The first sod

Well it has started! The digger supplied by Allan Craigie, arrived this morning, a seven ton leviathan that was skilfully manoeuvred into our back garden and work started on digging the foundations. Having this enormous machine working just outside our office windows meant that for a good part of the time our internet satellite signal was blocked by it, thanks goodness for the ADSL backup line!

Ross, Peter and Jimmy were all kept supplied with cake and coffee by Anna and within a short while they had located the BT line and our Mains power cable, thankfully intact! Our mains water supply is still elusive. It was not long before they were down to the bed rock level. 

The internal doors made by Ross have been delivered on-site so we expect more progress in that department tomorrow as well, as the new flooring is down in the bedroom, bathroom and utility.

More news tomorrow.

Vikings!

Anna & Karen at the ready!

During her stay on the island, Karen discovered the delights of Gerry’s Ice Cream Parlour and did get to experience some nicer weather. We even got to do some book work with her. On her last day here was the first Viking torchlight procession and boat burning in Stromness as part of Stromness Shopping week. This turned out to be a very popular event with the streets lined with people most of whom had bought their £10 torch from the Clan charity. The Vikings arrived in the harbour on the bridge of the main ferry and looked resplendent in their costumes. Once they had disembarked and gathered themselves the boat was pulled along the main street followed by all the Vikings with their large torches lit. As they passed each of us lining the route they lit our torches and we joined in the procession. See the photos on Anna’s Flickr page here.

We moved slowly up the high street of Stromness with the old buildings towering over us in the narrow cobbled and paved street. Stromness is a very traditional looking fishing town of the 18 – 19th century. The high street is quite a length and as the boat burning was to happen right at the end on a spit of land next to the camping park we were walking for some time. Thankfully the wind had died down and anyway we were mainly shielded by the buildings so were not cold. Half way into the procession a group of Norwegians behind us starting singing old Viking songs. These songs had more the sound of a quiet hymn rather than a battle song and the effect was to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! It was quite a ‘moment’.

We eventually got to where the boat ( a half sized model of a Viking long ship ) was well alight, we had managed to avoid setting light to any of the people around us, although a guy nearly backed into my torch. Thankfully Anna spotted what was happening in time.  I am still trying to get the spilt wax off my coat, but all this was a small price to pay for a great experience and the Cancer charity raised several thousand pounds to boot!

The next day, Friday, Karen left us and after catching the ferry drove down to Pitlocry to stay at Westlands hotel, one of our favourite places. As it was Friday night it was ‘beer o’clock’ so it was off to the Flattie bar for us. However as another part of Stromness Shopping week there was a three-legged Fancy Dress beer crawl! So Anna took her camera along and you can see the results on her Flickr page. I got my beer and then we went home for a bite to eat and relax to get ready for the weekend.

Karen arrives

In the same week as I started at the NoB shop, our dear friend who is also our bookkeeper turned up to visit. She had booked herself into a local bed and breakfast as we currently barely have room to sleep ourselves! This was her first visit to Orkney and unfortunately despite the time of the year she was greeted with wind and rain. Not a good start as she had left Suffolk in the middle of a heat wave!

Still showing great stoicism Karen who had driven up in one go was not one to give up touring the island. We drove her round on the first day to show her the lay of the land and then she set off exploring as well as booking a tour around Stromness. She had time to visit the Ness whilst I was there, but it was a very cold and wet day and at the end of it Karen joked that she was looking up ferry times home !

One of the evenings we booked to visit a ‘fireside tales’ session at the bed and breakfast place Karen was staying at. We all sat in a peat smoke filled room and listed to Orkney tales of ‘fairie folk’ ‘selkies’ and other folk creatures. The presentation of these stories was acted out in a most mesmerising way by the lady of the house whilst her partner had given us a brief history of the house and the area and the specialness of its location. It was quite a memorable evening and we left around eleven smelling of peat, so when we got back to Mill Cottage I topped off the evening with a nip of Laphroig!

The NoB shop!

