Monday, 27 December 2010

Orkney in the Top Ten!

Been trying to think of an image to show you how lovely it is living in Stromness when we heard the news today that Orkney is in the top 10 locations of places to live. This image was used to launch the press release so I deciced to show you it here - this is the exact scene we see from our bedroom window - we are close enough to the ferry to hear the anouncements as she approaches the terminal

Friday, 3 December 2010

Post early for Christmas

So if you read the other blog post you'll know we had a postcard to deliver. We had to trudge through the snow to get to the rightful recipient who lives only a mile from where we are renting a flat. The card was from his brother and sister-in-law who travelled to the Galapagos Islands. They arrive home tomorrow so I am sure they will be well impressed!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Launching out

Friday night was book launch night - we collected 1000 copies of Les's collected columns at the printers on Wednesday and had the launch on Friday before the shops started selling it on Saturday. All very well planned until the snow started midday Friday. We went ahead and 14 folk managed to turn up, plus the barman bought a copy too! On the way home the roads were awful and we nearly succeeded  in holding a car launch too into Stromness Harbour! Good news - the opened bottles of wine had not spilt - cheers!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

We are in....

So it is all over - the sleepless nights, the exams, the projects and the behaving ourselves. We got our certificates from New Zealand in the post last Saturday, had our interviews last Monday and this Tuesday we went before the combined UK field members for our acceptance day. Quite daunting - 50 people who are allowed to ask you anything. However Don our pastor was the warm up act and he did a good job on our behalf - it was all very pleasant eventually and they prayed for us, gave us the right hand of fellowship and - despite my cross cultural hints about no physical contact there was even hugs and the odd holy kiss... The face between us and Don is Jeanette Craig one of the Scottish WEC representatives. Thanks to all of you guys who have prayed for us over the past 18 months - and now things will get really interesting!

Save a stamp.

Handing over a postcard to be delivered by hand....the story is that there is an old sailors'mailbox on the Galapagos Islands where sailors left mail for other sailors returning home to deliver. Now the tradition is that tourists leave postcards for other tourists to deliver. There was a postcard for someone in Orkney  So when meeting Glynn in London, he handed over the postcard he collected there in April.. Hand delivered from an island in the South Pacific to an island in the North Atlantic! Who is it for and who is it from? Answers on  a postcard or buy next week's Orcadian!

The Darlings at home..

No these are not our Darlings but the Darlings in Harrods window being met by Peter Pan - remind you of anyone Cameron? Anyway the windows are gorgeous this year  but even better than Tinkerbell is the new Cygnet from Aston Martin. Same size at as chubby smart but oh so much better, well £30,000 better I suppose! It was the window all the boys were around - raffle ticket anyone?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Autumn Leaves and Bread of Heaven

So we now get practical work for two weeks!
 Les is always one for a tune and was happily whistling Autumn Leaves as he raked and barrowed the falling leaves with some volunteer helpers to clear the grass. I am not going to tell you that the grass is again covered with the next deluge today nor will I tell you that when he went to the Jaz club that very evening they were all asked to improvise solos on the same Autumn Leaves theme song and it too was a less than successful venture.
Meanwhile in the kitchen Gayle (from Canada this one not from NZ) and Fiona were asked to bake the bread rolls for lunch, an altogether more successful venture due mostly to Gayle's calm presence despite the absence of anybody who had ever done such a thing before. Bread of Heaven?You bet!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Sound advice

Here we are being instructed in the art of sound engineering. This is one of the studios at WEC's Springhead Park House near Leeds where we have spent the week on a media course. I am deleting the duff-stuff to make a clean programme watched by Ruth Mark. She told us to make mistakes on purpose to give us editing experience. I missed one deliberate mistake on an item involving someone called Luke. I added a new surname for him and we hadn't time to clean it out. Sorry for anyone who gets a CD asking them to pray for Luke Skywalker...

