View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 21 December 2012

Moved blog

Until 8 January 2013, I am blogging on the Shell Gallery blog. See you there.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Wednesday 19 December

Well, we lost the nice weather with a colourful prelude to sunrise - by 9 am, the sky was completely covered by grey clouds. After lunchtime, the rain started and is continuing as I type, at 6pm. Further south, it is blowing a gale, but that is not anticipate to reach this far north. We seem to have changed weather pattern to wet and windy, something that is set to continue over the next couple of days.
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Locally, the community buy-out for the Pairc Estate in South Lochs has received a boost, with the news that land owner Barry Lomas's human rights were not infringed by the hostile buy-out bid. Under legislation, enacted in 2003, communities can mount a hostile bid (i.e. against the land owner's will) to take over the land. Mr Lomas has also stated that the ballot in favour of the bid, taken 3 years ago, was legally flawed. The court in Stornoway is to rule on that issue next month.

Tomorrow morning, I fly off to Amsterdam to spend Christmas and New Year in Holland. This is therefore the last post on Atlantic Lines until 8 January 2013, the day after I return to Stornoway. As of Friday 21st December, I shall resume blogging on the Shell Gallery.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tuesday 18 December

A beautiful day, which started very cold after an overnight low of -4C / 24F. The frost did not lift until 11 am, and was quick to return as soon as the sun set. I just checked the latest reading, and found that the temperature had jumped from -2C to +4C between 7 and 8pm, with a southeasterly breeze springing up. This heralds the transition to a wild day tomorrow, contrasting with the absolute flat calm we had today. We had 19 hours of NO WIND. Don't believe me? Look at the pics below.

Quite a lot of my internet contacts use a photo-sharing site called Instagram. As of January 16th, 2013, it will give itself the right to sell its users' photographs, without giving the users a penny (or a cent, depending where you are reading this from). Instagram was recently acquired by Facebook, a site that is none too particular about its users' interests either. Want to know more? Read this article on the BBC website.

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A few nocturnal pics from last night as well

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Monday 17 December

A beautiful sunny December day, which ended in a hard frost. There was very little wind, and the sunset, at 3.35pm, was stunning. Apart from Christmas cards I have also taken delivery of a handful of postcrossing cards, from Hungary, Ukraine, Germany and Holland. I'm not sending out huge numbers of postcrossing cards, partly on account of the cost of stamps.

Today, it became known that the cost for a legal case involving Storas Uist (the community body that owns the estate encompassing South Uist) is £200,000, a sum that Storas will have to cough up. The legal costs are also those of their opponent in court. It should be born in mind that land is sacrosanct in these parts, and people are prepared to go to extremes to defend their rights - or what they perceive to be their rights. The sadness of this particular case is that it is the community that (indirectly) will be paying for this; on the other hand, £200k can easily be recouped by selling 40-50 plots of house building land, making hardly any dent in the land assets of Storas Uist. Even worse, a petition had circulated the island in 2010, pleading for the case to be settled amicably.

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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday 16 December

A quiet and overcast day, which saw the mercury gradually rising to 7C, which it still is as I type this at 11pm. Sunday is always quiet here, and even the ferry departure at 2.30pm went virtually unnoticed.

America is still coming to terms with the school shooting at Newtown CT. All victims were shot with 3 to 11 bullets each, and that just does not bear thinking about. However, it would appear that the culprit had a serious psychological disorder, which has highlighted that there are quite a few children around with such problems. I refer to the blog of "Anarchist Soccer Mom" for a description what form that can take - and it's not pleasant reading.

As a former J-land blogger, I cannot help but notice that several members of the community have lost their pets in recent days. One had to put their cat to sleep, two weeks after the same had to be done to another feline; another person lost their dog. As I always say in such situation, the pets will await their owners beyond the Rainbow Bridge, for them to join them again when they pass on.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Saturday 15 December

Today, I saw the last new moon of the year 2012 just after sunset.

It has been quite a reasonable day, following a night with wind reaching all of force 5, although Sumburgh in Shetland had to put up with a steady 45 mph, force 8-9 through the night. The day dawned fairly bright with variable amounts of mid-level cloud, leaving us with a panoply of cloudscapes.

