Now, where were we? Oh yes, writing a blog, at least one a month is my self-imposed rule. I see I published a blog each month until, oh, there was no blog in June. But there was one in July and then – err, nothing since. So, it is time to get this blog back on track. Oh to be like our neighbour Sarah Norquoy who writes something like eight blogs a month (well worth reading, by the way).
Since mid-July I have been either working full-time or showing three sets of visitors around Orkney. I took early retirement before moving to Orkney in April 2010 and I found full-time work pretty exhausting. That said, they are a good crowd at the RSPB office in Orkney and I do enjoy spending time with them.
Anyway, here we are again – what do I have to tell you?
Welcoming visitors to Orkney in July and August was a reminder of why my wife Kathie Touin and I moved to Orkney. There is so much to see, beautiful islands to visit by ferry, lots of history (including neolithic, Viking, both world wars), wildlife, empty beaches and wonderful people.
Trips with our friends included two visits to the island of Hoy, which have prompted Kathie and I to book a weekend trip there in November in order to see more. One day we sailed to Rousay and enjoyed a picnic in the grounds of Trumland House in the rain and midges – but we enjoyed it. Incidentally, if you are thinking of visiting Orkney, please do, and be reassured that midges are not usually a big problem.
We visited the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall and the small but packed and fascinating Orkney Wireless Museum. We discovered more about neolithic times at the amazing Ness of Brodgar dig where pre-history is being re-written, and we looked at the memorial wall bearing the names of 737 men lost with HMS Hampshire in 1916, unveiled last year next to the Kitchener Memorial.
And we took the family of three who stayed with us to experience West Mainland Show in Dounby, not far from where we live, the second biggest agricultural show in the county. It is a great social occasion.
Having visitors is a good way of making you look up – both literally and figuratively – to appreciate what you have. One day we drove to our house from Stromness, a nine-mile journey I take when I return from the RSPB office. “Graham, this is a wonderful commute,” said my friend as we drove through the countryside and past Stenness Loch. He is right.
Other recent highlights for Kathie and me, though not with our visitors, include the Stromness Lifeboat 150th anniversary event and the HMS Tern open day.
Living so close to the sea really makes me appreciate the sterling work done by lifeboat crews, and those in their on-shore back-up teams, and all voluntarily. Orkney is big on charity fund-raising and, as you might imagine, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) is one of the top priorities.
Orkney has three lifeboats – Stromness, Kirkwall and Longhope, Hoy. In 2019, no doubt, there will be moving commemorative events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Longhope lifeboat disaster when the TGB capsized and all eight crew were lost.
At the Stromness event four lifeboats were on display – Stromness, Thurso (from across the Pentland Firth in mainland Scotland), Longhope (current) and the vessel from Longhope Lifeboat Museum.
HMS Tern is a former Second World War airbase, also known as RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Twatt, which is only a couple of miles from our house. Tours of the site are available and some of the remaining buildings are being restored. This will include, in time, the control tower. The open day was a chance to see progress and, of course, another social occasion to meet friends.
Meanwhile Kathie remains busy with her music: teaching piano, taking guitar lessons, writing, and recording both her own music and guests in her Starling Recording Studio.
Otherwise we try to do our bit, volunteering for the RSPB (as well as my paid part-time office work) and as Managers, or committee members, for our village community centre, Quoyloo Old School.
Events at the Old School include a monthly quiz to which all are welcome. The next ones are 20 October and 24 November. And we have Harvest Home on 11 November.
Coming up, I have a new challenge.
I was persuaded to stand for the Harray and Sandwick Community Council by Edith, a village stalwart who is standing down from the council after 30 years. I was flattered to be asked and, it turns out I have been “elected” – eight people stood for eight places so we all get on. My first meeting is due to be in early November so wish me luck.
To find out more
Sarah Norquoy’s blog – https://norqfromork.com/
HMS Hampshire – http://hmshampshire.org/
Stromness Lifeboat – http://www.stromnesslifeboat.org.uk/station-history.html
Longhope Lifeboat – http://www.longhopelifeboat.org.uk/
HMS Tern – http://hmstern.co.uk/
BBC Radio Orkney In Conversation – Robbie Fraser speaks to Cecilia Pemberton and Walter Crosby about life in the Second World War at HMS Tern –
RSPB Orkney – https://www.facebook.com/rspborkney
Quoyloo Old School – https://en-gb.facebook.com/Old-School-Quoyloo-462982410411472/
Kathie Touin – http://www.kathietouin.com/
PS For a blast of nostalgia, and a demonstration of how radio should be done, try this show I have just listened to: Alan Freeman’s last Saturday Rock Show for BBC Radio 1 from 1978…