Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Birthday!

A certain member of the library staff has a special birthday today.

Happy 60th Birthday Christmas Carol!

Love from all your friends at the library

Christmas Day

Now Kings and shepherds have come.
A wintered hovel
Hides a glory
Whiter than snowflake or silver or star.
(From 'Christmas Poem' by George Mackay Brown)

Wood Engraving by John Lawrence

Monday, 24 December 2012

Advent - 24th December

Well here we are,  we've survived gales, floods and predictions of the end of the world. Today is your last chance to stock up on holiday reading/return your overdue books/ find the perfect mince pie recipe. 

Our Christmas Eve opening hours are 1pm - 4pm 

After that we're off to peel the sprouts! 

We'll be back on Thursday 3rd January at our usual times of 2pm-7pm.

Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Advent - 23rd December

Festive spirits may be somewhat dampened as the weather continues to make festive preparations difficult - from those trying to get home for the holidays to those looking for last minute presents or needing to stock up on essentials.

For our northerly neighbours in Shetland the dreadful weather had led to cancelled ferry sailings, and with fresh food supplies running low and increasingly empty shelves, it looked like it might be a sprout-less Christmas for many. However a certain supermarket chain, who have a store in Lerwick, came to the rescue by chartering a Hercules to fly in supplies.

photo from https://www.facebook.com/shetlandwildlife?fref=ts

Advent of course is a time of journeys, and we hope however and wherever you are travelling you will reach your destination safely. 

T.S. Eliot's poem "Journey of the Magi" seems appropriate for all travellers in this season.

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’ 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Advent - 22nd December

Ah well we seem to still be here after all, despite those ancient apocalyptic predictions. We particularly liked the following explanation.

Anyway this means you can carry on with the festive preparations and this seemed like a good time to remind you of our holiday arrangements.

We are open today from 11am until 5pm and then on Monday 24th Christmas Eve from 1pm until 4pm after which we will be off doing lots of exciting festive things until 3rd January when we will return bright eyed and bushy tailed (you don't see them under the issue desk) at our usual opening times of 2pm - 7pm. 

The weather is pretty awful, so if you are venturing out pop by the library to make sure you have plenty of good books to keep you going through the holidays. But do wrap up warm, and make sure you're wearing heavy boots!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Advent - 21st December

Midwinter Haiku

The low sun slants grey shafts
between the Hoy hills; light fills
the Rackwick valley

Great wings beat in 
sweeping white across the Sound.
Waves break at Braga

Among broken walls
at Breckness a ewe lies down
with her Solstice lamb.

(from In The Hanging Valley by Yvonne Gray, published by Two Ravens Press, Ullapool, 2008)

photo by Ben Whitworth 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Advent - 20th December

An extract from 'Yule' by George Mackay Brown:

We came at noon to the marked tree,
A grey gnarled column.
The sergeant shouted.Our axes flashed. They bit.
We struck out pieces of bark and bole.
We laboured like men in a siege, among whirls of snow,
But root was one with berry still
In the first red seepings of sunset.
                            In the village windows, that twilight,
Tinsel stars glittered.
There were chains of coloured tissue and paper lanterns.
Under the street lamp, chaste mouths.
Then the village slept, unblessed by the winter tree.

(in Winterfold by George Mackay Brown,  published by Chatto and Windus Ltd, London, 1976)

Photo courtesy of http://sianthom.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Advent - 19th December

There may not be monstrous Yule Cats on the prowl in Orkney but  Yule preparations in the islands were also concerned with warding off the unwelcome attention of malevolent spirits - in this case the trows. You can read more about the traditions surrounding Yule in the Northern Isles on the excellent Orkneyjar website.

Ernest Marwick tells of a specifically Stromness Yule custom in The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland: 

A Yearly tug-of-war, with the ultimate possession of a Yule tree as its object, took place in Stromness each Christmas Eve until 1936. A tree of some kind - for trees are scarce in the islands - was taken from a garden without the owner's knowledge and carried to the middle of the town. Chains or ropes were attached to it and a trial of strength began... there was a point of delimitation between Northenders and Southenders, and their ancient rivalry found expression in an attempt to drag the tree to a traditional goal well within the territory of the faction which proved most powerful. The contest was a robust, often turbulent one. As the route was skirted by the sea, the tree invariably ended its journey in the water, followed now and then by an over-zealous player.

You can read more about the Stromness Yule Tree on the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership's website.

