View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Thursday 18 October

The day started with heavy showers and a strong northeasterly wind, but after midday, the rain ceased and gradually the sun started to come out. After sunset, the new moon was visible low over the southwesterly horizon. I read twenty pages from the Qu'ran and about 30 in my new chronological account about the First World War.

You'd think people would learn from an incident, but reports from the Coastguard in Essex would suggest otherwise. Near the town of Colchester, it is apparently possible to drive to Mersea Island, off the coast, via a causeway called The Strood. The only problem with this is that it gets flooded at high tide during springtides, which are occurring at the moment. So, yesterday someone got overtaken by water on The Strood, got out of their car and was swept away. Someone else managed to save the driver, but another seven vehicles also got into difficulties. The same happened today.

Looking on Streetview (see below), I could see no signage warning of flooding on this road, but I can only reiterate the Coastguard's advice to always heed the tides when near the sea.

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The storm

Dark grey and ominous, scudding by low
Sun breaking through, blinding brightness
Parallel lines streaking southwest
Pockmarking the water, running with tide

High in the sky towering tall
Deep freeze above, chilly below
A puddle now forms, where the drain is blocked
The pavement is washed, by each passing motorist

Tide rising high, through sun and moon opposing
Wind rising too, the equinox past
Angry white riders, rearing up tall
Crashing in fury, augmented by wind

The watery road is closed, as the spume flies
Tied up by the pierhead, lights dimmed
Wind rising higher, beyond Beaufort's scale
Soon triple digits, even in imperial

Stones, pebbles, spray, clatter from shore
The walls resonate with the onslaught
Are they still safe, will they keep us

Fleeing the elements into the darkness
From which they will never emerge
Sweet and salt water combine
And swept off to oblivion, five they were

That was a bad one, thank heavens it's daylight
My roof's gone, the barn's a wreck
Trees down, power is off
That's nothing.
Where are the five?

Wednesday 17 October

PA179012 PA179013
That was the start to the morning, and it stayed fairly bright all day. The northeasterly wind did nothing to warm things up, and we barely managed double figures. Overnight, the mainland saw a hard frost, with -9C / 16F being reported from deepest Aberdeenshire. Five hundred miles to the south, in London, the overnight low was 15C / 59F. The UK is a comparatively small country, but can certainly see some dramatic differences in weather. The Cairngorms (a mountain range with peaks over 4,000 feet, 30 miles south of Inverness) had their first covering of snow over the weekend. It's mid October, and we'll know about it.

It is also the week for springtides, which causes trouble for the ferry between Leverburgh and Berneray, 55 miles south of here. It cannot sail at low tide during springtide, because there is simply not enough (or just plain no) water in the channels of the Sound of Harris. At one point, the boat comes to a near full stop, makes a 90 degree turn on the spot, then proceeds. It is that tight. Low tide also offers me the opportunity to go down to the bottom of the basin across the way from me, and look for shellfish. Like in previous years, I did find some, but unlike previous years, they did not jump up and down on the tray. Scallops move around on the seabed by quickly opening and shutting their shells. These did not budge. Although not all of them will have been scallops (probably queen scallops), I was not going to chance eating them. You see the amount of growth (both seaweed and barnacle), so the content would have been decidedly off.


Earlier this week, the British Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister signed an agreement to hold a referendum on independence for Scotland before the end of 2014. I have previously made my position clear on the issue: NO.