Wednesday, 22 December 2010

BBC Radio Ulster - News Extra

En route to the island this afternoon, I had two calls in quick sucession. The first was from Lynn, to say that she could hear running water and that the hot water cylinder in the corner of the living room was becoming more and more boisterous, despite a greatly reduced fire in the wood burner (which has a back boiler - when the cabin's pipes froze yesterday, the plumber's advice was that the stove could still be run, but only at low heat and with a constant eye on the cylinder lest it's expansion pipe should freeze, and the cylinder itself - if I understood him correctly - blow up..)

The second call was from Robbie Meredith of BBC Radio Ulster, who wondered if I would take part in this evening's News Extra programme: he was interested in our take, as the only inhabitants of the only inhabited island on Strangford Lough, on the big freeze. I agreed, but said we had a crisis which I would probably be trying to deal with as soon as I got to the island.

We agreed on 4pm for a recorded interview - and when the phone rang I was teetering on the ridgeline of the felt roof, pouring boiling water from a kettle onto the expansion pipe, and Lynn was bringing more hot water to the foot of the ladder. If I sounded a little off-balance, it's probably because I was. I talked with Seamus McKee, the programme's very charming presenter, for perhaps ten minutes, by the end of which my fingers couldn't feel either the phone, or the kettle; poured the last drops of luke warm water on the pipe and got off the roof while there was still, at least, some feeling in my feet.

It worked, up to a point. The leak turned out to be from a brass junction at the base of the cylinder - just a matter of tightening that; and we didn't have to let the fire go out, we just nursed it through the evening at a low heat and closed the draught controls whenever the cylinder produced anything louder than a distant rumble. So - tomorrow's another day.

Seamus's last question was that albeit there was an obvious downside to island living, there must be compensations, and I descibed the view from the roof at that moment: Ringhaddy Sound was perfectly still and the last of a glorious sunset was reflected in the water; a pair of cormorants were fishing near the jetty; and it was hard to imagine a place where you could feel so close to nature, or the elements. We don't have to look far for compensations.
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