Thursday 31/08/06

Reasonably nice morning, which preambles the second day of lectures on the Hebridean Book Festival. Mrs B is not joining me on the two sessions I booked on. After updating the journals regarding Hurricanes John and Ernesto, I am still waiting for confirmation by the Walking World crowd that they have actually reserved a number for my latest submission, the walk round the Castle Grounds I mentioned two days ago (29th). At 2pm, I sit down in An Lanntair to listen to Adam Nicolson, the owner of the Shiant Isles. His subject matter is Hebridean Seas, his experiences with his first boat and the man who built it. Adam also discusses at length the Stream of the Blue Men, the strait between Lewis and the Shiants (8 miles wide), which is notoriously difficult and dangerous. Apparently, a submarine ledge juts up from the seafloor (450 ft down) to just 70 ft below the surface of the water. The body of water that comes down through the Minch has to squeeze itself over said ledge, so you can imagine what the water looks like. He also tells the tale of the birlinn [old age boat] which crossed from Lewis to Skye, a distance of 30 miles, when a crow alighted on the beam of the boat. When someone shooshed it away, the boat came to sink in short order. A crow is a symbol of death in the islands. After Mr Nicolson finishes, I return to Newton to read papers and do shopping. The second session includes Bill Lawson, international expert on genealogy; John Love, a representative of SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) and John Randall. Subject matter here is myth and fact around St Kilda. This archipelago was evacuated in 1930, at the request of the inhabitants. An extensive cloud of myth has blown up around life on the island prior to their abandonment, and it depends quite heavily whose books you read as to the perspective. The concept of Noble Savages crosses the table, and there is always this appeal of the distant island and the primitive way of life. The issues of infant mortality (lack of hygiene), which families lived there before and after an outbreak of smallpox nearly wiped everybody out. John Love had a meagre 10 minutes, after John Randall started off with a 30 minute talk - bit too long. Bought a book about the Highlands & Islands clearances, which will be discussed on Saturday. Another quiet evening is spent reading papers. Summer is over - tomorrow, it'll be September.

Wednesday 30/08/06

Last night's guests: a man here on work business and a lady attending a lecture in the Castle College - the latter is off today. Another lady arrives who will be attending a lecture by Mairi Hedderwick as part of Faclan. The Hebridean Book Festival will be opened with a presentation of Calum's Road by Roger Hutchinson and a talk by Mairi Hedderwick, who is a famous writer and illustrator on the Hebrides. Mrs B will join me for these two events, but I won't attend the two films this evening about writer Iain Crichton-Smith and composer Murdo MacFarlane, the Melbost Bard. Went to An Lanntair where I bought the book Calum's Road, and had it signed by the author, who was standing right behind me. A large collection of books was there for the buying, and it was just as well I only had £14 on me, or else I would have bought the lot. Faclan was opened by former Isles MP Calum MacDonald, who expressed hopes it might approximate the Edinburgh Book Festival. Islands Book Trust chairman John Randall proceeded to introduce Roger Hutchinson. Roger, himself a resident of the island of Raasay, just east of Skye, went on to tell the story of Calum MacLeod who was so fed up with submitted unsuccesful pleas to Inverness County Council for a road to his village of South Arnish, that he built it himself. Two hard miles. His aim, to prevent the depopulation of northern Raasay, was not achieved. Northern Raasay, ironically, was the precise area that previous owners of the island had cleared residents of the southern half to. Nowadays, everybody, bar one family, now lives in southern Raasay.

Mairi Hedderwick is best known for Katie Morag stories, although I think Mairi is a wee bit fed up with her. She told of her 6 months in a campervan, visiting 40 islands including a 6 week stint in Hiort [St Kilda]. The Katie Morag story of the Tiresome Ted stems from Mairi's own experience with a teddybear. Hers was thrown out with the rubbish - over a clifftop into the sea. The teddy promptly turned up on a beach a mile along the coast six months later. She took it back, but threw it back out again on moving house. Two years later, Mairi returned to a beach on the island of Coll, where all this was taking place - to find her teddybear on the beach. In a dreadful state - I saw it in her exhibition elsewherein An Lanntair. Mrs Hedderwick has drawn her own illustrations for Eye on the Hebrides and pocket diaries for 2006 and 2007.

Mrs B went out later for her films, to return at 9.45 with a neighbour who lives a few doors down. By that time, it had come on to rain.

Tuesday 29/08/06

Reasonably nice start to the day, and it only gets better. Mrs B's brother in law (I'm tempted to use the American abbreviation) comes in to tell us he had his knee checked over in A&E. The doctor said nothing was broken, but to take it easy and put the leg up. After lunch, I head off into the Castle Grounds to mark out a walk. This goes round the Golf Course to the Water Mill, then up to the War Memorial and back down again. Carry on to the Marybank Gate and back to the Castle. I bought a computer mag, some liquorice for mrs B and liquorice roots for me to chew on. Walk took just under 2 hours, including the shopping. Met mrs B at Somerfields, and I carried her shopping bags back. The mother of the kidnapped schoolgirl appears on nationwide TV to issue an emotional appeal, which she is barely able to utter. She shakes with emotion. An MP from Glasgow with Pakistani connections has offered to mediate, as it's rumoured that the girl left for Lahore on Friday. Beautiful sunset at 8.30, with light remaining to the north at 10pm.

Monday 28/08/06

Fairly sunny morning and a few showers. The New Zealanders depart for Durness. Mrs B's brother in law comes in with a badly bruised and swollen knee, after tripping over a 4 inch step a few days ago. Maritime Buildings on the no 1 Pier is to be demolished. Go to the shop for a few items. Tonight's three guests arrive in quick succession. A lady is here for a course at the Castle College. A couple from London are here on their hols. The day ends nice and sunny.

Sunday 27/08/06

Have breakfast latish, then watch BBC Countryfile. Mrs B gets a visit from her son, who lives up the road. A new memorial is to be built in Glen Nevis, to replace the ones that are to be removed from the summit of nearby Ben Nevis. Weather today is fairly bright with a few light showers. People in the States are getting worried over Ernesto, which is battering Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The worst problem is the rainfall, with totals between 4 and 20 inches [100 and 500 mm] in one day. London's annual rainfall total is 16 inches [800 mm]. Supper tonight is spag bol. At 7pm, a family from New Zealand call in to enquire for vacancies, which mrs B does have. As soon as she's got the room ready, that is. So, off they go to a restaurant and return at 8.30. They have to return to said restaurant to retrieve a wallet that was left behind. I go out at 8.30 for a short walk to the Coastguard Station, just up the road, but it's cold tonight. When I go to bed, the bathroom has been turned into an extension to the guests' bedrooms - no, we don't have en-suite! So, mrs B comes in to clear a path for me to reach the washbasin and the loo. Dear me.

Saturday 26/08/06

My emergence from bed usually occurs in the second half of the morning these days. Bit on the late side, but my appearance into bed isn't usually on the same day as the emergence from said bed. It's one of those non-descript weather days, with a very fine drizzle and occasional glimpses of the sun. See pics above. The German cyclists head off for Ullapoo. They intend to cycle all the way from Ullapool to Glasgow. That's 210 miles [330 km] in 5 days. I wish them luck. A Swiss chap, now resident of London, turns up to stay after travelling north from Barra. He flies out tomorrow. Go into town later in the afternoon, but have to trawl three shops for the papers. Dinner is a microwaveable meal, with peaches and icecream after. No luck with the lottery. Night falls at 8.45pm. Keeping an eye on two hurricanes, Ioke in the Pacific and Ernesto in the Caribbean. Ioke remains category 5, Ernesto might do something nasty in the southern States.

Friday 25/08/06

Sunless and cool today. Mrs B's nephew once again calls round to offer his aunt a ride to the shops. The Arnish Fabrication Yard is set to close next week - bad news. The Dennis Head Lighthouse wins the Scottish heats of the BBC show Restoration Village. This means it'll be in the final, vying for £1.7m of Heritage Lottery funding for restauration. The 60 residents of North Ronaldsay [Orkney] are very happy. The SFPA boat Norna leaves port. It's getting busy on the tropical hurricane front. I'm in awe of Ioke in the Pacific; Debby may yet come to haunt us next week. Go to town for a number of errands. The museum has lost my copy of "Men of the Iolaire" (see my entry Iolaire), which I'm not happy with at all. Sloppy. Anyway, the on-line version is still pulling the interested, just this morning I had someone emailing me with a query. Bought a card for John [Krissy's other half] and sent it off to the US. Went to An Lanntair [the arts centre] to buy a raft of tickets for next week's Hebridean Bookfestival - watch this blog. Mrs B provides a very nice dinner, a cold salad with hams and coleslaw. Very filling. A young German couple come to find a bed for the night. They have cycled far and wide today, and even managed to get lost in Lewis - which is singularly difficult to do. Particularly if the only thing you have to do is follow the main road, all 37 miles of it, from Tarbert to Stornoway.

Thursday 24/08/06

Today dawned fairly bright, but the showers arrive after lunch. Mrs B's nephew calls in for a cuppa, and he hangs on for some sausage rolls. Mrs B and I head off on the bus, this time to Ballantrushal, some 14 miles north of Stornoway. This small hamlet boasts of the largest monolith in the Western Isles, standing some 19 ft / 5.7 m tall. In legend it was once a man, who was turned to stone. A passer-by once heard it proclaim in sepulchral tones:

A Truisealach am I after the Fiann
Long is my journey behind the others
My elbow points towards the West
And I am embedded to my oxters

Its closest neighbours to the south, at Callanish, never spoke, but are locally referred to as the Deceitful Men.

We arrive at Ballantrushal [Baile an Truseil] at 2.55, in slight rain. A man is hammering fenceposts into the ground with a mallet. A house stands alone, delapidated and obviously derelict. Many houses in this part of Lewis have a blackhouse standing nearby, where people used to live until the 1950s. Ballantrushal stands on the northern slope of the moor, running down to a small river just below Shader, the next village. The hill of Muirneag frowns over it from 6 miles to the east. We amble to the Stone and shelter in its shadow as a shower passes. Having a look round for a minute, then continue down to the shoreline, 400 yards away. Pity about the wrecked cars along the way. The weather clears, but the frontal passage leaves showers behind. Slow return to the main road. Chat to the man at work and wait in the busshelter for the 4.16 bus, which is 5 minutes late. It takes schoolkids back to Stornoway from Lionel School, 11 miles to the north. Hazy views over the West Side to Old Hill, 15 miles to the west. Return to SY at 16.45, only to find half the shops shut with the communion holidays. Wasn't aware of that, but do manage to get the papers in. The papershop still had yesterday's paper on the shelves, something I don't spot until it's too late. Naughty. Supper consists of rice, canned chili con carne and canned sliced peaches. Nice though.

Wednesday 23/08/06

A bright start to the day, with variable amounts of cloud. The cyclists paddle off at 8.30, blissfully unaware of the unfavourable wind direction. Spend the morning catching up on puzzles, clearing up the mountain of paper in my bedroom. Have rolls for lunch. Receive the picture of Strider in the post and scan it in at the library. The local library offers free Internet access for 60 minutes. A shower passes over as I walk into town. By evening, things clear up and the early evening ferry comes and goes in bright sunshine. With the sun setting just before 9pm, and rising at 6am, we have now lost 3 hours of daylight. Until late December, another 9 hours will go. On December 21st, sunrise will be at 9.15 am, sunset at 3.35 pm. Mrs B's son turns up this evening with his young daughter and one of his friends in tow.

