View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Cat in bin

A woman was walking along a street this week and found a cat walking along a wall. She stroked it, then picked it by the scruff of the neck and dumped it in a wheeliebin. The cat's owner heard her cries from the bin some 15 hours later and rescued Lola. The CCTV at the house had caught the act on camera, and the culprit was identified. The RSPCA spoke to her about the treatment of the cat, which was none the worse for the experience.

The police has now spoken to her about her personal safety. The tape was put on YouTube, which elicited a furious response. A Facebook page was removed today, which called for the woman's death. She has now said what she did was stupid (and cruel).

It certainly was that, and I roundly condemn anyone for treating any animal like that. Not everybody likes cats, but there is no excuse for cruelty such as that. However, as the cat was unharmed, neither is there any call for threats to the culprit. Methinks the lesson has been learned, reinforced by all the publicity.

Wednesday 25 August

Reasonably bright today, with only patchy light rain. Not very warm, 14C this afternoon.

On Sunday, it will be five years ago since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The resulting storm surge overwhelmed the flood defences around the city, flooding large areas and killing 1,500. Other fatalities occurred to the east of the point of landfall, where the coastline was razed by the surge. When Katrina made landfall, she was only a category 3 hurricane (still very powerful), but its attendant phenomena were still of a scale, associated with the category 5 strength the system had been only a day or so previous.

On September 11th, it will be 9 years ago since four terrorist attacks on the US mainland left more than 3,000 people dead. Once more, Project 2996 will endeavour to have tributes to all victims published by bloggers around the world. I shall publish my tribute to Norberto Hernandez at 1.46pm that day, the exact time the first plane hit the WTC in New York. If I'm able, I'll adopt another victim, whose tribute has not been published so far.

In 2012, it will be 100 years since the sinking of RMS Titanic. The last survivor died a few years ago, aged 97. It is through reading up on local history that I have learned that the sinking of the Titanic need not have been as catastrophic in terms of loss of life as it turned out to be. Eight years before the Titanic sank, the emigrant ship SS Norge struck Hazelwood Rock, just east of Rockall in the Atlantic. The Norge went down in 20 minutes, taking 700 to the bottom with her.

Not all eight of the lifeboats launched from the Norge stayed afloat; some sank at the moment of launch, but a handful were spotted by fishermen and taken to the United Kingdom. One lot of survivors was put ashore at Stornoway, and treated at the local hospital. Nine succumbed to their ordeal and lie buried at Sandwick Cemetery, a 15-minute walk from my position. One boat is thought to have drifted northeast to and beyond the Arctic Circle; but there is no confirmation of her fate.

Nobody has heard of the Norge. No rich and famous on board that ship. Just dirt poor emigrants from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Russia. In particular the Russian emigrants were the undesirables of that country. Jews, who had been packed away onto the western fringes of the Tsarist realm, and generally hated and detested in many circles of the Russia of 1904. The board of inquiry into the sinking of the Norge found that there were insufficient lifeboats for the number of people on board. A recommendation was issued that laws should be introduced, requiring ships to carry sufficient lifeboats, -rafts and other craft to accommodate all on board in the event of abandon-ship. This was not followed through.

This negligence was catastrophic for the passengers on board RMS Titanic on 14/15 April 1912.

Tuesday 24 August

Another day that did not qualify for the adjective "summerlike". Not that it was particularly cold, wet or windy, it just did not feel like summer. It certainly wasn't summerlike in Amsterdam on Monday, when a tree outside the Anne Frank House was toppled over by strong winds. The tree had already been marked as unsafe a few years ago, but as it was mentioned in Anne Frank's diaries as a tree of hope, it had been sured up to prevent it being a hazard. The horse chestnut tree, now 150 years old, went down in a summer storm.

I have never visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam - I do not particularly like this sort of venue becoming a tourist trap. Anne Frank, who was killed at Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany in 1945, epitomised the 110,000 Jews in Holland who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis in World War II. Whilst I fully endorse the fact that the memory of all those folks should be kept alive, and their suffering remembered, I don't fancy the idea of hordes of people trooping through the premises who perhaps do not appreciate the severity of what happened. Yes, that's what the House is there for, to educate. Still, I'm not too happy about it. . Apart from that, I have also made a decision that I would not visit Auschwitz either - for the second reason (apart from the above) I would not visit Anne Frank House. Way, way too evocative. I do not think I'd be able to handle the experience, if I'm brutally honest. Visiting a place where more than 1,000,000 people were killed? In a process that had been industrialised? Oh heavens, no.