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Saturday, 31 January 2009

Busy week.......

It's been a busy week for me with work and other activities. A research project I've been working on since April is coming to a close, so deadlines to meet and loose ends to tie up, as well as my other regular work.

Sadly Charlie Boy made a successful bid for freedom on Monday evening and hasn't been seen since :-( He certainly didn't seem happy indoors, although we had made a little progress. But he still wouldn't let me within a yard of him without hissing and growling. He spent all day curled up in a box, but got quite lively at night. He was possibly spotted hunting in the links (sand dunes between the road and the shore) later that night, but to be honest there are a number of grey and white cats with similar markings so it could have been another cat. I have been trying to see if I could spot him around the barns and byres near the house - there are lots of mice there plus plenty of hay to curl up in. But given he didn't want to be particularly friendly when in the house, I'm not convinced he will appear if I call. However he may associate me with food and put in an appearance if he gets really hungry - or he may move in up at Ethel's where she has a colony of outdoor cats. I've asked for her to look out for an extra one - he may be missing the company of cats, preferring them to humans. Who can blame him!

In the past I've tamed some feral cats that took up residence in the barn, when they got really hungry. They would scavenge for the scraps I put out for the hens and so I was able to feed them and eventually befriend them so I could at least get them rehomed. At the time I had Fitzi-cat who got very angry and stressed if there were other cats around, and of course the feral cats would come and sit on the window sills tormenting him! Hence needing to rehome them. However Button seems to have either avoided the current roaming cats or at least learned how to deal with them, so if Charlie Boy wants to live in the barn hopefully that will work out OK.

My new toy arrived this week - an iTouch. It's like an iPod (mp3 player) but stores photos as well as music, and I can connect to the internet using wi-fi access so I will be able to access email and the web when travelling. At the moment I'm using it to watch TV on the internet in bed to catch up on programmes missed, also "listen-again" for radio programmes! It's so light, and slim, and intuitive. I'm a PC person but I could easily be converted to Apple!

Another piece of computer equipment arrived this week - an external hard drive of 1 terrabytes. That 980 odd gigabytes........ like the billions of pounds we owe as a country, I can't get my head around 1 TERRAbyte........ I remember when 1.4 megabyte floppy disks came out and we were all thrilled at how much data we could store on them! And no I don't even have 1 tb of data to back up - but, well, I'm sure I can find some! You know what it's like, however big your cupboards - you end up stuffing them full of "stuff". But it has to be said - I'm clearly not as enthusiastic about this piece of equipment as my iTouch, as it's still in it's cellophane box awaiting investigation.........

Tuesday I had lunch with friends at Julia's. We were discussing "craft" projects and I said I didn't "do" craft. Then they were talking about making felt out of woollen jumpers and I asked how they did that. "Put a pure wool jumper in the washing machine at too hot a wash cycle and it'll come out as felt" HEY! I've done that! Several times - with expensive jumpers - yes they said the more expensive (purer) the wool the better. So - I do craft after all!! Tee Hee!

I also picked up a picture I'd bought at the Pier Arts Centre from their Christmas exhibition. It's still wrapped up until I can get it hung on the wall. It's called "Windy Day" - hmmmmm well I didn't need to buy a picture of that this week! It's been blowing a gale for several days now....... but I liked the picture anyway.

As I say, very windy this week. I was due to go over to town on Friday but got down to the pier and with the wind direction and the tide it looked just too horrible to contemplate such a journey. Actually I don't mind the short rough sea crossing, it's the getting on and off the boat that scares me - when the boat is bouncing around and you have to judge when to step on. Mick said they had cancelled Becky going over to school. I thought, well the boys are going so maybe it's not that bad. Then I realised "the boys" are both around 6 feet tall and really I ought to equate myself with Becky aged 6 rather than two tall teenagers! So I decided to stay home instead. Mick offered to collect my "messages" (groceries) from the cargo boat as he would be down at the pier at lunchtime and I'm glad I took him up on that offer. Apparently the pier was awash with spray and waves breaking over the pier.