Nick Card by the standing stone

Firstly, apologies for the delay in updating the blog, it has been a busy week or so. The Archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar has started and I have volunteered a couple of half days a week, to help out at the shop on site that raises money to support the dig. Although the dig does get money from the Island Council, more is always needed. The American Friends of the Ness of Brodgar raised sufficient funds to extend the dig for an extra couple of weeks this year however the money that this shop raises makes a significant contribution to the work, just one carbon dated sample costs over three hundred pounds. Because of this volunteering I was invited on the initial tour of the dig by Nick Card the dig supervisor where he explained to the volunteers and the diggers as to what stage  the dig was at, the plans for it this year and any news from the research over the winter. It was a great experience to be allowed so close to the site and to have the various buildings explained to us by Nick and his colleagues.

My first day helping was rained off so I had to wait until the Monday to start. I met the lovely Annabel who with Linda run the shop most of the time. I was giving a few minutes of ‘staff training’ and set the job of selling squares on a map on the site. This method of fund raising has proved very popular, people pay £10 per square and mark it with a pin. Should anything be found on their square they will be emailed a photo of the find and a brief description. They also get a newsletter keeping them up to date on what is happening. This job keeps me very busy at times, it also means that because of where the map is placed you are often the first person people arriving on the site meet, and you soon get asked all sorts of questions, it is great fun dealing with these and hopefully I give the right answers! All the money from this, as well as any gift aid goes directly to the dig itself, it makes all the standing outside in the wind all the more worthwhile. Although it has now warmed up considerably, my first few days on the site were very cold and windy so I decided to buy the latest fashion accessory, available only from the dig – a NOB Hat ! ( see photo ) These and the tee shirts and polo shirts are only available from the NoB shop as we call it. So make sure you are ready for the next London Fashion week!

Work in Progress

Corridor
Utility
Guest Bathroom
Guest Bedroom

I thought you would like to see how far we have got this week!

Ross and Graham have been very busy the last two days. You can see more evidence on my Flickr page. We now have what look like rooms! The plumbing is mostly in and so is the wiring. Connecting up to come.

Ross will be back tomorrow to finish getting the rooms ready for the decorators to start on Monday :)

Dust is everywhere!

Today we went to Orkney Kitchens and put the 50% deposit on the kitchen so it can be delivered on the 7th of Sept. All very exciting!

 

 

 

Friends, and more chaos!

Sunday was an eventful day, we had the day set aside to sort out the final arrangements for wiring but just as we sat down to start our friends from East Mainland, Julie and Mike popped in as they had been visiting the Ness of Brodgar dig which has just started. It was great to show them the progress on the work here so far and have a natter.

In the afternoon we looked out of the window and saw a group of motor bikers standing around on the road, it didn't look right so we went out to take a look. One of the bikers ad come off and slid into the fence breaking a post and a hundred yards down the road his bike had come to a halt on our entrance wall. The biker was in a bad way but starting to come round, thankfully one of the first cars that we flagged down had a couple of nurses on board so they were able to help and advise what  to do. The Police and ambulance turned up and after a few hours the road was reopened. We heard today that the biker is Ok but has bad injuries to his legs and they will be operating on him later today. 

 
Today is Monday and it started last night with a late one. We went over to Birsay Kirk with Vicky and Ian to see the Jo Philby band which we both like.
After driving our friends back to their home, and stopping for a chat we finally got to bed gone midnight.
 
Monday morning we needed to be up as we were expecting the builders, electrician and plumber to arrive, which they duly did at nine. After showing them our ideas for the lighting and suffering the now obligatory ribbing followed by some very helpful suggestions they started. It was like a hurricane had arrived! The whole area erupted into a mass of activity with five tradesmen all doing their stuff! Anna was kept very busy supplying the now compulsory cake and hot drinks.
 
After lunch I sloped off to the Ness of Brodgar where I was to start my first spell of volunteering at the shop on site. The purpose of the shop is to raise funds for the dig and it is very busy. I had a great time chatting to the visitors and convincing them to spend their money at the shop. The site director, Nick Card visited a couple of times and stopped for a chat. I will be writing a bit more about the dig later.
 
I got back about five and entered the house with it looking like some set out of a post apocalyptic film, with wires hanging down everywhere ( not live of course! ) and half finished pipework everywhere you looked.
 
I have to go out first thing tomorrow to pick up some of our bathroom bits for the plumber, it is all go at the moment but getting very exciting.
 

