We read the email together and laughed. ‘Who else would come up with the idea of celebrating Kate’s seventy-fifth on Unst in November but Tom?’
The original plan was to share a four-bedroom property on the island, there being three couples who were invited. As well as the proposition of evenings spent overindulging in food and drink was the proposal that the daylight hours (of which there are not very many in Unst in November) be spent in walking.
The latter suggestion prompted my wife and I to scurry off to town to purchase suitable waterproof clothing. The chance that we would encounter rain was extremely high as was the likelihood of storms and whilst the risk of snow was not so great, it was not unknown. We were taking no chances.
Of course, the footnote to the email stated that there should be no presents.
The initial email had arrived in July when COVID-19 restrictions in Shetland would have permitted all of us to be together as one happy bubble. However, as case numbers began to rise, the powers that be introduced a more stringent lockdown mode. It soon became apparent that sharing the accommodation was not permitted. Our bubble was burst.
But there was a chink of light left in the regulations. It was possible for two couples to meet inside and so a plan was hatched. It was agreed that each couple would take it in turns to spend the evening with Kate and Tom whilst the daylight hours would be spent walking together.
Of course, it meant organising four lots of accommodation, or to be more precise three lots since one of the couples had their own camper van.
Fortunately, through the local grapevine, accommodation was easily obtained, and it was then a case of counting down to the event. As the departure date drew near it was also a case of keeping a constant eye on the weather.
No storms, no hurricanes, just a day or two of force five or six winds so nothing to deter us from planning our walks in Unst.
There was one other pre trip task planned by my wife. Since the instruction had been for no presents, there was no mention of not bringing a birthday cake and so, she duly baked one.
When the departure day arrived, we loaded the car with all we would need for our self-catering cottage by the sea and caught the ferry first to Yell and onwards up to the ferry terminal for Unst. Our timing was perfect as we were directed straight onto the Unst ferry. Half an hour’s drive took us to our cottage where we unloaded the car and made ourselves at home.
We were the last to make an appearance because of other commitments, but it was not long before we were able to link up with the others. We had missed the first walk but spoke with one of the other couples and found out the arrangements for the following day which was the actual birthday.
The following morning, we set off to rendezvous with the others dressed to face the elements and armed with a birthday cake.
We met up at a secluded beach with a convenient parking area. The others had already arrived, so we joined them and took a coastal path that ran parallel to the beach. It proved a very convivial walk. One of the party was well versed in history and archaeology. He was able to tell us about the Viking settlements we encountered on our travels. He also described some of the rock formations.
We returned to the vehicles and gathered round for a picnic, (yes, a picnic in Unst in November! Who would have thought it?) The three lady guests excused themselves and went to their respective vehicles.
It was only when they returned that we realised what had happened. Each of them was bearing a cake. One was a lemon drizzle cake; another was a chocolate sponge and the third was a rich fruit cake.
Each was adorned with appropriate messages and candles.
Needless to say, there was much hilarity but, as Kate commented, ‘A girl can never have too much cake!’