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Friday, 29 February 2008


Windy today but not as bad (yet) as was forecast. However I cancelled my night out on the town tonight in case the weather worsened and I couldn’t get home over the weekend.

There is a “Foy” scheduled for tonight in Stromness. Not sure where the name “Foy” comes from (maybe a Norse word?), but here it is the name given to an evening where local writers read their prose or poetry, together with contributions from musicians. The local Arts Society usually organise the events and there is generally an opportunity to talk to the performers afterwards as well as catch up with friends.

However for me to be able to attend evening events I have to make arrangements to stay over on the Orkney Mainland as our last ferry home in the winter is 5.45pm! Fortunately I have several friends who don’t mind giving me a bed for the night. But as I say the weather forecast is such I wasn’t sure if I could get home over the weekend so I shall just stay snug on Graemsay instead.

We only have ferries alternate weekends in the Winter so it does curtail jaunts off the island. Next week I was hoping to attend a book launch but we don’t have a boat that weekend so will miss out on that. A local writer, Pam Bessant, has just had a book of poems published (“Running with a Snow Leopard” published by Two Ravens Press). I’ve been to several evenings where she has read some of her poetry and I find it really resonates with me. She writes on a range of subjects, including Orkney and the landscape. But she also writes about being a mother and watching her children grow up, and I heard her read a very witty and cheeky poem about The Devil in a Singles Bar”, which is one of a group of poems on a theme that are still “work in progress”.

Stromness is quite a literary town, where a number of writers choosing to live, and so there are often evenings with local writers reading extracts from their work. We also get visits from Scottish writers who work with the schools as well as give readings in a local pub – they are my favourite as the room used has a lovely open fire, and the audience can take their drinks and listen by the light of the fire to wonderful stories. I just love being read to, I can just relax and give myself up to the magic being woven by the Storyteller.

Ah well, no storytelling for me this weekend. I shall content myself with the printed word instead and wait for the Spring when I can hopefully expect weather to be better for jaunts “abroad”.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Well the return of the gales are forecast, so I made a big pot of sweet potato soup tonight, as comfort food may be in order. I love soups – as I’ve said before I don’t cook and soups are so easy, throw everything into one pot and leave it to get on with things. I tried a new recipe today which turned out well – although the recipe called for 2 teaspoons of curry paste and as I prefer my food bland rather than spicy I only put a tiny bit in – actually next time I think I will up the dose a bit and see how it goes. However the soup was lovely and creamy (that was probably the coconut milk).

As I’ve had my head down working all week I haven’t made any fresh bread, so think I need to set up my new little bread-maker again tomorrow morning to replenish supplies. The Italian Herb bread is so lovely with soup.

I’m also hoping to experiment again making a cake over the weekend. This time though I’ll try and stick properly to the recipe………

Which reminds me, I need to go and collect some eggs before I start baking. Yesterday morning I stuck my hand into the hay bales and encountered a hen still on the nest. Bless her she didn’t even squawk though we both got a fright. I left her in peace and forgot to go back and collect the eggs. Several hens lay in one nest (despite having the whole barn to choose from). I wonder how they work out what order to lay in? And do they stand on the edge tapping their toes urging a hen to hurry up and vacate the nest I wonder?

Last year one hen went broody and the other hens would lay their eggs nearby and she would appropriate them, rolling them with her beak to her little pile and she ended up sitting on nearly two dozen of them! Only three hatched out though and then she abandoned the nest.

One year I hand-reared a chick for a few days. I’d found it lying flat in the nest and when I picked it up it was cold. I thought it had died then I saw a tiny movement. So I brought it indoors and wrapped it in a towel, then placed it on a luke-warm hot water bottle (not too hot or I would have had roast chicken maybe…). Anyway eventually it revived enough to be fed through a dropper. The next day it cheeped incessantly even when it was wrapped in a nice fluffy towel, so I decided it was time to reintroduce it to the Mother hen. Fortunately it didn’t seem to bother her to suddenly have another chick popped into the nest and the little chick ran and snuggled under Mama Hen quite happily. That particular hen was a good mother – without any prompting she calmly adopted five more chicks which were abandoned by one of the other hens. Hmm wonder how many chicks I will get this season.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Power cuts

We had a brief blip in the power connection around lunch time so I was frantically backing up data onto memory-sticks in case I needed to be portable and find another computer with battery power to work on. Fortunately it seemed a temporary blip with no damage.

