Having persuaded my parents to come and visit me I felt it was only fair to introduce them to another island and so on Saturday morning we jetted off on the 15 minute journey to North Ronaldsay, Orkney's most northerly island (human population around 70 according to Wikipedia; permanent home to seaweed eating sheep, temporary home to various migratory birds). Sadly the clouds meant we couldn't see Fair Isle or Shetland from the top of the lighthouse, but I did get my first ever viewing of the Eurovision Song Contest that evening back at the bird observatory. I also managed a lovely swim with about 10 seals on Sunday morning, who curiously followed me up and down the bay for 20 minutes or so.
It's always good to sample true island life though - so as we gathered to wait for our 8 seater plane (the airport staff get a 5 minute warning from Kirkwall when it takes off so they can hurry over from their other jobs) a heavy mist obscured more and more of the view. Engine sounds came and went... and came and went... We all popped out to guess which direction the pilot was trying to approach from, and listened to the ground staff as they radioed with him... and he made one final attempt before conceding to the fog and taking his passengers back to Kirkwall - at which point the skies opened up and we enjoyed a beautiful clear evening! Such are the vagaries of island weather.
Then began a waiting game... New flights were organised - and cancelled by fog. Twice. The various guests leapfrogged each other on waiting lists as we tried to get back to mainland Orkney; and the parents got to experience island medicine as we begged, borrowed or stole some of their more important supplies from the nurse practitioner for the island (one diabetic on her books; and no acute hospital referrals in the last 2 years!) Meanwhile I fitted in another swim in Nouster Bay - just a couple of seals for company, but I managed to sneak in a photo with one of them.
I finally flew out on Tuesday morning bumping my parents off the morning flight onto the afternoon ferry (no mercy - I had to get to our workshop in the Western Isles!) and they made it back to my house that evening to enjoy a quiet few days without me!
Dr Alison Lievesley, GPST, Rural Track Programme