News From the Road - Days Eleven & Twelve

 

Part Seven - Written by Nick Taylor
Coach Owner & Driver

The Orkneys are flatter than we have been used to and we begin the day by visiting the Standing Stones of Brodgar.  These stones predate Stonehenge and mark the beginning of civilisation on the islands.  Next we visit the iconic Scarpa Flow and the charming little Italian Chapel made by the Italian pow's during the Second World War.  The highlight for me was St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.  There was a Norwegian choir rehearsing for a concert that evening and it was a treat to sit and listen for a while.  

Late that evening we board the ferry to Shetland.  We don't have a cabin so choose to sleep in the reclining seat in the cinema.  Surprisingly comfortable and all managed to get some sleep.  This may be due to extreme tiredness and general decrepitude.  North Link Ferries have been very supportive and we are parked at the very front of the ship so we will be first off in the morning.  I know that BBC will be filming our arrival so this is recording a significant moment.  I am driving and John is sitting in the front passenger seat.  The Coach of Smiles arrives back home after 37 years in exile.  I would like to say that there was a huge crowd but there were a few dedicated and enthusiastic followers in the Shetland rain.  I can not thank them and all our followers enough.  While I think about it we have had over 180,000 unique hits on our web site.  Wow I hadn't anticipated this.  Thank you everyone who have posted lovely messages on Facebook.  There are thousands and I will post some replies and comments when I have more time at home.  The web site will remain open for at least a year and I intend to post some news of the coach during the summer.  There are plans to take the coach to Nesting Primary School and I am pleased to have met their Headmistress Kate.  She fully intends to make contact with Stoke Holy Cross Primary School to establish a link between the schools. I am very supportive of this and proud that the coach is the link between them.  

Anyhow back to our progress.  I am interviewed by BBC and Radio Shetland and am asked how I feel.  I have been very emotional during the trip but today I can only feel relief.  I hadn't fully realised the huge emotional responsibility I carried during the journey.  Will the Coach make it?  Will the support team get on and cope with the adventure?  Well, the coach showed no sign of fatigue unlike the crew who were beginning to feel tired and jaded by the time we arrived.  

The rest of the morning was spent collecting two of our wives Kay and Maggie, our sponsors from Vestra Jackie and Steve and two friends Chantal and Peter from Sumburgh Airport. The weekend of festivities begin with a visit to Sumburgh Head to watch the Puffins.  The sceptics are overwhelmed by their antics, beauty and flying ability.  Must be the most endearing of all birds and we can get quite close to them - no need for binoculars.  We follow with an excellent meal at the Sumburgh Hotel.  

On Saturday we call into the Shetland Commercial Vehicle Preservation Society Commercial Vehicle Show but it's raining again so we head for the tea and cake area.  After no let up in the rain and now wind we head into Lerwick for a little shopping.  Kay is convinced that Shetland is always this windy and wet and cannot understand why anyone would want to live here.  This is an interesting observation and is partly answered by the evening's festivities.   There is Scottish Dancing (there is a proper name for this but don't know how to spell it!) in the community centre and most of us are sceptical about the prospect.  It is also a celebration of the return of the coach.  One moment we are the only people present and we persuade the lovely bar lady to open up early.  No sooner than we had our drinks the band arrived, the hall was full of people and dancing had commenced.  What fun this was, all have a valiant go (well almost all, Mike B decides not to partake - shame, boo and hiss).  I particularly enjoy the dance where there are two ladies for each man.  Time flies and the band takes a break.  On comes the entertainment.  Crazy Chris does his turn which is kind of Tommy Cooper meets Charlie Drake.  It is hilarious but probably for the wrong reasons.  He asks for a volunteer and none of our party are surprised when Chantal shamelessly pushes her way to the stage.  This was a mistake as no one can really follow what is happening.  I recall an umbrella but little else. The act climaxes with a board of slightly rusting nails being laid on the floor. A few volunteers are required to walk on Crazy Criss while he lays across it.  This is achieved despite the loud cries of pain and "get off".  I know that I was shamelessly and secretly hoping that this would go wrong.  Chris survives to live another day and gets a rapturous applause and tears of laughter - again possibly for the wrong reason.  Rev Michael and I have to follow this and I cannot help myself by commenting that as a funeral director I was ready and willing to play my part in Chris's act.  Then we were serious as Michael reads out the letter from Bishop Graham to the people of Shetland.  I may put a copy of this on line but it is clear that the people of Shetland are moved by his words.  The letter is graciously received and a strong link is established between Great Britain's most easterly diocese and it's most northerly.  This coach is achieving wonderful things.  A few of you may be wondering when the official hand over of the coach took place and in honesty it was over the entire weekend as the registration document was signed and a brief legal agreement signed at different times.  In my mind it was theirs once more when I drove it off the ferry.

I write this on the ferry to Aberdeen on Sunday evening.  I am reflecting on the huge number of people who have enjoyed seeing the coach over the two weeks and who have followed our journey on line.  The entire team are deeply proud to have produced so many smiles per hour especially during this tragic time in the world.  

I am grateful to the many people who have supported our journey.  One special mention is to Philippa Green our Web Designer who took two weeks off from her work to continually update our Web Site, Facebook & Twitter pages and to answer emails and posts on both Facebook and Twitter.  Thank you one and all.  

Nick