I referred in an earlier entry to the Lewis Windfarms.

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.

Thursday 27/04/06

Nice morning, fairly sunny and dry. Mrs B's nephew takes her and myself out for a spin at midday. First we go to the Lewis Crofters shop down Island Road, for spuds and compost. The fishmongers have not had any fish in, probably due to adverse weather. Next we head out to Aird Tong for a spot of housesitting, read: plant watering. The plants are in a sorry state as they had been forgotten. The house is in a very attractive location, overlooking Coll Beach, Muirneag, Broad Bay and Point. A large number of new properties have been built in that village on croftland. Whether the crofts are being used as such is actually a bone of contention. Liked Aird Tong, not been there before. We also went to the top of the road at Newmarket. A diversion up Laxdale Lane and Guershader brings us back to town. We're finally taken to the Woodlands' Centre for lunch, which knows how to serve a BLT baguette, in sharp contrast to An Lanntair. On return, the tide has turned so low (only +0.4m) that the old stepping stones across the Inner Harbour are exposed. The Thursday papers are very interesting. The windfarm project in North Lewis has been reduced to 190 turbines, from 234 initially. Big deal. Another Western Isles news item relates to the dumping of nuclear waste, which may take place on Fuday and Sandray, either side of Barra. The evening closes nice and sunny.

Wednesday 26/04/06

Yesterday's Swiss guests leave after breakfast. Weather continues to improve. Head into town to check on the Iolaire list in the library, which has not attracted further comments. The tides are quite large this week, with a high tide of 5.0 m and low tide of 0.5 m. New moon by tomorrow explains those. By evening, two Dutch guests arrive, who had spent 1½ hours traipsing town for a place to stay. I talk their head off with suggestions for things to do here as well as in their next ports of call, Harris and Skye. The tree that was washed up in the Basin has disappeared. The Isle of Arran sails for Ullapool at 6pm.

Tuesday 25/04/06

Still a windy morning, and over reakfast a severe rain and hailshower clatters down. Mrs B goes out shopping at 11.45, while I try to get a better view of the boat at Arnish, which now has a loading crane up. Unfortunately, even from the Goat Island causeway I am unable to decipher its name. It would appear that it's loading some more Pelamis units. Although the weather is slightly less inclement, any showers remain very heavy. Reactions to yesterday's parliamentary committee meeting focus on the possible destructive effect of intended measures on the crofting way of life. Venture out in late afternoon for shopping, as the weather improves slightly.

Monday 24/04/06

After a late start, I prepare to head off to the Scottish Parliament's Committee meeting at the Western Isles Council buildings on Sandwick Road. At 1.30, just before I leave, the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Lewis can be seen heading into port, struggling with the very windy conditions. When I arrive at the Council Chamber, my bag is checked by security. I am handed some papers, some of which I already have, and a ticket. The four panels I described yesterday will be quizzed by members of the ERDC. Amongst the members of said committee is local MSP Alistair Morrison. The first panel, crofters et al, focuses on regulation or not. The second panel gets technical on the legal issues surrounding the Pairc Trust. After a teabreak, an open session ensues where 7 members of the public, amongst them 3 local councillors, address the committee. Angus McCormack, Plasterfield councillor, went into chapter and verse. The third panel focused on housing; the fourth on developments, such as the windfarms. The man from Lewis Windpower, which proposes to build 209 windturbines in North Lewis, was quizzed harshly. Windfarms appear to be going out of vogue of late. When the meeting closes, at 5.20, the weather has turned very nasty. It's raining and blowing hard. The Met Office hasn't got a galewarning outstanding, so I email them. No reply. ITV carries a report from the meeting I attended earlier. The gale continues to blow all evening, gusting up to force 10. The ferry is an hour late, arriving at 9pm. The weatherstation at Eoropie reports gusts of 57 knots / force 11, Stornoway goes up to 52 knots, force 10. A boat lies moored over at Arnish, but I cannot make out its name or its business. Possibly delivering steel plates. Visibility is severely restricted, spray flies over the causeway and it's quite nasty outside. As the evening progresses, the wind appears to die down a little.

