NewsPicMag50.jpg not found.
Issue 50 - March 2015
Page visits:
 
 
 
Due to health problems, we have no crossword this month and it will not be possible to produce an edition of the Voice next month, April 2015. We apologise for this, but with only two people involved in the writing, editing and technical production, we have no back-up. If anyone out there would like to help, please let us know! Meanwhile, we hope to return in May and we will bring you the answers to the February crossword puzzle then.
 
 
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
February in the garden
 

Editorial

Ferry farce threatens Arran’s future

This winter, though no worse than many we have known, has seen unprecedented disruption of Arran’s connection with the mainland. Those of us who have lived and worked here for a long time can look back to times of storm when the ferry was routinely re-routed to Gourock, where intending passengers could sit over a cappucino in the balcony room of the International Café, watching for the ship to come up the Clyde. Total loss of service was virtually unknown - it might take time, but you would get home, even when 30ft waves were bursting over the sandstone wall at Ardrossan Harbour. Earlier still, the paddle steamers used to pitch and toss their way across the Clyde with cheerful disregard for the weather. But in recent years, something has gone seriously wrong.

The Caledonian Isles, of course, is not a vessel fit for winter service on this crossing, and it would make sense to shift it to a less problematic location and put a smaller boat on the Arran service. The quiet abandoning of Gourock as the ‘Port of Refuge’ has carved a deep hole in the potential mainland access. Common sense seems to have vanished from the agenda, and is being replaced by over-detailed bureaucracy and a beady-eyed attitude to costs. The result is having a terrible effect on Arran’s community. Small businesses, particularly those handling daily papers, are left with nothing to sell. Patients cannot get to long-awaited hospital appointments, which of course, could have dangerous results. Planning any event has a mental proviso - ‘Weather permitting’. This has always been a factor in island life, but over the last few years it has got much, much worse, and as a result, people are starting to leave the island. Small shopkeepers talk of being forced out of business, and there is a very real danger that Arran’s community may drop to a level at which it ceases to be viable.

Probably the fundamental question is whether the ferries run as a service or a business. We all appreciate that Government subsidy keeps them going - but it is a sad fact that Arran’s two-boat summer service is almost certainly CalMac’s biggest profit-make. In the winter, when the tourists have gone, the Arran residents do not count. It is time to earmark some of the money Arran’s successful tourist industry makes for CalMac, and use it to ensure that basic travel is available during the winter months. Instead, millions are to be spent on a new terminal at Brodick rather than on the fundamental question of providing a boat or boats that can berth at a reliable mainland port, all the year round.

 
!
 
!
 
 

Advertising Space

YOUR ADVERT COULD BE HERE

Please click on the “ADVERTISING” button on any menu bar

or contact adverts@voiceforarran.com

 

Brilliant trio at the High School Theatre

!On Saturday February 21st, a good-sized audience was thrilled by the skill and musicality of three extraordinarily talented players. Jennifer Brown, clarinet, Harriet Davidson, cello and Claire Haslin, piano, played an exciting and highly demanding programme, starting with the well-loved Trio in B flat major Op 11 by Beethoven. Fauré’s haunting Elégie for cello and piano followed, then all three players rejoined to perform the enchanting Fantasy Trio by Robert Muczynski. The four movements of this piece held everyone spellbound, and after the interval we reconvened for the final, quite massive four movements of Carl Frühling’s Trio in A minor, Opus 40. This highly varied piece went from a quick opening to a wonderfully schmaltzy waltz then on into a yearning andante, finishing with a lively allegro, and throughout, the audience sat entranced, secure in the hands of consummate musicians. The combination of a notably clear, sweet clarinet tone with full-flavoured cello and magnificent skill on the Kawai grand piano added up to a magical concert that sent people home in that state of warm excitement that is the sign of a truly outstanding musical experience.

 

Kammerphilharmonie Europa return

Nobody who was there will ever forget the amazing day, almost exactly two years ago, when, in the middle of Arran’s week-long deep freeze and power failure, a touring orchestra from Germany turned up at Whiting Bay, unaware of what happened. Nobody could warn them, as power lines were down and communication dead - so two large vans rolled up at Whiting Bay Hall so find it functioning as a general refuge and soup kitchen.

