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Monday 27 October 2014

Seal Cam!

Some of my blog friends have asked about the Orkney seal cams.  Well there's a new one just started on the RSPB reserve on the uninhabited island of Copinsay.

You can view it here

And it you are reading this when it's dark in Orkney, here is a wee taster. A great short film by wildlife photographer, Raymond Besant, of waves crashing on the shore on one side of an island and a wee selkie (the name given to seals in myths and legends) pup on a sheltered shore.

Click here for the film

Sunday 26 October 2014

Orkney International Storytelling Festival comes to Graemsay

In past years Tom Muir and Fran Flett Holinrake have visited Graemsay after the official Orkney storytelling festival is over to give us a special performance.  This year they included us in the actual festival!  So it was on Friday I went to meet the ferry from Stromness expecting a handful of folk to get off the boat, to be greeted with hoards of enthusiastic folk coming over for an afternoon of stories.  Well there were about 18 of them - that's hoards for Graemsay given our population is only 27.  Hee hee!

It was a calm day so at least they had a good sail across

Though I think they stepped onto the pier with some trepidation as the boat crew had explained there would be kye (cattle) to be shipped from Graemsay and had regaled them with tales so lurid they could hold their own at a storytelling session!  Needless to say the young stock on the pier were very peacable and caused no trouble!

Fortunately the weather was kind and so many of the visitors chose to wander up to the hall, while the storytellers got a lift up so they could set up banners, and the raffle and get settled.

Earlier various of the Graemsay folk have been preparing the hall, putting up decorations, making soup and butties (sandwiches),  and home bakes of course!  So lunch greeted folk as they arrived, together with, of course, the island folk.

I was going back and forth between the kitchen and the lunch table and caught snatches of conversation as visitors and island folk. Almost the entire population of Graemsay was there, and those that weren't were over in the town attending various appointments.  Graemsay always turns out to welcome visitors! It's one of the things I love about this community.

After lunch we settled down for the first story, told by Liz Weir from Northern Ireland.  She had a spooky ghost story for the children.  As you can see in the photo at the top of this post - the spiders also liked the story.  Liz even seems to be wearing one as a very fetching hat!  (Er - due to my camera skills or lack of, rather than actually wearing one!).

Next were a couple of stories from Ian Stephen, storyteller and poet from the Isle of Lewis.  He told stories of islands and isles folk, of hardship and triumph.

Then Orkney's Tom Muir told some stories of the Trowie Folk

 And Fran told a story of the blue door in Edinburgh, a request from one of the Graemsay children who had remembered the story from last year.  A story of ghosts and terror that had folk jumping out of their seats!

There was also time for tea and home bakes, and a raffle with some great prizes.  I won a lovely picture of the Hoy Hills.

Sadly soon it was time for everyone to leave.  The sun still shone so most folk walked back to the pier. Nobody needed to avail themselves of the Graemsay Self Drive Hire.....

 Meanwhile I gave Liz a quick tour of the island by car as she hadn't seen it before (Ian had arrived on an earlier ferry and walked around the island so he'd had a taste of the landscape already).  Liz and I chatted about islands and she compared Graemsay with Rathlin island, off the Northern Ireland coast.

The Graemsay folk really enjoyed the afternoon of stories, and meeting our visitors.  And there was even some cake left over for me to take home.  Result!  So thanks to all from the Orkney International Storytelling Festival for a great afternoon!

Sunday 19 October 2014

Sunshine walk and scones.....

Looking towards Stromness

I made the most of the lovely weather we had for part of this week to have a wander around the island and thought I'd share some photos with you.....

Above is a photo taken from the top of Graemsay (which isn't very high! At it's highest point I think it's only 65 feet high!)

At the top of the hill are the ruined croft houses of Dean. They have stunning views of the Hoy Hills which are silhouetted behind them.

And a signpost so folk can't get lost, left to the point of Oxan and straight on for the ferry!

The old school with the "Cott of School" behind.  The island children went to this school until 1996 when the island got a daily ferry service and new boat. Now the children cross each day to the primary school in Stromness.

And back down the hill towards Sandside

The Hamnavoe ferry setting sail for Scrabster on the Scottish Mainland, as it sails past the Hoy Low lighthouse.

While earlier in the day local farmers had been shipping sheep off the island. These are this year's lambs and will be sent as "store lambs" to continue grazing to fatten them up for market.

And now back on our usual walk to the coral beach with Madam Button.... She's looking rather alert. This is because she can hear children!  Very wary of children is Button. Wise cat!  In the  distance you can see some them playing on the beach. A paradise for for them!

The children seemed to be enjoying themselves so we left them to it.

Instead we set off down the old "lighthouse" pier....

Onto the coral beach, looking towards the wee town of Stromness.

The old farm buildings looking as though they will fall onto the shore with the next puff of wind! (They're a bit more secure than that...for now).

And a beautiful natural swimming pool here - even if the water is a wee bit chilly!

I love the shore, that liminal space between land and sea......

Come on Button I want to go home for tea!

Even the sun is beginning to set ........

Slipping behind the Hoy Hills....

Time to go home for warm scones......

Hope you enjoyed your wander around our wee island.

Monday 13 October 2014


Sunrise is getting later now we are in October, today it was at 7.45 am.... I love the reflection of the sun across the Hoy Hills.

Meanwhile Sunset is getting earlier , today it will be about 18.13 - though obviously the weather makes a difference to the amount of daylight - dark cloud and it's gloomy all day.

