View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 31 October 2011

Monday 31 October

Although it's not cold today, it certainly is very breezy. Had to remove the bulb from an outside light fitting, 10 feet up on a wall, but the force 6 wind nearly carried the stepladder away.

In South Harris, it has been confirmed that the fire that killed an elderly man in Leverburgh was not suspicious. Kenny Mackenzie, who was in his early 80s, was found dead in his home yesterday after the firebrigade was called.

UNESCO has voted to admit Palestine as a full member, prompting the USA to withdraw its funding. UNESCO receives 20% of its funding from the US. Palestine is not a fully fledged state, but exists in an awkward limbo as Palestinian Territories, in Gaza and on the West Bank of the River Jordan. An even more awkward situation exists between the Palestinians and the Israelis following more than 60 years of confrontation. The origins of the conflicts have long been obscured by extremism on both sides, confused by religion and an abuse of historical facts or fiction. The Israelis and Palestinians are condemned to live with each other, and I feel that there is a way to make this happen in such a way that both communities can co-exist if not co-habit. The current sheer bloody-mindedness on both sides is a recipe for continued disaster for the world at large.

Happy Halloween.

Hallowe'en 2011

Reposted from 2010
Hallowe'en is not a tradition I grew up with, and I've only grown more familiar with it since I came to the UK, 14 years ago this month. It is a relatively inoccuous event, although I resent, like the gentleman in the pic above, the abuse of black cats just because they have black fur.

I'll just stick to the black cat as depicted in this graphic. My family had a black tomcat for 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was the friendliest creature you could care to find. Other cats, around at the time, would agree or disagree with that vehemently; other toms would get a sound thrashing out of him, whilst the females of the species got all they ever wanted out of him and more.

Donna provided me with this graphic 4 years ago, and I'm glad to see she's slowly getting back in the habit. She was also behind this graphic
which had us trick-or-treating through J-land, meaning this image is at least 4 years old. I had two Hallowe'ens in J-land (2006 and 2007); J-land was closed on Hallowe'en 2008. I was sitting in an airport lounge at Aberdeen when news came through that our blogs had gone. I've never understood why they had to be deleted, rather than being kept in an archived status. It caused a lot of upset, and I've not forgiven AOL for it.

Hallowe'en has a serious side to it. Its full name is All Hallows' Eve, the day before All Hallows, when we remember those that have passed away. 1 November will be the day, 3½ years ago, that my mother passed away, and I'll bear that in mind on the day. Others who have recently lost loved ones or friends will be kept in mind on that day. November is also the month that I post the links to journals whose bloggers have gone before, and I'm closing this admittedly sombre post with that.

In remembering those that went before us, we will gain strength from their memory and the fortitude they showed in adversity.

One Girl's Head Noise (UK) - Pam, RIP 16 April 2006
There are no Sundays - Jim, RIP April 2007
The Diatom Project - Walt, RIP 27 April 2007
Pennie's Pieces of Ohio - Penny, RIP 1 October 2007
My Reason for Reasoning - Barbara, RIP 20 November 2007
Lahoma's Laments - Lahoma, RIP 25 December 2007
I shaved my legs for this??? - Kim, RIP 26 December 2007
Sylvia Boiling, RIP 2 May 2008
Dribble by Chuck Ferris - Chuck, RIP 1 July 2008
Lori's Love Tribe - Lori, RIP 22 November 2009
Just Plain Bill, Bill, RIP 28 November 2010
A journey of another kind, Jane, RIP 30 May 2010
Daria, RIP 22 January 2011
Angie Marshall, RIP 30 January 2011
Lori Johnson, RIP 16 February 2011
Rebecca Robertson, formerly as Journeyzpath (Summer 2011)
Say it Baldy, Sam Shafer, RIP 29 June 2011
Gypsypaths, Carol Martinez, RIP 28 September 2011

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunday 30 October

The day after the clock changed, and the weather was so abysmal that we put the lights on at 3.30pm. Wind and rain. The ferry was two hours late leaving Stornoway, due to "technical difficulties". As it stands at present, it won't be back until about 10.30pm, an hour and a half late. Oh, Russia has decided to stay on summertime year-round.

