We had one, count ’em: ONE, sunny day this past week here on the north shore of Long Island and Steve made the most of it.
Life is good when you open your front door and there’s a cat on the mat, dreaming in the sunshine. Otherwise, it’s been raining all day, every day, and the house feels damp and dreary and the used book store that I co-manage for our local library has been swamped with abundant useless donations. I have no interesting stories from the world of books this week, so let’s go back to The Trail of Tears AKA My Scotland Adventure.
If you thought that last week’s tale of woe in Edinburgh was the end of the drama let me assure you that that was just the beginning.
When last we saw Vivian and Top Cat, they were arguing while stuck at Security in Edinburgh Airport, watching the seconds vanish as they tried to do 30 minutes of business in 10 minutes’ time. I race to the gate to hold the jet to Orkney while Top Cat tries to persuade officials that his two bottles of duty-free vodka mean no harm to the people and institutions of Scotland. The doors have just been opened for access to the plane to Kirkwall (capital of Orkney) but no one had bothered to actually get on the plane yet.
I scan the concourse for any sign of Top Cat and when at last I see him coming my way I wave to him, almost happy to see him, “Here we are! We made it!” but he avoids eye contact. He stops half-way to the gate and sits down with his back to me. This is classic Silent Treatment shit. Fine. That’s how he wants to do this, fine.
I take my place at the back of the line to board the plane, and as I hand in my boarding pass I tell the man at the desk that my husband — the guy lingering in the waiting area — has to be the last person on the plane.
“Likes to make an entrance, does he?” the man jokes. “No,” I say to myself; “He’s just being a dick.”
I have arranged, via a phone call to LoganAir several weeks ago when I bought our tickets and I asked the lovely Scottish lass at HQ what were the best seats for viewing our flight over Scotland, for us to sit in the back of this 30-seat plane. I take my seat in row #12 and wait for Top Cat to take his, row #13. But he sits in row #9.
He intends to ignore me even on the plane. But his plan is thwarted when the steward tells Top Cat that he has to move because every seat on the plane is booked, so he reluctantly sits behind me.
He chats with the rugby player across the aisle and we do not speak during the 50-minute flight.
We land in Kirkwall (pop. 9,293), Orkney.
Our lovely B&B host picks us up and drives us to his home about a mile outside of city center. We dump the bags and walk out to town.
This is the city center:
We stumble upon a gorgeous Photo-Op when I spot a fat white-and-orange cat comes strolling down the road. I fumble to get my camera out of my pocket, so Top Cat decides to call to the cat PssssPssssPsss and scares the poor thing. She starts to run almost out of my frame, but I manage to catch the moggy just in time (see below, but it’s not the picture I envisioned). We are being cautiously civil to each other, Top Cat and I, but the truce is very fragile, so I do not bitch at him for not fucking keeping his fucking mouth fucking shut.
The Universe rewards me for my forbearance because I find a 5-pound note on the sidewalk. I’m pretty sure it did not belong to the cat or else I would have returned it.
We take in Saint Magnus Cathedral, but not together. I mean, we are in the cathedral at the same time, but we are never in proximity to one anther.
This is what 9:30 PM looks like in Kirkwall, Orkney in late May:
This is sun set at 10:00 PM from our bedroom window:
I want to settle in and watch the BBC in our little sitting area in the room, but Top Cat says he didn’t come all the way to Orkney to watch TV and he’d rather discuss travel plans for tomorrow. So I graciously turn off the TV and wait.
Top Cat sits and sulks. I am pissed. The B&B is lovely, but it was Top Cat’s choice and it’s a mile out of town and that’s a long way to walk when it’s 45 degrees and raining. I am pissed that we didn’t stay in the charming little place I found right in the center of town but noooooo, Top Cat thought it would be too “busy”. [P. S. Kirkwall is never “busy”.] I am pissed because I had wanted to book a day tour of Orkney’s tourist spots but Top Cat said No, we’ll manage it ourselves, even though he has not done any research into what there is to see until a few hours ago when we hit the Tourist Office in “busy” downtown Kirkwall. I am pissed because I’ve done a lot of research about Orkney and I’ve turned off the TV and now he’s not even talking to me about what his plan for the day will be. And I am still plenty pissed about what happened in Edinburgh.
