Corrugated iron was commonly used as a building material here until relatively recently for both domestic and commercial properties, because it was cheap and quick to erect. In recent years, many corrugated iron buildings have been demolished, blown down, or left to slowly rust and rot to the ground. They sit much better in this landscape than many modern kit built houses or churches and I like to photograph them as I wander around the islands, before they disappear completely. The buildings shown above have survived better than most.
I've been on holiday for the last two weeks, visiting friends and family in the South and had great difficulty getting back to Lewis. Is three days from Yorkshire to Stornoway a record?
Tuesday saw me driving North and I decided to stay overnight in Perth. Wednesday morning was bright and clear, but the weather lady on BBC Scotland said that the A9 to Inverness was badly affected by drifting snow. Our hero, a sceptical soul at the best of times, decided to try to get through just the same and surprise, surprise, ground to a halt at Blair Atholl. The very helpful police officer standing in the road and looking very cold told me that my chances of getting any further in the by now blizzard conditions were about the same as hell freezing over. Turning the car round, I made my way over to Crianlarich with the intention of taking the A82 to Fort William. This time, I listened diligently to the radio weather person, who said that the A82 was passable with care. Well, not by the time I got there it wasn't. Just North of Tyndrum, the road was covered in impacted snow and several vehicles had skidded off the carriageway into ditches and were clearly going nowhere further that day. Being the single minded sort of chap that I am, I persevered until, to my great surprise, I found myself in a stationary queue of about a hundred cars and lorries. Oh the companionship and the glorious opportunity to whinge about the weather with a fellow traveller. Unsurprisingly, another policeman arrived and he announced that he was only going to allow four wheel drive vehicles to proceed. I don't have one of those, so had no option but to go back again. At this point, it was early afternoon and I was desperate to get to Ullapool to catch the evening ferry to Lewis. Things did improve a bit then. I waved down a motorist going the other way, who told me that the West coast Connell to Fort William road was snow free and so it proved. Fort William to Inverness was a bit tricky, but not too much of a problem and I headed off to Ullapool in good time for the 17:35 ferry. Plain sailing? Oh dear me no. 3:30 in the afternoon and I get a text on my mobile phone from Calmac saying they had decided to cancel the Stornoway ferry because the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. The end of my problems for the day? Not really. Then had difficulty finding somewhere to stay for the night in Ullapool because lots of other people heading for the ferry were also stranded overnight. The ferry finally left an hour late on Thursday morning and the crossing was so lumpy that a number of children on the boat were suffering from severe sea sickness, the poor mites. I finally got back to my village later that afternoon and have never been so pleased to arrive home. Given the recent appalling weather, I expected my humble abode to have blown away or fallen down, but happily, all was well and within an hour, the stove was chugging away and the house became cosy and cheerful. I love a happy ending, don't you?
Sadly, there has been no happy ending for Highland Airways, which collapsed and went out of business whilst I was away. Loganair have temporarily taken over some of their contract work, including the subsidised daily Stornoway to Benbecula flight and the newspaper delivery from the mainland. At present, newspapers are arriving by ferry and sales have slumped by more than half because islanders are fed up of getting their papers late in the afternoon, or not at all if the ferry is cancelled, which is happening frequently in the current poor weather.
I'm off to work in Benbecula and Uist for the week from tomorrow morning and have yet to see if Loganair will honour my Highland Airways ticket. Life is so much more exciting and unpredictable here than it was in the South, which is generally to my liking.
As I write this, it's blowing a right Winter hooly and easy to forget that Spring is really here. There are some clues though. I've got sheep back on the croft, there are lambs everywhere and in spite of it pouring with rain today, I've just seen a man on the Pentland Road cutting his peats. That signals the arrival of Spring here just as powerfully as does the hearing and sighting of the first cuckoo down South.