Monday, 18 October 2010

Diamond Dodos

That is it, we are officially getting old! We were away all day today and stopped for some lunch. The diamond club for over 50s was free to join and you get a full meal for £7.25 - we were starving and it seemed a good idea but then we began to notice the barmaid could be our daughter.The galling thing was they took our word for it that I was over 50 actually they may ask for my diamond card back if they realise I am only just 50! Oh well the food was delicious and although we ate our main meal at luchtime like old people now it is 8.30pm Les can happily go to bed....zzzzzzzz

A tale of two Janes

This weekend we went to visit Jane Macrae a friend from Orkney who is removating a beautiful bungalow down here in Hampshire.  I was telling her that I had inadvertantly walked over Jane Austen's grave as we walked out of Evensong in Winchester Cathedral. It turned out Jane Austen's house was in the next village. We went in today for a visit and were well pleased with our time there in the village of Cawton where she spent her most productive years, and wrote or revised all her successful novels. I never realised how many of the stories were inspired by her own experiences but I know now. Her kitchen was clean too!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Trafalgar Yacht Services

So here we were at the seaside for our half day. Ice cream paddling chips you know the routine.However as we crossed the river we saw a familiar sign "Trafalgar Yacht Services". We had contacted them by email last year trying to retrieve the original bill of sail for the boat we have Blithe Spirit. You must have these papers before you go abroad or else pay the VAT again at todays rates. The lady who works in the Trafalgar Office was a girl when Westerly Yachts went bust and thankfully she retreived various drawers of important documents from decades ago - including our papers from 1981. We were so surprised to see this was where they hang out - Les walked in and asked for Caroline, who was the only person there..... It was good to be able to thank her for saving us hundreds of pounds should we ever take the boat to Spain.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Went to the beach as soon as we arrived in Fareham, we were just in time to see the sun go down and the new luxury liner sail past after being named and launched by her name sake Queen Eliazabeth. We all expected her to be the QE3 but there you go there is no third queen Elizabeth yet!

THe night was warm and everybody was really friendly - hearing our accents they all wanted to point out that the tub sailing out in front of her was the Waverly - fresh from her career of taking passengers to Bute.
After sitting on the front for a wee while  we saw the vessel ditch her tugs and sail between us and the Isle of Wight - before long all her steaming lights came on and she was lit up like a Christmas tree - very pretty but too dark to take pictures. We understand she sailed for the Canaries - too late they failed to take two would be Spanish Missionaries on board...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Cowans' Culinary Companion

Simple living needn't take lots of gadgets. One tool can do many things. In my recent travels I have learned to make good toast with hair straighteners (browns both sides simultaneously) I have neatly chopped a large onion with my nail scissors for soup and I have always been able to fry an egg in an empty shoe polish tin by holding it over a burning almond. (Blame the girl guides for that one.) It needs to be a tin of Kiwi polish and you need to eat it out the tin as it sticks. I have also managed to make a clootie duff in a pair of clean boxer shorts. If you don't want to be found out remember to put the mark made by the seam underneath. when you serve it. I have rolled pastry with the cling film roll and I have shrink wrapped the mast of the boat with what was left of the cling film, although that wasn't strictly culinary more chandlery! Despite all this I wish I had the contents of my loft.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Be the first to see this new book when it comes out on Saturday! The history of the Westray Baptist Church has been written by my mother to coincide with the bi-centenary celebrations this weekend. We published it for her but things were a little fraught for a couple of weeks when she was admitted to hospital for an emergency appendicectomy! Thankfully the appendices for the book had been done in advance and heartfelt thanks to everybody who helped with proof reading and enabled us to get it to the printers at the 11th hour. If you can't find a copy the ISBN number is - 9780955464409 or let us know if you want a copy! It is £12 with profits to the Kirk refurbishment fund.

(Blatant misuse of a blog to advertise eh?)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Here comes the bride..

In a county where every second car is a Bentley how do brides choose to get to their weddings? Well two of the options we saw today were stretch Range Rover and stretch Jeep. When I think that I went to church with 7 of us in a clapped out Hackney Cab stinking of diesel thinking I was posh?!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Stately home from home!

