Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Reel Society

The Reel Society

The Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society played last night at The Reel in Kirkwall. The Reel is a restaurant, pub and center of Kirkwall music.

Last night nine people showed up to play violins, two people on accordions, and one lady on the piano.

I sat near the group and heard the director, who also played the violin give directions.  The repartee’ seemed to make everyone laugh. I couldn’t understand anything that was said except for one time. That was when someone must have asked where the song they just played came from and all I understood was, “That’s what it’s aboot.”

But I understood the music. The strings put me into the wide open spaces in Western United States; music similar to what was played in western movies. I saw red stone rocks, sage brush, snow capped mountains in the distance, and the rustling of wind in the cottonwoods.

The same melody was played over and over.

Then there was a waltz and I imagined a  man wearing boots, dusty cowboy pants and a vest, dancing in a saloon with a dance hall girl, then it suddenly switched to the “Tennessee Waltz”. I almost felt at home.

After the group played a few numbers three more violin players showed up. It was obvious all musicians were seasoned, and playing for the fun of it.

The Reel is owned by sisters, and musicians/teachers/entertainers/entrepreneurs Jennifer and Hazel Wrigley.

The sisters are involved in the program, Live Music Now, aimed at disadvantaged member of communities including disabled and elderly folks. Prince Charles, a patron of Live Music Now was a member of the audience when the sisters appeared in the Live Music Now’s twenty fifth anniversary held at London’s Barbican Centre back in 1997, according to their website.

The sisters have played in many other places in the world and have produced popular CD’s.

Every night there is a different musical venue, and some require a queue to get in.

After I listened until the group took a break, I walked down the stone street to the cathedral,  a recognizable landmark. Last night with lights on the cathedral and the full moon, it completed my day.

This morning I walked to the library, purchased a book, read the newspaper and waited for lunchtime. One funny sign I saw at the library was “use libraries and learn stuff”.

Can’t leave the Orkneys or Scotland until I’ve had fish and chips, so I walked to the harbor, and asked a man who was pushing a baby stroller if he knew of a fish and chips place. “Sure luv, you go down there, turn right and you’ll find two chaps with fish and chips.”

The first place had a long line and the second place didn’t have seating, so back to the line. It didn’t take long to order fish ( which I’ve learned is most always Haddock)  and one half order of chips, and a cup of tea. It was good. I walked on down toward the cathedral and found a place serving Orkney ice cream, and got a cone of rhubarb and custard. Delicious.

Walking back to the hostel, which is crowded by the way, and now I have three roommates, I noticed a small round metal object fastened with a screw to the sidewalk. I see those often, and they always remind me of my brother Jack. He was a surveyor and one time pointed those out as a marked spot placed there by a surveyor who measured the location.

St Magnus Cathedral


I have been called, “Luv” so often that I’m really feeling loved. The Scots have a way with words, and Luv is only one of them.

I checked with a taxi company this morning because I learned in the Information Center in Kirkwall that Bob’s Taxi’s will store my “stuff” until I go to the port to catch the ferry to Aberdeen. I leave on Monday.“Can I help you Luv?” The man asked while he was talking on the phone. I explained that I heard I could store my bags in his place. “Yes Luv, right there.” He pointed to a dismal looking room with a worse looking bench and suitcases and bags all over the place.

“Are you telling me that it’s a safe place for my bags, my computer and my camera until I come back at the end of the day?” I asked with my eyebrows up on top of my head.

“You can keep it in here,” he pointed to the office where he just came out of. And if no one is here, just ring us up and someone will come over and get your stuff out, Luv.”

That sounds like a better idea, but when I got back to the hostel, I realized there would be no way I could call for a taxi without a phone. So I sent him an email and hopefully he’ll learn that Luv needs a ride to his place and then one to the ferry, which is close. Otherwise, I’m going to walk with my burdens all around for about twelve hours until the ferry leaves just before midnight.

