Friday, 8 October 2021

Blogoversary - 17 years of blogging

This is an image of the village of Kyleakin in the Isle of Skye. Back in 2004, I was staying here in the local youth hostel, now closed down. It is the large white building in the photograph. It is here that I started to write a blog on a daily basis, on October 8th - I named it Northern Trip. The link takes you to the first entry I actually wrote; I have since added entries for the preceding two months. 

Northern Trip was succeeded by Atlantic Lines exactly four years later, when AOL kindly closed down the blogging service.  By that time, I had become deeply involved in the AOL J-land community, which survives today on Facebook. Three years ago, I changed blogs again, and am now here, on A Cobbled Road. Apart from these diary blogs, I have nearly 70 other blogs on Blogger, but those double mostly as websites. 

Do you still blog?

Saturday, 11 September 2021

9/11 - 20 years on (2)

This tribute is published on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, under the auspices of Project 2996.

Jeffrey Dwayne Collman

Image: Family photograph, via

Source: Aurora Beacon News, Aurora IL 9-23-2001
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, age 41, of Novato, California, formerly of Yorkville, IL, a flight attendant for American Airlines, died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:45a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Jeffrey was a 1977 graduate of Yorkville High School in Yorkville, IL. Jeff was formerly employed, for over 10 years, at All-Steel in Montgomery, IL. He had then worked, for a brief time, at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California before attaining his dream of being a flight attendant with American Airlines. Jeffrey loved his job and traveling to other countries around the world. He also loved to play and watch tennis. Jeff was a true people person who enjoyed visiting with and getting to know others. He became a flight attendant in 1997. Two years later, Jeff received the American Professional Flight Attendant Award and was considered a spirited and dedicated flight attendant. He liked to entertain children on his flights, and he was fond of playing tennis and traveling, friends said.

He is survived by his parents, Dwayne and Kay Collman of Yorkville, IL and Beverly Sutton of North Aurora, IL; his close companion, Keith Bradkowski of Novato, Ca; his brothers, Charles Collman of Fort Meyers, FL and Brian Collman of Las Vegas, NV; his sister, Brenda Sorenson of Aurora, IL; his step-brothers, Steve (Linda) Gengler of Yorkville, IL and Chuck (Lakshmi) Gengler of South Orange, NJ; his step-sister, Susan Bohan of California; a god-child, Marlene Wakelin; his half-sisters, Laura Kries of Brooklyn Park, MN, Caroline Sutton of Joliet, IL and Vickie Michel of Aurora, IL; several nieces and nephews, many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jeffrey will also be missed by 100 other flight attendants.

He is preceded in death by his grandparents and his brother, Mark Allen Collman.
A memorial service was held on Monday, October 1, 2001 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Yorkville, IL with Pastor John Leaf officiating.

Father’s thoughts
Dwayne Collman's imagination gets the best of him when he thinks about the final minutes of his son's life on American Airlines Flight 11. He's filled with horror thinking about what the 41-year-old flight attendant from Yorkville went through as terrorists with knives steered the plane into the first World Trade Center tower. Collman knows his son received safety training in flight school, but he doubts it ever could have prepared him for the challenges he would face on the morning of Sept. 11. The grieving father is sure of one thing about his son, though, even if the details about his death are not certain:
"He would have fought like hell."

Jeffrey Collman, an American Airlines flight attendant for five years who grew up in Yorkville, died Tuesday morning when his hijacked plane, destined for Los Angeles, crashed into New York's famous landmark at 8:45 a.m. Though his body has not been recovered, his parents knew he was gone when he didn't call within a few hours after the tragedy. He had sent his stepmother, Kay, an e-mail the night before, telling her he would be flying from Boston to Los Angeles the next morning.

"I knew he was in that accident because every time there was something going on with airplanes, he would call and say, 'Hey, I'm all right,' " said Kay Collman. "So I knew that, when he didn't call, he was on that plane."

His parents [...] say Jeffrey Collman wanted to be a flight attendant because he loved to travel and meet people around the world. After working for years at Allsteel in Montgomery, he moved to California about five years ago to pursue that dream. Lifelong friend Dolores Humphrey, who went to school with Jeffrey Collman at all grade levels in Yorkville, said she feared he was killed when she heard the news because he often flew early-week flights from Boston to Los Angeles.
She said Collman never lost contact with his friends, even though his job took him around the world.

