Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Last day...

... of 2013, but also your last chance to enter our Advent Book Quiz.

Look back over our 25 December posts, can you identify the author and title of each extract? Submit your answers as a comment on each post by the end of tomorrow, 1st January 2014, and you could win a fabulous prize!

The winner, correct answers, and all your comments will be published on Friday 3rd January. 

Good luck!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 25

Merry Christmas!

'A merry Christmas, Bob!' said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistake, as he clapped him on the back. 'A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!' 
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him. 
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 24

Christmas Eve!

Well here we are folks, only a day to go before our final festive book extract! 

Stromness library is open today from 1-4pm and then we will close for the holidays, opening again on Friday 3rd January at 2pm. 

We would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

We hope you have enjoyed our advent quiz -  don't forget to submit your answers, by commenting on each day's post, by 1st January. Comments won't be published until we announce the answers, and winner, when the library re-opens on Friday 3rd January. 

Good Luck!

The tailor lay ill for three days and nights; and then it was Christmas Eve, and very late at night. The moon climbed up over the roofs and chimneys, and looked down over the gateway into College Court. There were no lights in the windows, nor any sound in the houses; all the city of Gloucester was fast asleep under the snow.   
And still Simpkin wanted his mice, he mewed as he stood beside the four-post bed. 
But it is in the old story that all the beasts can talk, in the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the morning (though there are very few folk that can hear them, or know what it is that they say). 
When the Cathedral clock struck twelve there was an answer - like an echo of the chimes - and Simpkin heard it, and came out of the tailor's door, and wandered about in the snow. 
From all the roofs and gables and old wooden houses in Gloucester came a thousand merry voices singing the old Christmas rhymes - all the old songs that ever I heard of, and some that I don't know, like Whittington's bells. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz - Day 23

Day twenty-three of our festive quiz

A non-fiction description of Christmas from a different country and century. 

Can you identify the author and title? Submit your answer as a comment below this post - comments won't be published until 3rd January when the answers and winner are revealed. Closing date for entries is 1st January. 

Good Luck!

The Christmas dinner bore a resemblance to the one that I remembered in Scotland except that instead of roast turkey there were geese stuffed with apples accompanied by partridges cooked in sour cream. At the end as a special gesture to her half-Scottish granddaughter, Babushka served a plum pudding. Inside were the usual trinkets, which surprised and delighted young and old. During the dinner, there were pauses when someone would stand up and offer a toast to Babushka and myself in recognition of our name-day, which gave me a delightful sense of importance. 
Towards the end of dinner Yura and Seryozha excused themselves and disappeared into the ballroom. Soon after, Babushka suggested we should leave the table and move towards the closed doors. There we stood waiting. There was an air of expectation. Then, at the tinkling of a bell, all the lights went out, plunging the rooms in darkness. The double-doors were flung wide open. 
And there, against the background of total darkness stood this glorious thing, stretching up to the ceiling, ablaze with lights. I had not seen before a Christmas tree of any kind. The sudden impact of this amazing sight overwhelmed me. 
Everything shimmered and trembled. The beautiful fairy standing on tiptoes, the snow queen on the sledge driving the silver reindeer to her ice castle with the little boy behind her, Red Riding Hood with her basket setting off to see her grandma, the little mermaid swaying gently on the edge of a branch, the princess in her gown and diamond coronet, the evil witch standing beside the cottage which is slowly circling on hens' feet, the gnomes and the little winged angels, the tinkling crystal icicles and the sparkling scattered frost. And over all the glitter, the characters out of fairy tales, the apples, sweets and golden walnuts, there was the brilliance of candles, each pointed flame surrounded by a golden halo encircling the tree, layer upon layer of them, and fusing together into one cascading light of dazzling splendour. 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 22

Day twenty-two of our festive quiz

Only three more days to go! Don't forget to catch up with any days you've missed - you have until 1st January to submit your answers as comments on each days post. The winner and answers will be revealed on 3rd January. 

The next three days were busy ones for the ladies at Flint Cottage. Red-berried holly, pale mistletoe and glossy ivy were collected and used to decorate the living-room. Two red candles stood one at each end of the mantelpiece, and a holly garland hung from the brass knocker on the front door. 
The cake was iced, the pudding fetched down from the top shelf in the pantry, the mincemeat jar stood ready for the pies and a trifle was made. One of Mrs Pringle's chickens arrived ready for the table, and sausage meat came from the butcher. 
Margaret crept away privately while Mary was bringing in logs from the woodshed, and wrapped up two pairs of sensible lisle stockings which she had bought in Caxley for her sister's present. Mary took advantage of Margaret's absence at the Post Office and swiftly wrapped up a pair of stout leather gloves and hid them in the second drawer of the bedroom chest. 
All Fairacre was abustle. Margaret and Mary helped to set up the Christmas crib in the chancel of St Patrick's church. The figures of Joseph, Mary and the Child, the shepherds and the wise men reappeared every year, standing in the straw provided by Mr Roberts the farmer, and lit with sombre beauty by discreetly placed electric lights. The children came in on their way from school to see this perennial scene, and never tired of looking. 
The sisters helped to decorate the church too. There were Christmas roses on the altar, their pearly beauty set off by sprigs of dark yew amidst the gleaming silverware. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 21

Day twenty one of our festive quiz

One of our favourite classic children's books for you today. Tell us the author and title by submitting a comment below, and remember you still have until 1st January to catch up with any extracts you haven't identified yet. Answers and winner will be revealed on 3rd January.

