This, ladies and gentlemen, is a monster articulated lorry containing an eighty seat cinema. Screen Machine travels around the more remote parts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands showing movies to communities that are more than a one hour drive to any other cinema. It is very popular and sets up shop in the car parks of village halls, hotels or anywhere else with accessible toilets and an area of flat ground big enough for it to park on. Screen Machine charges £6 per full priced ticket but has to be subsidised to enable it to pay its way. It has a single driver/operator to make it all work, supplemented by a locally recruited usher at each venue. After arriving at a particular site, the driver uses a built in diesel generator to power the hydraulic rams, steel wires and pulleys which open out the sides of the lorry and transform it into a proper comfortable cinema with fixed seats like any other.
There is a cinema at An Lanntair in Stornoway, so Screen Machine doesn't visit Lewis, but it travels regularly to Harris, North and South Uist and Barra. When I came across it at Lochmaddy two weeks ago, the films on offer were Avatar and Sherlock Holmes.
Almost overnight, Winter has disappeared and Spring has taken over. The countryside is waking up and becoming noisier. Day time temperature is round about 10-12 degrees.
On Barra a few days ago, the crocuses were in full bloom, as were the lovely little tete a tete daffodils, but my village is about a hundred miles North of Barra, colder and I have no flowers to see yet.
I do have dozens of frogs frantically pairing in all of the drains on the croft though, leaving masses of spawn everywhere. Frogs may be declining elsewhere but we could export them with plenty to spare. As in previous years, the colour range is amazing. Very few are green. This morning, I came across brown, orange and yellow frogs and some of almost a black colour. They croak very loudly when mating, which, I think, makes them an easy target for the big Grey Heron I saw perched statue like by one of the drains near the house this morning. Easy pickings for that particular bird for the next few days.
The Harris Tweed industry seems to be experiencing a welcome and overdue revival just now and may be on the verge of becoming trendy. Pete Doherty, the larger than life frontman from Babyshambles, has commissioned a local designer and tailor to make him a rather nice three piece Harris Tweed suit. There he was, splashed across the front page of last week's Stornoway Gazette, looking resplendent in his new clothes. The designer said he was a lovely man to work with and it will be interesting to see how far the tweed industry tries to develop this new image and promote tweed products to a much younger and more fashionable market than it has done previously. I'm very fond of the 1980's herringbone grey tweed jacket in my wardrobe - or would be if it still fitted me - but it's hardly the last word in high fashion.
The Hebridean Celtic Festival takes place in July again this year and the line up has just been announced, with Runrig as headliners on the Saturday night. Long before I came to live here, myself and a few friends used to enjoy going to Runrig concerts every year in our local concert hall. This Summer, the same friends are coming to stay with me on Lewis for a bit of a house party and to see Runrig performing on home territory. Should be great fun.