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wildaboutshetland

Sumburgh Head, our most southerly headland, where nature blends with RSL and his family of lighthouse builders.

Hjaltland,

From the O(ld) N(orse), Hjaltland is above all the Old Viking name to my home islands, wir Auld Rock, as we love to call Shetland.

To get back to da Auld Rock is to go hame, or home… Or heim if you are Norwegian in search of cultural connection, or sailing adventures.

I have always regarded Shetland as a collection of hidden gems inside a blue (or jade… Or metallic grey, as our sky defines it!) casket. Living on the fringe of Scotland – as north as you can go, and yet full of surprises. Together with Orkney, Shetland form the Northern Isles.

Looking towards the Atlantic from the Scord of Wormadale.

Yet each island group remains distinctive in every way – including flags and dialects – and both have to be explored.

An adventurer’s paradise

Nestled between a sea and an ocean on the 60th parallel, da Auld Rock has everything to offer. From history, language, culture, food to nature. And our natural world is magic! After all, it is not for nothing naturalist & TV Broadcaster Simon King once defined it as one of Britain’s last corners of utter wildness…

Wild and spacious, looking towards St. Ninian’s Isle in the North Atlantic.

Ideally situated at the crossroads with Scotland and the Nordic world (Norway to the East, Faroe & Iceland, North West) we are both the most northerly edge of the UK and the Scandinavian corner of Scotland!

Whilst Orkney has wonderful, lush gentle slopes and rounded heads, Shetland offers both gentle and more rugged landscapes (from mini-fjords to towering cliffs via miles of moorland) with a greater diversity of habitats (due to its own collection of rocks, ranging from soapstone to serpentine, via sandstone, limestone or pink granite to name but a few…) which, in turn, offers unparalleled wildlife at and around 60N… In one word, breathtaking.

Shetland ponies in buttercups

We are a maritime world, and what best but discover it from the sea – highly recommended in summer, as our Roost (the open area where tides from the North Sea and Atlantic collide) feels far friendlier than in winter…

Looking towards Hellister (headland, left) and Norway!

Hame is a land where we lose sight of horizon, as sea and sky become one…

Hame is a land where boats are more than a way of life… If an Orcadian is a farmer with a boat, a Shetlander is a sailor with a peerie (small) plot of land.

Whilst only two inhabited islands are accessible by one-way bridges, a boat will take you about everywhere, including to birds!

Hame is anchored in history, from the very earliest human settlements to today, where we have made a close-knit community.

South Shetland Up-Helly-Aa, a unique fire fest postponed till 2021 due to CO-VID times…

Curious about it? Jarlshof remains one of our most impressive archaeological sites that is so unique in Britain, for it offers us a time walk unrivalled… Another hidden gem!

From Dunrossness to Unst, our most northerly inhabited isle, the land is littered with Norse and pre-Norse treasures.

Nature…

Nature, naturally natural!

Hame is that place to get away from it all! Throw away your watch to the sea, and dare ask time to a selkie…

“Just give me five minutes, will you???”

From flora to marine and avifauna, we are ruled by nature, in turn, ruled by seasons and the sky.

You too are a keen nature lover? Then Shetland is for you!

Shetland so inspiring…

From the darkest nights, at times coloured by our Northern Lights (Mirrie Dancers) in winter to our azure nights (Simmer Dim), where our sky’s filled with birdsong, Shetland is alive.

Aurora Borealis from my back garden.

But in summer..

Blue night known locally as Simmer Dim.

Here, dare to virtually explore further : nordicblackbird60n for I love to record my homeworld as a photographer.

The magic latitude

This is hame, home, as I live and love it. So I speak, share and write about it as a poet with so much passion. When the time is right, and if you too wish to leap to this Auld Rock, stay for a while, and want to walk this shore with me, your adventure will truly start either on board MV Hrossey or Hjaltland.

Eyebright

Et si vous voulez tout cela en français, je me ferai une immense joie de partager ma maison shetlandaise avec vous. 😌

Suivez-moi… Follow me 🙂

See you soon, and fair winds!

Bon vent, et à bientôt !

