August 10. 2009 Monday
I made it to Scara Brae, Circle of Broder, St Mangus Church in Kirkwall (see video) all before getting on the 4:20 ferry to Westray.
4 days later.. I’m just leaving Westray…I wept when I arrived and wept as I was leaving Westray. The Island is a warm place that enfold me in its firmly woven community. Where everyone waves from behind their steering wheels to acknowledge each other as they drive by. From the moment the ferry docked I was warmly greeted by Jock and James, two bachelor brothers who had heard Jim was having a visitor and were on the look out for me. They jumped in my car and asked me if I could drive them up the gang plank to their Land Rover, and after several attempt to interpret what they were trying to say….thick Orkney accents need to be heard at least three times before I could understand what the were saying. One brother James held my hand for quite awhile, telling me I was very welcome. They said I could follow them to Jim’s place…it was a great indication the close knit community and I felt immediately “at home”.
Gentle, rolling hills, miles of farm land with cattle and sheep, gorgeous sandy beeches and castles, hundreds of ancient stone crofts falling apart by the road side in a romantic tumble of decay and sturdiness.
Jim sits at his kitchen table, with the bare light bulb, just like he did back in Vancouver, his mail and business affairs and vitamin regime all organized on the table. I was relieved to see him looking much as he had 5 years ago. He’s 94 now and his older brothers and sisters have gone. He’s the last of his family. A nephew William, another career bachelor, (I heard there are 100 bachelors on the island) runs the farm now. Their farm is now 300 acres of cattle land which has grown from the 67.5 their family began with. Lochend, the name of Jim’s farm. All farms have a name instead of a numbered address, which makes places hard to find as most of the place names are not on the houses. Jim has a book with all the houses and history of each place and family and name of the house, that’s the best way to find anything on Westray. Jim says this can be my second home now. “Plenty of room” he says, “tell your brother and friends to come and stay”, “I need company” says Jim. Jim and his brother built the new 5 bedroom house in the 50’s.
Jim has several village women caregivers that look after him, they come at 8am, 12noon and Alyson from the Pierowall Hotel, brings him up his supper and gives his back a wash if he need it. She makes the best fish and chips in Westray and brings us both dinner while I am visiting. Last night, I had a big blue lobster (13 lbs) from Crostie’s Lobster Ponds and periwinkles, unbelievable fresh and delicious.
Had an afternoon Van tour with Westraak, Kathy and her kind husband who run the Half Yok café. We (all four of us) went up to the Lighthouse at Noup Head, perched high atop the cliffs, where the bird life is astonishing, Kittywakes, Ganets, Squeers all nesting in the ridges of the rock face. Then to an archeological dig site near my favourite beech, where I think they will find an ancient stone village even bigger that Skara Brae.
Jock visits Jim every day at 6 to water his plants, the tomatoes in the front porch and the pear tree in the green house in the back garden and do any small chores Jim may need done. Jim has a walker and can still get from his electric Easy boy chair to the table, bathroom and his bedroom down the hall, but that’s it these days, no leaving the house. He dreams of striking it rich (through some mail scheme) so he can have a big staff, a secretary and a motor home equipped with a nurse so he can see the county and have his freedom.
Found two kittens in Jim’s yard, of course I started leaving food for them. I asked Jock to keep it up, he said he would.
Visited Jock and his brother yesterday to have my Nun photos taken, Jock is so shy, taking a photo was a big deal for him and he was scared to make a mistake. We took the Nun photos by a tumbled down stone cottage with a blue door that he owns next door to Dogtoo, the name of his cottage. Jock come from a family of 13 children, his sister Kitty, fell of the cliff when she was 18 and a few others have passed away or moved away.
I finally sang for Jim last night, didn’t know if I’d get to it as he seemed to need to talk more than listen. Started with “That’s the Glory of Love” and then did “Strip Tease of the Soul” and “Halloween”, and a bit of Pollyhymnia…when ever I’d start speaking lines they seemed to think I was just speaking, so they could speak too….so I stopped that and listened.
I was really glad I sang to Jim. He was pleased to have a little song and dance in his kitchen. He said “it’s so human, your songs. You just don’t know what to expect, you’ve got something there. You fit in so easily here.”