View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 29 March 2013


This blog will not be updated until further notice.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Tuesday 26 March

P3262118 Moon at 3.10 am

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Monday 25 March

Spring is here according to the calendar, but the people in the south and west of Scotland, and in the north of England and Northern Ireland do not agree. Vast drifts of snow, up to 20 feet in height, have blocked roads, torn down overhead powerlines and buried livestock alive. Huge losses in sheep and cattle are feared, Arran is off power as are parts of the Kintyre peninsula. Unbelievable. Although we "only" have a cold wind and not much sun, winter is continuing under the banner of spring.

Sunday 24 March

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Spring continues in the guise of winter, but the bulbs are blooming. The sparrowhawk has become the terror of the garden birds...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Saturday 23 March

The east wind has stopped the ferry from sailing, but not stopped these blooms from appearing on the bushes along the street. No ferry for 24 hours? Well, you get panic buying and empty shelves in the supermarket.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday 22 March

Yesterday, the First Minister for Scotland, Alex Salmond MSP, announced that the day for the independence referendum for Scotland is to be Thursday 18 September 2013. At least we can start to count down to the day that we'll finally be rid of all this politicking on the issue, to the detriment of all the other important stuff that is needing to be addressed. If I get round to voting on the day, I'll be voting against. I'm shocked at the lack of preparedness for the eventuality of independence as shown by Mr Salmond's Scottish National Party, who appear to have to think on the hoof whenever an issue is raised. Independence may be a good idea on its own, but I shudder to think at the state the country will be in by 2016, if Scots vote for independence. 2016 is the year that Scotland would be on its own two feet - or flat on its face.

Today is seeing massive disruption due to snow in England and southern Scotland. Snow depth of up to 40 cm / 16 inches are being forecast. Here in northern Scotland, strong easterly winds are wreaking havoc with the ferry services; the Calmac boats are mostly stormbound in port. The Outer Hebrides are completely without any ferry service at all, including inter-island ferries.

I am reducing my activity on Atlantic Lines. I shall be posting pictures and specific posts on current events, such as above. I don't think there is much point in posting just for the sake of it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Monday 18 March

At 9 o'clock, I jumped on the postbus to Lochmaddy, where I picked up the keyboard, which I had left at Taigh Chearsabhaigh. The weather was unpleasant, with a strong easterly breeze making it cold. It also made it very difficult to keep a hold of the large box containing the keyboard. I waited in the ferry terminal, then went out to wait for the bus - which was 15 minutes late. It raced down the 10 miles to Berneray, making the 11.10 departure to Leverburgh by only a few minutes. The crossing was pretty rough, with frequent episodes of spray flying over the bow of the Loch Portain. Upon arrival at Leverburgh, I had more trouble with the crosswind trying to make me fly off with the box, before I boarded the bus to Stornoway. £6.20 took me to the town; had 40 minutes for lunch at Tarbert. Once back in town, I took a taxi for the last bit - I did not fancy walking any distance with 'the box'.

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Sunday 17 March

After a wet and windy start, the sky blew open and after breakfast I could head out to the hills with impunity. I walked up the road towards the hill of Cleitreabhal, 4 miles to the east, which is 450 feet in height and offers a view stretching from the Clisham in Harris to the Isle of Barra, to the south. Beyond the summit, which is crowned by communications equipment, I decided to traverse an area of moorland, which proved to be amongst the most challenging I have encountered. Nonetheless, I managed to reach the other side without anything worse than a slightly wet foot. My local contact arranged, by text, a meeting for 5pm, which allowed me plenty of time to complete my walk. It led me on into the village of Hosta, and onto the machair land beyond. I circled the coastline down to Hougharry, and returned to the B&B by about 4. After refreshing myself, I joined my contact on the machair near the Bird Reserve for a final evening's hospitality. I did not leave Cuddle Castle until about 1.45 am, meaning I still had to walk the 40 minutes to Hougharry in complete darkness. Nonetheless, a memorable visit to North Uist.

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Saturday 16 March

Today, I am playing the keyboard at the cultural centre Taigh Chearsabhaigh in Lochmaddy, but as the bus is not leaving until 11.40, I have time to walk around the bay by the Balranald RSPB Bird Reserve, next to Hougharry. After breakfast, at 9 am, I walk into the reserve, as far as the coastline permits, then return along the north shore, which faces Hougharry. Keeps me going for two hours. Several people are looking for rare birds; apparently, a harlequin duck has been sighted in the area. Attracts twitchers from all over the UK. My bus, a postbus, duly appears at 11.40, and after changing at Clachan, I arrive into Lochmaddy at around 12.30pm. I claim my bowl of soup, after which another local musician alternates with me by playing the guitar. My main contact had decided to cycle into Lochmaddy, 18 miles into a headwind, and was consequently late. The guitar player left at 1.30, and I kept the show on the road for 20 minutes until the singer turned up. At 2.30, the cafe closed and we ambled off for a walk around Lochmaddy. She left her groceries and bicycle in shed in the village while we retraced my steps to the hut of shadows. Upon return, we were on time for the 4.20pm bus to the West Side via Sollas. I went on to Hougharry, giving my host some time to prepare for my return a little later. This evening, I did not hit the road until about 1.30 am, and it was tipping it down and blowing a hoolie. Was well and truly soaked - to one side - on return to Hougharry. Bins and fences had been blown into the road.

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Friday 15 March

Set off at 10 am for the island of North Uist, 75 miles southwest of Stornoway. This requires a 55 mile bus ride to Leverburgh, then an hour on the ferry to Berneray and half an hour by bus to the main village, Lochmaddy. The bus journey is familiar to me, and the two hours (plus some waiting time in Tarbert) went by quickly. I am carrying a musical keyboard in a large cardboard box, which I am needing on Saturday when I shall play at the Taigh Chearsabhaigh cultural centre in Lochmaddy. TC have a "soup & jam" session at lunchtime on Saturdays, where musicians get a free bowl of soup in exchange for some music. I was invited there by a local singer, in whose company I shall spend much of the weekend. For reasons of privacy, I am not divulging the name on an open internet page.

After crossing the Sound of Harris to Berneray, I changed into a local bus which was very warm - in the sunshine - for the ten miles to Lochmaddy. Once there, I popped into TC to leave my keyboard in a safe place, pre-arranged with my local contact. I then walked around the village for an hour and half, waiting for the 3.15 bus to my B&B. I ambled out to the wee bridge, which leads to the Hut of Shadows, which is situated on one of the many headlands around Lochmaddy. The hut of shadows is a camera obscura, which, in the right conditions, will project an image on an opposing wall.

At 3.15, the bus to Bayhead pulled up and I was taken west. After a lengthy stop at the local primary school, where two young kids boarded, the vehicle whizzed off to Clachan, then north to Bayhead. Once there, we had to wait for 40 minutes for the school bus out of Lionacleit (Benbecula) to disgorge - one pupil to take onwards. I arrived in the village of Hougharry at 4.30, and into my B&B.

After 6pm, I walked up the mile and a half along the road to the next village, where I knocked on the door of my contact - cue an evening's chatting. Just as well I had bought a torch, as I did not head back down the road again until nearly midnight.

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