Lewis Lines contains all the diary entries from the former AOL Northern Trip blog. This edition shows the entries for 2006. Northern Trip was discontinued on AOL in October 2008, and moved to this site on Blogger.
The diary is presented in reverse chronological order, but the first entry can be found here.
Rain and wind dominate today's weather and force the cancellation of New Year's Eve celebrations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool and Belfast. By evening, winds gust up to 85 mph across the Central Belt, which also leads to powercuts. On the hurricane front, tropical cyclone Clovis forms in the Indian Ocean, and another system is about to materialize south of Java. A ferry has overturned to the north of that island, leaving hundreds dead. At 1pm, I join in the New Year celebrations from Sydney, by listening to a radiostation from that city and help an AOL buddy to bring in the New Year. I came across Petar [PVodogaz] as a result of my interest in tropical hurricanes. Saddam Hussein is buried, end of chapter. The last supper of 2006 consisted of steaks with chips and beans, as well as some vino. I scour the Net looking for a decent free video-editor, but don't have much luck. Our guests, a Scottish/German couple, resident in Spain, visited Leverburgh today. We quietly await the Bells, which herald the New Year.
Mrs B and son go shopping for the New Year weekend, with several trips into town. I restrict myself to getting papers and lottery tickets. Have to go into the town centre for that. Cloudscapes are quite spectacular as I walk to and from the shops. The main event today took place at 8pm, in the shape of a fireworks display from the Castle Grounds. The carpark outside the Town Hall was cleared for spectators, but people are also lining Newton Street. I go out at 7.45 pm to make for Goat Island. I scramble around the fencing around the slipway to gain the jetty. With my new tripod, I set up the camera and end up taking over 100 pictures. It's quite spectacular and the display also shows on the webcam, which I had repositioned to capture the event. Otherwise, Saddam Hussein was hung today, ending a sorry chapter in Iraq's history.
Rain and galeforce winds dominate the morning, but the sun comes out after midday. Muirneag makes a late crossing; my ship tracking website shows her half way across the Minch at 1pm. We head out for a drive to ness in the afternoon. Rain falls on the Barvas Moor, although it tends to clear up nearer the coast. Impatient drivers overtake below blind summits. Pass through Barvas, where the new Community Centre is nearing completion, Shader, Galson before heading into South Dell. This is a tiny backwater, sporting three roads. The last house in Aird Dell stands for sale. I spoke to its last occupant in May 2005, a few months before his death. I cannot recollect his name now, but he quizzed me about my religious convictions. We park near Eoropie Beach by about 2.45. Although the swell is running high, the wind is not excessive in strength. Rabbits run riot on the Eoropie machair. There are no facilities open anywhere; the tearoom is shut for winter. No sign of any tourists at all. Next stop: Rubha Robhanais, the Butt of Lewis. When you're there, it's Next Stop: North Pole or Newfoundland. It's there that the battery in my camera ran out. We return to Eoropie and drive up the road to Port Nis via Cnoc Aird, then to Eorodale. The return journey to Stornoway is commenced along the 2½ mile long Cross Skigersta Road. The moors look dark brown, with bright green patches of grass. The sun does come out occasionally, although dark clouds hang over the spine of the island. At Dell, a car is being pulled out of the ditch by a tractor. Once you leave the roadway, you're in trouble as the verges are very soft. Return across the Barvas Moor in pouring rain. Return home at 4pm, after picking up some logs for the fire. Meal tonight is sweet & sour chicken, with added pineapple. The wind, which had abated during the afternoon, now picks up again. I find, once the camera has recharged, that I have taken 5,000 pictures with it, bringing the total of pictures taken in Lewis and Harris to 5,500.
Another grey day with low cloud and high temperatures. Mrs B's son now has a car at his disposal, so after a cheese on toast, we head out for the West Side at 1.30pm. Visibility is good to start with, but the onset of a rainfront curtails that. Pass by the two windturbines on the Arnish Moor, near the Grimshader road. They stand in a hollow, at a lower level than the main road. We proceed to Cameron Terrace, where we turn off to Achmore and Loch Ganvich. The sky lowers further as we pass the lonely miles across the spine of the island. We bypass the Callanish Stones on the way north towards Carloway. Nobody stirs as the rain falls on the village of Tolsta Chaolais. Grey houses stand amongst the yellowed grass and brownish bracken. The geese, which flock the loch during spring and summer, have gone for winter. Once in Carloway, we take a peek down the Borrowston Road, which ends above Carloway Pier. We also have a look at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, which stands deserted. Proceed to Dalmore via Upper Carloway. The houses at Dalmore look rundown, an overwhelming stench of manure emanates from a yard, where a sorry sheep stands up to its haunches in muck. Rain falls on a cold wind as we venture out to the cemetery, which stands directly above the beach. At 2.45, we drive the few miles east to Dalbeg, where ducks and geese populate the loch, now devoid of waterlilies. Only the sand provides a splash of brightness on this dark December day. Return to Stornoway through Shawbost, Bragar and the Barvas Moor. Darkness falls as we enter town. Mrs B goes for shopping, whilst her son drives me round some of the streets, and out to Cuddy Point. Light has completely failed by then. Supper is a very nice roast with vegetables and mashed potatoes. During the evening, the wind picks up to force 7, in anticipation of much worse tomorrow. A helicopter crash yesterday off Morecambe is now known to have claimed the lives of 6 men, with a 7th still missing. The search for him has now been called off, due to the onset of darkness and bad weather.
As it is the holiday week, we continue with the late starts. Read about people having a less than cheerful Christmas, some are lonely, others desperate, yet others missing those that have gone before. Go out to a fairly busy Somerfields for some food. Booze is stacked up high. Sigh. Weather is singularly uninspiring. We have microwaveable meals for supper, as the beef is not defrosted, and it's a 1.5kg lump. Mrs B watches 10 episodes of Rising Damp between 3 and 8pm, Rising Damp being a British sitcom from the 1970s and 80s with Leonard Rossiter as a cantankerous, frustrated landlord in a seedy bedsit. Also watch a documentary about ABBA, showing it's lonely at the top.
A quiet day, which we start suitably late. The ferry is running today. Shops are closed, except for Woolworths, who have their sales today, and the Coop. Mrs B is visited by some of her relatives in the afternoon. An earthquake rattles the area within 10 miles of Dumfries. A larger earthquake strikes Taiwan. Neither event causes damage or loss of life. Go to town after 5pm with Mrs B, but was not impressed. Supper was lemon chicken with rice. It's grey and dull outside, with occasional rain. Temperatures remain high, but a change is in the offing. Tropical cyclone Bondo has dissipated over Madagascar.