Click on pictures to see them enlarged in a photo stream. Comments: word verification on to allow anyone to comment but try and deter excessive amounts of spam! I LOVE getting comments!

Saturday, 31 December 2011

For those of you in the UK...

Tomorrow on BBC2 at pm is the programme A History of Ancient Britain. This episode features the Ness of Brodgar dig in Orkney which has been underway for the last two years and has revealed some fascinating things!  Sorry - but I think it's only viewable in the UK.....  But I'll try and post some photos of the dig and info this week for those of you outside Orkney.....


Today is Hogmanay, the last day of the year and a time Scots know how to celebrate well! There will be a party on the island tonight to see in the New Year, and then "first footing" around the island over the next few days.

In recent years we've struggled through snow, ice and gale to see in the New Year, but the weather seems very benign just now. Let's hope it stays that way for a few days. I'm tired of storm force winds!

Above - you can see we had a smattering of "snow on high ground" with the Hoy Hills lightly covered as if with dusting sugar.  Make me think of I baked one! A hazelnut and cinnamon cake....Yum!

I went for a brief walk along the shore today, and fed the birds on my way. I saw a small raptor in the garden - either a merlin or kestrel - I'm not very good on bird identification!

The neeps (swede) are doing well in my neighbour's field.

I love this decaying old boat with the old creels (once used for catching crabs).

And this is a mark on the front of the house - put there by the Ordnance Survey as a benchmark for height above sea level. I think this one denotes 10 feet.

And there was some excitement when I heard a helicopter landing in the field. It was the Northern Lighthouse Board helicopter with an engineer to do some emergency repair.

So, it's just left now for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year (for those of you who celebrate such things).  May 2012 bring all that we need......

Eddie Reader singing Auld Lang Syne

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Versatile Blogger

Some weeks (oh dear, maybe months) ago one of my blog readers, Perpetually In Transit very kindly nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I was thrilled to bits. One of the conditions was I had to say five quirky things about myself, and nominate five other blogs. The tricky bit is coming up with 5 quirky things. Oh calamity - I am in despair at being so "normal"! I like to think of myself as SO eccentric, when in reality I am so NOT! Anyway here we go with the 5 quirky things

1. (OK cheating here) - I choose to live on a remote Scottish island far from shopping malls and 24-hour supermarkets, traffic jams and the chaos that was my life when I lived in Kent.

2. I'm very faddy about food - bordering on the weird rather than quirky. I don't like yellow food (bananas are white not yellow), and will eat red fruit but not red veg, and please don't mix my food together unless you stick it in a blender......oh I could go on.....

3. I dance and sing with wild abandon to anything from the 1960's

4. I love flying in a glider plane. Only had the chance once and it was absolutely brilliant! I felt like a bird. It was a magical experience. And no it didn't worry me that the plane had no engine......

5. I'm hooked on detective fiction. When I'm stressed or anxious, hand me a (non-gory version) detective thriller and I'll calm down immediately. My audio book of choice for sleepless nights is anything by Dorothy L Sayers from the "Lord Peter Wimsey" series.

So onto the nominations part. This is equally difficult. I follow many blogs for different reasons. But I've decided to nominate five SCOTTISH blogs so that you, dear reader, get to see a bit more of this wonderful country. This of course completely leaves out all the other blogs I thoroughly enjoy, some on my blog list here and others not. Many written by friends who became bloggers and some by bloggers who have become friends.  Anyway here is my list of five (in no particular order).

1. The Wind and the Wellies - another Orkney blog, this one by "Orkney Flowers" who loves all plants, cooking, and recycling and reusing stuff.  Also wears wonderful stripey socks! Now *she* won't have a problem with five quirky things - tee hee.

2. Dancing Beastie - insights into living in a castle in the Scottish Highlands

3. A Kilchoan Diary - a remote crofting village on the west of the Ardnamurchan pennisula

4. The Barefoot Crofter- stories of family life on a croft on the island of Lewis. I'm newly acquainted with this blog and loving every post.

5. Occasional Scotland - "From Edinburgh to Shetland and all points in between" - lovely landscape photos.

There..... now if your blog isn't named PLEASE don't be offended....sigh.... and thank you again to Perpetually in Transit for the award!

"About Graemsay"

I've added a page (see in the right column under "Home") which, hopefully, gives folk a bit of info about the island. If you have any questions you'd like answered go ahead and ask!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas traditions....

