Lewis Lines introduction

Lewis Lines contains all the diary entries from the former AOL Northern Trip blog. This edition shows the entries for 2006. Northern Trip was discontinued on AOL in October 2008, and moved to this site on Blogger.

The diary is presented in reverse chronological order, but the first entry can be found here.

Sunday 31/12/06 - New Year's Eve

Rain and wind dominate today's weather and force the cancellation of New Year's Eve celebrations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool and Belfast. By evening, winds gust up to 85 mph across the Central Belt, which also leads to powercuts. On the hurricane front, tropical cyclone Clovis forms in the Indian Ocean, and another system is about to materialize south of Java. A ferry has overturned to the north of that island, leaving hundreds dead. At 1pm, I join in the New Year celebrations from Sydney, by listening to a radiostation from that city and help an AOL buddy to bring in the New Year. I came across Petar [PVodogaz] as a result of my interest in tropical hurricanes. Saddam Hussein is buried, end of chapter. The last supper of 2006 consisted of steaks with chips and beans, as well as some vino. I scour the Net looking for a decent free video-editor, but don't have much luck. Our guests, a Scottish/German couple, resident in Spain, visited Leverburgh today. We quietly await the Bells, which herald the New Year.

Saturday 30/12/06

Mrs B and son go shopping for the New Year weekend, with several trips into town. I restrict myself to getting papers and lottery tickets. Have to go into the town centre for that. Cloudscapes are quite spectacular as I walk to and from the shops. The main event today took place at 8pm, in the shape of a fireworks display from the Castle Grounds. The carpark outside the Town Hall was cleared for spectators, but people are also lining Newton Street. I go out at 7.45 pm to make for Goat Island. I scramble around the fencing around the slipway to gain the jetty. With my new tripod, I set up the camera and end up taking over 100 pictures. It's quite spectacular and the display also shows on the webcam, which I had repositioned to capture the event. Otherwise, Saddam Hussein was hung today, ending a sorry chapter in Iraq's history.

Friday 29/12/06

Rain and galeforce winds dominate the morning, but the sun comes out after midday. Muirneag makes a late crossing; my ship tracking website shows her half way across the Minch at 1pm. We head out for a drive to ness in the afternoon. Rain falls on the Barvas Moor, although it tends to clear up nearer the coast. Impatient drivers overtake below blind summits. Pass through Barvas, where the new Community Centre is nearing completion, Shader, Galson before heading into South Dell. This is a tiny backwater, sporting three roads. The last house in Aird Dell stands for sale. I spoke to its last occupant in May 2005, a few months before his death. I cannot recollect his name now, but he quizzed me about my religious convictions. We park near Eoropie Beach by about 2.45. Although the swell is running high, the wind is not excessive in strength. Rabbits run riot on the Eoropie machair. There are no facilities open anywhere; the tearoom is shut for winter. No sign of any tourists at all. Next stop: Rubha Robhanais, the Butt of Lewis. When you're there, it's Next Stop: North Pole or Newfoundland. It's there that the battery in my camera ran out. We return to Eoropie and drive up the road to Port Nis via Cnoc Aird, then to Eorodale. The return journey to Stornoway is commenced along the 2½ mile long Cross Skigersta Road. The moors look dark brown, with bright green patches of grass. The sun does come out occasionally, although dark clouds hang over the spine of the island. At Dell, a car is being pulled out of the ditch by a tractor. Once you leave the roadway, you're in trouble as the verges are very soft. Return across the Barvas Moor in pouring rain. Return home at 4pm, after picking up some logs for the fire. Meal tonight is sweet & sour chicken, with added pineapple. The wind, which had abated during the afternoon, now picks up again. I find, once the camera has recharged, that I have taken 5,000 pictures with it, bringing the total of pictures taken in Lewis and Harris to 5,500.

Thursday 28/12/06

Another grey day with low cloud and high temperatures. Mrs B's son now has a car at his disposal, so after a cheese on toast, we head out for the West Side at 1.30pm. Visibility is good to start with, but the onset of a rainfront curtails that. Pass by the two windturbines on the Arnish Moor, near the Grimshader road. They stand in a hollow, at a lower level than the main road. We proceed to Cameron Terrace, where we turn off to Achmore and Loch Ganvich. The sky lowers further as we pass the lonely miles across the spine of the island. We bypass the Callanish Stones on the way north towards Carloway. Nobody stirs as the rain falls on the village of Tolsta Chaolais. Grey houses stand amongst the yellowed grass and brownish bracken. The geese, which flock the loch during spring and summer, have gone for winter. Once in Carloway, we take a peek down the Borrowston Road, which ends above Carloway Pier. We also have a look at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, which stands deserted. Proceed to Dalmore via Upper Carloway. The houses at Dalmore look rundown, an overwhelming stench of manure emanates from a yard, where a sorry sheep stands up to its haunches in muck. Rain falls on a cold wind as we venture out to the cemetery, which stands directly above the beach. At 2.45, we drive the few miles east to Dalbeg, where ducks and geese populate the loch, now devoid of waterlilies. Only the sand provides a splash of brightness on this dark December day. Return to Stornoway through Shawbost, Bragar and the Barvas Moor. Darkness falls as we enter town. Mrs B goes for shopping, whilst her son drives me round some of the streets, and out to Cuddy Point. Light has completely failed by then. Supper is a very nice roast with vegetables and mashed potatoes. During the evening, the wind picks up to force 7, in anticipation of much worse tomorrow. A helicopter crash yesterday off Morecambe is now known to have claimed the lives of 6 men, with a 7th still missing. The search for him has now been called off, due to the onset of darkness and bad weather.

Wednesday 27/12/06

As it is the holiday week, we continue with the late starts. Read about people having a less than cheerful Christmas, some are lonely, others desperate, yet others missing those that have gone before. Go out to a fairly busy Somerfields for some food. Booze is stacked up high. Sigh. Weather is singularly uninspiring. We have microwaveable meals for supper, as the beef is not defrosted, and it's a 1.5kg lump. Mrs B watches 10 episodes of Rising Damp between 3 and 8pm, Rising Damp being a British sitcom from the 1970s and 80s with Leonard Rossiter as a cantankerous, frustrated landlord in a seedy bedsit. Also watch a documentary about ABBA, showing it's lonely at the top.

