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Saturday 24 October 2009

Computer problems

Started having problems with anti-virus software earlier this week (it kept freezing during a scan). After consultation with IT guru who lives on Orkney Mainland, I downloaded and ran various software to ensure it wasn’t a nasty virus infecting my computer. All clear – phew. So went onto manufacturer's website to see if I could sort out problem and saw a newer version of anti-virus software available. Downloaded this….. BIG mistake……

What is it with the latest products from large corporations that makes them want to take over my entire computer…….? The programme suddenly morphed into the kind of security guys you see at large venues: built like a brick wall, wearing a sharp suit, shades, and ear/microphone. So these guys clearly decided the greatest security risk to my computer was ME…….. “Code Red – she’s approaching her email!” I got the computer equivalent of “STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD, MADAM”…… complete lockout.

Anyway I managed to sneak under the radar and email IT guru –but it’s 10.30 pm and I know I won’t get a reply till the morning. This doesn’t stop me sending five more emails with increasing desperation ….. nor does it help my impatience to get things sorted so start “uninstalling” World Domination Software. I’ve done this before and know what to do….. “My name is Bond, Jane Bond, I like my martini shaken but not stirred”. Meanwhile “Gold Finger” makes one last attempt at World Domination and crashed my computer. I’m not beaten that easily and rebooted – only to find my email software trashed, leaving my inbox which was formerly full of vibrant friendly messages, completely empty…… I drained the martini in one gulp.

And the uninstall, having crashed, had left traces of World Domination on my computer, which was clashing with my existing firewall software. Existing software does not go in for flashy World Domination, but is more the type of security you would have seen in a 1970’s London Disco: very low key, blokes in open necked shirts, who silently appeared en masse to surround any trouble and discretely removed it. Which meant if you were singing along to the latest Glam Rock hit by Sweet (remember them?) while dancing around your handbag, you barely noticed anything……..

So – there was a bit of a battle between discrete security and the Sharp Suit guys and my web browser bit the dust. However this time it had been protected by discrete security and once I’d finally despatched the Sharp Suit guys I was rewarded with the return of my web browser…..

And during all this my IT guru was sending me calming emails with things like “Today you are going to edit the registry” and while I hyperventilated he would calmly give me step by step instructions to forever rid myself of World Domination software and install something more helpful …… I wanted a functioning computer…. I followed instructions…..

So – I now have installed sensible functioning security which doesn’t try to dominate The World or my computer and if anyone suggests I need to upgrade I will not be responsible for my actions……..

Friday 23 October 2009

Busy day at the pier....

As I've mentioned before, our regular ferry is away having work done to it and not due to return till the end of the year. In the meantime we have the "Golden Mariana" for passenger traffic, and another vessel, the "Hoy Head" to deliver large cargo every couple of weeks.

As the weather has been poor the last couple of days (with our passenger ferry cancelled on several occasions), we weren't sure whether the cargo would be delivered today. But sure enough out of the mist and spray appeared the "Hoy Head" bearing goods for the island.

First to be unloaded was a shiny new tractor

Then a neighbour's car

Followed by my heating oil

This big chap (the one on the right)

And to be transported from Graemsay to Kirkwall mart were some cattle - winched onto the deck of the vessel singly in this box.

And just as the events were drawing to a close on the pier, the "Golden Marianna" arrived with groceries from the town. Including a large box for me - the weather does not look good over the coming week so I'm stocking up on essentials - like cat food and milk!

Monday 19 October 2009

All is safely gathered in.....

..... to quote (or misquote) from an old school hymn. The last of the "Pink Fur Apple" potatoes have been harvested. It's been a good crop (sorry to those of you who have suffered blight..!).

My first year at veggie growing has been a great success (in my terms anyway!). Twenty five onions, loads and loads of crunchy, tasty carrots, bags of broad beans, several barrowloads of tatties. Several courgettes, which is great as they were late going in. The peas didn't do so well but those I did have were delicious. The strawberry plants were new so only a small crop from them, but am hoping for an increased crop next year!

I hesitate to say I didn't have any problems with pests - hope they are not reading this blog and heading towards the walled garden for next year! I suspect it's because the garden was "new ground", not having been used to grow anything but wild grass for over 15 years. I did use some "sacrificial" plants too. And initially the hens were wandering about the garden picking off aphids etc. I'm hoping next year is as easy going too........ (well they say gardeners are optimists!).

I'm hoping I get a chance to put some seaweed down as fertiliser this autumn (that was the only fertiliser I used this year), and am then also hoping to put some "mulch matting" down and weight it down with stone. But it rather depends on energy levels and weather......

Now for planning for next year.......

Sunday 18 October 2009

Autumn sunset

Well yesterday was the perfect Autumn day. In fact it was WARM early on - I was out in a tee-shirt digging the veg patch. Later it got chilly and I needed a light jacket, but was able to spend most of the day outdoors. And the perfect Autumn day ended with a beautiful sunset (see above and below).

Sunrise today was at 07:54 and sunset will be at 1800, which is not that different to London at the moment (03:30 and 1801).

I love watching the sun track across the sky with the changing seasons. In the photos above the sun is setting behind the Hoy hills. Whereas in "midsummer" the sun sets behind Black Craig on the West Mainland (at about 10pm!) - see below!

Saturday 17 October 2009

A lovely autumn day...

Woke up to sunshine, NO WIND, blue skies, mild temperatures ...... oooh bliss. A bit of a respite from the Autumnal wind and rain that we have had in Orkney for the last few weeks. A chance to throw open the windows and let some fresh air into the house!

And above is a Heron on one of the old buildings near the shore. As you can see below s/he was also taking the time for a little preening activity (wish I had a longer zoom lens...)

