View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Evening notes

Pouring with rain this evening. Tomorrow should be bright but showery and blustery, typical March weather. Do you feed your small children cold remedies? Well, don't bother. Their efficacy is rather doubtful; don't worry though, neither are they harmful.

I've continued putting my Flickr pictures into sets, and that is now finished. So, on to the next bit: placing them on a map. Number of pictures not on map: 6,300. Right. I am also making a note if a picture was taken in any of the 100 villages in Lewis, perhaps with a view of making a book? I don't know yet.

Mugabe. Where is my anti-emetic. Now the man has ordered the seizure of more white-owned farms, not realising that they are the only ones still supplying the country with food. The ones he seized before are producing nowt. Oh dear, when is this lunacy going to end. I'm relieved to hear that Morgan Tsvangirai excused himself from Comrade Mugabe's birthday bash.

Saturday 28 February

The last day of the month is wet, grey and dreich. Temperature 8C, so nothing remarkable.

Five tons of cocaine were impounded on a Venezuelan vessel off the coast of Spain. Good news, but probably just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past five years, the amount of cocaine smuggled out of Venezuela has increased fivefold between 2002 and 2007. Sends you wondering what the wonderful policies of President Chavez have anything to do with that.

President Robert Mugabe is celebrating his 85th birthday today, a week after the actual date. He is throwing a little party, a low-key affair only costing $250,000. < / sarcasm >. It is obscene and at best insensitive that he is allowing himself this do. It is even more incomprehensible bearing in mind the state of total collapse that Zimbabwe's economy and state is finding itself in, requiring between 2 and 5 billion dollars to get back on its feet. I hope the leader of the MDC isn't going to turn up, otherwise I'll be really sick.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Sunset notes

The sun is going down on a day that finishes a lot brighter than it started. About an hour or so ago, the sun finally came out, brightening up a day that was dismally wet and grey.

I am very pleased that the Vatican is taking a dim view of the ambiguous apology, issued by Bishop Williamson over the matter of denying the Holocaust. Apparently, the bishop has not retracted his views that there were no gas chambers used to kill millions of Jews, and that there were "only" 200-300 thousand Jews killed at the hands of the Nazis. At the moment, the declaration features on the front page of the Society St Pius X. Read for yourself.

Ryanair is considering charging for the usage of toilets on their planes. I've never liked Ryanair, and that little snippet of news sent them down the pan for me. Yep, awful pun, but totally intentional.

Remembering Today - 27 February

Today on this day in the First World War, this man lost his life in the service of King and Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 12 North Beach Street, Stornoway
Regiment or division: 2nd/1st (Ross) Mountain Bty., Royal Garrison Artillery
Service number: 301378
Date of death: 27 February 1917 at the age of 23
Killed in action
Interred: Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery
Memorial reference: 841
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

Remembering Today - 26 February

Today on this day during the First World War, these men lost their lives in the service of King and Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 52 Bayhead Street, Stornoway
Regiment or division: 1st Royal Fusiliers
Date of death: 26 February 1915 at the age of 20
Killed in action in La Bassee
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial


Last address in Lewis: 3 Keith Street, Stornoway
Son of Murdo and Annie Macaulay, of 3, Keith St., Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Merchant Marine, HMHS Glenart Castle
Date of death: 26 February 1918 at the age of 24
Ship sunk by U-boat in Bristol Channel
Memorial: Tower Hill
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

WARNING - Bank charge phonescam (UK only)

Yesterday, a judge ruled that it was lawful for people to recoup their excessive bankcharges. Only the Office of Fair Trading has to make a final decision before the process can start for ordinary people.

Scammers targeting the Highlands and Islands have been cold-calling people on the phone, saying they will recoup those charges (which may amount to thousands of pounds in some cases). They ask for your personal and bank details - and you may find your bank account plundered as a result.

If you want to recoup your charges, you have to write to your bank - it applies to charges from 2001 to today.

Friday 27 February

You may remember my epic journey from Holland back to Stornoway, which took 55 hours rather than 12 on February 2nd (3rd and 4th as it turned out). Well, I am being reimbursed by the airline for part of my expenses - the ones I incurred because of the booking error.

Meanwhile, I'm looking out at a very wet day here in the islands, not much wind, but it is raining steadily.

If you don't like your job, don't mention it on Facebook, or anywhere else on the open Internet. It can get you fired.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Wanted: readers

The BBC say the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on their list. How many have you read?

1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ before those you have read.
2) Tally your total at the bottom.

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
x The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
x Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
x Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
x To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
x The Bible - some of it. Had no choice :-/
x Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
x Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
x Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
x Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare
Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
x The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch - George Eliot
x Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
Bleak House - Charles Dickens
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
x David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
Emma - Jane Austen
Persuasion - Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
x Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
x Animal Farm - George Orwell
The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Atonement - Ian McEwan
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Dune - Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
x A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
On The Road - Jack Kerouac
x Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
x Moby Dick - Herman Melville
x Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Dracula - Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
x Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
x Ulysses - James Joyce
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
Germinal - Emile Zola
x Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession - AS Byatt
x A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The Color Purple - Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web - EB White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
x Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
x The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
x Watership Down - Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet - William Shakespeare
x Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

26 out of a hundred.

I wonder what other books should be added to this “top books” list though?

Visit to Ness

Went to Ness (North Lewis) this afternoon, and took the opportunity to engage in more snapping. It was a grey and very chilly afternoon, although the temperature was not that low (8C). The moorlands look very brown/yellow, and the houses appeared to meld in with their surroundings. Nothing much moved, it was very quiet in the area. Ness consists of more than a dozen hamlets, which are contiguous with each other. Total population is about 2,000.

Port of Ness

Port and beach at Port of Ness

Herding sheep by car

Thursday 26 February

Overcast, grey and drizzly, with visibility barely at 1 mile. Not much wind. The overnight gales never materialised; the strongest winds occurred late yesterday afternoon.

Investigators have started their work in piecing together the cause for yesterday's aircrash at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in which 9 people died. Three of the dead were crewmembers. The wreckage will be removed once the on-site work is complete; a specialist lab in Paris is analysing the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders.

Locally, the revolving door scenario at the Arnish Fabrication Yard continues. Later this year, the industrial site will reopen to manufacture windturbines for the better part of 2009. The machines are destined for a marine windpark off the coast of Cumbria, northwest England. The Arnish Fabrication Yard has had a number of operators in the past few years, none lasting much longer than a year at a time. At one point, the site was closed down whilst turbine towers were still being made. As a result, the intermediate product was shipped to Denmark for completion - and one of the towers was lost overboard in a force 9 gale on return. It presently provides a habitat for marine life at the bottom of the North Sea somewhere between Denmark and Orkney.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Amsterdam crash

Nine people are known to have died when Turkish Airways flight 1951 came down near Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, at 0931 GMT this morning. The Boeing 737-800 broke up into three pieces. Eye witnesses state that survivors started to emerge immediately after the plane came to a halt. It was seen to stall, then crash to the ground. The crash site is close to the A9 motorway, which was closed whilst motorists stopped to look.

Schiphol Airport has since reopened, allowing a plane to land which is carrying friends and family of those on board. The cause of the crash is not yet known, but a loss of power appears likely.

Wednesday 25 February

Although the day started very wet, the sun is out and it's all blue skies. The forecast mentions gales, which are due later today. For the moment, we have a westerly wind force 5.

An airliner has crashed just short of the runway at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, Netherlands. There are reported to be about 20 injuries, and the aircraft broke in three pieces on coming down in a recently ploughed field. This is also hampering rescue efforts. Whether there are fatalities is as yet unclear - latest report quote 5 deaths. Am following a live TV-feed from (in Dutch) via the Internet.

