Cleaning beaches at the other Islay

Islay on Video

As many will know there are two Islays (at least), the Islay in Scotland this blog is mostly about and then there’s another Islay in the Arequipa region in Peru. It looks like they’ve got a similar problem with litter and rubbish washing up on their beaches and people having to go on beach cleans to tidy it all up. While I don’t speak any Spanish I’m pretty sure that’s what a good part of this video is about:

HOMENAJE A ISLAY 2020.

Looks like they picked up at least two big sacks of rubbish, some good work there! I hope that you’ve enjoyed this view of the other Islay and learning that they share some of the same issues.

The Islay Sessions 2020 go online

Islay Music

Same as so many other events this year the Islay Sessions 2020 will take place online. They will also be a bit shorter this year, taking place on Saturday 21/Nov/2020 in the evening. However, the line-up is as good as ever with some familiar faces (as in, they have performed at previous sessions) and some new artists. Today the organisers uploaded a short teaser:

Fraser Shaw Trust – Sessions 2020

This years sessions will be broadcasted live on the Fraser Shaw Trust YouTube channel, starting at 19:30 on Saturday 21/Nov/2020. The musicians performing this year will be Daimh, Maeve MacKinnon, LB Salter & Jenn Butterworth and David Foley & Jack Smedley. I hope we will be able to use the live chat function, while not the same it would allow us to chat with the musicians and listeners, something I’ve always really enjoyed at the real live sessions.

Get your tickets and with it entries to the prize draw (including for a rare Bruichladdich valinch) online, I understand you can get as many as you want. For more information follow @TrustFraser and @IslaySessions on Twitter, if you’re on Facebook you can like TrustFraser on FB and Islay Sessions on FB.

Hope to “see” you there!

Listen to the This Is Islay podcast

Islay News

Some new media from Islay to write about. Back in August the This is Islay podcast was launched. Its goal is to bring you voices from Islay, news and events with interviews from the community. It is intended for both locals and listeners further afield to give an insight into what is happening on Islay and how the community experienced events. The intention is to complement other news sources (e.g. The Ileach), not to compete with them.

As of writing this two episodes have been published, Welcome to This Is Islay Fàilte a chàirdean and Islay Resilience and A Trip To India. The below embedded player should list and allow you to play the most recent episodes (as of writing this the two mentioned ones):

Christmas 2020 on Islay This Is Islay

This episode features Jolyon Thurgood and guest host Frazer Campbell, from Campbell's of Islay, and a High Street Hero nominated as part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign for their support of the community during challenging times of 2020. This episode also features Glen Roberts in conversation with Lynn and Louise of the Islay and Jura Virtual (Christmas) Market, Sophie and Davina organising Christmas Eve events in Bowmore.
  1. Christmas 2020 on Islay
  2. Islay Community Access Group and Music from the Fraser Shaw Trust / Islay Sessions
  3. Islay Resilience and A Trip To India
  4. Welcome to This Is Islay Fàilte a chàirdean

I hope you’ll enjoy the podcasts as much as I did and will subscribe to them (I’m using Google Podcasts, which works really well for me, but various other services including Spotify are available). With the latest developments around Covid-19 I found the information about the Islay Resilience Group very interesting and how it will help with possible future developments. But of course there are plenty of other interesting topics as well.

See you next year, Islay (hopefully)

Islay News

Several factors were involved in this decision, but over this belated bank holiday weekend I have made the decision not to travel to Islay this year. Back in March when I wrote Sadly no Islay visit for me for the foreseeable future and also in recent weeks I still had hopes and plans to visit later in the year. I’ve got two weeks off work in October, which I had originally planned for a long Islay visit. But I’ve now decided to make it another staycation in West Berkshire, where I live (and currently work from home. I normally work in Reading, but we’ve been told to work from home until at least the end of the year). I don’t feel I have to justify that decision, but I still would like to explain:

To start with I’m still not comfortable to travel or go anywhere with people in confined spaces. While my GP told me she doesn’t consider me a Covid-19 high risk and I don’t have to shield like some other people I’m still very careful. I’ve read several reports of long term health implications from Covid-19 infections, including heart problems. Having fully recovered and been given a new life after my major heart surgery a few years back I just want to minimise the risks. I haven’t been to a pub or restaurant since March or even February (can’t remember) and obviously haven’t used the dining voucher scheme by the government. I haven’t even been to the beer gardens some of the pubs around where I live have opened. I’d love to, but I must admit I’m feeling physically uncomfortable even when walking past them. Some will say I’m overreacting, that might well be, but that’s how I feel.