'And now,' the Bishop said, 'Mr. Hawlings will give you a much older version of the Punch and Judy play, which his grandfather used to play upon the roads.' It was a very interesting performance and the children hugely enjoyed it, but not so much as they had enjoyed those magical tricks which he had played at Seekings.   
Presently, the curtain fell and that was the end of Kay's hopes of speaking to the old man, for the Bishop at once said, 'And now, everybody, I want you to move into the next room, there behind you, to dance round our Christmas Tree and receive the gifts allotted to you.' 
The door opened behind the company. Beyond the room in which they had seen the show was another room, also a part of the hostel. Pilgrims had come to that place in hundreds in the Middle Ages, for the Cathedral had then held the Shrine of the great Saint Cosric, Saxon King and Martyr, who had worked such famous miracles in the cure of Leprosy, and Broken Hearts. 
In the midst of this room was the biggest and most glorious Christmas Tree that had ever been seen in Tatchester. It stood in a monstrous half-barrel full of what looked like real snow stuck about with holly and mistletoe. Its bigger boughs were decked with the glittering coloured glass globes which Kay so much admired. The lesser boughs were lit with countless coloured electric lights like tropical fruits: ever so much better, Kay thought, than those coloured candles which drip wax everywhere and so often set fire to the tree and to the presents. At the top of this great green fir-tree was a globe of red light set about with fiery white rays for the Christmas Star. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 20

Day twenty of our festive quiz

Feeling generous we'll give you a few clues about today's extract; it's a short story, set in Shetland, by an Orkney writer. We would like the author and the title of the short story, with a bonus point for the title of the volume in which the story was published. Post your answer as a comment. Closing date is 1st January and comments will not be published until the answers and winner are revealed on 3rd January. 

Don't forget to go back and catch up with any days you might have missed!

On the night of December the twentieth, I was privileged to witness the ceremony for the protection of children. 
A very old woman - the grandmother - in the house of the many children, bent with a candle over the various cribs, chanting in a low solemn voice: 
                                  Mary Midder, haad de hand
                                  Ower aboot for sleeping-band,
                                  Haad da lass and haad da wife, 
                                  Haad da bairn a' its life.
                                  Mary Midder, haad de hand
                                  Roond da infants o' oor land. 
The next day was Thomasmas, December the twenty-first. It was I noticed, a calm luminous day on the sea, 'as good a day for fishing as we're like to see this winter,' Williamson said. 
But not one boat put out with lines and bait. I visited Betsy's father and two brothers who sat smoking their pipes on a bench at the end of their house. They said nothing. They turned away from me. I think they are a little put out that their lass is so familiar with the son of the Hall. There is something, they consider, not right about that, something clean contrary to the social order. Betsy ought to know better. 
At sunset on the shortest day Betsy spoke the rhyme that prohibits all work whatsoever on Thomasmas Day:
                                   The very babe unborn
                                   Cries 'O dule! dule!'
                                   For the breaking o' Tammasmas Night
                                   Five nights afore Yule.
Three nights later, on Christmas Eve, I saw the old fiddler beside his barn lifting the upper quernstone from the lower stone and, slowly and solemnly, taking it inside. 
Then, crofter by crofter, the same piece of ritual was enacted: the stone that turned and ground the bread lifted and removed to a safe place. 
'For why?' said Betsy. 'For tonight is the night that the trows come and turn the wheel against the sun. And if that happens, the stones will be barren, there'll be no meal and bread next harvest, the countryside'll starve. And your father won't get a penny in rent ...' 
That same night Betsy took me to the house of the scolding wife and the man who had sold the sheep for drink in Scalloway. He did not behave like a wastrel in the little lamp-splashed room; he seemed like a celebrant in some ancient mystery. 
The wife brought out a basin and filled it with water. The man lifted three live embers from the fire and dropped them one by one from the tongs into the water, with small hissings and wisps of steam. Then he washed his hands and face in the singed water. His wife went through the same lustration. The three children dipped hands and faces and lifted them, streaming...Across the bed were laid out the clean clothes that ever member of the family would wear on Christmas morning. 
'And now,' said Betsy, 'I must hurry home. The same thing's to be done there, and in every house in Shetland... Be sure to be here in the morning, before sunrise.' In the late lingering twilight of Yule morning I stood at a corner of the barn of Scad. Betsy's father came out of the cottage, guided by a flickering candle in a stark shadowy holder; and he went slowly into the byre where the cow and the ox were stalled. I came quietly and stood in the open door, watching. Old Ollie seemed unaware of my presence. I saw, startled, that the candle holder was a cow's skull. Ollie spoke familiarly to the beasts, but in the old tongue I could not understand him, and the beasts mixed their lowings with his chant. I think he must have been telling them that Christ was born - now they had nothing to fear - the powers of evil could not touch any living creature on such a marvellous morning. The light flowering out of the skull was an extraordinary symbol. I stood there, deeply moved. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 19

Day nineteen of our festive quiz

Another extract featuring Orkney today - we would like the title please with bonus points if you can identify the translators. Submit your answer as a comment by 1st January to be in with a chance of winning a fabulous prize! The winner, and answers, will be announced on 3rd January. 

