- Parma ham with melon and grapes
- Chocolate and custard
- Glass of wine
As we both got lottery tickets, we watch Eamonn Holmes' program Jet Set to see the draw. No winnings at all. Yesterday, I made my 200th entry on Metcheck (www.metcheck.com). The count runs up quickly when the weather is bad or unusual. Last night, the wind dropped rapidly after 9 o'clock. The Met Office website gives nice graphs.
Just after 11, a shower comes past clattering against the window.
The crew let off an emergency flare, and a member of the public dialled 999, saying a fishing boat was ablaze. When the ferry Ossian of Staffa (right), on relief duty for normal ferry Lochnevis, arrived, they found the crew in liferafts near the vessel.
The Kalibarri was towed away to Mallaig, after it was ascertained that the fire was out. Here in Stornoway, the Isle of Lewis left port at the unusual time of 9.15, but she keeps heading southeast, instead of going east after rounding Arnish Light. We assume that she is away for refit, and await her replacement with bated breath. It's very rough out there. By midday, the fun gets even better with sharp rainshowers. The ferry's normal sailings have been cancelled due to adverse weather. The Sound of Harris ferry is out as well. Strangley enough, the Isle of Lewis returns at 4.30. When I was at Somerfields, the notice said that fresh produce would be avilable after 5pm. God knows where the ferry had gone to get food - my guess is Skye. Hear that someone was seriously injured early on Monday. The ferry was shifting berths, when a hawser snapped. It lashed out and hit a man. He has now been transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. After supper, I take mrs B to a concert in An Lanntair, where Lewis Women are performing. This is a group of 6 pretty accomplished singers. It's very good, one of them is Anna Murray. They alternate between solo and group singing, with some fantastic images projected on the screen behind the ladies. I sit beside a lady who has done as much walking in her day as I have, so we can swap yarns. Although there is an interval, hardly anyone goes out to the bar. They all prefer to sit and talk. Performance finishes at 10.15. Fortunately it's dry outside and the stars are shining brightly.
I have visited this conspicuous landmark, above the hospital, twice before; on July 4th and December 31st. Stewart Drive is a steep street, which requires mrs B to take a break or two. At the top, we come out amongst fields, where sheep are grazing quietly. They are very white with beautiful black faces. Next month, the rams will be put amongst them to ensure more lambs next year. At the top, we enjoy the view s around. Stornoway lies at our feet. The time at just after 2pm, the ferry is blasting away. It normally doesn't do that before departure. Broad Bay is fairly clear, although Point is very hazy. The Arnish hills are laid out in shades of grey, and the hill with Prince Charlie's monument on top stands out. Eitsal and the Barvas Hills are clear. A navy ship (possibly HMS Shoreham) is anchored in Broad Bay.
A helicopter is preparing to land at the airport. The Laxdale estuary is full, so no pedestrian crossing there today. Water is flowing out of the tower of the War Memorial. Built 81 years ago, it has suffered problems with water ingress for decades. Twenty-three plaques commemorate the 1,151 men of the five parishes of Lewis killed in action in WW1 and 2. The majority appear to have fallen in the First War, with the RNR [Royal Naval Reserve] featuring heavily. About 1 out of every 3 RNR men came from Lewis. On Remembrance Sunday, November 13, people will be thronging the walkway up to the tower. The ground beside the paths is sodden, an indication of the recent heavy rainfall. We go downhill to the Lochs Road, then turn right into Willowglen Road opposite the Caberfeidh Hotel. Last week, a watermill was inaugurated further upstream. This mill generates electricity to power the streetlamps along the walkway to Cuddy Point. Once back in town, our ways temporarily divide for shopping. It's warm, 18C.
as well as for the Mod 2007 (yep; next year's Mod is in Dunoon) which will take place in Lochaber. Not much info on that yet ( (http://www.lochabermod2007.co.uk), but the Dunoon mod is slightly better organised (have a look at http://www.mod2006.co.uk/)
Bought papers at the Baltic bookshop and food at Somerfields. Met Mrs B's sister and husband at the supermarket. Got a lottery ticket, which was not the lucky one. Continue to peruse the journals on AOL nominated for the Vivi awards, which are given to the best blog in a certain category. (http://hometown.aol.com/pattboy92/viviawards). I try to get my head round an FTP client program, but get lost in no time at all. Mrs B's nice suite of seats are suffering problems in the shape of collapsed springs. Sunrise at the moment 8.25, sunset 17.53. We have lost 9 hours of daylight since June. Watch All Creatures Great and Small again. There is one program, called Takeshi's Castle, on Challenge.Typical Japanese game-show, people get very wet, dirty and sometimes hurt. Very funny at times.
