Today I'm doing a Video Extravaganza through the webcam. A different video every hour on the hour. Day starts horrible and wet, pouring with rain. This moves away by 2.30, to be replaced by cumulus clouds. Not very warm, only 9C. In the south of England, temperatures are expected to reach 24 C by the end of the week. Isles FM blandly denies that there is any local news today. Read yesterday's entry. The afternoon ends breezy but sunny. Pictures on the Lighthouse Blog fail to show, don't know why. Get papers and shopping in after 6pm. The Local History File on Isles FM mentions mrs B and her relatives by name.
This is extremely controversial in the island. I have written extensively on it in my Lighthouse Blog (see linklist), and not hidden my disgust at the prospect of 190 turbines, each standing 135 metres / 450 feet tall in the middle of the most beautiful wilderness areas of Scotland. There are two windfarms proposed for Lewis, one in the north, stretching 60 km / 40 miles from Ness to Stornoway via Bragar; the other in Eishken, a depopulated district in the southeast, on hills overlooking Loch Seaforth.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the local council, approved the planning applications for both windfarms last June. This gave rise to a huge storm in Lewis, with councillors being called to account in acrimonious meetings in the various village halls. A ballot was taken in Ness, Airidhantuim [pronounce: Aree an Hime], Laxdale and Kinloch. 50 to 90% of respondents declared their opposition. The application is currently in front of the Scottish Executive.
In order to take the power off the island, a large subsea cable needs to be laid from Arnish to Ullapool. From Ullapool, 200 ft high pylons will be marching 180 miles south to Denny near Falkirk. This is all deeply resented by people in the Scottish Highlands.
The Lewis windfarm was, as I say, approved in the face of 4000 objections. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has stated that the turbines will slaughter the resident population of eagles. The continual flicker of the blades, the illumination of the towers at nighttime (compulsory for any tall structure), the disturbance of the 20 ft layer of peat and destruction of habitat by the construction effort.
The Comhairle has hailed it as a major boost to the island's economy. It now looks likely that the turbines will be fabricated at the Arnish Yard (often featured in my pictures),which will create jobs for 3 to 4 years. Last time they recruited for Arnish, they had to draft people from outside the UK in as nobody could be bothered with short term contracts. The lease of the land on which the towers stand, as well as a cut in the proceeds of the electricity have switched the poundsigns on in the eyes of those who wield power. They have ignored those who have to live with the bl**dy things.
Another argument against is that new technologies, such as wave and tidal power, have been developed to such an extent that Portugal has recently taken delivery of several units of wavepower generators. These are basically interlinked tubes that float on the surface of the sea. The movement of the water is translated into power. The tubes do not have the major environmental impact that the turbines have. This has been pointedly ignored by Downing Street and Holyrood (British and Scottish governments). They want nuclear energy, for goodness sakes. And the waste issue will be dealt with by chucking it into a deep hole in the ground, probably on either Fuday or Sandray, both islands near Barra. In recent times, I've stopped believing what I hear.
Anyway, the Executive will take a decision this summer, and then we shall see what we shall see. Follow the story through the Lighthouse Blog.
Mrs B serves me dinner at 7pm, chilli con carne, very spicy. The Cuma is still on the slipway, some 7 weeks after it went up.
Strange how you can get involved with those who keep journals, like I do myself. I have previously asked to support those who had lost a loved one.
One of the journallers on AOL passed away over the Easter weekend, after a 9 month battle with cancer. I first came across the journal at the time of the VIVI awards, in November 2005. I have not kept up with it since, but a chance referral by sugar056 brought me the news. I did not know Pam, either through AOL contacts or otherwise, but it is always sad to see someone go, particularly after a valiantly fought battle with cancer. Her journal is still there, and well over 100 have left their messages.
