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Monday, 30 May 2016

Battle of Jutland Commemmorations


On from my post about the Weeping Window poppies, here is a short video about the poppies and what it means to the people of Orkney.

Orkney is centre stage for the national Battle of Jutland commemorations to take place tomorrow. There will be a memorial service streamed live via the BBC at 10.45 tomorrow from St Magnus Cathedral.  All sorts of politicians, royalty and "dignitaries" from the UK and Germany will be attending, as well as bands from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines etc. There will then be a service at the Naval Cemetery in Lyness in the afternoon. Here is a view of the preparations at Lyness and take a look at the other photos on the link to see the care and respect paid to the war graves here.

All the events are by "invitation only" though locals could apply to attend and I know one or two who were successful.  Local music and dance groups, as well as some local school children, will be taking part too, and there will be following events during the week.

It feels quite bizarre to be mowing my grass and spot a Royal Naval landing craft go by, or various grey ghostly ships of the Royal or German Navy.  It gives an inkling of how Scapa Flow was during both world wars.  Local folk going about their daily business while global matters of war and defense were played out in the Flow.

Extra ferry services were laid on to get about 20 black Range Rovers to Orkney, several were armour plated! There have been sniffer dogs around Kirkwall, searches of "the drains" (apparently some of the drain covers hadn't been lifted in years so I think that was a bit of a challenge!).

Today various bands were practicing on the Kirk Green outside the cathedral.  You can see some film clips on Radio Orkney's Facebook page here

Without going into the politics of war (oh don't start me on that one!) I do think it is important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in all conflicts. My late father was in the RAF in WWII. He never spoke of "his war", though in some ways he was "fortunate" in that he was an instructor mechanic on the Spitfires & Lancaster bombers so didn't leave these shores.  But he lost many friends, those who were serving and those who were civilians.  He hated the big fancy show broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall and refused to ever watch it.  But he would silently weep the next morning as the old warriors filed past the Cenotaph in central London during their act of remembrance.  From him I learned the importance of remembrance.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Weeping window memorial




Since the end of April a very special "sculpture" has been on display at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.  The "Weeping Window" is what remains of a larger "installation" that was at the Tower of London in 2014 to commemmorate the start of the First World War.  It was called "Blood swept land and seas of red" by Paul Cummins (artist) and Tom Piper (designer). Over the course of several weeks 888,246 poppies gradually filled the moat at the Tower, to symbolise the lives lost in WWI.

Here is a picture (courtesy of BBC) of the Tower of London poppies.



The weeping window is now on a tour of the UK and is currently in Orkney in time for the commemoration of the Battle of Jutland which took place on 31st May 1916.  Part of the commemoration is a service at St Magnus Cathedral, where the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is expected to attend, it is rumoured that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor will also be there. Royals attending will be the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne. After the service at St Magnus (which is by invitation only) there will also be a service out at the Royal Naval Cemetery in Lyness on the island of Hoy. Concurrently there will be a service out on Jutland Bank.

The poppies are proving quite a draw to the cathedral, with "hosts" on hand to give lots of information to visitors .

To be honest the impact of the poppies is greater from a distance, though the poppies (made of ceramic) are very beautiful.  But close up you can see the scaffolding and construction which, in my view, detracts from the beauty and sadness of the poppies.  But - practical matters have to be attended to! Anyway here are some photos of the poppies at St Magnus in Kirkwall.





An unglazed poppy....



The poppies spill from a window......


And down the steps....


And by the war memorial, a "yarn bombing" of poppies, which have been on this lamp post for some years now....


The local shops have displays and souvenirs of the poppies.




Here's some info on the events taking place during the commemorations, lots of talks etc.

And here is the best photo I have seen of the display at St Magnus.  Photo copyright of Danny Lawson, it was on STV website.  Very powerful image.




Sunday, 22 May 2016

Spring sunshine...



It has to be said the Spring Sunshine has been somewhat absent these last few days.  But we DID have a spell of lovely WARM (oh I remember warm) weather a week or so ago.  So here are a few photos to share with you AND remind myself! Above - washing on the line!  Stromness and the West Mainland of Orkney in the distance.  I LOVE getting washing out on the line - nothing can replicate the smell of a couple of hours of fresh air blowing through the washing.