There are religious and non-religious traditions that go towards making Christmas, well, Christmas. One tradition in Kirkwall, Orkney on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas, with a name from the dim and distant past) is the "Ba". There are two games, the boys Ba and the Men's Ba held later in the day. These are games of street football, though there aren't really any rules!

There are two teams - the Uppies and the Doonies, and the Ba (ball, traditionally and lovingly made especially for the event) is thrown into the heaving mass of humanity that makes up the two teams, waiting impatiently by the Kirk Green and St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.  The "goal" is at each end of the town. For the "Doonies" this is in the sea in the Kirkwall Basin. The Uppies goal is up in the town.  This year the Doonies won and you can see some excerpt from the Men's game below.  I can't begin to explain it really so take a look at some more info here. No there are no obvious signs of which team the men are in - but everyone will *know* who is in their team! And yes there was a women's ba, but it is no more - rumour had it the women played too roughly ;-)    The game goes on for hours, and yes it carried on, followed by a large crowd, in the pouring rain and wind...... deeply bonkers but rather wonderful!

All the buildings in the town have stout wooden bars put across all windows and doors to stand against the crush of the crowd as the Ba moves up or down the town. I remember on my first winter visit to Kirkwall thinking - gosh they must have a lot of trouble around here on New Year as all the shops are being boarded up.  Little did I know it was an "amicable" game of street football.......

Monday, 26 December 2011


This was the view from the house up towards Windbreck this morning as the sun rose (Sunrise 09.04 and sunset 15.18). The "hydro poles" (electricity poles) rather appropriately silhouetted against the rising sun. I was still anxiously awaiting the return of electricity at this point!

The electric came back on about 11.30. Apparently  some houses in Stenness and Orphir, across the water on Orkney Mainland, were also without power. The island of Shapinsay had a power cut this morning too. It seems that hydro poles were catching fire around the county due to the high winds. (Shetland recorded winds of 101 mph last night! Not heard what our highest recorded wind speed was here).

Let's hope the power remains on now - more high winds are forecast for later in the week and it's still a bit breezy out there - gusting to about 50-60 mph.

I have plenty of food (and if the power goes off for any length of time I may need to eat it all pretty quickly!) and can keep cosy under blankets and with hot-water bottles (Hotties) if need be, but it does get a little boring. Fortunately I have a battery radio for company, but it's been so cloudy that it was very dull and dark indoors and not easy to see to do things without carrying a lantern around.

I was thinking of the families who had lived in the house in the 19th Century, with just candles and Tilley Lamps (oil lamps) for light. And the light of a real fire too of course - which I no longer have.

As it was the gas ran out while I was cooking my Christmas dinner yesterday! There is no "mains" gas in Orkney, so everyone uses bottled gas. I have two cylinders outside so when one runs out I just need to turn a switch to put the next one on. However, it always runs out when it's dark and wet!  But fortunately the wind had died down a bit so it wasn't too bad going out to sort it out. Though I did manage to skin my knuckles trying to turn the rather stiff switch. But all was well and I got Christmas dinner!  But poor Button managed to get shut out for about half an hour in the wind. I didn't hear her yelling and it was only when I sat down and wondered where she was that I missed her. She was jolly glad to be let in and told me off in no uncertain terms - she has a mouth like a fish-wife ;-)  She was still sulking during the night and didn't come up to bed at all. Mind you, given another half an hour I'm sure she would have moved the bricks blocking up the cat flap and fought her way in!!

No power!

Power off since 9.30 last night (yes Christmas Day!). Thank goodness for battery operated radio!  Battery on laptop low, so next time you hear from me we'll have power.  Thankfully weather is mild so house shouldn't cool down too quickly. Also although it's windy, nowhere near as bad as yesterday. Have fun people.....

Sunday, 25 December 2011

NOT a White Christmas!

Er - currently wind has been recorded in Kirkwall gusting over 80mph. We have a severe weather warning in place for winds to get up to 90mph.  It's a little scary around here at the moment. I am safe indoors as is Button, but the noise is tremendous!  Windows and doors are rattling and i've put tape over the doors and key holes to stop the draught! There was a "calm before the storm" moment at about 9.30 this morning so I got out to feed hens and Charlie the barn cat. NOT planning on going anywhere else at the moment!

As you can see above the sea is "smoking"!  Wonderful to watch, just hope everyone is safe and snug on this Christmas Day.

The sun came out and there was a rainbow in the sea spray

Wild sea in Hoy Sound

And yes in this photo it looks so tranquil.