Tuesday 26/12/06 - Boxing Day

A quiet day, which we start suitably late. The ferry is running today. Shops are closed, except for Woolworths, who have their sales today, and the Coop. Mrs B is visited by some of her relatives in the afternoon. An earthquake rattles the area within 10 miles of Dumfries. A larger earthquake strikes Taiwan. Neither event causes damage or loss of life. Go to town after 5pm with Mrs B, but was not impressed. Supper was lemon chicken with rice. It's grey and dull outside, with occasional rain. Temperatures remain high, but a change is in the offing. Tropical cyclone Bondo has dissipated over Madagascar.

Monday 25/12/06 - Christmas Day

Preparations for Christmas dinner mean we don't see our beds until about 2.30 a.m. Nonetheless, we do manage to get out of bed at 11 o'clock. The weathe rtoday is grey, overcast and windy. Temperatures peak at 9C. We start the day on Buck's Fizz [champagne with orange juice] with toast. Presents are opened meanwhile, and mrs B has a fair old collection from friends and relatives. My present was unfortunately not of the correct size. We start Christmas supper after 2pm, with parmaham and melon, accompanied by a glass of Cava. Not my favourite tipple. The main dinner is honey glazed turkey, very well prepared. This is accompanied by roast and mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and peas. A glass of red wine is spilled - into my lap, thank you. The new table cloth is inaugurated in splendid fashion. Dinner is very nice. It gets dark by the time we reach the Xmas pudding, but a candle or two help the atmosphere. Everybody is quite replete after that. We wile away the hours with the Repeat Hell that is Sky Television. One of mrs B's summerguests telephones from Australia at 7pm, where it is 6 am on Boxing Day. Also in Australia, snow has fallen in Tasmania. Across the Indian Ocean, tropical cyclone Bondo is weakening on passing down the Mozambique Channel. Spend an hour or so sorting out pictures on FlickR. The new moon is out in early evening. Later on, we have some sausage rolls and baguettes with the last of the turkey.

Sunday 24/12/06 - Christmas Eve

Cloudy day with a moderate wind, which makes it feel quite cold. Temperature 7C. Bondo is passing down the northwestern coast of Madagascar, with winds forecast at 120 mph. Brunch is bacon & eggs. Go out for a walk to the Coastguard Station and on to the Battery. We return down Rigs Road to Island Road, and from there to the filling station to see how busy that is on Sunday. Very busy. The other petrol station, on Rigs Road, is closed. On return mrs B warms up her black & blue fingers (cold!). Prepare for dinner which is served at 8pm. Start with a prawn cocktail, a lasagna as main course and a sweet after. Sit down by the fire with a coffee. Upload more than 400 pics to FlickR. Watch the Watchnight Service from Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh on BBC1, which neatly takes us into Christmas Day 2006.

Saturday 23/12/06

Today, I head out for some Christmas shopping of my own. The shops are all packed, full of Christmas cheer. NOT. The problems at the airports are being resolved, now that the fog is lifting. Down in Madagascar, tropical cyclone Bondo is weakening as it nears the island. Mrs B's sister comes to call after dark, after which the lady of the house herself goes for a final shop at Somerfields. Quite a few members of her family call in today. Supper is a microwaveable meal, and the lottery yields no result. A competitor in the associated show breaks down in tears under strain of winning £17,500. Dear me. Very quiet evening. A woman is reportedly hurt by a gun, fired from a room above her. It went off by accident. See earlier blogpost.

The above flower is actually on a Veronica bush outside, at the moment.

Friday 22/12/06

Very late start today. Mrs B goes out to complete her Christmas shopping. Two hours later and a good many £££ lighter she returns from the supermarket trip from hell. Each check-out had a queue of about 12 trolleys in it, I'm sure that's the same the world over. Fog continues to play havoc with planes, trains and automobiles (pun intended). Everybody is trying to get away. One family drives instead of flies to - Sweden. A journey of some 1,500 miles. It's a shambles. Mrs B is having her second son here over Christmas and the New Year, but his journey is delayed because flooding earlier this month washed the railway line away between Perth and Pitlochry. I venture into town at dusk, to take the above pictures. Dinner is a pastabake.

Thursday 21/12/06

The shortest day of the year. Fog dominates the news, as it causes the cancellation of most domestic flights within the UK. By late evening, 48-year old Stephen Wright from Ipswich is formally charged with the murder of 5 women around that town. Another suspect, who had been held since Monday, was released on police bail. A stern warning is issued to reporters not to prejudice the trial. I take delivery of Christmas flowers, which cheer up an otherwise very drab day. Strong winds overnight and in the morning delay Muirneag - the poor old tub is 6 hours late coming in. This means that supplies for the shops won't be on the shelves until late afternoon or early evening. I head for Somerfields, which has a depleted look about it. I do manage to obtain copies of the Gazette, Free Press, P&J and the Hebridean. The latter paper is being published for the last time, and will be incorporated in the Stornoway Gazette.

Wednesday 20/12/06

Cloudy day, but occasional chinks in the clouds let the sun through. Cyclone Bondo is approaching Madagascar, with its news media still not acknowledging its severity. At 2.40pm, the gastanker Sigis Lotta pulls into port. Go into Somerfields for the usual, and to Engebret's for lottery tickets. As the evening progresses, temperatures do not fall but stay at the very high 9C. Winds at the Butt of Lewis touch galeforce. Reykjavik touched +10C today, and by midnight still stands at +7C. Down in England, the dense fog causes no end of problems at Heathrow Airport. All internal flights are cancelled.

Wednesday 20/12/06

Cloud dominates the weather this morning, with occasional light showers. Another suspect is apprehended in the Suffolk murders investigation. The homes of both suspects now in police custody are subjected to a fingertip search. Weather today is cloudy but mild, we're the warmest in the country. Fog shrouds most of England, Scotland and Ireland. I monitor the progress of a category 5 tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar will get a brush of it, but its newsmedia are behind the times. The Seychelles do mention it. Venture out to Somerfields for food. Mrs B goes to town herself to gather in parts of her Christmas shopping. Supper is another microwaveable curry. Somerfields have changed the packaging, suggesting you cut open the plastic foil covering the food. You have to cut it open using scissors, a guarantee to burn your hand on the steam.

