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  • Writer's pictureJL Nash

Pict and Viking Modern Magic

Updated: Jul 2, 2022

With the world in crisis, here in a house called Egypt on South Ronaldsay, Orkney, I am shut off from the horrors of the Ukraine war, the devastation caused by the US Supreme Court and from the beauty and love that Neil gives me from Yorkeys Knob.

I wake this morning at 3.30am, just as the light prepares the Sun’s path to our front door.  I remember what Chris Hadfield, the astronaut, thought when he was looking at the blue marble.   He didn’t think of how insignificant humans are, but he said he was reminded of humanity.

Today I think of old world worship and how humans are part of the unutterably complex strain of grandeur that is the beauty of Orkney. The overwhelming understanding of time, place and space makes me cry. To some, they might say it was the hand of god which touched me this morning as I literally sobbed in absolute awe of my surroundings. To me, I say it is the choices I have made. They led me here and I sink to my knees in reverence of the past, the present and the future of this place.

I could easily spend the day writing of Picts and Vikings or even painting a bad watercolour of the bay but instead, I spend the day becoming acquainted with the Maeshowe dragon and after it sinks its teeth and sends fire into my throat, three of us go to Sheila Fleet’s Studio and Café.

My friend Chrissie is an ardent collector of Sheila Fleet handcrafted jewellery. (At one point I thought she was going to buy up the shop but she took her time amongst the huge showroom cabinets to consider and choose and of course, increase her collection and enjoy the adornments.)

We get to meet the designer herself and she treats us to an interesting tour of her workshop, studio and amazing creatives who work for and with her. It is a pleasure to hear from a woman who values passion in creativity and the potential in everyone to follow their dreams.  (Forgive me but I stole the pic above from her website).

I was pleased to also be able to buy mum a ring of her choice too. A fitting reminder of the white horses in the bay.

Such exquisite beauty protected by the land and waters of the legends of our ancestors. Now, upon our fingers, around our necks and in our ears. I try not to feel guilty in light of the world and its woes. Guilty of simple pleasures, of loving the colours of the sea as well as all the different types of green in the landscape.  Guilty of loving the simplest of things away from the hustle of other lives living.


I am reminded of once when I was 13, early in the morning just as the sun rose. I was alone in the African veld but that story will hold for another time because today my head is full of dragons, picts and vikings and of course, this magical place.

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