View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wednesday afternoon

Spent an enjoyable afternoon out and about, after jumping on the 2.30 bus to Garenin on the west coast of Lewis. Most passengers had alighted by the time we approached Carloway, and there we sat for about 10 minutes. Just after half past three, a bevvy of primary school kids came on board, to be deposited outside their respective houses around Carloway. Garenin is nearly 2 miles west of that village. It looked wintery and deserted. Which it was. All the houses were locked up, and there was nobody in the office. Fortunately, ran into a couple who had been out walking and offered a lift back to Stornoway. Which saved a wait of half an hour in a cold wind, and another wait of 20 minutes at Carloway for the connecting bus service. The lift givers took the alternative route, along the Pentland Road - one of my favourite island roads. Returned to town by about 4.45pm, an hour ahead of schedule. Which meant I had an entire hour to play with this evening.

It was cold today, with a thin wind, but with a beautiful winter's light. Although the daylight hours now come at a premium, I have to admit there is a serene, quiet beauty in this time of year. The tourists have virtually disappeared, and the buses are now the domain of the local residents. By mid afternoon, they head home from their shopping sprees in Stornoway, dropped at their door by the drivers. You can join or leave a bus at any point in this island, and my 27 mile journey to Garenin only cost me £4.40 return.

Wednesday 11 November

A brilliantly sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky. It was very cold in the night, with the mercury dipping well below zero, to minus 2C (28F). Current temps around +9C / 48F. Tomorrow and Friday will be wet and increasingly windy.

Today is Armistice Day, and it is 91 years ago since the cessation of hostilities in the First World War. Peace was not declared until June 1919. The German Hochseeflotte was interned in Scapa Flow, Orkney, and in order to prevent the fleet being seized by the British, the commander of the fleet ordered it to be scuttled. Unbeknown to any but the most senior officers, the ships went to the bottom on June 21st, 1919. Several German sailors died, through drowning or being shot on trying to escape. During my visit to Orkney last October, I found more than a dozen of their graves at Lyness and Kirkwall. Some of the ships were raised in following years, and their metal is in great demand. Any steel, manufactured after 1944, is contaminated with atmospheric radiation originating from nuclear explosions. It is therefore unusuable for extremely sensitive instruments, like those on board satellites in space, monitoring distant stars and galaxies. The steel from the German Hochseeflotte is uncontaminated, and is used for that purpose.

Turning to the British casualties, remembered today, I would like to plug the two books I mentioned yesterday. Click on the images of the covers for details.