"Every time he got into town, he would call anyone he knew to meet for breakfast," said Humphrey, who last talked to Collman [5 days before 9/11]. "He would talk for a couple hours, then have to go fly somewhere else."

His stepmother said Jeffrey was the type of person who could "sit down next to someone on a plane and walk away knowing their life story." His father said Jeffrey loved tennis and flew around the world to watch professionals play. Kay Collman says her stepson never went anywhere meekly, and he loved his job so much that she's sure he didn't back down in the face of terror. "He took it seriously," she said, "and he would not have let anyone walk on him."

Humphrey said Jeffrey talked of flying even when he was a child, and his dream came true when American Airlines gave him a job. He was never afraid to fly, she said, always asserting that he was safer in the air than anyone on the ground. Collman's parents have begun to realize how their son died, and that he will always be remembered as a victim on one of the saddest days ever in the United States.

"It's completely different than just someone dying," Kay Collman said. "We'll have the pictures forever. We'll always see where he died. It's part of history."

Seattle Times, 17 September 2001
His partner, Keith Bradkowski, said Collman was courageous and safety-conscious. "He was so focused on safety," Bradkowski said. "If there was a threat, he would have done anything in his power to prevent it." He didn't normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but made an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month. Collman grew up in Yorkville, Ill., and besides Bradkowski left behind four brothers and a sister. (Seattle Times)

Further information: the fate of Flight 11.

Blogger Nathanael V.  found out 5 years after 9/11, that Jeffrey Collman was a neighbour's grandson.


and as attributed above.

9/11 - 20 years on

When this post is published, it will be exactly nineteen years to the minute that the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center in New York. The events of what is now referred to as 9/11 are only too well known.

My thoughts are with all victims, whether identified afterwards, or not. In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

My thoughts are with the passengers and crew on the four flights destroyed. My thoughts are with the victims killed in the World Trade Center. My thoughts are with those emergency workers who lost their lives trying to save others'.

My thoughts today are with the families of those who perpetrated these atrocities, for they lost too.

But first and foremost, my thoughts are with Norberto Hernandez, whose tribute I first filed on Northern Trip, the predecessor to Atlantic Lines and A Cobbled Road, in 2006. The searches for Norberto on Google are contaminated with references to the Falling Man, who was in fact another victim, Jonathan Briley. This confusion has led to much anger and anguish, something the families of both men could do well without.

Norberto, rest in peace.

This entry, as stated above is dedicated to the memory of

Norberto was a pastry chef from Elmhurst, working in the restaurant Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. After the attacks, he was reported missing for a week until parts of a torso and an arm were found in a collapsed stairwell. DNA testing and finger printing reveiled that these were the remains of Norberto. It also invalidated claims that the image of the Falling Man was that of Norberto; this was another victim of 9/11 who will be the subject of a different tribute.

At the time of the attacks on the WTC, Norberto was aged 42 and had been married for 25 years. He was the fourth of ten children by his parents’ marriage, and also had six half-siblings through his father. His parents separated when he was young. Norberto himself had three daughters, three grandchildren and 37 nephews. He was a man of Puerto Rican origins, and had hoped to spend his final days there. Instead, after 9/11, a funeral service was held and his remains cremated in Puerto Rico.

His sister Luz described Norberto. “He was quiet, kind”, she said. “He was a handsome man. Everybody loved him, you know. Everybody.” Norberto’s nickname was Bible, as he was very dependable. Together Forever was his motto.

Norberto started work in Windows on the World at the age of 17, washing dishes. He was interested in cooking, so a manager paid for his tuition at cooking school. Norberto became pastry chef and worked up to 10 hours a day. His sister Luz said that he made cakes, desserts, cookies and bread. His cakes were fabulous.

Outside work, Norberto loved sports, and was a fan of a Puerto Rican boxer, Felix Trinidad Jr. Four days before the attacks, he rang his mother and asked her to play “I would cry but I have no more tears” four times.

