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Saturday 29 November 2008

Frost and snow......

Thought you might enjoy some photos today.

Hoy Hills earlier in the week:

Landscape of frost and snow this morning:

Cloudscape today:

Wednesday 26 November 2008

And then there was one.....

Poor Jasper got deported from Graemsay today! The Cat Protection people have placed him with his previous fosterer till they find him another home. I did feel guilty putting him into the cage and parting with him, but it's better for all concerned in the long run. He's a very pretty and affectionate cat so I'm sure he will soon find another home, and I wish him a long and happy life!

Button can't quite believe he isn't hiding around the corner ready to pounce on her. She has finally settled on the sofa in the sitting room this afternoon but with one wary eye open for the expected onslaught. No doubt it will take her a few days to get accustomed to her freedom.

While delivering Jasper this morning I took the opportunity to take a look at the Christmas Art Exhibitions at the Pier Arts Centre and the Waterfront Gallery. Both run regular exhibitions of work by local artists inspired by the Orkney landscpae. There were several in both galleries that I really liked. The exhibits included pictures (photographs, other work was in oils or using natural materials), ceramics and "installation" objects. Two pictures that particularly caught my eye were by Tim Wooton and were of birds in the landscape. He really captures the birds in their natural elements. Another local artist I like, Joan Holdsworth, uses sand and paint in glass to represent natural materials or images of the landscape. I have a piece of hers from the exhibition last year, it's of the Hoy Hills, with Graemsay in the foreground - but have yet to hang it on the wall! I need to make sure it's safely anchored and doesn't fall down!

I then had time to have breakfast in Julias Bistro before getting some more groceries and then heading back on the mid-day boat. The wind was already getting up by lunch-time. Some folk were shipping lambs to the mart today and at one point I thought they might make *me* go up the sheep-run onto the pier, but thankfully the boat moved round to the steps so I could get off with my shopping with ease - although the wind was quite strong up the pier and it took my breath away. Now I'm nice and snug indoors and yet another gale is raging outside - it's obviously going to be a loooong winter - sigh.

Monday 24 November 2008

Here kitty, kitty, kitty......

I must get a cat flap....... Button's body clock announces she wants to go out at 10pm each night. By 11pm I'm ready for my bed - only I can't sleep soundly when if I've shut her out. Soft hearted or soft in the head I know but there it is. To be fair she usually comes after being called a few times - and I won't mention *what* she gets called by the end...... and it is awfully sweet to see her bouncing down the driveway greeting me.

However she and Jasper are still not getting on, in fact he now tries to stop her coming back into the house - he lies in wait by the car or round the corner. So I've contacted the cat shelter to ask them to rehome Jasper. I love both the kitties, both are very cute and funny in their own way. However I would at some point like to have two cats and I suspect Jasper is an "only cat" variety. I'm hoping that once Button settles in I could introduce another cat at some point. Or we must just muddle along together as it is. Anyway I'm hoping Jasper gets a new permanent home soon where he and his people are happy for many years to come.

And now I have to go and yell for Button again. Thankfully the wind will blow my words away and no one will hear me scream "BUTTON". Though it could be worse - our family dog when I was a child was called "Whisky" - if I yelled that out the back door Mick would be phoning round the island telling folk "The party's at Sandside"!

Although Button does seem a very silly name - she does answer to it which is unusual for a cat, so I suppose it will stay now.

And at least calling her last thing at night I get to appreciate the night-sky in all it's glory or fury. Tonight is a little breezy (a few weeks ago I would have said very windy...... it's all relative!) and the lights of Stromness are clearly visible, with Orphir dotted with lots twinkling lights too. No doubt I shall have several minutes in which to appreciate the view....... BUTTON!

Sunday 23 November 2008

Wild Weather....

The last week has seen gales, hail, sleet, snow, rain and yes, some sunshine. The snow didn't last for long and there wasn't enough of a covering to make for any decent photos. I love the snow when it's first fallen, all crisp and crunchy, but hate it once it gets to the slushy stage. Though looking at the sheep in the field I feel sorry for them and want to bring them indoors and warm their little feet!

Jasper has enjoyed going out despite the weather, but Button is definitely a fair weather cat - she would go out to do the necessary and shoot back in again. Unfortunately Jasper is still tormenting her so they are being kept apart when I'm not around or I need some peace and quiet. Not sure Jasper will ever accept her. She's quite a bold cat but doesn't fight him until she gets desperate - I think if she stood her ground a bit he might learn his lesson. But I can understand how she feels - I hate conflict too!

