Sunday, October 25, 2015

Seeking the Stroma Phone Box

A little over a year ago, I posted Musings on Small Scottish Islands, in which I discussed Stroma and Foula. The other day, I was reading the Wikipedia article about Stroma, and it settled - with reckless abandon - a question I had from last year with respect to where that photo of Stroma's telephone booth was. And I quote:

For many years, the islanders had no means of contacting the mainland in emergencies other than signalling with hand lamps and hoping that someone would see them. A radio telephone was installed in 1935, and in 1953 a telephone cable was laid. A red telephone box was installed in the centre of the island, symbolic of the 6 millionth phone box installation in the UK. It is still there today, though no longer in use.

I looked at that photo I posted and proposed that the phone box was probably located near here. Well, I was right, because if you look at this Wikipedia photo that shows both the phone box and the church, you can see from the shadow that this is the church's steeple, so based on the angle (which suggests that the satellite photo was probably taken in the middle of the afternoon), this little shadow is the phone box. Of course, the photo makes it brutally obvious, particularly when you check out that red shipping container to the north of the church.

It's yet another good lesson, though I'd have preferred a bit more of a challenge... But more on that in a future post.

ER II Surpasses VR

While I was in Scotland, I wrote a series of posts on the royal cyphers. This included features on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. The latter sovereign recently surpassed the former's record as the longest-reigning monarch in British history. My favorite feature on the event came from the BBC, which published a pictorial entitled Queen Elizabeth II, 63 years in 63 pictures - and the photo for 1979 features Queen Elizabeth's 1979 visit to Oman, and a young-ish Sultan Qaboos!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Island Paradise: Recent Bits and Bobs

About a month ago, I posted the definitions of all of the words from the 2014/'15 season of Whassigo on BBC Radio Orkney. Wednesday marked the 2015/'16 season premier of Whassigo, and I've already started keeping track of the words and their definitions. That potentially saves me the trouble of listening to each episode all over again like I did earlier this year, but I may end up doing that anyway.

As I was listening, I tried to look up one of the words. I didn't have access to my copy of The Orkney Dictionary, but a few months ago I discovered an old book online: An etymological glossary of the Shetland & Orkney dialect; with some derivations of names of places in Shetland. It didn't have the word I was looking for (and I just checked, neither does The Orkney Dictionary), but while I was looking for that book, I also found The Orkneys and Shetland; their past and present state. I'll probably peruse the latter on my Kindle to look for potential passages to use in my book.

So, what else has been going on in Orkney?

  • The Kirkwall constabulary worked with BBC Radio Orkney to try to reunite a stuffed lioness with its owner, though I'm not sure if the appeal was successful.
  • On a recent installment of the BBC Radio Orkney Postbag segment, a gentleman writer complained of sexual harassment by rowdy lasses at the pub when he'd elected to wear his kilt. (Skip to 24:24.)
  • The BBC mothership did a feature about the North Ronaldsay sheep. (I got a North Ronaldsay sheepskin for my parents before leaving Orkney in 2013.)

    Pretty soon, Orkney will be gearing up for the severe Winter gales. If you're Orcadian and you're reading this, good luck!
  • Monday, September 14, 2015

    Catching Up with the Shetland Ponies

    Lady Jaye joined me on the East Coast for the Summer, which was great. Unfortunately for you, the valued Operation Highlander readers, that sort of precluded me from doing much blogging. I'm going to be catching up over the next couple of months, and I wanted to start with some recent shenanigans from our good friends... The Shetland Ponies! When we last visited the lads, they were observing a loose bull in Lerwick. In this installment, they're joined by their friend, Ingrid, who just read a news story from May...

    No installment featuring the Shetland Ponies would be complete without our intrepid curmudgeons, Sigurd and Thorfinn. There's been an unsettling story out of New Pitsligo in which a pony was sexually assaulted and stabbed, and had to be euthenized. (The reward for the apprehension of the perpetrator currently stands at £4000.) Unfortunately, the lads are familiar with the victim...

    I'll wrap up with a story that didn't actually happen in Shetland, but given the popularity of the Unst Bus Shelter, one would be forgiven for thinking it had: Free travel pass for Aberdeen bus stop cockerel. That's right, not to be outdone by that Japanese cat that's a train station manager, some chicken in Aberdeen gets a free bus pass. I call shenanigans!

