I was invited up to Orkney to visit some of the local schools as part of Black History Month and so this morning, I packed my props, my stuff, promptly forgot the camera and headed to the airport. I jumped on a plane and 50 minutes later found myself above the glistening jewels that are the Orkney Islands.
These tiny islands are far flatter than I had imagined unlike their Western counterparts. While the Isle of Skye is rugged with it’s crags jutting out ominous and brooding in the clouds, Orkney islands are flat and stretch out to a landscape littered with farmhouses, haystacks and fishing villages.
I am staying with the wonderful Sweyn and Jenny who I found through couchsurfing and their pointer Hamish and 2 cats, whose names I’ve suddenly forgotten. I was picked up by Frazer Campbell at the airport who works with the equalities unit of the police and has basically been the instigator of my trip here (thank you Frazer).
Jenny and I went to the local shop (Tesco!) and then she took me on a whilrwnd tour of Kirkwall and the surrounds. Luckily for me, she is a history teacher at Stromness and therefore packed full of information surrounding the local history. We drove over the Churchill Barrier causeways that were built by the Italian prisoners of war during the second world war following a horrendous attack on the harboured British fleet by a German U-Boat that resulted in the deaths of 600 young men and boys. This sparked the building of the causeways to protect the harbour which was located in a perfect geographical position and was fertile enough to feed the 30000 extra army folk who set up home during the war.
Then she took me to see the Sicilian chapel, an old Nissan hut lovingly and beautifully painted with images of the Virgin Mary and all sorts of cheaply available materials-plaster, cement used imaginatively to mimic the incredible Italian cathedrals. Attention to detail was unbelievable and like Michaelangelo, the POW whose vocation was to complete it took years of hard work and determination. An incredible result!
Tomorrow I shall be visiting one of the schools in Kirkwall and over the next few days, I shall be catching a ferry across to Hoy to see another school and then an 11 minute flight to Sanday island north of the mainland for another. Very exciting! My walk around Kirkwall was lovely with the ancient St. Magnus cathedral and the tourist shops and walking around the harbour is always lovely. I bought Orkney cheese and delicious sounding smoked tomato chutney….delicious!
Now, off to think about what could be done tomorrow as well as a bit more thought on the Tyi Wara script.
Has anyone else visited an island recently or not so recent? Let me know your views on island life.