Now...remember the fence to keep the hens OUT of the veg patch?  Well it's STILL working. I know - I'm amazed too.  But I'm not complaining. Neither, it seems, are the hens.  They seem quite happy in other parts of the garden.  But THIS is why they have to be kept out the veg patch - they love a dust bath!


And a bit of  sunbathing (who doesn't like to feel the warm sun). You can just make out the fence to the left of the hens (er and cockerel)


And a wee nap too... yup the hen IS asleep.... Big Ginger keeps watch


And then there is Madam Button.... she likes the sunshine too. Here she's inspecting one of the ornamental grasses in the new bed.


And now trotting over to say hallo and see what's going on.  Um...did I tell you when she had her annual vaccinations the V.E.T. said she needed to lose a little weight. Ooops Madam Button was NOT impressed.  So let's not mention it.  No girl likes to be told she could do with losing a little weight.


After a while she settles down  to watch what is going on....


And a pair of pheasants wander across the grass!  Non-native to Graemsay, obviously!  Introduced some years ago they seem to do OK without any management or additional food.


And these flowers just LOVE the sun.  They close up when it's not shining... who can blame them. I do the same...


And now Spring is well and truly sprung I've moved back into the conservatory. Having given it a Spring Clean first of course.  Anyway it's a perfect vantage point to watch the sunset....


Over outside Stromness through the haze you can see the Ness Battery, the wartime camp complete with accommodation huts.


Mmm maybe this looks a bit clearer - oooh look at that calm sea...



Ah yes definitely the perfect vantage point to watch the setting sun.


A vapour trail from a plane patterns the sky


Sun sinking over behind Warbeth now....


A wee sailing ship coming into harbour


Hopefully the sun returns soon!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Time to Par-ty!



Well it was time to party last Saturday!  I organised a belated birthday celebration on Graemsay. Back in April it was my 60th birthday but I snuck off to Copenhagen (Denmark) to celebrate (more of that another time).  So I'd only just got round to having a party on the island to thank folk for all their presents and continued help and support.

A few musicians and friends came over to the island for the evening, and we were joined by most of the island folk for some dancing, yarns, songs and CAKE. Oh WAIT till you see the CAKE!  So here are a few photos from the party.  Not that many as I was rather occupied enjoying myself. Hahahaha!

So the first ingredient for a great party are the musicians.  John Budge of Walls (on Hoy) playing the accordion together with "Half the Cuff" (half of the group Aff the Cuff) with Fran Flett Holinrake on fiddle, James Groat on banjo, and Jack Yorston on accordion.  John doesn't usually play with the band but they all knew each other and played some great tunes.


Irene Mathieson of Graemsay, sang some songs, accompanied by her guitar playing. She sang my favourite, Lonely Scapa Flow.  Always brings a tear to my eye that one.


John was "Master of Ceremonies" on the night, and also told some stories and sang songs too.  He really "knits" the evening together. And I could, with confidence, leave him to it and just enjoy myself!

Fran sang one of my favourite songs about the women Herring Gutters and introduced some of the tunes.  One tune in particular was very special for me.



Because it was written just FOR ME! By Fran! For my birthday! How cool is that! And it's called "Sian's Jig" and is to be played alongside the Graemsay Jig.  Whoo hoo! The original sits proudly on my dresser in the kitchen at Sandside.


Back to the band. There was a bit of a dual between Fran on the ukulele and James on banjo. I think maybe James won, but Fran shed blood.


Now another important ingredient to a good party is that the hostess makes an effort and dresses appropriately.  So...this was an occasion for The Red Shoes. Oh yes!  Not worn for a couple of years and I wasn't sure if I could still wear them but not only could I walk in them, I wore them all night! (And yes I could still walk in the morning!).


And with all the music, there was, of course, dancing!


Wee ones joining in too!  Though I think Ring-a-Roses was more popular with the young ones. Hee Hee.



More dancing....


And John took some time out from playing to dance with his wife, Leslye.  Bit of an energetic dance this one, clearly!


John & Leslye showing the way, while others try and work out the steps...


Michelle swaps partners!


And then there was the chaos that IS the Graemsay Strip the Willow (No trees were harmed!). I'd promised to try and teach friends from Holm G & G (of Imperfect and Tense) how to do Strip the Willow, but in the end they were left to fathom it for themselves.  Frankly they did just as well as the rest of us who have been doing it for years! Here young James & Ewan lead the way - er - sort of.