    Wednesday, September 9, 2015

    Separated by a Common Language: Orcadian Dialect Edition, Part 3

    Earlier this year, I posted about Northern Isles evening radio programs. Once BBC Radio Orkney's Winter program season came to a close, I - no joke - went back through the six installments of Whassigo, recorded every word and its definition, and present them now in this latest edition of Separated by a Common Language.

    November 2014
  • dillo - A small area of cultivated ground.
  • geskafoo - Pleasant in manner; old Norse for "full of pleasantness".
  • pulty - A short, stout person (or, to be short and stout), from the Norse "bult".
  • blooro - A passionate argument that could degenerate into a melee.
  • skafal - A shapely, well-built person (particularly in the face).
  • stram - A state of excitement.

    December 2014
  • chiggo - A well-built lass.
  • favillo - An idle, lazy person.
  • stunky - Slow-witted or stupid; also, a person who is not taking part in festivities.
  • limiter - A lame animal.
  • mittle - A serious injury, or to be "seriously mittled".
  • skint - An admonition to hurry up, from the Norse "skynda", "to hasten".
  • peltrie - A group of unwanted visitors.

    January 2015
  • sugg - A patch of hard skin on the hand (like a callus).
  • hingle - A bracket that holds a lamp.
  • jimp - A bit short, e.g., sparing or economical.
  • fest - To tether an animal, particularly in a field with a stake.
  • veeze - To grab something tightly.
  • skate-rumple - An inhabitant of Deerness.

    February 2015
  • ligny - A calm spot on the sea caused by an oil slick.
  • sivvet - Birsay word meaning a blow or a smack.
  • pangse - To walk as if walking through deep snow.
  • lotherfoo - Peaceful and amiable.
  • skiggan - Norse for clear, transparent, bright, and clean.
  • bugget - A large, clumsy person, from the old Norse "bugge".

    April 2015
  • darrowas - Rousay word for a good scolding.
  • baiver - To be blown about or struggling against the wind (Danish-Norse).
  • rink - A twist in one's neck.
  • dabal - A piece of wet land.
  • griminagerous - Hideous (referring to facial features).
  • rammelgoforth - A rash and hurried person.

    April 2015 #2
  • simean - Putting on aires or graces.
  • tud - A Marwick word meaning sudden changes in air pressure resulting from gales
  • glinted - Lightheaded, flirtatious, frolicksome.
  • vansome - A Norn word describing someone who is difficult to please and/or deal with.
  • varless - Awkward or clumsy in gait or movement.
  • boonie - A farmer.

    I'd be really tempted to use flash cards to memorize these and previous Whassigo words if I weren't reasonably sure that most Orcadians wouldn't actually recognize any of these words if they were to hear them in conversation!
  • Sunday, July 26, 2015

    Third Blog Anniversary: The State of Aberdeen

    As I spent more than a year in Scotland, every day is effectively an anniversary. Today marks three years since I started this blog to document my preparation for, time in, and return from Scotland... And a few other bits and bobs along the way.

    I decided to pursue an MSc in Strategic Studies from the University of Aberdeen in 2010, but was only familiar with Aberdeen from an overnight stay in 2004, and wasn't very familiar with the University before my arrival in 2012. One source that piqued my interest in those Summer months was this article from The Guardian, from 2005. Until last week, I hadn't read it in years, so I was curious how much of the article was true to my experience.
    What's the price of a pint (of lager)? About £2 on average.

