Friday, 5 July 2013

What happens 'off Sanday', stays 'off Sanday'

I woke up in the house that I was born in. However much time I spend away from it, or how much money I lay out setting roots somewhere else, it’ll never be a home like this one. I forget sometimes that it’s just a place. It’s the people in it that make it. Secure, I slept like a log. The screaming headache that accrued during the journey was gone. What would Gail say when I tell her that I cannot face the trip back North? That would be a job for a man far braver than I.

The departure day had come. I was heading back into town anyway, so why not make a day of it. Thirty five years ago, my friend and I would go to Las Vegas, that’s the one on Wardour Street and not that trashy place stateside, to play arcade games like No Man’s Land, Galaxian, Joust and Defender. He’d driven up from Fareham especially to relive those halcyon days. Reunited, we rode the Metropolitan Line to Baker Street and hopped on a connection to Monument on the Circle. Pour quoi? I hear you ask. Well one can hardly defeat evil invaders on an empty stomach, can one? We wandered over London Bridge and made our way to Borough Market. It was an assault upon the senses. A world of cuisine lay at our feet and though it may disappoint you, I had already promised myself a Thuringer Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, ketchup and German mustard from the German Deli. The Lemon and almond polenta cake from the Comptoir Gourmond stall was also truly dee-lish! It was just as well, because it compensated for the horror of finding that, back in the West End, Las Vegas had become a refuge for gamblers. The only concession to gamers was a single rank of four driving simulators. Aggrieved, we sought solace on Oxford Street. Dave was also in town for a bit of retail therapy. At fifteen we didn’t have any money for shopping. I still hadn't any. At least it is free to look in the ‘Ferrari’ store on Regent Street, ‘Yellow Korner’ on S. Molton St., ‘The Vintage Magazine Shop’ on Brewer St. and ‘Play Lounge’ on Beak St. I did buy a 'Road Kill' toy in the last in an attempt to get used to the sight of squished bunnies. I might even try to get it on expenses as a training aid!

As my carriage didn’t leave Victoria until midnight, I rode the tube back out to Uxbridge with Dave and picked up my luggage that we’d left in the boot of his car. He told me that he envied my forthcoming adventure. I told him to get his head checked as he’d clearly bumped it on something. Back in Victoria, the departure gate for the Megabus was absolutely heaving and I spent the following twelve hours crammed on a bus. I watched the sun come up which was a meagre consolation. It was lunchtime when we arrived in Aberdeen and I had a table booked at Pizza Express. With a full and happy tummy, I then cruised Union Street and bought a few things in Lush for Gail before making my way to the harbour. Another calm crossing dumped me outside Kirkwall at eleven at night. It was just beginning to get a little ‘dusky’. I made my way to ’The Peedie Hostel’ and made myself at home. I was back in Orkney. I WAS home.

Back at the shed, it was time to address the soak-away issue. The sink and washing machine hadn’t been draining properly for weeks, so I dug it up. I must admit that I had expected to find a tank of some sort, not just a dozen broken rocks, completely fouled with sand and mud. Now I admit that I am a complete cock when it comes to all things DIY, but I would never have condoned that patently insufficient waste solution. The system that I’ve cobbled together isn’t going to win any ‘Good Household Award’ either, but a ‘Driller-Killer’ed bucket in a bed of gravel should at least last us for a time. While hardly the sort of genius that brought Apollo thirteen home safely, I must confess to a certain amount of pride at my inventiveness and industry. Just enough self-satisfaction with a job well done to mean that it was alright for me to put my feet up and bask in it for about a week.

Summer was coming and it was time once more to play tourist and visit another of the islands attractions. On the road to Stove, a track leads off up the side of a hill to a field at the summit. There are no signs, but a trodden path leads to a gap in a fence and a scree slope leads down to another beautiful sandy beach at Doun Helzie. The Southern end of the beach is bounded by rugged cliffs with caves and even an arch. The passage under the arch is even long enough to have a window in it. The only problem is that it suffers with the common problem of marine detritus. There is an annual ‘Bag the Bruck’ event where teams of volunteers fill sacks full of beach-combed trash. It reinforces the notion of leaving places in a tidier state than you found them. As well as picking up a couple of plastic bottles and a crisp packet, I came away with a large, orange bouy and a basket that both still had plenty of life left in them. A successful scavenge topped off a great time at the seaside.

It's safe to come out now. That one's full.
Later the same day, we had another unidentified visitor to the estate. At first glance it was some sort of brown, vicious-looking gull on the far side of the 'garden' ripping up the corpse of one of those troublesome bunnies. Turned out to be a Great Skua, what the locals call a “Bonxie”. Another species ticked on the list.

Another work day: What could possibly be wrong with the bus this week? It was the turn of the alternator to pack up this time. I was advised by Kelly to avoid using the electrics if at all possible. I do enjoy a challenge. After pointing out that she had the heater turned on for no other reason that it made all the switches point the same way, I took it upon myself to attempt the fifteen miles from Loth to Sellibister without indicators or brakes. If it wasn’t for meeting a tractor and needing to dive into a ‘passing point’ I’d have made it, too. (I succeeded in the afternoon run and hasten to point out that both journeys were empty runs). It did go in for repair that evening. It's not like we’re sadists.

It was inevitable that it would happen to us one day. We were in Kirkwall for a shopping trip and it turned out to be quite an expensive one. Having inadvertently spent too long at Tesco, caused by a necessity to return for a couple of ‘Grow Bags’ urgently required for half a dozen tomato plants that have been busy outgrowing their pots, we were unable to make it back to the pier before our boat sailed off without us. Having enjoyed a night at Peedie Hostel just recently, I left Gail with all the shopping bags and went to see if they had a room to spare for us. They did, as luck would have it. We crammed all the food in their fridge and shoved the rest of the shopping under the bunk-beds. Then we had to go back to Tesco to buy a change of clothes, emergency toothbrushes and paste.  Part of me suspected that Gail had planned this all along as she was quick to point out that Iron Man 3 was showing at the Pickaquoy. Even though it was a 3D showing, we decided to give it a go and a very decent film was not ruined by having to wear stupid glasses just to achieve a clear 2D perspective with my one good eye. Despite the worry that Smokey might be a bit lonely, the hostel is wholly conducive to a good sleep. We made sure that we gave ourselves much more than sufficient time to make it to the pier to catch to boat to Loth, where Hippocrates had had to spend a lonely night. Bless ‘im. It turns out that we’d left our ‘meal-deal’ in the fridge at the hostel. I emailed them and from their account, the medley of vegetables, spinach and ricotta parcels and the strawberry cheesecake went down an absolute treat. Well, they had saved us from a night in a box in the doorway of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill!

....and he was never seen again!
On a particularly still day, it finally occurred to me to haul at least one of the kayaks out of the shed, where our resident house-martins had been dumping on them for the last year and a half. Wet-suit donned, I towed my Dagger Charleston 15 down the garden, over the road and the dunes and down onto the beach. Having washed the guano off of it, it was into the water for a nice paddle. With Gail’s stern warning not to go too far ringing in my ears, I paddled out to the edge of bay of Lopness and traversed from Newark to the South and Lopness to the North. It is a wide bay of about two miles so it was a good place to start. Slightly more adventurous trips will follow. Should the necessary permissions from ‘she who must be obeyed’ be forthcoming, of course!