Sunday, 21 October 2012

Gloves are a must.

Gloves are a must.

After I had made my best effort to thank Alan and Laura for the kindnesses I was set down at the bus stop in a tiny place called Ollaberry. A small coach/minivan would pick up the villagers and I and deliver us to the bus terminus I had walked past several times now, back out on the main highway to Lerwick. This part of the journey was free, I have no idea why or how they do that, but appreciated it none the less. The driver didn't even kick us out until the main bus arrived, which was a thoughtful touch. He briefly asked about my walk before the service coach arrived and was keen to know what I had discovered so far. I had to admit that my findings have been a bit up and down, but more up than down today. He said it was quite common for people to get a lift here, but my own experience didn't really support that theory. But those that did offer a lift were clearly the ones that had time and interest in the pursuit of helping others and making effort to be good neighbours. Of course there are many and varied reasons why people might not or couldn't offer a lift or a hand to me. But it was still very wonderful when they took the time, as I really appreciated the chance to get to know those good souls.
I had just gotten a few messages come through on my phone, as coverage had been temporarily resumed for a minute or two. One was from Logan, the man who had my gloves. They had fallen out of my pocket as I got out of his car the other night, after he kindly took me to Voe and the Bod there. We arranged to meet at Voe as he was passing through later, and I was going to walk from there too. I was so pleased that my friends were coming home, my hands would be grateful most especially. 

When I got off the bus I walked down to the Bod and the door was still open which meant I could nip in and get out of the cold for a while. But to be fair, it was about as cold inside as out, now no fire raged in the stove. The people in the bakery across the street got chatting to me and twice they brought me some hot cookies, that had just been baked. I stood watching the lads make lots of sausage rolls, as I ate cookie staring through their windows. The pub was closed at this early hour but I got a chance to thank the lady that had arrived to do the setting up, who had also passed my details on to Logan, the knight in shining motor car from a few days ago.
Logan came along presently with his wife Joyce, who had come back yesterday from a trip, to find my gloves in the car when he had collected her from the airport. It was good that they were men's gloves, or Logan could have been in trouble he joked later. They were a nice couple, Logan was a very mature in years man who still was very alert and sprightly, and kind, again, bringing my gloves back to me. We chatted briefly, they left me their contact details and invited me to call if I was ever close to their home any time in the future. I may well be, the way this trip is shaping up, criss crossing myself so often.
The walk out of the village was the way I had walked a few days earlier past the bay, but this time I went to the shop at the top of the hill and bought supplies and a hot drink. During my visit I got chatting to Phoebe and her husband Scott who run the shop here. Sooth -Moothers, but active members of the local community and very keen to get prices at a proper level for the clientel, especially they said, the petrol. Apparently they had grilled the oil/petrol supplier about why they had to pay 20 per litre more for their fuel than Aberdeen, when the oil that makes the petrol is from the islands. I liked the story about how they made the chief executive squirm as he failed to answer even simple questions about price fixing tactics. Ah, they were people after my own heart. They had to go out presently, but made me feel very welcome and said that I could pop in any time for a chat if I was passing through again.

The road to Toft was long and mostly uphill for a very long time. The bank of mountains either side where over eons the wind and rivers had carved this high walled valley was impressive. Down in the inlet below a lot of bouys in the water showed the extent of the muscle farming here. The road seemed to go on forever and eventually I stopped for refreshments overlooking the island of Fora Ness, which was attached only by one thin beach and another almost that reached to her shores. I could see sheep out there on the island, as they are in fact everywhere you walk here, in unfathomable numbers, roaming aimlessly about the place. Being kept from one place or another by a series of cattle grids in most locations which I have to navigate my way across too. The other thing about the sheep is that they poo everywhere, so you really do have to be careful or you could end up in the sh...... should we say proverbial, if you aren't paying the proper attention.
As I finally reached the end of the climb the road dropped into a valley, voe that came in towards the East side of the Sullom Voe oil terminal that I could see to my left away in the distance. Here I found yet another shop, well stocked at the entrance to Mossbank, a village originally built to house the people who worked on the construction of the oil terminal back in the late 60's early 70's. In a way I am glad that you can't get too close to Sullom Voe for security, it is a blight on the landscape from what I've seen so far.