The Earl spent some time in Shetland, but went south to Orkney in the autumn and took up residence in his own realm. That same autumn, two Icelanders visited the Earl, one a poet called Armod, and the other Oddi Glumsson the Little, who was also quite a versifier. The Earl admitted both of them to his court, and at Christmas held a great feast to which he invited people and handed out presents. To the poet Armod he gave a gold-inlaid spear and asked him to make a verse in return. This is what Armod said:
                                          Lavish must he be, the great
                                          lord, no laggard
                                          in paying the poet
                                         for his praise-song.
                                         Wisest in the world
                                         is he, our watchtower:
                                         his gift-blade for Armod.

One day over Christmas, people were seeing to the wall-hangings when the Earl turned to Oddi the Little. 'Make a verse,' he said, 'about the man pictured there on the hanging. Make it as quickly as I compose mine, and don't use any word in yours that I use.' Then the Earl said this:
                                         Age-worn, the warrior
                                         waits in the wall-drape,
                                         from his old shoulder down
                                         he lets the sword slide,
                                         bow-bent, his legs won't
                                         bear him again to battle,
                                         never again will he go,
                                         gold-rich to glory. 
Oddi said this:
                                         See how the swordsman
                                         squares himself to strike
                                         from the wall-hanging, 
                                         weapon raised in warning:
                                         make your settlement soon, 
                                         seamen - the back
                                         bends for the blow-
                                         quick, boys, make peace. 
The Earl entertained Bishop William and a good many of his chieftains at the feast over Christmas and it was there that he announced his plan to go abroad and visit the Holy Land, inviting the bishop, who had studied in Paris, to join him. The Earl wanted very much to have him as interpreter and the bishop promised to go with him.  

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 18

Day eighteen of our festive quiz

Another children's classic today.

Identify the author and title and submit your answer as a comment. Closing date is 1st January. The answers and winner will be announced on 3rd January. 

When they had finished decorating it, the old room looked more like the Knight's Hall than ever. Against the stone walls, on top of the stone chimney-piece, the dark green leaves themselves looked mediaeval. It was an ancient castle prepared for an ancient feast. When Tolly was handing up great bunches to Mrs Oldknow on the steps, it often seemed to him not so heavy as he expected, as if someone were helping him. 'Did they do this?' he asked.
'Yes, they always decorated the house, but they didn't have a Christmas tree. Christmas trees began much later, in England at any rate. They had their feast in our dining-room, which their father had altered and improved. It was he who had our big fireplace put in, and the big windows on to the garden. And it was their mother who first used this as a music room. She used to teach them some of the songs that I teach you.'
It was late afternoon before they finished the Christmas tree, and it was growing dark. They lit the old red Chinese lantern and many candles so that they could see to work. There were no glaring electric bulbs on this tree. Mrs Oldknow had boxes of coloured glass ornaments, each wrapped separately in tissue paper and put carefully away from year to year. Some were very old and precious indeed. There were glass balls, stars, fir-cones, acorns and bells in all colours and sizes.There were also silver medallions of angels. Of course the most beautiful star was fixed at the very top, with gold and silver suns and stars beneath and around it. Each glass treasure, as light as an eggshell and as brittle, was hung on a loop of black cotton that had to be coaxed over the prickly fingers of the tree. Tolly took them carefully out of their tissue paper and Mrs Oldknow hung them up. The tiny glass bell-clappers tinkled when a branch was touched. When it was all finished, there were no lights on the tree itself, but the candles in the room were reflected in each glass bauble on it, and seemed in those soft deep colours to be shining from an immense distance away, as if the tree were a cloudy night sky full of stars. They sat down together to look at their work. Tolly thought it so beautiful he could say nothing, he could hardly believe his eyes. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 17

Day seventeen of our festive quiz

Another classic extract for you today. When you have identified the author and title post your answer as a comment below this post. Comments will not appear until the 3rd January when the answers and winner will be announced. Entries close on 1st January, so plenty of time yet to come up with the correct answers :-)

Old William sat in the centre of the front row, his violoncello between his knees and two singers on each hand. Behind him, on the left, came the treble singers and Dick; and on the right the tranter and the tenors. Further back was old Mail with the altos and the super-numeraries. 
But before they had taken their places, and whilst they were standing in a circle at the back of the gallery practising a psalm or two, Dick cast his eyes over his grandfather's shoulder, and saw the vision of the past night enter the porch-door as methodically as if she had never been a vision at all. A new atmosphere seemed suddenly to be puffed into the ancient edifice by her movement, which made Dick's body and soul tingle with novel sensations. Directed by Shiner, the churchwarden, she proceeded to the small aisle on the north side of the chancel, a spot now allotted to a throng of Sunday-school girls, and distinctly visible from the gallery-front by looking under the curve of the furthermost arch on that side. 
Before this moment the church had seemed comparatively empty - now it was thronged; and as Miss Fancy rose from her knees and looked around her for a permanent place in which to deposit herself - finally choosing the remotest corner - Dick began to breathe more freely the warm new air she had brought with her; to feel rushings of blood, and to have impressions that there was a tie between her and himself visible to all the congregation. 
Ever afterwards the young man could recollect individually each part of the service of that bright Christmas morning, and the trifling occurrences which took place as its minutes slowly drew along; the duties of that day dividing themselves by a complete line from the services of other times. The tunes they that morning essayed remained with him for years, apart from all others; also the text; also the appearance of the layer of dust upon the capitals of the piers; that the holly-bough in the chancel archway was hung a little out of the centre - all the ideas, in short, that creep into the mind when reason is only exercising its lowest activity through the eye. 
By chance or by fate, another young man who attended Mellstock Church on that Christmas morning had towards the end of the service the same instinctive perception of an interesting presence, in the shape of the same bright maiden, though his emotion reached a far less developed stage. And there was this difference, too, that the person in question was surprised at his condition, and sedulously endeavoured to reduce himself to his normal state of mind. He was the young vicar, Mr. Maybold. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 16

