View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Looking across the water

I'm rather concerned about developments in political Holland today. As I mentioned in an earlier blogpost, there will be early general elections in the country after the government collapsed over a disagreement regarding deployment of troops in Afghanistan. Coalition partners Labour and Christian Democrats fell out over the issue, and elections are now in the offing for late spring or early summer.

Since 2002, a new political force has sprung on the scene in Holland - the farther right. By that I mean parties who oppose immigration and/or advocate removal of migrants from the country. It should be borne in mind that the issue of migrants could not be discussed properly in Dutch society in the wake of the Second World War, a conflict that saw the mass murder of millions on account of their faith. When Pim Fortuyn emerged in 2002, he amassed a huge following for daring to place on the agenda the vexed issue of immigration. Elections held in the aftermath of his assassination in Hilversum in '02 brought his party to government, a government that fell after only a few months.

The 2010 elections are expected to bring the successor to Pim Fortuyn, Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party, a large number of seats in Parliament, and probably ministerial posts. Mr Wilders is known in the UK, as he was denied entry to Britain in February 2009 for his far-right political views. Upon appeal, he was allowed into the country to expound his views to a favourable audience at the Houses of Parliament in London. I dread to see Mr Wilders assume government responsibility - he could well end up tarnishing the Netherlands' reputation as a tolerant society, and a country that welcomes the genuine refugee.

Life in the Hebrides

A reprint from a few years ago

Dogger, Fisher German Bight
Once again, the weather's sh***
Howling wind, cold rain and hail
Calmac's boats will never sail

Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea
Looks about Force Ten to me
The bin's away; blown down the croft
It's ragged contents swirl aloft

Rockall, Malin , Hebrides
I'm fed up with days like these
It's still dark at half past ten
When will we see the sun again?

Fair Isle, Faeroes, South East Iceland
Sorry kids, the veg is still canned
I'm cooking tea by naked flame
Oh Lord don't send us more the same

Saturday 20 February

Awoke to a good covering of snow, after an overnight low of -3C / 26F. Temperatures have now lifted to +2C / 36F, meaning a slow thaw. The birds are well tended, with seed on the ground and in feeders, in addition to bread. The seagulls like the bread too, but they are chased off as soon as they appear. The ferry just came in for its lunchtime call, and will depart at 2.30pm - it's Saturday.

The Dutch government has fallen over a disagreement between coalition partners Labour and Christian Democrats over future deployment of Dutch troops in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will submit the resignation of his cabinet to Queen Beatrix today. Elections will follow in due course. The government had been heavily criticised in recent months over its role in the Iraq war in 2003.

Here in the Western Isles, a row is escalating between the Council and Stornoway Port Authority. SPA is apparently the only independent harbour authority in the UK, with other harbours being administered by local authorities. Stornoway's harbour is independent and SPA have said it has worked within the framework set out by it under Acts of Parliament. The Authority also says that following £14.5m worth of budget costs, the Council would probably make stringent cuts in the running of the harbour - which requires £1.3m annually.

Yesterday, golfer Tiger Woods apologised over his behaviour in recent months. Do I care? Do I want to know?
Yesterday, BBC TV soap Eastenders reveiled who had killed one of its characters. Do I care? Do I need to know? As I said on Twitter, I follow one soap - The Archers on BBC Radio 4 - and that's enough for me. As far as Mr Woods is concerned, he should always bear in mind that being the world's number 1 in a sport brings responsibilities.