Thursday 25/01/07

It's Burns night tonight, and mrs B has invited a number of her relatives round for supper. No we don't get haggis, but mince and tatties, as well as neeps and brussels sprouts. After I get the papers in - we may get a miniature railway in Stornoway, between Cuddy Point, the Waterwheel and Cromwell Street Quay, to tempt drivers out of their cars - then assist mrs B in the preparations. The first two guests arrive at 6.30pm, and the third by 7 o'clock. Some Burns poetry is recited in amongst the food, and a couple of songs do the rounds. A lemon torte and a trifle close proceedings foodwise. Spirits keep spirits high afterwards.

Wednesday 24/01/07

Bright day with sunny spells and temperature of 5C / 41F. A fair number of interesting news items, including the stop being put on looting from the cargo of MSC Napoli in Devon. People who don't report that they have retrieved goods washed up on shore are liable for prosecution and a fine, double the value of the goods taken. In the case of the BMW motorbikes, this could add up. The Health Board is still £3m in the red, our ferry services are up for review.
Go out for a walk round town at 3pm. The MV Sava Hill is discharging its cargo of coal. The lorry carting it away are being weighed at the weigbridge near no 2 pier, and they leave a lot of coalmess around. The quayside behind Muirneag is occupied by four black-backed gulls. One of them has caught a fish, but drops it from its beak nearly on to two passers-by. They throw the fish into the sea. Walk on to the Cromwell Street Quay, where a few fishingboats lie tied up. Cross the bridge outside the new YM, and carry on to the Golf Club. The greens look very - green. Pass through the Porter's Lodge to the Coop, where I get the papers and the lottery tickets. Return along Matheson Road and Sandwick Road.

Tuesday 23/01/07

Another dreich day, with occasional rainshowers. Snow in the Highlands caused a MacAskills lorry to jackknife on the A9 south of Inverness. This snow is now headed for England. The scavenging around the Devon shipwreck has greatly reduced after the authorities threaten arrests and prosecution. One family, who were retiring to South Africa, watched their possessions being looted and strewn along the beach. The Health Board has a new chairman, who is/was chairman of An Lanntair. The Health Board were forced by the people of Scalpay to keep open the health centre on that island. It appeared to have been earmarked for closure, as little had been done about its upkeep. The HB thought people could travel to Tarbert to see a doctor and pick up their medicines. No, said Scalpay. Supper consisted of sweet and sour. A cargoship entered port just before 11pm, lighting its way in with its searchlight.

Monday 22/01/07

Bright morning, but hail and sleet showers bear down from the Arctic. Tropical cyclones are developing in the South Pacific, which I'll be keeping an eye on over the next few days. The ferry is late coming in at lunchtime, don't know why. Hop off into town for papers, post-its and some food. Get a computer magazine, which is full of Windows Vista. Mrs B is doing a wholesale clean of the house, whilst I catch up on diary entries for the preceding week. After sunset, the new moon is out. Yesterday's Indonesian earthquake was feared to have caused a tsunami, but nothing happened. The Christmas lights are being taken down in the town centre. Tried out something new for supper: a Mariner's Pie. Quite acceptable.

Sunday 21/01/07

After a late start we have a brunch of bacon and eggs. Catch up with the news, such as the sad case of Molly Campbell, who will now remain with daddy in Pakistan. Her mother thinks she has been influenced by the family over there, and that she is a sad, confused child. Nonetheless, she is unlikely to visit Misbah (Molly's Islamic name) any time soon, because of death threats uttered against her. Mrs Campbell converted to Islam, and converted back to Christianity on the divorce from Sajed. Louise is now concentrating on her young baby daughter Rachel, 6 months old and her partner. Her relationship with that man broke down under the strain of Molly's abduction; Molly didn't like the man to start with. The containership Napoli now lies grounded off the South Devon coast and is shedding its cargo of containers and its fuel oil under a 30 degree list. Supper tonight is pork fillets with potatoes, ratatouille and home-made apple sauce. A blackberry and apple tart topped with custard leaves us well replete. Hail and snow showers clatter down through the evening - it's very cold outside.

Saturday 20/01/07

Carry out some on-line research into the sinking of the fishery protection cruiser Vaila, the results of which feature on a separate entry. Showers pass through, leaving some great cloudscapes. One person died in the Cairngorms yesterday, the fifth to die on Coire an t-Sneachda [as reported separately]. One chap falls 1,000 feet on a mountain near Loch Treig and survives. Sends you wondering whether people are prepared or equipped for the mountains or the conditions on them at all. Today is cold: 4C. Have a microwaveable meal for supper. The lottery yields no gain.

Friday 19/01/07

Weather has turned grey and drizzly. The big storm is now causing havoc in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Big Brother row leads to its inevitable conclusion, with prime culprit Jade Goody booted out. She was met by a deafening silence, and is now fighting for her career. Davina McCall has grown decidedly gaunt and unattractive, in the 3 years that I did not watch Big Brother. I cannot sit out the program, as Jade Goody's voice and utterances grate on my nerves. The forecast for next week is wintery, with a cold northerly blast. All the weekend's shopping is in now, so I just need to nip out to get the papers and lottery tickets. Hop into town for a haircut and some other bits and pieces. Catch up with the week's puzzles from the papers. A new edition is out of Back in the Day, featuring quite a few interesting historical pictures and stories.

