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Monday 28 April 2008

Power cuts and cake

Last night was a really beautiful still night. I went for a walk down to the shore and listened to the waves breaking over the small ridge of pebbles that have gathered along the tide line on Sandside Beach. It was a lovely sound. I could hear the curlews and other shore birds calling too. The lights from Stromness were reflected in the water and reached across to the “Bar Buoy”. It was a lovely peaceful evening and not at all chilly.

Today is a marked contrast – it has been wet, windy and cold. Added to that we have had two prolonged power-cuts which have been a real nuisance as today should have been a work day for me. So I shall now have to reschedule my work for the week which was already looking pretty busy.

However at least the power outage appears to be sorted – it seems there were some cables down somewhere on the island and the electricity board had to send out engineers on the boat to fix the problem. Not sure what caused the cables to come down as, although it is breezy, it’s not *that* windy. But perhaps they had been weakened by earlier storms.

Anyway I always have a battery radio to hand and spent the afternoon lazing on the sofa reading and listening to the radio. I was able to heat up water in a saucepan so at least wasn’t deprived of my hourly cup of tea – and after my baking at the weekend I have a plentiful supply of CAKE. Normally I'd enjoy such an afternoon but when I know I have lots of work to do it takes the edge off the enjoyment.

Anyway – here’s the recipe for the orange and sultana tray bake – it’s the first time I tried the recipe and I was really pleased with the results.

Orange & Sultana Tray Bake

8 oz soft margarine or butter

8 oz castor sugar

10 oz self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

10 oz sultanas

Grated rind of 2 oranges

Demerara sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180 Centigrade. Grease and base line a roasting tin (size 12 x 9 inches/30x23cm – though I used a 9 inch square tin which was about 2 inches deep)

2. Measure all the ingredients except the Demerara sugar into a large bowl and beat well for about 2 minutes until well blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.

3. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes then sprinkle the top with Demerara sugar and return to oven for a further 10-15 minutes or until the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin and springs back when pressed in the centre with your fingertips. Leave to cool in the tin.

Note: While the cake is in the oven eat the two oranges – see I knew if I tried hard enough I’d make Cake healthy!

For me the ratio of effort to reward is about right – it’s really easy to make and provides a decent amount of delicious Cake! So if anyone has any similar cake recipes they’d like to share I’d love to hear about them……

Sunday 27 April 2008

Sunny and WARM!

Beautiful day today, sunny and WARM! I’ve been out pottering in the garden again and this time without a coat – first time this year. Oooh the joy…. the freedom! I even turned the heating off and have all the windows open – another first this year.

The willow trees are sprouting leaves, with only a few of the furry buds left on the branches (see photo above) and the rosa rugosa are leafing up nicely, with perennials starting to pop up in the border too.

Clara Cluck and her friends were again delighted that I was digging up the earth and providing them with a delicious Sunday lunch.

I’m also trying to grow some herbs. So far I’ve put in mint and chives in the border. In the house I have coriander and parsley and today planted up basil. I adore the smell of basil though I don’t use it much for cooking. It has the same effect on me as catnip does on Fitzi – though I don’t tend to roll around on the rug with a glazed expression waving my feet in the air….. but then again……

This afternoon I did some baking too. Below is a recipe I really like for a Date & Raisin cake. I’ve also experimented with a new recipe for Orange & Sultana tray bake – but I’ll need to taste that before I provide the recipe in case it’s no good!

It’s still dry tonight and I’m tempted to go out and mow the grass, but on reflection think I’ve done enough for the day and will relax in front of the TV tonight.

Date & Raisin Cake

1 cup dates (chopped)

1 cup raisins

½ cup butter

1 egg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves (I used mixed spice)

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cups sifted plain flour

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Pour boiling water over the dried fruit, baking soda and essence. Leave to soak (about 1 hour). Cream the butter and sugar and add the egg. Mix well. Add the flour, spice and fruit. Bake in a tin (I used a loaf tin) lined with greaseproof paper in a moderate oven (180 degrees Centigrade) for 30-40 minutes or until done (cocktail stick somes out clean).

