up to force 10 on the Beaufort scale. It will move ashore later today, to reemerge in the Arabian Sea in a few days' time.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Evening notes

I am not very conscientious about keeping up to date with everybody's journals, but am a wee bit distracted at the moment. For the moment, I would like to wish our American friends much fun in the run-up to Thanksgiving this weekend, a festival (as I explained earlier) also celebrated here in Lewis. On Thursday to be precise. No turkeys here, just a visit to church for the faithful.

Was watching a film about the Callanish Stones, which stand 18 miles away on the west coast of Lewis. They are 5,000 years old, and not a lot is known about them. It was funny when a local man said that at one point he had told visitors they were lucky to find the Stones up. In October, they take them down for the winter, to put them back up again in Easter. Ostensibly. I'll close this post with some pics I took at Callanish at the end of June last year. All pictures were taken close to midnight. For reference, we're at latitude 58 North here.

Says it all

Tuesday 25 November

One month to go until Christmas. It is a cool but dry day in the islands, although a fine drizzle has just started.

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the independence of former Dutch colony Suriname. This small country sits on the north coast of South America, between British and French Guyana. Its primary means of subsistence is the export of bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is extracted.

Following independence, a large number of Surinamers (as they call themselves) flocked to the mother country, Netherlands. In 1980, a military coup toppled the government and army leader Desi Bouterse took over the reigns of power. The most infamous episode is the so-called December Murders, in which 15 leading opponents of Mr Bouterse were killed, allegedly by his supporters but at his direction. A civilian government has since returned to the country.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Monday 24 November

Bright and sunny day, if still cold, with the odd shower about. Went into town just before midday to have an amble round the harbour. Ended up in the library caff for a bowl of soup. It made quite a difference to have the sun out, rather than the continuous wind and rain of the weekend. Temperatures are still mediocre, at barely 5C. MV Pentalina B continues to be our freight ferry, while the normal boat, MV Muirneag, remains in dry-dock for its annual refit.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Customer service

I had to bite back a sardonic cackle this evening when I logged into my blog, to be greeted by an advert from AOL Broadband UK. The greatest customer service, was the subtitle. Good grief, how dare they.

Six minutes five seconds

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote this second movement to his 2nd Pianoconcierto in A-minor. Don't say you aren't reaching for the tissues by the end of it.

Victor Borge - need I say more?

Sunday 23 November

It is pitch dark as I type this at 5.40pm, the sun having long since set. The weather today was wet, windy and cold, a maximum of 7C / 45F just being achieved. Nothing to write home about. Having a quiet day, with a bit of reading and catching up. I am currently going through "A Shilling for your Scowl", about abuse of power by one man - who was allowed to do so by the establishment in the mid-19th century in the Isle of Lewis. He held 32 public offices at the same time, some patently incompatible with being held by one man.

A couple is suing McDonalds after images on a phone they accidentally left behind in one of their stores appeared on the internet. Nude ones. McDonalds had promised to secure the phone, but something leaked. Cautionary tale: if you put compromising material on your phone, either lock it or take it off as soon as possible.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

AOL dial-up

If there is anyone in the UK still accessing AOL by dial-up, I would like to know how they do it. Last week, my broadband connection (not by AOL) failed and I wanted to go on line to find out on the ISP's website. I had previously removed the AOL 9.0 software, but reinstalled it for this purpose. When it came to the bit where the program dials a number to find out the access numbers for the dial-up service, the modem could be heard receiving the "number not known" signal, but not acting on it. So, is there still a dial-up service on AOL UK, and there is, what is its access number?

Saturday 22 November

Quiet if rather cold day out here, the weatherstation at the airport (3 miles away) reports 3C / 37F. My father, over in Holland, sent me pictures this morning showing a blanket of snow. Much like we had in Stornoway 4 weeks ago. Not today - it is just overcast with little wind.

Mainland Scotland is affected by heavy snow, which makes driving very difficult. Further south, a warm front which will come in off the Atlantic is expected to bring black-ice and freezing rain on Sunday. This will herald a change to milder weather. It's late November, so what do you expect.

