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Sunday, 4 July 2010

Mad Monday on Shetland.

I didn't quite get round to finishing the Big Shetland Report, so here's the tale from my last day there after the super dooper classic show in June. I got as far as saying....

...the Grumpyones seemed to have a plan, and I had the offer of a pillion seat again, and as the sun was shining, and I had to go to Whalsay, I decided to see if the owner of the pillion seat would mind a trip to the Bonny Isle. Turned out he and his mate Pete didn't mind where they went, so off we set...

Up the A970 past the Loch of Grista (beautiful, stunning, amazing views, esp from the pillion seat when you get more time to stare) and hang a right at the junction for Vidlin and onto the B9071. That's not a bad road, it has to be said, some nice bendy bits and more top scenery. The ferry terminal is well signposted and we head down the hill to the sea. There's a boat sitting waiting and after being waved at by the guy in a boiler suit, we ride straight on. I also stop to ask him if he knows Willie. Which Wille, he says. You know, Willie who used to have a Triumph Terrier. Ah yes, turns out there is some family connection and Boiler suit Davy knows Willie well and gives me directions. The short crossing (about half an hour I think) passes smoothly with some more stunning views as we look back to the mainland across the sparkling blue sea. Its a sudden and stark feeling that hits me; what must it be like in the Mexican Gulf right now. In a selfish way, I try not to think about the fish, birds, coral and all other forms of sea life that are being killed slowly by the oil, every hour of every day.

We roll off the ferry in Symbister and The Man from Muckleflugga thinks I know where we're going. We find our way out of town using the age old comms system of a poke in the ribs for one way and a poke in the other ribs for the other way, and follow the instructions given by the guy on the boat, meandering off into the countryside. I'm also trying to recall to memory the hand drawn map that Geordie scribbled down for me at the show. Pete, on his BMW, dutifully tags along behind and after a few lefts and rights, and oohs and aahs at the views, I recognise Willie's house, so we pull up in his front yard. He switches off the mower and comes to greet us and we spend a while engaged in a healthy 'bikes / engines / fishing / island life / youngsters in old bikes' orientated conversation before Willie's grass starts to grow again and we have to be on our way.

We hop back on the bikes and decide to go for a tour around the island. It's only 5 miles from tip to toe, and 2 miles wide, with a population of just over 1000. There's a mixture of farming and fishing going on, although the islanders rely mainly on the sea for their livelihoods. These days the local fish processing factory has had to lay off many employees and others, though still employed, are struggling by on less hours and less income. With no particular place to go we follow the road to wherever it takes us, passing people cutting peat at the sides of the road, and small white houses dotted around each corner. We end up at the most northerly golf club in the UK, at Skaw. It's interesting how many places in Shetland are called Skaw. Cubbie and I have been to Skaw, but it wasn't this one. Maybe that should be the next challenge - visit all the places called Skaw....

There is also an airstrip in the middle of the golf course, and some more stunning views out to sea. The information board informs us of neolithic sites, rare plants and sea birds but I've got a better plan, so I wander off down the road and take a few pictures of a shed. You've got to look at the picture to see why I wanted to photograph it. I whistle for my chauffeur and although Pete and Muckleflugga Man make me wait, they do eventually turn up and we head off to find somewhere for lunch, which has to be back on the mainland unless we're happy with a sarny and a bottle of pop. Frankly, I was starving so it was back to the boat, where I thought it would be a good idea to whack my head on a huge and very solid looking piece of metal. I would just like to let you know, THAT HURT. After the pain subsided slightly, and I could see what passes for straight, it occurred to me that it might be fun to ask if I could venture up the metal steps to the bit where the Captain was in charge of the boat. Egged on by Muckelflugga Man who had the very same thought at the very same time, I went and asked, and the answer was 'yes'. See, if you don't ask, you don't know.

