Tag: Orkney

The Old Men of Hoy

I remember the ferry poster. May 2018 and we were on our way to Orkney for the first time. Four of us had travelled by ScotRail up from Glasgow to Thurso, a few miles west of John O’ Groats, the most northerly point on the British mainland. From Thurso, we were booked onto the evening ferry to Orkney, landing in Stromness around ninety minutes … Read More The Old Men of Hoy

Backwards into a Loch

The sinister man in the white overall was tall and very athletic. He’d just talked me through what was going to happen next – punctuated by rapid movements of his blue gloved hands. I was still shocked and not sure I’d heard correctly, so in the photo I’m watching carefully as he explains things to the car ‘in front’. My one salvation was that … Read More Backwards into a Loch

Nomadics of John O’ Groats

I thought it might be interesting to take some of the less relevant episodes – the ‘out-takes’ – from the just-completed Scottish workshop (and subsequent journey to Orkney) and run them on Sun in Gemini, in reverse time-sequence. The Thursday blogs, here and on the Silent Eye, will continue with the linear sequence of the Scottish and Orkney explorations. That way the odd bits … Read More Nomadics of John O’ Groats

The Mysterious Picts… and beyond

With many of the restrictions on Scottish travel and locations being lightened, it has become possible for the Silent Eye to resume its celebrated ‘landscape’ weekends. Come and join us in September for a beautiful journey along the Easter Ross coastline to trace the artistic and long-lasting people we call the Picts. A race of artist-warriors who kept the Romans at bay, yet revelled … Read More The Mysterious Picts… and beyond

An Orcadian Diary (5): The Broch of Gurness

I was struggling with the height of the walls – 10 metres. I am distinctly medium in height; my two sons tower over me, at six foot, three inches each. But ten metres is a long way into anybody’s domestic sky; and yet that’s how tall the central stone tower of the Broch of Gurness was. The small cheeseboard (above) bought in Kirkwall, the … Read More An Orcadian Diary (5): The Broch of Gurness

An Orcadian Diary (4): The Light of the North

  We could be in any of the great cathedral cities of Britain. If someone took off the blindfold and asked, we might say Salisbury, York, Lichfield or the wonders of Durham Cathedral. The latter is significant, because they who built Durham came here to add their skills… We are in the capital of Orkney – Kirkwall (reference ‘F’ in the Northlink Ferry’s map, … Read More An Orcadian Diary (4): The Light of the North

Young Courage and the Old Man

I have always resisted the use of the word ‘courage’ to describe people who are suffering. Suffering is horrible, but, alone does not equate to courage, though I have every sympathy for those going through it. The newspapers, tabloids in particular, have a habit of using ‘courage’ or ‘brave’ when someone is dying of cancer, for example. We need empathy, certainly, and a lot … Read More Young Courage and the Old Man

An Orcadian Diary (2) Before History

Continued from Part One And now we should go back to an older time – a much older time – to flesh out the story of the islands of Orkney, north-east of the Scottish mainland. The man in the picture is Gordon Childe. It’s 1927. He’s the newly-appointed Abercrombie Professor of Prehistoric Archeology at the University of Edinburgh. The photo shows him emerging from … Read More An Orcadian Diary (2) Before History

An Orcadian Diary (1) Silent Guns

It ends beneath the ground; it always does. The bones of soldiers buried in fine ceremony, though the organic memory passed long before the corpse was glorified. Collective kindness crumpled by division in the face of another despot whipping up the many faces of our unhappiness. But, perhaps, not always… His name is Johnny Claude. He’s ninety-eight years old – the oldest man on … Read More An Orcadian Diary (1) Silent Guns

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