Thursday 18/01/07

A major storm is lashing England and Wales, with sustained winds of 45 mph and gusts up to 99 mph at the Needles, Isle of Wight. In total, 13 people lose their lives through the day. The first perished in Shropshire, when a branch fell through his windscreen. A young child is crushed by a 20 ft wall in Manchester. Others are killed by flying debris. A container ship, measuring 62,000 tonnes, gets into difficulties in the Channel when a plate works loose on its hull. The 26 crew abandon ship, and are rescued by the Coastguard. Fifteen lorries are blown over on the country's roads, with one driver being killed. When the storms move across the North Sea, they leave 140,000 people without power. In Holland, winds increase to 55 mph, blowing over a building crane at Utrecht and shutting down the rail network. Six die in the Netherlands; eleven die in Germany, which also sees its railways closed for the first time in their history.
Here in the islands, it's a bright day with only light winds. Went for a walk to the Battery, where I found the new tanks positioned behind the powerstation. Hobble down to Somerfields for the papers. It's not warm at all. Meet Mrs B at the supermarket and carry her shopping home.

Wednesday 17/01/07

Today, the new webcam arrives. Ordered it through Amazon last Thursday, and spend a few hours jiggling about with it. A huge row erupts over Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother. Ignorance and a loud mouth make a poor mixture. It prompts questions in Parliament, and almost a diplomatic incident. The wide load is taken down the street at lunchtime, in the shape of two oil tanks on low loaders. These are so wide that all parked cars have to be removed. The tanks stand more than 20 feet tall. Molly Campbell will be staying with her daddy in Pakistan, after mum gives up the custody fight. Something morally wrong there. Go out shopping at 3.30, and return at 4pm, just before a major downpour. Chat to our guest, who is here on a course at Lews Castle College, related to his job as a marine engineer.

Tuesday 16/01/07

Sunny interlude with a few showers today. It's cold this morning, but at least we have the sun. Ferry came in early this morning, and departed at 8.30. It returns late, at 2pm. During the afternoon, cloud gradually increases on the approach of yet another depression. Winter is promised for next week. The Scot Isles is now unloading its cargo of a large tank onto a trailer. It is a slow process, which would have been impossible yesterday. The lifeboat is hauled up onto the slipway all day. Residents are once again requested to clear the street, but the wide load does not come through. Later in the evening, I go for a walk to the Coastguard Station. As I look around for a place to take a pic, I hear a cat miaow below me, and presently a familiar looking tabby jumps up from the boulders lining the basin. I fuss over it for about 10 minutes, then return.

Monday 15/01/07

Dreadful day, lashing rain, howling gale. The wide load that is due down the street today does not come, too much wind. The new webcam is being despatched today, and it should come within the next few days. Ferry crosses to Ullapool at 7.15, but does not return until 8pm. All services to and within the Outer Hebrides are off. When I go to the shop at 3pm, the winds and rain are abating. One guest was due up from the Berneray ferry, but no such luck. She'll come tomorrow morning. Mrs B gets an acquaintance in to do a few jobs around the house. The ferry leaves port at midnight, taking over from the Muirneag, whose captain is off sick in hospital.

Sunday 14/01/07

Weather not much better than yesterday. A heavy hailshower passes just after midnight, with stones measuring up to 8 mm, 1/3 inch. They take 2 hours to melt. Our guest does not show up until well into the afternoon. Keep a quiet day myself. Things begin to liven up on the weatherfront after nightfall. A gale blows up, with gusts in exccess of 60 mph; up at Eoropie they go at 70 mph. North Rona has sustained winds of 70 mph. Mrs B's son & family call round for their showers in the evening. Supper is a very creditable goulash with rice. Will the ferry be going tomorrow? I have my doubts.

Saturday 13/01/07

Cold, wet and grey today. Do not show my face outside, partially because mrs B has gone out to get my lottery ticket alongside with her own shopping. My paper, the Press & Journal, has not come today. A note is being left in the neighbourhood, advising people to remove their cars from the street on Monday, to allow a wide load to pass to the power station. Sends me wondering how they are going to squeeze through the turn from Seaview Terrace into the Battery, which is an awkward passage. Our guest goes out for the night at 6pm, only to return much the worse for wear after midnight. Weather deteriorates through the evening. Dinner is a microwaveable meal.

