View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 5 December 2011

Monday 5 December

Scotland awoke to a blanket of snow this morning. Here in Stornoway it was an inch, but probably rather more higher up in the hills. A lorry crashed off the road, but its driver was fortunately unhurt. Elsewhere in Scotland, two drivers lost their lives in crashes caused by the weather. First thing this morning, the snow was just pretty.

On 22 November, 16-year old Liam Aitchison was last seen alive in Stornoway. He had come up to Lewis a few months ago from South Uist. Liam was seen walking along Anderson Road. On 29th November, his remains were found in a derelict property at Steinish, about two miles northeast of Stornoway, and not far from Anderson Road. Today, police announced they were upgrading their investigations into his death to a full murder inquiry. It is more than 40 years ago since the last murder in Lewis, and the news of this tragic death has shaken the community to its core.

This evening, I went into the town centre here to take pictures of the Christmas decorations. When I compare them to images I took in 2005, the extent (in terms of distance) and variety have sadly shrunk dramatically.

St Nicholas

Today is the eve of St Nicholas, the original and only Santa Klaus (sorry). In Holland, Flanders and western Germany, children will have spent the past fortnight or so putting their shoe in front of the fireplace, with a carrot in it. St Nicholas rides the roofs on his white charger, surrounded by Black Peters who do the dirty work of bringing presents. During the night, they wil go down the chimney to collect the carrot and leave a present in the shoe. Children who have been bad will find a bunch of twigs, indicative of punishment. The really bad ones will be taken back to Spain in the sack.

It all starts in mid-November, when St Nicholas arrives in Holland (or one of its towns) in a steamer, well, any boat really, with his posse of Peters. The Peters go off running around, scattering sweeties amidst the assembled children. Towns not near the sea or water will see St Nicholas arriving by train. Or coach if there is no railway station. St Nicholas arrives from Spain, as that is the place where his remains lie interred. Originally, he is from Turkey, but when the Muslims came, the bones were spirited across the Mediterranean to Spain