View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 26 June 2009

Friday 26 June

Another bright and sunny day, but with a coolish northeasterly breeze. Nonetheless, the mercury is sitting happily at 18C and there may be a few degrees on top of that before the afternoon is out.

The news is heavily dominated by the death of Michael Jackson at the age of 50. Brings back memories of the death of Elvis Presley in 1977, which sparked a similar media hype. Both had a great impact on the pop music scene in their own right. I am not a popmusic afficionado, so cannot comment further. RIP.

Unless I find something else to write about, this will be my last entry on this site until the week starting July 12th. Tomorrow, I am travelling to Yorkshire where I will join my father for a week's hols in the Dales. I have no Internet access there. I will post on Facebook as coverage allows. As of Sunday 5 July, I should be back on-line from Holland, and will resume posting on the Shell Gallery. It is also there that I shall relay my exploits and pictures from the stint in the Dales. My return to the Western Isles will be on July 11th, but I'm taking the long road back to Stornoway. I'm travelling through Oban on the west coast to the Uists, south of here, to photograph wargraves in the dozen cemeteries in those islands. I'll be back in Stornoway on July 15th, although if I get Internet access, I may resume posting on Atlantic Lines from the Uists before then.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


I have turned into a steady Twitter user, and find it a nice way to communicate with people on the Internet. But whatever you do, do NOT ask for help from Twitter Support. On 23 April this year, their database cracked up, meaning that a new contact got supplanted by scammers. I reported the matter as it deteriorated further and further. Fortunately, sorted the problem the next day. Twitter Support did get back to me. Tonight. 25 June. 63 days later. It is so poor it is just laughable.

Evening notes

The sun set 10 minutes ago, and the sky is colouring purple, pink and red. We reached 21C / 70F today and it felt quite warm. It certainly did in town, and away from the sea it will have been higher. As you may be aware, I sit here on the seafront, and the cool waters of the Atlantic certainly have a moderating influence on the weather.

I'm not a celebrity follower, but it is reported that Michael Jackson was taken to hospital by ambulance today, apparently not breathing when paramedics attended. Although I'm not a fan of him, I do hope MJ makes a good recovery.

Locally, the debate on Sunday ferries will take to the airwaves tomorrow afternoon at 5pm on local radiostation Isles FM.

With thanks to Connie

Thursday 25 June

Bright, although the sun is slowly disappearing behind a thickening veil of high-level cloud. The temperature is kept back as a result, although 18C is still very creditable for this part of the world. Yesterday, the highest temperature in the Scotland was 26.2C, 80F, at Kinlochewe, in the northwest. Stornoway was the sunniest with 16.2 hours of sunshine. The theoretical maximum number of hours of sunshine is just over 18.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Wednesday 24 June

Summer is here! The mercury peaked at a magnificent 25C / 77F, which is quite rare in this neck of the woods. There is a weather warning out for torrential rainfall, but the rainfall radar shows no showers at all across northern Scotland. Sat outside for quite a while this morning and afternoon; at the moment, the sun is still out (and will remain out for another hour and a half), but so are the midges.

On Saturday, I shall depart these shores for a few weeks. For the first week, I am joining my dad for a stint in Yorkshire - without internet access. The second week will see me in Holland to see family; and the final week heralds my return to the Outer Hebrides with a visit to the southern isles. I'll be back in Stornoway in the evening of 15 July.

At the moment, I'm transcribing the local Roll of Honour. This involves manually copying scans of about 180 pages containing approximately 6,000 names. Needless to say it is a slow process which will take me several weeks.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Tuesday 23 June

It's nearly 11.30pm, and the day is practically done. It was a bright and sunny day, but the first occurrence of our summer pests, the midges, has left me scratching all day. The mercury nudged up to 19C in the afternoon, although cloud and wind made it feel rather cool at times.

There is no indication as to the fate of the two crew missing from the yacht Actuel, found adrift some 700 miles southeast of its last reported position. Apparently, its sail was torn and partly furled as well as reefed, indicating that the weather may have been stormy. Loose items were lying to one side of the vessel. She did not carry the legally required emergency position beacon, which activates when immersed in water or rolled over, which might have happened. Thoughts go out to the relatives of the missing; experienced yachtsmen Gaétan de la Goublaye, 62 and his friend Denis Guilmin, 47.

Locally, there will be a radio debate on Friday about the Sunday sailings. Judging by the furious exchange of views in the local news website, this could be interesting. If you can be bothered, the debate is carried live on Isles FM ( from 1700 BST, that's 1200 EDT in the US.

Missing yacht found - but empty

The yacht "Actuel", which was reported missing last week has been spotted empty, some 400 miles west of the Azores in mid Atlantic. The craft set forth from St-Pierre-Miquelon (Canada) and had not been heard of for several weeks. The fate of its crew is unknown, but they are missing, presumed dead.

