Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bring me sunshine

Fans of the unforgettable Morecambe and Wise will, I hope, forgive me for borrowing their theme song for the title of this post. It sprang irresistibly to mind when I opened Google Reader yesterday to find that my friend Croixblanches of Nowhere-on-Thames had kindly passed on to me the Sunshine Award she had recently been given.

Longer-term readers of this blog probably know by now that I sometimes sit a bit lightly to the conditions attached to many blogging awards. Today, however, in gratitude both for the award and for the real sunshine which has so brightened up the past week, I will be a good girl and do as I am asked. After thanking the kind giver, I am to choose 10 bloggers, who, in my opinion, “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere” and then answer a few simple questions about myself.

I recognize that not every blogger wishes to receive awards, in which case please feel free to decline. It’s even possible that some have already received it and are running out of space on their virtual mantelpiece. The main thing is that I’m given the chance to highlight some of the blogs I enjoy and offer them for further exploration, so, without further ado, here are my choices. They come from near and far, some are long-established, others newer and still small. Some post very regularly, others quite infrequently. The one thing they have in common is that I enjoy reading each and every one.

Kamo Lady    

Now for the questions – 9 rather than 10 for some reason, but I'm not grumbling. J

Favourite colour:  Blue, ever since I could pronounce it, though I'm told I look good in coral pink.
Favourite animal:  Cats, by a mile. When we stop travelling we’ll have cats again.
Favourite number:  
Whatever age I’ll be next birthday.
Favourite drink:  During the day tea, in the evening red wine. (OK, I cheated)
Facebook or Twitter:  Neither. There aren’t enough hours in the day.
Your passion:  DH and my blog - an offshoot of my primal passion for reading.
Giving or getting presents:  Let’s be honest here – both.
Favourite day:  
I’m retired and getting on a bit, so every day I wake up feeling well is my favourite.
Favourite flowers:  I particularly love spring flowers such as snowdrops, primroses and bluebells, but if I had to choose just one flower, it would be the old-fashioned scented rose.

Now it’s over to you, both to explore and, for the recipients, to accept and pass it on if you want to. Enjoy...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gone fishin’

Image via Wylio
…or at least gardening. Here in Mid-Wales summer arrived overnight yesterday and I can’t afford to waste it indoors. One of the downsides to our peripatetic lifestyle is trying to keep three gardens in some kind of order and this hasn't been helped  by the cold and wet weather we’ve had for so long. Suddenly the mid-day temperature has leapt from below 10C to above 20 (50F to 70 for my transatlantic readers) and I've shed several layers of clothing at a stroke. Even better, the five-day weather forecast shows more of the same on the way, so the gardening tools are out and the weeds better brace themselves for imminent destruction. I’ll catch up when I’m too tired to pull a weed or push a mower, but until then I’ll leave you to savour this gem from the immortal Porgy and Bess.

Friday, May 18, 2012

One hundred not out

To celebrate our reconnection to the outside world, it seems appropriate to inflict upon that same world my 100th post. J The BT engineer turned up soon after breakfast and worked doggedly all morning to track down the fault we knew was there, even though it had taken the faults service so long to diagnose. The problem section of wire was  almost a quarter of a mile from the house, by the phone box at the top of the lane down to the village. Once the cherry-picker had been summoned and the wire replaced, everything worked perfectly and DH and I are happy bunnies once more.

One hundred posts. Even just writing the words amazes me. I could never have imagined as I published my first post that I would persevere to write my hundredth. That was 15 months ago and since then I have discovered so many superb blogs, and met (both online and in person) so many kind, thoughtful and interesting people, that my life has changed quite remarkably.

Every day I am entertained, challenged and moved by what I read. My knowledge of geography has come on by leaps and bounds as I locate where my followers and my favourite bloggers live. I continue to be amazed and humbled by the number of visitors to my blog and the total of page-views they have made.

Unexpectedly, but very satisfyingly, I have discovered new skills and talents in myself at an age at which, in the past, I might have been expected to slow down and stop learning. I have even learned to understand, if not love, Blogger and have tentatively put a toe into the pond called WordPress.

Above all it has been fun, so much fun. I enjoy it all: the reading, the writing, the commenting and interaction, the sense of being part of something worldwide and so worthwhile. Reaching my century is simply an invitation to continue. You can’t get rid of me as easily as that…
Image via Google

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My broadband is poorly

We have developed an intermittent fault on our phone line here in Wales and it’s been  slowing down our broadband speed to a crawl much of the time. I’m afraid this means that you are all writing your wonderful posts faster than I can get online to read them, for which I apologise. Photos are taking an age to load and YouTube is a complete no-no. Sigh….

The engineers are visiting us tomorrow to see if they can track down the fault, but with so much line to examine between us and the exchange it could take some time. It’s one of the few downsides to living high in the Welsh hills. But I never despair and I WILL be back. J

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Journey through an ancient landscape

After the lovely sunset and afterglow of the previous evening, it was disappointing to wake up on my second day in Orkney to the sight of grey skies and rain-spattered windows. Nevertheless, trusting implicitly in the BBC weather forecast which had promised that conditions would improve, we had breakfast and set off to catch the mid-morning ferry across to Orkney Mainland. Thankfully the wind had dropped somewhat and the sea was much calmer than the day before, though it was still bitterly cold.

