I've been on an unscheduled run.
We had spent a few beautiful days exploring the Shetland mainland, but then the traditional summer fog had descended and hung ominously around the top of the fence posts across the island. As we drove up to the little airstrip at Tingwall, we could see very little except for the curlews standing as sentries on the posts on each side of the road. At the airport, were lots of people keen to get to Fair Isle on the wee plane. Some had been waiting for several days for the fog to lift far enough to let the pilot see the distant end of the runway.
We were taken aside by the woman behind the desk. "Don't think this is going to happen today, some of these folks have been here for ages. You might as well go back into town." We did. About an hour later, we got the call. "Can you get down to Grutness? There'll be a boat in about an hour. You're on the list. Don't tell anyone else."
We followed orders, although it seemed more like a Le Carre plot than a travel plan.
On the pier at Grutness were 10 other people, mostly essential travellers like nurses and light-house-fixers, and us. We all peered off the end of the pier into the fog. Eventually The Good Shepherd IV emerged and a dozen school aged children jumped off and headed for the bus that had miraculously appeared behind us on the pier. Maybe the plot was Sound of Music rather than The Spy who Came in from the Cold.
We replaced the children on the boat and chugged off into the thick mist, rolling our way across the ever-churning patch of water just south of the Shetland mainland. No one could see anything other than the mist and the rolling water surface. Every now and again one of the the crew would, slightly worryingly, wander to the front of the bridge, and stare intently at what passed for a horizon. And after a few minutes shake his head and sit down again. Eventually the head shaking stopped and we could see that we were already close to the entrance to the Fair Isle Harbour.
As he gratefully scrambled down the gangway, one of the light-house-fixers muttered. "Don't care how long it takes. I'm staying here until the planes are going again". When it was our turn to get off one of the crew shouted to us. "Don't go too far, I'll give you a lift. The Obs is still full, you'll be staying with us tonight."
|European Bee Eater - occasional Fair Isle visitor|
And as we reached the croft where we were staying, the fog, right on cue, lifted away. A few minutes later as we set off for our first look at Fair Isle, we were greeted by the not-so-traditional Fair Isle cry of "Have you see the bee-eater yet?".
We weren't the only ones on an unscheduled run.