Once more, suicide by chatroom has reared its ugly head. A young man, aged 19, had announced he was going to take his life, which he proceeded to do live on webcam. For hours, he lay motionless in front of his camera, before the moderator of the chatroom was notified and police were called. Although some chatters had tried to dissuade the victim, others had egged him on to go for it. Just goes to show what some people are like. It also goes to show how a chatroom serves to de-personify people, by making them less like real people.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Friday 21 November

Very cold today, with the mercury not even touching 40F / 4C at the moment. It is snowing as I type, or is it sleet. Over on the mainland, the A9 trunkroad linking Inverness with the Lowlands is blocked at the Slochd summit north of Aviemore. Ferry sailings from the far northeast (Caithness) to Orkney are disrupted due to bad weather, and our freight service is not operating today.

BBC presenters Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross were suspended for 3 months in October, following a grossly offensive broadcast, in which they left crude messages on the answerphone of a well-known actor. Apparently, Mr Ross can be expected to defile our airwaves again in January, and Mr Brand could well be back as well. I never liked Jonathan Ross, and hope he stays off the BBC.

Generally speaking, I find very little worth watching on TV these days. I have access to satellite TV, which pumps 500 channels into the set. Only the BBC channels are really worth watching, particularly the Gaelic channel BBC Alba. And, to my disgrace, Tom & Jerry lol (video courtesy CartoonyA on YouTube)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

AOL & Washington Post

On Sunday, I sent off a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post. It is now Thursday, and it has (to my knowledge) not been published, and therefore not likely to. On average, only about 6 or 7 letters are published in the Post on-line, so I only had a small chance. I'll copy its content here for reference.

Dear Sirs,

On October 31st, AOL Journals, an on-line blogging service, was closed down. The way this was carried out has not shown AOL in a favourable light in terms of customer service.

Although AOL Journals were earmarked for closure on July 25th, 2008, its users were not informed until September 30th. An option was offered to users for them to transfer any on-line journals to another service provider, but the company went out of its way to stifle further cooperation with users, threatening employees with dismissal if any help was discovered being made.

The point with Journals was that although they were a declining service, they meant more to their users than could be expressed in dollars and cents. For many, their journal kept them going through illness and other challenging times in life. Others passed away, leaving behind their journal as a posthumous tribute and legacy. The community of users helped each other. It was quite unique, but is left torn apart.

All enterprises want to make money, but when doing so goes to the detriment of its users, the company's ethical standards can be called into question. Not just AOL – any company.

Yours sincerely,

[signed with name, address and phonenumber]

Thursday 20 November

A brighter day than of late, with a few clearances in the clouds. Bit breezy, with a force 5 wind going from the west to northwest. Temperatures nothing out of the ordinary for the final part of November, at 8C. Tomorrow, the north of mainland Scotland and Orkney & Shetland are under warning for snow and gales. It would appear that the Western Isles will escape the worst of it.

The southern hemisphere hurricane season has kicked off with two tropical storms, one of which looks set to reach Western Australia over the weekend. It won't bring more than galeforce winds to an area between Port Hedland and Exmouth - but I'm jumping the gun a bit with this forecast.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Missing in transfer

I have noticed that automatic line breaks, inserted in AOL Journals, have not been carried through in the transferred Blogger journals. As a result, you'll find wordsmerged [sic] together. See if it also happened to any of your transferred blogs.

Plugging one of my blogs

Unashamedly plugging my photoblog Atlantic Light, which I am filling with all the pictures I have taken since August 2004. Each entry, related to each day I took pictures, shows up to 3 or 4 photos, with links to more pics (if available) as well as to a diary entry.

Wednesday 19 November

Chucking it down this morning with a strong westerly wind. The temperature, 11C / 52F, is academical in conditions like that. We're supposed to get a dip in temps by Friday, introducing a few flurries of snow here in Lewis. Mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland) will get rather more of the white stuff.

If you're in the UK, you may have had an email from HM Customs & Revenue that several hundred pounds are waiting for you. You guessed it, it's a scam. Looks convincing, except for the usual pointers like spelling mistakes etc. I copy an article from a local news website:

Trading Standards Officers are warning the public to beware of an email claiming to offer a tax refund.The email is supposedly from HM Customs and Revenue but is actually an attempt to gain personal information.
A spokesperson said: “This email looks genuine and offers a refund of hundreds of pounds in return for sending personal information. It is a scam designed to get people to send their personal information and should be deleted. Banks, Customs and Revenue etc would never ask for such information by email and similar scams should be similarly deleted.”

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


In June of last year, a man of 60 went out canoeing with his youngest son. He was a father of 11, living in the village of Arnol, 15 miles north of Stornoway. That afternoon, the two were seen by a chance walker off the coast by the next village, Bragar. Thinking nothing of it, the walker went on her way, and after a little while came to the beach by the cemetery at Bragar.