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I am still very upset following the shooting at Newtown CT yesterday. What has really made me upset is the cavalier attitude of some, who claim to support the right to bear arms. I think it says enough that your average European country sees about 10 to 40 deaths through firearms each year. The USA has more than 10,000. States that have stricter gun control laws have lower death rates than states that do. Lobbing arguments about like "it's not the alcohol that makes you drive" is infuriating and disrespectful to the dead through firearms. Limiting their availability will reduce the likelihood that a firearm will get into the hands of the likes of the shooter at Newtown CT, who appears to have suffered from a psychological disorder (according to some). Which is a feature in common with many of the culprits behind the US's many gun atrocities. So, what happens with those unfortunate citizens who do suffer from mental health and psychological problems? Well, not that much, apparently. I hope that, apart from doing some serious and substantive reviews of federal and state law regarding gun control, the USA will also take a long and hard look at its mental health care - because something is seriously wrong here.

From Dunblane to Newtown

In 1995, a gunman burst into a primary school in Dunblane, near Stirling in Scotland, and opened fire. Sixteen children and one adult were killed. As a result of this atrocity, private gun ownership in the UK was practically outlawed.

In 2012, a gunman burst into a primary school in Newton, Connecticut in the USA, and opened fire. Eighteen children and several adults were killed. As a result of this atrocity - no changes are likely to be made to federal or state legislation on gun ownership.

RIP little ones, we won't forget you. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Friday 14 December

A day of changes in the weather, and as I type this (at 10pm), the mercury is higher than it was in the daytime. At present 6C, was 3C earlier in the day. The wind has picked up, but to no more than a force 5 - it is blowing a severe gale in Orkney and Shetland. These high winds will slowly migrate north, away from the northern isles. Further south, rain will once more present a threat of flooding.

Tropical cyclone Evan is moving from American Samoa to Fiji, and will affect that archipelago on Sunday. Current forecasting places the storm just north of the islands, but it will impact Fiji. It wreaked havoc in Samoa, leaving at least 2 dead and a power plant destroyed.

Once more, a shooting incident has rocked the USA. 27 people, including 20 children, 6 adults and the gunman himself, lie dead in Newtown CT. My thoughts are with the families affected, including those of the children who had to go through the ordeal. This of course poses questions about gun control and about how people with mental health issues are dealt with. However, mass shootings seem to be have assumed a saddening regularity in the States, and I could not begin to surmise what could be done to stop them.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thursday 13 December

Another cold day, with temps not above 3C / 37F. Although it started sunny, cloud moved across from the south from midday onwards, leading to rain at 5pm. The progression of clouds had me glued to the window, and I went for a wee amble round the powerstation to have a better view of it. I'm a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society as regular readers will have guessed by now.

Currently keeping an eye on tropical cyclone Evan which is on the rampage over American Samoa. The storm has strengthened to the equivalent of a category III hurricane, with winds of 115 mph, and increasing further. The system is in the process of performing a 180 degree turn, and will move off towards Fiji. I am informed that, to date, two people have died as a result of Evan. Hope there are no further casualties.

Frontal boundary over Stornoway, 2.30pm

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Wednesday 12 December

OK, today is 12-12-12. And at 12.12 pm, 51 happy couples got married at Gretna Green. Until not that long ago, couples would elope to get hitched over the blacksmith's anvil. I think the practice was discontinued in 1977.

Today was another in a long series of beautiful winter days with good sunshine, low temperatures and fantastic cloudscapes. Tomorrow will see a change to wind and rain, with perhaps a gale at times, but I don't expect the high winds to last. We managed 4C / 39F today, much better than yesterday's zero.

Talking of freezing, there has been a problem with the local ice plant. This is used by fishing boats for chilling their catches between pulling them from the sea and landing them ashore. The last plant broke down a few months ago, and is beyond repair. Rather than forcing boats to sail dozens of miles for ice from Uig, Kallin, Ullapool or Lochinver, the council has leased a machine for the use of boats.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tuesday 11 December

The day started with a beautiful sunrise at 9 am, and not a breath of wind all day. Temperatures ranged between -1C and +2C, and there was ice on sheltered puddles - you had to be careful out and about on the streets.

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I had some fun this morning going through my old pics from walks in remote areas of the island, which have inspired some of my recent poems. Loch Langabhat lies at the centre of Lewis, and stretches for 8 miles north to south, with Loch Coire Geurad lying within feet of its western shoreline. There is no permanent habitation within 4 miles of Langabhat, and it can only be reached after walking some very rough moorland terrain. I'm used to that; if you're not, the area can be dangerous. The interior of Lewis was in use for shielings, summer grazings.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Monday 10 December

Another day like so many in recent times: fairly bright and getting colder (3C / 37F). Went to town for a few bits and pieces, and found the shops to be fairly busy. Don't know why the electrical supplies shop was packed out and the butcher's empty, but that's the way it goes.