Sunday 23/04/06

It's a nice bright morning, which stays sunny in spite of cloud bubbling up as temperatures rise. It's the usual quiet Sunday. A man comes to stay with an Italian companion; they head off to Tolsta for the afternoon. Down in London, the Marathon is underway in drizzly conditions. Spend the afternoon getting up to speed with the Crofting Reform Bill. Tomorrow, a meeting by the Environment and Rural Development Committee of the Scottish Parliament will take place in Stornoway. I download and print a 40 page PDF with submissions from about 14 representatives from crofting, housing, local government and development agencies as well as landowners. It's a complex and wide-ranging issue. A croft is a small scale agricultural unit (5 acres) which is commonly let to a crofter by a landowner for a low fee, about £18 per annum. I'm not omitting any zeroes. At the moment, crofters can buy their own crofts at the rate of 15 times the annual rent. A croft does not automatically include a house. Grants are available of about £22k, which helps a little towards the £80k cost of building a house. There is currently an open market in crofts, which has led to spiralling prices, putting crofts beyond the means of young folk in the island. Problems have also arisen on a larger scale with the Community Right-to-Buy, enshrined in the 2003 Land Reform Act (Scotland). The people on an estate are able to buy the land from its owner, against the wishes of said owner. So far, the only real hostile take-over is taking place in the Pairc District, South Lochs. And the current owner does not want to cooperate with the take-over at all, putting ownership of the land in the hands of a subsidiary company (effectively the same people) and creating a legal morass. The Scottish Executive have, as per normal, been hovering around this hot pie for ages. The reason why landowner Barry Lomas doesn't want to sell is that he stands to earn millions from a proposed windfarm on his land.

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.

Saturday 22/04/06

An absolutely horrendous start to the day, with a howling gale and pouring rain. Over at Eoropie, winds gust up to 50 knots / force 10. The airport is up to 43 knots, force 9. Elsewhere in the country, temperatures rise to 18C. Here in Lewis, the mercury stalls at +9. Go to Somerfields, which is chockablock with folk in waterproofs, none of whom are really happy to go out again. Just after my return, an absolute downpour signals the passage of the front. The wind veers from South to Southwest and decreases to force 5 or 6. At around 5.30, the sun starts to come out and the evening is quite nice. A 2nd tube has turned up outside the Arnish Yard. The wind drops away as the sun sets just before 9. Watch a bit of TV with mrs B after supper.

Friday 21/04/06

Nice sunny start to the day, but cloud increases gradually. Just before 3pm, a few drops of rain fall. An oilrig is towed down the Minch, and the extremely good visibility shows a number of boats in the far distance. HM the Q is 80 today, and she is rumoured to contemplate coming up here in June on board the Hebridean Princess. Ordinary mortals pay £2,500 to £5,000 a trip on this small cruiseliner, which can take up to 49 passengers. Although it threatens rain, it stays dry. Visibility remains great, and I can see the Storr, on Skye, 50 miles away. The mainland hills stand out in all their snowcapped glory. Go down to Sandwick Bay for a good look at Skye at 8pm. On my return, Mrs B's granddaughter has come round with a young friend. Mrs B served me supper tonight, in the shape of a chicken and peppers dish from the butchers. As we go to bed, by midnight, the wind gets up.

Thursday 20/04/06

A late start as per usual. The morning is cloudy, and by midday the showers are popping up. The birds in the garden are busy with nests, the blackbird sings merrily every evening at nightfall. The peanut feeder is no longer required, as there are plenty of worms in the soil. Next week there will be a meeting here to discuss the future of crofting in the islands. A Gaelic language group meets in An Lanntair every Wednesday, for beginners as well as for more advanced speakers. At 4pm, I head into town to pick up the Thursday papers, which are a good read this week. Eorpa (BBC2 Scotland, 7.30pm) focuses on the problems around renewable energy in the Western Isles. A move is discernable away from large-scale windfarms and towards smaller, local schemes. Not just wind energy, but also heat from the soil (as they are using over in the Blackhouse Museum in Gearrannan), solar energy (Sports Centre Harris, streetlights in Cromor and Ranish), tidal- and wavepower. Only goes to show what strength popular opinion can wield. A comparison is made with Sweden, where progress in this field is stymied by red tape and conglomerates obstructing competition. Sunset 8.50, but it's still light in the north at 10.15.