I've mainly been working this week, though I did go into Kirkwall on Thursday. There was an inter-isles transport meeting at the council offices - held with island representatives, reps from the ferry company and council officials. Most of what was said had been published in the paper that week so nothing very much was new. Several of the inter-isles ferries are due for renewal and there are various discussions going on about what replacements and changes to service there will be. For Graemsay the plan is to lengthen our ferry, which will enable it to carry more cargo. But unless/until the pier is altered it will still be a lift-0n/lift-off operation for cargo. Apparently there are plans to put in a tidal link-span at the pier so there would be limited "ro-ro" access, but who knows when that will happen - all depends on budgets etc.

While in town I shopped for supplies in case the weather worsened. Visited Tesco and I heard the alarm ringing constantly at the exit but this time it was NOT me. Though I have to confess to joining the "voyeurs" and watching the poor hapless customers being taken to one side. Oooh I know how they feel! Not sure what was triggering it so often this time - can't ALL be customers from A Well Known Chemist!

Did a bit of Christmas shopping, but those of you that know me well know I'm in the "Bah! Humbug!" category. I like the idea of a mid-winter festival, and indeed do celebrate mid-winter with gratitude.... that the nights will then begin to shorten! But I'm not into Christmas at all.

Monday 17 November 2008

Armenian soup recipe

mmmmmm the new soup recipe given to me by a friend turned out well and was delicious. It was one of the easiest soups I've ever made! So thought I'd share it with you:

Armenian Soup (from Cranks cookbook)

Red lentils, washed 2 oz
Dried apricots, washed 2 oz
Large potato 1
Vegetable stock 2 pt
Lemon juice (half a lemon)
Ground cumin 1 teaspoon
Parsley, chopped 3 teaspoons
Salt and pepper to taste

Place lentils and apricots in a large saucepan. Roughly chop the potato and add to the pan with remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, then blend in a liquidizer goblet until smooth. Reheat to serving temperature and adjust seasoning to taste.



Jasper spent another night out in the barn. But he was there to greet me when I fed the chickens and accompanied me home. However after breakfasting and a nap he has chosen to go out again. No idea when I'll see him next. I feel like the Kitty Hotel at the moment!!

Findlay the cockeral is a little unsteady on his legs, and definitelylooking rather motheaten these days. He no longer roosts on the perch with the hens at night but in the nesting box. I suspect his days are numbered. But for now he seems quite happy and definitely eating well so at least I can feel he has enjoyed his retirement!! The two hens seem happy enough. I'd like to get them some companions but most folk seem to sell hens in the Spring. Both are still laying well so that's a bonus.

A lovely calm day with patches of blue sky among the light grey cloud. However I see more wind is forecast for later in the week - from the North bringing "wintry showers".

Sunday 16 November 2008

More adventures with cats.....

Had problems uploading to my blog so haven't updated for a few days. Anyway have had further adventures with the new cats - including losing Jasper for two days! Well I knew where he was - he was in the byre among the hay but chose not to come home in time for tea, then the weather blew up into a Force 9 Gale and he sensibly stayed put in the barn. I found him this morning, none the worse for his adventure, though very hungry! He is now snoozing downstairs.

Button was disappointed to see him reappear as she had enjoyed having the place to herself. Last week Jasper went from stalking her to attacking. As soon as he sees her he runs up to her and a full scale battle ensues. It's very tiresome and doesn't seem to be getting any better. So I have to keep separating them so I can get on with work, life etc!

Friday night I was over in Stromness at the Film Club - watching "The Scent Of Green Papayas". It had won several awards - a Vietnamese film (think it was a french film crew), very gentle story, beautifully filmed, stunning photography. But somehow it failed to touch me - I just didn't connect with any of the characters and there were several events in the film that just didn't get explained. The ending was so ambiguous that I had to watch the final scenes again when I got back to my friend's house for the night and we ended up surfing the net to try and decipher the meaning! We gave up in the end......

Anyway we had a good turn-out of about 18 folk, which was good going as there were several other "art" events on the same night.

I was also over for physio during the week - the final session. My back feels a lot less painful now so hopefully things are improving. Though I'm supposed to be careful lifting things - not easy when we only have a passenger ferry and everything has to be carried on and off! Still I'm trying to be organised and get shopping sent over from Stromness grocers etc. And folk help, but I hate having to be dependent on others as we all have our own shopping etc to carry.

I've also realised that the dreaded Christmas is round the corner and am trying to get organised. I'm definitely in the "Bah! Humbug!" category. Have never really enjoyed Christmas - though used to enjoy the time off work. We won't get boats for 4 days over the Xmas period so I shall just hibernate! I used to go and visit family but it's rarely weather for travelling so to save hassle I prefer to stay at home and visit family and friends in the summer time!

