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Tuesday 30 June 2015

Travelling home....

At the beginning of June I went South for a few days and returned on the ferry from Scrabster to Stromess.  This sails past the island of Hoy on the *other side* to the bit of the island I usually see. The sun shone on the sandstone cliffs and they positively glowed.  My photos don't do justice to the view but I thought I'd share some of them with you anyway! (I was feeling a bit sea sick as I'm not good on boats, so the photos are a bit random!).

Hoy means "High Island" and it's aptly named as it is the highest of the Orkney islands. From Caithness (the county that the Scrabster ferry terminal is in) to Hoy is about 10-12 miles. So from the terminal I could look across to "home".

The sandstone cliffs are quite magnificent, and as the rock is quite "soft" there are arches and crevasses being formed all the time.

And there is the famous sea stack of The Old Man of Hoy (from a certain angle you can see a face).  Even today this can be a challenging climb, and every year climbers travel across to Hoy to get to the top.  I think there's a lot of climbing "junk" attacked to the rock face from all the attempts.

Although the "Old Man" is just "around the corner" from Graemsay, the only time I see it is from the ferry. Although years ago I did walk across the hills to see it from land too.

The stack is just under 450 feet high.

In the same area are St John's Head, which is the highest vertical sea cliffs in Britain at 1,154 feet.

There are some fascinating facts about both the "Old Man" and St John's Head here

It was a beautiful evening and I had the back deck more or less to myself....

As we came round the corner towards Stromness the cliffs merged into green slopes with a few houses dotted along the top. Now that IS remote!

The light was fading fast but you can just make them out...

The cliffs getting lower and lower, and everything turns from the russet colour of sandstone to green as it leads down to the sea.

And then Graemsay comes into sight with both lighthouses visible.  Hoy High in the distance, and Hoy Low nearer.  Actually both are called "Hoy Sound" (high and low light) because they are in the mouth of Hoy Sound.

Hoy Low, with the WWII gun emplacement and control tower on the shore.

And no, the lighthouse is not listing, it's the boat!  It has to make a tight turn to get into Stromness harbour!

And there waiting to take me home was the Chieftain, the wee replacement ferry we had for a few weeks.  It was fun being away, but I do love coming home again!

Monday 22 June 2015

First chick of the year!

Actually these pictures were taken last week, hence the bit of sunlight!  Still grey skies today but at least the rain has stopped.

"Mum, Mum, I'm hungry!"

"Well come along dear, there's plenty of food on the floor here, some grain for me, and some oatmeal for you".

"Tuck in, like this, but be quick about it before the other hens arrive. They are greedy girls and will gobble it all up and let you go hungry!"

"Mum, I seem to be wearing my dinner? I think that human who comes to feed us doesn't have a very good aim!"

"OOoh Mum, there's lots of food here for us both!"

"That's right dear, she's not a bad human, she gives us lots of food and water. But beware, she steals our eggs!"

"Mum, what's an egg?"

"It's what you hatched out of ,dear."

"Mum, what came first...a chicken or an egg...?"

Sunday 21 June 2015

Summer Solstice..... who stole the sun???!

Bah!  Longest day today and NO sign of the sun. Rain all day and fog, so no flights in or out of Orkney.  Not that I needed to travel anywhere, but I know folk who did.  Anyway here are some photos for a couple of weeks ago when there WAS sunshine!!  Above - a sunset...sigh...

Look....almost no cloud.....sigh.....

And the sun shone during the day too.... Blue Sky!  You can see some heifers at the edge of the field, chewing the cud...enjoying sunshine on their backs.  Not my cattle, the field is let out on a summer grazing let to a neighbour. I just watch them - and count them to make sure none have escaped or are unwell.

Here come the girls!

And my totally free range hens, taking a walk along the "main road" on the island....

They enjoy the sunshine too.....

And here is our stand-in boat. Our regular ferry is off on an extended refit, having two new engines put in. There were extra delays as some components hadn't arrived (long story, won't bore you). This is a Clyde Cruiser (as in the River Clyde in Glasgow).  It's actually rather a jolly boat to be on - in calm weather....

Unfortunately it's not as powerful as our regular ferry, nor can it carry cargo, so we have had another boat deliver cargo once a week.