MV Isle of Lewis
Yesterday was sunny, but today it's cloudy and cold. Easterly wind continues, and it causes problems. Good old Muirneag turns up at 9 o'clock, but she goes straight out again. Apparently after hitting no 1 pier. Normally, she'd go at anchor in the Glumag, off Arnish, but she puts right out to sea again. The wind is force 6 to 7, and as the Muirneag has no bow thrusters, she is easily blown away. At midday, we see her sailing NORTH along the eastern horizon, although she did turn east upon leaving at 9. A Navy vessel can be seen pitching and heaving at times listing at an angle of 40° in the choppy seas. The Isle of Lewis ferry is very late getting in and even later leaving for Ullapool at 3.15 - 90 minutes after the advertised time. Because the freight didn't come off the Muirneag, the supermarket shelves are very bare. No rolls for instance. It's a right nuisance for people, particularly because it's a Monday. During the evening, rain adds to the fun, but whatever happens, the Isle of Lewis never showed up again. According to local rumour, the ferry was all set up to go, cars on board and lashed down, when the decision was taken not to sail. So people were left stranded in Ullapool; they couldn't drive anywhere because the cars were lashed down. People were forced to spend the night on board the vessel, which has no overnight facilities. Very awkward for those with young children. No information was given out, as per normal on the Ullapool - Stornoway run. Not even on the website. If you ring the Calmac office here in SY, you get a recorded message to contact Gourock during office hours. Fat lot of use that. Ann and Gordon, the Canadian choristers, returned from South Uist at 6 pm, having left there at 11 am. Went for a walk at 11 pm and found Muirneag tied up, but no Isle of Lewis. Wind dropped away, and it was quite pleasant out there.
We get up late, 10 a.m.. In the afternoon, mrs B and I go out for an amble to Lower Sandwick. Past the Coastguard Station, up to the Battery, down Millar Road and along the foreshore to Sandwick Cemetery. It is a sunny but chilly afternoon, with a strong easterly wind. Visibility is good, you can see Kebock Head, the Shiants and Skye looming up to the south, 40 miles away. Mrs B goes into the cemetery to look at the graves of some people she used to know. Her husband's grave is there; he died in May 1993 of a heart attack. Her mother lies buried at Dalmore, she died in July 1993 at the age of 90. After mrs B has located the grave of an ancestor who died in 1889, aged 56, we leave the graveyard and head up Lower Sandwick to Sandwick proper. Then it's down the road, along the northern perimeter of the cemetery. The sun is sinking lower, with the time at 4.20pm. As we go down Oliver's Brae, we have nice views of Eitsal, the Barvas Hills, Muirneag and the east coast from Kebock Head to Tolsta. Back down Island Road, where mrs B continues her melancholy trip down memory lane. One of the derilict buildings used to be the office of the Harris Tweed mill operated by her husband. She points out all the now-delapidated premises which used to be good mills. Over and out.
Eat my usual microwave meal, after being served food last night.
The above image (taken in July) shows the junction of Cromwell Street and Percival Square (to the left). The image below (April 2005) shows the view in the opposite direction, from Percival Square into Cromwell Street.
A Lewis Crofters lorry has been set up with a set of speakers and conductors take turns conducting the massed choirs. At 1.15, I go down to the ferry terminal. Droves of people going on the ferry. They're seen off by the pipeband. The usual melee ensues, but everybody does manage to squeeze on board. With twice 3 hoots on the ship's whistle, the Isle of Lewis sails for Ullapool at 2.15 with a piper playing from the top of the wheelhouse. I walk back with a neighbour from Newton Street. It's a cold afternoon, but dry after an initial light shower at 10.45. Ann and Gordon have left for Kilbride in South Uist, which is where Ann is from. Carmel and John went on the plane to Edinburgh at midday. They read up on the island in the morning, as they knew very little about the history of the place. And history is so important, because it's the very history that has given rise to Gaelic music as we know it. The sun sets at 6pm, which brings Mod 2005 to a close!
Picture below is taken just before the 2nd performance, in the Nicolson Assembly Hall.
Victoria Gaelic Choir (Guth nan Eilean) at the Tall Ships event on June 25th 2005. Picture taken from their website http://members.shaw.ca/ceol/
The below link is a recording of the songs they sang at the first competition, but not as performed on October 21st; this was recorded on February 22nd, 2005.
