View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Two week break

Just a brief message to confirm that I shall be blogging on the Shell Gallery as of Saturday 29th September. I have no internet access until that date, as I am on holiday in northern Holland. I shall return to Stornoway on Thursday 4th October, and will resume blogging here the next day.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wednesday 19 September

Quite a nice day, in between the odd downpour, with good sunny spells and magnificent cloudscapes. The day started with a dazzling rainbow, and the display lasted all day, until sunset at 7.20pm. The night was cold, 3C / 37F, and is heading in the same direction. As I type this, the mercury has gone down to the same reading.

Here in the islands, there has been a fair bit of controversy over fuel and its prices. I have repeatedly reported our average fuel price at £1.50 a litre ($9 a US gallon), which is a good 20 pence higher than in Inverness. What is an eye-brow raiser is the fact that Inverness is supplied by the same seatanker that supplies us - yet we are being charged through the nose. However, the people in the Uists now have the added problem of no fuel supplies. The storage tanks at Loch Carnan have failed a safety inspection, and cannot now be used until they have been repaired. As a result, the wholesalers, Scottish Fuels, who hold a monopoly, are now having to truck in fuel from the depot here in Stornoway - which is hitting a snag known as a springtide. When you get a springtide, you not only get high tides, you also get low tides. This is preventing the ferry between Leverburgh (55 miles south of Stornoway) and North Uist from sailing, meaning that the roadtankers can't come. It's, quite frankly, an outrage.

Tomorrow morning I am flying to Holland for a two-week break with my family. I am returning to Stornoway on October 4th, and will resume blogging here the next day. Whilst in Holland, I will not have internet access until Saturday 29th September as I shall spend a week off internet in one of the northern islands. From the 29th onwards, you'll get my updates on the Shell Gallery. A post to confirm this is scheduled to appear here at midnight tonight.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Tuesday 18 September

Quite a nice, sunny day, which started quite chilly. However, the sun soon came out and the few showers that were about did not amount to very much in the end.

Went for an amble about town for a few bits and pieces, also to check on the demolition of the Nicolson Institute. This is proceeding apace, with several of the key buildings now disappeared, or in the process of going down. Every week I go up to take pictures of the demolition, and the results (if anyone is interested) can be viewed in this Flickr-set.
En-route to the "Nic", I noticed that the flags outside the council buildings on Sandwick Road were at half-mast. This was to mark the death of one of the islands' councillors, Bill Houston, who passed away suddenly last Saturday. Mr Houston, 60, was elected last May and represented the (discontiguous) ward of North Lochs and Uig.

Still on local news, the petrol stations in Uist (the islands of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist) are running out of fuel, apparently due to problems at the wholesalers', Scottish Fuels. The Uists are not only afflicted by a fuel shortage, theirs is also about the dearest in the land, £1.55 a litre.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Monday 17 September

Another day of sunshine and showers, but feeling markedly cooler, although 13C is not that much down on the 15C of late. As I type, the mercury is diving away at 5C / 41F. Autumn is most definitely here.

An item on the BBC website (Who is the most pirated near you?) prompted me to take the test. It would appear that even in this island people are not averse to a spot of illegal sharing. I won't go into details, as I am just not interested in that sort of thing. It would appear that the Internet does make it less likely that you get caught out for certain misdemeanours, although if your IP-address is logged, they can track you to your house. Not for one user of my acquaintance, who, although resident in Stornoway, has their IP address tracked to --- Exeter.

A man of 72 is lucky to be alive, after he was swept off his yacht, only to be swept back on it by the next wave. After previous large waves had knocked out his radio, he proceeded to activate his emergency locator beacon, which brought out the Coastguard and RNLI lifeboat. A gruelling 50 mile tow brought him to the safety of Stornoway, where he proceeded to tell the tale - very much aware that it could so easily have ended in tragedy, with perhaps nobody ever knowing what had happened to him, or his yacht.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sunday 16 September

P9167636 P9167635 P9167633 P9167631
The day started fairly bright and sunny, but at midday we began to be treated to occasional downpours. This gave rise to nice cloudscapes, a few examples of which head up this post. The showers ceased after nightfall.

