Orkney has its challenges when it comes to changing your car. There are a few dealers on the island, but for a greater choice, it involves a journey to the Scottish mainland, to Aberdeen or Inverness.
There's the internet, of course, but for someone who's loathe to buy a pair of shoes on line, purchasing a car without a test drive or a good look around, didn't seem like a great option.
However, that's just what happened!
After several fruitless searches on national dealers' websites that were either bereft of stock or hopeless to use without re-entering your parameters each time, I found a reputable chain that had an example of exactly what I was looking for.
In South Shields.
That's the one in Tyne and Wear.
Not exactly on the doorstep, I had to admit.
After all the negotiations and paperwork had been sorted out, it was agreed that a rendezvous in Inverness was a satisfactory compromise so, on Thursday, I caught an early ferry across to Scotland and drove south.
The journey down to Inverness was relatively straight forward: a large flock of Whooper Swans feeding in a field in Caithness; countless thrushes flying over my bonnet; and a lone Jay swooping across the dual carriageway as I approached my destination.
Then it was time to swap cars...
The thirsty 4x4 was loaded onto a flatbed truck and I was given the keys to frugal motoring and not being able to see over hedges.
The above photograph is cropped to remove the front of our new vehicle, just in case anyone is remotely upset at the registration plate. There isn't anything to be remotely upset about but, someone, somewhere, may take objection to it. At least, I know that it would be accidental, as opposed to the thin veneer of denials dripped out by the BBC and Top Gear. It would indeed be ironic if, in this instance, the Top Gear team were the innocent party.
So, motoring fans, I'm sure you're itching to know some vehicular facts about our new set of wheels. From my point of view, this boils down to which mp3 track was the first to be played through the in-car entertainment system. I don't have many tracks on my phone, but sufficient to fill a 2 hour driving stint, so I spent a few minutes pondering the most appropriate inaugural song to play:
John FORDham's 'The Voice'... too obvious.
Within Temptation's 'Faster'... best not, eh?
Joe Walsh's 'Life's Been Good' featuring the line "My Maserati does one eighty five." Er... no!
In the end, I pressed Shuffle and was rewarded with Lone Star's 'Bells of Berlin'. My emotions being fairly well summed up by the lyric "I can feel sadness, I can feel joy. Between the two I'm torn." No more off-roading opportunities, but much more cash in my pocket. Sigh.
Driving back northwards, the road followed the coast for a while. The tide was very high in the Cromarty Firth, such that grassland above the littoral zone was underwater. In one of those snapshot moments, I noticed that on a short stretch of coastal fencing, three Buzzards were sat, patiently waiting for their next meal to reveal itself.
With half an hour or so to kill before the return ferry, I detoured to Duncansby Head Lighthouse for a photo opportunity with the new wheels.
I know, I know... how am I going to squeeze fifteen bags of garden waste into that?
Post script, 17.51 14/10/12: I reckon ten maximum, but it handled six no bother this afternoon :o)