With thanks to DearMissMermaid over in Tortola for supplying this sad update.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Monday 22 June

Overcast but only with low cloud. Brightness looms over the Minch, to the southeast of my position. Locally, the row over Sunday sailings continues in the Letters page of the local news website. Yawn.

Slightly more interesting, if you're into politics, is the assertion that our parliamentary representatives for London and Edinburgh were briefed about the proposed scaling back and associated joblosses in Uist. Yet they did nothing, apart from bluster in their respective parliaments. Allegedly. I'm waiting for the conflagration.

For reference: we have an MP, who sits in the UK parliament in Westminster, London. We also have an MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) who sits in the Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh. Their political affiliation is Scottish National Party, which advocates complete independence for Scotland; the SNP is the current party of government in Edinburgh. It should be noted that the Scottish government does not have jurisdiction over issues of Defense, which is what the job losses in Uist are about. The isle of South Uist (where the rocket range is located) lies about 80 miles south of Stornoway, and the range is the largest employer in the island.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Google Street View

This phenomenon has been maligned in recent months for its invasion of privacy. Two benign applications have come to light: a building that collapsed in New York City today was shown with a huge crack in its side by GSV; and a man who was robbed in the street, was pictured by GSV a few moments before hand, with two characters trailing him - who proceeded to rob him. When he saw the imagery, he also recognised his robbers. The police recognised them too, and the two twins from Groningen, Holland, are now awaiting trial.

From the archives

Sunday 21 June

Solstice Day, with the usual merry gathering at Stonehenge at the crack of dawn; without so much as a glimpse of the sun itself. I suspect a similar gathering will have been held at Callanish, although that monument has more of a lunar connotation than a solar one. Any excuse for a party for some.

Went out late last night, between 11.10 and 11.55 pm to take pictures of the amount of light still about; in spite of the thin cloud cover, it was still remarkable. Here are a few images.

Newton Basin reflecting the light from the north

Sunset colours over the town

Town Hall clock at 11.44pm

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Saturday 20 June

After that light-hearted intro from Tortola, we whisk back northeast across the Atlantic to the Hebrides. Quite a nice day with a little breeze, the sun winking in a thousand mirrors in the sea and the ferry just docking on its customary lunchtime call here. It will depart in 75 minutes' time at 2.30pm for the second crossing of the day to Ullapool. Although these islands have a reputation for poor weather, we usually belie that in spring. It makes me smile when speaking to cyclists who ride from Barra to Lewis, assuming that the wind will come from its prevailing direction (southwest), only to run into our springtime northeasterlies. Apart from the latter part of the week just ending, we've had some very nice spring weather. I'll conveniently forget the winter extremes, like 113 mph winds in the middle of January.

Life in the ilons

Life in deh ilons... (with thanks for DearMissMermaid in Tortola, British Virgin Islands)

For all you geeks who speak techno language, I've rewritten the glossary for when you be in da ilons, so you aren't clueless about how we speak.

Hard Drive The road to Smugglers Cove Beach is a long hard drive.

Floppy Drive When your tire mash up, it sound like floppy-floppy-floppy until you fix it.

Jump Drive When da jeep don't start up, you roll down the hill, pop the clutch and it jump drive.

CD Drive When you go to the strip club at night, that's a seedy drive.

Removable Drive That's when you moved to a new place but your jeep takes you home to the wrong place, then you do a removable drive

Keyboard I can play Caribbean Soul on the keyboard.

USB I asked the tourist; "You is be from the USA?

Backups That's when you put the jeep in reverse.

BETA Software I took the under-wires out of my bikini bra, now I got better soft wear.

Database Put the lime in the rum and coconut, dhat a base for a good drink.

Debugger I divorced de bugger years ago.

E-commerce At da funeral, he come in hearse with flowers.

GIF At Christmas I buy you gift.

ICON I can write definitions all day for ya.

Leaderboard When she surf, she lead her board out to the waves.

Netiquette When the bugs bite you at night, you need a mosquito net-a-kit over your bed.

Network Making dem fish nets is net work.

Newsgroup The coconut telegraph is the best newsgroup.

OCR Oh! Sea are ruff today!

QWERTY After a few rums, you sound qwerty.

RAM Da he-sheep.

Screenshot Dat rat rip my window screen now da screen shot.

Safe Mode When ya make love with protection, that is safe mode.

DVD When ya make love without protection, you get de VD.

Telecommunications. Now that's a fancy word for dat ilon gossip.

URL I tell me ex "you are hell to get along with".

Web Ring You're pregnant girlfriend's father wants to see dat wed-ring.

Web Site That's the place where you gonna tie da knot.

