Sunday 05/11/06

The weather today is breezy with some rain, with winds up to force 7. Iraqi former dictator Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death by hanging. This weekend sees bonfire night, and there appear to be one or two events in the town. In Glasgow, 1,000 fires are being reported. On Friday, two men were reported missing off Ness, but I only heard that through an unofficial channel. Mrs B's son drops off his 4 kids for their granny to look after. These are aged between 11 and 16. Their home is being refurbished, and their mum is going away for a day or two tomorrow. At 8pm, I watch Lord of the Rings for 3 hours on Channel 4.

Saturday 04/11/06

We have another late start, and I do not show my face out of doors. I only needed a newspaper and lottery ticket, and that was brought in for me by mrs B. Cannot say it was a particularly great day today, either by virtue of the weather or otherwise. Dinner spag bol (just to tease one reader).

Friday 03/11/06

Today dawned cloudy, but the sun came out between 11 and 12. However, by 1pm we had the dreichness back and it started to belt down with rain. Took advantage of the clearance by taking autumnal pictures of fallen leaves and bare trees. Darkness falls at 4.30pm, and we spend a convivial evening by the fire.

Thursday 02/11/06

Fairly bright start to the day after a pretty cold night. Mrs B heads off into town for some messages, as they say here. She is a little tired on return. I go into town myself for a haircut, the Thursday papers and a walk to find autumn colours. Have a bit of a job, but the Castle Grounds look most promising. The ferry is back on pier no 3, following the completion of refurbishment works. Walk down to no 1 pier, then round to North Beach. You can walk along the quayside to Lazy Corner, then through the Percival Square carpark to Cromwell Street.

Wednesday 01/11/06

The ship that was at Arnish yesterday has left overnight. It's a fairly nice day, with some sunshine and no rain to speak of. The ferry is playing its route to Ullapool again, but with a 50 minute delay. Mrs B goes to the furniture shop to complain about her settee, where the cushions have collapsed - you sink 8 inches / 20 cm into them when you sit down. She returns with her niece, the shopping and the papers. I catch up with the Halloween alerts. Typhoon Cimaron is making threatening noises south of Hong Kong. The forecasters do not know what it may do. Rain passes us by as a shower later in the day. Supper consists of a pie with mashed potatoes and onions.

Tuesday 31/10/06

It is very cold but bright today, with the odd shower. One even falls as hail. A force 9 gale is blowing near the mainland, although the windspeeds here do not exceed force 6. The ferry has been cancelled, as have the ferries to the Small Isles, around Mull and to Gigha, near Kintyre. A cancelled ferry means empty shelves in the shops. Today, the funeral takes place of the 15-year old who shot himself last week. Island relatives will not be able to attend, if they did not travel yesterday, as he is being buried at Ullapool. The medical director of NHS Western Isles (one of three) has been deprived of his position, as the 3 posts have been amalgamated into one. My quitlist for the NHS WI saga has now been reduced to nearly zero. The Finance Director is still in my sights, for failing to address a 2.4 million pound shortfall. After nightfall, one trick-or-treat'er comes to the door. Today's maximum temperatures reach 8C, but drop to 3C after nightfall. Beautiful moonlit night.

Over at Arnish, another cargoship delivers a replacement turbine for the one lost overboard in the North Sea last week. I cannot make out its name. The Sava Hill, having discharged its cargo of coal, departs.

Monday 30/10/06

The worst effects of the time change have worn off, and it's reasonably nice. It is the last day with mild temperatures. The mercury reaches 14C / 57F. Tomorrow will be more like winter, with gales and temperatures of about 8C / 46F. Rain slowly moves up from the south, and I manage to make it to and from Somerfields without getting soaked. The cargoship Sava Hill is in to deliver bulk coal. Loose. Lorries scuttle back and forth to deliver the stuff to the depot. Not much else doing. It's dark at 5pm and the wind picks up after nightfall.

Sunday 29/10/06

Why do you always feel washed out and hung over after the clocks change? Breakfast and lunch merge into each other. Typhoon Cimaron / Paeng slams into the Philippines with winds of 260 kph, gusting to 300 kph. The typhoon has suddenly doubled in strength. Yesterday's forecast was for no more than 120 kph. Here, the weather is mild, but that will change later in the week. Go out for a walk around the Battery at 3pm. It's quiet out and about, and not much moves. Make supper at 7pm, Savoy Cabbage Special. Check out my Recipe Book. The meat is made up using beefburgers. Listen to the Archers, after which mrs B's grand children come to use the shower; their bathroom at home is being refurbished.

Saturday 28/10/06

Cloudy day today, but mainly dry, apart from a brief downpour at 4pm. Easter Ross continues to mop up following the floods on Thursday. The caravan, owned by mrs B's son, is put back at lunchtime; it will stay in mrs B's backyard until Easter 2007. Yesterday was an extremely busy day in Somerfields, with about 10 trolleys waiting at every of its 20 checkouts. That's what you call panic-buying, resulting from the disruption to the ferries. Supper is chicken jalfrezi, which is less spicy than the microwaveable variety. Lottery yields no wins, as per normal. The coal and logs burn well in the fireplace, as the hours tick away to the change to wintertime - GMT - at 2 am.

Friday 27/10/06

Grey day, with increasing winds after midday. Mrs B heads off into town for a few hours, whilst I catch up with things on the Net. The wind picks up to force 7 by 2pm, and the ferry is very late departing for Ullapool: 3.15pm. Normal departure time 1.45pm. Major disruption in power supplies to the far north of Scotland, following 90 mph winds overnight. The damage caused by flooding becomes clear when the floodwaters recede in Dingwall and Kirkwall. Four bombs were washed up by the floods near an old airplane base at Alness. One man drowned after his boat capsized on a loch. A fishing boat is missing in the central North Sea, with one crewmember found dead in the water. Another 3 are unaccounted for. The mother of Molly Campbell, the 12-year old who went to Pakistan to be with her dad, has been refused legal aid, which makes it very difficult for her to contest the custody battle raging in a Lahore courtroom. Supper is microwaved chicken biryani. I spend some time improvising tunes on the keyboard. Saw a picture of flooding on Junction Road in Kirkwall, a street I know very well from my four week sojourn there in September 2004.

Thursday 26/10/06

Severe gales lash the north of Scotland today, and excessive rainfall leads to phenomenal flooding from Kirkwall to Moray. Roads and railways are cut north of Inverness and there is no ferry service between Ullapool and Stornoway. The winds are gale force 8, gusting to severe gale force 9 here. The Muirneag did not sail either. The shelves in the shops are a bit bare as a result. The rain stopped at 3pm and the sun even came out. Mrs B's brother-in-law came to call. Supper is a beef stew with potatoes, carrots and onions.

