Orkney notes, 8 April 2022

The stone book
Turns heavy pages still, whereon
The story of Hamnavoe is written.
The hills consider
Sagas unwritten yet, austere and beautiful.

George Mackay Brown, Waterfront, Hamnavoe

The weather threw rain and hail and blinding sun at us this afternoon as we braved Ness Battery.

It’s a fascinating and sobering site. Maybe war will always be a constant in this lifetime, our reminders these concrete and steel remnants.


Later, I walk out on my own, up Brinkie’s Brae and then through the town of Stromness itself. It rains and sleets and hails, but I am happy.

At the top, I say a few silent words to Bessie Millie, the weather witch, for tomorrow’s crossing of the Pentland Firth. I take a small stone from the hill as a keepsake.


This is the last of these self-indulgent diary entries. Thanks to everyone who has read them—and even liked them.

Home tomorrow, from Stromness/Hamnavoe, to colours somehow far less vibrant than these islands’ dicefalls of precious stones.

I really hope to return to Orkney soon. It’s not like anywhere else I’ve been before.

And the chance to spend time in the town where George Mackay Brown lived most of his life has been a joy.

For now, part of me remains here: under the blue skies, under the grey, on the stones of the past or of the near future, under rain and sleet, under sun, but mostly beneath the colours and contours of Brinkie’s Brae.

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