It was a lovely walk this morning and then back again in the afternoon. But before I started out, went to the Store, as the locals call it. I needed a small notebook, as I have filled up about five of them on this journey. Rachel, a lady I met yesterday on the road was the salesclerk. She told me that I might find the tide high and may be unable to walk on the beach. I don’t care. I’ve long adjusted to the adage, “it is what it is”, so my activities are not influenced that much by the weather. Unless of course, it’s not getting off the Island.
After seeing Rachel, I made my way to the post office/craft store. The first room had some yarn from the Orkney Islands and lots of little key chains and other bling, and post cards and home made cards with photos of local views.
The post office is run by a fellow from Germany who many years ago fell in love with Papa Westlay when he and his wife were tourists. When they discovered a house for sale online a while later, they came back and purchased it and in a few years they were the post office officials for the Island.
I found another man, who I took a photo of yesterday as he hung up his clothing to dry on a clothesline, again this afternoon, but in person today.
When I walked by a large stone building on the way to the beach, I heard faint music inside and the door was open.
“Oh, hello.” The tall, curly haired man said as he came to the door from the back of the building. He was wearing knee high boots, with corduroy pants tucked inside them, and a jacket.
“I’m a nosey person and saw the door open and just wondered what was happening in here?”
“Yes, you are nosey, and I can tell you’re one of those weird Americans.”
“Yes, I am very weird, and I’ll be sure not to disappoint you. I’m also a former news reporter and very weird for that alone.”
It went like this back and forth for awhile, for I didn’t want to let him get the best of me.
He told me the community hasn’t yet decided what to do with the building, but it has a beautiful view of the ocean and the Holm of Papay, an ancient chambered cairn. That Island is reached only by ferry and is uninhabited.
John Harper is the gentleman’s name and he hails from England. He eventually invited the weird American to his house for ‘tea’.
He was the same guy who I photographed yesterday, and he knew who I was.
“You were taking a photo of me and you wore turquoise yesterday.”
“Wow, just about everyone knows who is on this Island.”
“Yes, with only a few folks, you cannot hide here.”
We walked up the road together to his two story stone home, and in the front yard, I immediately saw an old wooden chair I thought would make a great photo. He laughed.
But inside his home there were small picture cards of famous paintings, and I was able to name two of them, Van Gogh and Manet, so that gave this weird American two points.
He asked if I preferred tea or coffee and I said coffee. “That’s right Americans like coffee and the drink it weak.”
“No, not me. I like my coffee strong, please.”
Turns out he is a flight instructor, commercial pilot and a aerobatics instructor.
We eventually found a meeting place and exchanged pleasantries. He has lived for eleven years on Papa Westlay, and like everyone else, finds it close to paradise.
I asked him about the name Papa, and his remark was that no one really quite agrees, but it is generally thought that it came from a priest who would come to the Island many centuries ago as a missionary. And that makes sense to me.
After coffee and conversation inside the comfortable home, I continued back down the road.
How could one person be so blessed, I thought: I’m sitting on a bench, writing into my new notebook, watching turquoise water break waves on the white sandy beach. Out toward the horizon, I see Holm of Papay, and to my right, under the white and azure clouds, I see the stone buildings I just passed. The seals are barking to each other, and birds fly all around me. I interrupted the daily plans of two rabbits, and both scurried into the tall grass.
On my walk, I spoke to the Shetland horses who now greet me at the fence. I have met cows, horses, rabbits and chickens, so far.