Monday, March 02, 2009


Tripping the light fantastic down the West side beaches of Barra a week or two ago, I came across this Royal Navy chopper parked on the grazings. It had arrived the day before to take a seriously ill person to hospital in Glasgow, but developed mechanical problems and had to return to Barra. A second helicopter was summoned to take the patient to hospital, where he made a full recovery. At the time I took this photo, the crew were getting bored waiting for an engineer and spare parts to arrive from the mainland.

Life is a little empty and quiet now that son and grandaughter have returned home. I had completely forgotten what a high energy job looking after young children is. GD is a happy smiling two year old bundle of joy who was making her first visit here. She didn't like the wind very much, but chugged around like an express train and seemed to enjoy herself. There is a fantastic award winning playground for children at Ness and an indoor soft play area at the Sports Centre in Stornoway, both of which we visited and which she loved. When the weather was poor, much time was spent grovelling around on the sitting room floor with a variety of toys. I can proudly tell you that I have now fully re-aquainted myself with the goings on of Noddy and Big Ears and the rest of the population of Toytown.

Whilst driving to the beautiful beach at Bosta on Great Bernera last weekend, we were lucky enough to see a pair of white tailed sea eagles at close quarters, hunting across the ridges to the side of us. This was a first sighting of these birds for son and was a great thrill for both of us. The eagles continued to soar nearby for quite a while, giving us wonderful clear views of them. They are gigantic, with a wing span of about two and a half metres and are often referred to as looking like flying barn doors.

Bad news for Kittiwakes, but possible good news for Harris. The population of Kittiwakes and Puffins, here and in Shetland, have decreased dramatically in recent years. Both of these birds feed largely on sandeels, which seem to be disappearing, probably because of warming seas. When the birds can't find sandeels, they try to eat snake pipefish, which have little nutritional value and which they can't digest. Unless a solution is found soon, the pretty Kittiwakes and colourful Puffins may become rare sights.

Down in Harris, the residents have voted this week to make the entire island a National Park. With a turnout of 71%, 732 people voted in favour of the proposal, with 311 against. The pro Park steering group will now approach the Scottish Government to begin consultations, which they hope will lead to the creation of Scotland's third National Park. The hope is that Park status will preserve the landscape, help develop the local economy and breathe new life into the Gaelic language and heritage.
This might just be the right time to raid your piggy bank and buy that cottage in Harris you've always wanted, before prices rocket.

In the last blog, I was exercised about the proposed closures of first and second year secondary schools and care units in the community for elderly people. The penny pinching continues. The council have now agreed to increase home help charges by 30%. They are also raising the charge that pensioners in care homes pay for their cups of tea by 300%, from 20p to 60p. Residents of care homes are also going to have to pay double the current rate for their meals.
All is not lost though for the rest of us because Western Isles council have announced that they have frozen the council tax for the third year running. Why? I don't suppose they have one eye on re-election.

Have to go now 'cos I've got a serious and possibly terminal dose of man flu that's getting worse and I need to put my jim jams on, get some cocoa and go to bed.

See you next time, probably.

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