This is Stromness. More specifically, this is a path up the hillside, from near the harbour towards the primary school I attended, once upon a time. Stromness remains the only town or village I have ever felt close to calling home.

Stromness features heavily in my oh-so-very-nearly completed novel, current working title still The Care Industry, and this steep path has an important role in one particular scene. Briefly revisiting Stromness earlier this year was an odd experience, one marinated in memory and seasoned with a little melancholy, but it was also extremely practical, looking at locations I had been writing about from old and faded remembrance, and finding that the process shone a light on these once more, rejuvenating, and brushing away the cobwebs.

Have a listen to this (or read it, preferably both); I now love the work of George Mackay Brown, something that was not true when first I encountered it at school, despite seeing the man himself walking around the town. Now, however, I find his words fit in with who I am, in a way that was perhaps wasted on a younger me. Hamnavoe (the Viking name for the anchorage where Stromness now sits), to me, is a poem I cannot get enough of, rather like the town it portrays.

I struggled to choose a single photo of Stromness to share here. Over on my twitter account I posted a couple of other potential options. Did I make the right choice? Or do you prefer one of the others?

A view of a steep path in Stromness, Orkney.
The thin wynds of Stromness connect the streets like ribs from a spine. The former are mostly at right angles to the shore, the latter running parallel, the geography of the town dictating this, Brinkie’s Brae looming above all, as the town tries to climb the hill itself. In some ways this system reminds me a little of the Old Town of Edinburgh, with the narrow closes and wynds leading off what we now call The Royal Mile. These were also perpendicular to the main street, leading into the fields that were still present when this medieval part of the city was constructed. It fascinates me how there are shadows of pasts hidden everywhere, often in plain sight (one day I am sure I shall discuss York, in relation to this).

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Friday Photo #14 Stromness; Wynds and Closes

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