    And the price of a kebab? Somewhere around the £3 mark, but the local delicacy of chips and cheese is widely available for nearer £2.
    Not surprisingly, prices had adjusted for inflation by the time I arrived in Aberdeen. I think a kebab was about £6, and you could probably get lousy beer at The Union Bar (see below) for £3 or £4.
    The public transport system is extensive, expensive and rarely on time.
    Yeah, public transport wasn't particularly cheap. It tended to run on time, though. I wish I'd spent more time riding more routes while I was there... I'll have to try that again at some point.
    For the sports fan, the city has an ice rink, several pools and at least one mediocre professional football team, not to mention weather so cold it generally precludes exercise out of doors.
    I don't remember an ice rink. There was a tiny pool that I never had the chance to use that was located in the basement of King's Pavilion, and the big pool at the Aberdeen Sports Village opened after I had already left Scotland. The Bon Accord Baths were closed in 2008, three years after this article was published and four years before I arrived. The mediocre professional football (soccer) team is on point, though I think that The Director and his son were supporters.
    What's it like as a place to study? The university's King's College campus is a mixture of historic college buildings, modern study halls and the occasional brutalist monstrosity.
    Three words: Hideous Glass Cube. (Also, King's College.)
    It has all the facilities a modern campus should have; 24-hour computer labs, a well-stocked library or two, hundreds of tiny rooms to cram many sweaty, verbose arts students into, lecture theatres big enough to house an Ice Age and, most importantly, a quiet little pub for the lecturers.
    I miss The Machar.
    What are the teaching staff like, in general?
    By and large, the teaching staff are affable and welcoming. There's a wide range of ages, from late-20s to late-hundreds, and most specialities within a given subject are covered.
    I remain quite fond of The Director, E, and Critical Mass, the latter two of whom are my friends via Facebook, and the former of whom I still E-mail regularly.
    What's the social life like?
    Despite the sad demise of the union last year, Aberdeen still has a plethora of social options; from uberclubs like Liquid and Espionage, to local surprises such as Estaminet and Kef. We're also well served on the pub front. We've got trendy style bars selling flavoured vodka and a sheen of sophistication on Belmont Street, and a number of traditional, authentic pubs serving Real Ale for Real Men - possibly prototypes for Scottish theme pubs.
    I never went into Espionage. Apparently it only has two stars on Yelp, and found itself in difficulty after I left. Liquid was replaced by Institute which was where GBU-16 defeated The Finn. I never heard of Estaminet or Kef, but Siberia and Revolution still peddle vodka to the local populace. I could look up the names of other pubs, particularly those on Belmont Street, all day.
    In all cases, you can find a kebab shop or takeaway of some description within spitting distance of almost any bar or club you care to name. Chief among them are favoured post-union chippie, the Tastie Tattie, and, for baked goods goodness at stupid o'clock, Thain's 24-hour bakery on George Street.
    There are plenty of Kebab shops, but why go anywhere other than Lionel's? (Or the Gurkha Kitchen, although it's not in the City Center.) I never went to Thain's, nor did I visit the Tastie Tattie, the latter of which appears to have awful reviews.
    For those of us who enjoy spending our free time in a darkened room with strangers, Aberdeen has a couple of large multiplexes, but is also home to the charming Belmont Cinema, where'll you find US indie hits, foreign classics and the best in repertory cinema. That's not even mentioning the weekly, rock-hard film quiz.
    I saw a lot of movies in Aberdeen's various cinemas, such as Skyfall at the Union Square cinemas, the Dark Night Trilogy and Predator at The Belmont, and Sunshine on Leith at the Vue Cinemas, among others. (I never participated in the film quiz, though.)
    What are the student societies like?
    Given it only takes eight people to affiliate a society to the Aberdeen University Students' Association (AUSA), there are societies for anything you can think of, from the obvious (Cinema, Centrestage - the student's theatre group, Debater) to the slightly more obscure (Balinese Gamelan, Anime and Manga, Law Mooting). On top of that, there are over 50 sports clubs, including some of the best student teams in Britain. You can play anything from archery to volleyball, while the sports union's facilities and minibuses make it possible to compete at events almost anywhere in the UK.
    I assume all of this is still vaguely true. CN Ness ran for AUSA office. We sort of had our own little group that didn't really require the affiliation of a society to AUSA, so I didn't really run into any of this, save for one jam-packed reception hosted by the International Relations Society.
    What's the accommodation like?
    There are two uni-run, on-campus halls of residence; Crombie and Johnston. Both are well fitted, with decent catering and facilities, even if the en-suite toilets in Crombie are a little more luxurious than freshers deserve. However, the main student hall is Hillhead, some 10-15 minutes walk from King's campus. Its design, as legend would have it, is based on a Swedish women's prison and it isn't the most inviting of places. That said, the environment certainly brings people together. You half expect to hear them whistling the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai when you walk into the Moon, the bar in the central building. It's actually called the Watering Hole, but (apparently) has no atmosphere. In addition to the Moon, Hillhead has its own computing labs and its own AUSA shop, with a small video rental section.
    I never actually witnessed Crombie or Johnston, or the King's Hall (which is omitted from the article, but which was, if I remember correctly, the residence of CN Templar). I lived at Hillhead, in one of the buildings which had yet to be renovated and had, as such, been relegated to foreign postgraduate residents (and a few first years, also know as "freshers"); I've occasionally joked that, contrary to being designed after a Swedish women's prison, my section of Hillhead (North Court) had been designed by an underling of Joseph Stalin. "The Watering Hole" had been resurrected as "The Union Bar" by the time I arrived, and was allegedly on the verge of being shut down. I tended to go elsewhere to enjoy myself because The Unioon Bar wasn't a particularly good place to meet people or hang out. So, maybe it should have been called the Moon. I don't think the AUSA shop still exists (I think it's been moved to The Hub, on the main campus). There's a Keystore (convenience store) and, at the time, there was a Chinese takeaway, as well as laundry facilities. Hillhead offered everything you needed, and nothing more.
    What do the locals make of students?
    It's hard to say whether the locals actively dislike the students, or merely tolerate them. With King's and Foresterhill (which houses the medical school) being out of the city centre, it's hard not to see Aberdeen and Aberdeen University as pretty separate entities. The major interactions between the two communities usually ends with a barman shaking his head and muttering "bloody students".
    I may sound like an arrogant American here, but I had expected a bit more of the "Wow Factor" from being American. There was certainly some of it, but the universities, the energy industry, and the United Kingdom's membership in the European Union have made Aberdeen so cosmopolitan that most people didn't seem to notice. I suppose I wasn't an orthodox student, being a thirty-year-old postgraduate.
    What's your favourite place in the university?
    It's hard to beat lounging on Elphinstone lawn with a good book on a sunny day. Failing that, the Gaudie office is a dark den of filth, flaky paint and student journalists but, crucially, has central heating and broadband.
    I spent most of my time on campus at The SOC. There's very little air conditioning on campus, so when the Spring and Summer months made it too hot to work in the SOC, I ended up finding a particular Starbucks location and doing most of my work there.
    What's the worst place?
    On balance, the Gaudie office.
    I just want to reiterate what I've openly stated before: The Gaudie makes the student newspaper at my hometown's community college look like the Washington Post. (Apparently it's the United Kingdom's oldest student newspaper, and apparently it almost died; who knew?)
    What makes you proud of your university?
    The feeling of history. The University of Aberdeen has a long and distinguished history...
    I agree.
    And what makes you cringe about it?
    ...but it doesn't half go on about it.
    I'm not really even sure what this means. I guess I'll just caveat by saying that the 2013/'14 university prospectus featured the Hideous Glass Cube, rather than King's College. I thought that was a colossal mistake.
    How would you recommend it to your little brother/sister?
    Probably; Aberdeen has all the best bits of the other Scottish cities and unis; culture to rival Edinburgh, nightlife to rival Glasgow, history to rival St Andrew's or Stirling, roundabouts to rival Dundee; and then adds a little something extra. I think it's called wind chill.
    Yeah, something like that.
    And can you sum up the place in three words?
    Like grey? Good.
    I love grey. As such, it was the perfect fit for me.