Reports came in a little earlier of a housefire between Leverburgh and Strond in South Harris, which has claimed a life. No further details are known at present, as (presumably) next-of-kin will have to be informed. As everybody knows everybody else, whoever lost their life today will be widely mourned.

Before the weekend, Dutchman Vincent Tabak was found guilty of the murder of landscape artist Joanna Yeates in Bristol in December last year. Tabak strangled his victim, inflicting 43 injuries on her in the process, put her corpse in the boot of his car as he went shopping. He then dumped her remains in a ditch by the roadside outside Bristol and went on his merry way. Initially, his landlord was accused of the murder, but increasing amounts of evidence began to emerge against the Dutch engineer. At his trial, it was not mentioned the depraved nature of some of his internet searches, but Mr Tabak can expect to remain in prison for at least 20 years, having been sentenced to life in prison. As they say where he came from, he'll soon have tobacco of that [meaning, he'll soon be fed up with it].

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Saturday 29 October

Not a very nice day in terms of weather, starting with high winds and heavy rain. Although the wind slowly abated, the rain took most of the day to die away. Yesterday's cancellation of the evening ferry from Ullapool led to a delay through today's service, but eventually less than one hour. The MV Isle of Arran is covering for the Muirneag on the freight run.

Tonight, the clocks go back by an hour, bringing the 2011 period of summertime to a close. Our American friends have an extra week of Daylight Savings, but the weather in the eastern USA does not pay heed to such artificialities - a snowstorm (Nor'easter) is blowing through the eastern States. There is another debate about Double Summertime in Great Britain, an idea I am strongly opposed to. Here in Stornoway, it would lead to sunrise at 10.15 am in December; and a ridiculous sunset time of 11.30pm in June. The December sunrise time will leave everybody going to work and school in pitch darkness - in Scotland that is. But in England too, sunrise won't be before 9 am.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Friday 28 October

Although today started reasonably well, in terms of weather, things have turned quite wild since lunchtime. As I type this, the wind has picked up to 30 mph, gusting to 50 mph. The ferry is not coming back this evening, but will instead be delayed at Ullapool for twelve hours, returning to SY at 8 am tomorrow morning. The ferry Isle of Arran just put into port, presumably to relieve the Muirneag, which is on our freight run. The Muirneag is an aging lady of the sea (she was built in 1979) and is due to be scrapped in 2013. I am not aware of any firm decision on her replacement. The Isle of Lewis is also beginning to feel its age (25 years), and there are two options. One big ferry plying continually between Ullapool and Stornoway; or two new ferries.

Thursday 27 October

Quite a reasonable day in terms of weather, with some sunshine. The flowerpots outside the front door no longer have flowers in them, just some matted remnants of pansies and lobelia. So, they have been removed until we get bulbs in them by next month.

Over in Mexico, hurricane Rina is falling apart off Cancun, so the 100 knot hurricane is not going to materialise. Just as well, wouldn't like to see people's holidays spoiled, let alone holidaymakers getting hurt as a result.

The Stornoway Gazette carried a frontpage article about a formal complaint that a patient at the Western Isles Hospital had lodged over her experience as a surgical patient. Apparently, the consultant and his understudy had fallen out in front of the patient over whether a pre-op assessment had been carried out, or was necessary. It is not on to have a row like that, but then the Health Board made matters worse by appearing to water down the apology to the patient. So, a representation is going to the Scottish Ombudsman. Pity it had to be all over the Two Minutes' Silence (as some people call the Gazette; 2 minutes being all the time required to read it - not my words).

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Wednesday 26 October

A nice day, in spite of some spots of rain at 2pm, with nice sunset colours at six o'clock this evening. After Saturday, sunset times will be 5pm. Nice one, not.

Tomorrow, the annual book festival Faclan will kick off in Stornoway and elsewhere in the Outer Hebrides. Authors and publishers will showcase their latest creations, and talks will be held by various writers. I am not going to any of these, but am highlighting this to show that there is a lot going on in this island, in spite of it being the down season.

