Summer has come early to Orkney, as it has to everywhere else. In our breezy spot above the beach we have reached temperatures of 15C or more, quite tropical for the Islands. In the Toon it has been warmer still and we haven’t had proper rain for almost a month. As our first visitors are just arriving we hope it holds off for another two weeks. A couple were sunbathing on our beach in swimming costumes the other day, I have been paddling and there has been a noticeable rise in the number of wild swimmers that we have been seeing and those without wet suits have very pink and glowing flesh!
We have been South three times in the early months of this year. In January for a very happy party for Mum’s 96th birthday party, then in February when the nursing home called us down. Mum died exactly two months after her birthday, peacefully a few days after we left her. Her funeral in early April was all we could have wished and, as many people commented, she would have enjoyed being there. We are sad of course, but also relieved as the nursing home years did not sit well with any of us. To reach 96 and remain interested in our big family and wide circle of friends was, indeed, an achievement. I wrote a blog which seems to have touched many people and which you can read here if you wish.
Mum’s death coincided with the beginning of work on our new kitchen - a perfect storm of emotional and physical chaos at Bendigo! It took over twice as long as estimated but we are thrilled with the result. Most importantly, the Bears now have a view, having been used to standing on a window sill in Tangmere where they could be admired. Our neighbour Margaret, who they look out over to the beach, amazed us by turning up with a couple of red and yellow striped scarves which she had knitted for them, worried that they were facing north and might be cold! (Old Bear is rather grateful as he has very little fur).
Our clubs and activities change for the summer. The traditional music group stops and will resume in October. Rehearsals for our St Magnus Festival concert with the Festival Chorus are getting serious now with just 5 more weeks to go. We are singing Vaughan William’s Dona Nobis Pacem. It is hard to listen to but thrilling to sing and we are very much enjoying it. We will be performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the concert will be recorded for Radio 3 at some stage. The Gardening Club gets outdoors in the summer with a number of outings and events. We have had the spring tidy-up at The Marengo Community Garden in St Margaret’s Hope, a tranquil and much used spot, popular with residents and visitors.
This weekend will see us on the Nature Festival cruise around the west coast of the Orkney Mainland up to Eynhallow and back to Stromness, hopefully seeing a plethora of wildlife and birds - there is a pod of orcas in the area but we have yet to see any. Puffins are returning, the little terns are back preparing to nest on our beach and sand martins are again resident at the secret beach at the end of our lane. There has been an early flush of the rare Primula Scotica, a tiny flower which is so easy to miss but we were lucky enough to find it the other day. Nick thoroughly enjoyed a talk by renowned Orcadian wildlife photographer Raymond Besant last weekend while I was helping out at the Wine Festival tasting fair, manning the port stand. On the Sunday we attended a delicious lunch with Portuguese wines at one of Kirkwall’s restaurants and rattled home on the bus afterwards. Next weekend is the Folk Festival and we shall be lapping up four concerts - we loved it last year and are really looking forward to it again. Orkney is rich in wonderful traditional music.
Our photography group continues all year round and we really enjoy going out to local places and just mooching around with our cameras. Everyone sees things so differently and the resulting shots shared on the group Facebook page are always so very different. We produced a calendar for the group this year and have also been asked by a couple of local tourist attractions to take some photos for them, for postcards and brochures. It is all good fun.
Our garden is progressing and the Keder polytunnel has kept us well fed all winter. Now the toms and cues are taking over. I am going to try a couple of courgettes in there now as I missed having them last year. we have got a bit of land ready for outdoor veg and protected by strong windbreak fabric and so are trying broad beans, onions, spinach and leeks within its protection. We shall see... There is a Gardening Festival this year in early July which we are looking forward to but will not be offering our garden to!
It was strange to return home after Mum’s funeral and know that the need to return to Sussex regularly was gone. We shall, of course, be back but Orkney is so definitely our home now and we both really love it here. Our integration continued this week as I did a cookery dem for Christian Aid Week - both Mum and Dad were keen house-to-house collectors for many years - and Nick is a wonderful Roady for such occasions. It all takes longer and is more tiring than it used to be (!) but it was a great success and I was pleased to do it, for the charity and for Mum and Dad.
Whatever your plans for the summer we hope that it is a happy time for you. We are taking bookings now for 2020...