Author: anyapenfold

A case study of ideas getting a bit out of control

A case study of ideas getting a bit out of control

I’ve recently bought a shed for my new pad, and just as I was giving up on the damn thing, it actually arrived. I was well chuffed to start building it, but my mate who’s been helping building the kitchen was very excited about it too, so I promised I would keep it until it’s safe for her to come round and help.

In the meantime, unfortunately, this gave me time to have all sorts of overly grandiose ideas about painting murals on the shed.

Outdoor paint is expensive as hell and doesn’t come in so many colours, I said to myself. Let’s pick some we already have (or at least have some vague hope of getting) and design something only using those. Plus, that way it can be kept simple and be less of a chuffing nightmare to try and get right on a larger scale!

Well, so far so good, and the neighbours won’t even have to look at it.

Then it seemed a waste to have the outline just sitting around, so I thought I’d have a stab at it with the crayons oil pastels hell, they’re glorified crayons.

Then, due to social distancing and everything being done over Zoom, I started going off at a tangent:

I’m sure these will totally come in useful for something one day.

But that was quite enough of that. Back to the original idea, of a nice, simple, three-coloured mural for the other side of the…

Dammit.

Building the new life part four – lockdown

Work on Caisteal Ialtag na Gaileach ground to a bit of a halt for the rest of February, what with suddenly realising that my finances needed a bit of a do over. Also realising that, despite finally owning a drill bad ass enough to drill into concrete properly, and drilling very much deep enough into said concrete to easily take a rawlplug, thank you, the goddamn rawlplugs just refused to go into the concrete quite deep enough to put up some cheap blinds without the damn things being wobbly and falling down.

This was a bit vexing, because the nights were still dark very early, I had taken down all the horrible Venetian blinds (on the assumption that I was gonna whack some new blinds right back up in their place) and given the way the house is set, you could now see right into all the rooms from as far away as the very end of the road. God, I was jealous of people who only had the neighbours across the street staring into their personal business. On the plus side, I did get really good at scuttling about below the level of the windows whenever I wanted to get dressed or undressed* but you don’t want to creep around your own pad like Gollum indefinitely, besides it plays merry hell on muscle groups I didn’t even know existed.

*I THINK.

Anyway, by early March I had come down with all the symptoms that meant I couldn’t go into the office for a week (or the shop). Which was a bit bad, since my food delivery system, seeing as I have no cooker or anything, is a Just In Time series of pot noodles and pre-prepared salads and so on, and goddamn, it was getting a bit worrying by the time I was allowed to leave the house. Just to rub salt in the wound, there is a shop, which sells food, that I can see from my windows.

I spent a couple of days occasionally looking out of said windows at it and giggling, in way you do when it’s not actually particularly funny and you’re really feeling a bit a) scared (“Idiot with actual cash on hand starves within sight of food!”) and b) well, like an idiot.

The windows at least had blinds in by then. I even had a bed, now! And a wardrobe! And at least some of my possessions were now in the wardrobe, instead of in a box in a pile of boxes that were no longer in any sort of order whatsoever! And a new boiler, and also a brand new cupboard for storage, since I had indeed had the strange system with the steampunk pipes and the ballcock ripped out. No shelves, yet, but, you know. Potential! That was what I bought this place for! (And, it being the only place I could, you know, afford).

We had also ripped out most of the kitchen, and the sink was now held up with a trestle and a rock, looking like one of the last places I’d ever want to try and get something clean enough to eat off, but that was okay because the new sink (if not the pipes etc) was already here, and it was only for a week.

Then lockdown happened.

So for the last two months, the downstairs of this place has been stuck looking like an episode of Hoarders. Everything that was about to be constructed in the kitchen is living in the lounge, everything that will one day live in the kitchen cupboards, once they’re built, is living in a pile in the office, and there’s not a lot I can do about it by myself so I’ve mainly been working on the back garden instead and getting to know the folks living round about.

Here we see the decking, which turned out to be sound enough to make into something else, but the infrastructure was so rotten my boot went straight through it.
Here we see what used to be the kitchen. There is still sod all room in there, I have no idea why. Also, I tidied this pile three times, trying to make it look less like a pile of rubbish (this does not work) before I bit the bullet and hired a skip.
And here we see there was paving below the decking, woo! And a bed for blueberries I made out of the decking. Also, the garishness of this furniture is merely the start. Poor neighbours, out the back, they have been nothing but good to me too.

Building that wee wooden fence with my neighbour, even while staying six feet apart, was, no lie, about the most fun I’ve had in two months.

I’m sure everyone knows the rest of this story, and to be fair, it’s not like I’ve a) been badly hit or b) had any plans to have any fun anyway, till, ooh, 2021? Which is apparently when we might be allowed to do that again, coincidentally. Being allegedly essential workers, we never did get furloughed, but we’re taking turns working from home, my routine and schedule are shot, and I was honestly surprised to find out it was Thursday yesterday, you know, despite knowing damn fine it was Wednesday the night before when I went to bed. So everything’s a bit odd, and will probably stay that way, but I cannot complain.

Budapest – the not so glorious aftermath

Did I wake up on the Saturday after the gig feeling like crap? Yes indeed, and I didn’t even have that much of the Weissbier. I also had an incredibly painful knee, face and various other bits, thanks to going full frontal on the tarmac last night. As it were. However! I had planned things so that at least I wasn’t trying to schlep to the airport in this nick, and while it was quite tempting to take a day off from, um, taking my days off, room service can be really antsy if you decide to just sit in your room and draw or work or whatever, even if you do hang up that, Do not disturb, thingie, and besides, I still had lots of things on the list of stuff to see!

Mostly railways, I noticed. It isn’t even me who is into trains, it was my ex, but there they all were. Quite close to each other, too, and one of them was the Children’s Railway, which my best mate had thoroughly recommended. (Run and staffed by children, apparently, so technically… child labour? I mean work experience. They don’t drive the actual train, thank god).

To get there required going up the cogwheel railway, but before that there was a fair amount of faff with getting into town, discovering half the metro was off for repairs, thanking my lucky stars for the city pass, jumping on a bus, another metro, and then a tram, which, when it finally arrived, turned out to have started off from the same damn metro station I had left from originally, like I was trapped on one of those maths problems. Well, I knew my luck had to run out sometime.

I was kinda surprised everything was actually open, it being off season and all. Still, though a glorious day it was cold as anything, and of course I had just missed the cogwheel railway, and of course I had just missed the Children’s Railway, so I ended up mooching about in the middle of nowhere, freezing my fingers off. Thank god for Harry Pokemon, The Phone Game or whatever it’s called. I did see a wee couple happily carrying massive sticks about, for no reason other than that they were there, and in fact the other day in the park near the hotel I saw a wee couple of grandparents with their tiny kid all merrily lathering feck out of each other with some tall reeds that had been chopped down. I could really learn to love living in a place where everyone does that. Shame I suck at languages.

