View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 21 December 2009

Christmas 2009

This will be the final posting on Atlantic Lines this year, as I indicated last night. Tomorrow, I shall be subjecting myself to the vagaries of British and Dutch weather, and hope to arrive at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport at a half-decent hour. The trip is supposed to take 9 hours from Stornoway. I won't whinge about something that hasn't happened yet, after all I have suffered delays on this journey (in either direction) before.

My postings will resume on the Shell Gallery on Wednesday (23 December). My next posting on Atlantic Lines from Stornoway will take place on Wednesday 6 January 2010. From this blog, Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year (or Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur, as they say in these parts).

Monday 21 December

This evening, at 1747 GMT (that's 1247 EST if you're in the States), we're at this year's Winter Solstice. Today, in other words, is the shortest day of the year. It is winter without a shadow of a doubt. Although the snow is thawing slowly here in the Outer Hebrides, it is an absolute shambles across the country. Flights delayed or cancelled, roads turned into icerinks and no Eurostar service. Wrong type of cold? Having checked the situation in Holland, for my journey tomorrow, the national rail operator there advises against all travel by train today. Hope the situation improves by tomorrow evening.

Fuel prices in this part of the country are among the highest you'll find. Current liter price is £1.21, which is 15 to 20p above the national average. The price is higher than that found in places like Inverness and Scrabster, which are served by the same seatanker that brings our fuel. One of the reasons is that there is only one supplier of fuel, who (therefore) holds a monopoly. The council and the MP have both complained to the Office of Fair Trading as we're basically held to ransom by a company that can charge what it likes. It bought over a competitor who had recently set up here, regaining the monopoly.

Today, PM Gordon Brown will make a speech on the climate change conference in Copenhagen last week. I don't know what there is to say about that. It was all talk and no firm commitment to action. The only positive thing was that the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the USA, got some sort of deal between them, but nobody else was prepared to sign up to it. A waste of time.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Post 1000

This is the 1000th entry on Atlantic Lines, since it was opened in October 2008. I would also like to take the opportunity to point out that I have changed my front picture to one I took this morning, a very wintry one.

Tomorrow is the last day I'll be making entries on Atlantic Lines before New Year, as I'm departing for a family visit to Holland on Tuesday.

Stornoway in the snow

Sunday 20 December

We've had a very snowy 24 hours here in the Outer Hebrides. It started at 2pm yesterday, and through last night, there has been a steady progression of snow showers. That left us with 3 to 4 inches (up to 10 cm) of snow by midnight. Made a very pretty picture, and I'm uploading 154 pictures as I speak of yesterday's and today's harvest of images. The effect this has had on road travel can be imagined, with no gritting going on outside Stornoway.

This morning at 10.40, I went out for a walk around the Castle Grounds in order to get as many pics as possible of the snow-covered landscape. The Castle Grounds (a country park) is a very picturesque area, just outside Stornoway itself, a wooded area. It looks even better under snow. The northern part of it lies draped over some gentle hills, and youngsters were taking full advantage of the conditions in sledges. By midday, the temperatures (+4C) had turned a lot of the snow into slush.

Meanwhile, the northerly winds have prevented the ferry from sailing this afternoon, and the overnight freight service is off as well. A north wind tends to whip up a groundswell in the Minch, making conditions quite hazardous.

I shall post a small selection of snow pictures later; you can view all of them on my Flickr account.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Travel chaos

The news today was dominated by the plight of passengers on the Eurostar service, which links London to Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel. Because of a difference in temperature inside the tunnel (25C / 77F) and outside (0C / 32F or lower), condensation on electrical components brought the trains to a standstill. Five trains in total, carrying 2,000 passengers. Locomotives were brought in to pull them out of the tunnel. Delays of 15 hours were reported, with no water, food, heating or anything provided. To say the passengers were unhappy is an understatement. The latest development is that another Eurostar train is at a standstill in north Kent in a similar predicament.