Young James dancing with his older sister.


And there was time for the auld (old) boys to have a blether (chat)


And time for a peedie lass to have a wee nap...


There was a lovely supper provided by folk on the island, a kind of "pot-luck" that always seems to work well on the island (sorry didn't get photos of that!) and.... THE CAKE!! Oh my word.  What a surprise.  It was made by Sandra, who is Graemsay born and makes the most wonderful cakes, as well as raising a family and farming. No idea where she finds the energy OR the time.  But back to the cake..... covered in chocolates, chocolate icing, chocolate cake (rum & raisin)..... and the centre-piece was of course my beloved Button!!


And I love how the "60" is Button playing with a ball of wool!


The cake was delicious though there wasn't much left after it was shared around folk!

So I thoroughly enjoyed my birthday party! I love Graemsay parties as everyone is very friendly, welcoming and knows how to have a laugh! It was great to have some of my off island friends over too to share in the evening.  And Graemsay folk always appreciate those that come over to Graemsay and the musicians (who played the entire night!) really make a night.

Hope you enjoyed the party - sorry there was no cake left for you. Hee hee!  And NO I did NOT eat Button!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Gardening in May....oh and more sunsets...




So let's start with a beautiful sunset on a calm evening in May......

And now move onto battles with hens in the garden! Hee hee!  Every year I attempt to grow some vegetables and fruit.  Most years I lose much of it to the hens.  In the past I've covered things up with netting till seedlings grow but the pesky hens would find ways in, and then get STUCK needing to be rescued.  So, at great expense this year, I purchased a chicken fence which is supposed to keep chickens IN.  However I am using it to keep chickens OUT.... they have the entire garden and several acres, but oh no, let's have a dust bath in the middle of the peas and have a snack while we are at it... So.....


Robust netting with robust poles and pegs.  The netting is big enough to not be a problem in the wind but small enough and tall enough to keep pesky hens out!   Though I do suspect they might discover they can fly over the wall.... we'll have to see.  The fence will be rolled up and put away in Winter, but for Spring & Summer, it stays!  S came round to help me put it together as she has the same netting successfully keeping her hens IN.

Hens spot The Fence, as does Button.  None are impressed.


These two are  definitely clocking the fence to identify weaknesses!


This is me INSIDE the fence.  There is a cunningly disguised gate for me to sneak in and out.


It's also quite unobtrusive and not that visible from the gate.....


So, INSIDE the fence is a patch of wildflower seed, courgettes (under cover), salad leaves, ruby chard, broad beans and peas. Oh and some shallots.  Though either the mice or starlings had uprooted a couple of THOSE today! There are also two gooseberry bushes and a black-currant bush.  I rarely get much fruit off them as the pesky hens love them when they are tiny.  So far the wild birds haven't investigated too closely, but I may need to put netting over the fruit bushes to keep them away.

Outside the netting is the rhubarb and the strawberry patch.  Strawberries need to be undercover too but that's doable as I have a custom made "hat" for them.  And in raised tubs are carrots So, all we need now is some decent weather!

And now back to evening sun.... these ewes and lambs were showing an interest when I went for a walk along the shore the other evening.  Only because they thought I might feed them!  The grass is very slow growing this year (well except in my garden!) so they are getting plenty of extra rations and equate a human with food!


Meanwhile the beach had a rosey glow from the sunset.


It's May but in Orkney the daffodils are still very much in flower! The rosa rugosa and willow trees are greening up nicely though.




And in other news, a pair of crows had built a nest in the willows by the house.  Poor things are desperate for anything resembling a tree. Often in Orkney they nest in the heather on the ground! Anyway I wasn't that keen on having a crows nest by the house and it was on the way to the washing line. But I think the chickens scared them off! They like to gather under the trees during the day for a preen, chat and a bit of a crow (the cockerels, obviously).  I think the crows served them an ASBO (anti-social behavioural order) and the chickens retaliated as the crows didn't have planning permission. Anyway the crows seem to have abandoned the nest, thankfully.  It's early enough for them to build another in, hopefully, a more convenient place for all concerned!



And to end today's potter, another sunset!