It is lovely and moist – very yummy.

Saturday 26 April 2008

Visiting town again

Thursday evening I was over in Stromness again, at an event where a local author, Yvonne Gray was reading from her recently published book of poems (in the Hanging Garden) and her contributions to the new Orkney Anthology. The event was held in the upper gallery of the Pier Arts Centre and the view over the harbour made a lovely backdrop to Yvonne’s gentle quiet voice.

A trip to town in the evening from Graemsay means an overnight stay so to make the most of my time “across” I decided to spend the morning doing some shopping. First though I had breakfast overlooking a field where hares were lolloping about. I love watching hares (known as “long lugs” in Orkney) though I missed most of their “Mad March Hare” antics this year.

I then paid a quick visit to Kirkwall to get some pictures framed, and pick up some shopping at Somerfields before it closes for 6 weeks before becoming Tescos. And of course despite having already eaten breakfast I had to call in at Trenabies for a bacon butty and mug of tea. They were having a special “cake break” day to raise funds for charity, so of course it was also necessary for me to participate in this. The caramel and banana gateau was both gooey and lovely!

Time then to browse round a couple of shops. The local phrase “Whit like the day?” (meaning how are you) is a frequent greeting from folk in town as you walk through the street. Then it was back to Stromness to unpack the shopping onto the boat and park the car. Thankfully our own “Graemsay” ferry will be returning soon as I hate having to scramble on and off the Golden Marianna. Though it was a beautiful sunny day with a calm sea so it wasn’t too bad after all.

I had a chat on the boat to Fiona, the local minister of the Stromness Kirk, who was making her monthly visit to Graemsay. She drops in to see island folk before the service. The congregation is small but enthusiastic – or so I believe as I don’t attend myself.

Thursday 24 April 2008


We’ve had a few nice calm days of weather, though there has been an Easterly breeze. Today however we seem to have a sea haze and the breeze is chillier!

I just went for a brief walk to the shore and took the photo of the primrose – not an artistic shot – but it was too cold to faff about removing extraneous bits of dead grass! I was just pleased to see the cheerful little flowers at last! I can see quite a few clumps of primrose leaves along the banks of the ditches so hopefully we will have a lovely display again this year. For some reason I prefer the primrose to the daffodil, though it comes later. I think daffodils remind me too much of cultivated gardens, whereas primroses remind me of the more natural wilder landscape.

Having said that I am pleased this year with the emerging dwarf daffs in the border at the front of the house. They are at least harbingers of spring!

I tried to take some photos of the furry buds on the willow trees but the breeze was a little too strong and they came out blurred – will hopefully get a calmer day before all the leaves come out.

I can also see leaves appearing on the Duke of Argyll’s Teaplant (offial name Lycium barbarum) which grows through the dyke at the front of the house. Apparently it is quite rare, well in these parts anyway – though I didn’t know that till recently. So I must take some cuttings – the existing bush is very woody and old, it would be nice to start off some new ones to continue the line.

I’m having mixed results with the seeds I planted a few weeks ago. One strain of Calandula are thriving, while the other strain seems to be struggling. The nasturtiums are growing well (I plant them in pots first to give them a fair chance against the ravages of the hens). But there is no sign of any of the poppy seeds germinating which is a real shame. They are a Welsh poppy variety and having Welsh blood in my veins I was hoping I might have “green fingers” with the poppies – clearly not. Maybe they require a Welsh dragon breathing fire on them (my neighbour will have a comment about that I’m sure!). Wonder if a Fitzi-cat would have the same effect…….

While I was out I could hear the ewes calling for their lambs. The noise gets positively raucous sometimes at this time of year with the sheep, and birds! Wait till the kye get put out into the fields and you almost near ear plugs to sleep (well especially as Finlay I and II now start crowing at 3am!). Though last night it was so still when I went to bed that the clock ticking sounded extraordinarily loud – must have been an early night for all the livestock.