I've just come back from checking around Sandside to see if there was any damage from the storm force winds last night. The wind and rain were so noisy they woke me up. It has been extremely windy since Friday, but fortunately by mid-day the wind had died down and it has been a reasonably pleasant afternoon - very bright. I meant to go out and take some photos but have been working today - one of the advantages of working from home I can be flexible with my hours. And of course by the time I thought to go out - it got dark!

I've been watching flocks of Lapwings swooping around over the field at the back of Sandside. They are amazing birds and give an amazing airborne display. I also heard geese calling today but didn't see them. I wasn't sure if they were on Graemsay or Hoy. When I stayed at Longhope (south end of Hoy) there were thousands of geese around and someone was employed to shoo (yes that's shoo not shoot!) them off the land - well of course they just moved on to another field! But they do make a mess of the pasture so they were not regarded kindly by the local farmers. A few at a time wouldn't be too bad, but in large numbers they become a problem.

I've got a new recipe for soup so think I shall go and experiment. If it turns out well I'll post the recipe!

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Adventures with cats

Today’s picture is of cloud over the Hoy Hills. It looks like the Brontosaurus of Hoy is still under the duvet! Weather has been changeable all day with heavy showers and periods of calm and brightness. Actually the photo of Graemsay on the right of my blog was taken from the top of the hill (Ward Hill) by a friend - and no I haven't climbed to the top myself - I just admire the photos!

I’m still having adventures with the cats. We are all taking time to get adjusted. Jasper (grey & white, appears laid back) has clearly been upset by the appearance of Button (black & white, sassy cat) and had been off his food. He is also desperately trying to make friends with her. He approaches her (sometimes at the trot), ears forward, meowing what I assume is feline for “Hello will you be my friend?”. However Button is still less than enamoured by this, but despite her hissing and spitting he persists. And bless her, she doesn’t really attack him either, just tries to escape……. Generally I try and leave them to it, but she has sussed out that I *will* rescue her if she hides behind my computer! So of course that’s where she heads now.

Button also had an adventure of her own on Sunday night. She’s been outdoors a couple of times during the day and then demanded persistently to go out again at about 10pm. Well I was planning an early night so wasn’t keen. However she yowled and made such a fuss that I let her out. She still wasn’t home by midnight – despite me standing in pyjamas at the back door yelling “Button”. It was a still night – I suspect they heard me in Stromness. However as it *was* a lovely moonlit still night I went off to bed – gazing out of the bedroom window at the gentle lapping of the tide on the sandy beach, drifting off into a nice deep sleep. I woke up at 7.30 to a gale! Ooops – but over the noise of the gale, unmistakably was Button – yowling….. I let her in and got a mouthful of sharp meadows for my pains! Before anyone thinks I’m heartless – I had shown her the hay byres on our first venture out so I knew if she had any sense she’d find warm shelter there.

Anyway she has clearly learned something as now when I yell at night I hear her reply in the distance, getting louder as she gets nearer – she obviously prefers a nice cosy warm sofa indoors to the barn! She sleeps near my computer so I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s surfing the web during the night ordering a cat flap for her convenience!

One thing I have been advised to try is a “pheromone diffuser” – it’s like one of those plug-in air fresheners, but mimics the facial pheromones of a happy cat (kind of like Valium for kitties I suppose!). Anyway since I plugged it in, Jasper has returned to eating properly and things are a little calmer. Of course this could also be due to them getting used to each other!

Sunday 9 November 2008

Momentous week

It’s certainly been a momentous week – Lewis Hamilton became the new Formula 1 World Champion, Barack Obama won the Presidential Election, and Button & Jasper met up for the first time. The first two events were more cause for celebration than the last (depending on your nationality and politics).

It has to be said that Button (aka Miss Sassy Boots) is something of a Drama Queen….. and LOUD…… Jasper, bless his little white socks, ran up to her miaowing and wanting to make friends. Button went into reverse hissing and spitting and yowling. This went on for a couple of days (though I separated them at night for the sake of a peaceful household).

Button is full of energy and I decided yesterday that it was time to let her outdoors so we went for a walk around the byres nearby so she could see where to shelter if she got locked out etc. She is hilarious, scooting around, calling to me all the time. “Come and look at this” – “Blimey what’s that?” (a hen). After a while I turned back to the house calling her. I could hear her but no sign. Eventually she comes scooting out of the barn and leaps up onto the hen house (which is about 6 ft at the front lower at the back). Pretends to get stuck…… Ha! I’m not falling for that and go back to the house. Eventually she follows. Later she wants out again and I leave her to her own devices. I’m wondering how I’ll know when she wants to come back in as it soon gets dark. She’s a black cat with white bits (or as a friend said, a white cat wearing a full bat suit). I needn’t have been concerned – she YOWLS *very* loudly at the door. No mistaking Miss Sassy Boots!