The mailman brought me no fewer than 4 postcrossing cards today, from the USA, Byelorussia, Taiwan and Turkey. I have now received 60 cards, since enrolling with postcrossing in February; I have despatched 65 so far, 6 in tomorrow's mail. Two of those are taking a long time to arrive; one has been in the system since mid-August, winging its way to Taiwan. I hope.

Tuesday 25 October

Another fairly non-descript day in the Outer Hebrides. In fact, it was overcast, cool and with a bit of a breeze. Following the departure of the Mod, the town of Stornoway appears to have settled into a mode of "onset of hibernation". People going about their daily business, shops full of the usual - including Hallowe'en stuff, and autumnal colours in the Castle Grounds.

Autumn is rather more violent down in Ireland, where several inches of rain caused chaos in Dublin and killed two people in flooding. Across the Atlantic, a hurricane is slowly growling its way towards the Mexican resort of Cancun, which could be struck with winds of 110 mph in the next few days. The name of the storm is Rina, as I reported yesterday.

Monday, 24 October 2011


The greatness of a nation is measured by the way it treats its enemies. Well, Libya does not score too well on that scale, judging by the way its former leader and his cronies were dealt with upon discovery. I'm not saying Gaddafi cum suis deserved any better, but the protestations of the new Libyan leadership that they did not want Gaddafi dead sound a tad hollow.

In civil wars, the first line of this blogpost becomes incredibly difficult to maintain, and the acrimony that has gripped Libya since February is testimony to that. In fact, the pent-up hatred against the totalitarian rule of Gaddafi has come pouring out like from a freshly lanced boil. There will be the inevitable settling of accounts, some going back to 1969, when Gaddafi came to power. I have no illusions that things will stay ugly in Libya for a long time. Some say Sirte, which provided succour to the dictator, should not be reconstructed.

I am not so naive as to expect an instant national reconciliation in Libya. I can only hope for that, given time.

Hurricane update - 24 October

Hurricane Rina formed yesterday evening as a tropical depression, but has exploded to hurricane force within 18 hours. The storm, which is slowly headed for the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, will be at 105 knots (120 mph) by the time it reaches that area. Rina will veer round to the northeast at the end of the forecast period.

The resort of Cancun lies near the path of this hurricane.

Monday 24 October

Quite an acceptable day, with good sunshine at times and relatively high temperatures - we got up to 16C / 60F today. As I type this, the sun is dipping towards the horizon and it's cooling down. Although there is not much wind, the 5.35pm ferry sailing from Ullapool has been delayed for about 12 hours until 5 am tomorrow morning due to adverse weather conditions. The shipping forecast shows a galewarning for our area.

I went into town this afternoon for a few bits in the shops, and could not help but notice how quiet things have become since the Royal National Mod ended on Saturday. Last week, the place was very busy - but not nearly as much so today.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sunday 23 October

A repeat of the past few days. Wet and windy to start with, followed by a calming of conditions - but remaining dull and grey all day. The last of the Mod-goers disappeared to the mainland on today's TWO Sunday sailings. As well as 6 passengers on the first Sunday sailing out of Tarbert, in Harris, which is proving controversial down there. Ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne say they have decided to put fare-paying passengers on board the MV Hebrides, which leaves Tarbert early on Sunday morning at any rate (to go to Lochmaddy in North Uist), after consultation with local people. Sections of Harris society claim that there has been no such consultation. However, there was already a Sunday ferry in Harris: it goes to Berneray twice on the Sabbath.

The Europeans have launched another part of their Galileo satellite group into space, which, by 2015, will start to form an alternative GPS system. In recent times, NATO exercises in the Minch have jammed GPS signals. I was agog at the storm of protest that blew up, because local mariners proved to be incapable of navigating without GPS. What is wrong with using your eyes and a map? I mean, GPS is not as perfect as it may seem. It still has a margin of error of about 15 feet, which can be rather a lot at times. And I have seen it going wildly off the scale in the mountains - when I was in Switzerland, it put me a full mile away from my actual position. You can't miss being in the middle of a town, can you?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Saturday 22 October

The day started very wet and very windy, causing a 2 hour delay to the first ferry departure to Ullapool. Gradually, the wind abated, the rain stopped, and by 4pm, the sun came out. We had a glorious sunset - briefly.