Sunday 20 April 2008

Graemsay in the news

I see that Graemsay features in the May/June edition of the magazine “Scottish Islands Explorer”. We get a four page spread of photos and info on Graemsay – not a bad write up. Though the photo of Sandside must have been taken over 10 years ago as it was before work was done on the house. We may find we get a few more visitors to the island this summer from the readership!

The afternoon has turned out warm and sunny (warm means I don’t need hat, gloves and scarf to work in the garden!). I’ve been spreading some well rotted coo manure on the garden this afternoon. I remember when I used to use manure on my garden in Kent from the stable yard where I kept Badger (my old pony). I ended up with weeds I’d never seen before! However given here the coos graze the field around the house I expect I already have most of the weeds in my garden!

Barnhouse, Stenness

I’ve had several comments and emails about my reference to “Barnhouse” yesterday – I should have included a link so here it is now: The link provides information, interpretation of the site and some photos.

If you haven't already been to Skara Brae, visitors are probably be best advised to go there first for an introduction to the history of the period. The site is magnificent as are all the interpretation materials and there are folk there who can answer questions etc. However I would suggest a visit to Barnhouse afterwards. You really get the feeling of domestic spaces and can place it within the natural landscape.

Barnhouse is beside Harray Loch and the Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar are also visible as is Maes Howe. Because it is a very secluded spot without all the paraphernalia of a “heritaged” site you can wander around the remains and really get a feel for how it felt to live there. Though of course the landscape has changed somewhat since then!

Grey skies here today but at least no wind and it is *dry* so off to do some more gardening before settling down to some work.

Saturday 19 April 2008

Films, shopping and wandering

Well time flies – hadn’t realised I’d missed several days since my last entry. I’ve mainly been working and I suppose I don’t have much to say about that. Last night however I went over to Stromness as it was the Film Club – this month we were showing “The Inaccessible Pinnacle” which is a Gaelic film set in Skye (we watched with subtitles obviously!).

The scenery is stunning and the music haunting. The story revolves around Angus, seen as a boy and a young man, who seeks the truth behind the death of his parents on the “inaccessible pinnacle”. The story is interweaved with his Grandfather’s ancient stories from Gaelic history of poisoned lovers, revenge, water-horses and Spanish gold.

We had a good turnout of about 30 folk and the film seemed to have been enjoyed by all. Several people said how moving they found the story, though I have to say it didn’t do it for me! But that’s one of the interesting thing about our film club – we show a variety of films and each affects people differently. My favourite so far is still the German film “The Lives of Others” an incredibly powerful film.

Having stayed in town overnight I decided to go into Kirkwall to do some shopping this morning. The drive on the main Stromness to Kirkwall road was very colourful as the daffodils are still out, though most are just going over. Also the fields are being populated by wee lambs, so it feels like Spring has *finally* arrived.

One of my favourite activities when I am in town is to go to Trenabies café in Kirkwall for a crispy bacon roll and coffee. I often bump into someone I know in there and have a blether at the same time. That’s one thing I notice when I go south – in Orkney I am so used to walking down the street in either Kirkwall or Stromness and saying hello to almost every person I see as most are familiar faces. So when I’m in Glasgow or London it takes a while to stop searching every face in a crowd for someone I know!

I also stocked up on groceries from Somerfield as the store is closing in a couple of weeks having just been taken over by Tesco. Apparently Tesco will be ripping out the interior and re-fitting and the shop will be closed for between six and ten weeks! Eeek! There will still be the Co-op and Lidls to do grocery shopping as well as the smaller local shops, but there are some brands I can only get at Somerfield – so I stocked up while I could! The staff were also giving away various Christmas items like wrapping paper, ribbon etc so there was quite a mêlée around the milk counter as people scrambled for things – hope all that activity didn’t curdle the milk!

