Tuesday 15 December 2015

New Island Syndrome

Within the Orkney archipelago there are over seventy islands, with only the larger ones inhabited by humans. Whilst I live on the Mainland, I have visited a fair number of the other islands, but by no means all of them. Yesterday was a new island day, brought about by work rather than leisure pursuits, but the effect was still the same.

I woke at 05.30, so the day had already begun with a sense of the unreal. Who knew there were two five thirties in the day?! Breakfast didn't seem appropriate at that hour (which isn't a normal Tense reaction), but I put up a few sandwiches for lunch and bundled them into a bag with some fruit. On automatic pilot, due to the earliness of the hour, I packed a vehicle with the things needed for the day and set off into the darkness. Dawn was still three hours away.

Frost lingered in a few hollows on my journey into Kirkwall, but I arrived on the quay in good time to catch the 07.00 sailing to Stronsay and Eday. I hadn't visited either of these islands, but it was the latter which was my destination for the day.

The ferry journey took about two and a half hours, which allowed plenty of time for a spot of reading (Ten Million Aliens by Simon Barnes), some preliminary blog notes and, rather more importantly, breakfast!

Although this was a work day, there was still something of the excitement of an adventure about the trip. I had spent some time at the weekend perusing a map of Eday, not a huge amount of time, admittedly, as Eday is only eight miles long and not very wide. Switching to a different medium, online satellite views showed that my destination for the day was a ruined croft with no apparent vehicular access. Well, I did mention the word 'adventure', earlier.

Double-checking with a 1:25000 OS map confirmed the truthfulness of the internet. I could only hope that the croft was in new hands and undergoing renovation.

Normally, a visit to a new island would mean 'holiday' and 'Summer', but here we were nearing Mid-Winter's Day to add to the sense of the surreal. And, likely, any spare time waiting for the return ferry would be compromised by the weather and lack of light.

The ferry crossing was smooth, as several days of light winds had brought some much-needed calm to our meteorology, though I was prepared for whatever weather the day brought (a wise precaution in these parts, as lovers of Vivaldi would appreciate).

A further feeling of strangeness engulfed me, as in a previous 'life', if I was spending several hours travelling to site, I would be probably stuck in a traffic jam or flirting with the speed limit in the outside lane of a motorway. And definitely not sat at my leisure, watching islands go by and making occasional scribblings in a notebook. With an actual pen on actual paper! Most odd.

The ferry's first port of call was, as mentioned previously, to the island of Stronsay and the pier at Whitehall Village. It was not yet dawn and I broke from my musings to wander out on deck and glimpse what would be a destination for another day.

As we left Stronsay and crossed the sound to Eday, I met my first client of the day, who was also travelling on the early boat. He was able to reassure me that there was indeed a firm track to the site. Once docked at the Backaland pier and disembarked, I followed the client's vehicle northwards up the island until we reached my 'office' for the day.

Could be worse!

As we discussed where equipment should be located and agreed upon a plan, I was aware of the calls of several ravens, a snipe and a pipit, whilst several adult gannets were gliding across the bay to the west. 

By lunch time, the work was completed and I headed off to find the day's second customer. There was no answer to my knock on the door, but when I popped in to the community shop for a cup of coffee, one of the assistants informed me that the lady was away at the moment.

So, with a few hours to kill until the ferry was due, I allowed myself a leisurely drive back down the island, stopping off every so often to lapse into tourist mode.

No arguments about a possible third runway here.

Oo, I do love a good trig point.

Sunset? Already?

Stone breaker with a patented knapping motion. Obviously.

The MV Varagen arrives to take me home. Yay!

Weirdly, whilst sat on the pier in Eday, I noticed that my phone had loads of signal (not something that happens much in Orkney). The dizzy heights of five bars worth of 3G! I am obviously living on the wrong island.

Two and half hours later, we berthed in Kirkwall and the adventure was over for the time being, but I think that I will be visiting Eday again before too long.


Martin said...

I visited Eday many years ago, staying in the Youth(?) Hostel. We took bikes over from mainland and had a little ride up and down the island. I remember London Airport (possibly the only one in the UK??, all the others being London-something), masses of blue and red plate-sized jellyfish on the beaches either side of the narrow bit of the island, and a walk overlooking the calf, currents and seabirds. Fond memories, I wonder how much has changed in 21 years...

Imperfect and Tense said...

It is quite possible that the only change is the introduction of mobile phone technology...