Tuesday 22/08/06

After a latish rise, I have a cooked breakfast and am presently joined by Mrs B's nephew for a chat. Two cyclists arrive off the ferry. Following lunch, mrs B and I pack ourselves off by bus to Gearrannan. The bus leaves at 14.30, with several tourists on board. It is a nice afternoon, with occasional sunshine and variable amounts of cloud. A hiker is walking up the Cleascro Road between Leurbost and Achamor. The bus gets stuck behind a slow-moving car, which is towing a trailer full of discarded kitchen units. A few people are dropped off outside their houses in Achamor. You have great views over to the Harris hills from there, even better if you climb Eitsal, the hill with the radio and TV transmitters. At Gearraidh na h-Aibhne [Garynahine] passengers for Bernera change into a minibus. One tourist couple ask to be dropped off at Callanish III, one of the stone circles on the approach to the main site. The one-eyed dog along the access road to the main site at Callanish no longer comes running out to greet the bus; haven't seen him all year, and I think he's dead. A flurry of tourists join the bus on its onward journey north to Carloway. The local expert on the Callanish monument alights at his house, on the border between Callanish and the next village, Breascleit. Unusually, nobody has to get off at the Pier in Breascleit. There is a passenger though for the village bus into Tolsta-Chaolais, at the North West Autopoint Garage. On arrival at Carloway, the bus pulls into a buspark behind the primary school. The little darlings come piling out on the dot at 3.30, and after they're all seated, the bus carries on to Gearrannan, the Blackhouse Village. Now, Blackhouse is actually a mistaken translation. The Gaelic is Taigh Tugaidh, which means Thatched House. But, the pronounciation of the Gaelic word "dubh" [black] is close to that of "tugaidh", so the mistake is easily made. We have visited the Gearrannan site before, so we go up the hill behind the village to catch the view. It is very clear weather this afternoon. Can make out the wee lighthouse at Lamishader Point to the west, Old Hill, Aird Uig and the Flannan Isles. The latter group, indistinctly visible on one of the pictures in the gallery, lies 40 miles to the west. In December 1900, the three lighthouse keepers disappeared without trace in a ferocious storm. When the light was reported out, the Lighthouse Board sent a boat to investigate. They found the keepers gone, a table set with a meal ready to be eaten. The light was ready to be lit. A huge wave is thought to have caught the keepers and swept them away. Evidence of a hasty exit was found. I'll reprint the poem Flannan Isle by Wilfrid Gibson in a separate entry. Notice that the thatch in the village has been replaced. We have a cup of tea with carrot cake in the restaurant before the minibus leaves for Carloway at 4.30. This is full of schoolkids, this time from the Shawbost school, 6 miles to the east. We are unceremoniously dumped on the crossroads at the bridge and told to shelter in the busshelter. Why? I don't know. No, we just have a look round the War Memorial and marvel at the intricacies of the road system in the village. Two buses pull in just before 4.55, departure time. Both are going to Stornoway, but one is heading through Callanish (back the way we came), the other goes through Barvas, 12 miles to the east. When this last one comes in, two familiar faces alight: the couple who went round Callanish earlier on. I direct them to the Gearrannan minibus, which is waiting across the road. Once on board this vehicle, it's a case of sitting back and enjoying the views. Dalbeg is the highpoint in this respect. A shop is called L for Leather. Tourists who came out of the School Museum are a bit late in flagging the bus down. They want to go to Arnol. We head there through Bragar. Don't visit the Arnol Blackhouse if you've got breathing problems. In the middle of that blackhouse, an open peatfire is sitting there smoking, with the smoke leaving the building through the thatch. No chimney. The bus returns to town at 5.45, and we pop into Somerfields for shopping. A knock on the door at 7.20 reveals two familiar faces: yes, the couple we also encountered at Callanish and Carloway. They came off the ferry this afternoon, but didn't have any accommodation. Mrs B doesn't have any on offer. Late in the evening, it rains.

Monday 21/08/06

Still cross-eyed after last night's chat, I spend most of the day processing the fall-out from it all. As I said in the previous dozen of entries yesterday - fantastic experience, great to meet so many new people. Nearly 100 people attended (I think I may have missed one or two), not all were journalers.

Events here in Stornoway, well, not many. There is no news on Isles FM. I go to Somerfields at 11 am to buy more milk, as my cornflakes finish off whatever was left in the bottle. Mrs B's brother in law (BIL as our friends across the pond say) turns up to take some of her kitchen chairs away for revamping. He used to be a joiner, until he packed up business 30 years ago. The weather is mediocre, drizzle, dank - see pics above. The pussycat belongs to the neighbours, 3 doors down. One guest arrives from Northern Ireland, and packs himself off to Callanish for the afternoon. Regular guest Ian turns up for another week's stay. Dinner is sweet & sour chicken. The sun does come out later in the evening.

Sunday 20/08/06

Bit of a grey day, which I spend indoors. The Italian couple are walking to the airport, 7 km away, at 3.40. Their plane leaves at 6.40. On arrival at Inverness, they will walk to Fort William starting tomorrow. I catch up with papers together with mrs B. Although it's dreich, the weather is better than elsewhere in the UK. Supper tonight is steak with chips. A hurricane blows up in the Central Pacific. Ioke is the first full blown hurricane in the area for 4 years. In the evening, I join an on-line chat with 93 other bloggers to celebrate 3 years of AOL Journals (blogs). I'm on between 19.50 and 01.30, and log the entire chat. There is a time difference of 5 to 8 hours with the USA. It's a great party - all via a computer and a phoneline.

Saturday 19/08/06

Having a lie-in this morning. The Italian couple return this morning, prior to flying out on Sunday evening. They had a nice time up and down the islands, except for Wednesday. Their attempts to catch a bus to Point are thwarted as the bus never turned up. The morning is cloudy with a cold wind. The cruiseship Kristina Regina, which was in earlier this week, was well-known in Stornoway in the 1970s. She was used to house workers in the then-oil fabrication yard at Arnish. The ship was then called Borea. Go out to Trees in the Park, where 19 bands play in the Castle Grounds. It starts to rain when I return to the town centre. Have a look at the boats moored alongside Pier no 1. After cooking chicken korma we invite the Italian couple in for a whisky-laced ceilidh at the fireside. A ceilidh? A Gaelic meeting.

Friday 18/08/06

Today dawns bright and sunny, but mid-level cloud rolls in at lunchtime. It is quite hazy. The elderly couple leave on the 12.45 ferry. No other guests in until tomorrow evening. Mrs B heads off to Shawbost to meet up with some relatives from the States. While she is gone, I go for a walk around town. First to no 1 pier where the fishing boat India Roger lies tied up. Then along North Beach to the Baltic bookshop for the papers and a book on the island of North Rona, 70 miles north of here. It is sunny and warm as I walk up Bayhead to the YM, which is being taken down. The building contains asbestos, so a specialised company is at work to take the nasties out. Asbestos can cause pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung condition. I carry on to the Golf Course, then up the Bayhead River to the Water Wheel. From there, I proceed west to the Marybank Lodge. A wide, tree-lined track leads back to the Castle and the town. I make my way back to Newton along Keith Street after buying a bottle of pop in the Bayhead Store. Mrs B has meanwhile returned from her pilgrimage to Shawbost. Unfortunately, the timing is wrong and the relatives were not around. They are due to depart on the 7.15 ferry tomorrow morning. The driver maintained a steady 20 mph all the way over, so you can imagine how long it took to cover the 18 miles there. The sun stays out until sunset at 9pm, in contrast to the rest of the country which is having severe thunderstorms. Dinner consists of lasagna (with macaroni instead of pastasheets). Mrs B is very tired and goes to bed at the unusually early hour of 9.30. As you can see, I'm still here, tapping away at 11.35pm. I also watched the BBC's Restoration program, which featured a building that I have personally visited, although not inside. It is the 1788 Dennis Head lighthouse on North Ronaldsay, Orkney. I don't think it stands much of a chance, but wish the community well. I have fond memories of my two stints there in 2004 (read back in the Northern Trip-The Start journal entries from 8, 10, 11, 12 and 13 September 2004). North Ronaldsay only has 60 inhabitants and it's in decline. It only has 1 ferry a week, but does have a daily airservice. Do read the rest of the NT-S journal; although it has no pictures I'd like to think it's still a good read...

Thursday 17/08/06

Down for breakfast at 8.30, earlier than usual of late. The cruiseliner Kristina Regina enters port at 8.45. She has arrived from Lerwick on a cruise which started in the Finnish capital Helsinki and will end at Dublin on Saturday, after a call at Tobermory tomorrow, Friday. Help mrs B rip out lino from her kitchen, after lugging the fridge and other bits and pieces out. Join the elderly couple for breakfast, who are off to Point and Callanish today. The joiner arrives at 10.15 to lay the new tiling in the kitchen. They go in at a rate of knots. The day is very nice, with the sun joining us for a change. By 4.30 I hop off to the town, with the sun warm in my face. A number of Finns are ambling down Newton Street. Their cruiseliner leaves at 5pm sharp. The regional papers are full of stories about alleged mismanagement in the Comhairle, Western Isles Council. On return from the shop, I help mrs B put the fridge &c back. It looks vastly different. In the evening it turns foggy, as I go out for an walk with mrs B.

Wednesday 16/08/06

Our elderly couple depart for a handful of visits around town. Mrs B receives the new flooring that will be installed tomorrow. This requires quite a bit of preparation, such as moving the fridge, table and cooker. The griddle (hotplate) on the cooker is not working, and an engineer calls round to check it out. In the Eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Hector has formed. Wukong is drifting slowly west, to the south of Japan. I do research on my 2996 project, more to the point, the victim I was allocated. He was the centre of a very undignified quarrel. A photo was published in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, showing a man falling from the North Tower at 9:41:15 a.m.. It was initially thought to have been Norberto Hernandez, but this was vehemently denied by his family. The remains of Norberto were later identified in a stairwell. I locate a memorial quilt to this chap, and I'll write more fully about him on 11 September. Nine pigeons were blown off course to St Kilda, and they are being relocated to Harris to give them a chance of survival. Some of them had come all the way from France. Dinner tonight is laid on for our guests. It includes roast lamb, vegetables and potato mash, with a pavlova after. Play CDs with Gaelic songs and I play the keyboard. For the first time this summer, mrs B lights a fire. Sunset 9.10 pm, but it gets dark earlier than that.

Tuesday 15/08/06

Had a wee chat with the two Englishmen, who are heading off on the ferry this afternoon. The French lady had her bags returned early this morning. They had been withheld for security checks at Glasgow. She works for a UN agency to do with fish farming. The Deputy Rural Affairs Minister is also in the islands on that subject. The lunchtime ferry delivers our guests for the next few days: an old couple from the Inverness area who stayed here before. Forgetfulness is the keyword there, which is most unfortunate. After a sandwich, they head off to Point on the bus at 2.30. Just after that, the sun comes out, rendering the place a lot more cheerful. Hop over to Somerfields for a few bits and pieces. A large cargoship, the Gemma, hovers outside the port early in the evening. A fast boat can be seen heading out towards it, after which it goes on its way again. Quiet evening.

