2015 Posts

Here are the Blog posting for 2015 to try and keep the menu a bit tidy.

Trip 3 - The wedding

Oliver and Nicola

The next morning I left Anna and Steve at the Hotel to go and pick up Oliver to take him to the wedding. As agreed I was wearing a dark suit and the gold bow tie that Oliver had bought for me to wear. He was understandably nervous but excited as well. After a few moments of chatting we decided to make our way to the venue so as to be in good time.

The Venue was Layer Marney Towers in Colchester, this is a beautiful Tudor building set in lovely grounds. 

The Wedding went very smoothly and everyone seem to have a great time, the Bride, Nicola, turned up in a 1950's American car and not shoes! She had planned not to wear shoes to her wedding and that is what she did, but Oliver made up for this with his gold shoes! I asked Oliver what was being done about the rings, he said that his godson dressed as batman was bringing them down the isle on a spiderman cushion! This was certainly going to be a very personal wedding. After the ceremony we all went outside for photos and then headed back to the Hotel to meet up in the bar so that Oliver and Nicola's many friends who could not be invited to the reception could come and wish them well. It was certainly a packed bar! 

Around 5pm we all walked across the road to the reception  at an underground American diner in Colchester called ‘Sloppy Joe’s’. This restaurant Oliver has been going to since he was a babe in arms and it was the first time that they had ever done a reception. They really pushed the boat out! The photographers set up a studio there with lots of fun props for people to have their photos taken and a magician went around the tables and amazed everyone with his sleight of hand tricks. I still have no idea how he did them!

The food was fantastic and a huge selection, there was no dancing as Nicola and Oliver are not the dancing type and so there was lots of chance to chat and it seemed that everyone have a great time and it was lovely to meet up although there was not enough time to chat fully to everyone there.

We ended up back at the hotel for a night cap and arranged to meet up the next morning for breakfast, it was at this point Nicola announced that she had forgotten to pack a going away outfit and so she would have to come to breakfast in her wedding dress! This caused some merriment amongst the other guests at the hotel the next morning. Well I did say is was gong to be a very personal wedding and as one guest said to me later, " Of all the weddings I have been too, this was the best". Well done Oliver and Nicola, and good luck on your lives together. 

More Photos from Anna here

The Trip part 2

Campsite next to A12
Campsites on way down were often flooded

Apart from the issues with the Satellite system, the drive down was fairly uneventful. We had decided to not to pause too much as the weather was pretty yuck and there was the big storm coming in so we were quite glad when we pulled into Mark and Vickie’s place in Norfolk. They are doing this place up and it makes our project look simple in comparison and as a consequence they could not put us up, so a night in Badger was decided on. We walked down that evening to the local pub where Vickie is working part time in between her teaching and her studies, that girl is always busy, I reckon she gets it from her mum! We had a great evening and the next day all went into Bungay where the girls went shopping and us blokes compared the latest fashion items and discussed new hair styles! The next day it was into Badger to head for Colchester in the caravan park by the A12. This site has recently been bought by new owners and is a surprisingly nice park. Although next to the busy A12 the noise from this is pretty much constant and so you soon ‘tune’ it out, so it did not disturb our sleep.

The next day we collected the car we had hired for the time we were going to be in the area. We did this from Enterprise who picked us up from the camp site and took us to the car which was a rather nice new Qashqai in black. As Oliver wanted me to run him to the wedding in a couple of days’ time, I thought that doing this in the Motorhome would not be ideal ! That evening we drove over to Long Melford to meet up with Steve for a beer and an Indian Curry at Long Melford Valley which is one of our favourite places. We went to the Crown in Long Melford for a pint of Best and bumped into Steve and Julie who were just back from yet another holiday, this time it was Iceland, Steve is a very keen photographer and they got a chance to see the Northern Lights whilst there. I joked that there is no reason for them to visit us in Orkney now!