Gaddafi appears to have been summarily executed, within an hour of being captured. I hope this does not give an indication of what the new Libyan regime is going to be like. The signs are not good; they are already bickering over where Gaddafi will be buried, as well as over who gets which job in government. Gaddafi was a complete bastard - but it would have reflected better on the NTC if they had applied the laws of war.

The Scottish National Party has proposed alternatives to full independence for Scotland - taking more powers from Westminster, leaving foreign affairs and defence to London. It is probably designed to attract more votes in favour of independence at a future referendum, which the SNP government have pledged to hold before 2016.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Mod 2011

Contrary to 2005, I only attended one competition in this year's Royal National Mod, which took place in Stornoway this week. After I post this entry, there will only be the final concert at the Sports Centre tonight, and the massed choirs in Perceval Square on Saturday morning - if the weather is bad, it'll be in the Nicolson Institute. Glancing at the forecast, I'd suggest to head for the Nicolson.

The one competition I attended was competition A302 (Area Choirs), which took place at Stornoway Town Hall earlier today. Five choirs took part, singing one prescribed piece (Tir nam Beann Ard) as well as a piece of their own choice. Click on one of the links below to hear a recording.

The winner was Nairn Gaelic Choir in the competition overall, as well as being awarded highest marks in music. Dundee Gaelic Musical Association was awarded highest marks in Gaelic.

Dundee Gaelic Musical Association

Largs Gaelic Choir

Nairn Gaelic Choir

Ar n’Oran (Ottawa)

Portree Area Gaelic Choir

Stornoway Town Hall

Following the controversy over the refurbishment of the interior of Stornoway Town Hall, I would like to share the images I took inside the Hall today, whilst attending a competition of the Royal National Mod (see next post).

Ceiling and rooflights

Windows at rear of hall - now visible

The Hall from the back

The Hall in 2006

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gaddafi is dead

After nearly 42 years in power, Col Muammar Gaddafi is reported to have died of wounds, sustained in a gunfight at Sirte earlier today. It brings to a conclusion a revolution that has lasted for eight months.

It also brings to an end the life of a man who has the blood of thousands on his hands. Images are being relayed on television at present of Gaddafi's bloodied remains being dragged through the streets of Sirte, a gruesome sight. However, those completely pale into insignificance when compared to the atrocities meted out to the people of Libya by its leader, when they rose up against him.

I derive no joy from Gaddafi's death. My thoughts are with the families of his victims, in Libya and outside that country.

Wednesday 19 October

A bitterly cold day, starting with a shower of snow. Temperatures lifted through the day, but 6C is well below the mark for mid October. Went to the Gaelic Showcase at the Nicolson Institute and picked up a copy of a book that shows photographs from the Southern Isles [Scarp to Mingulay] from the first half of the 20th century. Although the landscape is recognisable, the conditions for the people have changed beyond recognition. Scarp and Mingulay were abandoned in 1971 and 1912 respectively. The Gaelic language organisation Bord na Gaidhlig was giving out free copies of a Scots Gaelic thesaurus, a hefty 500 page tome, quite invaluable for any student and / or speaker of the language. I don't speak nor understand Gaelic, except for a few words and phrases.