Slightly less windy this morning but still very bracing - I've just been out to feed the hens and given Charlie Boy another yell. Seemingly these hens respond to whatever one yells eg "Here Chookies", or "Charlie" or "Puss, puss, puss"....... canny hens - they know it all means food......

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Vanilla currant cookies

Just tried a new recipe out of a book I was given for Christmas("Baking" by Lakeland). The cookies are yummy (despite my misreading the recipe!) and so thought I'd share this with you.

Vanilla Currant Cookies

(sorry it's only in metric!)

125 g butter softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
165g caster sugar (put granulated sugar in a good processor to make finer)
1 egg
300g self-raising flour
40g dessicated coconut (which I misread as ground almonds - yes I know....)
40g currants

Vanilla Icing (actually next time I might miss this out as the cookies are good enough on their own. And I had quite a bit of icing left over so would halve the quantities maybe)

240g icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 (one and a half) teaspoons butter softened
1 tablespoon milk, approximately

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot (200C/180C fan assisted). Grease baking trays.
2. Beat butter, extract, sugar, and egg in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Transfer mixture to large bowl, stir in sifted flour, coconut (or ground almonds!) and currants.
3. Shape rounded teaspoons of mixture into balls; place onto trays about 5cm (2 inches) apart. Flatten with hand until about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick.
4. Bake about 10 minutes or until LIGHTLY browned. Cool on trays.
5. Spread cookies thinly with vanilla icing, place on wire racks to set.

Vanilla icing

Sift icing sugar into medium heatproof bowl, stir in extract and butter, then enough milk to make a thick paste. Stir over hot water until spreadable.

Notes: the recipe actually produces small biscuits. So use more mixture in ball if you want bigger cookies.

Cat in a box

Charlie Boy is slowly beginning to settle in. He finally decided that a box with a cushion in was infinitely more comfortable than a cold enamel shower tray! He stays in the box most of the time. Yesterday he didn't eat breakfast but did eat dinner. He seems to come alive at night and I could hear him moving around. I've been going in regularly, taking a cup of tea, leaving a radio on and just chatting to him. I don't approach him at all. This morning he ate a little breakfast and looks slightly less apprehensive when I sat talking to him. So we will just take it slowly.

A friend suggested he may be wondering why he is in a house with few other cats - maybe I *eat* cats!! Especially as Button was very vocal when he first came, but has quietened down now. He probably thinks he's next on the menu and if he sits in his box and pretends he's not there I won't eat him. Poor baby!

Button is wanting more fuss from me but is otherwise dealing with the smell of an intruder well. We shall see how it goes when they get introduced!

Other news - I found White Hen dead in the field yesterday. I have no idea what happened though I feel a little guilty. She has always been very timid, and has been at the bottom of the pecking order - and believe me, watch a group of hens for a while and you really get the meaning of that phrase! I'm wondering if she didn't want to go back into the hen house at dusk. Once the light fades hens just automatically roost, though not always on a perch. I had some new hens once that escaped before I got them into the hen house. I didn't stand a chance of catching them, so waited till it was dusk and they just sank down in the long grass. I could then go and pick them up and take them into the hen house with them being as quiet as anything, no squawks, nothing. Amazes me every time I do that. Anyway for the first few days the new hens were in residence I went and checked on them to make sure all were in the hen house at night. Everything was fine. But I wonder if this particular night White Hen decided to roost outside. It was a very cold frosty night so she might have got hypothermia and froze to death. I missed her the next day but sometimes she would go to the barns on her own so didn't think much about it. It was only later on I got concerned and found her in the field. Or I should say what was left of her as clearly some farm cats had been having a feast. And although that may sound distasteful to some - well she had a good life and it's the natural way of things. After all I eat chicken........

White Hen was the last of my home-bred hens so I am particularly sad to see her go. To her credit she laid a good few eggs. I'm just sad I couldn't do more to make her comfortable at the end or even rescue her. Ho Hum.

On a brighter note, Burns Night is celebrated today (Wikepidia gives details). Throughout Scotland there will be various Burns Suppers taking place, including in Orkney. Though as I've said before, Orkney considers itself more linked to Norway than Scotland, in many ways, only being annexed to Scotland a mere 550 years ago! That was as the result of an unpaid debt - um given the current economic climate let's hope history doesn't repeat itself! (Pawned to Scotland)

Time to do some work. Must get the breadmaker started too as supplies are getting low.

