View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 14 December 2008


A case of human rabies looks likely to be confirmed in Northern Ireland. A man was admitted to hospital in Belfast, and tests have proved positive for the disease. This is commonly transferred through a bite, and this victim is thought to have sustained an infected bite on an overseas visit.

Rabies is a notifiable disease in the United Kingdom, almost always fatal. The last case in Ulster was in 1938, and the last time the disease was transmitted by dog-bite in the UK was in 1902. As any overseas visitor knows, stringent measures are in place to prevent importation of the disease into the country. Even on the quaysides here in Stornoway, you will find notices prohibiting the import of mammals.

It reminds me of an episode 3 years ago, when a polar navigator docked at Stornoway after sustaining damage in Atlantic gales. His two dogs jumped ashore, in spite of having been warned to keep them tethered, and led police on a brief merry chase around town.

Sunday 14 December

Christmas just 11 days away, and I notice people going shopping on a Sunday and at all sorts of hours of the day and night. Not here - shops (with one exception) are closed until tomorrow morning.

The northeast of the US has been visited by a severe ice-storm, from New York state eastwards. This has downed large portions of the electricity grid - so don't be surprised if some journalers don't make an appearance. Several people have died through carbon monoxide poisoning, by using oil-powered generators in an unventilated space. The weather here is fairly bright and calm.

Down in New Zealand, a climber has died on Mt Cook, after he fell 500 metres / 1,600 feet. His companion was left in the open for 2 days, until a helicopter found a weather window to rescue him off the mountain. Summer is nigh down there, but you cannot underestimate the hazards of mountaineering.