Wednesday 25/10/06

Arose this morning to the sight of a ship, the Lass Moon, coming into port with the assistance of a harbour pilot. She docked at the Arnish jetty. On her deck are two sections for wind turbines. Two other sections apparently went overboard in the North Sea during a storm. The turbines were coming from Denmark, after being shipped there from the Arnish Fabrication Yard in August for completion. Arnish (run by Camcal) is currently shut down because of cashflow problems. News comes through that a boy of 15, resident in Lewis, has shot himself with a shotgun in a village near Ullapool. The incident took his life. It is initially thought to be suicide, but the parents later issue a statement that it was a terrible accident. The weather is cold and windy, and I don't go further than the shop. The man who went missing near Welshman's Rock in Rum was found dead at the bottom of the waterfall a week after he fell. Have supper with mrs B and make it another late night.

Tuesday 24/10/06

Rain, windy and cold. Today's temperatures never got into double figures. Maximum 9C / 48F. It rains heavily all day and there is a strong northeasterly wind. Our guest departs on the 7.15 ferry, can't have been a nice crossing. The Moray coast (east of Inverness) is affected by flooding, and it's just a horrible day. Muirneag is 8 hours late, coming in at 3.45pm. A little later, it dries up a bit and I go shopping. Have to go to Engebret's for the papers, as they've sold out in Somerfields. Mrs B's granddaughter is staying the night, and I help her with a school project. She's a wee bit late starting it; it's supposed to be handed in on Thursday, when schools go back from mid-term break.

Monday 23/10/06

Our guests leaves for Carloway on the 09.10 bus. She will commence her walk at the Carloway Broch, which leaves her a 29 km / 18 mile walk back. Continue to monitor hurricanes Paul and Xavier, the latter being an early bird in the 2007 Southern Hemisphere season. Today is the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising, which is celebrated in Budapest, but marred by violence. The day begins wet, but brightens up later. Not much doing, apart from a trip to town, to replace my alarmclock which has given up the ghost. No, a new battery didn't help. The wind picks up through the evening - another cold northeasterly. Our guest returned to Stornoway at 4.30, some 6½ hours after leaving Carloway. She makes an early night of it, as she is going on the 7.15 ferry in the morning.

Sunday 22/10/06

An unremarkable Sunday, which our guest spends walking to the Arnish Lighthouse and back. A trek of some 10 miles. She is thwarted at the last hurdle, the gate by the keepers' cottage, this being in a mire of horsepoo. The weather looks threatening, with one showers passing just south of Arnish and the other straight over Newton. It very gradually dries and clears up, leaving us a fantastic sunset. After a great supper of steak, chips and fried onions, we have a lengthy chat with our guest, a pleasant lady from the European continent. She has been visiting Scotland for some 10 years now and is quite taken with Lewis. The island is not as flat and featureless as she had imagined it to be. Tomorrow, she intends to walk from Carloway to Stornoway, 16 miles.

Saturday 21/10/06

No pictures today. Today is the 40th anniversary of the Aberfan mining disaster, which I mentioned in a separate entry. Muirneag is late in again, at 10 am. It is wet, windy and cold, and I do not show my face outside. The lady appears at 10 am sharp, as arranged, and goes off to the Butt of Lewis to enjoy the windy conditions. She has several hours to spend there. Watched a program about Ian Hislop, the editor of the magazine Private Eye, whose ancestors came from Crowlista in Uig (Lewis). He is shown in the local Indian restaurant, and in a wind- and rainswept Uig, cursing his way down the B8011, which links the district to the rest of Lewis. He stood in a stone circle, which used to be the ancestral home, nearly taking off in the gale with his brolly. Hundreds have left Lewis, in search of a better life, or "encouraged" by previous landowners to do so. Supper is my speciality, chili con carne from a can. Have a discussion with mrs B about journals, of which she disapproves.

Friday 20/10/06

The day starts fairly brightly, but cloud increases as the day progresses. Rain holds off until nightfall. The freightferry, MV Muirneag, is a staggering * FOUR * hours late, arriving at 11.45 instead of its usual 8 am. The weather on the mainland was very poor, leading the captain to delay departure until daylight, 8 am. A fleet of "horses" rumbles down to the pier to unload the haulage trailers, in time to move Muirneag away, to allow the passenger ferry Isle of Lewis to dock. I head for town to purchase the weekend shop. It is absolutely hellish in Somerfields, trolley war at its worst. By evening, a lady calls at mrs B's door to request accommodation for 3 nights from tomorrow, which is available. Sunset 6.15pm. Supper consists of sweet and sour with pineapple and chicken. Catch up with the usual load of alerts and emails, heading for bed at 11.30pm.

Thursday 19/10/06

Another late start. The weather is reasonable to start with, but the sequence of clouds suggests a front is in the offing, from the east. After the weekend, it could get chilly. The ferry is 1½ hours late, not leaving for Ullapool until 3.15. I go to the ferry terminal to collect the winter timetable, which comes into force on Monday. The bus station gets a similar visit. I find Muirneag moored opposite Amity House today. I return to the town centre to buy papers and some magazines. A trip to Somerfields concludes my outside proceedings. Grey clouds scud overhead, but the sun comes out at 5.30. The rainfall radar shows heavy rain over the Highlands and will arrive here after nightfall.

Wednesday 18/10/06

The rain duly arrived overnight, and it's cold, windy and wet. Apparently, the Muirneag [freight ferry] never sailed last night and the shops are now empty. Mrs B is struggling with paperwork. Following last night's convention chat, I now have access to info on the possible venues in Myrtle Beach, SC. I do not know whether I'll be going. Following an excursion into town, mrs B is entertaining her BIL. He is in his 80s, and going strong. Hop out to the shop and find it cold and unpleasant out there. Supper is a cajun-chicken stir-fry.

Tuesday 17/10/06

Awoke to a cloudy morning, with the sun peeping through the clouds. A nice chunk of salmon was left on the doorstep for us to consume for dinner tonight. Paperwork, don't we all love it. And particularly if you have to wait 3 whole months for an accountant to send it back for a very simple set-up. Sigh. And then an irate local council waiting for said paperwork, oh heavens. Jehovah's Witnesses call at the backdoor, a place that only family knock at, so they're sent back to the road. Only for them to turn up at the FRONT door at the other end of the house. No, no, no! The usual flood of emails is reduced to a trickle this morning; only 18 as opposed to the normal 65.
After midday, the laundry needs doing, and after a good soak this goes into the machine. At the same time, I'm filling up the coalbucket and the drossbucket. The bags containing said materials have been on the ground for a while and have become a hiding place for woodlice and worms. The kingsize woodlice scamper off at a canter, the worms aren't that nimble but head off for the grass. One sees a big lump of coal and thinks that that might be a nice hiding place. Oh darn, it gets lifted away! So, the worm turns round and heads for the grass as well. As I post a few letters, I catch sight of the ship that was at anchor off Arnish Lighthouse last night. It is now moored alongside pier number 3, which is undergoing refurbishment. Will be able to read its name when I go down to the shop later on. The laundry finishes at 2 o'clock, and it dries nicely on the line outside. As we only have a short line, the rest goes into the tumble-drier. It is a breezy day out there, although nice and sunny. The temperature is reported at 12 C / 54 F and the wind a northeasterly, force 4. The weatherforecast for tomorrow is poor, with rain moving up from the south. My confirmation of that comes in the highlevel cloud moving up.
At around 3.15pm, I walk down the road to Somerfields and am able to read the name of the freighter, which is docked at no 3 pier. It is the Aasheim, an Icelandic ship, delivering this winter's supply of roadsalt. Lorries scuttle back and forth from the pier, with humps of sand. My shopping activity takes less than 15 minutes, so I return not much after half past three. By four o'clock, a visitor comes to call and is given a cup of tea and some toffee cake, one of my purchases at Somerfields. He leaves just after five, but is quickly followed by anotherAfter the last visitors departed, dinner was prepared. The hunk of salmon, left at the frontdoor in the morning, was wrapped in foil and cooked in the oven with a bayleaf and a slice or two of lemon. A very generous helping came my way, accompanied by boiled potatoes. The sweet tonight consisted of a fruit corner for B, but I heated up a blackberry sponge cake in the microwave and finished it off with half a pint of custard. What more do you want. Sorting out paperwork was called for after supper, as well as a lot of on-line work. Not to mention getting the hoover out - no not for vacuum cleaning. This was a hoover that had been taken to bits by a passing electrician and declared dead, for want of a soldering iron. The latter implement could be used for sticking the mains cord back on to the machine. Someone had promised to come with a soldering iron, but as with so much, never followed it up. Anyway, it'll be taken to the electrical hardware shop in the town centre at some stage. If it really is a dodo, then a new appliance will have to be bought.