I fancied a go on the chairlift, so I got off the train at what I thought was the right stop, wandered up a steep hill in what I guessed was the right direction, got to a junction (unsignposted), picked what I was now just hoping was the right direction, and kept going. There was nobody at all in sight, the path just kept getting steeper, my knee was screaming agony, and it’s times like these that you have to take a good look at your life and go, Why the hell did I think it would be a great idea to be both hungover and lost in the middle of nowhere?

Also, I had packed nary a provision. Which, well, no need to worry yet, right? You can go without food and water for a day, easy, and there was no way I was going to be lost for longer than that!

Hopefully.

It was the right way, however, and when I got to the top of the hill I found the chairlift and everything. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone down a chairlift before? My god, it’s certainly the direction you get the view from though!

And for a blissful ten or so minutes, there was silence, and the scenery slowly passing me by, and I had nary a care in the world, except for what if I fell off. Then it occurred to me I’ve never tried to exit one of these buggers when I’m not on skis, and I spent the last five minutes panicking about being punted in the arse by the thing, possibly taking out other people in the vicinity, getting caught on it and being swung back up the mountain, only to plummet off it as my clothes ripped or something. Then being impaled on one of these cut-off trees I was passing over, no doubt. The headlines would say, “tragedy”, but everyone would know they really meant, “idiot”.

Anyway, so none of that happened. I suppose I should be grateful that all that happened was, I made my way back to civilisation, got on the tram that was supposed to be going to my hotel, got off it again at the river because what the hell? This is at total angles to the right route. I got a metro back to my starting point, tried again on a bus, and watched the very same river stop sail past an hour later. Oh right, it’s one of those “all the way the other way and then back” deals.

Still, I eventually made it back. I also braved the supermarket, got me some sarnies and local beer because I was starving by this point, and shut myself up in my room for the night to hope that was the end of my transport shenanigans.

Alas, it wasn’t.

Getting all my stuff to the airport was going to be more of a faff than getting away from it, because the metro was still off. I knew that, so left ample time for contingencies. What I hadn’t reckoned on, however, was the busses being quite as mobbed as they were. I mean, they were jam packed when they got to the damn stop (is this not the first stop? How can it be?) I watched everyone in front pile on the first one, then the second one, noted how the busses here stop in pretty much the exact same place every time, positioned myself where the back doors of the next bus would open, and resigned myself to a wait.

There were Bus Porters, or whatever they were, however. About five feet tall and about five feet wide apiece, and they were not for me waiting on the next bus at all. They shouted at me. They shouted some more. Then they picked up me, my bags and all, and smooshed me face-first into the crush inside, to the horror of all involved. It took them two attempts to slam the doors shut around my bony arse, that is how packed it was in there, and then we rocketed off, slamming and banging over all the potholes, and I realised if they hadn’t got those doors shut quite properly I was really going to splatter myself all over the tarmac this time.

I did manage to grab a rail, and held on for dear life so hard my arm was agony for a good few hours after.

On arrival back home, it turned out the place had flooded in my absence, or the Edinburgh part of the place anyway. The trams were off, the trains were looking really ropey, and my only remaining chance was one via Glasgow and then back again that was getting more delayed by the minute. I’ve seen that trick before, mateys. You eventually confess you had no intention of running the damn thing in the first place, but only once it’s too late for anyone to do anything else instead. And I have work tomorrow. So I leapt on the intercity, wondered how I was going to make it home from the motorway services, bit the bullet and called my ex.

To my enormous surprise he actually drove out and picked me up. Granted I had to shiver in the rain at the bus stop for about twenty minutes (which was plenty of time to reflect that, while about the same temperature as Budapest, the clammy cold is a far worse kind of cold than the dry, sunny kind), but it was all okay. I was rescued, I was going to be home and warm soon enough.

Well, just the first part actually, because it turned out Caisteal Ialtag na Gaileach was cold and clammy too. Suspiciously so, for a place where the timed heating should only have gone off about five minutes previously.

So, the boiler had this cryptic warning number on it. Since the internet seemed to have given up the ghost in my absence as well, and the signal here is marginal at best, there was rather a lot of trying to get the internet in the rain, from the gatepost, just like when I first moved in. Or, there would have been if me ex didn’t seem to have the sort of magic phone that always has a signal.

Turns out, the boiler feeder tank had run dry. Turns out, that tank is wedged in the top of a cupboard upstairs. Turns out, the ballcock in that tank is bust and that’s why it ran dry. Turns out new ballcocks are pence, but taking apart the entire sodding cupboard, not to mention half this steampunk-esque heating system, to get at the damn thing is going to be considerably more than that.

In the end, I got the boiler working with the aid of a mug (filled from the tap) and a stepladder (allowing me to get the mug up to the tank). Dear god, I am officially living in the Dark Ages.

So. It’s amazing to be home, with the dark and the rain and the damp and the cupboard of pot noodles (hey, no kitchen!) and if I want things to not continue as they are forever and ever amen, it’s time to get the head down and work all the hours possible so I can buy my way out of having to tend the heating system with a mug. Just focus, think of the eventual rewards, and…

Oh feck, there’s no internet. I am DOOMED.

Oh hey, Gloryhammer just announced tour dates in June!

Abandoning the new life for Glory!

So, Friday in Budapest. The day I had come all this way for, though not yet the hour. It was another beautiful morning, so I went into town on the metro, and back out again, on a bus this time. I allowed plenty of leeway for mistakes, thus navigated flawlessly and ended up arriving an hour early. Had a nice chat with an American teacher, and a very small, horrendously strong coffee, though. Because being ferociously overcaffienated is the perfect mental state to go behave quietly underground.

Because I was at Palvolgyi cave! 40-million-year old fossil shells and sea urchins embedded in the walls! 20-million-year old crystal formations! Million-year-old carbon dioxide bubble holes the size of beach balls! ‘Baby’ stalactites, ‘only’ a hundred to a few thousand years old! Cute hibernating bats! Lovely tour guide (“This place was used as an air raid shelter in WWII but nothing happened and nobody died so don’t worry, there are no ghosts”).

That was worth the trip. I even walked all the way back (downhill) to the edge of town, where I got back on the train and went to see the Roman Ruins at Acquinum. Sadly, the museum was shut for refurbishments (until the day after I leave), but the ruins themselves were just sitting out along the side of the dual carriageway, so I got quite the gander at them for free.

