Thursday, 28 February 2008

"Who reads blogs anyway?"

An email earlier today from another (locally well known) resident of the Outer Hebrides. Ignoring the gross insult about my age, it's rather good. Reproduced with her permission, but she wants to stay anonymous, so have invented a pseudonym - Barbie (as in the doll) - for her if you want to use a name.

"I feel like a rant over my elevenses....

Who reads blogs anyway? Seriously - have you done any work on this? I read yours because I know you and you're sometimes fractionally amusing :) and I'm slightly interested in what's happening down there, and Angus Nic's because he's a lunatic but he occasionally gets a scoop that's relevant to my life (I'm happy enough about RET, if anyone cares) but I NEVER read random strangers' thoughts on a regular basis, and have no desire to.... I just don't get it. Your family and friends, of course (well, not mine) and maybe (though I doubt it) someone who shares your obsessions - but I've seen some domestic ramblings from some US wifies who say they're making a living from it, clearly have huge audiences and rapturous acclaim from their readers, and indeed don't write too badly but WHY does anyone care about their daughter's first day at school or which choc chip cookie recipe they prefer or even their trip to Florida.

So what is it - utter friendlessness of the real world, or the actual belief that this person in Ohio is leading a very happy and fulfilled life and you wish it was yours, or just voyeurism? It's so dull! Read a book! At best you could say it's what they call in German lit crit Protokol: unedited realia, the unliterary literature. But it's not very real, and Protokol is not flying off the shelves.

I like your blog, really I do, and I can see its appeal to strangers because it is an unusual life for some and you have nice pictures of a place they think they want to live in. Fair enough. I did dip into your old-format one before I moved here (must have been your first months there) and also David Heggie's, just to get a flavour of life in WI for practical purposes but then I dropped them because, you know, who cares what strangers think or do? I though you were much older, btw - perhaps I just got it in my head that you were retired.

I can see wanting to write one, and several benefits, personal and professional (though I have NO desire to - especially the screeds that some people seem to come up with) but just not who the (regular) audience is.

Yes, I know this is just an unpublished blog entry and I could inflict it on the whole world.

End of rant. Thanks for listening. Blog away."

Saturday, 16 February 2008


There's 652 pictures I've taken that you can see in Flickr. Many of these are of various parts of Berneray; I'm currently going through the backlog of pictures of Berneray, adding them to a geo-map so you can see exactly where each was taken.

Here's a couple from last year. Near the end of August, we had a few foggy days on Berneray. First picture; an Avalonian shot of Loch Bhrusda - can almost imagine a hand extending excalibur out of the water to a passing King Arthur:


The machair, in fog, was even more atmospheric. Sound gets distorted; visuals get tricky. Geese appear and disappear. Scary scarecrows, such as these, suddenly appear out of the mist:


Same beach, different colours

Three pictures by Scotproof, taken of the west beach of Berneray a few days ago. There's a short while between each picture being taken, in late afternoon, hence the changing colours. Two sets of footprints is defined as a "crowd" for that particular beach.




Thursday, 14 February 2008

Morning swim off the west beach of Berneray

I wrote in 2006 about nude swimming off the beaches of the Outer Hebrides and Berneray. The practical, as opposed to the theoretical, part of this isn't something I do often, primarily due to the temperature of the sea. Though, since originally writing about it, I've discovered (not in a spying way!) that several other Uist residents take an unclothed dip off their local beach. And on (or just off) the Island of Lewis, which is even closer to the Arctic Circle, the Scando-German method of outdoor swimming is not unknown.

The legality is still unclear. I previously asked several members of the Comhairle about it; when they'd stopped sniggering, they didn't know what the situation is on local beaches, or whether a naked swimmer off an Outer Hebrides beach could or would be prosecuted for breach of the peace.

So, partially as I haven't done it in a while, and partially as I needed a picture for my entry in a local photographic competition (theme: "Hebridean Naked"), I went for a swim off the west beach of Berneray this morning.

It was cold.

After 4 minutes I realised I'd stopped enjoying it altogether. Total time immersed: 4 minutes 20 seconds. Having said that, it felt healthy, though huge strands of seaweed sliding past you in the water is a bit disturbing. Once the feeling had returned to various extremities, I was quite tingly all the way back home.


And it is also good to swim in the totally unpolluted waters of the Outer Hebrides - unlike off many of the popular beaches in the UK, which are the equivalent of swimming in (someone elses) septic tanks.

I'm expecting my Finnish colleagues, who spend much of their time beating themselves naked, in hot saunas, with twigs [1], to mock my pathetic efforts as I didn't stay in the water very long, swim to the nearest island, or exhibit other sisu traits. And I can see why the Finns drink more coffee than any other country, as the one thing I really wanted straight after my dip was a flask of piping hot java.

Will nude swimming take off in Berneray and other islands of the Outer Hebrides? The sea temperature is the biggest barrier, and probably means that, to the disappointment of any voyeurs, they won't see waves of naked women running in and out of the sea. Though the typical image of Brits, partially correct, is of a race afraid of communal nudity [2] while the rest of Europe tear off their clothes at the first opportunity, there are an increasing number of people who aren't bothered about this kind of thing.

It also helps that beaches here are generally isolated - the only incident likely on Berneray is that Ben, Millie or Leo get an unexpected surprise on their daily walk - deserted [3] and clean. And, as elsewhere in the UK and with the Outer Hebrides needing to promote itself more, there may be tourism and marketing opportunities, to Scandinavians, Germans and naturists [4].


