Monday, 21 August 2017

Orkney Tales: Saturday into Sunday – preparing for Rousay

July 1
Our arrival Saturday always has the same pattern; collect the rental car, visit the quite wonderful Tourist Office to see what is happening in the week, onwards to lay in supplies from Tesco and along to the cottage, Millbrig.

Operational by early afternoon, we headed out to one of our much-loved places, Unstan, a Neolithic chambered cairn.

Unstan a small tomb was built on a promontory that extends into the Loch of Stenness. You can see the Ring of Brodgar from its doorway.

It is lovingly cared for by Historic Scotland who does a wonderful job with these adorable sites across the whole of Orkney and its islands.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Oyster Catchers of Orkney

Where we stay in Orkney, every morning when I get up and step outside the cottage to gaze across the loch I am greeted by two oyster catchers.
Oliver and Owen investigate. Watercolour on paper.
Oliver and Owen.

Each day they are nosing around the ground that borders the narrow road that passes us. These birds are the sophisticated sparrows of Orkney. Everywhere and anywhere and often they fly or strut around in gangs of three or more. They are large, obvious and noisy!  their long red bills are perfect for smashing or prying open molluscs.

Millbrig our home in Orkney, from the 2014 sketchbook

Every morning I get up and step outside, to gaze across the loch, 2015 sketchbook

Saturday, 12 August 2017

In praise of Stevenage from Room 406

The Holiday Inn has been a prominent feature in my July! Flying back from the US and a twenty-four hour turn round found me in the Holiday Inn Stevenage for a week.

This time I was in room 406 and looking out on one of the most thrilling pieces of church architecture I have seen for a long time.

Like the I-95 highway snaking its way past me in Massachusetts, the church St Andrew & St George, Stevenage, with its cathedral-like aura provided visual a diversion each day as I looked out of my window. Its campanile was almost close enough to touch.

Again you can really get to become found of a hotel in a week. Again the meeting room facilities were perfect and every member of staff was a delight! So, I award 10/10 for the Holiday Inn organisation.

After I had finished my work at lunchtime on Friday I went to take a closer look at the Church of St Andrew and St George and was shown around inside the church by Vic Summerfield the self-appointed archivist. 

In various nooks and crannies Vic unearthed framed original architect drawings, photographs of HRH Elizabeth the Queen Mother laying the foundation stone on 14 July 1956 and another of her at the consecration in November 1960 when nearly a thousand people were present.

The whole church is a wonderful confection of pre-cast concrete, columns of it interlace with clerestory windows forming an almost continuous wall of glass.  The East window was originally plain stained glass with a single cross set into the design, this was moved to the west end of the church and new one (1966) with psychedelic sacred motifs put in it place; to conceal the large office block at the time – now my hotel!   

Tucked away in a room near the entrance another treasure. A Madonna, a bronze sculpted by Gwendolen Williams. Vic pointed out that given Gwendolen Williams (1870-1955;) specialised in small-scale, intimate sculptures, of which this one was atypical being of some size.