Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Big Silence

I've watched a couple of episodes of a 3 part reality TV documentary The Big Silence today. It's on BBCiplayer, so if you're outside the UK unfortunately you may not be able to view it, some can though.

The story is basically about how silence in our lives is something that people tend to avoid with 'business of life' but if we embrace silence, such as in the retreat the show is based on, we will both come to understand ourselves and become closer to God. Well it is led by a Benedictine Monk from Worth Abbey and  the long retreat takes part in a Jesuit retreat centre, St Bueno's.

For all it's Christian basis, if you ignore the God element, it has a lot to say that rings true with Soto Zen practice and zazen . There is also alot that doesn't hold true to Soto Zen values such as their focus on a goal of knowing your soul to enable communication with God. Their being no belief in a personal soul or a God, in Zen Buddhism in particular, means a fairly big divergence there.

I'm sure there's plenty of theology missed, skimmed over or misrepresented for TV though, so I won't give my two penneth on those aspects of the show.

Anyway it's worth a watch, interesting to see how people deal with such a 'scary' thing as silence and the mystical arm of Christianity's view on it's value and how people should be allowed to respond to it. The people are also a likeable bunch, not your Big Brother type of characters.

Episode 3, not shown yet, will talk about how the experience has affected them when they return to, as the show puts it, reality...

48 hours post op and all seems well...

Here's those trouble some legs of mine. Just incase you can't see where I've had the op they've kindly put a big arrow in permanent black marker on my leg...

I can't remove the banadaging until tomorrow and then I'll have smaller dressings to place over the actuall incisions of the keyhole surgery for the next 10 days. I think there's 3 but there could be 4; oooh.. the excitement of finding out tomorrow.

Not too much discomfort over night and I'm weight bearing a bit better this morning, though as you can see my good leg is taking most of the strain in my shuffling. So far so good...

Saturday, 30 October 2010

First flight to and from Sumburgh; have a peek inside my knee...

Well I'm back!

The flight from Sumburgh to Aberdeen is on a SAAB 340 turboprop . Real flying on a twin prop plane with only space for 36 passengers. I got a seat next to the escape exit on the portside, so there was plenty of space for me to stretch out. There was a bit of turbulence, but nothing much, and it was a great take off and landing on a sunny day.

I didn't take my camera as I was worried about getting back with my operated on leg, never mind carrying stuff, but here's someone else's photo of the plane.

A Red Cross bus takes you straight from the airport to the hospital door (Woodend); right to the ward I was on. All I needed now was to have my pre-op checks and wait and wait and wait until the next day for my knee arthroscopy.

Luckily I was first on the list. Showered and ready to go, they covered me up, saying the corridor was cold, and wheeled me out and along some weird corridors reminiscent of the inside of a shed, but with heater fans, until we came to the operating theatre. When I asked if it was a portacabin, they laughed and said no, it was a mobile; that's OK then.
An injection, some laughing gas and a bit later I was woken in the middle of a really good dream. It was all over and I felt fine. Other than absolutely starving that is.

Back to the ward and I was pretty much straight away feeling OK and able to gingerly hobble to the loo. I noticed photos of my arthroscopy in my notes so sneaked a few pictures on my mobile before they were whisked away.

The bottom left and right ones are of the medial meniscal flap tear that they tidied up along with a few other loose ends.

Apparently my ligaments weren't in too bad a shape just wear and tear. The bottom right photo shows my anterior cruciate ligament. I don't know if you can see, but in the original it looked like a bit of a hairy worn rope, I assume they cleaned up the fuzz off it.


All the staff in the hospital were great and the hygiene seemed to be tip top. Only complaint I could have is the food, tasty, but luke warm with a portion the size Beren could eat. Man was I hungry while I was there.

All was well any way, so the flight home was booked; a 7.30am taxi and a wheel chair for in the airport the next day.

I felt a total fraud in the wheel chair, not that I could have managed walking through the airport, a short shuffle was bad enough. I got a good insight into what it must be like for wheelchair users in a busy environment though. No way could I get in to the shops to pass time so I must have amused one or two passers by as I miraculously rose from my wheelchair to go and get some wine gums! Disabled toilets are fun too, never mind the disabled lift that has a door that opens outwards. You obviously need to learn some dexterity in a wheel chair!

Thankfully I got a helpful push to the plane from the gate, even more necessary as they changed the gate at the last minute which meant a long uphill ramp followed by another lift. Thank you Mr Flight Assistance man.

After I'd hobbled up the few steps to the plane I was confronted with sitting on the window seat of a row of two seats. Surely I can sit elsewhere I asked the stewardess? The plane was more than half empty. 