I've added a "weather widget" to my blog - on the right hand side down the bottom - so you can see the weather around here!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Silent Night...

...not much chance of that with another weather warning for severe gales and the wind howling around the house!  But I'm just back from the island nativity play and carol service and feeling warmed with mince pies and good cheer!  It was a lovely service with all the island children (the teenagers will be cross with me lumping them in with the wee ones!) taking part, readings and carols.  The children were very good and played their parts well.

Now I'm going to relax for the evening. That's all my Christmas celebrations over. I choose to spend Christmas quietly. I gave up years ago travelling to spend it with family. Winter travel from Orkney is expensive and liable to delays and cancellation! So I save my trips away for sunnier times.

I don't share in the religious meaning of Christmas, but do like to celebrate it as a mid-winter festival and enjoy the coming together with friends to eat!  Earlier in the week I met up with a group of friends in Stromness to have a proper Christmas dinner. It was delicious!

I missed out on the island Children's Christmas Party earlier in the week as I was still feeling a little unwell after the "bug" last weekend. But apparently a good time was had by all.  Irene of Breckan sent me these photos so I thought I'd share them with you. As you can see, we may be a remote island, but Santa still finds his way to us.

And party games were played!

So I'm off to watch "Carols from Kings" on TV. An old family tradition!  It just remains for me to wish you all Festive Season's Greetings!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Winter Solstice

I posted this link last winter but think it bears repeating, particularly for those of you new to my blog. It was compiled by "Red Orkney" - no idea who that is but love their stuff.  This is of the Winter Solstice 2010, the shots are of Hoy and the West of Graemsay (Hoy Low Lighthouse), and around Stromness and the West shore.  So enjoy!

(Note: thanks for all the good wishes. Am recovering from my "bug" but still feeling a bit weak and 
wobbly. And no the telephone/internet has NOT been fixed but I now get daily phone updates from a very nice person at BT customer service.....).

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Greedy Pheasant!

This photo was sent to me by the same friend who sent me the picture of the Loch earlier today. She was watching a pheasant on the wall eating food put out for the birds - but she had sparrows, blackbirds and starlings in mind - NOT this pheasant. She said the blackbird patiently stood by till the pheasant had finished!

I haven't set foot outside today, apart from feeding the hens and Charlie. I've spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa with Button, while I recuperate. I watched a recorded programme from a detective series, then spent two hours watching the annual horse show held at Olympia in London. It brought back happy memories as I used to go there every year with friends from the stables where I kept my pony. It always heralded the start of Christmas!

Now I have a "bug"...sigh...

Have some sort of stomach bug - or at least have been very unwell.  Feeling better today but very "wabbit" (nothing to do with Bugs Bunny - Orcadian for washed out).  Just taking things easy. Technical difficulties continue too - so thank goodness for mobile phone coverage!

Anyway J. emailed me the above photo of Kirbuster Loch in Orphir today.  We have a light dusting of snow but all is calm.

Hopefully full normal service in all departments will be resumed soon!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Technical difficulties continue

After the torrential rain earlier in the week my phone went off again and my broadband speed is almost non-existent.... sigh.... bored now!

Anyway above (if it loads!) is a photo of a calm and frosty morning outside my "back door" looking towards to the henny hoose and Hoy Sound.

Who knows when "normal service" will be resumed......  it's at the whim of BT (the telecoms company) at the moment.  I've been trying to persuade them that FOUR outages in THREE months means there HAS to be something wrong that needs a more permanent fix than a "flick of a switch" at the Exchange.  But so far I am failing in my misson...... in cyberspace can you hear me scream?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Orkney in Winter

Still busy with work, so here is a wee Youtube Interlude to keep you amused!  I may have shared this before (it was filmed last winter), but I love it and think it's worth sharing again!  The first shot of the film shows Hoy High lighthouse on Graemsay with Sandside chimneys visible to the far right in the same shot. The rest of the film is taken on the Orkney Mainland and shows the stone circles of the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, as well as the towns of Stromness and Kirkwall. (The song is Saylon Dola by Chamelon)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Sun is shining!

There's a bit of a fresh wind but nothing compared to last week. I'm busy working today, sitting in the kitchen, at my laptop, enjoying the sun streaming through the window, while Button snores on her blanket behind me!

Here's a link to some Orkney webcams you might enjoy - one is in Stromness overlooking the harbour. You can't see Graemsay but it's just to the right of the Kirk (church) steeple. The next webcam is Broad Street, the main street in the town of Kirkwall, pointing towards St Magnus Cathedral, then one of Kirkwall Harbour (you will see the North Isles ferries in the picture) and the final two are out at the airport. You can see the propellor planes that fly up from Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Also the small planes that fly out to the north isles.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I'll stop pleeping now......