Monday 16/10/06

Late start after a cold night. Overnight low only +3C, and the fog lifts slowly. At lunchtime, smoke is rising from the side of Gallows Hill; they're probably burning wood cuttings in the Castle Grounds. I head out for the shop after catching up with emails &c, to get the list of goodies needed for the next few days. Mrs B has got nobody staying except me. A ship can be seen at anchor near the lighthouse late in the evening. With no 3 pier out of action, there is a merry-go-round every evening. The Ullapool ferry Isle of Lewis docks at 8pm alongside pier number 1. It discharges passengers, then moves into the Outer Harbour. MV Muirneag, our cargo ferry, then moves over to number 1 pier to take the place of the Isle of Lewis to load lorries for the overnight transfer. The passenger ferry sits alongside the eastern side of number 3 pier (she normally docks along the western side) until about 6 in the morning, when she transfers over to number 1 for the 7.15 sailing. Muirneag doesn't return until about 8am, so no problems there. The reason for this rigmarole? Pier number 3 is being refurbished.

Forgot to mention that I had an unexpected visit from a fellow blogger from elsewhere in the islands. Nice enough chap, we nattered for about 45 minutes, but I was a wee bit taken aback that he didn't drop me a line beforehand. I had the impression from previous correspondence that should he ever be in Stornoway, he'd let me know. Yes, I have been in touch with him before, by email and through reading mutual blogs. But using that information to guess at my location somehow didn't quite go down the right way.

Sunday 15/10/06

Very late start to the day. After lunch, I accompany mrs B on a jaunt to the Coastguard Station, a quarter of a mile up the road. The residents along the street have been clipping their hedges. It is mild today and no wind. Spend a few minutes taking a panoramic view from the Coastguard Station over the town and Newton. I prepare chicken tikka massala, after which we collapse by a fire in the sitting room. I host the J-land chat (great craic), which is attended by 28 J-landers and a handful of non-bloggers. Ach, all welcome. Go to bed after wrapping up the emails for the day.

Saturday 14/10/06

Went out to get the papers from Somerfields, and was treated to a few aerobatic rows between gulls and crows. As I walked up the road, a shell dropped by my feet. What the birds do is to pick a shell from the basin at low tide and drop it from a height to crack it. Once that is achieved, they eat the creature inside. Some birds follow the shell as it falls to the ground, particularly useful in the basin which is a mire of seaweed, rocks and stuff. Spend the afternoon getting up to date with 70 alerts. After sunset, it's dinnertime. Watch the lottery game, but no luck. Again.

Friday 13/10/06

After a late start, which seems to be becoming the norm, I was startled to hear an item on the Highland News, our regional news bulletin on BBC Radio Scotland. It featured as top item the bullying case which I mentioned on this blog. I happen to know the family concerned personally, and was aware of the allegations. I was quite frankly stunned to hear of their proposed legal action, but not surprised. Today's weather is cloudy with a little rain. I get the weekend shop in, to avoid the mayhem on Saturday. The day closes at 6.30 with a great sunset. Friday the 13th? No ill luck for me, fortunately.

Thursday 12/10/06

Very late start today. The wellboat Froyhav is hauled up on the Goat Island slipway for cleaning. This vessel transports smolts (young salmon) to the island, for growing in fishfarms. Afterwards, the boat needs a deepclean to prevent the transmission of disease. Bad news for the fragile community in Uig, where 4 jobs were lost on a fishfarm at Miavaig. Marine Harvest are transplanting its halibut hatchery to Norway. Weather today is bright and very windy. Long streaks of foam lie across the Basin. Very little shopping is required today, except for the Thursday papers. Head up to Bayhead, where the playpark was closed because of a pollution incident in the soil. A local councillor has been threatened over his support for the proposed 190 turbine windfarm in North Lewis. This threat was written on a poster from the organisation which is opposed to the windfarm, but Moorland Without Turbines has distanced itself from the threat, saying it will conduct the debate through proper channels, not through personal attacks. Head back up Keith Street, where a cat sits sunning itself in a window. Return to Newton via Somerfields. Heavy showers punctuate the early afternoon, but it's dry later on. A cold wind blows. Autumnwatch on BBC2 closes for this year, with a rundown on the red deer rutting on Rum. There was no nice sunset tonight.

Wednesday 11/10/06

Yesterday, a large fruitsalad was made, so a long shoppinglist is required. First, I head out under a lowering sky to the Lighting and Electrical store on Cromwell Street for bulbs. These only last a few months in the island because of frequent surges in the power supply. Go to Somerfields for a large shop, then spend the afternoon catching up with the journals of some 50 journalers. The rain arrives at 2pm, and gives us a 4 hour soaking. The clouds break at 6pm, giving us a fantastic sunset. Dinner is Chicken Pasanda, with blackberry sponge pudding and custard after. The lights on the Goat Island Causeway are on again at night, causing a lot of light pollution.

Tuesday 10/10/06

Lazy start to the day. Watch a lens shaped cloud dissipate in front of encroaching high level cirrus clouds. Sun remains out, brilliant weather through the morning and afternoon. The BBC website mentioned that a buyer had been found for the Arnish Yard, but no further details. The girl who went to Pakistan had some nasty things to say about her mother and Scotland. Her courtcase is on in Lahore, and her father has been ordered to stop issuing statements, on penalty of contempt of court proceedings. Find myself behind with journals alerts, but so far do not have the opportunity to catch up. Go to town for shopping, but take a short stroll out to number 1 pier and the fish mart. Great colours in the sunset tonight.

