Posts tagged ‘Old Keig’

July 17, 2020

Year of the Plague 2020: a far from average year. Self-isolation diary week 17

The door has been wedged open for lockdowners in week 17. Some of us have peered out and aren’t sure we like what we see and have shut that door again. Some of us have raced out over the doorstep and were last seen driving to a campsite, our cars packed with trashy camping gear designed to be left behind as litter in some of Scotland’s most beautiful settings thereby destroying the beauty of those settings that attracted us in the first place. Some of us have hot-footed it down to our local bar or non-food shops to purchase stuff because we can’t ever get enough of stuff. Some of us are off to see our mates – although some of us have never stopped seeing our mates, if we’re being honest – certainly not the two driving very noisy motorbikes with lawn mower engines around these parts.

week 17 collage 2

Our granddaughter who lost her job recently received a not unexpected double blow when her partner heard he is also likely to lose his job. Working for oil and gas related companies is proving hazardous for many folk in the northeast nowadays with petroleum production seen as yesterday’s technology. Things are already tough but surely they are about to get far tougher.

When granddaughter and partner visited us this week it was intended to be a garden call but the afternoon was overcast and not too warm so we had a socially-distanced catch-up indoors instead with a thorough clean once they left. Good to see them but there’s an edge to visits in these Covid 19 times.

Took ourselves up to the nearby recumbent stone circle at Old Keig. Doesn’t matter how many times we visit the partial remains of this stone circle – Aberdeenshire’s recumbents are unique – we are in awe of the sheer size of this slab of stone. How on earth did people move such immense rocks – uphill, as many are positioned? Several stones from the circle have been removed and scattered but the recumbent and its flankers remain. Hardly surprising.

week 17 collage 1

The emergency-grow-our-own salads have been proving their worth for ages now. All sorts of leafy things, some decidedly peppery, and in rainbow colours (kind of.) Gherkins coming thick and fast. Courgettes doing well and peas swelling up. I still have to do rigorous slug/snail searches of the sacks we are growing our runner beans in as they’ve reduced the bottom growth to lacy doilies. They get thrown to their new life across our burn, usually, but I have witnessed ancestors of these snails determinedly working their way back over the bridge to our garden before now.

It is also getting to that time we’ll have to pick the blackcurrants. And we’re only finishing last years such was the size of the crop then. Raspberries offer a change of flavour for grazing gardeners but the cherries are well out of reach in the wild French cherry tree my husband grew from seed a number of years ago. Every year we think it’s stopped growing. But it hasn’t. As it is disappearing into the vast blue yonder of sky we’re contemplating getting someone in to cut down to size.

 Dreams have become more memorable recently. Is this a pandemic thing? Usually my dreams evaporate into the morning light but one that has stuck with me involved a quiz, much like the family quizzes we’ve been doing except it was taking place in a bar/café/room. A large dark-haired woman who spoke a combination of English and Welsh was asking the questions in a language I couldn’t decipher. Despite not knowing what she was saying I attempted answering but couldn’t keep up – although there were only three questions by the time I woke. Apart from the language things I couldn’t get my pencil to write my answers on the inside of a chunky grey woolly man’s jumper – which I suspect was a reference to Nordic drama.

 The Nordic drama causing me so much angst was Deadwind from Finland. Now we are partial to all things Nordic but this should have been entitled Deadloss. Why we watched two series I don’t know. It was formulaic and derivative of the excellent The Bridge, down to its main protagonist, Sofia, a dead ringer for Saga, also clad in a coat. Like Saga she lives for her work with family coming a long way back in her priorities. While The Bridge was well-scripted and directed Deadwind is full of ridiculous howlers such as her referring to photographs she hadn’t previously seen and while investigating a deserted house gets out of her car and goes straight to a flower border, lifts up a plant and discovers the concealed whatever it was. Plain silly. Evidence turns up at the drop of a hat. Where Sofia wins over Saga is in her ability to shine a torch in the invariably dark buildings she forever enters. Seems there’s a lightbulb shortage in Finland. And, the grey woolly jumper in my dream was presumably related to Alex in Series 1 of Deadwind. He ay wore chunky knits. Finland has also produced Bordertown which is pretty good and way above Deadloss in terms of production values.

