Friday, 19 December 2014

The anti-Christmas

The old bus went to the school. In earlier days, chances are it
would have been parked on the beach until the tide took it away.
The Sanday Bus company got their hands on a new vehicle in the Summer. We even had a ‘grand opening’, with champagne and an internationally renowned, record breaking athlete, who just so happens to also be a regular passenger, with some kind and encouraging words. It’s a brand spanking new seventeen-seat Transit with a motorised accessibility ramp in the back of it. It’s mahoosive! Even Richard Osman could stand up in the back of it it’s so tall and the weight of it pushes my driving licence D1 entitlement to the limit. The new features required that I attended a Midas course run by the Orkney Disability Forum in Kirkwall. As class began early, I even got an overnight stay in the big city. With four drive wheels back there too, there’s very little chance of me getting it stuck in my garden (like I did the old one!). It’s a fancy bit of kit and no mistake. It’s taking me a while to get used to the six forward gears though. With that many gates it’s a wonder that I can find any of them. It has to be said that it is also a colossal amount of real-estate to valet, too. With the amount of muck it picks up every day on the island’s agricultural roads, it’s a bit of a relentless exercise. Kelly has named it J-Lo on account of its generously proportioned rear end.

Either from Greece, New Zealand or the Imaginarium?
The most thumbed tome in the shed, (other than the dictionary on account of me one of the greatest illiterates of all time!), is our Collins guide to British wildlife. You just never know what is going to turn up next. Among the species new to this particular budding naturalist (they’re the ones that keep their clothes on, right?) are paper wasp, hen harrier, cormorant, shag, razorbill, marsh orchid, eyebright and grass of Parnassus. There are also some species that I am familiar with but never really expected to see all the way up here, like hedgehogs, owls and butterflies. I don’t go out and about much to find them. It’s more of a case that they kindly find their own way to me. Apart from the starlings, our most common visitors are lapwings, a family of barn swallows, blackbirds, a robin, a cute little wren and a skylark that I can perpetually hear but never actually see. Our primary protagonists remain the over-abundance of rabbits.

Germany winning the World Cup standing on one leg.
As a proud (part) boche, it’s hard not to love the World cup. Not that I watched every game. Fortunately the last group matches kicked off at the same time, so you have to make a choice, but it’s safe to say that if there was footie on the television then I was watching it. That was except, of course, when work interfered. Following a reasonably successful international side, it makes one quite sanguine about disappointment, unlike, say, following one that has only ever experienced success on its own doorstep with the help of dodgy officials. Qualifying for the knockout stages is the only real expectation. Anything else is a bonus. As usual, the tournament was a gallery of heroes and villains. The Dutch demolition of tiki-taka, James Rodriguez wonderful volley, Ronaldo crying and the host’s hysterical capitulation in the semi-finals were my highlights. Mario Götze’s winning goal in the final was more of a relief than a celebration, though the roof was lifted, I’ll not deny. The fact that that cannibalistic Uruguayan moron isn’t forced to play in a Hannibal Lecter mask continues to astonish me. That it is out of the English game is my only satisfaction.

The principle driver for the Sanday bus certainly enjoys her holidays. This is good for me as it provides some much needed income. Working fourteen days consecutively isn’t quite a cheery prospect but it’s uncanny how easy a habit it is to fall in to. They are only part-time days but you are obliged to be on call all day for taking bookings. The vehicle doesn’t clean itself either, so that takes a fair while, as I have already alluded to. There are other duties that I am not involved in that Kelly catches up with when she gets back, data-capturing the fare records, balancing the books and banking the takings. Even so, for those two weeks, I find it totally immersive. It’s a great way to meet the locals and see the sights. I also had a number of opportunities to drive the Sanday Experience tour as well over the Summer. More often than not, sometimes to my surprise given the oft inclement weather, visitors are absolutely chuffed with their visit. Rarely is it more of a pleasure than when the opportunity to show off a live archaeological dig presents itself halfway through a tour.
The Meur burnt mound, excavated and ready to go.
The burnt mound at Meur was in serious risk of being lost to tidal erosion and a team was sent to save what they could. After recording the site and taking organic samples for analysis, many of the stones were extracted and moved to a new home beside the new heritage centre where it was exhaustively reconstructed, far from the rigours of the tide. A lucky few got to see the process when we stopped the bus to give everybody an up-close-and-personal peek at the work. It’s gone now, so it was a very narrow window of opportunity. As is so often the case with digs, the archaeologist’s efforts uncovered an even earlier occupation phase which they are keen to explore in the near future. They’ll probably keep going until they find Doug McClure.

As the summer ended and the children went back to school, I was asked if I would mind supplementing my pool lifeguarding duty with attending their training as they prepared for an annual gala at the pool. It was a reward in itself to watch them develop their skills and confidence in the water. At the end of their training, I was asked back to be one of the lane timekeepers for the gala itself. The children of all ages were divided into three teams of equal ability to slug it out before the assembled parents. I also got involved with their Bikeability Scotland training and last week attended assembly where we handed the successful children their certificates and badges. The toughest part was amending my own riding to set a good example. Gone are the beanie and the i-pod. In are the reflective jacket and the helmet. I’m due to go into Kirkwall to get the proper training at some time over winter in order to be able to play a bigger part in the process next year and an application to register with Protecting Vulnerable Groups government scheme is pending. I still consider that I do not having a single paternal bone in my body, but I must have mellowed some with age. Mind you, I did have to put an immediate damper to any notion that I’d be willing to dress up as Santa. The suggestion has though made me think seriously about going on a diet in the new year.

Coos in the mist. What's out your window?
In an attempt to encourage me to blog more regularly and make me to take more photographs, I signed up to blipfoto and although I have long ago ceased to post every single day, it is, other than Facebook, the site that I most commonly submit to. If one was ‘inspired’ to keep an eye on my faltering steps toward retirement, they might want to join up and follow Turts99, perhaps sharing their own photographs with the world while they’re at it. It’s just a suggestion.  

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