We would love to hear from anyone who may remember this custom, or  has heard stories about it - please share them in the comments below.

In the meantime we're going to stick to a chocolate Yule Log - though there may still be fighting over that!

Recipe for Yule log at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3049/yule-chocolate-log

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Advent - 18th December

Sometimes the Internet brings you something unexpected and the serendipity has to be shared. 

We were  thinking about Yule celebrations and also planning to tell you about our new Library Knitting Group when our author friend, the lovely V. M. Whitworth, alerted us to the wonderfully creepy Icelandic legend of the Yule Cat which manages to combine both.

A cautionary tale used to ensure everyone in Iceland worked extra hard at their knitting during the festive preparations, the fearsome Yule Cat was said to devour anyone not dressed from head to toe in new clothes at Christmas. 

We loved this enormous Yule Cat by Hugleikur Dagsson.

It may be too late for this year but come along to Yap and Yarn, starting in January, and you too can have a new knitted outfit for Christmas 2013, and avoid a visit from the Yule Cat :-)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Advent - 17th December

As we make our way towards the solstice, the dark days and cold weather draw us together as families and friends seeking warmth and companionship.

We love this extract from the poem 'The Fire' by Margaret Tait, which captures this need for light and warmth in the darkness.

Tending a fire
As a full-time occupation
Is a feminine contentment.
To watch the flames rise,
Hear the crackle
And judge the correct moment and the correct place
to add the next bit of fuel
Some ancient impulse.
I build a little flame
And keep it there, feed it, keep it going
To warm you all by and feed you and cheer you by
And cheer myself too,
Cheer the deepest comfortless dark in my own self.

(from 'The Fire' in origins and elements 1959)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Advent - 16th December

We usually suggest folk get their books for free by visiting us at the library, but for those of you stuck for last minute gift ideas a book, or if you're really not sure what to choose then a book token, may solve your dilemma.

There are of course lots of Orkney related titles to choose from but we noticed that the 3rd edition of Gregor Lamb's The Orkney Wordbook is due out this week, with a striking new cover designed by Stromness artist Alex Leonard of Tambo Illustrations.

Alex is perhaps best known for his weekly comic strip 'The Giddy Limit' which appears in The Orcadian newspaper, with the characters also appearing in another popular calendar for 2013.

For those of you unfamiliar with the antics of  Cheemo, Sandy, Liz, Davo  and Ivy there is an archive of past strips available online. Here is a seasonal example, illustrating the minefield of Christmas gift giving.


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Advent - 15th December

If your festive spirit needs a boost then get along to the Stromness Town Hall tonight at 7.30pm

Friday, 14 December 2012

Advent - 14th December

In the inn of December,  a fire, 
A loaf, a bottle of wine.
     Travellers, rich and poor, are on the roads.

(From 'Dance of the Months' in Christmas Poems by George Mackay Brown)

Wood engravings by John Lawrence in Christmas Poems

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Advent - 13th December

Sometimes amidst the seasonal joy there are darker moments - when the heightened emotions and symbolism, combined with dark cold days, the frantic preparations for a fast approaching deadline and the pressure to remain jolly can all start to become overwhelming. 

When this happens we find a dose of irreverent humour usually does the trick. So in this spirit we share with you the 42 Worst Nativity Sets.

You'll have to follow the link to enjoy the full horror but we just had to share a few of our favourites here. 

For cuteness we give you the Penguin Nativity: 

For the sheer wonderment of 'Why?' we give you the Nativity Snow Globe - where the baby Jesus appears to be in a goldfish bowl:

For managing to be disturbing, sacrilegious and funny we had to share the Godzilla Nativity:

For cleverness, oddness and edibleness we have the Food Nativity:

And finally, for being wrong on every kind of level, we could not help ourselves but share the Meat Nativity:


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Advent - 12th December

Many thanks to one of our blog readers for drawing our attention to a fabulous online advent quiz for book lovers.

Vintage Books are posting the first line of a Vintage Classic edition every day during advent for you to identify - a lucky winner, chosen from the correct entries, will win a copy of the book in question. Test your literary knowledge and do let us know if you are one of the lucky winners!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Advent - 11th December

Our friends at the Scottish Poetry Library  are also doing an advent calendar on their blog this year. The highlight so far has been the unwrapping of the final gift from the anonymous book sculptor, whose previous works have been on display at the Poetry Library in the Gifted exhibition.

