One of the many questions that we are asked by our less fortunate friends [ i.e. the ones that don’t live on Orkney 😉 ] is “what is shopping like there? ” I suspect that many of them imagine that we have to go out and gather our food and modern 21st century items are not available except via the internet with delivery times measured in glacial terms and the delivery costs close to Starbucks corrected tax bill.
This however is far from the case. Most of our food shopping is done at the various local shops, buying local produce. Out of choice we don’t use the Tesco in Kirkwall much and Lidl is visited mainly only to stock up on cheap wine. Shopping this way does mean that the food shopping takes a little longer as you are always engaged in a long chat about something or other, but that is part of the pleasure. Also there are many times that your shop of choice does not have one of the items you require. I have already touched on the problem with the elusive Hot Cross buns, but a lot of the items are seasonal and even the fish can be, as we discovered the other day during the worse of the storms, when we popped into the Orkney Fish Company’s shop in Stromness to ask for some monk-fish only to be given a rather old fashioned look and have it explained that because of the storms the fishing boats had not been out for days! We should have known but we were still of the Waitrose set of mind and had not expected this!
Other than food, almost everything else can be bought on the island although it is fair to say that the selection may be a bit limited at times but this can sometimes work in your favour, making selection so much easier and quicker. Most shops will order stuff for you from their large catalogs if you need something a bit different. Many islanders order via the internet and the delivery via Royal Mail is usually very good and a simular price to mainland, the problem arrises with some of the other carriers who rather than deliver to Orkney, they unload their orders to a third party who does deliver here and apparenlty this is where things can and do go wrong.
If you don’t want any of these issues to stop you getting your ‘retail fix’ then I suggest that you stay where you are and don’t even think of moving to anywhere even slightly remote, but for the rest of us, this way of getting what you require is just part of the charm of the slower pace of life with the emphasis on the quality of life, rather than the quantity of retail items bought.