Monday 09/10/06

The forecast for today mentioned rain. The weather today was brilliantly sunny. Doh! Today is the first day that the ferry departs from no 1 pier, instead of no 3 (works), so traffic chaos ensues. Mrs B is expecting distant relatives this afternoon, so I lend a hand with one or two things. They turn up at 5.00pm sharp all the way from Auckland, New Zealand. The sun sets in a blaze at 6.35pm, the visitors depart again at 7pm. Microwaveable meal precedes the viewing of the last episode in the series on the Nuremberg trials of 1945/46.

Sunday 08/10/06

Made a very late start, the very windy weather not being conducive to doing anything. There will be a very high tide this evening, at 5.6m, which raises concerns over flooding. The early onset of darkness, 7pm, prevents me from viewing the height of the tide. There are no tropical cyclones about today. Tomorrow, I'll install Service Pack 2 on Windows XP.

Saturday 07/10/06

Reasonable day in terms of weather. Mrs B returns home, but is quite whacked, so I take things in hand. Relatives turn up as if on cue, not just from the town but from as far afield as New Zealand. Residents are sought for the isle of Canna, and at time of typing (Tuesday 10th) as many as 100 applicants have been in touch with the NTS. I don't know where the NTS get their annual visitor total of 30,000 from. I think 3,000 is more realistic, having travelled on the ferry route several times myself.

Friday 06/10/06

It's brightened up by morning, but not for long. In the afternoon, I hop on the town bus to the hospital, for the last time, as my patient will be going home tomorrow. The fare has decreased from £1.40 on Monday to £1.05 today. Oh dear. My visit to Somerfields left me without papers, as there had been too few coming up on the plane this morning. No, not much else to report.

Thursday 05/10/06

Today is paperday, and the regional press carries announcements of yet more promises regarding the continuation of the Arnish Fabrication Yard. And all of a sudden, 25 people work where a week ago there were only 2 employees. No, that's not possible. I visit my patient in the hospital for a while this afternoon. Upon return, it starts to bucket with rain all evening.

Wednesday 04/10/06

Fairly bright day, but still cool. Calmac announce that as of next Monday, the ferry will dock at no 1 pier, where Muirneag normally lies tied up during the day. Number 3 pier is to undergo repairs over a 3 week period. Tickets will still be sold at no 1 pier, but footpassengers will be transferred by taxi, courtesy Calmac. My patient in the hospital is a lot chirpier than yesterday, which is very good. I do my shopping at the local Co-op, but it takes me 30 minutes to find 8 items; at Somerfields, that would be 5 or 10 minutes. Hate the Coop. Nip down Matheson Road towards Newton. Supper is carrots and potatoes. The day closes with fantastic moonlight images.

Tuesday 03/10/06

Rise at my usual hour, and have cereals and toast for breakfast. Listen to Kenny MacLeod on local radio station Isles FM. I learn more about that tragic shooting in the Amish community in Pennsylvania; five kids lie dead, 5 are seriously injured. This evening, I'm having Rogan Josh and chicken, a bit much for just the one person. The day is bright with some showers in the morning. Go out to get the papers, then get a lift up to the hospital at 7.25. It's a nice cool evening, the autumn has finally arrived. The hospital is crawling with visiting relatives.

Monday 02/10/06

Muirneag is late in this morning, 9.30 instead of the normal 8 am. Mrs B leaves for the week at 10.30, with me holding the fort until she returns. I go to Somerfields for some paper and food, then keep myself occupied through this journal and other activities. I am visiting a patient in the hospital this week, so I hop up there on the local bus, carrying goods for entertaining the person concerned. Autumnwatch is on BBC2 this week, and among other things it focuses on the red deer colony on the Isle of Rum, 80 miles south of here.

Sunday 01/10/06

After a sunny start, cloud increases through the afternoon. Typhoon Xangsane has slammed into Vietnam, with winds of 110 mph. Flooding, widespread damage and powercuts result. Am kept busy with 70 alerts or so, more than half consist of comments (thanks). Mrs B is working down a checklist, as she's away for the better part of this week, leaving me to hold the fort. Supper tonight is a pastabake, one of my favourites. No pictures today.

Saturday 30/09/06

Brilliantly sunny day with a nice breeze. Hop along to the supermarket twice, out of necessity. When I first come there, they're still unloading the lorry. Go on a walk round the Battery later in the afternoon just as the Sgoth is sailing by. Youngsters are necking down in the basin at low tide. Not much else to report, as mrs B has no more guests in for the time being. Supper is lemon chicken with rice and ice cream. The Lottery is once again a complete waste of a pound. Follow typhoon Xangsane on its destructive path towards Vietnam and hurricane Isaac as it scoots north towards Canada.

Friday 29/09/06

Yep, it's only 9pm, but I thought I'd better get this out of the way. Not expecting much to happen tonight at any rate.

Reasonably nice day, with the clouds disappearing until lunchtime. After lunch, mrs B and myself are taken to the Watermill, on the northern edge of the town, and walk back along the mill lade and through the Golf Course. The Watermill building is locked, unusually, and the wheel is stationary. Blackberries are starting to ripen, although some are still in bloom. Whatever is there in terms of berries is mostly very sour. Cross into the Golf Course, where a fair number of players are out. On return to town, go for some shopping - it's quite busy and actually warm this afternoon. Very stifling. This breaks down into a short shower around the 6pm mark. The Tourist Office had some up to date information leaflets and An Lanntair was closed for a wedding. I was wondering about all the guys going round town in their kilts. Dinner: mashed potatoes, green beans and fried mince with carrots.

Thursday 28/09/06

Don't sleep until 6 a.m., sniffling, snottering and going through hankies at a rate of knots. Rise not much before midday, and feeling shattered. It is a nice sunny day, of which I did not take pictures. A few showers about. Mrs B gets me a supply of paracetamol, Fisherman's Friends and 2 boxes of mansized hankies [who is the chief of the hankies - hankiechief]. Lie down during the latter part of the afternoon, which is something I hardly ever do, but need it today. Typhoon Xangsane leaves Manila under a couple of feet of water. Supper is a very nice if slightly spicy Greek stirfry with lots of chicken. Turn in for the night at 10 pm, which is very, very early for me.

Wednesday 27/09/06

Reasonably nice start to the day, but cloudcover rapidly increases on the approach of yet another front. The Philippines are bracing themselves for Typhoon Xangsane, which will hit Manila hard with strong winds and heavy rain. Otherwise, it's quiet on the hurricane front. We have 3 workmen in, two of whom start work not long after 7 am. As the day progresses, I start to develop a cold, so when I go to Somerfields I get a supply of peppermints in to soothe the throat. Supper tonight was a bit of a flop, as the power supply conked out - that is, the voltage was less than it should have been. So, the microwaveable meal was cooked for 5 minutes, but was underdone. Sunset at 7.15. As the evening progresses, the wind picks up, and the resultant gale and rain buffet the house all night.