    * * *

    Slow though the rate of posting may be, there's more yet to come here at Operation Highlander.

    Thursday, July 23, 2015

    Debacle in Shetland: News About Fair Isle

    Two years ago, I posted about my brief encounter with Fair Isle. For the uninitiated, Fair Isle is a tiny island located halfway between Orkney and Shetland. It's quite sparsely populated, famous for its sea bird colonies and knitwear exports, and extremely remote. Most of the island is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, which gets to interview anyone who wants to move there. In 2013, I said of Fair Isle:
    "In all honesty, as we were passing by and I was taking pictures, all I could think about - probably informed by my bizarre experiences in Shetland - was how only a mongrel idiot would sail past Fair Isle and think to themself, "Hey, that looks like a great place to establish a colony!" It sort of makes you wonder whether the colonists were volunteers, or voluntold."
    Well, wouldn't you know it, the population of Fair Isle is in decline, and the Shetland Islands Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are trying to change that.

  • Shetland Times: Plan to boost Fair Isle community
  • The Scotsman: Remote Fair Isle seeking new residents
  • BBC: Bid to boost Fair Isle population launched

    Does anyone think I could get my application approved? Anyway, for a bit more footage of Fair Isle, click here to see a segment from the BBC's Coast program.
  • Saturday, July 18, 2015

    Island Paradise: Stoats Reloaded

    Two years ago, I wrote about stoats in Orkney. Well, it appears that there are still stoat concerns. You'd think that with all of those cats, the handful of stoats would have no chance.

    Thursday, July 9, 2015

    Island Paradise: The Great Clapshot Debate of 2015

    Each Wednesday, Radio Orkney runs a segment called the Postbag in which letters from members of the Orkney community (and once, just once, from me!) are read over the air. I look forward to it every week - last week, I actually got disappointed on Tuesday morning when I realized that I had to wait another day to listen to it.

