ARDHASAIG, HARRIS - LOOKING NORTH TOWARDS THE CLISHAM.
Several people have contacted me to express concern about my welfare after I announced last week that I'd lost my favourite jumper. Well, cease worrying. I turned this house upside down for days in a fruitless search for the missing garment. Eventually, after a serious sulk, pennies and pounds were gathered from beneath sofa cushions, cupboards and under the bed and a new jumper was bought from a shop in Stornoway. Guess what happened then? I've been cutting up logs in the shed recently so that I can survive next winter and when I went back in there last night, there was the missing jumper, draped over my workbench. Joy of joys. My heart skipped a beat at being reunited with an old friend and the realisation that I'm now a two jumper household makes me feel quite decadent.
For those believing that this is an idyllic problem free place to live, here's a sobering thought. New statistics just published show that the Outer Hebrides had the greatest increase in Scotland of the prescribing of anti depressant medication between 2006 - 2008. Prescriptions of such drugs rose by 7.7% during that time. Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps It's connected with alcohol abuse or unemployment. Maybe there are fewer alternative treatments available or could it be that GP's here are just more ready to prescribe pills for unhappiness or other symptoms of depression than their mainland colleagues.
During my first visit to these islands in the seventies, there were seaweed processing factories operating at Sponish, near Lochmaddy in North Uist and at Keose here on Lewis. They sold the dried and milled seaweed for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and putting the head on beer, among other uses. The industry eventually collapsed in the face of price undercutting from competitors in Chile and elsewhere. In recent years though ,the economics of seaweed have changed and the Hebridean Seaweed Company are in business again near Stornoway, where they employ eight workers to process the weed before sending it off to customers around the world. They have thirty freelance cutters collecting the seaweed for them around the islands. In an innovative move, the company has just purchased a Canadian made seaweed combine harvester which crawls along the submerged shoreline slicing and gathering seaweed from just under the surface. The company say their new harvester produces higher quality, cleaner weed than manual cutting does but also say they will retain the human harvesters and no jobs will be lost.
In a previous blog, I mentioned the furore over the Royal Bank of Scotland's refusal to accept cheques written in Gaelic by a Stornoway man. Good news. Following representations from the Gaelic Development Board and others, the bank has made a complete U turn. RBS now say that they have changed their minds and in future, will accept cheques in Gaelic from the complainant and any one else who cares to write them.