Friday, 23 January 2009

And then there were two .... again....

A new "rescue" cat arrived yesterday! I'd told the Cat Protection people that I would still like to have two cats and if they found one that would be suitable to stay with Button then I'd be happy to have a go.

Well yesterday I got an email with a photo of a recently rescued grey and white young male cat. Named by his fosterer "Hammond" (after Richard Hammond..... she thought she might have some trouble rehoming poor Clarkson.....). It seems the cat shelter folk are needing to rescue cats from a house where an elderly chap kept 40 (yes FORTY) of them. She said Hammond was very laid back, had just been neutered and would I be interested in him.

I'm not sure on what evidence they assessed him as being laid back but we're having a go anyway. Unfortunately I think he is just traumatised at the moment. In the last 24 hours he was trapped, taken to the vet, neutered, given injections, put in a cat cabin, then back into a box and sent on a loud noisy bouncy boat to me!

Button looked interested (in a good way) when I brought him into the house but they have yet to meet properly. I have renamed him Charlie Boy. However we have yet to get acquainted. I opened the door to his box and he just sat there. So I left the room and went back a few minutes later and he was on the windowsill. He growled when I approached so again I left him. He stayed on the windowsill till well after 11pm. I'd left him some food and several cosy warm spaces (old blankets etc) and this morning he'd eaten the food and was asleep in a box with a blanket.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of trying to get to know him and got a scratch on my hand for my pains. I retreated and so did he - to the shower cubicle where he has resolutely remained ever since (all day in fact).

I keep going in and talking to him, he has food, water, litter tray (which he *has* used), heating on, cosy spaces to sleep etc. So I shall just leave him to settle. He probably feels physically rough after being neutered, anaesthetic etc, not to mention the mental trauma! He is probably wondering where the other 39 cats are - sigh.

We shall just have to see how things go. The arrangement is, if he doesn't settle with Button, then he can go back to foster care. But I'd like to give him a chance!

So if anyone has any advice on dealing with traumatised kitties I'd be interested to hear it! The Cat Fosterer lady suggested Bach Flower Rescue Remedy - this is flower essence in brandy. I said I didn't have any here, but I'd maybe just take the brandy. There was the smallest of silences before she replied "I meant for the cat"....... I think he has enough of a hangover from the anaesthetic without giving him the brandy..... I'll keep that for myself I think.

So - watch out for more adventures with cats! Oh by the way - Jasper is happy in his new home. He is an "only" cat, but also has a dog for company which he really likes. Clearly he prefers canines to felines.

Charlie in the shower.....

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Winter day in Kirkwall

(Photo - a door leading into the St Magnus Cathedral (built in the 14th Century) in Kirkwall. I love the juxtaposition of straight lines and curves, and the embellishments on the door)

Yesterday I escaped to Kirkwall. First time I have been to the town since before Christmas! The main street looked sad with Woolworths closed - sigh. And I see a shoe shop has closed since I was last there too. I cheered myself up with hot chocolate, whipped cream and marshmallows at Glue's coffee shop!

I only had a little shopping to do and was meeting friends for lunch and "afternoon tea". I'd also hoped to do a little photography around the Mainland. However, despite Graemsay being virtually frost free, I found some of the roads on the way to Kirkwall covered in snow or thick ice. It was *not* a pleasant drive into the town I can tell you.

Then after parking the car I found that some of the pavements were still quite slippery. However I thought I'd venture up to the Cathedral to take some photos. I boldly crossed the street, up the steps - and then did a Bambi impersonation on the flagstones outside the Cathedral! I managed to keep my balance but was then in a bit of a predicament - I didn't want to go backwards as that was downhill - in fact whichever direction I took was sheet ice and slithery. Given my fragile bones I didn't want to risk a fall so......... if you hear reports of a "bag lady" crawling on her hands and knees apparently in penance up the flagstones to the steps of the Cathedral - don't tell them it was me!

