Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

 Yesterday I popped along to the Bishop' palace and the Earl's palace in Kirkwall. It was threatening rain and the Bishop's palace looked and sounded more exciting, so I went there first.

There was a great view out across Kirkwall to the harbour and it was nice to see the omnipresent cathedral from a different angle.

It did, indeed, start to rain, just as I got in to the Earl's palace, but one end of it is still roofed in stone. So I sat on the window sill in one of the old guest chambers and read (kindle, Living Dead in Dallas) until it passed. Then went exploring all over the palace and up and down stairs. One of the turrets was set up as a study with a little writing desk. I immediately added one to my imaginary house.

 Today (Halloween) I took some photos of the shop windows. People are quite into the whole idea. The Scottish Hydro Electric is in the building that once held the Norse parliament. King James went there in 1540. And now it is selling whitegoods...


Random Stuff Shop.

 The Orkney Soap shop went with a Solstice/Beltane/Pumpkin theme.

 The bookshop has spooky stories.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Kirkwall harbour

 It was quite still last night, very pleasant to be wandering around town after a day of torrential downpour.

The boats here remind me of home. (For no better reason than that they are boats, I think.)

I have my fingers crossed that it won't rain too much until I can get 'down south'. The soles of my boots have split and I don't have another pair of shoes and I haven't seen anything that suits/fits in the Orkney shops. Not to worry. There are worse things than wet feet for a few days.

I talked on skype for a good hour with my parentals and a cousin, this morning. I now miss home, pretty a lot. I am trying not to think about Christmas.

I can't quite believe that I have bought a ticket to Canada and that in two weeks I will be there.

And while I am here I am going to tuck this complaint down at the bottom.

UK, I have a bone to pick with you. Crisps. Everybody bloody eats them with their mouths open. Everywhere. Maybe they are crunchier here. Maybe I am out and about in public more here than I would be at home. But it feels like everywhere I go I am hounded by the crunch crunch crunch of people enthusiastically scoffing down crisps.

Or maybe I am just a little irritable because I had such a crappy night of sleep last night.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Down South

 The last day on Papa Westray was cold.

 It rained all day, but let up in the afternoon long enough that I didn't get wet when I walked to the airport. (You can see the airport below, no really, that's it just there). I took the world's shortest scheduled flight (2 mins) to Westray and then the 15 minute flight back down to Kirkwall.

 Spent the weekend in Kirkwall nursing a cold. I managed to get out for a walk between rain showers.

Then took the ferry down to Thurso on Monday to meet up with the lovely Al and Alice to deliver their tea cosy. In Orkney, the island with Kirkwall on it is 'the mainland' and Scotland is 'down south'. I have also heard people here refer to people 'down south' as 'the Scottish', quite a different breed to the Orcadians.

The hostel I stayed in in Thurso was clean, but noisy. After a terrible night's sleep, I decided I couldn't face going exploring around Scotland.

I had pretty much decided that I was going to go home to Oz at that point. It seemed like the best of the options.

But then I was presented with an alternative option and now I have a ticket to Vancouver.

I am staying in Kirkwall until the 2nd of November. Then I will catch the ferry to Aberdeen, then the train to Edinburgh. On the 5th I will be on a train to Nottingham to see a friend from Uni who has had a daughter recently. Then I will stay in London for a few nights and then fly to Canada on the 9th.

It is a beautiful sunny day in Orkney, today. I don't know if I have made the 'right' decision in going to Canada (I don't even know what the right decision means any more), but I am going to pack the doubts away for the day and look at the sunshine instead.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

St Boniface

On Thursday I went for a wander up to St Boniface Kirk.

I had read the map before I left the hostel (though it is pretty hard to get lost on an island four miles long and one mile wide). And there was a convenient sign pointing the way.

I went looking for the round house they found there. Apparently Boniface stands on the ruins of a place of worship from the iron ages and there are the remains of a village around the kirk. I didn't find the round house, it was mainly just really cold.

Inside the church was quite simple (but lovely and warm compared to outside).

 There were lots of well built, convenient stiles to use and I managed not to rip my skirt or thermals.

And plenty of mud. 

I went back via the Knap of Howar. When I got there, it had started to rain, so I went in and sat on the quern, quite sheltered and reasonably warm, until the rain passed.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Knap of Howar

On Wednesday afternoon I ventured out into the howling northerly gale (it was actually rated gale force) to go and check out the Knap of Howar.

As with so many of sites we've visited in Orkney,  a muddy walk through the paddocks was involved.