What happened next was quite astonishing. When warm and full of food, the big group brought their instruments in and set up the stage as a concert platform, then burst into a performance that nobody will ever forget. Their Chinese double bass player almost danced in his enthusiastic playing, and the brilliance of the whole group was astonishing. The audience, however, was no more than 30 people, as the roads were snow-blocked and few people could get there. The Council burger van was outside, and their white-capped workers listened in astonishment. One of them gestured at the snow and said, ‘In the middle of all this, you put on a symphony concert?’

Now, the Kammerphil, as they became affectionately know, are returning, this time to the Community Theatre in Arran High School on Saturday, 21st March. Their concert is from the unusual time of 3.00 - 5.00 pm, to fit in with their touring schedule, and the programme sounds terrific.

It is very rarely that Arran can manage to invite such a big group, and the Arran Music Society is thrilled and excited to welcome them. Tickets cost £10, which is absurdly cheap by mainland standards, and can be pre-booked from Inspirations or online from Arran Events, or else bought at the door.

!
 

Saxophone concert

by David Oakes

On Wednesday 4th February in Brodick Church, a good-sized audience was privileged to hear the Royal Conservatoire Saxophone Quartet. The young group played all four of the most common types of saxophone, namely, the soprano (played by Richard Schofield aged 18), the alto (Aidan Teplitzky, 19), the tenor (Rory Simons, 19) and the baritone (Arran's own Iain Clarke, 17). Iain is still at Arran High School but attends the Junior Conservatoire of Scotland on Saturdays for both piano and saxophone tuition. The Quartet got together in the Junior Conservatoire in 2013 and has played at a number of charity events as well as a lunchtime concert recital at Leeds College of Music.

!The Brodick recital opened impressively with the saxophonists playing Ravel’s Bolero as the players entered the church from three different doorways. Then followed a mixed and well-balanced programme, with works by Mozart, the American composer Warren Barker, the Russian composer Mussorgsky, the English Gordon Jacob and the American George Gershwin, together with traditional folk songs. In many cases, the pieces had been arranged for four saxophones by the players themselves.

The Warren Barker piece, Voici le Quatuor, was particularly interesting. It comprised four movements, each one dominated by a different instrument, which gave each player the opportunity to demonstrate the quality of his instrument.

The recital concluded with George Gershwin’s Three Preludes, arranged for the quartet though they were written originally for piano. Being Gershwin, there was a jazz influence which left everyone feeling upbeat - a good note to end on

The quartet had only limited opportunities to practise together, and yet the playing was of an extremely high standard. The balance was consistently good, with all members showing an awareness of each other, and the fact that they clearly enjoyed making music was conveyed to the audience. The Quartet performed with exceptional professionalism in every respect, including each member taking his turn to introduce the items.

A very appreciative audience thoroughly enjoyed these young and very talented musicians, and if, as seems possible, they return at some time in the future, they can be assured of a great reception.

The concert was repeated in Shiskine Church on Thursday 5th February.

 

A Passage to India

This great classic film will be shown in Corrie Hall on Sunday, March 8th, starting at 8.00 pm. Shot in 1984 and based on E.M.Forster’s novel, it was David Lean’s final film. He had made nothing in the 14 years since Ryan’s Daughter, and many critics regard A Passage to India as his crowning triumph. It received eleven nominations at the Academy Awards, and Peggy Ashcroft, then 77, won the Best Supporting Actress award for her unforgettable role as Mrs Moore.

!The film is set in the India of the 1920s, when the British Raj was beginning to feel the effect of the Independence movement. Mrs Moore has come to join her son, who is the magistrate in the provincial town of Chandrapore. They meet the eccentric elderly Brahmin scholar Professor Godbole (played by Alec Guinness) through whom they befriend Dr Aziz Ahmed (Victor Banerjee), an impoverished widower who is touched by their sensitivity and unprejudiced attitude toward the Indian people. Mrs Moore and Adela, her soon-to-be daughter in law, have no interest in the expat diversions of polo and afternoon tea and want to see the ‘real’ India, so Aziz offers to take them to the remote Marabar Caves.

Mrs Moore finds the caves claustrophobic and comes out, leaving Adela and Aziz to explore, with just one guide. Aziz pauses to smoke a cigarette, then sees Adela running headlong down the hill, bleeding and dishevelled. Nobody believes his story, and Aziz is jailed to await trial for attempted rape. An uproar ensues between the Indians and the Colonials. Mrs Moore refuses to testify against Aziz, so it is decided she should return to England. To everyone's astonishment, Adela changes her plea in court and clears Aziz, but suspicion remains, and the tangled relationship between India and its colonial occupiers is thrown into uncomfortably sharp focus.