Monday 18/12/06

Awake to a brilliant dawn, with the mainland hills very clear - even the Lochalsh hills, south of Applecross, can be discerned just left of the Arnish Lighthouse. The Storr and Trotternish hills on Skye peep out above the hills on the Arnish Peninsula. The sun rises at 9.11 am, and 4 minutes later it appears above Holm Point. We're having the sun for 6 hours 23 minutes. At 10 o'clock, Suffolk Police announce they have arrested a man for questioning on suspicion of murdering the 5 prostitutes killed around Ipswich. During the morning, high cloud moves across from the west, but does not cover the sky. Manage to entice mrs B's nephew to drive us round to Arnish, just for a wee spin. Ice covers puddles, and it's very cold, only just above freezing. The snowclad hills on the mainland stand out clearly. Can't get over the arrested man down in Suffolk, who gave a rambling, 30 minute interview to the BBC and was also featured on the frontpage of the Sunday Mirror yesterday. Supper is chicken jalfrezi curry, out of the microwave. Spend the evening watching garbage TV by a large fire. Now, I never realised there was that much difference in quality regarding coal. One variety burns well - in a fire that's already going. The other variety gets the fire started. There is a cheap way of making firelighters: old newspapers. Roll up three sheets of newsprint, from the corners, into rolls of half an inch thick. Bend these sticks into pretzels.

Sunday 17/12/06

Starting off fairly sunny, but cloud takes over through the afternoon. Our guest has his cooked breakfast at 9.30; I have mine a wee bit later. No further news on the missing diver (post script: he turned up safe and well on board his ship). Another tropical depression develops in the Pacific. Go out for a walk at 3.15, to the Coastguard Station and round to the Battery. Large numbers of starlings congregate on the radio relay mast and the telephone wires. Go on down Miller Road and to Sandwick Cemetery. A man tends to a grave there as I walk up the hill to the top of Oliver's Brae. This 'brae' is characterized by the two huge mansions (picture below taken on 30 January 2006).

The view from Oliver's Brae now incorporates the snowcapped Harris hills. Carry on down Seaforth Road, where a number of cats skulk around their front doors. One is particularly friendly, and I remember it from a late night foray (at 1 a.m.) along Seaforth Road, on a mission to see the midnight gloaming back in May. Other felines seen along Seaview Terrace, and the black cat along Newton Street. Mrs B has her grandchildren in, who are using the bathing facilities, as their own are being done up. Dinner is browned minced meat & onions, mashed potatoes and runner beans. Temperature has sunk to freezing by 6pm, but is back up to 6C at 10pm.

Saturday 16/12/06

Nice morning, if showery, after the overnight low of -2C / 28F. Rose quite late. A diver is missing in the North Sea, 143 miles east of Aberdeen. No further updates. A French fishing vessel comes in for a crew change. That's been going on for nearly a year. They call into port. The old crew goes ashore, and a new one takes over. Brief handover, and 90 minutes later they are off again. The old crew are flown back to France, saving the boat a 1,500 mile roundtrip to its homeport of Lorient. It also saves the company 25% of the normal harbour dues. This discount is awarded if a vessel, coming in to change its crew, manages to do so within 24 hours. Accompanied mrs B to Lewis Crofters to buy potatoes, flowerbulbs and compost.

The prices are ever so slightly dear, if you bother to compare with other stores in town. The bag of compost weighed 20 kg / 45 lb, and was very cumbersome to carry. Had sausage rolls for lunch, after which mrs B received a string of visitors. Her grandson (aged 15) with 2 of his pals. Mrs B's sister called round with her husband. And an old family friend closed proceedings by 6pm. Supper is chicken korma. Lottery: a waste of money. Might as well set light to a £1 banknote (still have them here in Scotland). Hailstones fall down the chimney and hiss in the fire. The windfarms continue to fan the flames of dissent in the island. The Eishken one is as unpopular as the North Lewis one.

Friday 15/12/06

Nice sunny morning, in between the downpours of rain and hail. Great cloudscapes - see pics. Otherwise, not too bad. By 12.45, another heavy shower blots out the lights, and lights have to be lit indoors as the hail clatters down. Showers diminish and the temperature dives towards freezing after dusk. Go to Somerfields for shopping, but need to divert to Engebret's for papers. Pedestrians are not a consideration around the filling station. Supper is chili con carne, for the 2nd time within a week LOL. An apple crumble closes proceedings. Watch a lot of TV through the evening, mostly police chases. A man decided to sleep off his hangover in the middle of a railroad track. No further developments in the Ipswich murders. The night is very cold, temperature by midnight stands at -1C / 30F.

Thursday 14/12/06

The pictures do not require captions, they say it all as far as the weather is concerned. Showers, some with hail, strong winds and very dreich. The ferry is 90 minutes late, and arrives amidst a severe squall at 2.15pm (pictures 6 to 8). An official report is published into the death of Princess Diana in 1997, saying there was definitely not a conspiracy to murder. Diana's lover was Dodi Fayed, also killed in the accident, and his father continues to defend the conspiracy theory. Severe flooding continues to haunt mainland Scotland. The villagers in Milnathort, Perthshire, thought they were safe behind their flood barriers. Nope. A waste of half a million pounds. Kingussie is still under water. In the Trossachs, sheep drown in the flood plains of the river Forth, west of Stirling. Went to the shop in a gale and downpour. Very cold. After lasagna for supper, we suffer a town-wide powercut at 9.30, which lasts for 10 minutes. Having located a torch, I find Mrs B in the backroom. She gets the candles and oillamps out, but by the time every room in the house is lit, the power is back on. Although I am advised the Northern Lights may put in an appearance, nothing is visible.

