The diary is presented in reverse chronological order, but the first entry can be found here.
2005 is history
I was amazed at the colours at sunset these past days. And at sunrise as well. Normally, I expect light to start to fail 25 minutes after sunset, but at this latitude this is extended to 40 minutes. I am not a native of the islands, but one of the reasons I have come here is the natural beauty. Whether it is in the images shown above, at a time of good weather - or in bad weather, as I showed in a much earlier posting about the November 11th hurricane.
Being caught up in a thunder, hail, snow, sleet (and kitchensink) shower back in January, whilst going down the Lochs Road at Leurbost, with the bus driver being forced to reduce speed to a crawl. No snow or ice at the next village, Keose.
The many rainbows in the spring.
The joy at seeing the first green shoots, in April.
Hearing the first bleating of lambs in a pasture at Breascleit late in March. Walking the island in the bitter winds of February, and seeing the sad remains of the sheep that did not make it through the winter. Or the sheep that was knocked down at the Marybank cattlegrid in April, and was slowly decomposing in peace in the ditch that it was dumped in over a period of 6 months.
Seeing the days lengthen to an incredible extent, sunset at 22.30, with the light lingering to the nadir of the night at 01.30, then returning fully at 03.30. But also shortening of the days, with the present daylight hours of 09.15 to 15.35.
The howling of the gales, 4 in one week in November. Clattering of hail and thumping of the wind against the window at night - waking up in the middle of the night because there is no noise.
Watching the breathtaking coastal scenery at Filiscleitir, or the stunning mountain scenery from Rapaire, Teileasbhal, Mullach an Langa. Or beautiful Glen Langadale, where I'm forever fording that river under frown of Stulabhal. The little mouse on the slopes of that mountain, the one that allowed me to stroke it. The yellow grasses on the moors of South Lochs, finding your way in amongst a myriad of lochs, streams and bogs. Loch nan Eilean, south of Garyvard.
Place seems to have gotten under my skin.
Breakfast and presents at 11 o'clock, accompanied by a mixture of Spanish champagne and orange juice. I receive a jumper, socks and a diary. By 1.30 pm, we head out to Arnish to walk to the lighthouse. Today is overcast but perfectly windless, temperature about 7C. The boats shimmer in their own reflections. Over at Arnish, we walk along a rough track, which skirts the perimeter fence of the Fabrication Yard. There are huge pipes lying about, segments for windturbines. Should the Lewis Windfarm ever be built, then the turbines are to be built here. At the moment, they are building towers for a windfarm off the Caithness coast. When the Arnish Yard was built in 1975, an existing cottage was torched, and the hill it stood on bulldozed out of existence. You can still see where the hill used to be. There was also once a huge slipway, used to launch an oil platform, but that was landscaped out. Some Lewis ponies roam the area, they are small and quite friendly. On arrival at the lighthouse, you need to manoeuver around the keeper's cottage, through a mire of horse dung and mud. A small memorial stands on the hillside, a little distance to the south. It was erected in memory of a fisherman who drowned there on December 19th, last year. It would appear that after leaving port, the crew of his boat were all down below, with the vessel going on autopilot. This went wrong, and the boat went on the rocks. Two crewmen escaped, the skipper drowned. The memorial had a bunch of flowers sitting next to it, left from the first anniversary commemoration. After returning from Arnish, we call in to mrs B's sister's house in the town for a flying visit. Visibility quite reasonable today, saw a hazy outline of Skye and the mainland. Eilean Mhuire, the easternmost of the Shiants, could just be discerned off Kebock Head. Dinner is magnificent, with turkey breast, cranberry sauce, potatoes, vegetables and wine. Lit up by candles, it fills us up very well. The sweet is an icecream pavlova. At 9.30, we head down the road to one of mrs B's other sons for a Christmas ceilidh. We end up watching familie films from the 1960s, which show quite a few people who are no longer alive, and it all gets a little emotional.
Nice sunny morning with the odd shower passing in the distance. Isles FM has Joe the Fish on until 10 o'clock, after which they go on to automatic. Have all sorts of problems with internet which I won't bore you with. Nip into Somerfields to get the remainder of the week's papers. We take a drive out to Gress at 2.30 to look round that village. The district is overlooked by Beinn Barabhais, which I climbed in August. As the sun sinks over the village of Back, the sun sets the houses off against the white sky. After a drive through Gress, we cross the bridge and explore Back Lighthill, where all sorts of trails lead off into the moorland. We return to Stornoway after sunset at 4pm. Mrs B makes our supper tonight. The driver was her 2nd son.
I am starting with this lovely image of the Skye Bridge, because its area features in the grounding of MV Blackfriars at Kyle of Lochalsh, a mile east of the bridge. More of that in a second. Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Sunrise at 9.15, sunset at 15.35. It's a nice sunny day, but colder than the 10C it was yesterday. At 9 a.m., SYY reports 6C. Rain- and hailshowers come clattering by at regular intervals, but they don't deter the birds from bathing in the resulting puddles. Starlings, finches, sparrows and thrushes all continue to spatter in the middle of all the hailstones. Mrs B goes out at 10.45 for a nativitiy play in the High Church. It is reported that the oil tanker MV Blackfriars ran aground at Kyle of Lochalsh at 9.20 pm last night. She was running in ballast, heading for Pembroke, South Wales. Conditions were said to be windy, southwesterly wind force 6 to 7.. This morning, the tanker manages to refloat under her own power at high tide, at 10 a.m.. She is presently tied up at Kyle for an inspection. The vessel, which measures 1,570 tons, is not thought to have spilt any of her 13 tons of fuel oil. Blackfriars hit rocks before, in 1999, in Wales. The map below shows the area around Kyle where the tanker went aground. I hope the seals on Eileanan Dubha didn't get too bad a fright. Last time I was there, in October 2004, the place was heaving with seals.
Map reproduced with kind permission of the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, copyright 2005.
Found an image of the stranded tanker. And there is this ludicrous story of the cats' home in Dundee that was invaded by mice. Have a laugh on the BBC site, which includes a videoclip. The mice of course never went into the cats' cages. Went into town at 2pm, and bought an interesting book from 1960 about William Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, the owner of Lewis and Harris between 1918 and 1925. Also cashed in the Coop dividend voucher, all of £2. Last night, guests had been expected to arrive, but they went to the wrong B&B. They were up from Benbecula to visit relatives, but the list of B&Bs they had received from the hospital gave the wrong address with Mrs B's phonenumber. So they turned up at another B&B, which of course wasn't expecting them. To add insult to injury, although the other place did take them in, they were searched twice by police, because a mobile phone had been reported missing at that establishment, from the very room that family were in. When I walked back from town, I noticed a long line of vehicles waiting to board the ferry. This was at 2.45, and I thought they'd either missed the ferry or the boat was late. It was late, as it came round Holm Point just as I walked up Newton Street. One of the lorries contained a reindeer troup from Rossshire, who had taken part in a Xmas party at the Newton and Sandwick Community Centre last night. Showers continue on and off all afternoon. Have a nice and lazy evening.