At the bus stop

Sian on her small island

Very soon we were in Stromness and setting off in Sian’s off-island car for our day’s exploration of a little of Orkney’s long history. As we drove the clouds started to disperse, the sun came out and before we knew it the sky was a glorious blue and the landscape breath-taking. Orkney is almost treeless and lacks the mountain grandeur of Sutherland, but the wide green sweep of its gentle hills and broad valleys, and the constant glimpses of water in loch and sea, give the soul room to breathe and I loved it.

When we arrived at our first destination, Scara BraeSian, who must know the introductory exhibition backwards after taking so many visitors there, left me to it and relaxed with a nice cup of tea. Meanwhile I was immediately fascinated by the informative and interactive way this marvellously preserved Neolithic village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was set in context for visitors before we actually saw it.

There is a walk of several hundred yards from the Visitors’ Centre to the village itself, and along its length markers commemorating important historical events have been placed in a kind of timeline to illustrate just how ancient this site is. Constructed and inhabited millennia before the birth of Christ, old and about to be abandoned when the first pyramids of Egypt were being built, the houses of Skara Brae, with their stone furniture and central hearths, give us a vivid and unforgettable glimpse into the lives of our distant ancestors.

The village by the sea
House and hearth
Stone furniture - dresser and beds by the walls
I said it was cold

When Neolithic farmers decided to settle at Skara Brae, the climate in Orkney was warmer and drier than it is today and the site they chose may have been on the shore of an inland loch. By the time the village was abandoned some six hundred years later, the climate had changed, becoming become colder and wetter and making cereal farming more difficult. This factor, combined with the gradual encroachment of the sea, may have contributed to the decision to leave, but no-one really knows why the inhabitants of this well-constructed village finally moved elsewhere.

Once abandoned the village gradually became covered by sand dunes until a great storm in 185o uncovered part of the remains, but it was many decades before they were properly excavated and conserved.

The land on which Skara Brae was discovered belonged to a local landowner who lived in the nearby Skaill House, acknowledged as Orkney’s finest large mansion. Very sensibly, Historic Scotland, which looks after Skara Brae and Skaill House, includes both on the same admission ticket, so after our visit to the remote past, we made our way back into relatively recent history by going round this interesting and appealing building, for so long an imposing but also intimate family home.

From Skaill House  Sian drove me to the other site I really wanted to see on my first visit: the great circle of standing stones known as the Ring of Brodgar. I have been familiar with the sight of the Ring since one of my sisters gave me a print of her pastel drawing of the monument some years ago, but to see it in all its remote and mysterious grandeur was still deeply impressive. 

The path up to it was slippery after the night’s rain and my balance is not of the best, but we made it up to the stones and walked much of the way round the huge circle in its wide and beautiful setting. The Ring of Brodgar is one of a number of ancient monuments which together make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. It was probably constructed between 2500 and 2000 BC (after Skara Brae had been abandoned) and was the last of the great monuments to be built in this archaeologically rich area.

The intrepid duo - it was STILL cold
We only had time to visit two of these remarkable sites that day, but that leaves us plenty to see on a future visit. J After a late and leisurely lunch in Stromness I watched Sian catch the little ferry back to her small island before boarding my much bigger one for a calm and sunlit crossing back to Scrabster and DH at the end of my fascinating and memorable birthday trip. Here's to the next time....

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The very small campervan goes south

Some of my most faithful readers, knowing that I usually post at least once or twice a week, may be wondering why I seem to have slipped off their radar. There was I, promising Part 2 of my trip to Orkney, and then nothing….. Thankfully the explanation is a simple one – life has just taken over this past week and very enjoyable and/or productive it has been too.

Earlier last week DH and I took advantage of the gorgeously sunny weather to do some clearing outdoors. Our shed has finally succumbed to the ravages of the northern climate and will have to be replaced, so we spent the best part of two days clearing and sorting its contents and ferrying the rejects across the causeway to the conveniently and beautifully sited recycling centre on the shore of the Kyle of Tongue. It’s not often one gets the chance to pause in the process of feeding the recycling bins to gaze at a stunning view of water and mountains.

Later in the week, when the sun disappeared and the temperature plummeted again, it was the turn of my burgeoning social life. As well as church services on Friday and Sunday, I went out to an excellent piano recital in the village hall on Friday evening in aid of church funds (the minister’s cousin is a professional pianist). It was a very varied programme including the delightful “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky and we all relished the wine and cheese offered in the interval.

Saturday evening was spent at a hilarious farewell meal at a local hotel in honour of one of the founding members of the weekly Knit and Natter group I so enjoy. I haven’t laughed so much for a very long time. J Since then DH and I have been busy packing and tidying and preparing to leave this wonderful place and start the long journey back to Mid-Wales. Even the weather has turned wet in sympathy, so we shall be dodging the downpours as we ferry the last items to our groaning little van and set off home tomorrow. See you in Wales……