Wednesday 13/12/06

Pretty awful weather today: persistent rain is replaced by high winds. A galewarning cancels a lot of ferry services, including the afternoon run to Ullapool. The Small Isles ferry went out, intending to call at all four islands, but ended up only visiting Eigg. Sailings to Muck, Rum and Canna were abandoned en-route. Highland Scotland is plagued by flooding. The playground of a school at Kingussie is under several feet of water. When I go into town, at 3.30pm, the wind blows at force 7. The Harvest Caroline comes into port to shelter. Away from the shelter of buildings along South Beach, you do feel the full force of the wind. Buy the latest book by Christina Hall "The Road to Glen Spean", which I discovered in the library last week. Have a nice, long bath at 5.30, then have mrs B's soup with rolls for supper. Down in Ipswich, 5 dead bodies have now been recovered from within a 6 mile radius. They were all local prostitutes. A massive manhunt has been launched as local residents express their horror. All girls, in their 20s, had turned to prostitution to feed their heroin addiction.

Tuesday 12/12/06

Weather remains on a similar footing as of late, with showers, low temperatures and strong winds. The ferries are severely disrupted. Ours sails at 7.15 am, but does not return for its lunchtime call. It departs Ullapool at 4pm, arriving here at 7pm. The North Lewis Windfarm is shrunk from 234 to 181 turbines, still 181 too many. MSP Alistair Morrison disappoints me by coming out in support of this monstrous project. He says a certain number of turbines are required to justify the interconnector to be built. The interconnector is the subsea electricity cable, linking the wind generators to the National Grid. He previously stated that the windfarm would not be built if the local population didn't want it. The island will not benefit much from this project, apart from a few dozen jobs in construction and a handful for maintenance. The few million of revenue for the local council pale into insignificance in comparison to the billions that the operators AMEC stand to make. The BBC gives out a report on how to claim back excessive bank penalty charges.

Monday 11/12/06

A very showery day, and one shower at midday triggers the streetlights. A few accumulations of hail quickly melt. Mrs B heads off into town, whilst I get up to date with weather and hurricane info. I don't show my face out of doors today. Strong winds blow all day. News from Suffolk mentions that several prostitutes have been murdered around the town of Ipswich. Mrs B does all the shopping, being driven around by her nephew. Sweet & sour chicken for supper.

Sunday 10/12/06

A very disturbed night, with strong winds hurling heavy rain against the windows. Windspeeds reach 51 mph between 6 and 7 am, with gusts up to 63 mph. Rain and wind relent through the morning, although it does stay wet throughout the day. Assist in putting up Christmas tree plus lights. Ornaments to be added tomorrow. Daylight is failing by the time the tree stands. News comes through of the death of former Chilean dictator Pinochet, at the age of 91. Good riddance. Supper: Chili con carne with sliced pineapple.

Saturday 09/12/06

Bright start with showers in the vicinity. The lady who arrived last night, departs again on the 1.45pm ferry. Tomorrow will see some very windy conditions, which are likely to continue into next week. It is a nice, sunny day but a wee bit cold. Go into town after dark to picture the Christmas Illuminations which were lit last Thursday. The weather then was cold, wet and windy. A funfair is set up on the North Beach Quay, which is well patronised. Cross over there down Bank Street, where I shoot a brief video. Carry on to Woolworths, where I obtain today's lottery tickets. Nicolson's provide papers, including a year-end edition of "Back in the Day", a historical publication. Return near 6pm, when the weather starts to turn. Temperatures touches zero near 6.20pm, but after the clouds pass over the rain begins and the mercury tips 8C at 10pm. We have lemon chicken for supper.

Friday 08/12/06

Reasonably sunny start to the day, with a multitude of showers within sight. One glance out of the window shows 3 anvil clouds and one wall of dark grey. This provides an ever-changing panorama, both north and south. Have to assist a person with a nosebleed to the A&E department in the hospital, which sorts the problem out. Go into town for some shopping, and for a look at the newly lit Christmas decorations. A guest arrives on the 8pm ferry, and is duly received. Hail and snow falls late in the evening. The Philippines is bracing itself for the arrival of Typhoon Utor tomorrow.

Thursday 07/12/06

Grey and uninteresting weather today - up here that is. The district of Kensal Rise in NW London was hit by a tornado at 11 am, which carried winds of 136 mph. These ripped tiles off roofs, broke trees in half and blew windows out. Worst affected were properties that lost whole roofs and walls. One wall lay across a parked car, in a pile of rubble. Miraculously, only 6 people were hurt, 1 of whom required hospital treatment. 100 to 150 houses are damaged, several of these are now uninhabitable and may have to be pulled down. Here in the islands, the barometer stands at a very low 964 mbar, indicating we are at the heart of the causative depression. Go to the shop for a few bits, not much doing otherwise.

Wednesday 06/12/06

Sunny start to the day, after a clear night showed Orion in the southern skies. Showers abound, but not in the town. White smoke rises from behind a hill on Arnish Point, pinpointing the seaweed factory. Highlands & Islands Enterprise HIE will pump more money into the Arnish Yard, for diversification of activities over there. Not just renewables, which just went belly-up again. A public inquiry is ordered into a 6-turbine windfarm development off the Pentland Road, 5 miles west of Stornoway. These are close to the projected major Amec windfarm. Both projects are now on hold until at least 2008. This also applies to the Eishken Windfarm, 25 miles to the south. Had a comment on the blog from someone who had worked in the Eishken Estate in summer 2005, and had come to know every hill and every valley in that district. Nobody lives there permanently, although there used to be about 35 villages there until early 19th century. Have breakfast earlier than usual today. It is quite cold outside, 6C. Catch up with papers and magazines. By 6pm, the mercury has sunk to 1C, but rises again afterwards. Clouds and heavy rain move in during the

Tuesday 05/12/06

Dreich and drab again today, with occasional rain. It feels cold in the 6C out there. Mrs B takes in a new guest, who will be here until March. He is attending a course at the Castle College. Tropical storm Durian leaves a trail of flooding across southern Vietnam, before petering out off Malaya. This system claimed the lives of more than 1,000 in the Philippines, and nearly 100 died in Vietnam. Durian has become the deadliest storm this year. In the afternoon, I head into town to have my mugshot taken. First of all, buy the papers, photo albums to put 450 pictures into (a job that I complete later in the evening) and a magazine. I dive into the library to avoid the rain, and read the latest book by South Uist native Christina Hall, who has moved to Roy Bridge. The book is appropriately called the Road to Glen Spean (Roy Bridge is in Glen Spean). Incidentally, the railway at that village was blocked by flooding today. Supper was pork fillets with ratatouille.

