Friday, 12 October 2012

A Day on Orkney.

A Day on Orkney.

This taken when setting up tent.

So the nightmare goes on. I woke with my feet stinging and sore and thumping with pain. I knew it was all my own fault of course, but that didn't make it feel any better. I managed to move around inside the tent to position my feet to enter my boots, and found to my further horror, when I opened the tent flap, that there was an inch and a half of rainfall residue. The tent was effectively in the middle of a lake. I was still dry and the tent had kept most of it out but it was coming through the floor in places. I recall choosing this spot specifically because it looked like the driest and highest spot and least likely to flood.
I hobbled over to the amenities block to use the bathroom and get a cup of tea on the go. It was such a difference to the outdoors. Warm and dry and all creature comforts, why on earth hadn't I crept in here during the night and slept on the floors?
I got speaking to Dave one of the staff who came in later, and he said that it would have been fine to have done so, under the circumstances. Dohhh....
Still I was alright now with tea and my breakfast eaten. So now the logistical task of getting my tent emptied, moved and dry.
I closed my eyes for a few minutes and thought of what would be the best thing to do. As I opened them I knew my intuitions would guide me, and I was staring at the ferries across the bay in Kirkwall harbour. Yes, that was it. Get packed up and go on to the Shetlands instead. I could come back to Orkneys later in the trip. I would have to come here anyway to get back to Scotland, so it would make sense to go there first. My feet however were saying, “whatever you choose, make it easy on us.”
Between the bouts of sudden downpours, I managed to get my things over to the lounge I was in, and also de-erect the tent and bring that also across. How though would I get it dry, the sun was a distant dream right now? As luck would have it the facility also have a laundry room, complete with tumble driers. Aha, you guessed it. What harm could it do? At least it wouldn't rot in its bag. So in it went for about 40 minutes and I have to say it came out in excellent condition, and packable....
During the wait I had charged the electronic gadgetry and began typing some of the stories I write here. The old feet were resting and the throbbing was subsiding gradually, until I moved again. When all was ready I hauled the bag upon my shoulders once more and set off to find a friendly seaman who could tell me about the ferries. 

In the port a man was able to explain that as it was a Saturday, the offices were closed but that in fact a boat would sail from the town this evening at 11.45pm arriving in Shetland the following morning at around 7.30am. Unfortunately it sailed from a pier on the other side of the bay about 2 miles away. Still, I had a chance now to walk into Kirkwall center and see and meet her people. Walking was not good, and the old knees were telling me to get a seat, soon, so I went into the funky looking Reel cafe.

It proved to be the perfect spot for me to sit and observe the world and Kirkwall go by and even write some more poetry. I remember listening to the account Simon Armitage recounted about his trip across the Pennine way when he served poetry for his supper, and he had unfortunately been unable or uninspired to write anything, he had said. Of course in some ways his journey had been mainly a physical accomplishment, but I was myself having a rather different experience from the pain and hardships. It has not diminished at all my ability to explode with ideas and verse. What it has produced I shall leave you all to decide for yourselves whether it has been a true inspiration or not, but for me, the experience makes the words flow. And the prettiness of all around me, especially the ladies....
Reel is owned and run by two sisters by all accounts and is a front for smuggling. Well that is what I deduced from all the folk coming in carrying Violin Cases and disappearing into a door at the back of the cafe. I wonder do the police know about this? Dozens of people, some older some very attractive looking and even some ponies. (I joke about the ponies)
I got chatting with a lovely young lady Claire, who quickly dispelled my theorizing about smugglers and replaced it with a very interesting cover of a music school teaching the violin to people.... as if......
Did she expect me to believe that two ladies called the Wrigley Sisters would run a very well renowned music academy here on an island in the North sea, and teach at a very high level, islanders and incomers the art of music from a tiny wooden box???
Shiver me timbers when out popped the two sisters and they looked exactly like the two girls on the front cover of those albums over there for sale in the cafe. The ones that said blah de blah by the Wrigley Sisters.
Anyway, you believe what you want and I will make up comical and ridiculous stories at my own delight.

The walls up to the toilets on the top floor were covered with awards and pictures and performance reviews and all manner of showbiz stuff as I passed the entrance to the music school on the first floor. I am surprised that I had never heard of the Sisters before, but then I don't yet move in these circles. Perhaps when I come back from Shetland I could enroll for a course in the Violin.

I went and had my evening meal in the Harbour Fry Chip Shop, on Bridge street, and was glad to be enjoying the travel again. Many odd and not so odd people came in, none of them carrying Violin cases,and bought their dinners whilst I watched from the sidelines. Everyone looked at my huge bag, but no-one asked about the walk or the charity fund raising, and that saddened me a little. Some of the people along the way have been better than good at sharing a little kindness with me. Others have seemingly averted their eyes from the chance to go beyond their world and offer a hand towards me. I mean at this moment I didn't specifically need anything, but a chat wouldn't have gone a miss. Sometimes I will instigate the conversations and draw people out of their self imposed shells. Other times I wait to see what or if anything will nudge them to interact with me, all the time smiling to seem approachable and non threatening. Perhaps the venue wasn't optimum?
I had been told by the guy at the port, that the ferry terminal over on the other side, would be open for business at 9.00pm this evening ahead of the sailing close to midnight. I timed the walk to coincide with arriving at that time to be the first there, and possibly give me more time to beg for my passage across.
In the end it was far more simple, I just spoke the truth and smiled and the ladies running the desk helped fulfil my dream to go to Shetland islands.

The walk to the terminal was not very easy I have to say, as my feet were still bruised and tattered from the massive hike only days ago. The welcoming smiles of both Nerys and Tracey as I entered the Northlink Ferries Hatston Pier Terminal were what saved me.

That and their attentiveness and curiosity about the Imagine walk that led to their helping me with a pass onto the ferry. I spent a greedy hour or so learning much about the two of them and the Islands I was leaving, and the bigger picture about what it is to be British. Tracey was an Islander, Nerys had moved here from the north of England, her husband was a plumber and had gotten the chance of a new job here. They had now 4 children and life was as good as anyone could have hoped for, in her own words. I say greedy, because I am sure I kept them from other other things as we chatted away, like old friends learning new things.

I thanked them gratefully for the help, and set off to catch the ferry that had just arrived, making my way up to the passenger embarkation area.
On the boat I soon found a quiet corner of the forward lounge. That was where they graciously let the poor people sleep, who couldn't afford a cabin. To be fair it was as comfortable as any bed I have slept on in a long time and warm, ooh yes warm.....mmmm...
Thank you also to Northlink Ferries.

I got chatting with a guy originally from Scotland now living with a Polish girl here on Shetland. He was an electrician but was on sick leave as he had torn a ligament in his knee. I knew what that kind of injury felt like what with my Arthritis and swollen joints. We passed a couple of hours, but soon I needed to sleep, so I got into my sleeping bag and left the Orkneys for the time being, dreaming of adventure in the Shetlands.

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