Saturday, 8 December 2018

Stuff On My Phone (21)

Tomorrow sees the latest Classic Album Sunday being held in the Sound Archive in Kirkwall. This month it's Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, so anticipation is rising, adrenalin levels are high and excitement is off the scale.

Released in 1977, the album has been around all my adult life and ever-present in my music collection in various formats. The tales of its recording are legendary, with much conflict within the personal relationships of the band. It is quite incredible to think of two couples breaking up within the pressure cooker environment of a recording studio. But the emotion and creativity this strife unleashed, fed directly into the blossoming of the tracks on the album.

Arguably, the most well known and popular track on the album is The Chain, which may be rather familiar to readers in the UK, as the instrumental section was used for years as the theme tune to Formula One coverage on the BBC and Channel 4.

Meanwhile, on Planet Tense, contrary as ever, the stand out song is Gold Dust Woman, Stevie Nicks' dark exploration of cocaine addiction. Here's a video of Fleetwood Mac performing the song live in 1997, twenty years after the album was released (and twenty one years ago!!).

Have I mentioned I'm looking forward to listening to this tomorrow?

Sunday, 2 December 2018

I see you, baby, shakin' that ass

As we enter the festive period, would this make a top tune for an alternative Nativity play? Probably not.

It being December, Our Lass and I went into town yesterday morning, to stock up on provender (her - specific Christmas stuff; me - the weekly shop). However, before we'd even left the house, there was an early morning wildlife moment to savour. The field across the road is usually empty of animals at this time of year, the cattle having been moved into sheds to overwinter. At the moment, though, there are four sheep making the best of the slim pickings as grass growth slows down to zero.

A quick scan of the field with my bins revealed a group of two dozen Golden Plover, hunkered down in the sward, prompting a photo opportunity and a Facebook post highlighting the need for a woolly plover in this weather.


This morning, the plovers were there again (so I'm wondering if they roost there overnight), and with a bit more sunlight, I was hopeful of a better shot. Or at least a better crop of an image that is the result of sticking my camera out of the lounge window.

The plovers were several steps ahead of me. As the sun's liquid honey poured over the landscape, the birds congregated in the shadow cast by Tense Towers. I kid you not, they moved into the 'shade' to, I guess, improve their camouflage. It's likely that they would be a target for a Sparrowhawk, a Peregrine or a Hen Harrier.

So, although the field was lit up left, right and behind them, I had to make do with the murk.


The sun, the absence of any breeze and the hope of more photography lured us outside for a wander around our usual circuit. It was a lovely morning, but the only excitement was a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a corvid down by the shore. The sprawk, completely unperturbed by the attention, even took time out to swoop down and spook a flock of waders off the beach, before resuming its serene way eastwards.

Back home, and once more staring out of the window, I spotted a pipit sat on the top wire of the fence of the field over the road. As the light was still peachy, I grabbed my bins to inspect the bird's side-lit features. Typically, at this point, it flew to the ground out of sight, so I waited patiently for it to resume its perch. When it flew back up, it wasn't alone, so when my lenses settled upon what I thought was the pipit, I had a bit of a shock.

As did the pipit, if this photo is anything to go by!


The Meadow Pipit is on the top bar of the gate, whilst lower down is a bird of similar size, but which had a beguiling shimmering effect going on with its tail. This characteristic, I knew, meant that it was a species of Redstart (and I wasn't expecting to see one of those at this time of year!).

I managed a few more blurry photos before the bird flew along a dry stone wall and disappeared among the buildings of the neighbouring farm.



You can just make out the red colour on its tail, but it is the smoky brown chest which allowed those who know these things to ID the bird as a Black Redstart. Very unexpected, very pleasing!

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Yet another blatant filler post

Blogging can be a tricky old business. I've lost count of the number of times when I've turned up on this page to apologise for a prolonged absence due to a missing muse or the pressure of Life. One of the lesser side effects of such a hiatus is the consequent reduction in annual blog count, which is not a highly sought after metric, but one which I use to gauge year on year wordage and guff.

I reckon on about eight posts a month which, with a bit of gentle pressure, should yield close to a hundred for the year. Handily, the 'Previously on' sidebar shows monthly/annual output, so there's not even too much heartache in checking whether I'm on schedule, or not.

If I manage the required eight posts in December, but without this particular snippet, I would be one short of the hundred. Cue a filler post to promote the likely not-quite-there 99 to the magic 100. Sad, isn't it?

In my desperation to come up with a suitable topic for your delectation, the word 'Brexit' was typed into the Search facility of I&T, which yielded a whole raft of one post from 2017. It mentioned 'Fin' but not 'La Fin', it mentioned 'whales', but not 'Wales', so you would be correct in thinking that it was more cetacean-based than politician-biased.

Obviously, if you're reading this, that particular search will now have two results!

With a vote due in the House of Commons in a fortnight's time, regarding the acceptance of the settlement deal, or not, let's just say that the threat of an imminent harpoon still hangs over our relationship with the EU.

The only certainty is that anyone who professes to know what will happen in the coming months is most definitely fibbing. And when will that much-prized certainty arrive? Well, you'll need more than the lung capacity of a Sperm Whale to hold your breath for that long.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Autumn turning into Winter

On a Saturday morning with no earthly reason to head into town, we pottered around our local circuit instead, soaking up some brief sunshine, as well as the sights and sounds of wintering wildfowl.