I did manage to crawl onto the grass which was much easier to walk on and got back down to street level using a different but only slightly less slippery route. I wasn't able to take many photos as it necessitated moving around a lot and that didn't seem wise. I also went along to the Kirkwall harbour but a) there were hardly any boats in and b) I had to cling onto a lamp-post to stop myself sliding about so again it was difficult to get good angles!

In the end I gave up on the photography and went and had more hot chocolate.... I took quite a few photos but you know how it is - once you get home and download them you're disappointed! Oh well I got a few supplies in and had a good chat catching up with friends so it was a good day nonetheless.

Below - some rather gothic winter pictures in the Kirkyard:

Monday, 19 January 2009

Musings on coral and poetry.....

I've been working today so no time to go out and about with the new camera. Though it's been a murky grey chilly day so I probably haven't missed much!

Over the weekend I was practising with some close-up snaps using my new camera and took a photo of some cold water coral that I picked up on the beach near the house in the summer. I think it's from a cold-water coral reef (merle?) out in the water between Graemsay and Stromness. You can pick up clumps of it on the "shell beach" on Graemsay. Though in reality it is coral that has grown around stones which eventaully get washed ashore. But I just love the textures and patterns.

Now to poetry, on another Orkney island website a reader commented about the appropriateness of a Seamus Heaney poem for describing an Orkney gale. I like Heaney's poetry but was unfamiliar with this one and had a hunt on the web for it (isn't the web marvellous?!) so here it is:

STORM ON THE ISLAND by Seamus Heaney

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,
Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.
This wizened earth has never troubled us
With hay, so, as you see, there are no stacks
Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees
Which might prove company when it blows full
Blast: you know what I mean - leaves and branches
Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale
So that you listen to the thing you fear
Forgetting that it pummels your house too.
But there are no trees, no natural shelter.
You might think that the sea is company,
Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs
But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits
The very windows, spits like a tame cat
Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives
And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo,
We are bombarded with the empty air.
Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Woolly Hats and Warm Ears

I hate woolly hats. I love fashion hats but rarely wear them - being under 5 ft tall tends to provoke smart comments about mushrooms or "is there anybody under there" etc - sigh. Woolly hats I hate - have I said that already? BUT in Orkney when the wind chill factor nips the ears woolly hats are an essential item. And the current fashion in the UK is for the "yak hats" (see photo). You will NEVER see a photo of me wearing this - but I have to say it is soooooo cosy and warm!

I bought it at a shop in Stromness (Elaine Bentley's wool shop). I wanted to try one on knowing it would look very very silly......... However Elaine very patiently got out most of her stock and persuaded me to try on a variety of different designs, and I finally settled on this one as the least worst in terms of how I looked. But it had a pigtail on the top. Nope I said the chaps on the boat will keep grabbing the pigtail as I go past (you know what boys are.... and see comment above about being under 5ft). That's OK, she said, and offered to remove pigtail. OK but the pigtails at the bottom still look silly - "you'll be glad of them on a windy day to tie up to keep your hat on". This I knew to be true - having lost two hats this winter while collecting boxes on the pier. " OK" I say " so they get to stay, but PLEASE wrap it up - I shall only wear it on the island." "I want to see you wearing it IN TOWN", she says "EVERYONE wears them. Don't be silly - be practical and WARM". I still leave the shop clutching a plain brown paper bag. However it IS chilly in the town, so I summon up my courage, walk down the street and go into the cafe for a cup of tea wearing the hat.......... First off I end up with the pigtails in my coffee - sigh..... just as well I didn't buy the white hat then or it would have disgusting pigtails before long..... Then when leaving the cafe I see Amy (who works there) eyeing up my hat. "I hate these hats, I think they are really silly looking - do I look *that* bad in it" I say. Without missing a beat she replies "It would look better if you cut off the big label hanging from the top of it." and produces scissors. See- there goes my vanity *again*.

And this afternoon I was playing with my camera and of course Button had to come and investigate...... it's a cat thing.....

Wind, what wind?

Photo: Sunrise

Fortunately the forecast storm seemed to miss us. OK it *was* windy - but when you are expecting winds of 100mph and they only get up to 55mph with gusts up to 70mph - well you just think there's just a bit o' a breeze out there!