A nap and a fair bit of quiet fretting later, and it was time to get ready to go see Gloryhammer. Again, the curly mum-cut from hell makes for massive personal paranoia! (Why don’t you just buy a wig? said one of my best friends. It was good advice. I did. I dared not put it on and have it slide off. I went with the mum-cut and kept my hood up.

Fun fact, my actual mum has also invested in wigs, recently, because she’s complaining her hair is too straight.)

I wasn’t just paranoid about the hair. I was paranoid about getting lost/ getting barred/ finding the e-ticket was for some reason invalid and getting shouted at in Hungarian and being unable to find any suitable phrases for reply in the phrasebook. I was paranoid about everybody staring at me. I was paranoid about everybody laughing at me when I got home, even though I firmly intended to spin whatever went wrong as a hilarious yarn, given enough time, because laughing with me is different, damn it, and if I make people laugh with me I can kid on they might not laugh at me afterwards.

While in the queue, this security guard shouted at me in Hungarian, only like right up close in my face, and with hindsight I realise he was probably only saying, Move your arse, doll, a car is trying to get through, but I was prepped for mortification and promptly went beetroot. And stayed beetroot. Thank god I never brought the wig, it and my face would have matched. Well, and it will be dark inside, right?

Nope, lights didn’t go down for another half hour. I hit the local cheapo beer, discovered it tasted like the local cheapo beer back home, discovered the Weissbier was pleasantly cheap as well (a move I was to regret, the next day) and necked that instead while thinking thoughts about ice-cubes, and penguins, and the Arctic and anything to try and make the blush of mortification go the feck away already. Which it didn’t. It never does, not while you’re still mortified, and you can’t not be mortified with it, and so round and round you go. Hopefully everyone just thought I was drunk.

Still, I was in.

Listening to Windrose, an Italian band, singing in Hungary, in the only language I speak, as well as addressing the crowd in it, was quite the revelation. What was even more fascinating was, although the singer was using the kinda standard rock lyric growl (hopefully somebody out there knows what I mean; the voice is made to fit the music. Like that time I went to the thrash extravaganza with the G Monster back in the day, at the ABC, and one band had this lovely wee teeny Aussie lead singer who alternated between a formidable, hellhound-esque bass that sounded like it was rising up from the Pit itself for the songs, and thanking us all in a very squeaky Aussie accent in between them).

This was not thrash-singing, just rock-singing, however, these notes I can only describe as Pavaroti-like just sort of sailed out of his throat every so often. I wondered if he had been classically trained. I wondered if maybe being Italian just made that happen to you, no matter who you were or what you were singing at the time. I wondered what effect that would have on the careers of Italian rappers. I wondered what the Scottish equivalent would be, like if you were making a serious speech and whenever you got even slightly passionate about it you were drowned out by mysterious bagpipes, ruining your presentation on interest rates. I wondered if maybe the Weissbier might be a bit strong and a bit of a mistake.

Up next, Nekrogoblikon. I tried, I just didn’t feel it. I am sure they are very good at what they do. Thrash metal really isn’t my thing (cue flummoxation from anyone reading this who is all, There are supposed to be differences in all this noise?) Also, I blame the Weissbier.

And then… the moment of truth.

Well hey, and was I not close enough to actually make out the people on the stage, this time?

Since my memories of that part of the night are an incoherent mess of pure delight, I will just say that according to my notes, that blew the Glasgow gig out of the water.

On my way home – my carefully planned, short as humanly possible, way home – disaster struck, because of course it did. You have to pay karma somehow, I suppose. Or, look where you’re going.

There were people crossing this large and empty road, so I decided it was safe to cross it too; while checking wildly that nothing was coming in either direction, because I was half deaf from the gig. All I saw was a lassie in immense stilettos running across the road in the other direction, extremely awkwardly. I assumed this was due to the stilettos. I did not realise it was due to the fact that this tram line (unlike every other tram line I had crossed in Budapest, and there have been a few), had these little flanges of tile sticking up on either side of the rails. The predictable happened, and I suddenly found myself smacked in the face by the tarmac. Wow, so much less awkward than the way she crossed the road, not.

I laughed loudly, because some other people had seen me go over, lurched to my feet and sprinted away in case something finished the job by driving over me. I staggered the remaining hundred feet or so to the hotel, ordered a drink at the bar as nonchalantly as I could, and took it up to my room. I discovered in the lift mirror that I was covered in blood and had scuff marks all down me like I’d been pawed by an allosaurus. Yeah, classy. No wonder the barman was trying not to piss himself laughing.

On the other hand, if I’d had the wig on, I’d probably have had to abandon it in the street, so there is that.

Still worth it, however.

Abandoning the new life for Budapest – part two

The hotel had a swimming pool. Budapest, too, is famous for all sorts of swimming pools and spas and all sorts of historical relaxing water-themed havens. I have fallen afoul of such places in the past, but I was determined to put that behind me, and had accordingly packed a bikini. Simple. Black. Possibly never before worn, but I had tried the bottoms on over me pants while packing and decided it would do.

Turned out, I own two simple black bikinis. I had brought the bottom half of both! I had brought the top half of neither!

So the hotel pool was out. Seriously, my lovely friends back home, due to the power of the internet, suggested I go in a bra and fake it, but there is a slight problem in that I have a) dropped a dress size since becoming single and b) not had the budget for a new wardrobe, so various things are in various degrees of peril of falling off as is, let alone in a situation where they’re the only thing I’m wearing.

Okay, there are nudist sessions though! Said encouraging, lovely people.

Yeah. Let us now recap all the other times I tried that.

Exhibit A: Prague. (I think it was Prague?) I had a polka dot bikini. I was 19. I was inter-railing. You could go topless, but there was no damn way I was. Though I think it might have been the first time I’d ever worn a two-piece, so I was feeling pretty damn self-conscious about my stomach anyway.

The damn bikini top somehow undid itself and I didn’t notice until my boyfriend, whose inter-railing I had paid for, screamed in horror and subsequently sulked the rest of the day on account of, I must have done it on purpose, for Attention. Traumatised for LIFE. (Me, that is; I don’t care about him). (Wait, he was the one who did the knot, if memory… ah screw it).

Exhibit B: Gothenberg. I was in my early thirties. I was more confident (I keep telling people I am way more confident now, nobody ever believes me). I was not wearing anything at all, as per the instructions the guidebook, flyers and several different websites had all screamed at me, because it was a traditional Alhambra-style spa on the end of a pier and No Clothing Was Allowed. They made it very clear if you tried it there would be a Scene and you would be forced to leave.

I dutifully got out of all my clothes and started trying to sneak unobtrusively right across the centre of a big, empty space to the showers. Everybody gasped in horror. I tried to be less British about it and unclench my shoulder-blades from being wrapped around my ears. Everybody gasped louder. I checked if I had forgotten to remove a sock or something. Nope, all good. The hell?