After the drinkies we walked ( as that is the tradition ) to the Indian and were welcomed warmly by the owner. After a splendid meal we drove back to the Old Railway Station, Steve had invited us to stay the night there but I am not really ready ‘move back in’ to the Station, more time needs to pass for me. We drove back to Badger at the camp site. The next few days were spent visiting Family and friends, apologies if we did get to meet up with you this time, but last time we really overdid things and this time we wanted to have time with Oliver and Nicola. We had a lovely meal with Tim and his girlfriend Vickki and her nine year old son Jordan who was superbly behaved and a credit to Vickki, although she did admit to me that when Tim was around it was like having two kids in the house!

Oliver had asked me to be Best Man which was a real honour although I did add the proviso that I could not as his dad, do the traditional Best Man’s speech. I spent some of the evening with Oliver who was on his own as Nicola was spending the night with her Mum. We compared notes on who was wearing what and what was to be done the next day. Unsurprisingly Oliver was excited and nervous. A lot of the details of the wedding arrangements they were keeping quiet about so it was with some in trepidation that Anna and I booked ourselves in to the George Hotel in Colchester High Street the night before and after a nice meal at ASK with Steve who was also booked in, we settled down for the night.


More about the wedding to follow……

The Trip part1

The broken LNB

I haven’t posted for quite some time, mainly because we had to go south for my youngest son , Oliver’s, wedding. We had decided to do the trip in our motorhome ‘Badger’ and to take our time heading down so that we could perhaps find some light fittings for the house. Because of a large storm arriving within the next few days we decided to leave Orkney a couple of days early just in case the ferry was cancelled which would then mean a rush to get to the wedding, a deadline that we just could not miss!

The crossing was nice and calm which suited me, in fact whilst on the ferry our builder Ross greeted us as he was on his way to meet up with his wife as they were about to fly to Tenerife for a holiday. Whilst we and Ross are away the decorators are going to finish off with a final coat and the plumbers and electrician would do a few of the final jobs that needed doing. Well that was the plan anyway! This enforced break was caused simply because of the delay we had previously experienced and so these pre-booked holidays should not have affected the schedule, but these things happen and in the end it worked out quite well to have this ‘hiatus’ in the work whilst we were away as well.

Although we were in the middle of hosting our annual Children in Need Bridge Simultaneous event the motorhome is equipped with satellite internet and we can do everything from it or so we thought! A month or so previously the LNB at the end of the dish fell off! A combination of high winds and salt air had corroded the bolts on its bracket and it had come apart. “Never had anything like that before” was the half expected answer I got when I rang the excellent Nathan at Conrad Andersons in Birmingham, the people who fitting the dish nearly three years ago. “Never mind it is still under its three year warranty just bring it in”. Now that was a problem and it was decided that as I’m fairly handy in the electronics department that it would be fine for me to remove the LNB myself and send it back for replacement. Trying to do this on top of a 3.2m motorhome with every connection covered with heat shrink sleeving was not the easiest of tasks but careful use of sharp knife and pointed pliers the job was done.

The part was sent off for replacement to the importers who then sent it to the manufactures in Germany and then we heard no more until I started chasing it. Eventually the new LNB arrived with a completely redesigned bracket assembly, as they claimed that they had never had a problem before, I’m not sure what prompted a redesign, but I was glad to see it. As the winds had stared to get up and I didn’t fancy trying to fit the LNB in 30mph winds we took Badger over to Catherine and Neil Corsie’s place where they let me drive into their barn to do the work under cover. The job went well and a quick test showed the dish found the satellite and the TV worked, foolishly as time was advancing, I thought that was it and didn’t test any further. It was only when we had made the ferry crossing and we camped at the first site in Culloden that I discovered all was not well with the Satellite internet system. It would not lock on to the Internet although it was receiving some TV channels. A series of phones calls along with various trials and tests followed over the next few days until I managed to get the system to a state where it would not even receive TV! It was decided that there was something quite serious with the system and so a stopover in Birmingham would be required. However because of where we were and the deadline of the wedding we could only be in Birmingham that weekend and of course the workshop is closed at weekends! So we booked an appointment for our journey back in a few weeks and carried on using a combination of Wi-Fi on the campsites where available and our mobile phones tethered as a hot spot. Because of this we both galloped through our monthly allocation of data but we struggled by.