Prime Minister's Questions here in the UK has been cancelled followed the death of the young son of the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron. Ivan Cameron, aged 6, had been suffering from cerebral palsy, and was born severely disabled.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Remembering Today - 24 February

Today on this day during the First World War, these two men lost their lives in the service of King and Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 34 Lower Shader,
Son of Donald and Peggy Macdonald, of Shader, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Mars
Service number: 3947/A
Date of death: 24 February 1919 at the age of 29
Influenza at home
Interred: Barvas Cemetery
Had been demobilised a few days before his death
Local memorial: North Lewis, Borve

Last address in Lewis: 26C Leurbost,
Son of Murdo and Mary Maciver, of 26, Lurebost, Lochs, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMT Recepto
Service number: 3242/B
Date of death: 24 February 1917 at the age of 38
Died of pneumonia after being rescued from mined ship
Interred: Crossbost Cemetery
Local memorial: North Lochs, Crossbost

Remembering Today - 23 February

On this day during the First World War, these two men lost their lives in the service of King and Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 24 Vatisker,
Regiment or division: Seaforth Highlanders
Date of death: 23 February 1917
Killed in action
Lewis Memorial: Back

Last address in Lewis: 21 North Tolsta,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve
Date of death: 23 February 1919 at the age of 21
Invalided home, died of illness after joining Fife Constabulary
Local memorial: North Tolsta

Tuesday 24 February

Pretty non-descript day in terms of weather; some brightness in amongst the clouds, and the mercury anchored firmly just below the 50F mark.

Bad news from the Cairngorm Mountains, 30 miles south of Inverness, this afternoon. The body of a man, thought to be that of a 48-year old hillwalker, missing since Sunday, has been found. A search, involving up to 90 people, had been on-going since Sunday for the Inverness banker, who had gone to the area to walk with his dog. The animal has not been found.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, has gone to the United States for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He thereby beats Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, in visiting the new administration. Mr Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, has told Ms Clinton that Scotland is "yearning for freedom". The SNP came to power after a narrow victory in elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 2007. They advocate full independence for Scotland. Mr Salmond is a member of the Privy Council, which directly advises Queen Elizabeth - and Her Majesty is known to be rather disinclined towards having her United Kingdom split up.

In the nearly two years that Mr Salmond has been in power at Holyrood (the Scottish equivalent of Westminster for the UK), I have come to know him as a shrewd politician who thrives on conflict. Rather than talking to the UK Prime Minister, which is a most rare occurrence, Mr Salmond is content to snipe at Westminster and blaming them for all the woes of Scotland. The First Minister, from my perspective, can safely be described as blinkered, in that he jumps at anything containing the word Scotland.

The worst example goes back to August 2007, when he attended the unveiling of a statue in Helmsdale, Sutherland, which celebrates the departure of several hundred people for a new life across the sea, and the contribution the Scottish diaspora has made in places like Canada and Australia. Whilst wholeheartedly applauding and commending that undeniable contribution, I feel that Mr Salmond should also have condemned in the strongest possible terms the inhumane way in which people were kicked out of their homes in Strath Kildonan (near Helmsdale), Strathnaver, Skye and many other areas of the Western and Northern Highlands - to commence a new life elsewhere. No, we should not live in the past, absolutely true. But neither should we fail to learn from it, something that I do detect in the current climate at Holyrood. This is 2009. Not 1746.

Monday, 23 February 2009


I just did not believe my eyes today, when the BBC reported that more white-owned farms in Zimbabwe had been seized by supporters of president Robert Mugabe. It is precisely the seizure of those white-owned farms that has led to the current food crisis. I can only describe as an act of breathtaking lunacy, to continue a policy which has been proven to be catastrophic in its consequences. Even though Mr Mugabe came to power by ousting a white racist regime, that of Ian Smith, those whites who elected to stay behind were prepared to work for the people of their country. There was a time that Zimbabwe could sustain itself in terms of food. Taking over those farms has destroyed that capability. I despair.


Reading journals written by American bloggers has raised my awareness of politics in the USA. One of the events that drew my attention was Hurricane Katrina and the delayed response and inadequate preparations to that natural disaster. Other pointers were problems acquiring health care as experienced by some of you.

I enjoy reading some of the entries, made by our own Dirk, who professes to be politically incorrect and questions aspects of government politics, irrespective of the colour of the government of the day. All governments are accountable to their electorate, and it is that very electorate that holds the power to remove them. Which has happened to the administration of President Bush in the last few months.

No administration holds the support of 100% of its population, and it is to be expected that supporters of President Bush do not like the policies being implemented by President Obama. As an observer from outside, I'll be careful in professing my preference; but in the past, I have been severely critical of Mr Bush on various aspects of his foreign and domestic politics. Mr Obama promises much, but we'll have to wait on delivery.

A video came my way today, which described President Obama as a dangerous communist, who will cause the destruction of America. Yep, and I've just had kittens. It reminded me of the McCarthy years, in the 1940s and 1950s, during which Senator McCarthy conducted a witch hunt of all who might have had alleged communist leanings. British readers may have watched an episode of the series "Who do you think you are", which researches the ancestry of well-known personalities - tonight's was Zoe Wannamaker. Her father moved to the UK in 1951, after it became clear that his past membership of the communist party made it likely that he be called in front of McCarthy - and put to jail for perhaps not answering. Nearly 60 years have passed, and the world has changed. But communism, however demonstrably discredited, is still a dirty word in certain quarters.

Monday 23 February

Overcast, grey and drizzly. It's quite mild outside, about 11C, which I also found out when I went to the Post Office and other shops earlier this morning. It was actually pretty busy in the town, by Stornoway standards.

Do I care about the Oscars? No. A film is never as good as the book it is based upon.

An animal disease, bluetongue, is slowly marching north through the United Kingdom. The disease is carried by mosquitoes, and has become prevalent in continental Europe. Discussions are going on whether vaccinations should be carried out in the Western Isles, which are 20 to 60 miles from the Scottish mainland. In the last week of March, the Chief Vet for Scotland will attend meetings in Stornoway and Benbecula to hear the views of crofters, who do not feel that it is necessary to have these vaccinations. This link carries the official policy from the UK Department for Food and Rural Affairs.

Edit: The link mentions midges, rather than mosquitoes. They are different species of insect, and I'll try to find out which is actually the carrier

Sunday, 22 February 2009


Been organising a few things today, the weather being grey and boring.

Regular readers may be familiar with my rather large collection of digital pictures, now numbering in excess of 18,000. Of which 1,000 are scanned images of prints, taken from film. Flickr offers the facility to put them all in so-called sets and collections. However, I have several hundred sets and the site tends to freeze when I have the temerity to create yet another one. A large number of sets is named after one of the villages in the island of Lewis. My latest foray to Callanish added to that particular set. I have this idea to put the pictures for each village in some sort of publication, either on-line (and) or in paper.

The (almost) daily Remembering Today entries on this blog are an offshoot of my local history project Faces from the War Memorial. When I compiled the information for the 1,300-odd names on the roll, I forgot that the many Mac's also have their surname spelled Mc - something which I now have to chase up. Bearing in mind that I have also printed the list (through, I not only have to update the on-line version, but also the wordprocessing file. My screen is a wee bit crammed when I do this. At the moment I'm about one-third of the way through this task. In other words, I'll be at this for some time to come.

Remembering Today - 22 February

On this day in 1917, these four men from the Isle of Lewis fell in action in the Second Battle at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 4 Dun Carloway,
Son of Angus and Annie Morrison, of 4, Doune Carloway, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 130
Date of death: 22 February 1917 at the age of 36
Killed in action in Kut
Memorial: Basra Memorial, Iraq
Memorial reference: Panel 37 and 64
Lewis Memorial: Carloway

Last address in Lewis: 12 Garenin,
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/6965
Date of death: 22 February 1917
Killed in action in Mesopotamia
Memorial: Basra
Memorial reference: Panel 37 and 64

Last address in Lewis: 5 Knockaird,
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: S/7070
Date of death: 22 February 1917 at the age of 23
Memorial: Basra
Memorial reference: Panel 37 and 64
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

Last address in Lewis: 8B Ranish,
Son of Mrs. Christy MacKinnon, of 8, Ranish Lochs, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 317256
Date of death: 22 February 1917 at the age of 21
Killed in action in Mesopotamia
Memorial: Basra
Memorial reference: panel 37 and 64
Local memorial: North Lochs, Crossbost

Remembering Today - 21 February

On this date in the First World War, these two men lost their lives in the service of King and Country. RIP


Last address in Lewis: 20 Fivepenny,
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Date of death: 21 February 1915 at the age of 34
Killed in action in Givenchy, France
Had previously served in Egypt
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

Last address in Lewis: 15 Ranish,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMT Carlton
Date of death: 21 February 1916 at the age of 23
Ship sunk by mine
Local memorial: North Lochs, Crossbost

Sunday 22 February

Overcast, grey but reasonably mild. Temperature of 9C this afternoon, not too bad for late February. Looking at the longer range forecast, it appears that the worst of the winter is over.