Zip I don't know zip about geeky computer terms.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Friday 19 June

Overcast and showery today, although not really cold.

Situation in Iran is getting more complicated, now that the country's supreme leader has said the presidential election was conducted fairly, all protests should stop (or else) and the evil west should butt out. Judging by the continuing flood of tweets from Iran, the protests will continue but people are getting nervous.

All MP's allowed expenses were put on display on the Parliament's website, which revealed such jawdroppers as toiletrolls and jars of coffee. And £400 per month for food when parliament was not in session. The black squares were put across the pages by the parliament's fees office (which deals with expenses).

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Missing yacht

The French yacht "Actuel", en route from St Pierre & Miquelon (Canada) to Le Havre (France) is overdue. The yacht left Canada on May 21st, and has not been heard of since May 24th. Its crew was contemplating a stop over in Scotland or Ireland along the way. An international search effort is underway in the middle of the Atlantic, where the yacht was last known to be.

If you have any information on or communication with this vessel, please advise the Coastguard as soon as possible.

Please relay

Thursday 18 June

Breezy day today, with plenty of beefy showers about. The ferry just came in, pretty much on time, but with a bit of a green haze about it. Can't be a pleasant crossing.

Here in Stornoway, Woolworths are making a come-back with a store named Wee W [Wee = Scots for small, little]. I have to stop myself calling them Wee Wees, because Woolies is actually sorely missed by shoppers and shopkeepers alike. Although we have a backstreet shop called Alladin's Cave, which stocks all sorts of knick-knacks that Woolies used to keep, it has nowhere near the capacity of the larger store. Woolworths went bankrupt in December, and it left a large void in Stornoway's Cromwell Street, the main shopping area in town. The below picture was taken in April 2005.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Wednesday 17 June

Showery weather today, and in the last half hour or so there were two rainbows. One ended over the lighthouse, so the lady that lives in the Keeper's Cottage should have had a very good evening. The sun is currently out (else no rainbow).

Very bad news for the Western Isles economy, particularly for the Uists (60 miles south of here). The rocket range at South Uist and Benbecula will shed 125 jobs, which is a harsh blow to the community of 5,000. Efforts are underway to minimise the impact, but savings of £50m appear to be the driving force behind the economies.

As I type, the rainbow is back, slowly moving towards the Fabrication Yard. They could do with a crock of gold. They're forever going bust.

Parliament in disrepute





Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Evening notes

It's gone 10pm and it's gone quite dark. Darker than it has been for days at this hour. Why? Well, it's started to rain at half past nine. The lighthouse is on - and the sun isn't setting for another twenty minutes.

Yes, I'm a twitteroholic and as the site is down for maintenance I'm having withdrawal symptoms (lol). I have to be careful not to comment on blogs using too many @ signs or RT symbols. timed their downtime to make it the dead of night in Iran, where the opposition heavily relies on Twitter to get its info out. At the moment, it's 1.30 a.m. in Tehran.

Tuesday 16 June

Bright day, but with a lot of high cloud about. Getting warm (by our standards), with the mercury up to 15C at midday. A cruiseliner has come and gone; the MV Island Sky entered port at 7 in the morning, and left about an hour ago. It was due to visit North Rona (70 miles northeast of here) at 7 am, but the weather appears to have been unfavourable at the time. A Twitter contact in North Lewis reported lashing rain at the time.

Anyone on Twitter who wishes to express solidarity with those in Iran who oppose the allegedly rigged election of president Ahmadinajad should adopt a green icon. My icon is green, showing the cat on a grassy backdrop.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Double tragedy

The family who lost 38-year old Jacqueline Fleming to swineflu yesterday now also have to come to terms with the loss of her child. Jack, who was born 11 weeks premature on June 1st, died in the special care baby unit at the same hospital in Paisley where his mother passed away on Sunday.

MSC Napoli

Those who have followed me here from Northern Trip may remember my report on the sinking of the container carrier MSC Napoli off Branscombe Bay in Devon in January 2007. The image above shows her on 21 January 2007. This was followed by widespread looting of its cargo when the containers washed up ashore. The Napoli has been cut into pieces and the last bit will be lifted off the seabed in the next few weeks.

Recently, 1100 metres of chain have been lain on the seabed, under the wreck of the Napoli - 90 metres of chain weigh 12 tons - and these will be used to hoist bits of the wreck up. Read more on the MCGA website.

Hurricane update - 15 June

The Atlantic hurricane season has been underway for 2 weeks now, and the East Pacific season for a month. Only the Atlantic has seen a formal tropical depression form, and that one never gained sufficient strength to be given a name. In the East Pacific, neither has happened at all. It's still very quiet on the hurricane front, not abnormal for June. If you're in Hurricane Alley, don't drop your guard.