Then it was on to the Skara Brae Café to collect a photo from the Manager there. She had taken a panoramic photo of Hoy from Warbeth beach at Stromness which just happened to have Graemsay in it and I’d asked if I could buy a copy. It’s a lovely photo taken in high summer, now I just need to get it framed.

I’d met a friend for lunch and on the way back to Stromness we stopped at Barnhouse in Stenness for a walk. Barnhouse is the remains of a Neolithic settlement, about 15 small houses have been revealed, it’s not as elaborate as Skara Brae but it is interesting – and visiting is free!

Unfortunately it was very low tide on the way home so I had a lot of steps to climb to and from the boat, though John the Crewman kindly carried my bags up the steps for me.

Now I need to go and put some of the plants I collected in Kirkwall into the newly dug border – I am ever optimistic that we have seen the last frost……

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Seals & Orcas

There was an article in The Independent yesterday which suggested that the decline of common seals (also known as harbour seals) around Orkney and Shetland might be due to Orcas (commonly known as “killer whales”). Apparently numbers have dropped by 40 per cent in the Northern Isles in recent years. One theory from a researcher based in Aberdeen is that Orcas (actually part of the dolphin family and not true whales) predate on common seal pups which are born in June and July. Seemingly there is a connection between the common seal pupping season and peak Orca sightings. According to the researcher the Orcas may have moved into the area following movements of fish shoals such as mackerel and found seals aplenty and are also feeding on them.

In Orkney there is also a large population of grey seals and their numbers don’t seem to be affected, possibly (it is theorised) as they pup later in September when Orcas have left our waters.

We get quite a few grey seals hauling out onto Sandside Beach, usually about May each year, and the rest of the time they can be seen along the shoreline rocks and skerries off Graemsay. I just love watching the seals on the beach – you have to stay well out of sight else they all plunge back into the sea. But as long as you remain unseen and heard you can watch them for ages. Sometimes they play about on the edge of the shore, other times they fight, and they cough and splutter like a load of old men at times! My neighbours have even watched a seal giving birth to a pup in the summer.

One of the reasons I fell in love with the house was the sight of the seals from it. I know they are regarded as pests by fishermen etc but I just love them! In the summer you often hear them calling, the sound is quite ethereal especially at night. There are lots of Orkney legends about “selkies” – the seal folk, who leave their skins on the shore and take human form for a time.

I don’t know about the legends but the seals give me hours of fun watching them. If you walk along the shore in the summer you will see a number of black heads bobbing about and they will follow your progress up and down the shore, sometimes coming in quite close to the shore line as they are just *so* inquisitive.

You know when a pod of Orcas are around though as the seals rapidly head for the shore and up onto the rocks. Though apparently Orcas are known to launch themselves onto the rocks after the poor seals.

I just missed seeing a pod of Orcas a couple of years back, but I did hear them blowing air through the blow holes on the top of their heads. Below is a photo I found on the web taken by someone called “Helen” - the photo is of Orcas just off Graemsay!

Sunday 13 April 2008


Yesterday (Saturday) was a leisurely day, it was my birthday and I spent most of the day and evening on the phone to friends around the UK. There are no weekend boats as we are still on the winter schedule but I had a pre-celebratory lunch with friends on Friday, and plan dinner with friends in town during the next week. I also caught up on some baking as I didn’t do any last week instead spending time socialising with my visitor.

However today I did manage to do a little more gardening – but progress feels oh so slow. This is not helped by the weather with today’s temperatures being quite low. So in an attempt to cheer myself up and convince myself that progress is real I looked for some photos of the rear border “before” – as you can see it was not very level and covered in grass – and in chickens so no change there then.