Tuesday 26/09/06

Fairly reasonable day weatherwise, although it's mostly cloudy and breezy. Mrs B's son and guest are heading back to Glasgow on the ferry. They have a hot lunch at 12.30, and mrs B and myself walk them to the terminal at 1pm. The MV Isle of Lewis arrives on time at 1.15, and departs spot-on at 1.45. Accompany mrs B back to her house, where we have a hamroll for lunch. Typhoon Xangsane is threatening the Philippines. The groups of teenagers from the local secondary school are still hanging around Somerfields. They also do so at the ferry terminal and in An Lanntair. Not so much a bother, but they don't clear up after themselves, judging by the piles of rubbish left behind every day. Supper tonight chili con carne with peach slices. Night falls at 7.30, over a decidedly dreich and grey day.

The sinking of the SS Norge in 1904 was one of the worst losses of life at sea in peacetime. Only the Titanic saw a greater loss of life. Nine passengers lie buried in Sandwick Cemetery; nearly 800 lost their lives. The Norge was en route from Scandinavia to America, when she struck rocks at Rockall Island, 250 miles west of Scotland. When the ship was put into reverse, she slid off the rocks, but the gash in her hull quickly led to her sinking. Read this article for more details.

Monday 25/09/06

Cloudy but fairly bright day, with some wind and a drop of rain. Mrs B's son + guest go around town for the morning by car and on foot during the afternoon. I catch up with my diary; J-land journals take up 2½ hours. Before I do the latter, I nip over the Somerfields for the daily shop. It's very quiet in there, but have to wait in a queue for someone to get their large shop processed. Sun comes out at 3pm. Forecast for later in the week is quite poor. A large group of starlings was congregating elsewhere in the town this weekend. The Highland moutains claimed two lives this weekend. Sunset tonight 7.15pm - where have the long nights of June gone, sigh. A French fishingboat came in for a crewchange. Supper tonight was spaghetti bolognese.

Sunday 24/09/06

Our guest is developing a cold. We cross over to Arnish after breakfast, driving through a deserted town. The fabrication yard is locked - I've never seen it locked in the period that I've been in Stornoway. Lengths of pipes, some with poorly spelled claims of ownership on them, scatter the yard. We slowly amble to the lighthouse, a mile to the east, overlooking Stornoway and Sandwick. All the ponies, which run semi-wild here, have now congregated by the keeper's cottage. Said cottage could do with a clear-out. Large hairly caterpillars crawl through the grass. The old beacon, which now lies on its side, used to reflect the light from the lighthouse to warn of a reef. During a violent storm in 1983, it was blown over. I wander up to the memorial to the fisherman, who drowned on this coast in December 2004. On passing the keeper's cottage again, the ponies nearly stop us passing through a gate. I take the track leading to Downie's harbour, the old Glumag pier. This used to be the landing point for taking supplies to the lighthouse. A much larger dock has now been constructed alongside the 80ft high sheds of the fabrication yard. I also discover the wherabouts of the Hebridean Seaweed factory. The smell of rotting seaweed is faintly unpleasant. We return to Newton at 2.30, where our guest takes to his bed. I join mrs B's son on a drive to Ness, under gathering gloom. It is still very quiet and we reach Port Nis in 45 minutes. Sand is silting up the harbour again. The tide is right out, through. Continue west to Eoropie. We pass the chapel to St Moluag and several large peatstacks, much more common here than elsewhere in Lewis. Drive up to the lighthouse, where a campervan is parked up. On exploring the clifftops, I discover a pedometer with 2555 steps on it. The owner is looking for it not far away, by the gate into the lighthouse compound. The wind gets up, making it feel increasingly chilly. At Eoropie beach, just over a mile to the south of the lighthouse, rabbits are running riot in the dunes. Quadbikers have torn up dunes and beach. The tide is further out than I've ever seen it, making it possible for me to see the other beaches further south. On leaving Ness at 5pm, it comes on to a spot or two of rain. We make a brief excursion up and down Loch Street, Barvas. On crossing the Barvas Moor, the rain starts in earnest. It continues to pour all evening. Supper is a roast leg of lamb with vegetables.

Saturday 23/09/06

Nice sunny morning, which we spend preparing for the afternoon's trip to Uig. We first head for the supermarket, using the car hired by mrs B's son. Having collected the shopping, we make for Cuddy Point to have a picknick lunch. Of course, I was bringing everything for the tea - hot water, milk, sugar, cups. But no teabags. A rapid to and fro by car sorted that out. A few wasps buzz around to investigate the ham rolls, a bumblebee is attracted to a brightly coloured supermarket bag. At 2.40, we head west for Reef Beach in Uig where another of mrs B's sons has a caravan. Our guest is taken for a walk along a beach, while I drag mrs B over the hill to a viewpoint overlooking Valtos village and Pabay island. We find a large number of machair snails. The flowers have all gone to seed and the grass is turning yellow. We return to town at 6.50. Supper is chicken korma, which is prepared in no time at all. Watch Noel Edmunds present the Lottery show. And why that man always makes an ass of everybody around him, whether it be contestants or colleagues, I have never understood.

Friday 22/09/06

The wind howled around the house overnight, as the remnant of hurricane Gordon scooted north on its way to oblivion. Next instalment in this saga: Helene, due on Wednesday. Friday is a nice sunny day. We have one guest in, a chap from the far northwest of Scotland who is here to collect his boat which is being checked on the Goat Island slipway. Boat GXJG is being used to warn fishing boats to stay away from a bombing range east of Cape Wrath. The man used to be harbourmaster at Kinlochbervie, 11 miles south of the Cape. His boat leaves the slip at 11.20 a.m.. Mrs B's second son is due in tonight, with the guest I mentioned in separate blog entries. I head into town for papers and a computer magazine. Supper is a reheated leftover from supper yesterday. Another beautiful sunset, after which the ferry arrives on time. Make my acquaintance with our guest - who takes some getting used to.

Thursday 21/09/06

Very wet day, with the rain persisting until 3.30pm. Very strong winds, up to force 11, are expected at Land's End and St David's Head, resulting from the passage of the remnant of Hurricane Gordon. Hurricane Helene will be here next Wednesday; typhoon Yagi will thrash Iwo Jima with 160 mph winds. A tropical storm has brewed up 300 miles south of Karachi. Up here, not much wind, just rain. And it was the rain that forced the abandonment of the search on Rum. The worst is feared. Am amazed at the volume of emails these days: in excess of 100 alerts today. The Galson Trust has managed to accumulate all the money needed to buy the estate. The John Muir Trust, which looks after Ben Nevis, has pledged support and a grant. The grant will become a loan if the windfarm gets built. About 190 windturbines, each standing 450 ft tall, will be built across 50 miles in Lewis. Sun is out after 4pm. The Greek dish (see Recipe Book) will be tried out using pork. The evening remains calm and warm - 15C / 60F at 7.30pm.

Wednesday 20/09/06

Miserable old day, plenty of rain about. Get up a bit earlier than normal as mrs B is expecting her Visit Scotland inspector at noon. He arrives exactly at 12, and comments favourably on mrs B's facilities. I head for the Post Office at 1.30 to put an item in the mail, in time for the 2pm deadline. Nip into Somerfields on the way back to get the papers and a can or two for supper: chili con carne with sliced peaches and rice, yummy. As the sun goes down, the clouds break, leaving a golden sunset (pictures 3 and 4). Reports emerge about the missing walker in Rum. And a BBC presenter is seriously hurt when his jet-powered car leaves the road at speeds close on 300 mph near York. He ends up in ITU in a hospital in Leeds.