Monday 14/08/06

The Japanese lady leaves for Edinburgh and later on London. Later in the morning, the cruiseliner Calypso drops anchor off Lower Sandwick. She is an old lady, built in 1968 and revamped in 1999. The website admits that not all cabins are quite up to standard. Worse than that, she suffered a fire in the engine room on 6 May 2006. With the aid of 18 firefighters, the blaze was put out and the liner towed to Portsmouth. Back to the now and present, from the Coastguard Station, she does look a bit dirty and rusty. Tenders ferry passengers back and forth for tours of the island. It's cloudy and temperatures are well down, at only 13C. We take delivery of a French lady, whose luggage was lost (read: delayed) in the current security alert. At the moment, you may only take a few essential items in a transparent plastic bag as handluggage, everything else has to go into the case. This leaves our guest in the clothes she's standing up in, with no coat. Rome, from where she started, is warm, about 30C. Stornoway is cold - 13C. Mrs B lends her a warm coat. The cruiseliner leaves at dusk, as does the MV Oscar, which is taking the partly finished windturbines over to Holland for completion.

Postscript: The luggage did turn up, the next morning.

Sunday 13/08/06

All guests bar one (me) were at breakfast by 10. I followed a little later, but in time to have a word with the Japanese lady. Her English is rather limited. It later turns out she is a sculptress in training. She goes out for a walk in the Castle Grounds. I join mrs B at her (mrs B's) brother in law's for dinner. He starts with a prawn cocktail. Main course is chicken roast with potatoes and vegetables plus glass of wine, and a milk jelly with fruit after. Quite filling, and it sends mrs B off to sleep on return home. Spend the afternoon doing puzzles, the weather being dreich and dank. In the evening, I just have a slice of a rather tough pizza. Tropical cyclone Wukong forms off Japan.

Saturday 12/08/06

The Italian couple leave on the 9.10 bus for Gearrannan, after the Spanish couple depart on the 7.15 ferry. It's not a bad day at all, quite bright if cloudy, temperature 14C. Go into town for an amble around 3, it's quite busy there. Go to no 1 pier where the sailing yacht Iris lies tied up. I walk down very slippery steps to the wee beach below. The Ronja Pioneer, a Norwegian fish research vessel, lies tied up behind the Iris. Walk under no 2 pier to the hidden beach behind the South Beach carpark. More slippery steps bring me back into town. Cross over to a packed Cromwell Street. Continue to Bayhead, where the YM awaits demolition. Over the bridge into the Castle Grounds and a brief stroll round to the Castle Lawn, then back to New Street and Keith Street. Head into Somerfields, which is packed. In spite of the meagre 14C, it feels very warm. In the West Pacific, tropical depression 11 has formed south of Iwo Jima, and it heads straight for Japan. Meanwhile, our Japanese guest returns from her travels to Harris and the West Side. She met the Italian couple over at Gearrannan, and my instructions worked without fault. The Iris leaves port at 5.30. Half an hour later, the Oscar enters port to remove the remaining wind turbines to Holland. This won't happen until Monday, unless they suddenly decide to work on a Sunday. Two English chaps come to stay for the weekend, in total ignorance of what Lewis is like. Oh well, we live and learn, eh. Supper is Cajun Chicken (thanks, Uncle Ben).

Friday 11/08/06

The lady archeologist quietly leaves at 5.30. The Italians get up later, to spend a day around town. I get up even later, on a decidedly dreich morning. The Japanese lady, who is quite petite, nonetheless wolfs down a full cooked breakfast. Afterwards, she departed for a bustrip round the West Side, to stay overnight at Tarbert, Harris. Asako will return on Saturday. The news continues to be dominated by the bomb plot. Locally, the NHS plot thickens, if not curdles, by the revelation that the Chief Executive in the Western Isles Health Board is a university chum of the Health Minister to the Scottish Executive. Over at Arnish, MV Nina has taken away unfinished turbines to Denmark, and another vessel is due on Saturday to take unfinished turbines to Holland. This all comes amidst a financial crisis surrounding operator Camcal. Today is a day with extremely high and low tides; at 4pm, I can almost walk across the mouth of Newton Basin, near Somerfields. At 9pm, the water is barely 2 feet below the pier at Goat Island. As I reported earlier this week, a tidal difference of 5.1 m is expected overnight. Just as well there is no wind at all. When I set out on my afternoon foray, I come across a friendly old cat, who allows me to take a handful of pictures. A two-masted sailing ship comes into port. By 9pm, a fine drizzle falls when I make my way over to Goat Island. The rain clears east, leaving me with some nice, reflecting images.

Thursday 10/08/06

The English couple leave on the early ferry, and Catherine (archeologist) leaves for work at 7.45. Nonetheless, that's not where the busy morning ends for mrs B. An exhausted Italian couple turn up at 9.30. They spent the night in Glasgow Airport, to leave on the 6.30 flight here. They were not affected by it, but airtravel throughout, into as well as out of the UK is severely disrupted. A plot was unearthed that would have targeted 10 airliners in mid-flight between the UK and the US. Bombs, thought to have been made of simple, undetectable ingredients, hidden in plastic bottles and set off with everyday electronic devices, would have exploded, leading to a massive loss of life. Stringent security measures were introduced, leading to a virtual ban on hand luggage; only the most essential items, like passports, travel documents, medicines and baby care products are allowed into the passenger cabin. Heathrow remains closed throughout much of the morning, and the rest of the UK is not much better off. By late morning, I help the Italian lady to plan the rest of their holiday - good luck with the bus timetable. A Japanese lady arrives just before 1pm. She too is very tired, and her English is limited. Nonetheless, I help her too with the bus timetables, which are tricky if you don't know the island. During the afternoon, I pop into town to buy the weekly papers. I catch up with mrs B, who has gotten a lift to make a huge shop at Somerfields. Catherine had expected to go on the lunchtime ferry, but that did not work, so mrs B offers her a spare bed for the night. She will now leave on the 6.15 ferry tomorrow morning, to return to her home near Dundonnell by lunchtime. Weather today is decidedly unsummery; only 14C and intermittent drizzle. It is very busy in town with visitors, and I went for a haircut.

Wednesday 09/08/06

The Spanish couple depart on the ferry at 6.15, having risen at 5 am. Never heard a sound. They left a music CD with traditional island music for mrs B. We also have an archeologist in from Scoraig. She has to supervise an excavation on the Arnish Moor for any artefacts. In the evening, she is collected by the Council archeologist for dinner. I know this lady from a trip to the Shiants in June 2005. Mrs B's brother in law comes to ceilidh [a visit] at 12.30 and chats away for an hour and a half. He has workmen in for 5 days each week for 6 weeks. They are here to demolish the YMCA on Bayhead. The weather today is very blustery with heavy showers, which gradually fade. It's cool, not more than 15C. I go to town, buy a book with pictures from 1938. They show Uig, Callanish, Stornoway and Ath Linne. The Health Minister came to visit the Health Board last night, but found the offices locked. The P&J showed a picture of a very disgruntled Minister, standing outside the building on South Beach. When the door was opened, Mr Kerr proceeded to tell Board members to behave like a corporate body and in a professional manner. He had already read them the Riot Act on that subject in September 2005, so I'm staggered that this lot is given a third chance actually. Look at the blinking mess they made since the last thunderspeech. I think the whole lot of them should be sacked, to be frank. This week, as we've got a full moon, will see some exceptionally high tides. On Friday evening, high tide will be at 5.3m at 9.11pm, and low tide on Saturday morning at 3.46 am will come in at 0.2m. This 17 ft difference is exceptional. Meanwhile, supertyphoon Saomai is barrelling towards China with windspeeds of 155 mph, gusting to 190 mph. Gulp.

Tuesday 08/08/06

Wet and windy start to the day. A large cargoship hovers on the horizon which approaches the harbour at a distance. A fast boat comes and goes. A new shower obscures it from view. Mrs B's moth orchid is starting to flower. A Great Skua flies over the basin, mobbed by arctic terns. The Skua (also known as a bonxie) is an aggressive customer, mobbing smaller birds or even killing them in flight. It is fast with chevron marks on its wings. The afternoon is windy, which makes it hard for mrs B to lug her shopping back from town. Her nephew and son call in for supper in the evening at 6pm. This consists of celery soup; smoked salmon; goulash; chocolate and raspberry cake. A good long yarn was had by all. A lady comes to stay from Scoraig, which is a peculiar community opposite Ullapool. The Spanish couple who've been here since the weekend will depart on the 6.15 am ferry tomorrow morning. Island Blogging has been placed in new management, which is fast and efficient. Great rainbows at 8.30pm.

Monday 07/08/06

Didn't get out of bed until quite late. The morning was a convivial affair, with various family members coming and going. The lady who comes to clean had to catch a lift this morning, as the council bus does not run on Bank Holidays. After lunch, consisting of sausage rolls, she is driven back to Lower Sandwick. Weather today is nice and sunny, but cooler than of late, as well as breezy. A joined effort brings in all the shopping, and a final drive to Cuddy Point brings mrs B's son's visit to a close. Mrs B's grandson has a fright when his boat loses the mast on a sail round the harbour, just as the ferry comes in. There is a plea on-line for bloggers to honour the victims of 9/11 by writing an entry on each individual on 11 September 2006. I've been allocated Norberto Hernandez.

Sunday 06/08/06

Today is my birthday - twenty-one all over again. Receive physical and virtual greetings from several people. The bikers depart for Harris at 10.30, in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. The weather should improve through the day. I am offered the choice of destination for today's trip, and keep it a mystery until the last possible moment: Luskentyre, Harris. This is about 46 miles away. I have not been south of Leurbost for more than a year. The lochs are full of waterlilies. The microwave oven still doubles as a mailbox in Laxay. The Cleitir Hotel in Sildinis, just east of Balallan, has changed its name to Erisort Inn. Have a look around the Land Raiders Monument; I am devoting a separate entry to this. I have left many a footstep around Balallan, as it is the portal to the wild interior of the island. You can walk vast distances from there, without once crossing a road; as far as Hamnaway in West Uig or Huisinis in North Harris. Or closer by; Callanish can be seen from Roineabhal, the large hill outside the village. We proceed through Airidh a'Bhruaich, the next village to the Aline Forest, which is planted along one of the longest straight sections of road in Lewis. At Ath Linne, we encounter the new, doubled, stretch of road. This used to be single-track. The tracks to Langabhat have become slightly more difficult to locate. The corner at Vigadale is going to catch an unsuspecting, speeding driver out one of these days. The view down Scaladale is rainswept. Fantastic panoramas once up at the Maraig turnoff, over the mountain tops of Toddun and Iosal. The singletrack road south of Maraig, towards Tarbert, has also been doubled. The A859 is bristling with caravanettes, campervans, motorhomes, you name it. A fair number of hikers about between Ard Asaig and Tarbert proper. We scoot up the hill past the village to view the Scalpay Bridge. A little further on, at Ceann Dibig, Eilean Garbh in the Shiants can be seen, basking in the summer sun. The weather conditions of today mean that any substantial landmass will generate clouds, and mountains will cause rain. The road snakes through an Empire of Stone, past the Golden Road and finally down to Luskentyre. The road to the village is full of campervans, again. Kids and adults play in sand and water. The Taransay pod has visibly deteriorated since I last saw it in April 2005. We park the car at the cemetery near the beach. Taransay lies across the water, and the familiar shapes of the Harris mountains march west from the Clisham, past Sron Scourst, the lone schoolhouse at Cliasmol towards Amhuinnsuidhe. We walk barefoot along the beach. It is busy here, about 30 people about. Nearly Blackpool. They are flying kites, building sand castles and walking their dogs. Or just having fun. We go as far as the end of the dunes, half a mile away. The double-humped hill of Ceapabhal, by Northton, lies like a brooding presence under the sun, with some of the lesser islands in the Sound of Harris to the south. The coastline from Northton north towards Seilebost hides the beaches from view. Two buildings can be made out on Taransay, including a wind turbine. Mrs B's niece broke her leg there last week, when boarding a boat. We duly return up the beach, under the green pyramid of Beinn Losgaintir. At 4.25 we drive back to Stornoway, arriving there just after 5.30. In the evening, we go to HS1 restaurant on Cromwell Street for supper. This consisted of pea soup, poached salmon and sticky toffee pudding. A short excursion into a midge-infested Castle Grounds just before 10 pm closed proceedings for today.

