One Weekend- Two Festivals!

Having lived in Saudi for 28 years and missed out on the opportunity to enjoy lots of events I feel we are well and truly making up for lost time! This weekend was certainly an example of this. Having read about the  Inverness Lochness International Knit Festival  way back in spring I made it a definite must do on the calendar. I decided to go for the day on Friday and also take in Ruth Black’s presentation – Pictish Designs in Feltmaking.

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Nessie welcome at Eden Court.

It was so inspiring looking around the Crafting area and Marketplace.

 

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2 of Di Gilpin‘s knits.

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Danish designer Christel Seyfarth‘s beautiful, colourful wrap. Her knit fest in Denmark had been the inspiration for this one.

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Newcomer to the scene and their first ever showing- North Child.

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Meeting Philip Paris the author of the new novel ‘Casting Off’.

But one knitted item took me by surprise.

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My paternal grandmother’s gansey, knitted for my uncle James.
Moray Firth Gansey Project had a stand and I was instantly drawn to this gansey. The label was tucked behind so it was only when I pulled it forward that I realised it was one of my grandmother’s!
So all in all I had a really good time.
Leaving Inverness behind it was an hour’s drive to Ullapool to go to the Loopallu Music Festival. We had heard a lot about it but hadn’t expected to get there this year until a week ago our usual B&B phoned to say they had a vacancy. Luckily, we were able to get Festival tickets so suddenly we were to be festival goers!!

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The setting and the weather were terrific.

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The campsite was mobbed!

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An excellent 12 year old drummer standing in for the usual drummer who was ill. The group were Davy and the Hosebeast!

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Other bands that were a bit more familiar to me were- The Stranglers, The Wonder Stuff, Hunter and the Bear, The Selecter, Rhythm’n’Reel and Manran. As well as playing in the main tent and the ceilidh tent/beer tent there were band in 6 of the pubs in the village. A really good mix of genres too- with the Ullapool Pipe Band kicking off the whole proceedings on Friday afternoon.

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Blessed with a lovely evening.

However, I was still on the lookout for colourful knitwear!

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The village of Ullapool.

I have visited Ullapool many times and it always seems to come up with one more reason to make it one of my favourite places. This weekend certainly confirmed it.

Big Knitting!

A year ago I visited a delightful wool shop in Aberlour called Three Bags Wool Three Bags Wool and saw these giant-sized knitting needles!

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Instead of knitting normal yarn the owner had sourced tweed/blanket off cuts from the local woollen mills to use. I was ‘in love’ with the novel idea and just had to get some.

My first project was to knit some seat pads for our garden chairs. All went well but the weather was not very encouraging so 3 and a half pads later the project found itself stashed in favour of my ever favourite sock knitting.

Last week the sun shone and the garden furniture came out of the shed and I unearthed the seat pads. Great as long as there was only 3 of us. Re-newed enthusiasm and the 4th is now complete. Here are two on the garden bench, all set for a wee sundowner at the weekend.

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They were very comfy.

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And the sundowners were very enjoyable too!

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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

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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.

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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!

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Interesting light in La Mirage restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

Cross country to the canyon.

Using a Bedouin desert track we travelled from the Sharma road to the Duba road. I have no idea how long it would take driving non-stop but with all our stops it took us all day. It’s been a year since we travelled this route and whether it was because the weather was a bit overcast but it was like seeing some of the scenery for the first time, so I ended up taking lots of photos. Our first stop was at a huge cavern where I have placed a Geocache. The last people to search for it had been unable to find it so I wanted to check if it was still there. As soon as I got there I saw the problem- a Bedouin had decided to store some sacks of feed in the same place! Luckily, I could just reach the Geocache and rescue it. It is now in another hidey hole, close by.

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Coffee time.
From there we continued to an amazing rock art site. I believe these figures are representations of deities, but from which era I have no idea. I have found a lot of rock art in the area, but the workmanship of these is exquisite. I just wish I could find out more about them and the people who carved them.

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3 deities or the 3 spacemen as we affectionately call them!
Next we stopped at a large rock pinnacle attached to a huge rock massive. The view from the ‘saddle’ between the two was beautiful.

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We decided it was lunchtime so headed to another rock art site to have our picnic.