Over in Australia, a day of mourning has been held for the 209 known (and more unknown) victims of the deadly bushfires that raged in the south of the country two weeks ago. The risk of more bushfires is increasing as conducive weatherconditions look set to move in.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Saturday 21 February

Pleasantly surprised to find my camera returned by mail today - only took 2 days from Holland. So, on we go. It is a cold, windy and at times drizzly day in Stornoway, best spent inside. Went to the bus station and the shop at midday, but that was enough for me.

Last night, I discovered that bus services here in Lewis are going to deteriorate as of March 27th. Several of them will be joined together, as the town bus service will be abolished. Buses to the airport will be hitched on to the Point service. For the latter, no operator has been found, as the tendering exercise went wrong, in addition to a few oversights. This was all organised by our local council, who overlooked a few minor details. Sigh.

Friday, 20 February 2009


Isn't it easy to sit at your computer, and read a blog. Or two. Or perhaps one hundred. Maybe even several hundred. That's how many are on my Google Reader. Many of us write down their lives on their blogs. Whether publicly or to a select few, we impart those bits of our lives to the world that we choose to disclose. Many a time, it is particularly at the darker moments of life that we write. And blogging being what it is, we appreciate comments left by friends, acquaintances or distant readers.


How can you place yourself in the shoes of the writer. What makes you think you are selecting the right words and turn of phrase to suit the occasion. Well, it is fairly straightforward when you talk about a death in someone's circle. It is also fairly clear when a blogger says they have had a diagnosis of serious illness - or someone very near and dear has. You can't go far wrong there, can you? No, not really.

Where it can go very badly wrong is in situations where someone is discussing the challenges they face in life. Money may be tight. Relationships that are strained. Past events that are haunting them. Guilt, remorse.

Call me naive, but I'd think that in our blogging community, we are there to support each other. Seems there are exceptions to that rule. I can't believe that there are actually people who see fit to criticise the way someone has dealt with a situation in their life - to come to the point of this post (once more) - which they have described in a blog. How can you, exclusively through this medium, gauge what was right and wrong? I mean, how can you if you weren't there. And even if it was patently incorrect, what right does anyone have to criticise? Nobody.

Nobody whose blog I read fits the above bill. It applies to nobody that comments in this blog either. I am merely highlighting the shadowside of blogging, which sometimes peeps above the horizon of one or two blogs I come across.


Zimbabwe is trying to think of recovery. May require $5bn. Not a huge sum, if you consider that the US government recently put aside 300 times that amount for its recovery from the economic downturn. The new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, has said that for the moment several foreign currencies may be adopted. I wonder what he is going to do about inflation, which is running at 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000%. That's 10 sextillion percent. Anyway, I'm pleased that at least they appear to recognise that there is a problem that they should solve, rather than blaming everybody else for it.

Friday 20 February

Pouring with rain, bit of a breeze going - wet day in Stornoway, what more do you want for an excuse to stay in all day. There is a stack of good books to be read, I may do a bit of work on my collection of pictures on Flickr. On the other hand, someone is going out to Ness later on, and I might just join them for the ride. No chance of taking much in the way of pictures in weather like this. We shall see what transpires.

47 people on board a Boeing 747-400 were hurt when their plane hit severe turbulence east of Tokyo. The flight from Manila to Los Angeles via Tokyo was coming into land at the Japanese capital when turbulence struck. Six people flew up and hit the ceiling of the cabin hard, leaving several holes. They are seriously ill in hospital in Tokyo.

I have less than pleasant memories of a flight from Rome to London in 2001, when the plane hit turbulence over Southwest London. The flight had flown straight into a rainstorm with very strong up- and downdrafts. One person suffered a panic attack, another had an epileptic fit. The exclamation of the person next to me, as we touched down, was "Terra!" - Earth. Otherwise, it was eerily quiet as we bumped up and down.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Lost in translation

Irish police were left red-faced in the wake of the hunt for the country's worst driver. He managed to rack up dozens of traffic violations and fines, and forces up and down the Republic were on the hunt for Polish man Prawo Jazdy. Except... Prawo Jazdy is Polish for driver's licence.

Which reminds me of foreign tourists in the Netherlands who are driving for miles, looking for the town of Doorgaand Verkeer. This features on hundreds of signs, particularly in larger towns and cities. Never with a distance indication, something that is quite common in Holland. Doorgaand Verkeer is a Dutch fata morgana, as it stands for Through Traffic.

Closing notes

Went out on the bus at 2.30pm for a wee trip to the Callanish Stones, 18 miles west of here. It was freezing cold, although the mercury was at 7C. The Stones sit on the top of a broad hill, and are very exposed to any amount of wind. Whether the flattened grass and broken shrubs had anything to do with the January 17th hurricane is not entirely clear. Also went for a walk to the nearby quayside, where that little blue and white boat is slowly sinking into the mud. At 4.30pm, the bus turned up to take us back to Stornoway the long road - 27 miles through Carloway and Barvas. It was a quiet afternoon, with hardly a sound, apart from the wind. Pictures are uploading as I type.

I also had the good news that my camera will be returning to me early in the new week. It had to go in for repairs just after New Year, when it gave up the ghost. My father very kindly gave me his camera to use in the meantime, and I have taken just over 100 pictures with it since I took it into fulltime use on February 3rd.

I watched some good television tonight; Sky 534 had the closing episode of Andrew Marr's programme on Britain from the air, and Billy Connolly is touring Canada. I did not watch Jade Goody's programme - I saw some recent pics of her, and the poor woman looks ghastly. Neither did I finish watching that absolute cr*p about St Kilda, hosted by Kate Humble. I can't stand Springwatch / Autumnwatch on account of the chemistry between her and Bill Oddy, but the absolute garbage she and co-presenters came out with about St Kilda put the shutters on for me.

A few pictures from this afternoon:

Houses at Callanish

Callanish Stones and Loch Roag

Boat at Callanish Pier


Thursday 19 February

Fairly bright day, but a shower just moved by to the south. Nonetheless, will be popping out on the bus later for a visit to the Callanish Stones and a run round the West Side.

A helicopter has crashed into the North Sea, but all 18 on board are safe and sound. The chopper remained afloat, conditions were favourable and rescue services were on the scene immediately. The aircraft came down near the ETAP oilfield, 125 miles east of Aberdeen. An investigation has been launched.

It is reported that social networking on-line is actually bad for your health. Because it replaces social networking face-to-face, the way we perform as persons is altered and not for the better. Gulp.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Remembering Today - 18 February

Today on this day during the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King and Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 4 Battery Park, Stornoway
Son of Alexander McLeod, of 4, Battery Park, Stornoway, and the late Mrs. McLeod.
Regiment or division: 7th Seaforth Highlanders, Labour Corps
Service number: S/16375, transf. to (588562)
Date of death: 18 February 1919 at the age of 34
Died of wounds
Interred: Sandwick Cemetery
Memorial reference: L. R.1910. 683.
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

Fight Pink

This website, aimed at those fighting breastcancer, or having survived it (or are related to or friends of) features our own Kelly, sister of Kim [demandnlilchit], who passed on in December 2007. Call round and admire.

Sheep notes

Three years ago, someone reported a lamb head-butting a golden eagle near Balallan in Lewis. On another occasion, a golden eagle was seen running on the ground after rabbits. Personally, I once was in a car which was forced to stop on the B8011 road in Lewis because two (female) sheep decided to have it out there and then in the middle of the bridge across the Grimersta River, 3 miles west of Garynahine. Only after they had stopped head-butting each other was the vehicle able to proceed.