So, should royals be allowed to sunbathe topless, without footlong camera lenses peeking at them from every angle? I'd say so. If that were done to anybody else, the culprits would be apprehended for voyeurism if anything. I can understand why William and Kate are entering litigation against the French publication which posted her topless pics (taken presumably without consent) - not just for reasons of privacy, but particularly because William's mother (Princess Diana) was killed indirectly as a result of press harassment. Having said that, I do feel that those in the public eye should exercise caution in situations like this.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Saturday 15 September

Yesterday saw quite a bit of disruption on the ferry. It did not sail until 9.30 am, when it was due to leave at 6 am. As a result, the last of the three sailings was cancelled, and thus endeth the summer timetable for Wednesdays and Fridays. It was a very strange sight to see the ferry pull out at 5pm, a time that the boat normally is nowhere near Stornoway. Today, Saturday, there was no such disruption. It was windy, but the sun was out for good periods and it felt fairly mild, 15C / 59F. My visitors departed on the lunchtime ferry, which got up to some very strange shenanigans upon departure. It sailed precisely at 2.30pm, but then I noticed it doing this

P9157623P9157624 P9157625
It turned back and proceeded to dock alongside the ferry pier. The pedestrian ramp was put up, the vizor went up and the bridge for loading and unloading vehicles came out. After a few minutes, the ferry departed for Ullapool, now half an hour late.

The Isle of Lewis has been on this run since 1995. She is 101m (337 ft) long, 19m (63 ft) wide and has a draught of 4.2m (14 ft). At Stornoway, vehicles board through the bow-vizor, but at Ullapool they disembark through a door in the stern of the vessel. Whilst in the Minch, she does more than 17 knots, a speed that is reduced in Loch Broom, for the last dozen miles to Ullapool. This is to protect the coastline from erosion damage, which could result from her wake.

Picture post - 14 September

High swells

P9147619 P9147618 P9147617 P9147616

P9147612 P9147611 P9147608 P9147606

P9147599 P9147600 P9147602 P9147596

Friday 14 September

Jumped on the bus to Garynahine at 10.10 for a visit to Bosta with my overseas visitors. The weather was still wild, with high winds and occasional rain. Upon arrival at Bosta, just after 11 am, the sun started to come out, showing the place in its full beauty. Seas were crashing on outlying skerries and Old Hill, and big waves came ashore on the beach. The Iron Age House had closed for the season the week before, but the smell of the smouldering peat fire lingered around the building. Also showed people round the cemetery, primarily to highlight the Iolaire gravestone and the common epitaph Gus am bris an latha (Until the breaking of the Day, [and the shadows flee away]), a reference to the Youngest Day, the Day of Judgment. The bus returned as requested at 12.30, and we were taken through Breaclete and Kirkibost to the Bernera Bridge and Garynahine. Our driver very kindly flagged down the connecting service, which took us to Callanish at 1.20pm. We had a good lunch and a look round the Stones, as impressive as ever. The weather was still windy, but the sun now had the upper hand, and even a short shower did not spoil the enjoyment. At 3pm, we joined the bus back to Stornoway - the long way round. It stops for a while at Carloway and Shawbost schools to pick up the pupils. They are dropped off right outside their houses. On passing Gearrannan, you can see Old Hill again, but from a different angle. Whenever we had a view of the coast, especially at Dalbeg, South Bragar and Brue, my visitors were blown away by the sight. For one of them it was a return visit, and probably not their last either. We came back to town at 5pm.

I'll post pictures in a separate entry.