    A couple of years ago, I wrote about clapshot - here and here. Clapshot is delicious... Or is it? Gray 1 told me that it only qualifies as clapshot if the potatoes and turnips have been through a freeze, and the neeps and tatties I tried had not yet been through a freeze. Anyway, what I had was delicious, and if it wasn't clapshot, it was at least close. Well, that very issue came up over the course of several weeks in some Postbag segments earlier this year:

  • January 28th 2015
  • February 4th 2015
  • February 11th 2015

    I'm calling it the Great Clapshot Debate of 2015. And the highlight? On February 11th, Radio Orkney presenter Helen Foulis read a letter. And I quote:
    "Once you've got your clapshot on the plate, there are a few dos surrounding ways to eat it. First of all, there has to be butter available on the table - real butter, obviously, especially now that we've heard that real butter is actually good for you. First, dig a hole in the top of your pile of clapshot until it resembles a volcano. Then, place a large knob of butter in the crater of the volcano, and add a generous pinch of salt and some black pepper. Then, replace all the clapshot that you've previously excavated fae the clapshot mountain, and smooth over the top so that the butter is contained within the structure. Wait a few minutes, and then dig out a small hole in the side of your clapshot mountain, and allow the molten butter to cascade out like lava flowing from an erupting volcano. Pure bliss."
    Fantastic. I may actually try to make some clapshot for Lady Jaye one of these days - according to one commentator in the Great Clapshot Debate of 2015, you can accomplish the freezing process by putting the potatoes and turnips into the freezer. Watch this space!
  • Sunday, July 5, 2015

    Island Paradise: Highland Park Podcast

    Lady Jaye got me a Fire TV Stick for my birthday (and an actual TV prior to my birthday, though that one's more for her than for me), and among other things, I've been using it to listen to audio using the TuneIn Radio app. I decided to plug "Orkney" into the search, and stumbled upon a couple of podcasts, including one about Highland Park. You can check it out here.

    Thursday, June 18, 2015

    The Songs That Remind You: Bruck Program 2014/'15

    I recently posted about an episode of BBC Radio Orkney's Bruck Program. During the 2014/'15 season, I heard four songs on Bruck that really jumped out at me. The first was Rock - Paper - Scissors by Katzenjammer.

    At some point in the year - I forget when - the lads played Red Eyes by The War on Drugs. The lyrics are sort of incomprehensible, but the music is great, and the video is pretty entertaining without being too ostentatious.

    In January, there was a bit of a kerfuffle! The folks at Radio Orkney credit themselves with popularizing the Irish country singer Nathan Carter. Dave and Robbie attempted to play his cover of Bob Dylan's Wagon Wheel, but accidentally played Darius Rucker's cover instead!

    You can check out Nathan Carter's version of Wagon Wheel here. At any rate, as I alluded to in a recent post, Dave and Andrew played The Flying Burrito Bros.' cover of The Dark End of the Street in February, during the Vesta Chow Mein episode.

    Finally, on the final Bruck Program of the 2014/'15 season, the Robbie and Fionn played Push For The Stride by the British country music singing sisters Ward Thomas.

    With the last Bruck Program of the season out of the way, we'll have to wait a few more months before the studio on Castle Street resonates with more great music. I look forward to it!

    Saturday, June 6, 2015

    Saturday, May 2, 2015

    Island Paradise: The Vesta Chow Mein Shortage of 2015

    In February, I was listening to BBC Radio Orkney's Bruck Program.

    For the uninitiated, the Bruck Program is a sort of unique Radio Orkney offering that originated as a venue for "swaps and appeals" - e.g., islanders requesting surplus goods, or offering them up for collection or trade. It's the sort of thing that only a remote place like Orkney, which must make the utmost use of its local resources, could come up with. The Bruck Program has grown to include music and interviews about a variety of topics of general interest. I've even been interviewed for it a couple of times! Radio Orkney has a variety of great evening programs during the Winter season (including Whassigo, about which I've written before), and Bruck is their general interest program.