Grimersta River at the bridge

Sheep, unfortunately, are frequent victims of road traffic. It is up to the owner to remove the remains from the roadside. Whether it is such a good idea to dump the carcass in the ditch is questionable; I once had the doubtful pleasure of watching a sheep's remains slowly disintegrating in the ditch beside the cattlegrid at Marybank. You can't help but notice it when you walk past. If only on account of the smell.

Carcass at the Marybank cattlegrid, July 2005

Sheep are held to be stupid animals, but that is not really fair. If possible, a ewe will go back to the spot where it was born itself to give birth. At this time of year, when lambing time is nearly here, any sheep that ends up on its back may not be able to regain its feet - and could die. I have righted several sheep in remote parts of Lewis which I found on their backs. They were happy to run off at once. Others that I found in distress were beyond help - their eyes had been pecked out. The one I pulled out of a bog near Loch Eastaper, north of Laxay, was very grateful - and immediately started tearing at the grass.

Sheep and lamb at Bragar, May 2005

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Social networking revisited

Putting into practice what I commenced on Sunday, and boy, did it work out the way I feared. Twittering along, Facebooking to my heart's content, reading journals and writing on all said sites, the day flew by. Oh, mind you, I did find time to go into town to seek out that mysterious boat that came in at 11 am; only to find it had sneaked out whilst I was having lunch. Only got a picture of Cuddy Point plus wreck-buoys and of Lews Castle from King Edward Quay.

I think I'll leave Twitter for what it is, keeping an eye on it on a once-a-day basis (like this time of the night). Facebook will carry on as it has since we were kicked off AOL, as will the journals. Deb has alerted us to a change in the Terms of Service of Facebook; if you are on there, check it out. I'm not too fussy, but if you have very unique content, links etc, beware.

It is close on 10.30pm, the lorries are rumbling past my window on their way to be shipped to the mainland on board MV Muirneag in an hour's time.

Closing schools is an emotive issue in these islands, and the local council have their ties in a twist over it. After voting for, against, for [that was the voting record of one council session last August] closure of the secondary extension of the primary schools (two years of secondary education in the local primary) in 4 locations, the Education Secretary to the Scottish Government threw the whole plan out. Yet, the council have now said they will continue with the closure plans never mind what, as not doing so would blow an £12m hole in their finances. No, I don't understand it either.

Tuesday 17 February

Bright morning, after the mist and drizzle of the early hours cleared. Temperature has inched up to 11C, so we're having a pretty mild day.

Couple of items in the news today, which caught my eye. A haemophiliac patient has died suffering from variant-Creutzfeldt-Jacobs Disease (the human version of mad-cow disease), although he did not have any symptoms. He was the first case to emerge as a result of being given contaminated blood products.

There is a continuing row in the Western Isles about the closure of schools and the role of councillors. A local website carries calls for resignations of some of them - the closure plans were torpedoed by the Scottish Government as being incompetent.

Just as I close this post, the sun has come out.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Some advertisements on the Internet are just plain stupid. One company, trying to pander its creditcard off on unsuspecting punters can rest assured of an absolutely 0% (yes, zero) success rate. After saying which normally disqualifying criteria will be considered, it says that everyone will be EXCEPTED.

Remembering Today - 16 February

Today on this day during the First World War, these men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King and Country.


Last address in Lewis: Outend Coll,
Son of Alexander and Annie Macleod Graham, of Out End Call, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 2nd Canadian Field Artillery
Service number: 41793
Date of death: 16 February 1915 at the age of 28
Accidentally killed in France
Served 5 years in India.
Interred: Bois Guillaume Communal Cemetery
Memorial reference: I. B. 17A
Lewis Memorial: Back


Last address in Lewis: 9 Gravir,
Son of Malcolm and Christina MacDonald, of 51, Balfour St., Glasgow, Scotland.
Regiment or division: 21st Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment)
Service number: 123779
Date of death: 16 February 1917 at the age of 24
Killed in action in France
Interred: Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St Eloi
Local memorial: Pairc, Kershader

Last address in Lewis: 4 Scotland Street, Stornoway
Regiment or division: Seaforth Highlanders
Date of death: 16 February 1915
Died of wounds
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

Remembering Today - 14 February

Today on this day during the First World War, these two men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King and Country.

Last address in Lewis: 18B Gravir,
Son of Peter and Effie Campbell, of r8 [18B], Gravir, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Regiment or division: 2nd Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: S/ 22755
Date of death: 14 February 1919 at the age of 20
Died of influenza in France
Interred: La Louviere Town Cemetery
Memorial reference: A. 3.
Local memorial: Pairc, Kershader

Last address in Lewis: 34 South Shawbost
Brother of Donald McDonald, of 16, Clyde St., Dumbarton. Native of Shawbost, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Merchant Marine, HMS Partridge
Service number: 3478B
Date of death: February, 14th, 1915 at the age of 31
Drowned when cutter was upset by HMS Sutlej
Memorial: Chatham Naval, panel 14

Monday 16 February

Misty, grey and wet here today. Funny thing is, the sun does peep through the clouds from time to time. Overnight low 9C, temperature at the moment 10C, with a brisk westerly wind. The Atlantic firmly in control today.

Heard on the news that two nuclear submarines, one British, the other French, managed to collide in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That's no mean feat. The Atlantic is 4,000 miles wide, up to 15,000 feet deep and some 12,000 miles north to south. Yet those two banged into each other. Incredible. No radiation was released, neither were any warheads. Both vessels were seriously damaged, with the British HMS Vanguard having to be towed back to Faslane, and the French Le Triomphant managing to regain Brest under its own steam. Looks like the French came off 'triumphant'.

For several weeks, a yacht has been lying in a corner of Stornoway harbour, demasted and damaged in an autumn gale. The vessel has now gone to the bottom, but still protruding from the water. Stornoway Port Authority has marked the spot with wreck buoys and issued a formal Notice to Mariners. Regulars to my own Stornoway pictures will recognise the blue bulk of MV Muirneag in the background; the yacht actually lies just off Cuddy Point.
Picture courtesy Hebridesnews.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Social networking

I'll be having to make some choices in the near future, as to which sites to use for social networking. At the moment, I'm keeping this blog, reading about 300 blogs on Google Reader, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter - cripes, I'll be chained to this here computer all day if I'm not careful. Hey! I already am (chinking noises in background as he moves in his chains).

With regards to the blogs, there are less than 100 that I actually keep up to date with; and I'll have to scrap a heap of applications on Facebook. There are about 300 of them in use as well. I may end up using Twitter on special occasions, as I can update there by mobile phone. I can also do that with Facebook, as some will have noticed on days I am travelling to and from Holland.

So, how do you cope with your Internet commitment?

The Onion

I continue to be humorously appalled by The Onion's Radio News, but today, I caught them out on a rare factual blunder. In today's bulletin, they stated that President Bush (sic!) had reacted with a dance to news that the US tops the pops in the teen pregnancy test scores. Seems Doyle Redland has not caught up with events since January 20th...

Sunday 15 February

Overcast but fairly bright afternoon, with the highest temperatures we've seen in two weeks: +9C. Elsewhere in the country, the mercury will reach the dizzying heights of 11C. That will send the snow melting in no time at all.

Anyone using the Firefox browser to access their Hotmail account will be unable to do more than read one message; you can't do anything else after that. Hotmail will give you a message: Please refresh your browser window. When you access your Windows Live Hotmail account from more than one computer, we ask you to sign in again to help keep your account private and secure and that's about all. An error thread has been commenced here, and any users are requested to leave their Hotmail address on there. I've used Hotmail for exactly 9 years, without major problems until now. Accessing the service through Internet Explorer goes without a hitch.

