Sunday, 18 December 2011


Quiet a few days a week I drive the dogs down to one of several beaches or coastal paths that are within a 5 or 10 minute drive of home. It's not environmentally friendly I'll admit but I prefer it to the fields round our village, and the dogs seem to do so as well. So every few days or so we go to the "Brough of Birsay", a promontory with a small tidal island at its tip. Between the village of Birsay and the promontory are a few cottages and one lone building that sits precariously between the road and the cliff.
This little wooden building has its rather exotic name painted on its door -ZANZIBAR.
It appears to sit mere feet from the cliff edge (20 feet down the the beach and rocks and surf); is constructed of wooden planks, wrigley tin, and a leaning brick chimney; and consist of little more than two rooms. All of this surrounded by a plain wooden picket fence. It faces everything nature has so far thrown at it - cold, wind, rain, sleet, snow, hail, ice and sea! - including last week the equivalent of a Class II hurricane (I'm no expert but we seem to get at least one every winter). Most of the weather has crossed the Atlantic unimpeded from either North America or the Arctic.
With all of this in mind its owners or builders had the courage and imagination to call it "Zanzibar". Personally I know nothing of Zanzibar other than an unread sci-fi book title, "Standing on Zanzibar", but it speaks to me of far-off ports with heat, humidity and the smell of spices, an encroaching jungle and a myriad of peoples and voices.
I feel very pleased to see it still standing every time I drive past with the dogs.

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