NOTE: Don't know any of the places I mention? Don't blame you. Have a look at the following links, they show some of them: Stornoway to Balallan and Balallan to Luskentyre (Losgaintir). Laxay is on the map as Lacasaidh.

Saturday 05/08/06

Today dawns cloudy and windy. A fatal accident happened on the A866 Stornoway to Point road at 3.20 a.m.. A lone motorist left the road at the corner outside Aignish and crashed into a retaining wall. Debris were scattered far and wide. Only one lane of traffic remains open; I know this as a treacherous stretch of road. A French fishing boat leaves port at midday, after a crew change. Leave for the Morven Gallery, just outside Barvas, at 1.40 and arrive there half an hour later. A slow campervan held us up on the Barvas Moor road. Was offered a glass of wine and a list of paintings, including prices. Very nice series of paintings, but the 2 hours there did grow tedious towards the end. Morven Gallery will be closed in 2007 to allow the proprietor to change it round to a more artist-oriented purpose, rather than a visitor attraction. Weather turns atrocious, with torrential rainfall on the Moor. Stornoway is broadly dry, but the heavy rainfall follows us from the west. The town had its carnival today, but there were only 4 floats in the procession. £3,000 was collected for charity. The carnival is being dismantled in the South Beach carpark as we pass through at 5pm. Supper consisted of a stir-fry. Four motorcyclists, of advanced age, came to stay tonight. We encountered their 'posse' at Newmarket. They had crossed from Skye to Harris in the morning, and had spent the day getting wet through Callanish and the Butt of Lewis. Weather dries up later in the evening.

Friday 04/08/06

Awake to a cloudy day. In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm CHRIS is weakening. The other storms have dissipated. Once the Spanish couple leave, the house is taken over by preparations for an exhibition by mrs B's second son. After supper, we head out for a spin down to Garry, just north of Tolsta. It is very quiet there; two campervans are parked up. I walk down to the beach and enjoy the surf and the seastacks by the southern edge. Although there is a mild breeze, there is also sufficient shelter from the wind for the midges to come out. Walk through a blowhole after going for a paddle in the sea. Slowly amble back to the carpark. It's not cold. We leave at 10pm, as dusk and the seahaar fall. Tolsta is wreathed in mist, as was Tiumpan Head lighthouse on the way up. Return to Stornoway at 10.30. We have late visitors, when a cousin of Mrs B's turns up after an absence of 30 years.

Thursday 03/08/06

Above selection of pictures is all about the cruiseliner Astoria whose sight greeted me on rising and is still there at moment of typing, now 11.15 pm. Mrs B's son arrives off the plane to attend an exhibition in the Morven Gallery in Barvas over the weekend. Lunch is mrs B's special ministrone soup with garlic bread. I go to the library to photocopy an article from the Stornoway Gazette of 10 August 1956 about the Iolaire disaster - read the transcript. The Spanish couple had a spot of bother finding their way around Lewis - ended up 20 miles off course. Must have taken some doing. The regional press is full of reports on the health board situation, as I mentioned earlier this week. As night falls, the cruiseship is lit up nicely, and I hop out to take some pictures at 11pm. It is practically dark by then :-\

Wednesday 02/08/06

Cloudy start to the day with a cool breeze blowing. The helicopter is out, scanning the coastline. The lifeboat comes back in at 1.30. Receive an early birthday present, consisting of a CD with music by Ennio Morricone, played on a bandoneon. That's a type of squeezebox. My birthday? Next Sunday, 6th August. I go into town for a wee walk. Take a few pictures near the James Street roundabout, then go up Kenneth Street to check some dates on an exhibition. Walk down Point Street to Amity House; no boats adorn the quayside bar one fishingboat. Walk along North Beach to Cromwell Street, then up Scotland Street to Keith Street. A house is being demolished along there. Arrive at Somerfields at 4.30. Guests tonight from Angus (eastern Scotland, north of Dundee) who arrive 3 hours before they originally told us they were due.A young Spanish couple turn up at 6.30, 90 minutes after arriving in Stornoway. The map that VisitScotland had given them suggested mrs B lives in Battery Park. The same map is issued to any visitor coming to stay in a B&B in Stornoway. Complaining doesn't help, and it costs £400 per annum to belong to V.S. Two ladies were reported swept up Plockton Bay, east of Kyle, after the engine on their dinghy failed. Coastguard requests canoeists and kayakers to advise them of their intentions, a sensible precaution for all outdoor pursuits in the wilderness, whether it be on water or on land.

Tuesday 01/08/06

Fairly bright start to the day, but clouds increase gradually to the point shown above. August starts with 4 tropical cyclones. The East Pacific ones Fabio and Gilma are not much to speak about, but Prapiroon off the Phillippines promises to get nasty with China and Chris is going to dump lots of rain on the Antilles. Mrs B is buried in paperwork, whilst her granddaughter, aged 11, has pimple problems. Mrs B's nephew is also in, for giving lifts &c. Several people are reported as getting into trouble on the water. On Sunday, a yacht got into trouble in Loch Shell, 15 miles south of here, but managed to extricate itself before the lifeboat got there. Not an hour later, another yacht ran aground 2 miles south of Arnish Light. Over on the mainland a man drowned after taking a canoe out to sea at midnight. He turned over and could not reach the shore. Sounds like a lot of inexperienced watermen about. Mrs B has got no guests in tonight and it's nice and quiet. Sunset at 9.45pm, and with the dreich weather it does get dark noticeably earlier.

Monday 31/07/06

I make a very late start today. A horrendous smash on the A9 at Inverness kills two Peruvian students on an exchange visit. They were on their way to Stornoway. The chairman of NHS Western Isles is off sick with work-related stress. So is a good part of his workforce, as a result of his team's policies. A staffnurse from the hospital was seriously injured on Saturday, when her car collided with a service bus at Coll. Mrs B's relatives come in for a visit, after which the lady herself heads into town. I get the rest of the shopping in at 3.30pm. A flood of emails continues thorugh the day, it's now nearly 50 daily. I submitted the moth I saw on Wednesday to the Butterfly Conservation for logging. The weathe deteriorates through the day to give some brief drizzle late pm. Dinner today consists of lemon chicken. A program on STV focuses on hurricanes, but only shows the 2004 ones. Two tropical depressions form: one over the Philippines, the other near Baja California.

Sunday 30/07/06

After the last two days of excitement, today will be a very quiet day, with not a lot going on. The weather is quite acceptable, and in spite of the breeze, it is possible to sit outside, which we do for a few hours after 2pm. A creel doubles as a table. Receive an email from a reader of the Iolaire website, saying that the captain of HMY Iolaire was related to admiral David Beatty, who served under Jellicoe in WW I. Upon his death in 1936, each survivor [Naval personnel only, NOT RNR men] was paid £10 out of his estate. We get a rainshower late in the afternoon. I cook my Savoy Cabbage Special for supper. We have no guests in this weekend, so we can do as we please.

Saturday 29/07/06

All guests leave for their next destinations before 10 o'clock in the morning. Weather is overcast but not cold. Just before midday, the schooner Thor Heyerdahl leaves port. She makes quite a spectacle as she disappears to the east. Half an hour later, the Hebridean Princess appears, carrying the Royal Family to the end of their weeklong cruise of the Hebrides. Security was inobtrusive but tight. A Navy frigate lay south of the Braighe, 5 miles east of Stornoway, police launches scuttle back and forth. I take pictures from the Coastguard Station, then head for the ferry terminal where the Hebridean Princess is docking on the far side of the ferry pier. Hundreds of people gather there, several police and a security man scan the wellwishers. Ferry traffic is also building up, as the Isle of Lewis is scheduled to arrive at 1.15, and leave at 1.45 for Ullapool. The ferry turns up on time, with "dress flags" (bunting) flying slightly floppily from the flaglines. The gangway comes down, but I see no royals. Apparently, they will not disembark until the ferry has departed. Passengers arriving on the Isle of Lewis throng the windows on the starboard side of the vessel to watch the Hebridean Princess on the other side of the quay. I leave the scene at 1.10pm to have my lunch and to take mrs B to the Point Show. For geographical reference, Point is the local English name for the Eye (Aoidhe) Peninsula, 6 miles east of Stornoway. We head for the show, at the Aird Primary School, on the bus at 2.20. This goes up the road to the Sports Centre, then back down to Newton and up Seaforth Road to Sandwick Road. All along Sandwick Road, right into the village of Sandwick and further up at Park End and Branahuie residents are sitting out in chairs, flying the Union Jack, with cameras in hand, ready to meet their Queen. The monarch is due to fly from the airport, over to Balmoral near Aberdeen to start her summer hols proper. Prince Charles will leave Stornoway on the Hebridean Princess to go to Castle Mey, near John o'Groats, which was the home of his grandmother, the Queen Mother. She died in 2002, at the age of 101. This is a date that Prince Charles is unlikely to forget, as on 29 July 1981, he was getting married to Lady Diana Spencer. Meanwhile, the bus went right down Mealabost and back again, then went east across the Braighe. You have a fantastic view there down the Minch, to Loch Grimshader, Ranish and Kebock Head. Visibility does not allow anything beyond Kebock to be seen, but on a clearer day the Shiants and Skye may be discerned. We pass Aignish, Knock, Garrabost, Sulishader, Sheshader before a long line of parked cars announces Aird and the show. Entrance fee £3. On entering the Primary School, a tide of people sweeps up and down the corridors to such an extent that you barely have the opportunity to see anything. The stewards don't help much. We make our way to the assembly hall, where bakery, photography and crafts have been judged. Separate marquees outside contain flowers and produce. A barbeque provides endless supplies of beefburgers. On the other side of the school stand the lifestock pens, holding sheep and cattle. The cattle have been judged, the sheep are being put through their paces. From that position you have nice views over Flesherin and Portnaguran, a mile or two down the road. There are some magnificent rams and fine ewes on display; some are quite frisky, and the rams lock horns. The rain starts at 3.45, and the bus goes back to Stornoway at 4pm. The driver is in a crashing hurry, but he manages to deliver us to Newton in one piece. I go to Somerfields for some shoping, but the rain gets heavier and heavier. It carries on solidly until about 9pm. After that, the wind gets up. A French fishing vessel comes in for a crewchange, to leave again at 7.30pm. Interesting yet useless piece of statistic: I have now taken 3,000 pictures with my camera.

