Not a walk in the Park!

Archaeology takes many forms- something I am becoming more aware of since joining NOSAS (North of Scotland Archaeology Society). Last weekend we ventured to the area around Helmsdale to investigate some archaeological sites. One of which was a hill fort on top of Ben Griam Beg. At less than 2000 feet a mere pimple on the Highland landscape.

P6045263.JPG

Yes that’s the wee pimple up behind the cottage. From where we left the cars to the top it was 6km ‘as the crow flies’, and there was definitely a few times I wished I could have sprouted wings!

The walk to the cottage was pretty easy going and covered about half the distance. It was a beautiful day and a perfect place to stop to refresh ourselves before the ‘push’ to the top.

P6045302.JPG

The cottage was uninhabited but is used by various people employed by the estate and also as a holiday cottage from time to time. Inside one of the outbuildings there was an interesting record of some of shepherds and workers who had been there.

P6045299.JPG

Refreshed with coffee and chocolate we started the second, more demanding stage. Before too long we had broken into 3 groups. The super-fit mountain goats, the fit folk and the ‘OMG what on earth gave me the idea to sign up for this’ group. I was in the last group and it was a definite wake up call to do something about my lack of fitness especially as most of the people in the other groups were older than me!

After a lot of huffing and puffing and catching our breath stops, we reached the top!

P6045269.JPG

and joined the others for lunch.

The purpose for the climb was to examine the wall structures. Although, Ben Griam Beg is listed as the highest hill-fort in Scotland there is some debate about whether it really is a hill-fort. We, especially the more knowledgeable archaeologists among us, were to look at the evidence and put forward our opinions on the matter.

There were definitely a lot of stone walls to consider

P6045289.JPG

and an interesting stone in one of the walls which definitely looked like it had been used to  grind meal (?) in.

P6045292.JPG

After a good look around and much discussion the ‘jury was still out’ on whether it had been a fort but most people doubted it. However, no-one could come up with a satisfactory explanation for all the wall structures. More information about the supposed hill-fort can be found at http://canmore.org.uk/event/651911

 

Although it had been a slog to get to the top it had been worth it. It is definitely an interesting site whatever it is.  I was also blessed with a close viewing of a female ptarmigan with 2 chicks and a hare- both now in their summer colours. Some lovely flowers were also starting to bloom in the rocky, heather landscape.

P6045280.JPG

Yes, it might not have been a ‘walk in the park’ to climb Ben Griam Beg but I’m so glad I didn’t give up and made it to the top. That evening I really felt I had earned my large portion of chips and battered stuffed jalapeño peppers at the well-known La Mirage restaurant in Helmsdale. Washed down with a glass of wine, of course!

IMG_4905

Interesting light in La Mirage restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

Inherited WIP.

As if I didn’t have enough WIP’s I have now inherited a nearly finished sock!

IMG_4927

On the way back from Islay a few weeks ago I was passing  the time on the ferry by knitting a sock. A new friend saw me and was delighted to find someone who knitted with 4 needles. She had recently been helping to clear out a woman’s house who had died and found the WIP. Originally, she had thought to try to finish the socks herself and then donate them to charity. Not being much of a knitter when she saw me knitting I provided a solution to getting the socks finished! I agreed to give it a try.

Last  weekend I saw her again and was greeted with ‘I’ve got the knitting, if you’d still like it!’

IMG_4930

I was relieved to see it came with a knitting book which I assumed contained the pattern.

IMG_4932

It appeared that the socks were to be a pair of Men’s Ribbed Golf Socks, but when I read over the pattern and compared it to the already knitted sock the original knitter had made a modification to the look. Not only had she decided to knit the turnover top with a contrasting band but she had also changed it to include cables.

IMG_4931

So just a wee bit of extra thought and working out to do, then!!

Hopefully my tension won’t be drastically different, but as I usually knit using the European way I’ll have to change to the British way to finish the sock.

Anyway, nothing ventured as they say!

I’m not sure when I’ll see my friend again but hopefully I’ll be able to present her with a completed pair of socks by then.

Pleasantly Surprised!

For years I travelled back and forth from Saudi and somehow developed an idea that not a lot really happened around my locality. True the countryside is lovely and the coastal views stunning!

IMG_3235

Having a wee walk along ‘my’ beach!

However, it always seemed to be that when I visited other places there always seemed to be interesting ‘cultural’ things going on there, but I was never aware of anything close to home. Now that I’ve been home for 2 years I have been very pleasantly surprised to find I was very wrong with my initial impression. There are some very good and interesting things happening locally and by some very talented local people.

Last Saturday was one of those. A play written in Doric, the local vernacular by a woman from the next village was performed at the local Warehouse Theatre. Entitled ‘Netting’ it was her second play about the effect the loss of a fishing boat can have on its community. IMG_4625

Netting by Morna Young

Having been brought up in a fishing family in a fishing community the play definitely resonated with me and I’m sure many others in the audience. It was a very powerful and emotive production which held me transfixed throughout. I was so glad that our small local theatre had organised the 2 showings and I had been able to attend. Before being performed in Lossiemouth ‘Netting’ had been on tour to various venues around Scotland, hopefully being enjoyed just as much as I did.

Today I noticed a poster for ‘Robert Burns- The Musical’ which is being produced by the  Rock Academy  which is a dance and drama school situated in Lossiemouth. It was written by the owner of the school based on an idea by Michael Jackson and David Gest! It has already received acclaim and been performed in many of the big theatres around Scotland.

