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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sunrise surprise!

Well clearly the sunrise itself isn't a surprise. I am reliably informed it happens daily. No, the surprise is that I caught the sunrise AFTER the solstice at 4am this morning.  Thanks to Madam Button who brought me a solstice "gift" at that time..... just be glad I didn't photograph THAT or take a video of her eating it once I had firmly declined!

This was the best of the sun for the whole day.  Mostly rain.....bah! Where's summer?!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Summer Solstice

Today is the longest day of the year. Sunrise was at 4am.and sunset will be at 22.30.  However it's been fairly cloudy today though the sun did break through a little this afternoon.  So no summer solstice picture of sun for you today.  Instead you will have to make do with some taking during the month of June.  I love watching the sunset from the conservatory windows.  Sunrise I am less familiar with, NOT being a morning person, so the solitary picture I took of sunrise and posted last week is it!

Um yes all these were taken from outside the "back door" of the house. I'm too darned lazy to walk too far even for a sunset photo!

I love it when it is slightly misty too. The sunset looks ethereal

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Boats, cows, sunrise and chocolate...

But not all on the same day! Above is the sun rising behind Hoy High lighthouse. This was taken outside the back door - Madam Button had woken me after a night out and I wondered what the glow through the window was. It's so rare I see a sunrise I grabbed my camera and tottered outside in my pyjams to take this photo. Enjoy it - you won't see many sunrises on MY blog!

We've had some sunny days, and it is getting warmer but we've also had quite a lot of grey cloudy day. Bah! Don't like those.  But the garden is getting on with it anyway and here are some of the flowers in bloom, I'm from the "chaotic" gardener school - if it grows it stays....though sadly I've had to slaughter a lot of red campion this year as it got a bit over exuberant.

And through the grey cloud the sun does peak.  This is taken from the conservatory reflecting through this beautiful shell and glass hanging made by my lovely friend P in the USA. Wait till she sees the shells and coral on our beach :-)

I love looking out this window and watching the light play on the sea, clouds scud across the sky, boats going in and out of the harbour, plus birdies sitting on the fence. Lots of swallows around, and this year I've noticed a lot of linnets too. This male linnet was singing to me the other night!

And I mentioned boats...... here are some kayakers from Kirkwall had paddled over from Stromness one evening.  In this photo you can see them coming close to the Graemsay shore near my house, and in the distance you maybe can see some white triangles - the Stromness Sailing Club was out that night too, and all had to navigate round the big ferry the Hamnavoe as it came into harbour for the night!

The sea was flat calm that night and the tide was coming in. They were planning to paddle down to Houton, down the coast after laving Graemsay.

I went and said hallo to them as I'd seen them coming in. |I think I startled them! Poor chaps out for a quiet evening paddle to Graemsay and the wee wifie from Sandside calls by for a chat!  I was telling them there were groatie buckies among the shells (much prized tiny cowrie shells) so I left them searching for some. I'd tole them the story that we tell the children - you can't leave the beach till you've found one!

And I mentioned cows....

Actually they are last year's calves and so are strictly speaking steers and heifers. A neighbouring farmer uses my field for summer grazing so these young stock are in the field for a while.  The first day or two they were very skittish and running about everytime I stuck my head outside the door, the hens wandered about, or poor Button went out for a pee! But they've settled down now, though are still very inquisitive.

And mentioning dear Button. Here she is sunbathing. She'd had a traumatic morning. We both had. It was time for her annual injections and health check at the vet in Stromness. So that meant I had to wake her up and dump her in her box, poor thing, not impressed. Then get the 8.25 ferry to Stromness, and then car ride to Kirkwall (about 25 minutes away)....she swore at me the entire journey!  The vet was happy with her - she'd lost some weight (yay the diet is working!), and appears quite healthy. She had her injections, then I left her to go into the cat kennel for an hour while I dashed round the library, bank, and supermarket, before picking her up again (she'd been sleeping so not too distressed then!) and back for the 12 noon ferry. She's not happy on the boat, quite fretful. So next year I might see if I can get her checked when the vet is out to a local farm. We'll see how that goes. Anyway she's none the worse for it all, and even *I* have recovered now!

And I mentioned chocolate? Well I went over to Hoy where a cafe there is doing evening meals. Beneth'ill Cafe has been open a while but just started on evening meals.  So I met up with a friend who lives on Hoy for an evening out. The meal was delicious, and the dessert was the best - chocolate samosas with cream and strawberries. Yum!  I'll leave you with this......