On the way back after the wedding and a stop off in Bristol to see Catherine, Mark and Grandson Sam we finally got to Conrad Anderson to get the Satellite system looked at, this we all thought would be a job of no more than a couple of hours. Two days later, which involved us sleeping the night in Badger in the secure car park on an Industrial estate in darkest Birmingham we were up and running again. The problem? Well let me start; first the roof had delaminated because of the strain placed on it by the dish in some high winds. This was glued back but would take time to dry. The mechanism was removed for testing and it then transpired that the new LNB required a different driver board which was not supplied. After a series of phone calls to Germany Nathan got the manufacture to agree that this should also be under warrantee, phew! Then it looked like our modem was not working as it should which would be another £300 but after a lot of swapping of bits around and a connection remade, it was got to work. As we hadn’t used the system for nearly 18mounth the actual satellites that it should point to had changed so that also needed programming in and so at the end of day two we eventually were able to drive away with a fully working Oyster Satellite internet system. We were very impressed with the efforts and the standard of service that we got from Conrad Anderson but it was a bigger job than anyone had expected, still at least we are ready for the next trip!

More about the wedding in the next posting…….

Let there be light!

The lights in the kitchen
View towards the dinning area

Although a lot is being done in the house it is more of the ‘fiddly bits’ and so not so impressive in photos. It is amazing all the things that need to be done. As soon as the kitchen units are in place you assume that the work is nearly done but the case is far from it. But today we reached a milestone, the lighting was switched on for the first time and we are really pleased with it! Although it looks like a lot of lights, well yes it is a lot of lights, but they are on multiple circuits so that different moods can be chosen depending if you want subtle whilst listening to music right up to bright lighting for reading or working.

The units for our new office have been fitted but the finishing touches to the desk have yet to be done. The En-suite is awaiting final fix and the central heating cannot be fully commissioned until the tiling cement on the floor has had time to cure. I have had some serious fun and games with getting my head around programming up the wireless all singing all dancing Honeywell EvoHome system. It’s not particularly difficult, it is just that there are so many ways it can be set up, I think after a couple of sleepless nights with the heating coming on at seemly random times, I think I may have cracked it! We are both looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight after going to see the firework display in Stromness.


Witches Brew from Jerrys

On Friday night, whilst having our traditional end of the week ‘beer o’clock’ at the Flattie bar in Stromness we got chatting to the barman and one of the locals and it transpired that during the winter season the Hotel that is attached to the bar from time to time holds a ‘themed meal night’ and this Saturday evening it was going to be Chinese. Everyone in the bar spoke very highly of the quality of these meals and as we haven’t had a Chinese for about a year, although there are a couple of Chinese restaurants on the island, Anna and I thought it would be a great idea to give it a try. Unfortunately the evening was fully booked but they would give us a call if they had any cancelations.

The next day whilst driving into Kirkwall I got a call from the shop that had our new fridge freezer in storage for us. They had a customer who needed a replacement fridge freezer in a hurry as theirs had packed up and the shop wondered if they could sell ours and get us another one for next Friday. Of course we agreed as we were not quite ready to take delivery.

After doing what shopping we had to we headed back home and found a message on the home line from the Hotel, they had had a cancellation and so we could come to the Chinese Buffet meal that night. The night turned out to be great fun, we met quite a lot of people we knew, and it seemed to be very popular the food was delicious! Lots of it and you could keep helping yourself. We had a great night which was rounded off with some live music.