In this picture you can see my greenhouse – yes it’s cunningly disguised as a red estate car! While I was waiting to scrap an old island car I turned it into a greenhouse for the summer and filled it with growbags. I managed to grow some peas and tomatoes, though the crop wasn’t as good as it should have been as I didn’t have an outside tap at the time and so watering was a real labour. But it was fun to do for a few meals of fresh green peas and some tomatoes!

However last year I decided to make a proper border for shrubs and plants as I so miss my garden (in Kent where I used to live I had a small “cottage garden” at the rear of my flat). Arthur of Fillets sprayed the grass with weedkiller the previous autumn and so last Spring I set about levelling the ground and gradually planting shrubs of fuschia, rosa rugosa, hebe etc and am filling in with perennials.

This weekend I’ve been tackling a new piece at the very end of the border. Again it has been sprayed with weedkiller to get rid of the worst of the grass and weeds, and last year I stopped Steven and his passing tractor to level out a spoil heap left by the builders and dig up some concrete also left by them (they had the cement mixer on that patch). But I ran out of energy and didn’t managed to finish it off. So that is this month’s project - to get the ground ready for planting. It is a bit exposed there as the South Westerly wind tends to swirl around the byres. So the plants will need to be hardy, and therefore I’ll probably plant up native willow and maybe escollonia which seems to do well in several very exposed spots on Graemsay.

The huge flagstones you can see were once around the house, used as footpaths. When the house was renovated Arthur and the builders piled them up at the end. Not sure what I will do with them but I just love the colours of the stone and the lichens.

I could only do a little digging this weekend as really the ground is too wet, but as I only have the stamina for a little at a time I plod on daily. I was again accompanied by Clara Cluck, and once I had vacated the plot the other hens and cockerels came rushing in. Clara doesn’t appear in this photo as she is pecking my boots clearly disgusted that I’ve given up digging for the day when there are still hungry hens to feed!

Saturday 12 April 2008

A day in town

Spent the day in Kirkwall and Stromness yesterday. The boat pictures are of the “Golden Marianna” which is in service to Graemsay and Hoy until our own ferry comes back from it’s annual testing and refit. Fortunately there was little wind yesterday as getting on and off the ferry requires to hands and some agility, so not handy if you have shopping.

It was a bright Spring morning when I set out but the weather changed at lunch time to dark clouds, heavy squally showers and the temperature dropped. Fortunately I had done most of my shopping by then and was heading back to Stromness to meet friends for lunch.

As the weather was poor yesterday I seemed to work my way around the various cafes – starting off at Trenabies in Kirkwall for the best crispy bacon rolls in Orkney (in my opinon anyway), Coffee at the St Magnus café across from the Cathedral and ending up with a late lunch in Julia’s Bistro in Stromness.

However I enjoyed pottering around a few shops, including my favourite "Scarth Centre" to get shower sealant, rodent control measures for the hen house and some gardening tools, then on to catch up with friends. Since the end of February I’ve only been working three days a week but that increases to five again next week with the start of a new project. So my trips “abroad” will be curtailed a little, though I will still probably make weekly visits to town. But I shall have to get back to better planning of visits and shopping again.

In May our ferry schedules switch to “summer time” and we get boats every day including all weekends so that makes things easier. We also get a mid-morning boat at 10.45 straight to Stromness which is very popular with islanders. I love that boat as it gives me a chance to have a leisurely breakfast before heading off to town, rather than the alarm going off at 7am to catch the 8.25 ferry.

Anyway after a rather rainy day yesterday the evening brightened up and there was a beautiful sunset. Below is a photo of the Hamnavoe ferry returning to Stromness from Scrabster (North of Scotland) just as the sun was setting (click on photo to see larger image).

Thursday 10 April 2008

Another lovely Spring day today with bright sunshine. I’ve been working indoors most of the day so haven’t been able to really enjoy the fresh air. However am over in town tomorrow so hopefully the weather will hold.

