Island Shopping

If one more company tells me ‘You’ll get it tomorrow’ I think I will scream. I will NOT get tomorrow.

Shopping on a small island is very different to the Mainland (ie most of Orkney), let alone Scotland. We have to think far ahead, and the only impulse buying I can do in real time is a packet of polos or biscuits.

We do have a shop on the island, run by the Sinclair family, which is open ridiculously long hours for such a small place. (Many small island shops are only open 2 or 3 times a weeks for an hour or two.) It isn’t easy to see…!

You go down the track from the main road to what looks like just a private house, down the narrow passage at the side, and there is the shop. That’s Davie on his way down to open up.

And it is the Post Office too (but Royal Mail signs are not made for long hours of ultraviolet light!):

The shop is the old house, and the walled garden is to the left of the passageway.

It is also one of the places for all the island notices (and you get all the news as well as your purchases!!)

For its size it stocks a wide variety of essentials from loo paper and lemonade to coffee and cat food. But anything with a short shelf life has to be ordered on a Thursday to be picked up on a Friday evening. So if I forget to order my cold meat on a Thursday, it is 8 days before I get any. Marina and Davie are incredibly accommodating, but they do not have any control about what the shops send over, so when Argos forgets to put in my rolls I have no bread for a week.

Which is why I bought myself a small bread maker recently….!

When I do go in to Kirkwall, or when folk come to visit me, it is time for a treat. For me that means FRESH FRUIT!! We usually have apples and oranges on the island, but I can’t take them, so I crave fresh fruit. In town I stalk the fruit counters trying to find the things which will keep the longest. At the same time I have to watch the volume and the weight of my purchases. We don’t have the luxury of low floor buses on our route, so everything has to be carried up 4 steep steps. You can easily spot island dwellers in Kirkwall – they are the ones with the large wheeled shopping trolleys or cases.

Many things have to be bought by phone or on line. This isn’t a choice for us, it is a necessity. But a huge percentage of companies will not send goods north of the Central Belt, let alone to the islands. When they do agree to send stuff, the delivery charge is often ridiculous – I was once quoted £28 to send a paperback that would have gone in the post for 68p.

If companies send stuff by Royal Mail, everything is well. Packets can take a while to get here, but they do get here, and they are delivered to the door six days a week without fail. But anything sent by carrier is a different matter. Everything sent by any carrier is taken to XXX, and brought over once a week, on a Friday. XXX is supposed to deliver to the door, and is paid to deliver to the door, but he just dumps the stuff off in the waiting room at the pier. (Name withheld to protect the guilty.) I then have to go down to the pier to see if it has arrived – and repeat the next week etc etc.

So next time you go in to a shopping centre to try on clothes in several shops for a special occasion tomorrow, spare a thought for those of us who have to plan eight weeks in advance for such things, to give stuff time to come, be wrong, be sent back, and new stuff to come…..!!  And if you come to visit me, bring raspberries.


16 thoughts on “Island Shopping

  1. Ah right…all this sounds depressingly familiar. It is the way we lived in “the bush” or “the outback” – and the way many people there still live. Even in the city it can take much longer for things to arrive – ten or twelve days from Sydney to Adelaide is common.
    At least you have a reasonably reliable power supply – we did not even have that but had to generate our own (32v) when they finally agreed we could have a generator.
    Bread machine sounds like a good idea – just don’t run out of flour or yeast!

  2. It was a lot like that for that first years I lived in Port Hardy.. everything came on the barge on Thurs night. And if they didn’t put it on the barge, then wait a week. And if it stormed.. wait again. We did have a dress store. She stocked 3 styles, in all sizes, and usually purple. Bread machine… I bought one as soon as they came out. And made myself a sour dough starter in case they forgot the yeast on the barge.

  3. Oh, Liz, you make living on Sanday sound like a paradise of convenience! We share many of the same challenges, obviously… but we do at least still have three of our four shops still operating (since the arson attack) and they carry reasonable stocks without needing to order. We even have two post offices.

    The delivery charge thing is a pain, but not so much as blank refusal. I understand that some e.g. eBay sellers have courier contracts but whatever happened to going that extra mile in the name of customer service? How hard is it to pop a parcel in the mail for those of us who need it? The thing is, if the RM is not used, it will perish and we in the islands will be completely hobbled without the Universal Service.