    Anyway, on February 9th, BBC Radio Orkney power-hitters Dave and Andrew hosted the program, and Dave began to randomly wax eloquent about Vesta Chow Mein, which he remembered from his younger years and hadn't seen in a great long while. Within minutes, Dave and Andrew received multiple E-mails and phone calls informing them of various vendors throughout Orkney (including William Shearer in Kirkwall!) where Vesta Chow Mein could be obtained. One intrepid listener even showed up with a package of it!
    (Dave) Last night's Bruck discussion about Vesta Chow Mein attracted dozens of phonecalls from folk confirming that it was still available and where it was possible to get it. It was something that I remember from when I was peedie and we used to have it as a bit of an exotic treat for tea. The other night I just took a 'gee' to have a Vesta Chow Mein for tea but couldn't find it anywhere so mentioned it on Bruck last night. Lots of Radio Orkney listeners phoned in to point me in the right direction for where it could be found but Neetie Rorie went one better (see pic). Thank you very much to all the folk who phoned in and thanks to Neetie for coming in with my dinner :) Note from BBC lawyer - Other 1970's reconstituted Chinese inspired ready meals may well be available.
    I ran a Google Image query for "vesta chow mein", and found some photoshopped goodness: a package of "Vesta Squirrel Curry", pictured above. As I began writing this post, I reached out on Facebook to Gray 1, a fellow BBC Radio Orkney aficionado. I posted the picture to his timeline and asked, "Hungry?", to which he replied: "I prefer Vesta Possum Paella but a free meal is a free meal."

    And then, Andrew played a song that will appear in the next edition of The Songs That Remind You!

    Thursday, April 30, 2015

    Saturday, April 4, 2015

    Separated by a Common Language: Competing Heads of State

    I was in Aberdeen in December of 2012 when the Sandy Hook shootings took place in Newtown, Connecticut. In fact, I not-so-fondly remember being lectured about Canada's sensible gun control by CN Slapshot after we went as a group to see the first Hobbit film. Anyway, I'll leave politics aside. While I was in Scotland, a lot of political posturing took place in which the White House was pushing for tighter gun control, and Republicans were resisting it. According to the folks at Know Your meme:
    During an interview with New Republic on January 27th, 2013, President Obama was asked if he had ever fired a gun, to which he answered that he goes skeet shooting at Camp David frequently. Four days later, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker began investigating these claims and noted that it could not find any proof of Obama having participated in skeet shooting. In response to this criticism, the White House released an official photograph of the President skeet shooting at Camp David via their official Flickr account on February 2nd, 2013, along with a caption requesting that the photograph not be manipulated in any way.
    One of my favorites was this image, in which President Obama with a shotgun is juxtaposed against a photo of Queen Elizabeth II firing an SA80 infantry rifle. Many Americans will recognize Her Majesty's comment as a derisive jab at President Obama. Shortly before I left Scotland in late 2013, I was in The Director's office with him and Critical Mass, and for the life of me, I could not convey to either of them what the context of that particular comment. They thought it was meant to deride Queen Elizabeth II by referring to her with an indelicate moniker. Both of them were fairly critical of President Obama - The Director once referred to President Obama as "strategically illiterate" - and I'm confident that, had I been able to get the joke across, they probably would have been fairly amused. As such, it was unfortunate that they were unable to enjoy the joke because we were separated by a common language.

    Sunday, March 15, 2015

    Debacle in Shetland: Accidental and Intentional Panoramas

    In early 2012, when Google Street View was still fairly new, I found myself stuck in an office in the Middle East with three months and nothing to do. Since I was already planning on going to Aberdeen, one thing I did to pass the time was to use Google Street View to scout places to visit in Orkney and Shetland. Both of these have obviously gotten a lot of attention on this blog. One place I was eager to visit was Sumburgh Head, the southernmost point in Shetland. I'd taken a screenshot (see above), and one thing I wanted to do was make my own panorama looking north from Sumburgh Head.

    Once I got the photos uploaded to Facebook on the 4th of April 2013, I promptly forgot about actually making the panorama. Then, on the morning of the 15th of March 2015, nearly two years later, I was looking back through that Facebook album for this photo, and stumbled upon this:

    My intentional photography aimed at producing a panorama became an accidental panorama on Facebook. I've gotten a lot better at using PowerPoint to "Photoshop" images over the last couple of years, so I spent about ten minutes, and voila, the image posted below was the result.

    It looks like there's a gap between the left-most image and its neighbor. I guess that's just the risk you run. Under the circumstances, I'm not sure I'll be back to remedy the situation any time soon. It sort of makes me wonder when Shetland is green, because it seemed like Orkney was always Green whenever I was there, but there's obviously a significant difference between Shetland's foliage when the folks from Google visited in June of 2009, and when I visited nearly four years later.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2015

    Fun With Whisky: Highland Park's Whisky 101

    Is there anything that Highland Park Distillery can't do right? Longtime readers will remember that in late 2013, I toured the distillery. Highland Park - and particularly Highland Park 18 - has become my favorite whisky, and HP12 is a staple of my whisky diet. When I was back home for a few months, a buddy of mine - also a whisky connoisseur - showed me this video, and I wanted to share it with you, the valued readers.

