Thursday 26/04/07

Mrs B serves breakfast for her three guests, then heads for town. It's a bright and sunny day, but with a chilly wind. The wind keeps going through the afternoon. I go into town myself in the afternoon to buy a computer magazine. The regional papers were bought by mrs B. These are the last editions before next week's Scots Parliament elections, and the party-political slanging is at fever-pitch. Birds of prey across the Highlands suffer breeding mishaps. Chicks fall out of nests, and an osprey kicks its rival's eggs out of the nest. Our guest is a jolly chap, going on bustours without getting off the bus.

Click on the below photo to see pictures taken today

Wednesday 25/04/07

The day starts with dense fog. Can't see the Coastguard Station access road at 8.10, but within half an hour, the fog has lifted. Mrs B gets numerous calls for accommodation. She takes one couple, who will be coming in from Drumnadrochit (south of Inverness) on the late ferry. Another chap is due on the early ferry at 1.15. Rain sets in at around 11 am, and it continues to pour until 2pm. The first guest, a retired railwayman, arrives at 1.40. A little later, the sun comes out. Two men appear at the door, also looking for a place for the night. Mrs B's BIL, down the road, can help out. The surfing championships at Thurso run into a spot of bother with calm conditions. We have a cook-in sauce (Classic Chasseur) with chicken and rice as well as green beans and courgettes. At 8pm, our second set of guests appear. The first man joins us for a chat, but he appears to like what comes from the inside of a bottle.

Tuesday 24/04/07

It's still windy, but conditions improve through the day. After lunch, the sun comes out, a welcome change. Mrs B locates a high-pressure waterhose, which I use for blasting her frontsteps. Moss and dirt fly up to 7 feet high, which means I'm covered in it as well. A couple of buckets of water work miracles. Mrs B on her part is potting plants and running out of pots. Her next project will be the backyard, private now that the fence is finally up. Leaves are sprouting on the trees. Dinner is cooked by me: carrots, potatoes, onions and beefburgers. The sun sets at 9pm in a blaze of colour. Fishingboats continue to potter about the Outer Harbour. Temperatures today: 14C.

Monday 23/04/07

The new week started with 4 call-outs for the Coastguard yesterday. A camper had falled down a cliff on the mainland at 2 in the morning, and the helicopter had to fly across to Achiltibuie north of Ullapool to pluck him off and take him to the hospital in Stornoway. Two ships appeared to emit distress signals, but their emergency equipment was throwing a wobbly. They were not in need. That walker in the Skye Cuillins was in need, and had to be rescued from his position high up. Police in Stornoway were kept busy with car-crime: one vandalised car and one botched car-theft. Two cars collided on Oliver's Brae, along the road to Sandwick, with occupants taken to hospital. Can't believe the celebrity who wants to save the environment by cutting back on the use of loopaper. Spend quite some time uploading ships' photo's to the website. The weather today is wet and horrible. Go out for papers, but that's all as far as I was concerned. Had a ready meal for supper, and watched some television. Am getting a wee bit fed up with all the election hype, but there is another 10 days left of it.

Sunday 22/04/07

The couple who arrived yesterday leave for Harris after breakfast. The weather isn't very nice. The clouds are down to 60 m / 200 ft, and the rain starts during the afternoon. Temperatures aren't low, but don't outweight the wet conditions. The London Marathon is on today, being run in tempeartures of 21C, which is apparently too warm to run 26 miles. One person unfortunately died on the course. Not much doing during the afternoon. Dinner was spaghetti bolognese. Rain continues unabated into the evening. Read a chapter from the new book, which is an extension of Tolkien's Silmarillion.

Saturday 21/04/07

The Italian guests leave on the early ferry, and the music tutor starts work at 8.15. A couple ring in from a campsite at Shawbost, but take their bonny time turning up. It's 12.30 before they do. Tomorrow, they're going to Tarbert, where a camping session is planned. The weather today is less than pleasant, with quite heavy rain. Temperature is about the only reasonable feature - 11C. When I go into town, I see a ship tied up alongside the ferrypier: it's navyship A229 Colonel Templar. She was here before. Found a contrasting picture of the ship when she was laid up at Hull in 1991. Do not venture out again today, apart from that visit to the ship. Received my copy of "The Children of Hurin" in the mail. This is the latest Tolkien book.

Friday 20/04/07

Cloudy day, with some sunny glimpses. Feeling cold, with the mercury barely into double figures. Not showing my face out of doors before 6pm. Mrs B has to be in town by 11.30, but just as she is about to set forth at 11.15, a knock on the door announces the arrival of an Italian couple from the northern town of Bolzano. They haggle over the price, which is not nice and not customary here. They only want a bed, no breakfast, which is not done either. They buzz off to the West Side, and mrs B has to call a cab to be on time. Later on, she goes to buy some bedding plants. The tulips by the front door were killed off by frost. Another guest turns up, this time by arrangement. He is a musical tutor. TV is gloomy and uninteresting. Supper is a ready meal, always good. Went to Goat Island at 6pm, to take pictures of Aqua Boy, pictured below, which is on the slipway. A cormorant dives beside the causeway. Rain falls later in the evening.