The hostel posted a note that states no one can stay in the building after check out at 10 o’clock in the morning, which is the reason for the dilemma. It’s going to be interesting day to see what I will find do for twelve hours in the town of Kirkwall, without spending any money, frugal person, I am.

Much of last night and again this afternoon, I have been inspired by the Paralympic games in London. What those folks do makes me want to never complain about little aches and pains, ever again. Amazing what can be accomplished with tenacity and a ‘can do’ attitude.

This hostel where I’m staying is one of the better ones I’ve been in. It is owned and run by a brother and sister, who work together to keep it spotless and running smoothly. Everyday they go through the building cleaning it as if it had never been cleaned, and they do it with smiles on their faces. I’d be pretty mad if I had to clean up other people’s messes. There are polite signs that ask if you would please wash your dishes, dry them, put them away, and tidy up the area where you cooked your meal.

Seems some people don’t read signs. There is another sign that says, “don’t eat other people’s food.” No kidding. People take other people’s food?

I have noticed from the help I have been given in the town, that most are very pleased to assist. I purchased some food at the grocery store, but didn’t have a bag to carry it back in, and would have had to buy one, which seems so wasteful. “Here, I don’t need this. Take it,” a nice woman in line handed me an extra bag.

I have also noticed so far in all my travels, there are never plastic bags lying around on the streets, in open fields, or on sidewalks. Plastic bags aren’t used, unless you’re willing to pay for one. 

Sweeties = candy and cookies

I’ve also noticed an absence of dirty diapers on country roads or in the city parking lots.

And…never, ever do I see shopping carts rolling into cars on the lot. It just seems that people are considerate of others.

The photo is of a small garden in a small space I thought was charming.




Am I odd?


It’s Wednesday the first of September. This means in two days, I will have been on the journey for five months. It has breezed by. Today it is raining again, and I’ve decided to stay in for a change and watch the Paralympics  that will be broadcast on TV.

The weather has been mostly cool, rainy, windy, and even some snow,  from the very beginning of the journey that started in Iceland. I used the philosophy about the weather, that, “It is what it is.” But I must admit that It’s cozier to watch the rain come down when you’re inside watching it from a window, rather than walking in it; although, I’ve done plenty of that.

So many people have been curious about what makes a 75 year old woman do what I’m doing. From the beginning, I didn’t think anything about it was unusual, but I’m learning from people’s comments, that I’m an oddity.

To answer some of their questions, here goes: No, I do not get lonely, as I’m meeting people everyday, all day long. There are people everywhere and if you’re willing to begin a conversation, you never know how you may have affected someone that day.  It’s for  certain, people have had an effect on me. People love to talk about themselves, and a willing listener can learn much about our fellow human beings.

No, I never feel that I’m in any danger. I don’t put myself in situations where I don’t feel safe. I stay in hostels, B&B’s, hotels and in homes. In today’s world-wide internet, it is easy to check everything out before making a commitment. And if I have ever been in an uncomfortable environment I remove myself immediately.

Isn’t it expensive? Yes, it can be if you’re not careful. In the beginning, I wasn’t as careful as I am now. Staying in a hostel makes it more affordable because you can cook your own meals. Once you’re in Europe, the bulk of the travel-money was spent on getting here. Traveling between countries is a little more affordable in Europe.  I tend to stay in one place for a while, rather than going to one country after another, and seeing and learning very little about the country. I’m still counting on selling more books, “Too Close to the Sun” to help finance the next seven

Outside of the St. Magnus


Sure, I get tired. But I pick and choose what I want to do, knowing that I can’t do it all, but can get a reasonable assessment of the culture by visiting museums, shopping areas, historical sites and churches. I’ve never been a tour-taker, but have found that some one-half or all day tours make it easy to see and hear about a site, and safe a lot of  time, as well. I’ve also learned where and how to take local transportation.