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We were just packing up when we had a very strange experience. A vehicle with 2 young Saudis came driving up to us. However, they didn’t get out to chat etc. but the passenger started taking photos and or video of us on his phone! As we started to drive away they pursued us with the passenger still standing up out of his doorway, taking photos!

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We now know how animals in safari situations feel!
‘Our friends’ headed off after a while and we continued our trip to the canyon, passing some amazing rock formations on the way.

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We named this one balloon rock, as one of our group flies a hot air balloon and reckoned it looked just like one.

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A striped tailed lizard.

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Desert apples.
And finally to the canyon!

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Another truly enjoyable trip which will be reminisced about when we leave Saudi in a few months.

Return to the desert.

At last the weather has cooled down and we had no weekend commitments so it was time for a long overdue desert trip.
We headed to an area that we have explored quite a lot but its amazing how driving round a different rock or heading down a wadi the opposite way can result in some interesting finds or beautiful scenery.
As soon as we headed off the Tarmac road we noticed a bird of prey soaring above us. One of our friends has a powerful zoom lens so he took this shot.

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We later identified it as an imperial eagle.
Soon after we found a secluded shady spot for coffee where we were entertained with the calls and aerobatics of at least 3 sooty falcons. Again I have to thank my friend for this photo.
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One of my passions is finding some rock art. I wasn’t disappointed with a couple of good sites.

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And of course there’s the camels! We still can’t resist a photo stop when we see a herd.

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We were amazed to see how green some areas still were after the long hot summer. It certainly make you think that under the wadi there is still some moisture to be reached by the well adapted plants. We found this amazing plant growing up the rock face inthe spring and were interested to find that it was still as green now as then.

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And of course I found somewhere to set up a Geocache- in fact I hid 2!

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Roll on next weekend when we hope to get out again.

No change for me!

Well it’s a 3 day weekend for my husband and everyone else on the compound except for teachers and pupils. With only 2 weeks of the school year to go it was decided to carry on as we were until the new academic year in September.

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Of course this was met with mixed reactions and I for one will be a bit disgruntled on Saturday to have to get up for work while my husband still sleeps:(.
So with only 2 weeks to go the report cards have been sent out, most of the classes are finished their exams and already some of the children are leaving for the summer holidays. With most of the academic work behind us, my class is preparing for their class assembly- so we're pretty busy, but in a different kind of way. I have chosen to do a re-telling of the Julia Donaldson book 'The Smartest Giant in Town'.

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The children are loving it! Especially the part where the giant’s trousers have to fall down! The boy who is the giant is really hamming it up and hopefully won’t be struck with stage fright on the big day.
In school we’re also busy getting the stage and props ready.

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The children drew pictures of the houses for the town background and now the T.A and myself are enlarging their ideas and transferring them onto the walls.
Today at home I’ve been busy working on the socks for the play.

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It’s the first time my sewing machine has been out for nearly 2 years! Perhaps now I’ll get some other repair jobs done- ha! Ha!
So, with all that’s going in in my classroom the next 2 weeks will fly by and hopefully being out of step with the rest of the community at weekends won’t affect us too much.

New weekend!

One of the changes I had to get used to when I started living in Saudi Arabia was the different weekend. Here, if you’re lucky enough enough to have a two day weekend, you will have Thursday and Friday off work. The Sunday working was something even after many, many years I still felt cheated to have to get up and go into school for an 8 o’clock start! Sunday’s should be for lazy, leisurely mornings:).

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Most of the other Arab countries have Friday and Saturday as their weekend and find this more beneficial for doing business with the west. For many years now there has been talk of Saudi changing and in April this raised its head again when Oman announced it would be changing its weekend in line with the other Gulf countries. Being out of line with not only the west but with the other gulf countries meant that Saudi was falling short on potential business transactions but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking things would just continue as they had. How wrong I was! Today this man

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King Abdullah announced that Saudi Arabia will be changing its weekend and they won’t be tardy in doing so! The new working week will begin a week today! We’re now all wondering if we will have to work a 6 day week this week or will we be given a 3 day weekend? Mmmm. …I don’t really want to get my hopes up on that one…. But one thing is for sure- I’m still going to be sitting in front of my class at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning feeling that it is just wrong that I should be there!