Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Good vibrations

Summer is staggering to an end here in Westray with the nights drawing in quickly and weather that is as unsettled as the average stomach after a night of Tennents lager.

In the rush to "get stuff done" before the winter it's easy to spread yourself too thin and forget to kick back and relax. There was the ideal opportunity for that last weekend when the island played host to a series of music sessions under the banner Westray Connections.

Music plays a big part in Orkney life and it's hard not to be impressed by the level of competance and involvement of so many folk here, particularly the young. Getting up on stage and playing a fiddle or accordian here is not nerdy or embarrassing, it's something people are admired for.

That's due in no small part to the enlightened attitude towards music tuition. Every child in Orkney is entitled to free music lessons and when the islands council suggested that economic circumstances might force it to discontinue the policy, all hell was let loose and council officials wisely had another think, which just goes to show there's more to life than the bottom line.

So, to get back to the point, Westray Connections pulled in musicians from the island as well as those with a "Westray connection" - friends, relatives and so on. The music varied from classical through the varying shades of folk to a group of pipers and to something approaching prog. There was no gangsta rap, but, hey, you can't have everything. There was no room on the programme for a small-time pig farmer with grade three trumpet, but maybe next year.

Kicking off in the living room of Jerry's B&B at No. 1 Broughton, sessions continued at the old folk's home, the annual industrial show, a converted mill, an art gallery, the island hotel and a concert at the school hall.

It was great stuff, well supported and left me with a warm, happy feeling. . . or maybe that was the second large glass of Jamesons, I don't know.

Anyhoo. . . if you're wanting to see more, go to westrayslivingheritage.co.uk  or, if you're on Facebook, go to The Hall of Einar, where David Bailey (not THAT David Bailey) has a couple of hundred superb photographs of the weekend, one of which I've shamelessly pinched here. I assume I owe Dave a pint.

Friday, 17 August 2012

It's a shit job. . .

I have a part-time job at the island's heritage centre where, among other things, I man the till and smile nicely at the tourists who stagger in out of the Orkney wind and rain to see some of the relics excavated by archaeologists from the 5,000-year-old-plus settlement buried under the dunes at the north beach.

A couple of weeks ago Hazel, one of the aforementioned spade enthusiasts, turned up with some new stuff to put in the posh new cabinet the Heritage Trust spent a bloody fortune on this summer.

Among the artefacts was this. . .

. . . and if you can't quite make out the print, it's Coprolite or fossilised crap (they've called it 'poo', but this blog is in danger of being quite twee enough, thank you). Found on the midden by one of the buildings, it's probably dog crap and, no, I've no idea how they know that, although I can't help wishing it was something more exotic - baboon shit perhaps?

So, don't forget, come to the Westray Heritage Centre and have a really shit time.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

How to volunteer for the sausage factory

You try and do something nice for someone and are they grateful? Like hell they are.

No sooner do I take the decision to keep Molly in retirement rather than send her off for bratwurst, than she makes me look a right chump - again.

I strolled out into a dreich Westray morning with feed bucket in hand and the alarm bells went off straight away. No sign of herself.

I rattled the sow nuts in the bucket and watched in dismay as Molly came squeezing back into her paddock under the fence from the vegetable garden. My stomach lurched as I dumped some food on the ground to keep her occupied and went to have a look at the damage.

Almost the entire main crop of (about 70) cabbages was in bits, about three rows of carrots were dug up and there were onions all over the place. Although the beetroot had hardly been touched and the peas, beans, leeks and lettuce were still OK, 'Gutted' doesn't begin to describe my feelings.

Back in Molly's paddock, I firmly ushered the old girl back into the pigshed and shut her in to have a good think about her behaviour and went to have a look at the fence where she had removed a beam wired on at ground level to the fence posts in a effort to stop her digging (yeah, I know), not to mention three fair-sized flagstones dug into the ground, dug a steaming great hole under the fence and trashed the wire mesh in the process of squeezing herself under it.

I decided to leave her indoors for the day and set about replanting onions and sorting out whether there were any cabbages worth saving (there were ten and I promoted another 30 from the nursery rows - mercifully untouched), while trying to resist the temptation to book Molly in for "processing".

I may have said this before. . . bloody pig.