Thursday 19/04/07

Day dawns fairly bright but breezy. Mrs B's BIL is taking his boat out of the boathouse and is away for a testrun before 10 o'clock. A couple of gulls float in the Basin. Out the back, starlings are sitting on an empty feeder, until they discover some other delicacies. The massacre at Virginia Tech continues to reverberate, with footage of the gunman rambling incoherently before embarking on his killing spree. NBC are seriously criticised for airing this; heaven knows how the families of the victims feel. Go into town for some shopping, papers, batteries, and the like. It stays bright, but cold. No hurricanes at present - the northern hemisphere season starts in 4 weeks' time.

Wednesday 18/04/07

The weather was on a downward slope this morning. Fairly bright at 5.15, cloudy at 8 and rain at 11 am. Notice a bustle of boats on AIS, with the tanker at anchor down the coast, a couple of fishing boats, the Anglian Prince and Hordafur II all in by late afternoon. Go into town for papers, and to take pictures. A Dutch couple arrive with the man wearing a Scottish National Party kilt. We have a force 6 to 7 blowing this afternoon, but he is not fazed by that. He lays into mrs B over £1, and ends up not staying. A man appeared in court yesterday after he brandished a gun at police outside his home in Matheson Road over the weekend; abusing his wife and breaking a window. Proposals are revealed to build a bridge across Loch Erisort between Lacasaigh and Cearsiadar (South Lochs; see map below). This would knock 10 miles off the 22 mile journey. The rock will come from the proposed windfarm in Eishken, 5 miles to the south. Sigh. Drizzle nearly obscures Arnish by nightfall. The news continues to be dominated by the VT shootings.

Tuesday 17/04/07

Fairly bright day with a few light showers. Did I see hail or sleet? It's 10C at midday. A nice yacht, the Hull-registered Wetton, lies in the Basin, aground at low tide. When the tide comes back in, the owner can be seen stirring on board. When I go over to Goat Island, I run into mrs B's brother in law who'll be putting his boat in the water tomorrow morning. There will be a springtide at 8.45 am, which comes in at 5.3 metres. The forecast is unfortunately poor, with strong winds in the morning, but improving as the day goes on. The shootings in Virginia continue to dominate the news. The American bloggers have been left speechless. I add the VT-logo to my sidebar as a sign of solidarity. It would appear that the culprit was emotionally disturbed. Sunset at 8.40pm.

Monday 16/04/07

Isles FM brightens up the day, but not if you're due on a plane in and out of the airport after 3.20pm. The airport is closing at that time, as no airtraffic controllers are available. Last night, Matheson Road was closed because a man was wielding a gun at police. Radio Scotland now offers an additional 4 bulletins through the day for regional news. A man is seen wading across Newton Basin in boots. Later on, I go out for an amble to Goat Island where 3 boats sit on the slipway. A bit of traffic (by SY standards) to and fro. It's very cold in the wind. On return, I buy papers and a computer magazine at Engebret's. A couple of showers roll by during the afternoon and evening. A neighbour even mentioned a snow flurry. A severe storm lashes the east coast of the USA. News comes through of a shooting at a university campus in Virginia - 32 students died when a gunman opened fire. He then proceeded to kill himself. The worst mass killing in US history, reviving calls to review gunlaws.

Sunday 15/04/07

One very grey and wet afternoon. It rains steadily, whilst further south, temperatures rocket to 26C. Was offered a lift to Ness cemetery, but decline politely because of the weather. Will go later in the week. Catch up with diary entries, which now number 977. The sun comes out after 5 pm. A remembrance service was held for the 8 men who lost their lives in the capsizing of the Bourbon Dolphin near Shetland. The boat itself was released from the Trans Ocean Rather rig last night, only to sink in 1,000 m or 3,300 feet of water. Mrs B's eldest son leaves on the plane at 5.30pm. It only gets dark after 9 o'clock, which shows the lengthening of the days. The east coast of the US is threatened by a deep low pressure system, which has a central pressure of 975 mbar. M'dears, we get them down to 915 mbar up here.

Saturday 14/04/07

Our guests return home at 2.30 am. Breakfast for them at 9.30. At midday, Mrs B, her son and myself head off to Dalmore. It is a sunny but hazy morning in Stornoway, but ominous dark clouds loom over the West Side. Drizzle spits at Dalmore and Carloway. Sheep are a nuisance on the roads. Find 8 Iolaire graves, which adds nicely to yesterday’s harvest of 4 at Gress. Children are playing in the waves – bit too cold for my liking. We have sandwiches from Somerfields, before we return to town via Shawbost and Barvas. The sun shines on Back as we descend from the Barvas Moor, but a cloudy haze rests on the rest of the island. The afternoon stays quiet, and the sun returns – very hazily.