Thursday 13 September

A wild day for sure, but here in Stornoway the gale was nowhere near as severe as forecast. I do gather that the southern isles were lashed by force 9-10 winds, but the highest gusts up at Eoropie (near the Butt of Lewis) were about 50 mph. I spent the day monitoring the situation on the ferries, as I was expecting people to arrive for a short visit. Although initially the late ferry was posted as "disrupted", she eventually made the crossing and appeared more or less on time at Stornoway. Although the sun had set by then (8.40 pm), it was still sufficiently light to see breaks in the clouds and the wind was dropping away.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


The remnants of tropical storm Leslie are approaching the Hebrides, and we are on warning for severe gales, possibly stormforce winds this evening. The weather at our latitudes is governed by differences in temperature, and Leslie swept up from Bermuda last weekend, carrying a large amount of warm, moist, tropical air. Having met with a frontal boundary to much colder and drier air over eastern Canada on Monday, the result is a deep depression to the south of Iceland. A tight pressure gradient to its south will push winds to force 9-10, and cause disruption on our ferries. The run between Oban and the southern isles is already cancelled, as this route is exposed to the southwesterly wind and swells. Other ferries are on warning for possible cancellation, including our link to Ullapool; today's evening crossing from Ullapool could be cancelled. I'm closely monitoring the Calmac website for updates.

Dutch elections

Yesterday, the people in Holland went to the polls for a general election. This had been called following the collapse of the coalition government, headed up by prime minister Rutte. The result saw some major changes in the seating arrangements in the 150-seat Lower House of Parliament in The Hague. The most noticeable changes are in the loss of 9 of their 24 seats previously held by the PVV of Geert Wilders. I have never hidden my dislike of Mr Wilders' politics and am pleased that his strength has been lessened. The centre-left Labour party gained 9 seats, but still came second after the Liberal party, who ended up with 41 seats.

The issue in the election had been the approach to the Eurozone crisis and necessary cuts. It would appear the pro-Eurozone parties have won. The next step is the formation of a coalition government, a process that is likely to take a number of weeks or months. For me, the decline of the Christian Democrat (CDA) party to a mere 13 seats is remarkable; for 70 years they were the inevitable party of government.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Wednesday 12 September

Yesterday was one of the most lively days we have had for a long time, but we ain't seen nothing yet. Plenty of heavy showers on Tuesday, and the temperatures heading down to the low teens. Observed the 9/11 commemoration at 1.46pm, which appears to be becoming a slightly lower key affair. Nobody alive and aware in 2001 will ever forget what happened that day.

Today, Wednesday, was a calmer day, and as I type this (10.30pm) the mercury is heading down fast, it's only 4C / 39F at present. I had a walk round to the site of the old Nicolson Institute, which is being demolished and is going down fast. A tall pile of rubble is now all that remains of the buildings fronting Springfield Avenue, but the edifices further back on the campus remain - as yet.

One of my projects is the abridged transcription of the Statistical Accounts of Scotland of 1791-99, and they are not exactly complimentary about the Parish of Barvas. I quote:

The parish of Barvas does not furnish much room for statistical investigation, and the few observations which occur respecting it, may be comprehended within narrow bounds. [page 263]

Betwixt Barvas and Strather [Shader], in the middle of a deep moss, where no other stones are to be seen, and at a considerable distance from the sea, there is a very large stone standing upright, called Clach i Drushel, famous for nothing but its size, being 18 feet above ground and 14 feet in circumference [...]. The vulgar traditions surrounding it, is too absurd and superstitious to deserve any notice. [page 271]

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

11th anniversary of 9/11

This tribute is published on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, under the auspices of Project 2996.

Jeffrey Dwayne Collman

Image: Family photograph, via

Source: Aurora Beacon News, Aurora IL 9-23-2001
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, age 41, of Novato, California, formerly of Yorkville, IL, a flight attendant for American Airlines, died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:45a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Jeffrey was a 1977 graduate of Yorkville High School in Yorkville, IL. Jeff was formerly employed, for over 10 years, at All-Steel in Montgomery, IL. He had then worked, for a brief time, at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California before attaining his dream of being a flight attendant with American Airlines. Jeffrey loved his job and traveling to other countries around the world. He also loved to play and watch tennis. Jeff was a true people person who enjoyed visiting with and getting to know others. He became a flight attendant in 1997. Two years later, Jeff received the American Professional Flight Attendant Award and was considered a spirited and dedicated flight attendant. He liked to entertain children on his flights, and he was fond of playing tennis and traveling, friends said.

