The last day of the Stromness Spirit of the Sea festival was a day of ups and (quite literally) downs. I spent the morning collecting stories then in the afternoon I helped run a children’s workshop with the storyteller Lynn Barbour. The workshop was a great success, the kids loved it and all went away with their own sea creature models and pictures. The children used objects found on the beach to create characters and tell their own story, each adding a few sentences and acting it out with their object. It was great to see the imaginative response from the kids and their enthusiasm for creating was infectious. With a couple of hours to kill after the workshop I wandered the streets, sketched some of the boats in the harbour and took some notes about my thoughts for the project. With nothing immediately occupying my mind my thoughts soon began to stray to things back at home, little loose ends and stresses wriggled their way into my head and niggled at me until my mood began to dip.
That was when I well and truly connected with the landscape; as I stepped off a high curb I misjudged the distance and collided with the cold stone street. In shock I lay on the ground for a moment wondering what had just happened. The heel of my right hand was badly grazed and I could feel a sore area where a bruise would later form on my left arm. I had skinned my knees under my jeans and twisted my ankle but not, it felt, too badly. I gingerly got to my feet, feeling a little shaky and went to wash the grit out of my hand.
As I got over the shock I realised that in a way it had been a wakeup call, it was one of those silly little accidents which stirred me and brought me back from the worries churning through my thoughts to the here and now, to my present location and situation. I was no longer thinking about things I could not control or do anything about, I was no longer purely ‘in my head’. I walked along to the small whalers’ shack where the next event was taking place feeling strangely uplifted.
The Whalers’ Tales event was great. It took place in a small stone building at the edge of the water, with candles in the crevices of the walls and torches burning in the fireplace. It was an evening of music, story and song, including a local old boy called Billy singing whaling songs and getting everyone to join in with the chorus’s and even some actions he had devised for one of them. The atmosphere was tangible and as I left at the end I was extremely glad that I had been there.
As I prepare to climb into bed one of the songs that Billy sung is still circling in my mind and tonight no doubt I will dream of whales…