Day sixteen of our festive quiz

A short extract set in Orkney, identify the author and title and submit your entry in the comments below this post. Closing date for entries is 1st January and comments won't be published until we reveal the answers and winner on 3rd January. 

Good luck!

Best about the grammar were the Christmas discos. Free-for-all orgies when the mistletoe came out. My first disco kiss - first real kiss with a girl - made me see stars. Literally. I was dancing with this girl Inga when a posse of Kirkwall folk came up and held the mistletoe over us. We snogged, but when we parted the hall was spinning round me. I didn't know where I was. The lights on the Christmas tree all went on at once ... and then multiplied ... more and more lights, all of them gold, getting brighter and brighter, until the tree looked like it was made of meteors. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 15

Day fifteen of our festive quiz

Can you identify the author and title of the following extract? Submit your answer as a comment and you could win a fabulous prize! Closing date for entries is 1st January 2014 and all will be revealed on 3rd January!!

They sang 'The First Nowell' as their last carol; they made their farewells; they were out again in the snow and the crisp air, with Merriman's impassive polite smile disappearing behind the Manor doors. Will stood on the broad stone steps and gazed up at the stars. The clouds had cleared at last, and now the stars blazed like pinpricks of white fire in the black hollow of the night sky, in all the strange patterns that had been a complicated mystery to him all his life, but were endlessly significant now. 'See how bright the Pleiades are tonight,' he said softly, and Mary stared at  him in amazement and said, 'The what?' 
So Will brought his attention down out of the fiery black heavens, and in their own small, yellow, torchlit world the Stanton carollers trooped home.He walked among them speechless, as if in a dream. They thought him tired, but he was floating in wonder. He had three of the Signs of Power now. He had, too, the knowledge to use the Gift of Gramarye: a long lifetime of discovery and wisdom, given to him in a moment of suspended time. He was not the same Will Stanton that he had been a very few days before. Now and forever, he knew, he inhabited a different time-scale from that of everyone he had ever known or loved...But he managed to turn his thoughts away from all these things, even from the two invading, threatening figures of the Dark. For this was Christmas, which had always been a time of magic, to him and to all the world. This was a brightness, a shining festival, and while its enchantment was on the world the charmed circle of his family and home would be protected against any invasion from outside. 
Indoors, the tree glowed and glittered, and the music of Christmas was in the air, and spicy smells came from the kitchen, and in the broad hearth of the living-room the great twisted Yule root flickered and flamed as it gently burned down. 

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 14

Day fourteen of our festive quiz

Another Orkney non-fiction title and author for you today, with an extract about an old Yule tradition here in Stromness. 

If you know the author and title submit your answer as a comment below. Comments will be published and the answers, and winner, announced on 3rd January. You have until 1st January to enter, so plenty of time to identify any extracts you've missed so far.

A yearly tug-of-war, with the ultimate possession of a Yule tree as its object, took place in Stromness (O) 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. The old town of Stromness, like Kirkwall, consists of a narrow winding street, but 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 a 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. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 13

Day thirteen of our festive quiz

Another classic novel for you today. 

When you have identified author and title submit your answer as a comment below. Comments will not be published until the winner and answers have been revealed on 3rd January. Closing date for entries is 1st January. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for another festive extract. 

'Christmas weather', observed Mr. Elton. 'Quite seasonable; and extremely fortunate we may think ourselves that it did not begin yesterday, and prevent this day's party, which it might very possibly have done, for Mr. Woodhouse would hardly have ventured had there been much snow on the ground; but now it is of no consequence. This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather. I was snowed up at a friend's house once for a week. Nothing could be pleasanter. I went for only one night, and could not get away till that very day se'nnight.' 
Mr. John Knightly looked as if he did not comprehend the pleasure, but said only, coolly, 
'I cannot wish to be snowed up a week at Randalls.' 
At another time Emma might have been amused, but she was too much astonished now at Mr. Elton's spirits for other feelings. Harriet seemed quite forgotten in the expectation of a pleasant party. 
'We are sure of excellent fires,' continued he, 'and every thing in the greatest comfort. Charming people, Mr. and Mrs. Weston;- Mrs. Weston indeed is much beyond praise, and he is exactly what one values, so hospitable, and so fond of society; - it will be a small party, but where small parties are select, they are perhaps the most agreeable of any. Mr. Weston's dining-room does not accommodate more than ten comfortably; and for my part, I would rather under such circumstances, fall short by two than exceed by two. I think you will agree with me, (turning with a soft air to Emma,) I think I shall certainly have your approbation, though Mr. Knightley perhaps, from being used to the large parties of London, may not quite enter into our feelings.' 
'I know nothing of the large parties of London, sir - I never dine with any body.' 
'Indeed! (in a tone of wonder and pity,) I had no idea that the law had been so great a slavery. Well, sir, the time must come when you will be paid for all this, when you will have little labour and great enjoyment.' 
'My first enjoyment,' replied John Knightly, as they passed through the sweep-gate, ' will be to find myself safe at Hartfield again.' 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 12

Day twelve of our festive quiz

Some carol singing today to get you in the festive spirit.