Roads, railways and ferries are equally struggling to cope with demand, and not just in the UK, or indeed Europe. I am getting reports of a Nor'Easter in the States, caused by a depression in the Gulf of Mexico scooting up the East Coast with a lot of tropical moisture - which is expected to turn into 2 feet of snow in Washington DC and area.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm looking out at increasingly heavy snow; the precipitation radar showing a rash of showers in my area and 3 inches of snow outside on the ground. Gritters were out in the centre of Stornoway, but rural roads are reported to be tricky. Didn't deter me from having a nice dinner in one of the local restaurants this evening; but I did decide on a taxi rather than my own two feet, particularly as some of my companions were not that happy with the slippery conditions.

Saturday 19 December

Now I could start of by complaining about the bitterly cold northerly wind we're having today. However, one look at the report from the weather station, closest to my father's hometown, dissuades me. That former airforce base went down to -17C overnight (0F), and is currently (lunchtime local time) only at -10C. Here in Stornoway, we're having wintry showers with the mercury only just above freezing with winds of 30 mph, force 7 on the Beaufort scale. That does make for a windchill of -7C, so we're not far apart.

The wintry weather is causing chaos on all sorts of transport. Five Eurostar trains broke down in the Channel Tunnel, after they passed from cold air in France to warmer air in the tunnel. There is major disruption at airports in southern England, and the roads defy description. The frigidity of the weather here in the north presages the arrival of our very own, private batch of snow today and tomorrow. A bout of good ole winter. 

Friday, 18 December 2009

A jaunt around town

Cuddy Point, from the harbour quayside

Lazy Corner

Christmas wishes from primary schools

The Narrows

Hurricane update - 18 December

The Southern Hemisphere season is in full swing and throwing up quite a few surprises. Over the past few days, tropical cyclone Laurence made landfall in Western Australia, north of the town of Derby, and was given up for dead by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu. The Bureau of Meteorology in Perth, Australia, disagreed, and continued to issue warnings as Laurence, although greatly weakened, continued to track south, and veered west this morning, headed back for the coast. JTWC promptly resumed warnings this afternoon (GMT). Something tells me that this cyclone could have a nasty reincarnation. Current predictions show it at 75 knots, equivalent to a category I hurricane, upon making landfall near the town of Port Hedland after the weekend. Port Hedland is no stranger to tropical cyclones: in 2007, TC George came along and caused a fair bit of damage. One person was killed, whilst sheltering in accommodation that was not cyclone proof. It was provided by the local mining company.

A few days ago, tropical cyclone Mick passed directly over Fiji and took two lives. This system has now disappeared from the weather charts. Over in the Indian Ocean, tropical cyclone 05S no longer meets the criteria for a cyclone, but appears to be brewing up again southwest of Diego Garcia. I don't like the look of the satellite image, which appears to show a system that is building up strength. I'm no meteorologist, but after 3 years of tracking these phenomena, I recognise the signs from the imagery.

Friday 18 December

A very good Friday to you all as we enter the final week in the annual Christmas Countdown, which started - at the end of the last Christmas. The weather has turned suitably Christmassy a week early, and I fully anticipate a miserable, grey, wet and mild Christmas morning this time next week. When I venture into town later today and/or tomorrow, the shops will be heaving and the people overburdened with overexpensive Christmas gifts. Where have the days gone that you could get someone a prezzy for five quid and they'd be overjoyed? Here in Stornoway, and indeed elsewhere in the Hebrides, we can all shop in safety. It has just been revealed that citizens of the Western Isles of Scotland are watched over by the largest number of CCTV cameras per head of population: 8.4 per 1000. Our august capital city Edinburgh has to get by with fewer than 1 per 1000. There are other benefits associated with living in northern Scotland, you know. Up here, people know how to deal with 6 inches of snow. OK, I grant you, there are many more people in southern England than in Highland Scotland, which is home to 220,000. And snow is more of a rarety down there than up here, but still: 6 inches of snow and the entire shebang grinds to a halt. Here in the Western Isles, with its grossly overstated reputation for bad weather, we're having a quiet day with light, variable winds and the odd light shower. Granted, when the weather does get bad (statistically speaking once every 7 days), it can get really nasty. But people are prepared for it, used to it happening, and all the more grateful for the return of the sun. Even if, in December, she only appears for 6½ hours in the day. Another aspect of life in the Hebrides is that news tends to be relatively benign. Spats over the Town Hall refurbishment and the location for a centre about St Kilda assume high levels of importance, not to mention the fact that our local radiostation (Isles FM) may finally get a decent home. At present it is located in a former boatshed on the seafront at Newton Street. When there is a hailstorm (common in winter), the presenter can get drowned out. In summer, when the door is open, you can hear the binlorries going by, planes flying overhead, and people having a natter outside. In the middle of the newsbulletin. Which tends to miss all the local news that really is of importance (with the odd exception), and instead focuses on the deeds of our elected representatives to the Scottish and British parliament. Oh, they actually do something?? Must listen out. Isles FM can be heard on-line, using the link above. Well, must go for lunch.

