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In the Winter little happens so there's not much to blog about, in the summer life gets so busy I don't have much time to blog!  Anyway here are some pictures taken at the beginning of June. Bit of a random set of sunsets, evening light and a few of Stromness....

Down on the shell beach....



Thrift on the old stone pier....






Sandside pier....



Sandside Bay


Sunset from the garden...


The sunset afterglow....



On another evening.... from the back door (see the gutter!)




Stromness waterfront....


The Hamnavoe ferry sailing off to Scrabster....


Complete with Viking....


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It's been another gorgeous day today though a wee bit breezy.  I took a run round the island in the car. The Buttercups are looking glorious.  Above looking towards Hoy High and Sandside.

Looking over towards Garson, and Stromness on the Orkney Mainland.



Wind and rain forecast this week so I took more pix of the garden to remind me what it is supposed to look like!

Thalictrum, geranium and crocosmia. Mist rolling in behind!


Lupins, chives and astrantia


Astrantia close up.


Allium with columbine (aquilegia) behind.


Sculpture by local artist...


Some parts of the garden are distinctly feral..... and are preferred spots for Madam Button!


And..... salad leaves - spinach, lettuce, rocket and cress.


And the most beautiful thing of the day..... a female blue-tailed damselfly up at the Graemsay quarry!


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Yesterday was lovely and warm and calm.  The evening light was beautiful.  I took a walk round the garden to take some photos of the borders as wind and rain forecast tomorrow and sadly things will get battered.  The light on the sea was beautiful.  So here are just a few pix of the evening light. 

Cow parsley in the silhouette above - it's only just in flower here, about a month behind that in the South of England or the Channel islands where it has now "gone over".

Sunbeams on the sea.... tide is out...


Looking over to the Orkney Mainland from Sandside....


A corner of the walled garden...


One of the borders.....


I love the lichen on the walls....


Another border....


Hopefully not too much damage from the wind and rain forecast... the joys of gardening in an exposed location...
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Life on a Small Island by Sian - 4d ago


Yesterday was the Summer Solstice - the longest day.  I'm not sure it feels like summer much of the time.  The weather in Orkney, as in most of the UK, has been changeable to say the least.  Though we have had some lovely sunny days.

Yesterday I arrived back from a visit to family in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands.  Yes I know - we are a bit spread out across the Britain in our family!  At least this time I got there! Last year I broke my foot at the airport in London on my way to visit them and had to stay in London for the week! 

Anyway on my return this year I managed to witness a glorious summer solstice sunset and enjoy the "simmer dim" (where it barely gets dark at all during the night).  Here are a few pictures which don't really do it justice, but still....

Above, sun setting behind Black Craig at 10.30pm.

It was lovely to return home to sunshine and be able to sit in the conservatory for the evening.  Swallows flying around and the sound of Oystercatchers in the air...


12.30am......




And at 1.30 am... (thanks Button!)


A neighbour picked me up from the pier when I arrived home (left my island car at the house to save taking up a parking space for a week).  She took me to see the new arrival on the island.  A lovely little Belted Galloway bull calf!  Awww!  Mum was very protective so I didn't get the best photos.  Will have to try again soon while he is still cute.  Though to be fair I think the adults are gorgeous too.




I enjoyed my holiday away but it's good to come home too - especially when there is sunshine!
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Yesterday there were commemorations in Scapa Flow on the 100th anniversary of the scuttling of the German Fleet.  A number of German navy personnel lost their lives. They are buried in the Naval Cemetray at Lyness on Hoy and remembrances were made there. 

There's a link to a BBC News item

And to an animation of the 1991 scuttling of the fleet

The Scapa 100 Facebook page also has some interesting info
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We've not had the best of weather lately so sunsets are a real treat.....  Even if it is the sun just peeping through the clouds....


And lovely cloudscapes too.....


Painterly skies.....


Meanwhile Hoy was under the duvet.....


But it made waking up to sunshine even more special....


Button loves snoozing in the sun but when it was a wee bit breezy she managed to combine snoozing in the sun with shelter.... on the doormat!


But the garden has responded to all the rain showers and is growing rapidly now after several very dry weeks.  The earth in one border was like sand it was so dry....


On one sunny day Button joined me for some shade under the gooseberry bush!  (I was weeding, she wasn't...)

Everything is very green but slowly colour is coming into the borders...



Columbines, red campion and... a black and white cat....


I love the columbines.... so pretty and dainty yet surprisingly robust.  And best of all they self seed!





Chicken fencing to stop them getting into the fruit and veg patch.  Actually mostly fruit.  I was too late so save some of the gooseberries as many of the ones off the lower branches were eaten by the hens!  But at least the blackcurrants and strawberries should be safe.  And on the pallet will be various salad leaves.  I've cut down on the rest of the veg grown, though I do plan to grow carrots further up the garden hopefully high enough off the ground to avoid carrot fly.