Where one of the canoes was found washed up. She immediately raised the alarm, and the Coastguard found the man in the water. He was quickly transferred to hospital, but did not survive. His son was not found for another 3 weeks, in spite of intense search efforts which were carried on quite late in the evening, on account of the long evenings in June.

Whenever I pass through Arnol, I pass the house where the family used to live - I seem to remember they moved away - and feel the sadness. As in all communities by the sea, this is only too common an occurrence. Even in the few years I've been here, several tragedies like this have occurred. Those left behind remain in my thoughts.

View across the walls of Arnol to the next village, Bragar.


I am very pleased to see the resurgence of awards, memes and what have you in J-land. Jeannette (Outside Looking In) passed the Let them Eat Cake award to me.
I'll think about who to pass it on to, but it's pretty much done the round - also, I'm not fully back into the swing of things yet, so please don't be offended if I pass on this one.


Can I ask everyone who needs / wants to email me, please do so on, and no longer on I'm minimising my exposure to AOL.

Conversely, can I also ask everyone who wants a reply from me (some do) to allow mail from above email to reach their email Inbox. Natalie!!!

Front picture

The pic at the head of my blog shows the beach at Dalbeg [Dail Beag] on the west coast of Lewis, some 20 miles west of Stornoway. This is a short video of waves crashing into the shore at Dalbeg.

Dalbeg itself is a one horse town, consisting of about half a dozen houses, a lily pond loch in summer and plenty sheep. This set on Flickr shows more than 150 pictures of the place.

Have a look

Regina (known as wumzels2 on AOL) has started a poetry journal (Somewhere in Time), and I think it is very good. Can't say I'm much of a poetry buff, but would like to recommend this for reading.

Tuesday 18 November

Overcast day with a few chinks in the clouds. Very quiet weather today, but winds will pick up tomorrow to galeforce.

Last night, I lost Internet service after 8pm, but things are back up now. The ISP advises that it is affecting a large geographical area. I hope it stays on up here, suppose I suffer from internet addiction (winks).

I went to the supermarket last night, and saw a bevvy of flashing blue lights near the town centre, just down the road. It turns out two youngsters crashed their car into the busstation. They were slightly hurt and taken to hospital. Their car was damaged in the incident.

Monday, 17 November 2008

A Question of Perspective

A man was attacked in Germany in 1996 by neo-nazis, which left him paralysed from the neck down. His wife died of cancer in 2000, and he is now contemplating assisted suicide at a clinic in Switzerland. That is all I will say about this story, which continues on this BBC webpage. Read it, and come back here to leave a comment.

Fat cats

With all this talk of fat cats and the credit crunch, I just wanted to feature this well-fed moggie that I found in Hoy last month.

Monday 17 November

Horrible day, strong winds, heavy rain, low temperatures. November at its worst.

I have resized the front picture, in order that it fully fits the screen when the blog loads. It has also been decreased in actual load size (by about 1/3), to suit those of you with slow connections.

Baby P, the 17-month old that was allegedly killed by his parents, continues to make headlines 15 months after his died. The focus remains on the social workers involved. Without making excuses for any mistakes made in this sad case, I have to say that when it comes to deciding whether a child can stay at home or not is an extremely hard call to make. I used to know someone who would take children away from their parents, under court order, and that would always happen in the presence of police. The most extreme case was a baby, taken from its mother the moment it was born. I need not remind you of the emotional repercussions of taking a child away from parents. However, if the health and safety of a child is at serious danger, then a decision will have to be made. Finally, I was not amused or impressed by the sight of two leading politicians shouting across the floor of the House of Commons last week over this, and they were rightly rebuked by Mr Speaker.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Front page

Yes, I have gone bananas with a picture of Dalbeg Beach to suit the title of my blog - Atlantic Lines. I realise it's a bit huge, so I'll be tweaking it over the next few days.

Looking back

Just copying a few entries from 16 November of previous years in Lewis.

In 2004, I had just arrived in the island, and had proceeded to the village of Kershader, some 22 miles south of Stornoway. I was to stay there for nearly 3 months, through winter in this building, the Ravenspoint Centre.

