Provisions

It’s the first day of our stay and I go to the cupboard and the cupboard is bare. Not even a jar of pickled beetroot. It’s time to visit the shops. It’s a nine mile round trip on bikes, but that’s without taking into account the wind direction. When weather announcers say it’s five degrees but will feel much chillier in the wind, the distance to the shop should be wind adjusted as well. “It’s four and a half miles to the village but in this wind will feel like seven.” Panniers, rucksack, handlebar bag at the ready. Bicycle pump, puncture repair kit. All set.

The roads on Westray are magical. When travelled by car they are flat, inviting and yielding. When travelled by bicycle they become steep, harsh and twisted. It’s as if the landscape knows and toys with you.

Shopping on Westray is a delight. There are three shops and they defy any expectation of what a shop might be like on a remote island. You might have thought “Prehistoric sell-by dates and bread delivery once a week if you’re lucky.” Far from it. There’s the pesto sauce, green olives, balsamic vinegar, yes. Beautiful bread baked fresh on the island, giant shortbreads and there are the local cherry tomatoes and even butternut squash. Fairtrade brown basmati rice. Lovely. Time to stock up on the essentials too: Mackie’s Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper flavour crisps.

After a night on the sheepskin rug after a mouse-induced puncture of the airbed, I could really do with a replacement bed. I trust Ivan at Rendall’s shop. On our first family trip to the island we got friendly with some fellow brave campers. They said that they’d had a wager to see if there was something they could think of which Rendall’s wouldn’t have in stock that you’d expect a seaside resort general store to have. They finally all agreed on ice cream, named rock and suncream. I went there and found all three (although the suncream was “Out the back”). It’s therefore no surprise to me to see a selection of two airbeds, one with integral pump. I strap it to the back of the bike.

I get back to the house with the shopping. On the airbed it says, “This is not a lifesaving device.” It is for me.

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