At an event in the evening, a man from Nova Scotia was crowned Bard, an ambassadorial position that he will hold for 3 years. It is for the first time in history that a non-Scot was awarded the title. I refer to the link for further information.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tuesday 18 October

A very wild day, with galeforce winds from the northwest, making it a bitingly cold day. The mercury was stuck down at 7C / 45F. The ferry service is disrupted as the Isle of Lewis is not coming back to Stornoway until tomorrow lunchtime, at 1pm. This means a fair amount of disruption for the participants in the Royal National Mod, which is rolling on across town. I was just told that a large number of competitors were booked to come across this evening. A small tragedy has cast a shadow over the Children's Mod: one youngster's toy bunny was lost at St Columba's Church Hall on Lewis Street during the 5-7 year olds' solo singing competition on Monday. Anyone who has found Bunny is asked to call the number displayed on the link. The Mod will run until this coming Saturday. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Monday 17 October

Well, that was some day and no mistake. In terms of weather. It is cold (only 5C / 41F) and that has shown itself in the form of precipitation: hail and thunder. You may find that an odd combination, but in this part of the world, thunderstorms only occur in winter, when very cold air flows over the top of slightly warmer air at the surface. So, these were the gardenchairs:

It is Mod week, but I don't have much opportunity to attend the competitions or final concerts. I'll be tuning into Isles FM for live coverage. TV viewers in the UK can watch a summary on BBC Alba - which carries English subtitles. I hope.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Saturday 15 October

After the heavy rain that started the day, it cleared up to a fairly sunny but very windy day. The wind made it feel cold, at times bitingly so. Nonetheless, no rain is the only thing I would wish, so no real complaints. It will get colder over the next few months, so I'll get used to it yet.

Yesterday, the first legal single malt whisky produced in Lewis was launched at an event in Stornoway. The Abhainn Dearg distillery set up production in 2008, and now that three years have passed, its product can be described as whisky. At an earlier stage, it marketed an precursor product that boasted of 65% v/v alcohol, which is mind-blowingly strong - no, I didn't try it! The article I'm linking to is from the Am Paipear [The Paper], the local newspaper for the Uists.

The tropical cyclone season for the northern hemisphere has quietened down; the only system I am monitoring at present is called Irwin, a system that has been meandering in the Eastern Pacific Ocean between 105 and 120 degrees longitude West. Early on in its career (it has been on the go for nearly 10 days), it reached hurricane strength, but it got strangulated by its little sister Jova, which left cold seawater and a stirred-up atmosphere behind.

People of the Book

I have obtained a copy of the Qur'an, the Muslim Holy Book, for the purposes of study. Islam is one of the major religions of the world, and has a high profile in news events. Not always for the most positive reasons, but neither has its older brother, Christianity. The Qur'an is a slow read, as you have to read each verse and each chapter with full attention. The translator (for I have an English-language copy) warns of the dangers of misinterpretation, giving several examples of how the texts of the Qur'an have been warped to suit people's intentions.

Having gone through the first major sura [chapter], the parallel with the Old Testament is unmistakeable. Moses, Aaron, Abraham, David, Goliath, Saul, Solomon, Mary, Jesus (to give but a few examples) are all referred to by name. The differences between the Bible and the Qu'ran are also patently obvious. The Qu'ran directly refers to the Christians and the Judeans as People of the Book (hence the title of this post).

It is a fascinating read, as it grants an insight into Islamic culture, and by virtue of that, an insight into some of the events of the last few decades in the world.

I think it is highly deplorable that Islam has been given such a bad name by a tiny minority who abused the religion for political motives. It should not be forgotten that it was Arabic culture, where Islam is rooted, that granted us the phenomenon of the zero, without which we would not all be sitting by our computers, doing all these marvellous things on the WWW. In order to understand what goes on in a major religion of the world, it is imperative to read its holy text and do so with an open mind, which is what I am trying to do.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Friday 14 October

An overcast and at times wet day. It wasn't really cold, although the strong wind served to mask the 13C temperatures. The force 6 winds caused a 30 minute delay on the ferry today.

The news is headlined by the resignation of the UK Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. Mr Fox had allowed a personal friend to assume a role within the MOD that the man had no right or clearance to assume. As a result, his position became untenable, and he resigned earlier today.

Here in Stornoway, the Royal National Mod has kicked off, although the main competitions do not start until Monday. The children (aged 5 to 17) are first, with the adults competitors lining up from Wednesday onwards. Those within the UK can see coverage of the Mod on the BBC Alba channel on Freeview.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Thursday 13 October

An overcast and breezy day today, feeling cold in the wind. The mercury stayed at 12C through most of the day, which isn't bad for mid-October.