OK I've calmed down and I'll stop pleeping (moaning) now. Compared to folk on the West Cost of Scotland who have been without electricity and WATER for several DAYS since the storm, I am VERY lucky. I have a warm house, plenty of food, the house is safe and so am I.  My phone is working for incoming and outgoing calls and the internet is working - although the speed is v-e-r-y slow.

But you can read about the poor folk on the Ardnamurchan  peninsula here

In Orkney the clear up operation is underway. The weather is calm and sunny, helping folk repair byre and shed roofs before the winds return this week. The causeway linking South Walls with the rest of Hoy and Walls has been repaired so traffic can cross, and there was a report of a poor orphaned seal pup being rescued and taken to the Orkney seal rescue centre run by Ross Flett in South Ronaldsay. The grey seal population in Orkney pup from September onwards. This particular pup was washed up onto a farmer's field in the storm. It will now be cared for till it can be returned to the wild.

Bizarrely given the amount of rain we have had recently, Scottish Water are asking people on the Orkney Mainland to conserve water!  Apparently one of the lochs is low and the treatment works can't keep up with demand.  "Water, water everywhere and not a drip to drink!" as the saying goes.  Last December we had our own problems with lack of water on Graemsay - thankfully not repeated. Our water comes from Sandy Loch on Hoy but also has to go through a treatment works which is unable to process the quantity needed....sigh.

Anyway I'm back from a bracing walk along the shore. Wonderful to get out into the fresh air and not battle the wind! The picture at the top of this post is looking towards the town of Stromness, with a flock of lapwings in flight - I startled them as I walked along the shore..... sorry birdies - as if you haven't had enough to contend with recently.

Here's is a local farmer gathering up seaweed for fertilizer - I'm hoping some makes it as far as my garden!

As you can see lots of seaweed blown onto the beach - but it looks like it protected most of the sand being washed away. Some winters the sand almost disappears.  Some remaining snow on Ward Hill on Hoy, but no snow or ice on Graemsay now.

This is the "shell" beach - lots of shells and cold-water coral still on the shore. Again some winters this almost disappears completely.

The sun hiding behind some clouds

Saturday, 10 December 2011

and then.....

..... I climbed into my snow boots (we don't have snow but it's icy), thick coat, hat, gloves, scarf and drove  to Irene and Bobby's house up the road to use their phone to report the problem..... and the telephone company (BT) after re-routing me three times and my telling them THREE times that NO, I did NOT know my account number as I was phoning from a neigbours, they then said THEIR systems were down and they couldn't divert my phone to my mobile EITHER!  Ah well I had a nice blether (chat) with Irene and her wee puss cat, Squeak, and am now home and about to have yet more tea and cake, which seems to be the only thing keeping me sane (relatively speaking)!

Button has been outdoors quite a bit today, enjoying "taking the air". For the last two days she's been "under the duvet" (actually under the throw that's over a sofa).

"Disturb me at your peril!"

Weapons remain on display in case there was any doubt.....

Sometimes I HATE technology! phone is down, and internet is dodgy though I can just about limp along. I'm trying to report the fault (because yesterday BT cleared all the fault reports on Graemsay and all my neighbours are back on but ME!) and I really don't want to spend a fortune on my mobile phone going through the BT Call Centre Dance, so am trying to report online AND divert my calls to my mobile......and the BT webiste gives THIS message!  ARRRRGH

Busy improving
We've temporarily closed part of your BT website so we can work on keeping it a great place to visit.
The new, enhanced site will be up and running soon. 

I shouldn't complain really - I'm have power, have plenty of food, house is safe and warm, all is well AND the radio is back on (came on yesterday).  But.... well I admit it..... I'm kind of addicted to modern telecommunications and am fretting when they are absent.  Ah well..... no excuse not to get on with some "domestic" duties now then....sigh....
Thanks for all the messages and emails. I have to admit I *was* scared during the worst of the storm force winds. But I had neighbours mobile phone number and they had kindly said I could phone any time night or day if I needed to - they wouldn't come out, they joked, but I could phone! It did help to know I could phone SOMEONE in case of catastrophe..... not having a radio didn't help.  But it's all behind us now.  And I DID choose to live on a remote island! 

OK but no phone and poor internet!