And a random picture of our ferry delivering some cargo.  As we don't have a roll-on-roll-off ferry, any cargo has to be craned on an off.......


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The last Bank Holiday weekend in May is the time for the Orkney Folk Festival in Stromness. A local committee of volunteers work hard to pull together four days of concerts and gigs with bands from across the world as well as local favourites.  The wee town is abuzz during that time with visitors specifically coming to stay for the festival, as well as locals coming home, and those of us resident who look forward to the gigs.  In good weather there are often impromptu sets outside with musicians from different bands joining together, or talented youngsters busking in the street.

Sadly this year the weather was cold, wet and breezy.  But that didn't dampen spirits and again the town was busy with folk, though less going on outdoors.  But the local pubs provided stages for various groups and these sessions were free to customers.

The main concerts were often sold out well before the weekend, though sometimes there were tickets available.  Online booking opens in April and it requires patience to sit in front of a screen waiting for your turn to come..... "You are 104 in the queue"..... oh great!

Anyway I was fortunate to go to two concerts on the Friday.  One was a lunchtime concert in the Community Centre where the gymnasium had been transformed into a "folk club" for the weekend.  Very atmospheric with the staged dressed with musical instruments, and the audience sitting round tables, soft lighting, and of course a bar!  Though you did have to be fairly fit and sober to walk up the steep hill, climb the steps to the Community Centre, and then snake along the corridor and up more steps to the "Club".  But it was worth it!

The session started with local Stromness "lad" Tom Ashman, playing solo on guitar and singing his own songs. Followed by the Kinnaris Quintet (from England and Scotland), and finally, Benedict Morris playing fiddle.  He was BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2019 and was playing together with Pablo Lufuente on guitar, and Conal McDonagh on pipe and whistle (see photo at top of page).  All very lively and foot stomping in the usual folk music way. Good fun!

The other concert began just after the last one finished with enough time programmed in by the organisers for people to get from one venue to another.  This time it was in the old Town Hall, a converted church with great acoustics....

First up were Gnoss, a homegrown Orkney duo who have now added some more band members (see photo below).  I love their music and have their recent album "Drawn from Deep Water". Next were Scottish sextet, Heisk, their instruments included an electric harp, and drums!  And finally Coig from the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.  Again a great concert, with lots of banter and music.



After that there was just time to nip to the Bay Leaf delicatessen nearby for supplies and a welcome cup of tea and then head to the ferry.  This deckchair was in the Quernstone shop along the street.  Um.. a seal seems to have its bum on my house on Graemsay!!



As I say the weather was dreich.......   The island of Graemsay from the Orphir road.- you can just make out Hoy High lighthouse.



And Stromness harbour.   I love this wee boat! It reminds me of a boat I bought my nephews to play with in the bath!


Up above Stromness there was a murky view across the harbour to Graemsay.  The ferry, the Hamnavoe, is sailing into the harbour from Scrabster on the Scottish Mainland. Photos taken by Bett Rae who kindly gave me permission to use them.



Here she comes!


The campsite at the Point of Ness looks full up for the folk festival.... the Hoy Hills in the background...


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Sadly this week the weather has been chilly, breezy and today very very wet.  Leaving aside what is good for the garden, I'm grumpy as I want sunshine!  Anyway the previous week there WAS unshine so here are some pictures from then.....  Above Hoy High lighthouse, lovely to see kye (cattle) back in the fields after their winter inside in sheds.  Stromness and Orkney Mainland in the background across Hoy Sound.

Below, the remains of the old Sail Shed down near the "new" pier on Graemsay where our ferry comes in daily.  The shed housed what the name suggests - sails from the boats that most of the island folk had in the days before a regular ferry service! The hills of Orphir in the distance.


Looking the other way towards the old croft of Scarratain with a traditional grass roof.  Behind are the hills of Hoy, moorland, peat and heather....


The shore, and in the distance on the left you can see the outline of the small islands of Cava and the larger one of Flotta.  Flotta has an oil terminal on the island, although not as busy as in its heyday there is still a lot of activity there.  The island itself is fascinating to visit, with lots of wildflowers, other wildlife and WWII remains of gun batteries etc.


Viewing from Garson on Graemsay - Hoy High lighthouse, Sandside and the Orphir hills


There are a couple of bee hives on the island.  Here is one of the honey bees collecting some nectar from the many dandelions around.  You can see the sacks on the legs for collection.


Back home now - Hoy is under the duvet!


Meanwhile in the hen house the ladies are queuing up to lay eggs!


And here are some panoramas around the island. The "main road" from the top of Windbreck hill down to Sandside.


From the top of Windbreck hill heading down towards the main Graemsay pier.


