Tag Archives: life

renouveau

Spring has multiplied signs throught that long and still ice-bladed month of March. If light has reached parity with darkness on the 20th day, and our migrating visitors called at night and settled back in our fields and meadows whilst others pursued their incredible journey north, the island still needs to wake to the promises of the season.

April, April… Life rekindles

March now behind us. Tonight I heard eight puffin scouts have been located west of my favourite headland in our inshore waters. Earlier, friends reported the magical ascending song of a skylark as they wandered by abandoned crofts… Common Eider drakes already sit by their concubines… On inspection of the ground, daisies and bluebells have long braved snow, ice and thaws, re-icing and equinox gales. Even within the perimeter of my sanctuary, the grass has grown and would deserve a serious cut. Spring, voar, so precocious.
Eider drake and its concubine reunited at Aith Voe.
Light reappears on the 60th North Parallel. I read somewhere that between the two solstices – and more precisely as we approached the Vernal Equinox – we were gaining up to two hours of light every month… Now, as April has entered in the great cosmic ballroom, my sunrises and sunsets are becoming more epic.
Turnstones by the edge of water…
Strangely enough, fog has already been rolling on from our local hills. “Exotic” and “curious”, for fog remains an oddity before April… February and March both felt odd in places.
Peculiar episodes of fog we, islanders, usually experience from mid-April…
Yet April promises (or do I really take this for granted?) liberation from many claws – storms, gales, and other signatures from the icy months. And if I have yet to listen to my first skylark, I know it will not be long. The sky just needs to quieten a little more and our star to warm up those acres of storm-bent grass around our meadows… Wake, wake, wake, wake!

April is when you return to me.

The magic of walking to my favourite headland.
As I am typing you are gradually falling asleep. Your case is packed. Your passport lies in a pocket of your handbag… Tomorrow, you too will begin your migration north – north by NE, as you will cross that stretch of your Irish Sea to find your way back in Glasgow before making your way to my North Sea from the mouth of a sheltered harbour. We can travel the world like swallows… or Storm Petrels. But to journey, we need a boat. I may not wait for you from my favourite headland on Saturday, But I will gladly watch that great blue Viking efigee on the white hull we call da boat approach my favourite offshore island of Mousa at about 6.30 in the morning and drive parallel to you, as the bow kisses each wave from our sheltered waters. If we are lucky enough, Mother Sea will let you enter the Bressay Sound with grace.
Happy common seal in the surf. Selkie life…
It will be your first time. Selkies and seagulls will salute you on your passage. You are about to return to me as seabirds find their way across miles of oceanic deserts, da Roost to reconvene with my headlands, bays and meadows. Now, my turn to find sleep from my northern latitude, as I will be by your side tomorrow, in voice and spirit. I have prepared home to welcome you on my northern island. In anticipation to your arrival, I wrote a piece entitled North Voyager. It sounds and reads like a leitmotive… And yet it does epitomise that promise from Spring.
North Voyager

There is a time when you will see edge of
my land,
          the rounded head shaped by
                                that kiss of Atlantic and
cold North Sea; where
solans glide above Spring's crests,
follow the furrow from
                                  the ship,
blue man on white,
head-dressed to defy every tide and
                                 moder dy...
No castle perched, but 
a lighthouse that defines hamewir tun an 
                                      hearth;
and if you stand out on
the deck, that gentle breeze fae 60N will
whisper words in northern tongue,
roll every "r" in every breath,
                            sea spray, spindrift -
touch you with salt glued on its lips.
Now,
you're parallel to my world, birds and 
                                             sandstone -
maalies join solans in the wind,
              Mousa appears left to your eyes,
   inshore waters will guide you to
da Horse's Heid, as Bressay grows 
closer to heart, and
        mine will beat as fast as dyne,
now you're safe in the Bressay Sound.

Only minutes and a pressgang separate us.

                                         Welcome to 
                      my northern island.

 
© Nat Hall 2019 

Dialect word glossary:

solans: Gannets
moder dy: the underlying of the swell used by ancient firshermen as a guide.
hame: home
wir tun: our toonship (human settlements)
Spindrift: sea spray, balls of salt created by gales
maalies: Fulmar Petrels
da Horse's Heid: [place name] the Knab (headland in S Lerwick)
dyne: yours

Solan (Gannet)

Bon voyage!