We had a couple of days last week with severe gales. I was prepared and had moved anything that might fly around into the shed (including one of the benches). Other things were battened down.  Unfortunately I was ready for the gale a couple of weeks ago which "got" my fruit cage.  I've dismantled it now and I think it will be OK next Spring, with some new netting.

Some days are full of grey skies, and others full of sunshine and fluffy clouds (I like days like those!).

Some flowers in the garden were sheltered enough to withstand the gales. These dwarf sweet peas are still flowering their hearts out!

So pretty and with the perfume of summer.

But the old elder tree got blasted in the wind.  We don't get a proper autumn in Orkney where the leaves turn brown and drop to the ground.  Usually a gale comes along first and blasts them black and off the trees. I marvel at autumn colour when I got "south".

But as well as rough weather and high winds, we've had calm days..... This photo was taken from the Graemsay pier looking towards Stromness.

And this one with Hoy HIgh lighthouse in it. The Yellow Triangle is where our electricity power supply cable comes ashore.

And here is our ferry coming out to the island.

And here she is in Stromness harbour at high tide.  I love high tide in the harbour (not least as there are fewer steps to walk up or down to the boat!).

Sunday 12 October 2014

A visit to the V.E.T......

Panic not, Dear Reader, Madam Button is fine. But a couple of weeks ago I noticed she appeared to have the early signs of a urine infection. My old cat, Fitzi, suffered from those on occasions so I recognised the symptoms and promptly got Button off to the vet. The lovely vet at NorthVet in Kirkwall gave her an antibotic and anti-inflammatory injections and within a couple of days she was back to normal.

But the journey to the vet is a little more traumatic for an isles cat than most city kitties, not least because there is a boat journey to consider.  Button can tolerate a car journey (although she swears at me the whole way), but she does not like the ferry ride.  I think it's a combination of the movement, noise and smell.

Our vet practice is excellent, understanding the challenges of getting pets to the vet when we live on the isles, so they found an early appointment that fitted in with our boats.

It has to be said on the morning of our visit Button returned from her overnight hunting expedition (ahem, not THAT much wrong with her then...), with a mouse, which she consumed for breakfast!  I did wonder WHY I was taking her to the vet, but I know from experience that it's necessary to catch these infections early, for all our sakes.

So into the box she goes.  NOT best pleased, and I was rather unkind, waking her up and unceremoniously dumping her in the box and whacking the lid shut. Though in that nano second between each, she woke up enough to put up a stiff resistance.

Anyway it was a beautiful sunny day with calm seas so the journey across wasn't too bad, the vet saw us promptly and we were back home again by mid-day.  Button, of course, getting a pouch of "gourmet" food for her troubles!

But it could have been MUCH worse - a few days later THIS was the sea we would have had to cross!

Photo by Irene of Breckan looking towards Hoy Low 

As I say Button has made a full recovery, and after some cake, so did I.

Monday 6 October 2014

I know the feeling.....

Button feeling a bit "Mondayish" and realising she has to go out in a gale and heavy rain to have a pee!  She DOES have use of a litter tray, but being a rufty tufty country cat she insists on going out in all weathers!

Anyway I'm joining her with my head in my meataphorical paws - er no *I* use my indoor facilities!! But  I'm way behind answering comments here and I LOVE getting comments.  Apologies - I will reply!  Just life getting in the way of fun stuff - you know how it is.  That and energy following the sun to hide behind the Hoy hills for winter I think......

Another gale due for tomorrow - I may emerge by the end of the week....perhaps......

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Autumn gales...

To be fair, it was only the one gale and it didn't stay too long!  But for a couple of days we have VERY changeable weather.Sunshine, showers and wind.....

The Hamnavoe Ferry which sails from Scrabster on the North coast of Scotland is pictured here on it's usual route via Hoy. However during the gale it sailed up Scapa Flow as it was more sheltered.

And the rain came too.....

I now have some sheep in my field behind the house.  These belong to a neighbour.  The brown ones are crossed with Jacob sheep.  These are this season's lambs which will be sold onto another farmer to "bring them on" before they go for - er - eating.... I don't like thinking about that bit but I DO eat meat so I shouldn't really be so squeamish.  And at least these lambs have had a good life on Gramesay for the summer.

Large clouds over Stromness on the Orkney Mainland.

And the sun is out for a while.... I love the bright colours after a shower of rain

The grass in front of the house is getting quite long, but it's not been dry enough for me to get my tractor mower out.  The hens just love wandering among the grass, nibbling bits of it and scratching around for any insects or worms.

If you look closely at the front of the house you can see a diagonal line running from the window above the door to just below the window to the right of the bench.  That's where the old stone staircase used to be.  It disappeared long before I lived here. But originally the house was split into two "flats", with one family living upstairs and one downstairs. Both with their own entrance.  Quite unusual for an island property which were usually small croft houses.

More interesting clouds over the Orkney Mainland - this time looking towards Orphir, behind the Hoy High lighthouse.

More sheep were added to the field during the week.  I like having sheep in the field, they are usually quiet (so don't disturb my sleep! Apart from lambing time), and make the the place feel part of a farm again (the house was one of the main farmhouses on the island at one time).

And here you can see the sweep of Sandside bay. The island road runs quite close to the shore so on stormy days drivers have to watch for waves crashing over.

And down at the main Graemsay pier were some seals taking a break......

These are grey seals and are often seen around the shore on Graemsay

And here is our ferry coming into the pier - it had engine problems a couple of weeks ago and we had to have some interim boats (a pilot boat among others) and a small ferry drafted in from another island for a few days.  We were all glad to see our own wee ferry return though.