A Journey Measured in Mittens

My beautiful flat sold last week. I’m not happy about it, but I’ve resigned myself to the end of my Air B&B income and gone out and found myself a job.

Amazingly, I’ve found something I don’t even hate – I’m caring for a paraplegic woman – but nonetheless this will put a stop to my carefree gallivanting for the near future. As a result, I’ve been looking forward to my December trip to Orkney with a special anticipation.
It’s a long way to Orkney, almost as far as Tipperary! My route begins with a train to Aberdeen, followed by an 8 hour ferry to Kirkwall and then a tiny 15 minute flight to North Ronaldsay.
BUT, I only went and missed the ferry, didn’t I! It’s Sunday, and the next one isn’t until TUESDAY!
I’m embarrassed about making such a stupid mistake, but considering the amount of traveling I do, it’s somewhat astonishing that this is the first time it’s happened.
I’m pretty dejected, walking through the dark and ferryless streets of Aberdeen, trying to figure out what to do. I stop a guy to ask directions to the nearest cafe. He takes one look at me and appears to decide I’m soliciting, tells me he’s “sorry but not interested”, and then hurries away. I’m not sure whether it’s my massive green overcoat, my guitar, or my 4 foot tall backpack that put the idea into his head!
Eventually a kind railway employee explains my best alternate route, and it turns out I’m facing 5 extra train, bus, and ferry tickets plus two nights in hostels to reach the cosy cabin that’s waiting for me.
I want to cry.
I was supposed to be in a bathtub overlooking the sea by morning! Instead I end up in Inverness, sharing a room with 8 people; one of whose feet are pungent enough to keep me awake most of the night.
Morning finds me out of bed by 6, hurrying to catch the early train to Thurso. Which can’t make it there due to freezing on the lines.


You know you’re in the middle of nowhere when Scotrail just sends a woman in her van to pick you up from the station and drive you to your destination! They called it a “cab” but no cabbie I’ve ever seen drives an unmarked minivan that has to be cleared of children’s toys and Christmas gifts to make room for luggage.
It’d be sketchy if not for the elderly woman in the passenger seat. They’re engaging in that kind of chat strangers do where they both laugh uproariously at everything the other person says, as if that will make everyone more comfortable.
“I don’t normally drive this van, I’ve got a truck I usually use to get around!”
(Both women laugh for 5 minutes)
“Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day!”
(5 more minutes of uncontrolled mirth)
I’m killing myself in the back, loving it.

In the end I do reach Thurso, where I am currently holed up in a warm library, waiting on the evening ferry to Stromness. From where I’ll get a bus to Kirkwall, crash in a hostel, and FINALLY board my flight to North Ronaldsay in the morning.
So far I’ve spent so much time on trains that I’m now measuring distances in terms of knitting. Thurso has taken me 3 mittens to get to.
Here’s hoping I’ll be in that seaside bathtub by this time tomorrow!
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