Alternative viewing came in the form of Netflix’s Midnight Diner – Tokyo Stories … for any who have nostalgia for 1970s comedy – this is up your street. Plus you get some food ideas.

Coming to the end of the journey with Ethel Mannin around Germany. Still enjoying it. She was greatly affected by the appalling condition of children in Germany post-war – many were orphans or abandoned and living like ‘stray animals, pale faced, elf-like,’ ‘living in holes in the ground beneath ruined buildings’ and some very tiny ones didn’t even know their own names. Russian occupying forces organised an event to encourage adoption of these kids called the Lost Baby Show.

 Going back to living in rubble. Mannin tells how some landlords continued to charge people rents for living in bombed remains of flats and cellars where people were reduced to sleeping on the ground or on tables.  The United Nations Refugee Relief Agency (UNRRA) was known in Germany as You Never Really Relieved Anyone. There are some terrible accounts of suffering – few of which ever found their way into the British press.

Mannin reserves her greatest criticism for a Brian Connell of the Daily Mail for distorting the truth about conditions in Germany at the time such as claiming food supplies there were greater than back in Britain. Mannin never tires of saying – some in Germany did live the high life with never ending supplies of champagne and cognac for Britain’s top military brass and journalists who were treated as officers. But for the German people food was virtually impossible to obtain. Cigarettes became currency. Folk were paid for services in fags – virtually never smoked because they were the only means of bartering for something to eat, usually through the black market. A joke in Germany ran – “anyone found alive after 1947 would be prosecuted for black market activities.”

 Stay safe.



December 11, 2011

The great recumbent stones in Scotland’s stone circles

Early stone circles and standing stones are common in north-east Scotland but this area is the only one in Britain where you’ll find the massive recumbent stones.

It has been suggested that the numerous stone circles found in northeast Scotland may be derived from Clava cairns of Inverness. However, the recumbent stone circle is distinctively from the Aberdeen area.

The busiest area for recumbent stone circles is east of Insch and around the Bennachie/Correen/Alford area.

It is thought that the recumbent stone circles were constructed no earlier than 1800 BC and no later than 1400BC.

There are similarities between the Inverness Clava rings and recumbent  stone circles around Aberdeen – both:

  • megalithic circles
  • graded height stones
  • ring cairns
  • cup marks
  • use of quartz
  • cremation remains

Not all circles or Clava rings feature all of the above.

A main difference between the two rings:

  • Clava tend to be in low lying sites while recumbent circles are generally on  prominent site with panoramic views.

Some think they were alters but as with everything connected with stone circles this is simply conjecture.

They are, however, magnificent.

Today I visited 3 stone circles.

Tomnaverie Stone Circle,Tarland, Aberdeenshire

Tomnaverie circle is in a spectacular setting but unusual for stone circles in the area it is not so very elevated because the land was lowered due to quarrying. This makes it an easy circle to visit and one of the most beautiful for it great views west towards Morven, Lochnagar and the Cairngorms.

Midmar Kirk

The Midmar Kirk circle is also very accessible. The recumbent and its flankers are very impressive in that it’s clear the stones were selected and worked to make them almost matching. The recumbent is big at 4.5m long with an estimated weight of 20 tons.

Old Keig, Aberdeenshire

Old Keig’s sillimanite gneiss recumbent is muckle. It is a magnificent example of the effort put into moving these stones far up hills to the designated spot. 16 feet X 6 feet 9 inches X 6 feet 6 inches thick, around 53 tons in weight and calculated to be around 610 cubic feet, it is thought to be the largest of recumbents. The recumbent has a very noticeable nose at one end, for maneuvering the stone to get it level.

The bases of some stones in circles were cut into keel shapes to allow them to bed into the ground more easily, as at Old Keig.

The fabulous site with its broad panorama across the Don valley probably meant the stone would have been manhandled on rollers for the final half mile up the steep incline 1:14 of its 6 mile journey. Burl*  suggests 180 people would have been involved – 150 required to drag it on its rollers and the rest to keep moving the rollers (tree trunks presumably) uphill. And speculates that more than one community may have been involved in the transfer of stone form quarry to erection site.

The circle is not complete and access is very poor, unfortunately.

*HAW Burl: The Recumbent Stone Circles of Northeast Scotland