Much better. http://markreid.org/gaelic/moracheannaich.mp3
Second song is better, but the voice aren't the strongest part of the group. Next group up is Gleusda + 1. Officially, Gleusda has 4 performers, but a 5th has joined them for the occasion. Very good performance with 2 pieces again. First song is accompanied by a tenor recorder flute, a clarsach and a guitar. I don't know the name of the songs unfortunately. Ceol Chluaidh (Clyde Music) gives a good performance as well, with Iain Blair amongst the group members. Last band but certainly not least was a late entry, Rapad. They gave a Capercaillie-style (and level) puirt-a-beul, for which they were awarded very high marks indeed. I did not stay on for the quartets, as my backside was hurting from sitting in uncomfortable chairs. As it's Thursday, I go to the Baltic for the Thursday papers: Stornoway Gazette, Press and Journal, West Highland Free Press, Hebridean. The weather this week has been very good, sunny and dry, although cool. After lunch, I'm about to set off for the Nicolson when it starts to rain. It doesn't amount to very much. It's very busy in the town this week,more people about than usually. Stornoway is festooned with fairy lights and there are little signs to show where all the venues are. Banners enliven the railings around the town. It's suddenly a nice lively place. Head off down Island Road in a light drizzle, which stops by the time I reach the Nicolson. Two coaches are parked up along Smith Avenue, both from the same company. One carries the Glasgow Islay choir, the other the Govan choir. The afternoon session in the Nicolson Assembly hall deals with the Rural choirs. Others sing at the Town Hall. Here, we have 6 choirs, from: Harris, Lochs, Strathaird (Skye), Melvich (Sutherland), Tong and Back. They all sing Eilean an Fhraoich, in praise of the isle of Lewis. In addition, they sing a song of their own choice. After each song, they patiently wait for the adjudicators to make up their mind. It does drag proceedings out, but: it's a competition. Apart from the prize for the best choir, there are separate prizes for best marks in Gaelic, music and best conductor. In the end, Back choir wins. To give its full title: Coisir Ghaidhlig Sgire a'Bhac. Get your tongue round that! Forgot to mention in Monday's entry (October 17th) that there was a very nice exhibition in the Crush Hall in the Nic. It showcased history in Lochs, Ness and Carloway; CDs, T-shirts were on sale. Mrs B gave me a T-shirt for a present. There were also good learning books for Gaelic, published for Gaelic medium education by Storlann. Keep a quiet evening in - it's been a busy day. And my backside hurts. Just as well mrs B has those comfy chairs.
These songs first introduced me to Scots Gaelic. The actual scores contain both Gaelic and English. Although I've since learned that the translations can be a bit shaky, they've stuck. At 9 o'clock sharp, we commence. The ladies are accompanied on the piano, and all is well with no 1, Eilidh Davies, who went on to win. Jackie Cotter, from Edinburgh, was next up and had a breakdown of communication with the accompanist. Result: two stoppages and a ruffled singer. Ann Marie McLean and Pauline McCamley went through their pieces without mishap. Jillain Faith Thomson was absolutely consumed with nerves. A lump in the throat doesn't help either, with the result that Tha mi sgith didn't go to well. What a shame. On that note, it was across to the Town Hall for the lady solo singers.
They all had to sing Ghraidh an tig thu. The usual muddle was taking place, with people not appearing in the order they were billed. Several had withdrawn from competition. Fiona MacKenzie from Dingwall won. A little after 11, the competition was declared closed, and the adjudicators came to a conclusion. Next item on the morning's agenda: precenting.
If you want to hear what that sounds like, follow this link: http://www.bealheights.org/auto_images/1123797915Psalmcast016.mp3 which I took from www.podcast.com. It contains an introduction and is 15 minutes long. It also comprises other recordings of precenting from elsewhere within the Christian church.
There were 3 competitors. The first isn't too bad, but has difficulty going over the congregation. A lot of old folk have come in specially to take part in this. The precentors have to line 2 verses of a psalm of their choice. Number 2, Torquil MacLeod, an islander, does very well. Donald Angus Matheson unfortunately had a spot of bother. Torquil MacLeod wins hands down. Next on the agenda: a jaunt to the sports centre where they are singing in duets. Confusion reigns supreme, as there are several people who have not reported to the organisers. I sit in on proceedings until I get bored waiting. Return to Newton, but get picked up by mrs B's eldest son in Island Road. Yep, such a long way to go from there (not). He leaves for Glasgow today, through Tarbert and Skye at 2 pm. At 2.30 I head back into town to jump on the Mod Shuttlebus which is supposed to take me to the Primary School. Well, the lady in the bus station was very unhelpful and just told me to accost any Mod official; it's a Mod bus, nothing to do with the council. No sign of any bus, so I leg it all the way to Jamieson Avenue. Twenty minutes later, I slink into the Assembly Hall to listen to a batch of young girls, all singing whilst playing the clarsach, the Gaelic harp.