Wednesday 19/04/06

Am awake at 5.50 a.m., to see a very low moon, barely 2 degrees above the southern horizon. Later on, it starts as a nice sunny day. Mrs B's granddaughter is here for the day, as she is off with tooth trouble. I'm willing target for a game which has something to do with the Simpsons (Matt Groenigs creations). During the afternoon, Mrs B's sister calls in for a chat. A downpour follows at 4.30. I pop down the road to Somerfields for papers and the lottery (no luck, thanks). It drips, but the threat over the western horizon fails to substantiate. Visibility is very good today, can see the snowcapped hills south of Ullapool. This afternoon, the Isle of Arran takes several lorryloads of scrapped cars over to the mainland. When the ferry comes in, very early at 7.40, it is closely followed by the Coastguard chopper. A man dangles below on a line. The winchman is hauled in when the ferry reaches Goat Island. Probably an exercise. The Border Heather, our tanker, comes in for anothervisit. Our two guests went round Harris today, to Leverburgh along the west coast and back up the east coast. BBC Online reports that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is to reopen the debate on the two Lewis windfarms. The webpage misspells Beinn Mhor (calling it Beinn Vor, as that is the pronounciation) and places Eishken in North Harris, where it is actually in southeast Lewis. The evening closes peacefully, with sunset at 8.50. The two guests will be leaving on the 7.15 ferry.

Tuesday 18/04/06

The Isle of Arran returned at 1.10 a.m. from Ullapool. In the daytime, the weather is fairly decent, with distant showers and good periods of sunshine. Mrs B's brother-in-law as well as her nephew call in for a visit in the morning. Two visitors arrive from Ullapool at 1.30, having been rained out of the place over the last few days. They take themselves off for a bustrip to Callanish as well as Ness. In town, I visit Grinneas nan Eilean again for the purpose of taking a few pics. I then go on a walk round the Castle Grounds. I look round Lews Castle, and find a cannon. It's very boggy and wet. They are working hard to clear fallen trees, still lying around after the hurricane of January 2005. Some fencing is being erected around Lady Matheson's memorial, which was recently done up. I then make my way down to Cuddy Point. Go up the hill for a brief loopwalk, then return to the town centre. Mrs B serves me her pasta bake, which I like a lot. By 10pm, we call in on her brother-in-law.

Monday 17/04/06 - Easter Monday

Today, I'm transmitting the wee video I took at the opening of Grinneas nan Eilean via the webcam. Only problem is that Camstreams have technical difficulties, which thwart my showings at 16.00 and 21.00. The 11.00 one went ok. Breakfast was a smashing experience. Just as I rose from the table, the chair I was sitting on fell backwards, through the glass window of a cupboard. One pane broke, showering the cups and glasses inside with splinters. I hoover the floor, and mrs B washes all the cups and glasses. Splinters of glass turn up in the washing-up bowl. Oh dear. Today starts sunny, but some decidedly beefy showers bubble up after midday, a few carry hail. It's quite cold outside, only 7C. Go to Somerfields at 4.30 for a few bits and pieces. The Isle of Arran sails for Ullapool at 5.30, which is a different time from Muirneag, which usually sails around midnight. We'll await her return. Tonight, it's me cooking supper, which we enjoy over a nice fire.

Sunday 16/04/06 - Easter Sunday

Very late start. Mrs B and I exchange Easter Eggs. Changeable weather with occasional showers, which are accompanied by squalls. Nice sunny intervals in between. It's a very quiet afternoon, which I spend updating the written journal. Write a few pieces on the Lighthouse blog. Mrs B serves me a very nice Easter roast, with a succulent steak with onions, vegetables and potatoes. Otherwise, not much doing.