Friday 12/01/07

Heavy showers and strong winds, bordering on galeforce. It's binday as well, with the bins all going walkabout in the street. After the binlorry has emptied them, the bins take off. Today is the day that the management of the Galson Estate is taken over by the Galson Trust, a community run body. More than half the landmass of the Western Isles is now in community ownership. AIS shows about 10 fishermen in the Minch. The Jan Maria is discernible off Arnish just after midday, as does the Dirk Diederik. Between 11 and 1, there is a bit of a clearance. The tiling is being finished off today. This week's guest from Skye returns home - via Inverness strangely enough. The Lochmaddy to Uig ferry couldn't dock in Skye, so she ends up sheltering in Tarbert, Harris. Two days ago, our long term guest returned after the Christmas break. At 3.45, we have a powercut, which brings out candles and paraffin lamps. Electricity is restored after 10 or 15 minutes. Candles are not easily obtained, as they were sold out before the winter, when people were preparing for precisely this sort of eventuality. The Stornoway Gazette, only in today, contains a letter from a resident complaining bitterly about people racing the streets in their souped-up cars. His daughter's cat was knocked down and killed, leaving kids in the street to discover the mess left behind. The powercut leaves Isles FM off air for more than an hour. The powerstation at the Battery is fired up, and our supplies continue uninterrupted.

Thursday 11/01/07

Thunder and hailshowers carry on through the night. The strong winds shift to the south of the UK, with winds of 50 mph up here. A brief powercut occurs at 10.30 am. Today is the 2nd anniversary of the deadly hurricane, which took 5 lives in the Uists. Both the local council and the Scottish Executive are accused of dragging their feet over the necessary maintenance work on the roads. My webcam has stopped working properly, as it no longer focuses. Severe squalls blow over the basin, carrying spray with it. The Harvest Caroline went out to Loch Erisort, 10 miles to the south, but quickly returned to Stornoway. Afternoon continues savage, with severe squalls continuing to blow spray over the basin. Go out to the Coastguard Station and try to take a few pics. The force 9 winds makes it difficult to walk. Head for Somerfields for papers. Get pelted with hailstones, which is painful on the very strong wind. Mrs B and myself are taken on a tour of the town and out to the Braighe. The weather caused much disruption and because the ferry was off all day, Calmac are running an extra sailing to Ullapool overnight. Trees and lorries get blown down. A comet is reportedly visible after sunset, but clouds shroud the horizon. Gusts here in Stornoway reach 75 mph at 4pm. In the evening, a cargoship carrying fertiliser loses power and drifts towards a gas platform 90 miles east off Hull. Winds of 55 knots lash the North Sea as the crew of the platform is evacuated. The engine of the stricken freighter is restarted in time to avert a disaster.

Wednesday 10/01/07

Sunny day, although quite cold, with temperatures only at 4C. High cloud moves across after 2pm, and the wind picks up as I go to the shop by 3.30. A fishing-boat is in trouble off Cape Wrath. The coastguard helicopter has dropped off pumps, as she is taking on water. The lifeboat from Thurso is standing by, as is the coastguard team from Durness, ashore. The Molly Campbell case returns to the news, with the mother now giving up the battle to gain legal custody of her child. She wants access to the girl. One of Mrs B's kitchen walls is being tiled by her brother-in-law. He is a retired joiner, and slaps on 125 tiles within 4 hours. He'll finish the grouting tomorrow. Wind increases rapidly after 6pm. The wind increases to severe gale force by 9pm, with gusts in excess of 60mph - it could get up to force 10 or 11 in the night. Fishing boats are shown on AIS, sheltering off Tolsta Head. The Harvest Caroline, a wellboat for fishfarms, comes into port. A large oiltanker, measuring 64,000 tonnes, is seen moving northeast off Skye. The wind dies down after 11pm.

Tuesday 09/01/07

Very wild night, with heavy rain and hail rattling the windows. Wind subsides by morning, as do the showers. A rainbow graces the afternoon skies. Starlings, thrushes and gulls scour the waterlogged backyard. The ferry is off this morning, although there is not much wind left. The Galson Estate will be handed over to the Galson Trust on Friday, following a successful buy-out. The formal handover will take place at Galson Farm, reception at the Linux centre in South Dell and a ceilidh in the Ness Hall. Head out to Somerfields for some shopping, just managing to dodge some showers. Because the ferry was cancelled in the morning, the shop is quite bare. Muirneag is reported on its way in at 5pm. Chili con carne for supper.

Monday 08/01/07

A wet and miserable Monday, which sees mrs B's son return to Glasgow by ferry, bus and train. Monitor the ferry's progress on AIS; also notice the tug Anglian Sovereign heading north past the Shiant Isles, to turn up here at 3.30. She departs shortly afterwards. Nip into Somerfields for some food, and keep otherwise not very busy. During the evening, the wind slowly picks up. Dinner is chicken korma, whilst mrs B has a madras, which is much spicier. Magnus Magnusson, of Matermind fame, died yesterday at the age of 77. Mrs B commences a clear-out of all the old stuff. A row blows up in Orkney after a registrar is forbidden from conducting a same-sex marriage; it can only take place in the islands' capital, Kirkwall. One of the men is the Master of the Queen's Music, and he is so annoyed that he calls for a tourists' boycott of the Orkney. OTT.