But it did cause me some confusion as my toaster had just burned the toast and I was trying to get to the smoke detector before the smoke set it off when everything stopped. I assumed somehow the toaster had fused everything but then all the electrics came back on so I heaved a sigh of relief. It was only later I learned it was an island wide power cut. No idea what the cause was though.

In the eight years I’ve lived on the island there have been only a few power outages and none have lasted more than a few hours. Our electricity reaches the island through a sub-sea cable, but then gets transferred around the island through overhead power lines. I do get slightly nervous in high winds or heavy snow as it would be some time before repair men came out to fix anything. However I keep a plentiful supply of batteries for torches and I have a rechargeable lantern, plus battery radios and calor gas heater and hob so I would manage for a while. When the house was renovated I did consider double wiring it so that a generator could be used, but in the end decided the cost probably was disproportionate to the risk, and as I say in eight years I haven’t had a problem, so it seems to have been a good decision.

While the house was being renovated I rented a house on the island of Hoy for a few months and in the Spring the electricity was regularly going off. The first time I phoned the emergency number to report the power loss the chap asked me to go outside and check that no crows were nesting on the post with the electric transformer on it. Apparently this is common in Spring on Hoy as there aren’t many trees at the South end of the island – the crows make their nests atop the electricity poles on the transformers and the nesting material bridges a circuit and “bang” – electricity goes off. I’m not sure of the fate of the hapless crow! Anyway I learned to check the electricity poles for crows before I phoned to report power failures!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Rather late with today’s entry having been over in the town all day. The weather gave us some respite from the wind and I managed to buy goodies in town, plus meet up with several friends. In fact I had a two-course lunch in different locations with different friends – and managed to avoid indigestion!

I was delighted to see that a cafĂ© in Stromness has taken over the stock from the Deli store which closed last week. So I came home with sunflower seeds, coconut milk and various ingredients and I have no idea what I shall use them for – but I wanted to encourage the new owners to continue buying interesting goodies! I bought some sweet potatoes today too so hopefully the coconut milk will combine into a soup. And the seeds can be used to decorate my loaves!!

However I failed in my endeavour to buy cream coloured spray paint……. When I first moved into the house I sprayed a tired old wicker chair turquoise to bring some bold colour into a house that had been painted magnolia in every room. I like magnolia – I chose it – but in every room gets um – a little bland. Anyway I needed to rebel against magnolia I think. Now I have other vibrant colours in the room the chair needs to be more muted I feel. However clearly the local population have a preference for psychedelic colours as all I could find were fluorescent greens, oranges and yellows. Back to the drawing board.

And while the wind had dropped I managed to put my rubbish out for collection today. We have a weekly island collection – households can put their black plastic sacks full of rubbish (no green “wheelie bins” like the townies have) out by the roadside. The local council then employ one of my neighbours to go round with his van and collect them and deposit them in large containers (similar to those used by restaurants etc) down at the pier. These are then winched onto the ferry and taken to the Mainland.

Orkney actually ships a large proportion of its household refuse up to the Shetland islands where the council use it in some sort of bio-converter to fuel heating in a number of public buildings (including I think their new museum). Orkney is slowly getting into the way of recycling refuse – we obviously have a limit for landfill so need to find innovative ways of dealing with the rubbish. However on Graemsay we have no recycling facility as yet, though we are lobbying for one, so currently rubbish either gets burned on household fires or bonfires, or shipped off Graemsay.

Hmm.... clearly it's time for bed as I can't even think of a title for this entry. Well - apart from "rubbish"..... which kind of leaves myself open to all sorts of comments really :-)

Monday, 25 February 2008

Rain, rain go away...