May be the emergency exit with room for my bundled up leg? Oh no, I'd be a hazard there. I was tempted to go in to some tirade about them leaving the less able to burn in an accident (I was exhausted and in pain) while the 'good ones' got out. I finally got another portside seat where I could put my leg in the aisle from time to time. I also got a great view of Fair Ilse as we flew by.

The flight back was fun. 15,000 feet doesn't look that high. The detail of the land and sea is amazing and with a tail wind we made good time towards Shetland. The same tail wind was very strong by the time we got to Shetland and as we approached the landing it was a bit of a white knuckle ride, but what a view, amazing.

Here's some one landing on much less turbulent day

I lurched down the steps into another wheel chair trying not to get blown over and was finally wheeled to meet Clare and Beren, feeling very emotional.

By the time we'd driven the next 48 miles home I was totally exhausted and not at all comfortable, so I've spent most of the day asleep on the sofa or in bed for a change.

Probably they way of things for the next couple of weeks, so I'd best make the most of it and get Clare to dig the guitar out again and get plenty of zazen in too, along with the odd film...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Time to put my feet up

I fly off to hospital in Aberdeen tomorrow morning for a operation on my knee so I'll be putting my feet up a for a while, whether I want to or not. Have a bit of fun for me.

I am looking forward to the flight from and to Sumburgh...

Sunday, 24 October 2010

It's cold out there...

It's been pretty bitter today with high winds again and hail showers just to add that extra 'winter is coming' feel. After lunch we went out for some more local treasure hunting (geocaching) with Beren. He really enjoys looking for the treasure, though the concept of leaving something in exchange for the treasure he finds is obviously difficult for him.

Here's Beren after exchanging his rabbit for a tape measure on Ladie Hill above Voxter Voe

Determined to carry his own little rucksack he soldiered up the hills, but the slope, cold and hail got the better of him eventually and I became pack horse for a while. He kept saying 'it's not far now' and even calling out 'where are you treasure?' as we got near the top of the hill. It was very amusing.

Here he is unearthing his first find of the day near Graven and a short walk from the car. Makka Pakka was exchanged for a shiny squid fishing lure (minus the hook)

Well definitely have to get together our own treasure cache for Beren to hide when we get chance.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Mavis Grind; Beren's first geocache find

Today was my friends last day of his holiday in Shetland, so when we got up to a sunny day with around force 3 north easterlies we headed off to Delting Boat Club at Brae for a short sail. The last chance for a while due to my knee surgery due this week.

Nothing to adventurous. We were out for about an hour with a top speed of about 11km/h which was pretty exhilarating. Travelling down to around Saltness Pier and across to near a skerrie, Burgastoo, was fun and we saw some basking seals near Burravoe.

The journey back was a little trickier but we made it and my tacking improved a hundred fold by the time we landed back in the marina. Just timed it right too as the wind began to pick up and we got a heavy shower as we where covering her up.

After a fantastic dinner courtesy of Clare we had time for a quick visit to a geocache before heading in to Lerwick for my friend's ferry sooth. It was breezy and cool, but sunny, as we strolled along the southern bank towards the Ness of Culsetter.

Beren was encouraged with the thought of finding treasure at the top of the hill and bravely plodded up the pretty steep slope without any help. He helped uncover the treasure box (Tupperware box) from under a pile of stones and with a slight of hand I managed to slip in a chocolate biscuit into it for him to find, along with a toy car he took too. He was a bit red in the face, cold and snotty, but happy.

In exchange for the toy car we left a few little cowrie shells from a Shetland beach and then set off back to the car. Beren slid half the way down the grassy hill on his well padded bum and then got his wellies stuck in a bog, but survived wellies intact; all great fun for a lad who's not yet 3.

Think we need to dig out last years snow suit and see if it still fits him. It's definitely getting to that time of year!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Stormy Stanes O' Stofast

It's not been the best of weeks for my friend's first visit to Shetland; high winds, rain and now heavy snow and hail on and off for the the least couple of days. Well it is October.

Yesterday we ventured out to the Stanes O' Stofast amidst intermittent batterings of hail. The weather led to some beautiful scenery though.

Leaving Outrabister, a wave blows in, Ronas Hill white in the distance

We walked up round the north side of the loch having ocassional showers pummeling our back. Here's one on it's way over to Whalsay.

Another one heading out to sea

The mix of sun and showers gave some fantastic views. A stoat even popped out to say i'i' when we sheltered behind a wall through a particularly long and heavy blast. Obviously bemused it popped up again for a second look!

The wind and intensity of showers was only increasing and we sheltered behind the stones themselves before having to head back into the wind and hail of frozen peas.