What if you get sick, people have asked?  That just blows me away. Who thinks about that, isn’t that almost bringing it on? However, I know that in most towns and cities, medical help is available,  if needed. I wouldn’t have begun an adventure like this if I thought I wasn’t healthy enough. I do have aches and pains, but I’d have those if I wasn’t traveling, so why not just go for  it?

The only question I do not have an answer for is, what are you going to do when you go back? I will finish up this traveling saga,  publish it, and then, who knows?







A one-armed atheist helped me up the steps to the Cathedral

A one-armed atheist helped me up the steps to the Cathedral.


St. Magnus CathedralEntrance to St. Magnus Cathedral

He saw my hesitation at the steep steps and asked if he could help me. I took hold of his one hand and climbed up the steps. Then he followed me in and began chattering away. It seems he wanted to be my tour guide as well.

I’ve learned if you listen well, people will give you their opinions, and it wasn’t long that he shared that he was an atheist. Well, we’re all the same people under the skin, but I really wanted to experience the St. Magnus Cathedral on my own.

“Thank you for being such a great guide,” I told him and he got the hint. However, by that time it began to rain and I left.  By the time I got back to the hostel, it was pouring rain, cold and windy and I was soaked to the skin.

Today, I got another try at learning the history of the Cathedral and I want to share it.

A summary begins in the ninth century when the Orkney farmers became afraid of the Vikings. The Vikings plundered, of course, but they also sought land, thus Orkney became a Viking settlement.

Fast forward to the twelfth century when Orkney was ruled by cousins, Hakon Paulson and Magnus Erlendson.

Magnus was drawn to a contemplative life from being educated in a monastery.The King of Norway made an expedition to the Hebrides and then on to Anglesey in Wales.

Magnus refused the order to fight.

“When the King asked why he was sitting down and not seeing to his weapons, Magnus replied that he had no quarrel with anyone there. ‘So I’m not going to fight,’” he said.

“‘God will shield me,’” answered Magnus. “‘I shall not be killed if he wishes me to live but I’d rather die than fight an unjust battle.’ Magnus took out his psalter and chanted psalms throughout the battle, and though he refused to take cover, he wasn’t wounded.” So states the information I picked up at the St. Magnus Center.

The story continues: Hakon and Magnus became disenchanted with each other and after Easter in 1117 it was decided to hold  a peace conference on the island of Egilsay.

It was agreed that each cousin was to take two ships each and equal number of men. Magnus got to Egilsay first.

When he saw eight warships he knew he was doomed. Magnus said he’d go into exile, or to prison for life, or be maimed or blinded but Hakon didn’t accept, and his chieftains wanted an execution.

Hakon told the man who was chosen to kill him not to weep because it wasn’t manly. “Don’t be afraid – you’re doing it against your will, and the man who gives the orders sins more gravely than you,” Magnus told him.

After he was executed, his body was taken to Birsay for burial. A cult grew up around Magnus, thinking him a healer, and in 1129, the King of Norway granted one half of the earldom of Orkney to St. Magnus’t nephew, Rognvald, but only if he would defeat Earl Paul son of Hakon.

After he failed, Kol, Rognvald’s father told him to vow to God that if he gained victory, he would build a magnificent stone at Kirkwall, and dedicate it to his uncle the holy earl Magnus. Rognvald kept his vow.

St. Magnus was canonized in 1137, and masons were brought to Kirkwall to begin the work.

The red sandstone was quarried at the Head of Holland, outside Kirkwall and the yellow stone came from the island of Eday.

After visiting the cathedral, I walked across the street to the Orkney Museum, which tells the story from the Stone Age, through the Picts (earlier people from North Scotland, I was told), and Vikings to the present day. I found the Stone Age artifacts especially interesting. I’m always amazed at the intelligence of the worlds’ early people.

I did one more thing today. I got a bus to the airport to pick up my certificate that certifies I flew on the world’s shortest scheduled air service between the islands of Westray and Papa Westray, as authenticated by Guinness World Records. It didn’t even bother me that my name was misspelled. It’s Laureen not Lauren, but no worries, I can slip an ‘e’ in there. See? No one is perfect. Thank you Margaret for your good eye with the correcting my typo of Westray.