And if that's a little too rich for you, how about this - honeycomb parfait with shortbread and raspberries! Enjoy!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Chick Flick

The wee chick that hatched out a few weeks ago is doing well. She (well I'm being optimistic as I have no idea whether it will be a hen or a cockerel!) is now getting a few feathers.  This short video was taken last weekend and shows Mother Hen telling her wee chick to stop running around and eat breakfast!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Raising funds for the Stromness Lifeboat

Graemsay folk enjoying tea and homebakes
(Photo by Irene Mathieson)
There are many times when I'm proud to be part of the Graemsay community and Weds night was one of those. Irene of Breckan and I organised a Games Night to raise funds for the Stromness Lifeboat and crew. The community raised a grand total of £300.  Not bad for a wee island of only has 27 folk (including 6 children).

The lifeboat has been out to Graemsay several times in recent months to help with medical evacuations. Sometimes the Scottish Air Ambulance helicopter attends, and there is the Coastguard helicopter as backup. But these are many miles away and cover much of the Highlands and Islands and if emergency transport is needed to the local hospital in Kirkwall it is the Stromness Lifeboat that are called out.  In the UK all the lifeboats are crewed by volunteers, who selflessly give their time (and sometimes their lives) to help others. Strictly speaking they are supposed to rescue folk at sea, but with no other means of transport outside of the ferry timetable, they are a vital link for those of us on Graemsay.

Anyway, I'd chatted with Irene about the idea of a Games Night fundraiser and we worked together to put the event on. We also wanted to do a night for the island folk. Most events involve lots of folk, but in the Summer months everyone is busy with farm work so we wanted to just do this between us. As well as games Irene had suggested the tombola stall (you buy tickets and if one matches a prize you win the prize). I'd never run one of these before but it was a stroke of genius as folk were queueing up to get to the table once we started!

The white teddy was almost fought over, lots of folk young and old seemed to want possession of THAT particular prize.  The wee boys were keen to win the cars and RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) tractors.  There was much swapping of prizes among folk too, with Becky not really needing anti-wrinkle cream just yet, though she HAS just turned 11 so maybe she should be thinking about that? Hee hee!

We'd started the evening with a quiz which was hotly contested between three teams. I was on the team with the least points, but we had fun anyway.  Tea and homebakes were provided tto, of course! More games followed, and continued visits to the tombola stall, and also "Guess the Weight of the Cake" - pah didn't win that either!

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and with a total of £300 as you can see lots of money was spent! I really enjoyed the evening. I loved "eavesdropping" on the kids doing deals over "swaps" of bounty, or with grandparents who had won a coveted prize.

So, hopefully in a small way we have shown our appreciation of the Stromness Lifeboat and crew who come out without complaint to help us whenever we need them.

Random lambs....

Well the lambs aren't really random, but the photos are. While sorting through my photo files of last month I came across these two which I wanted to share as it shows the side of sheep I love!  Lambs and ewes!  The top one is "the gang".  I just love it when the lambs are a few weeks old and they get together in a gang, just like any group of kids, and have fun.  Often racing around the field together, or playing "I'm King of the Castle" on any hillock or higher bit they can find.  Meanwhile the ewes happily munch grass in peace. Then something will alert a ewe - a human appears over the horizon, crows, gulls or something that means "DANGER!" to the flock and the ewes call their lambs to them. Then all the wee lambs race back to Mum, ahve a wee drink of milk and when the coast is clear, gather again.

But once dusk falls I was really interested to see them gathering in the most sheltered part of the field and settlind down for the night. I've no idea if sheep can see much in the dark (though it's light very late now), but again instinct tells them to gather together at night when predators might be about. Instinct tells them WOLF! but none on Graemsay so they are safe and sound, but gulls and crows will attack vulnerable sheep and lambs so they are wise to be alert.

Note - these pictures were taken some weeks ago, the lambs are much bigger now and in another field. And the poor quality pictures are because they are taken through a window that obviously needs cleaning!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ferry ride....

When I go over to the Orkney Mainland for evening events I have to stay overnight as our last boat home is about 5.45 except for Friday when it's 9.30pm. But that's still too early for some events.  So I get on the early morning ferry back home at 7.45, along with the island mail!  These bags are bound for Hoy and Graemsay where they will be delivered by island posties to the farms and homes on the islands. The boat then collects the outgoing mail which is met at Stromness pier on the ferry's return.