It's only about 15 minutes back to the car, but going into the wind with the waves of hail coming over was painful at times. Time to keep your head down and hood up; other than when admiring the rainbows...

or the dusted hills

Finally at the car we could catch our breath and sit out the latest hammering before setting off home for a hot cuppa, briefly stopping on the way to leave our mark at a geocache around here...

When we did get home I found the posty had left me an appointment for knee surgery in Aberdeen next thursday, yikes, talk about short notice! See here if you're really interested!

I'm glad it's come through. I just wasn't expecting it for another couple of months and then for it to be in Lerwick, not a plane ride away. That'll put me out of action for a few weeks so I'd better make the best of the breaks in the weather while I can!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Will the real Hamnavoe please stand up!

With a morning of fierce wind, rain, hail and snow it was pretty pointless going anywhere other than 'da toon' to get a few bits and bobs and give my friend a chance to discover the shopping delights of Lerwick.

We ended up meeting with Clare for lunch at Osla's and afterwards the sun had made an appearance.As I'm always told it's always sunny in Scalloway we headed out that way and then over to Burra and Meal beach for a quick visit.

I'd not planned to do more than visit the beach, but with a break in the weather to go further was tempting and we headed off round the headland. I'd heard that there were caves that lead out to the sea on the way to the lighthouse, so while we were here it seemed a shame not to investigate that. 

Not having planned to go anywhere other than 'da toon' I'd no camera with me, only my increasingly decrepit mobile. Probably a good job for as we crossed Meal Beach, admiring the crashing green waves and the enormous breakers out on the rocks at sea, and headed round the headland towards the lighthouse on Fugla Ness the weather changed for the worse.

Looking south down Burra

As we approached the lighthouse it was more than obvious that this wasn't the Hamnavoe  lighthouse with caves. It suddenly dawned upon me that it must be one of the other Hamnavoes! No caves here just rocky and boulder strewn shores. Still it was a bracing walk with great views.

The light house

Just as we got to the lighthouse the wind picked up even more and we were pelted with rain and hail; time for a quick dash to shelter behind it. The relief from the wind and hail was wonderful.

Alan sheltering from the hail

Looking north as the squalls roll in

Looking back to the lighthouse from Hamnavoe

After walking back to Hamnavoe and a snack from the shop we took a very long and scenic drive home with heavy showers of hail and snow all the way Finally we relaxed in the house with a cuppa, listening to the windows rattle with hail. Tomorrow, if you believe the forecasts, is supposed to be sunny with light winds. Time will tell...

So will the real Hamnavoe with sea caves make it's location known, please? I love exploring and I just wish I could remember who it was that was talking about them so I could ask, but may be you know?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Messing about on (and over ) the water

Saturday happened to be the first time the weather has been suitable and we've been free for a maiden voyage of the GP14 sailing dinghy that I've bought along with a friend to renovate and do some crusing in.

Just about ready for her first trip out

Out on Vidlin Voe, looking back to Vidlin

My friend Alan,  who is visiting, enjoying the ride

As did Jim who I share her with

The wind was light and inconsistent, but we managed to go out for a while around Lunna Kirk before heading back in. It was my first time out sailing so Jim's instruction was pretty invaluable. When the wind did pick up and we had her trimmed right she picked up speed in a flash even with three of us on board. We only had the main sail up so it'll great to see her shift when we get the jib up some time, may be one day even the spinnaker, but one sail is enough to handle with the rudder for now.

We've also been busy out and about with my friend. All over Northmavine today from Eshaness to Ibister, including a Sunday Tea at Eshaness Community Hall and a visit to Tangwick Haa Museum.

Towards the end of the day we went for a walk from Collafirth, where the Altaire moors up, along the Burn O'Twa Roes and up the waterfalls there where I couldn't resist the obvious temptation...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Lang Ayre; desire, attachment, suffering

Before I even set foot in Shetland I knew of a place called Lang Ayre. Pretty inaccessible, but with amazing red beaches, cliffs, stacks and arches.

My few trips down Ronas Voe with a view to getting there have always stopped short due to the atlantic ocean that hits that coast and a walk in seemed unlikely with my physical condition.

Any how I'd set myself a goal of getting there this holidays, partly due to the fact that I'd been told you could get down the cliffs at the south west end. Initally I wanted to walk in and camp, but it hasn't happened and this being one of my last 'free' days of my holidays I decided to walk across just to scope it out for a future trip.

The weather was pretty foul; windy and hill fog with rain. Being October it was also pretty nippy up there. As if to prove a fact I saw a couple of mountain hares already in their winter coats!

The start pretty much set the scene for the rest of  the walk.

With mainly scenes like this

Infact from the very start I had to use my trusty 22 year old suunto compass and walk bearings from rock to rock and hump to hollow.

