An Odd Coincidence

By Bernie Bell

I finished reading ‘The Sun’s Net’ by George MacKay Brown – what a writer that man is.  There’s a lot in there about folk being dead, but not realising that they are. Is that why all kinds of peoples, all over the world, hold a ‘wake’ of some kind?  To help the ‘dead’ to see where they are and help them on their way?

This brought back the memory of myself, one of my sisters and one of my nieces, sitting up all night with my Dad, who was lying there in his coffin. We were keeping him company, so’s he wouldn’t feel lonesome on his first night.

Back to the odd coincidence.

I was looking for something to read – what do you read after GMB?  There’s a row of books by Alice Thomas Ellis on one of our shelves.  I must have read everything by her at one time, but that was decades ago, so I looked along the titles.  Some still reminded me of the stories inside, then I came to ‘The Inn At The Edge Of The World’, and had no memory of what that was about, so I read the ‘blurb’ on the back….

“Five fugitives from Christmas are lured by an advertisement to a remote Scottish island.”

This piqued my curiosity, so I started to read it.  ATE isn’t GMB, but she’s very good.  Clever, and full of humour.  The narrator considers the embarrassment of murdering his wife, who is described as being “sullen as a bull, bored and rather dangerous.”

“The whispers – ‘He murdered his wife, you know.”

As the story progresses, we find that the narrator had bought the pub and moved to the ‘world’s edge’………..“prepared for a love affair with sea and land, but this love was unrequited and now was dying.” 

The land and the sea around him were indifferent to his presence, and he resented the fact that they ignored him.

How many folk have done that?  Come to Orkney, or Shetland, or the Western Isles, with an idea of a communion with the elements, only to find that they can’t deal with that communing – it’s too strong for them.

And then……he begins to adapt ……..

Some do, some don’t.

And I thought that it was an odd co-incidence that I picked that book, at this time of year, and just after reading GMB. 

As a re-introduction to Alice Thomas Ellis, it was just the right one to pick. 

As for myself – the edge of the world is fine by me.

And then I remembered this….  https://archaeologyorkney.com/2021/11/29/edge-conference-2021/

Another co-incidence – if there is any such thing.

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  1. Yesterday, I started to read ‘Unexplained Laughter’ by Alice Thomas Ellis, and the book begins with the words…

    “I think I am dead. I think I have been dead for a long time now. I am Angharad. Do you hear me?
    Listen.”

    I think there’s something going on – something to do with life and death and the in-between time.
    Something to do with the time of year?