Previous to this bacchanalian feast, we had arranged to meet up with a couple that Anna had been chatting to via Facebook. They had moved up the same time as us and had rented one of the places we had seriously look at, ‘Green Kitchen House’ we had nicknamed it. We agreed to meet up in Julia’s for a coffee and it turned out that the couple were heavily involved in the Orkney Archaeology Society (OAS). The news was also broken to me that I had been nominated to the OAS committee, something that was suggested a while ago but as I hadn’t heard anything I just assumed that I had been ‘blackballed’. Apparently not.

They seem to ‘do’ Halloween big time here in Orkney, the shops are full of merchandise along with almost every shop doing a special themed display, when we popped into Jerries’ Ice Cream parlour the weekend she closes for the winter, she even had a couple of specials with a Halloween theme so I just had to treat ( or is that ‘trick or treat’ ) myself to a ‘Witches Brew’ – Orkney ice cream with green jelly, black sugar dust and lots of suitably shaped jelly pieces, yummy.


We have access!
Anna in her new kitchen
Do you think there are enough wires?
Awaiting harling ( and Peter )

Today there was a momentous event at Mill Cottage, the door between the old building and the new extension, was re-opened! This had been screwed shut and blocked off to stop the huge amounts of dust that was generated when the concrete floors were pulled up and the walls had holes cut in them!

So now we can once again walk into the extension without going outside. This is a particular treat today as we are currently experiencing the first storm of the winter here. Whilst some parts of Scotland are experiencing 80+ mph winds we have not had much over 40 mph at Mill Cottage. But this along with the horizontal rain makes it rather unpleasant going outside. If fact Peter was due to come and start putting the harling on the outside of the extensive but decided against this, although we thought he could just stand in the garage doorway and throw the harling out and the wind would have done the rest !

Despite the appalling weather I still saw a Hen Harrier hunting at the bottom of the garden today, that and the sideways flying starlings made for some entertainment as we all tucked into one of Anna’s home baked cakes at elevenses . Yesterday when we had quite a number on site, Dwayne and Graham turned up to check on progress and see when they would be needed next. They managed to time this to just when the freshly baked Victoria sponge was brought through by Anna. I have never seen a whole sponge disappear so quickly! 

Kitchen Arrives

The kitchen arriveth
Blockwork done
Geese fly in
Starlings recharging

T'is Friday and mid-morning the kitchen turned up. The painters were still putting the last coat on the walls but were very good humoured working around the units. This particular kitchen is built by the German firm of Nobilia and designed and supplied by Kelly of Orkney Kitchens. All the units arrive fully assembled, no flat packs here, and as a consequence they seem to take up an awful lot of room! ( see photos ) The large ‘breakfast bar’ counter looks fantastic but you will have to wait a little longer before a photo of that as it is currently upside down in the pile!

Peter, Bruce and Ross have been continuing with the blockwork outside and fitting the lintels and the window ledges, it is all looking great. We are very happy with the way things are progressing and a lot of our friends here have expressed surprise at how quickly things are going, but don’t tell Ross that!

We have ordered the light fittings for the rooms as well as the ceiling speakers from KEF which arrived today, it is all a bit like Christmas coming early!

Workwise it has been busy here with Children in Need coming up. Anna has almost caught up on her sleep a couple of lie in’s at the weekend should see her fine. The weather has been great here with very little wind and about 13 deg. The geese entertain us during the day with their large squadrons flying in and out making quite a racket, the startling’s are populating the power wires en-mass. There is an amazing amount to watch and even the midges who come out when the wind drops, seem to have stopped biting, or perhaps we are just getting used to them!

The Big Reveal

As it looked just after Anna left
The new Kitchen
Our new view from the dinning room
Our new garden, big mower required!
The blockwork starts

Well Anna is back from India, all went well apart from her getting a nasty tummy bug which required some anti-biotics from the doctors there. But Anna made a good recovery after a couple of days and was well enough for the flight back which went very smoothly with all the connecting flights. Around 7pm on Sunday I picked her up from Kirkwall airport. As it was dark at that time of the evening particularly as there was no moon, she could not see any of the work that had been done, that would have to wait for Monday morning.