Saturday 15/04/06

Weather appears to be in a routine of sunny mornings, followed by showers later in the day. Go to the shops during the afternoon with mrs B, for the weekend shopping. It's pretty busy in Somerfields, in anticipation of Easter. I think the supermarket will be open on Monday, but am not sure. At 5pm, I accompany mrs B to An Lanntair for the opening of an exhibition of local artworks, Grinnean nan Eilean (The Beauty of the Isles). It was open to members of An Lanntair only; I was invited by mrs B, a member herself. The main body is paintings, which are nearly all for sale. Prices vary between £23 and £3900. Some of it is good - others I struggle to recognise the object. In the foyer, photographs are hung. Other forms of art include a 4 foot cup & saucer (see entry for 18 April) made out of papier maché; the paper consisting of ordering slips from the restaurant. The chairman and the former chairman hold a speech. A gull strides over the skylight overhead as they blah blah. Standing about is not my favourite passtime. At 6.30, a fingerbuffet opens. The Woodlands Band strikes up at 7, but nobody sees fit to applaud. Stuck-up bunch. Watch the ferry arrive at 8. Leave for Newton at 8.30. Half an hour later, at dusk, Muirneag departs for her refit. The Isle of Arran is waiting outside the harbour to take over from her. The pictures in the gallery are not terribly good; it's nearly dark, and the lengthy exposure times resulted in a degree of blurring.

Life and death in J-land

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]

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Friday 14/04/06

Dawn breaks at 5.30 a.m. at the moment. Nice sunny morning until about 11 am., when a shower slowly moves east over Arnish. Another cumulus is seen raining out over the town. It nonetheless stays on the whole sunny, and 9C is not bad. The Galson estate in North Lewis looks set to be the subject of a successful community buy-out bid. The Galson Trust has secured funding totalling £627k, which means puts it in a good position to buy the estate land against the owner's wishes. This is possible under Scottish legislation. To acquire all this funding, the Trust has had to put together a cast-iron business plan. The Park Trust, in Southeast Lewis, has got problems doing so. Its primary source of income has been reduced, following a decision of adjacent landowner Nick Oppenheimer to reduce the proposed number of windturbines on the Eishken Estate from 133 to 53. The Park Trust has a proportional share in those turbines, under the Muaitheabhal [Muyaval] Trust structure. A glorious evening draws to a close at sunset at 8.36. The ferry came in, very busy indeed. I go out with mrs B to Engebret's shop up the road at 10pm. It's still a little light by that time. In a month's time, it will be light after midnight.

Thursday 13/04/06

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.

Wednesday 12/04/06

The morning is very wet. After lunch, the rain stops, but the wind increases. The paper is full of Calmac's woes. Passengers criticise the captain of the Isle of Lewis for sailing last Saturday. Three people were injured on the evening crossing, when the ship was hit by a big wave 12 miles east of Stornoway. Calmac have defended their captain, saying it was blowing northwesterly force 6 on sailing, but it increased to galeforce during the crossing. Further south, there will be an airservice between Oban and the islands of Coll, Tiree and Colonsay. Closer to home, the pavements on Newton Street are being improved. Went into town to update the Iolaire list in the library and get some shopping in. Mrs B is giving the kitchen a springclean. Find a webcam at Eoropie, which shows some spectacular seas from the wee tearoom opposite the playpark. My webcam is giving unreliable service as Camstreams (provider) has trouble with its servers. During the evening, some showers pass through, which leave some spectacular rainbows. The wind gusts to 40 knots, force 9. Ferry comes in on time though.

Tuesday 11/04/06

Bright start, followed by showers from midday. Mrs B's nephew calls in to take her shopping to the two main supermarkets in town. I give them my Somerfields voucher which gives £8 off if you spend more than £50. Recently, the Gazette carried a coupon which gave £4 off for every £40 spent. Piles of Gazettes would be strategically positioned by the checkout. For just 60p people would buy a copy, tear out the coupon and get £4 off every £40 - so £12 off for £120! The Happy River ship has now relocated to Broad Bay. Mrs B returns from shopping at 3pm. Her sister comes to visit a little later. Showers continue at lengthy intervals. There is some sunshine in between, and it's not very cold outside, 8C.