Identify the author and title and submit your answer as a comment below this post - comments will not be published until the winner and answers are revealed on 3rd January. Closing date for entries is 1st January, so don't forget to look back and submit your answers for any days you might have missed. 

Good Luck!

The week before Christmas, when snow seemed to lie thickest, was the moment for carol-singing; and when I think back to those nights it is to the crunch of snow and to the lights of the lanterns on it. Carol-singing in my village was a special tithe for the boys, the girls had little to do with it. Like hay-making, black-berrying, stone-clearing and wishing-people-a-happy-Easter, it was one of our seasonal perks.   
By instinct we knew just when to begin it; a day too soon and we should have been unwelcome, a day too late and we should have received lean looks from people whose bounty was already exhausted. When the true moment came, exactly balanced, we recognized it and were ready. 
So as soon as the wood had been stacked in the oven to dry for the morning fire, we put on our scarves and went out through the streets, calling loudly between our hands, till the various boys who knew the signal ran out from their houses to join us. 
One by one they came stumbling over the snow, swinging their lanterns around their heads, shouting and coughing horribly. 
"Coming carol-barking then?" 
We were the Church Choir, so no answer was necessary. For a year we had praised the Lord out of key, and as a reward for this service - on top of the Outing - we now had the right to visit all the big houses, to sing our carols and collect our tribute. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 11

Day eleven of our festive quiz

Another title with a local author for you to identify today. 

Enter the author and title as a comment to this post, comments won't be published until we reveal the winner, and answers, on 3rd January. You've got until 1st January to enter, so don't forget to go back and catch up with any earlier posts that you missed, and come back tomorrow for another festive extract. 

I lock the door and put the toilet seat down. There's a smell of antiseptic in the room that makes you think of hospitals. I bet they scrubbed it to get rid of the smell of sick. How come Danny never mentioned to me about Laetitia bein sick?  About her bein pregnant? I imagine her sittin on this seat doin a pregnancy test. 
I wonder when they all knew. I suppose the last time I really seen Danny properly was at Christmas, when my ma persuaded him to come hame for the day. A truce was called. It was like him and my da were walkin on eggshells round about one another the whole day. I felt sorry for my ma, she'd went to such a lot a trouble, cooked the biggest turkey I've ever saw. 
I felt like Tiny Tim, Danny says. 
And my da says, Does that make me Bob Cratchit? 
Who's he? Danny says. And it was obvious my da thought he was takin the piss. But I don't think he was; he really hadny heard a Bob Cratchit. They hardly said a word to one another after that. I found my ma in the kitchen later, takin big gulps a wine, lookin at the steamed-up window, wi tears pourin down her face. 
Christmas, she says. Peace and Goodwill to All Men. And she tipped up her glass and finished her wine in a oner. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 10

Day ten of our festive quiz

A classic novel for you to identify today.

Post your answer in comments (comments won't be published until the winner and answers are revealed on 3rd January. Closing date for entries is 1st January.

Fine old Christmas, with the snowy hair and ruddy face, had done his duty that year in the noblest fashion, and had set off his rich gifts of warmth and colour with all the heightening contrast of frost and snow. 
Snow lay on the croft and river-bank in undulations softer than the limbs of infancy; it lay with the neatliest finished border on every sloping roof, making the dark-red gables stand out with a new depth of colour; it weighed heavily on the laurels and fir-trees, till it fell from them with a shuddering sound; it clothed the rough turnip-field with whiteness, and made the sheep look like dark blotches; the gates were all blocked up with the sloping drifts, and here and there a disregarded four -footed beast stood as if petrified "in unrecumbent sadness;" there was no gleam, no shadow, for the heavens, too, were one still, pale cloud - no sound or motion in anything but the dark river that flowed and moaned like an unresting sorrow. But old Christmas smiled as he laid this cruel-seeming spell on the out-door world, for he meant to light up home with new brightness, to deepen all the richness of in-door colour, and give a keener edge of delight to the warm fragrance of food: he meant to prepare a sweet imprisonment that would strengthen the the primitive fellowship of kindred, and make the sunshine of familiar human faces as welcome as the hidden day-star. His kindness fell but hardly on the homeless - fell but hardly on the homes where the hearth was not very warm, and where the food had little fragrance; where the human faces had no sunshine in them, but rather the leaden, blank-eyed gaze of unexpectant want. But the fine old season meant well; and if he has not learnt the secret how to bless men impartially, it is because his father Time, with ever-unrelenting purpose, still hides that secret in his own mighty, slow-beating heart. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 9

Day nine of our festive quiz

Can you identify today's extract? Post the author and title in comments and you could win a fabulous prize! Closing date is 1st January, winner and answers will be revealed 3rd January. 