Friday 13/04/07

Brilliantly sunny morning. Following a hearty breakfast, our 4 guests pile into a taxi to go to the piping competition. The program on Isles FM, which was cancelled 2 days ago, will now be aired this afternoon. Temperatures 16C. Dandelions and daisies are out to greet the sun, and very large bumblebees are buzzing around, looking for a nesting site. The fence is being put up across the backyard, at last affording some privacy. Mrs B and myself head off on the bus to Gress at 2.50. I locate some more Iolaire graves, whilst Mrs B locates several graves of relatives and friends. Two neighbours from down the street give us a lift back. Catch up with our guests: one is from Inverness, the other from Harris and an older couple from Elgin. They are all quite musical, with a mouth organ and an electronic chanter in evidence. I bring out my Ceol nam Feis book, which contains many tunes as well. One of the 4 does not go out to attend the late evening ceilidh, and I entertain her until midnight.

Thursday 12/04/07

The chap from Northern Ireland had a nice time round Timsgarry yesterday. He left for home on the Tarbert to Uig (Skye) ferry. A second guest left on the 7.15 ferry. I rose rather later than that, but decided to make the most of the weather. After lunch, I took the 2.30 bus to Barvas. I alighted at Morven some 20 minutes later, but found myself floundering through bogs behind the gallery. Found 4 Iolaire graves at the cemetery. Decided not to run the gauntlet of a herd of suckling cows to the north of the graveyard, so made my way through the dunes to the south. Arrived at the cliffs on the coast at 4 pm. Had a cup of tea, which the strong winds blew out of the cup. The swell and surf were quite spectacular. A couple had driven up in their car. Walked down the coast into the strong wind – reported to be between force 5 and 8. Reached a stretch of sandy beach, before going inland at the firing range. Came to the end of Loch Street at 4.45. The waterlevel in the loch is very low at the moment. Found lambs along the way. Waited for the 5.25 bus at the junction, and chatted to a regular bus user until that time. Returned to town at 5.40. Tonight, 4 guests arrive on the ferry who will attend the PM Donald MacLeod Memorial competition in the Caberfeidh Hotel. Canvassing has started for the local and Scottish Parliamentary elections on May 3rd. In the evening, an anchor handling tug capsizes west of Shetland, leaving 5 crewmembers trapped in the upturned hull. A small Danish vessel is alongside at Arnish.

Wednesday 11/04/07

Overcast but dry, with some chinks in the clouds. Muirneag comes in at 8 am. Our guest is off to Uig on the first bus of the day – at midday. Mrs B’s eldest son turns up unexpectedly. Was going to relay Isles FM through the webcam, but the announced program item was cancelled. Went to the shop to get the food for tonight, a chicken curry. A plane is reported crashed near Oban, which appears to have happened on Monday. The wreckage was not located until yesterday. Those on board, an Essex councillor and his family, have all died. Fairly mild today, with temperatures of about 14C. Tomorrow’s maxima on the mainland will reach 18C. Supper: chicken balti.

Tuesday 10/04/07

A grey morning, with more scandal and counter-accusations regarding our MP and his romp. As the morning progresses, a Belfast man comes to stay, who is all into beaches. He is off to Gearrannan and may visit Dalmore. The drizzle is never far away. A boat goes up the slipway, and is followed by another vessel. Weather deteriorates and it’s very wet when I go out for a hairtrim at 2.30pm. Temperatures about 11C form one of the redeeming features of the weather today. Have to walk round every papershop in town to find a Press and Journal. Supper: spag bol.

Monday 09/04/07

A very quiet day, as it’s a Bank Holiday. Ferry is running and the shops are open. The scandal surrounding our MP continues to rumble. The leader of his party, the SNP, is due in the islands today. Went into town for the papers, and to view the yacht “Challenger” which I found at Crossbost on Thursday. No boats at Lazy Corner, plenty of gulls though. Posters for the elections adorn every available lamppost in the town. The weather today is not too bad, some pale sunshine and some wind. Temperatures 12C. A fish salad is our supper, and we finish off the Cava with orange juice during the evening.

Sunday 08/04/07

The wind picked up overnight, and it is overcast by morning. Drizzle starts after midday, and it’s decidedly unpleasant. News surfaces about the MP for the Western Isles, Angus MacNeil, who has admitted to having a “three-in-a-bed” session with two teenage girls. The young ladies, both from Lewis, were chatted up and plied with booze by MacNeil in Lerwick in 2005, and things got steamy but apparently not sexual. Angus MacNeil has initiated the cash-for-honours inquiry, that has been lapping at the heels of Prime Minister Tony Blair. The girls were daughters of prominent members of society in Lewis. Easter supper is roast lamb with vegetables.

Saturday 07/04/07

Our latest guest, a tutor for musical instruments, came in at 1.20 am. He went out again at 9.30 to teach a few more students. It’s a very sunny day, but the wind is on the increase. Temperatures reach a very acceptable 12C. No cyclones, although the remnant of Jaya may revert back to form. This system is slowly moving down the Mozambique Channel between Mozambique and Madagascar. . Nip down to the shop, where I find paper prices (for Saturday editions) have gone up. A teenage boy has hanged himself in North Uist, which has left the community stunned. At 15, he appeared to have a great career ahead of him as a sportsman. Lyrics, copied onto his website, gave a hint of the underlying reasons for his suicide.

