Sunday, 25 November 2007

No way out

Listening to: All My Life (Foo Fighters)
Instant legend: Wayne Hennessey (Wolverhampton Wanderers custodian) for penalty save against West Brom. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.
Weather: Freezing rain, gusty north wind
Surf: are you kidding?

I had planned to go to Kirkwall yesterday to get a taste of civilisation, decent beer, Orkney v Stirling rugby, the surprisingly good Grooves music shop (I know, bless!), the excellent library and maybe a trip to the museum for a bit of culture.

I didn't go. I woke up at 6.30 and, by the time I was dressed, hosed down and coffeed up, it had got light. Pretty spectacular it was too. The wind was whipping in from the north east (Norway direction) and the sea was working itself up into a right old state.

All very nice to look at over the rim of a coffee mug with the smell of toast coming from the kitchen, but not so hot for making a hour-and-a-quarter trip to a small and, let's be honest here, not especially exciting town, Grooves notwithstanding.

It turned out to be a well-judged move. The morning boat sailed as normal, but the afternoon sailing back was cancelled which would have left me stuck in Kirkwall for the night with pigs unfed, dog unwalked and cat stuck outside in the freezing cold.

So I felt pretty relieved as I discussed the matter with Mr Hotel Proprietor in the bar of the Cleaton House, but it did bring home to me just how isolated this place can be. The ferries have been cancelled three times this last week and the plane (which is usually booked up anyway) didn't fly the other day. There's been no way out of Westray.

I haven't just woken up and said "Chuffin' 'eck, I'm on an island, how did I get here?", but I am suddenly very conscious of how far away I am from things that I used to take for granted. . . like hospitals.

If you fall ill here, the theory is that one of the island's two doctors will call up the air ambulance and, depending on how serious your condition, you go to Kirkwall or, as is more often the case, Aberdeen (a real treat for relatives wanting to visit).

In practice, the system seems to be creaking. The local airline Loganair lost the contract last year and the firm who took over base their helicopter in Aberdeen, as opposed to Kirkwall. So it was that, two weeks ago, a 90-year-old Westray woman found herself sitting on the airfield on the northern tip of the island for four hours while worried relatives were reassured time and again that the helicopter was on its way. Who's running the service? Wednesfield Taxis?*

Still, it's all right as long as market forces have been allowed to decide the outcome. That's what's important after all.

Anyway, I'm going to Kirkwall tomorrow, the forecast is good, but there's no rugby, so that'a an extra 80 minutes in Grooves.

*Wednesfield Taxis of Wolverhampton are the easily the worst cab firm in Britain, if not Europe (although there's a company in Rome, but that's another story).


The Birdwatcher said...

Away to Orkney - that some away game and people complain about coming all the way to Buxton!

elizabethm said...

Now that is truly far and away. But what you chose and presumably want. We are isolated in some ways (my brother's comment on first coming here: "Well, it's lovely but isn't it a bit extreme.") bit nothing like you. Isolation is good though, a bit of deprivation sharpens the appreciation.

Anonymous said...

My experience is that everyone goes into the wilderness to find something, or connect to something, inside - whether they know it or not. And, once that connection is made, no one can stand remaining in the wilderness; even to the point where we forget why went went there in the first place.

Have fun, C:)

Malc said...


Could be worse. . . Shetland are in the league below.


I know it sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm not really. It's wonderful here, but any major change in life is going to take some adjusting to.


Hello. I came here for peace and to regain some of the self-respect that was being rapidly eroded by my previous lifestyle.

And, yes, it is fun. . . mostly.