Clocks and bones and wild, wild seas

The clocks have gone back, nights are drawing in and there are wild seas. It’ll be dark by about 5 pm this week, then by 4, 3.30 and finally 3ish on an overcast day and the sun won’t be up until about 10 am on those days either. The flip side of getting the midnight sun up here is that we get a lot of darkness in the winter.

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However, I don’t mind that. In fact, I like this time of year. The tourists have gone, people you see in the street probably know you or your family – they nod and smile, have a word or two – usually about the weather. Unlike my life in England before, where we moaned if the sun wasn’t shining brightly and then moaned when it shone too much, here, we’re just happy if it’s not raining and blowing a gale, in fact, we’re not too bothered if it’s blowing a gale – good drying weather!

windy day on barriers

My friend, Kath, who has also moved up here from South, lives over down across the barriers (that’s her photo above) – these are the causeways put after the second world war when Churchill sunk block ships between the south islands to stop the German submarines getting into Scapa Bay, she’s having fun driving across the barriers in the high winds. Waves can take you by surprise if you’re not careful and – depending on who you ask – the trick (apparently) is to count 5-7 waves to see when it is safe to drive. I notice that they’ve put a wall up on one side of barrier two, which makes this nigh on impossible to do (and so making it more risky, in my opinion, but what do I know).

When the rain clears and the clouds lift, there is nothing better than a good blow through and a walk to clear the cobwebs.  I went up to the Broch of Birsay  with Katie and the dogs (only three this time) and walked to the whalebone (erected c. 1876 from the remains of a beached whale), which, according to some reports – acted as a guide for fishing boats.(For the full story behind the whalebone, go here )

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Ticket the dog and the whalebone

It took us a while to get from Evie to Birsay – normally a 10-minute drive, because, this being a rural community, we got stuck behind some cattle being moved. This is one of my favourite photos of the day.

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The modern cowman or cowboy – herds by bike

There is no point getting impatient in these circumstances – it’s the nearest thing to a traffic jam we have and I for one am supremely grateful. How much nicer to sit watching fine looking beasts ambling their way along a road peacefully than dozens of cars or commuters honking and growling during rush hour. I’ll take the cai any day. How I have altered my attitude in just a few months. Gone is the Londoner always in a rush, worried in case she’s missed something, anxious to know what’s happening and who with and where – to be ‘in’. I am so much more relaxed, able to enjoy a chat, a walk, a cup of coffee, dress for the weather rather than to be seen, owns more than one pair of wellies and is seriously considering getting a dog! Things need to be done, for sure, but there’s time. Meanwhile, there’s a sunset to enjoy or a stretch of beach to be explored, some soup to make.

Come 1st of November I’ll be starting a new book using Nanowrimo  to get the first draft down. Lots of emails are coming through from friends and acquaintances to ask if I’m taking part – yes. Also, am I prepped? Do I have an outline? Have I made a plan? No, nope, and certainly not.  The whole point of this process and what I love about it is the spontaneity. The story is in my head somewhere, I have a protagonist and a setting – which is about it so far. That’s my plan. When I’ve done this in the past, part of the joy is the daily excitement as the book heads off in wild and different directions, finding its own way through. My job is to get out of the way as much as possible so that the story can find its way onto the page. After that, I can edit and rewrite, shape and refine – but the bare bones will be down – a skeleton if you like, waiting for flesh, sinew and life – but that skeleton, not unlike the whalebone at Birsay acts as a guide to safe harbour.

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