I just spotted an article on local news website Hebrides News, which claims it has overtaken the local weekly paper Stornoway Gazette in terms of readership. The article goes on to state that people are gradually switching from printed newspapers to on-line news sources - a trend that is perfectly understandable, as sites like Heb News, however imperfect at times, are updated continually, whereas newspapers only come out once a day or (as in the case of the Gazette)  once a week. It is a trend that is not only shown in the Hebrides, but worldwide.

Tomorrow will see the start of the Royal National Mod, which is held in Stornoway for the first time since 2005. I intend to attend some of the competitions, in spite of the fact that I do not speak or understand Gaelic. The Mod is a showcase for Gaelic culture, not only comprising of music, but also of theatre and sports. Its competitors can be as young as age 5. The event will run until Saturday 22 October.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Wednesday 12 October

A bright and sunny, if not very warm day. Hardly a cloud in the sky. The mercury just about managed 13C, but is presently on its way down to last night's low of +2C / 36F. Chilly. Went to the post office this morning to dispatch a cubic foot of wool to someone, which weighed 1.63 kg (about 3.5 pounds in old money). And you wouldn't believe the smell. As a relative of mine once famously said: "Everything smells of sheeeeeep!"

 I am not known in these islands as a protagonist of renewable energy schemes, certainly not of windfarms. However, wavefarms (which generate power from the action of waves) is something I do look on favourably. The Pelamis sea-snake is an unobtrusive set of cylinders, linked together, which float on the surface of the sea. The waves move the joints between the cylinders, which powers a generator. A proposed wavefarm off Great Bernera could generate enough power for 7000 homes.

And then there is this almost ridiculous row that I chanced upon when browsing the BBC news website for a link for the above story. Two women in Stornoway both laying claim to the same cat, which wanders from house to house. Tut.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Tuesday 11 October

A bright and fairly sunny day, interspersed with occasional downpours. It was cold, with the mercury barely making it into double figures. I went into town in the morning to obtain further tributes from the 1944 editions of the Stornoway Gazette, related to the Second World War. I shall transcribe these and link them to the WW2 tribute site for this island.

Locally, about 100 job losses have been announced at two major employers: the main Co-op superstore on Macaulay Road and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the council). The Co-op is shedding 24 full-time equivalent posts, meaning that 50 people will be paid off. The Comhairle is getting rid of 50 staff. This is devastating for a small community like Lewis; the town of Stornoway has a population of about 9,000, to put it into perspective. The Co-op staff to be laid off are mainly part-time workers.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Monday 10 October

The day started bright and sunny, but by midday, the showers started. Looking at one passing to the south of us at the moment (5.40pm), there could be hail in amongst the precipitation. With the mercury at a cold 9C, that is certainly not to be ruled out.

There was a controversy locally today due to a major NATO exercise in the Minch and around Cape Wrath. GPS signals were being jammed by the Ministry of Defense as part of the exercise, but there were complaints from fishermen and ferry operators. GPS allows mariners to pinpoint their location accurately, helping them to avoid underwater hazards such as reefs and wrecks. The MOD has now suspended the jamming of the GPS signals. Local contacts also tell me that satellite TV reception was affected, as was radio-link Internet access. 

Report illegal migrants

Prime Minister David Cameron has moved down the dangerous road of urging people to report illegal migrants. I am not in favour of law-breaking, and am not in favour of people gaining entry to the country when they are not entitled to do so. However, Mr Cameron's idea could play into the hands of the xenophobic elements within society, and lead to a witchhunt. It smacks to me of events in Germany and Nazi-occupied territories of the 1930s and early 1940s, when people were rounded up and carted away for their religion or under other pretexts. Yes, I am overreacting, but this appeal really leaves a filthy taste in my mouth.

