September 5, 2008 § 1 Comment
Twisters in Tolsta???
According to the Daily Express!
Mum, Dad are you alive!?
September 1, 2008 § Leave a Comment
The Telegraph has Lewis and Harris in at #31 and #30 in their top 50 UK islands (out of thousands apparently). The Hebrides, unsurprisingly dominate.
September 1, 2008 § 1 Comment
The family croft, a peat fire and an explosive interview indeed.
With the repercussions of Mr Darling’s recent Guardian interview at his croft in Bernera on the west coast of Lewis, still being felt, the Stornoway Gazette got in a good interview themselves. What’s amusing is that more than a few journalists and blogs have been blaming the islands remoteness and beauty for Mr Darling’s candid comments, the journalist Decca Aitkenhead herself said…
If the chancellor was always intending to give an explosive interview, he didn’t give any indication of it. When my visit to his family croft in the Hebrides was arranged last month, it was on the understanding that it would be a broadly personal profile – a portrait of the man more than the politician.
I wasn’t expecting him to say anything that sent shockwaves through Westminster. But the question now is, was he? Were his startling comments a shrewdly calculated gamble – or a careless aside?
During the interview, I got the impression that he’d made a definite decision to be blunt about the gravity of Labour’s electoral problems. He was obviously frustrated with its failings, and keen to communicate a sense of urgency to the party about the need to turn things around.
But importantly – if ironically – he was urging discipline and unity. We’ll never get ourselves out of trouble, he repeatedly said, if colleagues keep going off “flying kites”.
The other message that seemed premeditated was his denial of an imminent reshuffle. I took it to mean that he knew there wouldn’t be one, and had been instructed to say so by Number 10.
But I do not think he planned to go so far, or make so many other unguarded remarks in such intemperate language. Darling’s remote croft feels a universe away from Westminster, and the interview took place on sofas in front of an open peat fire, with his wife cooking lunch next door.
They didn’t even record the interview on their own tape recorder. It feels pretty inconceivable that he would have said what he did from behind his desk in the Treasury – but after a day we’d spent out on his boat and on the beach, he seemed to simply drop his guard.
Unquestionably, the intention was to reveal more of himself. The arrangements for the interview were quite unlike any I’ve ever known; Darling’s wife was in charge of his diary during their summer holiday and was extraordinarily generous and relaxed, happy to let me intrude on their private holiday for as long as I needed.
She even suggested I stay with them – if I didn’t mind having to go through their bedroom to get to the loo. If they’d calculated that I’d see the chancellor in a likeably engaging, more charismatic light on Lewis, they were absolutely right.
But Darling is, as he said himself several times, not a performer. He seemed unfamiliar with the trick of appearing to open up without really saying anything. Having decided to be more forthcoming, I think he was unsure about how to judge where to draw the line. He basically just told the truth – and far away from Westminster, it didn’t seem that shocking.
…as if somehow the Peat Reek and sea air had addled his mind and lowered his guard.
Who knows, maybe it did?
September 1, 2008 § 4 Comments
September 1, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Traditional shielings can still be found in various conditions on the Lewis moorland and are valuable examples of the island’s vernacular building heritage. These summer habitations were crucial to the wellbeing of crofter families as they provided a base from which to graze cattle on the lush moorland heather and grass. In places like Ness, where the shielings were situated close to the sea, kelp was also harvested from the shore to supplement the cattle’s feed.
This annual migration from the villages to the moor during the summer allowed residents to move their livestock away from the more fertile arable land near the villages to allow crops to be grown and harvested during the spring and summer months. The shielings typically formed moorland ‘villages’ and were mainly be populated by the women, with the men remaining behind to cultivate the land, clean the byres of waste and manure, re-thatch the dwellings and generally repair and prepare the homestead for the year ahead. As the shielings were only temporary habitations, winter flooding or wind damage could be tolerated, with extensive repairs being made each spring in preparation for the new season.
The usual time to go to the shieling was after the 15th May when the village was cleared of all stock and sent to the common grazing. There were no fences on the crofts at that time to protect what was sown or planted. The cattle were kept out at the shieling until August then they were taken into the enclosed winter grazing known as the ‘fence’.
The shieling was a simple construction: It was about twelve to fourteen feet in length and about six to eight feet wide. While more modern versions were simply made of wood, originally the bottom half of the inner wall was built with stone, the rest of the wall was built with heather sods and the outer walls were also built with heather sods. Stones for walls were scarce on the moor. The roof had a wooden ridge-pole with timber rafters. The roof was then covered with turf sods to make it water-tight. There were recesses built in the bottom half of the inside wall: they were known as ‘uinneagan’ (windows). This was where the milk and other dairy products were stored. The food was also kept there. The bed was at the one end and an open fire at the other end. The door was near the fire, there were no windows, there was an opening in the roof above the hearth which was called ‘farlas’, this is where the smoke went out. Furniture was very scant, a wooden box acted as a table and also for storing the pails. The bottom of the bed was filled with dry heather and fianach – moorgrass – put on top of the heather beds were very comfortable.
Inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden I would love to have a shieling to escape to!
A Swedish designer called Mats Theselius has collaborated with a company called Arvesund to design a shieling style cabin just big enough for one or two people. It is equipped for all seasons and can be located practically anywhere. You can place it in the mountains, in the woods, in your own backyard an use it anywhere you want to create a room for retreat and stillness.
“Most people probably associate the term Hermit’s Cabin with religion and monks’s But this cabin is rather a way of channelling the city dweller’s lack of seclusion and proximity to nature. I wanted to show people’s longing to escape from the intensity of urban life. The Hermit’s Cabin raises the issue of the individual versus society, and of mankind’s fundamental need for solitude. It’s about our origins and our relation to nature from the perspective of the urban society. Therefore the cabin is filled with most of the things a person need rather than the religious notion of the aesthetic or the most basic. Here you can light a fire, eat, sleep, read, doze or quite simply do nothing.”
The cabin comes in two sizes and is in its original design covered inside out with wood from old North Sweden barns. The equipment, interial design and atmosphere communicate their historical origin and what true life, which lies deep within us, is really all about. The cabin recycles not only materials but also history and emotions.