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Sunday 7 December 2008

Still here!

(Photo: Button pretending to be an ornament....... should I decorate her for Christmas?)

Ooops - are you ever convinced you've done something and then found you haven't? Thought I'd updated my blog this week but obviously not...... I remember composing something in my head - must have just stayed there!

I only went over to the Mainland for a couple of appointments this week, otherwise I've been home, working. Ii'm really busy workwise at the moment as one project is coming to a close and needs to be completed before Christmas and another is about to start in the new year. I seem to be spending a lot of time in front of the computer screen at the moment. But I'm looking forward to a few days off over the Christmas break.

I haven't yet been able to go in to Woolworths (known in the UK as "Woolies") to take a look at the cut price bargains. The announcement that Woolies has gone into receivership was received with sadness by many in the UK. Woolies has been around on the UK high street for so many years. The Shetland and Orkney branches were the most profitable in Scotland, or so I heard. So it will be sad if they close, and sad for those who may end up unemployed in the new year. Woolies is an icon in Kirkwall - without it the town will feel quite different, in my opinion. It's one place where you can get all sorts of odd things, and I'm not sure there are any other shops in town that sell the range of kids toys that Woolies do. Well OK not that I actually buy any kids toys but I know lots of folk that do! I shall miss the "Pick and Mix" sweeties. I grew up with Woolies pick and mix always available. I still like to indulge when I'm in town. Lots of brightly coloured sweeties full of additives - oooh lovely.

Button is settling in well - she has now taken to bringing me gifts. The first was a dead sparrow - I thanked her but explained about the falling numbers of sparrows in the UK and that I didn't want her contributing to their demise so would she please bring me mice. She has clearly taken the lecture to heart as she has since brought me two field mice from the barn. She's a little put out that I won't allow her to bring them into the house! It took a while to convince her she couldn't - particularly with the first mouse. She dropped it on the doorstep and I managed to get her indoors then dispose of the mouse (threw it into the field). When I let her out she was most put out. She looked at me as if to say - you ate it all by *yourself*? Have you not heard of sharing??" and off she trotted to the barn again...... I'm having a rethink about a cat flap!

Folk on the island are busy getting ready for Christmas. We have the children's Christmas Party in the Hall the weekend before Christmas. Irene (who used to be the teacher at the school on Graemsay) organises it. It's one of my favourite island events. There are between five and seven island kids (depending who's around at the time) so all the adults must join in the party games - parce the parcel, obstacle race, musical arms (don't ask). And of course prizes are chocolates, sweeties etc. Santa Claus pays a visit with gifts for the children, and everyone contributes to the buffet.

At the moment the farmers are busy sorting out kye (cattle) and lambs to ship to the market. Some are "store" animals which means they will be sold on to other farmers who will feed them up for the meat market, others may go direct for slaughter and onto local butchers or may be shipped south. The Kirkwall Mart has been having its Christmas sales and the champion steer was sold to a butcher in Guernsey (Channel Islands), where my sister lives. So I shall have to tell her to go to the butcher and try some Orkney beef!

Most of the cattle on Graemsay are now in the byres for the winter, although the sheep stay out all year and are fed winter feed in the fields.

The hens are still laying, though I'm not sure if one has stopped or gone and found another place among the hay to lay her eggs. I'm hoping to get some more laying hens soon. I only have two hens and Findlay the aged (retired) cockeral, and I'd like to build the flock up again. Not because I need more eggs but I just love seeing the hens around. They are still scratching about in the garden for grubs and bugs and things.

The garden is looking quite bare now as all the shrubs have dropped their leaves and most of the plants died back for winter. Though the cordyline, pampas grass, hebes and escallonia are still green. How they have remained so during some recent gales is beyond me. Clearly very hardy plants!


  1. Hi Sian
    Glad to know you are well - thanks for the email. What fun with Button! Our cat, Marmite, also brings presents of mice or voles. We have great fun when they are alive and a rescue project gets underway. Enjoy Button and the hens and make sure you have breaks from your computer screen.

  2. So far I've only been presented with dead ones and she gets stopped at the door. The cat flap may change that though...... Another cat I fostered some years ago used to bring in live baby rabbits and as with you, a rescue plan had to be put in place.

  3. Forgetting to blog is probably better than blogging and then forgetting - which I've been known to do after a trip to the pub, followed by a hasty rewrite next morning.

    Sad about Woolies, but I can't believe it will disappear completely.

  4. Escallonia, Sian, you lucky girl. Our conditions are far too harsh ......

  5. Malc - looks like Woolies is lost from Kirkwall after all. Shutting in New Year I hear. So sad.

    Walrus21 - yup definitely lots of escallonia in Orkney. We benefit from the gulf stream here so it's not such a harsh climate. I've even seen Palm Trees on the Orkney Mainland! When I get my new camera I'll upload some photos of some of the plants grown here.