And the music goes round and round

Pipers play while leaving Westray island

I left the island of Westray with a ferry-load of young musicians yesterday, and now I’m in Kirkwell Island in cold, rain and wind. Maybe it’s time to get the Icelandic sweater out from inside the bottom of my bag.

The ferry left at 6 p.m. with a leave-taking musical salute to the organizer of the week-end music festival that entertained, not only Westray folks, but from nearby islands, as well.

The great leave-taking was done by bagpipers playing as the boat made waves, with the musicians waving goodbye.

Music was played at various locations throughout the week, ending in the wee early hours on Sunday morning.

Don’t know why, but somehow I missed the grand slam music venue that drew folks in to listen to many kinds of bands the night of Saturday, but I did have two more chances before I boarded the ferry.

A woman on Kirkwell, who, with one other organizer got a few music groups of teenaged musicians, along with a few older folks, together and in American-jazz parlance, they ‘jammed’ the weekend away.

I left the Old Manse Bed and Breakfast where I was grandly spoiled, with full breakfasts, daily room-cleaning, a softer-that-ever quilt, and a sleep-easy mattress, and then had the rest of the day until I’d meet the bus to take to the ferry.

I left my luggage at the B&B and walked around a bit, eventually ended up at the Pierwall Hotel where I went the first night in Kirkwall to use the wifi. A lovely lady invited me in and even had coffee delivered to me. It was here she told me I’d have two choices to hear the music that day.

“A group will be playing at the Church of Scotland,” she told me, and then right there on the Pierwell grounds would be an afternoon session.

“The Church of Scotland is a bit too far for me to walk up there but is there a bus?”

“Oh, I’ll find someone. I’ll go call and get a ride for you.”

It wasn’t more than five minutes that she came and told me, “Janet will pick you up in an hour out there.” She pointed to the street.

Janet and I, along with a crowded room, filled with many Island people, including some folks I had met on Papa Westray, were treated to an hour of music.

There were young people playing violins, a string bass, guitar, drums, piano and they introduced the songs they planned to play.

“Some of our music we have already played last night but we’re going to play them again, anyway,” one of the teen musicians said, and he got a chuckle from the listeners.

Not only did the teens entertain with classical music, three men pipers played, as well.

Some of the pipers were members of the men’s singing quartet who sang later.

After church, I rolled my suitcase and bag, computer and camera bag over rocks on a road to the Pierwell Hotel, from the B&B.  I parked them on the side of the building, and waited for the music.  Everything is safe on the islands and for proof, not a key was used at the B&B either for the front door or the bedroom doors. I felt safe leaving camera and computer and wallet anywhere there were people around. It’s a refreshing way of life on the islands.

Helen and David Smith, of Washington D.C. also came to enjoy the music. They were folks I met during breakfast at the B&B. They learned that I would take the same ferry that they would, and since they had a car, they invited me to go with them.

Slowly the musicians arrived at the hotel. They got their violins and other instruments out and began to loosen up with traditional Scottish music. All musicians played more than one instrument. Violins became fiddles, guitars were strummed, a drummer beat the rhythm on a typical box drum, like I had seen before in Ireland. Another drummer tapped a bodhrun, a traditional drum used in typical Irish and Scottish folk music.

A fiddle player – and there were many –  would begin the round, others joined in and the music went around and around. People tapped their feet, nodded their heads with the beat, and everyone smiled in wonder of the talent  there is on these islands.

Every young musician became entranced with the music as they played, and when they finally stopped, a fiddle would began again, and the round continued. Nearly three hours came and went, and the Pierwall Hotel folks filled a table with food for all.

Then, it was time for Helen, David and I to leave. We got on the ferry and realized we were followed on by many of the musicians who live in Kirkwell. Others live on other islands and would take either a different ferry or the airplane.

