Sunday, 28 October 2012
What did I miss....
....when I first moved to Orkney? was a question posed by "Yorkshire Pudding" in a comment to one of my recent posts. Hmmmm well I have to cast my mind back to 2000 when I first moved to the island. I think, even at the time that the things I *found* in Orkney and on Graemsay certainly balanced and, in some cases, outweighed what I missed. Obviously I missed my friends who had lived nearby. My family have always been scattered around the UK so we were used to keeping in touch by phone and not seeing much of each other. Many thought I was bonkers to move from just south of London to just North of John O'Groats. AND to an island!
But as I have said before, I had longed to move out of the suburban town that I had lived in all my life and really was looking for a challenge at that point in my life. I'll write more in a later post on what brought me to Graemsay.
But for now, back to the question in hand. What did I miss when I moved to Graemsay in Orkney?
Theatre and live performance - I used to go up to London to see a lot of productions, some "fringe", or in the West End. But I knew I would be giving up the frequency that I could do this by moving to Orkney. I'd spent years going to the theatre but I knew that was one thing that would become less frequent. Of course Orkney has lots of festivals, so there is still the opportunity to go to live performances!
Coffee shops and a variety of "world cuisine" restaurants. NOW around Orkney, particularly in Kirkwall and Stromness you can get a decent latte and Cake in a number of places. But in 2000 it was the more traditional cafe providing beans on toast, mugs of tea, toasted sandwiches, burgers and chips. That sort of fare. Nothing wrong with it at all - but I craved a lovely cafe latte and luscious cakes. Now in Stromness at Julia's Bistro I can get both
OOoh which to choose from!
I missed the mix of restaurants where I could meet friends for coffee or a glass of wine, light meal and a chat. At the time it was mostly the hotels and pubs that served main meals. Some were excellent, but it was the more informal places that I longed for. Again Orkney now has a lovely selection. There's a great Italian restaurant in Kirkwall (Lucano's), and a variety of Indian and Chinese restaurants as well as cafes and bistros providing "main meals" and great desserts (ooh a meal out isn't complete without dessert!). Of course not forgetting the wonderful fish & chip van that visits Finstown and Stromness once a week. Best Fish & Chips around!
Other than eating places, whatever I could get "south" was available living in Orkney. True there were additional costs for postage (a sore point for many Orkney residents - we pay EXTRA for things to be posted to Orkney!) or shipping charges. There might be less choice and some things were more expensive. There are no large DIY stores like B&Q, or household shops like Ikea in Orkney. But there ARE a variety of places selling similar things - though no one can beat the price of Ikea ...sigh.... The nearest Ikea shop in Glasgow, several hundred miles and a sea crossing away.
Clothes shopping is obviously more limited in Orkney than in the big towns. But again there are independent shops selling lovely things. Though mostly I shop online these days. Um... I just bought these online having drooled over them when on holiday and visiting Exeter.... not sure I will get to wear them often, but just owning them give me a warm glow ;-)
Someone from Edinburgh said they couldn't live in ORkney as it was too far from a book shop. Pah! We have a great little book-shop in Stromness - Tam's. It's a treasure trove of wonderful books, and Tam will order things in too. Though - hanging head in shame - I'm afraid I get a lot of my books from Amazon these days......
Food shops (local butchers, bakers etc) as well as the usual suspects in terms of supermarkets also stock a range of items so it's possible to cook up whatever you want! Though if the weather is bad and the distribution trucks can't deliver to the supermarkets you might need to be a little inventive when cooking!
Overwhelmingly, the lifestyle change was very positive for me. Yes there were some challenging times in the early years, but I always knew this was where I wanted to be and so it was a case of overcoming any obstacles or getting used to a different way of life. And frankly - look at the picture at the top of this post..... these seals are visible from my window (OK I need binoculars to see them clearly!) or a short walk along the shore..... any time...... considering I used to look out onto other houses or a main road in my home south - this is a VAST improvement and even worth giving up cafe lattes for ;-)