Going on the long trip to Scotland with these feelings doesn’t feel right to me. It wouldn’t feel like a holiday. The journey (with over night stops, ferry crossing etc) would be very stressful and even on Islay I couldn’t fully enjoy it. Sure, most of the time I would spend in the cottage and outdoors away from people, but even though it’s probably safe (I know the restaurants, distilleries etc all follow the latest guidelines and do their best to keep everyone safe) I wouldn’t feel comfortable to go for a meal, go to a pub/bar or visiting a distillery. Visiting any friends isn’t very realistic either, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into anyone’s home.

Finally the news over the last week or so have further tipped me over to the decision not to go. As I’m sure everyone is aware the infections rates, R-values and whatever else they measure have gone up. While it’s probably too early to say that there is talk of a second wave. Across the continent we have significant increases, same as earlier this year where the UK was lagging the continent by a few weeks. Some restrictions have already been put in place, I fear further restrictions might come over the coming weeks. For me personally not the time to plan a trip, just too insecure (I’ve seen it very closely, some people I work with had to cancel their holiday in France the day before they were due to depart as the rules changed).

I’m obviously very disappointed that I won’t visit Islay this year. I hope the situation will improve next year, I’m hoping that there will be an Islay walking week again and that I will have the confidence to travel. Should that turn out to be too early then I’ll have to wait. All I know is that at some point I will be back.

To finish I’d just like to make clear that this is a purely personal decision. It’s no guidance, direction, anything for anyone else. If you want to go and it feels right for you to go, by all means visit Islay. I’ll be happy for you to go, share your pictures and videos and experiences so that others can enjoy them as well. Islay will welcome you, many businesses on Islay are waiting for you, support them in this difficult time.

Donald Trump plans to buy Islay

Islay News

The cousin of a friend of mine has an uncle who works in the White House who has a colleague who has access to the innermost circle of the American president. From him we’ve just learned about this most fascinating development:

Donald Trump is planning to buy Islay. All of it. The whole island.

Remember the story about Donald Trump wanting to buy Greenland? As you probably know that plan failed. So now Trump has set his sights elsewhere. And picked Islay. In a secret transcript Trump says:

Islay is such a tremendous island, it has the bestest whiskey in the whole world, Americans love it. Islay is hugely popular! When there’s a feature about Islay on the TV the ratings go up in England, it’s bigger than a Premier League game or Dance Off!! Amazing!!! So I’m going to buy it for America.

secret White House transcript

Trump is understood to have reached out to the Scottish and British government to negotiate the deal, believed to be worth in the trillions if Trump is successful with his outrageous bid. Trump also said:

This will be an amazing deal we will offer Scotchland. And once we’ve completed it I will proclaim my beautiful daughter Ivanka as the first queen of Islay. We will also introduce the proper spelling of whiskey to Islay and teach everyone how to best enjoy a stiff Islay scotch, with a nice big lump of fresh Alaskan ice!

secret White House transcript

This will certainly be a developing story to watch…..

Sadly no Islay visit for me for the foreseeable future

Islay News

Unless you live in a cave (or the Big Brother house in Germany) this post probably won’t contain any huge surprises. With a heavy heart I’ve just cancelled my upcoming Islay visit in April. Regular readers and anyone who knows me will be aware how important in particular that visit is to me in the annual calendar, as it is the Islay walking week. I also fear my usual visit in June might not happen.

The reason is of course the dreaded Coronavirus/ Covid-19/ whateverthecorrectnameis. It’s all over the news, all over mainland Europe countries have gone into lockdown, the UK is now starting to (belatedly?) follow suit. The latest guidance as of writing this is “PM says everyone should avoid office, pubs and travelling”. While important to me personally I admit travelling to Islay for a holiday is “non-essential travel”. My employer has implemented a working from home where possible policy to support “social distancing”, providing regular updates, since Friday I’m working from home. Keeping in mind my major heart surgery a few years back and a few other factors I believe I’m in the “high risk” category, so I’m going to be safe rather than sorry. Travelling most of the length of the UK is not something I’d be comfortable with in these circumstances.

This whole situation is obviously also very bad and concerning for many small businesses on Islay, in particular in the tourism sector and related other businesses. If tourists don’t visit Islay these businesses lose their income, in worst case they might even go bankrupt and lose their business. I understand all of the Islay distilleries have closed their visitor centres until further notice, another hit to Islay’s tourism industry. I don’t know what the answer/ solution to this is, all I know is that continuing as if nothing was happening is not an option. I don’t think anyone would want the UK to be in a situation similar to Italy where hundreds of people die and medical staff in the hospitals have to make decisions who they are going to save and who they are going to let die because they simply don’t have the capacities.

