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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Hogmanay 2014.....

Hogmanay is the word in Scotland for the last day of the year, and heralds celebrations of the New Year that continues for some days!  We even get TWO days of public holiday to celebrate and recover!

This year I am having a particularly quiet one. I'm still lacking in energy and not bouncing around after the various recent infections so have decided to stay in the warm tonight. I also want to avoid any other "bugs" that are currently circulating.  Others on the island will head off to gather for midnight and some partying.  But I'll be tucked up in bed, with a book, a cup of tea, and listening to "golden oldies" on the radio. Possibly with Button....though lately she's chosen to snoozing on the sofa overnight, the cheek of it!

The weather is mild, though a little breezy and set to remain the same over the first few days of 2015. The sunsets have been a bit disappointing the last couple of days but at least there WAS a red sky tonight.

And I seem to have acquired some "garden ornaments" - five sheep who like the shelter of the garden dyke!  (Well they do say "Red sky at night - shepherd's delight!") These are escapees from a neighbouring farm.  Hopefully once the New Year celebrations are done they will be returned to their field.

So we come to the end of another year.  It's been a pretty good year for me overall.  I started the year with the threat of redundancy hanging over me and at least I now know I have a job for the next two to three years so some security at least.  And that alone makes me feel positive about all sorts of things!

I've not blogged as much this year (the least number of blogs since I started!), but be assured this is due to lack of time and energy NOT lack of enthusiasm!  So I plan to continue next year and try and have a few more posts per month too...but I'll make no promises....and I certainly make no resolutions!

So it remains for me to wish you all the very best for 2015!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Pre-Christmas Miscellany....

I was clicking away pre-Christmas but due to low energy and Christmas "stuff" to organise I didn't get round to sharing these.......   Above is Stromness Harbour with the MV Graemsay, our wee ferry, on the right just behind the two wee boats.  To the left, the blue boat is one of the dive boats that takes recreational divers around the waters to dive the old wrecks.  Behind the dive boat is the Stromness Lifeboat in a temporary mooring while it waits for a new berth to be prepared.

The week before Christmas I'd been to my favourite shop in Kirkwall, Shearer's. Upstairs they have their Christmas shop, decorated for the season with lots of wonderful goodies - and of course a proper fire!

And the night of the Solstice I lit candles to remind the sun to return after the longest night.  And was warmed by some mulled wine, with Button keeping a watchful eye.....

And here is sunrise (about 9.20 am) behind the harbour.

And at 11am over Graemsay and the Hoy hills.  The pointy thing is the Hoy High Lighthouse on Graemsay, and the boat in the water is the Graemsay ferry returning to harbour.

Looking towards Hoy in the late afternoon.  With the buildings of the Pier Arts Centre in the foreground to the right.

In Stromness on Christmas Eve the local carol singers were in the street. They gathered quite an audience outside the Pier Arts Centre, with some of us joining in too!  Lovely to see them!

I'd been for a wander round the Christmas Exhibition at the Pier Arts Centre.  This exhibition shows off the work of local artists, professional and amateur.  Some great stuff in all sorts of different media, paint, video, photography, textiles and other materials.  I always love going round and seeing the huge variety of styles and art from local folk.  Many of whom I know.

A Christmas tree - made up of toy soldiers, quite poignant

This is the Scapa Ranger - the old "Graemsay Ferry"

And from the gallery core collection a piece by Barbara Hepworth. I love her work and spent a wonderful afternoon some years ago wandering round her house and garden in St Ives which is now a museum.

Ahem.... a "selfie"...... me at the Pier Arts.... well wrapped up and enjoying the Christmas Spirit...hence the antlers!

I'd been in town catching up with friends pre Christmas so missed the Graemsay Nativity Play. I was so sorry not to be there but due to weather and illness it was the only day I could get to town for last minute supplies and meeting with friends.  But apparently all had a great time...

Photo by Mick Braddock

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas Day at Sandside

The weather on Graemsay was just lovely. Chilly but NO WIND! A wee bit icy but not too bad, and there was some sunshine too.  What more could a girl ask for?  So Button and I took our usual walk down to the coral beach.

I choose to spend Christmas on my own, preferring to visit family and friends South in the summer months when travel is easier and the weather makes it a better time to be out and about.  I'm a fairly solitary person really. Happy living on my own, on a wee island off the North coast of Scotland!  And given I work from home too you can see I'm not the most social of people.  I think I'm turning into the mad cat lady (or maybe that happened some time ago! Ha!).

Anyway, back to our wander along the shore....

Hail showers over Hoy.....

But up at the Manse the smoke from the fire is drifting quietly Westwards....

Button was checking the coast was clear from the conservatory roof

Before wandering down the shore with me.  She was careful not to get wet paws though.....

Then she went off to do a little hunting for Christmas lunch....