Monday 15 June

Swineflu last night claimed its first victim in the UK: 38-year old Jacqueline Fleming from Glasgow died in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, near the city. She had recently given birth to a premature baby. Meanwhile, here in the Western Isles, four people are kept under observation for suspected swineflu, which would be the first cases of the disease in the islands.

Across in Iran, the rumpus surrounding the allegedly rigged election of Mahmoud Ahmadinajad as president continues. The country's supreme leader has ordered an investigation, whilst the opposition leader, Mousavi, is warned he will be held responsible for the consequences of an illegal rally that is taking place in Tehran. Twitterers in Iran are seeking proxies to relay their messages through, and the authorities are trying to close those as quickly as possible. The messages do keep coming through on this Twitter Search.

In Stornoway, it is a bright, sunny day but with a cold-feeling easterly wind. Temperature 15C / 60F. Typical spring weather.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sunday 14 June

Bright and sunny day, although I can see very distant showerclouds looming to the south. The rainfall radar shows (heavy) showers over Harris and West Lewis. Most of Scotland is under warning for heavy rainfall this afternoon - except for the northwest, where I am.

Regarding the Iranian presidential elections, it is rumoured that the electoral commission there has declared the poll invalid. If confirmed, that would make for an interesting situation. It would appear to be unlikely though for the result to be formally declared null and void. Ahmadinajad's re-election looks for all intents and purposes to be as momentous as the overthrow of the Shah, back in 1978/79.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Iranian Elections

Twitter once more comes into its own as a means of citizen reporting. This time from Iran, of all places. Rumours (sic) state that the elections were rigged to get current president Ahmadinajad reelected. You can get up to the second updates from people in Tehran and elsewhere in the country by searching for #IranElections on The election results, as retweeted by @mahdi, were allegedly as follows:

1 Moussavi (45.54%)
2 Karroubi (31.95%)
3 Ahmadinejad (13.60%)
4 Rezaei (8.91%)

There are running battles with riot police in the streets of Tehran, vehicles set alight. Mobile phone and Internet networks are on and off the air.

Front picture

The new picture fronting Atlantic Lines as of this week shows Loch Suainebhat, which lies in the district of Uig. I took the image on Tuesday of this week near the end of a fairly challenging walk around the hill of Suainebhal which looms up on the left of the picture.

The complete lot of pics can be seen here.

Saturday 13 June

Just watched a few minutes of Trooping the Colour, the Queen's birthday parade in London. Nicely choreographed. Think I prefer the Dutch Queen's birthday, some innocent fun to be had by all. Except for this year :-(

Facebook has introduced usernames, so I duly claimed ADB45. Any Facebook friends out there can now collar me using that acronym - Every Facebook user will have had an email with a link to a page to claim a username.

Iranians have voted to keep president Ahmadinajad in office, which does not augur too well for relations with the USA and Europe, which are strained to say the least. The belligerent rhetoric can be expected to continue. Iran has a nuclear capability, which it has always stressed is purely for peaceful means. Looking on the other side of the Asian continent, North Korea has announced it will start to enrich uranium, and use plutonium to make nuclear weapons.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Late light

The above picture was taken at 10pm earlier this week, and shows the television on the BBC News at 10. Newscaster Huw Edwards is at Westminster, which is in complete darkness. The window to the right of the television set shows the broad daylight outside, here in Stornoway. As per usual in June, the sun sets at 10.30pm (9pm in London). And this shows the difference quite nicely.

Friday 12 June

Sunny day but with a cool breeze. Was sitting out for a minute, about an hour ago, but it wasn't very pleasant. Decided to have a lie-in, but it does mean you lose half the day.

Was surprised that only half the people questioned in a survey were able to correctly position certain organs in their bodies. And that means that there has been no improvement in the last 50 years.

I continue to notice a reduction in the number of posts made on the blogs I follow in (formerly) J-land. A lot of folks have migrated on to Facebook and Twitter, myself among them, but I cannot find FB very user-friendly anymore, and you can't write on Twitter what you can on a blog. One of my contacts tried to do that on Twitter, and ended up with about 11 posts, describing a daytrip to St Kilda. I've done a similar thing reporting on the attack on the Dutch Royal family back in April, with about 350 posts in the one day.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Flu pandemic

The World Health Organisation has declared the current outbreak of swine flu, H1N1 (an electron microscope image shown above), to be a pandemic, i.e. occurring in at least two different areas of the world. At the moment, the pandemic appears to be causing only moderate illness. An extensive article can be read on the BBC website.

Subscriptions by email

It is now possible to subscribe to Atlantic Lines by email, like the alerts we used to get on AOL. There is a widget just underneath the followers block.

Thursday 11 June

Cloudy but with some sunny intervals as well as the odd shower. Not too cold either.

