IN 605,000 seconds, give or take a few thousand - a week in old money - I will be quitting this overpopulated, chancer-ridden island for its polar opposite, a largely unpopulated rock some 40 miles west of its nearest inhabited neighbour, and 1900 miles from Newfoundland to the west, as the (spectacularly fit) crow flies.
Made of granite and gabbro, the rock is Hirta, the main island in the St Kilda archipelago. The reason for my egress? Look around. We're doomed.
Only joshing. We are indeed bound for hell - I have a microscopic "Born to die" tattooed on my left popliteal fossa - but I retain an appetite, albeit a meagre one, for modern life.
The purpose of the voyage, then, is leisure. This time next week I, along with her nibs and 10 other passengers, will be on board a cruise boat, Oban shrinking to the stern as we pootle through the Sound of Mull. After dropping anchor overnight at Mull or Canna, depending on the captain's whim, it's off to the islands which, for many, are the closest thing to Eden in so-called Great Britain. (This all assumes the weather gods feel munificent, of course, which is the kind of shoogly peg on which only the cheeriest optimist - ie, not me - or a foolhardy simpleton would hang the coat of his summer holiday.)
For once I am the envy of my friends. Hell, I envy me. I've ogled Hirta and Boreray - an outlying rock of an even less welcoming disposition than its big brother - from the wind-whipped Western Isles more than once, but even at that relatively close remove, beheld through the finest binoculars, they feel utterly disconnected from reality. For me, setting foot on Hirta will be like walking on the Moon.
In preparation for the trip I am devouring the bible of the islands' history, The Life And Death Of St Kilda by Tom Steel, and compiling a playlist of tunes to take. Alasdair Roberts and Robin Robertson's Hirta Songs is a shoo-in, as is - oddly, I know - Ambient 1: Music For Airports by Brian Eno, and Bert Jansch will likely make an appearance or two. Thereafter I'm open to suggestions, except Rod Stewart's Sailing, which, in an independent Scotland, it would be illegal to enjoy anywhere other than on the passenger deck of a Cal-Mac ferry while guzzling a can of McEwan's Export. Kit-wise you must be prepared for all conditions, so next to my Speedo shorts (XS) and flip-flops (size 11) I'll pack waterproof trews and flippers.
I'll let you know how I get on, assuming I return. Which, with a destination as inarguably magical as St Kilda, is no sure thing.
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