    It's really pretty tough to come up with anything about Orkney that's not to like. Highland Park helps.

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    Island Paradise: Holm of Huip for Sale

    One of Orkney's islands, the Holm of Huip, is for sale! I heard about it on Radio Orkney on Thursday morning. The Holm of Huip, which is located here, is being sold by Vladi Private Islands with an asking price of around £350,000. If only Lady Jaye and I had about £700,000 to spend to purchase the island, sort it out with water and electricity, and build our dream cottage...

    Monday, January 26, 2015

    Monday, January 19, 2015

    Northern Isles Evening Programs

    I've been listening to BBC Radio Orkney for years. I've recently started listening to selections from BBC Radio Shetland as well.

    Most of Radio Orkney's evening programs focus on various genres of music, but for my money (which is to say, they're free), their flagship program is Whassigo. I've written about Whassigo previously, and I've been enjoying this year's editions of the program. Radio Orkney's evening programs aren't over for the year, but if you want to get caught up on Whassigo, you can listen to their shows from October 8th, November 5th, December 3rd, and January 7th. Even sitting at my desk listening on my headset at work, the show always reminds me of sitting and listening in Helgi's, or in my room at the guest house.

    Meanwhile, Radio Shetland's closest corollary is the monthly (sort of?) 'Round Shetland Quiz. It's a bit more competitive than Whassigo, and less collegial, but it's sort of quintessentially Shetlandic... I assume? Anyway, their season isn't over, either, and you can listen to their quiz shows from October 22nd, November 5th, November 26th, and January 7th. Unfortunately, Radio Shetland doesn't enable the download link on any of their programs. (If anyone from Radio Shetland is reading this: please enable the download links on some of your programs.)


    Saturday, January 17, 2015

    The Shetland Ponies do Up Helly Aa

    A few months ago, my cartoons of the Shetland Ponies - inspired in part by the famous Orcadian comic The Giddy Limit - debuted on this blog in the post following the referendum result. The annual Shetlandic festival Up Helly Aa (pronounced "Up Hell-Yaa") takes place in a couple of weeks, and Sigurd and Thorfinn are excited for the festivities.

    On one of my trips between Aberdeen and Kirkwall aboard either the Hjaltland or the Hrossey, I met some extremely kind Shetlanders. I told them that I'd visited Shetland, and that it hadn't gone particularly well, and they insisted that I was absolutely going to come up and celebrate Up Helly Aa with them. I feel like that voyage took place in November or maybe early December. I left Scotland in late December having never heard from any of them despite having given them my business card and expressed some interest in coming up to the festival. Oh, well, c'est la vie... Or, as the Orcadians might say, "Ah've jus' gottae get awn wae hid, beuy."

    Also, this may not be the first time Sigurd and Thorfinn have discussed Up Helly Aa...

    If you're a Shetlander who happens to be seeing these, have fun at the festival, and try to stay safe!

    Sunday, January 4, 2015

    Loss of the Cemfjord in the Pentland Firth

    The cargo ship Cemfjord has capsized and sunk in the Pentland Firth, between Orkney and Caithness. A Cyprus-flagged ship, the Cemfjord was hauling a consignment of cement to Cheshire when it went missing Friday afternoon. Its bow was spotted by the Hrossey on Saturday afternoon, and several lifeboats and rescue helicopters were dispatched to the area to search for survivors. As I write this, no survivors have been found. BBC Radio Orkney has posted a number of updates, which I've reproduced below (with the original links.

