Skye had some unusual visitors from opposite ends of the technological spectrum last week.
On Thursday we went down to Portree to see the PS Waverley, the last seagoing paddlesteamer in the world (although she was only built in 1947). She (why are ships always feminine, by the way?) was sailing in the area most of last week, but mainly from Armadale in the south which is a much longer drive. She was built on the Clyde for the LNER (just before nationalisation) to operate as a ferry on the Clyde up to Loch Long*. Paddle steamers are suited to river/inshore work as they can have very shallow draughts and were still in service on the Humber estuary crossing up to the opening of the bridge in 1981. The last Royal Navy paddle tugs were built as late as 1957 and were, topically, still in service for the Silver Jubilee Spithead Review in 1977.
At the other end of the technological spectrum, on the same day, internet and telephone connections on Skye were hit by an attempted cable theft. I don’t know if we were affected – we were out most of the day, although we did have some issues with paying by plastic. As the link points out, if we assume it was the usual type of cable theft, with the thieves after copper wire to sell, then they were at the lower end of the intellectual spectrum. It was a fibre optic cable – no copper there folks…
It does show, yet again, how fragile modernity can be, especially in remote rural settings. We are constantly being told that the future involves more working from home (we’re doing our bit!). If we were still in London we would be being told ‘to avoid unnecessary travel during the Olympics and to work flexibly’. But without a reliable infrastructure, be it ferries or broadband, which means multiple redundancy, so a single connection going down doesn’t take half an island offline, and thus greater expenditure it just won’t work. [By the way George, that’s part of plan B when you need it – like yesterday]. I’ve been thinking: we get a lot of pigeons in the garden – I wonder if I could train them…
*Loch Long isn’t so named because, at 20 miles, it is long, but from the Gaelic for ‘ship’.
Currently listening to: Travels [live] – Pat Metheny Group. First jazz record I ever bought, back in 1983, when as a double on the German ECM label it cost a small fortune which, as an undergrad, I hadn’t really got!