I gaed a drive doon the Nort Pier wae me blue Polo wan night last week tae see a man aboot some partans. There wis a few guys on the pier and I recognised me owld boss wae his yellow rubber beuts and his white fish-processor’s kep. He wore the kep thirty year ago when he was me boss in the crab factory in Kirkwall. He haed something black, still and feathery in his right hand.
I pulled in and opened the door tae speak tae him. (The Polo’s an isles ker, so the window doesna work.)
Dae you ken whit this is? said the bearded wan, raising his hand a peedie bit tae let me see whit he haed.
Ya, I said. It’s a deid Storm Petrel. I spent a night ringan them in North Ronaldsay a lot o years ago. We played their caals through speakers oot intae the darkness o the North Soond and they flew intae wur invisible nets. Kind o the opposite of hoo the US Marines flushed out Manuel Noriega in Panama wae heavy metal. Bonny peedie things. But that’s no gaan tae feed you and the wife the night?
No. Thur’s lots o them at Mousa Broch in Shetland. Whar aboot in North Ronaldsay dae ye get them?
In a peedie geo just sooth o the Bird Observatory. Whar Heather Woodbridge – the new Cooncillor – comes fae.
O yaas. Sheu’ll be a Green. I fund this ane deid on the end o the pier.
Folk go on aboot the puffins at Castle o Burrian, I thowt, but a Storm Petrel really is the last word in seabird cute.
Me boss gaed on: We used tae see them sometimes at sea, at night. They followed the boat in the moonlight and cam doon tae pick up things that had gotten steered up in the prop.
The boys arrived wae the partans. Wae aal ken the Orkney partans are the sweetest. (The Strumniss folk gaed B. Johnson the best they could find in Hoy Soond, but precious little did they get in return, I heard.) As I wis loading me boiling intae the boot o the Polo, wan o the boys said tae me boss, That bird’s no gaan tae feed thee and the wife the night!
Na, na. It’s for the cat. Keeps his coat good 🙂 explained the bearded wan.