Almost before you are aware of it the summer is over, we are in September, the autumn equinox is hard upon us, and we go wheeling down into the storms, the snow, the darkness of winter. It was all over too soon, the season of peaches (I never ate so many – this summer they were delicious), herrings, new potatoes, lettuce. Only a few of the summer visitors are left, playing guitars a little forlornly among the beer bottles, tramping through the reeds and the waters looking for autumn birdflights.
(George Mackay Brown – Letters from Hamnavoe – Gordon Wright 1975)
The above quote by GMB appeared in the weekly letter he wrote for the Orcadian. It is entitled ‘September the Third’ and was published on 9/9/71. It reflected pretty well the mood of the season when we happened to be in Orkney from 13 to 16 September…
We’re back from Scotland and, as it proved much more difficult than we first thought to keep in touch with you on Scotiana during our journey from the Scottish Borders to Orkney and back to the south, we’re quite eager now to share with you our new adventures there. It was our 7th trip in Scotland (3rd for Janice) and certainly not the last one for hardly had we come back home than we already began to plan our next trip . That’s just to show you how our enthusiasm for this marvellous country is growing stronger and stronger with each new trip, not being at all affected (as some people may think) by the very changing Scottish weather at this time of the year .
So here we are, back on our computers, Janice writing from Québec on ‘Bluebell’ (the very name of her computer evoking the beautiful carpets of blue flowers lavishly blooming in Scotland in April and May) while I’m writing from France on ‘Goéland’ (i.e gull) which is ready to fly back (virtually or not) to a country where it can be assured to find many of its species .
Scotland is indeed a true paradise for birds and bird lovers even if September does not seem to be the best season for bird watching. This time we had to content with the raucous cries of dark rooks (we love them), the timid approach here and there of a nicely pink-coloured chaffin, the up and downs of a group of oyster-catchers following the tide on a distant beach,the feeding of greedy and quacking ducks and solemn gliding of black and white swans on the lochs, the flying of myriads of gannets above and around Bass Rock (off North Berwick) and of course the omnipresence of crying gulls of all age along the coast roads… not forgetting the wild geese which migrate towards better skies… not so bad finally!
On August 30th, with joyful hurrahs we at last crossed the Scottish border, after a long drive of sunny kilometers in France and rainy miles in England. The weather was not at this best there but it could have been worse and so our new Scottish adventures began!
When preparing our luggage, I had promised to myself to take a minimum of books with us in the car and not to buy too many of them when browsing through the Scottish bookshops but it proved only wishful thinking for, despite the fact that I was taking my ‘Kindle’, I could not help filling a small green suitcase with a few favourites and, on our return trip, Janice was getting more and more squeezed at the back of the car while our pile of books and wee gifts grew dangerously high…
To say the truth, it had even been great dilemma for me to select the books to put in the ‘green suitcase’. Among the chosen few there were three books by George Mackay Brown, my favourite Scottish writer to whom we had planned to pay great homage in Orkney. These were Letters From Hamnavoe, For the Islands I Sing and Travellers…
What some people do with the Bible on opening it reverently each day I do with GMB’s books .
On my Kindle I had also downloaded The Wound and the Gift, a new and very interesting biography of the great Orcadian poet written by Ron Fergusson, one of his best friends. We didn’t know then that Ron Fergusson was to give a lecture in Wigtown Festival at the end of September and that we would just missed him when we went there before leaving Scotland…
I dedicate to George Mackay Brown our first page of Itinerary 7 for the ‘pilgrimage’ which led us from the poet’s house to his last resting place was one of the most moving moments of this trip. Many more pages will follow soon from Québec and France and maybe from Scotland where we have been so happy to meet our dear friends Iain and Margaret. This journey is forever linked with their very moving and quite friendly welcome. What unforgettable moments we’ve spent with them in their beautiful home! Many, many thanks to our friends… we could not have met better representatives of the old Scottish tradition of hospitality
It was pouring rain and the sea was choppy when we crossed the Pentland Firth aboard the MV Hamnavoe. The weather was so bad that the captain decided to choose a safer route than the one which follows the Orkney coast and passes by the Old Man of Hoy and the visibility was so poor from the deck that we decided to stay inside, enjoying a light meal and visiting each corner of the beautiful ship.
When we discovered George Mackay Brown’s quotes on a glass panel it was as if the Orkney bard had been there to welcome us on his beloved islands…
‘The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness
and a deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.’
(George Mackay Brown)
Nobody could have told better…
Bonne lecture and keep in touch to discover Orkney and many other marvellous places of Scotland