There were huge piles of seaweed all along the shore, thrown up by the recent storms...

And the sun was low over Windbreck....

Stromness looking peaceful in the sun....

And all quiet at Sandside....

And the waves so gentle at the old pier at Sandside.

Then it was home to eat lots of goodies, drink a glass of mulled wine or two and relax reading some good books and watching some TV.  There were phone calls with friends south, and video link ups with family too.  It was my kind of peaceful relaxing Christmas!  Hope you all had a good time too.

And here is a short (30 second) film of the waves down at the coral beach on Christmas Day.  Excuse the slight wobble..... ahem.... the mulled wine was good!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Winter Solstice.....

Well it's here, the shortest day.  Sadly no sign of the sun but I'm hopeful it is just teasing by hiding behind the thick layer of cloud. Now I can look forward to lengthening days, and the return of Spring :-)

I usually go for a solstice walk, but am still feeling a bit poorly, plus it's very windy and wet, so I made do with a brief excursion to see the hens and Charlie the barn cat, and came back via the shore.

Charlie enjoying breakfast

Here are two of my youngest hens, Tallulah, who you've met before, and Cheeky - so called as she is VERY friendly and cheeky.  If I'm slow getting the food out the bin she will fly onto my shoulder or my head! And then into the feed bin.  And she really gets under my feet - silly hen will get trodden on!

Tallulah and Cheeky

And here are the rest of the gang scoffing breakfast in the henny house.....

Meanwhile Button snoozed through all the activity.....

Now I'm back and snug indoors making some lovely warming mulled wine.

Button goes bonkers whenever I use herbs or spices......

Completely bonkers.... with a glazed expression!

Earlier in the week we had some snow flurries, though Graemsay usually manages to stay green throughout.

You can see the green building that is our wee community hall below.  The annual Christmas Party was held there on Friday but I decided to stay in the warm and not mix with more "bugs" as lots of things circulating and my immune system struggling with the ones it already has!

Mostly though it's been wet and windy with lots of thunder and lightning!  Some folk are still without phones or broadband, but at least everyone still has power!

And the farmers have still had to go out daily to tend to their livestock.  Here's some sheep that were on the move..... now if I could get them to graze in a straight line I wouldn't need my petrol mower!

And here for your delight is the annual offering of a wonderful film by "Red Orkney" in 2010 when we were covered in snow!

PS - those of you in the Southern hemisphere....sorry, it's time to give us the sun back now you've had your turn :-)

Friday, 19 December 2014

As the Solstice approaches...

Here's a short film by David Gregory taken in 2011 when we had snow at Christmas!  Enjoy!

PS - sorry for lack of response to comments (which I love receiving) but am fighting tonsilitis, conjunctivitis and a couplf of other "itis's"!    Hope to be bouncing back soon!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Winter time....

Brrrr... it's snowing today, though it melts as soon as it settles.  0 degrees C on the thermometer.  But it's CALM!  No WIND!  Though the wind is due to get up to gale force later tonight.  But for now I shall revel in the silence.

Snow on Ward Hill, Hoy

Button was delighted to go out on a short hunting spree this morning but wasn't out long.  I think she muttered something about "cold paws" when she came back in!

Hoy Hills at 8am with the moon in the sky and the sun about to rise

It's the shortest day in just over a week. Whoooo hoo!!!  I shall be celebrating!  I don't celebrate Christmas but do celebrate the time as a mid-winter festival.  Though it's not exactly "mid-winter" as winter is from December through to February, and frankly our worst weather in Orkney tends to be after New Year. But it's a time for feasting and raising a glass of something warming.

I choose to stay home at this time of year.  Trust me - Winter is no time to try travelling around the UK!  Been there, done that, waited on cold platforms for delayed trains, slept in airport lounges for cancelled flights, and lain prostrate on the deck of a ship being thrown around in the gale.  Now I stay home, snug, warm and enjoy a respite from work and enjoy the season.

On Graemsay there will be the Christmas Party on Friday and maybe a Carol Service on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile the Circle of Friendship continues to protect the light.....

Friday, 12 December 2014

Memory of winter sun.....

The sun hunkers down between the Hoy hills at this time of year..... Ohh look at the stillness of the water......

An Oystercatcher and some waders making the most of the change in tide to feed.

A wee boat on the way into Stromness

All quiet in the harbour at Stromness

On the shell beach the sea was like a mirror

And looking out to the entrance to Scapa Flow ......

Button hunting again... spot the seal in the background.... BEHIND YOU! Button!

A walk past the old sail shed....

And then time to walk back to the house.... the hens ready to greet us.... Tallulah, my Shetland Black hen looking rather fine.

And a young cockerel and hen resting their legs by roosting on a branch!

And of course, we're not long home with the kettle hardly boiled and Button is having a nap again!