Five friends, looking like visitors to the island, sat at a table next to us in the window at North Harbour Bistro on the island of Scalpay, the same table we sat at for dinner last Monday night. The five admired the view from their window, looking out over the harbour; they discussed the framed photograph in the corner above their heads of the aurora borrealis, a picture taken by photographer Darren Cole from Hebscape in Aird Asaig beside West Loch Tarbert; they raved over the Harris Tweed tablecloths on the cafe’s tables and “oh look at these” as they touched the Harris Tweed chair back covers complete with Harris Tweed labels. The enthusiasm could be measured in bucketloads.
Meanwhile I couldn’t resist observing the backview of a clown in his 60s at the opposite side of the cafe who sat at a small, square table for two with his elderly mother. While we savoured our carrot soup and seafood chowder at our table for two, the clown spent twenty minutes or so at his table attempting to boot up a blank screen on his 16″ Toshiba laptop which took up most of the space on his table for two, with the eventual Windows-opening-tune singing out to the cafe full of happy eaters. When his food came along he awkwardly angled himself to the right to pick off his plate on the edge of the table. His elderly mother sat there without complaint, without seeing the face of the man behind the laptop screen on the other side of their table, for the duration of their lunch together. That was her lot by the looks of it. No conversation. The clown showed no visible sign of interest in his lunch, carefully prepared by George the chef and owner of this unique seafoody cafe on the remote isle of Scalpay, instead preferring the struggle of getting into his emails.
The day before, the young American I mentioned in my previous Post, asked me about the changes we’d seen in Harris over the last 21 years.
Then, there were three cafes on the island: one in Tarbert, one ten miles from Tarbert in Borve, and one twenty miles from Tarbert in Leverburgh. And I remember on one occasion Rachel gave us tea and scones in her house on Scalpay!
There was no Scalpay bridge linking the isle of Harris to the tiny island of Scalpay. That came along in 1997: http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/eriskay/scalpay.htm. You could only get to Scalpay on the tiny car ferry that ran three times a day. We never took our car on it, and walked everywhere.
A seafood bistro on the tiny island would have been pie in the sky and WiFi was non-existent.
And would anyone then have placed a huge object, the size of an old wireless, on a small lunch table for two obliterating the view between two diners?