Orkney, in the rain

If you want to get an idea of the effects of living on a small island, consider the techniques of car hire. The booking is done online, yes, but the owner of the business then meets one at the airport, and casually asks that when the car is returned, the customer just park it over in this general area, and tuck the keys above the visor.


I didn’t even ask what happened if one of the local kids had caught on and decided to lift a car for a joy ride. Where is there to go for a joy ride but into the sea? And on an island with a population roughly the same as in 1920, anyone you pass who doesn’t recognize the driver, will recognize the car.


Most crime here is pretty low key.


The main town is Kirkwall, on the north side of the island, with a grand cathedral begun by the Vikings, which image I simply adore. Wouldn’t Monty Python have made a ridiculous skit about Norsemen in horned helmets building a church? But from a modern point of view, the real advantage of a grand church is that it’s hard to mistake where one is in the town built around it.


Mainland, the main island (the actual mainland, Scotland, is just called Scotland, although in fact, that’s just part of a larger island) has two thinly joined segments, with Kirkwall at the meeting of west and east. I set off to drive around the eastern half of the island for a while before coming back to Kirkwall, where I found a car park and walked through the rain in search of lunch and entertainment.


Lunch was found in a tea shop crowded with local accents (like Scots, only more so) and faces from the Scandinavian gene pool.  As for entertainment, I had the ill fortune to find the local bookstore right off, and ended up with several huge tomes that made my arm ache just looking at them. But really, how can a conscientious author resist a five hundred page work by the man who introduced flights into Orkney? Or a glossy photo book on Orkney in Viking myths? Or…

 I may have to buy another suitcase.

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  1. LaideeMarjorie on June 17, 2008 at 8:07 am

    If anyone wants to see the Viking built church that Laurie is speaking about,
    here it is:


    Can’t you ship some of those precious new books home? With the new fee for any baggage on the planes, it might be worth it! It would certainly be better for your back.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your adventures.


  2. Teresa on June 17, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Oh the lure of books! And travel seems to draw you [me] to books moreso. I deliberately do not pack books at the outset of a trip, knowing full well that when I returen any bags I have will be full of books and rocks, to the detriment of clothing, which often gets left behind.

    And what a fascinating place Orkney sounds. Those Scots have a distinct air, a certain , wherever they go [I have just returned from 6 weeks in NS]. Maybe some of this will trickle into one of your books someday. 😉


  3. tangential1 on June 17, 2008 at 10:24 am

    *grin* I suppose that’s why they had that luggage shop at the airport;)

  4. Teresa on June 17, 2008 at 10:30 am

    p.s. That’s “je ne sais quoi” , which was deleted by the comment machine because I put it between the wrong kind of diacritical marks.


  5. Roxanne on June 17, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    [*grin* I suppose that’s why they had that luggage shop at the airport]

    Ha! Tangential1/Erin–I was thinking the same thing!


  6. Bachi on June 17, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Ut, Oh, Lauries on an Island, fee, fie, foe, fum, I smell a book in the making again!
    Once they started adding fees for luggage over 50lbs (weight) we started mailing bulk items home. It was less cumbersome and a heck of a lot cheaper.

  7. corgimom on June 18, 2008 at 7:35 am

    I do hope you try the regional single malt scotch! If you like it, ship the books home and safely tuck the scotch into your bags!

  8. Lauren on June 19, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    This sounds positively charming. I had to chuckle at the Vikings building a cathedral. Grand image.

    And how great it is to know that you also return from vacations with piles of books. My mother and I went to Santa Fe, NM for a few days. They have some great little bookstores there. My mom, a photographer, found some classic photo books…things she just couldn’t live without. I too came home with a few extra books to add to my shelves. It’s a good thing.

    Continued safe travels to you.

  9. barbara on June 27, 2008 at 10:15 am

    I once read a book (possibly called ‘The Farfarers’) about the monk who brought Christianity to the Vikings. One of the early converts travelled with him but found the adjustment to a new way of life somewhat challenging. The monk was patient but eventually had to challenge him about his old habits – when he lost his temper he just must not any longer put his axe through the head of his adversary. Once was understandable, twice was unfortunate, but three murders were too many to overlook and they had to part ways.

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