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Monday, 7 July 2008

Sunshine and showers

Thursday 3rd July

The last few days have seen a mixture of sunshine and showers, making it very difficult to know what to wear. If you wear long trousers then your legs are insulated against the cold winds, but if you wear shorts then you don’t have to worry about carrying waterproof trousers. On the other hand though, when you stop, waterproof trousers are a very useful thing to sit on!

Yesterday though I lost count of how many miles I walked. I started off around 10.30 I suppose, aiming to get to the North End in time for lunch. At the viewpoint just south of Jenny’s Cove, at the top of the Earthquake Zone I met another strange couple, the female half of which was wearing a long skirt and sitting on one of those portable seat things, and the male half of which was just standing beside her, not really wanting her to be there, but humouring her anyway. I can tell these things from reading people’s body language you know. I wanted to try and take some pictures of myself at said viewpoint, and so being the cruel person that I am, sat down beside them knowing that would be the quickest way to send them on their way! It worked as within five minutes they were scurrying away, her encumbered by one of the largest day sacks I have seen, and him carrying her seat! Some people really are very strange indeed.

Anyway, I proceeded to take pictures of myself, and very good they were too, and after about 10 minutes walked on to Punchbowl Valley and on to Halfway Wall. There they were again, with her once again sitting on her seat! The sun came out and so off came my hooded jacket which was tied around my waist. No sooner did I do that than the rain clouds appeared and unleashed their watery content on myunsuspecting head. On once again with the hoody and the waterproofs and sheltered for a while at Halfway Wall before the sun came out once again and I trooped down to the Pyramid for a look at the waves.

I could see from the top of the cliffs that the waves were spectacular, as they have been for most of the week with the strong south westerly winds, but when I got to the bottom they looked even better. When I was halfway down the sun came out again, and so it was another half hour sitting on the Pyramid to recover my breath and my composure, followed by a scramble all the way round to the next cove (not sure what it is called) where the views were almost as spectacular there. I must have scrambled all the way round to St Marks Stone looking at the map, where I met you guessed it, the strange couple once again, who were looking at me with a rather bemused expression as I scrambled back up the cliff face following a rather haphazard goat track and surprised them as they sat on a rather large chunk of rock, well he did anyway, she was perched on her chair alongside him (of course). Oh well, each to their own …

Onwards and upwards I trooped anyway, eventually reaching the North End, through a series of small rain showers by around 1.10pm. Then it was down to the Lighthouse for lunch (salmon paste with rice cakes and a small salad washed down by water with a slice of lemon) and then down to the landing stage to look for seals. There was already a couple down there, but I didn’t care, I went down anyway and sat on the bottom steps just above the stage, as the waves were tremendous and I didn’t want the salt water to ruin my camera. I spent a happy half hour photographing a group of three seals, trying unsuccessfully to get all three in the frame (must remember to try the burst mode later today at Brazen Ward) before the rain started to come down once again, this time a lot heavier. Let it never be said that June is not a hardy soul, as on went my waterproofs and I sat tight for another 20 minutes or so bravely photographing the seals, with my camera inside my slightly unzipped waterproof jacket. After a while I got fed up though, and so trooped back to the top, only to get waylaid by a group of razorbills perched on the cliffs halfway up the path. I finally got to the top of the cliffs (all 400 steps, I counted them) thoroughly wet but exhilarated and collapsed in a heap inside John O’Groats house for some more water and my Satsuma’s.

It was then of course that the sun came out again – how annoying. I toyed briefly with the idea of going down again, but couldn’t face the thought of coming back all those steps a second time, and so took pictures of myself by the North End Rock itself, and the top of the steps themselves as they go down. And then I trooped slowly back home in the sunshine and the wind, getting waylaid by various landmarks on the way, such as the ruins of an old field system, ancient burial mounds, goats, birds and so on.

I finally trooped through the door around 5.50 pm footsore and weary and realised that before I could cook I would have to do the washing up. Washing up done it was time to wash my dirty clothes and hang them up to dry, and then I could finally get some food. It is the time of the week when sadly I am beginning to use things up, and so last night it was pasta with roast vegetable sauce followed by tinned fruit salad with angel delight, and a nice hot cup of tea.

A little later on I strolled out again in the sunshine following yet another shower, to watch the sunset and take some pictures of myself silhouetted against the sky in various poses (arms outstretched, prayer position etc) – my feet got soaking wet in the process – shoes were still damp this morning and are drying on top of the fire as I write. Still it gave me an excuse to put off going out in the wind, and to write this, and write this I have. The shoes are now dry, and the house is nice and warm. The seals at Brazen Ward, which will hopefully be out of the wind, are calling, and so I am off to explore. Tomorrow is the last proper day, and oh how I will miss this place. Still, as I always say though, if you don’t leave then you can’t some back, and back I shall be just as soon as I can manage.

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