Good Luck :-)

He makes coffee. With two kinds of beans, and the grinder and the funnel and the machine, and that same unhurried meticulousness. We drink it in silence. It's Christmas Eve. For me, silence is usually an ally. Today it's pressing lightly on my ears. 
"Did you have a Christmas tree when you were a child?" I ask. A question with a trustworthy surface. But I ask it to find out who he is. 
"Every year. Until I turned f-fifteen. Then the cat jumped up on it. And her fur caught fire from the candles." 
"What did you do?" 
Not until I ask the question do I realize that I took it for granted that he would have done something. 
"Took off my shirt and wrapped it around the cat. That put out the fire." 
I imagine him without a shirt. In the glow of the lamps. In the glow of the Christmas candles. In the glow of the cat on fire. I push the thought aside. It comes back. Some thoughts have glue on them. 
"Good night," I say, getting up. 
He goes with me to the door. "I'm p-positive that I'm going to dream tonight." 
There's something sly about that remark. I scan his face, looking for a hint that he's making fun of me, but his expression is serious. 
"Thanks for the nice evening," I say.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 8

Day eight of our festive quiz.

Today we have a classic children's book for you to identify.

Post your answer in the comments and, if you've only just joined us, don't forget to go back and catch up with days 1-7. There will be a prize for the person who can correctly identify the most authors and titles. Closing date is 1st January and the winner and answers will be revealed on 3rd January.

"Come on!" cried Mr Beaver, who was almost dancing with delight. "Come and see! This is a nasty knock for the Witch! It looks as if her power is already crumbling." 
"What do you mean, Mr Beaver?" panted Peter as they all scrambled up the steep bank of the valley together. 
"Didn't I tell you," answered Mr Beaver, "that she'd made it always winter and never Christmas? Didn't I tell you? Well, just come and see!" 
And then they were all at the top and did see. 
It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Witch's reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world - the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn't find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 7

Day seven of our festive quiz.

Some local festive non-fiction today. If you know the author and title then post them in the comments (answers will remain hidden until the closing date of 1st January). Don't forget to visit us tomorrow for another advent extract :-)

Though the time was changed in the year 1752, Orcadians held to the old style, which was twelve days later. Even within forty years back, one old residenter in Finstown stuck tenaciously to old Yule Day and old New Year's Day. 
Preparations for these feast days were made by baking scones, brewing ale, and by taking in an extra quantity of peats on Yule Even, the peaty neuk being filled up to the rafters with a supply sufficient to last over New Year's Day. On Yule Day no work was done, the day being spent in visiting and treating. If open weather, one or two of the old men made a pilgrimage in the early morning to the top of the hill, to see if any trace of frost could be found, for a green Yule augured ill for the health of the community. A dance for the young people was held in the evening, all returning to their homes for supper, for that was the event of the day. The other meals of the day consisted of the usual cheese and bread accompanied with ale, but there was always "flesh" for supper. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 6

Day six of our festive quiz.

Another author and title for you to identify. Post your answer in the comments and you could win a fabulous prize. Closing date for entries is 1st January and the winner and correct answers will be revealed on 3rd January.

'Christmas,' declares Sugar, and pauses. 
Sophie hunches over her copy-book, in the grey light of early morning, and inscribes the exotic word at the top of a fresh page. Even upside-down, and from the corner of her eye, Sugar can see that the 't' is missing. 
More scratching of Sophie's pen. Correct this time. 
Sophie looks to the glittering silver and red barbs on the mantel for inspiration, then dips her pen in the inkwell and commits her guess to paper: 'tintsel'. Sugar resolves to make light of this error, combining humour with an educative purpose: The poor little 't' from your Christmas has gone wandering, Sophie, and blundered into the tinsel ... 
'Mistletoe.' She regrets this one as soon as it's off her tongue: poor Sophie's frown deepens as she must relinquish her last hope of a perfect score. Also, the word unexpectedly brings to Sugar's mind a vision of Agnes's accident: once again, the spade slices through the white flesh, and blood spurts. 
'Misseltow,' writes Sophie. 
'Snow,' says Sugar, to give her an easy one. Sophie looks up at the window and , yes, it's true. Her governess must have eyes in the back of her head. 
Sugar smiles, content. This Christmas that she's soon to spend with the Rackhams is, in a sense, her first, for Mrs Castaway's was never the most festive of places. The notion that there will soon be a day that's guaranteed to be special regardless of what Fate brings is a novelty, and the more she tries to caution herself that December the 25th will be a day like any other, the more expectant she grows. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz - Day 5

Day five of our festive quiz

A different mood in today's extract.

Identify author and title and post your answer as a comment below by 1st January (comments won't be published until the winner is announced on 3rd January). There is a prize for the person who correctly identifies the most authors and titles. It may even be a fabulous prize ;-)

He was bare and dead face-down on the scullery lino with blood round. the Christmas lights were on then off. You could change the speed those ones flashed at. Over and over you saw Him stretched out then the pitch dark with His computer screen still on. 
I started the greeting on account of all the presents under our tree and Him dead. Useless little presents always made me sad. I start for me then move on to everybody when I greet about the sad things. Her from Corran Road with all sons drowned off the boats. She bubbled till she lost an eye. I greet in heaves and my nose is running. 
I dropped the Silk Cut and it burned to the filter on a varnished floorboard. I stopped the greeting cause I couldn't breathe and was perished cold. I slowed down the speed of the flashing Christmas tree lights. I put on the scullery light then the immersion heater then the bar fire but I didn't put a record on.  

