on monday of this week, caledonian macbrayne placed notice of possible disruption to the islay ferry service due to fog. i have lived here for over 27 years and never once in that time can i ever recall a ferry being delayed or cancelled due to fog. modern technology and navigational aids, equip even the thirty-one year old mv isle of arran with sonar, radar, gps and a foghorn. add to that the fact that the two sea routes to and from islay do not cross any major shipping lanes and all local boats are well aware of where the ferries will be at what time, to say that there was considerable surprise expressed locally would be something of an understatement.
the islay ferries ply the same routes day in-day out around 363 days per year, something they've done for more years than their captains and crew would probably care to be reminded of. there's a sneaking suspicion that the boats could probably get here and back on their own. it's not a disruption confined solely to islay, however; on wednesday the oban/tiree ferry was disrupted for the very same reason.
barring unforeseen eventualities (and fog does not necessarily come into that category), it is surely very hard to get lost anywhere these days given the ascendancy of the global positioning satellite network, or gps to which it is more commonly referred. originally developed by and for the military it seems pretty much freely available to anyone with the necessary technology to take advantage of its possibilities. it's not so very long ago that even these black and yellow pixels played home to a review of a garmin device that not only offered locational facilities, but connected via a mobile phone to allow broadcasting of its location to anyone with which the owner had allowed into their inner-circle.
so theoretically, it's possible to traverse both the sahara and gobi deserts without ever taking a wrong turning (don't try this at home). excluding the humorous satnav misdirections, it ought not to be possible to get lost anymore. however, rather obviously, this was not always the case.
east of fraserburgh, on the northeast coast of scotland are the two adjoining villages of inverallochy and cairnbuig. owing to the proximity one to the other, they are often referred to collectively as invercairn. in 1951, a profoundly deaf resident of cairnbuig by the name of james duthie set off to ride his bicycle to the north african country of morocco. while the route may even be an adventure in itself nowadays, modern bicycles, such as one of steven shand's stoaters, would undoubtedly make such an undertaking a tad less onerous than was the case for dummy jim, as duthie was more commonly known.
the knowledge that he never actually made it that far, can be easily gleaned from the title of his journal, i cycled into the arctic circle, published in 1955. this 3,000 mile solo trip from cairnbuig to the north of norway, cost him a mere £12. if, like me, you're wondering just how it's possible to head off to north africa yet arrive in norway, you may have to be deep of pocket. though the book was published in 1955, it seems it may not have remained in print for too long; amazon currently offers a used copy for £80.
dummy jim sadly died in a road accident in 1965, apparently having disappeared into obscurity. and there he might well have remained, had film director matt hulse not found reason to document his story by way of a feature length film, released in 2011. copies of this award wining movie can be purchased on dvd from the dummy jim website, satisfying our curiosity via a weave of fiction, documentary, animation and archive. but in order to whet your appetite for a further slice of scottish eccentricity, follow the link below to watch a short trailer.
as the list magazine said of the movie on its release "Very beautiful and utterly bonkers."
saturday 11 april 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................