[update 8 January 2007: 259 comments]
Please leave yours: http://journals.aol.co.uk/his1desire/JustOneGirlsHeadNoiseUK/entries/1065
Started Book VIII of handwritten diary notes
Last night's gale has blown itself out, but it rains hard in the morning. The sun finally came out around 11 a.m.m, cheering it all up outside. Marvel at mrs B's yucca, which has grown to 10 ft / 3 m in height. She continues her springclean of the kitchen and diningroom. Last night, she took delivery of a box of new china, which I inaugurate at breakfast. Over at Arnish, another red pipe has turned up. After mrs B goes to town, I stay behind for a bit to watch the news. Apparently, Eorpa, the Gaelic language news program on BBC2 Scotland at 7.30pm, will feature the problems at the Health Board in the Western Isles. Board chairman David Currie goes on Radio Scotland to deny any problems. I go into town myself to buy a pair of trousers, a new purse and the Thursday papers. A shower passes at 4.25, but the worst of the rain stays to the south of Stornoway. Three very interesting programs on the Gaelic service on BBC2 in the evening. The first looks back at the 1980s, showing Stornoway in the era of oilrigs at Arnish and the NATO base at the airport. The second, Tir is Teanga, explains the names of hills, lochs and country in Assynt, north of Ullapool. Stac Pollaidh, Suilven and Quinag are the hills climbed. Sutherland was the Southern Land of the Vikings. The old Gaelic name is Cataibh, Land of the Wild Cats. It now only survives in the district of Caithness, the far northeast. Eorpa devotes 20 minutes to Health Board problems. Last month, staff passed a motion of no-confidence in the Board management, and the unions are threatening a work-to-rule. Nurses were not prepared to speak on the program unless rendered unrecognisable. There is an atmosphere of bullying and intimidation, one person had the police sent to their home after complaining to a senior manager about proposed changes to the health service. By midnight I happen to glance at the webcam and see the moon rising low over the Coastguard station. I manage a few pics, see gallery above. Was sent a load of stuff by John Kirriemuir of Berneray (North Uist) about a nutcase who goes out of his way to destroy tourism in his island.
The Dating Extravaganza did draw a genuine visitor, a poor soul had come all the way from Iowa, in search of a lonely heart. Oh my god. Whether this was actually true or not cannot be verified. He was advised to read Arnish Lighthouse blog (very informative) and have a look round the place now that he was here at any rate. A Dutch lassie couldn't make head nor tail of the whole spoof, but she was quickly put in the picture by Calumannabel.
Interesting program on BBC1's Countryfile, about the Falklands. Very like the islands of the Hebrides. Interesting collection of wrecks in the harbour at Port Stanley, mainly of ships who limped there after a rough rounding of Cape Horn, 400 km to the southwest. Until 1970, the wreck of SS Great Britain was there as well, until it was lifted and transferred to Bristol. Others are gradually decaying.
Here in the Hebrides, the weather looks set to remain cold this week. Wintry showers and 6C. Sunday turns into a brilliantly sunny afternoon, once the clouds disappear. At 5pm, I head off for a walk round the town, where nothing stirs. Go up Kenneth Street, down Francis Street and Cromwell Street. The Feis nan Coisir [Choirs Fair] banner still flutters off the Town Hall. Across South Beach Street, which lies deserted. The wee beach between piers no 1 and 2 has run dry. Go up no 1 pier to take a close up look at MV Muirneag. She looks well battered, and is due to go for refit. The MV Isle of Arran lies tied up on the quayside behind her. Can just make out Goat Island from pier no 1, but the MV Isle of Lewis ferry is rather in the way. Walk round to North Beach, where I find Lazy Corner full of boats. Head back to Newton, where mrs B will be preparing me supper tonight. Planet Earth on BBC1 is stunning, but not due back until the autumn.
It's a dreich morning, but clouds break around lunchtime and the sun comes out. Mrs B goes into town to buy a new washing machine, which broke down a few days ago. New one expected on Tuesday. A good lunch is had by all with rolls, cheese, salad. I print off the whole 30 page list of victims and survivors of the Iolaire disaster. I get a display book from the Baltic Bookshop and present it to the Library for keeps. A comprehensive list has never been published before. I have written to the Gazette and the West Highland Free Press to advise readers of the list's presence in the library. The evening is nice but cold, perfectly windless. Go out for a late walk at 9.30, by which time the merest of light remains in the west, 80 minutes after sunset. This is at 8.07 pm today; sunrise at 6.54 am. Go down Seaview Terrace, where I spy a cat, see picture. Cut through to Campbell's Service Station in the backstreets, where mrs B starts on a tour of the derelict industrial areas of Newton. Although some of it is still in use, the majority is now unused. The landowner, a Harris Tweed manufacturer, acquired the properties in order to prevent anyone setting up business in competition with him. We go right down Bells Road as far as James Street, then back along Inaclete Road to Island Road.
A bright morning, but with a layer of high-level cloud. The Barbara has left, but the G.O. Sars is as yet moored alongside pier no 3. I am not at all sure whether the Health Board meeting today is going ahead. It was announced as such in the Gazette last week, but equally announced as cancelled in the P&J, to allow the current problems to be sorted out with the unions. Caledonian MacBrayne's have decided to start Sunday sailings between Berneray and Harris as from April 9th.