Up the stairs and into the wheel house. Surprisingly, there isn't much in there to look at. A couple of radar screens with green blobs and flickering lines, and a bank of buttons combined with a few levers. Oh, there is a steering wheel too, but Captain David Anderson told me that these days, that's just for backup. I didn't mention the fact that I'd just smacked my head so hard my ears were still ringing, which is probably just as well, or the Cap'in probably wouldn't have let me take control. Yes, you read that right, GBC was allowed to drive (is that the right word?) the Whalsay passenger ferry all the way back to the mainland. I couldn't quite believe my luck! I preferred using the wheel rather than the modern gizmo they normally use, and keeping an eye on the thing that showed me what course I was on (might it be a compass of some sort? Perhaps, perhaps), and the other eye on the approaching ferry on its outward leg, I steered a course for the mainland. Muckelflugga Man and Pete felt the wobble of the boat as I took the helm, and I take that as the compliment it was intended as. Ahem. The Captain and Joe Kay, his First Mate talked me through the various controls and explained how the radars worked. I would share that info with you but I've forgotten most of it, no no no, I'm sworn to secrecy, that's right. The half hour crossing passed even more quickly and my head wasn't hurting nearly as much as I thought it might do, so after a nifty handbrake turn into the harbour, we (ok, the Captain) parked the old girl up and I nearly fell head first down the very steep steps back to the deck.

MFM (Muckleflugga Man) and Pete had directions to the nearest eatery, so we toddled off, up to the T-junction, turned right, and ended up in Vidlin, before carrying on to Lunning, just in case... But no joy, so about turn, back to the main road, and take a right there instead. We ended up in a small village where the only place that looked like it might serve food, was the hotel, and luckily for us, they did. Whether it was the bang on the head, or the adrenalin rush from having just driven a passenger ferry, or the hot sun, or that I hadn't had any breakfast, I don't know, but I felt a little light headed by this point. Not helped by the long wait due to the Chef having to go and grow a potato and catch a Tuna for me, but MFMs impression of a biking Viking made us laugh. Well, ok, made me laugh, I think Pete had seen it all before.

After lunch, I took the T'bird for a quick spin up the road and back, and when I returned to the hotel, ready to jump off and let MFM take the controls, he decided he'd like to see what it was like to ride pillion on his own bike. Before I had a chance to dismount, he was on board and ready to roll. Did I mention, that apart from blasting around off-road with my brother on the back, I've never ridden with a pillion before? That didn't seem to bother MFM though. Some numpty let the bike stall, and then couldn't start it with a pillion behind her, so I saw my chance to swap places, but MFM wasn't having it. He fired the bike up again, and quickly claimed the pillion seat. Well what could I do, not one to wimp out, I snicked it into first gear and we were away, sticking behind a line of cars at a steady 50mph would do for a while, until I got used to the very odd handling. It made it wonder if that's how it feels to the rider when I'm a pillion. Eeek, scary. After what felt like the longest and most mentally draining ride of my life (it must be what being pregnant is like; you're responsible for another life), we made it back to the campsite in Lerwick for around 3pm. I needed some chocolate but didn't have any, and the shop was closed. I needed a sit down on something that didn't move and couldn't be broken if I did something daft. I was having a bit of bother thinking clearly. I needed chocolate.

It was a lovely surprise however, to find that the other members of the Grampian Classic MCC had taken the executive decision to take my tent down and pack it all up for me. There it was, with my luggage that I'd already packed prior to my little jaunt, sitting in a pile next to Cubbie, and all I had to do was load it up. The ferry didn't leave until 5.30, so I had plenty of time to make sure it was all fixed on securely before leading the gang off to the terminal. Cubbie started first kick, and had oil a-plenty, but would need petrol once in Aberdeen. We bade farewell to MFM and Pete who were next to us on the campsite, and Cubbie pop pop popppped into the lead. Change of plan. I forgot, I had to nip into the Co-Op to stock up on food for the journey. By the time I got to the ferry the rest where still queueing and sweltering in the hot sun. Our man Gordon seemed to be very much better after his bout of ill health over the weekend, and Maurice (he of the show organising team) came down to see us all off. Not just us, there were quite a few show goers heading home on that day.

Once on board we secured the best seats in the house, a nice U shaped sofa arrangement with tables and spare chairs. Some of us not having had much sleep were a little tired, others were a little thirsty and consumed a fair few tins of something they smuggled onto the boat (tsk tsk tsk, bad boys) and I managed 40 winks until I got too hungry. Due to one of the boats being taken out of service after a sickness bug, our boat was on a super fast mission to get to Aberdeen, unload and then turn around and head straight back, so the homeward crossing was quite choppy at the faster speeds, but it made it much more entertaining.