Hurricane update - 10 October

Hurricane Jova is threatening the Pacific coastline of Mexico. The latest forecast shows the storm blowing ashore on Tuesday afternoon local time as a category IV hurricane, with winds of 115 knots if not higher. At the moment, a hurricane warning is in force from Punta San Telmo to Cabo Corrientes and a tropical storm warning from Lazaro Cardenas to Punta San Telmo. Apart from the high winds, Jova will also come with up to 15 inches of rain, which could unleash flashfloods and mudslides, as well as a substantial storm surge.

Jova is the 10th storm of the East Pacific season, and the 5th major hurricane in that basin this year. Irwin is following in its wake, but is a weak tropical storm, beaten down by the outflow from Jova which is not far away to its east.

Hurricanes are Nature's safety valve, serving to funnel excess heat from the ocean in the tropics away to higher latitudes. Whilst the cloud tops may be as cold as -85C (-65F) at 10 miles above the surface, the temperature in the eye at the same altitude can be as high as +19C (66F). A hurricane (typhoon or tropical cyclone, all the same thing) requires water temperatures of at least 26C / 80F and an absence of windshear (winds blowing at different speeds and/or directions at different levels of the atmosphere). Once ashore, a tropical cyclone will rapidly weaken and dissipate.

Sunday 9 October

A slightly less chilly day than Saturday, if only because there was less wind. Kept myself occupied transcribing a number of 19th century newspaper articles which referred to the Hebrides. One was a detailed description of the aftermath of the clipper Maju foundering off the coast at Barvas, here in Lewis. The items washed ashore included several corpses, or parts thereof; ship's papers and sundry bits and pieces, including a sailor's hat. The Maju had been en route to Rangoon, but was caught out in an autumnal gale, which proved its undoing.

A containership has run aground off New Zealand and has dumped tons of its fuel oil in the sea. A gale is forecast for the area for Monday, which could break the ship up. It could also help to disperse any oil, we hope.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Saturday 8 October

Good morning all from a wet, grey and dismal Stornoway.

It is 7 years ago today that I started to write a blog, called Northern Trip. This link will take you to that first entry.  Northern Trip was hosted on AOL, which pulled its blogging service three years ago this month. A lot of bloggers stopped blogging at that time, and others moved to Blogger or other providers. Facebook has allowed us to re-establish contact, fortunately.

I may put up another entry later today, but will close this post with some of the pictures I took on 8 October 2004.

The Cuillin mountains in Skye

Camus Fhionnairigh [Camusunary]

Friday 7 October

Over the last two days, the weather has turned noticeably colder. Yesterday saw some hail showers, with the mercury barely into double figures, and today was no better.
At the moment, there is a large naval exercise on-going around Cape Wrath, 60 miles northeast of Stornoway. A German frigate is cruising up and down the Minch, and Polish and Estonian naval vessels are holed up in Loch Ewe (on the west coast of the Scottish mainland).

Today, there was an angry demonstration outside the offices of Western Isles Council, as a senior executive of a fuel supplier paid a visit. The fuel prices in these islands are incredible, some 20 to 30 pence per liter higher than in Inverness. Everybody is affected by this, not just people with cars. Bus fares have increased by a third in recent years, as have taxi fares. Accusations of profiteering have been leveled against the company involved. For reference, a litre of fuel in Inverness costs £1.30 per litre, but in South Uist, they charge £1.60 per litre. American readers: that equates to between $7.60 and $9.50 a gallon.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Wednesday 5 October

Another autumnal day, with heavy downpours and quite breezy. The red-hot pokers that used to liven up late September and early October in recent years have been blown and broken by last Monday's gale, and the stalk propping up the eucalyptus tree was snapped by the high winds. Anyone got any green twine going spare? The roll in this house must have been used up or summat.

Good news as this day draws to a close: Sarah Palin has decided not to run for president of the USA. With all due respect to the former governor of AK, she has made the dropping of clangers a trademark, and one that a US president should only flaunt after (s)he has come into office and become endeared to the populace. See George Dubya and Ronald Reagan. Wasn't it Sarah Palin who said that the US needed a president who had balls? Well, that ruled her out by default, and I'm pleased she has acted on that. With apologies to my American friends.