Miep Gies, the Amsterdam woman who helped to hide Anne Frank during the Second World War, is celebrating her 100th birthday today. She is displaying modesty about her role in helping the persecuted Jews, saying others did far more. Anne Frank kept a diary, which Mrs Gies hid after the girl and her family had been taken to a concentration camp. Anne died there in 1945; her father published her diary in 1947.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Evening notes

It is reported tonight that former BB contestant Jade Goody only has months to live, following a diagnosis of metastatic cancer - cancer that has spread. Her partner has proposed to her, and she is getting her affairs in order. You can only admire her bravery - I have never pulled any punches in the past in voicing my less than favourable opinion of this celebrity, but in a situation like this, I am prepared to alter my view.

On an equally gloomy note, I was reminded of Torvill and Dean's ice-dancing triumph in Sarajevo in the Winter Olympics of 1984. Their 4-minute routine to the strains of Ravel's Bolero has gone down in the history books, but in my mind, the name Sarajevo has become synonymous with brutality on a breathtaking scale in the early 1990s. One of its perpetrators, Radovan Karadjic, is currently standing trial in The Hague on an indictment of war crimes; number two, Ratko Mladic, is still at large.

It made me quite ill today to view a picture of a woman who had not cut her fingernails in 30 years. They had grown to a combined length of 28 feet (8.4 m) - and she lost them in a car accident. How on earth can you live with nails like this?

Right folks, I'm off to bed - hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day.

Saturday 14 February

St Valentine's Day today (some suggest it should be St Raphael's Day, but who's fussing, not me), and I hope those looking for love find it coming their way today. Out in the Hebrides, we're going downhill slowly, with a few spots of rain on the window and a steadily strengthening southerly wind. The weather will remain changeable for the foreseeable future (what's new) as low pressure systems pass north of the British Isles, with trailing weather fronts bringing us rain. I should stress that we had hardly any snow worthy the mention, unlike other parts of Scotland. I'm certainly not complaining about the +8C on the thermometer this lunchtime.

A man who had become disoriented on the moors near the Pentland Road in the centre of Lewis was located safe and well during the night. As darkness fell last night, he contacted the Coastguard by mobile phone saying he had lost his bearing in mist and fog near the Pentland Road. Coastguard teams searched the area on foot during the night. Once the helicopter became available after a medical emergency near Inverness, its crew located the man by the light on his mobile phone at 2 am.

I have visited that part of Lewis several times on foot my self, but would not have done so yesterday. I took no pictures yesterday, precisely because it was drizzling. When I was doing long walks, back in 2005, I would venture out in all weathers - but not to the moors with visibility as poor as yesterday. However, fog and mist can catch anyone out, and I'm glad this person was finally located safe and sound. Just a few images of the area to indicate the terrain.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Flying, and kids

After yesterday's aircrash at Buffalo, news came this evening that a British Airways jet had a hard landing at London City Airport. The front wheels of the aircraft collapsed on landing, and it came to a halt on the tarmac. The slides were activated and all passengers and crew evacuated safely with only a few minor injuries.

So a 9-year old has written a book on dating. That is already quite odd, but how about a boy of 13 fathering a baby with a girl of 15? Methinks that sex education could have prevented this unfortunate situation.

Remembering Today - 13 February

On this day during the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King and Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 34 South Shawbost
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve
Date of death: 13 February 1915 at the age of 31
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Friday 13 February

Today is a bad day for those suffering from paraskavedekatriaphobia. Out here, there is only 10 hours left of it, so not long to go now. Yesterday was a bad day for the family and friends of those on board flight 3407, which crashed near Buffalo NY at around 10pm local time. All 48 on that plane perished, as well as one person on the ground. There are at present no firm indications on the cause of the tragedy - weather might have had a role to play. One of our bloggers, Donna of Ds Designs, lives in Buffalo, and I'm awaiting an update from her.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Remembering Today - 12 February

On this day in the First World War, these two men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King and Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 3 Habost, Ness,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, MFA Eleanor
Service number: 4413/A
Date of death: 12 February 1918 at the age of 29
Ship sunk by torpedo
Memorial: Portsmouth Naval
Memorial reference: 31
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross


Coinneach Aonghais
Last address in Lewis: 6B Gravir,
Son of Angus and Annabella Macaskill, of Gravir; husband of Christina Macaskill, of 6, Gravir Lochs, Stornoway. Father of Donald Alex.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, MFA Eleanor
Service number: 8819A
Date of death: 12 February 1918 at the age of 33
Ship sunk by U-boat in Irish Channel
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
Memorial reference: 30
Local memorial: Pairc, Kershader

JLand Central

Since our move to Blogger in October 2008, we have had a blog for the community called JLand Central. It has lain dormant since before Christmas, but I would like to highlight it once more as a place where messages can be posted for the benefit of the whole community. This includes technical issues, requests for information on who now blogs where, or perhaps one of the journals you read has not been posting for a while.

Please drop a line to Sugar, Jeannette (Outside Looking In), Yasmin, Stuart or myself.

Wilders bewildered

Geert Wilders was barred from entering the United Kingdom today. He is controversial for stating that the Koran should be compared to Hitler's book "Mein Kampf", and banned likewise. His film "Fitna" shows footage from 9/11, the trainbombing in Madrid in March 2004 and the bombings in London in July 2005, interspersed with readings from the Koran and sermons from extremist Muslim preachers.

The above mentioned atrocities were justified by the guilty, (ab)using verses from the Koran; I am not a scholar of that Book, but like the Bible, people twist, distort and use its writings for their own ends. Mr Wilders is taking advantage of that by generalising grossly, tarring all Muslims with the same brush, saying they are all murderous extremists.

As I said in my posting from last night, it is a cause for grave concern when people like him manage to get themselves elected to parliament. The Dutch government should look at society there and check what is wrong. The British government should make a similar check, as there are peers of the realm who are prepared to entertain someone of Mr Wilders' convictions.

Freedom of speech is a great virtue of our society, and should be cherished closely. It should however never be allowed to be abused to sow intolerance, distrust, hatred and violence. Mr Wilders erred on the wrong side of that balance. It is ironic that he has joined the very people he so despises (Muslim extremists) in the list of 270 names, banned from entering the United Kingdom since 2005.

It is deplorable that the Dutch government fails to see the finer points of this problem - in July 2005, fifty-two people lost their lives on the London public transport system as a result of four suicide bombers, who acted out of religious fanaticism. Since then, community relations in the UK have come a long way, and the government in London was well advised to deny entry to someone who might well have unsettled that balance.

Thursday 12 February

The day started out soaking wet, with pouring rain until daybreak. Things got progressively better as the morning wore on, although it is now mainly overcast if quite bright. Large amounts of snow are causing problems on the eastern side of the UK as milder air is making its way in from the west. The forecast maximum of +8C does not appear attainable at this stage of the day - the thermometer over at the airport (3 miles from here) is at 5C.

The controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders has been held at Heathrow Airport after being denied entry to the UK. He will now duly be returned to the Netherlands. The Dutch ambassador was also at Heathrow to express his country's opposition to the ban on Mr Wilders.

I am pleased to note that Pope Benedict XVI has moved to limit damage caused by the reinstatement of holocaust denier Bishop Williamson. The pontiff has stated that he was unaware of the bishop's views, and apologises for any distress caused. The Jewish community in the USA has expressed relief at this. I have to say that I find it almost beyond belief that it was not known in the Vatican that Bishop Williamson was a holocaust denier.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


The BBC reported this evening that Dutch MP Geert Wilders has been banned from entering the United Kingdom. Mr Wilders, who heads up the Freedom party PVV, gained prominence in March 2008 through the publication of a 15-minute video called Fitna. Fitna is an Arabic word, translated as strife in some instances. The film has been put on the Internet, and was due to be shown to the House of Lords by Mr Wilders.

He has now been denied entry to the UK as his presence is held to be harmful to community relations. Mr Wilders faces trial in Amsterdam for inciting hatred. The Dutch government is thought to be undertaking diplomatic moves to undo the ban.

Quite frankly, this being the year 2009, we can do without the outmoded views disseminated by Mr Wilders. Muslim extremism, which peaked around the time of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, has been increasingly superseded and sidelined in countries like Iraq and even Iran. Pragmatism seems to be taking over, in spite of festering sores like Palestine / Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Wilders has gained prominence on account of problems in Dutch society surrounding migrants, integration (more to the point: lack of) and misinformation. When people holding views like his start to become popular, it is time for government and community leaders to open their eyes and check what is wrong. And fix it. Seventy-five years ago, a failed artist from Austria came to power in Germany, by promising the residents of that country a solution to their economic woes. His name was Adolf Hitler.