He is survived by his parents, Dwayne and Kay Collman of Yorkville, IL and Beverly Sutton of North Aurora, IL; his close companion, Keith Bradkowski of Novato, Ca; his brothers, Charles Collman of Fort Meyers, FL and Brian Collman of Las Vegas, NV; his sister, Brenda Sorenson of Aurora, IL; his step-brothers, Steve (Linda) Gengler of Yorkville, IL and Chuck (Lakshmi) Gengler of South Orange, NJ; his step-sister, Susan Bohan of California; a god-child, Marlene Wakelin; his half-sisters, Laura Kries of Brooklyn Park, MN, Caroline Sutton of Joliet, IL and Vickie Michel of Aurora, IL; several nieces and nephews, many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jeffrey will also be missed by 100 other flight attendants.

He is preceded in death by his grandparents and his brother, Mark Allen Collman.
A memorial service was held on Monday, October 1, 2001 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Yorkville, IL with Pastor John Leaf officiating.

Father’s thoughts
Dwayne Collman's imagination gets the best of him when he thinks about the final minutes of his son's life on American Airlines Flight 11. He's filled with horror thinking about what the 41-year-old flight attendant from Yorkville went through as terrorists with knives steered the plane into the first World Trade Center tower. Collman knows his son received safety training in flight school, but he doubts it ever could have prepared him for the challenges he would face on the morning of Sept. 11. The grieving father is sure of one thing about his son, though, even if the details about his death are not certain:
"He would have fought like hell."

Jeffrey Collman, an American Airlines flight attendant for five years who grew up in Yorkville, died Tuesday morning when his hijacked plane, destined for Los Angeles, crashed into New York's famous landmark at 8:45 a.m. Though his body has not been recovered, his parents knew he was gone when he didn't call within a few hours after the tragedy. He had sent his stepmother, Kay, an e-mail the night before, telling her he would be flying from Boston to Los Angeles the next morning.

"I knew he was in that accident because every time there was something going on with airplanes, he would call and say, 'Hey, I'm all right,' " said Kay Collman. "So I knew that, when he didn't call, he was on that plane."

His parents [...] say Jeffrey Collman wanted to be a flight attendant because he loved to travel and meet people around the world. After working for years at Allsteel in Montgomery, he moved to California about five years ago to pursue that dream. Lifelong friend Dolores Humphrey, who went to school with Jeffrey Collman at all grade levels in Yorkville, said she feared he was killed when she heard the news because he often flew early-week flights from Boston to Los Angeles.
She said Collman never lost contact with his friends, even though his job took him around the world.

"Every time he got into town, he would call anyone he knew to meet for breakfast," said Humphrey, who last talked to Collman [5 days before 9/11]. "He would talk for a couple hours, then have to go fly somewhere else."

His stepmother said Jeffrey was the type of person who could "sit down next to someone on a plane and walk away knowing their life story." His father said Jeffrey loved tennis and flew around the world to watch professionals play. Kay Collman says her stepson never went anywhere meekly, and he loved his job so much that she's sure he didn't back down in the face of terror. "He took it seriously," she said, "and he would not have let anyone walk on him."

Humphrey said Jeffrey talked of flying even when he was a child, and his dream came true when American Airlines gave him a job. He was never afraid to fly, she said, always asserting that he was safer in the air than anyone on the ground. Collman's parents have begun to realize how their son died, and that he will always be remembered as a victim on one of the saddest days ever in the United States.

"It's completely different than just someone dying," Kay Collman said. "We'll have the pictures forever. We'll always see where he died. It's part of history."

Seattle Times, 17 September 2001
His partner, Keith Bradkowski, said Collman was courageous and safety-conscious. "He was so focused on safety," Bradkowski said. "If there was a threat, he would have done anything in his power to prevent it." He didn't normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but made an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month. Collman grew up in Yorkville, Ill., and besides Bradkowski left behind four brothers and a sister. (Seattle Times)

Further information: the fate of Flight 11.