Friday 28/07/06

The engineer calls round to repair the central heating / hot water boiler. Early in 2005, mrs B's previous boiler suffered catastrophic corrosion in the combustion chamber, leading to a large escape of gas. The engineers finally recommended replacing the boiler, but not before hundreds of pounds worth of gas had escaped. I think that adequate ventilation in the boilerhouse prevented a major disaster. This morning, it's not very nice weather, quite dreich. One couple staying here are awaiting an improvement: they have a long wait ahead of them, it turns out to be a completely wet day. The German chap goes for a bustour of the West Side, Callanish, Carloway and Gearrannan. At 2.30, I take mrs B out to another ancient monument, the Homestead at Steinacleit, just outside the village of Shader, 15 miles north of Stornoway, 4 miles north of Barvas. Before we set off, she buys a raincoat and wellies. There is this very fine drizzle, and with the low cloud you can't see a lot. Arrive at Shader at 3pm. We slowly amble down the wee road towards Loch an Duine. This contains a Dun, a fortification on an island, linked to the shore by a causeway. A car stops along the road, asking us where the Steinacleit homestead actually can be found. The sign at the bottom of the track has disappeared, and unless you have a map or know the area (I fall in both categories), it's impossible to work out. The road turns into a bumpy peatroad after the turn-off for the monument. A muddy track leads uphill, through the open moor. The Homestead is more of a burial mound, surrounded by an oval shaped wall. To the east, an area of uncut peat, standing about 4 ft in height, was left to show what depth of peat the monument was dug out of. We walk along the oval wall, reflecting on those that built it, 3,500 to 3,800 years ago. After that, we make our slow way back to the main road, admiring the flowers. There is still a splendid display, but there are signs that this is now coming to a close for this year. The bus comes on time at 4.15. Today is the day of the Barvas Agricultural Show, which is being held in the machair behind Loch Street. There are no buses to carry people the 1 mile from the main road. I attended the show last year, when it was being held outside the community centre along the Stornoway road. Return to town at 4.45 as it pours with rain. Macaroni cheese for supper. Have a chat with the German, who is amedical doctor. He sailed in the schooner Thor Heyerdahl, which is still in port. He sailed in her to Shetland, the Faeroes and Iceland. Tomorrow, he plans to head to South Harris. He booked accommodation in Borrisdale, just west of Rodel.

Thursday 27/07/06

Foggy start to the morning. The ferry blasts its way out of the harbour at 7.15, with Muirneag blasting her horn on the way in. The fog lifts during the morning and a German chap calls in at 10 am. This evening, he intends to go to the MacLeod lecture in An Lanntair. A couple is due later today, off the Berneray to Leverburgh ferry. Fog comes down again by 11.30, to finally dissipate an hour later when the wind starts to pick up. The German man heads for Point and I go into town. Discover the schooner Thor Heyerdahl moored behind Amity House. Two seals play in the harbour. Stornoway is busy with visitors. The Press and Journal paper has not come in today, but the Glasgow Herald, West Highland Free Press, Stornoway Gazette and Hebridean have. The Free Press, a radical weekly, reports that the nursing trades unions have threatened Western Isles Health Board with strike action if the situation in the NHS here does not improve. The Gazette carries an interesting article about schools in the district of Uig, in the remote west of Lewis. Remote settlements would send their children to a school in a larger village, sometimes up to 10 miles away. All but one of the schools mentioned have disappeared and so have most of the villages. I had never before heard of places like Luanachar and Crola near Kinloch Resort or Ardbeg near Hamnaway, 9 miles southeast of Brenish. I managed to find them on the OS Explorer map 458, with symbols denoting ruins. It is a sad read. The evening is very quiet with some sun. Thunderstorms herald the end of the heatwave down south, but the situation in London is quite severe, with lengthy powercuts on account of the heat. Supper is sweet and sour chicken, prepared by your writer. Sunset is now at 10 pm, and the difference with the solstice is now quite noticeable. Mrs B's boiler decides to pack in at 11.30pm; just as well it's not the middle of winter. Inside temperatures 21C.

Wednesday 26/07/06

Last night's guests were doing the sound at a gig in the Town Hall until 2 a.m. this morning. The band was called the Hayseed Dixies and are of the Bluegrass variety. Heard some of their songs on local radio, sounded OK. American Midwest readers will probably know more about this sort of music than I do. Anyway, the sound guys had to get up at 5 a.m. to catch the 6.15 am ferry. At that exact time, I go downstairs and join mrs B for a cuppa in the early morning light. Sea is as smooth as a mirror. Return to bed at 6.45 and resume slumbers. Radio Scotland carries a report on bullying, 1 in 5 have experienced it in the nursing profession, according to trades union RCN. Reminds me of the situation in the local health board, where bullying stretches all the way to the top-management. The Canna mice were returned to their island after the 5,000 rats were exterminated last winter. I told the story a couple of weeks ago in this entry. The oldest living woman in the Western Isles has died in Scalpay, aged 110. She put her longevity down to a healthy diet and no drinking or smoking. The oldest woman in Scotland is aged 111 and lives somewhere near Aberdeen.
Weather is sunny but hazy and fog descends over the tops of the Arnish Hills. Two motorcyclists arrive, who come from Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. They are quite taken with the quiet island life. Later in the evening, two French guests appear who booked sort of 4 months ago. All 4 guests are due to leave on the 7.15 ferry in the morning. The fog descends and covers town and harbour. The 7pm ferry sails into a thick fogbank and blasts her horn. There is a high demand for accommodation in Stornoway and one German chap calls round to book in for the following two nights. I learn that Clan MacLeod are celebrating a 400th anniversary and doing so in 5 events in Skye and Lewis.

Tuesday 25/07/06

The family from Lancashire depart on the 7.15 ferry, without saying very much. Next to leave is mrs B's son, who never likes to go, so it's a last-second affair. With two pancakes in his pocket, he dashes by taxi to the ferry terminal, just in time for the 1.45 departure. Fairly bright day (see pics 1 and 2). The 3 tropical storms in the Pacific all head for extinction. Daniel comes to a dead stop 850 miles east of Hawaii; Kaemi storms into mainland China, dumps a load of rain and simpers out. Only Emilia intensifies temporarily, sweeping Baja California (the 800 mile long peninsula south of San Diego) with 50 kt winds and 4 inches of rain. I get the shopping in, admire the honeysuckle in the backgarden (picture 3) and have a quiet evening, watching rubbish on the television. I mean, you have 500 channels on Sky and not one is really worth the bother of watching. Yawn.

Monday 24/07/06

Cloudy and breezy start to the day. Mrs B's son is due to leave today, but this is postponed for 1 day. Mrs B herself is cleaning the whole house this morning. Her friend from the next village is on hand with her great-granddaughter (aged 7) to help. The cruiseliner Deutschland lies anchored behind the Arnish Lighthouse. She is swinging round on an anchor chain. Tenders ferry passengers ashore in between drizzle and sunny intervals. The drizzle gets the upper hand and hides the view by 1pm. It gets so bad that even the Arnish Yard is hidden from view, 1 mile away. Luckily enough, it clears up a bit later. Mrs B's brother-in-law, a spritely 83-year old from up the road, calls in for a visit. I head for the shop for a large load of goodies. The guests for tonight are on their way to Orkney - via the Western Isles. They have their 9 year old son in town, a lively lad. Tomorrow, they are leaving on the 7.15 am ferry to go to John o'Groats, a road journey of 170 miles from Ullapool. Supper tonight is spaghetti bolognese. The evening ends wet and dreich.

Sunday 23/07/06

Bright and sunny start. The two German ladies head out for church and a walk round the Creed. Clouds start to increase through the afternoon. By the time we go for an amble to Sandwick, it looks quite threatening. The walk goes round the back of the Coastguard Station to Battery Point then down Millar Road to Sandwick Bay. There are millions of pebbles along the path there, and we take back 2 or 3 each for mrs B's garden. A visit to Sandwick Cemetery, where mrs B's husband lies buried [he died in 1993] closes proceedings. Showerclouds surround us but it stays mainly dry. Supper is a wee bit on the late side, at around 9.15pm. Chicken with a magnificent array of salads and freshly boiled beetroot was worth waiting for. Applecake with custard tops things handsomely. We say good-bye to the German ladies, who were here for 4 nights. They are leaving on the 7.15 ferry in the morning. A glass of whisky is traditional hospitality, but in combination with 2 glasses of wine, the Wrath of Grapes is incurred. Rain lashes down all evening.

Saturday 22/07/06

A warm and sunny day, which our guests spend on Tolsta Beach - all of 6 hours. Meanwhile, I keep myself updated on the three Pacific cyclones. Daniel is raging his way towards Hawaii; Kaemi / Glenda is going to batter Taiway and Emilia is making ominous noises at Mexico. During the afternoon, I enjoy the sunshine out the back. I'm glad I'm not further south, what with all the hot and thundery weather. The Middle East gives me this sinking feeling (haven't we been here before with that bunch of ****'s). The Ronja Pioneer (see tomorrow's pics for an image) makes its 3rd entry into port this year. She is a Norwegian fish research boat. Supper is a microwaveable meal. The lottery does not make any of us any richer. The sunset, just after 10, comes in glorious colours. In terms of time, we have now lost 30 minutes of daylight in the evening; by the middle of August we won't be seeing much of a midnight dusk anymore. The nights are very sticky, with a bedroom temperature of about 25C. Outside, the max is about 19C.

Friday 21/07/06

The Queen is reported as starting her hols on the isle of Islay, a lot further south. Her trip, once past S'way, will end at Castle Mey in Caithness. This used to belong to her mother. A local blogger (not me!) very scathingly reports that "an old woman comes on holiday to the Hebrides", linking to the BBC Online report about the Queens' visit. There are still some who do not think that Elizabeth II is "their" queen, they want a Scottish one. For reference, England and Scotland united in 1707 to form one state. Next year, 2007, will be the 300th anniversary of that event. It will also be the year of elections to the Scottish Parliament, in which the Scottish National Party could do well. Weather today starts overcast, but the sun comes out later. The afternoon is sunny and various people start to faff about in boats. I go into town and stumble across a book on the culture of St Kilda. The heatwave carries on down south, with temperatures in excess of 30C. Here: about 20C. Tropical depression 6 forms in the Eastern Pacific, and it heads northwest, parallel to the Mexican coast. Something to keep an eye on. Last Sunday, I reported that the ferry went out for 3 hours. It now transpires she took part in an exercise with the coastguard and the fire-service. The hottest day of the year so far, last Wednesday, saw Shetland wreathed in fog. It still is. The tanker is in again, on one of its frequent visits. The day closes on a bright and sunny note.

