I’ve mixed feelings about this because I’d got used to, and a bit exhilarated by, our epic walks across the islands to bring things home and get Katy to school. Having said that, when I rode the new quad I realised that it was no comfortable car we’d gone and got, but a bit of a wild thing. So the journeys, though not epic, do demand a strong stomach!
My guts weren’t up to the wait, and the night before the delivery was a bit tense for me on Gometra, alone, knowing that at 6am I had to set out for the walk towards Mull – where I’d need to hope that it would be alright to get it across Ulva Sound on Donald’s ferry. Otherwise I was going to have to sleep next to it until they gave me the go-ahead.
I was waiting there, by the boathouse, at 9am, with instructions to go away for 3 hours until the tide was in. I took delivery on the Mull side, more freaked-out by Derek (delivering it from Oban) saying that it was pretty powerful so I might want a limiter on it (like they use for kids!).
I went away to Salen, the nearest village, clutching only the warranty because I couldn’t locate the owners’ manual. I did nothing there, then drove back. Donald by that time decided to go for it, and we balanced some palettes across the ferry benches, I held the boat in as hard as I could, and he breached the alarming gap between the ferry and the pier with the bouncing, dancing bike.
The pier on the other side was much lower, and I was instructed to shift planks about, as he reversed the quad off the boat, so that the back wheels landed on them. I nodded and hoped for the best. Luckily he had judged it right, because I’m not sure that I’m up to sub-second timber shifting.
By this time I was even more scared of this machine, which was billed as our saviour – the thing that would make our lives possible on Gometra – and I would have handed it back with relief. I couldn’t figure the sentiment behind everyone’s comments to me, which were unanimous : “you’re getting your quad bike, how exciting!” Every other source that I’ve used to try and educate myself: the manual, the internet, talk only about prohibitions (which seem to be just about everything you’d actually want to use a quad bike for) and the risk of death. Not even Honda will go so far as to say “ you’ll like this machine: enjoy it!”
And yet today… 3 days after edgily taking the keys, I am sad to be away from my lively bike. I’ve gone from using an entire tank of fuel and taking 90 minutes to cross the mountainous 8 miles, to using a fraction of that in only 1 hour. I’ve realised, of course, that it really is a bike not a car, and that it likes a challenge. I can understand that, and can certainly oblige.
Sadly, though, I’m here on Mull again, sleeping over in the car, so that tomorrow, when offices are open, I can make all the dreary phone calls that are needed to sort out yet more financial scrapes.
Andy continues to live in a grain bin in Shropshire, for which I expect, if the council got wind of it, he would need to stump up the £140 per month council tax that I’m being told to pay here (with no utilities at all and half a day’s walk and a ferry crossing to the nearest bin).
And yet I have to concede that Katy is benefiting enormously from the Scottish schooling, and her hostel place. I no longer feel any discomfort with her having a key worker, since all that it seems to mean is that she has more people looking out for her and helping her than she’s ever had before.
I look forward to picking Katy up from the ferry each Friday, and I make extra-ordinary efforts to collect and saw up wood from the beaches so that she won’t get cold and won’t find the cottage hateful. The walks to and fro have been really tough, and once she’d started using a bike it was much better. I’ve witnessed her physical and mental strength grow exponentially over the space of a month. I can’t help thinking that it’s a shame to give up on the walking and pedal power.
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