You may remember we wrote about the sculptures before, when Ian Rankin was our author of the month, as many of the sculptures had a connection to his work.

This final sculpture is as intricate and beautiful as the sculptor's previous works. You can see more photos and even a clip of the grand unwrapping on the Scottish Poetry Library's blog , but here is a detail from the work and a mysterious message from the artist, which perhaps suggests there may be more beautiful things to come in the future?!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Advent - 10th December

Another favourite story of ours for Christmas is Lucy M. Boston's The Children of Green Knowe. Like The Box Delights  this was also adapted as a children's drama by the BBC, and was also pretty creepy.

Unfortunately not available on DVD but we did find the episodes on YouTube, below is a link to the first part of episode one.

While looking on line for more information about the book we came across this very interesting article about the house upon which Green Knowe was based, Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire, which is now run by Lucy Boston's daughter-in-law Diana Boston. Diana's late husband Peter provided the illustrations for his mother's novels, some of which can be seen below.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Advent - 9th December

Stromness during advent is the place to be to see lots of exciting local artworks on display  - today's exhibition is the Pier Art Centre's Christmas Open Exhibition. Packed with local talent it is well worth a visit.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent- 7th December

Fortified with chocolate we made our way up to the depths of the attic and liberated the Christmas tree. It's now in the process of being decorated, and we will share the finished effect with you tomorrow.

But for now here is GMB getting into the festive spirit.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Advent - 6th December

Our friends on Orkney Library and Archive's Facebook page reminded us of another fabulous book to read at Christmas - John Masefield's The Box of Delights, which was adapted by the BBC in the 1980s into a genuinely chilling children's drama series. There is a clip of the opening sequence below - this still makes the hairs stand up on the back of our necks!

The Kirkwall library copy may be out on loan but never fear - come to Stromness and we can lend you not only The Box of Delights , but also the lesser known prequel The Midnight Folk - which tells of Kay Harker's first encounter with the evil Abner Brown.

There will be more books for Christmas to come, but we would love to hear your suggestions too - please tell us your favourite festive reads in the comments below.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent - 5th December

One of the books which goes out on loan every year at this time is Jostein Gaarder's The Christmas Mystery. 

Written for children but equally enjoyed by adults this magical Christmas tale weaves together the double narrative of  Norwegian boy Joachim's preparations for Christmas, and the story he discovers inside a very special advent calendar. 

We'd love to hear how other folk mark the period of advent - share your family traditions and book suggestions in the comments below.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Advent - 4th December

As part of our blog advent calendar we thought we would take you on a virtual walk along the street to give you a feel for Stromness at Christmas.

To start you off here is the Northlight Gallery window, which is worth a look all year round as the artist's mannequins act out various topical scenes. 

Here they are getting ready for Christmas and demonstrating the various crafts on show in the gallery's Christmas exhibition - The Gathering - which features work by members of the Orkney Crafts Association and runs until Christmas Eve. 

Remember that a Christmas shopping trip to Stromness also gives you the chance of winning £1000 in the Stromness Bonanza - you get an entry number for every £5 you spend, with the winner being announced on Hogmanay! 

More festive views of Stromness to follow, but for now here's a view looking south along Victoria Street towards Graham Place, showing the Christmas lights. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Advent - 3rd December

Long shadows and a sprinkling of snow yesterday.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Advent - 2nd December

Whether making a conscious decision to resist consumerism, or reacting to the economic climate, many folk may this year be considering the joys of giving and receiving homemade gifts. If you're in search of inspiration for what to make, then never fear, we have a wide selection of craft and cookery books full of gift ideas. 

For the knitters amongst you we can personally recommend Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts which is full of patterns for projects to suit most ages and tastes, and usefully arranges them according to the estimated time they should take to complete - handy if you want to avoid that last minute Christmas Eve knitting panic! 

We also have plenty of festive craft books on offer, our favourite being The Twelve Knits of Christmas by Fiona Goble - you may not manage the full set for this year but you can always just start with the partridge. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Advent - 1st December

We thought we'd try something new this year and try to mark advent with a post a day during December. We can't promise you chocolate but we will try to bring you a seasonal reflection, in word, or images , with a suitably local flavour. 

Today we woke up to see the first white flakes of winter at the window and so we thought we'd share the following extract from George Mackay Brown's poem "House of Winter", from his Christmas Poems collection:

                             At last, the house of winter. Find
                             On the sill
                             Intricate ice jewellery, a snowflake.