For five thousand years we have used darkness as the metaphor of our mortality. We were at the mercy of merciless death, which is darkness. When we died, they sent a beam of midwinter light in among our bones. What a tender, potent gesture. In the Christian era, we were laid in our graves to face the rising sun. We’re … Read More
How Archaeology Ruined My Englishness Forever
Here’s a story about how archaeology ruined me as an Englishman.
Nobody Expects The Orkney Haar
Surely my eyes have blown a fuse. The world is blank – not a hole (because holes are *in* something) but a total absence, a blackness filled with light. Vertigo sweeps over me. And…that strange muddled sense of depth, like when you’re drifting off to sleep in a darkened room and suddenly you can’t tell if the ceiling is a million … Read More
The Mystery of Lighthouse Corner
“Lighthouse Corner? Aaaaaahrr.” This was the response I’d been hoping for. From deep within a creased, twinkly-eyed, wind-ruddied face looking like an elephant wearing blusher, the wheezing voice continued. “Hoos. Lighthoos. Road, blarg, garb oot crossflarp. FLARP”. Now, I’m part Scottish. You’d think I’d have a smattering of understanding at a genetic level about how to translate accents like this … Read More
Orkney: What Do You Do?
What can you actually do in Orkney? No, forget the sightseeing. Forget the daytrips, the beach walks, the clambering up sea-stacks to watch intrepid archaeologists braving the elements while hugging filthy mugs of tea (more on that topic another time). Forget visiting. We’re talking living up there. I know of a number of people who are intending to move up … Read More
Journey Home, Interrupted
Oh boy. I’m sat in an Internet cafe in Kirkwall. The Orkney bus (connecting me with Inverness and all my trains back home) left an hour ago. I’m a numpty. Coming back from Greece in ’07, a delayed train screwed me over and forced me to buy new tickets (which I recouped some of the cost of, because it wasn’t … Read More
Previously on “Orkney”…
I’m heading up to Orkney in a little over a week – a place I worked as an archaeologist for a couple of months, a place that’s in my blood enough to wish I’d been born there. It’s a place where spectacles creep up on you. (No, the other kind). Every day is a different palette. But archaeology is terribly … Read More
A piece I wrote for a now-deceased online magazine (edited by the fabulous Karen Walrond) back in 2006. I’m holding the cup to my face. Anywhere else, this might look a little strange; but this is Orkney, and it’s an autumn morning with the promise of winter felt in every exposed extremity.