Graveyard At Fair Isle

25th January 2023
Graveyard At Fair Isle

May 2019

With The Ketch Tecla On Passage From Ullapool To Iceland

I arrived footsore and weary at the southern tip of Fair Isle, having struggled to keep up with the younger ones in the party. I let them carry on to the lighthouse while I found a seat in this stone-walled graveyard.

Fair Isle. This tiny island between Orkney and Shetland. A place I never imagined I would come to.

The line of the horizon is hazy. Below, the silvery grey sea, smudged with dark lines of a light swell, glinting where wave-tops catch the light. Above, thin stratocumulus covers the sky. Where the two meet, maybe a hint of sea fog.

Inshore, upturned strata form jagged rocks, miniature mountains sticking out of the sea. On one, a shag stands sentinel; gulls fly lazily past; an oystercatcher cries shrilly.

The swell, blown in by an almost imperceptible onshore wind, gathers height as it approaches the shallows, murmurs up the beach, and gently breaks, making no fuss at all. But a little way offshore, a tidal race surges through a narrow passage, throwing up turbulence and broken waves.

It’s a grey scene, but quietly so, infused with subtle watercolour greys, comforting rather than gloomy. Something in this place captures me. It has a simplicity I have been looking for and not found so far on this voyage. It is a place I feel accepted.

But do I accept the place? I have been out of sorts so far on this trip. Sometimes think I ought to be somewhere else. Sometimes my mind wanders. Sometimes, when the younger ones leave me behind, I feel like a feeble old man.  Yet for fragments of time, I am happy.

All I really want to say is: This simple beauty. This is the world we have. And please will you stop wishing for something else?


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