There was some respite from the gales today. This morning I awoke and wondered what was wrong….. then I realised the wind was no longer screaming like a banshee around the eves of the house. Ah – the silence was bliss. But it was short lived and as I type the wind is rising again. And it has been raining heavily all day. And my usual view of Stromness is obscured by the mist. Oh well – it is still only February……

Today is the sort of day I am happy to have my head down concentrating on work. Though today has been somewhat challenging. I work as a health researcher and at the moment a lot of my work involves writing structured abstracts and appraisals of other people’s research. However last year I was working on my own research project, and our team are currently trying to get this research published in a journal. So our research has gone out to be scrutinised by peer-reviewers and today I was dealing with their comments. It’s my least favourite part of the job as I hate revisiting a project I think closed, particularly once I’ve moved on to other things. But it’s all part of the job.

Broadband access (ADSL) has certainly made a huge difference to life on an island. I can be in regular contact with work colleagues or friends around the globe through email or using Skype (internet video and voice phone). I have quite a reasonable connection as I am fairly near to the box of tricks that is the island telephone exchange (a green box at the end of my driveway - see photo).

Because I use my computer for work I tend not to use it for “play” much. However I have got quite addicted to the “listen again” features for radio programmes – particularly the local Radio Orkney programme which is usually broadcast at 7.30 am when I am still in the depths of sleep! And now the BBC through iPlayer allows you to download TV programmes too I can catch up on the few bits of TV I missed and wished I hadn’t. And yes I know I have a video recorder but it makes up its own mind what to record and I have very little say in the matter. At least my computer lets me choose!

I’m also a huge fan of online shopping too. Though I am probably the only person left in the UK that hasn’t got into eBay. This is partly because I know once I do get into it I shall be doomed to spend all my time and energy chasing “bargains”! I shall resist for a while longer. No, really I will. I can resist anything but chocolate... and cake…

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Another blustery day

Still very blustery and wet today. Though the wind has dropped a little. It’s been windy for five days now and the noise does get a little tiresome! However that’s Winter in Orkney so one just has to put up with it. Fortunately the days are lengthening now which is one of the things I love about an Orcadian Summer – loooong days. By about mid-June it hardly gets dark at all, maybe a sort of dusk between say midnight and 3am. But still light enough to walk home without a torch!

Today has been a fairly lazy day for me, just catching up on a few domestic chores, and spending a bit of time updating my website ( It has been quite some time since it last had an overhall. Mainly I’ve been adding photos and just general tidying up.

I’m planning on uploading some photos of other islands in Orkney that I have visited. Each year I like to explore a little – each island in Orkney is so different from the next. Only Hoy has high hills, the other islands are very low lying, but they still have their differences in topography, and ancient sites, and of course different mixes of folk.

Graemsay doesn’t have any historic sites – well not any that will attract tourists. That’s probably one of the reasons we can live a very quiet existence as not many visitors venture to Graemsay. However each year there are folk with family or ancestral links to the island who arrive with photos or tales of family past. Towards the end of the 19th Century there were two large families living in my house and each year some of their descendants arrive on the island. I love hearing stories about connections with the old house and I’m trying to piece together some of the history.

Our island is very quiet but is an ideal place to view birds, and the scenery is beautiful, with lovely views across the water either to Hoy or the Orkney Mainland. We have lots of wild flowers too – though my knowledge is sadly lacking in that quarter. I can just about recognise the local tiny orchids and one or two other plants.

I love the Spring though as lots of the sea and shore-birds nest along the shore as well as the usual field and “garden” birds and there is a cacophony of sound, especially in the evening. We have large flocks of curlew, lapwings and oystercatchers around, plus other wading birds. We regularly see Hen Harriers, and one year we had some owls nesting here. Unfortunately we also have a variety of gulls which predate on the younger chicks.

Orkney has no foxes, but has a plentiful supply of hares, rabbits, and rats too. However we have none of these on Graemsay, though the local mice population is doing well despite the variety of farm cats.

My conservatory is an ideal place to watch the birds and I love sitting in the conservatory watching the adults with young chicks in the field behind the house – much more interesting than watching TV!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Gales continue....

The gale continued well into the night. Some of the gusts were really strong and I could feel the old stone house shudder. I hate the gales through the night – somehow it always feels more scary than in the day time. I feel quite secure in the house – and am glad I saw the construction of the roof in every detail as I’m confident it is securely fastened to the house! Although sometimes the wind gets through the vents in the roof and rattles around noisily in the loft space. But my greatest fear is some loose debris flying through the windows.

