Thursday, 14 May 2009

Steve Cole: Tour-MOO-nator

Help! I’m turning all poetical. I write silly action packed stories about space dinosaurs and time travelling cows, I can’t start getting poetical…

It’s those islands that have done it. Orkney and Shetland. My first impression of each was that they held secrets. The flat green sweeps of Orkney and the strong bleakness of Shetland’s landscape – there was a power and beauty to the way their mood changed with the bite of a sudden wind or the brightening of the sky. (Arrrgh! Must… stop… the poetical stuff… “There was a power and moo-ty to the way their MOOOOOOOOO changed with the bite of a sudden pie…” That’s better!)

Chris and Jasmine drove me in fine style through this raw abundance of landscape, and every trip felt like an adventure. The schools we visited were a mixture of very large and really quite small, most enjoying top facilities and spectacular views from canteen and playground. I was lucky enough to enjoy the pupils’ attention as I launched into my silly adventures in storytelling. I hope they had some fun because I certainly did. My favourite event was the big one in Lerwick Library at the end when so many people came along to join in. And not one of them threw a rotten tomato at me, which was a result.

I sort of envy the children being where they are because these islands are full of spurs to the imagination – Skara Brae, the 5000 year old settlement on Orkney that died out mysteriously after 600 years… the Ring of Brodgar, huge standing stones that have weathered the elements for almost as long… the rusted hulks of sunken ships in Scapa Flow, ghosts of past wars… The mysterious brochs of Shetland, crumbling old forts… Trolls – or as they call them here, trows – weaving mischief in the shadow of giant oil refineries… You could set so many incredible tales here.

One day, I shall return. For real, or in a story? Not sure, yet. The islands really do hold secrets and, for now, that’s one of them.

But it’s no secret how lucky I am to have had the chance to meet so many clever, funny children and tireless teachers in Shetland and Orkney, to have enjoyed so much local food and drink and even to have absorbed a little of the history, culture – and above all, the local radio stations! – of the islands. It was a fabulous trip, and one I won’t forget. Big, big thanks to Scottish Friendly and Scottish Book Trust for making it possible. As poetical thanks as you like.


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