Tuesday 19/09/06

Nice day, with some showers in the morning. Hurricane Gordon is set to blow over the Azores tonight, with winds of 90 mph. The system will carry on east towards northwestern Spain. The weather in the UK will get a swipe from it as well. The Restoration Village competition was won by a building from Warwickshire, England; the two buildings in Scotland did not get it. The Bullough Mausoleum on Rum is being restored; it was in a state of dangerous disrepair 2 years ago. Go into town after lunch and walk over to Cuddy Point. The YM building has now been completely demolished; a pile of rubble is all that remains. The afternoon is breezy but not cold. A fair few boats lie anchored off Cuddy Point. The big red ship that was on the Goat Island slipway this morning, now lies moored off Amity House. Return to Newton at 4.30pm. Tomorrow, mrs B has an inspection by VisitScotland. She is not feeling herself since the weekend. So, we keep it nice and quiet tonight. Supper: sweet and sour chicken with semolina pudding after.

Monday 18/09/06

No pictures today. We start the day with pale sunshine, which is replaced by clouds and increasing winds. Head out at 3pm to get the papers, by which time it is raining harder and harder. I also get more felt pads for mrs B's kitchen chairs , which I duly install. Today's supper is a microwaveable meal, a very spicy one. Rain and wind continue through the evening. Continue to upload large numbers of pictures onto FlickR, and categorise them. There are still some 4,300 to go, and FlickR does not allow you to upload by URL...

Sunday 17/09/06

Very dreich and drizzly start to the day, but the sun comes out by midday. The Countryfile programme has some interesting items about the Thames Estuary as well as a Ben Fogle trip to the Small Isles. Ben only visits the Isles of Muck [derived from the Gaelic word for Porpoise] and Rum. He omits Canna and the most populous isle, Eigg. He travels on board the schooner Eda Frandsen, which operates out of Doune in Knoydart, north of Mallaig. He meets up with Lawrence MacEwen, the owner of Muck, and I'm suspicious that this trip has been screened before. The other person is Ally Donald, who monitors the red deer program at Kilmory in Rum. The photographic competition takes off, with the selection of 12 pictures which will go to the public vote to establish a winner on October 9th. My four piccies didn't come anywhere near the finalists. Have a look at the finalists on this web page. One of the pictures has been withdrawn, I don't know if they will select another image to replace it. I spend the afternoon working my way through alerts and emails, while mrs B entertains her son and his wife. Supper tonight is a very good cauliflower & broccoli cheese. In the evening, I log the J-land September chat, between 8 and 11pm. I'm square-eyed by the end.

Saturday 16/09/06

Very sunny day, bit breezy but not cold. Help mrs B defrost her freezer and stick some felt pads under the legs of chairs in the kitchen. As these now stand on the ceramic tiles, they scrape the surface. Go to Somerfields at 3pm to buy some food and the papers, and continue to enjoy the sunny afternoon. Supper is slices of ham with a salad and egss. The sun sets brilliantly at 7.40pm. Lottery yields no winds. Watch an old episode of M*A*S*H on a Sky channel. Discover a way of categorising my pictures using FlickR and a few quid. The moth orchid now has 12 blooms.

Friday 15/09/06

Brilliantly sunny morning, although cloud does increase through the morning. Quite windy but mild. Mrs B goes out to select tiles for the kitchen, but there is no great variety in the town. Receive a book from an American author, with whom I got in touch through an Internet group. Captive Fear, by E.G. Parsons, is an intensely graphic thriller with as subject matter people trafficking, rape, murder and child abuse. Not to everybody's taste, with some extremely graphic descriptions. Difficult reading. I wash mrs B's windows and go through the usual stack of journal alerts. Supper is Cajun Chicken with rice, with Viennetta with Fruits after. The last guest, a working man from the Uists, left earlier today. This morning we had the bogslog. This is a 15 mile walk for pupils from the Nicolson Institute, the local secondary school.

Thursday 14/09/06

Very dreich morning, with increasingly heavy rainfall. Father and son went out fishing on a loch along the Barvas road. Like the previous few days, the results were pretty poor. When they told the man from whom they rented the fishing, he was less than complimentary to them. Which led to our guests hopping on the ferry a day early. Very nice. Plenty of hurricanes about today in the Pacific and the Atlantic. Off to the shop for the papers, which don't have much news. Just that a decision on the Arnish Fabrication Yard is due in the next few days. A daft row in the local council over a proposed ferry link between Lochboisdale (South Uist) and Mallaig on the mainland, to replace the existing link to Oban. It would cut more than 2 hours off traveltime, but two councillors decide to fight like cats in a sack. Beautiful sunset with a rainbow just before 8pm. It's not cold, about 16C.

Wednesday 13/09/06

Fairly bright start to the day, but a drop of rain falls at 10 am. Can see Skye above the Arnish hills, which means visibility greater than 45 miles. The cruiseliner Clipper Adventurer has come in this morning; two Lorient (France) fishing vessels hare in and out for a crew change. It's a partly cloudy day with the sun shining through a lot of high-level cloud. The Clipper Adventurer leaves at 12.30. After lunch, I walk across town to the butcher shop near the Co-op on Macaulay Road to buy black puddings for mrs B. Walk up Lewis Street on the way in and end up on Bayhead, where the YM is being demolished. An old pussycat is rolling along the pavement, playing with a gull's feather. As I am snapping the cat, she sits bolt upright, making a passing elderly lady laugh. "She's posing for you", the lady said. Got the papers at the Trading Post, next to the butchers'. On return to Newton, mrs B's sister has come to call. Although the afternoon was nice and warm (up to 19C / 66F), a heavy squall passes just before 6. This announces a very windy evening. It blows so hard that a shirt on the clothesline tried to climb up the adjacent tree!

Tuesday 12/09/06

Another grey day in Stornoway, with low cloud and the odd spot of drizzle. The two folk from Inverness (father and son) set out for a days' fishing along the Creed River and nearby lochs. The Australian lady is working on the computer this morning, continuing where she left off last night. She is not feeling too happy, but asks mrs B if she can accompany the young lady on a cartrip. Mrs B can't, but on asking I can. The young lady is due to catch the 6.30 plane to Glasgow tonight. Leave Stornoway along the Pentland Road at midday, heading towards Carloway. Cloudlevels are very low, and there is occasional drizzle. Cannot make out any of the distant hills. A man stands up to his thighs in the loch near the Achmore turn-off. Carry on to Carloway, meeting 8 cars coming the other way. Once in Garenin, we walk through the Blackhouse Village and go up the hill to enjoy the view west towards Bernera and Uig. We tackle a bit of bog along the way. A container at the bottom of the village smells of dead sheep. The young lady, mid 20's, has been on a tour of Europe which did not go down terribly well. Have to say that I'm unimpressed with tourguides who show people round Amsterdam, pointing out all the cannabis dens. Fortunately, my current companion had the sense to visit Anne Frank's House. Methinks, she is homesick and travelweary. Her course at the university finishes in February, and she's counting down the days. After Gearrannan, we go to Dalmore. There was NO wind there, and the midges on the beach were hellish. Next village is Dalbeg, one of the prettiest places in Lewis. After admiring the lilypond and the beach, it's back to Stornoway via Breascleit. The sun comes out and it turns into a pleasantly warm afternoon. Final call: the Iolaire Monument behind Holm. We finished with a cuppa at mrs B's, after which the young Australian heads off on her plane to Glasgow. She's due to stay in a hostel in the city centre. Her course starts on Thursday. I was extensively thanked for my companionship. Travelling is not everybody's cup of tea. Tonight's supper: well, have a look at this entry in the Recipe Book.