People from Sandwick east to Aignish were off electricity supply between 11 am and 3pm this afternoon after a high-voltage cable came down at Sandwick. The power company was soon on the scene and fixed the problem.

I am an avid follower of the TV programme Ice Road Truckers, which features truck drivers in the far north of Canada and Alaska. They negotiate ice covered roads, and roads made across frozen lakes. This inherently presents grave danger, meaning they earn a lot of money. It also claims the lives of some of their number each year, and one British driver was killed in an accident a few days ago. In the summertime, some of the ice roads are accessible to ordinary drivers, but even then it would appear you're driving a dirt track. One road, the Dalton Haul Road from Fairbanks to Deadhorse in Alaska, is 450 miles long. There is only one place of permanent habitation, a truckstop called Coldfoot. Imagine driving from London to Glasgow with no towns or cities along the entire distance... Have a look on this blog for an impression.
A few days ago, I featured a pic of the Barvas Moor road here in Lewis, which is empty for 11 miles. Multiply that by 40, remove the tarmac, and you have the Dalton.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunday 9 December

A quiet day, with occasional showers and rather lower temps than yesterday. We managed 6C / 43F. The coming week will see benign weather, with good bright spells and moderate temperatures for the time of year. High pressure is taking up residence overhead, which tends to give rise to settled weather. It is the continuation of a weather pattern that has been present all year.

Typhoon Bopha is no more. After making a resurgence on Friday and Saturday west of Luzon, the storm collapsed from 85 knots to below tropical cyclone warning strength within 24 hours. Tropical cyclones require an even flow of wind at all levels of the atmosphere (they reach up to 10 miles up), and a strong windflow from the northeast monsoon killed Bopha just as it started to wreak havoc on the west coast of Luzon, Philippines. I anticipate that we shall never see the name Bopha used again, in view of the hundreds of lives lost in Mindanao and Luzon over the past week or so.

Earlier today, one of my FB contacts returned to their home in the Western Isles from a visit to Inverness, saying welcome back to civilisation. It is a tongue-in-cheek welcome, as some people go to the city to go to the theatre, the film or attend to various pieces of business. However, over the years that I have been in Lewis, I have found Inverness (and any city) to be place I cannot wait to get out of. Too many people, too much noise, traffic and what not. There is also a degree of friendly rivalry in this part of the world. The people from Stornoway look down on the teuchters (the country bumpkins) from out of town. Those from Inverness look down their nose at the country cousins from Stornoway. The people in Edinburgh look down at the Highlanders from Inverness. And Londoners look down on those Scots from Edinburgh.

I was talking about the busy streets of Inverness.

Your average road in this island looks like this.

Saturday 8 December

A milder day than of late, with the mercury reaching the dizzying heights of 10C / 50F. We did not see much of the sun today, although the sunset was quite creditable.

I went into the town after dark to photograph the Xmas decorations. Although they look very festive and colourful, their extent and variety has sadly decreased considerably over the years. Austerity has bitten deep here.

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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Prank phonecall

I want to write a few lines about the on-going controversy about the prank phonecall, perpetrated by Australian radiostation 2day a few days ago. Two presenters rang the King Edward VII Hospital in London where the Duchess of Cambridge was a patient. They pretended to be the Queen, and a nurse on duty answered questions on the Duchess's condition. This was against protocol and procedure; apparently, when a senior royal is in hospital, a policeman will answer such calls. It was reported yesterday that the nurse who answered the call took her own life.

A serious backlash is underway against the radiostation in Sydney, with advertising having been withdrawn by major Australian companies. I am disgusted by the prank phonecall, but do not feel that this was intended to cause someone actual harm. I think that the nurse knew she had made a serious mistake, and was unable to cope with that. Even though Prince William and his father Prince Charles went out of their way to show that they did not take this too seriously.

When someone makes a mistake when working with patients in hospital, they are usually spoken to by their line manager to ascertain the course of events and to ensure that the error will not occur again. It is not so much laying blame as learning lessons.

Just as I am closing this post, I read that the two DJs involved have been offered counselling over this event. I don't know if such was also offered to the unfortunate nurse in the aftermath of the prank phonecall.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Friday 7 December

Another nice day, apart from the temperature. We are in the middle of a nippy spell, with daytime temps of around 5C / 41F. The overnight lows on the mainland have been very low indeed, with Braemar at -13C on Thursday morning. The Netherlands have seen a good dump of snow, with up to 8 inches in places and all the attendant traffic problems that this brings. Our temps are due to rise over the weekend, possibly into double figures. Elsewhere, it will only go down.

