It is, unbelievably, four weeks since we left Sussex for our new life in Orkney. That's amazing - and Bendigo already really does feel like home.
After many fabulous farewell parties, and despite the fact that we still had not exchanged contracts, we both felt an almost desperate need to get in the car and head north. All our farewells were memorable, from the village party in August which gave us a wonderful Orcadian flag 'run up' by the multi-talented Alison Coote, to the feast hosted by Sam and Janet Mahoney at their restaurant Field & Fork which was cited in an innane interview with Mary Berry in the Times mag last Saturday. Each and every farewell event was wonderful - but it was time for us to go!
Thursday to Monday were spent travelling and catching up with friends and then we shared the ferry across the Pentland Firth with Phil Vickery, an old ally and one of the really affable TV chefs. He was heading to Orkney for a couple of days fishing with some other chums including Graham, the son and now the maker of Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire cheese, and Peter Gott, a stalwart for many years of Borough Market. Orkney really is one of The Places to be for food - and fishing!
We headed from the ferry to Robertsons, the cafe-bar in the Hope (St Margaret's Hope) that became almost our second home for a couple of weeks thanks to excellent ambiance and wi-fi! Morag and her daughter Jenna kept us fed and caffeinated, and continue to be a great source of local information and insight. Our lunch arrived with a ping on our phones announcing that the exchange of contracts in Sussex had at last taken place with completion promised for Friday. Morag received our hugs of excitement with good grace as the nearest to family that we had here on South Ronaldsay! What a relief to know that at the end of our week in a holiday let we would indeed be moving into Bendigo and not turning the car around and heading back to Tangmere!
To all of you who asked if it is possible to buy furniture on Orkney, we can assure you that the answer is Yes! We spent much of our week in the holiday cottage shopping: for a 3-piece suite, dining chairs and occasional tables as well as a spare bed that we hope many of you will enjoy. We also had a memorable evening at The Orkney Food & Drink Amateur Masterchef competition where four competitors each cooked a 3-course meal featuring local produce on stage in the Orkney Theatre, part of the Grammar School and a fantastic facility at the disposal of the community. We'll be back there again this Thursday evening for the final concert in the annual WinterFest folk music workshop. We met the Orkney Fairtrade team at Masterchef and signed up with them, and also the couple who farm water buffalo for meat quite close to us - we've tried their slow-roasted buffalo topside and it is excellent, like gamey beef.
Our solicitors solicited well and we actually completed up here on the same day as we did in Sussex. That meant we had the keys to Bendigo and could unload the car over the weekend but our possessions did not actually arrive at the house until Monday 2nd October - about an hour before our first storm. Phew! Our Sunday lunch the day before moving in was a Lidl (yes, we have a Lidl) pizza and a mug of wine consumed on the stairs as we had no chairs. I'm pleased to say the dining table is now in use again!
We lost one gratin dish that had been a second and one cheap wine glass in the move - not bad! Amanda Loverseed, you will need to come to Orkney to retouch a little bit of the edge of our fabulous dining table that took a slight knock, but otherwise all is good - we think. I say that as we are still awaiting the wooden block for our coat stand (Alan and Jo) and our pecking chickens table....our furniture was just one third of a load so I guess it was inevitable that it would get a bit muddled as it had to be stored for a number of weeks. It all left Sussex about two weeks before us due to promised dates from the estate agent that were not realised, back in those nerve-jangling, pre-exchange days that we have almost forgotten about!
Our daily life (now that all the boxes are emptied and most things are in roughly the right places) usually features a walk along 'our' beach. We are entertained by oystercatchers, a curlew or two, and flocks of what we at first thought were starlings. We have since found them to be ringed plovers, preparing to migrate by picking through the seaweed on the beach to find tasty morsels to build their strength. They are delightful birds and we love seeing them, as well as the occasional heron that wades and fishes at the water's edge. There are always seals further along in the cove and occasionally one comes along to entertain us as we watch from the kitchen balcony.
Bendigo could not be more different from The Old Cottage. We have moved from a house at least 400 years old to one that has been built for just a decade! It has central heating, something completely new to us (although I suppose we did have a warm air heating system in our flat) and we live upstairs and sleep downstairs. It is a generous house for the two of us so there is plenty of room for you too!
We will share more pictures and news with you as the weeks go by, but here are a few images to help you picture where we are. Click on any picture and scroll right or left using the arrows at the side to view the others.
We are so happy.