Thursday 20/07/06

Cloud rolls in as the morning progresses, and the sun disappears after 1pm. I swat dozens of flies and another handful are despatched using flyspray. It's close, muggy and warm. The mercury rises to 25C. On the rainfall radar, the wet stuff has progressed to Uig and Harris. With the increase in cloud, the temperature sinks to 20C. Today sees the return of the cruiseliner Alexander von Humboldt, previously in port on May 25th. When she leaves at 7.30 pm, the ferry goes close to allow passengers to have a look. In the morning, we take delivery of two German ladies, who were due to go to Uig but had to settle for the West Side instead; you need to book the return journey well in advance. The two workmen left early this morning. Local press is full of Health Board matters, Tong Games and the like. The Press and Journal tells us that the Queen will come to visit us around 29 July. Her transport will be the cruiseliner Hebridean Princess. It is a windless day today.

Wednesday 19/07/06

Warmest day of the year elsewhere in the UK, but not here. Some high level cloud passes over occasionally, but it's very calm. In the morning, the lighthouse and the yard at Arnish reflect in the waters of the outer harbour. Muirneag sailed into port at 8 am, and she appeared to float in the air rather than in the water. Sorry, no pics of that; only of conditions later in the day and in the evening around sunset time. Went to Somerfields for some bits, but don't do much else. In the sun, it feels a lot warmer than 22C at 1pm. It's also very warm to engage in exercise. We have a tuna roll outside in the backyard; mrs B's son stays outside to do some painting. Supper consists of the lamb casserole (see my journal Recipe Book). At 10, go out for a stroll to Goat Island. It is perfectly windless - wind force 0. Beautifully coloured sunset.

Tuesday 18/07/06

After the morning preliminaries, we went on the 1pm bus to Ness. It's fairly bright, but with some measure of cloudcover. As the bus heads north towards Barvas, clouds descend below the summit of Muirneag, 7 miles to the north. On descending to Barvas, the whole of the West Side can be seen to be covered in fog. It is grey, overcast and drizzly on the way up to Ness. The bus is fairly full and people get off at regular intervals. We reach Port Nis at 2pm, and first of all we're going to find a place to sit down and have lunch. There are benches down at the harbour, which has been cleared of about 7ft of accumulated silt. Fulmars wheel above the beach as we quietly eat our rolls and have tea. The haar comes down and envelops everything in a thin fog. Next stop: 10 Callicvol. We enter and are confronted by a choice: either go to the Quilt Floor or to Enquiries. We decide on the latter. We are greeted by an elderly man who remains seated behind his computer as we're interrogated to the Nth degree. Although I explain that I have conducted historical research, the man is not interested, saying my subject is too recent in history. I am advised to go to the Stornoway Library - have been there more than he'd think. He never introduced himself, and left it to us to deduce who the hell he was. When a phonecall came, he never said "excuse me" as he walked out. I was about to walk out myself in the opposite direction. Upstairs, we were forced to sign the visitors book - mrs B did not. The lady upstairs, the man's wife, said that when they moved here, she met 5 men who had been to Tasmania, so she felt immediately at home. His empathy with Lewis was born of a 9 day stay in the Flannan Isles, 35 miles west of Uig, in 1950. Arrogant, obnoxious and rude. More interested in fishing money off the enterprise company and everybody else. Return to Stornoway at 4.40 to buy some rewriteable CDs at Point1 on Bayhead. It's quite warm and sticky, about 21C. Temperatures elsewhere in the UK went up to 33C / 91F today and are expected to peak at 37C / 99F tomorrow. Result: buckled railway tracks and lots lots more. Breakdown of this heatwave as of Thursday. North Carolina is threatened by Tropical Storm Beryl. By 8pm, seahaar drifts in across the island and gradually envelops the town in fog, visibility down to about 100 metres. At 11.30pm, the fog lifts, as we watch Muirneag sailing into the fog, still lingering in the Minch.

Monday 17/07/06

Quite a dreich day. It's mrs B's birthday today, so in the evening we go out for supper in the lounge bar of the Crown Hotel. The food there is very good, and I'm the only one that manages to finish both courses of the meal. Monkfish tail in parma ham, with sticky toffee with dates pudding after. I had to help mrs B finish her plate of halibut. Although the main course took a while to arrive, we polished off the lot in 2 hours. Restaurant was quite full for a Monday evening. Apart from monitoring hurricanes, working on the messageboard and rejoicing at the reinvigoration of the BBC Island Blogging project, I also went into town. This in order to buy a present for mrs B. The boat I showed in the entry for Sunday, lying on its side, was now in a more normal upright position. On leaving the restaurant after the meal, at 9.20pm, a fine drizzle had been falling, so fine that a coat was not needed.

Sunday 16/07/06

The day starts overcast but fairly bright. Blue patches appear after midday. The ferry went out at 10 am (unusually). It may have been put on for festival goers who attended last night's concert, but need to be back at work on Monday. Further south, temperatures are likely to reach 36C this week; temperatures in this corner of the UK will stay in the low 20s. After midday, a large, two-masted French yacht comes into port. The pilot boat was out waiting by the beacon since 11.20. It is very windy, with a force 6 to 7 blowing. The Alba Volunteer sails at 12.45; the ferry comes back into port at 1pm. No idea why she went out at all. The Alba V is heading straight into the wind and only makes slow progress. I later hear that she put into Cromor, 9 miles to the south, for shelter. As mrs B and myself are driven to the Watermill for a walk at 4, the mast of a yacht can be seen, protruding at a crazy angle above the quayside of no 1 pier. She is lying on her side, in only a foot or so of water. The tide is still going out, low tide is at 6pm. The town and his wife is out there, having a look. Once at the Watermill, we go up and down the lade, then traverse the Golf Course towards the Clubhouse. Nobody is there, it's blowing hard and it's starting to rain. We carry on over the YM bridge and over the Cromwell Street Quay. We have a look round the Sail Loft conversion and presently arrive at the no 1 pier, where the yacht is now lying on its side on the sand. The coastguard is in attendance, but can't do much until the tide comes in; next high tide is at midnight. It is very cold on the way back along Newton and I'm only too happy to get back inside. Supper consists of a stirfry, provided by the butchers. Notice that North Rona is being battered by a force 9 gale with 53 knots winds. Although the rain stops at 9pm, it stays dark and gloomy.

Saturday 15/07/06

Although events today also happened before 11 a.m., I take the liberty of starting the diary at that point, which is when breakfast was over and the two friends of mrs B's son took their leave to return to Glasgow. It is a nice sunny morning with a good breeze, which helps the yacht race which is held in Stornoway Harbour. The yacht Alba Volunteer wins. Their crew came to mrs B's on Wednesday for a bath. The yacht is due to relocate to Tarbert on Sunday. Today is the day of the Highland Games at Tong, 4 miles northwest of Stornoway. We set off on the free bus service, which takes about 15 minutes, to arrive there at 1.45pm. It is very busy there. A lot goes on, and I'll just list the events - no attempt at completeness.

highland dancing
one man and his dog plus a few sheep
hit the coconut with up to 3 balls
a stall by the Coop
various drinkstands as well as a beertent
3 bouncey castles
several pipers
a brass band
helicopter flypast plus stunts
Spitfire flypast (one of them is called Lewis and Harris)
BBC Sports Relief "Run a mile"

Heavy events
tossing the caber (a long pole of wood)
lifting 100kg heavy spheres of rock
tossing a bale of hay up to 20 ft high
flipping tractor wheels (the hind ones)
pulling said tractor wheels

A few notes. The running was disrupted by a spectator blindly walking over the racing track, right into the field of runners. The helicopter was a wee bit low and close. Of course, someone parked where they shouldn't, so their car's registration numbers were broadcast. Refreshments were available in the hall adjacent to the fields.

On return in Stornoway, at 4.15, I go to buy papers, but find I'm 1p short. So, I go up and down to Newton for 1p. Why do they price newspapers at stupid prices like 56p? Supper was a pastabake. No luck on lottery.

A note on the Pacific cyclones: the last advisory is issued on Bud, as it fades into the ocean east of Hawaii. Corletta is rapidly losing strength as well.

Friday 14/07/06

Sunny start to the day, but with some high-level cloud about. The two guests, mother and 17-year old daughter, head off by car to Uig, to see beaches. The campers in mrs B's backyard left for Harris on the 10 am bus. A small flotilla of boats can be seen heading south out of the harbour. A mock seabattle will take place off Cromor this afternoon. Lunch consists of rolls with cheese, ham, salad and coleslaw. I head out for a longish walk, through the Castle Grounds to the Creed Bridge Gate, situated near the turn-off for Arnish on the Lochs Road. In the town, I happen across Norwegian folk dancers in the Town Hall. The immediate area around the Festival Tent is fenced off, but you can carry on to Cuddy Point. Carry on to the Lochs Road, then walk down the anglers' path along the River Creed. This is lined with warning notices about the state of the riverbank and the dangers of casting near powerlines. The path is a dead end, and after retracing my steps, I decide to cross the moor north towards Marybank, starting at 4.15. I use the transmitters above the Marybank quarry as my reference point. The moor is its usual wet self, but the walk is very doable. It's the barbed-wire fences that present the greatest difficulty. I finally come out on the Pentland Road, on the western end of Marybank, at 5.05 pm. From there, I walk through the village, then to Stornoway through the Castle Grounds. Tonight's band is tuning up in the festival tent, huge noise. On my return to Newton, I drink about a pint and a half of lemonade. The meal is cooked for us tonight. It's a brilliantly sunny day, with temps of about 18 C / 64 F. The wind is cool near the sea, but provides a welcome cooling inland, and it also keeps the midges down. They would have been hellish in the moor. Come across an incomprehensible piece of street theatre in Francis Street - a guy stabbing himself in the stomach with a burning torch? Jayz, I've seen it all now. Ferry is late coming in, at 6.50, and even later leaving, at 7.30. Dinner consists of a piece of meat in mustard sauce, with some tomato and onion rings. Ice cream after. Fierce discussions rage over supper. The young lady is not allowed to go to one of the concerts, although she is offered a chaperone; her mum wants her to go to the pub with her.

Thursday 13/07/06

It's a cloudy day to start with. In the Pacific, we now have hurricane Carlotta chasing hurricane Bud. Both will have been downgraded within 5 days. Two lads from Switzerland ask mrs B for permission to camp in her backyard. She says that that is fine. Unusual. There is a high demand for accommodation on account of the Festival. The Health Board row carries on, with the new press officer stating that having a faultless child is a God-given right. Nice for those whose children are born with problems. The Stornoway Gazette publishes the press officer's application statement. It also alleges that a senior board member forged her CV. Go out at 5pm to view the entrance of the fleet, as pictured in a previous entry. Fleet? 8 boats. Sail Hebrides also features a boat building workshop and a mock seabattle. Dinner consisted of fast food in the shape of microwave meals - takes about 5 minutes. At Somerfields, a gaggle of young women (not much more than 16-18) were buying loads of cider. At 9.30, we go into town to overhear some music from the festival tent on the Castle Green. We walk up from An Lanntair along Cromwell Street, with mrs B admiring the shop windows. They are topically decked out. It is very busy in town, with people heading for the main concert venue. The concert starts with the supporting act, with the main act following about 2 hours later. Cross over to the quay, where an indistinct racket suggests a band is playing in the tent on the far side of the harbour. Tide is in, and at 4.9 m it is very high. Slowly meander down the quayside, with lots of terns wheeling above the water. The light slowly fails, as the camera needs longer and longer exposure time. Lazy Corner is full of fishing boats. A large seal swims about in the harbour. At Amity House, the lorries are loaded on board Muirneag, for its overnight crossing to Ullapool. Number 2 pier is the overnight roost for the town's gulls. Outside the Sea Angling Club, mrs B meets a man who used to be an apprentice in her late husband's engineering business. Return to Newton at 11pm.

