Thursday, 5 April 2012

"A good walk, ruined."

                There comes a point when you realise that the unsightly flab that you were more than happy to see the back of was in fact the one thing that was keeping you warm. Now that I have only the one chin and my 38” jeans refuse to defy the laws of gravity, I have begun to notice that despite having seen off the winter months, I am actually colder than ever. I appreciate that some of it may be down to my unrealistic expectations of the relevance of the coming of Spring to the high latitudes, not to mention that we have run out of tea-lights, but I swear that if it wasn’t for the abject poverty I think I’d be stuffing my face right about now to put it all back on again.
                Not being particularly enthusiastic about participating in the regular traditional dancing, bingo or knitting evenings held on the island, my one chance to get out and meet some of the locals presented itself early in March when the golf club held its annual general meeting. I can only bow to their wisdom in choosing to hold it in the pub. The turnout was rather thin, given that only the members of the committee itself were in attendance. Until we turned up that is. Between them they monopolised the trophies that were presented. It is my hope for the forthcoming season that, by a combination of dogged determination and a persistence bordering on the pathological, I will be able to prevent such a ‘love-in’ reoccurring. During the meeting it was decided to retain the existing membership and green fees, meaning that I can play all the golf I want, which isn’t that much really, and help myself to spare clubs and sundry equipment for a paltry £12.50, plus a fiver deposit for a key to the clubhouse. Bargain. Meeting over, we availed ourselves of the establishments liquid hospitality.

                We had a visitor the following day. Andy, the kind gentleman who gave us the aerial, popped by the shed to let us have a couple of large trout steaks that he had caught in Bea Loch that very morning. I guess food doesn’t come much fresher than that. I don’t really know if pan frying them was the best way to compliment them, but they were gorgeous none the less in spite of my culinary naivety. When we’d visited him at his home earlier, it was apparent that he’d been having a few problems with the polytunnel he’d bought. Apparently, the frame was an eighty foot leviathan but he had been supplied with the plastic sheeting to fit the next size down. Fortunately, after the requisite phone call advising them of their faux pas, they dispatched the correct size sheeting. Now it’s just a case of waiting for a calm day to redress the framework.

                As if on cue, summer paid us all an unseasonal visit. Even Gail dared the outdoors. We lugged one of the spare baths lying forlorn by the stables, (every horse should have access to an en suite!), and packed it in a bed of hay. Once we can rely on regular double digit daytime temperatures, we aim to fill it with compost and Gail hopes to sew her mushroom spores. Then I didn’t know whether to turn my attention to starting to dig the foundation for a small fire pit or preparing some small beds for planting, so I did both. For some reason we are blessed with an abundance of fish crates so I have decided to use them to create raised beds that I can cover with netting. There is quite a bit of animal manure that some worms have very much taken a liking to available so I’m able to work it into the sandy soil. Hopefully it’ll do the trick. It was nice to have a good excuse to get all muddy again now that my goalkeeping days are behind me.

                The good weather stretched into the following day too, but before I could get going again Andy requested my assistance on the polytunnel front. My garden wasn’t going anywhere so I got on my bike and pedalled to his place. The ‘short’ cover that he had somehow managed to fit himself was still in place and the new cover was inside warming up. We soon had the old one off and folded away and threw the new cover over the frame. It was then necessary to let it sit there to stretch a little more, so we went inside for a cup of tea and, in his case, a roll-up. I was exceedingly well behaved and did not demolish the pack of bourbons he’d opened. It took a great deal of willpower but I can confidently assert that Simba, his dog, ate more than me. After a while we returned to the job at hand, earlier than recommended but concerned that the wind was picking up a bit. Large swathes of plastic make rather splendid kites whereas we were of the steadfast opinion that we would much rather it not do that but remain in a permanent, fixed position on the ground. After battening down the sides, the complicated bit was the pleating on the ends. Here Gail’s dressmaking skills would have been an invaluable asset, however we made a quite decent hash of it despite the significant shortage of X chromosones. Another cup of tea and biscuit later, we returned to do the last bit of stretching and fixing into position. With one of us standing on the batten, the other tightened the nuts to the bolts locking the cover in position. The cover had expanded so much that the battens often went below ground level so a bit of rudimentary landscaping had to be carried out to get ratchet down that far. It had also got stifling inside so we only managed a few at a time before having to leg it outside for some fresh air. Then it was a case of walking around it, quite a trek on its own I can assure you, and drumming your fingers on it. The result was a lovely and reassuring timpanic sound.  Job done.

                The weather reverted to type the following day when the surveyor from Everest came around to measure up. He said he didn’t need my assistance so I left him to it. He came back indoors to a hot cup of tea and he and Gail discussed some options, “which way do you want the windows to open?” and “how high up do you want the cross beam?”, that sort of thing. When it was all done, we recommended the Orkney beer at the Belsair while he waited for his return ferry to arrive. Everest later telephoned to explain that their computers had gone a bit wonky so they couldn’t give us a schedule for completion yet. They have since been in contact again to say the units will be delivered to Inverness early in June. As we’re not in Inverness, it’s a bit of a lottery as to when they’ll actually get them out to us, but given that they won’t get the rest of their money until they do then I can’t see them hanging around for too long. Famous last words.

                Gail wasn’t up to swimming at the end of the week so I went on my own. I was quite chuffed with 96 lengths of the 15m pool until I was reminded that a mile was 108 lengths. I am determined that that day will soon come. My next ‘sporting’ endeavour was the opening round of the Sanday Golf Club ‘Tuesday’ series. The course is just under a couple of miles away so Gail gave me half an hour to walk there. The club captain, Ean, and another islander named Brendan were the only brave souls to show up. I had intended to caddy for them but when Brendan confessed that he was resigned to Ean trouncing him I made up my mind not to let him suffer alone. The 9 hole course zig-zagged its way through a cow field with cows still very much in residence. Many of the cows had calves and Ean warned us that if a ball landed close to them to count it as lost otherwise we would get charged at by the protective mums. As well as the livestock, there were large pools of mud and the obligatory mounds of cow poop. The rules annexed hereto state that a ball can be replaced to an improved lie after each stroke, provided you can find the damn thing after it has plugged itself so deep that even Doug McClure would need a sand wedge fashioned from a Tyrannosaurus Rex thigh bone to get it out. 
Of course my score isn't on there! The boxes ain't big enough.

Having nearly lost a Merrell in the mud and spent over twenty minutes sheltering on the beach from a nasty shower of hail, we called a halt to proceedings after the sixth. I don’t know if the result will count for anything and I must confess that I am not particularly bothered, happy enough just to have got out of there in one piece. I mean: how many courses can there be in the world where getting onto the greens involves scaling three strands of barbed-wire fencing? If I’m not singing Castrati by September I will be very much surprised!

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