Wednesday 27 May 2015

Monday 18 May 2015

Not so much God's Acre...

... as Tense's half acre, or at least 50 x 45m of... er... habitat.

The bulk of the 'garden' at Tense Towers has been left to its own devices for over a year now. Something had to be done. With the assorted vegetation (Couch grass, Docks, Thistles and Dandelions) being somewhere between ankle high and knee high, it was always going to be a tough gig.

Still, I reckoned that I'd cracked the problem of how we could lose weight, become a bit trimmer (no pun intended), lessen the furrowed brows of our neighbours and save ourselves some money into the bargain. Our Lass had recently ditched her gym membership, so my cunning plan was Mower-cise, man (or woman) and machine in perfect harmony. What could possibly go wrong?

About a third of the way around my first lap of the... let's call it 'lawn' for simplicity's sake, my trusty mower of over a decade gave up the ghost. No amount of cajoling would encourage it back to life. Ah, the best laid plans, eh?

A swift trip to the various gardening equipment emporia of these isles gave me plenty to ponder: cutting width, engine size, deck material and propulsion options, to name just a few. More research online led to the decision to go with a Honda-powered 53cm machine, with an alloy deck and self propulsion. Happily, there was a local agent for my chosen brand, so I ordered it and was flabbergasted to discover that it would be £160 cheaper than the manufacturer's price, delivered to Orkney, fully mantled and full of fuel and oil. I had to wait a week and half for it, but it was worth the wait! Unfortunately, the vegetation didn't stop growing during that time.

Having now completed the first cut of the whole 'lawn', which had to be done using Tense propulsion as the grass was so thick, I am now fit to drop. I look forward to the day when I can engage the self propulsion option and merely saunter around the garden at a brisk pace.

As I trundled the mower back across the lawn after its exertions, I noticed that a cow and calf had appeared in the neighbouring field. Two pairs of eyes were watching me with, what felt like, a mixture of bovine amusement and critical appraisal. I was just glad that they didn't whip out cards giving me marks out of ten.

Friday 15 May 2015

What the... ?!

Following the necessity of a hasty trip away from Orkney and down south into England, I've been having a few culture shocks.

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that things which I haven't seen for ages will now look somewhat different, in light of the changes to my life, 21st Century progress and the world generally moving on.

For example, take the humble Dunnock.

Now, the habits of these small birds have exercised this blog on previous occasions, most notably here and here. Yes, I have ranted on and off about the promiscuous shenanigans that three Dunnocks often engage in, but my comments have, more than not, been about the almost Victorian attitude that we pin to the lifestyle of this bird. In the time since I last saw this species on a regular basis, which would've been back in jolly old MK, the world has moved on considerably. I will leave you to judge whether that is for the better. So, when I spotted a couple of Dunnocks in my brother's garden, the passage of time and recent celebrity culture had a strange effect upon my reaction.

"Crivens, what's that twerking under the bird feeder?!" was my questioning cry, trying not to spill a mug of tea in indignation at the blatant sexualisition of a neatly manicured lawn, blossom-laden hedging and lush herbaceous borders.

I think it's probably time for me to head back north to the open vistas of Orkney. For although its landscape is as indelibly marked by the human hand as everywhere else, life there is more in the grip of the seasons, the weather is more likely to clip you around the ear, and it is the sea with its finger on the 'Destruct' button.

And the garden at Tense Towers is currently Dunnock-free.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Bank Holiday whether

Honestly, it's not a typo. Let me explain...

Occasionally, very occasionally, within the walls of Tense Towers, everything is not sweetness and light. Probably not a shock, eh? Well, the cause of one of these infrequent bones of contention is the fact that Our Lass and I do not have synchronised public holidays. You can be a bit shocked at that, possibly even for the fact that Our Lass would want to share 24 hours of unfettered access to curmudgeonly old me.

The reason for the 'days off' disparity is... actually, I've no idea, but let me try to navigate you through the evidence as presented.

Orkney is part of Scotland (just don't remind it too often).

Scotland is part of the UK (defo don't remind it too often).

England, Wales and Northern Ireland are also part of the UK (there's a whole continuum of remind, or not, going on there).

So, Our Lass and I live in the UK, governed from Westminster in London. We also live in Scotland, governed by a Scottish Parliament with some devolved powers. And, just for added spice, we live in Orkney as well, with the Orkney Islands Council (OIC) having local powers. 

Our Lass works for a nominally UK-wide, umbrella organisation, the National Health Service (NHS). No, they don't make umbrellas [sigh]. In reality, she is employed by NHS Scotland through NHS Orkney. With me so far?

I work for an Orcadian charity with links to a larger umbrella Scottish charity. No, they don't make umbrellas either. Actually, with all this talk of handy gadgets to keep the rain off, it's turning into the perfect Bank Holiday weather blogpost! But I digress.

Apologies if, following the General Election, you've had it up to here [signals above head height] with charts and graphs, but here's my explanation as an Excel document...

Apart from January and December, there's not a great deal of correlation. Add in the fact that the Orkney work ethic, as a principally rural environment where farmers have to put in a shift every day, doesn't necessarily follow officialdom, and you can probably see that there's going to be trouble at Tense Towers.

So far, this year, if I've been in doubt, I've turned up for work and discovered all the businesses around our site are all open and busy. Admittedly, this does precious little for Our Lass's humour, but as I say, "When in Rome..." 

No, let's not look to see which national holidays they take in Italy!

The latest instance of 'Bank Holiday whether' occurred on the 4th of May. I went off to work as normal and was able to book the firm's van into a local garage for a small repair. The morning's weather was typically Orcadian, a few sunny periods interspersed with heavy showers of hail. By the time I left work and headed home, it was fine and dry, so Our Lass and I decided to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and wandered down the hill to the coast. En route, passing between rough pasture and lush fields, we expected to be bombarded by irate waders, busy setting up and defending territories, but all was strangely quiet. Perhaps this oddness made me pay more particular attention, I don't know, but we were surprised to see several broods of tiny Lapwing chicks being ushered into hiding between tussocks of grass. Wowser, I didn't know that they hatched this early in the year!

We sat on a stone bridge parapet, where a stream flowed onto the beach, watching Oystercatchers bathing in rock pools and listening to Swallows as they skimmed low over the fields and verges around us. It turned into a balmy evening, with Snipe drumming overhead, a male Hen Harrier incurring the wrath of every breeding wader in the area and a male Sandwich Tern catching fish to tempt Mrs Tern with a bit of courtship feeding.

Coldplay's 'Yellow' kept popping into my head, as every field, garden, churchyard and roadside verge was covered in the colour of Spring. Coltsfoot were still in flower, accompanied by Dandelions, Lesser Celandines, Primroses, Marsh Marigolds, Daffodils and Cowslips. Yeah, they were all yellow.