Posted on behalf of

Some of you may remember Cathy [chatzeekay on AOL], who battles with brain injuries following accidents and abuse. She could not resume a journal on Blogger (yet), and has asked me to relay this message. Please note that I have done a direct copy and paste, and the message is exactly as Cathy typed it. Her typos result from her medical condition.

i know i ave not stayed in touch. and its been rough going for me and the hands, and the rest, how is journal land on the otherside. i have not been on the computer at all in some time, and wante dto write a small summarry of things, but have not been able to has of yet, just like a update of such to pass along to my friends that i misss so much. i keep strong even though its rough and still have my courage , and of course my faith and my prayers, i know you will not forget of me i hope no one does. but please let everyine know that i am doing alright and i contuie to strive towards my goals. if i get my summary complied i hope you can post it on your journal, i have not been reading journlas. cause so much has been overwhemling for me, th epain to type is unbearble, hope all is well with you and your famliy, catherine courage,

Traffic carnage

This afternoon, a long-fingered resident of Stornoway found himself at the receiving end of a case of "from the frying pan into the fire". After being forcibly removed from his home on the seafront, he ended up losing his life on the mean streets of the town. The pink resident had been extricated by parties unknown, reported to be wearing white or grey, using a long, yellow implement to gain access to his home. This had been done without prior warning, just as the unfortunate was enjoying mussels for lunch. Struggling madly, he managed to gain freedom from the grasp of his captors, but fell whilst crossing a street near his home. Unable to get out of the way of traffic, he was run over and killed instantly.

Remembering Today - 11 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King and Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 41 Park Carloway,
Son of John and Catherine Macleod; husband of Catherine Macleod, of 41, Mill Park, Carloway, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Navy, HMS Pembroke
Service number: 9665/DA
Date of death: 11 February 1919 at the age of 51
Died of illness
Joined up in November 1917 although at age 48. Served from 1915 until invalided in 1917
(This line quoted directly from the Roll of Honour)
Interred: Dalmore Cemetery, Lewis

Wednesday 11 February

A very cold start to the day here, with the mercury down to -4C at 7 am, an hour before sunrise. Right now, we've gone up to +6, due to bright sunshine. Clouds have now crept in, but it remains a bright day. The weather is not as nice in southwestern England. Two bus crashes have left more than 40 people injured, following the formation of ice. Across in the USA, a tornado has ripped through a town in Oklahoma, leaving 15 dead. This time of year is unusual to have tornadoes in the Mid West.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sunset notes

The sun set five minutes ago, after a bright afternoon. The clouds have slowly moved away south, and we're all set for a cold night. Over on the Scottish mainland, the overnight low is expected to be about -9C. Further east, heavy snow is once more on its way into Aberdeenshire. The winter is by no means over, although I'd like to think that the Western Isles is having the best of the weather.

Here in the island of Lewis, planning permission has been granted for an electricity converter station at Gravir, 27 miles south of Stornoway by road (15 by sea). It will be the exit-point for all power generated by windfarms in the island. The electricity plant is expected to be huge, and a colossal blot on the landscape. The vote in the local council was not unanimous, with concerns raised over the impact on roads and landscape.

Gravir in July 2007

Remembering Today - 10 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King and Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 17 Knock, Point,
Son of John Macleod, of 17, Knock Point, Stornoway, Scotland. Also served in R.N.R.
Regiment or division: 15th Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment)
Service number: 447137
Date of death: 10 February 1919 at the age of 28
Died of pneumonia in Belgium
Interred: Huy (La Sarte) Communal Cemetery
Memorial reference: I. B. 19.
Lewis Memorial: Point (Garrabost)

Tuesday 10 February

Bright and sunny with some (rain) showers. The remnants of snow that were lying around since the weekend have melted, as temperatures have risen slightly. +4C is still no great shakes though. Further south, rain and snow are wreaking havoc in England as a winterstorm moves across. I am not very pleased with the BBC who are relaying coverage of bankers being grilled by members of parliament on the reasons for the current financial crisis in the UK in particular. However topical that may be, I do grudge being denied television coverage of other major news events, such as the Australian bushfires, and having to watch City fatcats making excuses to cover their greed.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Remembering Today - 9 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 1 Callanish,
Regiment or division: 2nd Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 8867
Date of death: 9 February 1915 at the age of 31
Died of shrapnel wounds at Netley Hospital
Interred: Netley Military Cemetery
Memorial reference: N. 326
Lewis Memorial: East Loch Roag, Callanish

Remembering Today - 8 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 39A Balallan,
Son of Marion MacLeod, of 39A, Ballallan Lochs, Stornoway, Scotland, and the late Donald MacLeod.
Regiment or division: 67th Western Scots Canadian Infantry
Service number: 103327
Date of death: 8 February 1919 at the age of 37
Died of wounds, sustained in January 1918 in France. Invalided to Canada where he died.
Interred: Victoria (Ross Bay) Cemetery
Memorial Reference: N. 18E. T.
Local memorial: Kinloch, Laxay

Sunset, sunrise


8 February


9 February

Thrift journal restarted

The frugal living journal, which used to exist on AOL, has been restarted here on Blogger by Lisa-Jo as Our Thrifty Thoughts. If anyone would like to make contributions to this journal as a writer should contact Lisa Jo direct. Please relay on your own journal if this has your interest.

Monday 9 February

Overcast day, but it started brilliantly sunny. Recent snowfalls on the Scottish mountains have left them eminently visible on the distant horizon - I'm about 40 to 70 miles from the mainland. Sunrise this morning at 8 was a blaze of colours, and in one of my later entries I'll link to a few images.

I am horrified to learn that the death toll of the Australian wildfires could exceed 200. It is indeed incomprehensible that someone could deliberately start, if not restart, those fires, knowing that they would be fanned out of control by the strong winds. The stories are heartrending, and I'm referring to the news media for details.

Bishop Williamson, who gained infamy in recent times as a Holocaust denier, has been sacked from the post as director of a seminary in Argentina. It now emerges that the Vatican was unaware of his views regarding the Holocaust, and Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his unreserved support for Jews. I find it a wee bit incomprehensible that these views were unknown to the Holy See.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Sunday 8 February

Bright but hazy and very cold out here. According to the Met Office, the mercury at 11 am stood at -1.9C, after an "overnight" low of -4.2C at 9 am. As I type, the mercury at coldspots Loch Glascarnoch and Tulloch Bridge is still below -7C. Aviemore went down to -14C apparently. Leaving the cold to one side, we're still having the best weather in the country. Southern England is due more snow today, and a winterstorm tomorrow.

The exact opposite in terms of weather is happening in southeastern Australia, where firestorms have claimed more than 80 lives, razing several communities to the ground. Reports quote winds of 60 mph and more fanning the flames. Temperatures have risen to 46C out there - I think I prefer our current frosty weather.

Encouraged by the successful emergency landing in the Hudson River a few weeks ago, two more planes have endeavoured the method. In Australia, a plane successfully landed in shallow water, and its passengers could wade ashore. A plane in Brazil was less lucky, when it was forced down by heavy rain. Although 4 survivors were found, several bodies were found in the wreckage of the aircraft.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Health matters

In the period that I have been writing Northern Trip (on AOL) and Atlantic Lines, I have come out very outspoken against the Big Brother programme and its participants. More so, since BB is actually a Dutch invention. One object of my objections was Jade Goody, a contestant in the 2002 edition of the show in the UK, who stood out for having a big mouth that was commonly engaged before her brain was. A few years ago, she gained more infamy by participating in a Celebrity version of BB and opening her mouth too wide again.

