First day of springlike weather - officially, spring will commence on Saturday 21st. A couple of things caught my eye in recent days.
Firstly, it appears we won't be getting a Sunday ferry service for another three years. The noise of heels being dragged along the corridors of Calmac and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is deafening.
Secondly, the Arnish Fabrication Yard is set to reopen in April (seeing is believing), and if reports from this week are to be believed, the Yard will revert to its original purpose of servicing oil rigs. That's how it started out in the 1970s. The fabrication of renewable energy assets will discontinue.
I look back over the four years I have been in this island, and the first three echoed with the repeat drumbeat of Arnish being the salvation of the Lewis economy, by virtue of the fact that it would supply the hundreds of turbine towers for the windfarms in North Lewis (now disallowed by the Scottish government) Eishken and Pairc. Well, that is all out of the window. Sometimes, when my usual cynicism really gets the better of me, I compare candidates at elections to tomcats in March. Caterwhauling about everlasting fielty and what not, but when the evil deed is done, all those promises are nowhere to be found.
I have so far steered clear of the subject of Gaelic, as I do not speak the language. I can make out the odd word or two, and take in interest in the origins of local placenames. The Western Isles have a fairly large percentage of people who can read, write and/or speak the language. It is part of the area's cultural heritage. I do not agree with the steady stream of correspondents to a certain mainland paper who say Gaelic is dead and a waste of money. Having attended the National Mod here in Stornoway in 2005, and two editions of the local mod in subsequent years, I find the language and its attendant culture very much alive.
The discussion in recent weeks, particularly in the mainland press, has been about bilingual roadsigns - both in Gaelic and in English. Some people say that these could potentially confuse motorists. When I first visited these islands in the 1990s, I was greeted by Gaelic-only signs at the ferry terminal. Found it less than helpful. It is not clear to everybody that Gearraidh na h-Aibhne is the same as Garynahine, to quote but one example. Local people probably do not need roadsigns at all, but visitors (the mainstay of the local economy) do. I welcome the introduction of bilingual signs therefore.