Memorial to flight crew


Blogger Nathanael V.  found out 5 years after 9/11, that Jeffrey Collman was a neighbour's grandson.


and as attributed above.

11th anniversary of 9/11

When this post is published, it will be exactly eleven years to the minute that the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center in New York. The events of what is now referred to as 9/11 are only too well known.

My thoughts are with all victims, whether identified afterwards, or not. In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

My thoughts are with the passengers and crew on the four flights destroyed. My thoughts are with the victims killed in the World Trade Center. My thoughts are with those emergency workers who lost their lives trying to save others'.

My thoughts today are with the families of those who perpetrated these atrocities, for they lost too. Even before the events of September 2001, they lost their loved ones to a delusion of hate that is not of the religion they claimed to be faithful to. Hatred leads to destruction - as shown seven years ago. Forgiveness is a pillar of Christian faith, as it is one of the Islamic faith. Whether those that lost a loved one in 9/11 can find it in themselves to forgive is beyond my scope.

But first and foremost, my thoughts are with Norberto Hernandez, whose tribute I first filed on Northern Trip, the predecessor to Atlantic Lines, in 2006. The searches for Norberto on Google are contaminated with references to the Falling Man, who was in fact another victim, Jonathan Briley. This confusion has led to much anger and anguish, something the families of both men could do well without.

Norberto, rest in peace.

This entry, as stated above is dedicated to the memory of

Norberto was a pastry chef from Elmhurst, working in the restaurant Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. After the attacks, he was reported missing for a week until parts of a torso and an arm were found in a collapsed stairwell. DNA testing and finger printing reveiled that these were the remains of Norberto. It also invalidated claims that the image of the Falling Man was that of Norberto; this was another victim of 9/11 who will be the subject of a different tribute.

At the time of the attacks on the WTC, Norberto was aged 42 and had been married for 25 years. He was the fourth of ten children by his parents’ marriage, and also had six half-siblings through his father. His parents separated when he was young. Norberto himself had three daughters, three grandchildren and 37 nephews. He was a man of Puerto Rican origins, and had hoped to spend his final days there. Instead, after 9/11, a funeral service was held and his remains cremated in Puerto Rico.

His sister Luz described Norberto. “He was quiet, kind”, she said. “He was a handsome man. Everybody loved him, you know. Everybody.” Norberto’s nickname was Bible, as he was very dependable. Together Forever was his motto.

Norberto started work in Windows on the World at the age of 17, washing dishes. He was interested in cooking, so a manager paid for his tuition at cooking school. Norberto became pastry chef and worked up to 10 hours a day. His sister Luz said that he made cakes, desserts, cookies and bread. His cakes were fabulous.

Outside work, Norberto loved sports, and was a fan of a Puerto Rican boxer, Felix Trinidad Jr. Four days before the attacks, he rang his mother and asked her to play “I would cry but I have no more tears” four times.

In the immediate aftermath of the plane striking the North Tower, Norberto called his sister Luz. “He said: ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I’m OK”.They were disconnected, and when Luz tried to call back she could not get through. Other accounts from Windows on the World tell that smoke and dust filled the restaurant after the strike, and that people lay on the floor to escape the worst of it. Air was beginning to run out at the time of the last contact.

These are the facts that I have managed to pull together from the Internet.

From the little that I have learned of Norberto, he came through as a gentle giant. Although 6’2” (1.84m) tall, he was always listening, and talked later. His family suffered a double loss, as Claribel Hernandez (his sister-in-law), a secretary working elsewhere in the North Tower, was also killed in the attacks. Norberto was close in the family and responsible, which earned him the nickname Bible. He loved his work, and by the look of one of the images, loved to impart that knowledge to others around him.

September 11th, 2001, dawned as a brilliantly sunny morning in New York. Two planes were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center, leading to their collapse within 2 hours. The destruction of so many lives was brought about by mindless hatred and madness, fuelled by religious zealotry which was not based on any writing in any scriptures in any religion.

