I am sitting in a small room they call “the flat.” I’m surrounded by white walls with a kitchen to my back and a skylight on my left. In front of me lie four cylindrical vessels and two strenuous hours of laborious sweetie sorting.
Yes, it’s tough I know but I don’t complain. The illumination of one child’s face is enough for the effort to be justified. That and the fact it all contributes to a rather nice accolade called the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Forgive me, I’m being facetious. What I am talking about is the Pier Arts Centre’s Pavement Artist Competition (a prestigious event at the 65th Annual Stromness Shopping Week.) Since a fortnight before the champion of chalk was to be chosen, I had been preparing firstly the assorted paper bags of cola bottles, fungums and lollipops and secondly cups of the dusty colouring utensils themselves.
On the day of the event, which was Tuesday, I arrived at the gallery an hour beforehand to offer my services. I was promptly sent away up the street to Sinclair Office Supplies to procure 100 punched A4 plastic wallets. I scanned the shop which was more or less empty; the boss was on the phone so I decided to wait, for a bit.
There was a woman hovering around the counter so I asked her if she knew of this century of folders. She said she was just a member of the public; cringe.
The man ended his call and I managed to attain the stationery in question.
I then arrived back at the Pier and began setting up the table where I would be based for the next hour and a half. My colleague and I would be responsible for the distribution of chalk and of the allocation of refreshments upon their return.
As the threatening sky began to clear people amassed upon the pier. Materials were being handed out thick and fast and at the peak of proceedings there were only two out of 145 pots remaining on the table.
Some took the competition more seriously than others. The younger ones, who generally arrived reasonably early finished before the Robinson’s was being poured so the cartons of apple ran out quite quickly. More accomplished artisans returned to the table frequently but not for the want of refreshments. They made the tiptoeing weave through the festooned slabs not for fungums but for additional colours. I even caught one girl who made the crossing and swiftly grabbed a brown from an existing tub without making an attempt at eye contact.
Anyway, the sun came out and the well-attended happening was overall a successful affair. I was thanked by Carol and asked if I would like to help at a children’s workshop tomorrow…