What I do know is that the money I’m not spending now will find its way to Islay at some point. As soon as it is safe and possible to travel again I will return to catch up.

Breaking news: AlbaCoin and AlbaContract to be trialled on Islay

Islay News

Some great breaking Islay news this morning, which should be exciting for both IT nerds and whisky buffs alike. The Scottish Government is announcing that Islay has been chosen for the trial of the roll-out of both AlbaCoin and AlbaContracts. This will put Islay and Scotland truly on the map for the new exciting blockchain technology. They will revolutionise how business as well as everyday transactions will be conducted on Islay and soon all over Scotland and even the world.

AlbaCoin and AlbaContracts are based on the blockchain technology, the underlying technology for cryptocurrencies and more. AlbaCoin is an electronic cryptocurrency which will replace physical banknotes and coins with fully electronic and safe currency. It is also likely to be the new currency of an independent Scotland should Scotland gain independence in the near future. AlbaContracts are intelligent e-contracts based on the blockchain technology, allowing secure and trustworthy transactions and tracking in the digitalised economy.

Some information about the technology from Lead Project Manager John Holland:

AlbaCoin and AlbaContract both use the newly developed and extremely secure 512 byte P.E.A.T. (Petaflop Excentric Algorithmic Triangulation) method, which is impossible to break. Leading cryptographic experts were involved in its development.

The technology is supported by all major banks and law firms as well as the major technology giants and will be integrated in all major technology platforms and operating systems.

The technology will be rolled out to all households and businesses on Islay and Jura with training and information sessions starting soon. The trail is funded by the government and will not cost the users anything, while bringing plenty of benefits.

AlbaContracts will provide huge benefits to the distilleries, who through the blockchain technology of AlbaContracts will be able to trace all the ingredients from source to bottle, e.g. barley from field through maltings to mashing, distilling, maturing and bottling. The ultimate in trace-ability. Bruichladdich wasn’t available for comment, but it is believed they will implement the technology to support their provenance and terroir ambitions until their new local Islay maltings are complete.

Certainly exciting and interesting times for Islay!

WalkIslay Islay walking week 2019 details announced…

Islay Events

Just a quick heads up tonight, the details for the 2019 WalkIslay Islay walking week have been announced/published today. I’ll write up a more detail personal preview over the coming days with some pictures and thoughts which walks I’ll probably participate in.

To read up on the walks head over to www.walkislay.co.uk for the details of all of them (well, as of writing this less one, where the details are still being finalised).

Having had to miss out on the 2018 edition through my leg injury I’m very much looking forward to catching up this year (fingers crossed nothing goes wrong this time…).

A mix of Islay links to read

Islay Links

Haven’t blogged here as much recently as I would have liked, so I’m going to try to get better again. Today I thought I’d share a mix of links to articles and other things I found interesting recently. I hope you’ll find something of interest to you as well:

Western Ferries had long gone from the Islay route by the time I first boarded a ferry to Islay, so I don’t have any real memory of them (apart from the pictures and articles about them I’ve seen). This might be changing again at some point, as reports indicate they are interested in (re-)starting a freight only service to Islay.

Digital and that the future is digital is a lot in the news at the moment, good to see that Islay is listed in “£100k funding to inspire Scotland’s next generation of digital experts“. I can’t seem to link directly to it, but scroll down to Port Ellen Primary and click on the + to expand the section on this digitalXtra fund page for more detail about the afterschool robotics club.

Most people are aware of the Otranto and Tuscania sinking off Islay a century ago, more recently during WWII the Floristan sank off the Rhinns of Islay. You can read Tony Cummings memories of the events in 1942.

In The National Andy Gemmell’s pub of the week in late February was the Ballygrant Inn.

And that’s all for today, more some other time. I hope you found something interesting to read this time.

Islay High film shortlisted at FilmG 2019

Islay on Video

Just a quick update on the Vote for Islay at FilmG 2019 entry from December: One of the three entries from Islay has been shortlisted for an award. The entry from Islay High School in the Youth category, ‘Am Bruadar’, has been picked in the FilmG Award For Gaelic – Learners category. Congratulations, and fingers crossed you will be announced as winners at the awards ceremony in Glasgow in February.

In addition, voting for the People’s Choice award is still open. You can vote once a day. Here are the entries from Islay again, so that you can vote for them:

Voting is simple: Go to the page for the entry you want to vote for and click on the yellow ‘Vote’ button. Done. Happy voting!