Goodbye to Lerwick. I'll be back though!
Some time during the night I found myself a space in the bar at the other end of the boat and although the music channel was blasting out what I assume were the latest greatest teeny bopper tunes, I managed a good bit of sleep, but still woke up a little bitty worse for wear, and with a lump the side of my head. We rolled off into a very wet and slightly cold Aberdeen, and went our separate ways. A couple of us accompanied Gordon home, we were just after a hot cuppa really, which we got (and choccy biccies) and by the time I got back home to Cubbie Towers I was beginning to get a little soggy around the edges. That's one of the problems with having long hair - if it pokes out from under the helmet it seems to wick the rain upwards and starts making the rest of your head wet, which isn't a nice feeling. My padded waterproof trousers held up well and only leaked because of the position in which I was forced to sit due to the luggage pushing me forwards onto the front of the seat. My gloves, well, what can I say. They're about 7 years old and have been worn through hell and high water, and these days, they don't keep out much more than a light summer shower. The same goes for my feet, but my boots are only a couple of years old so they really shouldn't leak as much as they do. I probably should invest in a pair that cost more than £40 but I'm too mean. The inside of my jacket was only slightly damp, and I'd removed anything that was in the pockets before I got on the bike in the rain.

Thanks to the Grampian Classic Club guys for coming with me, thanks to MFM for showing me how to kick start a bike without actually 'kicking' it, and for letting me do the road test on it, thanks to the organisers of the Shetland Classic Motor Show for putting on another brilliant event and also for the personal help and concern shown to our group in what could have been desperate times! Thanks to Captain Anderson for letting me drive the boat, that's certainly an experience I won't forget in a hurry.

It's a bit sad when a trip like this, even though it was just a long weekend, is over, but looking on the bright side, it means I can start planning and looking forward to the next adventure, which might be MZ based this space people!


Anonymous said...

Ouch! Hope your head's feeling better

Brilliant and entertaining write-up, loved the bit about the grass growing while you were standing around chatting :o)

Graham B

Stuart said...

Another great write-up GBC, what a fantastic and memorable trip!


Anonymous said...

Except for the noggin bump sounds like more good times. Fascinating reading, folks cutting peat for fuel, living much like they have for a long time....but sounds if economic downturns are everywhere these days. Yeah, coral reefs don't grow overnight...the Gulf situation is depressing, I'll be glad to hear when they get that well plugged-up. Let me guess, did the shed contain a two-wheeled creature? Hairy Larry

sfb said...

Sounds like a great day. I also loved the bit about the grass growing!

I can sympathise with the reluctance to take pillions - I don't even like taking one and only son on the back, that's why I keep having Sidecar Ideas!

Hope your head feels better soon - the bump doesn't seem to have done your writing any harm, 'twas very entertaining!

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Thanks peeps, luckily the bruise went down quickly or I might not have been able to wear my helmet.

So you up for Shetland 2012 SFB???

Darrell said...

Great write up, and as always good pics. You looked so professional and nautical at the helm. Wait..professional? maybe..terrified? Yeah, thats better.

Anonymous said...

Now that is a very interesting shed, hmmm, a case of the disappearing comments Mr. Watson... Hairy Larry

sfb said...

Shetland seems like a good plan!

Geordie J. said...

Delighted you all seem to have enjoyed yourselves!
Met Willie in Lerwick today and he was obviously pretty chuffed you'd called in to see him. Well done!

kawa said...

Aye you look at home in the wheel house on the ferry, a career change ahead ?

Good write up as usual


The Chief Bodger said...

Botheration!! After a few days of no internet due to some jiggery-pokery on the 'net providers part, the comment I had just two finger typed got self-destructed.

Anyway, another good write-up that even includes nautical bits.

I've to agree that riding two up can be trying unless the pillion is experienced.

I'll havey a lookey see at the piccies later on when thi laptop-o-wires is behaving itself.

I'm also counting the days when I come home AND the Haggis Run :)

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, a great read.


tonuptony said...

Is it true MFM & the Stig are one & the same? I know for a fact he rides an old Triumph & rides it hard.Both are well known but no one knows them hows that? did you see MfM with his helmet off? come on GBC spill the beans.


Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Hey Darrell, do you think you'll fit on Cubbie?

Netg - great to have you on the blog, thanks for popping in.

Tony ma loon, I wouldn't be surprised, the way MFM rides that Triumph, could easily be Auld Stiggy.


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