Progress pictures

Today is Sunday and tomorrow the electrician and plumber arrive on site for first fitting. We have spent most of the weekend deciding on the final places for the lights and power sockets as well as the layout for what will be the guest bedroom.You will forgive the short post but I have to get back to drawing up the sketches so they all understand what we mean.

First day of Chaos

Well it has started !

Ross (he is the tall guy in the photos on Flikr )  and Graham, started demolishing the walls ready to start the rebuild.

Thankfully nothing bad has been found so far, and we have found where our mains water comes into the house - halfway along what was our bedroom wall ! As for the electrics all I can say is thank goodness it is being totally rewired!

We had allowed for this sort of thing so not panicking .....yet!
 
I will put all the photos on my Flickr page if you want to see all the gorey details!
 
More tomorrow.

Painting and Trout

This is just a short update on the progress of the cottage renovations: The sitting room at the west end of the house has been decorated. This took a little longer than anticipated but the job is an excellent one. The final fitting of the electrics still needs to be done but this will be completed when the rest of  the rooms have been re-wired so in the meantime we have to make do with extension leads, and table lamps!

Although this room will eventually be the sitting room and extra bedroom for guests, in the meantime we have had to move or main bedroom into it because the next stage is the demolishing and rebuilding of the bedroom, bathroom and utility rooms. We moved everything apart from the larger furniture across or into our storage container. Ross our builder turned up today and made a start on this. Tomorrow the walls will come down! All very exciting stuff!

I have made a couple of short videos of the renovation of the room for you to enjoy.
Sitting Room Part 1
Sitting Room Part 2

Yesterday evening as we were getting ready to go out to a John Rae Society meeting there was a knock at the door. When I opened the door a stocky man asked me if I wanted some fish. I first thought that he was some sort of door to door fish monger. Thinking that it would be a good thing to check him out and called for Anna. However Anna was in the shower so I was on my own with this one! “How many do you want? “he asked, showing me a large plastic bowl full of the freshest trout you have ever seen. “How much? “ I said. “Nothing” he replied “ I have just had a day fishing at Swanney Loch and have caught these”.

I took four off him and after a short chat he offered to take me fly fishing one day so I could have a go. The gentleman turned out to be one of our neighbours from across the loch who we have never met but I knew from the farmer that this guy was a very keen and able fisherman.  I thanked him and he went on his way whilst I took the fish inside.

By this time (  for those of you who don’t know such things, a couple of Orkney men talking for a ‘short time’ is nothing of the sort ) Anna was out of the shower and I explained what had gone on. “Well Google how to gut a trout then” Anna said. “I assumed that you knew” I replied. After being rescued from a piscine disaster by Mr Google we had a printout of what to do.

Half an hour later or there about we had four gutted large brown trout in the freezer ready for Anna to cook something yummy on a later day. An unexpected bonus.

Father's Day

Last Sunday was Father’s day, my first since moving to Orkney. Both my sons live in East Anglian so with seven hundred miles separating us the usual meal at a pub was going to be unlikely. Even more so in Tim’s case as he is currently in New Zealand setting up a new IT system for the UK based company that he works for.

But the distance did not stop my two ‘boys’ from remembering their Dad. At lunchtime ( 1 am New Zealand time ) Tim rang me to wish me a happy Father’s day apologising for the lack of card this year but with the trip to ‘upside down land’ he had forgotten until a few days ago. We had a long chat and it was good to hear his news and how he was getting on out there. Their V8 hire car is apparently quite quick and has considerably less rubber on the tyres now!

In the evening my other son, Oliver rang me to wish me Happy Father’s day and asked if I had got the card. I had not, the usually excellent Royal Mail service had let us down, but it did turn up on the Monday ( See photo ) It was a very apt and cheeky card that Oliver found there : ) He also sent me his own ‘fan edit’ of the Alien movie on DVD which he has been editing from the view point of what Ripley is seeing, it should be an interesting watch.

A times like this the distance we are all away from each other is really felt, but with modern communication no one is really far away, and we will all be meeting up at Oliver and Nicola’s Wedding in November anyway !

A glass of wine (or two) to toast our children’s health and we settled down to a film.

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