Saturday, 28 July 2007

I've been driving all night, my hand's wet on the wheel

Listening to: nothing (lost the iPod)
Eating: Lamb Chana
Trying: to catch up on sleep

Nearly there. . . the van stage of the move north is over - thank God. It's not that I have anything against Renault or the French motor industry in any way, but if I have to sit in the cab of one of those big vans again I swear I'll do murder.

I have new-found respect for long-distance lorry drivers. After 2,200 miles I started developing the goods transport equivalent of bed sores. My friends and my mother had been queueing up to tell me I couldn't possibly do two trips to the Orkneys in nine days, but it's done and the wreckage that once was me is now recuperating at the home of my dear friends Mr and Mrs W, girding my loins (?) for the final journey to Orkney on Monday, this time in Lennox the Land Rover Discovery.

Hard work it might have been, but the move is going really rather well. Beds, chairs, wardrobes, dogs, settees, father-in-law, bedding, garden tools, and so on are all safely on Westray.

The greatest achievement in my mind was - apart from not falling asleep at the wheel - getting Trevor up there.

Trevor is my wife Sally's cat and he doesn't do cars, to put it mildly. When Sal and I got married a few years ago, Trev was part of the move from her house in Wolverhampton to mine in Shrewsbury.

He set off down the M54 on my stepson's lap and proceeded to scratch, bite, kick, butt and complain generally. It was when he simultaneously vomited and had diarrhoea over Patrick's trousers that Sal decided it was time to pull over onto the hard shoulder.

At that point, Trev saw his chance and made a break for freedom, diving into the undergrowth and heading for the general direction of Shifnal. Half-an-hour's coaxing and food-tin rattling later left the feline Steve McQueen cornered and he gave in, abandoning the motorbike in the barbed wire and settling for a life with three dogs instead.

So as the move to Westray loomed, there was a certain amount of fretting about Trev's future. A 12-hour drive followed by two ferries seemed out of the question for a cat who had gone completely Whiskas on the 30-minute shuttle from Wolverhampton

Could we sedate him somehow? No, said Sal's niece - a nurse at the local vet's. A small dose for a short journey perhaps, but not for hiking all the way to the far north.

Sal kind of settled for the idea that Trev would have to be rehomed, but where exactly? Friends and relatives had almost all reached maximum feline capability and the trip to my mother's in Devon seemed almost as much trouble as taking him to Orkney.

I took a deep breath and, taking in the worried look on Sal's face, did the decent thing.

"I'll take him to Orkney on the second run - it'll be just me, him and the furniture," I said with growing visions of having to negotiate the M74 while engaged in single combat with a crazed tabby.

A plan was hatched whereby I would slip Trevor a herbal thingy we've discovered called Rescue Remedy. It has worked a treat on calming our manic Collie/Spaniel cross Owen and apparently humans can use it too to suppress anxiety. No doubt it gets chocolate stains out of a white shirt as well, but that remains to be seen.

I got ready for the second run to Orkney and looked for the Rescue Remedy only to realise I'd left it in the kitchen on Westray. Nothing for it but to shoehorn Trev into his box dump him on the passenger seat and get going.

Knock me down with a feather if he didn't take to the journey like a trucker to an all-day breakfast with extra beans. He yowled a bit to start off with, but Led Zeppelin at high volume soon persuaded him of the futility of that and we passed a full night and 600 miles uneventfully, stopping occasionally for a bit of a cuddle and a bite to eat. He's now settling down in the hay loft, chasing mice and generally looking as if nothing has happened.

So, chaps, if you want to earn maximum brownie points from the missus, all you have to do is transport her grumpy cat 600 miles and through two sea voyages to your new home. How hard can that be?

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Buddy can you spare me a Yorkie bar?

Listening to: Twist and Shout (The Beatles)
Wondering: Who the hell it is in Bletchley that keeps reading this stuff.
Eating: Kathy's trifle.
Packing: everything.

OK, so the stuff is all in the hall, on the landing, in boxes, Ikea bags (so, so handy), suitcases, overnightbags. . . and I keep falling over it all.

The dogs and cat are taped and corked, the van is ready for us to pick up tomorrow and the house is almost sold - stone the crows, we really are going to Orkney.

The next few days promise to be pretty gruelling for yours truly with somewhere in the region of 3,000 miles to be driven.

Tuesday morning I, accompanied by the boy (who enjoyed his 17th birthday in traditional fashion on Saturday - drinking four bottles of strong Belgian lager and three pints of Old Peculier before passing out) and our trusty hound Spike, will set off for the far north, stopping over for a few hours kip in Pitlochry before catching the ferry to Orkney on Wednesday lunchtime.

Once there, we have to catch the second ferry from Kirkwall over to Westray, stumbling into Stoneyhall sometime around 6pm.

Then it's up with the lark the next morning to get the 9am ferry back to Kirkwall, the midday boat back to the Scottish mainland and then blast back down to England for the second load.

The good news is that two of my brothers-in-law have alerted me to the Bishop's Wood beer festival on the Friday night, so if that's not an incentive, I have no idea what is. So. . . after a couple of days R and R, it's back up to Orkney with the rest of the stuff, including Sal's precious bay tree. On the way I hope to stop off at the Benleva Inn at Drumnadrochit (see below) for a night, arriving on Westray on Monday morning before turning around on Tuesday, heading south again.