Although in general, anything that wasn’t tied down back in October disappeared in the first autumn gusts. I’ve become attuned to the weather much more since living in Orkney. There is nothing between our wee island and the East coast of Canada. Westerly winds tend to be the prevailing direction. The North winds aim directly at the conservatory windows and I hate those.

Most cars in Orkney end up with what are known as “Orkney doors” – that is the wind has at some point caught them and bent them back on their hinges and slightly out of shape. On the island as we are so exposed to the wind I try and work out wind direction and then decide which way to park the car and whether to park at the front or back of the house.

The majority of houses in Orkney only seem to have one external door. To someone from the South of England this seems odd – all the places I knew had front and back doors (well some had side doors). But in Orkney only one external door is traditional. Usually where possible (and before statutory planning regulations) a house would be positioned with the external door on the most sheltered side of the house. When my house was built back in the 1860s it only had one front door – actually the house was built as a two flats within the house, both with external doors at the front (one upstairs accessed by a long gone stone staircase and one downstairs). A rear porch was added at some point and when the house was renovated both a front and rear external doors were kept. Plus a slightly excessive three doors in the conservatory. The cat is very astute – if it’s windy when I open one door to let him out he retreats and goes to find another door which is hopefully sheltered from the wind. If none suit he gives me a very indignant look and retreats into the warmth of the sitting room again.

And today’s culinary note – the Italian herb bread turned out well and is delicious! I may venture to bake a cake again tomorrow……..

Friday, 22 February 2008

Beware the toast that has no ears....

No I have no idea what that means, but I saw it on a mug in a friend’s house and it made me smile and given my adventures with a bread maker seemed appropriate. Having said that, my first loaf turned out very well and I have eaten most of it already. But I just tried making an apple and walnut cake and um… let’s just say my hens will be using it as ballast to avoid being blown away in the gale that is battering the island at the moment. I got a little too daring and meddled with the ingredients and I know where I went wrong…….. tomorrow I’ll try bread again – herb bread to be exact.

Today I was over in town for a meeting – the weather has been atrocious, South Westerly gale force winds with squally showers, high seas etc, add this to the high spring tide and there’s a lot of water about. Fortunately the Graemsay pier is fairly sheltered from the Westerly wind so our ferry sailed despite most other ferries in Orkney being cancelled. Also Graemsay is in fairly sheltered waters in Scapa Flow so it has to be very very bad for our skipper not to sail, or the wind in the wrong direction.

However folk with houses on the piers in Stromness were a little anxious as the tide was so high. If the wind had been from the South East there could have been quite a bit of flooding in the town. I once worked with someone who had a house on a pier in town and extensive flooding was forecast due to tide and wind. So they put sandbags around the doors and windows and hoped for the best. There they were sitting drinking a cup of tea and noticed the carpet move in a corner. The water was coming up *underneath* the house, not through the doors or windows. Seemingly that’s what happens on the piers in Stromness, the water somehow seeps up through the stone foundations. They ended up removing the sandbags to sweep the water *out* of the house.

On Graemsay flooding is only a problem on the road. The Links (sand dunes) have a tarmac road running through them which is the main access to the pier. Quite often after storms it’s only passable by tractors, what with the stones and boulders thrown up by the sea, the sand swept up off the beach, seaweed and water sloshing about.

The island sea defences take a battering every winter but little is done by the local authority to repair damage, just patch-up jobs each year. There has been talk of re-routing our “main highway” but who knows if that will ever happen. The main road on Graemsay were originally made up as access roads to the two lighthouses, the rest being rough tracks. Over the years more road got adopted by the local authority as access to the school was needed. However it is all single track road with no passing places – so drivers learn to look a long way ahead to avoid reversing back to the nearest gate or wider part of the road. There are verges along the road but these also hide *very* deep ditches so I always try and avoid driving onto the verge in case my car disappears into the ditch!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Adventures with a bread-maker

Gale force 9 winds are blowing around Orkney with gusts forecast up to 70mph. So today is a good day to stay indoors. Time to experiment with my recently acquired bread-making machine. Now this will come as a great surprise to those who know me, as I don’t cook. It’s not that I can’t cook, it’s just I don’t enjoy it so do as little as possible. It was a great disappointment when I discovered the price of my new range cooker didn’t include a chef….