I didn't stay long.

 But I did go inside (you have to bend double to get through that doorway).

 And in spite of the sun coming out for a second, it was blisteringly cold and I scooted straight back to the hostel for a hot chocolate.

I thought about walking along the shore to see the church, but lacked enthusiasm.

I went out for another excursion, between rain storms, to the 'craft store' at the post office and found yarn heaven.

The bantams stood on the window sills and eyed me off. I think they were hungry. And cold. (or that might have just been me).

 It was beautiful. I cried.

On Wednesdays on Papa Westray people eat sandwiches because Wednesday is the day the ferry brings fresh bread from the bakery on Westray. There is a rush on the shop when it is open in the morning and another rush in the afternoon.

Tuesday on Papay

This is how I spent Tuesday morning (actually, every morning so far on the island, alternating between book and computer).

This is how I spent Tuesday afternoon (actually, every afternoon I got out and about).

 I didn't make it very far on Tuesday because of the northerly gale that chilled me to the bone. It gave me a deep understanding of why soup and hot drinks are so popular here.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


I've missed the 'cinema' on Papa Westray (it happens on Saturday night) and I've missed the pub (they open it ["it" is a cupboard of grog] after they've finished screening the film). But I can go to the cafe (on Wednesday morning).

There is only one place to get food on the island and that is at the shop which opens a couple of hours a day.

If you are on the island and need a cup of tea, they don't lock the door of the hostel and you can let yourself in to the dining room and help yourself to the tea making supplies. There is a little box you can pop some coins in.

There is some sightseeing to do, had two goes at doing that today, but got blown back indoors by the rain and hail both times. Hopefully the wind will be a little less sideways tomorrow.

I am so happy I want to kiss someone.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Colder and wiser

No, I'm not in the slightest bit wiser, but the other bit is true.

I made a snap decision to come to Papa Westray (or Papay as the locals call it [I hear Papee]) today.

I needed a change and I've been quite interested in the little islands to the North. I rang the hostel to find out if they had any rooms (there is only one other person staying, together we bring the island population to 85). My brother gave me a lift to the airport an hour before the flight was due to leave. I bought a return ticket for twenty pounds (do you hear that, Eurostar? Do you hear?) and sat down in the waiting room.

If you are heading to 'down south', they have a departures gate. If you are heading to Papa Westray, you get let out the back.

Three of us got on the peedie plane (see how I used the local dialect there?) I've been in cars bigger than that plane. The woman I was sitting next to, Mari, offered me a lift from the airport because she was going in to the shop anyway.

When you stand on the runway, you can see the ocean on either side.

(and look, completely out of character, I have already found internet!)

Papa Westray

Well, I am heading off for a few days to Papa Westray.

It is getting colder and colder here and I find myself yearning for the south.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Skies remain clear over Kirkwall

I think this is the town hall. Or was, or something.

 Most of Kirkwall is grey and square, but then you get little pockets of colour. The flowers are mostly gone from this garden, now, but the greens are still a welcome change from the greys.

I had applied for a  job in Canada and assumed I was going to get it and was feeling quite content that the future was all planned out. I got the rejection letter yesterday and the brother suggested I go for a walk to think about what to do next.

I went off up the hill. The weather remains marvellous.

 Cloudy, for sure, but it hasn't rained in several days, everything is drying out, and there is enough sunshine to feel quite cheerful.

I'm always a fan of hay. I think because haystacks were so much fun to play in when we were kids. They set the stage for many an imagined kingdom.

I love how the heather on the hill looks brown and unappealing from a distance.

But quite green and pretty from close up.

I later went down into the village to have a cuppa at Trenabies. I haven't been in there before because it looks a little uninviting from the street, but it has a staggering range of teas, so there is no doubt I will be back in there again.

I made my way back up the hill to my brother's place as the sun was setting.

Kirkwall really is a rather magical place.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Glorious sunshine

The reel. Just to the left is a display cabinet with a guitar I have been wishing for. That would be foolish, though, because I am leaving soon and already have enough stuff to try and lug about.


Sunshine on Tuesday.

Thelwell's pony on Wednesday.

I have never seen such a perfect example of a Thelwell's pony in the flesh.

When I saw him on Tuesday, he was standing in the perfect Kipper pose, but I couldn't catch it when I went back with my camera on Wednesday.

The bottom of the path up to the brother's house.

A gate.

The cool old place behind the gate.

On a sunny day, everyone takes advantage of it.

Haggis and cracked pepper chips...

Afternoon sunshine.