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Hurricane Bawbag

The Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen <em>Picture: Hamish Macdonell</em>

The Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen Picture: Hamish Macdonell

No email, no texts, no mobile phone coverage, no heat, no electric light, no power – it was like being back in the 1970s during the three-day week.

The storm tore into Islay at 5:20am on Tuesday. By 5:30am we had lost our electricity supply and we didn’t get it back for another 53 hours.

For the first day, it was something of an adventure – especially for the children who had to take a candle or a torch everywhere they went, including the bathroom. As dawn broke on the second day, though, and we were still cold and sitting in the dark, the novelty had begun to wear off. By the third, when we would have given at least half our New Year whisky supplies just for a hot bath or a shower, the power cut had started to make us more than a little grumpy.

But at least we had water. Neighbours not that far away from us had to try to catch rainwater because there was no power to drive the electric pumps bringing their water up from their bore holes.

And at least we had an open fire. The local cottage hospital was reported to be full of elderly, vulnerable people who had been rescued shivering in cold, dark, unlit houses because they had absolutely no way of getting warm or producing any hot food.

We also got our electricity back during that third day (thanks very much to the power company engineers who worked hard to get all of us reconnected). There were parts of Islay where the electricity was still not back heading towards day four and others may not get it back even today.

Despite everything, though, the whole experience was both salutary and revealing, in many ways.

For a start, I learned some new skills which I never thought I would need: like trimming the wick on an oil lamp, fitting a mantle to a Tilly lamp in semi-darkness and changing the butane canister on a single ring gas ring with a torch clamped between my jaws.

We also learned to live by the natural rhythms of the day – which, on Islay in the winter, means that dawn doesn’t really break before 8:30am and, with the clouds low and heavy, there isn’t much light much before lunchtime and it goes again by 4:10pm.

There was simply no point trying to get up before the sun was up because it meant laying the fire in the dark, refuelling oil lamps and shivering in the dark.

We learned how much we rely on electricity and how far we have to adapt when we don’t have it. But it also taught us how much there is to enjoy without it – like how good an open fire, a few flickering candles and a bottle of Ardbeg can be after a day struggling to complete even the most basic of tasks.

The children got to find out what it’s like to make breakfast by toasting bread over an open fire and how to cope without television, computers and all other appliances they take for granted.

Our house lost a decent number of slates but we came out of it in a far better state than many. The Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen’s main hall, which has withstood storms and gales for more than a century, had a large part of its roof ripped off by the winds.

On Tuesday morning, I drove down the main street in Port Ellen and it was as if the road had been paved with broken house slates which had rained down over the tarmac from all sides.

The storm was preceded by such a deluge of rain that the ground everywhere had been turned to mud. Apparently, this was one of the reasons so many trees were torn up and thrown about – because there was nothing firm for the roots to hold on to.

One of the most extraordinary aspects, though, was the speed with which the storm passed over the island. Islay is relatively flat and the weather doesn’t tend to linger very long. But the wind barrelled in at 5:20am and was gone by 6:30am.

Lying in bed, it sounded like the sea had risen up from the shore some half a mile away and was crashing against the house – then it was gone, leaving months of repair work and fixing in its wake.

We have our electricity back (and emails and the internet – which is both a blessing and a curse), and most others should get reconnected soon.

It was inconvenient, yes. It was uncomfortable, certainly. But it made us stop and think – and, looking back in the electricity-generated cosiness of a warm and well-lit house, that may be no bad thing.

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Sócrates, 1954–2011 <em>Picture: Sergio Goncalves Chicago</em>

Sócrates, 1954–2011 Picture: Sergio Goncalves Chicago

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
The BBC’s A Question of Sport has been going a while. By chance, I came across it on BBC Northern Ireland on Saturday afternoon.

It’s a show I’ve had an association with one way and another. It was what made me learn facts and figures around sport, I’ve booked guests for the show, helped Ally McCoist prepare for the programme (John Parrott called it cheating) and even did the rehearsals for the show in Glasgow.

It’s changed personnel, been shunted around the schedules and is now more light entertainment with a sports theme than hardcore athletics. And to be honest, I’ve lost interest with it.

I’ve not watched it for ages, until the weekend. Some of the format is the same, but suddenly the teams were playing on what appeared to a be a Wii or PlayStation simulator.

Has A Question of Sport morphed into They Think It’s All Over? At least the latter employed real comedians for laughs. Needless to say, my interests wasn’t rekindled …

Sunday
There was no one who took an interest in football in the early 1980s who didn’t marvel at the Brazilian star Sócrates. He bossed the midfield, striking with his height, curly mop and beard. And boy he could play.

One marvelled even more that his real name was Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, that he was a qualified doctor, that he smoked 60 fags a day, and liked a bevvy.

Unfortunately, the latter duo did for him eventually, aged just 57.

His passing was followed by the tributes, including those who thought he was part of the best team never to win the World Cup. And I can see why people would make that claim.

Sócrates played alongside brilliant players like Júnior, Leandro, Zico, Éder, Falcão and Cerezo. And they were a great team. Just recall how they dismantled Scotland.

