Friday, November 07, 2008
Stornoway, Tolsta, lamb tikka bhuna and an imminent storm...
To Tolsta this morning, with Dave Halliday and his Harley Sportster 1200, photographer John Maclean and the trusty, very far from home Citroen C4 (why are so many Citroen C4 four-doors metallic maroon? I saw ANOTHER one today). It was freezing, but spectacular. Again, that amazing Lewis phenomenon of bleakness suddenly giving way to astonishing coastal beauty.
Back to Stornoway for the show, a quick look round the An Lanntair gallery/cinema/cafe/theatre, which has great coffee but looks very quiet. I wonder if the progenitors of the controversial Shetlandic music venue and cinema, Mareel, have looked at Ann Lanntair's books?
Anyway, old acquaintance from Harris Willie Fulton has an exhibition there, and his paintings are not only superb, but very reasonably priced. Check out his online gallery here.
There's a very bad forecast for tomorrow (gales, possibly severe) so I've changed my departure to the 07.15 ferry for Ullapool. There's a lunchtime boat from Stornoway and one from Harris to Skye around the same time. If they don't sail, there's nothing until Monday.
It's been an interesting few days in Lewis. Compared to Shetland, it feels...well, it feels much less...wealthy. And it's not just the Zetland County Council Act's 30 years of oil cash.
Well, actually it is. People talk about the religion thing, but compared to 15 years ago, its grip is much, much looser. In the face of a nosediving economy, and the departure for Glasgow and points south of the most talented young folk, fundamentalist protestantism may be a consolation for the elderly and the left behind. But letters in the Stornoway Gazette complaining about a "Heaven and Hell" fancy dress ball seem quaint and somewhat sad. Surely God has more urgent concerns? I hear that drug convictions and alcohol-related violence have soared lately.
There is a kind of resigned anger about the largest Harris Tweed mill laying off workers, and its owner having jackets made up to only four designs. In China. It's a glorious substance, Harris Tweed, and I've coveted a suit for years. But when faced with £200 for a tweed jacket, I had to sneak out of the shop. In the distance, I could hear Primark calling.
The folk here have been delightful - friendly and hospitable. The BBC team have been splendid. The Balti House is a really good Indian restaurant and I'm sorry to have missed the Thai Cafe and Digby Chicks. But I'm praying for the Isle of Lewis to set sail on time tomorrow.