Friday 06/04/07

Rose after the Germans left for Tarbert. Mrs B’s nephew calls round for lunch, then takes his aunt shopping in Somerfields. I head into town to buy stamps, which have gone up in price. The town and his wife are at the supermarket. It is cloudy and chilly today. The 15 British sailors, held by Iran for two weeks, were released yesterday and are flying home today. Allegations surface of maltreatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities. At least they’re home safe and sound. That cannot be said of the 4 service personnel who died in Basra, when an Iranian-supplied bomb blew up their vehicle. The weather clears up through the evening.

Thursday 05/04/07

Our German guests head off for Gearrannan on the 10.10am bus. This means they have to walk the last 1½ miles from Carloway. Discovered a nice recording of my favourite Easter music – the St Matthew’s Passion by Bach. Mrs B’s granddaughter calls round at lunchtime. She is off for the Easter break. I go to Crossbost on the 2.40 bus, not taking wet weather gear with me. Well, a mistake. During the 2½ hours that I was away, four showers (of drizzle) passed by. Arrived at Crossbost cemetery at 3pm, and went round to the jetty and the church after a call at the War Memorial. Found 14 Iolaire graves in the lower cemetery. Have finished there at 3.20, I have more than an hour to spare. Walked up the road into Crossbost proper, then headed north to the neighbouring village of Ranish. The sun comes out, contrasting the black patches of muirburn. Reach the shoreline of Loch Grimshader at Ranish, where two boats are pulled on the shore. Amble up the road to discover Teampuill Ranais, not properly signposted from the main road. Return to Crossbost through a shower of drizzle. It cools down markedly during the rain. Sheep wander the crofts, no lambs in sight. Nice view over Lochs Leurbost, Erisort and Grimshader. As I wait for the bus, back at Crossbost, an old sheepdog ambles by. The busdriver asked me if I’d had a nice time – yes, I found what I was looking for. Returned to town at 5pm, to buy the regional papers. Spoke to our guests, who had had a nice day over on the West Side. Tomorrow, they are going to Skye and on to Glasgow.

Wednesday 04/04/07

Another bright and sunny day, which saw temperatures rise to 16C, the warmest so far this year. In fact the day did start cloudy, but the sun came out after 11 am. A German man and his young son arrive at 2.30 to stay for 1, possibly 2 nights. They had spent more than an hour finding accommodation. They dashed off on the 4pm bus to see the Callanish Stones – they had 40 minutes there. Go out for an amble round the Battery in the afternoon myself. Mrs B serves me another great supper at night.

Tuesday 03/04/07

Nice bright morning, so we decide on an afternoon out. My Iolaire project still requires me to visit a number of graveyards, and I decide on Bragar. With some rolls and a flask of tea, we take the 1.50pm bus to the West Side. The early April sun makes it very warm, particularly on board the bus behind glass. As per usual, it clouds over the moment we leave town. A man flagged down the bus in the middle of the moor. He would have been at work on his peatbank. The bus goes down Loch Street, Barvas, then heads west to Brue, Arnol and finally our destination, Bragar. It’s a walk of a mile to the seashore. The grass is still very brown/yellow. Sheep graze the machair behind the loch. We have the rolls and tea in the enclosed picnic area after which we go into the cemetery. I locate 14 graves of Iolaire victims, but lichen has made the lettering difficult to decipher on some of them. I notice that the stile outside the cemetery, which was broken in 2005, has been fixed. Within the graveyard stands the ruin of a temple, Teampuill nan Eoin, Temple of the Winds. Mrs B discovers gravestones for several people she used to know. The victims of the crash outside Barvas, Boxing Day 2005, lie buried there. We slowly amble back up the hill, discovering giant rhubarb flowers. An old friend of mrs B’s gave us a low-speed lift back to the crossroads, only a quarter mile away. We walk down the road to Labost, to discover lambs, cats, and chickens along the way. The wind is cold, and was chilly right the way through our visit this afternoon. The bus arrives at 5.10 to return us to town.

Monday 02/04/07

It’s a wee bit dreich to start the day, and it drizzles through the afternoon. Our regular man from Skye comes to stay for a day or two. I go out for shopping at around 2.30pm. First port of call is the filling station to pick up some tourist information leaflets. Then it’s down Sandwick Road, Lewis Street, Church Street to Kenneth Street where I see the opticians about a repair to my glasses. Came back via Somerfields. The Ronja Commander is in port. Later on, a yacht trundles into the basin, ready for summer frolics on the high seas. An earthquake in the Pacific generated a tsunami, which killed about 34 in the Solomon Islands.

Sunday 01/04/07

Cloudy day, but fairly bright. Not too cold, about 10C in the afternoon. Overnight lows have been near freezing. Read about high temperatures in Moscow, 17C. Over in Siberia, the cold spot Oimyakon will see temperatures rise to the dizzying heights of -4C this week. I took 464 pictures last month. The tanker Clipper Highlander comes in at 4.30, after spending the afternoon at anchor off the Braighe, waiting for the pilot. Google’s April Fool related to a broadband system, which operates through your plumbing and out of your toilet. Supper was very good. Go out at 8 o’clock for a sunset amble to the Coastguard Station and Goat Island. The moon rises over Lower Sandwick as I make my way there.