Then I realised that, while everybody else was also not wearing anything, they were all, without exception, wearing a gigantic towel from armpits to ankles (and a full face of make-up, bugger, got that one wrong as well). And they were all looking at me like I’d just squatted for a poo in the middle of the floor, while giving them the middle finger. Oh my God, a Scene, my greatest nemesis. Since I was travelling with hand luggage only, I did not have any sort of towel at all, let alone one that would suffice. I got dressed and ran away.

Exhibit C: Berlin. A hostel. Mid thirties. I went down to the showers early in the morning and found them to be reassuringly familiar looking, like the showers you see in a swimming pool, for instance. Then I realised this was because there were no curtains. So, you what, you shower naked in front of everyone? This is not going to be like sodding Gothenberg again, right?

I was only in Berlin for two days, I had not brought a swimsuit. But nobody else was about, so I had no idea what was expected here. I threw my clothes on a shelf and went to the last shower of the row, thinking at least everyone half my age would not want to be walking past me. Besides, if I showered really quick nobody would-

The door opened and everybody walked in. Everybody in the whole world, or at least all the women. They were indeed all half my age. They all showered with their T-shirts on. I had to walk, starkers, past every single one of them to get back to my clothes.

After mentally reviewing all that, I decided there was no way I was going anywhere near a spa. Well, anywhere inside a spa. There was a spa by the zoo, for instance, and not only right behind the Square of Heroes but right across from a castle, and an ice rink, I mean, everything in one place! and I had been planning to go to all of the above in turn (except the ice rink because I have never skated in my life), but not without sufficient protective equipment.

So I went to the zoo instead. This was great. There were free range iguanas, there were wolverines gallumphing about (I have been to many zoos which claim to have wolverines, but for all I know they got out immediately and the evidence is being concealed. This is the first time I have actually seen some. Plus, now I know they gallumph!) There were also two polar bears kissing with tongues. That was… weird. I thought only humans did that. They weren’t very good at it, or maybe they were by polar bear standards, who knows, but that was definitely an eye opener. There was also a tiger eating breakfast and a brown bear playing with a tyre, most of which were also things you never see, so yeah, hit the zoo the minute it opens, people. Actually, don’t, I’ll never get a look in.

I have now discovered that, like that apocrypha about rats in London, in Budapest you are never more than a stone’s throw from a gluhwein seller. Should you be in a wide open area, with no shops that could possibly sell gluhwein, not to worry, an enterprising grandmother with a kettle will have set up on the pavement for all your gluhwein needs.

I can also say about the place (digs out notes):

Do not dither about within two feet of the kerb, cars will stop for you and you will be forced to cross the road out of politeness. You may end up streets out of your way.

If you fall over, you will end up in either a seat or a bin. They are everywhere.

The public transport system is entirely idiot-proof. I am that proof. There is also a metro train once a minute.

I went back for another cruise on the river in the evening, because I fancied doing it in the dark as well, why not, and that’s one of the joys of holidaying on your own, there is nobody to be all, sake we did that already. This cruise was harder to locate than the other one, and all I can say is, all hail the bolshy Asian tourists who, once we had assembled by dribs and drabs at the the right dock, not only harangued the staff until they found out where the location had been changed to, but then told the whole crowd and led us to the right place. In English, no less.

Imagine if they hadn’t. I’d have been freezing my fingers off for an hour, watching the sun set over the Danube, the sky turn lilac and night steal over the city, for nothing.

(That was supposed to be a joke. Damn, out of, The city, by day, in sunlight, and, The city, by night, with the stars out, I pick the latter though).

According to my notes, the metro at night smells of hot, sugary donuts, which is unbearable when you’re starving.

And in conclusion, I did go on some water after all, and this time the gluhwein was free, and none of my clothes fell off and it was great.

Building the new life part three – abandoning the new life and sodding off to Budapest (temporarily)

It has now been just over five months since I moved into Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach. Before anyone wonders if the place is finished: no. It isn’t. Not remotely.

However, by February I was fortunate enough to have all the ceilings plastered and painted, a literal half-ton of flooring delivered, the bedrooms all stripped and the walls fixed and painted up, and even carpets in some of upstairs. Bathroom door’s still hanging on one hinge, but my mate had come over and helped me transform the kitchen from a dingy square room that, for some reason, had neither cupboard space nor room for actual appliances, to a slightly larger, dusty-ridden square which, um, ditto.

(Originally, the lack of space was largely due to some sort of what we think was supposed to be a pantry. It took up half of one wall, the back half of it couldn’t even be reached, since it was six feet by one, the sliding door only went three feet, you had to reach in at an angle, and it had a solitary shelf at the top that… yeah. I have no idea who designed that. And yet, presumably, every single one of these houses had one!) She had a plan for the electrics, drawn on the wall like some sort of charming modern cave-painting, and had plasterboarded some of the other walls. I was extremely grateful.

Not that that stopped me fecking off to Budapest for five days. I had realised back in the autumn that the winter in this place was going to be one long grind, and I would probably need something to look forward to. In fact, the “building a new life” part of that title is woefully misleading. After a miserable month in October when just none of the feelers I put out to find extra cash came up trumps, November finally let loose with both all the overtime I could handle at work, and a home audio-typing gig which, while paying somewhat less than minimum wage, was better than a poke in the eye, and at least didn’t have any overheads. My life from that point on had been a) work, b) some more work, c) a slightly different sort of work, d) packing, e) unpacking and f) DIY. Never let it be said that I’m a joyless cow, what.

Plus, I had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for months, because the bed frame has only so many turns of the screws left in it, and with the plasterers chasing me and my heap of possessions from room to room every couple of days, it seemed folly to waste them. Budapest, by comparison, had a hotel room. With a bed. With a shower! And also (this is the major draw) Gloryhammer were playing. I know there is a considerable risk in trying to recreate the most amazing gig of your life, and it’s never what the first time was, and expectations are notorious for killing what would otherwise be perfectly lovely experiences, but screw it.

There was even wi-fi in the hotel I had chosen for its proximity to the venue (no trying to flag down a cab in a foreign language in a city I don’t know on a Friday night, I’m walking) so I could spend some time on holiday at work! Wooooo! Business travel! Or, you know, something.

So, first things first, I was all, I have not been to Budapest in over twenty years! I wonder if you can still go in that cave? I wonder if those big, crablike, armoured spiders are still all over Charles Bridge?

That was Prague. Budapest is the one where I discovered I had come down with mumps.

It was a slight consolation that all my colleagues got them mixed up too. I even had to explain that Bucharest is an entirely different city, with nothing to do with either of them. Mind you, and I love all my colleagues dearly, I have been told I am regarded as being a tad Exotic in the office, on account of having lived in both Glasgow and Aberdeenshire.