Monday 11/09/06

Our guest of the last few days leaves at 5.30 on padded feet. Today is the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and I post my tribute to Norberto Hernandez at 13.46. This is to the minute the time that the nightmare began, back in 2001. Go into town to photocopy an article and post it. It's raining steadily. Return via Somerfields. The radar on Bermuda was knocked out at 10 am this morning. Winds rise to 75 or 80 kts, gusting to 93 kts. This equates to 85 - 90 mph, gusting to 110 mph. Here in Stornoway, the rain stops at midday, but it remains grey and windy. The clouds descend to the tops of the Arnish hills. An Australian lady comes to stay, who immediately proceeds to go on the phone to arrange for further accommodation and travels. A man and his son are due on the evening ferry. The website for the 2996 project has gone down with the heavy traffic to it. It later reappears from a different server. Florence passes Bermuda in the morning, having disabled the webcam as well. Both webcam and radar emerge again at 8pm. Have a word with the Australian guest, who is going to an English university on an exchange visit. She has spent the last 2 months travelling Europe. I go out of my way NOT to watch the 9/11 commemorations.

Sunday 10/09/06

After breakfast, our guest goes to Arnish to look around the gun emplacements there. Although I give him directions to the Iolaire Memorial, he does not go there. After watching Countryfile on BBC1, I take it easy through the day except to monitor the progress of Hurricane Florence, which is approaching Bermuda. It could get rather windy there, with windspeeds in excess of 90 mph. Go out for a walk at 3.30. Cloud increases gradually, but it stays dry. Walk to Battery Point round the Coastguard Station. People in day-glo jackets are venturing out into the Sgeir Mhor, a reef that lies exposed at low tide. Double back down the side streets. The rain starts in earnest at 6pm, for a little while. Helps to wash bird droppings off the windows. Supper consists of sweet and sour, which we have after mrs B's grandson has his different meal earlier. Florence appears on the Bermuda radar at 10pm - see earlier entry made on Sunday.

Saturday 09/09/06

Nice sunny morning, and fence posts are being erected across the gap in the backwall. A 6 ft high fence will be erected in due course. The Highland Valour tug leaves port after staying for two days. She is 3 years old, 78 m long and works in the oil industry. News comes through that the Arnish Fabrication Yard is now down to 2 employees, for a care-and-maintenance routine. Head out into town for a bit of shopping. Our guest went to Ness, but did not make it to Gearrannan as he missed the turning at Barvas. The tide is high again at 9 pm, but it is dark by then. No winnings on the lottery, again. Bermuda is anticipating Florence, due on Sunday or Monday.

Friday 08/09/06

The hole digging out the back encounters some problems in the shape of a possible drain. Hopefully, fence posts and panels will follow next week. It's a nice sunny morning, cool and breezy. The first really low tide occurs at 2pm, although the next one, at 3 am tomorrow, will be even lower. Spoke to the chap we have in at the moment, who hails from the West Midlands [England]. He quit his job at age 40 and went out to Australia to work for only a few weeks - which turned into 12 years. He has just come up out of Harris, where he was for 4 days. Although we sent him round the West Side, he found it boring. Fine, each to his own. Later this afternoon, at 4.30pm, a serious car accident is scheduled to happen in South Beach Street, outside the Town Hall. This is a mock-up, to demonstrate to the public how accidents are dealt with by the emergency services. It is also intended to shock learner drivers into a sensible frame of mind behind the wheel. Not. I arrive on the scene at 4.30, as a chap from the police talks us through the procedures. One car lies on its side, the other on its roof. There is one "fatality" and it is shown how victims are cut free from the wreckage of their vehicles. The helicopter comes in to the ferry pier to transfer the "casualties" to "hospital". It is a warm and sunny afternoon. The tide is quite high, 5.5 m, at 8pm, but it's a calm evening. A beautiful Harvest Moon rises later in the evening.

Thursday 07/09/06

The English couple depart for the Uists and their place is taken by a chap who'll be here until Monday. He was under the impression that it was Friday - nope. Nice day, not warm. Spend the afternoon writing a tribute to Norberto Hernandez. It is very sad work, and you can't begin to fathom the depth of grief, felt by his family. Go out at 4pm to get a huge wad of papers. On the way to the shop, I meet my acquaintance from Lochs, who is trying to sell her house. No luck - only 1 person has shown an interest over the past few months. I know the location - it is very exposed, situated at the very end of the 2.5 mile long village. I turn up Cromwell Street and go as far up Bayhead as the YM, which is being taken down. At least, the cladding has gone. Head up MacKenzie Street to Matheson Road, then down Goathill Road and Smith Avenue towards Newton. Those are the leafiest streets in town. Youngsters play a ballgame on the sports pitch behind the Nicolson. Supper is pie and cabbage and beans. The guga hunters went out for their annual cull of young gannets on Sula Sgeir two weeks ago. They'll be back within a week or so. The chap who is here until Monday is taking a leisurely trip round the Highlands and Islands, glad to be far from the madding crowd of the West Midlands

Guga is dried young gannet, it looks like a bicycle saddle, and is despatched round the world to Lewis exiles. I don't want to know what it tastes like - oily, fishy, yuk. Although gannets are a protected species, there is a tradition going back to at least the 15th century for the men of Ness to go out to Sula Sgeir to take the birds, and a special dispensation was made for them.

Wednesday 06/09/06

Fairly bright day with some showers. The English couple stay on for another night, as they are quite comfortable. Another lady is due off the plane, who is involved with a concert tonight - which I'm not attending. As she arrives before midday, mrs B and I have an opportunity to go out for the afternoon. A cruiseship has arrived, the Mona Lisa. She is an old lady of the seas, built in 1966 as the Kungsholm, from Sweden. After stints as the Sea Princess and the Victoria, the ship was refurbished in 2002 as the Mona Lisa. It has a replica of the famous painting on the funnel. Coaches are lined up alongside no 3 pier to take passengers on tours around Lewis. She measures 200 by 26 m and has a 9 m draft, which means she cannot berth, as the piers can only accommodate vessels which draw a maximum of 7 m. Mona Lisa departs at 6pm, destination unknown to me. Found it very difficult to find any inside information on her on the Net. Anyway, leave for the busstation at 1.30pm, and sit on the Point bus, waiting for it to go. Bit of a smell on board, of sweat, booze and chips. We are going to Aignish, 7 miles to the east, which costs me 85p single. From there, we are walking the 1½ miles along the northern side of the Braighe back to Melbost, from where another bus will take us back to town. For now, the bus runs past the Health Centre on Springfield Road, down Anderson Road to Sandwick and past Park End to the Braighe. We alight at the Landraiders' Monument at 2pm. Mrs B wants to look around the old Eye (or Aoidhe) Cemetery, which has tombstones going back to the 18th century. Some of the oldest graves only have symbols on them, such as a skull and crossbones, a goblet etc. These are in a terrible state of repair, and generally quite a few tombstones are leaning at all sorts of angles or have fallen over. By 2.30, we leave the churchyard and walk down to the beach below. At a slow amble, we head west towards the village of Melbost, 1.5 miles away.