More later.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


On Boxing Day last year, 21-year old Simon MacMillan went to a dance at Daliburgh in South Uist, about 90 miles south of Stornoway. At 3 a.m., he went home in a minibus, with about a dozen other young people. He was due to get off at the junction at Ardmhor, in the north of South Uist, but never reached home. Tales from other passengers, many in a state of inebriation, suggested he had instead alighted at Liniquie, 3 miles to the west, and 3 miles past his destination.

Simon was reported missing the next morning. For about a fortnight or so, searches by individual islanders, the police and other emergency services went on in the area for him. Loch Bi, which is a large tidal loch adjacent to Ardmhor and Liniquie, was searched over and over again. After the emergency services had given up, Simon's body was finally recovered from the southern shores of Loch Bi, 4 miles south of Ardmhor.

Nobody knows for certain what happened that night, and it is inappropriate for me to relay local speculation. All I can do is restate my sympathies to the MacMillan family and friends on their loss. RIP Simon MacMillan.

Strike off

The High Court in London has ruled the strike by cabin crew at British Airways, slated for December 22nd to January 2nd, illegal. That comes as a huge relief to myself, who is due to travel on the 22nd, and to about a million others, whose Christmas holidays were on the line.

Thursday 17 December

A quiet, overcast morning, but with glimpses of sunshine peeping through the clouds. By far, we have the best weather in the country. At 7C, we're doing rather better than most, it's mainly dry.

Left high and dry are the passengers that were due to travel with Flyglobespan as of today. The company has gone into administration and all flights are off. That leaves 4,000 people stranded abroad. About a quarter of those will be repatriated under the ATOL regime, which safeguards the interests of people, booked with an operator that goes bust. The others have to book flights with another operator. Fortunately for them, the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet have jumped into the breach. Flyglobespan is the second Scottish low cost carrier to go down; if memory serves, earlier this year, Zoom went down.

Here in Lewis, those in favour of and opposed to plans to refurbish Stornoway Town Hall have finally sat down round the table to talk things over. I'm always pleased to see that, as megaphone diplomacy doesn't work, it tends to lead to entrenched positions.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Wednesday 16 December

Good morning from Stornoway, where the weather is dreich and drizzly. The sun does come through, giving rise to the odd rainbow or two.

A focus on roadsafety this week. Police in Scotland are given powers to impound the cars of drink drivers, where these are repeat offenders. The BBC has published a sobering map, showing road deaths across the UK. And proposals are mooted to lower the speedlimit in accident blackspots, from 60 mph to 50 mph or less. Speed tends to be a major contributing factor, but so does alcohol.

Talks are due to resume this afternoon, between British Airways management and the trades union Unite over the threatened 12-day walkout, due to start on December 22nd. The atmosphere is not very good, with accusations and counter-accusations flying back and forth. Legal action to stop the strike, based on BA's assertion that the ballot was not conducted legally, is also pursued today.

Climate change - your contribution

Everyone should make a contribution towards the reduction in CO2. It is not just down to governments and companies to keep the earth liveable, each individual citizen has to work on a respectful relationship with the environment.

Radio and television are full of programs; book a holiday at home rather than abroad, flush the toilet using the waste water from the shower, eat vegetarian one day each week, take the bicycle rather than the car and grow ivy against the walls of your house.

I have a proposal that has not yet been mooted: fart less and stop belching. In that context, let me explain something about horses and cows. These, and other ruminants, are the most talented belchers. One cow emits 600 litres of methane gas a day. The US national cowherd belches 50 million tons of methane into the atmosphere. The belched air of ten cows can provide all the energy of a mid-terrace house. According to the World Food Organisation, the world’s cows produce more greenhouse gases than cars. Methane gas is the main culprit, being 23 times more conducive towards global warming than CO2. Horses, donkeys and zebras are not ruminants. They too produce a lot of intestinal gases. They however are specialised in farting. This expulsion of methane and CO2 contributes to the greenhouse effect.