Monday 04/12/06

Awoke to a very drab and drizzly day. The ferry didn't sail this morning, and Calmac's services are disrupted up and down the West Coasst. Flooding is reported from the Highlands. The barometer has risen to 976 mbar, still quite low. The clouds break - in time for sunset. In the supermarket, the shelves are bare, as there was no ferry in this morning. The P&J is sold out early. And Sandwick Road is flooded off the industrial estate. Supper is chicken korma. Finally watch a team of army climbers tackle Mount Everest on TV.

Sunday 03/12/06

Sunday dawns calm and fairly sunny. The barometer is right down, at 959 mbar. The low pressure system is sitting directly overhead - we're in the eye of the storm. Strong winds cause problems for our tanker, the Border Heather, when she loses engine power off Wick. She is later towed to safety. Wales gets wind gusts of 100 mph and powerlines are downed. Torrential rain falls in the Highlands. Here? Cool and occasional sun. Like yesterday, I'm not showing my face out of doors, bar for taking piccies. Supper is pastabake. Typhoon Durian is now making Vietnam, after battering the Philippines. Rain and stronger winds commence later in the evening.

Saturday 02/12/06

After a nice, late start, the first half of the afternoon is nice and sunny. Mrs B goes into town for a bit, whilst I catch up on things on here. The sun sets at 3.40pm. It's colder now, only 7C. The huge snowfalls over in the USA are worse in terms of winter weather though. The wind picks up in anticipation of tomorrow's storms. Northern England will be catching it in the teeth. Supper at 9.10pm is a nice stirfry from MacDonald's the butchers. Wind blows a gale by midnight.

Friday 01/12/06

Bright and quiet start to the day. I receive a cheque in the post from the Co-op, for £1.01 in exchange for doing my shopping there during the first two months of 2005. Lunch was sausage rolls and mince pies. By then, the winds starts to pick up, cloud increases from the south and it gets colder. Go into the town centre, which is packed. Apparently, Thanksgiving was celebrated yesterday, not last week. Today is also the day that pensioners were paid their winter fuel allowance for Christmas goodies. Lots of kids throng Woolworths. A woman jumps the queue in the supermarket, nice one, lady. Mrs B returns after me from her own shopping trip from hell. Heavy rain commences after 6pm. Supper tonight is soup with rolls. Typhoon Durian has hammered the Philippines, leaving devastation in its wake. Winds reached 165 mph, and hundreds have died in mudslides. Strong winds accompany a thunderclap at 8.30pm, a rare occurrence here. Yesterday, a lightning storm in Sutherland (mainland Scotland) knocked out communications around Lochinver. One person's phone was struck by lightning.

Thursday 30/11/06

St Andrew's Day today, but with some pretty awful weather. A force 9 gale blows up overnight, with lashing rain. The wind does 40 to 50 mph, gusting up to 65. On North Rona, it's a sustained 71 mph. Still, it's better than the 150 mph over in the Philippines. Flooding is said to be a problem, as is the cancellation of virtually all ferry services up and down the west coast. By midday, I venture out to the Coastguard Station to take pictures of the conditions. The water on the wind tasts salty, and seaweed can be seen floating on the waves. Huge banks of spray fly over the causeway and I manage to capture some nice images. Rain and wind subside just after 3pm, and it brightens up. The angry crests disappear off the waves in the basin. It's not flat calm, but the gale has stopped. Nip down to Somerfields and apart from the slightly bare shelves in the perishables department, the beer department is also suffering from depletion. No, I don't regularly drink beer, just notice. The Gazette is not in the shop, as this comes on the ferry which didn't run. The regular Isle of Lewis ferry was stormbound at Ullapool overnight, but now returns at 8pm. Chicken tikka massala for supper tonight.

Wednesday 29/11/06

It's a wild night with lashing rain and howling winds. Only by morning do things improve. Isles FM reports on yesterday's proceedings at Stornoway Sheriff Court. The workmen go home on the lunchtime ferry; mrs B's next guest was expected off the plane early this morning, but he does not appear until 5pm. By midday, the sun is out. A typhoon is making for the Philippines with winds up to 150 mph. Molly Campbell is ordered to surrender to the British High Commission in Lahore, much to her and her daddy's chagrin. Misbah's custody is to be sorted out in Scotland. The national news is full of it. Don't manage to get to the shop until 5.30, by which time the Glasgow Herald is sold out. Another trip to the filling station is required, up the Newton backstreets. Dinner is chili con carne with sliced peaches. Watch cops chase crooks on TV. Again?! Tomorrow will see more - gales!

Tuesday 28/11/06

Very disturbed night, with strong winds and heavy rain. By dawn, things die down and a clearance develops. Mrs B has to get up early to give the workmen their breakfast at 7 am. They leave for their job at Carloway at 7.30, and I briefly nip downstairs for a cuppa at 7.40. Isles FM reports that the stepfather of Molly Campbell has been committed for trial on a charge of breach of the peace at his own home. He swore, shouted and denied his wife and baby daughter access to the house. Meanwhile in Lahore, judgment on Molly Campbell's custody row is to be passed on Wednesday. Although the morning passes reasonably sunny, the weather deteriorates sharply after 12 noon. Winds reach galeforce and the rain lashes down. Mrs B has to go out and post a letter, just round the corner, at 1.30. Now, when it rains and blows here, you don't use an umbrella, you use a mac. Mrs B used both. As a result, she nearly took off up Island Road. Weather improves after the ferry departs late (2.30), although a few downpours pass over before sunset at 3.40. I get caught in one on returning from Somerfields. As the P&J is sold out, I go to the filling station. Dinner is sweet & sour chicken, and I spend the evening watching cops chasing crooks.