But they were flawed, namely in that they could not defend, as Italy showed in a World Cup classic. And great teams can defend. So that, and the fact they never even reached the semis, never mind the final, for me precludes them as contenders as the best team never to win the World Cup.

France that year had as good a case, given they were cheated out of a final place, although it would still be a contest between Holland from 1974 and Hungary from 20 years earlier. Why?

Because I watched the Dutch in 1974, and I have read about and seen film footage of Hungary. That and the fact that the late Bob Crampsey rated them so highly. Good enough for me …

Monday
More brouhaha over the London Olympics with the news that another £40m is being invested in Olympic opening and closing ceremonies. This time those sounding off came from many within sport, saying so much could be done in sport with that kind of money.

Most people said “grass roots”. But you don’t need those with 3G pitches.

I’d like to see a breakdown of what exactly you get from a £40 million top-up for two ceremonies – which up until Monday we were being told were going to be unforgettable anyway.

A flypast by the original Dambusters? The Beatles reforming? A handout of a grand to everyone in the stadium to applaud madly and tweet feverously about how spectacular the spectacular had been.

Or with it be for extra security costs? No, don’t be silly, they needed an extra £250 million for that. Still, there is some change left out of the £9.7 billion set aside for London. Hope they keep a quid back for matches to light that torch …

Tuesday
Snooker’s UK Championship was one of the big events on the calendar, the matches all the way through decided over two sessions, best of 17s or 19s. Proper match snooker.

This year, though, the format has changed in York. Best of 11 is order of the day, a kind of UK Lite if you like. But what it would mean is that matches would be finished in a session, something of a bonus you might think.

Certainly when the draw threw up world runner-up Judd Trump against former world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, people didn’t care how many frames they played over.

So at 5–5, facing a deciding frame, this was as good as it gets – or rather, as good as it got.

Because BBC decided, in their wisdom, to leave Trump–O’Sullivan for the scheduled episode of The Hairy Bikers.

Oh, you could have pressed the red button – and many viewers would have done so willingly if it had been wired to some high explosives.

There is a snobbery at the BBC when it comes to snooker. Basically, we should be glad they still broadcast this ancient pastime, even if it hammers other sports in terms of audience figures.

The Beeb would never have left Murray vs Nadal at 5–5 in the final set at Wimbledon, or Jonny Wilkinson on a last-minute kick at Twickenham, or with a British golfer teeing-off on the last hole at the Open, regardless of what those bearded, motorised chefs from the north of England were knocking up out of offal and sawdust.

Needless to say, Eurosport – who stuck with this mini-classic to the end – gained quite a few new viewers after Tuesday.

Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom on the airwaves. I had a right good chuckle when the Sky Sports presenter on Sky Sports News referred to SFA compliance officer as “Vincent Loony”.

Simply stating the obvious?

Wednesday
One thing is certain in snooker. There is always as much going on off-table as on it.

My disappointment at the UK Lite was reiterated, rather more forcibly during his news conference the previous day by Mark Allen, who had some choice words for snooker’s boss, head honcho and some may say dictator Barry Hearn.

“The players don’t really matter, so f*** the players,” said the Ulsterman.

“Whenever Barry came in, one of the first things he said was that the World Championships, UK and Masters wouldn’t be touched. Only 18 months later, the UK format has changed.”

Hearn countered, Captain Mainwaring-like, by dismissing Allen’s criticism of him as that of “a silly little boy”.

And you can say these things when no one will call you to task and you own 51 per cent of the game, something some of the players voted over to Hearn.

That’s not a dictatorship, merely a controlling interest …

Thursday
Hurricane Bawbag strikes the country. But another weather front causes backpage headlines.

The Aluko Storm might continue to run for a wee while after Rangers new boy Sone Aluko was done for diving by an SFA court of coffee and buns.

Diving is cheating, although Aluko might have claimed on another day the wind had blown him over. So I don’t mind things being dealt with retrospectively.

What I do take issue with is that the penalty handed to Aluko is ultimately the same served on Wayne Rooney, by a different court, for booting an opponent. During the game it’s a yellow. But post-game, it becomes a suspension, all because an official has been had, or proved to be inadequate.

And, I really do shake my head when Aluko is suspended and Garry O’Connor of Hibs is not even given a ticking off for an even more theatrical dive to win and score a penalty against St Johnstone.

Promising transparency, the SFA have conjoured up another baffling decision and excuses to match.

On a lighter note, the weather did cause some grief to footballers.

Was this God getting his own back on Garry O’Connor? The best bit is near the end. I didn’t realise Fatima Whitbread trained with the Hibees and got someone to collect her javelins …

Friday
Timing is everything in sport, but surely it is coincidental that hours after Rangers voice their unhappiness at the SFA, one of their own sticks up a couple of Churchillian fingers at the SFA by declaring he wants to play for Team GB at the Olympics.

If I were Steven Naismith, I’d be happy to be playing again properly by the time of the 2012 games.

But as I discussed last week, the SFA are toothless when it comes to players wishing to pursue their Olympic dream.

While he has Olympic ambitions, however, Naismith might have trouble convincing his club manager Ally McCoist that disappearing for a month at the start of the season is a great deal for him and Rangers.

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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