Tue 13 Dec 2011
I can’t believe that the last time I posted here was in April, how time flies when you’re having fun. Well I have been busy (well as busy as life gets up here in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland) with lots of things changing. Yes, like many, we have been forced to tighten our belts but I also decided to invest some time in a new venture creating sample CDs of classic and vintage electronic keyboards as I have managed to build up a respectable collection of synthesizers and sound modules over the years. I know that I have spent too little time updating my sites devoted to Scotland and the rest of the UK and, even though I hate to admit it, I have only made a few updates to the Enjoy Hebrides sites. Hopefully, as soon as Christmas is over, I will get back into writing about Scotland and these wonderful islands I now call home.
I have several friends involved directly in the tourism industry, especially accommodation businesses in the Western Isles of Scotland, so I have been thrilled to witness an increased amount of interest in the general media. This is increase is most evident on the television with, what appears to be, an increase in the number of programs mentioning holidays (vacations) in Scotland. Interest in the Outer Hebrides remains high and there have been a number of very positive programs about the islands which have focused upon the uniqueness of the place. Of course it is the wonderful flora and fauna that is most talked about (excluding other recent unfortunate events) and few would argue that there are few other places in Europe where you can enjoy such amazing countryside and seaside.
It is strange that I am, once again, sat here in the middle of winter cursing the wind and rain. I say “strange” because the Outer Hebrides are just as exciting when the winds are high as when the sun is beating down upon the miles of golden sands. However, having lived on the Isle of Harris now for over 20 years (including 10 wonderful years on the Isle of Scalpay which can be “almost” classed as Harris now that it is linked via a road bridge), I often find myself taking amazing things far too much for granted. If I was younger maybe I would be out enjoying a brisk walk in this lively weather but the last few years we have seen some of the worst weather I have ever seen in my life. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more thrilling than the sea crashing about during a force 9 gale wherever you are but up here such weather seems to take on epic proportions.
Unfortunately such high winds are often dangerous and a few years ago a family sadly lost their lives while driving in hurricane force winds. This year too saw a similar death and it got me to thinking that we do not fully respect the awesome power of nature, often to the point of the extreme. I have written, many times, about the precautions you should take when out hill walking and the likes but the truth is that it can, sometimes (though rarely), be just as dangerous walking, or even driving, in not so remote spots. In residential areas the obvious hazards are roof tiles and other debris flying around which can cause serious harm but when in more rural areas the risks are not as apparent. Obvious risks like hypothermia can easily be avoided by wearing the correct clothing but more sinister dangers are more difficult to protect against.
Throughout Scotland you will see the road sign for falling rocks and although I have yet to see a rock fall I have passed by many very recent falls which include some incredibly large boulders. In the last thirty years I have not heard of anyone being too seriously hurt (in fact even hurt) by rocks falling onto the road but I have seen several close calls on the local news programs. Of course you are afforded a great deal of protection when traveling in a car as they have many safety features built in to lessen the dangers of impacts. However I do believe that we sometimes over-estimate how safe we actually are in our vehicles, to such a degree that we take unnecessary risks.
Recently the whole of the UK was rocked by really strong winds with Scotland taking the greatest hits. It has been estimated that the damage to the economy will be in the region of £100 million but, by the end of this winter it could be far, far higher. The wind was so powerful that a huge wind turbine simply blew up under the strain and when I saw the photograph I wondered exactly how safe the photographer must have felt at that time. So when I hear the wind howling outside I now wonder how many people will be taking unnecessary risks, popping to the shops may seem a reasonable idea but if the weather is really bad it is possible that, in rural areas, that shop is likely to be closed.
Oh well, as I am sat here cozy I can warm myself still further by thinking of how stunning these islands are in the early spring, a time often overlooked by visitors, when the early flowers lightly decorate the rather barren countryside and the sun shines strong reflecting strongly off the many lochs and lochans. To me spring in the Outer Hebrides is one of the most wonderful periods of the year and while many will hold back until the height of summer to take a vacation I would much rather be here before the masses descend.
If you are interested in the weather in Scotland you may find my previous post enlightening: Scottish Weather