However I love toast and jam, and I love cake – this bread maker will do *all* of them (well according to the instruction book)! Cake figures large in my life – when the ladies of the island have a craft and “home bake” sale I arrive in my car like Boudicca in her chariot – and woe betide anyone who gets between me and CAKE!

Anyhow I acquired this breadmaker via Orkney Freecycle (a local website where people can recycle things they no longer need) and today is my first experience. So far so good – as I type the machine is doing its stuff. It’s a tad noisy – I suspect I won’t be using the overnight timer unless I also double it up as an alarm clock. But if I stand on a chair I can look through the little window at the top and so far all appears well.

The bread maker will hopefully become well used. With no shops on Graemsay one needs to be well organised to get supplies sent over, or to venture forth and shop in the town. The term 24- hour shopping" on Graemsay means phoning your order to town one day and collecting it from the pier the next. Anyway I’m hoping that I will now be inspired to make fresh bread, and CAKE.

Of course it does depend on having the correct ingredients so I am now off to write a list of goodies to bring home from town tomorrow…….. more flour…. seeds….. raisins……herbs…… things that most cooks have in their cupboard anyway – which of course is why I don’t. Oooh I hear a noise from the kitchen – has the dough exploded from the little basket thingy, is it now oozing slowly across the floor about to smother the cat who is snoozing in a corner – I must investigate……

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A working day

Today’s picture is of some miniature daffodils in my newly cultivated garden border that have bravely dared to stick their heads above the earth so early in the year for Orkney flowers.

Apropos yesterday’s entry – if anyone wants to see photos of kye being shipped from Graemsay go to my neighbour’s website:, click on “island life” on the left hand menu, and if you click on “Shipping Kye” a short slideshow will run.

Today I’ve been catching up on work so not much to report. I’ve barely stuck my head outside the house all day - just a brief visit to feed hens, and get some fresh air by the beach and then back indoors. I work from home as an academic researcher, employed by universities in the UK to conduct research on health related topics. Occasionally I get to visit the universities and work with the teams face-to-face, but much of my work is done at a “distance” using telephone, email and linking via the web to global databases.

I really enjoy the flexibility of working from home. I am not a morning person (as anyone who knows me will verify!) so I like the fact that I can choose my work hours. I am fortunate that I live close to the sea shore so can frequently walk on the beach during a coffee break – really helps to clear the head! Working from home I can also choose the days I work so I can have my “day off” and go to town when the ferry schedules suit. We have daily ferries Mon-Fri but on the "winter" ferry schedule (October to end April) we only have ferries operating two weekends a month so I sometimes plan social activities during the week when I can leave the island.

Our ferry schedules only work for commuting to the Orkney Mainland if one has a part-time job as it's not possible to do a regular 9-5 routine. Most folk on Graemsay either have their own farms, work offshore or are retired. I did manage a daily commute for a couple of years till I got myself established working from home. Winter was the worst time – attempting to struggle up or down the pier in a gale force wind wearing “toon klaize” (town clothes) is an experience I am glad to forgo!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Coos, Kye and Farming

Today has been a busy day for the island farmers. The Ministry Vet (government approved vet) has been over for routine testing of cattle for various diseases accompanied by a man from “The Department” – a government department official to check that farmers records are up to date and correct. There are seven farms or crofts on Graemsay but only five keep kye (Orkney word for cattle), some only keep half a dozen, others keep over 120. All the kye on Graemsay are bred for beef, as the logistics of dairy farming on the island are prohibitive. It is coming up to the busy season for the farmers as most of the coos (Orkney name for cows – but you’ve worked that out for yourself…) were put to the bull last summer to begin calving from about February onwards.

The kye are overwintered indoors in byres, fed twice daily on cattle “nuts” (pellets) and silage (grass that is cut and wrapped immediately in black plastic so that it ferments slightly making it ideal winter food) and of course mucked out. In Orkney farmers bring their cattle stock indoors about October time and will release them onto the land again about March. The timing is determined by the weather – cattle can make a real mess of a field if the ground is too soft, which destroys any decent pasture. That’s one of the reasons that the cattle are brought indoors. Plus there is little natural shelter on Orkney as the landscape is low lying.