The average European produces 6 to 12 belches a day. After one hot meal, 3 to 4 belches are customary. We fart 12 to 25 times a day, producing 700 millilitres of gas in the process. The world’s population produces 4.2 billion liters of wind a day, of which 1 billion litres of CO2 and 800,000 litres of methane. Although people are no match to horses or cows when it comes to farting and belching, our exhaust gases do make a substantial contribution towards the climate problems.

What can be done about that? The main source of belches and farts is the formation of gas in your belly. Bacteria in the large intestine break down undigested food. This yields large amounts of gas. If you wish to make an original contribution to the aims of the Copenhagen summit, follow the advice below.
Foods that produce a lot of wind are beans, radish, cabbages, sprouts, garlic and onions. Consume these items in moderation, take frequent and small meals and chew well. Unripe fruits and fruit juices are not digested very well, and give rise to gas.

“Light” products usually contain artificial sweeteners, which end up in the large intestine, being digested into large amounts of gas. Drinking less of CO2-containing drinks, like beer and lemonades, can also decrease the amount of harmful exhaustfumes.

A team of Australian scientists has recently developed a vaccine against the bacteria that form methane in the large intestine. After two injections, the production of methane shows a marked decrease. So far, however, this has only been successful in sheep. But who knows, if it works in sheep, the jump to humans can’t be that difficult. The day may come that you can eat your sprouts and beans without warming the earth with your farts and belches.

Translated from an original newspaper article by Dr Paul van Dijk, GP in The Netherlands

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Tuesday 15 December

Fairly bright day, interspersed with light showers. These don't show up on the weather radar, but do get you wet when outside. It's rather windier in Australia, where tropical cyclone Laurence is skimming the northwestern coast of the continent with winds of 85 to 120 knots (100 to 135 mph).

Cheques are to be phased out in the UK by 2018. Apparently, the number of cheques written by Britons has fallen by half over the past 7 years. Concerns have been expressed by the elderly and support groups, saying that many are uncomfortable using plastic and/or the Internet; also, more than a billion cheques are still being written each day.

Here in the Western Isles, concerns have been expressed for fuel prices. Scottish Fuels have reestablished their monopoly in fuel supplies, after taking over a rival, Brogan Fuels, who recently set up a fuel supply network here. Petrol prices in Stornoway are currently about £1.20 per litre ($10 per gallon), higher than on the mainland, and higher than in other areas of northern Scotland, served by the same tankerboat that brings us our petrol &c.

I have to wait for BA to confirm (or not) that my flights on December 22nd are cancelled, before I can do anything about it. With 1 million other people, both inside and outside the UK, about to be inconvenienced, it is going to be a wretched experience travelling this Xmas.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Journey from hell

Remember that quote from last February? My epic, 44 hour, journey from Holland to Stornoway? Last February, it was 7 inches of snow that caused it. I can see a repeat coming up when I fly to Holland for Christmas next week. British Airways cabin-crew are going on strike from December 22nd to January 2nd. Perfectly timed to cause the maximum of disruption, and an excellent example how to shoot yourself in the foot. Like turkeys voting for an early Christmas. "Oh we're really reluctant to strike", like hell you are. Nearly a unanimous vote in favour.

3636 days down, 17 to go

and the Noughties will be over. The BBC have compiled a set of drawings (note: PDF file, 8MB) depicting the decade which is coming to an end in a fortnight's time. What are your memories of the 2000/2009 decade?

The main one for everybody is of course 9/11. 

Monday 14 December

An overcast and at times wettish day in progress here in the Western Isles. The temperature has shot up to nearly double figures, after the weekend's frosts. A blast from the east is in the offing, but located where we are (near the sea, and as far west as you can get in Britain), I'm not expecting major wintery problems.

I am getting heartily sick of the sight of former UK PM Tony Blair, pontificating on television about the almost religious justification for the war in Iraq in 2003. He'll be called to the inquiry into that war in 2010, and we'll hear a lot of spinning by that time.

