An otter crossed the road as I headed out on small roads beside the loch heading for Tingwall, it was seven fifty am and still gloomy, it loped across the road, smaller than a cat and with that movement I recognise easily. Later, someone asks, are you sure it wasn’t a stoat, yes I am sure it was not a stoat.
I have spent three days in a wondrous storytelling extravaganza, stories of island life, of trolls, the underworld and dragons, tales with a moral and tales that make no sense. Story tellers from Dundee, Edinburgh, Iceland and Sweden, the latter two, the Viking contingent. Good humour, soft nature, a cacophony of warmth.
The boat tips wildly from side to side, the Egilsay ferry is small, we are incarcerated, around thirty of us. The wind blows strong and outer rain competes with condensation inside to keep us blind until we will step ashore. We have had no real storms since I have arrived but horizontal rain is a regular occurance.
The wind does not abate, we stop briefly at Rousay in pouring rain, gather more souls then travel on across the water to Egilsay, to visit the place where St Magnus was killed. We stand on the quay gathering and Kat, from writing group, decides to put on her poncho but the wind will not have it. I try to assist. We find the head hole but the wind is stronger and we giggle helplessly, failing, until she decides to wear the poncho as a scarf. I think how much more easily I am laughing, but wonder whether I would have been laughing if it were me struggling with a torn flimsy poncho.
The wind pushes us hard up the hill and dries the fine rain as fast as it mists us giving it little chance to soak our clothing. Our Icelandic storyteller sports thick knitted jumper, gloves and jeans whilst the rest of us are clothed in waterproofs top to bottom and the wiser amongst us, wearing wellies.
I think we are going to a prehistoric cairn but instead we reach a structure like a war memorial which marks the spot where Magnus is supposed to have died. Nick a lay preacher and writer of Britain’s Holiest Places talks about how we connect with landscapes through ritual. Fran takes us on a spoken journey to Papa Westray and the healing waters of St Tredwells Loch. She tells how she was healed and although she also talks of whisky in abundance, the next day her eye seemed miraculously better.
Nick has bathed in the same Loch, told how he stripped and clambered in. He is interested to talk swimming and I find I have been singled out and introduced for I seemingly have acclaim as a polar bear. Two others also want to talk about winter swimming, one our story teller from Dundee and the other lives on Rousay, maybe I might join the Rousay facebook group and find her, visit her one day.