Speigeltent – 22nd June

I thought that a Speigeltent was a drinking place sponsored by a beer company called “Speigel”. That is how cultured I am! A speigeltent is a hand-made pavilion of wood, mirrors and leaded glass, with velvet and brocade ceiling hangings, which were used across Europe as travelling dance halls, bars and entertainment salons.

Well, there certainly was entertainment there last night. The show was a mix of burlesque, music hall and a stag night. It was very very funny and mostly very rude too. They were clear about the over 16 admission rule, which was just as well or they would be reported to the social work department. Great fun and I met a bunch of interesting Orcadians, had conversations about young people and drugs across the Northern and Western Isles and so on and so forth.

Walking back to the hostel at 1.30 am was lovely – while it seems dark in the town, it is not really dark at all.

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Where are my false teeth?

22 June 2007
Boy can I sleep after all this cycling and staying out late! I finally got up and had some breakfast. When I went to wash my teeth there was a set of dentures in a mug in the bathroom. Horrified, I hastily checked the whereabouts of mine and found, to my relief, that there were in my mouth. Phew!

A few minutes later a man who had left the hostel to get the ferry had realised that he had left his teeth and negotiated with the boat to let him come back to get them – he was suitably embarrassed.

I packed my things and stocked up with food for the day (this exercise makes me ravenous!) and headed east for Kirkwall. On the way I joined a ranger’s talk about the Ring of Brodgar, which was fascinating. She talked for an hour and a half as she walked us through the surrounding landscape. Historic Scotland and the RSPB are planting the surrounding area so as to encourage and protect a wide range of wild flowers and birds. Great information and I got a real sense of the place of the Ring in Orkney life and culture.

Speaking of culture, I pedalled on towards Kirkwall to pick up my festival tickets. This festival is a huge success and the long queues and “sold out” notices sit a bit uneasily in this faraway place. Not that it feels faraway as there are so many visitors and I met Val and Diane from Edinburgh. There is a feel of the Edinburgh Festival about it in the way that people dash from event to event. I don’t dash anywhere – largely because so many of the tickets were sold out when I got around to booking, and also because I am too relaxed to dash.

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Solstice walk – 21st June

After a drink in the pub, I went for a walk along the sea away from the town. At 11.30 pm it was still bright enough to have played golf. The seals were enjoying the evening too and hissed at me, which I thought very ill-mannered of them. It was so nice to be out in such a magical place on the longest day – indeed it feels like an everlasting day. It is very cloudy and must be even more amazing when there is a clear sky.

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Skara Brae and the rest – 21st June

No rain today – I cycled to Skara Brae, which I love, and had my lunch on a nearby beach – just me and the family of ducks, who were all very well behaved. I cycled about 20 miles – along lovely empty roads and with such stunning scenery. I came down the road by the Ring of Brodgar between the lochs and that was stunning. I was pretty tired but had a long nap when I got back to base.

As the wind is still in the East, I have realised that I cannot do all the things planned for tomorrow as I am going east to Kirkwall and it takes a bit longer into the wind. The festival starts tomorrow.

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Hostel with private bike shed

I easily found the hostel which I had booked in Stromness and it was nice and clean (and very dry – by now I am tired of being wet). The “bike shed” was like something out of a children’s storybook – a stone building with all sorts of things in it – including a banana. However, the bike was happy but I was anxious about the broken glass on the path down to it. Hm – one essential of a bike residence might be a broken-glass-free path. But, let’s not get stressed.

Had a nice drink or two with some of my “friends” from the train adventures. This is a sociable place and it has now stopped raining.

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Trains, Buses and Bikes (what bike?)

20th June 2007
I set off on the 06:40 train from Edinburgh and all was as well as it could be at that hour until we changed in Perth. The Glasgow train, which we would join, was delayed and we were then delayed a bit more on the way to Inverness. At Perth, a number of us got chatting (to distract oursleves from the cold and the leaking roof) and realised that we were all wanting to connect at Inverness for Thurso.

Much consultation with the train conductor; he contacted Inverness and then announced that the Thurso train would not wait, but that alternative transport would be laid on for us.

OK. We arrived in Inverness to be told that there was a bus for us. I asked about my bike. AH. Forgot to mention that. Various responses emereged: “the bike will go on the bus”; ” the bike cannot go on the bus”; “we will send the bike later”; “but we can’t put it on the ferry so you would be in Orkney and the bike would be on the Scottish mainland”; “will will get a trailer”.

To cut a hilarious story short, a trailer arrived and my bike felt very important – this was no ordinary trailer, but a covered one specially for bikes. By now our small group are good friends but the girl with the chello will be sick on the bus etc etc. It was all very companionable and people were amazingly unstressed about all this delay just for my bike.

We left Inverness station one hour after the train but we caught up wth the train at Brora, about 90 minutes later – this gives a whole new perspective on the term “catching the train”. Brora station hasn’t see that many people get on one train for years!

In Thurso we have 4 hours till the ferry and I went off to drink coffee with the other bike person (but hers is a fold-up one, so no drama). She turns out to the piano turner to the midsummer arts festival in Orkney. A happy few hours spent in the dry café and then on the ferry.

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