I spent today in the company of Louise and Arthur, a lovely couple that I met last week, and their charming young grandson Rowan. Having hitched to Kirkwall, Louise and Arthur picked me up in their campervan and we headed to Houton to catch the ferry to Hoy. As we cruised across Bring Deeps and past Scapa Flow, Arthur told me about the islands, the divers and the old crofts. We spoke of windmills, renewable energy and the landscape and before I knew it we were in Hoy. We then proceeded to their house, an old croft that they had renovated which was one of many old crofts that had formed their farm before Arthur retired from being a beef farmer. After a coffee, a quick tour and some lego building we went for a walk to the small wooded area which Louise and Arthur had planted some years earlier. The wood was such a great place for Rowan to play, he had a hut where he had lots of animal toys and there was small stream crossed by a wooden bridge where he had a fishing rod and net to play with. Louise and I reminisced about similar experiences we had both had as children of playing in what seemed to us as forests or wildernesses, but turned out to be merely patches of garden or a few trees when revisited as an adult. I felt a certain childlike excitement visiting that wood. I pushed through the branches and stumbled through the long grass exploring, discovering; watching the swallows darting through the air.
On the ferry home I sat and looked out over the water, though the wind was harsh and freezing cold it was magical to watch the waves and see the gannets, cormorants and bonxies (great skuas) diving and skimming the water. Suddenly there was dark shape in the water, a black hump which rose from the water then disappeared as quickly as it appeared. I did not know what it was, perhaps a seal?
When we reached the harbour I got a lift with a man Louise knew called Cameron. It turned out that he also knew my friend Jennifer and her family, her Dad being the headmaster of the school on Hoy that Cameron worked at. I also later found out that he is something of an Orkney celebrity having won the television show Big Brother one year. He drove me to the main road and I stood trying to hitch a lift back to Finstown. As I waited for a car to stop (there were very few on the road) I watched an owl hunting in the long grass in a field beside the loch; hovering and swooping, circling low in the sky. I was not there long before a bus turned up and took me home.