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Pot-au-feu

Pot-au-feu is a traditional French dish my grand mother cooked through the crucial seasons of my early childhood.

Pot-au-feu

Stock memories inside a pot

wide, deep enough to

let the marrow from

the bone melt and

flavour what

you

picked up from

the garden,

what you harvested through

the years –

sprinkle with salt, pepper and

thyme,

tie-in fresh parsley and

bay leaves,

nail them with

cloves,

let

all simmer for a lifetime.

Scoop and savour hot

with

mustard.

NH 2019

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je me souviens #14-18now

One hundred years ago, a small party of men gathered in a wagon inside a French forest somewhere in Picardy to stop madness and attrition, a futile butchery, unparalleled till then, agree to terms for an Armistice. Humanity defaced, filled with hurt, on its knees.

To those millions of innocents, victims who fell and died, I wrote a short poem four years ago, entitled


Of Flowers and Men

Little lead men
fell one by
 one
inside a field other than theirs, 
 where
 red flowers now flourish high -
scarlet to colour
a river to remind us
 there is 
danger
inside our walls.

Four years later, on that same month of November, I penned a string of verse to remember you all – irrespective of alliance, skin colour or religious denomination – because you were all human beings turned inhumane inside a theatre of death. You fell or you were shot, because you had beliefs.

On this occasion, the following verse is in your honour.

In memoriam, 14-18 Now

War Flowers
Time belongs to lush poppy fields. 
They walked by their millions in wet mud, 
France or Flanders, 
leather laces in No Man's Land, along with 
shells and barbwrire. 
Canary girls back in Clydebank or in Gretna 
manufactured what was to kill 
somebody's boy in a cornfield, or 
their own genes here on homeground... 
An assemblage of sacrifice in 
the name of an empire, country or king. 
They fell by millions in cold mud, 
furrow or field they never sowed - 
through earth layers, 
chromatic world recorded shell shock and their fears, 
humanity's blood in a flood. 
They rest by millions as poppies, 
pinned on thick tweed on some jacket - on 
photographs and cenotaphs, 
a sea of names on 
monuments, 
lost inside waves, 
crosses, headstones,
inside the flame from a candle, in 
every heart and every 
home.
© Nat Hall 2018    

Within an hour, I will join all those who remember them at my local beach – St Ninian’s Sands – and read poetry to those clad in a uniform as part of this project  #pagesfromthesea because I don’t forget. Later tonight, as part of this year’s edition of #shetlandwordplay (the annualbook festival in Lerwick), I will join in for the last event, the Open Mic and read both aloud, as part of a sequence dedicated to #14-18now.

Je ne vous oublie pas.   

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2018

Yule and now Hogmanay behind us.

The tidal loch remains frozen at Wadbister on New Year’s Day, and it may well stay in this state for a while…

Wadbister is the place where I buried 2017 with good friends & two of their neighbours. I woke up this late morning and breakfasted with my hosts, Sharon and Andy, looking at a brand new sky. Blue, serene, by a garden and bay that homes a wonderful wildlife. If I missed the otter, I was blessed with my first avian visitors – starling, blackbird, sparrow and robin – when an unusual visitor (to our latitude here anyway!) graced the garden, a great tit. What a grand start to the primal day of the year! 

By the time I left my friends’ home, a West wind was recolouring the heavens, as light rain showers began to christen the land… 

2017

A year of contrasts – a tale of two halves, with its kaleidoscope of emotions – that took my heart across headlands, bays, the English Channel and the North Sea. 

A creative year, as it has anchored my pen into this second collection of poetry in the making… Writing on both sides of the North Sea, with a fabulous return to West Norwegian shores last September.  


And our descent to Yule marked by the shifting of our AHS to its new 21st building at Lochside, which proved an extraordinary exercise. 


Yet October was graced by extraordinary moments, reunions and meetings that began to pave my way into 2018. For this, I feel humble, blessed and grateful to 2017. 

Christie Williamson and Hazel Frew, see you both in your great Celtic town in April! 