Thanks for all messages here and in email! MUCH appreciated. Sunny day here and all well EXCEPT no phone and now internet on blink (speed is 1.31 when it's usually over 6mbwhatevers).  In cyberspace can you hear me SCREAM?!

Friday, 9 December 2011

This is what....

..... battened hatches look like!  Button's cat flap... covered in vinyl held on with velcro (which stands Force 8 gale) but I knew would fly off in this (it's done so before - I fear for the conservatory windows). So piled up concrete blocks just to make sure!  The wind has been from the North West which is bad for the rear of the house AND the conservatory windows....

Photos of various bits of damage around Orkney can be viewed here on the Radio Orkney Facebook page    
(You don't have to join Facebook to see it).

The causeway on the island of Hoy got washed away in the storm (photo from Radio Orkney Facebook Page). For safety the road is closed and South Walls is effectively cut off. Still at least they have the shop and the pub!

This is an amusing piece on what has been termed "Hurricane Bawbag" This footage is from the Scottish mainland.


This is a short post because internet access is intermittent. But all OK on Graemsay. No major damage from the storm last night. At it's peak wind was recorded in Kirkwall at 100mph (sustained speed!) with gusts up to 135 mph.

It was scary, very scary last night. I didn't get much sleep. But house OK, chickens and Charlie (barn cat) all present and correct for breakfast this morning (well late breakfast).

Damage around Orkney but mostly tin off roofs on Graemsay and the pier railings (photo above courtesy of Jo Mowat who went to the pier to inspect things this morning!).  Boats and planes cancelled throughout Orkney though our boat has done a couple of runs.

Phones off on the island, most are back on now, but mine isn't....sigh....which means it will be a while before it is as they have to come out to the island.

But - I have a warm house, plenty of food and am OK (oh but radio was off and Radio 2 still not back - I need that as a comfort at night in this weather!!).

Gales getting up again but not to be as bad as last night..... will post more but in bits....

Monday, 5 December 2011


Yes I know - more weather! But I couldn't miss this beautiful double rainbow. The photo was taken outside my back door as the wind was howling and I didn't want to venture further!

Last week we had gales, severe gales and regular gales. Thankfully no damage to the house and all is well. But the wind screamed around the house, rattled the windows, and tried it's very best to find a way into the house. Thankfully it failed - though it was spitting rain through the keyhole in fury. But we had the odd rainbow to brighten the grey skies.

The sea was a mass of white horses, and various isles ferries were cancelled as well as ferries to the Scottish Mainland. The planes still flew - glad I wasn't on one of those!

I think there was some storm damage to one of the lamp posts at the pier as the Orkney Harbours Pilot boat came out to fix it.  There was a bit of jostling for position at the pier as our wee ferry came in to take some of us to town.  (Photo courtesy of Irene of Breckan, who clearly stayed in the warm of the cabin to take the photo  judging by the raindrops....tee hee! Thanks for the photo Irene!)

Later in the week our ferry had one of it's engines fail so it's going a bit slower at the moment. AND it's the new replacement engine (it had engine failure a couple of months ago).  Hopefully it will be easily fixable or we may be on a reduced service again.

A breezy day

Meanwhile, Princess Button(s) sleeps the day away..... oh to learn to be as relaxed as this cat is about life!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

First snow of winter....

OK - it's only a sprinkling of snow, but it is still SNOW! And snow showers are forecast throughout the week. That will be the third year in a row we've had snow before Christmas, which actually is unusual. Orkney is protected by the Gulf Stream and Winter is characterised by wind, rain and grey skies, with the odd frost and a day or two of snow.  We shall have to see what THIS winter brings!

The photo above shows very little snow on Graemsay (known as the green isle), but the Hoy Hills have a thick covering.

Below are the Orphir hills, also sprinkled with snow.

The hens must have got cold feet today!

I love the way the snow settles on surfaces, drawing attention to ordinary things. These flagstone slabs against the wall drew my eye as I went to feed the hens.

Charlie-in-the-barn (my barn cat) happily tucked into his extra breakfast this morning. (He does have a cosy hay barn to sleep in! And he *could* have been a house cat if he'd wanted to....).

The sea looks awfully cold!  But at least a little calmer than when it was whipped into a frenzy by the gales this past week.

Bit of a "mushroom cloud" over Windbreck, up the hill from Sandside.

Time to fill up the bird feeders again (hanging from an old elder bush in the garden - the only tree in the garden of any size - it just peeks above the stone dyke)!! (Plus seed for the ground feeders too)