A Passage to India remains thought-provoking and controversial to this day, and demonstrates Lean’s astonishing ability to provoke fresh thought while providing no easy answers. The screening starts at 8.00 pm, and admission is free, though contributions to the upkeep of the hall will be warmly welcomed.

 

!Katy Clark’s support for hearing services …

from Katy’s online newsletter

Action on Hearing Loss currently runs a number of Hear-To-Help drop-in services across Ayrshire and Arran. More than 1,200 people from Ayrshire and Arran use it each year, for advice and support on their hearing problems but its funding is due to end in March, meaning the service may stop. Katy pointed out that if these drop-in centres stop running, people will have to travel to either Crosshouse Hospital or University Hospital Ayr. This would make the services much more difficult to access and result in many people being alone with a disabling problem.

Inability to hear is no joke. It is socially isolating and can result in people being left out of quite vital communication. We all know countless people who wear spectacles to deal with sight problems, and there are very few people over 49 who do not use them. Why should the slow loss of hearing be regarded as less significant? Katy points out that more than a thousand people currently use Hear-To-Help services in Ayrshire and Arran each year and there are already considerable pressures on audiology services in the hospitals. The closure of Hear-To-Help drop-in centres would make this much worse.  It is vital that Hear-To-Help services are protected so that people can access the support they need.

 

… and for Greece

Katy says:

The people of Greece have been asked to pay a huge price and suffer unbearable attacks on living standards over the past five years in order to bailout failed bankers. Greece’s bailout by the Troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund has been to the tune of €254bn over the past five years but over 90% of that went to creditors including British, German and Dutch banks.

!Attached to the bailout were conditions that have wrecked the Greek economy and resulted in social crisis. GDP remains 25% down on its 2009 figure and the impact on ordinary people has meant unemployment remains at around 26%, with youth unemployment still over 50%. Poverty has risen as pay and employment has been slashed. Public sector pay cuts have reportedly made up for around a tenth of austerity measures, a 10% pay cut was introduced in 2010 and in 2011 the minimum wage was cut by 22%. The decline of health services, spread of soup kitchens and the smell of woodfire as the cost of heating oil goes out of reach are well documented.

I have been involved in campaigning and arguing against austerity economics since the financial crisis came to a head in 2008. I am a Patron of the Greek Solidarity Campaign and have spoken at a number of events calling on the UK to support Greek debt relief and a moratorium of existing payments. Austerity economics hasn’t worked in Greece and this Government’s austerity politics aren’t working here. The success of Syriza has challenged that existing orthodoxy and the anti-austerity mood is spreading across Europe. I will continue to campaign for an investment based alternative in the United Kingdom.

 

Proposed Landing Ramp at Dougarie

by Jim Lauder

Forestry Commission Scotland is currently exploring whether timber from the west of Arran can be taken off the island at Dougarie.

The main objective is to reduce the amount of timber haulage on public roads and to reduce congestion in the seafront and busy port of Brodick.

However, it should be said that this proposal is at a very early stage and it is exploratory - no decisions have been made. Although the Dougarie proposal offers savings in haulage costs in the long term, neither Forestry Commission Scotland, nor its private sector partners have as yet secured the investment capital required to build either the landing or an associated bypass road through the forest.

There have been other moves already to reduce the impacts of timber lorries on Arran’s fragile public roads. The Commission took action in the north-east of Arran to reduce timber traffic through Corrie and the narrow coastal route to Brodick. About 48,000 tonnes (2000 lorry movements) will be exported by sea via a landing ramp in the forest at North Sannox.

Forestry Commission Scotland is also reviewing a small number of other potential sites around the island where timber might be removed by barge or landing craft.

All work to date at the Dougarie site has been purely exploratory to confirm its suitability for a landing facility. If or when this phase is completed the next step would be to apply to Marine Scotland for a Marine Licence and thereafter apply for Planning Permission for the landing facility, stacking area and new route through the forest.

We are very aware that local people are interested in these proposals and want to know more. We are very happy to explain this and if plans are taken forward there will be plenty opportunity for further consultation, especially within the planning process.

 

Machrie Slipway

The residents’ viewpoint.

It is with great concern that Machrie residents learned of the Forestry Commissions proposals for timber haulage, a stacking area and slipway to be built in the village.

