View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Remembering Today - 18 January

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: 13 Aignish
Son of John MacKay, of 13, Aignish, Stornoway.
Regiment / service: HMS Vivid, Royal Naval Reserve
Service number: 3093/A
Date of death: 18 January 1917 at the age of 26
Died in Plymouth Hospital
Memorial / cemetery: Aignish / Eye cemetery, E. 3. 60
Local memorial: Point (Garrabost)
Took part in the defence of Antwerp and was one of the few RNR men who escaped after the fall of that city, making his way on foot across Holland dressed in clothes given to him by a friendly Dutch farmer.


I read a blog, written by American author Elizabeth M. Parsons. Today, she wrote about Letting Go. How do you handle grief, in other words. My response was:

Every person is the sum total of their personality and their experiences in life. Grief is a natural and necessary emotion to come to terms with loss. It cannot be banished altogether, as that would warp your personality. The people that have passed on were once an integral part of your life, so sadness at their loss is normal. However, neither can you allow grief to take over your life, as that would carry the same peril.

Read Liza's post, and leave a comment - both there and at this post.


Barack Obama will be inaugurated as 44th president of the United States of America on Tuesday, January 20th. Expectations are high, from a multitude of quarters. George 'Dubya' Bush is bowing out as one of the most impopular presidents in US history, and the reasons for that are well documented.

Obama, as a dark-skinned man, carries a burden of expectation from non-white Americans. Several decades on from the abolition of segregation in America, there are still vast differences between various sections of society related to race and ethnicity. The emphasis seems to have shifted a bit towards Latino Americans (from south of the Rio Grande), on account of a large influx of illegal immigrants. But the disaster created by hurricane Katrina in 2005 has underlined the problems still existing regarding African Americans.

American foreign policy does not serve to make it friends in every corner of the globe. The newly ended war in the Gaza Strip was a timely reminder of the festering sore called the Middle East. America's unwavering support for Israel and its iron-fisted approach towards the Palestinian problem at the very least raises eyebrows. The Palestinian problem is one of the Israelis own making, after kicking out hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in the 1940s, and then leaving them without hope or prospects in sprawling refugee camps on the periphery of the Jewish state. A fertile breeding ground for extremist nutcases, using religion as a pretext for any old atrocity, citing the treatment of Palestinians as justification for their deeds. I do not foresee a resolution for the Palestinian question under Obama's tenure of the White House (2009-2012).

Iraq does give food for hope, and I'm not saying that to fill this post with words. The Iraqis themselves have kicked out a large section of Al-Qa'eda militants of their own accords. It is a justified demand that foreign troops remaining in their country leave at the earliest opportunity. In spite of a steady trickle of car-bombs in Baghdad and other places, this could still be achievable in Obama's time as 44th president without Iraq descending into anarchy and succumbing to the lure of Al-Qa'eda or indeed Iran-inspired extremism.

Generally, I hope that Obama manages to avoid the mistake, made by every US president since 1776, that solving any foreign problem with an impact on the USA just requires despatching the US Cavalry and think of the consequences later. Will Obama manage to kick out Robert Mugabe?

18 January

Well, we weathered the storm and have come out the other end without problems. Apart from a town-wide bindance and some stray litter, nothing much has been damaged as a result of the storm. There was a fire in the town overnight, but that was not related to the wind. It has claimed one life.

The winds continue to cause disruption on ferry sailings, as more gales (this time of force 8 only) are forecast, particularly further south.

Sunday dawned grey and cold, and when I went out for an exploratory walk at lunchtime, some pretty heavy snow was falling. Temperatures are too high for it to settle.