Monday 27/11/06

Sunny but windy start to the day. At midday, the wind reaches force 7. The ferry is running on time. After lunch, I go round to the Coastguard Station to take pictures of the waves, as their plumes are blown over the causeway. Return to the town centre to buy a bulb for mrs B and some food for myself. Manage to get the CD burner to work again on the PC, which gave me some bother last night. I downloaded a program, but it's a bit DIY what the program should be doing. Rain starts to lash down after sunset (currently at 3.45pm), and it turns nasty. The ferry is not coming back from Ullapool. Isles FM doesn't find that terribly important, and fails to mention it on their early evening news bulletins. The evening stays wild, but the moon appears from behind the clouds. Winds here are at 35 knots, gale force 8, but up at North Rona, out in the open Atlantic, it's at 56 knots, force 11. This wind occurs up and down the west coast.

Sunday 26/11/06

The day starts bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. There is hardly a breath of wind. Cloud increases gradually after midday. The workmen are not working today (it's a Lewis Sunday). I head out for a walk at 1.40pm to take advantage of the good weather. Forecast for the remainder of the week is poor. After a slice or two of mrs B's fruitloaf, I walk down towards the Battery. Encounter a pussycat, sitting on top of a bin. Proceed to Sandwick Bay, which is as smooth as a mirror. A woman sits on the shinglebank, looking out across the water towards Arnish, and the blades of two windturbines, which peep over the hilltops. That is new. The Shiant Isles can be made out just left of Kebock Head; the Skye mountains loom very faintly through the haze beyond them. The Shiants are 20 miles away, Skye is 50 miles distant. The seats by the Sandwick Cemetery have been vandalised. Beyond there, I walk down the road through the village of Lower Sandwick. At the end of the road, a large ram stands in a field over looking the Minch. Children play outside the last house. When I cross over to Stoneyfields farm, it gets very boggy and wet. Jump over the gate and try not to get too scratched on the gorse. Have to cross a stream using an upturned fishbox. The path towards the Iolaire Memorial is flooded, but I manage to squelch my way past the problem. No wreath has been laid there this year. Cloud has increased considerably, and I can see rain moving up from Skye, 50 miles away. Go back the way I came, and the rain finally catches up with me on Miller Road. Return to Mrs B's at 3.15pm, 90 minutes after setting off on this 4½ mile jaunt. Darkness falls after 4pm. The sliding door has been repaired and is now sliding nicely along.

Saturday 25/11/06

Reasonably nice day with occasional sunshine. The Press and Journal, my daily rag, did not arrive today. Buy The Scotsman instead, but don't find it a lot of good. Somerfields have rearranged their supermarket shelves, making shopping a bit of a search party. Lottery didn't yield any prizes, and mrs B is considering stopping buying tickets. Flooding is reported from England; heavy rain is falling in Lochaber and Argyll. The hurricane season will be ending this week, but the Western Pacific spawns a new typhoon. It will affect the Philippines by next Friday with winds of around 160 mph. The two workmen will be staying over the weekend, in order to complete their job at the Carloway Health Centre.

Friday 24/11/06

Very nice day, quite sunny with some clouds. Storms are expected over eastern England, but we're very calm - in the eye of the storm you see. The Russian who is thought to have been poisoned died last night in hospital. The circles of this stone in the pond are beginning to spread. He was found to have a large amount of polonium-210 in his system. How did it get there. See separate entry. Ferry was 20-30 minutes late getting into port today. Head into town for a few purchases. Gulls sat on the quayside of a virtually empty Lazy Corner and a seal bobbed in the Inner Harbour off the Esplanade Quay. Had a nice meal with mrs B whilst watching television.

Thursday 23/11/06

Very dreich day, in which not much happens. A boat lies on the slipway at Goat Island, which looks like a converted old lifeboat. It's absolutely tipping it down, so I'm very grateful for being given a lift round town. I don't drive. I notice a big dollop of seaweed on the Goat Island causeway, left there by the gales a few days ago. Heard that the Medical Director to Western Isles Health Board is going into retirement, seeing as his position has been made redundant. He was one of the evil trio that were on my quitlist. Today was Thanksgiving in the island.

Wednesday 22/11/06

Reasonably nice day, which starts early as I watch the 7.15 ferry depart for Ullapool. Radio Scotland accuses it of being 45 minutes late, but it's timetabled to leave at 7.15, not 6.30 a.m.. Later on in the day, mrs B starts to chase up her errant guests, who apparently missed their ferry in Uig (Skye) and spent the night in their van. At least they did turn up in the end. Fairly bright day, which sees a heron fishing in the basin. Journals still fail to cheer up mrs B.

Tuesday 21/11/06

Weather a lot better than of late, with some sunshine. Wind down to force 6, and the ferry is running. Only one sailing (as opposed to the usual 2) on account of adverse sea conditions. Ferry comes in just after 3pm, 2 hours late. Mrs B's guests were due to come today, but were reallocated on the ferry from Skye to Tarbert (Harris). They are expected in Harris at 9.30pm, and in Stornoway by 10.30pm. Yesterday's backlog on the run from Ullapool had to be cleared first, hence the massive delay. The effect of a day without supplies shows in the Somerfields supermarket: no fruit, no veg, no milk, no bread. Am going back to the shop at 7.30, just before its 8pm closing time. Everybody in the shop was discussing the bare shelves. Never seen them that bare.
Over the weekend, a teenager was injured at Achmore, when the car she travelled in went off the road, hit a fence post and turned 180 degrees. She had to be transferred to a mainland specialist hospital, as she requires plastic surgery for cuts and gashes to her face. The A858 road from Leurbost to Garynahine is plagued with bends for the first 4 miles to Achmore, then turns into a straight run for the next 6 miles, but with blind summits.
Over the weekend, a man was assaulted in the Castle Grounds near the Bayhead Bridge. Someone has now been arrested and charged, following extensive investigations by CID [the UK equivalent of the American FBI].
At time of typing, 11.20pm, the guests due in from Harris have not yet materialised. The directions that the tourism agency Visit Scotland gives for any B&B in the town of Stornoway directs visitors to a street in the Battery, a quarter mile away to the east. They're probably lost; or have gone into a different establishment in the town. There are 3 B&B's along this street.

