Northern Isles: Orkney

IMG_3172By Mary Jo

After the fun of the RNA conference, it was time for the tourist part of this trip, which meant flying to the far north of the UK: Orkney and even farther north, Shetland. Fellow Wench Pat Rice and I flew to Orkney from Manchester with our husbands The Mayhem Consultant (mine) and The IT Guy (Pat's.)

The islands have been settled for at least 8500 years, first by various Neolithic groups, then by Norsemen in the 9th century CE. The Norwegian king pledged Orkney and Shetland as a temporary dowry for his daughter, Margaret of Denmark, but he never reclaimed it by paying the agreed upon dowry so the Scottish Parliament annexed the islands in 1472 and Scotland .Orkney.Wikicommons.jpgthey've been part of Scotland ever since. (Map courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.)

Both island groups differ from the rest of Scotland because their roots are Norse, not Gaelic, and for centuries they spoke the now extinct Norn language. Gaelic became an overlay after the Scottish annexation, and later still, English. But even today, there is a local dialect with roots in Norn. One of the first things our wonderful guide, Lorna Brown, said was that she would speak to us in standard English, which isn't the way she spoke at home.

We spent three days in Orkney with Lorna and had fabulous sunny and mild weather. By the end, I was ready to move there. <G> Though I'm sure I'd feel differently in the very short days and long nights of a far northern winter!


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Storytelling – Big Oaks from Little Acorns

Nicola at BoscobelNicola here. Today I’m reflecting on the sorts of story ideas that catch our imagination. Last week on my way to the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference I called in at Boscobel House in Shropshire to do a spot of research. Boscobel is the house where King Charles II hid from the Roundheads after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. The story is very famous; hunted by Cromwell’s soldiers in the aftermath of the battle, Charles took refuge in an oak tree in the forest that surrounded Boscobel and he and his officer Captain William Careless (not the most confidence-inspiring name!) slept in the branches whilst the Roundheads scoured the forest around him. Later, cold, wet and in low spirits, Charles was taken to Boscobel House where he took dinner, dried his clothes before the fire and slept in a hiding place in the attic.

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