Thankfully after bouncing around outdoors she settles down on a chair opposite Jasper who is snoozing away too. That’s a first. Jasper has been off his food for the last couple of days and I was worried about him – he’s underweight having been a rescued stray. But today I saw him sneak upstairs and eat some of Miss Sassy Boots’ breakfast! He’s just had a light lunch and now curled up sleeping. Meanwhile Button is curled up on my bed……..

Jasper shows no inclination to go out and I’m happy for him to be indoors till he feels more confident and settled.

I separate both of them to different parts of the house when I’m out just in case but hopefully both will settle soon. I had to leave them when I went to town twice this week (for physio and acupuncture for my back which seems to be improving thankfully!) and they were fine. Well cats do sleep 19 hours a day……. Think I want to come back as a cat in my next life…….

Monday 3 November 2008

Adventures with cats….

Jasper arrived last Weds – he was a stray rescued from Stromness where he had been wandering about. He was in foster care for a few weeks and advertised as a lost kitty but no one claimed him. He was in poor condition when rescued and had clearly been living rough for some time. His fosterer fed him up well and he also had some minor surgery on his eye, and treatment for conjunctivitis. He is now looking much healthier with a glossy coat, and is gradually gaining weight. He is very friendly and quite likes being picked up and cuddled. He’s a peedie puss (peedie = small in Orcadian) and very sweet. Not very bold so hasn’t been exploring the house much as yet. But that’s fine he can take his time.
Button exploded out of her cat carrier on Friday – was thinking of renaming her Bombshell! However I think she just objected to being shut in a box for most of the day as she has calmed down now. When I first let her out she escaped and ran round the upstairs of the house and yowled when shut into the spare bedroom upstairs. However she has settled down quietly now. Her foster home had several cats and an excitable young dog so I think she’s glad of some peace and quiet. She is definitely a bold sassy cat. She would happily explore the rest of the house and I think will also be happy to go outdoors.

However plan is to keep the two kitties in separate parts of the house till the end of this week, then I’ll put Button into the conservatory and she and Jasper can see each other through the glass panel door and get acquainted that way first. We’ll see how that goes before putting them together!! In hindsight it would probably have been more sensible to get two kitties from the shelter that were already acquainted. However I’m assured by other more experienced “cat people” that they will soon sort themselves out. And there are enough comfy spaces in the house for each to be happy away from the other if they so wish!

Sunday 2 November 2008


Er – no I haven’t been covered in ice or snow during the recent “arctic spell”, nor have I been blown away by the gales….. You will notice a pattern to my blog postings during the winter…… when the weather is good I’m outdoors and not posting so much. When the weather is bad – you will ALL know about it…..

But since Weds we have had terrific weather, the most glorious autumnal sun, with loooong shadows (and I can pretend I’m tall) and no wind. Today is more of the same, beautiful blue skies. I’ve posted some photos taken over the last few days.

I’ve also been busy collecting cats! Jasper arrived on Wednesday from his Shelter fosterer in Kirkwall. He has settled in well, though is a little timid. But he is very friendly and should probably be called Jaspurrrrrrrr. Then on Friday I collected Button who was being fostered on Hoy. She is quite a sassy cat! Beautiful but sassy….. She too is settling down well. Neither have yet met – that will be the challenge later this week. Also both need to be kept in for a couple of weeks which is proving OK at the moment. I think Jasper might be a home-buddy, whereas I think Button will enjoy exploring the barns and field nearby.

We also had our island annual Harvest Home on Friday night which was combined with the kids Halloween event. The Harvest Home in Orkney is a traditional celebration of the end of the Harvest – it’s usually held at the end of October/beginning of November and is non-religious (Unlike English Harvest Suppers). On Graemsay folk are all seated round one big table, and a three course meal provided, prepared by various of the island ladies. This year it was followed by music provided by Fran and Hamish (accordion, concertina, penny whisles, banjo etc) and the children also did their Halloween “turns”. We don’t do trick-or-treat but all the kids dress up in Halloween costumes and have to tell a joke, or do a “turn”. Photos of the event can be found on Mick of Hoy High’s web site: ( and then select "Harvest Home 2008" from menu). After the kids had done their bit they were given sweets and treats – this year Sandra gave me a bag of sweeties too, I think it was to stop my usual attempts to steal from the kids! There was also dancing, with the Graemsay version of “Strip the Willow” – a more stately version than in years past, due to the increasing age and injury of the inhabitants!! I left about midnight but I gather there was tea and homebakes later too. Rats – I missed CAKE!

(Photos: Top of page: from Graemsay looking to Stromness on the Orkney Mainland; below left: Hoy High Lighthouse and Rainbow - yes I was a little on the slant there.... below top right - From Graemsay looking across Scapa Flow to Orphir; below bottom right - Graemsay looking towards West Hill across Sandside Bay.