A remarkable 24 hours

John Otway at Stromness Town Hall (image: Graham Brown)
John Otway at Stromness Town Hall (image: Graham Brown)

My 24 hours from Thursday lunchtime to Friday lunchtime were memorable for events that were planned and unexpected, joyous and life-affirming, positive, satisfying, wondrous and downright lucky.

It all began on Thursday afternoon when, in my guise as a volunteer for the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project, I had set up interviews with Donald Morrison, a journalist from BBC Alba (the BBC’s Gaelic TV service).

I went to the Kitchener Memorial car park, not far from my home in Orkney, where I met Donald and two of my fellow committee members from our project – chairman Neil Kermode and naval expert Andrew Hollinrake.

The Kitchener Memorial was unveiled in 1926 to mark the death of Earl Kitchener when HMS Hampshire sank just off Orkney. He was a great hero of British Empire and, at the time of his death in June 1916, the British Secretary of State for War and a member of the British Cabinet.

We are restoring the memorial to its original condition and building alongside an HMS Hampshire commemorative wall engraved with the names of all 737 men who died.

Andrew Hollinrake interviewed by Donald Morrison of BBC Alba (image: Graham Brown)
Andrew Hollinrake interviewed by Donald Morrison of BBC Alba (image: Graham Brown)

Donald recorded the TV interviews in the car park with the memorial on the hill in the background. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the three of us from the committee felt good that the project is making progress.

The resulting report should be on BBC Alba this week – when I get confirmation I will add details in a comment on this blog.

Poster for John Otway's Orkney gigs (image: John Otway/Rebecca Marr)
Poster for John Otway’s Orkney gigs (image: John Otway/Rebecca Marr)

On Thursday evening Kathie Touin (Mrs Brown) and I went to Stromness Town Hall to see John Otway in concert – if you know him, you probably love him. If you have never seen him, well, I hardly know where to begin.

It was a great big fun evening from the man who styles himself Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure, energetic as ever despite his upcoming 63rd birthday.

There are videos of John on the internet but you need to see him live to really enjoy Body Talk, Headbutts, John’s call-and-response version of The House Of The Rising Sun and his unique versions of Crazy Horses and Blockbuster. Almost overlooked in the crazy antics is the beauty and detailed lyrics of some of his more serious songs – often about lost or unobtainable love.

The evening was made even better by the friendly crowd in the hall – I met Twitter friend @ORKitNEY (Pete Kitney) in person for the first time – and because I won a major prize in the raffle, six John Otway CDs.

Back at home on Friday morning I tuned in to Radio Caroline – yes, still broadcasting after all these years…

A quick resume for new readers, Radio Caroline began in 1964 as the first of the British offshore radio, or pirate radio, stations. More than 50 years and various shipwrecks later the station is run by volunteers, broadcasting from a studio in Kent, available on the internet and via apps such as TuneIn and Caroline’s own app.

But Friday was special because, according to internet rumour, broadcasts were being made from Radio Caroline’s last ship, the Ross Revenge, now preserved and moored on the River Blackwater in Essex, England. And, indeed, they were.

Radio Caroline's Ross Revenge on the River Blackwater (image: Radio Caroline)
Radio Caroline’s Ross Revenge on the River Blackwater (image: Radio Caroline)

The station’s website explained afterwards: “Friday’s experimental live broadcast from the Ross Revenge was a great success. We were trialling a high tech means of getting the signal ashore and into our web streams – a 4G Wi-Fi router fitted with a small outdoor omni-directional aerial to ensure a constant mobile data signal as the ship moves through 180 degrees with the tide.”

It was certainly fun to listen to the presenters thoroughly enjoying themselves broadcasting from the ship again. The technology used was impressive and the resulting sound quality on my two internet radios was excellent. Here’s to more broadcasts from the Ross Revenge in the future [more about Radio Caroline in a future blog].