[1] Your Finnish word for today is "Vihtominen" - the enjoyable pursuit of beating yourself, while naked, with twigs of birch.

[2] As the prime example of the traditional British attitude to nudity, I sent a copy of this film to a few of my Finnish colleagues. They remain utterly baffled.

[3] On Berneray, naked swimming is best off in the sheltered coves on the south side of the island. Or, the middle of the west beach as the north end is where locals often walk and the south end where campers sometimes are. The east beach - unless you are an exhibitionist - is not suitable as the hostel is often busy.

[4] Try the International Naturist Federation (warning: graphic picture of volleyball match on home page).

10 colourful reasons to visit the Outer Hebrides

One of the persistent myths about the Outer Hebrides is that it's a bleak, colourless, drab place where it rains constantly - basically, a bunch of wet, grey, rocks in the Atlantic. Even in 2008, when about 30 seconds of online research can prove the exact opposite, still a proportion of the UK population resolutely think that way. Why? Who knows; maybe there's an element of jealousy; maybe an insecure unwillingness to believe that there is somewhere - else - this scenic. Maybe it's just blind ignorance, or prejudice, of fear of something - or somewhere - different.

For a bit of balance, here's ten colourful pictures of the Outer Hebrides. Some have been featured on this blog before, most not. Each is by a different photographer; click on the picture to view additional information, and go to the photographers own collection of pictures to see more.

To start with, a couple of boats in Stornoway harbour, by Martin Third:


The greens and sandy colours of Borve and the machair on Berneray, by Scotproof:


Some shells on Mealabost beach; picture by Bluewave:


From Chris Parker, the sea at South Glendale, off the isle of South Uist:


From Toby Neal, a bit of flora in the machair on Vatersay, near the southern end of the Outer Hebrides archipelago:


Mentioned before, but worth a repeat. The sea across to Taransay by Diamond Geezer (who's also a high profile blogger):


From Howbeg, the Uist hills in the background and machair in the foreground:


By Jim Clark (My name is Jim), various boats and flags in Castlebay harbour after the Fisherman's Mass, July 2007:


From Tarmy, buttercups in the machair at Uig on Lewis:


And finally, from Saint.Tobias, sunset from Berneray:


So there you have it. Dreary and colourless the Outer Hebrides definitely are not. Feel free to forward the address of this page i.e.

... to anyone who has the wrong impression, or who just likes a bit of colour.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Other blogs from Scotland

One of the questions I get frequently are pointers to other blogs. There are plenty of blogs around - blogsearch and technorati are the two main search engines for finding them.

Alternately, for blogs based in Scotland there are various listings of which Top Scottish Websites is one. Blogs are ranked on some kind of access algorithm, rather than on content. This makes for a varied mix of blogs, websites, and other online stuff with some kinds of Scotland or Scottish connection. Click the icon to see the list of 100 or so:


Interestingly, one of the others in the top 10 is also an Outer Hebrides blog, namely that of Angus Nicolson (no "h") in Lewis. And it's one of quite a considerable number that are political in nature. There's a few others in there from all parts Scotland I read, such as Havering On. Some, e.g. Scottish Licenced Window Cleaners, are obviously not blogs (or very absract ones if they are). And, being Scotland, there's inevitably a fair few football websites and blogs.

A trio of Hebridean pictures

Pictures from three different people who I haven't featured before. The other pictures in their Flickr collections are worth having a look at.

First, Rum Bho Traigh Lathaig, Eige (Rum from Eigg), by Dòmhnall Dòmhnallach:


Mangurstadh, by the44mantis (John Blair):


The Isle of Lewis Bernera bridge, by Maciomhair:


Sunday, 10 February 2008

Hebridean snow (more)

The snow came and the snow went. But residents across the Outer Hebrides went out and took pictures before the rapid melt occured. Here's a selection, one each, from various residents. Visit their Flickr picture collections to see more, or click on the pictures to get more info.

First up, a South Uist scene by Flickr user Lochfada:


The Castle grounds of Stornoway, on Lewis, by Michael Maclean:


On the island of Barra, Leanish takes a picture of Castlebay in the snow:


Bluewave gets a picture of Lobster Pots stacked up on Loch Leurbost jetty:


A snow scene from Lewis by Wiesmier:


An atmospheric shot of the bridge at Laxay on the Isle of Lewis, by Donald M:


And finally, the stillness of the water in North Lochs, Lewis, by Rachel79:


Sunday, 3 February 2008

Berneray in the snow

We had but one day of half-decent snow yesterday (though apparently this was still the best snowfall on Berneray in 11 years). While I was striding through the deep and crisp and even stuff up Borve Hill, SWMBO was out and about taking much better pictures than I managed. Have a browse through her set of 47 snowy pictures, of which here are a few:





Friday, 1 February 2008

Snowing, at last

Yay! After about 2 hours of snow in well over three years, it's finally started to snow with avengance here. A few pictures out of various windows; first, out of my office window:


... then out of the kitchen window towards the fishing harbour:


...and finally northwest to the Nurse's Cottage and along Backhill:


Hurrah for snow! Now just need 3 to 4 feet of the stuff for some really decent snow scenery and picture-taking opportunities.