Ditched

‘How did you know about the ditch?’ asked an author who shall remain anonymous. He/she had told me about teaching his/her son/daughter to drive. And I mentioned something about a ditch, feeling that one belonged there, somehow. I’m a witch. I sense these things.

Surely a driving lesson that’s not gone well must involve a ditch?

Anyway, I knew, because we’d been in one too. Not recently, but it was a memorable event which is hard to erase from memory. It was in Shetland, many years ago. We discovered we were heading the wrong way, so the Resident IT Consultant attempted a u-turn on a narrow road. Most roads on Shetland – at least at the time – were narrow. Hence the ditch.

Luckily us sitting there in the ditch with our hire car meant we were in the way, which meant that the first person to encounter us had a vested interest in getting us out. Which he did, and luckily he was driving a tractor. Luckily I didn’t have to speak to him, as I don’t drive. He spoke a very Shetland-ish dialect, and I found it hard to understand anything much. ‘Muckle,’ he said. I forget now what was so muckle. (Most likely the ditch.)

One reason we were in Shetland at all, was that years before the ditch incident I had read a book titled Bästa vägen till Muckle Flugga [The best way to Muckle Flugga] by Hans Alfredson and Kim Meurling. At the time I hadn’t heard of Muckle Flugga, which is the northernmost spot in Shetland. But I loved the concept of travel writers getting there via Iceland, the Faroes and Orkney. All lovely places I wanted to read about.

And then, of course, I wanted to go to Muckle Flugga. We did, once we were out of the ditch. It’s a long way. And when you get there the one thing you care about is not being attacked by birds. There are many birds. Vicious birds. Probably on account of there being relatively few humans.

We didn’t stay long.

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