I know this is blog about Orkney Living, but part of living is going away and coming back ! And right now I am away at the SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing, where I am working in the Communications and Media department for the World Bridge Federation. Sounds glamourous but actually it isn' t really ! 10 days of long hours working in a basement room with no natural daylight. But the joy is being with my friends and colleagues that I only meet up with at events like this. And that's fun !
The food is considerably better than it was last year – and better than Sanya. A word of explanation here - I went to Sanya (Hainan Province, China) in October working for 3 weeks there, returning to England on the Saturday with Pickfords arriving to start moving us to Orkney on the Monday. No pressure then !
Anyway, here we are full-board and basically there is a buffet for all meals. Everyone is moaning because it isn’t very hot (the food temperature I mean), but that has never really bothered me. There are up to 15 different dishes plus salads and usually some sort of cold meat. And I have had the chance to try some different vegetables (I have decided that kimchi is not very nice). There are a lot of vegetarian dishes and always something with either baked, steamed or fried fish, something with shrimp and normally a couple of meat dishes of some sort. Today’s offering was “lamb chop with garlic” but as it consisted of a few bones with some scraps of meat clinging to them, and was redolent of garlic and with whole cloves scattered over t (remember you are talking to a garlic lover here) I passed on that one.
There are some interesting descriptions of the dishes beside each one – I couldn’t face “singing prawns with tossed vegetables” but the “fresh dancing bean shoots” were lovely ! I tried “plum beans in plum sauce” – like a very large butter bean in an incredibly sweet sauce – but wasn’t too keen. There are strange little cakes and slices of melon for pudding – the melon is fine but the cakes tend to be very dry and rather tasteless – nothing like the lovely Scottish homebakes I am getting used to on Orkney!
One meal time we were lucky and got some (weak) orange squash but normally there is a choice of water or some sort of cola which I haven’t investigated. The coffee, amazingly, is really rather good.
I am told that the weather outside is lovely - and the bit I see from my bedroom window certainly bears that out. We are having what they call “blue sky days” which are a rarity but mean very little smog ! It’s very cold though (down to about -9 overnight, even city centre) and very dry. Better than the smog when I arrived, which was thick, acrid and bitter-tasting. Yuk.
Christmas is very much in evidence, with the hotels well decorated and one of the biggest trees ever in the next-door hotel, covered in pink baubles - if I get a chance I will post a picture of it!
My bed is very uncomfy - couldn't understand why until I investigated "beneath the sheets" to find that the mattress is shot to pieces and they have put a board across the top and a mattress topper on that. So - even for those amongst us who like a hard bed - it is ... solid in the extreme. But at least onlly 6 more nights of it, then one night in Edinburgh and finally home ! Hurrah. Can't wait. Our first Orkney Christmas and our first Ba' ( comment by Mark: I have bought the hand warmers ready for the Ba ) ... how exciting will that be !