I am disgusted to read that Man United footballer Christiano Ronaldo will be transferred to Spanish side Real Madrid for a trifling £80 million. It's a record breaking amount, and a shocking demonstration of the cattle mart phenomenon that top flight football has become. I mean, here you have 22 men gallivanting over a grassy pitch for 90 minutes once or twice a week and getting 7-figure salaries for their efforts.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's state Governor, has proposed to do away with all printed books in schools and have everybody read their textbooks off the web. What a load of tosh. I know from bitter experience that trying to revise off a computer screen is a total non-starter; I can tell you safely it earned me a big round zero back in 1988. Arnie thinks that not having to continually replace text books in schools and colleges is a good way of saving money. Well, the Terminator forgets that this requires everybody to have an Internet connection - is that the case in CA?

Scientists have formally discovered the chemical element 112. This was made by smashing two atoms together, causing their nucleii to fuse. A rather unstable proposition, so the new nucleus falls apart in milliseconds.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Isles FM

The local radio station in Lewis, Isles FM, has recently started broadcasting a stream on the Internet, through its website. This only appears to be working through Internet Explorer; it doesn't do anything through Firefox.

Yesterday's walk

Yesterday, I jumped on the 12 noon postbus to the district of Uig in the west of Lewis. An hour later, I alighted at the hamlet of Ungeshader on the shores of Loch Roag and headed west into the hills below Suainebhal [pronounce Swainyeval]. After reaching some old shielings (summer meadows), I went west over the pass below the mass of Suainebhal and turned north to make my way between the hill and Loch Suainebhat. That was a wee bit tricky in places, with some scrambling over rocks - and with a 100 foot drop down to the water below. The biggest challenge was the angle of the ground, a full 45 degrees. Once past that little difficulty, I quickly gained a little road which took me back to the shop at Timsgarry. To my surprise, the 4.45 bus came past at 5.35, allowing me a rapid transit back to Stornoway, a journey of 35 miles.

Postbus disappearing along the road at Ungeshader, past Loch Croistean

Fording Loch Croistean

Loch Pheillear Beag

Gearraidh Thodail (shielings)

View from below Suainebhal

Forty-five degree angled terrain between Suainebhal and Loch Suainebhat

Loch Suainebhat from the north

Wednesday 10 June

After a few showers earlier, the day is clearing up to a repeat of yesterday. Bit breezier though.

Yesterday, the leader of the British National Party was pelted with eggs outside the Houses of Parliament as he tried to hold a press conference. The BNP is a far right party, which seeks the (voluntary) repatriation of immigrants, and does not want any ethnic minorities in its ranks. They gained two seats in the elections for the European Parliament last week.

This means that they are now representing parts of the UK in Europe, and have a right to air their message, however repugnant it is to a large section of society at large. Pelting their MEPs with eggs and possibly worse turns them into martyrs for their cause. Let them speak, let them air their message. And then everybody can make up their own mind about them - and see what a one-issue party can do for you. Little, probably nothing. Some people are best left to sink themselves by their own words.

I do not think anyone has much reason to complain about the appearance of the BNP in the European Parliament. The turn-out rate for the European elections was low, 43% nationally in the UK, and as low as 25% in some areas. If you don't bother to vote, then you have no right to complain.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Tuesday 9 June

Some phenomenal showerclouds bubbling up in my vicinity, said he, looking out of the window. Shall I or shall I not go for that long walk in the island's interior. Hmmm.

The tailfin of the crashed Air France jet has been recovered from the Atlantic, together with more bodies of its passengers, bringing their total now to 24. The US Navy is bringing in sophisticated sonar devices to pick up the pings from the black boxes, which lie 4 km down at the bottom of the Atlantic.

The Twitter hype is not so much of a hype as some would have us believe. Read more here.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Monday 8 June

The morning after the election night before, and not a happy result. Leaving Labour's drubbing to one side for the moment, I am horrified at the rise of the far right in the UK as well as in Holland. Only a small number, but strongly indicative of problems not being addressed by government. This is certainly the case here in the UK, where the man at the helm is not on top of the situation and hasn't been since he came to No 10 Downing Street. The result is plain for all to see: Labour down to the worst result since 1918, Conservatives well up and the far right sneaking in. My local paper referred to him as a "dead man walking" some time ago.

The ascendancy of the far right in Holland is nothing new. It has been on the rise since the early years of this decade, when Pim Fortuyn cashed in (even after his death) on discontent in society over problems with immigrants. Last February, the Prime Minister (a chap by the name of Balkenende) actually stood up for the leader of the far right PVV party, Geert Wilders, when he was refused entry to the UK. I blogged about this on Thursday or Friday, so won't repeat myself. It was a bad mistake to make, giving them an aura of respectability.

