Sunday, July 05, 2015

Plus ca change...

Thank you for your birthday wishes. I don't know why 65 seems so much more of a milestone than 60 did. Maybe it's because when I was 60 I was still working, my mother was still alive and I felt of more use to the world? Retirement is very pleasant but I often feel rather guilty at not working, especially as women only slightly younger than I are having to work much longer, with the new pension arrangements.
Anyway, back to Orkney.

This is St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, which was founded in 1137 and took about 300 years to build. After all the New Stone Age buildings, this seemed virtually new, but is pretty impressive for such a small place.

Kirkwall also features the Bishop's Palace, which dates from a mere 1600 but hasn't been so well looked after as the cathedral. Mr Life is standing in the great hall, which used to look more like -

- this. You have to use your imagination.

But there are older ruins - lots more - to enjoy. This is the Brough of Birsay, with Pictish and Norse buildings.

Again you can see how the builders used slabs of stone to build cupboards and beds and fireplaces.

This is where they got the stone from - the natural slab formations all around them.

This is what the buildings might have looked like.

Back in time again to the Neolithic (New Stone Age - 5000 years ago) period, here's the Unstan Chambered Cairn. Again, it has the stone stalls dividing it up inside, though there's also an extra chamber off to the side. Mr L decided not to go in because he's a bit tall, but I did. I have to say that I didn't stay in long. It was somewhat claustrophobic - not that I thought I was claustrophobic, but arrgghh. When it was opened up, they found lots of bones in the stalls and two complete crouching skeletons in the extra chamber.

Now, here's something really interesting - or at least, I thought so. We visited a croft (subsistence farm) house, which has been preserved as a museum. It's comparatively recent - dating from the eighteenth/nineteenth century. And look, above, at what they used for shelves. No trees on Orkney, so of course they used slabs of stone.

And this is the byre for the animals. Stone stalls, just like in the Neolithic houses and tombs. It's not really surprising - people just use what they have, and they didn't have wood apart from driftwood or imported wood.

A stone ? water tank in the garden, just like the ? fish tanks in the Neolithic houses at Skara Brae.

And a stone box bed, again, just like those in the Neolithic houses.

What particularly surprised me was that no one pointed the similarity out to us. I suppose it's all quite natural, especially to an Orcadian. But it made me very thoughtful. Time telescopes.


  1. Wow. You always notice the most interesting things Pam. I have my next (after next) trip to Scotland planned now -- Orkney and Shetland. I can't wait! ;-D

  2. This is all fascinating. I had no idea about all these stone slab remains.......From Neolithic times forward...One uses what one finds at hand. But I;m glad to live in the here and now.

  3. Belated birthday wishes, Pam. 65 is ok, I found (although I'm now 66); but like you, I feel a little guilty about my friends who have to work until they are 67!! I can't imagine getting up and ready for work each morning nowadays. Your island holiday looks and sounds wonderful, and makes me want to go there too. But how difficult to leave the grandchildren for so long!

  4. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I'll be 49 this coming December... and am starting to feel a kinship with your attitude towards sleep. My husband and I got married in 2002 and have wanted to go on a trip to Scotland together since then... we really must make it happen before we're too "sleepy" to be any good for it.

  5. What an interesting outing. This looks like the inhabitants had a very hard life... pun intended. Makes me ache just looking at it!