And then before I knew it I was arriving at the ferry terminal where the boats cross over to the north island of Yell. It seems pretty weird, stuck out here almost in the middle of nowhere, and few houses about. But the boat looked big enough to handle the short crossing, and they fairly whipped along, one crossing the other as they swapped sides and harbours. The crossing was about 25 minutes and as smooth as a baby's......changing table.....
Funnily enough no-one asked me for a ticket and I saw no signs of a ticket counter, so when the guy told me I could walk straight on, I did exactly that. Thanks guys for more free passage to follow my goals. I had walked about ten miles or so today so far, and I felt able to reach the nearest village of Burravoe only 4 miles away from the ferry port once we had disembarked. A man who was waiting alongside me in his jeep asked me if I was doing a sponsored walk, which I kind of am, and made a nice contribution to the cause which I shall share between the 5 charities presently.

The walk was easy now as my joints were all well and in shape, and ready to go. The temperatures were a little cool so I had my recently repatriated gloves on for the first part. Before I actually reached the village a car coming in the opposite direction stopped and the man wound down his window to address me. I thought he wanted directions somewhere, but to my surprise and pleasure he was offering me a lift instead.
Alan was an older man but still very capable driver at 82 years of age. I felt at ease as he sped along the tiny narrow lanes and saving me the chance to get frozen to death. He suggested he take me as far as Mid Yell, which was where there was more in the way of shops and a bar to get hospitality.

The pub, The Hilltop Bar, Britains farthest Northern Pub was actually closed until later so Alan offered to look after me for a while and took me to his place for a drink and something to eat. He drove me around pointing out many things of interest on the way there, so as to aquaint me with my bearings. His wife unfortunately was at the moment in a care centre, having been poorly recently. Alan was an ex police officer and had worked in the Manchester Airport for many years as part of his duties. He had many stories to tell and they were both interesting and funny and he even remembered dates like they had happened yesterday.

He dropped me back at the Pub at 7.30 and I went in for a hot coffee and a chance to do a little typing, the barmaid was very young looking, I nearly asked her for some I.D. before she served me, but then I guessed the owners would have done so already. There were few other clients during the hour or so I stayed, but I had managed to use the internet and tell people where the hell I am at the minute and get some things uploaded which made me feel so much more relaxed. I have a mountain of new poems to get typed, but not really much opportunity to type, so figured it was worth the effort.
I still had to find somewhere to put up the tent, and last nights luxury with Alan and Laura wasn't helping me much as I felt the cold of the present evening cooling me down. Down by the local shop there was a beach and a spot of grass across the road from it, was absolutely made for the job of housing me. There was street lighting too at the pier opposite so I found it easy to erect my home in quick time despite the still broken, but seemingly working repair of the front tent pole. To be honest I don't think it will be worth getting a new pole, I might just save up and get a whole new tent, this one is beginning to show signs of letting water in here and there. And besides I have been living in it almost every night for over two months, that is some kind of a hammering.

The morning was chilly, I had had to add clothes during the night to stay warm, and to be honest I wasn't sure it was going to continue to be a viable option any more, if I wanted to respect my health and my age. The need for more warmer resources was on the agenda now for the next few days. Another bottle of brandy or a warmer sleeping bag? The brandy would be cheaper, but a bag made more sense. The shop was able to provide me with all the things I needed for the day and my breakfast, a hot cup of tea from the machine started me off. The girl from the bar was here at her other job, and I remarked that she must be by virtue of the fact that she works in the pub, the most northerly barmaid in Britain. I didn't ask her name yet as I didn't want her to think I was chatting her up, she's young enough to be my daughter. (Her uncle Victor, later told me it is Naomi)
The shop staff were also very very helpful in pointing me in the direction of new and interesting things to see whilst I was here. I had decided to stay here today and walk backwards to where Alan had collected me from yesterday. I almost reached that far as I found the widely acclaimed shop called Mary's. Mary's Aywick shop is a real treat all on its own. I mean forget fairgrounds and museums and local history castles and historic sites, you need to see this place. It is like Aladdins cave, filled by the forty thieves.

