Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I’m sorry for the delay! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! But I got these books, books I’d been wanting for a while, and they were all, “Read us now or we’ll kick this puppy,” and I was all, “What puppy? You don’t have a puppy,” and they were all, “We’ll find a puppy and kick it. So read us now.”

So I had to sneak off to update.

Well now. Day two in Orkney.

There’d been some mention the night before about a time change, but I didn’t hear anything else about it, (I imagine it’s not a huge topic of conversation, even in such a small town) and when I asked my waitress about it at breakfast she said she didn’t know. Didn’t know? As a result I spent most of my trip there not knowing what time it was.

But! I went over to the local car rental place, which, despite the permanent stickers spelling out “Open” on the door, was empty. And dark. I stomped around in frustration for a minute before seeing another sign that if no one was there, to call this number – they’re just a few minutes away. I did, and woke up a gentleman who could rent me a car.

And this, I think, caused me to step foot firmly in adulthood. It was kind of squishy and meant I had to put my name on a form that said things like “Hey, if you hurt our car then you have to buy us three new ones. And a house. And if you don’t like it, Guido’s gonna come up there and break your legs, comprende?”

But he also confirmed the time change. Anyway, they don’t keep the cars filled with gas anymore because it’s so expensive these days, so my first order of business was to find a gas – excuse me – petrol station. Which I did. And it was closed. So I found another. Which was closed. It wasn’t quite 10am on a Sunday in a tiny little town, so it’s not totally surprising, just totally inconvenient. The tank was very near being very empty, so I decided to drive for a little and see if anything was open.

I went first to Scara Brae, which is a Neolithic village in remarkable condition. It’d been covered over with sand dunes ages ago and was uncovered in 1850 during a storm. It’s an impressive bit of engineering – subterranean houses with beds and dressers and the like. Directly next to the village is a lovely white sands beach that would be right at home in Hawai’i.

I walked along the beach (which rapidly turns to less romantic large stones), and up a cliff. I love me some cliffs. And it was gorgeous and THEN guys, and THEN…

No. You have to understand. No. See, no. No. It was like being in a National Geographic magazine. There was this deep gash in the cliff, and if you got on your belly and shimmied up to the back edge because you’re afraid of heights, particularly natural ones and wouldn’t dare ever ever ever do something so stupid as to walk up to the edge because AAUGH that would be so scary and look down you can see water crashing in the gap, and a short ledge connecting the two sides together and the water is a glorious blue and white and it makes you actively squeal with excitement.

(Note: I didn’t actually squeal. I am much too cool for such things).
(Note the second: Okay, I totally did squeal. It was phenomenal).

And I pulled out my camera, which I’d been lying on, which is not particularly comfortable, and held my camera over the edge and took a picture, and then my batteries died. The bitter, vengeful bastards.

I had three sets of batteries with me, all of which were drained. In desperation I tried any combination of them that I could, in the hopes that it would get me just one more shot. And when it did I would keep trying, for one more shot. I got about four all together. Not as good as I would like, but the best way to get a photo of it would be to either be on a boat or a helicopter, and wouldn’t you know it, I left mine back at the hotel.

When I shimmied back away from the ledge and went over to the side of the gap, wiggling my way to the edge again, I realized that the back edge of the cliff was actually more like a little bridge. Water had worn away the underside until about two meters – the part on which I’d been laying – remained. A cave, I would guess, though I couldn’t see far enough in to confirm. The sheep grazing the grass behind me were considerably less impressed. I guess when you live right next to something it loses some excitement.

Anyway, in an effort to drain some height-related adrenaline vocally I made un-ladylike noises of excitement for a while more before walking back. Two surfers had made their way out into the sea, and I kept an eye on them as I navigated the path. All they did was sit on their boards. Maybe the waves were going to pick up soon. Or maybe they just like to hang out in wetsuits. I don’t know.

The friendly folks at the desk sent me to a petrol station where I got £12 of petrol and a snack and set to wandering. The thought of trying to pick one place to go and then trying to find it on a map and then by car was too exhausting, so I just went.

I drove on their distressingly narrow roads (I had a heart attack any time another car or, heaven forbid, truck passed, certain we could never both fit) (or when I got too close to the outer edge and some as-yet unconfirmed part of the car would make a loud sound like the tire tyre exploding) (and yikes they go way too fast in some of those areas), admiring the vast (vast) farmlands and coasts. And certainly wondering what it was like to live with so few neighbors, so far from other civilization.

It didn’t take me too long to find myself in Kirkwall, allowing me another opportunity to test my cardiac fortitude by driving in an unfamiliar town on the left side of the road. I’d heard rumor that there was a shop selling locally spun yarn from local sheep. Fed on seaweed, for some reason. But also located in this sneeze of a town was St Magnus’ Cathedral. I have no major interest in places of worship generally, but the draw to this one was that their website, my dad learned, claimed to have a webcam focused on the façade.

So I did the logical thing, which was to call my parents (at around 8am their time) and have them look it up so I could jump up and down and wave or something. After much fuss with the internet and the webcam we learned that they’re big fat liars (the webmasters, not my parents) and the feed is so totally not live. So if you ever go onto the St Magnus’ Cathedral webcam and see a woman in black pacing back and forth, that’s me!

And it started to rain. No problem, thought I, I’ll just go to that bookstore that I can see from here, shake off the rain, and immerse myself in books. On the way there I saw the shop that sold yarn and drooled at the windows because it was, of course, closed.

Back to the bookshop, then, where I learned that it was a “bookshop” in the sense that Target is a bookshop. Four shelves of books, and then cards and various other disappointingly non-book-style things.

It being Sunday there was nothing open, so I walked up the hill back to the car. What do you do when you have a car but everything’s closed and/or would require standing out in the rain and you have a quarter tank of gas to spend before dropping the car back off again? You drive around for the hell of it, that’s what you do.

I saw a few things after that, but nothing particularly noteworthy. The skies cleared up after a bit and my admiration got a break from fields/sheep/farmhouses and turned instead to rainbows. As drives go it was lovely, even when it was raining.

As I promised I dropped the car off at 7 or 8 and went back to the hotel for dinner. I’d planned to find somewhere new to eat since I’d eaten in the hotel for the past two nights, but my parents were buying and there was a steak that demanded my attention. And OH it was so worth it. Completely delicious.

And then I retired upstairs for television and a bath in the tub that’s as long as I am tall, then bed. I’ll go to day three tomorrow, and hopefully it won’t take me two weeks to write like this entry did. Sheesh.

1 comment:

clawhammerist said...

Please don't take another two weeks to write the next entry, as I hang on every word you write and, as such, have been left hanging here for quite some time prior to your having written this entry! Your descriptions are exceptional as always; it is easy to picture at least some of the sights that you are seeing through your words. Continue enjoying your experiences, please!

xoxox,
Adam

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