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz Day 4

Day four of our festive quiz.

An easy one today! To enter add a comment with the author and title (comments will not be published until after the closing date on January 1st) winner and answers will be revealed on 3rd January. 

Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and calmly away. Gay and merry was the time, and gay and merry were at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened by its coming. 
And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families, whose members have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then reunited, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual good-will, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight, and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religious belief of the most civilised nations, and the rude traditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among the first joys of a future condition of existence, provided for the blest and happy! How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz - Day 3

Day three of our Advent Book Quiz

Identify author and title and post in the comments. Entries close 1st January 2014. Winner, and answers, will be revealed 3rd January 2014. 

Good luck!

I awoke in the middle of the night. I thought I had heard sleigh bells somewhere far away, as in the background of Christmas music. 
Sleigh bells? 
I sat up on the sofa and felt for my watch on the coffee table. The luminous hands showed 1.30. I must have slept more soundly than I had expected to. I sat still and listened hard, but the only sound I could hear was the faint, dry thumping of my own heart. Maybe I had imagined the sleigh bells. Maybe I had been dreaming, after all. I decided, nevertheless, to check the house. I stepped into my slippers and padded into the kitchen. The sound grew more distinct when I left the room. It really did sound like sleigh bells, and it seemed to be coming from Cinnamon's office. I stood by the door for a while, listening, then gave a knock. Cinnamon might have come back to the Residence while I was sleeping. But there was no answer. I opened the door a crack and looked inside. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz - Day 2

Day two of our Advent Book Quiz.

Identify the source of the extract below and then post the author and title in comments. You have until January 1st to enter and there will be a prize for the person who correctly identifies the most books. The winner will be announced, along with the answers, on Friday January 3rd 2014.

Just to clarify, comments are moderated so will not be published until the competition has closed. So don't worry if you can't see your answer! When we announce the winner on 3rd January we will publish the correct answer for each day along with all the comments. 

The bright frost still held, and Calderwick was beginning to look parched as if in a summer drought; in the dried-up roads the ruts were sharp and iron-hard; the depressions where once puddles of water had stood were now covered by thin brittle shells of white-bubbled ice beneath which no trace of water remained. Young Mrs Hector Shand's inner world, although still bright, was also beginning to look parched. For, now that she was prepared to be supremely happy beside Hector, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find herself beside him at all. On Monday evening, after office hours, he had vanished soundlessly from the house, and did not return until midnight. On Tuesday morning he dressed himself in his sports tweeds, announced that he was going with some fellows to have a pop at a rabbit or two and wouldn't be back till after dark, and, to use his own terms, did a bunk immediately breakfast was over. Elizabeth, with a cheerful air, set about buying small Christmas presents, but she was perhaps unduly ruffled by a remark of Mary Watson's. 'An' hoo's your man?' said that stern woman, looking incongruous behind an array of Christmas 'fancy goods'. 'He's like a' the men, I warrant; he needs a guid eye kept on him.'

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent Book Quiz - Day 1

Day one of our Advent Book Quiz. 

Identify the source of the extract below and then post the author and title in comments. You have until January 1st to enter and there will be a prize for the person who correctly identifies the most books. The winner will be announced, along with the answers, on Friday January 3rd 2014.

Dusk was falling. The lights were on in the Christmas streets, thick snowflakes were dancing between the lamps. The streets were crowded with people. 
Among these busy persons were Papa and Joachim, who had gone into town to buy an Advent calendar. It was their last chance, because tomorrow would be the first of December. they were sold out at the newstand and in the big bookstore at the market. 
Joachim tugged his father's hand hard and pointed at a tiny shop window where a brightly coloured Advent calendar was leaning against a pile of books.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Christmas is coming ...

...and as well as corpulent poultry, our thoughts turn to the subject of how to celebrate advent here on the blog. Last year you got a bit of random festivity every day and so we suspected you might be disappointed with anything less this year. 

Welll dear readers, we thought long and hard about this and have decided that this year what we needed was a theme, and what could be more appropriate than a bit of festive literature? But wait there is something better - a festive quiz.  So we thought, why not combine the two? 

This year, every day during advent, we will publish a short extract with a festive flavour and your task is to identify the title and author - some will be obvious and others less so.

Submit your answers in the comments for each day and the person with the most correct answers will win a fabulous mystery prize*! 

The closing date for entries will be January 1st - the winner, and the answers, will be revealed when we open again on Friday 3rd January. 

Good Luck!

*don't get too excited, this is a public library remember.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Book Week

 Book Week Scotland 2013  is a celebration of books and reading and it starts tomorrow, Monday 25th November. There will be a series of events at the Orkney Library and Archive featuring local and visiting writers as follows:

Monday 25th November  - Alison Miller in the MacGillivray Room at 7pm
 Wednesday 27th November - Bloody Scotland on Tour in the MacGillivray Room at 6.30pm 
 Thursday 28th November - Denise Mina in the MacGillivray Room at 7pm

These events are all free but ticketed so please ring the Library on 01856 873166 to book a space. 