Having dropped off the van, I have three days to fill before I collect my 14-year-old daughter who is thrilled at the prospect of being stuck on a rock in the North Atlantic for four weeks.

If that don't kill me, nothing will.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Kate Winslet's out to get me

Listening to: La Maxima Expresion (Ensemble Latino)
Preparing: for take-off
Drinking: Woods' Shropshire Lad

My pal and occasional partner in crime Reg has introduced me to the world of Google Analytics which not only tells you how few people have read the self-indulgent crap you post on your blog, but tells you where they come from.

So I am delighted to announce that not only does 'The Edge' - as those in the know have come to call it - have a regular readership of at least three (thank you Reg, thank you Mr and Mrs W), but a couple of more occasional visitors and a handful of others who have stumbled in by mistake - or so I thought.

I clocked that, while most readers are from Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, one visitor came from Berlin, one from Paris, another from Philadelphia and a couple from London - presumably looking for train times.

One more regular visitor is from Bletchley. Where the fruitcake is Bletchley, Malc? Dunno - never been, but a quick Google reveals it is effectively the posh end of Milton Keynes, although it bangs on a bit about being an independent town dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. That's similar to claims by Watford that it's not part of London when we all know anywhere east and south of Coventry has been swallowed up by our glorious capital.

Anyhoo. . . Bletchley is also where those heroic - and frightfully clever - chaps and chapesses cracked Johnny Nazi's codebook, thereby saving modern civilisation. All cloak, dagger, spies, secrets and John Le Carre stuff. They even made a film about it with the adorable Kate Winslet, although there were no car chases.

I thought little of this until I noticed a new visitor from Washington DC, who has clocked in at a similar time each Monday for the last three weeks.

Now you can point and laugh, call me Suspicious Alouicious if you like, but that's got me thinking.

Is George finding it hard to fill the long hours between rounds of golf? Or have I been included on some CIA weekly checklist? Are wannabe pig farmers now part of the Axis of Evil? I must have missed that meeting.

Let's look at the evidence. I was briefly a member of the Sinn Fein bookclub (I kid you not), I've married into a family of communists, I marched against Tony's war, I deliver leaflets telling people the BNP aren't very nice, I'm a one-time trade union activist, I go to Levellers gigs, I'm worried about Fidel Castro's health, I wish someone would ask the Muslim extremists what the problem is and maybe we could sit down and have a chat about it, I like real ale and still have a bit of a thing for Vanessa Redgrave.

Actually, when you look at it like that I'm a dangerous bastard and should be locked up under the Prevention Of Anything The Yanks Tell New Labour Not To Approve Of Act, be fed on bread and water, made to wear an orange jumpsuit and be allocated Lionel Hutz as my lawyer.

It's nice to know the Pentagon is on it's toes and I can't help wondering if Bletchley is still the centre of all that secret service stuff and they're all listening in.

C'mon Kate, you can tell me, I'm a pig farmer.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Only when I laugh

Listening to: Clash City Rockers (The Clash - obviously)
Watching: Casualty
Playing: Doctors and nurses
Drinking: Complan
Smelling of: Deep Heat

Oh terrific! Six days to blast-off and I find myself on the injured list - at least it's a sporting injury, something to be treasured at my age.

I've just been down to Devon with my 16-year-old son to sort out his apprenticeship as a chef in a hotel in the middle of Dartmoor, stopping over at my mother's house nearby.

A spare day presented the perfect opportunity to go off to the north Cornwall coast for our first surf of the year, so the boards were strapped to the car and we set off for Polzeath.

Waves were rolling in as I was helped into my wetsuit, ignoring the smirks of passing tourists and the sudden interest of the Norwegian whaling fleet, and the boy (quite the surfing expert these days) and myself spent a pleasant morning zooming around, trying not to swallow too much salt water.

A stop-off at the Crows Nest in Port Isaac (currently in at No. 6 in Malc's worldwide pub top 10) for the seafood platter for two (whole lobster, crab, prawns, sea bass, mackerel and so on) added to the jollity and we arrived back at mother's tired, but happy little boys.

Predictably, at the age of 46, my first surf for more than six months left me stiff and sore the next morning. Nothing to fret about, I thought, and we set off for the trudge up the M5.

Somewhere along the way, something must have tightened up disastrously because, by the time we reached Shrewsbury, my upper arm muscles were - for want of a better phrase - giving me jip.

Sal tried rubbing some Deep Heat in - nowhere near as much fun as it sounds - while I tried a couple of pints of my favourite Dublin-brewed anaesthetic. A much-broken night later, I'm on the sofa in the front room, prevented from any serious packing by the wife-imposed no-lifting rule.

So, with a physio appointment at the local hospital taking up to two months to come through, it looks like I'm in a supervisory role for next Tuesday's move to Westray.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Patter of tiny trotters

Listening to: American Idiot (Green Day)
Eating: all the pies
Enjoying: fresh air in pubs

They're here! News from Thurso is that the Saddleback sow has farrowed and produced 11 piglets, 10 of which have survived.

We've put our names down for four and they will be with us once they have been weaned.

On a very different subject - I examined my eyebrows this morning and I think I'm turning into Grandpa from The Munsters. Careful what you do with that crucifix.