Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Island

Of course we live on an island and yet remain fascinated by islands off our shores. Our weather is dictated by influences of the surrounding seas and much of our heritage is derived from being an island nation. The islands of Orkney and Shetland are themselves a set of numerous islands ...in fact the largest island of Orkney call itself ' Mainland' ( very confusing for visitors ! ) These islands are more akin to Scandinavia , their language being Norse in origin, their culture clearly Viking and they feel remote not just from Westminster politics, but even from Edinburgh politics!

 There is that feeling when visiting a close island of really getting away from it all, of embarking on an adventure, of experiencing a different life and leaving our own island behind.

I've visited many west coast islands, and Orkney, when I lived in Scotland. Over the sea to Skye I went in 1960, when the ferry left from Kyle of Lochalsh to deposit us on what we considered a remote island with few amenities. The opening of the bridge brought new prosperity to the community, enabling islanders to work on the mainland ( and vice versa!) , enabling school children to remain at home instead of having to board on the mainland, allowing shopping expeditions to take place ...instead of maybe a quarterly ferry trip ....taking with one a large list of supplies...and not just for yourself, as others would ask you to collect goods for them!

Orkney is surprising , as the roads are really quite good and many of the smaller islands connected by built causeways...like the Churchill barriers built during the war to prevent enemy shipping from entering the likes of Scapa Flow and other vulnerable bays.

The Outer Hebrides are reached by ferry trips across The Minch ( sometimes a notoriously treacherous piece of water ) ....this means that trips are seldom booked in advance incase the ferry is cancelled. Intrepid travellers go there by air- a much shorter trip but still dependant upon good conditions. Smaller islands are served by ferry services and air services ...the latter often necessitating the removal of livestock from the landing strip! From these islands we are yet lured to smaller and smaller islands in pursuit of remoteness. Yes, we islanders like island life!

The poem featured today was written on the Isle of Skye , about a group of tiny islands that were viewed from the kitchen window of our holiday accommodation.

Ascrib Isles

The sky has cleared and shows the empty isles sunny in their isolation.
Ascrib Isles - a likely Viking name ?
But I look from the window and call them " my islands".

We took the ' Hebrides' and passed close by these islands.
I imagined that I might touch them, walk upon them, claim them.
But soon we were past, sailing on.
Recognising other peninsulas and bays...
Remembering being there, reminiscing -
Gentle thoughts, smiling thoughts.
We sailed on over the dark, calm Minch
Among other islets, some mere rocks
And skirting a rocky reef we made safe haven in Lochmaddy.

          Thanks for reading ...Kath
 
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