Monday 10/04/06

Again, not a bad start to the day in terms of weather, but it's not set to last. The big ship reappears off Holm, and I receive an email back from its company. The vessel is called Happy River, and it's en route from Wilhelmshaven in Germany to Fjardaal in Iceland. It carries 5 modules, each 26 metres high, destined for a new aluminium plant at Reydharfjordhur in eastern Iceland. Each module weighs 300 tonnes. Because of adverse weather conditions in the north Atlantic and its sheer bulk it cannot make the crossing just yet. The forecast is unfavourable, so she'll be here for a while yet. The ship is equipped with 2 cranes, each capable of lifting 400 tonnes. I duly relay to Isles FM and the Stornoway Gazette, with my own picture of the vessel, see entry for 8 April. Fjardaal (Icelandic for aluminium valley) is a project at Reydharfjordhur, of which a map is included in the picture gallery. Isles FM relay my info in their early evening news bulletin. Here in Stornoway, it's bitterly cold in the strong wind. It's pouring with rain and blowing a gale by the end of the afternoon. Heard that a freak wave nearly capsized the Isle of Lewis ferry last Saturday. Three people were hurt, and a motorcycle on the vehicle deck damaged. An ambulance awaited the vessel's arrival at Stornoway to tend to the injured, none seriously.

Sunday 09/04/06

At 7.15, a snow shower falls, but when I rise rather later, the sun shines. Some showers hover within sight, but none fall here as yet. The very first ferry ever to sail to Harris on a Sunday arrives in the rain at Leverburgh at 10.10. Nobody is at the pier to protest at the arrival of the Loch Portain [pronounce: Porshten], as they are all in church for the communions. Only some tape, a policeman and a placard saying "Keep the Sabbath Holy" are in attendance. Some 20 passengers, one a Berneray resident along for the historic ride, are travelling this morning. One other person was going up to Stornoway to visit a relative in hospital. Although no protest is being held today, the local councillor, Morag Munro, has said that there are 6 more days in the week in which to protest. Calmac deny they are going to start on the Ullapool to Stornoway run on Sundays. The item features on the national bulletins of BBC News, where the journalist in question pronounces Uist as Yooweesht, contrary to the normal Yoowist. As it's a nice afternoon, I head off for a walk up Smith Avenue, down Springfield Road to Anderson Road. I turned left into Anderson Road, but found myself heading west, towards the hospital. I want to go east, so turn 180 degrees. Came back down Moss End and Seaforth Road, cutting through Newton via Bells Road and Inaclete Road. Mrs B serves me supper. A distant ship sits below the horizon, only its superstructure is visible. Not a lot on TV. We get satellite TV (Sky), which gives 500 channels. Some of them only through supplementary subscription (sport, films, s*x), i.e. not. All those channels, and nothing worth viewing. At the end of the day, I prefer radio.

Saturday 08/04/06

At midnight, the ship that is taking the sections of piping away from Arnish leaves. At 1 a.m., a ship is seen at anchor behind the Coastguard Station. It is quite large. In the morning, it's still there. As the day wears on, I can make out it belongs to the Big Lift Shipping Co., which is capable of lifting loads up to 1100 tons on board. The weather is not as windy as yesterday, but still cold. Showers remain wintery, hail, sleet, snow. After lunch, I join mrs B and her son in a trip to town. She has to drop something off at An Lanntair. I go into the library to doublecheck the Iolaire list, where someone did leave a comment about one of the pictures. Oh. Return via the Baltic Bookshop, where I buy an A4-sized notepad with a glaringly orange cover. At 4.30, I go across to the Coastguard Station to take a closer look at the ship, but it's several miles away. She is likely to be sheltering from the conditions. The high load makes her susceptible to the high winds we're having at the moment.

Friday 07/04/06

Spend a torrid night with a crashing headache. Awake to say good-bye to the ladies, who are leaving for home today. I was to have gone to the Donald MacLeod Memorial Piping competition up at the Caberfeidh Hotel, but piping is liable to worsen a headache, so I abandon the idea. That paracetamol helps to sort the problem out though. A French fishingboat comes into port for a crew change, and leaves within 2 hours of arrival. At 1145, a heavy hailshower leaves a thick layer of ice, which takes some time to melt away. The Highland News at 12.54 reports that 2 geese were found dead in Lewis and the Uists, one was unwell, all with suspected birdflu. This comes in the wake of the confirmation that a swan found dead in Fife (Eastern Scotland) was carrying the deadly form of the avian flu virus H5N1. The wintery showers get worse as the afternoon progresses, steadily turning more to snow. Temperatures fall gradually towards freezing, and after 6pm it's snow only. It's quite heavy and settles. At sunset, 8.20, it leaves a nice picture of the Castle Grounds.