Saturday 31/03/07

Nice bright day, not too cold. It’s generally mild across the country. Go into town to pick up a wad of new timetables for buses and ferries. Nip into An Lanntair to view an exhibition of artworks, made by users of a daycare centre in Culregrein – Gaelic for Back of the Sun. That’s also the name of the exhibition. Draw up a tourist’s timetable, which would allow them to view the 6 sites on the West Side within one day. Chicken korma for supper, after which we sit through that unsufferable Jamie Theakston and his witless People’s Quiz that wraps around the lottery draws. Eugh. The moon is out late at night. Two cyclones: Jaya near Madagascar and Kong-rey, a nascent typhoon in the Pacific.

Friday 30/03/07

This week, we had two guests in, who are both leaving tomorrow morning. One is an educationalist, who went round the island’s primary schools, introducing the youngsters to the art of radio making. He used sat-nav to get around Lewis. I found that hard to believe. The other was a birdwatcher. Mrs B gets a steady stream of requests for accommodation. She has kept a B&B for nearly 4 years, during which she has had more than 500 guest, staying more than 900 nights. Two thirds came from the UK, of whom 2/3 came from Scotland and the majority of those from the area in and around Glasgow.

Thursday 29/03/07

Cloudy and quiet day, which sees the National Trust coming out with an appeal to preserve peatbogs. That’s interesting, because the building of the windfarm would see the removal of huge amounts of peat. The Health Board reached the news for the right reasons, because they opened the Renal Dialysis unit at the hospital here in Stornoway, after years of campaigning. Nip out to get the regional papers, which come out on Thursday. The crisis surrounding the British sailors captured by Iran continues to rumble. Fingers crossed for a good outcome. The festering sore of Iraq is more than enough in that region. TC Becky dissipates before reaching New Caledonia. Continue the battle against the spyware.

Wednesday 28/03/07

No sun this morning, and by lunchtime we have a period of rainfall. Mrs B’s nephew calls round to proudly show off his new wheels. He takes us out for a spin across the moors to Barvas, 11 miles away. The rain moves away east upon our return. Traffic measures have been announced for several streets in the town centre. Keith Street and Lewis Street will become one-way and restrictions on parking will be implemented elsewhere. It turns markedly colder following the passage of the front earlier. New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, is bracing itself for the arrival of tropical cyclone Becky, which passed the northern islands of Vanuatu yesterday. After 6 o’clock, the sun comes out, and the day ends on a nice note. News came out that the Arnish Fabrication Yard will reopen next week, with 10 new jobs immediately, and another 40 later on. Whether local people will chance their luck after two previous tenants went bust remains to be seen.

Tuesday 27/03/07

Another sunny day, but this time it’s very hazy. Mrs B and myself go out for lunch at the Woodlands Centre. We set out at 1.15pm and reach there down Kenneth Street at 1.40. It’s a beautiful spring day. The meal, a coronation chicken baguette for me and a salmon dish for mrs B, fills us both up. By nightfall, smoke can be seen rising from the Arnish hills behind the Fabrication Yard. After dark falls, the flames show up like red spots on the moors. Still battling with the spyware infection.

Sunday 26/03/07

Another brilliantly sunny day, which I start late. Local news is dominated by political scandal. Went out for a walk along a sun-splashed South Beach. It’s quite mild out in the sun, with only a little wind. Gulls sit on the quayside behind Amity House. Return via Somerfields. It’s very quiet along the streets and in the shops. Our guest went to Tolsta Beach first thing before departing on the ferry. Another guest will take his place later in the day. The weather forecast for tomorrow will be more of the same. Beautiful sunset, during which we enjoy my hotchpotch meal. Am annoyed to find the spyware still prancing around the PC, so out come the big guns.

Sunday 25/03/07

Absolutely gorgeous day, with not a cloud in the sky. Our guest heads out for a walk to Gallows Hills, a viewpoint across the harbour from our position. I go out to Goat Island for an amble, which is very pleasant. Go right out to the end of the jetty. The boat that was blown onto its side on Goat Island has now been righted. Spend the afternoon cleaning the PC of spyware and find a handful of nasties. Earthquakes shake Japan, leaving 1 person dead and 170 injured. Supper is pork chops with vegetables and mashed potatoes. Sunset at 7.50pm, after the clocks went forward 1 hour overnight. A new tropical cyclone has formed off northwestern Australia.

Saturday 24/03/07

We had this idea to go to Bragar for the afternoon, but mrs B remembers a guest is due in the afternoon. Bearing in mind that the bus back does not return until 5pm, we decide to cancel. Just as well, as the chappy turns up at 3.15pm. Our Swiss guest has had 3 days spoiled on his holiday by food poisoning down in Mallaig and Skye. He walked from Tarbert to Balallan, 20 miles. The only problem was that mountain (the pass over the Clisham). Oh aye, you climb 600 feet up the hillside and it’s steep. It’s a nice day today, but with a very cold easterly wind. A fire is lit after nightfall. We win nothing on the lottery. Our guest joins us for a wee while during the evening.

