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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


We decided I should got to Barra to see some clients on Monday, so I set of down the road. It was not to be.

As I sat above Baile on Eriskay, trying to get the last mobile signal, I wondered why all the cars weer driving to the ferry and cruising back - just a "spin" I thought. Not. The ferry was cancelled, so it was a quick dash to the Pollachar for a bed for the night.

Last night we had a family bereavement, so it was a drive back up the road today to catch the afternoon ferry to Lewis and home to my family.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Having a drink with MWT

Sue and I went out on Saturday for a fabulous meal at Digby Chick's and thence for a drink (or two).

We walked into a certain pub in town to find it was very quiet, but standing at the bar was our friend, the one who came into the office to shout abuse at us both about windfarms. Well --- too good an opportunity to miss.

We doughnutted him - I stood on one side, and Sue on the other as we waited for bar service. He looked first one way, then the other, and moved rapidly to a table in the far corner.

We took our drinks, and guess where we chose to sit?!?

The panic in his eyes was really funny, and as we walked to his table, he jumped to the next table to talk to another customer.

When he went to the bar for a drink, I asked his drinking buddy who he was. As I know Carrots (for it was he) from 30 years past, we had a long and lively chat, which proved even more discomforting for our missing colleague as he wondered back from the bar. Carrots also insisted on bonding with Sue, which is euphemism for a kiss and attempted cuddle :-) He won't try that again without her permission.

On the way out, Carrots was vocal in wishing us the very best, and I laid my hand firmly on the shoulder of the Parkend ex-pat and said "See you again soon!" He just didn't know where to look or what to do.

If you dish it out, you have to be able to take it, and our friend can't ;-))

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wind turbine lost overboard

It's difficult to believe the series of events that have befallen this wind turbine in it's short life. I had been looking forward to the Arnish moor windfarm being up and running as soon as possible, to allow everyone to see just how wind turbines will look against the moorland.

But, if it is not one thing it is another, and I am now looking forward to the slightly reduced development going ahead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Radioactive waste

David Miliband has apparently told the House of Commons that nuclear waste is to be buried in geographically suitable areas, but only with the support of local communities.

Volunteers are being sought from potential beneficiaries of this largesse.

Let me mull this one over before coming to a decision ......

Firefox 2.0

It's here! It's installed, working and looking good.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Romania and Bulgaria

I am appalled by the underlying racism surrounding the decision to limit the number of unskilled workers to be allowed into the UK.

"Stop the Gypos!" is the message that John Reid is putting across, "They're all thieves".

But the *good* skilled workers such as Doctors, Lawyers and Accountants are allowed to come in without permits.

Pandering to racists and "little Englanders" is never going to result in a good policy, far less one that is workable. How long before we see those who look *foreign* being asked for work permits as they enter the UK?

What a waste of the limited resources that the Government has available, when they should be used to stop terrorism. After the success (sic) of stopping illegal immigrants getting into the UK via the Channel Tunnel, you would think that the light would dawn.

However, operational issues have no doubt overtaken by political imperatives.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Prospective Councillors

Having received a mailshot today, I've decided to write a guide for all those thinking about standing for the Comhairle in 2007.

First draft (scrapped) was horribly indiscreet.

The final version will just be indiscreet, and pull no punches.

When completed, I'll post it to my web site and make an announcement.

I think it might get me into trouble :-)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Party. party, party

The party went like a treat, with 10 happy, happy, noisy children running around the house.

We all ended up playing games such as musical statues, pass the parcel and a major treasure hunt throughout the house.

They all sat down and ate and ate and ate, with chicken nuggets, sausages, jelly, pizza and assorted juice to make the party go with a swing.

By the time they left, we were exhausted, but the kids had all totally enjoyed themselves, and not one was sick. Result!

Babysitter came, and we went out to recover. Thankfully the boys slept late today, which meant everyone was in a good mood for the whole day.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Old age

Today I recevied details of my projected state pension, assuming I continue to contribute at the same rate for the next 21+ years. In other words, it's a wild guess, and a totally pointless piece of correspondence.