So I was definitely wrong to think nothing very ‘cultural’ happens in my own backyard!

One Mitten Done!

IMG_4623

Yay!! one mitten completed:) It’s been 9 days since I started but it didn’t really take that long. I’ve also been working on a pair of socks which are almost finished. I just can’t let the sock knitting go!

For the observant this mitten is knitted in 2 parts. The first being the plain band around the fingers. For this it was necessary to do a provisional cast on. I have absolutely no memory of ever knitting anything where I had to do this before (I’ve obviously let a sheltered knitting existence!). Luckily, when I entered the term into Google there was a wealth of experienced knitters willing to share their knowledge including quite a few on U-tube. Here is the one I chose https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T7OwOpC6CY. It was easy to follow and I’ve just used it again for the second mitten.

IMG_4624

Once the band has been done it’s just a matter of joining it together using the Kitchener stitch which I’m only too familiar with having knitted all those socks. After picking up the stitches for the main part it’s my favourite ‘knitting in the round’ method with a little shaping for the thumb.

With the way the weather has turned ‘drench’ (wet) and cold I certainly think I’ll get plenty of opportunity to wear them once I’ve finished the second one.

New month,new project.

I’ve really got back into knitting in the last few years but seem to have got ‘stuck in a rut’ of knitting socks! I still really enjoy knitting them and they are a great project to do whilst watching T.V. as I don’t need an awful lot of concentration.

However, I picked up this lovely yarn from a 2 for 1 basket a few months ago.

IMG_4613

A very pleasant hour was spent browsing the patterns in Ravelry and I’ve settled on a pair of fingerless mitts by Tante Ehm which can be found at http://www.ravelry.com/designers/tante-ehm

It seems like I might only require one of the hanks of yarn so I’ll be able to either make a pair of mitts for a friend or…..

Now to search out the needles and get started:)

 

 

Learning a new skill.

Plane Tabling? What on earth is that? That was my response to my husband’s query whether we should sign ourselves up for some of the latest NOSAS (North of Scotland Archaeology Society) activities.

Needless to say I googled it! I still wasn’t sure if it was really my thing as I’m not exactly very precise when it comes to measuring and accurate scale drawings which is what it sounded like it entailed. However, what could be the harm in giving it a go and it meant a day out in the fresh air in a part of the country I didn’t know much about. So we signed ourselves up to ‘plane table’ Ormond Castle by Avoch on The Black Isle.

IMG_4559

Not a lot remains of this little understood Medieval enclosure castle which is situated on top of the hill. It is traditionally associated with William the Lionheart who built 2 castles on The Black Isle in 1179. This is believed to be the remains of one of them. After being in the hands of the de Moray family it passed to Royal control in 1455 and in 1481 James III granted it to his son, the Marquis of Ormond where it gets its present name from. It was destroyed during Cromwell’s invasion in 1650, with the stones being removed to build his Citadel in Inverness.

The local Avoch archaeology group wanted to record the remaining features of the castle and look into the possibility of a dig sometime in the future. Nowadays, a lot of the recording processes are done with modern instruments like GPS and laser measuring devices but traditionally the process known as ‘plane tabling’ has been used.

IMG_4563

IMG_4568

After a wee introduction we were assigned to groups and given a section of the site to record. Breathing a sigh of relief, I was told my leader knew all about the process. We only had to record the outlines of features e.g walls that we could ‘see’. However, as everything was overgrown with grass including old tree stumps this wasn’t straightforward and led to a few discussions about where the edges actually were! Measurements were taken and it was all plotted on the paper, before joining up the dots and drawing shapes which hopefully matched what we could see on the ground.

Although the day was a little dull, it stayed dry with only a gentle breeze so our coffee and lunch breaks sitting on top of the hill were very enjoyable. The views down to the small village of Avoch, the snowy hills to the west and across the firth to the Inverness airport area were beautiful. Truly, a great site for a castle.

Our task was purely to record the castle and absolutely not to dig or excavate in any way. However, animals had been digging around so one of the leaders had a wee look at the burrows in case anything had come to the surface. She was rewarded with a piece of medieval pottery which she has now passed on to the concerned authorities.

IMG_4566

It doesn’t look very exciting but in real life you could see the typically green glaze that was common at this time. It also reminded me of the pieces that were excavated at Cromarty – not so very far away- last summer.

Well, despite my reservations I really enjoyed the new experience and think my measuring and recording was reasonably accurate! There are 3 more plane tabling days planned to record other sites and I definitely want to go to at least one of them to practise what I’ve learnt and hopefully improve on it- I just hope I’m assigned to as knowledgable and patient a leader as I was this time.

 

 

OMG it’s 2016!

And already it’s nearly a week old! It seems 2016 is going to pass by as quickly as 2015. A very good reason to enjoy every moment.

A week ago it was Hogmanay and we went to a town Ceilidh in the nearby Town Hall for the first time. We had a fabulous time. Before ‘the Bells’ i.e midnight, the ceilidh band, a group of 5 local lads who were home from University, but definitely knew what they were doing played two sets of Scottish Country Dance music. Right from the first dance the floor was full! And not just with us old ‘foggies’ who had been brought up with these dances but a really good mix of children and young adults who were definitely having fun.

image

It was a great start to the New Year and enlightening that although the old tradition of ‘First-footing’ is definitely a thing of the past, families are celebrating the coming of the New Year with an alternative Scottish tradition- a ceilidh.

Slainte Mhor!   Cheers!  Good Health for 2016. May it be a good year for us all.

image