Monday, 27 January 2014

Playing catch-up

                I’ve just had my knuckles rapped for reneging upon my responsibilities. My sisters can be right bullies at times.

                October was pretty bonnie by the look of it. I took the opportunity to ride my mountain bike all the way down to the pier and back. Not on the same day, of course. I’m not a sadist. I left it at Loth
Ferry heads off to Kirkwall. I regret that I hadn't joined them
overnight. I didn’t need to lock it. It is part of the reason I’m here. I took the bus home for the night and then caught it back again in the morning. While all my fellow passengers boarded the ferry to Kirkwall, I climbed onto the saddle. The twelve mile ride commences with a long climb to the summit of Spurness. After that, other than Branch, it’s pretty much downhill all the way. It took a long time, but that’s the way it goes when you are silly enough to pack a camera. Also, eighteen months of salt air plays havoc with exposed metalwork, so it was hardly a surprise to me when the gear cable snapped. That was an extra ‘uphill’ however that I could have done without.

                To celebrate twenty three years of …… wearing a silly gold ring with a nose on it, Gail and I spent the night in Kirkwall. Actually, all we wanted to do was eat Italian, but when the restaurant is in Kirkwall and the last boat back to Sanday leaves in the afternoon, we are obliged to spend the night there as well. It adds an extra days pay onto an already expensive evening, so don’t be too hard on me when I tell you the room had bunk-beds. Lucano’s is a real treat though, so it’s just well it’s only once a year. The wine, a Prosecco from the Veneto region, was supplemented by a complimentary Limoncello, which only succeeded in making me even more lightheaded. My weakness to alcohol makes me so the black sheep of the family. The food was gorgeous and the service excellent. I couldn’t afford a tip, but they didn’t give me an excuse not to. I hate that.
Ain't nothing coming out of there that doesn't have gills.
It rained so much at the beginning of November that things got decidedly squelchy underfoot. It also submerged many of the vegetable beds, including the large foundation plot with all the spuds and onions in. I had to dig out all the potatoes that I could find and there weren’t many of those. Those that came up were still quite peedie (small). We would have had more to eat if we’d just eaten the seed potatoes themselves and not bothered with all the ‘sticking them in the ground’ nonsense at all. At various times I went in there with a bucket to bail it out but the water table soon brings more to the surface. I thought that I was finally making progress, with many plants at last able to come up for air, but the skies opened the next night and drowned them all again. I’m past caring now. It is an attitude that seems to work for carrots. The late ones that I haven’t finished picking are going great guns. Some proper monsters have been coming out just lately and I can confirm that the season of carrot cake plenty is very much on!

                I have been lifeguarding for a few sessions at the pool. I have a regular fortnightly gig on a Friday lunchtime and when a class of schoolchildren from Eday visit Sanday on Tuesday for swimming lessons, I
Toying with my waterproof camera. 
volunteered for that, too. My uniform arrived, a spangly new yellow t-shirt with red RLSS writing all over it and wristband with my own whistle. If I want the red shorts, which as a HSV fan I ought to already own but don’t, and red/yellow beanie to complete the ensemble then I will have to buy them for myself. The titfer I can do without and my Canadian maple-leaf shorts will suffice for the time being. My duty has certainly made me understand how working with kids can make even sensible people go all broody. If parenthood was just a ninety minute obligation before you can shove them off to somebody else for a week then I could see how it might catch on. Anyone who commits to such an imposition for 24/7 is still, in my humble opinion, a complete idiot. Present company excepted, naturally.

                Gail’s Open University languages course continues apace. It often necessitates a visit to Heilsa Fjold to avail ourselves of their non-pedestrian broadband to download material, but as they tend to put on a good spread at lunchtime it can hardly be termed an inconvenience. At home, Gail insists that she can concentrate better if there is something on the television, so at her request I am obliged to spend a number of hours playing Skyrim on the X-Box. It’s a horrible job but someone’s got to do it. Most of the heat in the house comes from the screen so it has other perks as well.   
It was an early start whichever bus was in action.
  The Sanday bus is showing signs of fatigue. ‘Rodger’s’, which is Kelly’s name for him, is eight years old and has many, many miles under his belt. His tribulations, which I’m sure I may have covered in earlier posts, include alternator failure, breathing difficulties and being driven into the scenery by this inexperienced pilot. Lately, he has stubbornly refused to start in the morning. Our island mechanic has stripped down the fuel line and diagnosed serious health issues. As his workload has already been compromised by his efforts enough already, Rodger’s took the ferry to Kirkwall today for a thorough shakedown. There are doubts that we will see him return before next week. Fortunately, there is another minibus on the island to take up the slack. It is the same age but has done significantly fewer miles as a consequence of only being used once a week as the ‘Afternoon Club’ bus. I’ll probably be driving it tomorrow. I’ll try to keep it on the black stuff for them. It shouldn’t be too difficult. It weighs tons, more because of the chairlift in the back, so is a ponderous mass to get off the line and up hills. Consequently, I’ve had to factor an additional ten minutes to haul it down to the pier. Come back Rodger’s. I didn’t mean all those things I said about you.

At the dunes summit. Level with the top of our windows!
                The first snows arrived in the second half of November. We had a couple of flurries over a few days, most of it whizzing past the windows horizontally. Since then it has been really mild. The consequence of that though has been the conveyor belt of Atlantic storms that have been battering the whole country. The wild weather, spring tide and a tidal surge brought the North Sea to the very top of the dunes. I shudder when it occurs to me that the house is lower than that. When the tide went out again, it had left a mountain of ‘bruck’ (rubbish) up there. Over the Summer, I became quite proprietorial about the beautiful beach, so it is killing me that it hasn’t been calm enough to take a bin-bag up there to collect some of it. Hopefully I’ll get the chance before the tourists arrive. The neighbours and I will need plenty of time ‘cos there’s at least a skip load up there and the rest of the island is in a similar position.

                The poor weather has also not helped in our search for the elusive Aurorae. Even when Dr Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain all but promised us a dazzling display in early January, even though we did have a few, rare clear spells, there was not a sausage to be seen. All in all, other than the pleasure of watching them in Stargazing live, the only two positives arising from the programmes were the inspiration to finally assemble my 120mm refractor telescope and my first ever observation of a ‘moon-bow’. I didn’t need any fancy, expensive equipment for that either. I just looked out of the front door before going to bed and there it was. Then there’s a decision to be made: whether or not to wake up the good lady wife. Would she be angry more for being woken up or for not sharing what you’d seen with her. To date, my judgement has been good. Thank my lucky stars.

At the beginning of the New Year, I started the Blipfoto 365 challenge. It’s a kind of blog that encourages users to take and post a photograph every day.  As I’ve linked it to Facebook, I’ve been using that instead of updating this blog. Well, up until today I was. Oh well, at least it should be easier for me to draft these from now on.