All that on a beautifully sunny day with a breeze.
I emailed the captain of the sailing ship that left here yesterday, and he replied this morning. He said he was very proud of his Harris Tweed hat and jacket, but was currently sailing into a headwind. I also sent him some of the pictures of the ship that I took last week.

Sunday, 7 June 2009 - repeat

I keep being sent invites from by people. It seems that it wasn't them doing it directly, but the site. They are one of the breed that abuses your email addressbook for sending out invites. Scam at best, phishing at worst, apparently. Read this review - wait for a few seconds for the banner ad to clear as you enter the page.

Sunday 7 June

Bright and breezy today, with sunshine in amongst the high and medium level clouds. The Applecross Forest (that's a deer forest, with no trees in it) looms up across 60 miles of sea. The sailing ship that had been in port for 4 days departed at 8.30 this morning, heading for Scalloway in Shetland. That port lies northeast of here, and there is a breeze blowing from the northeast, so they'll have a whale of a time tacking all the way there. Distance is about 150-200 miles. Temperature here is a slightly nippy 11C, but we're used to that.

The number of cases of swine flu is steadily rising, falling under the radar due to all the political turmoil. Two doctors in a hospital near Glasgow contracted the disease off patients they were treating, signalling that we're entering a different stage of the disease progression. Previously, only people who had been (in contact with others who had been) in Mexico got swine flu.

The results of the European elections will be known after 10pm tonight, apart from the Dutch results which were released early, on Thursday evening. I'm getting quite tired of all the politics in the news, and the disrespect shown towards politicians. Yes, some of them have behaved below the standard we can expect from them, and one or two will face prosecution. I get very concerned once we see displays of mob rule in the media, like we have over the past couple of weeks.

Saturday, 6 June 2009


World War I veteran Henry Allingham turns 113 today. He is the oldest man alive in the UK. He is one of only two veterans of the Great War left alive today.

Saturday 6 June

Today is the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, which heralded the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe. It would be another 11 months before the forces of Nazi Germany were finally vanquished, although great progress was made in the summer months of 1944, leading to the liberation of France, Belgium and southern Holland.

I had planned to go on a walk in the interior of Lewis this afternoon, but decided against it when a series of showers appeared to be on the menu. A local contact sent me a picture of the terrain I would be encountering, and it involved 45 degree angles and exposed rock. Not something to tackle in wet conditions, so I pulled the plug on the expedition. The bus was due out at midday, which was exactly the moment that the showers moved into the Minch and the sun came out. Bummer.

Friday, 5 June 2009


Elections are being held for the European Parliament until Sunday 7th June across the European Union. Yesterday, voters went to the polls in (amongst others) the UK and Holland. The Dutch decided to publish the results of their poll early - officially, the EU will publish the results on Monday, after all countries have voted.

Fifteen percent of the vote in Holland went to the far-right PVV (Freedom Party), led by controversial MP Geert Wilders. Mr Wilders was denied access to the United Kingdom in February, amidst fears his presence would destabilise community relations. Following the attacks on London's public transport system in 2005, much work has gone into drawing ethnic minorities back into mainstream British society. I was surprised that the Dutch government, which protested loudly about the treatment of

I am particularly shocked, as Holland has for centuries had a reputation for tolerance and being a safe haven for the persecuted of the world. In the wake of the Second World War, which was fought to combat racism, discrimination and intolerance, any problems surrounding ethnic minorities in Holland were sidestepped, for fear of raising the impression of discrimination.

Back in 2002, politician Pim Fortuyn became hugely popular for giving a voice to those people who felt that the migrant-related problems were not being dealt with. He was assissinated just before a General Election, and his party (not the current PVV) gained a huge percentage of the vote.

As Dutch politicians are saying today, Mr Wilders has a clear message, but no workable alternative. I hope someone realises the message that underlies the 15% vote for the PVV, and starts addressing the problems.

Disaster relief

Not widely known, tropical cyclone Aila struck southeastern India and Bangladesh ten days ago. As per usual, I monitored the storm until it disintegrated over land north of Calcutta. The impact of such storms doesn't normally attract much media attention, but I am grateful for the following update from Blogger user Bianca, who bothered to comment on Tropical Cyclones:

Music for Relief is responding to help provide relief following Cyclone Aila. The Cyclone struck eastern India and coastal Bangladesh on Monday 5/25 leaving millions of people displaced and in desperate need of food, water and shelter. In West Bengal at least 5.1 million people were displaced, with more than one million people stranded in the Sundarban islands alone, most of them without any food or water. Food security and loss of livelihood are also major concerns as it is estimated that 80,000 acres of rice paddy and other crops have been destroyed, about 300,000 acres partially destroyed and over 50,000 poultry and livestock have been killed.