Wednesday 12/07/06

Hurricane Bud is there by morning, joined by Tropical Storm Carlotta. Both systems head west, both set to fizzle out after the weekend. Carlotta will become a hurricane shortly. Although the rain has gone, it's not fully bright. I meet the two who arrived off the ferry last night over breakfast. Around 3pm, a shower passes. Mrs B's son and his friend head out for a walk about town. Tide falls low at that time - it's the springtides. Although the shower passes speedily, the upper level cloud does not bode well. A large ship lies anchored off Holm Point, and smaller craft pull alongside. It's too far away for me to make out what it's doing. Sun comes out after 6pm, but it does stay windy. Ferry is half an hour late. Mrs B allows 3 sailors (2 ladies, 1 man) to use her shower. Supper consists of spaghetti bolognese, delayed for an hour by the shower users. Go out for a walk about town at 9.45pm, after the others go out for a pub-crawl, which doesn't end until 2.30 a.m.. Went down the Cromwell Street Quay, but there is nothing playing in the big tent on the Castle Green. Try again tomorrow. Return to Newton via Kenneth Street.

Tuesday 11/07/06

Nice sunny morning, but quite windy. The windspeed is force 5. Cloud bubbles up and showers look likely. A new tropical storm has formed in the Pacific, Bud. He is at position 13N 111W, well out at sea. Later in the day, it looks likely that this system will turn into a hurricane. On the other side of the Pacific, Bilis heads for Taiwan and Shanghai. Mrs B's son and his friend drive out to Tolsta. I go into town, but Woolworths have not got what I want. Also took a short stroll along the Cromwell Street quayside. Had to lift the camera above the fences to take above pictures. Cloud increases further as the afternoon progresses and the rain comes in at 5.30. We have pancakes with our afternoon cup of tea. Supper is fish and chips, laced with arguments surrounding the local health board. A fishing boat limps into port, towed by another one. The propellor of the first boat is fouled in its own nets, which still hang over its stern. The two boats come into port, lashed together side by side. This week we're having the summer springtides, with high tides up to 4.9 m, and low tides at 0.5 m. The usual amplitude is 2.0 to 3.7m. Ferry comes in at 8, bringing another two guests related to mrs B's son. Coastguard were doing an exercise on the ferry. Heavy rain commences after 8.30.

Monday 10/07/06

Awoke to pouring rain after a night with a bad stomach. The rain turns into heavy showers after lunchtime. I catch up with 55 emails, 40 journal alerts or so, 203 pictures and 3 journal entries, all rather long. Mrs B's son gets a new hirecar, as the old one was nearly creaking through its suspension. He goes off to Gearrannan and Ness with his friend. It pours all the way through the West Side, with the sun not coming out till 5 pm. At that time, I nip out to Somerfields for shopping. The men return at 7.30, in time for a very hot curry.

Sunday 09/07/06

Nice sunny start to the day, but cloud quickly bubbles up. Our destination for the day is Kneep Beach in Uig, West Lewis. After lengthy preparations, we finally set forth at 1.40, through a deserted town centre, then down the Lochs road to Leurbost and the B8011 from Garynahine to Uig. Total distance 35 miles, which is normally covered in about an hour. It becomes very scenic after the Bernera turn-off, although the road becomes mainly single-track just before Scaliscro. Turn off at Miavaig, and head down Little Glen Valtos past Cliff Beach and over the hill to Valtos village. It's very peaceful at the pier; a Belgian driver is preparing to launch a rigid-inflatable boat. We drive round to Kneep and down the private track. A small rock does something to the bottom of the car; it's still driving OK, but it rattles no end. At the caravan, we are regaled with wine. Two kids of mrs B's third son's 4 are there too. I go round to the top of the hill to look over to Pabay Mor and the village of Valtos. I also venture into the sea, up to my knees. Water is cold. Kids are in it too - in wetsuits. The children are staying at the caravan park down the beach. We have a pleasant afternoon there, and don't leave until 7.30pm. We drive round the peninsula via Reef and Uigen and end up at Miavaig once more. Go down Glen Valtos, west towards Timsgarry. Glen Valtos has very high valley walls, which drop down the further west you go. Above Timsgarry, the most fantastic vista opens out to the mountains east and south, and the beach to the west. We park at the Ardroil campsite on the south side of the beach. A replica Lewis chessman has recently been erected above the beach. The walk onto the beach is magical in the low sunlight; it's well after 8pm. You can see to Mangurstadh and the Flannan Isles. We head back to Stornoway at 8.45; the battery in my camera finally runs out at Miavaig. I therefore cannot record the low light lying over the island. Hills and moors stand out in every detail. We have a laugh at the Creed Industrial Park, thinking of the recent Bin Fight in the Creed Park Corral. A council give-away of 3 compost bins per household left the islanders non-compost mentis when miles and miles of people queued along the Lochs road in both directions, adamant to get hold of their bins. We return to SY at 9.45, with dinner at 10.30 pm. Weather today is reasonable if cool. Cloud sometimes covered the hilltops, and looked threatening at times. A cool breeze blew, but it was nice on the several occasions that the sun came out. After sunset, a spectacular moon rose low over Arnish, through the clouds.

Saturday 08/07/06

Fairly bright and breezy morning with a threat of showers. Mrs B's son hires a car for the next few days. We set forth just before 1pm, first into town to get money and fuel. It's very busy. Not just the usual Saturday crush, but it's the start of Festival Week; last night's ferry was packed out, and late on account of the sheer volume of traffic. It's a bit showery as we drive up the Lochs Road, to turn off at Cameron Terrace towards Garynahine along the A858. We head west, along the B8011, over the Grimersta River and then north along the B8059 to Great Bernera. It's fairly sunny here and the drive through the hamlets of Lundal, Crulabhig and Iarsiadar is very scenic. Once over the 1950s bridge to Great Bernera (which replaced a dodgy ferry cum rowing-boat), we quickly reach the main village, Breacleit. On the far side of Loch Roag, to the east, the village of BreaScleit can be made out, distinctive with the fishoil factory on the pier. Our first destination is the tiny beach at Tobson, on the western side of Bernera. It is infested with washed-up, dead and stinking jellyfish. From there, we return to the main road and head up to Bosta. This is uninhabited. There is only a cemetery, a beautiful beach with a stunning view and an Iron Age House, or a scientist's impression of how it could look. It's not open on Saturday; from Monday to Friday, you get a guided tour for £2. A herd of cows mooch about, with calves suckling and a bull strutting his stuff. We laze on the beach ,paddle in the water, tide was coming in. I look round the cemetery to find one Iolaire-related grave, as well as a memorial plaque for two young fishermen who were lost at sea, never to be found again - in 1984. When we return to the car, no less than 3 motorhomes have rolled up. The main topic of conversation is food. The toilet at the carpark makes overtime. The weather appears to breaking down from the east as we head south across Bernera. At the Bernera Road end, we find a loch full of water lilies. On arrival at Callanish, we head for the restaurant. However, as it's now 4.45, they have stopped serving hot food. We scoop up the 3 quiches, then make our way to the Stones. It promptly starts to rain. Up near the entrance, a local lady is holding forth at a group of gullible tourists. Across the fence, a group of hippies is erecting a tent city. When we reach the centre of the monument, it starts to rain in earnest. Two American ladies ask us to take their picture, which we're more than happy to do. One person hovers around the Stones, wrapped in a cagoule. It stops, and the skylark starts up at once. We glance at some of the hippy tents and their outfits. Next port of call: Tolsta Chaolais, and then the Carloway Broch. Mrs B isn't up to climbing all the steps to the Broch, but I join her son and his friend for the climb. Nothing has changed since the last visit, a few weeks ago. We drive to the end of the Doune Carloway road, then head back to the main A858 road to go through Carloway to Dalbeg. This is a very nice little place with a spectacular beach. The rain returns, and we return to Stornoway via Shawbost and Barvas. In town, we make for the Coop to buy a lottery ticket, but the machine is broken. It's 7.25, lottery sales cease at 7.30 (draw normally takes place just after 8pm), so I hare to the nearby Trading Post shop. The Coop was recently done up, and it looks a lot more spacious than before. Our final excursion leads us to Cuddy Point. There are quite a few yachts in. The uprights have been placed on the lawn outside Lews Castle, in preparation for the musical events of the Hebridean Celtic Festival next week. The canopy is yet to be erected. After this full day, I have a lazy evening, regaling folk to some music on the keyboard. As the day draws to a close, the shower clouds collapse and the moon comes out. It was not very warm today (15C / 60F) and a cool wind blew.

Friday 07/07/06

Bright and fairly sunny start to the day. The cycling couple start on their journey home, in Jersey. They hired bikes in Lochboisdale, and the cycles will be taken back to Lochboisdale by a local haulage company. The price of that is included in the rental price. At midday, a two-minutes silence is observed in memory of those killed in the bomb attacks in London, a year ago. Sun comes out brightly after 12 o'clock, but showers start up later on. Mrs B's nephew went on holiday this morning, only for his car to break down on the Kessock Bridge at Inverness, barely 55 miles into the 500 mile trip. Great garage that did the service earlier this week, well done, chaps. Rain starts at 4pm, just as I get the papers out. It lasts until 5.15. The early evening ferry, due in at 6.35 is nearly 20 minutes late. It brings mrs B's second son home with a friend. We have a 3 pounds' salmon steak for supper, accompanied by a salad. We head off to An Lanntair to attend the opening of an exhibition by photographer Gus Wylie. The majority of the black-and-white photographs were taken in the islands in 1975 and 1981, and it shows how much time has moved on since then. Mrs B's 4th son features in it, taken from the back with an embroidered jeans jacket; I have never met him. We close proceedings in the Criterion bar with a lager each. Mrs B goes to bed early, with a headache, brought on by new medicines.

Thursday 06/07/06

Day dawns misty / foggy with low cloud. A cruiseliner, the Insignia, lies anchored south of the lighthouse, and ferries passengers ashore. The lady bound for St Kilda leaves for Leverburgh on the 2.20 bus, singing my praises on her departure before I'm out of bed. Bit late in rising today, won't say how late. LOL. Since last night, all interactive features were taken off, after that site nearly collapsed under its own popularity. The wind is strong today, force 5. There is a chance of the wind picking up to force 7, which does not bode well for any trips into the Atlantic. Temperature today 14C, well down on yesterday's 21C. A couple of cyclists come to stay, and I direct them by bus to Callanish and Gearrannan. One of these days I'm going to charge for all those services. The tug comes out at midday to tow the barge from Arnish to its unknown destination. Mrs B tells me that the town was full of cruise passengers. One shopkeeper was flooded with customers - the Hebridean Jewellery shop offers duty-free shopping. A small protest is being mounted against the Chinese government; god knows why they selected Stornoway. Probably because the cruiseliner was chockablock with Americans of whom some were of Chinese origin. The words Falun Gong should say enough - I'm not saying any more, as that is extremely hot potato. The research vessel James Clark Ross, which left port yesterday afternoon, had an accident on board only 7 miles out of Stornoway, when she was working at Chicken Rock (Point). A member of the crew suffered a crushed finger, and he had to be airlifted to the Western Isles Hospital. During the afternoon, cloud increases and a little rain falls. I had to go into town to collect papers and buy a new pair of trousers. The local press is full of a royal row surrounding the local Health Board. One of these days I'll write out the whole story, but it stinks to high heaven. The Medical Director of the Board is having a paper scrap with the Council representative on the Board (the Vice Convener of said council) and the MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) for the Western Isles. The West Highland Free Press publishes a cartoon, which depicts the Health Board's attitude to people - saying implicitly that the people and culture of the Western Isles stand in the way of progress. Two ladies come for a social call; they stayed with us last April, but were unable to book this time round. It turns into a breezy and at times wet evening. Rain falls around the 10.30 mark.