Little Josie Duncan from Laxdale carries off the main prize. A woman stands on the stage, like at all events, but she SHOUTS out the announcements for the competitions. We're overrunning by about an hour. Standards are quite high. One competition gets shifted to another room, so we get on with a competition in which only one person has entered. Esme Boone has travelled all the way from Northern Ontario in Canada. Unfortunately, her voice outdid the harp, and her performance did not merit awarding the trophy to her. Ouch. The final session was dedicated to groups of 3 clarsachan or more. The first group, Na h-Uiruisgean [Waterspouts] made a valiant effort, but why the heck they included a fiddle is beyond me. Not a strong performance, but they're yet young. Second was a very creditable performance by the City of Edinburgh Music School, who had 4 harpists out. Finally a group of 14 (yes, fourteen) harpists basically rearranged the hall to be able to fit in. Quite good, an an unusual combination. They won the competition. Return to Newton at 5.15. to help mrs B serve dinner to our 4 Canadians after they return from rehearsal at the Golf Club. This time round they do not stay behind after supper, and I can join mrs B for an evening meal not long afterwards.
The first competition sees choirs from Glasgow, Tarbert [Harris], Back, Lionel and Shawbost competing by singing Bat' an Taillear and Cailleach a'Ghobhainn. The organisational nightmares become apparent whe we're kept waiting for a choir to turn up that has had to sing at a different venue elsewhere in the town. One person sits behind a keyboard on a table, for the sole purpose of giving the starting note. Two adjudicators are seated in front of the stage. One of them judges the Gaelic, the other the music. The adjudicators have got the relevant pieces of musical score in front of them. The choisters are all dressed uniformly. The first competition is won by the Sir E Scott School of Tarbert. The musical adjudicator give us a little speech, telling the audience and participants what he was expecting. The Gaelic adjudicator does likewise. She speaks in Gaelic, but gives the marks out in English at popular request. Maletta MacPhail is known to me after project Timbertown. I should point out that the Mod is all about Gaelic culture. As I neither speak nor understand the language, I have to select those competitions where a knowledge of Gaelic is not top of the list of priorities. I.e. I am focusing on music. I still have considerable problems, but just manage to keep abreast of proceedings. In this competition, North Lanark Choir had to withdraw. Well after the official starting time of 3 pm, the second choral competition of the afternoon commences. Participants here are from schools in Back, Tarbert, Lionel and Barvas. They sing Null do dh'Uibhist and 'S cian bho dh'fhag mi Leodhas. Choirs from Glasgow and North Lanark withdrew. At the adjudication, marks out of a 100 are awarded for Gaelic and for music. The aggregate total determines who wins, and for this competition (C73), it's Lionel. Barbara MacKenzie, one of mrs B's nieces, is delighted. The conductor of the Barvas choir pulled a face as he left the stage, but he was 3rd out of 4. In front of me, a boy of 10 is fidgeting and fiddling with the seats. People move back and forth along the rows between performances. At 4.30, proceedings draw to a close and I return to Newton. Mrs B is getting in a flap to get supper ready for the Canadians, but still manages to pull it all off at 7pm. I act as waiter, serving everything onto and off the table. Although I had my supper at a normal hour, the guests remained at their table until 9.30, and mrs B could not eat until 10.20. A fire is lit in the sitting room, and I entertain our foursome with some Gaelic songs on the keyboard. At times, I feel like a pied piper. Mrs B's granddaughter is drawn to my playing, as is her cousin. The Canadians like it. Ann and Gordon retire for the night fairly early, as they have had a long journey. I'm chatting to John and Carmel for quite some time. Bed at midnight.
