Thursday, 15 March 2012

Look out! He's got a gun!

                And then it was spring. Allegedly. The temperature plummeted, the hail tipped down and our constant companion, the wind, howled like a banshee day and night. We’ve pretty much given up on weather forecasts and begun instead to rely on the ferry company websites. You know that if they cancel sailings then it’s going to get nasty. More accurately I should say ‘really’ nasty as those boats go out in some atrocious sea conditions ordinarily. Time to batten down the hatches and bury your head under a pillow ‘til it all blows over.

The locals make the most of the prevailing Southwesterlies
                Andrew and Denise had let us take away their spare aerial and cable so that we could check to see if it was possible to pick up any TV reception. We were not optimistic, so much so that we’ve already told the licensing people that we don’t watch any. A bit of wiring-in by yours truly later, even more reason to be sceptical, we plugged the cable in and turned on the box. White noise. What else did we expect? Gail gave the ‘auto-tune’ button a stab and, lo! and behold, a crisp picture appeared and persisted. Shocked, I lowered the aerial to waist height and the signal broke up a bit, but as soon as I lifted it above my shoulders, it came back and stayed. Blimey! Just in case there was a detector van hiding over the dunes, we unplugged the cable and wound it up ready to give it back. (Our sponsors have since told us to keep it so now we have to consider the prospect of getting a licence. So far we’ve managed without it, but it’s a dilemma we hadn’t anticipated having to face.)

                Gail fitted those door handles that I’d picked up in Kirkwall for her. However, if I’d thought it would keep her happy for a while then I was mistaken. As soon as she’d sat down she was on the Screwfix website for more stuff. It was as if all that I had achieved was to give a little nudge to a runaway train. The order bloomed and my modest part of it was a single box of 200 wood screws. In an attempt to make it at least look as if I intended to do something in near future, I told her I needed a garden fork and the car and bikes could do with a foot-pump. This ensured that I would get a little bit of the joy when box of goodies arrived.

                As soon as the weather permitted, we made a start on chopping up the carpet mountain by the gate. The Stanley knife made short work of turning a large, unmanageable roll into a number of swatches that could be effortlessly crammed into a rubbish sack. Suddenly, Gail jumped at what had sounded like a crack and asked what it was. It was clearly a gunshot and not far off. Our neighbour, Richard, made his way across his field toward the fence with his .22 rifle over his arm. With him was his dog, a black retriever, with a dead rabbit in its mouth. We chatted for a while, not to the dog obviously, but soon he insisted that I take a shot at one of the plethora of bunnies that were scampering about merrily on our side of the boundary. I was only happy to have a go following his reassurance that I would miss. He explained that the telescopic sight was adjusted for him and he hadn’t meant to imply that I’d be a crap shot. In the end it was a case of both being true. At the last second I raised the end of the barrel and fired way too high. Relieved more than anything else, I handed back the gun.

                Richard has recently had a wind-turbine erected on his property. Even on such a calm day it was spinning like a top. We were invited over to have a closer look when we fancied it. The next morning he came around to give us the phone number of the local agent with a view to having one put up on our land too. It would certainly help to placate me and even make me reconsider my low opinion of the maelstra* so prevalent in these parts. I may have mentioned it once or twice in the past. (* Ask Oxford insists that the plural of ‘maelstrom’ is ‘maelstroms’, but I think bunging an ‘s’ on the end of things is a bit boring so I’m having no truck with it. I hope that this is acceptable.)

                Gail made an appointment for Kate from Orkney micro-renewables to drop by the next afternoon. As the house is in Gail’s name, it was down to her to show her around with a view to where a turbine could be placed. We are not in a position to be able to afford a wind-turbine of our own but we hope to hear soon that someone will be interested in siting one here and we can make use of some of the power it would generate. We had our first Scottish Hydro electricity bill arrive in the post and were not too horrified by it but spending less is always a good thing. Well it’s a good thing when we are talking about utilities, let’s put it that way.

With that in mind, we had a salesman from Everest pay us a visit to quote us for new windows. We’d applied for a quote but not heard anything and then got a letter from the guy to say that he could improve on it. He apologised for the breakdown in communication and then admitted on the phone that he doesn’t travel well so an excursion to the island was a big adventure for him. He also hadn’t done his homework on the sailings and planned to visit on a day when there was only one ferry. I suppose it is always possible that he’d planned it that way so he would get an overnight stay at the Kettletoft Hotel. If I was married to a harridan, I’d do the same. It’s lucky for me that I am not so you can put that sharp knife back in the block now, dearest. At least he didn’t have a wasted journey as the quote was less than we’d expected and accounted for so we bit his arm off, metaphorically speaking of course. We’re not THAT hungry.

Strange, then, that the very next morning we received a quote from Orkney Builders, the guys that Gail got in to replace the door which we are still waiting for, to do the windows for 25% less. Now, contrary to what I asserted barely two paragraphs ago, scrimping on good glazing is not, in my own humble opinion, a smart thing to do so we’re more than happy to stump up the difference. Especially as they guarantee the units for longer than I’ll be alive for and given that while I was writing in my diary, sleet was landing on top of the bookcase I was leaning on, I am more reassured than ever that we made the right choice. I doubt, however, that it will render us immune from their junk mail, but I’m not expecting miracles here, people.

The Screwfix order arrived. As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough that our postman, Tony, has to tromp so far from the comfort and security of his van to drop off our mail, today he was laden down with a large, heavy box and a wrapped garden fork. It was a relief, therefore, to find that I’d actually left the gate open from the night before, (rap on knuckles), so he had driven up to the house to spare my blushes. Once again Gail went into overdrive repairing the internal doors. It’s quite uncanny now how it is possible to gain ingress and egress to and from every room in the house these days. It’s almost civilized. I, on the other hand, had to go and shut the gate. I leave it to you to judge who was the more industrious. I’ll give you a clue, though. It wasn’t me.

On Friday (9th) it brightened up in the morning. It was just one of those days where eleven degrees centigrade in your living room is warm enough, thank you. The news, or the bits we read at least, was full of talk of coronal mass ejections. It looked as if it was going to be a good weekend for aurora. We left for the pool early as the car was running on fumes. It had to happen one day and today was the day that I paid one pound sixty five pence for a litre of go-go juice. That’s even with a five pence subsidy. I’ve no idea who gets the benefit of that because it doesn’t appear to be the consumer. Needless to say I didn’t fill the tank. One mortgage is quite enough in my opinion.

The Northern lights? Well, they were a no-show. We went to bed with the curtains open and I’d even gone to the trouble of washing the crud off the outside of the windows. What I really needed was a mile-long pencil with a rubber on the end to erase the cloud cover with. The Chinese did wonderful things with silver nitrate that we could learn much from.

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