Tuesday 30 August 2011

The Met Office

Cromarty sits at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth. Looking out over the Moray Firth towards the North Sea on the east coast of Scotland
Its location makes it relatively sheltered protecting it against storms and high seas.
The very name Cromarty, for me at least, conjures up the The Shipping Forecast Listening to the long wave on radio four to the comforting reasoned voice reaching out to the men at sea who's very lives might depend on  the general synopsis read out on Radio Four four times a day in such  a calm  unhurried manner.
Westerly veering northwesterly, 4 or 5, occasionally 6. Showers. Good
For those of you who haven't the foggiest idea what I'm talking about this BBC link is worth listening to
The waters around the British Isles are divided into thirty one sea areas
Shipping forecast enthusiasts will know that Cromarty is squeezed in between Fair Isles, Viking, Forties and Forth.
But this isn't a lesson! And Cromarty has other things to offer other than gale force warnings
It's pretty in a way that Scottish villages often aren't. Tidy cottages with their arms tucked neatly by their sides. No frills, no roses growing around the front door. Today the Shipping Forecast would allow for such frivolity


Shipping Forecast - Issued: 1030 UTC Tue 30 Aug

Northwesterly 4 or 5, occasionally 6.
Sea State
Moderate or rough.

But last week there were gale warnings in place
I love this house. I wanted to stand in front of it and take a picture, but there was a lady in the window (probably looking out for the weather) so I stood to one side, hence a one sided view of a lovely Cromarty house
Cromarty, like the Shipping Forecast, is solid and dependable
though it has soft edges
and gates to peer over
Hugh Miller's birthplace where he spent his formative years. No, I hadn't heard of Hugh Miller either until I came to Cromarty. He had absolutely nothing what ever to do with the weather.
and once again back to the sea.  Sea State  Moderate or rough, becoming slight or moderate.
The enormous sea and sky picture. Visibility  Moderate or good.

Time to go home. It looks like rain Visibility Moderate or good, occasionally poor

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Statsraad Lehmkuhl

She slipped into the loch unnoticed and while I was emptying the dishwasher and having a little tidy up in the kitchen I saw her through the window
she glided past the bottom of the garden
The Statsraad Lehmkuhl. A three-masted rigged sailing vessel. She's Norway's largest sailing ship, and has been taking part in the Tall Ship races
She's sailed from Bergen to Dublin and on the way back to Bergen has done a small detour to the Outer Hebrides and our back garden! What a treat, I should have hung out bunting and made a banner.
Just beyond the garden she slowed and did an about turn. It's very shallow towards the head of the loch, and I don't suppose she wanted to run the risk of running a ground. I could have run along and given support with cups of tea.  It's impossible to convey her size, even in the loch she looks tiny, though a small boat keeping her company gives some idea of her impressive stature
Cars and camper vans stopped up on the far side of the loch to get a glimpse of this beautiful ship as she heads out to sea and home to Norway
If you click here there is a photo of her taken a few days ago docked in Dublin. It felt special to have a sailing ship come sailing by, even if not under sail, she looked lovely in the loch. And I thought I'm pretty lucky to have that at the bottom of my garden...even if it isn't very often!

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Truly scrumptious...

Yesterday we had a power cut - we knew it was coming, the electricity board wrote and told us. They needed to install a new transformer and deal with overhanging branches on cables along the lane, but we forgot - as we often do and had started numerous jobs involving electricity! They came to an abrupt halt at 9.30 yesterday morning
But, not this job. This job carried on. Making apricot jam the French way. Lots of apricots seeping for hours in sugar, vanilla, lemon juice
and if you have the energy and patience
blanched apricot kernels. I whacked the stones with a hammer to remove the kernels and blanched them in boiling water for a minute to remove the skins. 'Boiling water....' I hear you say! But all was made possible with a small gas cartridge and screw in 'thingy' for a saucepan to stand on, perfect for power cut days when kernels need to be blanched
And that's it, apricots, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and kernels waiting for the electricity to come back on
and while they waited they went gooey and syrupy and gave off a wonderful aroma of vanilla and almonds and summery apricots
They waited until 4.30 in the afternoon when the house suddenly sprung in to action with whirring and bleeping noises loud music and vacuum cleaner sounds. I turned up the heat under the saucepan and boiled the apricots for twenty minutes until thick.
You must make this jam...well, only if you like apricots and jam that is!  It is neither too set nor too sweet and the vanilla and added kernels really do make a difference.
I don't think you need a power cut to achieve this 'yummy' jam, just the patience to wait until the apricots have really softened.
Here is the recipe explained properly

Friday 5 August 2011

Cul Mor

We've just come back from another trip down south. An unexpected one for me. It was my Aunt's funeral in Sussex. A sad occasion  but made much more bearable by the opportunity to catch up with cousins, uncles, remaining aunts and people you feel you may be related to but aren't altogether sure.
I couldn't wait though to come home. We've grown used to the space, and as pretty as Sussex and Surrey are,  it felt crowded; the roads busy. Yes, I know it's a  holiday time - but just getting anywhere took for ever. We're not used to traffic lights, junctions and queues! So after arriving back home we took the first opportunity to rush out in the open and enjoy a great big dollop of space!
Cul Mor is where we're headed the peak on the right.  From a distance both Cul Mor and Cul Beag the smaller peak to the left look for all the world like a pair of slag heaps. Not very impressive and easy to wonder what all the fuss is about.
Finally Cul Mor stands still, for ages it appeared to be moving away from us. It doesn't look difficult, but there are  boulders to clamber over nearer the top.
The best thing about going up is being able to see the surrounding loveliness, bit by bit it comes into view
Suilven appears
Are we really going up there?
Yep, looks like it. I'm with the funny little chap in the hat!
Now, I'm actually not that good with heights. It doesn't help much to look up
but it helps even less to look down! So I concentrate on my feet and climbing over boulders.
 we're on the top, we've done it,  and  can look over to the ridge below the summit.
And this is why I keep going and battle through the tingly and unnerving bits because the feeling of getting to the top and seeing this overrides all fear!
and builds up an appetite!
Isn't it lovely?
and Wild Thyme grow here in what must be at times such a harsh environment.
but lunch is finished and we head out onto the ridge
Looking back at where we've been
Stac Pollaidh  where our two boys and their friends climbed in May
Not feeling hemmed in. It's such a good feeling. I love the emptiness, the absence of a road, a car park a tea room a gift shop. This is as it is, a vast nature reserve that will stay unspoilt, and to reach it takes effort.
 I don't know what this is and didn't notice the small insect until I uploaded the pictures onto the computer.
Tiny little plants that thrive up here sheltered in amongst the rocks
I do appreciate I'm lucky and that I'm fit enough (just!) to be able to get up here
It's late afternoon early evening and the cloud is building up. Time to head back down
 We sat up there and had lunch
We didn't choose the best way to come down and ended by doing a large detour to avoid peat bog and waterfalls
But eventually we made it back to the car and the cloud rolled in hiding our mountain top
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