Batten down the hatches…

Strong winds gusting to at least 60 mph are forecast across the Northern Isles tomorrow (Sunday 7 August 2016) and Monday. The effects of this impending breeze are already evident: the Ness of Brodgar archaeological site, where we work in the shop at weekends, is closed tomorrow and heavy rain on Monday morning will probably ensure no digging gets done then. The gargantuan Caribbean Princess cruise ship (3,599 pax) has cancelled its visit tomorrow and run for shelter. Intriguingly, the cancellation of this cruise ship has released a full day’s-worth of places on pre-booked tours of the magnificent Maeshowe chambered tomb. Visitors to the Ness today have been quizzing us about the impact of the weather forecast on their own plans which are in some disarray, but at least we have been able to offer them short-notice tours of Maeshowe. We might have asked for commission but Historic Environment Scotland are already generously giving us a staff discount on shop purchases so we can’t complain!

Given the highly variable maritime climate of Orkney it is evident that a strong wind forecast is considerably more reliable than a heavy rain forecast.  I am surprised therefore that locals continually ‘fall’ for the latter and change their plans unnecessarily.  Nevertheless, even short bursts of heavy rain can be enormously disruptive to outdoor tasks – whether it be carrying out fine examination on an archaeological site or rebuilding a drystone sheep dyke from heavy beach cobbles.

As Tish and I now have an unscheduled ‘Sunday off’ we will take ourselves to church tomorrow morning. No ordinary church of course, this is St Magnus Cathedral which has been mentioned in many posts on this blog. However, I will take a change of clothes with me because, this being Orkney, I may find myself down an archaeological hole in the town centre afterwards.

I haven’t posted very much of the Ness itself, so here are a few shots from last weekend’s public Open Day, which also turned from acceptably dry t0 very wet.

A fairly random view across the main Ness of Brodgar dig site, looking at “Structure 1” with its magnificent wall and doorway looking as fresh as it did over 5,000 years ago.
Archaeologist Mike Copper is particularly ass0ciated with the reconstruction of Neolithic pottery and cooking techniques – facilitated by a bottle of contemporary Orkney beer!
Christopher Gee, an archaeologist at UHI who is renowned for his reconstruction of Neolithic stoneworking techniques, on what Orcadians call a “dreich”* afternoon.
The Orkney Archaeological Society ‘dig shop’, and Ola Gorie’s marquee erected for Open Day
The marquee was much-appreciated by visitors sheltering from the rain.
* Dreich (Old Scots) – any four adjectives from dull, overcast, drizzly, wet, cold, misty, dreary, gloomy, dismal, bleak, miserable conditions must apply before the weather is truly dreich. Quite often then.


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