Friday 23/03/07

Stories begin to circulate that there is a fuel shortage in Stornoway. Our tanker had technical difficulties, only to be further delayed by the bad weather. Non-leaded is not to be had for love nor money. The captain to the Pakistani cricket team, in the West Indies for the world cup, has been found murdered in his hotel room. It’s just not cricket. Mrs B gets increasing numbers of bookings for the coming weeks. In the afternoon, I go for a walk out to the Waterwheel, along the Golf Course. Trying to get that perfect pic of the building sees me landing knees-first into the mud. As I try to wash the mud off my trousers, the hankey I’m using falls into the millrace and gets carried away at 3mph. Have to fish it out of the millpond using a stick of gorse. Return across the Golfcourse to the Trading Post to purchase lottery tickets. Then return to base along Matheson Road. It’s just past 3.30pm, and school children are all over the town. It’s feeling quite chilly in the breeze now. Sunset at 6.45pm, which does keep it light until 7.15. Supper was a very spicy Thai curry.

Thursday 22/03/07

Nice sunny start to the day, with some mid-level cloud around. It’s good to see the sun again, even though it’s not very warm. Remove a lot of rubbish from the backyard that’s blown in on the wind. Sends you wondering why people can’t dump their crisp bags in a bin. Mrs B gets a Rug Doctor, a carpet cleaner. It is a back-breaking chore, but after refilling the machine with 9 litres of detergent the carpets look a lot brighter. The regional papers don’t have a lot to report today, apart from political stories related to the forthcoming elections to the Scottish Parliament, which will take place on May 3rd. Beautiful sunset, not a cloud in the sky.

Wednesday 21/03/07

The frost has lifted by morning, leaving an overcast and increasingly wet morning. Although it is a little less cold than of late, there is a very strong wind which offsets that benefit. After a little housekeeping, such as applying a hoover and watering plants, I get the papers at 2.30pm. This is once again low tide time, but the water is more than a foot higher, and the scallops are under water - if any there be. Two guests arrive to stay the night, from South Uist. A steady trickle of telephone bookings fill Mrs B's diary for spring and summer. A story pops up that the location for the interconnector could be Gravir, South Lochs. Fancy a large electricity sub station plus dozens of pylons across Lochs. Don't think they thought about that. Supper is chicken karai, a very nice curry.

Tuesday 20/03/07

Brilliantly sunny morning, interspersed with the odd flake of snow. Some snow continues to lie in the shade. Temperatures hover between 3 and 5C. Am surprised to find the Isle of Lewis ferry still alongside - it never sailed at 7.15 am. It does go at 1.45. I go out myself to the basin to see if I can cross to Goat Island. Answer NO. A deep channel runs from the main body of water into the harbour, some 6 feet below. Collect 8 scallop clams, which lie about snapping in mrs B's kitchen, until she turns them into a nice starter. Scallops taste sweet, and only need 3 or 4 minutes in the frying pan. The orange "coral" is not commonly used; it contains the scallop's organs and can be very rich. Main course is chili con carne, but it leaves me pretty full up. Sunset 6.40pm.

Monday 19/03/07

Today is a litany of hail and snow showers. The hail does not lie, but it is very cold, particularly in the wind. Nonetheless, I take it upon myself to wash the salt off the windows. This was left there by the seaspray in the gales over the last few days. Today is the 4th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Nip down the shop for some bits and pieces, but can’t wait to get back inside. As the afternoon progresses, the hail turns to snow. Major disruption is caused to traffic in the Highlands, and our ferries are off.

Sunday 18/03/07

Ferry returned from Ullapool at 2.45, after the overnight storm abated. Winds reached 75 mph on North Rona, and the Eoropie weatherstation is out of action. Through the afternoon, heavy hail- and snow showers pass. Temperatures are actually well above freezing (4C), so the snowflakes are large. Snow lies on the tops of the Arnish hills, which are 60 m / 200 ft high. Supper is spaghetti Bolognese. I continue to process my pictures on YouTube. Only June, July, October and November left to do. That’s still about 1,500 images.

Saturday 17/03/07

After a reasonable start, the weather turns quite unpleasant. Go out for some shopping, and it’s mild and calmish. Leave the Baltic Bookshop and find that the wind has picked up to a near-gale, and hail and snow is strafing the streets. Curtains of hail sweep Cromwell Street, hunching shoppers into submission. Buy two new T-shirts at Mackays, and trawl the stationers’ shops for record cards of a size that nobody appears to stock. Pick up lottery tickets in Woolies, then leave the town centre. My hanky flies down an alleyway beside a restaurant (which I won’t name). I have to retrieve it from the edge of a puddle that shows a foam of food remains. Eugh!! The wind is very cold. Four ships are sheltering in Broad Bay. The ferry is cancelling its 5.15 sailing out of Ullapool this evening. Some say it may not return until Tuesday. Supper tonight is roast lamb with vegetables, very nice. No winnings on the lottery. The BBC wasts hours of its time on a selection for that tired old chestnut, the Eurovision Song Contest. It is hosted by that tired old fart Terry Wogan, who gets the name of the winning group wrong. Had more fun watching Comic Relief, where Prime Minister Tony Blair took on Lauren Cooper, officially known as comedienne Catherine Tate. Am I bovvered? Dozens of versions turn up on YouTube.