Monday 20/11/06

The wind veers round to the southwest this morning, and we're having another gale. All ferries to the islands are cancelled, as winds in the Minch could reach force 11. One report from North Rona, 70 miles north of here, gives winds of 66 knots (74 mph) and gusts of 92 knots (100 mph). Someone was assaulted in the Castle Grounds near the Bayhead Bridge over the weekend. Angry white riders in the Basin. Two climbers went missing in the Cairngorms last night, but were located late in the morning. They could not be resuscitated. After a roll or 3 at lunchtime, I head for the Coastguard Station to take pictures. The wind is now from the west, so it's sheltered there. The wind is also less strong than yesterday. The rain comes down with a vengeance, making it cold. Down to Somerfields for a few bites to eat. The wind gradually dies down during the evening. Mrs B's son and his family are staying the night once more.

Sunday 19/11/06

Day starts fairly bright, but the weather soon goes downhill. A gale blows up, and windspeeds quickly reach force 8 or 9. Head out at 3pm to catch some pictures of the conditions behind the Coastguard Station - see entries made on the day. Heavy spray flies over the causeway, and large swells come in off the Minch. The wind appears to increase after nightfall, with curtains of spray coming over the causeway. The gulls have a great time hovering on the 40 mph winds. Walk round the Battery, but nothing much stirs. At 5pm, the wind is at 45 knots (50 mph) gusting to 55 knots (63 mph), much like elsewhere down the west coast. That is the topspeed; after 7pm, the gale gradually abates. Mrs B's son comes to stay the night, because of refurbishment work on his house.

Saturday 18/11/06

Make a nice lazy start to the day, and continue in that vein. Weather is cold but acceptable. Not much wind. Went to the shop, saw the ferry come and go, had the sweet and sour chicken dinner. Did a few puzzles, caught up with alerts. Aye, a lazy day.

Friday 17/11/06

Grey and cold today, with the sun disappearing behind highlevel clouds. The newsreader on the lunchtime regional news tells us that 200 mourners died erm gathered in church. Oh dear. Go for a walk to the coastguard station and Goat Island, where I took the pictures. The sun is setting by then, and the colours are beautiful. The vessel Aqua Boy is up on the Goat Island slip. Two seals play in the water behind the island. A video yields the best results. The light is low, and the movements precludes any decent pictures.

Thursday 16/11/06

Heavy rain commenced just after midnight. The day dawns cloudy but with some bright intervals, which lengthen nicely through the morning. Showers do continue, and as the afternoon wears on, the temperature falls to a very meagre 3C. Hailshowers fall after nightfall. Mrs B goes into town during the morning, and in the meanwhile her nephew turns up. I go into town myself, to buy a new computermouse. I have worn out the old one. It was no longer tracking properly. Temperature had gone right down, making it feel cold. Sunset this afternoon was devoid of any colour. Watched Coast on BBC2, about Cornwall and the Scilly isles. Nice program.

Wednesday 15/11/06

Today, Muirneag is on time: arriving in port at 8 am. News comes through that £2m has been awarded by the National Lottery Fund to Storas Uibhist, a body which is committed to buying the South Uist Estate from its current owners. They need £4m for the whole venture, and are currently "only" £500,000 short. The South Uist Estate encompasses the islands of Eriskay, South Uist and parts of Benbecula. Read more here. The day starts bright, but high level cloud rolls in. It does not lead to rain, although heavy rain did fall further south. The Norwegian boat Frøyhavn is back in port again. The Discovery remains tied up alongside pier number 3. People are going on and off as I go round to the ferry terminal (which is situated on pier 3) to have a look at 4pm. When it's still light of course! The sun sets in glorious colours. A Swedish lady calls round with her young son to enquire about vacancies, but mrs B hasn't got one. A Polish man is the next customer. He has just arrived in the UK and in Stornoway to work in a fish factory. He is looking for a place to stay for a longer period of time. Mrs B and myself advise him to the best of our abilities. Supper is chicken korma. Hurricane Sergio blows up, with winds estimated close on 100 mph. He is the 10th named hurricane of the busy East Pacific season this year. An earthquake in the Kurill Islands, between Japan and the Russian island of Sachalin measures 8.1 on the Richter scale. The Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii issues a warning for all nations along the Pacific seaboard against a tidal surge, but in the end it's only a 30 cm high wave that laps the shores of Japan and only 8 cm at Alaska. The warning is cancelled 4 hours after the quake. Watch a nice performance of Ravel's celebrated Bolero and Beethoven's Coriolan Ouverture.

Tuesday 14/11/06

Today's weather is punctuated by heavy but short downpours. At 9.30 a.m., the research vessel Discovery, callsign GNLE, comes into port. I blogged about her on the day. The day continues peacefully, with occasional rain and hailshowers, as well as great cloudscapes. Muirneag hovers outside port at 1 pm, waiting for the ferry to come and go. Go to Somerfields at 4.40pm, half an hour after sunset (at 4.10). The Discovery lies tied up alongside pier number 3, and I curse myself for not going down during daylight hours. Tonight's episode of The Archers on Radio 4 had it out between David and Ruth - regular listeners will know what I'm on about. Watch some carcrash TV, as well as a Hercule Poirot mystery.

Monday 13/11/06

After a very late night, I rise by 10 a.m.. Mrs B's relatives are flying back to Glasgow early this evening. They are spending the morning browsing shops. Weather is changeable. Lunch consists of mrs B's minestrone soup. The ferry is half an hour late coming in at lunchtime. I didn't need much in the shop today. Mrs B's relatives finally depart for the plane at 5.30, after which we have a lazy evening. Ever watched shopping channels on Sky? What a total waste of time. I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes rather more.