Norberto may have heard of that on news reports, but it was probably quite far from him. He was a man that lived for his family, always there for them. A diligent worker, putting in up to 10 hours a day, loving his creations from the oven. Travelling to the WTC on the Subway every morning, his thoughts were probably far from what was to happen not that much later on that fateful Tuesday.

Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six are known to have died that day, or in its immediate aftermath. Norberto’s ashes were scattered in his homeland of Puerto Rico. His memory lives on in his family, and in the memory of those that read this. He is deeply missed by those close to him.

To Norberto Hernandez

Rest In Peace

This link is no longer operational

I have attempted to contact the University of Columbia to use the material in this link, but have not received a reply. As it is central to the tribute, I have used it, and acknowledge the writer, Sarah Clemence.

This is a poem by Barbara Phillips, from which I have used some factual references to Norberto. It refers to him being the Falling Man though.

I have been granted permission by UIM to reproduce the commemorative quilt for Norberto.
Link no longer operational
The poster, pictured above, proclaiming Norberto as missing after the attacks, hung on a walkway of Manhattan for more than a week

Monday, 10 September 2012

Monday 10 September

The day started grey and overcast, but by late afternoon the sun came out and so did the wind for a while. Summer is now a distant memory, and it felt decidedly cold today. We can expect high winds tomorrow, and even worse on Thursday, when the remnants of Leslie come blasting past with force 11 winds near the Faeroes, and at least a severe gale in our neck of the woods. I'm expecting people on the ferry on Thursday, so that will be tricky.

The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics have drawn to a close, with a massive pageant through the streets of London. The Paralympics, which closed yesterday, are even more a showcase for personal achievement than the regular Olympics, because of the adversity in physical disability that many have had to overcome in order to be able to compete. I hope many will go on to even greater things in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Tomorrow, this blog will only carry the memorials to Norberto Hernandez and Dwayne Collman, two of the victims of 9/11. The entries will be posted at the time the first plane struck the Twin Towers in New York, at 8.46am EDT (1.46pm UK time). Normal blogging service will resume on Wednesday 12 September.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday 9 September

Another autumnal day, with no sunshine and little if any rain. Quite breezy, force 6, but otherwise pretty non-descript. I spent the day going through my Gaelic music CDs (not got that many), and had a look through the Napier Report for Sutherland. I am also going through the Statistical Account for Scotland, which yields little gems of information, such as the annual rental for a house in Stornoway at the end of the 18th century: £15 to £25. Per annum. At that time, fishery was the mainstay of the town's economy, as it was to remain so for another 150 years. I have decided not to literally transcribe the report, but just excerpts. I have no completed posts yet, so I'll post the link later in the week when I have.

In anticipation of World Toilet Day on 19 November (ok, still two months away), the BBC have revealed that there are four things you cannot discuss in China. Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen and ... Toilets. The World Toilet Organisation has stated that China has the worst public toilets in all of Asia. The ruling Communist Party has reacted to that criticism by publishing an edict that not more than two flies are allowed in any one public loo.

Just an advance notice that on Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, this blog will only feature the tributes for two of the victims, Norberto Hernandez and Jeffrey Dwayne Collman. These posts will appear at 1.46pm local time, 8.46am EDT. Normal blogging will resume on Wednesday 12th.

Hurricane update - 9 September

At the apex of hurricane activity in the North Atlantic, and Western Europe is going to get a double whammy: the combined force of two hurricanes by the end of this week. Tropical storm Leslie, currently 100 miles east of Bermuda is headed north for Newfoundland. It will intensify to a hurricane before morphing into a deep area of low pressure. Joining Leslie will be hurricane Michael, a category II hurricane (winds 100 mph near the centre) which is headed northwest across the ocean. Michael will be absorbed into the larger circulation of Leslie, adding its force. I really do not like the resulting depression as it turned out on the 5-day forecast weather chart from the Met Office. By Friday, we can expect a decidedly windy day.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Saturday 8 September

An autumnal day with a few glimpses of sunshine and some outbreaks of drizzle. It wasn't cold, but it did not feel like the 17C that was recorded over at the airport, 4 miles east of here.

