Thursday, 17 May 2012

Funny money and other stuff

                Hello! What’s this then? I hear you ask. This, my dear friends, is a one pound NOTE. Did you know that they still use them up here? The tricky bit is they are not legal tender. Actually, there is no such thing as legal tender North of the border. Money here consists of what are called ‘promisery notes’. Therefore, I’m not sure if they can be used South of the border. Our sub-postmaster in Lady thinks that shops would be reluctant to accept them mainly as they don’t have a space in their tills for them anymore. Tough.

                A very talented Orcadian band visited the island late in April, playing at the Kettletoft Hotel. 'The Condition' are a great covers group and played a wonderfully eclectic range of rock and alt. rock songs. Some of them, such as The View’s ‘Same Jeans’, were even better (imho) than the originals. Gail was well chuffed when they played Green Day’s ‘Holiday’. The only regrettable parts of the gig were firstly when someone in the audience fell over and smacked his head on the floor and secondly when we, as old farts, ran out of steam at half past midnight when the band took a drinks break. There is no way that we were up to staying out until two or three in the morning despite the quality of the entertainment.

                My German Deli order eventually arrived. I was concerned that the fresh sausages had spent six days in the post so I was obliged to eat them all rather quickly. This was my last ever order from them as the posting costs are prohibitive. It has been pointed out to me that it’s also rather indulgent behaviour for a serf.
                The weather is still being erratic and frustrating. There has been no return of what are supposed to be ‘prevailing’ SW winds as the Easterlies appear to have become a permanent fixture. After it brought with it some torrential rain, it began to howl through the front door and carried the considerable volumes of precipitation with it. Some flooding occurred. This prompted an urgent call to Orkney Builders to hurry up with our door. They promised to make it a priority and to their credit they were soon around to fit it. A stonking good job they did of it too. The hallway is now weatherproof and Gail and I have started a little routine every time we go out into it. There is an involuntary giggle, an embarrassed laugh and we announce to the other: “Look. We’ve got a door!” Don’t know how long it’ll be before it gets boring, but it appears to have plenty of miles in it yet.

                I managed to walk to Lady to do some essential shopping. It wasn’t such a chore although it is rather disconcerting that I can't think of a single footpath on the whole island, even in any of the villages themselves. My plan to time the trip to show to Gail that it isn’t such an unreasonable proposition was dashed when Ean pulled up in his ‘workhorse’ Peugeot 207. He got out to move a spare wheel into the hatchback and I sat in the back seat beside a cement mixer as he drove me the last two and a bit miles home. Gail suspected that I’d cheated to have got home so quickly so I had to tell her of my good fortune. This gave me time to check up on our leek and cabbage seedlings in the goat room. While they were coming up nicely, I suspect that outdoors I’ve killed the previously healthy beans that downsizer Andy donated to us. What I wouldn’t give to have inherited Dad’s green fingers.

                I had a mixed end of the week. An unsuccessful job interview blotted the first part of the day but the Backaskaill restaurant tasting evening more than made up for it. Geoff had planned some new dishes for the coming season and a trio of each of each course was presented for our criticism. Everyone in attendance agreed that it was all absolutely delicious. We overstayed our welcome (again) by chatting in our host’s foyer, to some more islanders we hadn't previously bumped into, for an absolute age before leaving.

                The next day there came a strange visitor to the door. A bloke driving along the road caught sight of the water filled plastic barrel standing just inside the gate. He walked all the way down our drive to find out if he could buy it. I umm’d and ahh’d about it for a while so he offered me a fiver. My reply to his offer was “Really?” This prompted him to take the largest wad of twenty pound notes I have ever seen out of his pocket and admitting that he probably didn’t have anything smaller on him. He then dug around in his ‘shrapnel’ pocket to fish out a blue note. Never understanding the true value of anything, I let him take it away for that. It was all I could do to stop myself blurting out that we had a bigger and better one in the shed. He walked back to his van to load up his aquisition and we had some income. It looks like that my Sage accounting City and Guilds might come in useful after all. I wonder if I should make an asset list for future reference but when I take a look around I am convinced that it’s all just rubbish. But then, what do I know? (Everybody tells me that the answer to that question is a resounding ‘nothing’.)

                Gail hadn’t been off the island for at least three months and so our inability to find a suitable present for Mum’s birthday prompted a shopping expedition to Kirkwall. Her continued good fortune afloat meant that the crossing was very smooth. We dropped in to Odin Stone and found a really pretty card and a fabulous, 20’s stylie woolly hat. They certainly have some lovely stuff but we managed, uncharacteristically, not to treat ourselves to any of it. We ate lunch at ‘Skippers’, the casual eating bar on the ground floor of the Kirkwall Hotel. Gail insisted that she had no idea that it just so happened that they serve Orkney beer. In the afternoon we found a homeware shop and then filled all the shopping bags we could carry in Tesco before struggling back to the pier to catch the return ferry. Our haul included some treats for Gail to enjoy while I was away South in mid-May. I, on the other hand, had assumed she’d just be glad to see the back of me.

                The weather was calm again the following day and prompted another impromptu cycle ride. I found myself being beckoned to the Quoyness burial cairn. My previous failure to reach the cairn at Troyness doubled my resolve to succeed this time. The signpost hinted that it was only a short way from the main road. It wasn’t. A rough track led around the expanse of Little Sea. Of course there is even less than a little sea when the tide is out. Across the sand was a great view to Andy and Denise’s house so I took a series of photographs that have been stitched together below to form a panorama.

The software's not great (it shouldn't kick up to the left) but you get the idea. View across Little Sea.
 I rode on determinedly. The rough track became sandier and flatter until it reached a house at the top of Els Ness. Beyond the farm gate there, the track onwards is very deeply rutted and while I assume that some brave souls have driven along it fairly recently, I wouldn’t risk it myself in anything short of a military Hummer these days. Even riding was fraught with danger and I was sure that, at any moment, a pedal would dig in and I'd be pitched over the handlebars. It got so bad that after barely a hundred yards, I left the bike leaning against a wall while I continued the journey on foot. This gave me the time and the confidence to enjoy my surroundings. A small boat was creel fishing in the bay of Sty Wick, an abundance of St. George’s mushrooms were growing in the fields, it's a pity that I didn’t have any carrier bags with me, and a couple of cows with young calves eyed me suspiciously as I traversed their turf. I passed plenty of evidence of the dangers of driving to the cairn too, losing count of the number of scattered bits of car bodywork I came across. The cairn is an impressive feature. Some torches have been placed in box beside the entrance. Unfortunately the entrance to the chamber is only about two feet high so a crawl on hands and knees is required to get inside. It would be more useful in my opinion if, instead of the torches, some knee pads were provided. Inside, it is an impressing edifice to be laid to rest in sure enough. The trouble is that one man’s grave is another man’s archaeology. I guess no one gets to sleep forever. I hope I’m wrong as I fully intend to challenge that assumption and I don't intend to wait until after I'm dead to start either!

Period home, in need of modernisation, featuring one reception and six bedrooms.
Quoyness Chambered Cairn.

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