Don't forget that in the off-licence the drink will be of a guaranteed quality and ef-
fectively unadulterated because if it ever isn't there will be commercial hell to pay. Don't
forget that the dope can be as contaminated, cut and crap as the dealer thinks they can
get away with, because nobody's going to complain to their local M.P. or Food Standards
lab. Don't forget that tobacco sends 110,000 people to an early grave in Britain alone and
alcohol over 40,000.
Seriously; which way protects the best: legal control or simple illegality? Can you
honestly see any excuse for sticking with the absurd system we have at the moment? I
mean apart from sheer conservative-with-a-small-c idiocy?
Right, rant over.
Big silver bird in sky! Well, medium-size silver bird, anyway; a BA/Logan Air twin-prop
Saab 340 from Edinburgh to Kirkwall via a brief touchdown at Wick. As we're on the
approach into Wick I see the Old Pulteney distillery but otherwise it's been a frustrating
flight because there's been so much cloud. Flying - preferably not too high - over coun-
try you know is one of life's great pleasures. Must learn to fly. Maybe next year.
I suppose I'm getting a bit demob-happy at this point; the quest is almost over (just
the paperwork to do, but then I generally enjoy that too, so what the hey), plus there's a
feeling that I'm saving some of the best for last; I know Highland Park pretty well already
and there's a lot to look forward to here. I'm also feeling slightly smug because I got
through security at Edinburgh with my Swiss Army Card. This is a sort of Swiss Army
knife in a credit-card-sized bit of plastic; it has a little knife with a three-centimetre blade
and a dainty pair of miniature scissors.
Frankly you'd struggle to hijack a tandem with a piece of kit like this, but thanks to
the hysterical and absurd reaction to the September 11th attacks you're not supposed to
carry such things on to a plane any more (I did try pointing out in Dead Air that if you
can't take a blade or even a tool onto a plane, why are we glasses wearers allowed to take
our specs on board? Give me a second to pop the lens out the frame and snap it in half and
I'd almost instantly have two of the sharpest blades you can find. Sense? Logic? Don't
think so). Anyway, I forgot to remove the card from my wallet this morning and I only
realised I'd got through the security check with it afterwards. It'd be tempting fate to try
the same trick deliberately on the way back, so I'll put the card in my bag and my bag in
From Wick it's a less-than-fifteen-minute hop to Kirkwall, but at least the clouds have
mostly cleared. We fly over the north-east tip of Scotland, over Duncansby Head and
John O'Groats and within sight of the real most northerly point of mainland Scotland at
Dunnet Head. Then it's out over the white stroked waters of the perpetually restless Pent-
land Firth and the island of Stroma - lying in the sea like a giant green jigsaw piece -
and banking past the fabulously dramatic thousand-foot cliffs of Hoy and the island's Old