Thursday 06/04/06

A truly wild day, with wintry showers of all shapes, forms and sizes coming along at regular intervals - every few minutes. Some contain hail, snow; others are very heavy rainshowers. Gusts in one downpour reach 56 knots, force 11. Fantastic cloudshapes, but very unpleasant to be out and about in. There was an emergency at the airport, when a plane was hit by lightning. It landed safely. At 3pm, a ship comes in to collect more wavepower units from the Arnish Yards. Due to its high structures, it is very susceptible to the severe squalls that accompany the showers, so it veers left only once it's abreast of Goat Island - well past the Glumag. The Health Board saga plumbs new depths, with the Finance Director now being awarded £25,000 for relocation expenses. This includes the tax liability is incurred for any compensation exceeding £8,000. Who has awarded that to her? And she has also managed to extract £77,200 for building a house and setting up a B&B in the island. My entry on the Lighthouse Blog spits venom, but I have to be careful not to use a 5-letter F-word. This evening, I prepare dinner for mrs B: leeks, potatoes and meatballs.

Wednesday 05/04/06

The day starts wet and stays wet. Have a chat with Sharon and Frances, who intend to visit Tolsta and Callanish today. Not the best of weather for it, but you can't help the weather. Before coming to Lewis, they had been to Mull. Some ferry news today: The Isle of Arran, which was moored here, has had to leave for home waters to replace the Caledonian Isles which has been affected by a winter vomiting virus. The Lochnevis, which serves the Small Isles, is out of commission after hitting rocks at Mallaig harbour. Like you do. The ladies return at 8 to have a nice hot bath. They had left a bottle of milk outside their bedroom window. Good replacement for a fridge, outside temperatures only 6C. Reworked the website, and received a nice compliment for my Iolaire work.

Tuesday 04/04/06

The timetables for the new Sunday sailings across the Sound of Harris are published today - there will be three sailings each Sunday, as of April 9th. The list of names related to the Iolaire Disaster is placed in the Western Isles Museum this afternoon. Earlier in the morning, there was a thin layer of snow on the ground. The two ladies who came yesterday are frequent visitors to the island, and have walked far and wide. However, not in the moors. They have gone south of Breanais (Uig) and places in Harris. Weather today is much like yesterday, sunny and cold, with a hailshower at lunchtime. Mrs B's son comes in to spraypaint the boilerhouse, in preparation for the new washing machine. The two ladies return, who have gone as far as Rodel. I read that Isles FM has had to apologise on air, after a presenter was heard alluding to the fact that Pakistan Disease is incurable. The person in question was suffering from a cold, which had garbled his pronounciation of Parkinson's Disease. I'll never forget the lady who was having electrocution lessons.

Monday 03/04/06

Nice sunny morning, but snow has fallen overnight on the tops of the Arnish hills, above 50m. Skye also had snow, according to a report on Metcheck. The weather goes right down the pan at lunchtime, with a hailshower, followed by a prolongued shower of sleet, snow and rain. Once it moves away, after 2, great cloudscapes remain. Went into town to buy another display folder, in which a copy of the Iolaire names will be placed for the Western Isles Museum. Mrs B expects her new washing machine tomorrow, so the boiler house (in which it resides) is given the once over. Three guests expected tonight: one is the chap who stayed here last week. He teaches flooring at the Castle College. The others are two ladies who are expected off the 8pm ferry.

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.

Sunday 02/04/06

Quiet Sunday morning, sun shining between medium level clouds. Still cold.

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.

Saturday 01/04/06

April Foolsday today. The Dell Fank Dating Extravaganza [see Arnish Lighthouse blog] ostensibly takes place today. A picture emerges showing a Galson bus with the wording "Dell Fank Dating Extravaganza Express Coach" on its back. Oh dear.

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.

Friday 31/03/06

Nasty wet day, very cold and unpleasant. Head out to town at 1130 to scan in a few cartoons about the Sunday sailings issue. Tickets for today's Feis nan Coisir [Choir Fair] have sold out - I think I left it too late. The day continues quite cold. Mrs B has to take it easy through the afternoon, so I do likewise. The G.O. Sars has finally departed. According to radio reports, a fishing boat is in trouble 200 miles to the west of Lewis, taking in water. A helicopter flies in from Benbecula to drop off a pump, but because of the distance it only had 25 minutes to do so.

Thursday 30/03/06

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.