Clearly the Treasury are hoping that we will all save for our old age, and be less reliant on the State for a living income, but the policies are not joined up - surprise, surprise.

The Child Trust Fund is a worthless joke, that is only worthwhile for the really wealthy as a way of making pension provision for babies in a tax-efficient way.

Students leave College or University drowning in debt, and then have to fund enormous mortgages on the back of a property boom.

I'm comparatively lucky, having enjoyed a fully funded University degree, but I struggled to pay a mortgage and a sensible amount into my pension for a few years. How today's students can expect to put anything aside is beyond me.

Just to make me feel older and ready for my pension, today is a child's birthday and there will be ten little children running around the house in under an hour!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Abnormal weather

Is it abnormal, unseasonal or part of a permanent change? I personally believe the latter.

Last week we planted about 100 bulbs in the garden - in glorious weather - and the lawn is still growing rapidly. The Clematis has flowered for the second time this year, probably due to the Summer being not so nice, but the seasons have levelled out IMHO.

We no longer have the extremes of cold and warmth that we used to have. Spring snow and beautiful Augusts are a distant memory.

We're going to have to learn to live with these changes, and hope that they don't get worse.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Broadband back

Thnaks to someone in the local exchange, who took 20 minutes to fix the real problem, our broadband came back last night. My joy and glad was only temppered by the 150 emails that promptly downloaded.

This morning I found that the router had blown - I don't know if it was overwork, shock or the server resetting last night after downloading MS updates.

One hour later, and thanks to Murdo Techmobile, we're back up and running, and the wires are red hot with mail, tax returns, and surfing.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


We had P&R and full Council this week, where the many issues were resolved.

Probably one of the least edifying sights was one of my fellow Chairs pleading for extra funding for his Committee on the basis that the £1m he wanted wouldn't affect anyone else's budgets, and would come from a central pot.

Anyway, he continued, it wasn't an overspend or a deficit, but a shortfall in resources to fund expenditure.

This was met with derision by most of our colleagues (and quite right too), but not before the shrouds were waived and the onion produced to bring tears to eyes. The Committee were told to go away and find a solution, or series of options, and bring back decisions - not vageries - to the next series of meetings.

The felony was further compounded when said Chair later proposed that we promise another £50,000 to ensure a specific project went ahead. This was just a rouse to avoid making any kind of decision on the issue, and was met with barracking and mockery. You would think he would learn, but he doesn't.

Friday, October 13, 2006


The office Broadband is still down - only 10 days and BT are still unable to diagnose the fault, far less fix it. Well that's not quite true. We've had about half a dozen conflicting diagnoses, and despite the involvement of the Chairman's complaints team, no progress.

We're having to come home to deal with emails, which is causing us enormous hassle. remains down, although works. This is apparently a problem with the DNS servers at BT, if I can ever manage to get through to them. My personal site could do with a revamp, whenever I find the time.

This is all having a knock on effect on my blog, making it less easy, and less spontaneous, but hopefully we'll be back up and running soon.....

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Guns for hire

How about this for a recipe for disaster .... hire mercenaries in Afghanistan by trying to outbid the enemy.

Hmmm, if I were the Taliban, I'd keep uping the rate offered and when outbid, then claim the credit for ensuring the communities were better off!

In the meantime, the allied forces better watch their backs, before troops change side unexpectedly for a better rate of pay.

It's fun being a Councillor ...

<irony>Being a Councillor is a series of jollies, interspersed with dull meetings, and the chance to be seen shaking hands with the latest worthy.</irony>

Yesterday, I received yet another offensive and threatening message from opponents of windfarms, which I am going to pass to the Police.

What I find saddest is that MWT and it's adherents cannot accept the democratic decision of the Comhairle. Instead of focusing on the Scottish Executive - who will take the final decision - they seem to believe that trying to intimidate the Chair of the Committee will somehow change the decision. Not so.

There is obviously a total lack of understanding about the process, and a desperate resorting to threats of violence in the absence of any rational debate.