Traveling by ferry and airplane is the only way to get from one Orkney town to another and is an everyday occurrence.

“I was happy to be here today, and while waiting for the music, I walked me feet off,” said one party goer.

Seen on the way to Kirkwall from Westlay Island

The Wife of Westray was discovered in the dirt

The Wife of Westray was discovered in the dirt.


Bird cliffs

She was found by a team of archeologists while using a fine brush to sweep away the dirt and sand around a farmhouse where she was buried. It was a 5,000 year old Neolithic dwelling on the Island of Westray in the Orkney group of Islands north of Scotland.

The figure has prominent frowning eyebrows, small dots for eyes, and a broad nose. Was it a toy, a piece for a game, or for religious use?

Expert archeologists don’t know. The figure was among other stones, beads and skeletons  that a team of archeologists have been slowly exposing on the farm from the bronze age.

“It was the first Neolithic carving of a human form to have been found in Scotland, and to date it is the earliest depiction of a face found in the United Kingdom,” so states Wikipedia. It was found in 2009.

I learned about this from the Heritage Center in Westray Saturday morning. That was followed up with a trip to other sites on the island.

Robust and entertaining guide, Graham Maben drove a van with myself and three other people, a woman from Latvia, an English woman and a retired interior decorator. The decorator is a Scot, dressed finely in a sports jacket, shirt and wool vest, scarf and looked like he was going to a fancy place. He stood back away from the cliffs while Graham, myself and the two other women got fairly close to the edge of a jagged rocky cliff.

We saw hundreds of birds flying out of their nests and back in. Sheep graze so close to the edge, it’s a wonder how they know if they take one more step they’d meet their deaths.

From there we were taken to the Noup Head Lighthouse. It was built in 1898 with the purpose to warn ships off the North Shoal. The light is now automatic so it doesn’t require a lighthouse manager on site.

Graham was full of stories about his beloved island and spoke about them while traveling to the next stop. We saw the Nortland Castle, built in 1560. “It was a defensive castle,” he told us. But the architectural filigree makes you wonder why it was made so beautiful and was also defensive. To charm the enemy?

The castle was built by Gilbert Balfour who was appointed to a high office by his lover Mary Queen of Scots. From the outside it appears as many remnants of castles in other locations, but inside there are features worth noting. The fireplaces, the kitchen, and sleeping quarters and even a toilet place where a full bucket of royal waste was then delivered into the moat.

Graham took the three others to the Heritage Center, and then took me to view the Holm of Aikerness. This is an island where sheep eat only seaweed. Fresh water or nothing else goes into their diet. The sheep were originally brought to the island about 760 years ago by Norwegians, and since then kept the species, Ronaldsay Sheep, alive.

“There are 120 sheep in total: 50 lambs, 40 ewes and the rest rams,” said Graham. The sheep caretaker will travel to the island when they are ready to take in for slaughter and for other reasons.

I’ll continue this story later, as I will vacate the B&B on Westlay Island at 10 a.m., followed up by roaming around until the bus leaves around 5 p.m., to take me to the ferry. On to Kirkwell. See you later.

My book

For those who are new to my blog, and for some who have asked about the book I have published, here it is: “Too Close to the Sun” – a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII. It is available on Amazon either in paper or for your Kindle. By Laureen Kruse Diephof

The sale of the books have, and hopefully, will continue to help support my travels. I will publish another book, using much of the blog,  next year when my traveling year comes to an end.

Thank you for reading the blog and for being interested in my book and my travels.



more photos

The Barn, a hostel where I stayed the first night in Westlay

More photos

The plane that took me from Papa Westray to Westray on the shortest booked flight in the world.

Adding photos

Now that I’m in a place where the wifi is strongest, I’ll post a few photos that I couldn’t post before.

The old mill on the Holland family farm in Papay


In the museum at Papay

The Shetlands on Papay