Granddaughter Eleanor refuses to allow me to pay for our fish and chips lunch - after all, she reasons, I have had to pay out on the train fare to Brighton to visit her. I point out that the fare only cost me £4.80
return with my Senior Card and that by travelling on the train I found out quite a lot about life in the Orkneys from a friendly young woman returning briefly from her island life to visit family.
Apparently island life is a different kind of busy from life on the mainland - many islanders hold down several jobs at once in order to survive but almost everyone is also involved in volunteering and community action because
that’s what makes an island tick. It isn’t as cold as you might imagine either as, thanks to the Gulf Stream, there is very little difference in temperatures between winter and summer. This means mild winters and cool summers - but also that it
is necessary to mow the grass all year round. This is the kind of detail I love to hear despite the fact that the chances of me ever setting foot on the Orkney Islands are negligible. With or without a lawn mower.
Eleanor doesn’t live on an island but I am so excited to see her student accommodation. Not because I am nosy (though, of course, I am) but because I always love to imagine my Nearest and Dearest in their surroundings,
whether home or away. Next time my granddaughter messages me to tell me she is studying hard for her next exam I will be able to picture her at her desk, with the large and colourful poster depicting the Muscles in the Human Body pinned carefully on the noticeboard
above it. This is her Work Noticeboard, she tells me, while a slightly larger noticeboard over her bed is her Family Noticeboard, on which a wide selection of photos of friends and family are displayed (yes, I am pleased to spot myself there), along with the
string of bunting I made her when she first went off the university just over a year ago.
We sit at the breakfast bar in the kitchen area of her apartment
(where Eleanor has already set out plates and cutlery in readiness) and chat about anything and everything while we enjoy our fish and chip lunch. If Mr B could hear us he would doubtless nod his head, sagely, and comment that our jaws will not rust. Proving
that she has thought of everything, my granddaughter produces a jar containing a small amount of coffee specially provided by her mother so that I can have my caffeine fix before it is time to leave to get back to the station.
There is no time for a wander along the pier, or for a visit to a museum (Eleanor and I, you may remember, specialise in OMO - Obscure Museums Outings) or some not-very-serious window shopping. This
is because I have had to leave Mr B home alone and so can’t stay out for too long. Strange to say, it didn’t really matter - without the pressure to be somewhere, we could “just be”, enjoying each other’s company. Before we leave,
my granddaughter presents me with a cutting from a grapevine which she had been given by a lovely gent she met at a meeting with stroke patients. She reckons that it will stand more chance of surviving at my hands than at hers. I’m tempted to ask “who’s
the medical student here?” but nevertheless I accept the challenge and clutch the cutting in my hand all the way to the station.
It’s not far
to the station but to get there it is necessary to negotiate lots and lots of steps. Eleanor tells me to let her know if I need to take a rest on our Upwards Journey but, to be honest. I’m so out of breath I rather doubt I can get the words out. Besides
I feel somewhat triumphant when we reach our destination with six minutes to spare before my train is due to leave.
It’s been a Flying Visit, to be sure.
Short - but, like my lovely granddaughter, very, very sweet...