Sunday, December 02, 2007

Phew! Recovering from the 200-mile, 19-hour Saturday, little local difficulties, and watching the Labour Party implode

Good grief. Saturdays are always fairly full-on in our house, but yesterday was a humdinger. Up at eight to take Martha and James into Lerwick (37 miles) for their orchestral music club (and James's double bass lesson) after a week which had already seen me in the Proud Community of Coalfishreek an unprecedented three times (twice for Martha to perform with the fiddle group New Tradition.
Coffee, scone and croissant at The Peerie Shop Cafe, as usual, then some shopping among the bourgeois delights of Lerwick (Hand-Smoked Fish Co and Blydoit Fish, Scoop Wholefoods) then back to pick up Martha at noon. A swift jaunt to the Co-op where I meet Joe Rocks of Busta House Hotel, who wants me to do a whisky tasting/dinner in January. Happy to agree, then off to get James from his bass lesson. Lunch. We settle on Lerwick's excellent Turkish takeaway, the Turkish Delight, and scarf our various kebabs on the waterfront, next to the stunning new museum (outside dock area pictured), the Guggenheim of the North Sea. That's James and the Giant Doner in the 'phone snap. 'What will we do' asks James, 'when they build the new cinema and music venue here?' Because we're sitting on the site of the proposed edifice called Mareel, pinnacle of ambition for many in the artistic community. It will contain, so they say, a cinema, live music venues, recording studios, offices and much more.
I shrug. The likelihood of Mareel ever coming to fruition in its planned form is receding fast; the local arts agency seems hellbent on destroying its own credibility, and a gutless council is continuing on a spendthrift, crowd-pleasing course which involves keeping open the sadly redundant one-pupil secondary school in Skerries AND building a new high school in Lerwick. Even with the oil revenues, money doesn't grow on trees. And there are very few trees in Shetland.
Martha is playing with New Tradition at the museum, so James and I leave her to it. She will be transported home by neighbours Kenneth and Valerie, whose daughters also play in the group.
So we zip back to Hillswick. James is partying tonight in Mossbank, about 17 miles away, and just before driving him there, I notice that my BBC keys are missing. The Beeb has just introduced stringent new security measures, and these keys not only give me access to the studios in Lerwick and Aberdeen, they have a coding device attached to let me use BBC webmail. I decide they must be at the Lerwick studios (I was there on Friday night) and reluctantly decide to go back to Lerwick to fetch them.
I take the £390 Volvo Torslanda to see if it breaks. The route to Mossbank goes past the giant Sullom Voe oil terminal, biggest in Europe, and source of Shetland's comparitive wealth (great roads, schools, sports centres, swimming pools and so-called Magniejobs that couldn't exist anywhere else on the planet). It's a clear, still, night with that slow swell indicating big trouble out in the Atlantic. We'll get it soon enough. Probably when I'm on the boat south on Wednesday night.
So, back to Lerwick. You use a code to get into the self-operated Studio Seven, which is where I think I've left the keys, but they're not there. Oh well. It's hysteria or acceptance. I go for acceptance. Back home,again, the Volvo lumbering along reassuringly. Rear wheel drive and its consequent tight turning circle, is a delight. It doesn't break.
Home, Martha gets back, tea (Susan, surgery in the morning, on call and studying all day has made Nigella Lawson-designed goujons of sole) and a reflection that this lemon sole is the last we'll ever have from fisherman neighbour Ewen, who has sold his boat and retired. That fish was a result of his final trip. Some work on the novel (hitting 58,000 words), and then it's that uneasy period of dozing until 1.30 am, when I have to leave to pick up James at Mossbank.
Three am, and I'm home, finally, after a slithery nightmare in black ice and frost. Lulu the dog is sick and clamouring to be let out, so I sip camomile tea while she wanders the back garden. It's icy, a clear sky revealing Orion's Belt suspended right over the Hillswick Ness.
Two hundred miles and 19 hours. On the off chance, I check the jacket I had on two days ago. And there are the keys. So I will not be sent to BBC Presenters' Detention Camp. At least, not yet.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party leadership in Scotland is in utter disarray. I may have had a hard day, but not as bad as Wendy Alexander's.And hopefully my week ahead will be better than the one she's facing.

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