Here is the diary entry for the day

Tuesday 16 November 2004

Woke up to a guy shouting abuse in his sleep, and someone else shooshing him. The two American ladies collected their car at 8.30, declining my offer of being their guide. I set off downtown sunny Stornoway / Steornabhagh. First to the library for a full hour's worth of Internet use. Had about 40 emails waiting. Then to various bookshops, one of which stocked Soil and Soul, a landmark work by Alistair McIntosh. He is not well known outside this region, but is a staunch campaigner for community ownership. He supported the community buy-out of the Isle of Eigg in 1996/7, and managed to stop the development of the Lingerabay superquarry. This would have seen the demolition of an entire mountain for the sake of acquiring aggregates for the building of houses and roads in the UK and beyond. I also unearthed a compilation CD by Capercaillie, my favourite folk / fusion group from these parts. Went to a gig by them, as some know, back in January. Didn't walk back to my digs, no danced home. Just as well it was 11.30pm. It's no use having a CD without the means of listening to it, so I also acquired a portable CD-player. Then there was the matter of my 3 disposable cameras, all used up, which needed to be developed and printed. I would have preferred the images to be on CD-ROM, but that means you have to wait for 3-4 days, and I don't work that far in advance with regards to planning. One shop could develop & print in 2 hours, but not the CD-ROM. Sod it, I went for the prints. The most important one is attached to this journal entry [amendment 16/11/08: this was not the case]. Then I went on a walk down the harbourfront as far as the old powerstation. Sat down on the seawall and was duly joined by a nice tortoiseshell cat, a neutered tom. He rubbed against me as I sat nibbling my sandwiches, wanted to be scratched on the head and a general fuss. After that, he went down the steps to the shore, only to bolt back up them a minute later and disappear into the estate behind me. Strange animal. My bus left town at 2.20pm, heading down the road towards Tarbert. I got off at Balallan (Baile Ailean), to join the little bus into South Lochs. Recognized the driver from years ago. A ten minute journey brought me to Cearsiadar - just say KerSHAder. The hostel is part of a community building also encompassing a shop and a cafe. The volunteers in the shop also run the hostel, which is simple but comfortable. Oh, the only uncomfortable thing about the hostel is the chairs. Eugh. After a longish chat, I went inside. A run-down of things not to do:

- don't close the kitchendoor, the handle is broken

- don't switch off the light in the stairwell

- don't use the shower upstairs

- don't use the third bedroom

- don't leave the central heating on if you don't need it

Ah, it's all a laugh, really. There are only two people in the hostel now, a guy called Joe and myself. He is going round the island looking for a job and a place to live. Exchanged some stories over dinner. Joe cooked onions and potatoes with mince and shandy to drink. The television provided some entertainment, but that was about it for the night.

November evening

Whilst our American friends are beginning to eye up Thanksgiving, here in the UK, it is still more than a month to Christmas. Yes, I've mentioned the C-word. Personally, I do not contemplate Christmas until December 6th.

Here in Lewis, Thanksgiving is also observed on the last Thursday in November. It usually means a day off school for the children, as some may be required to attend communions in church. Shops tend to close after lunch (except for supermarkets and the like). Communions are held every three months.

In Holland, where I am from, Thanksgiving is not a commonly observed religious festival. It is mentioned on the church calendar in September (much like the Harvest Festival in the Church of England, but without the display of harvested goodies). In the Roman Catholic parts of the country, south of the Great Rivers (Rhine, Waal and Maas), the festival of St Maarten / St Martin was held on November 11th.
The above image shows St Maarten giving his cloak to a man without one.

The next festival on the Dutch calendar is Sinterklaas / St Nicholas, the eve of whose nameday is celebrated on December 5th. Yesterday, Sinterklaas arrived in Holland on a steamship, surrounded by a posse of helpers known as Black Peters. St Nicholas ostensibly arrives from Spain, and in the 8th century the Iberian peninsula was ruled by dark-skinned men from North Africa called the Moors. Officially, St Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (modern-day Smyrna in Turkey) but his bones were spirited out of Turkey to Spain after his death.

Sinterklaas will bring a sack full of presents for all children in Holland (Belgium and Germany) on the steamboat, but will fill his sack with children who have been bad in the past year, to take back to Spain. Black Peter, a sort of bogeyman, will make sure it will be filled up to the brim. He will also assist Sinterklaas as he rides his white charger along the rooftops, to drop presents down the chimneys. Only children who leave a carrot for the horse in their shoe will wake up to find a present the next morning.
Sinterklaas, St Nicholas and Santa Claus are in fact one and the same. Sinterklaas will have disappeared on the morning of December 6th.

