Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Where there's muck, there's ........ a bit of a pong!

I don’t know what comes over me some times. Easter Monday was still a refuse collection day so I had to get up at half past seven to take some bags down to the gate. Ordinarily, the observation of any supernatural festival would have made a return to bed perfectly acceptable behaviour. However, for some bizarre reason I thought that I could do some more work in the garden instead. I managed a good few hours clearing soil out for a big, deep potato bed before breaking for tea. Then, lo and behold, it turned into another still and sunny day. I’d had my share of digging, shovelling and pushing wheelbarrows by then, so I took the bike out for a ride around the North end of the island. I was keen to check out what Start Point looked like at high water, to see how cut off the island actually gets. Pretty much I’d say as I watched seals shooting through the shallow waves of the narrows. It was hypnotic viewing. They were having barrels of fun.

No getting to the lighthouse now. (Maybe later)
Oh! No! Golf season has started again. It was a struggle deciding whether or not to re-join this year given that, as an islander these days, I would have to pay the full green fee. But it all comes down to supporting local clubs and facilities, so even though I am a menace to health and safety and I need to carry an abacus to keep count of all my shots, it is a must. I had a good excuse for missing the first Tuesday round as I had to ride to Burness to pick up the Sanday Bus but I resorted to a poor excuse for missing this week. I had walked to the course early in the afternoon to pick up a club and some practice balls so that I could work on my swing at home. While I was there I promised myself that if I could get a par on the short third hole then I would return later and play for real. However, I teed off and the ball went flying away at an impossibly oblique angle to disappear down a vicious slope and ending up closer to second green. I assume that that’s where it ended up, because I never found it again. It certainly wasn’t within a country mile of the third green I was aiming at. Having made my decision, I stayed around and played three more holes, scoring reasonably for me. After that and the walk home my feet ached. It was time to break out the foot spa and call it a day.
Smokey returns after being 'out of bounds'

Get that shit off my wall!!
 It’s all change down ‘Sooth’ at the house we can’t afford to live in. We’ve kicked out the old tenant because she bolted a Murdoch dish on the front of the house and kicked out the letting agent for telling her that we’d agreed to let her bolt a Murdoch dish on the front of our house. Instead we’ve found someone else to rent it from us and we won’t have to pay some lying dolts for doing squat. We signed a new tenancy agreement and then had to go to the Post Office to send it to the new tenant. This involved driving about five miles into Kettletoft. Alas! We didn’t check the opening times before we left and it was shut until the afternoon. Now Kettletoft might be the commercial heartbeat of the island, but that’s not to say it bustles in any way, shape or form. The petrol pump has been redundant for longer than I have. The recycling shop is only open for two days a week and this wasn’t one of them. One hotel/bar has closed down and the pier doesn’t get any ferry traffic these days since they built the one at Loth. That leaves a grocers shop and the Kettletoft Hotel and bar. We had three hours to spend in a high street that is the antithesis of Oxford Street. It’s just not possible. We wracked our brains for something to do and recalled that last year we’d walked to Backaskaill bay from there so we decided to try it again. We had been encouraged last time by a sign. We should, on reflection, have been asking ourselves why the sign has since been removed.

The winter storms had kicked merry hell out of the narrow strip of ‘footpath’ between the field wall and the sea. It made the walk to the beach more of a yomp. Fortunately, the conditions had kept the flora pretty stunted so we could trust where we were putting our feet. Twenty minutes later we were leaving footprints on the sand. Other than the gulls, sanderlings and oystercatchers, ours were the ONLY prints on the sand. Over a mile of golden beach washed with by a gentle, minty-green sea and all for us. The other side of the bay is bounded by twenty foot high cliffs, which, as an old geologist, I decided that I’d like to investigate. It’s not the Jurassic Coast and for a guy who is in love with Lulworth Cove, it was never going to blow my socks off. But there is some well-defined stratification and coastal erosion had sculpted shallow caves and made little windows though the outcroppings.  There were even some fantastic folds and fault line fractures in the faces. It turned out to be a pretty interesting place and left me feeling, not for the first time nor the last, that I screwed up when I didn’t take my alma mater up on their offer to let me study to ‘A’level  at the grammar school up the road all those years ago. Who cares? They’re just stones. Right? We made our way back to Kettletoft, sent our package, had some food and a drink in the pub and bought some groceries. That, dear friends, is as exciting as retail therapy gets around here!

There isn't enough Polyfilla in all Christendom to fix that hole.

Back in the garden, I’ve (finally) dug about half of the foundation area to a depth of three breeze-blocks, fished out all the lumpy bits and shipped about half of what was left well out of the way. I ran a roller over my new surface and called Richard next door to ask him for a trailer full of muck. The calm of the following morning was broken by the sound of his tractor rumbling down the garden. My first thought was how he’d made getting through the gate look so easy when I have trouble getting a transit through it? Then it was down to business. Richard reversed the trailer to the edge of the pit and tipped it. There was a good mix of consistency. Some of it was well rotted, had worms in it and everything. Some was not and, consequently, didn’t. The latter ate my wellingtons and tried to suck them off my feet. It also stunk to high heaven. That should do the trick. We agreed that one load wasn’t going to be enough, so he said he’d be back tomorrow with another lot. I spent the rest of the day spreading it out and mixing a little sandy soil to break it up a bit. Then a bit more sandy soil on the fresher stuff before it got its appetite back.
Snow stops play. For an hour or so at least.

True to his word, bright and early next morning he swung his tractor and trailer in through the gate, missing the posts by a country mile. Flash git. I’d cleared a different access place for him to tip. The downside was that this time it was at ground level and, sure enough, the trailer ended up falling in. The problem started when the door hadn’t swung open and as a consequence all the contents were jammed up against it. Richard put his tractor in gear and rocked it back and forth to dislodge it however every rocking motion moved the trailer closer to the precipice. I tried to warn him but, too late. Now, jammed to the bottom, the muck not only didn’t want to come out but also had nowhere to go. I jumped in and started shovelling the contents out so the trailer wasn’t too heavy for the tractor to pull back out again. We got there eventually. The only other setback was when the tipper wouldn’t come back down. It wouldn’t have prevented him from towing it back, but the aerodynamics had been ruined. Apparently, the hydraulics were blocked so, when hitting it with a bar didn’t help, we bled all the fluid and watched it inch down as the resistance oozed from the hose. We threw copious amounts of sand on it, not that there’s any shortage here, to mop it up. Richard’s trailer gets ‘borrowed’ a lot for mounting a bovine watering station and spends months and months standing out in all weathers doing sod all. It is no surprise when it refuses to play ball when called upon to exercise its versatility. Fed up with the inconvenience, this year he is making a bowser, a word I’d never heard before in my life until that very morning while I was watching the Grand Prix qualifying when Mark Webber ran out of fuel because Red Bull reckoned that theirs was broken.  I thought it was another Orcadian word that I would have to learn, but it’s not. Its origins, by all accounts, are antipodean. I STILL don’t know what one is! 

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