Some tourists were being early birds and getting the ferry to Moaness on Hoy to then go cycling around the island.  One of the bikes had a dog carrier aboard so their wee dog could get a ride too!

Aforementioned wee dog...

This particular morning I had driven through Stromness in fog, but once we got passed Graemsay (in fog) to Hoy there was bright sunshine! (As you can see at the top of this post).  But there was mist hanging over some of the Hoy Hills....

And just creeping over from the valley beyond....

And a fog bank was clearly visible down towards Longhope at the other end of the island.

And as we sailed round to Graemsay we re-entered the fog....though fortunately by lunchtime the sun had burned it off and we had a lovely day!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Festivals and films....

Orkney has a number of music and art festivals running through the year, though mostly from May to September. The end of May is the Orkney Folk Festival, which is mostly held in various venues in Stromness but also visits other parishes with concerts.  So on the Friday night I took myself along to the Stromness Town Hall for the Canadian Concert, which also featured an Orkney band!  The Orkney group of young musicians started off the evening with some great tunes, I think they were called Treebor, and were made up of young lads for whom I think this was their first gig (but I might have misheard that!).

I always go for the "cheap seats" in the balcony at the Town Hall because I get the best view there. I also had to leave early to get the last boat home, which unfortunately leaves at 9.30!  However I did get to hear Maidson Violet play. A Canadian band who had been recommended to me by L & J, friends in the US.

They played a lively set, and were followed by brother & sister duo Qristina and Quin Bachand.

But I had to leave before I got to hear the Beaton Sisters who I think were also a great hit.

Because I have so much work on at the moment I couldn't find time to go to any other concerts, or any of the many impromptu sessions held in the bars and clubs around town.  As well as inviting bands from outside Orkney, lots of local folk groups play at the gigs too. Some musicians just travel up on the offchance of getting to play a set in one of the bars the festival is so popular. So as well as the professional acts you see on the various stages you can sample some great "unknown" bands playing too.  And there is a lovely buzz around the street, with some shops staying open later, and musicians playing in the street too.Lots of visitors come for the festival, and Orcadians who have moved away take the opportunity to return home too.

And in a complete change of tone, the National Theatre from London now provide "National Theatre Live Encore" which are a range of recorded performances screened at cinemas around the UK. And yes, of course Orkney is one!  The Royal Opera House (also based in London) does a similar programme.  So I managed to squeeze in two performances - the first "The curious incident of the dog in the night-time" was a compelling performance. I was gripped for the whole three hours. It was based on Mark Haddon's book, which I hadn't read, and a friend I went with thought that for once the dramatisation was even better than the book.  It's a tough story, and the acting was superb as was the staging. The actors must have been exhausted at the end of each performance as there was no formal "set" to speak of, and it was all action and movement, with pools of stillness.  For those that don't know the story, it's a kind of murder mystery, the victim being a neighbour's dog. The detective is Christopher who is 15 and has Asperger's Syndrome and the story of his frightening, disturbing, terrifying yet amazing journey to find the murderer, and much more.  It's a tough tale but wonderfully performed.

Then the following week it was off to "Picky" again (local name for the Pickaquoy Leisure Centre in Kirkwall). This time to see the Paris Opera perform Aida.  It was an interesting production. I was unfamiliar with the story but like a lot of opera it's all torment, death and a lot of singing ;-)  The singing was great, but this was possibly one case when a cinematic version of a live performance wasn't so good. When a great golden tank rolled onto the stage you could see it was on casters!  The story had been updated to represent - er- not sure what period, though according to critics it was Italy at some point to do with independence.  Ah well you can't win them all!  More productions due through the summer so I'm hoping to get to see them.

London "theatre" at Orkney prices - can't be bad :-)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Button is grumpy....

Well it IS 1st June which technically means it's Summer and it IS actually quite warm so I turned off the heating.... as you can see from the photo above, Button is not best pleased.  She is demanding to know HOW she is supposed to keep her paws warm NOW!

Needless to say, she soon finds the sunniest spot in the house...... no fear of HER getting frostbite!

The last couple of days have been lovely and sunny and deliciously warm. Well warm for Orkney. It was 58 degrees F/16C and Orkney folk are walking around in shorts and tee shirts, claiming it's too hot. While visitors are unzipping anoraks, and possibly taking off wooly hats...... it won't last but both Button and I are enjoying it while it does!!