I managed two miles on my treadmill tonight – I’m trying to build up stamina for a holiday in Devon in May as I want to get in some heavy-duty sight-seeing, walking through some valleys. Although I tend to be on the go a lot I don’t generally walk much – far too lazy for that. That’s why I loved horse-riding as my pony, Badger, did all the hard work and I just had to sit there :-)

I’ve just been outdoors now at nearly 10pm. It is such a calm still night – the lights of Stromness are reflecting across to the shore of Graemsay, and the shore-birds are calling noisily. The lapwings are beginning their aerial displays during the day, and still call throughout the night – they sound very comical, just like the Clangers (characters from a children’s series from the 1970s).

I must go and write my shopping list for tomorrow – I probably won’t be in the town again for another week so must make sure I don’t forget anything!

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Admiring landscapes

Resuming “normal service” now after my visitor departed on Monday. It was lovely having some company and visiting a few of the tourist places in Orkney (Picture is of the Earl’s Palace at Birsay). Unfortunately the weather was foul – Sunday we barely set foot outside with the wind, sleet, hail etc. battering the house. And of course as we were indoors a lot we ate far too much. For some reason I always feel obliged to feed my visitors at least hourly, even if it is just tea and cake! My hens eggs were appreciated for “eggy bread” (French Toast) though.

My visitor was fascinated by the changing weather patterns viewed from the conservatory window. One minute Stromness was visible the next it was not, and at the front of the house the Hoy hills were sometimes shrouded in cloud and snow and minutes later not. She became quite obsessive, checking out of the window every few minutes – it was quite funny to watch as I tend to take such changing patterns for granted now.

But I remember when I first moved to Graemsay I would spend ages looking out the caravan windows at the changing landscape, with different shadow plays on the hills made by clouds, the *speed* of the clouds skudding across the sky, varying colours of the water, and the patterns the waves made across the surface of the sea.

From the conservatory at the back of the house you have a 180 degree view of the West Mainland of Orkney (Warbeth Beach) right across the hills to Orphir. Now it is lighter in the evenings I sit out there reading or watching TV, but often just gazing across at the landscape. At the moment farmers are “muck-spreading” on the fields which darken the grass, but soon the bright spring green will show through. Later in the summer the fields are cut for silage or hay, the green fields turning to rows and ribbons of yellow as the grass dries. I noticed when I was over on the West Mainland last weekend that the bright yellow gorse bushes are out adding a splash of colour to the moorland.

Yesterday Liam McArthur, the Orkney MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) paid his annual visit to the island to wander round talking to folk about issues and concerns. He is of course contactable through his office, but he said he likes to do a regular tour of all the Orkney Islands personally just to get a feel for each community etc.

Today the Graemsay ferry was heading off South for the marine version of the MOT. So now we will have the “Golden Marianna” for a couple of weeks. It is not my favourite boat – it is not so easily accessible from the pier steps especially if you are carrying shopping bags. And being much smaller it tends to bounce around more. However it *is* only for a couple of weeks and I should be grateful – the “GM” is the regular summer ferry between Westray and Papay Westray and that stretch of water has much stronger currents and rougher water even on a calm day, so we don’t do too badly here. Next time I’m over to town I’ll take a photo of it to post here.

As you can see from the photo below – the sun is shining today – HURRAY!

Sunday 6 April 2008

Around Orkney

I’ve spent the last few days out and about around the Orkney Mainland with a friend who is visiting from South. Friday we went around the West Mainland to the Brough of Birsay. OK I’m cheating as the picture here was one taken last summer – as I forgot to take my camera that day!

At low tide it is possible to walk out along a causeway to the Brough and walk up the hill to the lighthouse and hang over the cliffs to see puffins and there are also remains of settlements that are the remains of the Norse settlement. However the tide was in when we were there so we had to content ourselves with walking along the shore. It was quite breezy that day but bright and sunny. The wind was blowing off the sea so at least if we got blown around we would get pushed inland rather than off the cliffs. We walked as far as the “Fisherman’s Hut” which is a sheltered inlet with boat nousts where the small rowing boats would have been pulled out of the water for shelter, and a small hut where creels and boat equipment would have been kept. I think the hut was rebuilt in the early 1900s but the nousts would have been in use long before that.