I will not bore you with how we never got around to discussing plans for tomorrow and how the fight started and how it escalated, and how really nasty it got. But at 10:00 Top Cat walks out and I sit in my chair. I don’t turn on the TV. I sit in my chair, hating him, Kirkwall, Orkney, and Scotland. But him most of all.
Top Cat comes back after half an hour but we did not speak. I sit in my chair, he goes to bed. I sit until it gets dark, and I sit until it is midnight, and I sit until it is 2AM. Then I wake up in the chair sometime in the middle of the night, which is just before dawn on Orkney in May:
I go to bed, and Top Cat is lucky that I do not stab him in his sleep.
In the morning, something wakens me with a jolt. It is Top Cat. He is kissing me on the cheek, and he’s saying he is sorry that he lost his temper last night. He’s heading into town. “Text me when you’re up,” he says. I fall back to sleep.
Several hours later, I find Top Cat sitting outside the ferry terminal in Kirkwall. I kiss him and I say, “Let’s start over.”
Top Cat says, “So we wont’ talk about what happened last night?”
“Yeah, we will,” I say, “But later, when we’re OK.”
P. S. During this trip, we will add to that future talk (when we are OK) several other topics of conversation, one called That Problem In Thurso Was Your Fault, another one called Only Dickheads Eat Fish on The Train, one that we refer to as The Rain Wasn’t Your Fault But Everything Else in Inverness Was, and the huge bone of contention that we call The Hideous 265 Miles Before and After Glasgow That You Made Even Worse.
And we take a long, long, healing walk in the countryside of Orkney.
Orkney is a good place to be if you love Standing Stones. Above, in order:
Barnhouse Stone, aligned to the entrance of the net-lithic tomb called Maeshowe (the mound in the background), c. 2800 BCE.
The Stenness Standing Stones, the oldest henge in the British Isles, c. 3100 BCE.
The Stenness Watch Stone, 19 feet high, probably sited as a link between The Steness Standing Stones and
The Ring of Brodar, generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.
We still had plenty of sunlight left so we got on a bus and went to the other large (pop. 2,200) town on the island.
Cruise ships stop in at Stromness, as in Kirkwall, and the cruisers pile out in a horde and nobody in town likes them.
I found a thrift shop for The Cat’s Protection League in Stromness and I bought a wonderful old illustrated copy of Wind in the Willows for 80 pence and I give the sweet girl at the till the 5-pound note I found in Kirkwall. She was very thankful but since a cat helped me find it in the first place, it was the only thing to do.
We continued on to the very southern tip of the island to Saint Margaret’s Hope (pop. 550).
A tree! I saw a tree!
Orkney used to have forests about 10,000 years ago, but in the Bronze Age (about 3,700 years ago) the climate changed, becoming every colder and wetter. Whatever forest did not die out due to the harsh conditions was cut down by the humans to make way for farms in the little land that remained fertile for crops.
We walked around town, saw stuff, and stopped in at Robertson’s General Store. When Top Cat was at the counter ordering our drinks, one of the locals heard his accent and drawled, “The cruise ship must be in town,” which I only understood a little too late to correct him with a kindly, Shut the fuck up do we look like fucking cruisers??
In the UK, you can order a Small, Medium, or Large glass of wine, and the bartender knows exactly — to the milliliter — how much to give you. I don’t like it.
People we met in St. Margaret’s Hope and elsewhere on the island who were delightful include the Scottish woman walking her two dogs that she got from Corfu, where her daughter runs a rescue; the English lady who bought her Orkney house on the phone sight unseen; the lady whose great-great-grandmother was famous in 1850 for eating the most expensive breakfast in Scotland; a group of university students from Edinburgh who play folk music on Orkney which included the one guy had a crush on a girl he kept calling Vivian! Vivian! Vivian!; the ten-year old boy who drinks coffee; the punk/hard rock guy from Sweden who designs kilts; the woman who owns wooly pigs from Korea because they do very well in Orkney climate; the Polish girl who’s lived in Stromness for 6 years and works at the Fish Shop where Top Cat got the fish he ate on the train, etc etc etc. We had a lot of people to talk to, so that kept us out of trouble.
So ends our Good Day in Orkney.
Next week I may, or may not, tell you about the next fight on the agenda, depending on whether or not you, Dear Readers, are fed up already. But next week I definitely have a nice story for you, set in Scotland but not really about Scotland, that we can make inter-active!
See you next Friday, Dear Ones.
Have a great weekend, and don’t eat fish on the train.