Here in Scotland, a baby boy of 4 months had to be airlifted from the Isle of Rum (15 miles west of Mallaig) for treatment in hospital in Stornoway. He was transferred in the early hours of yesterday - the local news website has no further word on his condition.

I hope that the fog has lifted sufficiently to allow us our mail today; the papers were in at any rate, after nothing came through on Saturday. One contact told me that visibility near Inverness was down to 50 yards on Saturday.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sunday 13 December

Sunny and very cold today, with some high clouds. We had a hard, overnight, frost, which saw the thermometer down to -3C, and it's only just above freezing now. Rain will be coming in the next 24 hours, which should turn roads in the north of Scotland into ice rinks. Later in the week, a cold blast will arrive straight from Siberia, and the whole of the UK will be in the grip of frost. The Western Isles will probably come up the least cold, as the air will have travelled across the North Sea and the Minch.

The Southern Hemisphere is buzzing with no fewer than 4 tropical cyclones (hurricanes). Cyclone Laurence is going to do something very unpleasant to Western Australia in just under a week's time. As the forecast stands, this will be at least a category I hurricane which looks like it will make landfall near Port Hedland, between Perth and Broome on the west coast. Cyclone Cleo has resurrected west of Mauritius, and I notice a lot of visits to my TC blog from there. Mauritius is NOT under threat. Another cyclone is traversing the central Indian Ocean between Cocos Island and Diego Garcia, whereas number 4 is making straight for Sri Lanka, north of the equator. Cyclone Ward does not carry strong winds (about force 9 to 10), but as per usual does bring copious amounts of rain.

Saturday, 12 December 2009


I am heartily fed up with "celebrities" and "sports personalities" and the fact that their lives get splayed out on all the news media you may care to think of. The X-factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of Here, Big Brother, for heaven's sake. Even the mainstream news media, like the BBC and broadsheet newspapers are full of it.

Tiger Woods. He has been unfaithful to his wife and smashed his car outside their home. In other words, Tiger is daft. He is in the public limelight, as he is a good golfplayer. Doesn't he realise that when you live in a glass house, you can't afford to throw stones around? Doesn't he realise he is a role-model to young people and others around the world? However, why the hospitalisation of his mother in law had to be broadcast is beyond me.

Jade Goody. She died earlier this year of cervical cancer, but had climbed to prominence as being the dumbest Big Brother contestant ever seen. However, she did the right thing by putting her illness, treatment and death on public display. Why oh why do we have to be regaled to the fact that her husband, to whom she got married in the weeks before her death, has a season ticket to the dock in the criminal court?

Can't we have a day, a week, a month, a year (or even longer) without celebrity c**p?

Christmas decorations 2009

For the 5 years that I have been in this island, I have watched the Christmas decorations in Stornoway decrease in size and luminosity. Every year, one or other part of it no longer appears. Anyway, here are some pics of this year's display.

2009 / 2008

Visit to Coll and Back - 11 December

In the afternoon, I took the bus north to the villages of Coll and Back [marked as its neighbour Vatisker on above map], situated across the water from Garrabost. Upper Coll has a memorial cairn, but until my visit yesterday, I did not know what it was for. It turned out to be a monument to the Land Raiders of 1921, who appropriated land from landowner Lord Leverhulme. Another memorial, to the same cause, stands at Gress, 2 miles northeast of Coll.
The main objective of my trip was (once more) to photograph the war memorial at Back. 

Land Raiders' Memorial, Coll

Coll Beach

Back War Memorial

Back Free Church (and carpark)


Birds on a wire, Back

Abandoned machinery

Horse in croftland

Visit to Garrabost - 11 December

Ruined house

View along the main road

Church of Scotland

Free Church of Scotland

Point War Memorial

Entrance to Point War Memorial

Garrabost is a crofting township in the Point area of Lewis, 5 miles east of Stornoway. It is noteworthy that this small community has two churches, as shown above; the Church of Scotland is the mainstream church, the Free Church of Scotland was split off the CoS in the 19th century. Other schisms have occurred since, and continue to occur. A Church of Scotland has a musical instrument; the Free Church does not allow such frivolity. They sing psalms with a precentor, who sings out a line and the congregation follows suit, at its own pitch and tempo. This recording, taken at the Royal National Mod in Stornoway in 2005, demonstrates what it sounds like.