In 25 months from now, Scotland will go to the polls to vote for or against independence, 211 years after the union of England and Scotland formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland. The ruling Scottish National Party has pencilled the date in for October 2014, but I have been increasingly aghast at the apparent lack of preparation that the party seems to have for the eventuality of independence. Whenever a new issue arises, it appears that the SNP has not yet formulated an answer to it. The party has been in existence for some 80 years, and in government for the past 5, but I am quite surprised how unprepared they seem to be for independence. You'd expect that a policy would have been formulated by now.

One example. Northwest of Glasgow, at Faslane, sits a base for nuclear submarines, the British nuclear deterrant, called Trident. The SNP is opposed to NATO membership and independence would therefore dictate that the base be closed. However, Faslane provides employment for hundreds of people around the Clyde, in an area afflicted by unemployment. Losing those jobs for the sake of political principle could be seen as political suicide. Could there be a trade-off between the Westminster and Holyrood governments prior to the referendum, over increased revenue shares from North Sea oil? I don't expect so. A truncated United Kingdom might lose the appetite or not have the financial means to replace Trident in just over 10 years from now, so the base might have to be closed at any rate.

I am not in favour of independence for Scotland as I do not feel that the country has the financial and economic muscle for it. I also believe that a divorce from England, under the aegis of the SNP, would be detrimental to Scotland (as well as England) as it is likely to be conducted in an atmosphere of quiet acrimony, with mutual resentment going back to the 18th and 19th centuries being revived. South of the border, the £32bn annual subsidy to Scotland will also be used as an argument for an independence vote.

Irrespective of the outcome of the vote in October 2014, the United Kingdom will change for good.

Friday 7 September

A fairly bright day with good spells of sunshine. Went out to Gearrannan, 26 miles west of Stornoway, by bus at lunchtime. You need to change bus at Carloway, and the last mile and a half is covered by minibus. A bowl of soup and a sandwich was available at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. It is possible to walk around the village for free, but access to the museum house and exhibition requires the payment of a small fee. The wind was blowing steadily, making it feel colder than the 15C on the thermometer. The bus on the way back was developing a technical problem and it was sitting so high on its wheels that I had a spot of bother getting on bother. This was the schoolbus, and it went into most of the village along the way back to Stornoway.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Thursday 6 September

Our autumn continues apace, with a very wet and windy morning, gradually calming down to a few glimpses of sunshine in the afternoon. We continue to experience the same temperatures as of late, around the 60F mark.

As you may remember, I called round the Butt of Lewis lighthouse on Monday, at the start of the gale. The lighthouse stands at the top of a 120 ft high cliff, and there is nothing to stop anyone falling off the edge. Recently, it was reported locally, someone was walking along the narrow path between the lighthouse wall and the cliff edge when they met a flock of sheep coming the other way. The walker, an elderly person, fell - against the wall. Just as easily, the person could have gone over the edge. What should authorities do in such a situation, was the question. Well, it is not practicable to fence off all the cliff edges in the island. All you can do is put up a prominent warning notice with the addition that everybody approaches the area at their own risk. In 1955, someone did fall to their death off the cliffs a little way west of the lighthouse. Common sense does help.

I had a nice time over the past hour and a half going through the blogs on my Google Reader, and through some of the resources for local history that it also contains. The Statistical Account for Scotland was the most remarkable. The Accounts were taken in the 1790s and 1830s and give an overview of life in Scotland's parishes at the time. I'll do some transcribing here and there as far as the Western Isles are concerned; the text is not easily read due to the presence of the lowercase letter S looking like the lowercase letter f, minus the cross-stroke.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Wednesday 5 September

A nice day, with plenty of sunshine and the mercury at 16C / 60F. Tomorrow should be another day like yesterday, with plenty of wind and rain. It has already prompted the cancellation of the ferry service between Castlebay and Oban. On our route, the Isle of Arran has bravely carried out the service to Ullapool, although struggling somewhat with the timetable. Last night, she was more than two hours behind schedule; this evening, that lagtime was down to about half an hour. The Isle of Lewis should be back in business tomorrow. Here in Stornoway, the winds should be lighter than down south, as we're close to the centre of the causative depression.