Literary works: From Shore to Shoormal/D’un rivage à l’autre (BJP, with D. Allard, 1992) and Compass Head (Nordland Publishing, 1996)

Contrasts

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From My Window

From my window,

I imagine les frères Lumière,

wish, dream of sound,

wrens, lavericks, whaaps an shalders, as

beaks open, muted by glass that

separates us from

their verve,

time to

bill-read and celebrate deprived of

notes, arpeggios, songs…

From my window,

salt smudges clouds, blue,

The Old Manse,

sunsets,

seasons – each shaft of light creates pictures always defined by

criptic skies,

limelight from sun,

my human eyes, stunned cameras in

Shetlandscope caged in a frame

rectangular.

From my window,

life secluded in a fisheye, where

herring gulls turn barn owls, and

corbies re-write their shadows,

corvids, alive, play in

our sky…

CO-VID confined us behind glass, like

a Chaplin on celluloid.

© Nat Hall 2020

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fatalité

ablaze

Victor Hugo had cried for her in his foreword… And it took a book (“Notre Dame de Paris“) to trigger major restoration works, as the elderly lady was notably suffering from severe erosion to time, history and the elements.

What happened last night felt totally surreal. Notre-Dame has survived so many ordeals – human assaults, the hands from time – and during those 850 years (or so), she saw a city grow and thrive.

Inside her so many memories. Her world famous bell – le bourdon – became associated with so many events (including the liberation of Paris in 1944) happy or sad… And against all odds, she has been standing in this Parisian sky.

Last night, my heart bled at the news, and this orange-grey cloud – flames from her heart, as the 19th century spire yielded to a raging fire that engulfed the forest – this nickname given to those 1300 oak trees that served as timber frame to support that huge slate roof.

Like millions of people around the world, I watched powerless, in disbelief, and heaved the following poem, as a tribute or way to cope with shock.

La forêt

Ô Notre Dame,
    ta forêt brûle, ton coeur en flammes!

Une forêt de chênes
         de cent mètres de long,
une forêt de chênes
         charpentée par des anges,
une forêt de chênes 
         anoblie par les âges;

toute une nuit orangée a dévoré ta flèche, ton coeur et
ta charpente -

une forêt de chênes,
         maison pour un bossu et son Esméralda...

toute une nuit d'horreur, pluie battante d'ardoises
retrouvées en poussière à l'issue 
                           d'un déluge -

une forêt de chênes au XXIe siècle toute 
                                      réduite en cendres,

ton coeur, ce cher poumon,
                     au plus proche des âmes.


©Nat Hall 2019

The Forest

 
Ô Notre Dame,
    your forest burns - your heart in flames!

A forest of oak trees
                long of a hundred yards,
a forest of oak trees
              carpented by angels,
a forest of oak trees
              enobled through ages;

it took one orange night to
devour your heart, spire and timber frame -

a forest of oak trees
once homed Esmeralda and her loving hunchback,

one single night of hell in
a deluge of slate as tiles turned into dust -

a forest of oak trees that neared
               a millenium now reduced in ashes.

Your heart, this dearest lung,
                     so close to all our souls.

© Nat Hall 2019

Photo credit to Le Monde for both images. Merci.

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change

On the fourth day of the tenth month, I found a way to break my day, sit and obey my headteacher, as she encouraged us to celebrate #nationalpoetryday through the tannoy. To find, read or write a poem on such fine day.

My lunchtime turned so creative. My after-school behind splashed glass, here, at Mareel, to re-draft it and share with you.


And now, our star looks a beacon out of greyness, I have finished what I began.

This year’s National Poetry Day challenged the pen to the theme of change. Already, I contributed to my Federation of Writers (Scotland) by submitting a few lines to a massive collaborative poem which is to be read today, in Glasgow, I believe under the watchful eye and voice of former Makar Andy Jackson, the very man behind it all.

That peerie offshoot adds to the millions of poems written today to celebrate the spoken word.

So, Happy National Poetry Day 2018 fae da island in da far North, and enjoy Change. 🙂


Change


Open your eyes to a new day.

Ask me again,

… So, what is change?

Something exotic on your tongue,

say hello in a new 

language –

collect laces to please your heart,

lace up your shoes with

unkennt loops,

pick a new path to love pavements;

that biggest box of CaranD’Ache where 

colours burst out of pencils to

break the dullness of

Tarmac, 

allow you to grow from darkness.