AOL journals

I have written a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post regarding the recent demise of AOL Journals. I cannot publish its contents under the terms of service of the Post, but rest assured I have been politely scathing. If anyone else wants to summarise their feelings in 200 words (yep, that's the limit of a submission to the Post), feel free to contact

Sunday 16 November

Quiet day with a bit of brightness about. The weather is set to take a turn for the worse, with a lot of rain and wind about as the new week commences, and a cold snap by the next weekend. I gather that the east of the USA has also had its first taste of winter, judging by the huge low pressure area headed east out of Labrador this afternoon. It will head north into Greenland, where it will be split in two; the eastern segment will bring us winter by the weekend.

Still on the subject of weather, I am watching a tropical cyclone (not more than a tropical storm at present) which has been drenching the Philippines over the past few days. It has turned into tropical storm 26W (meaning there have been 26 cyclones in the Western Pacific this year), and will cross the Mekong Delta, then the Malay Peninsula and could end up in the Bay of Bengal.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Pentalina B

This ship, which I stubbornly continue to call by its original name Iona, is currently covering the freight run between the Isle of Lewis and the Scottish mainland. Normally, MV Muirneag is doing this, but this ship is in dry-dock on the Tyne at present. My picture of the Iona (puh) on Flickr is attracting an unusual amount of attention. 91 views since last Sunday.

I know, it's a nice picture ;-)

Saturday 15 November

Today is the 4th anniversary of my arrival in Lewis. Back in 2004, I had arrived in Harris (which is on the same landmass as Lewis) from North Uist, and took the bus north to Stornoway. The next time I would leave Lewis would be in May 2007.

Today is a better day in terms of weather, with a fair amount of brightness. Rain appears to be threatening, and it is also a lot colder. Yesterday saw the mercury at 13C, this afternoon has it down to 7C, quite a jump by local standards. Colder weather in the winter period usually also brings brighter weather.

Still quiet on the tropical cyclones front, except for one minor tropical storm crossing into the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The worst people there can expect is 10 inches of rain; winds will not exceed force 9 on the Beaufort scale. Fishermen have been warned to stay on shore.

Friday, 14 November 2008


If anyone reads a private blog on here called My Wee Bit of Life, can they pass on a message to thank them for linking to my Tropical Cyclones blog. I am not a reader, and cannot reach them.

Friday 14 November

Once more pouring with rain and breezy today. The best way to summarise is to call it dreich.

I have pulled my videos off AOL Video Uncut, as the UK version has now become defunct. I'll be uploading them onto YouTube in the next few days. You can watch all my (50 at present) videos on this channel.

It is reckoned that the hurricane season in the Atlantic is over for the year, as atmospheric conditions are no longer conducive to formation of tropical cyclones. The tropical waves, off which many hurricanes are born, have ceased running off the African continent. The southern hemisphere season commenced 2 weeks ago, but is yet to get into swing.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Evening notes

My remarks regarding Facebook relate to the consequences on my private life of being on there, rather than the experience itself. That was not unique to Facebook, it is something that has plagued me throughout my stint on AOL (since April 2004).

On the subject of child abuse, the Austrian man (Josef Pritzl) who made his own daughter pregnant 7 times over will stand trial. Part of the indictment is the allegation that he killed one of the babies fathered by him. Pritzl kept his daughter incarcerated in a cellar at home for 24 years.

Yesterday, news emerged that the Jersey prosecuting authorities have decided that there is no case to answer regarding the children's home Haute de la Garenne. Earlier this year, this former home made world headlines after bones were found in sealed off sections of its cellars. It has been decided that those finds do not constitute murder. Investigations into alleged abuse are on-going.

Thursday 13 November

Pouring with rain out here, not very nice at all.

I was horrified to hear of the death of a baby of 17 months in north London. Once again, social services appear to have failed dismally in their duty of care, not picking up on danger signs. Whether it is a system failure of social services generally, or the fact that the odd failure is of such a horrific nature is not a conclusion for me to draw. Over the past few years, I have encountered several people who were reluctant to tell me that their job was with social services.