I am aware that I have been  blogging a lot about ferries these past few days, but don't forget that we rely on that link for all our supplies. Whether it be by the passenger vessel Isle of Lewis or the freight boat Muirneag, everything comes by sea. Whenever the ferry does not sail for a day or more, the supermarket shelves run empty and you get the phenomenon of those souls stopping in their tracks upon entering the shop, aghast at the empty shelves. Without realising why that is.

Talking of supplies, the Office of Fair Trading will be looking into the price of fuel nationwide. It is of particular relevance here, since the price of our fuel is 20p a litre higher than on the mainland. Rumours and accusations abound that there is a monopoly on fuel supplies here, leading to higher prices. I mentioned our fuel price earlier this week: £1.50 a litre or $9 a US gallon.

Hurricane update - 5 September

Hurricane Leslie is headed north at a snail's pace of 2 knots, but poses a direct threat to Bermuda. On Saturday and Sunday, the island can expect the hurricane to pass with maximum sustained winds of up to 100 mph. The Bermuda Weather Service will be posting warnings as the storm approaches from the south; it has been suggested that Bermuda could see winds of 34 knots (force 8) or higher for 42 hours over the weekend, and a lengthy spell of 64 knots (force 12) or higher as Leslie passes.

Beyond Bermuda, Leslie will be making for the Canadian Maritime provinces, but this forecast lies beyond the normal 5-day scope and developments will have to be monitored over the next few days to ascertain whether the hurricane, most likely weakened by then, will actually affect eastern Canada.

Secondly, tropical storm Michael is poised to become a hurricane. This storm, located 1100 miles east of Bermuda, poses no direct threat to land. Although presently moving northeast, the system will veer northwest under the influence of Leslie to its west.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami will be posting updates every 6 hours on both systems.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Tuesday 4 September

The strong winds persisted into the afternoon, but after 4pm, they began to die down. We had some sunshine in the morning, as shown in this pic.

The Calmac ferry you see moored alongside the ferry pier is the MV Isle of Arran, which is poised to take over from the MV Isle of Lewis. Our usual ferry has had to undergo repairs, which are allocated for this afternoon and into Wednesday. The Isle of Arran, a stand-by vessel, is much slower, and as I type this post (10.30pm), it is running 1½ hours behind even its adjusted schedule. I'm expecting people off it, so it's going to be a late evening. But that's nothing new.

The demolition of the old Nicolson Institute is progressing apace, and now the canteen has been taken down. Its kitchen apparatus lies crushed on the site. It appears that they are recycling some of the materials, released by the demolition.

Finally, fuel prices seem to be creeping up again. I could not resist snapping this image of the price board on the petrol station a quarter of a mile down the road from me. For my American readers, these prices equate to (roughly) $9 a gallon (US). Further south, prices are as high as £1.55 a litre. If you go to Dingwall, 20 miles north of Inverness, petrol is £1.30 a litre, and it is shipped there in exactly the same tanker that delivers our fuel. Don't ask.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Monday 3 September

An increasingly wild day, with the wind picking up to galeforce in the afternoon. Went out in the car to have lunch at the excellent Sonas Cafe in Port of Ness, but upon alighting from the vehicle, the wind nearly took the door away. As we enjoyed the fish and chips, the rain moved away and the sun came out. We proceeded to the Butt of Lewis, just over 2 miles to the northwest where it was surprisingly calm. One thing; it's a southerly wind today, and the Butt faces north. In order to get a good view, we then drove round to the new cemetery on the Habost machair, a couple of miles to the south and were literally and metaphorically blown away by the view. In spite of the weather, a good afternoon. Tomorrow, the windy weather will continue, which will most likely play havoc with the ferry schedule. We shall see.

Port of Ness beach

Port Sto

At the Butt of Lewis