I managed to sleep through the whole thing anyway and there seems to be no damage around outside Sandside so that's good news too!

Though in Orkney anything not tied down by the first gale in October is long gone by now. I do get worried about flying debris hitting windows, particularly the conservatory windows at the back of the house. But I tend to go into ostrich mode and stick my head under the duvet - nothing I can do about it anyway!!

Even the sea is quite calm this morning so can't have been too bad during the night. And a lovely bright sunny morning it is too.

I opened the hatch for the hens to come out - it's still quite breezy but they are sheltered down by the hen house so should be quite safe. They will stick around the door for a while anyway before exploring too far. Unfortunately I am NOT getting any eggs at the moment, despite them being shut in for about three days! However the new hens are young so hopefully they will just be starting to come into lay soon. Don't know the names of the new hens yet - will have to get better acquainted first!

Waves on the shore below Sandside this morning (Stromness in the background)

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Calm before the storm

All is quiet weatherwise at the moment. The sea is calm and the sky quite bright, though some clouds coming in.

However THIS is the weather chart for tonight! Orkney is the little blob off the top right hand corner of the UK - the one under the dark red mass - er, I think there's going to be more than "a bit o' a breeze" tonight! Although by the look of it most of the UK will find it a bit breezy - stay safe everyone!

Courtesy of Magic Seaweed website:

Friday, 16 January 2009

New camera.....!

New to me anyway. Have just purchased a second-hand camera from D. who does his own wonderful pictures. And no I don't expect my pictures to automatically be wonderful because I've bought his camera ;-)

Have just been practising with the on/off switch, and taking snaps this afternoon as I have yet to read the manual......... The sunset above was taken this afternoon from my front door.

We had a power cut this afternoon lasting several hours (longer than expected) so I went out and about with the camera as I couldn't do much else. Well I did also make a pot of sweet potato and butternut squash soup as that only needed gas to simmer along happily.

I was over in town (Stromness) this morning, picking up aforementioned camera, and getting some supplies in as storm force winds again forecast for tomorrow. Apparently that's why the electricity board were working on the line today as it got damaged in a high wind last week and they didn't think it would survive this weekend's weather so were undertaking some maintenance. Let's hope it is robust!

Button went out last night, despite it being a little breezy. I wish she could talk (well English instead of feline......) as she returned with both her back legs completely sodden as though she had fallen in something, but her front end was completely dry. No idea what she had been up to. It's possible she'd met one of the wandering farm cats and had a bit of a spat and ended up in the bucket of water I keep near the hen house. But who knows really what she was up too!!

Anyway here's some more photos.

OK, maybe a fit out of focus - waves on the shore......

High Tide at Sandside Bay

One of my favourite photographic subjects, an old boat on the shore just below the byres at Sandside. I want to have a go at some "arty" shots with this.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Did the earth move for you?

Apparently there was a small earthquake in the Shetland Islands this morning (magnitude of 3.3 according to scientists) :

However I don't think it was felt in Orkney - though as another gale was raging it would be difficult to say whether the rattling was due to the earth or the sky!

Seems earthquakes of a low magnitude in the area aren't that unusual as Shetland last had one in 2002. Clearly not quite the same danger zone as some of my friends in the US live in!

Hens arrived last night and are settled into hen house quite happily with Brown Hen and White Hen. The new arrivals are all brown - though slight variation in feather colouring. AND one laid me an egg this morning! The new hens are what are known as "point of lay pullets" so are just newly coming into lay - it was quite a small egg, but an egg nonetheless. Long may they continue!

Time for lunch I think - I'm still experimenting with my new bread machine and made a lovely loaf with pine nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds. Delicious with a fresh bowl of soup!

Though I probably have to confess that some of you are getting the wrong impression of my culinary skills - I actually don't cook that much. Though I do make lots of soups, some cakes and of course bread.