I am contemplating my continued membership of Facebook. Although I joined in December 2007, I only became more active on it following the demise of AOL Journals. I cannot say it was a wholly positive experience, so do not be surprised if any of you who are on my friends list on there are notified of my departure.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


I make a point of observing the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht in German. During the night of November 9th/10th in 1938, groups of Nazi thugs went on the rampage in German towns and cities, smashing Jewish-owned businesses and shops, looting and setting fire to them. Only because they were owned by people who had marked their religion down as Jewish. In the aftermath, many streets were littered with broken glass, which led to the German euphemism of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night).

With the anniversary of the 1914/1919 Armistice just a day ago, it is good to also remember the atrocities of the Second World War. Lest we forget.

Postscript: I specifically refer to the First World War as running until 1919, as the Peace was not declared until that year. Here in Lewis in particular, with the Iolaire Disaster of 1 January 1919, the Great War certainly didn't end until 1919.

Wednesday 12 November

Overcast today, but the sun is trying to poke through the high cloud layer. Large parhelion at one stage. It's quiet today, which makes a change from the recent wild and windy weather. However, it's November, this is the Western Isles, so what do you expect. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. Fantastic cloudscapes, beautiful sunsets - and they are now happening in front of my window, which has a view southeast to southwest.

This picture dates back to last Wednesday, as I was returning to Stornoway. More of that sort on this link. I should also tell you that there is a large number of pictures there of the Coastguard helicopter exercising off the ferry as it sails across the Minch. This video, full of helicopter noise, shows the winchman going up and down, carrying a stretcher. The time was 7.30pm, so it was dark. Give it a minute to process on YouTube.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


When I head my posts with crazy percentages, you know I'm going to write about Zimbabwe again. The above number represents that country's inflation percentage. Its president, freedom fighter, liberation hero, responsible for economic disaster and famine - in other words, Robert Mugabe, is now having 2.1 to 5 million of his population fed by the UN. That organisation is short on resources, so is currently cutting down on rations. Politically, Zimbabwe is mired down in shinanigans on the part of Mugabe, with the opposition MDC party and Mugabe's ZANU-PF unable to form a sensible government.

Talk about self-destruct sequence initiated. Oh, just wanted to feature this video as well. Better have a sickbag ready (PS: give it a while to get processed, only just uploaded it to YouTube).


Cathy [chatzeekay] is sending a message that she is sorry to have lost touch with most of us in J-land. She has returned from her vacation, and is gearing up to confront some serious issues. Cathy is currently not blogging (she finds it extremely difficult to learn a new blogging system), but would like to keep in touch - at present through myself. If you have her email address (not giving it out on here), please write an encouraging note. Although this could be classified as Call for Support stuff, I am writing it here, as she may pick it up on my journal.

For Armistice Day

Tuesday 11 November

Armistice Day, and the 90th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War. The war to end all wars, what a fallacy that turned out to be. Watched the ceremony in Whitehall this morning, when the three remaining surviving veterans of the Great War laid their wreaths at the Cenotaph. The eldest, Henry Allingham, aged 112, laid the wreath with his own hands. Very moving.

My thoughts today are with all who fell in that conflict. And with those who tragically drowned outside Stornoway Harbour on 1 January 1919, on their way home. Their transport, a troopship called the Iolaire [Eagle], ran aground on a reef and sank after an hour and a half. 75 survived, but 205 went to the bottom with her. They had survived up to 4 years of war - only to drown within sight of their home town. Inquiries in 1919 and 1972 did not properly account for the events of that dreadful night.

The village of Shawbost, 18 miles from Stornoway, buried 9 of its sons a few days later. North Tolsta, 13 miles north of the town, had lost the largest number of their young men. Of those drowned, 64 were never found. The remaining 140 were found scattered on the shores around Stornoway; one turned up in Loch Grimshader 5 months later.

I'll close this post with a tribute to one of the victims:
Leading Deckhand John MacAskill

Last address in Lewis: 12 Lower Sandwick
Son of Kenneth and Mary MacAskill, was married
Service: Royal Naval Reserve, HMT Thomas Booth
Service number: 9635/DA
Date of death: 1 January 1919 at the age of 24
John drowned, and lies buried at Sandwick

Monday, 10 November 2008

Good news for Donna

Following the bad news about Donna's health, I came across her transferred blog on the Internet. I immediately mailed her the URL. She was convinced it had been deleted, and lost for good.

A bit A/C but very funny

Monday 10 November

Overcast with heavy showers, quite windy and feeling cold. We have been warned against another force 9 gale - something that was supposed to have happened on Saturday and Sunday as well, never to occur. Weatherforecasting for the Western Isles is not easy.