While I was listening to Radio Caroline there was further excitement when Kathie spotted a buzzard eating worms on next-door’s lawn and occasionally sitting on our fence posts. Normally we see starlings and sparrows on the lawn, and sometimes gulls, so to see this large bird of prey was impressive.

Buzzard on our garden fence post (image: Kathie Touin)
Buzzard on our garden fence post (image: Kathie Touin)

We spoke to experts who think this was a youngster, possibly struggling to find food (eg rabbits) in wet weather. The buzzard attracted interest from a hen harrier, which circled low a few times, and from three hooded crows which landed nearby and appeared to be trying to pull its tail feathers. The buzzard came back again over the next day or two – let’s hope it finds something more substantial to eat.

But back to my remarkable 24 hours. Next on Friday morning I went online to apply for a new smartphone for Kathie – our account happens to be in my name – and got an amazing result.

Apparently, though this seems to good to be true, because of a discount on my account (due to a previous error by our provider Virgin), and because the new monthly contract charge is lower, we will pay nothing each month. We also get a free tablet with the smartphone! I hope it isn’t too good to be true – the smartphone and tablet are on their way by courier.

Roscoe digging up beach at Bay of Skaill - watch out, Atlantic approaching! (image: Graham Brown)
Roscoe digging up beach at Bay of Skaill – watch out, Atlantic approaching! (image: Graham Brown)

Kathie and I rounded off our 24-hours by taking our Border collie Roscoe to the beach at Bay of Skaill, a short car ride from our house, where he loves to dig up the sand and take in the fresh air. As usual the beach, facing the Atlantic, was almost deserted. It is one of the outings that remind us what a special place Orkney is to live, and how lucky we are.

It was a remarkable 24-hours. And Saturday wasn’t bad either…

Before breakfast I took Roscoe on a long morning walk past our village shop and into the countryside with views, again, of the Atlantic. On the way back we met a friend exercising her three collies in the garden – chasing tennis balls – so Roscoe was able to join in. By the time we got home he was exhausted.

Then Kathie and I went to Kirkwall to collect Kathie’s £10 rocking chair from Restart Orkney (a shop in Kirkwall selling second-hand furniture and household goods). With a bit of fiddling about we managed to squeeze the chair into the back of Kathie’s Volvo estate. A bargain we can relax in – the chair, I mean, though you could say it of the Volvo.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon our lawn mower – back in use because our regular lawn-cutting man is away – packed up on only its third time of asking since we started using it again. Oh well, can’t win ’em all.

Graham Brown

To find out more

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project blog – https://kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com/

Donate to the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project – https://www.justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/

John Otway’s website – http://www.johnotway.com/

Wikipedia on John Otway – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Otway

Radio Caroline – http://www.radiocaroline.co.uk/

RSPB on buzzards – http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/b/buzzard/

Virgin Mobile – http://store.virginmedia.com/virgin-media-mobile.html

Wikipedia on Bay of Skaill – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_of_Skaill

Restart Orkney – http://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/EMPLOYABILITY/index.asp?pageid=592047

Published by Graham Brown

I am Graham Brown, author of this blog, an Englishman living in Orkney since St Magnus Day 2010. I’m married to musician, singer and songwriter Kathie Touin. I am a member of Harray & Sandwick Community Council and a Manager (committee member) of Quoyloo Old School (community centre). I volunteer with the RSPB. I was on the committee which restored Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial and created the HMS Hampshire wall. I belong to the Radio Caroline Support Group, Orkney Field Club and Orkney Heritage Society. I spent nearly 24 years at the BBC in London. Remember: One planet, don’t trash it.

One thought on “A remarkable 24 hours

  1. Update: the report on our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project will be on BBC Alba’s nightly news programme An La at 8pm today (Thursday 27 August). BBC Alba is on: Sky 143 (UK); Freeview / You View 8 (Scotland only); Virgin Media 161 (UK); Freesat 110 (UK); BT Vision 8 (Scotland only); Smallworld 170 (Ayrshire & North West England); Live on BBC iPlayer (UK). The programme will also be available to view on BBC iPlayer after transmission.

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