Must get out into the walled garden today and lift the remaining "tatties". I've also got some "early" onion sets to plant and am hoping just to tidy up the veg plot before winter.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

HMS Royal Oak Commemorations

There are a number of services and commemorations in Orkney this week for the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the battleship "HMS Royal Oak". HMS Royal Oak was part of the British naval fleet and was sunk by a German U-boat on 14th October 1939. The British fleet was anchored in Scapa Flow during WWII, which was thought to be a "safe haven" with protection from anti-sub nets and "block ships" (ships deliberately sunk to block channels) however a U-boat captain conducted "a remarkable exploit of professional skill and daring" (quoting Winston Churchill I think...) and the "Royal Oak" was torpedoed with the loss of 833 lives. A brief history of the event is given on "The Orcadian" website here. More information about HMS Royal Oak is on this website dedicated to the men who lost their lives that day.

As the British naval fleet continued to be anchored in the Flow, better protection for the fleet was needed and the Churchill Barriers were designed and constructed for this very purpose. However construction of the barriers took several years and were completed a few days after VE day in May 1945. They are a lasting reminder of that time, and now provide a permanent fixed link between the Orkney Mainland and the islands of Lamb Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay. More on the barriers here.

The beautiful Italian Chapel is another haunting reminder of that period. Italian prisoners of war were camped on Lamb Holm, having been brought in to help with the consturction of the Churchill barriers. In 1943 two nissan huts were joined together and the Italian POWs created the interior of the chapel using any bits of scrap metal they could find, as well as tromp-loeil artwork. It really is a beautiful place and still used for services as well as being open to visitors. More photos here.

So today a service and parade will take place in Kirkwall, including family members and survivors, to remember the men who lost their lives on HMS Royal Oak in 1939.

Note for those in the UK who can get the "History" channel, there is a programme about the sinking of HMS Royal Oak at 7pm tonight. It's just been shown on STV - very poignant hearing some of the survivors talking about their experiences as boy naval cadets, just teenagers.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Our "interim" ferry.....

Our usual Graemsay ferry (the MV Graemsay) is off being lengthened. A sort of "cut and shut" operation where the vessel is sawn in half, a new bit dropped in and it's all welded back together again and we get a longer back deck. Why? Well allegedly it a) will make the vessel more fuel efficient, b) more cargo can be stowed on the back deck (though the crane will be the same so nothing heavier than currently allowed can be winched on) and c) it's a longer boat...... In some future, which in the current enconomic climate I am sure is quite distant, our pier will also have a bit added which means that (allegedly) a couple of hours either side of a high tide the island could have an intermittant "ro-ro" service.

Anyway in the meantime we have an "interim" ferry called the "Golden Mariana". Now this wee ferry (see photo above) usually plies it's trade between the islands of Westray and Papay Westray (known as Papay) taking the kids back and forth to school in the winter, as well as providing a link between the islands. Currently the kids are being flown between the two islands - which is - er - probably an interesting experience given that the flight has always been billed as "the world's shortest flight" because you spend about a minute in the air. Now it has to be said this IS a regular flight, though the timetable has been changed to accommodate school times, but I suspect not all the kids are thrilled about being bounced around in a plane - twice a day, for the next three months.....

Meanwhile on Graemsay we are very familiar with the wee boat - we get it for two weeks each year while our own ferry is away for a marine version of an MOT. But unfortunately it's just not as easily accessible as the "Graemsay" - particularly if you have a couple of bags of shopping in your hand. And somehow at the pier it doesn't feel as stable as our regular boat, so you have to judge just when to step across onto the pier more so than we are used to. Add to that it's October and Autum/Winter in Orkney is characerised by gales and this boat - well - it bounces about a bit....... a lot....... Last week the wind got up during the day and the afternoon and evening sailings were cancelled. Which if you are over on the Orkney Mainland for the day means you definitely need to keep an eye on the changing weather or find yourself begging a bed for the night somewhere (not to mention begging a freezer to put your shopping in!)

And as you can see from the photo of the wee boat it doesn't have a cargo deck. So currently we have to arrange for large items (fuel, sheep, coos) to be transported via special arrangement on another vessel, which means a little extra planning. So - all in all there are a few challenges ahead for us till the "Graemsay" returns.

And I'm sorry to the folk on Papay and Westray - I'm sure you are very glad of your boat and I don't mean to sound ungrateful because at least we *have* a boat, it's just it's a very bouncy one - with no toilets........ and the pile of sick bags in the magazine racks has me worried......

So whoever is in charge - can we have our boat back soon please? And it no longer will look like this........

Disclaimer: the above is purely my own opinion and is not necessarily shared by anyone else!

Sunday 4 October 2009

Today's weather window....

And through the rectangle window today...... we have a hail shower and rainbow, but no wind (so I opened the window to take the photo). Not a bad day weatherwise, though a definite autumnal feel.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Um - it's a wee bit windy....

OK Autumn has well and truly arrived in Orkney. We don't get any of the "mists and mellow fruitfulness" of Autumn south - it goes directly into rain and gales. And just to show that it isn't always sunny in Orkney, above is a picture taken just now out of an upstairs window.

And this is the sea state at the back of the house - yes it's blurred because yes it's taken through the window which is salt-glazed, with raindrops clinging on for dear life, but no I wasn't going to open the window as the wind is currently gusting at 55 knots (that's 63.4 miles per hour to those of you who are non-nautical like me). And sunset is at 18:39 and sunrise is at 07:22 - sigh.

Button is harumphing around as she wants me to turn the wind off so she can go out. She may have a long wait.

Charlie Boy, on the other hand, although still being a shy boy and not allowing me to get closer than a foot to him, does come when called and is very grateful for his dinner. He has a nice cosy spot in the barn all wrapped up in hay. He's no fool!