Postcards from the edge

We have seen much weather this last 48 hours.  The cold Arctic front has duly arrived, bringing snow to Netherbutton, Orkney.  We are marooned, at least for the next few hours – there is much to be said for the Internet under such conditions.  It makes you wonder how the Scandinavians manage to put up with it but, perhaps they don’t.  The Finns have a word for it – Kaamos – drifting around with the browser, as you do on such days, I found this:

Thousands and thousands of Finns suffer from kaamos depression, or depressio hiemalis as the fancy Latin of doctors terms it. Depression, anxiety, exhaustion, restlessness — it’s all mostly because of the lack of light. How are you supposed to wake up and keep moving when it’s dark outside when you go to work, and dark again when you get out? It’s as if the cold colorless world outside settled into your bones — unfeeling, unmotivated, a dull ache, a hunger that can’t be satisfied, a sleepiness that can’t be shaken — all in all, not a nice thing at all.

This is just a small extract from an entertaining post at Masks of Eris.

… snow at Netherbutton, Orkney

… blockship at Churchill Barrier No. 3 – between Burray and Glimps Holm

… Netherbutton at the top of the hill – from the track down to the shore

… South Ronaldsay

… Longhouse at Dam of Hoxa, South Ronaldsay

… St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

… Roeberry, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

The cottages at Netherbutton overlook Scapa Flow, a body of water with a remarkable history. It might be expected that in peaceful times there would be little activity in this remote place but, far from it – there are currently two oil rigs in for maintenance, a supply ship and three tankers.  At night they light up like Christmas trees on dark waters.

Despite the harsh winters and the classic ingredients for kaamos, we have found everyone delightfully friendly and approachable – Orcadians are in the top ten of happiest people in the UK and enjoy the best quality of life of any rural area.  It was not always so, at least if you believe the serviceman who penned this while stationed here in the war:

Bloody Orkney
This bloody town’s a bloody cuss
No bloody trains, no bloody bus,
And no one cares for bloody us
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody roads are bloody bad,
The bloody folks are bloody mad,
They’d make the brightest bloody sad,
In bloody Orkney.

All bloody clouds, and bloody rains,
No bloody kerbs, no bloody drains,
The Council’s got no bloody brains,
In bloody Orkney.

Everything’s so bloody dear,
A bloody bob, for bloody beer,
And is it good? – no bloody fear,
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody ‘flicks’ are bloody old,
The bloody seats are bloody cold,
You can’t get in for bloody gold
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody dances make you smile,
The bloody band is bloody vile,
It only cramps your bloody style,
In bloody Orkney.

No bloody sport, no bloody games,
No bloody fun, the bloody dames
Won’t even give their bloody names
In bloody Orkney.

Best bloody place is bloody bed,
With bloody ice on bloody head,
You might as well be bloody dead,
In bloody Orkney.

Don’t believe a word of it, it’s a great place which can only get better once it stops snowing 🙂

And as fer me,’ Sam said, ‘don’t fret.
The sky’s took a turn since this morning;
I think it’ll brighten up yet.

Three Ha’pence a Foot – Marriott Edgar


  1. Elisa Ruland · April 24, 2017

    I enjoy the winter solitude and isolation you describe so beautifully….for a while. I imagine a happy welcome for spring when it arrives in these northern towns. L

    • northumbrianlight · April 24, 2017

      Me too but I think the Orcadians said hello to spring a few weeks back and now winter has returned 😦
      Strangely, I don’t think they get that much snow up here – very strong winds and rain but not so much of the white stuff, except when we landed 🙂

  2. Elisa Ruland · April 24, 2017

    Lovely post. (Pressed send too soon)

  3. Cate Franklyn · April 24, 2017

    I love these rural shots, there is such a peacefulness to them. Intriguing in it its loneliness too but, not sad. A real contrast compared to my very urban world.

    • northumbrianlight · April 24, 2017

      It’s a lovely place, Cate … and it has even stopped snowing 🙂

  4. Tish Farrell · April 24, 2017

    Wonderful vistas, Robin, though you are making me very shivery. Am especially struck by the long house and that extraordinary round structure on the end – a bake house may be?

    • northumbrianlight · April 24, 2017

      Now bright sunshine and blue skies with only the occasional hailstorm 😉 I have seen that round structure described as a kiln but a bake house would make more sense, or even a smokery. I will endeavour to find out.

      • Tish Farrell · April 25, 2017

        Thanks a lot. It’s my old archaeologist’s curiosity. There are all sorts of strange archaeological remains in Scotland that don’t have clear identification so it would be good to know what this for. But the word ‘kiln’ does make me wonder if it was/is used for smoking fish.

  5. J.D. Riso · April 24, 2017

    Wow, that serviceman must have had a bad case of kaamos. Spring doesn’t seem to want to stick around this year. We get a couple of beautiful days and then a succession of rainy, blustery cold days erases them from memory. No snow in Prague, thankfully. The photos are superb as usual. Lots of stone cabins up there in which to wait out cabin fever. 😁 I’m sure you’re making the best of it.

    • northumbrianlight · April 24, 2017

      I have been wanting to repeat that poem for a long time – nothing like that now although as one of the locals pointed out, he was right about the trains 😉
      The heavily processed images disguise a dull day but, as I look out over Scapa Flow this evening, the sun is shining brightly and there is much blue sky. With snow on the hills, it is all looking glorious. It should reach Prague any day now 😀

  6. restlessjo · April 24, 2017

    Oh, bless! The poem is spot on, Robin. My preferred snow is the pink blossom kind. 🙂 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · April 24, 2017

      Glad you enjoyed the poem Jo – it’s a gem. Get your winter woollies out – the snow is heading in your direction 😀

  7. sustainabilitea · April 24, 2017

    I also enjoyed the poem, Robin, as well as your gorgeous shots! Spring has finally arrived in the NE Illinois and we’re enjoying it greatly. But in the way of spring, the low-seventies (F, of course) will be mid-fifties in a few days with the possibility of rain in the forecast quite a few days. Ahh, well, I just have to enjoy the good weather while it’s here…and we’re not expecting any snow. 😉


    • northumbrianlight · April 25, 2017

      Thanks for the generous comments Janet. The mid-fifties sounds good to me – oh to be in Illinois now that Spring is here 😉 It has stopped snowing but now we are now blessed with a gale 😉

  8. Sue · April 25, 2017

    Enjoyed your images, Robin….looks a great place….And that poem is a hoot!

    • northumbrianlight · April 27, 2017

      Many thanks Sue – I love that poem. We went to the Scapa Flow museum at Lyness today – fascinating place with lots of documentation and photos about the world wars ad their impact on Orkney but, no mention of the poem 😉

      • Sue · April 27, 2017


  9. meticulousmick · April 27, 2017

    Lovely post Robin, I particularly like the snowy wall image and the B/W farm image. Really enjoyed my trip….MM🍀

    • northumbrianlight · April 27, 2017

      Many thanks John – it is a fantastic place, quite different from the northwest but I am sure you would love it.

  10. Agness of Fit Travelling · May 26, 2017

    The poem is wonderful! I love the stunning photos!

    • northumbrianlight · June 3, 2017

      Many thanks for your generous comments and thanks for visiting – I agree, the poem is wonderful. Although not a fair reflection of Orkney today, I suspect it was accurate at the time 🙂

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