Please help the victims of this disaster by making a donation:

MFR is partnering with BRAC in Bangladesh where 100% of funds contributed will go to those affected by Cyclone Aila.
More information about BRAC: BRAC has provided emergency aid and rehabilitation in Bangladesh since its inception and carried out large-scale relief and rehabilitation activities there for cyclone and flood victims in 1987, 1988, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2007. BRAC, the largest non-profit in the developing world, was launched in Bangladesh in 1972 and today reaches more than 110 million people in Africa and Asia with its holistic approach to addressing poverty by providing micro-loans, self-employment opportunities, health services, education and legal and human rights education.

Thank you for your support!
And forward this information to spread the word.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Evening notes

I am feeling a wee bit sad this evening after reading that Morton is quitting his blog (see Call for Support). It is particularly due to the reasons he gives, namely that a lot of us are no longer making updates on our blogs. Whether this is due to a move to Twitter, Facebook, Myspace or offline is debatable. But it highlights very strongly the effect that the closing down of AOL Journals has had on what used to be known as J-land. Our community is dwindling, and I'm saddened by it.

Thursday 4 June

Today is the 20th anniversary of the shortlived student uprising in Peking, which was brutally knocked down by the communist regime in China. The image of the student, standing up to a tank, is etched on the memory of anyone who lived through the momentous year of 1989. Only a few months later, communism in Europe collapsed. Today, the only place in China to commemorate the events of Tiananmen Square was Hong Kong.

European elections (and council elections in parts of the UK) are held today. Judging by accounts on Twitter, trade at polling stations in Lewis was brisk. When a general election will be held soon is anyone's guess. The swing from Labour to Conservative is inevitable, as such is the nature of British politics. Over the last 30 years, the period of the swings has been lengthened considerably. The Tories were in power for 18 years, between 1979 and 1997; Labour has been in No 10 for 12 years now. In both instances, sleeze and a collapse in public confidence in politicians of the party in power led to the downfall of the respective administration. As will be the case in the next general poll. The difference this time is that all politicians have egg on their faces.

Wreckage from Air France flight 447, which disappeared on Sunday, has been located in the middle of the Atlantic. Whether the flight recorders or passengers will ever be found is very unlikely. The relatives of those on board AF447 have been informed.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Another boatful week

More unusual visitors to Stornoway this week: the Astor was here on Monday, covered in fog. Today, the cruiseliner Island Sky called in and half an hour ago we were treated to the sight of the 1945 training sailing ship Gunilla, registered in Sweden, coming into port under engine power at a leisurely 6 knots.

Astor in the fog off Sandwick on Monday

Cruiseliner Island Sky

Sailing ship Gunilla

Wednesday 3 June

Overcast and cooler than yesterday, with a bit of a breeze going. Political situation not much changed, apart from one minister resigning from the government. Mr Brown faced questions in parliament this afternoon, which did little to change the situation. Tomorrow will see European and local elections in the UK, and the outcome of that should be interesting.

Locally, the debate about Sunday sailings continues, with the focus on what legal opinion is valid or not. I don't think it's legal opinions that count, at the end of the day. It is the outcome of a consultation, currently being conducted by ferry company Calmac, that determines what will happen with a Sunday service.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


The on-going expenses row surrounding British Members of Parliament is beginning to draw the institutions of Parliament and Government into disrepute, in my humble opinion. It started with the husband of the Home Secretary claiming on her expenses account (as an MP) for some adult movies that he watched while she was away. Ms Smith has declared she will shortly stand down as Home Secretary.

We now have a daily offering of who claimed for what should not have been claimed for, followed by apologies which are as profuse as they are insincere, and in some instances repayment of money. This morning, a Cabinet meeting was held at no 10 Downing Street, and the Ministers of State were almost openly mocked, ridiculed and jeered by the assembled press pack. The sniggering of the journalists was audible on BBC News.

The Prime Minister has announced an independent audit into every MP's expenses accounts. Methinks we now need the Hubble Space Telescope to locate the horse that bolted from its stables weeks ago, against which Mr Brown is now trying to close the doors. I don't blame the poor horse. Its stables were so filthy that it would require the diversion of a river to clean them out.

Do not take this as directed purely against the Labour Party, which is currently in government. Quite a few Conservative MPs have been caught with their pants down, most notably the Totnes MP Sir Anthony Steen (fine knight of the realm), who billed Parliament for tree surgery on five hundred trees around his stately home. When this was brought to light, and an outcry ensued, he blustered that people were just jealous of his big house. Several MPs have been claiming for things they shouldn't have claimed for, and others claimed for expenses they were not incurring (like for mortgages that had already been paid off). They all said they were acting within the rules, rules that they themselves have drawn up, implemented and administered.

We now have the elevating spectacle of several dozen MPs stating that they will not contest the next General Election, which is due no later than June 2010. Still doesn't wash, in the eyes of the many. Upon standing down, an MP gets a full year's salary (about £64k) plus resettlement grant (about £40k).