Half way down, we go up to the top of the seabarrier and have a break. Mrs B collects another handful of seashells. There is a very cold northwesterly wind. The views are great, right along the coast to Garrabost in Point, and as far north as Cellar Head near Filiscleitir in Ness. We carry on to the loch and Melbost. Bus leaves at 4.15, and takes us back to Stornoway. I go on to Somerfields to get the necessary. The day closes sunny and bright.

Tuesday 05/09/06

Grey start to the day, and it comes on to rain by 11. Mrs B and myself join her nephew on a run to Barvas to collect items from an art gallery. After wrapping everything up, we return across a rain-sodden moor. Although the heather and the thistles are still blooming, the grass is already turning yellow. Muirneag and the Barvas Hills are clearly visible, as is Roiseal Mor, the hill to the north of the Barvas Hills. Beinn Bragar and Stacaseal stand out to the west. Return to Stornoway exactly one hour after setting forth. Rain lets off briefly after 2pm. A new couple comes to stay for the night, they flew in from southern England after a 4.30am start. They will be staying in the islands for a week.

Monday 04/09/06

The Germans head off for a day round Harris before catching the 4pm ferry to Uig, Skye. It's a cool morning, but quite pleasant. Isles FM report the normal Monday morning litany of drunken loutishness that happened over the weekend. The story surrounding Molly / Misbah gets more surreal the more I hear about it. Head into town at 11 am to print digital pictures at the photographer's shop. Four of these images will go to the BBC Countryfile's Photographic Competition. I'm disappointed with the quality of the 16 pics I print off. It's nowhere near as good as what I see on the computer screen.

Ferry comes in at 1pm. We have sausage rolls for lunch. At 2.30pm, the tanker Border Heather comes in, stops off the Glumag and turns round to leave port again. Mrs B is visited by two of her relatives in the afternoon. Supper is microwaveable sweet & sour.

Sunday 03/09/06

Quite a variable day, starting with frequent heavy showers. These cease after lunchtime. Spend some time drawing up a shortlist of pictures I would like to submit to the BBC Countryfile Photographic Competition, which closes on Friday 8th. A bit of a job, as I have 4,000+ pictures to go through. Theme is The Weather, and that is the general theme of my piccies this year. Tomorrow, I'm going to the photographer's to print them off. It's my turn to cook supper tonight, and it's Take a Leek (see Recipe Book). Young Molly Campbell aka Misbah Rana was not kidnapped after all, she went quite willingly. That family is a total mess. Mum married Dad when she was 16, had 4 kids by him, converted to Islam - then decided she didn't like it, divorced him and told the kids that Islam is no good. Bad idea. Kids had their own ideas, two went to Pakistan with Dad, one is in central Scotland and the youngest, Molly, was carted all over the west of Scotland. She has now declared she is proud to be a Moslem, and wants to be a good Scottish Moslem. The sad news comes through that the 14-man crew of an RAF Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft were killed when the plane crashed in Afghanistan. They were based at RAF Kinloss, just east of Inverness, and their families are still there. A breezy afternoon follows. The German couple return from thei rlast trip in Lewis, to Ness at 8.30.

Saturday 02/09/06

After the lashing winds and heavy rain overnight, Saturday dawns fairly bright. I join the German couple for breakfast. Their English is not very strong, but today they go over to Bernera and Uig. Mrs B goes to an 11.30 session at the Book Festival re. Village Bards. A Bard has to excell in 33 different categories, apparently. At 1pm, I go along to listen to David Craig, an excellent writer on the Highland Clearances. We start late, due to the very late finish to the previous session. Mr Craig tells some horror stories of the Clearances, the events in the 18th and 19th century in western and northern Scotland where thousands were forcibly evicted from home and land. They were shunted off somewhere else in Scotland or out to the Americas or Australia and New Zealand. The stories are heart rending. David's research took him right across Scotland, and it was very hard to pull the stories out of people. It's comparable to the trauma suffered through the Iolaire Disaster here in Lewis, which is not openly discussed.

A family from Kildonan, northwest of Helmsdale on the Sutherland coast, was kicked out and were ordered to march to the harbour at Portcawl. They brought their pet sheep with them. When they arrived at Portcawl, the landowner's agent (the factor) set his dog on the sheep, tearing it to pieces.

A family was expelled from Boreraig, Skye, and had to walk east along the shores of Loch Eishort, with their cattle in tow. At the end of the day, they camped out at Drumfearn, 5 miles away. Their tears were more prodigious than the milk, yielded by the cows, which were exhausted.

A family had been given notice to quit from their home at Sollas, North Uist. They had been deliberating whether to take the loom with them, or just to cut loose the tweed from it and take at least that along. When the factor turned up, he set fire to the roof thatch. This was so dry, that the sparks from the burning fell inside the loomshed and set fire to tweed and loom. Both were destroyed.

I got David to sign my copy of his book On the Crofters' Trail. I also bought Eilean Fraoich [Heather Isle] which contains a large number of Lewis songs and melodies.

After this session, I did some shopping in Somerfields. Mrs B went outat 4 pm to listen to a session on a famous columnist, Aimisear Eachainn (Hector the Weather), who used to write in the regional paper The West Highland Free Press. Supper consists of a Thai stirfry with rice, followed by a cherry pie with custard. Lottery yields nothing. It starts to rain after nightfall.

Friday 01/09/06

This morning started nasty and wet, but it rapidly clears up. Mrs B has her helper in this morning, giving the lady of the house the opportunity to attend to her appointments in the town. At 1.40, we toddle along to An Lanntair for a talk by Jim Hunter (pic 2, on the left) about The MacLeods and the Hebrides. His focus is more on the Skye MacLeods rather than those in the Outer Hebrides. And he is also quite focused on the places where the Skye MacLeods ended up following their eviction from the island. In the Carolinas, they backed the Confederates in the Civil War; many owned slaves. In Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, quite a few turned up from Moidart and the Isle of Eigg (near Mallaig). On return to Scotland, their Gaelic accents were recognised. In northern Manitoba, a MacLeod assimilated with the Cree tribes, and would not see a western doctor about his failing health - this was in the 1980s. No typo there. Talk was a bit boring. Went to Somerfields to help mrs B carry her shopping home. Supper is a very nice carrot and onion stew. After nightfall, the wind picks up to a force 7.