BACK TO ORKNEY
As we had sailed at five in the evening we didn't arrive till nearly eleven, so I waited until most of the ferry traffic had cleared then tucked Thebus in between a lorry and one of the trucks they use at ferry ports to move the containers, had a quick cup of tea while the heating warmed Thebus up a bit, and went to bed.
The container mover was on the go pretty early next morning, as was the lorry, but then that left us with the carpark to ourselves before any of the warehouses got going. Having sorted ourselves out, we moved on, but with no access to Google maps and only the tourist map I had been given when last in Orkney I was relying on memory. My memory of course let me down, and we sailed past the turning to Tingwall where I was hoping Betty's Reading Room was open, and also I could have enquired about getting over to Rousay. Before I knew it I was fast approaching the north end of the mainland and remembering I hadn't seen Skaill House as it was still closed for the winter last time we called, and thinking that with Easter fast approaching it might now be open I headed up there
I popped into the Skara Brae Centre and they all remembered me, and we had a chat about how far I had got, and they teased me about how I would have had a better viewing of the lights if I had stayed on Orkney, which was of course true. Though I have no regrets on my visit to Shetland, and if had hadn’t timed it for such a fine calm night with of course, optimum viewing conditions for the Merrie Dancers, then Phoebe's first long ferry sailing might have been rougher, so I made the right decision
Anyway I had a nice Orkney Cheese and Ham Panini – having discovered a liking for this updated version of the toastie Probably they take me back to my youth, when toasties were the latest thing back in the early seventies. Then they lent me one of their new mobility scooters. I didn't like to mention it before, but the first time I went they lent me one which broke down about halfway to the Skara Brae Village, but the staff were kindness itself and it was really no problem, I simply went back next day when it had been fixed. But now they have two gleaming new machines. I hasten to add they were already on order before my mishap, so it wasn’t all down to me
Suitably refreshed, and having had a good natter I headed up to Skaill House and as I had guessed it was most interesting. It is still owned by the original family, who, even now, use it from time to time and it is furnished as such, so you get the real feel of it being a home rather than just a museum, which it is as well, with some interesting displays about the family history and the discovery of Skara Brae. Apparently once it had been discovered they turned the dining room into a Museum for a number of years – the Victorians were always very interested in the past.
Having had a lovely look round I began to think about where to spend the night. When I had travelled through in February I had telephoned about a council run Camping Site up by Birsay but was told it shut for the winter, so once again thinking it might now be open for Easter I decided to try and find it.
I hadn't been able to do any washing for quite a while, as though I had the washer drier put in, which works excellently, the way it empties needs some thinking about. It has been fitted with a semi rigid pipe, and once that has been coiled and pushed in its compartment for a week or more refuses to straighten out properly, which makes it difficult even on a well equipped campsite such as the one at Croft's End. But with the more basic ones it is impossible. I will look into something easier to manage once I am back in the Midlands. Carriage to the Highlands and Islands is much more expensive, plus I think its is something I need to physically look at and handle to know whether it will do the job. Birsay Campsite had washing machine, a tumble drier and a drying room as well. It turned out that I had passed it several times on my last visit without knowing – it is an old school next to the Community Hall with a flat field behind mown for camping and caravans, and if it had a sign I must have missed it, but I had asked for directions from some farmers working in the fields nearby (that sounds rather biblical).
Arriving there was no-one around but it said the warden called at six so I parked up on one of the gravelled paths, not trusting that the rather lush looking grass would allow Thebus off once he had got on. It was a good move as it proved, for when the warden came she said the last two lots of visitors had got bogged down and had to be pulled out by a tractor, and it was unlikely they were as heavy as Thebus. The warden and the assistant warden there are both delightful ladies, friendly and helpful. The old schoolhouse is run as a hostel, and I think they said it held nearly thirty, so a lot of hard work for them with making beds and washing sheets.
Whilst waiting for someone to arrive I had checked the mi-fi and hooray – I got an excellent signal. This was really useful, and in the event I stayed on the site for several days. The reason for my delight in being in contact with the rest of the world, was that my house sale was still grinding along. I haven’t bored you with the painful ins and outs, but eventually I got so fed up with it all that I gave the agent the requisite months notice, and told the purchasers that if they could/would not complete before Easter I was going to come home and start again, and probably deal with the sale myself this time, as I am sure it couldn't be any more trouble than I had experienced the last few months. Even until the very last day of my deadline there were problems and prevarications, but knowing that if I sold to them after my contract with the agents was at an end I would still have to pay the agents fees I had made it clear that whoever I did eventually sell to, it wouldn’t be the current purchasers. In the event they must have decided I really meant what I said and they completed at about lunchtime on the last possible day.
It has been such a long drawn out affair that I couldn’t feel anything, neither relief nor elation – I just sort of though 'oh well – that's done then' So a chapter of my life has now completely closed, and I really am footloose and fancy free. Somehow the money got transferred into the wrong account. My fault entirely, but when I wanted to have it transferred to another of my accounts nothing would do but I 'just had to pop into a branch of Lloyds'. When I asked them to let me know which the nearest one was, and they realised just how far I was from one we managed to get it done.
Views from Brisay Campsite
Wonderfully quiet with vast open views, and beautiful beaches nearby.
You can see the beach far more clearly from the site, and it was endlessly fascinating watching the breakers,
The site is just around the bay from The Brough of Birsay where we stayed in Orkney on the way up