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!

Vote for Islay at FilmG 2019

Islay on Video

It’s that time of year again, same as last year it’s time to vote for Islay’s entries at the FilmG competition. For this year I’m aware of three entries from Islay so far, from the High School, from Bowmore Primary and from the Islay Voices. Same as last year everyone can vote in the ‘People’s Choice Prize’, to do that all you need to do is to go to the page for the entry you want to vote for (linked below the videos) and click on the ‘Vote’ button. Simple as that.

Let’s start with the entry from Islay High School, titled ‘Am Bruadar’. In it a ‘Hipster couple camp at view of Rhinns lighthouse, fall asleep and dream past, present and future there. There’s a surprise in store for them both!’:

You can vote for it on the AM BRUADAR – Àrd-sgoil Ìle, Ìle Bheò page

Next to the younger students from Bowmore Primary in their second competition entry (I believe their premiere at the competition was last year). For them ‘the children’s bad behaviour leads in the blink of an eye, to jump in time to a school in a hundred years, where wooden desks have been replaced with ipad tables and there is no need for a teacher as Alexa runs the class‘:

You can vote for it on the EACHDRAIDH – Bunsgoil Bhogha Mòir, G4-7 page

The third entry is from the Islay People/Voices about ‘the legacy of landscape, people and song captured in timelapse and aerial footage of Islay‘:

You can vote for it at the GUTHAN ÌLEACH – Muinntir Ìle page.

The voting is open until the end of January, the winners (including hopefully one from Islay) will be announced at the annual awards ceremony at The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on 08/Feb/2019. If you’re on Facebook also follow the CnaG Ìle group for more.

Gaelic map of Islay, Jura and Colonsay

Islay NewsFrom my recent Islay visit I returned with a quite large souvenir which is now hanging on one of my walls. A few weeks ago Pat Farrington announced on Facebook that she had some maps of Islay, Jura and Colonsay in Gaelic for sale. I contacted her that I was interested and if I could pick one up during my Islay visit in November (they were sold pick up / delivery on Islay only).

Picture of a map of Islay, Jura and Colonsay in Gaelic
A closer look at the map, framed by Islay Studios

We agreed to meet in Bowmore, where £10 and in return the map changed hands. From Bowmore I drove over to Islay House Square, where I dropped it off at Islay Studios to be framed. Mark had mentioned that they had framed another copy, I decided to do the same to keep it in prime condition and make it easier to hang up. I picked a light coloured wood as most of my furniture is pine and I wanted them to go together.

Here’s how it looks with the map hanging above my ‘Islay Shelf’ (where I keep my Islay single malts, my Islay books and various souvenirs):

Picture of a shelf with whisky and books with a map in Gaelic hanging above it
The map looking nice above my Islay shelf

I’m very happy how it turned out, I think it fits very well above the shelf. The map looks very nice in the frame, it covers many places including villages, hills, mountains, lochs and more. Of course all in Gaelic, as that’s the whole point of the map. The speech bubble is a lamp (hence the cable), but it didn’t look very nice switched on for a picture, so I turned it off (it looks very nice otherwise and is lit while I’m typing this).

New sign/board at Islay’s Kilchoman beach

Islay NewsLast week a very nice new sign/board popped up at the start of the track through the dunes to Kilchoman beach. A few weeks ago I wrote about a way to help keeping Islay’s beaches clean, Fiona MacGillivray has taken this idea further and written a poem about it. That poem has now been printed on a sign/board and the first one has been put up at the entrance to Kilchoman beach:

Picture of a sign with a poem encouraging people to pick up three pieces of rubbish from a beach
The sign/board with Fiona’s poem

The poem reads (for the benefit of those with a screen reader, in case they can’t read text in pictures):

Three pieces of rubbish!

Make this beach plastic free, Oh what a sight that would be!

Plastic litter on the beach is a scourge to man and beast.

It floats on in, off the sea, in a relentless tide of mans debris.

Piled high we throw up our hands & cry How can we just let this lie?

But with visitors and walkers each day we reduce it day by day.

Pick up three pieces of rubbish each and this beach will be a peach.

There is a bin that sits just here pop it in and you can cheer

Then this beach will just be Sand and sea and clutter free!

© Fiona MacGillivray

As it says in the poem, there is a convenient bin right here:

Picture of a sign encouraging visitors to pick up rubbish on a beach with a bin behind it
The bin right behind the sign

I understand there are plans to put up signs at other beaches on Islay as well. Hopefully they will encourage more people to help with keeping Islay’s beaches clean, so that we can all enjoy pristine beaches (of course it would be even better to avoid the plastic rubbish in the first place, but that’s another topic).