View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Alcatraz UK - 2

I am much obliged to fellow blogger Tony Giles, over at Closed Sundays, for digging out the text of the offending petition to HM Government. The petition has now been removed from the e-petitions website, but for the record, I copy from the Caledonian Mercury:

Send rioters to the Outer Hebrides for 5 years
Responsible department: Ministry of Justice
All rioters and looters from the recent troubles in English cities should be banished to the Outer Hebrides for 5 years. This would be much, much, cheaper than keeping them in expensive prisons, saving the taxpayer money. Five years of being forced to live in the Outer Hebrides with none of the comforts of English city living e.g. running water, electricity, decent food, culture and shopping, will put them on the straight and narrow, and frighten them not to riot or loot again. Many local people there look after sheep part-time, so they can earn a small amount of extra money looking after rioters and looters as well. 

My previous blogpost was intended to highlight one prejudice against these islands, namely that of the weather. Which, admittedly, can be pretty atrocious - but only rarely, really. To rebut the completely erroneous statements:

* We have piped running water
* I am using a computer and the Internet so we do have electricity (surges and spikes included)
* We have quite a few restaurants that I am more than pleased to frequent for dinner (and you can get a 3-course meal for less than £15 in some of them), not just in Stornoway but several well out of town as well
* Culture? An Lanntair is often ridiculed, but it's a shame that there's not going to be a Grinneas nan Eilean this year, as that really is a showcase of local creative art. There is a vibrant music scene, both traditional and popular.
* If you know your local shops you can get everything you need in Stornoway.
* Sheep may safely graze, but they're a bleeding traffic hazard

No, it would be patently ridiculous to turn these islands into a penal colony - hence the tongue-in-cheek title to these two blogposts.

Thursday 18 August

Well, I complained to the people in Canada and they cancelled the invoice. I very much appreciate that gesture, particularly because it's ridiculous to pay $15 in order to fulfill a $3.50 bill. The person who gave me the good news also told me that he had been going on for more than a decade to have credit-card payment enabled within his organisation. You'll notice I'm not naming names, and that's not going to change.

My previous post may have been a tad enigmatic, but I found a much better riposte to that ridiculous petition: why reward criminals for their bad behaviour (by sending them to the Outer Hebrides).

As I type, darkness is falling on the end of another day of mixed fortunes in terms of weather. There were a few showers, and there was some sunshine; it gave us a most wonderful spectacle of colours half an hour ago when that showercloud was lit up in pale orange colours for a full 10 minutes.

Alcatraz UK

Is this the image some people have of us?

December 2011.

Slowly, the ferry edges towards the quayside. Heavy rain is blown along horizontally on a southwesterly gale. Grey, non-descript buildings line the harbour front, which is only just discernible through the downpour, which is laced with sleet and snow. It is 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but the streetlights are on already. A line of old, decrepit coaches await the convicts, to take them to their place of habitation for the next five years. Only a few weeks ago, they were in the leafy suburbs of London - taking the opportunity to pick up a few unpaid bargains from smashed up stores as the police stood by and buildings were torched.

The families line the railings of the ferry, as they are only allowed to disembark under police escort. Their few possessions sit on trailers, which will be towed to their new dwellings. A small line of cars drives off the ferry ramp, and disappears into the gathering gloom. Resident islanders can be seen walking down the gangway, and are whisked away by waiting cars.

Finally, the call comes and our convicts walk off the ferry, leaving behind the smells of diesel, frying fat and vomit. The last three hours were hellish, tossed about on the waves as the wind howled outside. A line of police conducts the group towards a coach, and the two dozen sit down while they are driven through the town - did anyone catch any recognisable name on the road signs? The roadnumbers were in the 800s at any rate. A few Christmas lights sway in the streets, but very soon, the last houses of the town are left behind and the coaches are swallowed up by the dark, featureless landscape, in which water glistens cold and grey every few inches. A line of four high hilltops towers up to the left, and further away, a twin-topped hill looms. Who would want to live in a place like that?

August 2011

The Stornoway Gazette reports that someone (whose name I will not repeat here) has submitted an e-petition to the British government to the effect that all those who were convicted for rioting last week should be banished to the Outer Hebrides for five years. And the paragraphs that started this post was the image that the petitioner probably has of the islands. It is ridiculous to even suggest that living in our islands is punishment. It is a challenge, no doubt. But the community spirit you find here is something that is sadly lacking in many other parts of the country. I think whoever posted that petition should come and have a look here for himself.