Happy New Year

Weather: Winter is upon us! It is cold, damp, windy with the occasional brilliant day. Typical Uist weather.

Sunday 31st October – Friday 12th November COP26 was held in Glasgow. Many environmental promises have been made, how many will be kept is yet to be seen. We are of course hoping that the environmental promises will help to support the fight to save Scolpaig, which is after all a Site of Special Scientific Interest (S.S.S.I.)

We are still waiting for the next stage in the Council’s Planning Process regarding the proposed Spaceport for Scolpaig. This project is led by the Western Isles Council with support from the local M.S.P. and M. P.  Even the Western Isles ‘Green Party’ support the ‘development of Spaceports’. Despite the reassurances offered by the Developers (robust of course, in their defence of the environment, and within the spirit of Cop 26…) it is business as usual.

The Western Isles Council have not replied to many of the questions put to them after the last public presentation – or yet issued a public progress report. There has been some information released through our F.O.I. requests regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The most significant initial observations appear to be from Marine Scotland who state that:

‘We have a number of concerns related to potential effects on the environment that have arisen through similar consultation processes. In the EIA report, we would expect a full assessment of the impacts upon marine mammals with at a minimum, the following species considered in the assessment’

It continues with a list of relatively rare mammals including Whales, Dolphins and Seals and clearly requests specific information with regard to the potential for impact, noise and pollution occurring as a result of the proposed launches. There are also serious concerns regarding the recovery of debris and the deposition of materials and pollutants at sea, in addition to questions surrounding ongoing logistical difficulties, such as the individual licensing requirement of multi-stage launch vehicles together with their recovery.

Clearly no rocket launch system can avoid serious environmental trauma with long – term consequences. Perhaps the real debate should be consolidated around 2 key issues:

  • What kind of place should North Uist be?
  • What environmental price should we be prepared to pay, to achieve a Spaceport?

10 rockets launched each year with waste dumped into the ocean soon adds up!

Another question that is of broader relevance, that might be considered is:

  • What is the point of Scolpaig and the immediate areas close by being designated as the following?  
  • M.P.A. (Marine Protection Area)
  • S.P.A. (Special Protection Area) 
  • S.A.C. (Special Area of Conservation).
  • S.S.S.I. Site of Special Scientific Interest.
  • Not forgetting that nearby St. Kilda is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

With so much environmental protection in place we surely have nothing to worry about..  

In the island own Council’s policy document – ‘Islands Growth Deal; Our Islands, Our Deal’ – much is made of the importance of the Island’s tourism industry and makes the observation that:

‘the island’s tourism industry regularly comes out on top in stunning natural and cultural heritage, which includes two of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites (St Kilda and Heart of Neolithic Orkney) and the UK’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site (St Kilda)’

Well that’s OK then… (don’t get us started!)

November the 27th

There was a wind and snow storm reported on the east coast (Newcastle – Aberdeen), it was surprisingly only a little windy here in Uist, nothing out of the ordinary.

On our regular weekly shopping run to Sollas we spotted an eagle, it was hard to miss. It came gliding down on the wind and sailed right over the road in front of the car. Wow, it was a ‘birds eye’ view! Close-up like this you can appreciate how impressive and massive these birds are. Suddenly our mundane shopping trip was a special, uplifting experience.

The shed roof ‘waterproof’ lining cover disappeared one dark night. The wind got between the lining and the roof and yanked it off, tearing it into shreds. Much discussion was had on how to stick it on better. Bitumen is a very useful product for this job, although sadly this is a bi-product of coal! Living so close to the sea and with the environment we both think even more about what we use and how this might affect the ecosystem.

We had our COVID booster and flu vaccine – very sore arms. We felt a little groggy the following day.

December 15th

We helped hang the Uist Artist Association’s (UAA) Christmas show.

December 16th 

We attended the University of the Highlands and Islands Christmas dinner at Langas Lodge. It was a delightful occasion, the food was good, the company was too. It was touch and go though, because of COVID and now OMNICROM, whether it was permitted to gohead or not. Fortunately, we could attend. The UHI crowd were the only guests in the restaurant, evidently a lot of bookings had been cancelled because of the new OMNICROM variant scare.

The latest OMNICROM variant, of course did scupper up some other of our Xmas plans, but as with everyone, we have become very adaptable. New arrangements were made and meetings were rescheduled, all be it that they were compromised – something our own PM seems unable to do, with his ongoing list of lies and inanities – (Just had to quickly mention this, as the efforts of us mere plebs are often taken for granted). Travel arrangements (Lochmaddy –Uig and Lochboisdale – Mallaig/Oban), at this time of year, can be difficult, the ferries are more challenged with the weather, which can sometimes lead to mechanical failures, and now with COVID in the mix plans are prone to being disrupted. However, we did manage to take trips off the island and we did see family and friends.

Neighbour Andy popped by with a huge Christmas cake that Effie had baked for us, what a lovely surprise.

December 17th

We had a little pre-Christmas dinner event with the lovely Rosie, Raphael and Neil – toy polystyrene Christmas aeroplanes were assembled and flown around the living room the season was now officially activated and launched.

December 24th

Christmas eve, a little wet and windy. Friends Keith and Fran came over to have lunch. We had the traditional smoked salmon, Christmas cake, mince pies and brandy butter, followed by coffee and chocolate. We both like mince pies but agreed that we could not consider eating them outside of the festive season, they probably would not even taste the same – ‘set and setting’ has a fundamental influence on one’s taste, perception and sensory expectation.

December 25th

Christmas day, a beautiful sunny day. We woke at 6am made coffee and opened all our presents, then promptly went back to sleep, with our two cats sprawled over our legs – we then woke up again at the more reasonable hour of 10am. We had a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. The salmon came from the Hebridean Smoke House – highly recommended. The day was bright, a stunning fresh day, which motivated us to take a walk across the moors, we also set up our trail camera. We love walking here, it is expansive and unstructured. We saw a small herd of deer running wild in the bracken, hardly visible because of their camouflage that conceals them within the environment. We got back to our Croft at about 3.30pm in time to start our vegetarian Christmas feast cooking and dining.

This year we have been waiting the arrival of grandchild #8, between us we now have four grandchildren each, our dynasty flourishes.

January 10 2022 Caelan was born, 9.7lb, mother Abi and baby are doing well.

There is much work to be undertaken on our photographic project (In This day and Age). We are working towards exhibiting and otherwise presenting ‘In this day and Age’ in the spring. We will be producing a publication of the same name contemporaneously. Hopefully COVID will not factor in affecting these events too much. On the other hand, the adopting of both online and live presentations has been a blessing, particularly for people like us living in a remote place. Just recently we could engage with the N.E.P.N. (North East Photography Network) online presentation by the excellent Spanish Artist and Photographer Laia Abril.

There is a Common seal that swims around the shore at the back of our Croft, bobbing his/her head up and down – a happy sight. The resident Grey heron still graces us with its presence, staking out the shallow water at the sea edge in front of our window view. We have had other sightings too, of some exotic ducks and divers – we are on a learning curve with bird identification. Tragically, we have also observed 3 dead otters recently by the roadside.

Alice cat and Mad Max cat are socialising together well – it has taken 6 months to get to this point. Alice is now an adult cat and has developed a rather disapproving manner, which is mainly aimed at Max. Max has been fighting cat flu, he has had this since he was a tiny kitten, we hope it will not lead to other more serious ailments. Max is now due to be neutered.

We wish you all the greatest of New Years.

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