View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Hurricane update - 23 October

Tropical storm Sandy formed yesterday and is now moving north towards Jamaica. At present, the system is still 260 miles to the south of that Caribbean island, but will reach it tomorrow at hurricane force, with winds in excess of 75 mph. After traversing Jamaica, it will be the turn of eastern Cuba, parts of which are (with Jamaica) on a hurricane warning. Sandy will then move over the Bahamas, which will see the storm below hurricane force, but there is not much difference between winds of 70 and 60 knots.

Tropical depression 24W (locally named Ofel) has formed to the southeast of Manila in the Philippines. The system will reach tropical storm strength as it passes just north of Mindanao, through the Visayas and past southern Luzon. Although the winds do not appear to be much of a problem, rain will be. The mountainous terrain of the Philippine islands tends to lead to flash floods and mud slides which are life-threatening.

Somalia should be keeping an eye on a tropical disturbance (95B) which is slipping across the Arabian Sea from southern India and has a high (> 50%) likelihood of becoming a tropical cyclone. If it does, it is likely to die a death over Cape Guardafui (also known as the Horn of Africa) which is a desert area. Like in the adjacent Arabian peninsula, tropical cyclones tend to be welcome in northeast Africa for the rain they bring. 

Tuesday 23 October - picture post

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Tuesday 23 October

The day started off quite foggy, but this lifted after sunrise, 8.30 am. Afterwards, it stayed bright and sunny right throughout the day. Even when darkness fell, there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

Over on the mainland, an accident closed the road between Inverness and Ullapool, from where the ferry to Stornoway sails. This resulted in delays to traffic seeking to catch the 5.35pm ferry. Calmac showed consideration by delaying this sailing until 8.30pm. It is now due in at 11.15pm. Three hours late, but better late than not until next morning.

I omitted to mention that last week saw the 120th edition of the Royal National Mod in Dunoon. At that event, the schools in the Western Isles did very well, scooping up several awards. The 2016 Mod will be held here in Stornoway, after visits to Paisley next year, Inverness in 2014 and Oban in 2015. It is a showcase for Gaelic culture, not just singing or music. The Mod programme also includes shinty matches and readings of prose. As far as the singing goes, marks are not only awarded for the musical qualities, but also Gaelic pronounciation.

Gaelic is a language that is only a distant relation to English, but several Gaelic words have crept into common usage in English. The word galore (gu leoir) is the best-known example. I do not speak Gaelic, and only know a handful of words. I am familiar though with the Gaelic version of placenames in Lewis and Harris. Although these may appear like a bad bout of alphabet soup (e.g. Gearraidh na h-Aibhne), if you know the rules on pronounciation and can manage the guttural CH (as in LOCH) you'll do fine. To me, the Gaelic names make more sense than the Anglicised versions.

Foggy morning

Wreathing in white and not a sound
Except the intermittent blaring horn
Damp and dank, hiding all
Visibility nil, humidity high

Light increases from the dawn
A wading bird's warbling call
The steady chugging of an engine
But not a thing in sight

The eastern horizon turns golden
The sun arises, and in scorn
rips a tear in the pale white blanket
showing a nearby hillside, part exposed

Slowly, steadily the tears increase
As familiar landmarks reappear
A ship closing in to dock
The quayside with its bollards too

Last to reemerge for distance
The monument on the hilltop yonder
Whilst the lighthouse in bemusement
Watches over the dissipating cloud

Quickly now the wisps disperse
Hiding in the moorland's folds
But even there the sun will come
Victorious into a golden day

The BBC after Jimmy Savile

I just want to put into words my sentiments after the recent revelations of Jimmy Savile, late TV personality and newly discovered predatory sex offender. Apart from the complete destruction of Savile's reputation as a fund-raiser of impeccable morals, it has also inflicted serious damage on the BBC's reputation - succinctly summarised by the organisation's byname of "Auntie Beeb".

Jimmy Savile, who died in November 2011 aged 86, is now known to have abused (vulnerable) children over a period stretching from the late 1950s until near the time of his death. Allegations, suspicions and rumours were never far from the star, and questions were asked - even to Savile himself - but never fully investigated or followed up. I cannot imagine what his victims had to go through over the decades to watch their tormentor persuing his career (both charitable and predatory) with impunity. Shortly after his death, an investigation by the BBC's Newsnight programme found creditable evidence of Savile's wrongdoing - but was inexplicably shelved at a day's notice. A few weeks later, on Boxing Day last year, a massive tribute was broadcast. But it was not until ITV broadcast the investigation that the BBC's Newsnight was barred from airing, earlier this month [I did not see it as I was in Holland at the time], that the cat finally came out of the bag.

To my mind, there was an attitude around (not just at the BBC) that Jimmy Savile was invulnerable, nobody could touch him - as he himself said in one interview. It does not say much good about attitudes at the broadcaster that this was allowed to continue for five decades. However, I have heard of at least one other person with a similar 'aura': Ratko Mladic, the erstwhile commander of the Bosnian Serb forces when overrunning the enclave at Srebrenica in 1995. Although there were dozens of armed UN soldiers around, nobody was able to put a bullet into Mladic - on account of the personality he radiated. And the same applies to Jimmy Savile.

This comes hard on the heels of an investigation into an event during the 1984/5 miners' strike, when a picket at the Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield was violently dispersed with excessive force by South Yorkshire Police. This was condoned by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who referred to the strikers as 'the enemy within'. At the time, the BBC faithfully broadcast a version of events that has now turned out to be biased against the miners.

In the 1980s, I regularly listened to BBC Radio 4 on longwave, living in Holland at the time. The BBC World Service was another source of information for me, and it had a reputation for unbiased, free and fair reporting. I extrapolated that to the whole of the BBC's output, but I don't think that was quite justified. The attitudes towards Jimmy Savile, compounded by the Orgreave revelations have damaged the broadcaster's integrity. The performance by the Director General, Mr Entwistle, this morning, did nothing to assuage my misgivings, in fact strengthened them.