Friday, 6 July 2012

The longest day and other stuff

My problem is that I’m more of a spectator than a doer. It means that, while I know too damn well that there are loads of things around here that need doing, I am all too easily distracted by things like music, books and TV. It is not to be unexpected either for me to be so captivated by my new surroundings that it completely slips my mind that I’m supposed to get my fingers stuck into them for my subsistence. Then, of course, stick a Grand Prix or a football competition on and I’m lost. I commonly suspect that I am fit for nothing and there is plenty of evidence to show this to be the case.

It is therefore, quite obvious when the distractions run out. The twentieth was the first day in a fortnight when there was no football on the television. While initially distraught, having already finished reading my library books and not allowing myself another i-tunes download for another few days, I had to search for a release for my modest amount of pent up frustration. Satisfaction arrived in the shape of an eight pound lump hammer and a rusty cement mixer. 

Pleased to still have toes after this episode.
The dolly that it was attached to fell away as I but the drum itself and the motor were more substantial bits of kit. If I was to use it as a flower pot in future, then the motor had to come off and some drain holes made. I naively assumed that the metal would be rusty enough to be holed by a nail, but after bending the nail and twatting my thumb instead, I realised that the thing was still pretty solid. I turned my attention instead to the motor attached to the base of the drum. Fortunately, a few well aimed tonks, not to mention the myriad of poorly aimed ones, broke the motor off and left a nice big hole in the base. I love it when a plan comes together. I had already started digging a hole for a firepit, a while ago now, before realising that it wasn’t the best place for it, so now I’ve sunk the bottom half of the cement mixer in it instead. Content and a little tired, I went indoors to find a more relaxing distraction.

Mark Twain referred to golf as a good walk ruined. While it is not to everybody’s cup of tee, it is exercise and some fresh air. As a ‘gentleman’ of mature age, it is now one of the few sports that I can participate in without serious threat of serious physical harm. (For me, sport and psychological harm are synonymous.)  As a regular player in the Tuesday handicap competition, where I proudly prop up the league, I like to think that my game is coming on a little. At least I’ve found one club in the bag that I can get a reasonable return with and anyone with a passing knowledge of the film ‘Tin Cup’ will guess accurately that I have adopted the ‘single club’ method of getting around. I also find it useful to only hit a ball a hundred yards or so at a time as I can often see where lands.  It must be remembered that Sanday Golf Club bears no relation to the neatly manicured fairways of Augusta or The Belfry. Often, it is only by observing the direction from which the wildlife is fleeing that you get an idea of where your ball has ended up. Even then, if it has rolled into a rabbit warren or under a ‘coo-scone’, you could stand within five feet of it and still not find it.

I am a glutton for punishment. Even in ideal weather, nine holes at Sanday is a challenge enough. It has been a notion of mine, ever since we arrived on the island, to test the legend that it is possible to play a round at midnight during the shortest night. A few people celebrate the solstice. As an astronomical inevitability, I try not to get too excited about it, but it deserves to be acknowledged and observed. I chose to acknowledge and observe it by leaving the house at half past eleven and trudging up the road to the clubhouse. There was no moon in a predominantly clear sky. The Northern horizon was aflame. The road was empty and I cursed myself for not riding my bike instead of taking ‘Shanks’s pony’. I grabbed my clubs and headed for the first tee. I could easily read the scorecard but I must confess that the uneven ground was full of dark shadows. I teed up a bright orange ball and addressed it armed with a three wood. I didn’t see the ball leave but I knew that I hadn’t middled it. I next set up a white ball and dug out my ‘old faithful’ seven iron. A clean strike this time, but I couldn’t make out its flight. All I could do was grab the clubs and set off toward the pin. If I didn’t fall over the ball within a hundred and twenty paces then it would be lost. After about five minutes of searching, I gave them both up and resigned to just have a go at the short, par three third. What could go wrong on such a short hole? I hit two balls toward the green and set off in pursuit. I had no luck in finding them until I saw that one had found the green. It certainly wasn’t the first place I’d thought to look. Just a few weeks earlier, not a single member of the club had managed the feat during a ‘nearest the pin’ competition.  It was satisfying therefore to be able to two-putt for a par in the middle of the night. I even found my other ball on my way back and took a more familiar eight strokes in getting that one to the flag. I can now boast that I have tried it and found out that midnight golf is a really stupid idea. I got home at a quarter past one and turned in.

It was nice to get back into the routine of a Friday swim at the pool. I’ve been regularly attempting to swim a mile each time but trying to count up to one hundred and eight, for some reason, I find incredibly difficult. Although the upside of my amnesia is that it allows me to go and play instead of pounding relentlessly up and down. I often berate myself for not making more use of the beach just across the road, but even though it’s free and pretty much endless, it is undoubtedly those few extra degrees centigrade that make a whole world of difference and worth the expense. When we arrived home from the pool and the shop, we found that part of the cabling trench had been dug from the turbine site toward the house. Neither of us recalled seeing it there when we’d left just a couple of hours earlier, nor were we expecting any more work on it for about a month. Not that we are complaining. It’s not as if we were at risk of falling in. We just hoped that they hadn’t scarpered because they’d hit a pipe or a cable. Fortunately, we checked and were still connected to the services we had that morning.

This is how the old windows looked. Nasty!
The following week started with a call from Everest. They were finishing up a job in Orkney a day early and could they make a start on ours? That prompted a flurry of activity. All the houseplants were vacated to the shed that I’d partly ‘mucked out’. We also took down the curtains and ugly plastic curtain tracks, moved some bookcases around and generally improved accessibility around the place. (Our properties tend to become one continuous series of tripping hazards!) The boys arrived punctually and began working their way around, removing the metal-framed, nadger’s thick windows and fitting huge-paned, double-glazed sealed unit jobs in their place. The transformation is nothing short of spectacular. I often criticise Gail for wanting to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but in this case it must be conceded that the views are wonderful, the exclusion of the elements is very pleasant, it’s lighter and they can actually be interacted with. Previously, any attempt to open or close the windows would have involved the removal or application of considerable amount of sealant. The fitters overnighted at the private residence of an islander who previously had run her house as a B&B and was persuaded to take visitors due to a shortage of accommodation on the island as there are presently lots of workmen in Sanday doing all sorts of major infrastructure works. 

These are the new ones. Nice!
They arrived just after half past seven the next morning to do the last three windows. They were booked onto the 18:30 ferry to Kirkwall so that had to finish up that day. I helped them a little by retaining nearly all the windows they had taken out and most of the timber. I am fairly certain that I would have been escorted off the island if I’d let that much salvageable material get chucked into a skip. As it was they were done by lunchtime, so we gave them directions to the Kettletoft Hotel and gave them some money for drinks until they needed to head off for their boat. We on the other hand just walked around the house saying “Wow!” a lot.

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