I think people really under estimate how disorientating the fog can be. Especially on a boulder strewn hillside like Ronas Hill. GPS would be nice but the ability to use a compass is invaluable. Even so, I found myself doubting myself, had I got the reading right, was I really going in the right direction. All sorts of uncertainties crop up in your head, but you've got to work out your path and stick to it, let the voices drift away. I don't know if it would be less or more confusing with another person. My first confirmation wasn't far from the car really, a cairn, followed by another one, but until I hit them I really wasn't certain I would. Eventually I made it to the first top.

Mid Field Cairn

From Mid Field I took a bearing that would have me traversing the northern slopes of Ronas Hill, crossing the Burn of Black Butten (an obvious feature) on my way to Lang Ayre. It's actually really hard to traverse on a bearing in fog, over boulder field and with no altimeter. With me the tendency is always to start angling down hill. I guess it's a natural effect of gravity so I end up trying to go up a bit to compensate.

It's rather odd going from little feature to feature. All temporary stops along the way, often given temporary names that change as I get closer. Shark fin rock becomes several 'random' rocks on approach, dark lump becomes peaty hollow. It hard work but fun.

Any how I eventually ended up at Lang Ayre. I'd hoped that once I was down off the hill it would clear and I could explore, but the photo's sort of say it all. I was high up, the cliffs were steep, the wind was howling and the fog was so bad that much of the time I couldn't even see the beach. It was not the day to go exploring cliffs for a route down, but it was very very impressive. You'll need to click on these to zoom in to see any detail I'm afraid.

Lang Ayre

Turls Head

The Stab

Just visible The Stab and distant The Cleiver and The Hog

The route down was supposed to be further south west near Ketligill Head but it was pointless going along the cliffs to look, it was just far too dangerous, so I took a bearing and set off up to the top of Ronas Hill.

The trig point at the top of Ronas has a little visitor book so I left my mark

Nearby is a chambered cairn. By this point I was pretty wacked though and couldn't be bothered crawling in. Just a quick drink and snack, get another bearing and hopefully be at the car soon.

Just as I left Mid Field on the way down the fog temporarily cleared enough for me to see the masts at Collafirth Hill and the car, typical. Atleast I could now just relax and get there.
 The mast are to the left, honest

Arriving at the car after 4 hours was a relief. I'd enjoyed the venture but my legs were aching, my feet sore and the damp was getting through. My head was pretty tired too; it's quite stressful walking alone on bearings in the fog. I'd even taken my marine handheld vhf  thinking if I got in to trouble it'd be more use than a mobile, as it happens my mobile was on and I got several texts! It soon went off.

So Lang Ayre is still there to taunt me and for Auld Rasmie I still can't say about any settlements there, but I did walk over some features not on the map that definitely resembled old track ways. It'll be next year before I get another go at her I reckon. I have a knee operation due around New Year that'll take a bit to get over and even for my adventurous spirit I think camping there will have to wait until there's more light and less wind!

Monday, 11 October 2010

St Ninian's; a family kayak

Up bright and early today and so was the sun. It was far too nice to hang around the house, so with light winds and calm seas the decision was really where to go...

Hoping to make the most of the conditions we decided to go for a kayak around St Ninian's Isle; the coast held great promise.

Arriving at the beach at Ireland near Bigton

Looking south to Bigton and St Ninian's tombolo

We set off directly west to St. Ninian's before turning north into a light breeze and low gentle swell as we passed along the steep craggy coast towards the tip of the island at Loose Head and began heading south towards Hick Holm.

Loose Head

Hick Holm with Fitful Head in the distance

Heading south was great with a light wind and following sea. The coastline is impressive but it get's really interesing once you've passed Hick Holm. We continued on to Sweyn Holm at the south west tip of the island and entered a land of stack and caves.

Turning towards Sweyn Holm and going through the channel

We had a spot of lunch on the first bit of beach we came to and then set off again to explore the area. The kayak nearly setting off with out us as the tide pushed in.

High Herbi Clett

Colsay and Fitful Head in the distance

Here's a selection of some caves and features we came across...


We made our way back north towards the tombolo that joins St Ninian's to the island and were greated by a couple of passing families from up on the island.

Time for a peerie portage

Beren seemed to think he could paddle across the sand bar

Luckily for him we dragged him and then just had the last 1km paddle back to the car. A quick change and load up then time to sit in the sun with our well earned treats outside Bigton general store and a few quick chats about our adventure.

On the way back we decided to visit Maywick, a small settlement and beach just north of Bigton. It was lovely there with a great view looking back north towards Burra and the Clift Hills.

Here's South Havra, an island with a disused windmill, visible. We hope to kayak there and camp at some point. Probably launching from Maywick.

Beren had fun on the beach and then slept most of the way home, lucky him!