30 September 2011

Another new career?

So, after my brilliant night's sleep of yesterday's blog, just wanting to share that it's 3:12am & I am sitting on the toilet lid blogging while Spud snoozes. I am so jealous. I will be the one snoozing inappropriately at 11am today...

Here is my Orkney souvenir tea-towel!

I suppose you think this is just another pile of old rocks? Well, yes, I guess you'd be right there but in fact, it is the Broch of Gurness, dating to about 100BC and possibly inhabited by Picts. It's a huge house come fort come village. No-one is really sure of its purpose. To be really honest with you all, at 3am and after all is history, my mind is starting to clam up re dates. Just think this: it's really, really old.

We also visited Kirbuster Farm museum which showed us what living conditions were like for the average Joe farmer on Orkney. This farm remained like this until the early 1960's. This is the lounge room - shared with a peat fire, a bunch of dead fish, a whole lot of smoke and the cattle. The bed is there tucked against the wall and I will tell you this now - not much passion would have been going down in THIS little farmhouse! Ohmygod. I will NEVER complain of a broken dishwasher or cold showers again....

Lunchtime involved research into one of my favourite topics - the study of ice-cream in the modern world. Orkney has it's own dairy, brewery, meat works, mill house, cheesery, distillery... It's my job as a True Tourist to ensure these are all satisfactory. Ha! So far so good. The steak here is divine. The sea scallops are not farmed but collected by hand. The ice-cream was spectacular... They grow barley here for animal feed and a certain type of barley wheat called "bere" which has been grown here since Neolithic times. We visited the mill house where Brian, the miller, let me turn on the mill! It really was quite exciting! You pull this big lever, which blocks the water, forcing it into the wheel and thus turning on the water-driven mechanism. However, apparently now I am tythed to the mill as an apprentice miller & am expected to report for work tomorrow morning at 6am! The miller was a huge man with an barely discernible accent who's family has lived on Orkney for five generations. I am busy trying to find a true blue Viking descendant. They did DNA studies here and found most of the men were of Norse descent while the women were mainly Irish, but as we are learning, the Vikings moved a lot between the two countries. The are a lot of redheads here and everyone has such clear, unblemished pink skin! I can't help noticing the complete absence of poxy skin cancers, moles or wrinkles!

Here I am, enjoying a seat in the chapel of a 12th century monk hang-out on the Brought of Birsay. Apparently the seating around the side was for the aged and infirm monks but you know, after a day of history, I was feeling a bit that way.

This is a fine example of Viking drainage, circa 10th century. The similarities, no matter how primitive, to modern conveniences is quite freaky. These Neolithic and Viking houses are following basic principles which we still use today - insulation, drainage, water storage, gardens.... It's all part of the great Mind Blow which is straining my atrophied little brain cells. I think I want to be an apprentice miller AND anthropologist now. How many careers can I have at once?
And then there is linguistics. The language and dialect up here is fascinating and I am becoming very fond of "bonny" and "wee" as well as this one, "peedie". Imagine how well you could speak the language after a few whiskeys! Only one more day of more (effin') history tomorrow. Or later today. Did I swear then? Could I possibly be ODing on all this history? It really is SO amazing. We heard yesterday about a guy in a village just trying to do a renovation on his house but, well, dadgum - his house was built over a Viking burial and long house. What a bother.... It actually IS a bother because the home owner then has to pay for the archaeologic dig before they can do their renovation & I can imagine that could be both protracted and expensive. I wonder if we will turn over any Vikings in our veggie patch back home?
This toilet seat is getting hard. I wonder if I can get back to sleep. I am too busy thinking about all the stories on this island. It's almost like the breadbasket of civilization here.

Location:Kirkwall, Orkney

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