The objective of my journey was to photograph the war memorial for the Point District. I took detailed pictures of the four panels.

Saturday 12 December

Bright and sunny this morning, with only wispy high clouds about. It is cold outside, after the overnight temps dropped close to freezing. Tonight, a sharp frost is expected, with the mercury down to -6C in places in the Highlands. Count myself fortunate that I'm on the coast, so any frost won't be quite so severe.

Spent the past half hour compiling the latest hurricane bulletin for the southern hemisphere. Things are really livening up, with a cyclone about to form near Darwin in Australia, another one spinning up north of Fiji and a third forming in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The cyclone that is off the coast of India will make landfall south of Chennai in the course of tomorrow - that is of course a late northern hemisphere system. A tropical cyclone is the same as a hurricane, for reference.

More later

Friday, 11 December 2009

Friday 11 December

Brilliantly sunny day, but only 6½ hours of sunshine to enjoy. Went to Garrabost, 5 miles east of here, to photograph the war memorial for the Point district. In the afternoon, I travelled on the bus north to Back, 5 miles away, for the same purpose. At Coll, the village before Back, I located the memorial I kept seeing on passing through - and found it to be a Landraiders' Memorial, along the lines of the one at Gress, 2 miles to the north.

Pictures not yet available, will post those later tonight or tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


Jeannette (Outside Looking In) has given me the Valued Blogger award. At this particular moment in time, I cannot make a choice who to pass it on to. I am very remiss in keeping up with journals reading, but I would like to dedicate it to all of you who are currently battling ill health and / or serious disease.

Picture sites

Apart from storing my pictures on, I am now also keeping a photo journal on The title is Castle Town, bearing in mind that Stornoway has a castle, and so has my home town in Holland. Blipfoto only allows 1 picture per day, but gives you the opportunity to write a blogpost with the pic. For reference, I have put my Dutch pics on a different Flickr site, with the username Veluweman. I am considering merging the two, if only not to have to pay the Pro fee twice. 

Hurricane update - 10 December

A developing tropical cyclone is located northeast of Darwin, Australia. The system, prosaically entitled 92P, is traversing the Arafura Sea, parallel to the northern coastline of Arnhem Land. BOM Australia has placed portions of the coastline under tropical cyclone watch. Please follow the link for details.

Thursday 10 December

A bright and sunny day, if not very warm. The mercury reached 9C this afternoon, but is currently nosediving towards freezing (2C at the moment). The tanker is delivering another load of petrol, diesel and other fuels.

This afternoon, I was in Borve to sample (with others) the delights of the Borve House Hotel, which serves a very creditable lunch (and other meals). Borve lies 17 miles north of Stornoway, on the road to the Butt of Lewis. The drive there, out by bus, back by car, was very scenic in the low, December light. Returned to Stornoway at 4pm, in time to admire the Christmas decorations. I'm going out at some stage this week after dark to picture them. Here are some of this afternoon's photographs.

Point Street, Stornoway

Sunset near Barvas


Barvas Moor road

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Wednesday 9 December

A lively day in terms of weather, with a thunderstorm at sunrise (9 am) and a second downpour at midday. It got so dark at 12 o'clock that the lights had to be put on. Only for the sun to come out 15 minutes later. Never a dull moment in this neck of the woods.

I've been trawling this town's stationery shops for photo paper, and finally managed to locate some at a half-decent price. I also got myself a diary for 2010, again at a lower price than I had originally anticipated. The successor to Woolworths in Stornoway, a shop called Wee W, was a tad disappointing when I looked for the above two items.

AOL / Time Warner is now once more just AOL. The business is worth only 10% of the value it had in 2001, and has lost 80% of its dial-up subscribers. Nonetheless, dial-up provision still accounts for 43% of its revenue. Not from me, at any rate - I quit AOL as a dial-up subscriber in May 2008, and abandoned its web-services after AOL jettisoned its Journals service in November 2008.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Pictures of this week so far

How do you mean, no ferry?

Decorations in the porch outside the front door

Christmas Tree

8.08 am this morning, fifty minutes before sunrise

An hour later...