I've never really enjoyed cooking, or for that matter eating. I started doing the family cooking after mum died when I was 14 and used to regularly make batches of fruit and meat pies, cakes including Christmas cake with a crate of alcohol poured in, and christmas puddings, biscuits and desserts as well as regular meals. But I never *enjoyed* doing it. So once I only had to please myself I stopped doing a lot of cooking. I do try and eat well with fresh meat, fruit and veg, I just don't do anything particularly wonderful with them and preparation has to take a minimum of time.

I think that's why I love soup making because it doesn't take long to prepare everything and you get a large quantity for your effort! I used to get grumpy if I'd spent an afternoon baking and it was all gone the next day!! I should have been pleased that people ate it, instead I felt cross because after all the effort the cupboard was *still* needing replenishing!

So now - I cook to please myself (although visitors *do* get fed at regular intervals I hasten to add........). My neighbours tease me if I turn up with cakes - but as I say it's not that I *can't* cook it's that I generally choose not to :-)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Counting chickens.......

well not exactly before they are hatched, but before they are delivered! As I mentioned before I am now down to two hens, Brown Hen and White Hen. However I have three on order from the town depending on whether a friend can collect them today or not.

So I have been freshening up the hen house, putting fresh hay into the nesting boxes (which ordinarily the blessed hens won't use), plus fresh water and plenty of food as the hens (old and new) will need to be shut in for a few days. As gales are forecast for the next couple of days this won't be a bad thing and I can then also see who is laying! I think both my current hens have stopped laying. White Hen definitely has, but Brown Hen might be sneakily laying somewhere in the byre. As I don't usually shut them in I'm never quite sure!

I have also had to evict the cat from the henny hoose - Button loves to sit in there as the mice are attracted by the hen food. I'm sure she just sits there with her mouth open hoping one will jump in! I'm not really sure a cat sitting for three hours in the same position constitutes "an active cat" though! And I think she is quite a successful mouser too, judging by the evidence.....

Anyway- I am looking forward to the arrival of the girls and fresh eggs again - but as I say I shouldn't count my chickens till they arrive!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

New Bread Maker

Today I finally had the chance to try out my new breadmaker which arrived this week. At last the house is once again filled with the scent of baking bread - ooooh one of my favourite smells!

So I've just baked (well OK my breadmaker has just baked.....) a spicy fruit loaf. It looks OK but I'm still waiting for it to cool so will have to reserve judgement on how it tastes!

This breadmaker (Panasonic) has a little dispenser for fruit, nuts etc which is great. My old machine would beep after 30 minutes so you had to be within hearing distance or keep an eye on the clock to add seeds, nuts etc. Slightly defeats the object of an automatic bread maker as far as I'm concerned!

I now also have lots of new recipes using different flours and ingredients so I shall look forward to experimenting over the next few weeks.

I was almost tempted to do some baking today too, as I got a new recipe book for Christmas. But as I also had to do some work I didn't think I'd have the time and energy for both so have had to content myself with a fresh new loaf and leave the experimentation with cookies for another day.........

Hmmmm think the bread might have cooled enough to eat now!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Different levels of craziness......

So, last night I was over in Stromness (our film club, showing a collection of British short films, excellent turnout, great evening), the journey over was flat calm, chilly but calm. No sign of the forecast winds. Till about 3am this morning I woke up deep in the heart of Stromness town to hear the wind rattling the windows. I don't often get that experience as my friend's house is quite sheltered, nestling in one of the lanes. Hmmmm should have been a clue.

Anyway I set off for the 9.30 am boat home and catch glimpses of the harbour through the alleys running down to the household piers - it looks rough. This is not good if it's rough in the harbour. I fully expect the boat to be cancelled. But no, the skipper assures me the boat is going and teases me about being afraid of a bit of rough water. I reply it's not the water I'm afraid of, it's getting up the pier at the other side without being blown away. And I mentally muse about the practicality of crawling up the pier on my hands and knees. The skipper then also tells me the electricity was off on the island last night and he didn't know if it had been reconnected yet. So I decide to have a rethink about getting the boat home while I get some groceries, however the weather is set to worsen so I might not get back today or tomorrow. Hmmm - well I could easily go back and stay with my friend, I could meet up with other friends for lunch, coffee and potentially dinner. I could have a very sociable weekend in Stromness. A neighbour could feed Button and the hens so no worries there.