This vessel, the Chieftan, needs a gangway to access to the top deck which can be a bit hair-raising at very low tide! Bit of a steep walk down to the deck!  And then you have to go downstairs to the inside cabin. So not the most accessible vessel for the island. But it's made all the scheduled runs to Graemsay so folk are at least able to get on and off the island.

At the head of the pier are fulmars nesting

They are really acrobatic birds in flight and I love watching them. Though I don't get too near - they have a gland at the top of their beaks and can hurl foul smelling oily/fishy gunge at any one who threatens them!

Button had a traumatic day last week. I needed to put the de-wormer and de-flea treatment on her. Vet suggested a new treatment, but when I opened it up I realised it was a syringe. So I needed three hands, one to hold cat, one to part fur on back of neck and one to plunge syringe plunger thingy. First one I got all over me, 2nd one I at least got SOME on Button...sigh... I'll go back to the old treatment next time I think.    Anyway she was quite traumatised by it all (um she IS a drama queen!). So needed to have a good long sleep afterwards....

And she couldn't wait for dinner!  So not much wrong with HER then. Ha!

Button enjoys the summer days.  Though I think the lack of darkness at night confuses her!  One of her favourite places is in the long grass by the willow trees.  I think she thinks she's invisible! Um.... black and white isn't much of a camouflage!

I suspect you can see her from the moon....sigh...

Well I hope you all had a good Summer Solstice, or if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, a good Winter Solstice.  Can we keep the sun for a wee bit longer please? We really haven't had our fair share of it yet!

Tuesday 9 June 2015

The Italian Chapel - in Orkney.....

Another place I love taking my visitors to is the Italian Chapel.  The chapel was created in World War II by Italian Prisoners of War (POWs) who were brought to work on the Churchill Barriers having been captured in North Africa.  They must have thought Orkney a cold, damp place compared with their own homeland in Italy . They were taken to the camp on Lamb Holm near where the barriers were to be constructed as a sea defense against further submarine attack, after the sinking of the "Royal Oak".

The POWs wanted a place to worship, so with the permission of the Camp Commander they set about creating a chapel. They bolted two Nissan huts together and then with scrap and cement created this beautiful treasure.  One of the POWs was an artist, Domenico Chiocchetti.  When the prisoners left the island in 1944 Chiocchetti remained to finish work on the font.  He later, returned to Orkney after the war, along with his family and after his death the links have remained.

Not very clear I know, but these are pictures of the men who built the chapel.

And here is the magnificent interior..... Remember the metalwork for this screen is all from *scrap*!

 With such beautiful detail

And these lights were made out of "bully-beef" tins apparently. I love the stars...

The altar painting was based on a picture of the Madonna and Child that Chiocchetti had been carrying in his wallet during the war.

And paintings of the saints adorn the side walls....

And the "stations of the cross" along each wall.  Sadly some of these were stolen last year, but have now been replaced. Folk in Orkney were shocked to hear of the theft as the chapel is left unlocked and unattended and there have been no problems ever before.  Folk in Orkney can usually leave doors open in the country etc.... but life changes everywhere I suppose.

And the brickwork - it's painted!  All the "brickwork", the walls, the ceiling....all of it....

As you can see in the first of the three pictures, there is water damage on the ceiling.  It's a constant battle to keep the chapel in good repair.

During our visit an Italian conservation artist, Antonella Papa, was repairing some of the water damage (remember they are nissan huts!). She kindly consented to having her photo taken...

She was just finishing off as she was leaving Orkney the next day.

If you look back to the photo at the top of this post you can see the facade neatly hides the nissan huts behind.  All the facade is made out of cement, and the head of Christ is in clay, weathered now after so many years.

The chapel still has some religious services, and also concerts so it is kept in use. But mostly now it's visitors who come through the door to marvel at the artistry and dedication of its creators.

Outside the chapel, in what was once the square of the camp is a statue of St George and the Dragon, made in cement on a wire frame.  It is said to symbolise the triumph of defeat and loneliness of the prisoners during their time in captivity.

And in the distance (click on the picture to hopefully see better!) is one of the Churchill Barriers, stretching across the entrance to Scapa Flow.