It is worth saying that they all, also, thought I was absolutely off my rocker to be going on holiday abroad alone. As did all my relatives. I was a bit surprised, it being 2020 and all that, and Budapest is not, say, [name of place expunged so as not to cause offence] but I ended up faithfully promising that I would really, really try and scare up at least one friend to accompany me. Gloryhammer narrowed that down somewhat, admittedly. To one friend, who actually really, really would have, but her finances are actually more dire than mine right now. (I’ll PAY for you! I said, recklessly ignoring fiscal reality. AND your hubby! It’s GLORYHAMMER!

Mercifully, she declined.)

Budapest is apparently a haven of pickpockets in the touristy areas, so I was repeatedly informed. It’s off season! I said, though admittedly I was unsure whether this meant they had all closed up shop or if I would have a whole horde of them to myself; possibly wandering gormlessly down the street, camera in hand, gawking about, while fifty or so would-be thieves jockeyed for position.

(Nothing like that happened. The closest it came was when my city pass fell out of my pocket onto the floor as I was getting up to go for a smoke, and someone pointed it out to the waiter, and the waiter came sprinting out to the terrace and gave it back to me).

So I had five days in Budapest, if you count the ones spent mostly travelling, and was worried this would not be anywhere near enough time, honestly, since the list of “things I wanted to see” had overrun onto the second side of a page of A4. Also, while it had been freezing rain, sleet, and ice in Central Scotland, making the short days even shorter, for approximately, ooh, forever, from the moment I arrived in the continental weather system, it was bright, straw-pale sunlight and bright, biting winds as far as the (watering) eye could see.

I had brought thermals. I always do.

I also, to my great sense of personal accomplishment, managed to get the city pass in the first place (and miserably failed to tan the crap out of it, thereby getting my money’s worth, but it did provide the peace of mind of all public transport being pre-paid, and you can’t have everything), and then navigate public transport all the way to nearly-the-hotel. Even though this involved quite a series of busses and underground trains, some of which were off. Since the bags were much more annoying than I had anticipated, I was glad I hadn’t stuck to my original plan of just walking half way there.

I can’t really remember the last time I was properly Abroad, let alone Abroad Alone. Ten years? As usual, the first thing that struck me was how many of the signs and billboards were in English. The second thing that struck me was how much of the graffiti was in English. The third thing that struck me was how this is always the first, and second, thing that strikes me about being Abroad, but hell, there’s not much else to look at on the bus from the airport.

The hotel has a bed. The hotel has a hot shower. The hotel has a buffet breakfast that features almost everything you could conceive as breakfast, and a few that nobody but me would (salad, olives, pickles) and yes, my colleagues, who I love dearly, are also horrified by my habit of eating quiche or, god forbid, pot noodles for breakfast. I shall be single the rest of my life. It shall be awesome.

The hotel also has a pleasing selection of goth/electronica crossover playing in the lift. I have no idea why.

The first morning, I got up early, took advantage of the city pass and went a wander into town. Now, I was lucky to not be on so much of a budget as I have been in the past (being way too old for hostels, a fact I discovered, erm, ten years ago, in fact), so knowing that I could do almost anything I wanted and not have to regret it until I actually got home was very freeing. I went on the funicular up to the castle, for instance, though I could have walked it instead. (Free with city pass on weekends only, it turned out). I wandered around the castle, I wandered along the river, I wandered around the Fisherman’s Bastion, (which is amazingly pretty, think Rivendell if a bunch of Middle Earth dwarves had seen Rivendell and said, You know, lads, we can do twee better than that. I spent literally five whole minutes unable to get leave down a flight of white stone stairs, as wide as a bus is long, for all the people taking selfies on them.)

Having finally escaped down the stairs, I discovered there was an actual nuclear bunker, with an actual hospital in (called the Hospital in the Rock, appropriately enough) only five minutes back the way I had come. Sigh. Sorry, fellow tourists, coming through.

I had just missed a tour, but it was also late enough in the morning that I could go have a mulled wine to take the chill off, in an adorable little family-run cafe. I practiced saying, Thank you, and so forth in Polish. It is not pronounced anything like the phrase book claims.

The Hospital in the Rock is awesome. If a tad alarmingly NOT underground by very much at all, I mean, there wasn’t even a lift we had to go down. I could pretty much turf over my roof and have the same amount of effect. Lots and lots of history, though, and they had scads of the original stuff left there, and lots of mocked up history, and a big display on nuclear war at the end that was really a bit traumatic (as it should be, frankly). My one regret was not buying a gas mask, as they were cheap and totally worth it. (What would I use it for though? I said, Coronavirus being a blissful month off in the future.)

Let’s see my notes from it at the time.

Me: “Things have been a bit stressful recently. I will go see my favourite band in Budapest! But FIRST, I will take a few days and go to things like this nuclear bunker, because I am sick of blowing my nose black on account of living in a building site that hasn’t been renovated since being built in the early sixties!”

Nuclear bunker tour guide: “This nuclear bunker was completed in the early sixties. Also, be aware of your health! It is full of dust since it is being renovated!”

Plus ca change.

Yeah, I still agree with that sentiment.

I wandered into the centre of town, found a Ruin Bar (I had heard fantastic, amazing things about Ruin Bars), found it did not take cards, found a cash machine, went through at least three apps trying to load up me Monzo card so I could withdraw cash, finally went for a drink in said Ruin Bar and discovered it was very much like, say, The Thirteenth Note in Glasgow. Which is a perfectly good place to drink, I’ve been doing it off and on for years, and seen a lot of awesome gigs there, but, yeah.

Well, it was a thing off the list. While in there, I took advantage of finally being abroad with some sort of smart phone worthy of the name, booked a ticket on a “cruise of the river with a Free Mulled Wine”, finished my drink and sauntered over to the docks.

There was not especially any free mulled wine, but the drinks were a whole quid each, so I could not complain. Also, it was a bit of a sit down, which was nice. I do appear to be approximately the only person in the entire city holidaying on my own, I did notice, but I chalked that up to the sort of paranoia people who aren’t yet entirely comfortable in their own skin feel about that sort of thing.

And after that, I wandered the other way along the docks until I found a metro station, and went back to the hotel for dinner, drinks and some work. And bed! In an actual bed! LIVING THE DREAM!

Building the new life part two – Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach

So, having slung my hook from an eight year relationship, not to mention Beaky Hoose, (on which I had lavished much love and care, but not one nail or skelf of which actually belonged to me), I needed somewhere to live. Accordingly, I sat myself down with S1homes and a ballpark figure of what I might afford, and steeled myself to see where that might end up being. Like a lot of people, I was hoping for this total awesome pad; also like a lot of people, I had a budget that was nowhere near sufficient for one. Still, there were a couple of places. One in the wilds of Dumfries and Galloway, for instance, which required a lot of work, was nowhere near anywhere to work, and would have been unworkable without a car (not in budget). Another was in the wilds of the Highlands (ditto).