Wednesday 05/07/04

Have my breakfast at the early hour of 9 am, as mrs B and myself are off to Ness later in the morning. They are resurfacing Shell Street at the James Street roundabout. Bus is late in leaving (10.35), and the fares have gone up to £4. Still good value for a 25 mile trip. We fly across the Barvas Moor and pick up the young lady who the driver had been warned to expect at the junction there. Another passenger is thrown into total confusion by the driver's question "do you need the van". Normally, the bus to Ness is a large coach. This is a mini-coach and the supplementary question "do you need the feeder-service" doesn't help either. She throws back "Is this a bus?" and takes a seat. Other passengers tell her what the driver is on about, and she tells him that she wants off in Shader, 4 miles up the road. A shower has passed by. The moor is white with bog cotton and yellow with other flowers. At Galson, a lady joins the bus who stayed with mrs B last week. She is now going to stay at the Cross Inn. The driver drops one passenger off at Edgemoor Square, before depositing us at the Eoropie beach access road. Seas of flowers stretch in all directions. It's only 11.30 and we have 2½ hours until the 2pm bus back. We amble through the flowers towards the beach, half a mile away. There we sit down, paddle in the sea, chew dulse and relax for about an hour. Eoropie Beach is beginning to look like Blackpool by 12.45. Two people in the sea with surfboards and their dogs. A group of 3 elderly folk, camping in their campervans on the Habost machair (the ch is one consonant, pronounced as the ch in 'loch') strolling along the tideline. A family with 2 young kids playing in the sea. There is a 5 ft swell going with some nice spray over the rocks by Cunndal and further south towards Dell. We head for the tearoom (, see the webcam!) for a sandwich and a cup of tea. We have a look round someone's weaving shed and meet the lighthouse cat who moved in after the keepers left the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse in '98. When the bus comes, we once again meet mrs B's erstwhile guest as well as an old friend of mrs B's, whom she has not seen for years. Unfortunately, there is no time to talk, as he is alighting and she is getting on. We drive to Port Nis, then to Adabrock and Habost. The driver pulls up outside hishouse in the village and switches off the engine. He jumps off and says jokingly "see you all at six" (it's 2.05 pm). Fortunately, the driver returns to his coach at 2.20 and we head south. We pass through a shower and come by the Dell Fank, made infamous by Calumannabel on BBC Island Blogging. We drop off the same young lady in Barvas that joined us there on the way up. Return to town at 3pm, when the research vessel James Clark Ross is just leaving port. The driver very kindly drops us off on Island Road. I head for the shop for a few bits, and have an easy evening. Entertain the lady who is going to St Kilda on Friday - she went round the West Side by bus today.

Tuesday 04/07/06

Cloudy start to the day, but the sun breaks through by midday. It is very calm, but with sufficient wind to propel the yachts out of the harbour. Jetfighters are flying low over the town. After lunch, I go for a walk. I go up Island Road and Smith Avenue, then along Goathill Road to Jamieson Drive. Continue down this street past the Primary School to Westview Terrace, which finally ends on Percival Road, the northern perimeter road of Stornoway. This is a 25 minute walk. From Percival Road, Sand Street leads north onto the Cockle Ebb. The Ebb is the tidal estuary of the Laxdale River. I follow the coastline closely. High tide is only 1 hour gone, and the waterlevels are therefore too high to attempt a crossing to Tong, 2 miles to the north. Instead I make for Steinish, a mile to the east. I have to pass through deep water to gain dry land, a quarter mile south of the village by the Auction Mart. A straight road leads me back to Newton. I take a shortcut through the industrial area, and pass the sole Harris Tweed Mill left operating. A bent man in a blue coat shuffles out of a door across the road, affording me a glimpse of a large hall, filled with sacks, each stuffed with brightly coloured wool. I prepare dinner for mrs B, in the shape of carrots and potatoes - see my Recipe Book (link to the left). After dinner, a lady comes to stay for two nights. She is due to go to St Kilda on Friday, which is exactly the day the weather is due to change. She has come a few days early in order to have a look round Lewis. I furnish her with a timetable to visit three of the five sites - Callanish, Carloway Broch and Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. This should keep her happy between 10 and 7. Her stint in St Kilda is as a volunteer for the National Trust for Scotland, which owns the islands. Cloud draws across during the evening, but it stays very calm. Reports came through that 50 tons of rubbish had been dredged up from the bottom of Stornoway Harbour back in May. These 23 skips consisted mainly of trawler warps and other fishing paraphernalia. A shoreline collection of trash yielded 65 sacks during its first week. The silt in the harbour is so severely polluted that the Pier & Harbour Commission may be declined a license to dredge it up. Some boatmen have a bad habit (illegal actually) of pumping their bilgewater (usually contaminated with oil) into the harbour. You're not allowed to throw anything into the sea.

Monday 03/07/06

Nice sunny day with some mid-level clouds and a temperature of about 16C / 60F. Better than the heatwave and flooding further south. The weekend was full of excitement, although at times of the wrong sort. Sailors ashore from HMS Blyth were chased to their ship by local youths, who had to be shown a baton on the gangway, before backing off. A Harris policeman went off the road and damaged his car when he swerved to avoid a sheep in the road. The Coastguard helicopter had to go to Reef Beach on Saturday to attend to an injured 6-year old, but had to divert to Stornoway to effect the rescue I mentioned. I nearly forgot about the Big Beer Robbery. Three hundred unlabeled beer bottles went missing from the Hebridean Brewery on Rigs Road - anyone with information on their whereabouts can contact the police or Crimestoppers. I've got a fair idea about the contents: down the pan already. On a more serious note, 500 old bibles were buried at Swainbost Cemetery this weekend. The family bibles, mostly in Gaelic, had been handed in to the Ness charity shop, but they could not be resold because they were tattered and worn. The families that had handed them in were unhappy to throw the treasured volumes in the bin, so the idea came up to bury them in a religious ceremony. The local minister was quite prepared to conduct the service to the respectful disposal of the bibles. Mrs B's litany of visitors continues through the afternoon, with the arrival of her nephew and her sister, after her brother in law leaves. The Met Office confirms that a heatwave will be present across much of England and Wales, with temperatures up to 32C, lasting until Thursday. Up here, it's 17C max, this with a cool on-shore northeasterly. I head out for a walk to the Iolaire Monument, 2½ miles away, at 3.20pm. Walk to and through the village of Lower Sandwick, where children are playing in the sea. Continue along the little shingle strand of Mol Bhag [Mol Vack] to Stoneyfields Farm. After the boggy patch, I find the Holm Road end and proceed down the path to the Iolaire Memorial, which stands on the shore, above the place where the ship sank in January 1919. HMY Iolaire was taking sailors home after World War 1, when it ran aground on a reef called the Beasts of Holm. The ship sank, taking 205 sailors with her. Only 75 survived. This came on top of the 1,000 that had perished in action - out of the 6,000 men from the island that had joined up.
The sewage treatment plant near the Memorial stinks to high heaven. Snap away merrily, some 45 pictures. Lambs have grown big, but one lies dead on the shingle below Stoneyfields. I report it to a local resident, who says she'll tell its owners. Return to a warm (as wind sheltered) Newton, after which I go to the supermarket. Learn that two people were charged with the assault on a sailor early on Sunday morning.

Sunday 02/07/06

Very quiet Sunday. After going to church, our Swiss guest continues on a walk, to return just before 3pm. Mrs B has great difficulty getting a taxi to take him to the airport. Although temperatures in the south of the UK will be exceeding 30C today, up here I'm quite happy with 15C. After lunch, I head out for a stroll into town up Cromwell Street, then up Church Street all the way to Matheson Road. Cross at the traffic lights and continue along Goathill Avenue to Smith Avenue. From there on it's downhill to the Island Road roundabout and Newton. On going down Smith Avenue, I lose the wind and it gets very stuffy. Notice a number of young tourists sauntering aimlessly through town, looking well bored. Day remains overcast, and slightly breezy. At 5pm, I watch a group of man standing around a boat that has become beached on the rocks of the causeway. Sun comes out after 9pm, the sun comes out. Supper was pasta with a bolognese sauce, very good. Manage to sort my AOL troubles by unblocking cookies. Not quite sure if that really resolved all issues - still having trouble with captions.

Saturday 01/07/06

The cycling father and son who arrived yesterday on their bikes are due to leave on the early ferry. Dad was OK by all accounts, but son found it necessary to behave as we've just crawled out of the peatbog. Mrs B got her own back by being very accommodating, giving them a breakfast at 6.15 am, but otherwise maintaining a glacial silence. Cyclists are slowly sliding down the popularity scale, although one should never generalise. The Swiss chap had a nice walk in Ness, going down to Cuidhsiadar and the ruined chapel at Filiscleitir. He is off to Tolsta this morning. As I finally haul myself out of bed, another Antarctic research vessel, the James Clark Ross sails into port. The Internet website reveals that she is due to go on trials with a remotely operated [submarine] vehicle ROV, called ISIS. This is a research project from the University of Southampton. Her next trip, in 14 days, will take her to Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen for a month's expedition, to leave for the Antarctic in September. In the month of June I've taken 594 pictures. In the Western Pacific, Tropical Storm Ewiniar is making waves, but she's far from land. Just as we're having lunch, the sound of the helicopter becomes noticeable. The helicopter is right outside the house, hovering over the basin. Hotel Lima is tending to a yachtsman that we noticed earlier, struggling to control his boat in the force 6 winds. His boat lies overturned, and a winchman is going down to assist the hapless sailor. Newton Street very quickly fills up with spectators, the police are in attendance, directing traffic and all who are outside are drenched by the water which the helicopter's updraft is spraying around. The yachtsman manages to make dry land under his own steam - his own two legs. Meanwhile, the wrecked boat lies on its side in the basin, and slowly drifts towards its mouth. The lifeboat moves to the mouth of the basin and launches a dinghy. There is a sandbar across the basin, which makes it impossible for boats to leave it at low tide, and the tide is falling right now. The wreck is towed to Goat Island, where the damage is assessed. The boat is not holed, so it's left anchored on a mooring. I head into town for some shopping, and another yacht sails. She has some difficulty tacking through the wind. I go to the ferry terminal to watch theJames Clark Ross being loaded. Town centre is pretty busy. Cloud increases through the afternoon, but temperatures reach a nice 20C / 68F. Odd drops of rain fall, leading to a sharp shower around 8pm.