Friday 16/03/07

Very poor weather to start with, heavy rain and strong winds. It’s pretty cold. The wind causes disruptions on the ferry, with the afternoon sailings an hour late. The rain changes into heavy squalls and the sun comes out every now and again. Sunday will see a late return to wintry conditions. Indlala is dissipating over Madagascar. Its impact is the 6th hammerblow to the island nation this season. Go to Somerfields for the weekend shop. Going there on Saturdays is sheer hell. Spend quite some time processing my pictures on, mapping about 3,000 of them. Yes, I’ve taken well over 6,000 pictures.

Thursday 15/03/07

Very bright morning, but with some bright wintry showers. The oilrig has departed for Ireland. Its tugs changed crew and called ashore for Stornoway black pudding. The showers contrast sharply with the sunny intervals. Go into town after 3pm to buy the papers, and a CD with Runrig music. Hop into the Castle Grounds and walk round to the Castle and down to Cuddy Point before retracing my steps. Flowers are coming out and plants are reawakening from a long wintersleep. Return to town via Kenneth Street, where the Catholic Church is nearly completely rebuilt following a destructive fire in December 2004. Calmac announces that Muirneag will not sail for Ullapool tonight due to bad weather. Next week will see significant falls of snow. Cyclone Indlala has made landfall over northern Madagascar with winds of 125 knots. These are now decreasing rapidly.

Wednesday 14/03/07

Although the day starts fairly bright, it clouds over later. The pigeons are definitely an item (aww) but I do hope they won’t nest on the house. Nesting pigeons are horrendously messy. I make it to Somerfields and back in 14 minutes flat. Parliament votes in favour of an upgrade to the British nuclear deterrent, Trident. Interesting piece of politics at work. Supper was a blazing hot madras. The Ocean Viscount ventures into port as far as Glumag Harbour. I scoot out at 6pm to take some piccies. This boat is one of the auxiliary vessels with the oilrig that is still at anchor off Lochs. No winnings on the lottery tonight. Winds are strong today, and rain follows later in the evening. Two guests arrive at 10pm, who were out delivering a piano to a house in Tolstachaolais.

Tuesday 13/03/07

Heavy rain overnight gives way to a bright sunny morning. A tropical cyclone heads for northern Madagascar, threatening winds in excess of 125 mph. Hope they get the warning. A pair of doves is cooing in the backyard as we replenish the bird feeders. Do some shopping for mrs B, who leaves the heavier items for me to pick up. The wind is cold, and I’m glad to get back indoors. Tonight’s supper is pork fillets with macaroni and ratatouille.

Monday 12/03/07

You think it’s going to be a nice day when you wake up at 8 am, and the sun is out. Not an hour later, it pours down with rain. Later showers even contain show, and mrs B is very cold on return from a mission to town. The live-fish carrier Aqua Boy leaves port as the oilrig remains in situ. Its tug Far Forsna comes into port. The showers are quite intense and have a great cloudscape. Find confirmation in the papers that the fisherman who was unwell off Eigg last week was in fact based on the island. He lost 3 fingers in a winch. I have met him personally years ago. During the afternoon, I venture out for an amble round the Battery as far as Sandwick Cottage, just before you reach the beach. A shower moves in and blows up, but at the worst of it, I’m in the lee of the houses in Builnacreig Road, on the Battery. A nice rainbow follows. Mrs B prepares a very nice stew for supper.

Sunday 11/03/07

A very wild night with wind and rain. After a final downpour, the weather settles down to a pale, sunny afternoon. TC Jacob is reduced to a tropical storm, which will bring gales to Western Australia but nothing more. The stream from ABC Northwestern is not working. Attend the Journals Tournament chat on AOL. Mrs B’s son plus family call round for their showers. Dinner is savoy cabbage special. A bit of sunshine through the afternoon, until the sun sets at 6.15pm. The rig remains on the horizon, illuminated at night.

Saturday 10/03/07

The oilrig is just visible, but frequent drizzle and rain often obscure it from sight. It’s milder than of late, about 11C, and it stays that mild until midnight. However, it’s not to last. TC Jacob is bearing down on Karratha, Western Australia, but appears to be weakening. Workers express their disgust at being housed in prefabs, in the face of 170 mph winds. Rain is pretty persistent here through the afternoon, and is quite heavy as I go down the shop for papers and a savoy cabbage. Tonight’s supper is a curry and rice. Win £10 on the lottery!

Friday 09/03/07

Clear start to the morning, when an oil drilling rig can be seen on the southeastern horizon at 6.30 am. It is moving slowly south, and comes to a standstill just to the left of Arnish. AIS reveals its position as between Ranish and Marvig. The rig is the Sedco 711, a semi-submersible platform. It is towed by tugs Far Sky and Far Forsna. These boats are anchor-handling vessels, capable of dealing with anchors up to 22 tons. The rig is destined for the Corrib gasfield off Killybegs, Co Donegal, Ireland. The ensemble of boats, which also includes the safety vessel Ocean Viscount, could be seen off Tolsta Head late last night. Weather worsens through the morning as short, sharp, wintry showers move across. TC George has claimed 3 lives in Western Australia and caused a lot of damage. It is still packing winds of 90 knots, 105 mph, in the interior. TC Jacob is heading for the same area, due this weekend. The Far Forsna comes in for a bit, to swap places with the Far Sky later in the day. Rain starts after dark and the wind picks up to force 6. Dinner was a creditable cheese, tomato and macaroni dish, which left me full up. Rain and wind continue through the evening.