Or, there was this one place. It had just come on the market that very morning. It was walking distance from my work. It had a garden. It was (just) in my budget. I went to see it. It had had one careful old lady owner since the year dot, and so needed a lot of love, but oh, the feeling inside was really welcoming. And the space. And the potential. It was… perfect?

Well, you never get that one, though, do you. You certainly never get the first one. You certainly never, ever

Well, bloody hell, that’s a new one.

And so, a lot of nerve-wracking paperwork later, Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach became mine. Well, it mostly became the mortgage company’s, but you know, technically. Twelve days before Christmas, too.

I should probably also say that Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach isn’t it’s real name, before I waste the time of anyone Googling it to try and come rob the place. It doesn’t have a real name, and why would it? It’s got a number and a street, as befits an ex-council semi in an ex-council scheme, in a town that’s at least 50% ex-council schemes, and at least three of my colleagues have at some point lived in a house so completely identical that one of them asked if mine “still has that weird glass wall at the top of the stairs?” (yes). (It also has not been touched, interiorly, for even longer than I have been alive, but more on that later.)

The point is, giving a house like this a name, especially an overly long, Gaelic name, is just so pointless, naff and pretentious that the only way I could possibly get away with it is claiming it’s “ironic”, and in all fairness it absolutely is in no way ironic. It translates (badly) to Castle of the Moonbat, because it is my home and therefore my castle, and I am that moonbat, and if you can’t do stupid things just because all the things you love doing are (alas) stupid things when you’re middle aged and single, and finally, finally there is nobody here to give you grief about how stupid they are, when the hell can you start doing them? An asteroid might land on my head tomorrow.

I’m not putting a sign up for the postie, I do have some standards. I might, however, make a cross-stitch for the hall.

On which note, the doing up of Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach.

As I say, when the G Monster and I split up, I was unfortunate in that not one bit of Beaky Hoose, (though I had named that one as well, for the pretentious, squinty portico over the front door) was mine. I was fortunate, however, in that at least the gaff was pretty massive. (“Oh look,” I had said to the G Monster before he bought it. “It’s got a granny flat out back! Someone might need that to live in!”) Didn’t think it would be me, did I. Ba dum tish. Still, at least the bedroom had actually been done up (by me, come to think of it, again, about a week before we split up). The rest hadn’t, and still had even the original nails sticking out of the original floor from when we first moved in, and the original tiles hanging half-smashed off the original what-used-to-be-the-kitchen.

Two months in there proved to be good practice for Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach, however, because that lacked even more of the sort of features I’m used to. Hey, there’s a reason it was within my budget! And I spent the first year at Beaky Hoose in the granny flat too, while we were doing the rest of the place up (time is cyclical, I guess), not to mention that year I will quickly gloss over in an unplumbed cabin in France with dodgy electrics. If anyone was prepared for this, it was me!

Needless to say, I was so not prepared for this.

Trouble started making itself known almost the instant I stepped onto the property with a mate and a van. I went to take the meter reading; me mate went to check the water. The gas meter was in the outside box that needs one of those little triangular keys, and while I had obtained one, the whole box turned out to have been tied shut and the keyhole filled with glue, for some unfathomable reason, and once we had wrangled it all apart this stench of gas immediately wafted out and lo, the reason wasn’t so unfathomable after all. You cheap, dangerous bastards, whoever you were. Emergency call to the emergency gas line, here we go. Heating off, here we also go.

During my two minute call to the emergency gas line, my mate discovered how to get the water on, prompting an impressive jet of water right across the kitchen behind her, flooding the place nicely while I shouted at her to, No, turn it off, whereupon the gas-guy-on-the-phone shouted at me that I had assured him I had already turned it off and what was I playing at, my other mate walked into the kitchen with her hubby and dog and informed me, not unreasonably, that that “Oh, Christ” wasn’t the welcome she had expected after coming all this way to help, and I informed Mr Gas-guy-on-the-phone that although I had said two seconds ago there wasn’t a dog on the property, there was now, and no, for the love of God, don’t shut him in the back garden, there’s a hole in the gate big enough for a St Bernard to get through and he’ll be away and run over and oh my God, was buying this place a colossal mistake and is this why you never, ever get the first one you see? Because it’s cursed?

After that, it rained the whole time I was loading the van with only what I needed to survive, but at least nothing else went catastrophically wrong. My wee brother turned up just in time for all the work to be over and announced he was buying me a chip supper from the roving chip supper van, which is a novelty I have never encountered before (the van, not my wee brother buying me a… wait, he didn’t have any cash and I ended up buying him a, well anyway). He did take me to ASDA for pot noodles, since there is no cooker or anything in the place, (or even a ring main, as we eventually discovered), and I got fan heaters as well. And then everyone went home, and I was left in my home, sans bed, heat, hot water, telly, the works, to ponder whether or not this had been such a great idea after all.

Funny thing about the fan heaters, I noticed the plugs really heating up, too, after about an hour of use, and indeed, an ex who is a plasterer came to give me a quote on the ceilings (which we both agreed looked like Spider Pig had artexed them) and said they are notorious for starting fires when left unattended. In winter, woo! So I had the fabulous choice of whether I wanted to burn the place down in the night, or let the pipes freeze and drown it all.

Still. Five days later, and right on the verge of the very cold snap, I eventually got the heat and hot water back on. Seven days later, I eventually had the internet, and ten days later, on the very verge of Christmas, the washing machine finally turned up, saving me from the ignominity of having to attend work in a series of increasingly ornate ballgowns. Of course they didn’t plumb it in, as paid for, and got shirty with me over it, so a hero(ine) from Fife very kindly drove all the way down with a fridge and freezer someone was throwing out in Dundee and plumbed the bugger in, and all hail to her.

Christmas day was me, on my tod, with a selection of cheeses, a Christmas tree in the lounge (and nothing else) and a bunch of home audio typing work, while the washing machine washed everything I could lay my hands on. By comparison to everything in the previous two weeks, it was HEAVEN.

I am not even kidding about the Christmas tree being the only thing in the lounge, though you can also see my chair.
This, however, is going to take longer to sort out.

Building the new life part one – the glorious and the not-so glorious

My god, it has really been seven months? Whoa.

Well, everyone knows what’s been happening to the world recently, and is probably sick of hearing about it, so I’m going to go a bit further back here and ramble on about some stuff that at least has nothing to do with that (at first).

