View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 30 April 2012

Monday 30 April

Another sunny day, with only a transitory bank of thin, high cloud to mar the enjoyment. Much better than the inches and inches of rain in parts of England. The resulting flooding claimed a life near Newbury, Berkshire.

I finished the transcription of the 1902 report into social conditions in the Isle of Lewis, which made for interesting but at times aggravating reading. It has a distinctly condescending tone,which compares unfavourable with that of the Napier Report of 1883.

There was a bit of excitement this afternoon, when the town and his wife came down to the seafront to see the Norwegian submarine Uredd move into port. Five sailors stood out on deck as she came in to dock on the eastern side of pier no 1. There have been manoeuvres in the Minch of late, but this vessel apparently came in as a courtesy call.

30 April

Today is the last day of winter in the old Gaelic year. Tomorrow, Beltane, will see the advent of the light, and the banishment of the darkness of winter for another half-year. In six months' time, Hallowe'en (All Hallows' Eve) will signal the end of summer, as we remember on 1 November those that have gone on ahead.
In continental Europe, the night of April 30th into May 1st is Walpurgisnight, which serves the same purpose. The town of Zutphen, 20 miles north of Arnhem in Holland, has a church dedicated to St Walpurgis.

In more recent history, April 30th, 1945, was the day that Adolf Hitler committed suicide towards the end of the Second World War. An evil spirit was certainly exorcised at that time.

Queen's Day in Holland

From 600 miles away, I catch a glimpse of the annual Queen's Day celebrations in Holland. It is the day when the Queen's Birthday is being celebrated. Beatrix was 74 last January, but the weather tends to be better in late April. On this day, the whole country has a day off and takes to the street with celebrations, silly games or streetmarkets, where they sell the contents of their attic. The weather is usually good, and likewise this year. Like in Stornoway today, it is sunny. Unlike Stornoway, the mercury is at a very royal 20C / 68F. Here in the Hebrides, we have to make do with 10C / 50F.

The Queen and her family also join in, and each year they visit one or two towns to do so. Three years ago, the celebrations were marred by a deranged man, who crashed his car into a crowd of people, killing 6. But this year, everybody appears to be having a whale of a time, as demonstrated by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander (45). On a visit to the town of Rhenen (midway between Arnhem and Utrecht), he joined in a spot of toilet tossing. Of course, his toilet had to be Orange (just ignore the audio).