The kye spend all summer outdoors, the coos with their calves, the younger stock which is being fattened up for selling on, and of course the bulls. I have a small field (about 3 acres) behind my house which is used for summer grazing by one of my neighbours. I love seeing the cows and calves out of the window. The calves all get together and race around the field just like kids in a school playground. Or they hang around the water trough not unlike teenagers hanging around the sweetie shop after school.

Each year farmers will send off stock to the local Mart in Kirkwall. Cattle have to be individually crated up and winched onto the ferry. They are then shipped over to the nearest town, Stromness, where they are transferred to a lorry and taken to the Mart. (Vegetarians – stop reading now!) Most are sold on to other farmers who “finish” the stock by feeding them up before sending them to market for slaughter. The brand name “Orkney Beef” and “Orkney Gold” are apparently proving popular in the South of England. One prize animal from Mainland Orkney ended up at a butcher’s shop in Guernsey in the Channel Islands a couple of years ago!

And where do we get our milk from? Well the supermarket of course –most of the Orkney grocery shops sell milk produced in Orkney, as well as a lovely array of Orkney cheeses and my favourites – Orkney Fudge and Orkney Ice Cream!

Monday, 18 February 2008


I am getting a good supply of eggs from my hens at the moment. Today I collected five eggs, one egg for each hen. I also have two cockerels, which is one too many cockerels! However as my hens are completely free-range this isn’t causing too many difficulties. I gave up naming them a couple of years ago when I ended up with 30 chicks and they all grew up!! The cockerel is known as Finlay (and any descendants as Finlay Jnr). I just let my hens do whatever comes naturally to them, I do like fresh eggs but mainly I just enjoy watching the hens. In fact most of my eggs go to friends and neighbours or as part of a bartering system – eggs in exchange for fish for example!

All the chickens live in a solidly stone-built hen house a few yards from my back door. I leave the little “hen-flap” open for them to come and go as they please, with food and water always available in the henny-hoose. Unfortunately despite having a “des-res” to live in, the hens prefer to go off and hide in a dark corner to lay their eggs. This necessitates skulking around the byres and barns in search of eggs. I am often alerted by a loud squawking sound as a hen has laid an egg (well wouldn’t *you* squawk??!) so once I locate the hen I start searching around about. Another method is to shut the hens up overnight and then follow them when they are released in the morning! But once the hens realise someone is stealing their eggs they find a new location. Playing Hide and Seek with my hens is a regular pastime.

I try and collect the eggs regularly to dissuade any of the hens from going broody. The first year I allowed them to hatch chicks which was fun, but then they all started doing it, which is no problem if the chicks are female as it is easy to find new homes or expand the flock. But cockerels are more problematic (well they would be.....) and I tend to give these away to any takers – although I suspect the ones I give away do end up in the somebody’s cooking pot!

Having free-range hens is a bit of a challenge if you are a keen gardener as they love to scratch up the earth – especially freshly dug earth, and love to nip off the tops of shoots of young plants. However with various Heath-Robinson type contraptions most things can be protected till they grow big enough to survive the odd nip. And I just love the company of my hens when I am pottering around outdoors so I don’t mind them having the odd dust bath, or aiding in the thinning out of some of the vegetation!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Shop Closure

Well I am mourning the closure of one of the local shops, the “Stromness Deli” – not a deli in the usual sense, more a general grocery shop in the town just across the water from Graemsay. But it was a popular shop for the island as it sold all sorts of spices and interesting ingredients for continental cooking, wines and spirits, as well as the usual fare of local bread (and cake), cheese etc. We could phone up for supplies, have them put on the next boat and pay whenever we were in town. Unfortunately the owners say the shop is no longer viable and so the doors closed finally on Thursday this week.

It is so sad to see shops closing in the town of Stromness, there is still a local bakery, and the local Co-op supermarket, as well as a superb local butcher who not only sells local meat but also fruit and veg. In fact the butcher, in my opinion, sells the best fruit and veg in the town, which can be a problem if you are a confirmed “veggie” as you cannot ignore the meat display as you pay for your purchases!

