Visiting Tom Leppard on Skye
What is that? Two kayaks are approaching the beach? Oh no, not today. He thinks back to an evening three nights ago when a couple in kayaks landed on his cleared beach. He had totally been ignored then. He’s not going to have that again! He’s going to scare them off by looking angry behind a wall.
That morning he stretched, touching the rough dry stone wall with his feet and hands, as he does every morning. The light was flowing through the blue plastic tarp used as roof coverage. He doesn’t know what time it is and he doesn’t care, when daylight comes it is time to get up.He pulled his knees up and swung his body towards the narrow entrance to the small kitchen area. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he reached for the neatly folded clean clothes on the shelf and got dressed. Turning around he made his bed in the tiny bedroom. To call this a bedroom was an overstatement, the space hardly fit his mattress.
The book, that he is rereading for the tenth time, went back on the shelf above the bed. In its right place in alphabetical order.
In his tiny kitchen, he reached for a half pint of lager. Grolsch nowadays, a Dutch brand, he had gotten fed up with cider. He learned that beer roughly has the same nutritional value as bread. Both carbohydrates. Bread doesn’t keep as well as beer and he likes the taste of beer better, so the choice was easily made. He opened another can of beer while he walked out through the plastic flap which acts as a door. The early sunshine tickled his face. It was so relaxing to feel the warmth on his body. He’d better make the most of it, the sun would be behind the hill at noon. He crumpled his beer cans into neat little packages and stowed them in the designated trash bags.
He walked back into the kitchen of his shelter, rough cut planks formed a narrow kitchen counter covered in plastic.On wooden shelves and in cupboards were all his meager possessions stored. Satisfied that everything was organized and clean, he sat down on the edge of the bed and scratched his chin.
He knew he was getting older. Things were taking more of an effort nowadays. He wondered how long he could keep up this lifestyle. But he had no regrets. Not about his tattoo, nor about living out here alone. He still held the Guinness Book of Records title for being the most tattooed senior citizen. He had the full body tattoo that transformed him into a leopard, done in the eighties when he came out of the military service. It had cost him 5.500 pounds, an investment in the idea that ‘If I live like a freak and look like a freak, people will want to pay money to take pictures of me and write about my life’. But it did not work out that way. No, he was not sorry about that. He didn’t want too many people around anyway.
He felt the stubble under his fingers and reached up to his scalp. A shave was in order. With a bowl under his arm, he walked out his shelter to get some fresh water from the stream a few meters away.
Carefully he walked back. In front of the mirror, he lathered the shaving cream with a brush on his chin. He looked at his reflection while he scraped off the foam and stubble from his face with a cheap disposable razor while making funny faces.
On closer inspection he saw that the leopard spots were fading, every day a bit less vibrant, although the black and blue are still clearly visible, the orange was getting less and less visible.
He put the shaving foam on the top of his head and shaved that stubble off too. He knew his hairline is receding, but the black spots and dots made that barely noticeable.
With the last two strokes, he shaved off his eyebrows, bringing out the black tattooed ones.
Tom Leppard watching 2 kayakkers approaching. (watercolour by Alexander Gannet)
He walked along the shoreline. There was nothing much on the beach except some plastic bottles. After a storm, he usually found good timber, which he could use to improve his shelter, and sometimes valuable things, like big plastic crates lost by fishing boats or ropes and strings. During the years that he lived here, he has cleared the big boulders from the beach to below the low water line. He enjoyed the sight of the clean small red pebble beach and on the practical side, it made an easy landing for his shopping laden kayaks.
He walked back to the shelter via his manicured garden through a labyrinth of small red pebbled paths, passed sculpted heather plants and pruned Rowan trees. The grass looked a bit too wild and needed some clipping. So he decided to do a bit of gardening in the afternoon.
It was Wednesday, washing day according to his activity planner. Not to get too wet, he changed into a short-sleeved shirt and tiny aqua blue thong and slipped into his big yellow wellies. The combination with his skinny spotted orange legs was striking. It was like he was wearing a leopard print leotard, but this one never came off.
The freshwater stream near his shelter ended in a small waterfall before it flowed into the sea. He got the fish crate from the top step of the waterfall and with his huge big hands, too big in comparison to his small body, he started to wring out the washing. He hung the wet washing outside in the sun and checked the clothes on the indoor washing line. Dry enough, he folded it, stuck it into a plastic bag and stored it.
He put yesterday’s clothes into the free fish crate, replaced the fish crates and put today’s crate on the bottom of the waterfall.
The sun passed behind the hill. Lunchtime, two pints of lager again. He sat outside staring over the water to the town of Kyle of Lochalsh. Tomorrow he would need to paddle over with his kayak to town, to do some shopping, his supplies are getting low. He needs food for a couple of weeks again.
There was that bloody gull again. It was like the bird had a watch. It was always there at the same time. He shuffled into the shelter and got a can of corned beef, opened it, cut it into pieces, fed the bird, while he drunk his beer. He watched the bird gobbling down the meat before another gull came to steal it away. For ten minutes he enjoyed the company of the bird and then it flew off.
He sat there staring over the water for another hour, it was a quiet time, almost meditative.
Standing behind the washing wall, he watched a man and a woman landing their kayaks on the beach. What is that language? It sounds familiar. South African or Dutch?
‘Hello’, the man said, Do you live there? Shall we move on and leave you in peace?’
‘No, no’, he hears himself say, ‘It is fine. Hi! My name is Tom.’
To be continued…..
P.s. Slow traveling is meeting people in there own environment. It is not always fitting to ask for a picture in that situation and we did not feel the need for it at that moment. Tom Leppard is in our memory but now, with people reading this story they can hardly believe or imagine how he would look like, is he real?
If you like to check real images, checkout the video
or google images (tom leppard skye)