In the immediate aftermath of the plane striking the North Tower, Norberto called his sister Luz. “He said: ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I’m OK”.They were disconnected, and when Luz tried to call back she could not get through. Other accounts from Windows on the World tell that smoke and dust filled the restaurant after the strike, and that people lay on the floor to escape the worst of it. Air was beginning to run out at the time of the last contact.

These are the facts that I have managed to pull together from the Internet.

From the little that I have learned of Norberto, he came through as a gentle giant. Although 6’2” (1.84m) tall, he was always listening, and talked later. His family suffered a double loss, as Claribel Hernandez (his sister-in-law), a secretary working elsewhere in the North Tower, was also killed in the attacks. Norberto was close in the family and responsible, which earned him the nickname Bible. He loved his work, and by the look of one of the images, loved to impart that knowledge to others around him.

September 11th, 2001, dawned as a brilliantly sunny morning in New York. Two planes were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center, leading to their collapse within 2 hours. The destruction of so many lives was brought about by mindless hatred and madness, fuelled by religious zealotry which was not based on any writing in any scriptures in any religion.

Norberto may have heard of that on news reports, but it was probably quite far from him. He was a man that lived for his family, always there for them. A diligent worker, putting in up to 10 hours a day, loving his creations from the oven. Travelling to the WTC on the Subway every morning, his thoughts were probably far from what was to happen not that much later on that fateful Tuesday.

Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six are known to have died that day, or in its immediate aftermath. Norberto’s ashes were scattered in his homeland of Puerto Rico. His memory lives on in his family, and in the memory of those that read this. He is deeply missed by those close to him.

To Norberto Hernandez

Rest In Peace

This link is no longer operational

I have attempted to contact the University of Columbia to use the material in this link, but have not received a reply. As it is central to the tribute, I have used it, and acknowledge the writer, Sarah Clemence.

This is a poem by Barbara Phillips, from which I have used some factual references to Norberto. It refers to him being the Falling Man though.

I have been granted permission by UIM to reproduce the commemorative quilt for Norberto.
Link no longer operational
The poster, pictured above, proclaiming Norberto as missing after the attacks, hung on a walkway of Manhattan for more than a week

This is Norberto's inscription on the memorial at Ground Zero in Manhattan, New York.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Covid - August 2021

So we had 12 new cases of Covid in the Western Isles yesterday. Reading that back, I'd prefer 12 new cases of beer, wine or uisge-beatha, but never mind.

Co-dhi├╣ (anyway), I was remembering last year between March and July. Arrive outside Tesco, and dreading the queue. You could be expected to wait for an hour and a half before even getting in the door. Then, it was a socially distanced shuffle round the shop. Absolutely no doubling back to pick something you'd forgotten or only that moment thought of. Going round the heads of the aisles, you were under no circumstances permitted to scoot across from aisle 4 to aisle 6. If you had forgotten your cans of soup after crossing into aisle 6 (you have to know the layout of Tesco Stornoway to appreciate this), you'd have to go without - or ask a member of staff to get it for you. Well, I'll always praise Tesco staff for being helpful, and they excelled themselves during that period. What remains today, is queuing up aisle 12 to wait to be called to a till.

Do we also remember the toilet-paper panic? The soap panic? Some unfortunate souls had to wipe with yesterday's edition of the Sun (insert name of your own reviled daily rag). Awww, the lovely days of yore. The days you couldn't even go on the ferry, other than for essential purposes. The days people couldn't come to the island other than for essential purposes. Number of Covid cases in Stornoway during that time? Zero, if I recall.

And here we are in August 2021. Tourists flooding into the island with their motorhomes, and it's not the sorts we're used to. If this is the way Brits behave in Ibiza, Magaluf or Aya Napa, then I pity the poor souls that have to be hospitable to them over there. Bet they're breating a sigh of relief. 

Monday, 16 August 2021

They're back

 Yesterday, Sunday 15th August, the Taliban walked into power in the Afghan capital Kabul. Its president fled, and no resistance was offered by government forces. In the end, the government, sponsored and supported by the US and NATO, turned out to be as strong as a freshly-boiled strand of spaghetti. Spineless, a paper tiger. A failure of US foreign policy.