Our ferry service is rather disrupted at the moment. The linkspan (which allows vehicles to enter or leave ferries) at Ullapool is being refurbished, meaning that all vehicular traffic has to divert to Harris (40 miles to the south), to take the ferry to Skye. Passengers still have one sailing a day to Ullapool. Meanwhile, the freight ferry Muirneag is on Tyneside for its refit, and its place is taken by the small Pentalina B (shown below, docked alongside pier no 1 last night), which requires two runs to Uig (Skye) to transfer cargo.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Sunday 9 November

I've reorganised my Google Reader, and marked everything as read, even though I haven't read blogs for weeks. I'm starting from the top with a reduced number of journals, keeping others in a special section for reference in case.

As Indigo correctly observed a few days back, I remain not an entirely happy bunny. The reasons vary from the death of my mother 6 months ago, to a few relationship breakdowns or troubles. When I say relationships, that doesn't automatically mean anything more than friendship. However, it is a point of discussion where friendship ends and it becomes something more. Or perceived to be something more.

Hurricane Paloma is being torn apart over Cuba, but not after bringing down a telecoms tower. The island of Cayman Brac has seen 90 to 95% of its homes damaged or destroyed. For Cuba it was its 5th hurricane this season. Paloma was the second strongest November hurricane on record, second only to Lenny in 1999. The North Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30th.

Remembrance Sunday

As I have done over the past 19 years, I watched the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Whitehall, London, at 11 a.m. this morning. Although I'm not British, I do feel it imperative to mark this occasion, as British and Commonwealth forces played no mean part in the liberation of Western Europe, and my native Holland in particular, in the Second World War.

As an extension of this, I built an on-line memorial to First World War casualties from the Isle of Lewis. Although the title banner proclaims it to be Armistice Tribute 2007, it is of course timeless. Have a browse.


Donna [nightmaremom on AOL] has sent several of us a message saying she has not posted for a while, as she's undergone heart bypass surgery. She is doing well, and is currently recovering with her parents. As soon as she is up to it, we can expect an update from Donna.

Saturday, 8 November 2008


Many thanks to Stuart for his offer of lessons in history. I'm going to decline, though.

My initial posting was of a party-political nature, something I rarely engage in as I am not eligible to vote in parliamentary elections. However, staying in Scotland means I am affected by decisions by those in high office (like Alex Salmond and his predecessor Jack McConnell). I shall revert to not making party-political statements.

I'd like to think I'm pretty well versed in the history of the Highlands and Islands, certainly where the Clearances are concerned. Reading the book On the Crofters' Trail by David Craig gives you a pretty good idea what went on at the time, and I've developed some very strong views on the matter. Here in Lewis, 36 villages lie derelict and have done so for 190 years because it was more profitable to keep sheep or deer in the Eishken district.

Irrespective of his political colour, Mr Salmond's expression that the Clearances were 'deplorable', something repeated by the Scottish Parliament, was not worded strongly enough bearing in mind the inhumane way people were treated in the Clearances.

However, we have seen a similar event in Australia this year, with PM Kevin Rudd offering an apology to the Aboriginal population for the way they were treated until very recently. An apology is all well and dandy, but does not undo the damage done. I realise that in the case of the Clearances, nothing will undo the damage caused.

Peace out.


Going back to 1977 and bearing in mind the name given to the hurricane currently lashing the Caribbean, I thought I'd better put up this wholly inappropriate song by the George Baker Selection.

Hurricane update - 8 November

A late season hurricane, Paloma, is moving across the Caribbean, lashing the Cayman Islands with winds of 135 mph. It will get even stronger before making landfall on Cuba tomorrow. Storm surge flooding of 7 to 9 feet is expected in the Caymans, with 15 to 20 feet in Cuba. The hurricane will be torn apart north of Cuba, due to extremely adverse atmospheric conditions, otherwise referred to as windshear. Please monitor the NHC output, copied in my Tropical Cyclones blog, for updates.

Saturday 8 November

Morning all. Feeling a bit fragile at the moment, like I've done much of the past 6 months. Couple of things running in the background as well.

We're anticipating a force 9 gale tonight and tomorrow, and the pilot training people to fly planes is off early, else he'd be stuck here till Monday.

Just a response to Stuart's comments (many thanks) on my post from yesterday regarding the Scottish National Party. First of all, the British Linen Bank was incorporated into the Bank of Scotland in 1977, which does mean that it is a constituent part of HBOS.