There have been repeated calls for an immediate general election, and a motion will be tabled in Parliament next week to that effect. The Labour Party can expect a trouncing at the European and Local Elections on Thursday, so they will probably try to hang on for dear life, hoping the storm will blow over. It won't.

Several MPs when confronted with serious allegations regarding their expenses started off by saying they would contest the next election - but when confronted with their electorate quickly changed their minds. The Conservative Leader, David Cameron, was also calling for an early General Election on Thursday. I don't think he should be so eager either, bearing in mind what happened amongst his ranks.

An election is required, in my opinion, and the sooner the better. However unfair to the majority of honourable Honourable Members, faith in politics has plummeted to an all time low, with one poll quoting a percentage of 52% of people who think politicians are all crooks.

A wholesale clean out, along the lines of the Augean Stables, is required. Bearing in mind the man at the helm has proven himself incapable of acting in good time, we can't wait for the current administration to get its act together. Whichever political colour it will turn out to be, a new government will have to take over soon, and forcefully implement some very sweeping changes.

Searching for AF447

The search for the wreckage of flight AF447 is in full swing in the central Atlantic tonight. Two cargo ships have been requested to go to the area where debris was spotted in the water earlier today. Reconnaissance aircraft are continuing their sweeps of the area. This may be hampered by continued thunderstorms, I copy the relevant section of the Tropical Weather Discussion from the National Hurricane Center in Miami (have expanded some of the abbreviations):

The area of scattered thunderstorms from latitude 2 to 6 degrees North, between longitudes 20 to 25 degrees West is moving towards the west at 10 to 15 knots, and could hamper search efforts associated with the crash of Air France Flight 447 near the archipelago of Saint Peter and Paul, located around 4 North 29 West, tonight and Wednesday.

My thoughts remain with the families and friends of those presumed lost on this flight.

Tuesday 2 June

Changeable weather this afternoon, but only terms of the amount of cloud around. We have a northeasterly breeze going, and at the moment the sun is out. Temperature at 14C, lower than we had on Sunday (yesterday's readings were distorted due to the fog).

The search for the missing Air France jet continues, and debris has been spotted on the ocean surface, some 400 miles northeast of Brazil. Flight AF447 went missing as it crossed the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, which at the time was active with severe thunderstorms. The ITCZ is a phenomenon that circles the globe, and is currently moving north with the sun. Later in the summer, it will spark this year's northern hemisphere hurricanes, from Africa in the east to Japan in the west. Coming back to the missing flight, there has so far been no confirmation of its fate. The chance of finding any survivors can safely be described as zero, or asymptotically close to that number.

Politics in the UK continues its process of corruption-fuelled meltdown. It is a good thing that the expenses racket has been exposed, and that the MPs are now all saying how sorry they are - yes, that they've been rumbled, you mean. If they hadn't, it would still be on-going. The result of Thursday's European and local elections will be very interesting indeed.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Want to come in. Badly.

Missing over Atlantic, and other matters

An Air France jetliner has gone missing over the Atlantic between Brazil and Europe. The plane did not appear on Cape Verde radar as expected, and it has not landed as scheduled at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport. The Brazilian airforce has sent planes to an area of sea near the island of Fernando de Noronha, off the country's northeastern coast.

Egg thieves have raided an osprey nest in Strathspey, southeast of Inverness, a few weeks ago. Police have expressed their shock, and have urged the public to be vigilant of suspicious activity around nest sites.

Britain's Got Talent's number 2 Susan Boyle has been taken to a London clinic, suffering from emotional exhaustion. It appeared to me that she was mighty relieved not to have won the contest.

Monday 1 June

A sunny start to the day, but with dense fog banks drifting in off the sea and the moors. Visibility is very limited, down to 50 or 100 yards at times. At the moment, the fog is only over the Arnish moor, across the harbour. The cruiseliner Astor, a regular summer visitor, is anchored off Sandwick and when the fog closes in, she sounds her foghorn regularly. Residents of Laxdale, a mile or two north of Stornoway, are wondering what all the hooting is about. They are high up, and out of range of the fog. The airport, which lies at sealevel, is enveloped in fog and the 8 am plane from Inverness landed at 11.30. The 11 am plane from Glasgow is now due at 1.30pm.

The parliamentary representatives for the Western Isles are demanded by the Lord's Day Observance Society LDOS to declare within 24 hours whether they are for or against a Sunday service on the ferry, and opening of the Lewis Sports Centre on Sunday. It appears to me like a distinct case of Last Chance Saloon. I'll restate my respect for anyone's sincerely held religious conviction. However, I do not think that it is of this era to prohibit the free passage of people and goods on one day in the week.