So - what on earth possessed me to get on the ferry bobbing around at the pier in Stromness, bounce about as it went via Hoy, and get off at Graemsay to spend the weekend in a house with potentially no electricity? Apart from craziness.....? Well partly because when I got back to the boat with groceries, Davy on the boat informed me he had some good news and some bad news......the good news - the skipper phoned my neighbour, Mick, to tell him to meet me off the boat at Graemsay. The bad news - Mick had been asleep when he got the call and the skipper couldn't quite make out what he said but it didn't sound polite!

So - I was kind of committed to going on the boat, either that or phone Mick and tell him he could go back to bed - and that didn't seem fair, after waking him up he might as well have a reason to get out of bed. Tee Hee!

I was glad to see the van at the pier head as the boat approached Graemsay since the spray was splashing well over the pier. I might have made it up on my hands and knees but I would have got very wet! I thanked Mick for meeting the boat, but he said he didn't mind as it was probably a good cure for his hangover. So.... I did him a service! I must remember to tell Sandra that as she can have him chasing round after the sheep next time he gets a hangover and there's a gale blowing and he'll feel better in no time.

Anyway back to different levels of craziness...... I may have been fairly deeply bonkers to consider coming home in this weather, however there was another passenger on the boat. A young chap from Stromness was planning to go over to Hoy and spend the day in Rackwick Bay as he wanted to experience wild weather......... he was very well kitted out with camping stove, food, water and proper clothing but I still think he has attained a higher level of craziness to which I can only aspire.

PS yes the electricity is back!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Another glorious day.....

So still and calm. I've been watching the pattern of the current on the still water around the shore next to the house. The waves have hardly the strength to break on the shore! We are very sheltered in Sandside Bay (well apart from the westerly gales!) and although the rollers still break at the west end of the island (Hoy Low lighthouse end) the sea can be very gentle around the bay here. That's one thing I love - sometimes the waves are crashing so loudly I can hear them in the house, and at other times the air is so still you just hear ripples on the beach.

Today I heard the lapwings and some of the shore ducks calling. The hens were glad of more scraps as were the sparrows. Though I saw a couple of hooded crows hovering over the hen house as I came indoors so I hope the smaller birds got their fill quickly!

The island is fairly quiet this morning. As I am still fighting off the virus I am not participating in the usual "first-footing" activities around the island. As they go on for days I may appear for the tail end!

Yesterday in Kirkwall (on the Orkney Mainland) was the annual New Year Ba Game. This is a kind of street football (though feet rarely touch the ball!) which takes place on Christmas Day and at New Year. I've never witnessed the event myself, nor have any real desire to do so! However it is quite a local phenomenon. Here is a site with some photos taken yesterday so you can get the flavour of the event. If you click further down the page you will get a link to some explanation of the "rules" - such as they are!! :

I remember my first Christmas visit to Kirkwall in 1999 I was startled to see shops putting stout panels and boards along shop fronts. I wondered what sort of place I had come to that needed such robust defence against - who? Vandals? Ram raiders? Looters?? No..... it was just the annual preparations to protect property from the enthusiastic Ba participants!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy NewYear to everyone! Today is a beautiful sunny day and quite mild. No frost compared to the last few days which have been very icy.

I missed out on the island party last night as I am still harbouring the virus that has robbed me of my voice (much rejoicing from certain quarters there....) and I still feel unwell. So am generally staying in the warm and not spreading germs or collecting new ones!

I did go out and feed the hens (mashed potatoes as a New Year treat), and Button accompanied me for a walk. She could hear voices and a dog barking so she scrambled up onto the roof of a nearby byre to take a look! She pretended she couldn't get down again but I wasn't falling for that old trick and wandered back home. She soon joined me! She loves these still days and often stays out for hours. But she didn't like the cold frost on her paws and sat for ages on the windowsill outdoors and eventually came indoors, complaining.

Snack time I think now, so off to put the kettle on for tea and choose from a wide selection of chocolate! And there is no truth in the rumour that I have told everyone to stay away because I have a virus when in reality I just don't want to share my chocolate!!