In real terms it is easier to describe what she hasn't got, and that list would fit on a postage stamp. My goodness it is rammed floor to ceiling with absolutely everything you could imagine, or I. And my imagination is pretty diverse. She even came close a few times to having that rare bird I described a few weeks ago, whilst I sat and chatted with Mary and the staff and the customers. Mary bless her, fetched me a chair to sit on so I could gossip and natter with everyone whilst enjoying my (very much, less expensive than anyone else's) tea. To be fair I am sure that she was possibly cheaper than Tescos on many items, and infinitely more fun to visit, despite my earlier praise of Tescos services. Seriously, go and visit her shop if you are ever here, and tell her that Peaceful Warrior sent you and ask if you can you have the chair....
After an hour or so nattering and meeting the locals and even a few not so locals, I set out to walk back to Mid Yell. Outside I met a woman called Julie who asked me if I was a visitor or a local, and was fascinated that I was walking the whole of the United Kingdom. She and her husband who is now poorly with a heart condition, had moved here from West Yorkshire, somewhere near Huddersfield. They have several children and wanted a better more relaxed type of life for the kids, which in the main seemed to have been working out, though one went back to University and is still back in England. Julie was very chatty and kept me for a while before the dog she was looking after kept pulling to be exercised, so I let her go. She was surprised at my tales of the mixed reception I have had here, but very keen to offer me the chance to visit her home if and when I am ever in the area again, which I might well be, Julie.
Back at the village of Mid Yell I went to the leisure centre and was welcomed to use the facilities of the internet and coffee machine by the girls on duty, which meant I could stay out of the wind and rain for a while.
When I walked back down to the beach and my tent I met Alan again and he invited me to go to a card game later. I have not played Whist before I believe, but am willing to give anything a go, and it would obviously mean that I would meet many new faces. When Alan came back to collect me at 7pm I was waiting by the shop and fuel pumps. We drove to a village called Sellafirth more northward from where we were, and we arrived at a village hall that was lovely and warm already. Alan had suggested that I tell people that my name was what it used to be, but I said that it was not a desirable thing for me to do that, as I am now Peaceful Warrior, whether other people understood that choice or not. He did understand, and I thanked him for his thoughts on the matter, but to be honest, it is a name, perhaps not like every other, but a name none the less. In the end everyone seemed, at least on the surface to accept that the stranger he had brought, who was a fast learner and card wizz whom was no threat at all because of his strange name.
In fact they have invited me to go next week if I am still on the islands.....It was a great night out and I learned a lot of new ways of seeing Great Britain, especially from the perspective of a set of islands that are not even entirely comfortable being supposedly Scottish either. Norway was where the hearts of some of the people here lay, and with that heritage.
I won a few prizes too which was great, a raffle and a prize for runner up at the cards. Alan drove me back and gave me a few items from his house which are absolutely wonderful to add to my arsenal of winter warmer gear. A new Ushanka hat, a scarf and a fleece blanket with a foot pocket which fits well inside my sleeping bag and helped me to a wonderfully warm second night in the tent by the beach. Alan asked me to keep in touch, he seemed to have taken to helping me out and has also made a very nice charitable donation too. I like Alan with his many stories and real life tales of adventures of many years abroad and even service during the second world war. He was a dog handler in Malaya and an active member of the Airforce, as well as many posts in the regular and British Transport Police services. A full life by the sounds of it.

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