Saturday, 18 July 2020

The lifting of lockdown

So there are now dozens of visitors around the town, a pub is open and Tesco is as it was until the lockdown came in.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but I feel quite strongly that the location of the Outer Hebrides (a couple of dozen miles off the Scottish mainland) would have enabled a chastity belt of protection surrounding the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

However, our elected representatives, obviously not endowed with a braincell between them, failed to spot this opportunity. Lockdown could have been lifted the way it has been done thus far with one major exception. It should and could have been maintained for the ferries and the planes. Essential journeys only. No tourists.

Yes, I agree, the economy has to get going again. But look what's happening now. Many B&Bs are staying closed, campsites (e.g. Horgabost) are shut - and how many restaurants are open? Few facilities if any. Oh, and what about our friends in campervans? No facilities for them either, so they'll be dumping effluent in a ditch - as I've heard it described in previous years.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Will tourists be welcomed?

I am not going to write a public response to this letter on Hebrides News. Will tourists be welcomed - I do not discern a positive response from any quarter in these islands that I can glean. I don't want to become personal to someone I do not know, but I'm disappointed to note that the writer appears to be unaware of local sentiments in what he terms his homeland. If he cares this much for his home turf, he should not even have contemplated a visit at this time. So many people think Coronavirus is a thing of the past now, lockdown restrictions lifted to a large extent and all that. Coronavirus is here to stay, and we should think of each other, not just ourselves and our precious holidays and trips down memory lane.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Coronavirus - 1 July 2020

A few thoughts on the pandemic, six months after it all started in China, and three months since the commencement of lockdown in the UK. All the frivolity of our existence was stripped away at the outset, and the priority became survival. The worldwide run on toiletpaper spoke volumes. Planes stand idle, as do cruiseliners.

When normality appears to be in the offing, people can't wait to go on a trip. Whether this be on the ferry (as here in the Outer Hebrides), or on a plane away from lockdown hell.

Temperatures rose into the high 20s low 30s last week, so half a million people flocked to the beach at Bournemouth. Five hundred thousand.

When a noble cause reared its head (Black Lives Matter), thousands flocked to the streets. It wasn't about BLM. It was about getting normality back, and going on a rally is normal. One side-effect: coronavirus had a great opportunity to spread.

Because nobody bothered with the two-metre rule.

Normality had its last year in 2019.
A new normality will be established in 2020, and nobody likes it.

Sunday, 14 June 2020


I have been doing a fair bit of cycling in recent times, particularly as the weather is very nice just now. Today, I went to the Pentland Road, as far as the turn-off for Achmore, some 4½ miles west of Stornoway, then returned along a rough track that is access to local windfarms.

The Pentland Road is an easy ride. The road was designed to be a railway (in the 19th century), so is mostly level, with only very gentle inclines. Getting there is a different matter. The road lies at an average altitude of 80 metres above sealevel (270 feet), so there is an ascent to overcome. I did that in the Castle Grounds, and local readers will be familiar with the steep road up to the Castle, and the even steeper brae besides the College. On the way back, it is plain sailing down the Lochs Road, where I clocked 20 mph on the slope between Marybank and the Caberfeidh Hotel. Traffic on the roads through the town was light this Sunday, but is much busier on weekdays. The return from the Pentland Road takes me past the council dump, which I would not take on weekdays; there is a steady stream of binlorries and other heavy vehicles on a single-track road with very few passing places, not to mention that blind corner into Bennadrove. As a cyclist, you need to have eyes and ears everywhere; on the single track routes I actively listen out for cars coming up from behind and scan for passing places. A signal is appreciated and usually acknowledged. The traffic roundabouts in town need to be negotiated with care, signalling clearly to motorvehicles coming up from behind, when entering and leaving the roundabout.

17.3 km (10.8 miles) is not a vast distance; I have been known to cycle nearly 25 miles in one day. However, I'm not going to participate in the Tour de France, so 14 kph (9 mph) is fast enough for me.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Black Lives Matter

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” George Orwell '1984' (with thanks to Sal Hemingway for unearthing this quote)

I dislike sanitising history. Tearing down statues on the back of populist sentiments is denying the past. From my perspective, the slave trade was odious, but at the time of Colston et al, it was an acceptable trade. People benefited from it. And those that shout the loudest against it now seek to deny their own history.

I always say:

Look at history through the eyes of the time (in the past). 

Monday, 1 June 2020

Photo diary

As you all know, I take inordinate numbers of photographs. The total is about 88,000 since February 2006, roughly 6,200 per annum or 17 per day. Usually taken through a window, but also when I'm out and about. I have them logged on, and categorised in (I think) 800 albums. These are my diary, reminding me of days, events and people. Checking back, for instance, the album for Lochmaddy (North Uist) reminds me of my first visit there, back in 1996. Stayed in a perilous youth hostel. Eight years later, I ended up there again, now in the even more perilous Uist Outdoor Centre, where I survived for 5 nights whilst exploring the Uists. Another 9 years later, and I was traipsing the village in the company of a lady. In 2014, I passed through in appalling weather with different company. Lochmaddy is a non-descript little place, except for the surrounding scenery and the Taigh Chearsabhagh arts centre. It holds many memories for me.

This is the link to the Flickr-album

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Cummings again

Dominic Cummings.

I can understand his panic, the decisions he took, putting his child's welfare first. I'm not a parent, but I do understand. What he forgot was who he was. Hightailing it all the way to Durham, a 4-hour drive up the A1, to self-isolate on a private estate, in a secluded wood a few miles out of town.

How many other people will have faced a similar scenario, both parents falling ill, responsible for small children - but who don't have the facility of a distant hideaway. His argument for not staying at home in London, he didn't want to expose anyone to the virus, is flimsy and really doesn't hold water. To quote some of the journalists at the press conference, he drove a coach and horses through the lockdown policy of the government he advises.

Mr Cummings is a high-profile, high-ranking advisor, as I pointed out in my earlier post. He has failed to take his position into consideration when confronted with the coronavirus outbreak in his own situation. That is a failure which actually renders him unfit to hold the position he does. However, I am not so naive as to expect him to be sacked. He won't resign, knowing full well that his boss, Boris Johnson, is heavily reliant on him - and won't sack him.

The ugly side of politics.