Monday, 11 February 2013

Normal wear and tear

               The beginning of last week had us beating a track back and forth between home and the doctor’s surgery. I had already been in to take advantage of the NHS ‘Keep Well’ scheme and had a free check-up. Given my chronic fear of white coats and needles, I thought that was quite brave of me. Other than an annoying trend of putting back on most of the weight that I lost last winter, I was given a clean bill of health. This time it was Gail’s turn when she went in for a blood test. The results came back later that same day and our locum doctor was not pleased with them. He phoned up and said as much, asking Gail to haul herself back in to the surgery in the morning. She came home with yet another bag of pills. I find it incredible that that girl doesn’t rattle when she moves. Apparently she is so anaemic that I swear if she didn’t carry any spare change in her purse then she wouldn’t have any iron at all. Hopefully, a couple of supplements a day will do the trick as I dread to think how much the Guinness habit that she is keen to adopt instead would cost.

Going nowhere fast. The path of the good ship MV Tetuan.
                The weather was dreadfully pants. We didn’t actually think it was that bad as we still had a roof. It is true that a bit had flown off one of the outbuildings but the most frustrating aspects are that Easterlies blow the house name sign off its stand and Southerlies move the TV aerial so we can’t watch anything on the box. The clearest evidence that things were worse than we thought was the 6,000 tonne container ship wallowing around in the bay. I remembered the times that I used to spend interrogating the AIS maritime radar to watch the traffic weaving around each other in the Solent, so when we arrived home and got the hamster in our BT infinity box to start running around in his wheel, we logged on to find that the ship was the MV Tetuan. It is Liberian registered, but then again aren’t they all? I struggled out onto the dunes with Gail’s thirty times zoom camera to see if I could get a picture of it. 

MV Tetuan taking Orkney refuge.
It was an ordeal for two reasons. Firstly, even though it had looked pretty massive from the road half an hour earlier, it had moved off quite a way and together with the poor visibility rendered it nothing more than a faint mote on the horizon. Secondly, even crouching with my back to the wind, I was getting buffeted around so bad that keeping the ship in the viewfinder itself was a real challenge. I snapped the shutter a few times and just hoped that it would perhaps appear in one of them. I confess that you'll find better at: In fact, the gallery at the site has some amazing pictures of ships. It might just be a Teutonic thing, given that three of the four most popular viewing locations are the Kiel Canal, Hamburg and Cuxhaven, but I suspect it has a wider appeal than that really.

There's not supposed to be a door here!
                The seas got pretty wild. We could see white water in the North Ronaldsay Firth from the back of the house. Huge Atlantic rollers were coming in to break just off the headland and wash up the cobbles on the beach at Tofts Ness. The trouble with coastlines is that they aren’t fixed. We’d already had a situation where one of the only three major roads on the island was blocked by rocks and detritus. It was clear that there would need to be another clean-up operation after this little lot. As well as doing a little bit of rubbish clearance on the Bay of Lopness, I’d already started to throw back the stones that the previous storm had tossed up onto the top of the dunes. I am thankful that home lies a couple of hundred metres back from the sea. Others are not so lucky. Those finding themselves right on the front line get bombarded with all sorts. The high winds also ripped a big whole in our friend Andy’s polytunnel. He had been trapped overnight in Kirkwall due to his return sailing being cancelled and was in no position to do any more to prevent it. After all his investment in additional storm fencing around it, he was justifiably furious and got the manufacturers to send him a replacement cover for it.

                You also find that when home is only a couple of feet above sea level, it doesn’t drain very well. The notion that the foundations in the garden be turned into a big raised bed was beginning to look more and more unlikely as it began to resemble a swimming pool instead. Puddles formed and merged across the surface and when they eventually retreated, a few taps with the sole of a wellie caused liquefaction of the sand into a gloopy puddle again. It also wasn’t draining from the fishing crate raised beds either and what remained of my overwintering leeks were wilting. I had to pull them all up and blanch them. Well, not quite all of them. A good few made the shorter trip to our tummies instead. That leaves a handful of chili plants around the place, some looking decidedly unhealthy, and a few ropey cabbages dotted around the garden. The lines of spinach never appeared, or if they did the rabbits got to them before we did. Next year’s seeds are on order so we’ll get to see if I’ve learned anything from last year’s disappointing returns.

My latest mission has everything to do with . It is a site that aspires to have photographs taken of every square of the Ordnance Survey map. Needless to say, some areas of the country are more popular than others. I lost count of how many pictures of HMS Warrior there were. However, remote parts of the country, such as where I find myself these days, are much less well represented. I have taken it upon myself, therefore, to fill the gaps on the map. All the highlights on the island, the war memorial, the golf course and the big rock have already made it onto the site, but I’m after everything else that other residents and visitors have missed until now. If, perchance, you are interested in looking around the old place, I can heartily recommend that you check out the site.
  © Copyright Becky Williamson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
(I had to borrow somebody else's photo as I haven't been here yet!)

That’s about all I can think to write. Other than watching an exciting Superbowl, visiting the mobile library, (this month I will be mostly reading ‘The monster of Florence’ by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi), driving the bus and swimming in the pool, both regularly but infrequently and never at the same time, what with the cool temperature and the short days I have to confess that it’s all been rather boring. The lapwings haven’t started their courtship aerobatics yet and the ground is still a mucky grey/brown colour. It’s as if the whole island is just holding its breath. It may be a little premature, but I get the feeling that it is under the impression that Spring is on its way. I must confess that I have my doubts and will have for many weeks to come.