Half down

Well, at least BT have got our email and website back up, but reamins down, possibly as there is a fault at the BT DNS server.

However, our office Broadband is still down meaing wwe are having to go home to receive and send email, or use a very slow and expensive dial-up connection to receive it in the office.

Still BT are getting a bill for all of this....

Thursday, October 05, 2006

BT - it gets worse

The @r$e$ have disconnected our new broadband connection and not our old one - and apparently it takes 7-10 days to fix this. No sense of urgency then.

Next, they decided to cease our service, as we were moving from one building to another and had signed up for the "overlapping" service to ensure no business interruption.

Now, they have removed us from the DNS servers, so our website is down and our Static IP address will take 5 working days to be reinstated. Which means no incoming emails, which we could check via webmail at home.

This despite an email yesterday promising that nothing would affect our new business.

I've just spent the past hour faxing increasingly irate letters to various departments of BT demanding that they sort the problem immediately. Bizarrely, the website is still available at the BT parking address and I have received acknowledgments of my complaint from 2 BT departments by email.

Beinn Mhor Power

The section 75 agreement went through today, with just a couple of minor changes and one caveat, so it is back to the Executive to make their mind up.

This is probably the best deal on community benefit anywhere in the UK, and if we can negotiate and ever better deal then BMP are obligated to match that.

I truly hope that this means the survival and economic growth of the Western Isles is secured.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

BT get it wrong!

After prolonged negotiations with BT over the moving of our phones and Broadband from location 1 to location 2 within the same exchange area, it seemed reasonable for us to believe the following:
  • BT didn't have too much notice of our move - apparently the 21 days notice we gave them was too much
  • They knew where we were and where we were going
  • No, we do not need a new phone system
  • They knew we were keeping the same phone, fax and email details as before
  • Yes, we did want a transitional period where we had Broadband in both places to ensure a smooth handover (as it says on your website as one of the benefits!)
  • No, we do not need a new phone system
  • Yes, what we have (Featureline) works ideally for our needs
  • No, we do not need a new phone system, however good you make it sound
  • Please! Just replicate what we have
  • No, we do not need a ******** new phone system, just read the ****** fax we sent to you three times
  • Dennis in Newcastle is an angel, who didn't try to sell us phones, understood what we were trying to do, and rewrote the contract to ensure it met our requirements. The best advice he gave was to ignore the Aberdeen office and speak to him directly
  • Lynn who wired our phones was a gem. Looking like a trainee lumberjack, she scaled the poles to fill the instructions she had been given, which were not quite the instructions we had contracted to pay for. Thankfully Dennis saw her through and she worked like a Trojan on something she hadn't been trained to do.
  • Today BT disconnected the Broadband in our old offices
  • Today our broadband went down in the new offices as they had pulled the wrong plug. Right number (but that is because it had moved) wrong location
  • Apparently this is a fault on the line as it is "out of sync", and not their mistake
  • Except we can see they have pulled the wrong line and our old offices work fine
  • Cue swearing, shouting and much abuse
  • It will take 48 hours for them to get back to us, and possibly 10-14 days to fix it, except as it is a *fault* and not a new installation we might, just might, get it done sooner
  • No-one else can give us a service in less than 10 days
Today was stressful, and tomorrow will be worse if the b******ds haven't got it working properly.

On the upside, it is a voidable contract, and we'll get our costs back --- or else

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beinn Mhor Power

I've spend a good part of the weekend reading, and re-reading, the s75 agreement that is coming in front of the Comhairle on Thursday.

It is as important as the planning application, as it firms up many of the intentions and expectations of the Comhairle and the community, but it also ties toghether with entire process in a legal framework.

Thankfully, the Officers have made it an easy read (!) for the Councillors, but there are still a few points that I am sure we will need clarification on. The important thing is to have all the safeguards in place at the beginning, and worded tightly, so that everyone knows exactly where they stand.

I will be glad to see the Comhairle's involvement in this application being completed so that the Executive can take a decision. However, we are not going to rush this through.