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!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Gales again today....

.... and lots more rain....sigh.... bored with this now!  Fortunately I can stay safe and warm indoors.  Yesterday was bright and sunny and I was out again with my trusty camera taking a few photos...till the battery ran out - arrgh!  Above - the Hoy Hills take from the other side of the island, looking across Burra Sound.

And the hills I usually take photos of from my front door - this time a little closer....

I was down at the shore at high tide, with the waves running up the old Sandside pier

The wee flock of birds resting in the winter sun on top of the pier are ringed plovers....

They didn't seem bothered by my presence, nor the fact that Button was with me. Though they would have taken flight had she run up to them I'm sure! They're not THAT relaxed!

This old wooden boat is floating well - um.... yes it's full of water!

It was quite breezy and after my camera battery failed I headed back home. Button was relieved as she doesn't like her fur ruffled too much by the wind. She got home before me....

She then helped me later in the afternoon while I tried to catch up on some filing..... hmmm.... "help" is maybe not the right word.....

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Playing with my camera....

I've been out playing with the settings on my camera, guided by my Camera Guru (via email).  So for your entertainment (or not!) here are a selection of "arty farty" close ups of a walk on the beach.... oh and of course some pictures of Button and the hens..... they can't be left out of any walk or photo-shoot! Above Button is in "sheep-dog" mode supervising the chooks exit  from the shore!

A rosehip, surviving the winter frost and gales so far

The keel of the old burned wooden boat

The tough tangles of seaweed

The microcosm of the shore....

This is so delicate, how does it stand the tides?

Such pretty shells

Seaweed growing into shells, shells growing into seaweed?

Friday, 28 December 2012

Sunset through the rain....

Wind has died down a bit for now and some respite from the rain for a while.... starts up again later tonight I think.  Flood alerts in Orkney too as well as many other parts of the UK.  I should be OK here though. Just water being blown through the window!

Gales and rain again....

Ah well, the respite over Christmas from the rain and gales was most welcome. But they have returned again today. So nothing for it but to do a bit of baking.  Welsh cakes again.... my favourite and best eaten warm.... that'll be them all for me then.... Tee hee!!

And I've been trying out the new camping lantern as the power has been flickering this morning..... nice and bright and should last a good few hours....

So nothing for it but to curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea, a plate of welsh cakes and a good book!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Boxing Day....

The day after Christmas is known in Britain as "Boxing Day". Throughout the UK this is traditionally the first day of the sales. Shopping malls around the country will be crowded, with queues for the car parks from well before opening.  In Orkney the pace is a little slower. Some shops may be open but most will remain closed.  Meanwhile on Graemsay we have no ferry running on Christmas Day or Boxing Day so there are no temptations of "retail therapy".

Instead I took a walk on the beach. As you can see above the Hoy Hills have a light covering of snow. Like icing sugar on a Christmas Pudding! Where's the Holly?!

It was a chilly day but fresh air was needed. Even for Princess Button!

The beach, as ever, was deserted.... just the way I like it

A snow cloud was heading our way

And as the sun set.....

And the moon rose..... was time to head home for tea and toast!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Kirkwall Ba'

In Orkney there is a long tradition of playing the ba' on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The Kirkwall Ba' is one of the oldest forms of street football with no rules.  There is the boys ba' followed by the men's game which starts at 1pm. This year was a record of 7 hours 10 minutes with the doonies finally winning byt getting the ba in the harbour at 8pm! Indeed it seemed to take hours  to move just a few feet!. There are two teams - the uppies and the doonies. The uppies were traditionally the farmers and were from "up the way" and the doonies were traditionally fishermen coming from "down the way" at the harbour.  Nowadays it follows traditional rivalries or is based on where the men live in the town.

Centuries of tradition surround the game, passing on from father to son. The ba' is lovingly made each year by a local craftsman and is a treasured prize. You can see it in the centre of the window of the photo above. Former winners will throw up the ba' at the start of the game, which always begins at the Market Cross outside St Magnus Cathedral.  As well as there being hundreds in the "pack" there will be hundreds of spectators following them. Though spectators have to be careful they don't end up as part of the pack as there is little space on the street!