There will also be be the following free family events in the Orkney Library and Archive,  which do not need to be booked in advance - just turn up on the day:

Friday 29th November - Book Week Scotland Bookbug session at 10.30am in the MacGillivray Room - Dress up as your favourite book character
Saturday 30th November - Winter Storyblanket session at 10.30am in the Carnegie Room

In Stromness we'll be hosting our regular Reading Group meeting on Wednesday 30th November but tomorrow we'll be doing something really special by combining all our favourite things at once - we're going to have a Book Week Tea Party! 

Come along between 3-5pm and join us for tea, coffee and cake! 

There's no charge, but if you would like to make a donation to the Scottish Spina Bifida Association there will be a collecting tin on the table and all donations will be gratefully received. 

So come along to the library and enjoy a cup of tea and something yummy - Carol is bringing her famous meringues so come early to avoid disappointment!  And remember to bring your knitting so you can stay on for Yap and Yarn, which will meet upstairs from 5pm - 7pm. 

Happy Book Week to you all!

Scottish Book Trust

Saturday, 9 November 2013


"Swants?" I hear you ask dear readers - "what are they?" Well let me tell you, they are about to be the next big trend on the Stromness fashion scene. 

We came across the wonderful Swants Dance video from the talented knitting designer Stephen West via his Westknits Facebook page. Stephen has kindly provided a free Swants tutorial on his blog so you too can make your very own pair of Swants. 

As the cold November days set in we predict these will be the 'must have' item in every wardrobe this winter. By the time all our Yap and Yarners have made theirs, and are strutting their stuff down the street in Stromness, there won't be a jumper to be had at the Cats Protection or Red Cross charity shops. You may even glimpse a pair in action behind the desk here at the library! 

What we can't promise is the same standard of Swant dancing as performed by the Westknits  Fun Squad - enjoy!

We would love to see your Swants (ooh errr) so do please email your photos/ dance videos to stromness.library@orkney.gov.uk and we'll share them here - we might even show you ours too ;-) 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Hallowe'en

A Neepie Luntrin by Charles Hemingway http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/a-neepie-luntrin-106554

Looking for an alternative to neepie lanterns and the like this evening? Then you might like to go along to the Pier Arts Centre at 7.30pm when the Writing the North Project will be holding a public event called 'Creative Journeys'. 

Local writers Pamela Beasant, Yvonne Gray, Morag MacInnes and Alison Miller will be joined academics for an evening of readings,  talks, and discussion on how writers write in Orkney, both now and in previous centuries. The event is free and open to all.  

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Festive Knitting

Can you believe it is nearly the end of October already? Tonight the clocks go back, then the darkness will creep into the afternoons, and soon it will be time to think about preparing for Christmas. In fact here at the Library preparations are already under way, as the Yap & Yarn groups are busy knitting and crocheting squares to create their very own woolly Christmas tree for the Orkney Library and Archive. 

If any knitters/crocheters out there would like to help us with this project then we would be delighted to receive donations of squares up to a maximum size of 21cm x 21cm (8 inches) in any shade of green and in various weights of yarn and stitch patterns. We would also love any knitted/crochet  decorations for the finished tree. 

As you can see from the photo we will need plenty of squares to cover our improvised tree structure!

But first we have Hallowe'en to enjoy and we wonder if any of our Yap & Yarners will be bringing along Hallowe'en themed projects when we meet here in Stromness Library on Monday (28th) at 5pm-7pm? 

A quick search of the wonderful pattern resources on Ravelry revealed a multitude of spooky yarn creations, from the fun of Wanda the Witch:


the cuteness of the Sweet Pumpkin hat:


the whackiness of the Scare Isle tam:


to the sheer wrongness of the Hallowe'en Horror Hand!:


Whether you aspire to knit a square or a scare, come along and join us on Monday for Yap & Yarn. All abilities welcome, there will be experienced knitters and crocheters on hand to help even the newest beginners get started, and to offer advice and help, so don't be scared - unless of course you're planning to use your ball of yarn for a spot of Hallowe'en divination

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Storytelling Festival

Today sees the start of the Orkney Storytelling Festival 2013 with a full programme of events over the next four days. As in previous years the events take place in a number of venues throughout Orkney including the following events in Stromness:

Thursday 24th 

7-8.30pm  - The Canadian connection  with Bob Pegg, Tom Muir,  and Dale Jarvis in The Royal Hotel

Meet the Storytellers/Open Mic session - 9-10pm in The Royal Hotel

Friday 25th 

9.30-10.30 am - Roots and Flutes Workshop - with Bob Pegg in the Stromness Community 

Saturday 26th 

2-4pm - Trans-Atlantic Tales - with Dale Jarvis, Lawrence Tulloch, Tom Muir, Amber Connolly and Rachael Torrance in the Stromness Town Hall

Then on Sunday 27th there will be a very special afternoon of Folk Tales from Near and Far with Tom Muir and Lawrence Tulloch in Betty's Reading Room  from 2-4pm. This is a free event but ticketed due to the limited space so you will need to book ahead to avoid disappointment. 

See the Orkney Storytelling Festival website for full details of all events, ticket prices and booking information.