Some Teal

Do you think two dozen Snipe is too large a quantity to be called a wisp?

A splash of Teal (not a recognised collective noun)

Rock Pipits trying to form a Goth band

 A Redshank on the tide line

More Teal and Snipe

A Moorhen upon reflection

Back to front: Cantick Head lighthouse; mv Pentalina; causeway to Hunda; Churchill Barrier number 3

An obliging Rook

Sunshine on a distant Hoy
Just after I'd put my camera away (as it was starting to rain), we walked by a garden with a large Hebe bush in it. A movement caught our eye, which resolved itself into a warbler of some sort. I'd guess, probably a Chiffchaff, brought across the North Sea due to several days of easterly winds. Additionally, this might also explain why we've had another two Robins in our garden this week (technically, we're not due another Robin visit until Spring!).

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Photo montage

This post is a bit of a photo round-up of the past week, a combination of work views and ephemeral skies.

Last Thursday, I travelled to Westray to repair a satellite link which controls a wind turbine. Just take your van into the field, they said, it'll be fine. Er... no. It's two wheel drive and laden with heavy things. I carried all my gear across the field.


It was a rather gorgeous day for November, mind.


And that electric fence? It was live. An expletive may have been uttered.


Friday saw me in Shetland. Another sunny day, and one of my customers had a predilection for Land Rover's finest, the Discovery. We know what that feels like!


Fast forward to Tuesday, and some early morning sunshine picked out the island of Cava on the opposite side of Scapa Flow. Normally, this island, and its neighbours Fara and Rysa Little, are indistinguishable from the looming bulk of Hoy, so it was lovely to see Cava have its moment in the spotlight.


That afternoon, the sunset was a muted pink and grey affair.


Yesterday, strong winds from the east forced the temporary closure of Churchill Barrier 2. We can't see the structure from Tense Towers, but its location can be inferred from the position of the blue lights on the police car and the spray.


And today my van was at the garage for a repair, which was fortunate as I was summoned to the court of Princess Button on Graemsay.


Monday, 19 November 2018

Centenary of the end of the Great War

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which brought about the end of hostilities in World War 1, there were poignant events throughout Europe and further afield.

In Orkney, where history is always very close to the surface, we were no exception.

In the evenings leading up to the 11th of November, an Armistice animation was projected onto the west face of St Magnus Cathedral, in Kirkwall, a 20 minute encapsulation of what it must've meant to leave a way of life, not knowing whether you would return; to be a part of the horror of warfare; to possibly have to make the ultimate sacrifice. It was very sombre and thought-provoking. In fact, as I watched it, I was struck by how melancholy it was, and mused that it wouldn't have been out of place as a backdrop at a Pink Floyd gig. This isn't me trying to be disrespectful, as I consider 'loss' to be one of the central themes of the band's music.

At 6am on Sunday 11th November, pipers played 'When the battle's o'er' at several war memorials in the county, including the one just down the road from Tense Towers. Unforgivably, I was still pushing out the zzz's, and missed the whole thing.

On the afternoon, at Scapa beach, a crowd gathered to watch the 'Pages of the Sea' art installation. Local volunteers created a sand drawing of a local serviceman, from the island of Flotta, who had been killed during the war. A poem, 'The Wound In Time' by Carol Ann Duffy, was read out.







At this time, it was appropriate for me to remember a great uncle, my paternal grandmother's brother, who was killed on the Western Front, aged 27. As far as we know, my great uncle's regiment was recalled from India at the outbreak of the war. They arrived back in the UK on 22nd December 1914. By the 18th January 1915, his regiment had landed in France and, barely 5 weeks later, he was dead. His name is recorded on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres.

Though an ex-soldier myself, I do not attend Remembrance services, feeling that they are too militaristic, which is not a tone I'm comfortable with. However I do buy a poppy each year, as I am of the opinion that if we do have to wage war (I accept that there may be certain circumstances where it is justified), then the very least we can do is to support the injured and the bereaved.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Well, well, well, what's all this then?

This evening, as a favour for a friend, I was browsing a book of Orkney dialect words, researching a possible name for a company with a local connection. Don't worry, I'd been warned off any excruciating puns or stupid wordplay, this was a strictly serious business.

With alliteration a likely option, I was scanning through the 'T's, when I came across the word 'teeve'. This had some significance for me, so I bookmarked the page, to be returned to later once I'd completed the mission. Sorry to be a 'T's.

Eagle-eyed readers with total recall might remember the sound of this word from here or here. The Tieve Road runs from the shore of Howes Wick, by St Nicholas Kirk, up to the old property of Greenwall.


About 4 miles to the north west, and towards Kirkwall the capital of Orkney, is a feature that also mentions the word, Tievesgeo.


Or, in a wider geographical context...

In my mind, I had wondered whether this was something to do with criminality, as the dialect word 'tief' means thief. Perhaps this was a smuggling route from the coast, via a safe house, and on to town?

Well, now I know this isn't so, as 'teeve' is usually paired with 'well', for example teeve or tave well. Indeed, at a bend in the Tieve Road, there is a spring in a small enclosure. This must be a teeve well, which has resulted in the place name.

I can only assume that in the shallow valley of Tievesgeo, there must be several sources of water. 'Geo' is local dialect for a ravine, though more usually associated with a rocky inlet, between cliffs, on the coast.

And the company name? Well, words beginning with T didn't make the cut but, if my friend's plans come to fruition and my suggestion is accepted, I'll let you know.