Tuesday, 9 October 2012

September in a page

Now the whole world knows. (If they happen to be passing.)

                On an early September walk along the beach, in improved weather, I espied a pile of building rubble and, when I checked it out, found a great big slate roof tile that was practically begging to be ‘recycled’. It took me a while to lug the thing home. It made scrambling up the shingle onto the dunes particularly hazardous. After chipping all the flakey bits off it, Gail painted the house name on it and then coated it with waterproof PVA to seal it. While she was busy with that, I made a staked frame for it to stand on. It was a pile of crap, I admit. It didn’t even stand up to being whacked into the ground with a mallet so I very much doubt that it will survive the Orcadian elements for very long. For the time being, however, it looks pretty neat, even if we do say so ourselves and at least visitors will be spared having to phone up for directions having driven straight past. That is unless it rains, apparently. It doesn’t look as if the PVA is properly waterproof. When we arrived home during a ‘peedie’ storm the other day, it had turned to foam and rendered Gail’s artistic lettering, in careful ‘papyrus’ style font, completely illegible. If it wasn’t for the horsebox, I’d have missed the gate and driven past. Maybe not.  
"To get to the lighthouse, you have to get past us first."
                Gail and I finally went on one of the walks organised and hosted by the islands ranger, Rod. It was to Start Point lighthouse. I’d been there before, on my own, but this time we were going to get inside. We still had to scramble across the rocks to the island and then yomp another half a mile the other side through quite heavy ground. It was knackering just getting there. There was not much left in the tank for climbing all those steps. In addition, the fact that they wound round and around made Gail very queasy. The ladder to the light itself was a journey too far for her. Our guide explained the operation and history of the lighthouse before letting the rest of us climb another short ladder to the balcony. Stonking views were denied only by misty weather, but I took pictures anyway in the hope that something could be discerned from the fuzzy images. The light itself was powered by gas for many years and given the difficulty we’d had getting ourselves here, it was hard to imagine the nightmare of carrying over a hundred cylinders to such a remote place. More about Start Point at http://www.nlb.org.uk/LighthouseLibrary/Lighthouse/Start-Point/

                Gawping out of our windows remains a primary occupation.
I can see you, you little bugger!
Leo waiting for his dinner to arrive.

A racoon bird. Really?
               I took a bike ride up to Scuthvie, where the tarmac ends, in the North-East corner of the island. Eventually, I want to try cycling from one end to the other so I wanted to see just how far it was from my gate. Mapometer says it’s three miles. Adding the twelve to Loth Pier, it’s not a journey I intend to try any time soon! (http://www.mapometer.com/cycling/route_2379071.html). On the way back, I detoured around the North Loch. Hundreds of geese and swans were happily floating around on the water, occasionally taking noisily to the air, circling around and landing again. It’s a full life for a fowl. This ‘road’ led me to the edge of the bay on the opposite side of the island to the Bay of Lopness. It’s called Bay of Sandquoy, but it is part of a larger stretch of coastline called Otters Wick, which is a clue to what beasts frequent the area. And it didn’t disappoint. Just off the rocks, an otter was swimming along, parallel to the shore line, diving and breaching frequently. My first sighting.

                My Makita drill got another outing when a couple more curtain poles needed putting up. Buoyed by the success of those projects, it was time to try getting through two courses of breeze block to get the aerial cable fed in. Even with the bit extension attached, it was necessary to go at it from both sides, creating the problem of making both holes align. It also meant that I couldn’t quit halfway through the gig, despite the temptation. Leaving holes in external walls is not clever, apparently. I also learnt that spade bits are meant for wood. When used on masonry, the point breaks off and the spade blades wear out, leaving the idiot with the trigger bashing his way through concrete with a fast-spinning spoon. I am just amazed that the feeling in my hand eventually came back. Thankfully, persistence is rewarded, even when common sense is completely absent. Now we can watch TV without the window open. It’s like we’ve evolved or something.

                 Gail has requested my signature dish, haricot and olive bake, a couple of times now. I’ve also made bread dough for some homemade pizzas. I’ve even knocked up a very passable carrot cake, with carrots from our own garden. Also, Gail trusts me to do veggie ‘fry-ups’. Apart from that, other than breakfast porridge every morning, meals are primarily Gail’s responsibility. She’s an absolute diva at opening cardboard boxes and putting containers in the oven. To her credit, she makes a damn good biscuit. If this paragraph makes it through her ‘edit & proof-read’ I will be very much surprised.

                The islanders running the Sanday bus got in touch with me and invited me for a ‘ride-along’. This meant an early start if we were to pick up ‘Northenders’ on the way across the island to Loth Pier for the first ferry of the day. It made a pleasant change to be the passenger for once and I’m afraid that I wasn’t much help, nor a very avid trainee, as all I did was rubberneck at all the amazing scenery. I get away with a little bit of that in the Skoda, but I usually get shouted at or smacked very promptly. With the higher elevation of the minibus, it was even more spectacular. I made a second trip two days later for the evening run and made sure that I was more attentive. It must have worked as I was asked to do the following evenings run solo. I brought the bus home and parked it by the gate. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. Unsure as to whether the accents, rabbits in the road, single-track carriageways, the ticket machine or the vans temperamental clutch would prove my nemesis, I played every disastrous scenario, including driving the bus off the end of the pier, in my head a million times. The gig itself was an uneventful success. The only exception was the local owner of the self-catering cottage at Park (near Start) telling me off for not stopping right outside the door. When I told him that I had been warned not to do any off-roading and that it was my first day, he was most understanding. I’d carried six passengers, seven if you include the kitten, and taken nine pounds in fares. It then struck me that that was my first work in twenty months. Well worth the wait!

Thank you to the copyright holder, whoever you are.
                At the pool, we finally met the lady in charge and put our names down for lifeguard training and duty. You do sod all for a year and a half and suddenly you get two jobs at once. The lifeguarding however is purely voluntary. Actually, I’ve just remembered that we’ve lined up another one as well. An archaeologist on the island is working for Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion (SCAPE) to identify ‘at risk’ sites on Sanday. We’ve contacted her to express our interest in the project. She’s keen to find volunteers who are willing to photograph the current condition of the sites in the hope of obtaining funding for excavations and then to help with the digging. We’ve watched all the episodes of Time Team so it’s about time that we got our knees dirty. 

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