Second, I take note of the fact that it is English landowners who evicted people from Scotland, but Scotland was and is part of the United Kingdom. The Clearances occurred under UK law, and Scottish Parliamentarians did nothing to counteract it at the time. Reading back the official statement from Alex Salmond he said that there had been an official apology from the Scottish Parliament over the Clearances. I maintain my statement that people should have been able to make their achievements on home soil.

Friday, 7 November 2008


Like I already said on Facebook, I may be gone a while. I'm sorry I haven't been round people's journals in recent weeks, and am not likely to do so immediately. I won't keep up the hypocrisy of getting you to call round to read my inane twitterings, without me reciprocating in kind.

Friday 7 November

In the world of politics, a by-election in Glenrothes (Fife, north of Edinburgh) has seen the seat retained by the Labour party. It had been fiercely contested by the Scottish National Party, who is currently in government in Edinburgh.

The SNP are committed to gain independence for Scotland, an aim I find unrealistic for economic reasons. It should be born in mind though that independence comes in varying grades and shades. The greater problem is caused by the SNPs confrontational stance towards the UK government in London, who are still their paymasters to the tune of some £30bn a year. Their credibility is not exactly enhanced by a myopic focus on anything bearing the name Scotland.

Two examples surfaced in the last few years. In August last year, a statue was unveiled in Helmsdale (Sutherland, the far north of Scotland) for the evicted Highlander. He is shown proudly marching off for a new life in the New World with his family in tow. Mr Salmond, the SNP leader and current First Minister, lauded the achievements of Scots overseas which (in his mind) this statue was in commemoration of. In doing so, he glossed over the inexecrable way the residents of Strath Kildonan, Strathnaver, Skye and many corners of the Western Isles (to name but a few) were treated in the 18th and 19th century. Thousands of people were forcibly evicted from their land and packed off to America, Canada, Australia. It is of course good that they made great achievements - but why weren't they allowed to make them at home?

Second example dates back only a few weeks, when Halifax / Bank of Scotland (HBOS) fell foul of the credit crunch and announced a merger with the Lloyds / TSB Bank. Mr Salmond cried blue murder over the take-over of the Bank of Scotland - forgetting that this institution started life as the British (sic) Linen Bank.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

AOL Binned

I have shifted all my emails from my pharmolo account on AOL, by putting them in the Inbox, mark them as unread and wait for the next time Gmail picks them up in its POP3-sweep. In an hour's time, I'll have 845 new emails in there, which I'll have to organise.

Everybody in my contacts will get a notice to contact me on my Gmail account, rather than on AOL. As I already indicated above, Gmail picks up any stuff in pharmolo.

Following the demise of journals, video uncut as of Sunday and pictures from 31 December, AOL will most likely cease to exist in the next few months. No official word, just my hunch. Better start making preparations, if you haven't already.

Thursday 6 November

Overcast and cool day out here, which I spent recovering from my journey yesterday.

A fishing boat has sunk south of Point, in Lewis, but the crew managed to get into liferafts before the vessel went down. The Coastguard alerted nearby shipping, and another fishing boat came to the rescue within minutes.

I congratulate Barack Obama on his victory in the US presidential elections. He has a huge burden of expectation to live up to, as well as tackling the current economic problems and the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I wish him wisdom and foresight in bearing the mantle of responsibility that comes with high office.

When in Holland, I watched a consumer programme on TV about special nutritional supplements which were endorsed by health charities. In fact, the same charities did not really believe the supplements (yoghurt type things e.g.) were any good, but were happy to accept the 200k Euro fee they received for having their name mentioned on the relevant products.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Once again, I'm abysmally behind in reading journals. With everything that's been going on, I've not been in the mood, not had the time and been seriously distracted for a wide variety of reasons. Upon my return to Stornoway, I'll make time to read. Apologies to all!

Picture blog

I am going to build a blog for my pictures. With the demise of virtually all of AOL's services, my pictures are also for the chop. I have been hosting them on for 2 years.

Cue Atlantic Light as my photoblog. It will be chronological, starting in August 2004. Have a look and enjoy!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Letter to jlandeditor

To whom it may concern.

The new Magic Smoke journal on Blogger is now managed by myself, and author and admin privileges have been revoked for this username [].

Please contact to discuss.


Saturday 1 November

I am now posting on the Shell Gallery - service here will resume on Thursday 6 November.