Ms Goody was diagnosed with bowel cancer last August, and it has since emerged that the disease has spread. She has used her celebrity status to promote awareness of cancer, which is a good thing. Last night, Jade underwent a 4-hour operation to remove a growth on the bowel, which was causing much pain. Whilst realising that metastatic cancer is not usually curable, I do hope that Jade's illness has a positive outcome. I am happy at any rate that she is using her status as a celebrity for a positive cause.

Remembering Today - 7 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Ailig Ruadh or Alastair Dhomhnaill Aonghais
Last address in Lewis: 15 Valtos,
Son of Donald and Annie Mackay, husband to Christina, father of 3 children
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, SS Vedamore
Date of death: 7 February 1917 at the age of 48
Ship sunk by U-boat
Survivor from sinking of HMS Hermes
Lewis Memorial: Uig, Timsgarry

Saturday 7 February

Bright and sunny day, but quite cold in the brisk northerly wind. The thin layer of snow may melt in the afternoon sun, and I do think we're having the best weather in the country. I do not envy those in England who may find themselves in a 12 to 15 degree frost overnight tonight. More snow is on its way to the southern parts of the UK over the weekend, so this cold winter is not over by a long shot.

In recent days, there has been ongoing coverage in the news media about the credit crisis and particularly bonuses for bankers. I think it is a complete outrage for bonuses to be paid to bankers anywhere in the world, for adopting the policies that have led to the current crisis. They are the ones that were selling debts, in other words air, between each other, getting rich in the process. For instance, the Royal Bank of Scotland, currently 70% in public ownership, says it has to pay the bonuses in order to retain its top bankers. Methinks they can do without those bankers if they caused the bank to be taken into partial public ownership. I have also noticed that the banks continue to rake in money from their customers in order not to have to change their modus operandi.

A few months ago, news emerged of a so-called City fat cat taking his own life. Whilst deploring suicides for whichever reason, my sympathy wore thin when I read that this particular chap was holding down a lavish lifestyle, throwing parties in sumptuous locations across Europe at very frequent intervals. It struck me that he probably was unable to cope with the loss of earnings and therefore a loss of face for not being able to hold down said lifestyle.

For as long as banks and other financial institutions do not realise and own up to the fact they are mostly responsible for the current financial crisis, this same crisis will not be resolved any time soon. A complete overhaul in attitude is required, not just on the part of the banks. People do not seem to remember that when you borrow money it also has to be paid back at some stage. Creditcards, storecards and the like are all very nice and convenient, but you don't see you are spending money - until the day the final demand comes in.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Remembering Today - 6 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Tormod Thormoid Mhoir or Tormod Thormoid Mhurchaidh
Last address in Lewis: 25 Valtos,
Son of Norman and Mary Maciver, of 25, Daltos Uig, Stornoway, Ross-shire.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Inconstant
Service number: 3817A
Date of death: 6 February 1915 at the age of 28
Drowned after he was washed overboard
Memorial: Chatham Naval
Memorial reference: 14
Lewis Memorial: Uig, Timsgarry

Friday 6 February

Bright and sunny day, with some snow on the ground. It does not feel cold, although the mercury is only +3C. I'm glad I'm not in England, with all the snow they are having down there. I hope they manage to get enough roadsalt to grit the roads; stocks are apparently running low. The salt quarry at Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland is working flat out, so hard in fact that they cannot stop to talk to the BBC.

I heard this morning that the West Highland Railway has been voted the most scenic railway journey in the world. I could not agree more; it is my favourite rail trip in the UK. The 154 miles from Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig pass through some stunning mountain scenery, by Corrour Station (not served by public road) and on to Glenfinnan and Mallaig. The most remarkable feature for a few years was a toilet bowl, which sat on a knoll by the railway, a few miles south of Corrour Station in 1995. One year later, I passed the same way again, and a teddy bear was sitting on the toilet. Yet another year later, both toilet and teddy had disappeared.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Hurricane update - 5 February

In the southern hemisphere, the cyclone season is cranking up to its high point. At the moment, cyclone Gaël is moving west towards Madagascar, 300 km north of La Reunion. Before the storm reaches the Big Island, it is expected to veer sharply south. Gaël will continue to strengthen, and could reach up to 115 knots in strength - that is equivalent to winds of 210 km/h. The islands of La Reunion and Mauritius are feeling the effects of Gaël, with winds of 100 km/h on exposed coasts of La Reunion, and up to 80 km/h on Mauritius. A swell of 3.5 to 7 metres is running on the north to east coasts of La Reunion. All cyclone warnings are cancelled on Mauritius, but La Reunion remains on Yellow Alert. Malagasy residents are closely monitoring the progress of Gaël, but are not expected to suffer a direct hit; its rainbands and the periphery of the core of winds could affect the east coast of Madagascar. The point where Gaël will veer south is to determine the level of impact on the Big Island, and that is where the uncertainty lies.

Concerned residents of La Reunion, Mauritius and Madagascar should closely follow the 12-hourly updates on the JTWC website, or the 6-hourly updates on the website of RSMC La Reunion (in French).

Thursday 5 February

So, I'm back in Stornoway, and I brought the winter with me. Temperatures down to +2C today, with frequent hail and snow showers. Although there is not much wind, a heavy swell in the Minch is keeping our freight ferry in port.

Elsewhere in the UK, 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) of snow is causing extensive disruption to travel, and ain't I glad not to be among all that now. There is a lot of discussion going on about ineffective gritting and clearing, but if snow is not an annual problem, then there is not much point keeping a huge infrastructure in place to tackle it. Question of priority. However, planning for such an eventuality would make dealing with it a bit easier.

I have resumed my photography using a digital camera, given to me to use by my father.

Tuesday 3 February

Along the M25

In Terminal 5 at Heathrow

Wednesday 4 February

Pitching in the Minch

View from Loch Broom

Thursday 5 February

Thin layer of snow in Stornoway

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Remembering Today - 4 February

On this day in the First World War, these men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: Islivig,
Regiment or division: New Zealanders
Date of death: 4 February 1917
Died of wounds

Last address in Lewis: 2, Stag Road, Stornoway
Son of John and Bella MacDonald, of Lower Bayble; husband of Isabella MacDonald, of 2, Stag Rd., Stornoway.
Regiment or division: "B" Coy. 4th Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3135
Date of death: 4 February 1919 at the age of 34
Interred: Eye / Aignish Cemetery
Memorial reference: B. 45

Remembering Today - 3 February

On this day in 1915 (during the First World War), these eleven men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. They perished with the sinking of HMS Clan Macnaughton, which struck a mine northwest of Ireland. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 19 Aird Tong,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS "Clan MacNaughton"
Service number: 2289A
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 29
Drowned in sinking of ship Clan MacNaughton
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
Memorial reference: 14
Lewis Memorial: Back

Leading Seaman JOHN MACLEOD

Last address in Lewis: 25 Aird Tong,
Son of Mrs. P. MacLeod, of 25, Aird of Tong, Stornoway, and the late Peter MacLeod.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS "Clan MacNaughton"
Service number: 3092A
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 23
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
Memorial reference: 14
Lewis War Memorial: Stornoway, Back Division, plaque 7

Last address in Lewis: 7 Arnol,
Son of Norman Campbell; husband of Christina Campbell, of 26, North Bragar, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 4018B
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 40
Drowned in sinking of ship Clan MacNaughton
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
Memorial reference: 14
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Last address in Lewis: 41 Borve,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 2395D
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 46
Died in sinking of Clan MacNaughton
Left six orphans
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial, panel 14
Local memorial: North Lewis, Borve


Last address in Lewis: 3 Breasclete,
Son of George and Christina Macaulay, of 3, Breasclete, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 4971B
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 30
Drowned in sinking of ship Clan MacNaughton
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
Memorial reference: 14
Lewis Memorial: East Loch Roag, Callanish

Last address in Lewis: 11 Brue,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 2289A
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 22
Drowned in HMS Clan MacNaughton
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial, panel 14

Last address in Lewis: 2 Calbost,
Son of Donald and Kate MacKay Kennedy, of 2, Calbost, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 5424A
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 17
Drowned in sinking of the Clan MacNaughton
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
Memorial reference: 14
Local Memorial: Pairc, Kershader

