View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Train crash

At 6.24pm local time, two trains collided head-on a mile or so west of Amsterdam's Central Station in the Netherlands. One was headed north from Amsterdam, the other south towards the city. The trains are reported to have been travelling at 30 mph. Nobody was killed, but 136 people were hurt. 56 were seriously hurt, of whom 13 very seriously. The force of the collision is thought to have thrown passengers around in the carriages. The train service west of Amsterdam, including to Schiphol Airport, remains suspended for the evening.

Image courtesy

Saturday 21 April

A bright but cold day, with the mercury barely into double figures. The little dredger Admiral Day keeps going back and forth to the dumping ground off the lighthouse, after continuing to clear out the inner harbour here.

I spent most of the day rebuilding the blog of a lady by the name of Pamela Hilger. She died 6 years ago, after a 10-month battle against breast cancer. Her blog was one of the first AOL journals, but it was lost in 2008 when AOL pulled its journals service. Using the Wayback When machine on the WWW, I managed to retrieve about 130 entries from August 2003 until November 2005, when she moved to another blogsite. This one was salvaged in 2008; the first blog was not.

Reading back those entries is in fact profoundly saddening, as the outcome is by now known to me. From someone who is blogging about her cats, her daughter and her ex, Pamela changes into a cancer patient, looking only at the positive - whilst all points to the negative. The blog also demonstrates how things have changed in another aspect. Until 2008, blogging in J-land was done several times a day; my old blog Northern Trip would have updates up to a dozen times a day. Now, I manage one, sometimes two entries a day. The rest goes through Facebook and Twitter.

Friday 20 April

Quite a nice bright day, until this downpour trundled past at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Continued the transcription of the Crofter Commission's Report from 1902 about the care of the poor and of lunatic paupers. Generally speaking, the report has quite a condescending tone, but remains a valuable piece of social history of this island.

In the afternoon, I happened to glance into the backyard (which is enclosed by a 7 foot high wall) and spotted a female mallard duck.

She was frantically looking around her and quacking intermittently. Standing in amongst a patch of dandelions, she was soon spooked by a passing bumblebee and flew off. Ten minutes later, an SSPCA van pulled up and the driver rang the doorbell. Did we see a female duck - yes. The duck had flown away in the direction of the sea. The SSPCA man had 5 ducklings in a box in his van who were found wandering in the middle of the road, holding up the traffic. The animal welfare had been called and they were now looking for their mum. Well, to cut a long story short, mum never turned up again. A lady had been located who could look after the chicks, so they got taken away to be reared by hand. The duck had waddled in under a wooden fence, set in the wall. The fence has a 6 inch gap underneath. The duck had not been followed by her brood, who could no longer see or hear her on account of the fence and the noise of traffic.