As we understand timber, primarily from Kilpatrick, the Clachan and some Machrie forests would be brought over to Machrie via the Machrie Moor from the square pillar box to the existing forestry track near Gate Cottage. The forestry track would be extended and the lorries would then come back onto the Machrie moor between House of Machrie and the golf course cattle grid. They would then travel to the stacking area in the field between Weir’s garage and the Schoolhouse. A new slipway would be built opposite the stacking area and the logs would go off from there, transported across the shore road, to a landing craft type ship. It is thought that this would continue for at least 10 years, however we believe that the forestry are behind their extraction targets so it may be for longer than that.

Our concerns are:

These concerns, however, do not just affect Machrie residents, it is clear that it is of island wide concern. I have already had 1 phone call from a regular visitor asking when felling will begin. If it is before June he intends to holiday elsewhere! This clearly affects the whole island economy and tourist trade. With RET expected to increase traffic 30-40% how will something like this help? There are alternatives available which would have minimal disruption, we urge all islanders and holiday makers to support us in trying to stop this going ahead.

The sentiments expressed in the Arran Banner Editorial on Feb 14th are very sensible …. Logging activities will be a fact of life on Arran for many years to come, but there is insufficient information as yet to make any meaningful decisions about the Machrie site (or any of the others suggested) as compared to the existing ones at Brodick and Sannox.

For instance:

The general public need to be involved in identifying these sorts of key issues, then assist in prioritising/ranking them so that any options proposed by the Forestry Commission can be tested against these agreed criteria. Use of an independent facilitator would seem to be a sensible way forward.

 

Oklahoma! Fracking earthquakes shake the state

America’s Center for Investigative Reporting noted recently that Oklahoma had 562 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater in 2014. This astonishing fact can have only one explanation. Earthquakes only began in 2009, when fracking began in the state.

!Massive amounts of water, along with other fluids, are used in the fracking process to break rocks, release natural gas and push it to the surface. This water, along with injection chemicals and brine from the broken rocks, rises to the surface and has to go somewhere. So drillers pump it into underground ‘disposal wells’. The Oklahoma Geological Survey says that more than 50 billion gallons of waste water has been pumped into these disposal wells in 2013 alone.

Oklahoma, the report says, had pre-existing geologic faults that make it less stable than areas such as North Dakota, which is geologically more stable. So now they tell us. Bit late, guys.

 

Dutch government pays up for fracking earthquakes in Holland

!A series of earthquakes caused by fracking in Holland came to a head in 2012 when a 3.6 magnitude quake caused widespread damage to buildings. The Dutch government admitted that it had not expected such seismic upheavals in its Groningen gas-field, but in response to protests from residents, it has ordered a 16% cut in production this year. This despite the fact that the field is a major source of revenue for the Dutch government and its co-developer, Shell, bringing in billions of euros each year.

The Times: reported that a €1.2 billion package is now in place to repair and reinforce homes and other buildings, including more than 20 of the medieval churches in the region that have sustained substantial damage. Let’s hope the British government is aware of this.

 

Bridge Challenge

South to make three hearts. West leads the five of diamonds.

 
 

Marine Protected Areas consultation - a collaborative process

by Sally Campbell

The Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) requires Scottish Ministers to take the necessary action to protect and, where appropriate, enhance the health of Scotland’s seas; to develop a national marine plan that includes marine ecosystem objectives and establish a network of well-managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Before the process commenced in Scotland there were discussions with JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Council, adviser to the United Kingdom Government on nature conservation issues), SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) and Marine Scotland as to priority features to initially protect. South Arran MPA is designated for its diversity of animals and plants including maerl beds, kelp and seaweed communities and possibly the largest seagrass bed in the Clyde; this MPA protects some of Scotland's most important and productive seabed habitats.

Conservation Objectives? The aim is to allow the maerl beds to regenerate and to conserve other valuable, protected features of the South Arran MPA. So what are the Protected Features? Burrowed mud; kelp and seaweed communities on sublittoral sediments; maerl beds; maerl or coarse shell gravel with burrowing sea cucumbers; ocean quahog aggregations; seagrass beds; shallow tide-swept coarse sands with burrowing bivalves.

The proposal was not drafted by COAST alone.  Without the investment in fresh survey work by Marine Scotland and SNH it is doubted the proposal would have made it through the selection guidelines for all the features noted above.

