Orkney notes, 7 April 2022

Daffodils at the door in April,
Three shawled Marys.
A lark splurges in galilees of sky.

George Mackay Brown, A Child’s Calendar

Two views of the Brough of Birsay, taken about 90 minutes apart.

The weather, fickle all this week, is a shawled Mary and she bawls and pulls her mantle around the islands. There are daffodils on every roadside on the way here, wind-whipped but resolutely golden. The gales have put paid to any larks but the seabirds are everywhere, carried on currents of soaring air.

We miss the tides and the causeway remains underwater, but it doesn’t matter. I know I can’t set foot in all of these places. Even at this remove, the colours are magical, unattainable.

And it’s the colours of this landscape which have overwhelmed me with their constant shimmer, whether a reflection of sea or of sky. Perhaps the shifting palette of hues is in reality a mirror of Orcadians and their welcoming nature.

I’ll try to memorise the greens and greys and browns and blues of the Orkney tapestry for when we’ve left, but I know I’ll fail.


Later in the day: George Mackay Brown’s rocking chair in Stromness Museum…

…and a photograph of a photograph (again from the museum) of him ensconced in it in his home at 3 Mayburn Court.

I’m not one for the cult of personality but it feels good to stand quietly for a few moments and imagine him seated there right in front of me; almost, for an infinitesimal instant, to catch the spark and sparkle and sadness of those bluest of blue eyes.

But I know that he would wince at the attention, at the spectacle, so I move away after a minute or so and leave him at peace.