I am just finding out that the water supply in parts of North Uist is contaminated with aluminium. It applies to the area from Scolpaig west and south to Grimsay; Lochmaddy and Benbecula's supplies are unaffected. People have been supplied with bottled water, left on their doorsteps, with the instruction only to use tapwater for flushing toilets or washing laundry. The article contains a list of places affected, and a contact telephone number.

Tuesday 4 October

Not a terribly attractive day in terms of weather, with intermittent showers and strong winds. Yesterday's gales led to mountainous waves off the west coast of Lewis, some up to 50 feet (15 metres) tall. The highest gusts reached 66 mph / 106 km/h in places. It led to disruption, which appeared to continue, judging by the output on the Calmac website. Fortunately, that was all wrong, due to a website error.

There was good news in that the Emergency Towing Vessels will be retained along the Scottish coast for a limited period of time. The ETVs were introduced following the 1993 Braer disaster. The Braer foundered at Shetland and shed its cargo of crude oil. Disaster was averted because of stormforce winds, which served to turn the sea into a big mixing cauldron, dispersing the oil through wave action. The tug in the Minch has proved its worth; last year, it pulled the nuclear submarine HMS Astute from a shingle-bank at Kyleakin.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Monday 3 October

Very windy today, with a full gale in the morning, which abated only slowly through the day. Gusts at the Butt of Lewis reached nearly 70 mph at midday. Ferry services up and down the west coast were severely disrupted, but our ferry ploughed its way across the Minch, if rather delayed. In the afternoon, the sun even came out from time to time.

My friend who was in hospital returned home today, much to everyone's relief. The next couple of months will hopefully see a slow recovery, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sunday 2 October

Beautiful sunny day, feeling and smelling autumnal. The trees are beginning to turn and there is that smell in the air of fallen leaves. Tomorrow, the first serious autumnal gale is due, with another one on the calendar for Wednesday. The latter one is the remnant of hurricane Ophelia, which will batter Newfoundland tomorrow.

My friend in the hospital is coming home tomorrow, ending a 9-day period of uncertainty. It was a long road from Ballantrushal...

I promised some pictures, and I'm going to fill the rest of this post with a selection of them.

Waiting for the bus from the hospital back into town, this view of Laxdale and Newmarket has become only too familiar to me...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Saturday 1 October

Very unusual for me to start leaving gaps in my updates on this blog, but I find myself going back and forth to the local hospital twice a day to attend a good friend, who broke their ankle last Saturday. I am on a promise not to divulge further details on the WWW, but in amongst the rest of the daily activities, I don't seem to get down to blogging. With my 7th blogoversary coming up next Saturday, I promise to do better in the days to come. Perhaps if I spend less time watching Ice Road Truckers, or all the 26 episodes of the World at War...

The local hospital is about a mile and a half from my position, on the other side of Stornoway, and although I could walk it, I don't fancy four walks of 45 minutes each through the day. So, I hop on the bus. The fares were raised today - fair (sic) enough, but I am less than pleased with the timetabling on the town routes, and the way these routes are presented on paper (or the WWW). However, I suppose those that draw up these routes aren't the ones using it. The worst aspect is the buses that have not turned up since the timetables changed 7 weeks ago. Oh well, there's always something to gripe about, I suppose.Tomorrow, I'll be walking to the hospital, as there is no Sunday service. I'm not complaining about that, by the way. And I hope that my trips to the hospital will come to an end very soon.

Yesterday, Friday, we had a stupendous sunset. The sky was on fire, and there was an amazing gamut of colour on display in the west. To the east, a huge rainbow spanned the skies, appearing (from my standpoint) to emanate from the chimneys of the local powerstation, up the road. I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Did I mention the typhoon that is pommeling the Philippines? Nalgae is the second typhoon within a week to lash Luzon Island with high winds and heavy rain. Vietnam is next in line to see this system, in about 4 days' time. A hurricane in the Atlantic, Ophelia, could do something nasty to Newfoundland on Monday.