There was also significant work to get other stakeholders, including fishermen, to accept the MPA too. This has been a massive shift from their initial combative position.  Significant management measures will also be required. So this is a first step, rather than finality of marine conservation around Arran. But it is a positive start. Many are voicing critical comments about what is so far proposed by the Scottish Government. However I say let us applaud the fact that through research in the no take zone and the south of Arran by University of York, Marine Conservation Society with Seasearch, SNH, Marine Scotland, University of Glasgow and COAST over several years, we are collectively achieving a positive outcome! These are first steps in the process. Discussions will take place on burrowed mud later in the spring, and that will also concern bottom trawling and bottom dredging. Management measures, effort control and compliance will follow by 2016.

At the Coastal Futures Conference in London in January 2015, David Mallon, Head of Marine Environment at Marine Scotland talked of the partnership of Marine Scotland, SNH, JNCC, Historic Scotland, SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) plus the public including NGOs and fisheries, which has made progress possible to date. The Scottish Inshore and Offshore Zone covers 61% of UK waters. Science led research to deliver national and international guidelines, based on the OSPAR convention is being achieved. Stakeholder engagement included five national workshops. Since November 2014, 56 locations have been visited for consultation meetings all around Scotland.

It was clear from the outset that the MPAs in Scotland would need to be based on scientific evidence. By the end of 2016 there will be a developed management plan for each site to include a review of fishing in inshore MPAs and SACs (Special Conservation Areas).

The process is illustrated below. We are now at the consultation stage. The implementation follows and it is at this stage that effort control, gear control and seasonal controls will be discussed.

THE PROCESS

David Mallon talked about the process in developing the MPAs and the lessons learned which come down to this:

Clyde2020 - a new vision for the Firth of Clyde Ecosystem was also discussed by David at Coastal Futures. It is aiming towards bringing together divided opinions and the Clyde2020 summit looked at an ultimate vision, the gaps in knowledge and what research and practical actions need to be taken. The selected high level marine objectives are:

Isabel Glasgow, chair of Clyde Forum talked of the steering group to be formed and that data is the key to a successful group. She finished by saying “We need to get beyond hopelessness and indeed the obituary of the Clyde”.

Sally Campbell
February 2015

 

Vane Women in Performance

Arran plays host to some special visitors in April when six performance poets from the North East of England come to the island.

‘Vane Women’ (the name memorialises what they sadly refer to as the ‘late lamented’ Arts Centre in Vane Terrace, Darlington) is a performing and writing collective founded in 1991. Its eleven members all come from the Darlington area – Butterknowle, Daddry Shield, Durham City, Darlington, Middleton St George – the places they come from are themselves a poem.

All its members are writers specialising in performing their own work, often around a unifying theme (still unrevealed in the case of their Arran gig). As well as providing entertainment Vane Women offers workshops and runs outreach programmes. And its poetry press has an impressive back catalogue. Find out more on their website.

Six of the Vane Women are lined up for the Arran visit. They will be performing in the Ormidale Glasshouse on Saturday 25th April. With one or two more familiar faces, a book stall and a little local music, it promises a night not to be missed. Free admission but please come along promptly if you can – 7:15 for 7:30.

 

Poem of the month

Selected by David Underdown who also provides the commentary.

Street in Samois

after the painting by Odilon Redon (1888)

Once, in this deserted street –

a short street of golden stone
that draws you in to its vanishing point;
houses that conjure cosy, homely, warm,
that promise interiors of workers,
and their families eating, drinking,
chatting at the kitchen table, houses
that turn their backs on the outside silence –

Redon sketched a boy
carrying a heavy bundle of sticks,
weighed down in midday heat
labouring up the sandy road.

But now, as he and his wife
mourn the loss of their first child, Jean,
Redon removes the lad and his burden
from the final painting.

Marilyn Longstaff

Marilyn Longstaff lives in Darlington and is a member of Vane Women, a writing, performing and publishing collective based in North East England. Her second collection, ‘Raiment’ was published by Smokestack Books in 2011 and is based on the theme of how we clothe our physical and spiritual selves. Vane Women will be performing on Arran on Saturday 25th April.

 

Comb and Curl moves house

Lamlash now has a swish new hairdressing salon, beside the Co-op in what used to be the Cabbage Patch greengrocery shop. Christine, its owner, has moved her business called Comb and Curl from beside the Post Office to a much more visible location, with easy parking on the sea front. The new salon is wonderfully stylish, themed in black and silver - and with a view of the sea to boot! We wish her all good fortune in the swish new premises.