Here we are to the manor born! Well borne to the manor I suppose in a fully packed Volkswagon Passat. The butler looked on in disbelief as we unloaded Saxophone, Guitar and Flute followed by varuoius crates of random things we had packed in as we could think of nowhere else in the house to stick them!
We are getting settled and meeting other new candidates on the course - one great thing is that all the Korean people here know our Korean Kiwi friends so we can share news on their exploits at Eastwest and feel we are among friends already. That is the easy cultural aspect of the course however the English Culture may take more getting used to. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Worlds meet..

Funny how worlds meet when you see people out of context - firstly Emilie and her family who were down in the Borders, rather than in Stromness and Ted & Avis who were in Buckinghamshire rather than Hamilton New Zealand.

We spent a great day with both of them enjoying some late summer sun in a Kelso garden and in a Windsor pub, introducing Kiwis to the Baked Tattie... perfectly washed down by an ale called Bonker's Conkers !
We have been watching squirrels do acrobatics today and hope to see a live badger before we leave here. Seasonal colours are changing daily and it is good to see. Their are lilies out on the ponds and it is funny that we last had autumn 6 months ago but in another hemisphere... actually I am in the mood for another summer.. any suggestions?

Here come the boys!

So here is Son One showing the sites of Edinburgh to Son Two - hopefully the body piercing studio isn't the first port of call! They still get on well and we are so pleased that they are in the same city and both loving it!

Donald is in his first week of Social Sciences at Edinburgh Napier and Andrew is in his final year of English and Philosphy at Edinburgh.

We had a good weekend with them both en route south and both fed us good food in their various flats - we had nothing to offer so reciprocated courtesy of Jimmy Chung!

Monday, 6 September 2010

It's a new day!

Here is the sun rising on a new day as we pack up and leave our balcony view and head off into the sunrise! We set off on Sunday morning to deliver Donald to Napier University and then have our Psychological Assessments before arriving at Bulstrode to see if WEC can rumble us during the three months of Candidates Orientation. If we are accepted this will be the last time we waken to sunrise over the Bay of Firth - certainly for the forseeable future and probably for the unforseeable future too! End of an era, library emptied and sold with all our CDs, (don't worry there are plenty of 78s in the loft if MP3 players become unsustainable and wind ups come back in) boys both off to pastures new and even the parents flown the nest. Scary.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

All at sea

Apologies to those who wonder where we went - we have been all at sea - quite literally! We sailed out to Westray to reclaim the boat and took the slow track back. After a bit of entertaining aboard we sailed into Calf Sound and moored overnight, setting for Sanday next for a night and then to Stronsay - just in time to make Church the following day. We met some really interesting and friendly folk and to end it all we got invited to the Monastery on Papa Stronsay where they were celebrating a novitiate taking his final vows. A barbecue and bonfire gave a stunning backdrop, but we had to smile when we saw the new monk standing at the fire looked like he had been promoted to a Canon already! If you can't see his picture, let me just say that his camera strap round his neck rather suggested he had had an early promotion. Click on his image to see what we mean.
And at the end of each day the task of writing up the ship's log was done in the tried and trusty fashion with a pen and ink - it is a ship's log remember not a SHIP's BLOG!!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Kia Ora

As promised little Kiwi chums here is the drink we all love. Funny we couldn't get in down under..

Still on a food theme, I made two pots of soup thie week - the first was using vegetables from Tesco - our supermarket. Leeks (Chanel Isles) Carrots (France) and Onions (New Zealand) 16,000 food miles the next pot was from our friends Dave's garden in Sandwick total 6 miles. And actually much more delicious.

Party party

We had such a great welcome home at the big birthday party - Fiona's sisters and neices had food from the past 50 years (before sell by dates were printed!) We think they got the last 2 surviving tins of Heinz Vegetable Salad. The various brothers in law organised the music for dancing and came up with a multicultural band 5 Nations featuring the small pipes. Fiona got to hang out with the girlies and Les got into the groove with his musical pals. Thanks to all those who planned, sang, danced, recited poetry or bought Fiona a pint or a present - you are a great crowd.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

My promises are pants!