    Update #1:
    A large sea search operation is underway South East of Orkney after an upturned vessel was sighted in the water. Lifeboats from Longhope, Stromness, Scrabster and Wick as well as the search and rescue helicopter from Sumburgh are combing the area and are being assisted by the Northlink ferry Hrossey. The search appears to be concentrated at the eastern end of the Pentland Firth.
    Update #2:
    Four lifeboats and the Coastguard helicopter from Sumburgh are still searching the sea at the eastern end of the Pentland Firth after it was reported that an upturned boat had been sighted in the water. The Stromness and Longhope lifeboats as well as those from Wick and Scrabster are in the are searching. The Northlink ferry Hrossey assisted with the search for a time but has now resumed its journey to Aberdeen. The picture shows the search pattern being followed by the Longhope lifeboat.
    Update #3:
    A cargo ship carrying cement has been reported as missing. The Cypriot registered "Cemfjord" was last seen passing through the Pentland Firth on Friday afternoon but since then the 83 metre ship hasn't been heard from. Four lifeboats from Stromness, Scrabster, Longhope and Wick are currently combing the ship's last know position in the Pentland Firth. The coastguard rescue helicopter from Sumburgh is also involved in the operation. Earlier in the day the Northlink ferry "Hrossey" is understood to have sighted an object in the sea to the east of the Pentland Firth and raised the alarm. The "Cemfjord" carries a crew of nine and was on route to Runcorn in Cheshire.
    Update #4:
    Pictures taken by passengers aboard the Northlink ferry Hrossey have confirmed that the cargo vessel "Cemfjord" has sunk. A search operation is underway for the crew which is thought to number eight men.
    Update #5:
    A sea and land search was launched at first light this morning to try and locate the missing crew from the cargo ship "Cemfjord". The bow of the sunken ship was spotted by the Northlink ferry "Hrossey" yesterday while it was on passage to Aberdeen. Longhope, Stromness and Scrabster lifeboats as well as coastguard search teams are involved in the operation. Of the eight crew who are missing - seven are from Poland and one is from the Philippines.
    Update #6:
    Coastguards say that a vessel which capsized in the Pentland Firth now appears to have sunk. The Cemfjord has been drifting to the eastern approaches to the Firth since it was spotted by a passenger ferry on Saturday. It's believed to have capsized in gale force winds on Friday afternoon.There's been no sign of the vessel's eight crew. The MCA tug Herakles is continuing to standby the submerged ship. Local coastguard teams from Orkney are being transported by helicopter this afternoon to two uninhabited islands in the Pentland Firth. The four lifeboats involved in the search are all returning to their respective bases - though coastguards say they're not yet being officially stood down. A small inflatable tender was found badly damaged yesterday on the shoreline of South Ronaldsay, but there's no confirmation on whether it came form the Cemfjord.
    Apparently, this isn't the first time the Cemfjord has run into trouble. Last July, the vessel ran aground off Denmark, possibly because its Russian captain was drunk at the helm. That captain was replaced, and the eight man crew is believed to have consisted of seven Poles and one Filipino, as noted above. The Cemfjord was a cement carrier, owned and operated by the German company Brise Bereederung, and flagged in Cyprus.

    Radio Orkney took a hammering in the comments to Update #4. Many claimed that it was disrespectful and unprofessional to post the photos before confirmation that the family had been notified. Having worked in risk management myself, and having had some exposure to the risk management sector of the energy industry while I was in Aberdeen, I know that companies that have their act together will have a risk management program either in house or through a third party to ensure that measures are in place to ensure that loved ones are contacted as soon as anything happens to a vessel, or oil rig, or what have you. So, I took all of the complaints with a grain of salt. I can also tell you from my own experience on ferries running to and from Orkney that the sea conditions in the Pentland Firth during the Winter months are no joke. This incident serves as a solemn reminder of the Longhope Lifeboat tragedy of 1969, when the Liberian-flagged vessel Irene ran aground and the Longhope Lifeboat based in South Walls (a tidal island/peninsula which is considered part of Hoy) was lost with all hands. As the lifeboats, coast guard, and Royal Air Force personnel continue to manage the crisis, our thoughts and prayers should be with the emergency services and the families of the missing crew.

    Friday, January 2, 2015

    Photo Selection: Intelligence Question Time

    E no longer lectures at Aberdeen. I think he's at the University of Bath, the University of Nottingham, or splitting his time between the two. When he was in Aberdeen - and I think he continues to do this wherever he's teaching at the moment - E would host an annual Intelligence Question Time, modeled after Question Time on BBC One. E had hoped to get CN Odin for the 2013 IQT, but CN Odin was otherwise occupied; however, he invited me as well, the head of our department, and The Director. (The Director's the guy with the greying hair.) I don't remember most of the questions, but I do remember someone asking about the most likely points in which nuclear war could have happened after the Cuban Missile Crisis, another guy who wanted to know about enhanced interrogation techniques, and at least one question about the justification for the Iraq War. I enjoyed it, and I think most of the rest in attendance did as well. It's unfortunate that E is no longer in Aberdeen, because he threw down some pretty interesting content in his lectures. Oh, well, it's a gain for Bath... Or Nottingham?