Sunday, January 23, 2011

An 'r' in the month? An ebb tide? Time for Bivalvia Mollusca!

...I'm thinking, white wine, garlic, maybe an onion, cream added at the end of steaming if I can find some...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shetland goes it alone with £1.4 million superfast broadband project...with a little help from the Faroese

Here's the deal: The Faroese equivalent of BT, Faroese Telecom, has, at vast expense, laid a state of the art, undersea fibre-optic cable between the Faroe islands and the UK. It crosses Shetland, down at Sandwick. BT, however, won't connect the local system to it, preferring to use a hopelessly outmoded, unreliable and deathly slow microwave link between Shetland and Orkney, which is forever breaking down. Oh, and the BT guys who used to know how it all worked have mostly been 'let go', so when it breaks, as it did before Christmas, well...

Fed up with all this, and seeing huge economic advantages in having superfast data speeds in the islands, Shetland Islands Council has funded the Shetland Telecom project, to the tune of £1.4 million. This will wire Shetland to the Faroese cable using fibre-optic links running the length of the central mainland, plus a subsea cable off the west coast.

Small, community broadband projects will link to this, and major data processing and storage companies have already expressed an interest in moving to the isles as a result. Costs are expected to be recouped just from the connection of council, NHS and other public buildings to the new network. Mobile phone coverage, streaming video, broadcast data connections...all will be among the fastest in the country. I think we can expect BT to either jump on the bandwagon pretty damn quick, announce that hey, they're connecting to the Faroese cable after all, or start muttering savagely that Shetland Telecom isnae fair, and that the council should give them the money instead.

Anyway today, the work began in earnest. A £55,000 machine called the Ditch Witch is cutting a micro-trench and laying the cable along one of Shetland's busiest roads, at speeds thought impossible until now. The Ditch Witch has never been used in the UK before and can lay up to 600 metres of cable a day.

I was there. I was impressed. And I'll be even more impressed if, one day soon, I can broadcast once again, reliably, from The Radiocroft, abandoned due to BT's refusal to provide reliable digital connections. Bitter? Me?

More here:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ayr Harbour with Arran's mini-Alps in the background

Gorgeous day down on the south Ayrshire coast, with Arran looming like something transplanted from the Alps. Ayr Harbour lost its fishing fleet to Troon years ago, but it still has ships coming to and fro, mostly dealing with minerals, salt, scrap iron and wood as far as I can see. Ayr beach has so much scrap timber you could run an entire community of stoves for winter after winter, and never pay a penny. It's all I can do to stop myself gathering in the logs...

Saturday, January 01, 2011


New Year's Day proper, daylight, up and about, and the detritus from Hogmanay/birthday celebrations isn't too bad, thanks to Susan, James and Martha (and, to an extent, me) tackling things before a  belated bedtime. Except Quoyle the ancient labrador has been sick and peed everywhere. For sentimental reasons, he was indoors instead of in his incontinence kennel. Ah well, Happy New Year.

Breakfast on tea, coffee, vitamins and cake, and then out with Susan for a drive up to the cliffs at Eshaness and a swift, cobweb-dispelling walk. It's bitterly cold and windy, with clouds of spume being blown up from the depths of the geos. I never fail to get nervous here. The wind's coming in great, disturbing dollops and the cliff edges are slippy. We beat it back to the car and head home in the flickering, watery light.

More clearing up, then Martha and Susan head off to the Busta House Ne'erday lunch. James and Mag are up and remarkably fresh for the season. So am I, actually. I'm horrified to note that my final 'refreshing' beer, after too much whisky, a bottle of McEwen's Champion, was actually a Superlager-strong 7.3 per cent. Maybe the hangover's still on its way.

 I'm immersed in Stuart Murdoch's excellent book The Celestial Cafe, which is making me rather homesick for Glasgow. And it's also pointing me back towards Belle and Sebastian's CDs, which, at the advanced age of 55, I'm at last beginning to appreciate. What's going on? It's always been the epitome of arch indiekid ultracool, the B&S thing, and for years I just didn't get it at all. Now it seems warmer and more approachable, somehow, and not just the newer, expansive records like Write About Love. The entire canon. Odd. Wrapped Up in Books still sounds like Cliff Richard's In The Country. But in a good way.

Stuart's book - it's a collection of sometimes quite shockingly intimate, beautifully constructed web-diary (not blog) entries - is part of a run of rawk-oriented reading matter I've been tackling of late. Allan Brown's Blue Nile book, The Stuart Adamson (Big Country) bio, the reissue of Neil Ian Munro's John Martyn tome and just arrived, James Yorkston's tour diaries. All good in their own ways, but the Murdoch and B Nile books are so steeped in Glaswegiana reading them is like walking through Kelvingrove, first in the 80s, then in the late 90s. 

Right, time to do some washing and visit last night's leftovers. Looking forward to the first episode of Zen tonight - or is it tomorrow? Loved Michael Dibdin's books.