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!

Friday, 10 May 2013

May 1999....



May 1999.....oooh somehow it seems ages ago and sometimes it's just like yesterday. But that was when I first came to Orkney and saw Graemsay and Sandside!  A friend and I were looking for a home away from the rat race of the South East of England, where we could perhaps build a business to pay living expenses.

That's why one day in May 1999 we headed for one of the London airports on our journey North.  A work colleague had bought a property on the neighbouring island of Hoy. We'd seen the house details for Sandside among a pile he'd discarded.  We were in Orkney just for the weekend, staying in Stromness and visiting a number of properties on the Orkney Mainland.  I was struggling with the idea of living on an island and frankly Orkney Mainland was just about as small as I thought I could manage.

We visited smart modern new houses, some with a small business attached. We visited complete ruins with land but no services (water, electricity).  Nothing really grabbed us.  Our criteria were fairly broad - it had to be a property with "potential" to extend, develop, run a business from. I wanted to be able to walk easily to the sea-shore (well no point in living so close to the sea if I couldn't do THAT!). And away from any busy roads (yes there are some even in Orkney).

The weather was glorious that weekend. The sun shone, the sea was turquoise. Not a breath of wind. Orkney looked stunning, wearing her best Spring clothes.  Still I was uncertain. I fancied an "adventure" but did I really want an ISLAND adventure?

On our final day we had booked an appointment to visit Graemsay and see Sandside. The wee Graemsay ferry took us first to Hoy and then to Graemsay.  Blimey - it's a wee island!!  I'd said to myself, in a slightly fey way, if I see a seal I'll now this is "meant to be".  Not a single one did we see.... in fact I hadn't seen one all weekend.....

Our first view of Sandside made my heart sink.... it hadn't been lived in for 15 years and the windows had holes in where the pigeons had flown through, and there was a board along to roof to stop the slates falling down and harming anyone. (The post office was still run out of a small building to the side of the house - see the red door?).


We wandered around inside and I just couldn't visualise it as a home. J. was much better at that, coming up with ideas and plans.  I was still a bit unenthusiastic - if you ripped out the inside of a house, did it still retain it's heart?  We stood outside in the sunshine with Arthur Ritch (who was selling the property) and talked about practicalities - how often did the ferry run, what was it like in winter.... (Um.... did I mention this was my FIRST visit to Orkney?).  I remember cutting through the conversation, like a bored child, and asking him "Are there any seals round here?"  He smiled and nodded to the beach "Ah you mean those things?" and there along the shore were seals, just a few dozen yards from the house on the sandy beach. I don't think I stopped smiling for the rest of the visit.



We went up to Arthur's farm, Fillets, and met his wife Cathy. Over tea and homebakes we chatted about animals, gardening, Graemsay and all sorts. All too soon it was time to head to the ferry, so Arthur gave us a quick tour of the island - well no tour of the island takes long! By the time we were getting on the ferry we had "bought" the house with a handshake.  Obviously legally there was a bit more to it than that, but we'd bought the house and the field behind it. A field which leads down to a BEACH!

On the flight home I knew I'd made a good decision.... it would be an adventure but also the right thing to do.  Sadly for J. he decided his heart was not in Orkney and has remained in London. So now Sandside is all mine and each morning I wake up with this view (um....Button has to get in every photo!).



And the house now looks a little more respectable!! I'll tell you more about the story of Sandside in another post shortly!




22 comments:

  1. Thanks for this little bit of your history! It looks absolutely lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed reading it :-)

      Delete
  2. What a fabulous blog! I loved it. My father in law was in Orkney during the war, having come from a very poor community in Lancashire. He still (living with us now at 94) talks about the land of milk and honey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh wow really? There's lots of war history in Orkney (not surprising considering the role Scapa Flow played). Where was he stationed? Lyness on Hoy had the biggest camp but there were lots of others around Orkney too. (Ness Battery in Stromness for one).

      Delete
    2. And you might be interested in (oh dear I'm going all "Amazon"!) this webiste "Remembering Scotland at War" - if you look at Page 2 there are photos of Orkney "Fortress Orkney"....

      http://www.rememberingscotlandatwar.org.uk/exhibitions

      Delete
    3. He was in Stromness I think. Although he was in the army he spent most of the war on the boats. Thanks for the links. I will take a look.

      Delete
  3. What an amazing, bold step that was and then to have your friend back out and do it alone.

    I scared the heck outta myself when I moved here. I'd never been to Halifax before and flew out and bought my little house in Eastern Passage, then immediately got "cold feet".

    It's was months before I realized it HAD been a good decision after all.

    Say "hi" to the seals for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad things worked out for you too! And the seals say hi back :-)

      Delete
  4. Sandside looked like the first picture still when I was there. Someday I so want to come and see what you've done with it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes I hope you can come and visit again!

      Delete
  5. I love reading the story about how you came to Graemsay, and am waiting for the next installment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you enjoyed my wee "saga" :-)

      Delete
  6. very good choice , nice story :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I really enjoyed reading this history of how you discovered Graemsay and your new home, Sian. Oh dear, Sandside did look rather sorry for itself back then, a far cry from the lovely house it is now. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad we could rescue Sandside. She deserved it :-)

      Delete
  8. Thank you for letting me know how you came to Graemsay. It is so beautiful, and the seals must still be a real joy. I can't wait for the next part of your story. Thank you for your beautiful pictures. I think I love Graemsay. Ah...Sandside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you enjoyed the saga too :-)

      Delete
  9. I for one am glad your cold feet disappeared.

    Having made the same kind of move I appreciate what you went through, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

    Contentment is priceless but alive and well on Graemsay

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's wonderful to read about your coming to Graemsay - thank you for sharing the story!

    ReplyDelete