Thursday 08/03/07

Today is grey and increasingly windy. Even more windy is the town of Port Hedland, Western Australia, which gets a late evening visit from TC George. Winds screech up to 275 kph. I am able to listen to the local radio station on-line, and keep up to date with the hurricane warnings. The weather station at Port Hedland gets knocked out by the extreme conditions. Winds here touch galeforce. In New York, 8 children die in a house fire. Rain commences at 3.30pm, and it’s pouring down. Went out for some shopping at 4 o’clock, and found the wind more of a problem than the rain. At Eoropie, gusts reach 78 mph. At 7pm, the winds drop away to force 3, 10 mph. The ferry sailed through all of that, to return on time at 8pm. Over in Australia, TC George has left a trail of devastation, injuries and at least one death.

Wednesday 07/03/07

Nice and sunny morning, with cumulus clouds slowly increasing, as does the wind. A dog plays in the water at Goat Island, and I mistakenly think it’s a seal hauling out. A clump of rocks completes the illusion. Elections take place in Northern Ireland today, for a renewed attempt at devolution. Northwestern Australia is bracing itself for Tropical Cyclone George, which appears to be heading for the Pilbara region, east of Exmouth. Mrs B went to the shops this morning, leaving me to get the papers in later in the day. Papers are not available until after 10.30. A guest calls in to stay the night, who will go on the 7.15 am ferry. Our long stay guest, who has been on an engineering course at Lews Castle College since December, will be leaving for the final time on Friday. Mrs B cooks him a nice stew.

Tuesday 06/03/07

A very wild night with torrential rain and high winds. Out at Eoropie, winds go up to 85 mph. Down here, we keep it at 48 mph. At 5 am, waves crash over the Goat Island causeway. When the ferry returns from its overnight stay at Ullapool, she has to go for shelter along the Lochs coast, further south. Some 15 miles to the south, the Isle of Lewis turns back and manages to make the port at 2.45pm. Rain is torrential by that time. I go to Engebret’s filling station to get the papers, and have to go to Somerfields for the second one. The sun comes out by that time and the winds drop away. Swells crash onto Holm Point, almost overtopping the 60 ft high cliffs. Ferry leaves at 3.30, nearly 2 hours late. Can’t be nice crossing the Minch today. Supper is chilli con carne and peaches, which we have at 6.30, when it’s still a little light.

Monday 05/03/07

Winds reach 48 mph at Stornoway overnight, which is force 9, severe gale force. Eoropie saw winds of 56 mph, gusting to 77 mph. A near-gale, force 7, persists through the day. The Braighe road, linking Point to mainland Lewis, was closed because of flying debris on the roadway. Today, the First Minister for Scotland, Jack McConnell, visits Lewis. He will open the Creed Park recycling facility. The afternoon ferry from Ullapool is cancelled due to the high winds. A large fishing boat, the Libas, is docked alongside no 3 pier. Have trouble understanding the newsreader on Isles FM who cannot pronounce the word ‘protection’. The wind makes it feel very cold outside.

Sunday 04/03/07

An overcast and breezy day, a sharp contrast to last night’s glorious eclipse. Apparently, many people stayed up late across the country to watch the spectacle. The mountains have seen lucky escapes. A Russian woman broke her leg on Ben Nevis and spent 18 hours in temperatures of -5C / 23F. She had sent a text to her boyfriend in Northern Ireland, but language difficulties left the message unclear. Another climber became unwell on the mountain, whereas a third got caught in an avalanche. The day ends with a fantastic sunset, which augurs very poor. The wind picks up through the evening, to touch galeforce by midnight. Supper is a very nice steak in cream and whisky sauce, with vegetables and fried chips.

Saturday 03/03/07

Bright morning but with some ominous skies. The showers skirt us for the most part. Fortunately, they die out after nightfall, leaving us with mainly clear skies for the eclipse. News today mentions that the inquest into the death of princess Diana 10 years ago will be attended by a jury. And a celebrity marriage which was brought forward by a day to thwart the paparazzi. Dinner consists of a ready meal. Then, at 9.30pm, the eclipse commences. It is very cold outside, but I pop in and out until 10 o’clock. Head over to the Coastguard Station and Goat Island. At 10.40 I return to Mrs B’s and the eclipse reaches totality, which lasts until midnight. A passing shower at 11.30 limits visibility. As I’m sitting out on the wall, with the camera on a tripod, passers-by are bemused by the spectacle.

Friday 02/03/07

Sunny morning after the mercury dropped to -2C / 28F overnight. High level cloud slowly increases as a weatherfront is due in later today. Hope it passes in time to leave us clear skies for tomorrow’s eclipse. Rain starts later in the afternoon, after I’ve been into town for papers and the lottery. The Gazette and other regional rags only came today for some obscure reason. The AIS website now gives a detailed view of Stornoway Harbour as well as other ports around the north of Scotland. Sunset now at 6pm, and it's not even fully dark by 7 o'clock.