Christmas decorations - intro

“Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations.  The bad news is that I had to take him down after two days.  I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.  Great stories.  But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.
Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn’t realize that it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy).  By the way, she was one of the many people who attempted to do that.  My yard couldn’t take it either.  I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Hierarchy - apologies for language

Tuesday 8 December

Put up the Christmas tree and other decorations last night. Tonight at 7.30, Stornoway's Christmas illuminations will be lit up, provided they have not been blown away in today's gale. Although it is 'only' a force 7, the southerly direction means that there is too much of a swell going in the Minch. I see some impressive waves crashing by the lighthouse, across from my position.

Was in town this morning to purchase printer ink (ouch), stamps (ouch) and what not. Anyone wanting a Christmas card from me, please leave a comment and I'll get back to you to make arrangements out of sight of the whole Internet.

Have got some pictures and images to post, which I will put up in following posts. Bear with me.

Monday, 7 December 2009

History of Scotland

The BBC's Neil Oliver has been commissioned to present a series (or two) of programmes on the history of Scotland. I've sat through three of them, and am far from impressed. Mr Oliver, who first rose to prominence as presenter of the Coast programmes, tends to digress, focus on minor details and omit the important. A previous episode appeared to be more about the American war of independence than about Scotland - for sure, Scots had some part to play in that, naturally. But it was relevent to American history, not really to Scottish. Last night's episode, on the 20th century, had more holes in it than a Swiss cheese, omitting such major events like the Glasgow rising of 1919, the Clydebank Blitz of '41, and the accession of the SNP to government - after Mr Oliver spent half the program charting the party's fortunes in the 20th century.

History is a contentious subject, and my grasp of Scottish history is not good enough to really be able to write a well-founded critique of Mr Oliver's series. Others have done that elsewhere. I can only repeat what I started my post with: far from impressed.

Credit: Image above courtesy BBC


The Danish capital is playing host to a major international conference on climate change. One of the items under discussion is whether climate change is actually real. An exchange of emails, leaked from Cambridge University, appears to show the scientific community at loggerheads over the issue. Particularly those whose livelihood depends on the usage of oil tend to refer to this.

BBC News highlighted the issue of renewable energy and NIMBY'ism (Not In My Back Yard). Wind turbines tend to generate a lot of opposition from those living in the proximity of a windfarm - the Isle of Lewis has seen off one proposed windfarm on the grounds that it was in breach of an EU habitat directive. Elsewhere though, those opposing windfarm developments are accused of NIMBY'ism and narrow-mindedness. However, I will say that there is way too much focus on wind-energy as a source of renewable energy; wave- and tidal energy are actually more constant and reliable.

I can see that the Copenhagen Conference will see a lot of hot air and wonderfully phrased commitments. Whether it will lead to any major progress to fight climate change remains to be seen. To those who don't believe climate change is real: the extent of the polar ice cap has decreased by double-figure percentage points in the last few decades; the British Met Office has also released data showing that average temperatures have been on the rise in recent times.

7 December 1941

Today is the 68th anniversary of the attack by Imperial Japanese forces on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack propelled the USA into the Second World War, eventually helping to vanquish Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Lest we forget.

Image courtesy University of Maine, showing USS Arizona on fire and sinking after the attacks.

Monday 7 December

A half-decent morning, with showers and strong winds. The wind will abate and the showers are expected to fade away. Tomorrow, gales and rain will return - more steady winter weather will arrive on Wednesday, and temperatures will fall. At the moment, it's about 8C.

All this weather did not deter the so-called flash mob which took turns protesting outside the Town Hall here in Stornoway this morning. There are plans afoot to make major alterations to the interior of the building, and this morning, internet and mobile phone messages went round for people to come and go in protest. The BBC termed it a flash mob. Footage is expected to be shown on local news this evening.

Stornoway Town Hall was built in 1905, burned down in 1918 and rebuilt in 1929. It is one of the most noticeable buildings in this town, and the interior is equally unique. As most of my readers are not familiar with the building, I won't go into the fine print of the proposals, but sufficient to say, there is a groundswell of opinion opposed to any changes. I can only say that not all change is bad.

The below picture shows the interior of the building in July 2006, when a group of Norwegian folk dancers were in full flow.