I’m in Kirkwall on the Orkney islands for a conference on maritime societies in the Viking and Medieval periods. It’s a lovely sunny evening, which is apparently a rare and precious occurrence around these parts. The dialect is also something to experience: the waitress at the fish & chips shop I’m in took my order and then asked “Ta se’ en?”. On the third try I managed to understand that she wondered if I wanted to sit in, that is, to eat my fresh skate on the premises. I do.
And now I’m outside on the dock, smelling the sea, hearing a blackbird and the occasional seagull. Hardly any cars here of a weekend evening, blissfully quiet. When no storm is howling, I suppose.
Kirkwall. That’s pure Norse, like most place names here. Means Greensward of the Church, Kyrkvallen in Swedish. (Though originally it was Kirkjuvagr, Church Bay.) It refers to St. Magnus Cathedral, a Romanesque sandstone edifice that I visited briefly upon arrival. A security guy from the airport gave me a ride into town and dropped me off outside.
Getting colder as the sun sinks. I should get moving!
Update 7 June: Whoops. Eating skate was a bad move. Says Wikipedia, “Common skate and white skate are assessed as Critically Endangered by IUCN (World Conservation Union) and the fish is listed by the Marine Conservation Society as a ‘fish to avoid’.”