Sorry I forgot the promised invisible pants picture.. before we left I assembled all the pants for a final launder and hung them out to dry. If you count carefully you can see the invisible ones on the left 3rd row back but being invisible it is hard to tell when they are dry. Anyway I am sure these little wonders will catch on in New Zealand now that they have had a visit from Trinny & Susannah - maybe one day they will get a visit from that other fashion team Marks & Spencer!

On the King's business?

So it was a first for us both but being trainee missionaries we thought maybe the King's business entltled us to travel business class on the way home. We were met and shown to our seats with a rather nice bottle of Bollinger and it took Fiona the whole trip to finish it (the bottle, not the glass) Les had a nice claret with his cheeseboard and although we had proper beds , blankets and pillows we were enjoying it too much to sleep! In the in flight magazine was an article entitled "Destination Madrid!" so we took that as an encouraging next step. There was also
an article on Orkney and even a film choice on John Rae - Orkney's most famous explorer. When we watched a comedy show from last year's Edinburgh Festival there was a fullscreen shot of Andrew's godfather Martin laughing his head off - Fiona replayed that bit many times!
We were delighted to see our friend Cameron waiting at the barrier for us - just wher we said goodbye 11 months ago. He told us that Fiona's Mum was in Theatre with appedicitis but a couple of hours later we got a text saying she was OK - Welcome back to the real world!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


At last the day we have been working towards - the last one! We enjoyed a lovely day and were released from chores to prepare ourselves, clean the flat and pack. We passed our flat inspection at the 2nd attempt so we got our bond back as well. Cheers!! This is us with Pat and Karen the Principal and the College Mom, they have looked after us so well and deserve their furlough which also starts today - we all fly out tomorrow. Our certificates will follow as we have yet to get our final marks back - we were all presented with a nice white envelope with a special text on it but inside was a compliments slip saying your Certificate is in the post!!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Meet the team cos the guys are here

Last day of serving in teams.. and here we are!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Shark for supper

So it is the last weekend and we are ready to start packing.. 7 more sleeps. Jake one of the other guys who will graduate with us in Saturday spent the weekend fishing and arrived home at about 10pm with a massive shark. We all got fillets sliced off the beast and despite having been out for a meal we couldn't resist. Nicked a couple of lemons off the college trees and threw in the last of the tatties. Shark and Chips served in a rather classy copy of the Orcadian, nim nim! Please don't pass this on to Orkney Today who featured a column by Les saying you couldn't get decent fish here - you can now!

Donald's dream date

Since he was 10 or 11 Donald has asked about a skydive, the answer was always "when you are 16 and can pay for it yourself, yes." Well on Saturday he could pay for it himself. It was almost free however as they forgot to charge him anything at all. We had to go back when we all realised none of us had paid a penny! They were very nice and he got a free mug (anti-spill you can use it on the descent!). Frankly the jump was a better use of money than a piercing or a tattoo!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Baptisms of fire and water...

The exams are now over. (Phewie) after the weeks of study and revision the actual papers were a mixed bag but the results are fine.
Fiona sat so long in the sun with her theology notes that a spider constructed a massive web between her leg and the grass. I guess that says a lot about the subject of theology!
On a more positive note, after the exams one of our student pals decided to put his learning into
practice and decided to get baptised. What a great event to take part in a practical after all the theory. Go Nathan! His family travelled up from Palmerston North and we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon tea afterwards in great souroundings - beats the sea!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

We could not resist taking a shot of a disappointed Donald at Hot Water Beach - well there was plenty of water for sure but none of it was hot! The 'stream' in front of him was what you had to walk across to get to the spot where you dig a hole and watch it fill with geyser heated water.
In the end we just jumped into a sulphurous foot spa to warm up - bliss!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Kiwis - bigger than you think!

Actually Kiwis are birds or people but not fruit. The locals always say "Kiwifruit" whether green or golden. We went to a kiwi hatchery for Donald to see the birds at play and then to a visitor centre for the fruit variety. They do look alike (on the outside.)

And whenever we see kiwis, we think of Marian!