Come the morning Anna was quite excited to see all the work that had been done whilst she was away. Taking her into the extension to show her the changes as well as the majorly altered garden area was a bit like one of the scenes from those dreadful ‘make over’ programs on TV where they do the ‘big reveal’. However Anna’s reaction was not faked in anyway, she was amazed and delighted and even had a tear in her eye. So I gathered that she was happy with what had been achieved in the two and a half weeks.

Whilst we had the digger on-site I asked if the hedge across the rear garden could be removed as it was now blocking our new view of the loch. It took all of ten minutes for the deed to be done and the transformation is amazing, helped enormously by the work done at levelling off this area which previously was at a lower level to the house and hence was difficult to get to and so was previously over run with weeds. It now is a very usable area which is so large that when the grass grows back could well justify a sit-on mower, result!

Work continues this week with the decorators finishing off the filling, painting is starting tomorrow ( Thursday ) and this week Peter, Ross and Brian have been busy with building the block work for the outside walls of the extension, the kitchen is arriving on Friday!!!!!

Sunny Sunday

Sunday was an amazing day weather-wise, the sun came out, the wind dropped and it got positively hot. I left Ross fitting the ridge tiles to the roof as the correct ones had been delivered and storms were being predicted for latter in the week. As it was the first Sunday in the month it was time for a drive up to Dounby for their indoor car boot sale. This is quite a social event and a good time to meet up with folks from the other parts of the island particularly for us, our friends from Burray. This time it was particularly busy and I had trouble finding a parking space in the large car park. After eventually parking I wandered in and I ended up having a good ‘blather’ to a couple of friends that I met there, a walk around the stalls didn’t reveal anything that caught my attention so as it was getting near to lunchtime ( the car boot show doesn’t start until about noon, very civilized I think! ) and as I was near to the Orkney Brewery and tomorrow was my birthday I thought I would treat myself to a burger there.

I got a warm welcome when I arrived from the ladies who work there, as we had met before on several occasions. Eating on your own is never the greatest experience but the burger was great, washed down with a half of their Red McGregor bitter. When came the time to pay, I spotted one of the waitresses who I had worked with at the Ness of Brodgar was hiding behind the counter eating a piece of Rocky Road cake. When I questioned her about the stealth eating, she admitted that it was her birthday yesterday and the cake was a present from one of the other ladies. So when I said that my birthday was the next day a piece of this cake was offered and very nice it was too! People are so friendly here and I left the place not feeling quite such a ‘billy no mates’ as I felt when I arrived at the brewery.

As the day was so nice I decided to take a little walk by Skail Bay but instead of walking along the beach I took the route by the little church and along the cliff tops. The path is a little tricky in places but after storms Anna and I have taken some great photos from this walk. I found a comfortable slope on the cliff top and settled down in the sun and had a little kip (see photo ).

When I got back to Mill Cottage there was just time to have a shower and get ready for the John Rae Society AGM that evening. This went very well, and after the formal business was done everyone ended up chatting away and eating some of the lovely food that had been provided.

Monday was my birthday and my first since we moved to Orkney. The day passed keeping busy with work and liaising with the builders. I opened all the cards that had arrived the previous weeks and my two sons Oliver and Tim rang me in the evening to wish me happy birthday as well as my old friend Mark Boreham which was nice.

This week the building is going well and we have a digger back on the site. The improvements he has made to the garden area and the area by the Grain Store are fantastic, but I shan’t be posting any photos of the work until next week. This is because I want to surprise Anna when she gets back next Sunday so apologies to everyone about that. You will have to wait for the ‘big’ reveal later.


Apologies about the weather station not updating but the new extension has blocked the signal from the station to the unit plugged into the computer. All will be sorted when we move back!