Last address in Lewis: 9 Calbost,
Son of John and Marion Morrison
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 22
Drowned in sinking of the Clan MacNaughton
Was a survivor of the sinking of the Hermes
Local Memorial: Pairc, Kershader

Last address in Lewis: 26 North Bragar
Son of Norman Campbell; husband of Christina Campbell, of 26, North Bragar, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 4018B
Date of death: February, 3th, 1915 at the age of 40
Died in sinking of ship
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial
Memorial reference: 14


Last address in Lewis: Portvoller,
Son of William and Mrs. Martin, of Port Voller Point, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 6803/A
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 21
Enlisted after outbreak of war and had just completed 3 months' service
Drowned in sinking of ship
Memorial: Chatham Naval, panel 14
Lewis Memorial: Point (Garrabost)

Last address in Lewis: 33 South Dell,
Son of Murdo and Catherine Murray, of South Dell, Ness; husband of Mary McDonald Murray, of 33, South Dell, Ness, Island of Lewis.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Clan MacNaughton
Service number: 3275C
Date of death: 3 February 1915 at the age of 37
Left widow and 5 children
Memorial: Chatham Naval
Memorial reference: 14
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

The epic journey - postscript

The Calmac website advises me that MV Clansman did not depart Ullapool as scheduled this afternoon at 5.35pm due to the weather conditions. Neither will it sail tomorrow, on any of its sailings. Seems I was very lucky in getting on the boat this morning, as it was the last sailing until Friday at the earliest.

The epic journey - part 3

Well, I made it. Forty-three hours late. At 1.45 pm this afternoon, MV Clansman docked at Stornoway, and I stepped ashore in Lewis. Originally, I was to have come back by plane at 6.50pm on Monday 2 February, but it did not quite work out that way. Instead of 12 hours, it took me 55 hours.

This morning, I left the Royal Highland Hotel beside Inverness's railway station and went to the bus station. The station building was dark and deserted, so I could not buy a ticket. The driver had to sell me one. He left 5 minutes early, and we reached Ullapool without any problems whatsoever. Dire warnings were out about snow, but there was only a thin wreath of white on the higher summits, and some slushy stuff by Loch Glascarnoch, the highest point on the A835 between Garve and Ullapool. Reached the latter place at 9.30 am. MV Clansman turned up just after 10, and headed back out to sea 45 minutes later. We had a very rough crossing, and I think a lot of crockery got broken, judging by the sounds from the gallery and the desperate running around from a member of staff. Not everybody enjoyed the trip, there were a few green faces around. The weather is pretty dismal, snow, sleet, rain, and barely +2C. That's 7 degrees down on the previous weekend's performance.

So, the epic journey is finally at an end.

The epic journey - part 2

Awoke at 6 am, and packed my bag, checking on the television whether the weather was suitable for travelling. It didn't look to bad, all things considered. The taxi turned up to return me to bonny Gatwick for half the fare that last night's cab had charged. The latter was an airport taxi, which generally fleeces the punters who don't know any better. Gatwick was slightly better organised than yesterday, and things were moving.

Not for me. Although the plane for Glasgow was leaving at 8.25, I was not booked onto it. I'm livid about that, because I had gone out of my way to rebook my flights. And it had not been done. Grrr. A kind BA employee booked me on a flight out of Heathrow at 2.05pm, which would have me back in Stornoway by 6.50pm. It required me to take a coach to Heathrow, and once on the motorway, there were problems. An accident on the M23 north of Gatwick, and one on the M25 near Reigate caused a delay, but nothing too serious.

Arrived into Heathrow's Terminal 5 at 9.30 am, in plenty of time for my flight. Terminal 5 was a nightmare. People were dossing down on the floor, queueing left right and centre, and it was a miracle that there wasn't a riot. Large numbers of cancelled flights, and after I had queued for 90 minutes, my flight was also cancelled. Before I was told that, the couple in front of me found that they had missed their plane, and they threw a wobbler at the poor girl in the check-in desk. It took nearly half an hour before they accepted that they had missed the plane.

I rang BA at 12, and they rebooked me to a flight at 4.35pm. I had a long wait ahead of me. Terminal 5 was finally getting its act together, and an area was allocated to people going on shorthaul, European or domestic flights. I was allowed in there by 2.35pm. Well, things began to look up from there. I was actually checked in, taken through security and lo and behold, at 4.35 I was on the plane. Which was not going anywhere for another hour, because the luggage was late and the truck that was going to push the plane away from the stand decided to malfunction. Take-off by 5.45, and we witnessed a nice dusk.

Glasgow was reached an hour later, and by 7pm I found myself on the bus into the city. With some fastfood in hand, I managed to get on the 7.41 train to Perth, from where a different train took me to Inverness in two and a half hours. Pity it was dark; it is one of the most scenic railrides in the country. And here I am, in my second hotel, closing down the day.

More tomorrow!

Monday, 2 February 2009

The epic journey - part 1

All seemed well this morning, when I left at 7.45 to go to the railwaystation at Arnhem. Schoolkids rode the bus 1 stop (quarter of a mile) to school - no, five minutes' walk really is too far today. Left Arnhem on the train at 8.46, as per schedule, but things started to go awry when we stopped at Amsterdam's Bijlmer station. Normally, the service would branch off direct to Schiphol Airport, but due to a points failure, we had to go straight ahead to Amsterdam Central Station, thence back south to the airport. This took rather long, and we arrived 25 minutes late. No problem, I had planned to arrive 2 hours ahead of schedule. Not knowing I'd depart 2 hours behind of schedule.

Heavy snow had closed Heathrow, and Gatwick was the only airport open around London. So, boarded the plane and it set off at 2pm - to arrive into Gatwick at 2pm. Don't forget about the hour's time difference between the continent and the UK. It was murky and snowy out there, but the runway was clear. I hared through the airport towards the departures lounge - to be met by a scene of mayhem. All domestic flights were cancelled - including my onward connection to Edinburgh. That put a serious spanner in the works. It meant an extra overnight stay. But my baggage was put through to Stornoway, so I had to go and salvage that. Thanks, Gatwick luggage staff: it worked. Next step, a bed for the night. From there, I hoped to get some internet access (which I'm using to type this), and by 4.30pm, I was on my way to a rather expensive little hotel at the back of beyond. All as a result of a foot of snow in southern England. It did look very pretty by the way.

Meanwhile at the airport, dozens of people were sitting in a colossal queue at the enquiries desk, waiting to reschedule their flights. This queue meant a 5 hour wait. No thanks. I rang the travel agent who had booked this flight (on the web), and they rebooked me on the 8.25 to Glasgow, which (combined with a 5 hour wait at Glasgow) will put me into Stornoway at 4pm tomorrow. Well, seeing is believing.

Thanks to some sandwiches from my dad, I had not quite starved, but I was hungry by 6 o'clock. Food wasn't served till 7, and when I did order it took 45 minutes to arrive. Because the place was bombed out. Tomorrow, a taxi will pick me up at 7 am to return me to the paradise called Gatwick Airport.

Those on Facebook are already aware of this odyssee - I'm taking the opportunity to give further details.

Remembering Today - 2 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Regiment or division: 6th Cameron Highlanders
Service number: 5362
Date of death: 2 February 1919
Interred: Barvas Cemetery

Last address in Lewis: 16 Knock, Point
Son of Malcolm and Christina Murray, of 16, Knock, Point, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 2nd Reserve Battallion Royal Naval Division
Service number: R/2220
Date of death: 2 February 1920 at the age of 22
Interred: Eye / Aignish Cemetery
Memorial reference: E. 4. 27


Last address in Lewis: 19 Knock, Point,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS President III
Service number: 5415/A
Date of death: 2 February 1919 at the age of 28
Died of pneumonia in Glasgow
Interred: Aignish / Eye Cemetery, Lewis
Memorial reference: E. 3. 30
Lewis Memorial: Point (Garrabost)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Remembering Today - 1 February

On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: Keith Street, Stornoway
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Implacable
Date of death: February, 1st, 1920 at the age of 58
Discharged due to ill health in 1918
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial