Thursday, 8 November 2007

3rd anniversary today

Anniversary's, occasions and special events should always be celebrated with a cake. So here's a homemade Mansikkakakku, which is a traditional Finnish cake. In the Finland style, lots of berries, in this case strawberries, on top:

The anniversary? On November 8th 2004 (a less windier day than today) I turned up in a removal lorry driven by Robbie (fellow Community Council member from Lochwinnoch), to move into the house on Berneray. By coincidence, one of the other Outer Hebrides bloggers passed through Berneray and wrote about it just a week later. So I've now been a resident of the Outer Hebrides for three years.

Berneray hasn't altered hugely in those three years. The school (picture below by Calum Paterson):


... closing has been the biggest infrastructure change, but ironically there are now more children resident on the island than then (but alas the school cannot be reopened). We've had two elections, both of which led to incumbent Labour politicians losing to SNP candidates. Broadband is available to some properties on the island; many residents - of all ages - use it for communication, online shopping, work, finding information, uploading videos and pictures, and Bebo / MySpace / Facebook. Shortly all Berneray children will have broadband at home (a socially healthy marker) and most residents will be using it when the remaining masts go up.

The permanent resident population has had a net increase of 4, up from 119 then to 123 now. However, the demographics are very unevenly distributed; out of those 123, only 12 are between the ages of 18 and 45. House prices have significantly risen (though there is rarely a house for sale on Berneray), and continue to do so across this part of the Outer Hebrides. Sunday ferries have come:


... and the Air Discount Scheme has made connections more affordable (though still more competition is needed to drive down prices for residents, visitors and businesses alike). The profile of Berneray, through the old media (newspapers, radio and TV) and the new media (online) has risen.

The next three years on Berneray are difficult to forecast. The weather - which affects everything - means there is a random element in most predictions.The Sound of Harris fixed-link project looks likely to progress, connecting the Uists, through Berneray, to Harris and Lewis via probably Killegray and Ensay - though how long before it is built - or dug - is uncertain. BTs 21st century rollout, which will (if as publicised) change the communication set-up for everyone in the UK, should be near to us. Homeworking and teleworking online will (have to) become more common, especially as petrol prices increase; £1.50 per litre in 2010? The Comhairle and other organisations that come into contact with residents will be putting a lot more information (about themselves and those residents) online; the online planning system is but one of several similar initiatives in the pipeline.

And there'll be more trees on Berneray (hurray! - though remember the bit about the weather...).

Most of the schoolchildren as of now will either have left school, or will soon be leaving. House-building, births and deaths, move-outs and move-ins, mean it's anyone's guess as to whether the population rises or falls. I'll predict that between now and November 8th 2010, we'll have a increase in population to the mid 130's. This will be assisted by a few house-builds for incoming residents, a few residents having children, and largely by the conversion and population of the school building. It'll be an interesting next three years to be a resident of Berneray.


Today also marks 2 years to the day since I started blogging. As I wait for the first forecast storm of the winter (later this morning, but now only a mere Force 9 which according to one local crofter is "like the fart of a sheep"), it was interesting to read that entry for November 8th 2005:
"Last night marked the first significant storm of this winter. Winds reaching 95mph, horizontal rain, and waves that make you feel seasick just looking at them.

Plus, just as our first anniversary of moving to Berneray commenced, a power cut ... Thankfully, the storm receeded very quickly, and the power came on within 30 minutes ... 

Tonight, it couldn’t be more different. A starry, clear, sky. No wind at all; stand outside and all that can be heard is the distinctive sound of waves reaching on the western shore. Hmmm; just seen the weather forecast for friday…"


  1. Wishing you good luck with the storms due in tonight. I've been on Berneray and Harris during these high winds and love it (as long as I'm not on or near the sea) I'd love to see some photos of the wild weather. A great site, i'm hooked, keeps me sane till I can next visit the island

  2. You didn't mention all your regrets at having moved to such a far-flung and out-of-the-way place! ;)

  3. Tim: looks like the current storm may have passed without much notice. Orkney has received worse. But, we have another 5 months of variable weather to run.Les: very few. Nowhere is perfect, and Utopia doesn't exist. However, on balance, it was a very good move to make; the positives of Berneray far outweigh the negatives. Plus, from where I live, London is remote, not here which is local.