However the neighbouring town of Kirkwall has two medium-sized supermarkets, a Somerfield and a Lidl. Lidls has proved very popular since it opened a couple of years ago. Generally its prices are the lowest in Orkney, and again it supplies lots of continental and foreign foods and ingredients, as well as having special offers on non-food items.

I suspect many of the smaller shops have struggled since Lidl arrived in Orkney. But it’s a tough balance – folk welcome food at reasonable prices, love the special offers and bargains of the local supermarkets. However supermarkets tend to transport all the produce from South, arriving via the larger ferries from the North of Scotland. In the winter months, when ferries are cancelled it is not uncommon to see empty shelves.

Many folk remember a time when Orkney shops were mainly filled with local produce – meat, milk, bread, cakes, biscuits, fruit and vegetables. Of course this meant only eating food that was in season. Now we as consumers are so used to having whatever we want whenever we want. At the moment my fridge is full of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and other fruits normally only seen in the Summer in the UK. I do try where I can to buy “local” produce, because I want to support local suppliers, reduce the carbon footprint of the food I eat etc. But oh the supermarkets are sooooo tempting with their wares and special offers, and I’m afraid I am too weak willed to resist. But I fervently hope that our remaining Stromness shops maintain enough business to survive – otherwise it will mean a 30 mile round trip to town for cake….. (my friends will be aware how important CAKE is to my survival......)

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Film Night

Last night I was at our monthly Film Club evening over on the Orkney Mainland organised by a friend and I. We run this in a local town hall – well the hall is actually a converted Kirk (you can see the spire in the photo, OK I cheated I took the photo in Summer our trees don't get leaves this early!). Anyway, the old Kirk is great for a film night as the acoustics are wonderful. We have a large makeshift screen strung across one end where the organ used to be, the projector is suspended from the gallery, and speakers around the room. The nearest regular cinema is a thirty mile round trip, so our monthly club is proving popular – last night attracting over 35 folk. We also tend to show “non-blockbuster” and foreign language films. Last night’s offering was “The Lives of Others”, a compelling and moving story set in Eastern Germany during the 1980s where artists were under constant surveillance. The film proved very popular with the audience, as did the German wine and chocolate handed around! Although we had some technical difficulties connecting the laptop to the projectors so it has to be said I consumed a large quantity of the said wine to calm my nerves….. fortunately all was well and we were able to show the film. However we have some way to go to beat the catastrophe at the local official cinema in a neighbouring town which, a few years ago, showed the first “Lord of the Rings” trilogy with the reels spliced in the wrong order!!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Friday again

Just back from the pier - the island gets a "cargo" delivery mid-day on a Tues, Weds and Friday with our local ferry delivering supplies from the Orkney Mainland. All items either have to be handed off the boat, or winched off by crane which has a weight limit so no large items can be delivered with ease. However today some straw was delivered - needed by a local farmer for bedding for coos (cows) that are about to calve, plus some wheat which is destined for my hens (I hope), and supplies from the local grocery shops in town.

Today has remained beautiful and sunny, though chilly. But I can see some daffodil leaves poking out above the ground so Spring must definitely be approaching. I've just returned from a walk on the beach. I just love hearing the waves on the shore. Today the shoreline is marked by a line of shingle so the waves make a wonderful sound as they roll across. Each day the shore is different, depending on what the last tide and currents have brought in. I love seeing the patterns left on the sand from water running from the burn, the paw marks of the local dogs, and footprints left by the waders - today I disturbed a dozen or so Oyster Cathers who shrieked their indignation at me.

Fri 15th Feb

My first day as a blogger..... never thought I'd do this - we Brits aren't into public introspection, well this Brit isn't anyway.

I intend to record daily life on the remote Scottish island that has been my home for eight years now. Today holds the promise of being a beautiful Spring-like day, with blue sky breaking through the clouds, and the sun is beginning to feel warm again after it's winter hibernation. And there appears to be NO WIND - such a day is to be treasured in Orkney where even the most benign summer day brings a breeze with it. Time to climb out of pyjams and go and feed the hens who are already congregating on the back door step as I have been tardy in attending to them this morning. See what this blog has got me already? Cross hens!