We then visited a ruin that was once the Earl’s Palace built in the late 16th century for Earl Robert Stewart and there are many legends about the Stewart Earls who were a fairly tough lot I think. Like all the really old large buildings it amazes me to think how such a large structure could be built before the use of cranes etc. Another building that amazes me is St Magnus Cathedral, in Kirkwall built in the 11th Century which is a beautiful sandstone cathedral built in Kirkwall about 1100. The Rose stained glass window is beautiful. In the summer there are guided tours up to the top of the cathedral, and people tell me the view is wonderful – though I have yet to experience it!

Yesterday the weather worsened but we decided to still head into Kirkwall. It was snowing and hailing and a fairly strong north wind when we went down to the pier. Unfortunately I got very wet from the splashing waves just as I stepped onto the boat – but fortunately once I got into my “mainland car” the heater dried me off (and contrary to popular opinion I have not shrunk!)

On returning to Stromness we went to the Waterfront Gallery to buy some souvenirs and also look at the latest art exhibition. At the back of the shop is a small light space where local artists can show off their pictures, ceramics and silverware. One or two things caught my eye but I resisted the temptation to buy anything!

We then went to the new Pier Arts Centre, this was extensively remodelled and reopened last year. I love the interior of the building as there as different interlinked galleries each with windows at different levels and sizes which frame the external landscape of the town, harbour and hills. The Gallery houses contemporary art, including some Barbara Hepworth sculptures and Ben Nicholson paintings. I have to say I really like abstract paintings and art, but some of the work there leaves me puzzled and bewildered! One canvas is all white with a small black blob in the centre….. hmmmm, it has a very esoteric explanation beside it talking about the merging of landscape and “nature” etc – think I prefer the more obviously representational artwork! However as I say I love some of the abstract work that uses colours and textures.

But the Arts Centre does have a wide educational programme and there were several sessions being run for kids as part of the school holiday entertainment, and there was a great exhibition of photographs taken by youngsters at the local secondary schools which were amazing.

Today it is still breezy with heavy hail and sleet showers, but the snow has not settled yet. So I think we are planning a walk around the island……

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Late tonight with today’s entry. I’ve been busy trying to get ahead with work as I’m taking a few days off because I have a visitor arriving tomorrow. A friend from Kent is coming to stay for the weekend. She last visited a few years ago so she at least has some idea what to expect in terms of weather! At least it is quite mild at the moment. I just hope for some sunshine while she is here. Orkney looks so different in the sun!

We have a boat service this weekend, as it's the first weekend of the month, so will be able to go over to the Orkney Mainland and do some site-seeing. I’ll try and take some photos of scenery around Orkney and post them here. The tourist season isn’t fully underway yet – that tends not to happen till May. But hopefully we will find a tea-room or two open on our travels!

Our Graemsay ferry is due to go away for it’s marine version of the MOT this week and in it’s place we will get the “Golden Marianna”. It’s a very small boat – well it can still take quite a few folk, but it’s not so easy to get on and off the boat, and no cargo, fuel or large items can be carried. So we have all stocked up on essential supplies as the Graemsay ferry may be away for about two weeks.

Today saw the arrival of some “composting cones” – these are green plastic cones that get sunk into the ground and allegedly you can put all sorts of household scraps in and it all composts down and can be used on the garden. Several folk have taken one, including me. I need to plant it at some point. I don’t have much in the way of scraps though as I tend to give most surplus to the hens. Although I don’t give the hens any meat scraps – they may well eat worms and bugs, but that’s their choice, I don’t force feed them any processed meat anyway!

Well this is a short entry tonight as I need to finish off some domestic chores in readiness for my visitor and I have to get the 8.25 am boat in the morning so I’d better get on with them!