Sunday 12/11/06

Remembrance Sunday dawns wet and miserable. A brief dry, and bright, interlude allows the 11 AM ceremonies to pass off dry. I watch the national ceremony on TV from London, in brilliant sunshine. It's 15C / 60F down there. Set to change later this week. Here in Stornoway, there are 3 services in 3 separate churches, one parade and one wreath-laying ceremony at the War Memorial. Two years ago, I was in North Uist, walking from Lochmaddy towards Berneray, but only as far as Trumisgarry, a hamlet 7 miles northwest of Lochmaddy. Saw an otter that day. [Remembrance Sunday 2004 was on 14 November]. Back to 2006. As the afternoon progresses, rain sets in, and during the evening the wind picks up to force 7. Supper is chicken with chips and cauliflower cheese. I add apple sauce. The sweet was nice trifle.

Saturday 11/11/06

A very windy morning, with some quite beefy and squally showers. Observed the 2 minutes' silence at 11.00 AM. Went to the supermarket after midday to get a large amount of shopping in for mrs B. Her relatives go to the pool. I get wet in a downpour on the way to the shop, thought I could make it before it began. Nope. The lunchtime ferry does not depart until 2.30, which is 45 minutes late. A tanker is reported to have been hit by a huge wave, as a result of which 2 members of the crew suffered fatal injuries. It was en route from Scapa Flow to Houston, Texas, but turned back following the incident. The Orkney lifeboat and the Stornoway coastguard helicopter attended the scene. Conditions were described as horrendous, with 20 ft waves and 60 mph winds. Dinner is spag bol (again) with a toffee pavlova as sweet.

Friday 10/11/06

Mrs B's guest departs in pouring rain and a howling gale. Her son's partner arrives with her 8-year old daughter in tow from the plane at 8.30. The weather is very poor, with this force 8 gale and heavy rain. Mind you, on North Rona, the wind howls at 64 knots (72 mph), gusting up to 78 knots (88 mph). The rain ceases after a particularly ferocious squall at 12 noon. The sun comes out, and the wind drops right down to force 3. The ferry did not sail early this morning now leaves for Ullapool at 1pm. Other ferries are suspended pending improvements in the weather. My AOL blog has been awarded a VIVI Award for Best Political blog. Yay! A Norwegian boat, the Froyhavn, comes into port. I later find this ship tied up along Esplanade Quay, opposite Cuddy Point. As I walked through town, I could not help but think of the hurricane a year ago, and my arrival in the Outer Hebrides 2 years ago to the day. On Colonsay, an island situated between Mull and Islay, a visiting workman stole £60 from a pensioner. He was suspected and apprehended by the local special constable. Unfortunately, the next ferry wasn't due for another 2 days so the people of Colonsay had to put up with a suspected thief in their midst. He was taken off the island today. This was the first crime in that island since 2004. In Colonsay, people do not lock doors or cars. Doorlocks are sometimes rusted shut through lack of use. Over in Benbecula, a seal had hauled out onto the airport runway, causing delays to flights as airport staff removed the creature and returned it to the sea.
At 5pm, Muirneag came into port, as shown on the video in one of yesterday's entries. Her cargo of trailers may come just in time to replenish stocks in the local supermarkets. Dinner is chilli con carne with sliced peaches. Watch an agreeable movie, Trains, Planes and Automobiles, featuring one of my favourite actors, John Candy. He always portrayed the amiable, bumbling, tragicomic fat chap. Mrs B lights a nice fire with a new batch of coal and logs. A hailshower passes at 10pm. Temperature has now sunk to 6C.

Thursday 09/11/06

Today's activities started with the unwelcome outage of AOL Journals. Their Helpservice was about as helpful as a chocolate teapot. After lunch, I head out for Cuddy Point to take autumn pictures. It feels cold and clammy, although it's not windy today. Saw a heron on the shore, and ducks in the harbour. Bought the Thursday papers. They mention the arrangements for Remembrance Sunday. There is also this ad for World Toilet Day on November 19th. Have a chicken korma for supper. Watch Eorpa, the Gaelic current affairs programme on BBC2 at 7.30, which focuses on the current situation in Kosovo. They also mention that the island of Vatersay, linked to Barra via a causeway, is in danger of being cut in two through coastal erosion. The sound of powerful engines eminates from Goat Island after 11pm, and a glance out of the window reveals the lifeboat alongside a fishingboat. Later info reveals the fishing vessel had been towed in by the lifeboat as it was sinking. It was hurriedly pulled up on the slipway for a quick repair. I go out to Goat Island and encounter a very friendly cat along the way. It even allows me to pick it up and carry it across the island. After my return, the wind picks up and it starts to bucket with rain.

Wednesday 08/11/06

Nice sunny start to the day, but the rain quickly moves in by 11 am: heavy showers that is. Election results from the States show a win for the opposition Democratic party. Head into town shopping; the cloudscapes are great. Stroganoff for supper, which disagrees with mrs B.

Tuesday 07/11/06

Mrs B has a guest in today. He arrived on the plane from Glasgow, only to find out that his work had to be postponed for a day. The weather today is grey and totally uninspiring. I assist mrs B in compiling the recycling bin. Here in the islands, papers, plastics and glass are separated from normal garbage. It is uplifted every 2 weeks. Head out to the shop at 4pm to get food in for the youngsters. Erroneously purchase a tikka madras instead of a tikka massala. The former is rather spicier than the latter. By 9pm, the kids have gone back home and the moon is out.

Monday 06/11/06

Awoke to the news that Inverness and environs are without water, as is the West Side of Lewis. The latter stretches from Callanish in the south to Galson in the north, a distance of some 25 to 30 miles. Isles FM cheers you up at the start of the week by giving us a rundown of drunken vandalism and loutishness. One person was arrested for attempted murder. The weather is quite variable, but acceptable. Temperatures rise to 12C / 54F. When I go into town I notice a different Coastguard Tug in : the Anglian Sovereign. This vessel was involved in an incident last year, when it was steered onto rocks at Shetland because its master was drunk. An oil spill had to be contained, and the captain was taken to court. Mrs B's grandkids return from school at 4pm and have their suppers at 6.15. I have mine at 7pm, whilst listening to the juicy drama in BBC Radio 4's The Archers. Yes, I'm an Archers addict of 24 years' standing.