Bottom of Windbreck hill


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Back home now I'm enjoying the late sunsets and going to bed when it is only just dusk. Sunset tonight is at 22.03.

A room with a view..... this is after 10pm at night.


These photos though were taken about 10 days ago when we HAD sunshine.  It's been chilly, wet and windy this last week. Hopefully things clear up over the next week and we get decent temperatures again.

Though when it was what we called "hot" it was 18 degrees C.  Slightly warm by many standards I know. Ha!  Actually it got up to 24 degrees C in some parts of Orkney that day.


Hoy High lighthouse with a sail ship the Tecla that was around Orkney waters for a while.



Here she is in Stromness harbour, on the other side of the pier is the Hamnavoe, the ferry to Mainland Scotland.



These Narcissus are a late flowering variety and one of my favourites in the garden


Our flowering season is about a month behind further south in the UK. So these primroses were still flowering 10 days ago down by the pier.




And with lovely dog violets growing among them


Blue sky blue sea.... looking towards Stromness (a bit blurry!)


A panorama with Stromness on the left and Hoy High on the right (click to see enlarged)


Another panorama of Sandside bay, taken from the garden of a neighbour.


Our island post box.... a favourite nesting box for sparrows so in the Spring it has to be blocked off with a removable guard to protect the letters!




Meanwhile back at Sandside, Charlie the barn cat loves the sunshine too and comes to say hallo.


He's 13 - the same age as Button and is also a rescue cat.  He came to Sandside at the same time as Button but turned out to be largely feral and once he escaped he chose not to return to the house.  But he is quite happy in the barn with lots of hay and straw to curl up in, mice to eat, and a daily breakfast from me!  Button largely keeps out of his way as he is the dominant cat around the place.


And this creature was crawling along the kitchen floor.  She was huge.  And is a queen wasp - the species is unclear as apparently to determine that I need a photo of her face!  Frankly I was more interested in getting her out of the house before she started getting cross.  She could either be a very benign wasp or one of the more aggressive ones.  I released her in the garden.... I'm hoping she's not planning a nest there..... in hindsight I would have been better putting her further away but it was tricky moving her so....


And finally another sunset.....


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Glen Coe
I mentioned last week that I'd been away for a few days.  I was in Fort William in the Highlands with a friend, Anne, from London.  The weather was cool (cold Anne would say!), but at least it stayed dry most of the time and with very little wind.  Given the West Coast is known for high rain fall I think we did very well weatherwise.  Anyway I'll share some photos of our trip over the next few posts.

We took a tour around Fort William, Lochaber, Glen Coe and Glenfinnan. First stop was Glenfinnan for photos of the iconic stream train crossing the viaduct.  Depending on your point of view it is either "The Jacobite" steam train or the Harry Potter Express!  Either way it is brilliant to watch it go over the amazing Glenfinnan viaduct which was finished in 1901. Hundreds of visitors scramble up nearby hills or around the Glenfinnan centre to catch a glimpse of the steam train going over the viaduct.  We joined in, of course. 


It looks even better with the steam trail!




Sorry they are a bit blurred! I was way too excited to take proper pictures..... but there will be more photos of The Jacobite later as we actually went ON the train.  Whoo hoo!!

Anyway, also at Glenfinnan but sadly often ignored in preference of a steam train, is the monument to the Jacobite rising which began in by the shore of Loch Shiel in 1745.  This was when Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) raised his standard on the shores of the Loch claiming his right to the British throne.  Sadly that claim ended at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Bonnie Prince Charlie fled Scotland and never set foot on its shores again.  The monument was raised in 1815, and in 1835 the statue of an anonymous Highlander was placed on top


And then we set off for Glen Coe (or Glencoe).... I love mountains and these did not disappoint!


There is a lot of history in Glencoe, one infamous incident was the massacre that took place in Glencoe in 1692 when 28 men of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces (the forces included members of Clan Campbell) who were billeted with them. The massacre was on the grounds that they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William II and Mary II.

Leaving aside the history, the landscape is just awesome.  We had a lovely sunny day to drive through the mountains. There was still snow on the hills and in the corries (the name given to "ice-gouged bowls" carved by glaciers during the last ice age).



Here are a selection of - er - mountains!
















I mentioned snow in the corries...


A rather isolated house!  Waterfalls running down from the corrie with melted snow...



A former bothy, now a home...


And a photo of a deer, a helicopter and a mountain.  Now although the James Bond movie, Skyfall, was filmed in the area, I don't think 007 was in the vicinity, sadly.


Fort William is the end of the West Highland Way, a very popular hiking trial. There are also lots of tourists around, as well as serious hillwalkers and mountaineers.  It can get very busy in the summer, and don't forget the midges!  So we were very lucky with our trip in May, no midges, no wind, little rain, and not too busy with tourists!  If you are in the Highlands of Scotland I do recommend a trip through Glencoe! 
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