The Christmas Day Ba' 2012, courtesy of BBC Radio Orkney (who post on Facebook throughout the game so ex-pat Orcdians can still follow).

On Christmas Eve doorways and windows are boarded up in the town to protect them from the moving pack of humanity that surges through the streets.

Even home doorways will be protected

There's a detailed and evocative explanation of the Kirkwall Ba' here (explained by an Orcadian man who understands these things better than a "southern wifey"!)

And for an amazingly atmospheric piece of film (to form part of a documentary) then take a look at this "Bounce"    Everytime I watch it sends shivers down my spine and me a southern wifey (a woman from South of Orkney).

So that's one Ba' passed for this year - the next one is on New Year's Day Jan 2013......

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

All is calm, all is quiet.....

It's been a lovely Christmas day, no wind, no rain.  I went for a walk along the shore this afternoon, listening to the calls of the curlews. I watched a heron take flight and land. Hundreds of geese took to the air in a cloud.  The sea gently lapping on the shore.  Wonderful.

I choose to spend Christmas on my own. I don't celebrate the religious significance of the season, for me it's more a mid-winter Festival. A time to reflect, rest, and of course, eat chocolate!

Last night it was nearly midnight when I went to bed and I saw the moon peeking through the window blind. So I pulled up the blind and went to sleep with the moon dancing off the water in the bay, silhouetting the Hoy Hills, and streaming through my window. I awoke to sunshine and luxuriated in being able to lie in bed with Button purring beside me, rather than feeling the need to rise to an alarm.  Though with Charlie the barn cat wanting breakfast and the hens no doubt tapping at the door, I didn't tary in bed!

Charlie having a (later than usual) Christmas Breakfast

The chickens glad of a calm day to get out and stretch their wings and legs....

The recent gales have heaped the seaweed in a bank by the shore

Water running off the field has gouged channels in the coral sand

And amazingly this is quite natural - the tide line with the seaweed neatly laid out in a straight line!

Now it's time to curl up on the sofa with a good book, a glass of wine and the smell of dinner cooking in the oven!

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Nativity

Tonight on Graemsay we had the Nativity play in the hall, organised by Irene Mathieson who used to be the teacher here.  She did a sterling job producing and directing the performance, though a wee lassie produced an unexpected comedy touch. But a nativity play wouldn't be a nativity play without impromptu performances, would it? All the children get to play a part, and young Jo, who is now a big burly teenager took it in good part and reprised his role as "Joseph". Think this might be the last year we can persuade him!

Um... this looks like the local "hoodies" asking for a room for the night... The innkeeper was having none of it and sent them to the stable

"Mary" then had to do a bit of "swaddling"....

The Angel Gabriel startled some shepherds who were tending their flocks....(and Irene, who was playing her guitar)

One shepherd taking very seriously the need to keep her "flock" close at hand

And they knelt quietly down by the crib - um... that was the script....

But the junior shepherd decided it was her turn for the shepherd's crook.....

And let's "big up" the Shepherd's part and introduce a spot of juggling....

While "Mary" judiciously steps in to save "baby Jesus" getting a whack on the head! (Notice she keeps smiling beatifically!)

Looking a little dishevelled.....

The shepherd decides it's time to grab back the "flock" - "Mary" stepping in to keep things in order...(the smile is getting a little fixed now I think fear)

Bring on the Kings for a bit of diversion

....... ah..... now what's in these prettily wrapped gifts from the Kings....

An older sister tries to restore order....

While everyone tries to pretend that a flying sheep is normal for Graemsay....

And we all sang "Away in a manger" while stifling laughter. It was a brilliant production and I wouldn't have it any other way!

So - Happy Christmas to those of you who celebrate, Happy Mid-Winter festival to those of us who celebrate such things, for those of you South of the Equator, Happy Mid-summer, and give us our sun back please!