The big games hall has been filled with hundreds of seats, staging, banners for the Mod and its sponsorts. As well as 4 BBC TV cameras. Before we go in, we meet up with one of mrs B's nephews. Two of his daughters are singing in a duet. We sit beside the windows screening the swimming pool. Then we head into the hall to listen to the duets. I record two of them on my MP3-player. Having done that, we all head back to Newton for lunch. The lassie is disappointed she did not win anything. She had won in the local Glasgow Mod earlier in the year. As compensation, she is allowed to go and stay with her cousins in the family caravan at Reef, Uig. After dinner, I take mrs B up to hear the prize winners' concert in the Sports Centre. As we go out the strains of the pipe band waft on the evening wind, but we can't place it. Turns out they're right outside the sports centre. We go into the packed hall to listen to some remarkable performances by youngsters as young as 5. One little boy goes wildly off key as he has to reach an upper G four times. Some very creditable instrumentalists, such as accordion, melodeon, piano and piper. A 16-year old lad, a cousin of mrs B's, pipes the concert open. He sweeps the board every time he takes part in a competition. One girl of 5 can barely be heard as she goes through her song, but everybody keeps completely quiet. Concert finishes at 9.15. As we head back down Island Road, I have to catch mrs B as she stumbles over an unevenness in the road. No damage done.
The image at the top of the entry is the logo of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Western Isles Council, the local authority here. Competitions today are instrumental, and I'm not attending these.
Fairly bright day today. Elaine goes off to Callanish at lunchtime. Mrs B's eldest son comes to stay with two of his youngest children, aged 2 and 7. The oldest will be taking part in the children's competitions on Monday. The younger child is a bright spark, very clever for his age. Neither of them are any bother. Go out for a paper in the afternoon, and read it in the grass of Green Island, just off Goat Island. Three boats come down the channel from town, with music playing on board. It's bright, sunny and warm. Not had weather like this for weeks. Have supper with the family present. In the evening I twice venture out to the British Legion club to see Scheihallion. First time round, at 9.15, there was no band. An hour later, the band is present and playing, so I shell out £3. Place fills up with regulars, aged 50-60, who reckon they're that much part of the furniture that they don't have to pay. Don't stay for very long at all. Not impressed with the folk out on the streets. But that's all part of being in a Highland town I suppose. Moon shining brightly.
I'm a bit behind with my entries as I have been extremely busy (by my current standards) with the Royal National Mod 2005, which took place in Stornoway between October 14th and 22nd. I'm going to try to insert weblinks in the journal to give readers the opportunity to hear the recordings I made at the competition. Sound quality is relatively poor, as I used an MP3-player with recording capability. But it gives a nice soundpicture. I am spending this afternoon (October 24th) updating the diary which I have not been keeping up-to-date for a week, after which I'll update this journal as well.
The showers continue through the night. At 4 a.m., I look out and see the constellation of Orion in the southeast - a sure sign that we're heading into winter. More continuous rain moves in during the morning, and the wind picks up. We are warned to expect yet another force 9 gale, with gusts up to force 11. In Central America, Hurricane Stan has wreaked havoc because of large amounts of rainfall. This caused mudslides and floods which swept entire villages and towns away. The death toll in the Asian earthquake rises to a staggering 19,000. The images defy description. The Alladale estate in the Highlands wishes to (re)introduce wolves, a controversial proposal. A fence round the relevant area would restrict the animals' freedom to roam, but also the right to roam of people. This is actually a legal right in Scotland, since earlier this year. Wolves left to roam unhindered would cause mayhem amongst livestock and alarm in centres of population. Bad idea in other words. Until 3.30 pm, windspeeds are of force 7 sustained. When the spray starts to fly across the basin again, it's clear we're at gale force 8 once more. Readings at 15.50 quote windspeeds at Benbecula of 46 mph and 39 mph here - force 8. Gusts at Benbecula at 61 mph, force 10, and 51 mph here - force 9. As I browse the map of the Scottish westcoast, I notice Tiree reporting nil mph, which is odd. Particularly if the gust speeds are 40-60 mph. Methinks the equipment has blown down, an opinion shared with a fellow weather amateur down in Falkirk. Fortunately, readings are resumed at 8 pm.
Annular Solar Eclipse
This morning, we're having an annular solar eclipse. The phenomenon commences at 8.50, and ends at 11.20. Right on cue for maximum obscuration at 10.00, the clouds move away to leave us a clear view of the eclipse. Up here, 45% of the sun is obscured by the moon, in Plymouth it's 65% and in Madride, Spain, 90%. Down in Spain, the moon covers the sun's disk, but leaves a ring of fire around it. Taken a few pics, will have to see how they come out when they're processed. Try to get live pictures from the Internet, but everybody is trying to do that, and I'm not getting through. Sites includes the Institute of Astrophysics at the University of Madrid, a Belgian site showing images from Grimsbergen. Look myself through welding glasses, and take pictures through that. By 11.00 the percentage of obscuration quickly runs down to zero, which is reached at 11.25. The clouds return at that time as well. Next eclipse in March 2006, but not visible from these latitudes.