David Barnard

David Barnard

There is a group of islands to the North of Scotland. It is separated from the mainland by a very spikey, spoilt brat of a stretch of water called the Pentland Firth. The Pentland Firth can turn one’s innards upside down and downside up. This archipelago of a group of islands is my home. Orkney.

To the south, at the light’s whim, the outlines of Scotland reveal themselves as either hints or firm brush strokes. But it is to the north of these islands you must look as sky and sea merge. The horizon is endless in its magic. 

My home is surrounded by water. The mass of water that surrounds and imprisons Orkney, acting as judge and gaoler, also deters and protects.  Water falls regularly from above. After a while the rain gets too much even for the Green Land to absorb and liquid pools sit, waiting patiently for permission to enter.

Orkney is buffeted and blustery. Depending on what mood the weather is in, Orkney can display itself either like a strutting peacock or a proud bird of prey. Orkney is my home.

I live on the largest island of Orkney. This island is called the Mainland. I live in the town of Stromness on the West Mainland. The West Mainland has the main prehistoric sites.

 Incomers have in their head a range of magical possibilities from a fresh start in their own lives to mysterious encounters with mischevious trowies and finmen and giants and selkies.

To take all this in and to understand the magnificence of what I have told you needs a complete rejigging of thought and attitude. The elements, nature, the birdies, landscape are the important players here. We play second fiddle. We know our place.

The stimuli for any creativity is all around you in Orkney.  You don’t need to seek it out.

 My favourite walk starts near to Skara Brae, the Neolithic site, just a few miles up the West Mainland coast from Stromness.

The coastal path climbs up from Marwick Head to the Kitchener Memorial and then the gradual descent to Birsay and its tidal island – the Brough of Birsay with its white lighthouse.

Eyes left you look out and lose yourself in the wonder of the sea and its waves. The waves get bigger and bigger.  First a spit of whiteness, then this big-white- fat grin: getting huge, more evil by the second. A white chariot. Dead centre. Show offy. Menacing. Wave’s job done. Disappears. The next wave waiting its turn like a plane on the runway. ‘My turn now’.

And I thought……here’s my story… the waves, one following the other, if I don’t commit the act, someone else will.

Orkney had just given me a main theme in my debut novel.

Why not have a narrator and lead character who feels that they have been given permission to do what they wish by the landscape.

Orkney is the Gift which keeps on Giving.