Culture

An Extra-ordinary Orkney Holiday – Part Three

By Bernie Bell

The other main story which I was involved with whilst staying at ‘Langhoose’ is as follows:-

This started with a young man, going on and on and on at me, about doing up his house.  He didn’t actually live at ‘Langhoose’, but was connected with the family in some way.  At first, I tried to block him, saying that I’m a small, stout, middle-aged woman, who does not do up houses!  I can block the spirit people, if I have to, but he was very persistent, and he wasn’t being nasty –  I just didn’t see what he was going on about.  Then I realised that he was very much in his own time, which I would say, is what’s conveniently referred to as ‘Victorian’.  I couldn’t place him specifically, I don’t know enough, and ‘Victorian’ does cover a long time!   He was very much my idea of how a ‘Victorian’ man would dress – maybe mid- 1800’s?  He was a pleasant looking young chap, too – fresh faced and generally  – lively. I think quite stylish for the time and place.

Anyway, he very much was stuck in his own time, and was so obsessed with getting his house fixed up, that he didn’t see me, he saw the person he wanted to see – the man he had the grievance with. His frustration was so centred on the idea of the house, that it blinkered him to everything else. People don’t change much, do they?

So, here’s the story….he’d been planning to marry. The person he was going on at, that he thought I was, was a man who was supposed to be getting a house fixed up for him to move into with his bride.  The awful thing is, they never married – they both died.  I don’t know how.  I don’t know what happened, but they both died and never married.  His worrying seemed to be more fixed on the  house, than on their not having married, or on their dying, even!  Maybe that’s something people do – he could cope with kicking up about the house, but he couldn’t cope with even looking at the idea of their deaths, and not having married.

I have very little idea of his bride-to-be.  She wasn’t there, and didn’t play a part in this.  I just have a vague image, through him, of a young woman, quite well built, slim, but solid, in a brown dress – that’s all I have about her!

He also gave me an image of the house as it is now.  It was never fixed up for them, and, possibly due to the tragedy associated with it, was then left to become derelict.  It looks like many of the abandoned houses on Orkney – two gable ends, walls, and there’s still one, big, roof-beam, sticking out from one of the gable ends.  If I could draw, I’d draw it, but I can’t!  I’ll know it if I ever see it.

My discussions with this young man were a very different matter to my talks with ‘Robert Staðrson’.  He was simply a deeply distressed young man, who’s dreams of marrying and setting up house with his bride, had been snatched from him.

Mainly, I talked of how it was long ago – that his bride-to-be appears to have been able to accept it, and move on.  His attachment to the house, and the idea of the house – what that represents – is understandable, but he needed to let go of that, and move on.

I said that, even if someone bought it, and did it up (which is very possible), it would then be their home.  If he was still attached to it, and made his presence felt, at all, it would be very un-fair, and could spoil their happiness, as his had been spoilt.  The idea I tried to get across to him, was to try and accept what had happened – hard though that may be to do.  To accept that it was long ago, and that holding on to the idea of the house, was just holding him onto that life.  He’d had a good life, up to that point, and, if The Fates decreed so, might have had a good life from then on, but it’s not for us to know, or dictate, how long we live.

He was a reasonable young man, who could see the sense of this.

As with ‘Robert Staðrson’, you need to realise that these were on-going conversations – it wasn’t all sorted out in one go – if only!!!

The feeling I have, with this young man, is that our talks helped him a lot.  He’d fixated on the idea of getting the house fixed.  It was almost as if, if he could get ‘me’ – that is, the person he thought I was, at first – to fix the house, so that it was ready for the wedding, then, maybe the wedding would take place, and all would be well.

Our talks brought him round to a realisation of the true situation, which I then helped him to deal with, as best I could.  I feel that he has moved on now – I don’t think he’s at Langhoose, and I don’t think he’s at the other house either.  I don’t know where he is!  That’s always the question, when someone passes, leaving no trace.  In his case, he did leave a trace – a strong, unhappy presence, but I feel he’s moved on now, and accepted what happened.

It would be nice to think he met up with his lady again, but I don’t know about that, as she accepted it all, so much sooner.  Maybe she’d already gone on to whatever was next for her.  We can’t always hope to stay together – it depends on us, and how we are.

It’s tempting to think – ‘Poor young people’, and what happened is hard indeed, but, they have both accepted it, now, and it’s past.

He was/is a very different character to ‘Robert Staðrson’.  I never got his name, or that of his lady-love.  You might have noticed, that ‘Robert Staðrson’, is always referred to as ‘Robert Staðrson’?  That’s because he’d be very cross if I didn’t!  Always on his dignity.  I have changed the names, but was careful to give him  a name which is…. what he was….. son of the place.  He doesn’t mind that.

There was a follow-up to this tale.  In September 2009, I wrote the following, to someone that I’d told this story to……..

“I’ve just read an item in this weeks ‘Orcadian’, by Donald S. Murray, entitled “Why Orcadians lost their taste for guga”.

As I read it, I was reminded of the story I told you about the young man (dis-incarnate) at ‘Langhoose’ who was on at me about doing up his house as he was going to get married.  Do you remember?

As I read this story, I very much felt it was the young people in question.  I then gave the paper to Mike and asked him to read it, and he said that the hair stood up on the back of his neck.  If this is the young couple in question, it’s no wonder he was un-settled.  What a dreadful way to die.  Stuck on a rock, starving, when you should be getting married.  My last impression though, when we were staying at ‘Langhoose’, was that he had taken on board all that we discussed, and seemed to accept his situation better.  I wasn’t quite sure if he’d moved on, but he was definitely feeling more settled about it all.

I just thought I’d mention it.  I’m pretty sure it’s them.  The only thing now, is to think, “Poor young things” and ask for a blessing on them.  I never had a peep from the lady though, until the evening after I’d read the article, when I just had a sort-of passing awareness, so I think she’s o.k. too.  I know she died of a broken heart, but that wasn’t really as traumatic as starving to death on a rock. Also, of course, different people have different levels of acceptance of events, and of their own passing.”

The Langhoose Bernie Bell

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