This leads to a South Harris councillor spitting fire on the radio. Apparently, 2 out of every 3 adults in her ward had voted against Sunday sailings. Morag Munro had just presented her petition to CalMac when the company decided for Sunday sailings. Listening to Isles FM, it would appear that the majority of people phoning to express their opinion are opposed. Nonetheless, the benefits lie with the people of the Uists, who can now visit relatives in hospital at Stornoway over the weekend. And any school events in either Stornoway or Lionacleit [Benbecula High School] can now take place over the weekend, with competitors home in time for school or work on Monday. The Lord's Day Observance Society is bitterly opposed, stating that a culture stands to be lost. Unfortunately, there are already Sunday sailings from Uist to Skye, from within the Western Isles area, so it would be inconsistent not to institute the Sound of Harris ferry on Sundays. There is a fierce debate in the wake of this announcement. I go to Somerfields in the afternoon to buy the Thursday papers. The local NHS announces it intends to tackle a £3m deficit through a vacancy stop. Meanwhile, the consultants at the hospital have demanded that the practice of discharging patients by the manager (who is not a doctor but a nurse) is to stop. At 7pm, mrs B and myself go up the road to the Nicolson Institute to attend a Kaleidoscope Concert. Pupils perform music varying from hard rock to Chopin, jazz to Haydn, big band to ceilidh band. The Scottish junior piping champion starts proceedings. Never heard anything like it. Although only 150 attended, it was well supported. It finished an hour late at 10.30 pm.
Meetings have been taking place today between health unions and staff regarding the management crisis in NHS Western Isles. Staff have passed a motion of no-confidence in the Chairman, Chief Executive as well as the Medical Director. The unions are taking this to the Scottish Executive, with the recommendation that the aforementioned officials be removed. The other guest with Mrs B has been out cycling today, the 40 miles to Callanish, Carloway and back via the Pentland Road.
Update: The guest who was reported missing turned up safe and well the next day at a friend's house. As I mentioned, I cannot go into details.
NOTE: I promised an entry about the meeting re. NHS Western Isles last Monday, 6th March. I take the liberty of pointing to the Lighthouse Blog, where I've written what I want to write about it, in an entry entitled "Meeting".
This morning dawns foggy, but with a cloudbase at 50 m. After 10 o'clock, the cloud drifts east and lifts. It leaves a bright morning, with nice clearances but little sun. Hear final confirmation that last week's death up the road was due to carbon monoxide poisoning. On the morning in question, there had been a cold night with heavy snow. When the boiler came on, the fumes rose up the chimney, but cooled down rapidly. An atmospheric inversion (cold air at the bottom, warmer air higher up) stopped the smoke rising and it sank down again. It deprived the boiler of oxygen, causing it to form carbon monoxide, as opposed to the normal carbon dioxide, which is not nearly as toxic. The inversion is attributable to the geographical location of Newton. It is surrounded, at about a mile's distance, by low hills, about 50 m /170 ft in height. Cold air will sink down into the harbour basin, and it will be capped by warmer air. The family dog died first. When the victim came to see to it, she opened the door to the boilerhouse and was overcome by the fumes. When the sons came downstairs, the concentration had been reduced through dilution although one developed severe headache and nausea. It could have been even worse.
After lunch, I head across to the Iolaire Monument at Holm. The weather turns wet as I pass through Lower Sandwick and Stoneyfields Farm, but the rain stops when I reach the top of the path to the monument. I video the 8 minutes it takes me to walk to the monument on the shore. I return to Sandwick, and spend 40 minutes in the cemetery, looking for more headstones for Iolaire victims. Eight of these are dedicated to unknown sailors. A couple are located in the old cemetery, but they're easier to spot due to the brilliant sunshine. Return to Newton at 5pm.
Tomorrow's weather will be ditto today.
Later on, an occasional light shower drifts by, but nothing too serious. The wind decreases slowly. Northern England reports snow. The ferry is its usual 20 minutes late coming in and leaving. Still the Clansman. Notice the webcam being viewed from Montevideo, Uruguay; Tenerife, Canary Islands and Northern Norway. The Uruguayan viewer is placed in the Avenue General Flores, which leads NNE from the Aguanda in Montevideo. The Tenerife viewer is on the northern side of the island, between Puerto dela Cruz and Los Realijos. Ostensibly in the middle of a vineyard! The Norwegian visitor has been before, and is resident in the town of Budejju, 775 km north of Oslo. Go to Somerfields for papers and a copy of the Scots Magazine. This contains a letter from Donald MacLeod of Aberdeen, about the Iolaire Disaster. I cook spaghetti bolognese for Mrs B. Later on, I point the webcam inside. Position it on a small lamp, high up on a wall and direct it at the fire and the keyboard. Only 3 people actually see it. I reposition the camera to its normal position by 11.15.