The Americans did well to boot the Taliban out of power in 2001. It had to be done. It is a pity that they did not stop to think about the consequences of that military victory, as it was by then. The US did not anticipate what they would have to do post-Taliban. Change management involves knowledge of the start-point of your enterprise, and knowledge of your end-point. Where do you want the enterprise you are changing to end up. The Americans did not have a clue. They went into Afghanistan in a blind rage, which is understandable after 3,000 innocent people were killed in the Twin Towers attacks of 9/11. They tried the same in Eye-rack, booting out that odious man Saddam Hussein.

Regime change. Winning the hearts and minds of the people. If you want to do that, you got to know the hearts and minds of the people. You have to understand them, their history, their culture, religion and background. Find out what their aspirations are for the future, short-, medium- and longterm. Only then can you start to work towards building a new government structure for a country. 

It was not done for Afghanistan. Hundreds and thousands of servicemen, who volunteered to serve their country, laid down their life for Afghanistan. And Iraq. Thinking they were helping to build a better place. But the politicians that sent them there let them down, for not having a plan to do so. 

They are back, the Taliban. The world has changed since 2001. Let's hope that Afghanistan has, after all, become a better place. Only time will tell.

Sunday, 15 August 2021


Today is the 76th anniversary of the capitulation of the Imperial Japanese Forces to the Allies, heralding the endand of the Second World War. It had required the detonation of two atomic bombs, over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to prompt the Japanese to surrender. 

15th August 2021 will go down into history as the day that twenty years of military intervention in Afghanistan, by the USA, the UK and other countries, came to nothing. It was not the first time that foreign intervention in that beautiful country failed. The Soviet Union came away with a bloody nose in 1990, after ten years. 

Afghanistan was invaded in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the US. The country had become a safe haven for Al-Qa'eda and other extremist groups from which to launch attacks around the world. Initially, the US made a clean sweep, removing the Taliban from power and establishing a more humane government across the country. The following years were punctuated by mounting casualties; we all remember the planes coming into RAF Brize Norton, carrying the remains of fallen servicemen and -women. They were paraded through the town of Wootton Bassett, whose inhabitants would line the streets to pay homage to the poor souls who had made the supreme sacrifice in a far-off and distant land. The town was bestowed the prefix of "Royal" by HM the Queen in acknowledgement of their efforts. 

US President Joe Biden announced that all American forces were going to leave Afghanistan on 11th September 2021. The Taliban came out of hiding and in a matter of weeks have overrun the country. As I type this, they are poised to take control of the capital, Kabul. It shows that the efforts by the US and others to bring change to Afghanistan and permanently remove the Taliban from power have failed monumentally.

The point of this post is to express the bitter disappointment that all those sacrifices were in vain. Not just by US or UK forces but by all others who sought to introduce a better life to the people of Afghanistan. I cannot imagine how those who lost loved ones in that conflict must feel today. I cannot imagine how those who lost loved ones in 9/11 must feel, for it was because of their loss that the US went into Afghanistan in the first instance.

What a waste.

Monday, 19 July 2021


Two weeks ago, I was watching the Scottish news when it featured an unusual musical project, Pianocean. It is about a French pianist, Marieke Huysmans-Berthou. She hails from Brittany and sails in a converted sailing boat, the Lady Flow, with her husband Sebastien, 3-year old son and cat Seabird. A piano was installed on the boat which can be lowered into a cabin, and lifted out on deck. She writes her own songs, accompanying herself on the piano. The project is called Pianocean, and Marieke and crew sail round the coasts of France, Ireland, Scotland. They hope to reach the Faeroes, Iceland, Greenland and Canada in due course. Eventually circumnavigating the world in years to come, weather, covid and circumstances permitting. 

Pianocean reached Stornoway on July 3rd, and two public performances were announced on July 6th and 7th on Cromwell Street Quay. I was absolutely blown away, something that doesn't happen very often. I play the piano myself, and the concept of sailing the seven seas at liberty, indulging one's passion is infinitely alluring. I was present at both concerts, recording the pieces on the first evening. I wish I could have gone along, even though I know it was completely impossible to have done so.

As I type this, Pianocean has called into Canna, Rum and Eigg, and will continue to Muck and Oban. I wish them fair winds, following seas and Godspeed. I can't get the music out of my mind.