Friday, 17 November 2017

Shetland: November 16th - Walking in a Westerly - increasing to severe gale force at times

I wake and lie in the warmth listening to the wind bashing about the house.  Woken several times last night as the wind started to make its presence felt I’m in no hurry to get up.

Looking out I can tell it’s a Westerly. Waves below the house are racing out towards the sea beyond the voe.  The sparrows are desperately battling across the track to reach the sunflower seeds I’ve strewn underneath the window. Rain sweeps in. Check the weather forecast:
'Blustery wintry showers on Thursday, mostly of rain, sleet and hail at first, but turning back to snow later. Strong W’ly winds veering N’ly and increasing to severe gale force at times. Minimum temperature 3 °C’.
Definitely a day to go to Voe of Dale and check what the sea is doing. 

Driving bumpily down the pot-filled track I can see waves hitting the black rocks on the far side of the bay, and sit in the car watching for a while, feeling the wind buffeting the car. 
I’d like to walk out along the cliffs to the end where the crashing sea is forcing spray high up the cliffs, but the way the car is moving about it’s probably not a good idea.  Forcing open the car door I grab my rucksack and start to walk along the edge of the low cliff; well it’s more like lurching as gusts blow me about. Anyone watching would be excused for thinking I was drunk.  Every so often a blast of freezing spray hits me. After about ten minutes of stumbling about I stop and find a slightly sheltered spot to sit and draw. Black sea flecked white, breaking waves running fast towards me, wave after wave driven shore-ward. 

Rain then hail then the sky lightens, a gleam of blue,  a dark rain curtain sweeps across the horizon. 
The view becomes blurred and then the rain hits me again. No need to bring water, it's here in large quantities. Graphite and watercolour and pastel mixes with rain and sea. 
Packing up I stomp determinedly back - albeit at a slightly crazy angle - towards the car. Fists clenched I won’t be beaten by the weather.  
Off to Silwick to check out the stacks.  

Sheep scatter as I walk across the headland to look over the edge at the stacks. In fact there's more wave activity further out to sea here, waves breaking high over the rocks just off the shore. The wind, still pretty strong, hits me in blasts, but if I get down lower it’s a bit easier to control my progress. 
A bruised apricot patch opens up on the horizon in the dark rain-filled sky; the sun is starting to set. Almost immediately I open my sketch book rain and hail hit me. The page in soaked but I persevere, working white pastel and black water block into the water as it runs across the paper. I draw frantically with a large stub of graphite. Well it kinda works. 

By 3pm the light starts to go - time to get back to the car where meet the local crofter who’s been feeding his May lambs in the shed; they have to get used to taking food from the bucket instead of the mothers' milk - it takes a while before they are hungry enough. He's impressed I've been out there drawing. When I tell him I like bad weather he looks quizzically at me.