Friday, 30 January 2015

A weekend at Celtic Connections

The blogging 'radio silence' triggered by our broadband outage didn't completely dominate the January news. Our Lass and I found time to travel down to Glasgow for a weekend break at the 2015 Celtic Connections festival.

During the occasional break in cloud, the flight from Orkney to mainland Scotland gave views of snowy hill tops.

After meeting up with Second Born and her friend Martin (All at Sea), we walked from the hotel to the city centre for a pleasant meal at an Italian restaurant. Then it was a short amble to the Old Fruitmarket for some music.

Motu :: Oiléain were an interesting combination of traditional Irish folk musicians with a dub/reggae band from New Zealand. Now that's fusion!

Then it was time for Shooglenifty and their 25th anniversary concert. As befitted the occasion, some old band members put in an appearance for a few numbers, which was a nice touch, I thought. Also joining the Shoogles on stage were the Dhol Drummers of Rajasthan, their combined sound being simply spine-tingling.

At one point a huge cake was brought out, 25 candles all aflame, and the audience treated the band to a serenade of 'Happy Birthday'!

The following day, we walked along icy paths, through Kelvingrove Park to the Art Gallery and Museum. I had forgotten how depressed I become at the sight of countless dead things, but the collections were an eclectic mix of stuff, perhaps best typified by this...

A Spitfire AND a giraffe?

Tracking the course of the River Kelvin downstream, we arrived at the Riverside Museum on the banks of the Clyde. We all spent some time photographing the scenery around what had once been bustling shipyards.

Here's Our Lass in a screen test for Bonnie and Clyde.

And this is the Glaswegian Gull Photo-bombing team, producing a perfectly executed synchronised triple spread.

Inside the museum, the quirky combination of African wildlife and European mechanical hardware continued...

After a quick trip back to our hotel to freshen up, we again walked into the city centre, this time to St Andrew's Church. Following a lovely meal in the restaurant below the church, we took our seats in a very religious setting for a concert by Nordic Fiddlers Bloc.

I wasn't sure whether a trio of violinists could hold my attention for a complete set, but I needn't have worried, the banter between the three guys was excellent, as was their musicianship.

Our last morning in Glasgow was spent walking upstream along the banks of the Kelvin. Though we had already seen a few species of bird during the weekend (Goosander, Blue Tit, Great Tit), Our Lass struck gold in the urban setting with a Dipper and then a flock of Long-tailed Tits.

As we dragged our tired legs back to our hotel, we rested briefly at Felix and Oscar, a cafe/gift shop with a tasty Hot Chocolate menu.

The golden syrup tin is being reused as a sugar bowl. Top marks!

Early in the afternoon, we left Second Born and Martin, as we headed back to Orkney. The younger generation were staying on for another night to see The Chair (an Orcadian band) at the Old Fruitmarket.

Mind you, this isn't them...

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Back in blue

After six weeks' absence, broadband returns to Tense Towers and I can now spend an hour or so sweeping up the many and discarded expletives that litter the office floor.

Oh, and I may even have time to upload a blog post!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

New Year walk

Traditionally, the Orkney Field Club organise a nature walk during the New Year break and this year was no exception. Our Lass and I had returned to Orkney the previous evening, so were keen for a leg stretch after a day confined to driving north through Scotland.

Nine hardy folk gathered in the car park at the southern end of Churchill Barrier 2 for a circular walk around the edge of Glimps Holm, a small uninhabited island in the chain of ‘linked’ isles, which also includes Lamb Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay.

We set off in a clockwise direction, along the sandy beach bordering Weddell Sound. The low cliffs were affording us some protection from the south-westerly wind, but they themselves are subjected to erosion whenever an easterly sea crashes waves upon the shore.

Various members of the group were scanning the tide line for interesting specimens of marine life. Amongst all the seaweed cast upon the beach, a few stalks were home to sponges, a fact that absolutely amazed me. In the strand line nearest the sea, mixed in with all the broken bits of shell, a few fortunate folk were able to spot ‘groatie buckies’, the small conch shells which often become the focus of beachcombing and rock pooling in Orkney!

Crossing the main road at the northern end of Churchill Barrier 3, we continued around the westerly section of the peedie island, which is buffeted by the waters of Scapa Flow. Here the coastline is more rugged, with the beaches comprising of shingle or just bedrock.

An air/sea rescue helicopter flew by, searching the Orkney coastline for survivors or wreckage from a cargo ship that had sunk two days previously. Sadly, despite an extensive search by lifeboats, other shipping, helicopters and coastguard teams on the ground, no survivors were found. The eight crew of the Cemfjord are presumed to have been lost at sea, when their vessel was likely overcome by heavy seas in the Pentland Firth. The wreck has been located on the seabed and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch are attempting to identify the cause of the disaster.

Whilst I was photographing one piece of cliff face (first photo below), Our Lass pointed out, in true pantomime style, a section of landslip behind me, which looked to have been very recent (second photo below).

Along the northern coast of Glimps Holm, are recent archaeological remains from the First and Second World Wars. We explored an air raid shelter and various concrete structures, before turning our eyes to the sheltered waters by Churchill Barrier 2 to identify several species of waterfowl: Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Guillemot, Great Northern Diver and Shag. A mournful piping call overhead alerted the group to a passing flock of Golden Plover, which joined some previously-unseen birds on the low moorland at the centre of the island.

Returning to our starting point, the majority of the group then went on to St Mary’s village to explore another headland and a small loch, but Our Lass and I offered our apologies, departing for home to undergo incomplete metamorphosis from holiday mode to work mode.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Festive family frolics

Christmas and New Year are usually a time for families and friends to gather together. I guess it's just the up-to-date version of the ancient tradition of feasting and celebrating the rebirth of the sun.

This year, the occasion has had a much greater resonance for us, as we're such a long way from our nearest and dearest (farthest and dearest?).

On Boxing Day, Our Lass and I set off from Orkney, journeying south to spend the night near Dunfermline, before pushing on the next day to reach Manchester. We stayed here a few days, meeting up with First and Second Born for some Christmassy activities, such as exchanging presents...

and going for a family walk.

Then, after heading east across the Pennines, we spent another few days visiting my brother's family and my parents.

Currently, we're pausing on the way back north, sharing Hogmanay with Our Lass's family in central Scotland. This is the largest gathering of the break, which presents a few logistical problems for our wonderful host.

Cranachan, hidden in the fridge

Peas and goodwill to all mankind.