November also graced by new humane and creative connections thanks to friend and poetess Choman Hardi, who made me discover Barbara Cumbers, a kindred spirit based in London, and regular visitor to Shetland. Magic slices of life shared since, including two readings at the Book Fest and in Scalloway. 


December crowned by many smiles

The joy of reaching Yule marked with many delights – a poet’s working blurb published in Shetland Life, a poem inside the Yule Issue of the New Shetlander. 

The island clad by sun and snow on the eve of a well deserved break. 


A peaceful end to a year that felt a real roller coaster, and as the twelfth month was about to draw to an end, a brand new project now at my writer’s table in the translation of a manuscript. Wonderful challenge and task that began on the Eve of Hogmanay.

So,

Thank you, 2017, for your joys and tears, harvest of adventures, new friends across headlands and seas.

Today, on the primal day of the year, there burns a fire in my heart, like a beacon for the twelve months ahead.

Hello, 2018. Let me welcome you with fresh eyes, a shameless smile, heart filled with hopes.


The road ahead feels both very exciting and promising.

A very happy new year to you all, wherever you walk on this amazing planet. May 2018 grant you good health and happiness.


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go hálainn (#wearewoman 5)

preening whoopers [2] 22 Oct 2017

We are woman, we are beautiful

When it comes to Irishness, the world is our oyster. So many magical voices, celebrated throughout the world. The ones you know are household names… And the list is by no means exhaustive. I could have selected a few that have really struck chords in my heart; but, there is one, one, anonymous, living and breathing by River Lagan, who devotes her time and care to vulnerable people, hence double-touched my heart.

Don’t ask me for a photograph, as I have yet to immortalise her smile, and, light in her eyes. Her name too remains anonymous, for it is wished this way.

So, for you, beautiful Irish one,

a first poem.

 

Homebird

 

Every rose hip has a meaning.

 

Of all the dreamers in

the world,

your

walled garden

has always been your sanctuary,

fog lit at night,

the orange

glow

I sometimes see here

inside mine…

The firecrest deep in your eyes.

In between lush and

Irish sky,

every

morning has a meaning, like

a tattoo on shoulder

blades; and

you wander between feeders;

behind the back of every leaf, there is a heart

ready to pounce, between

the rose and the

fuschia.

 

NH 2017

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wild

starlings in black n white

October, the month of heaven & grace

Marvellous moments of lightness, privileged times among paired swans, preening and sharing love in grace at last light… Statuesque haigries (herons) around our bays, the joy to reconvene with our beautiful Earth. I observe them from the distance, with that humble feeling, so intimate the moment. The light is soft, nearly sunset. The air is charged with tenderness and love in that autumnal sense of rawness…

Intimate. So privileged, I feel.

Sensual, magical.

This north end corner of Spiggie Loch gradually welcomes them back, as the Arctic winter dictates. They will flock in and preen, share a few weeds with a few ducks – gather on the shore for bathing and arrange their feathers, and roost by twos… A bit of love inside a world so few can taste.

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tilbake

flying norge Back with eight bairns/ åtte barn

I never thought I would be back with eight pupils and a member of staff, leading them all to twelve days of Norwegian experience in families and school.

It took just under a month (from our new term in Shetland) to land back at Flesland, and wander back in my now familiar Bryggen i Bergen, Vågen, via Bybanen – Bergen’s Light Railway that links BGO to the great sentrum – only this time for a pioneering trip to 62N.

bryggen 1

I love school exchanges. I still reminisce that in Germany three years ago, led by my colleague and friend Peter Haviland. This one, however, had a couple of twists: back to familiar territory, and, unique in its nature, for it encompassed four Shetland schools with that in Måløy, Sogne og Fjordane, on the island of Vågsøy. It felt such a great honour to be vetted with both such leadership responsibilities and setting a precedent by both the Association – under the helm of Graham Nicolson and Per Kåre Nybakk – and my school. Three years earlier, I was asked to find host families for a small party of young Norwegians by friend and Shetland-Måløy Twinning Association… This time, I would return with a small group I affectionately christened “the Shetland Gang”. That first term at my High School in Lerwick would prove both hectic, challenging and exciting!

