View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 18 October 2009

9 November

This is a date that is obviously still a couple of weeks away, but I am having a problem. For the past few years, I have marked this date as being the anniversary of the infamous Night of Broken Glass [Kristallnacht] in 1938. On that night, Nazi supporters, police and troops went on the rampage across Germany, destroying Jewish-owned property and synagogues. This was a concerted and premeditated act, laying down for all to see what Nazi Germany was all about. The burning flame, on the left of this post, is a reminder of what happened that November night. And what was to follow.

After the unspeakable atrocities of the Second World War, Germany was divided into four by the victorious allies. The British, French and American sectors became West Germany, whilst the Soviet sector was turned into East Germany, a communist state. Berlin was similarly divided. Until 1961, people from the East fled to the West in droves. A barrier was erected across Berlin in August 1961, later replaced by a high, concrete wall. Similar barriers were put up along the borders between East and West Germany. Anyone trying to flee from East to West was shot on sight, no questions asked. The advent of Mikhail Gorbatchov as leader of the USSR in the 1980s heralded a start of change. And when this wind of change blew across eastern Europe, it blew away all the communist regimes within the space of a few months in 1989.

The Berlin Wall was torn down on 9 November 1989, and you can see my dilemma. Do I remember the Kristallnacht, and not celebrate the reunification of Germany? Do I celebrate the reunification, and ignore the Night of Broken Glass? Or can the two be reconciled? The city of Berlin is mounting a huge celebration on 9 November 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. I wonder if anyone will think of the Kristallnacht then. For the two are inextricably linked. The Kristallnacht heralded the start of tyranny - perhaps the end of the Berlin wall heralded the end of it. Maybe that's the way to look at it. I'll think about it. I'm not convinced.

Queen Mary 2

As seen from Stornoway, from 12 miles away at 3.21pm today.

Sunday 18 October

Fairly bright and sunny today, quite a nice afternoon. As I type this, I find out that the Queen Mary II cruiseliner is passing down the Minch - and right on cue, she appears from behind the Coastguard Station. I can only just make her out on the distant horizon, 12 miles away. Hebrides News has an extensive write-up about the QM2.

Spent part of the morning raking leaves - and judging by the state of the trees, that will have to be repeated a few times more. Last night was very windy and wet, but the day dawned bright, cloudless and innocent. I'll post a picture of the QM2 later today.

Hurricane update - 18 October

One of the most powerful hurricanes this season is currently in the Eastern Pacific: hurricane Rick carries sustained winds of 180 mph near its centre, with gusts up to 220 mph. Rick will weaken as it moves north, due to lower ocean water temperatures and less favourable atmospheric winds, but could still pack a punch as a category I to II hurricane on landfall by the middle of this week.

Typhoon Lupit will pass north of Luzon Island, Philippines, on Wednesday, as a strong typhoon, with winds of 130 mph.