    And courier service is so slow. I hate it when retailers helpfully “upgrade” my delivery to a premium service that actually slows things down.

    At the moment I await a DHL delivery of KnitPro stock. It got to Aberdeen last Wednesday. Tracking of course doesn’t work after that point. I have no idea where our stock is and I have KnitPro on my back daily wanting to know why I have not sent back the carbon fibre needles according to the recall notice. I keep on explaining that I cannot return what I do not have yet… but they just are not comprehending the challenges of island life.

    I’m with you on the fruit (and veg) – my trolley is always stuffed with perishables (and esp Donaldson’s sausage!) when I can drag myself into Kirkwall. Shopping is always a balancing act between what I need and what I can physically lug back to the ferry. The long days are exhausting.

    Bread is just too difficult. It is never fresh by the time it gets here, so I simply bake my own.

    I would change nothing though. I love my life here.

    PS Peaches and strawberries for me, please

    1. With you 100% on companies which won’t pop something in the post when it only weighs 100g. If we were to lose Royal Mail life really would be isolated. Also with you on Donaldson’s!! The meat we get is from Flett’s and that is also good.

      And I agree – despite the boring diet, I wouldn’t move for the world!!

  4. The bread machine is a good idea if you like mostly white bread or french bread. Also good for sweet bread mixing. Check on the net, there’s a No Knead method that you keep in a bucket in the fridge. When you want bread, you cut off a baseball size lump, let it rise in a bowl & bake it. This is my next experiment.
    Is your climate too cool for raspberry canes?? Or Everbearing strawberries? I admit to being a fruit fiend too. Right now Cherries & Blueberries are constantly in my basket!!

    1. I just use the complete packets of bread mix – working very well so far, including brown with bits in! The salt wind is too much for raspberries and strawberries up here – there is one place on Rousay which has polytunnels and grows them – they are fabulous but a very short season. I have a friend with blackcurrant bushes. Some years they crop heavily and others not a thing. Rhubarb is the obly fruit which does well here. I love it, but can’t eat it!!

  5. I stock up so i only have to go to the grocery store once a month, and keep a running list of what is needed. But I do need help getting it all in, from the car. I wonder how I would manage on an island. BTW, what is a “packet of polos”?

      1. No, we do have mint flavored Lifesavers, though. Same thing. They also come in lots of other flavors, too.

  6. Oh, dear Liz, I wish I could blink my eyes and make some of our raspberries appear in your kitchen! Rick picked for several hours this morning and I put ten containers in the freezer.

    1. I wish you could too! Further south in Scotland the raspberries are wonderful, and when we lived in London and Dover (southern England) we had canes in the garden. I do miss them…!!

  7. I used to have a good recipe for Annadama bread for a bread machine. Uses some corn meal…a nice change from White and whole wheat. I’m sure you can Google one.

  8. I live on an island, too – albeit a bit bigger than yours:) but sometimes it feels just the same. ok, normally not for the basics like food (though I haven’t seen a fresh apricot for a very long time:), but if you want anything but the basics you either have to travel a long way or make do with online ordering. and during the winter of 2010 and ’11 we had real problems getting our food here without our weekly delivery! not to talk about carriers – sometimes I do wonder why they have to be paid at all, if they cause nothing but trouble:( looking on the bright side – I have my own raspberries – soon (if the birds let me that is:))

  9. Wish I lived in your part of the world, I can see business opportunities there!! One woman with a small van could really bring home the berries, so to speak! And build a walled garden for soft fruit. The Carrier needs a little healthy competition. That being said, the city congestion is a pain but the convenience of having everything available all the time is wonderful. I’m a bit of a fresh produce fiend & I’m not sure I’d do well without it. Has anyone tried a small greenhouse there or is it too windy???

    1. Oh yes – plenty of people have tried greenhouses – and have the bits to prove it!! There are also a couple of small market gardeners on Mainland. And some years they grow stuff. Others (like this one) nothing grows – far too cold and too much salt wind. Even the grass was very, very late this year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s