DAY THE FIRST: September 12th in the Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nine
On the first day of our arduous journey, I was forced to arise at the UNGODLY hour of 7am. On a Saturday, no less. Sensibly, I had avoided packing the night before, instead prefering to imbibe copious amounts of ALE at a local Tavern. This caused me some consternation upon awakening, as I couldn’t seem to lay my hands upon my lucky travelling hat. Or indeed any of my clothing, belongings, personal articles, suitcases or other essential items, come to think of it.
I was due in the wastelands of the Far North by the hour of 6 in order to catch a ferry to the Orkneys, an ancient and quasi-mythical archipelago of islands in the Arctic ocean, ruled by a benevolent dictator known as Santa Claus- or so my trusty guidebook, Wikipedia, informed me. It is also a mine of information on other subjects too. For example, did you know that cats have five legs?
I arose from bed boldly and intrepidly, throwing myself into the shower while my servant girl Michele, a tall, gangly American (with a poor attitude, though it pains me to say it, for she is most comely) threw my things into a suitcase, cursing me all the while in her bastardised form of English. Which reminds me: do any of you happen to know what a ‘butt-head’ is?
I had agreed to also employ the servant girl’s father as my driver for the duraton of the trip. He was around three score years of age, yet time had not dulled his wits (or his strength, judging by the way he hauled my many bags down the 5 flights of stairs in my Edinburgh Townhouse). His demeanour was charming and his manner was that of a handsome wizard. I much preferred him to the servant lass, truth be told. For one thing, he didn’t keep calling me an ‘asshole’ under his breath.
The carriage packed, we set off on our journey, only to pause moments later at an ‘As-da’ emporium so that I could purchase provisions for our trip, namely coffee and baked meat products to assuage my ale-related ague of the head.
After that brief hiatus, we were off! The miles simply sped away due to the auspicious and excessively speedy driving of Michele Snr, aka Rick. Other cars worried him not, and being of the American persuasion he was happy to utilise any side of the road available to him. Roundabouts came and went, and the blaring horns of other carriages provided a soothing accompaniment to our journey.
Despite a 100 mile diversion due to the DUNDERHEADED misreading of a sign on the part of my servant girl (fear not, I beat her solidly later that evening), we reached the port of Scrabster by 6pm as planned, helped in no small part by Rick’s fearless and most exhilarating driving. The ferry was a small roll on, roll off affair, and due to the overly perky and windblown waves there was plenty of rolling around as well. We skipped and bounced across the waves like a skimmed stone, the loud thud and boom of the waves against the hull provoking Terror in my heart. I prayed to Steve the God of Boats for redemption, and before long the turbulence started to recede. Praise Steve!
Twas most quaint on board: the bar area were showing a highly antiquated televisual program known as ‘Casualty’, starring a bunch of ne’er do well drama school graduates and which seemed to have been written by a buffoon. This amused my American travelling companions no end: they found that it compared very disfavourably with a programme shown on their shores known as ‘E.R.’ I was very moved by their colony’s allegiance to our fair queen, and rewarded them both with a shiny groat for their pains.
After a mere hour and a half of near constant nausea we alighted the ferry in the dark and winding streets of Stromness, a dear little fishing village of some three or four people, all of whom were called Dave. I had acquired the use of a unfashionable yet adequate townhouse beside the museum and we headed there posthaste to meet the landlady. She seemed pleased to see us, although I couldn’t decipher her rather impenetrable accent which seemed to my ears to be a rather lilting, mangled combination of Irish, Welsh, Geordie, Scandinavian and something else which may possibly have been whalesong. I nodded politely, handed her Two Hundred Groats and ushered her out of the door lest her yammering disturbed my already fragile equilibrium. I don’t travel well, which is rather unusual for an Adventurer such as myself.
I dispatched my serfs to their quarters and settled down to admire the decor, which included some rather wonderful ornamental figurines of young boys peering sadly into a well, a cross-stiched sampler urging the reader to ‘hang onto your husband’ and a table lamp fashioned from a ram’s horn. Truly, I thought, I shall be content here….then, I switched on the television and watched ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares: US’. Someone had put some cooked chicken in with some fresh chicken, and Messr Ramsay was waxing apoplectic. It was most diverting.
TO BE CONTINUED…