A few days ago, the hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge received a prank phonecall from an Australian radio station. The presenters pretended to be the Queen, enquiring after her daughter in law. The nurse answering the call proceeded to divulge confidential information - to the Australian radio station. I understand that when a royal is in hospital, any phonecalls of this nature are answered by the police officer on duty at the hospital. However, even when ordinary mortals are in hospital, telephone enquiries about someone's health are not routinely answered. This evening, it was announced that the nurse answering the phone that night is thought to have taken her own life. However, investigations are on-going, so it is not in order to enter into speculation into who are at fault here are not in order.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Wednesday 5 December

Another cold day, but fairly bright. By the middle of the afternoon, cloud started to increase from the southwest, obscuring the sun towards sunset time, 3.40pm. That, however, did not prevent the thermometer from dipping down to -3C at 6pm, rising through the night as cloud increased to heavy rain.
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Earlier, between 8.30 and 10am, a ship came into port - only to leave shortly afterwards.
MV Arrow was en-route to Uig (Skye). She is a roll-on roll-off ship, so maybe trying out the port with a view to take over from the MV Muirneag, which will go out of service in 10 months' time. I don't know. Visibility just allowed the superstructure of MV Grand Canyon to appear over the horizon, as she passed south down the Minch.
Typhoon Bopha (known in the Philippines as Pablo) has left a trail of death and destruction across Mindanao and other islands in the Philippines. Some 300 people are known to have died, and 700 are missing. Bopha was a category V typhoon, the strongest on the scale, and packed winds of 160 mph near its centre. The system is moving into the South China Sea, where it is expected to dissipate within 5 days.

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tuesday 4 December

A fairly bright day, but continuing to feel very cold in the north wind. There were a few showers about, which did not help the temperatures; only 5C as a high. Major problems were experienced by drivers, caught out by black ice. Frozen roads look deceptively like wet roads, and people were relying on their in-car temperature gauges. Thinking that 4C is OK, they found themselves off the road at Balallan in Lewis and Luskentyre in Harris.

I still prefer our cold snap to the 160 mph winds that were experienced in eastern Mindanao, Philippines over the past 24 hours. In spite of the category V typhoon, the death toll in the Philippines appears to be relatively low. Preparations seem to have prevented a major loss of life, which so often is the case in the country. The Philippines, on average, sees about 20 tropical cyclones annually. The season is winding down over there, as the southern hemisphere season is beginning.

Sunset was at 3.40pm today, but we were treated to a very colourful display in Stornoway.

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Monday 3 December

A fairly overcast and cold day, with the mercury at 6C at the most. The news was dominated by the Duchess of Cambridge (also known as the Countess of Strathearn in Scotland), who had to be admitted to hospital with a severe form of morning sickness - in other words, she is expecting, but less than 12 weeks into the pregnancy. What I don't particularly like is that the news bulletins are taken over by this news, however happy for the couple involved.

I am keeping a close eye on the progression of supertyphoon Bopha / Pablo, as it prepares to slam into the Philippine island of Mindanao. The storm carries winds of 140 knots, which is 160 mph, gusting to 170 knots or 190 mph. Apart from the extreme wind, this also carries the risk of heavy rains, which (in the Philippines) carry the added hazard of life-threatening mudslides and flash floods. On Sunday, Bopha caused damage in the archipelago of Palau, 450 miles east of the Philippines.

A linesman who was assisting at an amateur football game in Amsterdam was kicked to death by three of the players on Sunday. The culprits, aged 15 and 16, have been arrested and will face court proceedings. A huge discussion has erupted in the Netherlands over violence in society, and particularly at football matches. Dutch football was long plagued by hooliganism, but the age of the players involved in this incident has hit a raw nerve. RIP Richard Nieuwenhuizen.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sunday 2 December

After a slight overnight frost (-1C / 30F), the day dawned cold but bright. Cloud later built into isolated showers, which (here) appeared to be of rain only. As I type this, there are reports of snow on the Scottish mainland, which could accumulate to 15 cm / 6 inches on the mountains.

I spent the afternoon preparing my 40-odd Christmas cards for despatch. About half of those go to the USA. Printing the cards and envelopes and writing the messages. Tomorrow, I shall proceed to the Post Office to obtain postage. This also includes 5 Postcrossing cards, which go to Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Russia and the USA.

Today was another day for great cloudscapes, and I share a handful of pics below.

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