The trip proved to be epic! A two-day trek that would require two boats (Shetland-Arberdeen and Bergen-Måløy) and an aeroplane (ABZ-BGO). And what a saga!

on the fast boat norge

Back in the mythical land, back in what I have always called heim since I first stepped onto Norwegian soil… Where I feel home on this other side of the North Sea.

Back in Måløy, Anita’s homeground… The one who opened the door to it all – NYBAKK, more than a boat, a clan, now my Norwegian family. My first visit there would prove the stepping stone to this year’s voyage and exchange. The great Norskie jigsaw is shaping up with flair and grace.

The ride would prove long and tiring for us all, as we arrived long after dusk on 14 September and engulfed ourselves inside the ferry terminal. Arve was there, with such a huge smile! Our host families, ready to welcome those young Shettis, as the school’s Rektor (Headmaster) Kåre Bakke nicknamed us all, for a good night sleep before our very first day at his establishment. Happy but exhausted.

62N sign

Some stories to write and share! A brand new taste of Norwegian life began for all. And each of us – pupil & staff – experienced our own along the way. For my part, I was reunited with Anne-Mabel, Arve and Jarl Eirik at Gate 6. And my temporary Norwegian home life was rekindled with unbound joy. Immersed in norsk (with flings of English to relieve my brain!) inside their home, with family and friends, would help me improve my humble knowledge of Nynorsk, and local dialect. Challenged by so many voices, including that of a friendly story teller on the first Friday night at Kraftstasjonen Restaurant! What a night! Anne Mabel and Arve ensured I would have a memorable time, and that they managed effortlessly. I really felt home; helped out Jarl Eirik with homework, felt an integral part of the clan, especially once Sam (their dog) accepted me fully… Hmmm. I knew that leaving them would mean tears in my heart, and it did. They ensured I would explore this wonderful island called Vågsøy.

brig brua to M

heim (home) with a view

sunrise fra heim

to each sunrise, new adventure!

skog trening 24 sep 2017

skog trening (forest hiking) with Anne-Mabel, Jarl Eirik and Arve for fun!

The Educational Experience

Up at 0630 every morning – each school day began at 0830 and finished at 1410. The Norwegian system encompasses different ethics, which would either make smile or terrorise any British teacher! Some differences – from the day structure to the more informal working relationship – we all tasted for five full days. Our Shetland Gang was challenged every day, and undertook a blend of private study, assembling and delivering their Shetland presentation (as requested by the Association) which they delivered on nearly 10 different occasions to a myriad of class groups – as well as start preparing their own for Shetland, and they even cooked for their Norwegian counterparts & Rektor. Colleague and friend Tanya Myhre would keep us smiling every morning. The In-School programme shaped up for such pioneering experience, and, every single member of staff made us welcome and fully supported. My Deputy Leader would also prove invaluable on a daily basis. What an eye opener!

But we did more than this.

Whereas Tuesday was spent visiting four different local businesses around Måløy, the final Saturday would be felt as the ultimate prize: sightseeing in and around Geiranger , where we also celebrated one of our pupil’s 14th birthday. I believe he will never forget.

fjellet 2

trekking through the mountains

Geiranger fjorden

Geiranger at water level

perspektiv norge

stepping out at snow level on the roof of Western Norway

Per Kåre Nybakk and Kåre Bakke worked hand in hand all all levels, and employed a gang of host drivers for such unforgettable experience. I cannot thank them and everyone enough for enabling this entire trip.

An experience our young Shettis and us, team, would never forget.

our sihouettes at the top of the mountain

Some extraordinary stories to tell about their Norskie life chapters, as well as to share with their families & friends back home. Our journey back to our islands’ shore proved as epic as the inbound adventure, as we had to overnight in Aberdeen because of flight and boat timings… But we made it, and now we are resettling into our Shetland lives, we are barely beginning to share our tales.

 

Thank you, Graham, Per Kåre, Valerie, Mandy, Peter and Lewie, for all your support along the way – Marina, for accompanying such pioneering trip, Tanya, Kåre and everyone at the Vågsøy ungdomskule for all help and friendliness, Anne-Mabel, Arve and Jarl Eirik, for having me at home – as well as all our host families and friends. But foremost, to you all, dear Shetland Gang. You were awesome 🙂

kannesteinen

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