 

Book review

Boy and Man by Niall Williams

!This far-reaching story by the Irish writer, Niall Williams, is about the close, though torn-apart relationship between a boy and his grandfather. They love nothing better than to go up the hill and fly a kite, seeing the long string curving up into the air, live in the fingers. But a terrible car accident obliterates the grandfather's awareness and the boy, shattered by mistaken information that the old man died in the crash, has gone to try to find his mysterious and long-absent father.

Williams takes as his territory the irrational sense of connection that can link people despite all evidence of its impossibility. Though thousands of miles apart, both of them bereft by the loss of the other, the grandfather and grandson are driven by larger forces than they understand. The pity of it all grips the reader, but this is a book about fundamental faith and a trusting to whatever comes. Though helpless to make any connection, the grandfather and grandson are intimately bound up, and the resolving of their need for each other is subtly worked out and, in the end, deeply satisfactory. This is a book with moments of intense human clarity, accepting that we have very little control over what happens and must in the long run trust to luck or to God, which may be the same thing. Boy and Man is extraordinary - intricately plotted and driven by its own poetry and powerful imagination.

Boy and Man by Niall Williams, Harper Collins £7.99 (though you can pick it up on Abe Books for 64p + postage).

If anyone has read a book they've really enjoyed and would like to share news of it, we'd be delighted to hear from you.

 

Why privatise ferry routes?

The Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) have always been in the public sector, but now the Scottish Government’s decision to re-tender for a new eight year contract opens the way to privatisation. In 2012 the Scottish Government awarded a six year Northern Isles contract worth £1billion to private operator Serco, and it looks as though our own ferry services will go the same way. A shortlist of bidders will be asked to submit tenders in June, with the successful bidder likely to be announced in May next year.

Katy Clark MP said, ‘Should privatisation go ahead I am concerned we will see above inflation fare increases and less reliable services, as has been the case on the Northern Isle routes since they were privatised in 2012. There has also been a decline in industrial relations on these routes with decreased staffing levels and attempted attacks on pension rights. I am calling on the Scottish Government to think again, to cancel this unnecessary exercise and to keep our ferries in the public sector.’

 

Anyone for Marmalade?

by John Baraclough

January is the season for Seville oranges and naturally it's marmalade time. The end of February is the time for the annual Dalemain House Marmalade Awards, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It's a fun weekend, with lots of stalls and entertainments alongside the marmalade displays, and the awards have raised £150,000 for various charities since its inception. Unfortunately we couldn't attend this year but a jar of Janet's marmalade was duly dispatched by Royal Mail early in February.

!
 

What has happened to Arran’s hedgehogs?

There was a time when most gardens were conveniently de-slugged by these useful and intriguing little animals, but for a long time now, they seem to have vanished from the island. Their absence followed something of a brou-ha-ha about hedgehogs on other islands, where they were accused of stealing gulls’ eggs, but now the balance has tipped. Gulls abound, but hedgehogs no longer seem to potter round our gardens. This is a shame, because apart from their useful function as munchers-up of slugs, they are engaging little creatures who seem to have no fear of humans and readily get into the habit of coming to the back door of an evening, in case some thoughtful person has put out a saucer of unwanted cat food. Stories abound of hedgehogs getting stuck when licking a discarded golden syrup tin then getting it stuck on their heads like a helmet. If there are any on Arran, they will be hibernating during this cold weather, but even on balmy summer evenings, there is no sign of them shuffling about in their busy, preoccupied way. They are one of our most engaging native mammals, and it would be sad to think their numbers are dwindling - or, in Arran's case, non-existent.

When the warmer weather comes, please keep an eye open for hedgehogs. If you see one, let us know. It would be good to know that these oddly cheerful, inoffensive wee creatures are still with us.

 

Drop everything and watch this stunning video!

This time-lapse sequence taken from the International Space Station is in high definition and is best watched as full-screen.

 

!Whiting Bay shop windows come alive

The ever-inventive Eco Savvy shop has burst forth with a wonderful evocation of the Garden of Eden in its small window. Adam and Eve are there, and so is the bitten apple, while a thoughtful leopard looks on from beside a pool. Inside, the shop is pretty wonderful, too, but the window is an ever-changing work of art.

We also noticed an impressive use of the shop's merchandise to decorate the window of MBS. In an undersea theme there are many mysterious creatures including various fish, crabs, jellyfish and starfish. We think we also detected a Loch Ness Monster but it might have been a Kraken.

!
 

… and finally

We understand that the access road to the marshalling area of the new Brodick ferry terminal will be routed around the outside of the existing bus waiting area and wondered what that would look like. Here’s an artist’s impression!