Captain Calamity

A really snorty north-westerly tonight, the sort that sneaks up on you here in a Shetland summer, and catches you unawares and unprepared. Remember my pallets? The ones I spent a long Saturday ferrying here from Lerwick a few weeks ago, to be turned into windproof fencing? Yes, them. The ones that were still stacked on my drive…

…came home this evening to find them casually flipping off their stacks and blowing across the hardstanding. So I spent an uncomfortable hour in stinging rain getting them stacked again in the lee of a drystone wall, soaked to the skin and cursing the wind. Still, there’s nothing like knowing there’s somebody out there more uncomfortable than yourself to make you feel a little better. Someone daft enough to sit on a 2.5 acre island on the west side of Shetland in a gale. In a tent. Others numb their pain with alcohol – tonight, I have Captain Calamity.

He’s a local joke here. A bloke who sailed to Shetland from Essex in a metal rowing boat with a windsurfing sail attached to it with a home-made rig. Not that he was actually coming to stay in Shetland – he was trying to sail around the UK. He’d already had a slew of lifeboat call-outs and attempted helicopter rescues, not to mention a plain fuckwit passage through a naval firing range before he got into difficulties 50 miles from land, and had to be rescued by Oscar Charlie, our local coastguard helicopter. Once here, with allegedly just 30 pence to his name, dumped by his wife who’d left him to make a new life in France, he decided to stay.

He’s been a source of amusement and bemusement ever since. His foray into publishing a free glossy magazine full of leftfield and often frankly deranged opinions failed dismally. Nobody much cared for his publication’s intolerant views on homosexuality, conspiracy theories about pharmaceutical companies, and appalling attempts to write a children’s serial with a thinly veiled and torturous metaphor extolling his views that Shetland should be an independent nation state, or Danish.

Which brings us to why tonight he’s sitting on an island in the Atlantic all on his own, in a tent. He’s got a real thing about how Shetland should declare independence from the UK, and up to now he’s not got anyone to take him seriously. So now he’s landed on a tiny island off the troubled shores of Papa Stour, and declared his new island home an independent state. A crown dependency, no less. Apparently this will allow him to make himself a thorn in the side of the authorities, forcing them to take notice of his loopy theories. I suspect anyone in authority will summarily dismiss him as deluded, and ignore him.

I won’t though – whenever I’m working outside, cold and wet and exhausted, I can think of him spooning baked beans from the tin as his tent snaps and billows wetly in the wind. And feel relieved I’m not there.



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