So as per the last time I was on here, when mammoths still roamed the earth, me and the G Monster split up and I had to sling my hook. But before I could sort myself out, I had to attend a family wedding (my father’s no less, and at the ripe old age of [redacted] but it’s never too late, right?) At the other end of the country, and at considerable expense, and on my own. Which is always fun, right?

Granted, this was made slightly better by the fact that I would have been attending on my own anyway, because the G Monster had family coming over from Stateside, and this had been planned even before the wedding had been. Unfortunately, this all fell through at the last minute because of a tragedy (that, happily, seems to have worked out alright in the end), but he still told me, about a week before the split, that he wouldn’t be able to attend with me anyway, and so, yeah, let’s gloss over that whole thing, eh. It’s ancient history now, or it would be if half my stuff wasn’t still at his place due to unforseen circumstances, but more on that later.

Anyway, I felt like a right chump, and also I felt compelled to lie through my teeth about why I was attending on my own, because I wasn’t about to lead with that to a bunch of relatives I haven’t even seen for years, all of whom were, not unreasonably, expecting to make merry, and besides, it wasn’t like the day was about me, anyway. But my god, did it ever feel like I was walking around with this terrible, dark secret, which was even more irritating. And I had to keep my trap shut, which frankly I find really hard at the best of times.

In the end, I spent the afternoon before the wedding learning to tie balloons with some of my folks. And hundreds of balloons were tied indeed for the balloon arch, and we set up all sorts of other decorations and that was all really nice. The wedding itself was lovely, the bride was lovely, my wee brother’s enormous beard is growing back, everyone else in the whole world was in couples because that’s, like, a law of the universe or something, but as per my requirements for a “successful” social gathering, I got in, I got out, I didn’t cry in the loos or indeed anywhere else, I didn’t insult anyone, I didn’t spill anything on anyone, the trap remained shut, and none of my clothes fell off and caused a scandal.

(I am not great at social gatherings, can you tell?)

Plus, my cousin got up early to see me off at the station, which was really sweet, and I actually managed to get a seat on all the trains all the way up and down the country, which was over 18 hours of trains in total, and believe me, they were standing in the aisle like a bunch of sardines at attention (which seems very strange, with hindsight) and there was no way for anyone to get to the loo for hours on end.

However. I had also, and I had been looking forward to this opportunity for literally years, scored a ticket to go see Gloryhammer. This is all my best mate’s husband’s fault for coming over sometime back in the day and being all, You MUST listen to this, but he was right, by eck, and I have been listening to it ever since. For those who don’t know Gloryhammer, which is probably almost everyone, since they’re a bit niche. I mean, power metal seems to have fallen out of fashion anyway for some unfathomable reason, but on top of that, every single Gloryhammer album is a concept album, and that concept is the ongoing battle between the Evil Wizard Zargothrax (keyboards) and the brave prince Angus McFife (vocals). Plus assorted other good/ ambivalent/ evil/ dead/ hologram characters (bass, drums, guitar, guitar again, guitar again, and the drummer’s apparently come down as definitely one of the good guys in album three, despite first use of nuclear weapons, oh look, it’s complicated). They have fought in the past, they have fought in the future, and in the third album they’re fighting in an evil parallel dimension. (Since I couldn’t see anywhere else they could possibly fight, and therefore no fourth album – though apparently there is going to be one – I was well worried this might be The Last Tour. Ticket essential.)

Anyway, this is either your thing, or it is not. It is so very my thing. This gig was, well, not exactly my light at the end of the tunnel, but it was a radiant star on an otherwise overcast night. The (paper! souvenir-worthy!) ticket had arrived months earlier, and I had carefully put it in the drawer of Really Important Things, like my passport, and my last will and testament, and, er, that’s all that’s in that drawer actually. Except for the ticket.

Which wasn’t there when I went back to the drawer two days before the gig, was it.

The gig was sold out, wasn’t it.

So I spent a night turning over the entire room, spent the next night turning over the rest of the house, and then schlepped all the way into Glasgow of the morning, where the ticket office were very, very, very nice, took note of my proof of purchase and printed me off another one. Okay, I am now converted to e-tickets for life, or at least until something horrible goes wrong with this as well.

Thank god the G Monster has no interest in Gloryhammer, however, or what a gig that would have been. Circumstances were against me anyway, it must be said. Yes, I went on my own (to the horror of all my colleagues, to whom I was forced to explain that I have been to gigs on my own in foreign countries before now, because there is no length I will not go to if I’m obsessed enough, and I am pretty much obsessed enough with something at any given moment. Although, in every single instance of this, within a week of my return, the band in question announced a tour date in my actual city. So that would have saved a fortune. Also, yes, I am personally destroying the world.)

So, yes. I had also never even heard of this venue, had no idea where I was going and had to just navigate by following everyone with long hair and, for some reason, kilts. (Did I mention Dundee features prominently in all these albums? Also it’s apparently in Fife? Also the Evil Wizard Zargothrax (keyboards and lyrics) is apparently from Perthshire and knows fine where Dundee really is, i.e. for everyone not from Scotland, in Angus. Which is smack next to Perthshire).

And yes, I am currently sporting an absolutely horrendous mum-cut that I am majorly self-conscious about, even when everyone else isn’t looking like I used to, and yes the damn lot went curly, which was a) unexpected, since it was lampshade-fringe straight and thin the last time it was this length (aged 10, after a botched do by a professional) and b) put a royal crimp in my plans to dye it all an outrageous colour and look like a middle-aged version of P!nk. (Looking like a middle-aged, female version of Pennywise is… not something I want to even countenance, thank you).

So I hid at the back, with a lot of wine, and tried to think invisible thoughts. See social gatherings, above.

It was still the most epic thing I have ever seen, apart from an erupting volcano that time. In fact, the only way I could imagine either of these two things being better was if Gloryhammer played in front of an erupting volcano, but I can kinda see the logistical problems with that one so I’ll let it go. Windrose were amazing. Beast in Black were amazing. Gloryhammer were so absolutely amazing that within a month, I had bought a ticket to go see them again. On my own. In Budapest. At a time when I absolutely positively cannot afford to take my eyes off the prize and have any fun whatsoever. But that’s another tale.

And yes, buoyed by elation afterwards, I sprinted back to the station, leapt on the wrong train and nearly ended up in East Kilbride, and even more nearly never got home at all, but that’s unfortunately par for the course when you’re a bit of a chump. If they ever find a cure for that, please, someone let me know.

Summer is over.

Summer is over.

And so much for my plans to blog more often! Anyway, a brief rundown:

I got the new job! It has more hours! It is closer! The people are lovely! I kept the old job on for a bit to give me extra cash!

