‘Skara – The Fourth Wave’

By Bernie Bell

Having just finished ‘Skara – The Fourth Wave’ by Andrew Appleby https://skarabooks.com/ , I thought I’d write of my response to reading this book – and what came to me, was to simply transcribe the exchanges I’ve had with the author, whilst reading it. This may seem a bit jumbly, but, as I started off by saying to Andrew ………….

“It’s not so much like reading a story, as following a dream.

I feel that I’m reading a dream.”

There is a dream-like quality to the book, which continues right through, even when strong, emotive things are happening – a woman giving birth – young people, bull dancing  – a family, joining to fight a Kraken – a storm at sea. It all has the feeling of …..following a dream – a dream which you might be having, yourself. A dream-journey – into – Dream-time?

As the King in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ instructed, I’ll ……   “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

After mentioning the dream-like quality, I emailed Andrew, to say………

“Last Sunday, Mike and I went for a walk at Skaill Bay, and Mike was picking up little clumps of Goose Barnacles, from the sand.  He tells me they are this year’s young.

And today, I started to read ‘Skara – The Fourth Wave’, and……..young geese.

Young Goose Barnacles – Young Geese. To me, there is a link there, somewhere.

And, we saw Skara Brae overgrown and sprouty. In this pic…..

Skara Brae during lockdown July 2020 Bell

……..to me, the thistles on the right hand side of the mound,  look like petroglyph figures – or some of your illustrations for Skara.

It’s all part of the story of Skara Brae and Skaill. Skara Brae was a bustling settlement – it was wiped out. The area became quieter – with the Big House, and farms dotted about. Then, Skara Brae is revealed, and excavated, and usually, on a fine Sunday in mid-July, the area would be bustling again – the Bay, and the ‘settlement’. Now, summer 2020 – nearly deserted again. It was as though we were walking in a possible future for Skara and Skaill, which will still be part of the story.
Time – shifts.”

On reading the description of Oiwa’s duel nature – goose and man – I emailed Andrew to say…………….

“It also reminds me of when Arthur becomes various creatures, as part of his learning.” –   referencing ‘The Once & Future King’ by T.H. White – one of my favourite books, and favourite people – T.H. White that is.

Re. the chapter entitled ‘Birth Control’ –

“I will have wittered at you about ‘Fourknocks’, before now, but – here it is, again………..

 There’s a Neolithic cairn, called Fourknocks, in the Bru Na Boinne area, of County Meath, in Ireland.  In that cairn, there’s a free-standing stone, with a carving on it.  I first encountered this, when someone I know went there. She went into the cairn, saw the carving, took some photos, and when she got home, sent me the photos, and asked what did I make of the carving.

I saw this image, as a pregnant woman, and the words that recurred and recurred, were “The child inside”.  Fourknocks is a stunning place.  Mike and I visited there, when we went on a visit/pilgrimage to the Bru Na Boinne.  I believe it to have been a Birthing Chamber, and, maybe, representing a womb.  Not sure about that, but I am sure about my feeling it was a birthing chamber.  We now refer to the carving, as The Lady, and I advise people to go there, and meet her.

Four Knocks Credit Bell

I had a wonderful dream about it, of people coming out of the stones, and dancing round inside the cairn, to humming music.”


“I’m rattling through ‘Skara’.  Every time I sit down, I pick it up to follow the tale, and work out what’s in the pictures.

And – it’s still like following a tale of a dream.  One of those dreams where you’re not sure if it’s dreaming, or if it happened – to you.

And – I’m beginning to see – the bull. The importance of the bull. They are important – the bull and the kye. They – matter. But, you know that.

And – The Dream Orb – we have one, which rests on a copy of an ammonite, with a snakes head, on the window sill in our Healing Room.

dream orb ammonite credit Bell

Dream on.


The character named ‘Juniper’ – and, as an antidote to Juniper – standing stones…….

“You must have known/know someone like her, to be able to paint that picture.  I’ve known a couple of them – and they are….poison.

I don’t know what good it does them to be like that, and they can cause a lot of harm to the unwary and to those of a kindlier disposition. Trusting people, trust them, then……….

And – the figure on page 213 reminds me of an Anthony Gormley figure. I don’t know what you make of Anthony Gormley?  To me, he’s human, human, human, to his very core.  Here’s something I wrote to the man himself, which I think links with your figure on page 213……

‘As I mentioned, I live on Orkney.   There are standing stones, not only on Orkney, which have an echo of your work ( or vice-versa?).  On the television programme, there was an image of a, more angular, ‘blocky’, piece of work which you’ve placed on a headland – I can’t remember where!  Maybe Cornwall?  It looked like it could be Cornwall.  That was very reminiscent of how some of the standing stones are placed – in isolation, above, alone, watching.  Some of the stones, have a feel of something in them, too.  A presence, maybe akin to the presence that might be inside the cases, at Pompeii. That, on the face of it, doesn’t make sense, I realize that, but………it makes sense to me!  Something of…humanity, the essential person/individual. Some of these stones, are most definitely, individual.  They have different……..feels….to them.  They’re not just stones, which have been  placed somewhere, randomly. They have something to them.  That ‘blocky’ one, you placed on a head-land, echoes images of some standing stones.’

Near Kirkhouse, South Ronaldsay. standing stone 2

Lone standing stone near Kirkhouse, South Ronaldsay


The Ronnie & Morgan Simison stone, standing sentinel by the Eagle cairn, South Ronaldsay credit Bell

The Ronnie & Morgan Simison stone, standing sentinel by the Eagle cairn, South Ronaldsay

I don’t want to finish the book!!!!!


Andrew told me I was reading too fast – I answered “I can’t help it!!!”

And……towards the end……the drowning of Doggerland? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doggerland  The drownings caused by The Minoan Eruption? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_eruption  To quote from ‘Skara – The Fourth Wave’ – “One fateful day, after tempests and an earth-shaking, a mountain of water broke itself over the land.  Ice ran before the wave.  It scoured the hills and woodland like raging bulls.”

I finished reading the book – but The Dreaming – continues……………

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2 replies »

  1. It occurred to me – for those who are considerate enough to not visit Orkney this year, due to the Coronavirus – reading the ‘Skara’ books is a way of being here, without being here.

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