It was harvest season! I picked a monumental amount of fruit, and turned it all into a barely-feasible amount of wine that scares me every time I look at it.

The car died! The laptop died! (Seriously, I was out the room for under ten minutes, and came back to a dead brick).

…My relationship died!

Yeah, bummer. I won’t put much about it because privacy of all concerned etc, but it turns out me and the G Monster wanted very different things, so after eight years together we have decided to try for an amicable split. I will miss him, he says he will miss me, etc. Unfortunately, (from my point of view) this means I will be looking for somewhere else to live. I might have found somewhere, though, just waiting to see what happens next. It’s all in the laps of the gods and/or solicitors. Unfortunately (from his point of view) he now has a massive garden needing maintenance. Well it’s never an even break, is it. From here on in I’ll be (touchwood!) working all the hours I can, probably for rather crappy wages, but they do add up, and if I can keep the heid, as they say in Scotland, and more specifically keep the heid down and the nose to the grindstone, I might come out okay.

That might have all been quite depressing, for anyone who cared, so I will say, a) here is some art I done recently!

and b) I am now old, and never was terribly attractive, so hopefully nobody is jumping up and down with delight at the thought that I am back on the market. c) because I am not, dear lord, no. There’s gonna be a whole lotta work before I am back on an even keel, and a whole lotta belt-tightening to go with it. I might dip a toe in the dating pool around, ooh, 2022, and even then that will be dependent on a lotta things!

So, as Hallowe’en draws near, the days (in the northern hemisphere) grow shorter and the leaves drip from the trees like slow, rosy-coloured tears, all the very best to everyone reading this, and may a brighter day dawn for all.

Holiday! Part nine – the Voyage Home. In which a Star Trek reference achievement is unlocked.

‘Part nine’, my hypothetical reader might be thinking, what happened to ‘part eight’? Not a lot – it was absolutely weeing it down that day but we had decided to spend it in Kirkwall anyway, as luck would have it, doing a tour of the gin distillery and Looking at Stuff. Not being used to gin, I was, um, ‘warmed’ by all the tasters, plus the free gin at the end, but the rain continued unabated and it didn’t stop me getting soaked as soon as I stepped outside. We looked at the shopping street, we looked at the cathedral, we looked at the ruins of the Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces, but it was too damn wet to even get the cameras out for any of it so we looked at each other and went to look for a pub.

The St Ola’s Hotel on the waterfront has quite a nice one, which you might or might not expect from the outside. (Expectations might include: sawdust on floor, knife fight already in progress, accidental interruption of illegal, high-stakes poker game, student-y music on jukebox, depending on what you’re used to encountering in similar-looking locations). We ate many things and we drank a few things and we hauled our haul of gins back to the apartment and that was that.

Indeed, that was that, because that was the last day of the holiday, and today we had to get up early, pack, recycle, and so on, and then be flung forth into the archipelago to find something to do for the six hours between kick-out and the ferry. Given that I was woken from a series of ever-more-horrible nightmares by the whistling of the wind (and not a cheerful, ‘sing a merry tune’ type of whistling, either) I had Trepidations about this. However, the south-eastern parts of the archipelago turned out to be pretty calm; sunny, even. Summery, even.

We went to the Fossil and Heritage Museum and Tea Room, two whole seconds ahead of a coach tour, too, but it turned out they weren’t going to the museum bit so we were advised to hide in there and seek breakfast after they’d gone. It had a pretty cracking exhibition on the local Devonian period, if anybody got to the end of that phrase without falling asleep, and a more general exhibition on fossils and geology. Also, I finally learned all about the Churchill Barriers and all those sunken ships you can see here and there and lo, the ships are not the barriers, they are the German fleet after WWI, only the sunken ships you can see were British and sunk to create tide-breaks for the barriers (or, causeways) and… yeah, maybe I like prehistory because there is just less to have to remember. A very great deal less.

On that note, it was off to the Tomb of the Eagles, right down the end of the island. As a bonus, next to the sign for The Tomb of the Eagles was another sign, announcing, Skerries Bistro Bar and Tomb of the Otters (Both Shut Saturdays) which was disappointing because a) Saturday! b) we’d been recommended to have lunch there and c) four hours still to kill.

The Tomb of the Eagles was pretty damn good though. Neolithic tomb of a people who seemed to have eagles as their totem (rather fortunate that they’ve recently been reintroduced after being eradicated a hundred years ago – the eagles, not the Neolithic peeps), and bonus Bronze Age Hut of Unspecified Activity (the most popular theory is: baths). But first, the talks.

They didn’t quite hand around the skulls of prehistoric people, as we had been lead to believe, but they did get waved about for a gander at, and they did hand around a bunch of Neolithic tools, pottery and jewellery that I would not normally be trusted with. As a nice touch, we were assured that the skulls, who have all been given names, used to be up in the house of the farmer, Ronnie, who discovered the archaeological sites, and were considered members of the family.

On our way to the Tomb of the Eagles, we spied a standing stone of quite impressive size, but when we got up close a small plaque said that it was the grave marker of Ronnie, ‘back with his ancestors’. Awww. I was surprisingly moved, which probably means I’m coming down with something just in time to go back to work.

You can ride into the Tomb of the Eagles on a skateboard; popular opinion among the peeps we visited it with was that it was far easier just to crawl. Certainly I managed to get said skateboard wedged in the entrance tunnel not once, but twice and had to be rescued the second time. I also got chased back out by a roaring monster (specifically, the G Monster) but hopefully we will never see any of the witnesses to any of this ever again, right?

The Murray Arms in the wee village at the ferry terminal (finally! A wee village at a ferry terminal!) does a not bad menu and has a cute little beer garden with a cannon in it.

The rain came on as we sat outside, thanking our stars we weren’t sitting in the car eating pea-based ‘crisps’ (is there anything Lidl can’t sell?), but it is Scotland.

And so. The adventure is nearly over, and all without a single whale sighting. Since the whales were in the Kirkwall Harbour the day before yesterday – but not yesterday, when we were in the Kirkwall Harbour – but are back in the Kirkwall Harbour today, when we are not, I conclude that it was not meant to be. Especially since these were a whole bunch of apparently-scared pilot whales and row boats have been drafted in to herd them somewhere safer. I shall therefore claim the moral high ground of ‘not gawking at possibly-terrified intelligent lifeforms in difficulty’, though obviously if they’d been there yesterday I totally would have, and would right now be claiming the moral high ground ot be lying somewhere entirely different i.e. right under wherever I happen to be damn well standing, because that’s how homo sapiens rolls.

Anyway. All there is to do is get this boat of a car onto the ferry – next to, I can’t help noticing, an actual boat, which seems like cheating – and then drive about six hours home.

All of which, so I have just been told, I volunteered for.