Dare it,

         dare it, or

                        just die now –

harness your fears,

                 bite da bullet,

dare to step out on new cobbles,

light that new road that

needs beacons;

hands on

tight ropes,

               Carrick-a-Reede,

what you once dreamt,

                                 incidental.
© Nat Hall 2018

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Skydiver

Six wonderful days in the great Scottish city of culture. 

Reconvening with friends, meeting old and new ones – treading on flagstones and cobbles uncharted till then…

Book launch, Open Mic’ reading… Now Compass Head introduced, well received and since well shelved in Renfrew Street. 


With gracious thanks to Christie Williamson and Hazel Frew for rolling the ball, Chris Tait for a great crack, Basil for homing the verse at tell it slant and orchestrating that marvellous night at the Project Café, and to E for being here all along. 


So lovely to meet up with Elizabeth Rimmer at the Clutha Bar for Jim Ferguson’s book launch and blending with Glasgow poets that same night.
So chuffed to share such precious slices of life with precious friends. 

Felt so welcomed at the Project Café as well as any public place treaded into. Glasgow shines through the folk who make the place!

Till my next visit, Sláinte, Glesga! 

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vakkert (#wearewoman #2) 

anita orheim work From Norway, West Norway, I COULD HAVE A TRIPTYCH of three beautiful women featured in today’s post – and they are rightly in my heart. Yet I choose the ONE who opened me that wonderful door to Norge, and this is obviously my friend and photographer Anita Orheim, now Perrone.

We are Woman, creative, beautiful.

Anita Orheim Perrone e- Our friendship feels ancestral as well as creative. And when I was asked to attend her wedding to François Perrone, read at the Fana kirke, my lens was also very active on that very magical day. Moment tattooed forever in my heart.

How long now have I known Anita? Photography connects us. Our story flang brand new doors wide open when Anita asked me to cover Norway Liberation Day 2010, celebrated for the very first time in Shetland, with Norwegian Royal representation via the Norwegian Coastguards & closer to her home, via NYBAKK,  the floating museum led by the Nybakk family, which in turn became part of “my Norskie Clan”. We shared so many slices of life since Scalloway, Lerwick, and Shetland…

As many folk say, the rest is history.

 

Please visit Anita’s photographic constellation under Anita Orheim Photography

 

Today, my “Norwegian sister” lives back home happily with François and their peerie man, Alvar.

Here, to celebrate her woman’s work, as a mother in her homeworld, a poem.

 

Le Petit Prince de Norvège

The one who stops looking up at the stars forgets.

He counts clementines at Yule time on a table fit for a prince, or

a dreamer;

give him a glass that will

allow Jupiter’s moons, or the

silky rings of Saturn shine in his eyes –

smallest of things,

single filed ants along a stem,

mayflies newly born at sunrise,

dust from Lyra, or comet hairs

enlight his mind.

Let him

lie down in the meadow where

grass grows high to home hoppers,

mimmick the blackbird,

feel the elk,

befriend a rose or a red fox…

Give him

goggles and leather gloves,

map & compass, coordinates to

avoid dunes in the desert.

Show him

the Moon, the way each waves shapes the heart stone*,

the way the sun clads earth spirits,

weaves green saris in winter skies –

teach him the songs from

auroras.

And if the bridge feels strong enough,

he’ll look at you when he’s afraid, and reach for the string of his kite.

The one who keeps looking at stars will

find his footprints in the

snow.

© Nat Hall 2017

Note:

* the “heart stone”= Kannesteinen Rock, from Oppedal, off Måløy.

 

 

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storm

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Provençal Sakura

I always associate the coming of cherry blossoms at the foot of the Luberon with my grand mother’s change of world. To me, she flourishes every spring, and this year, I arrived just in time, for the season is precocious.

Already most fruit trees had shed most blossoms… Only a few quince and cherry trees gave me that joy. The kitchen garden well ahead for April. I landed back at Marseille-Provence in soaring temperatures, thanks to a twist of luck that allowed me to to fly direct from Edinburgh the very morning I left my northern roost.

And what a trek across the sky 🙂

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My favourite mountain, Luberon, so majestic, as we descended into Marseille… Giono’s blue whale so bright and clear by afternoon.

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Marseille, gate to the East and Africa, Massilia-Massalia, founded by Greeks, grown by Romans, with les îles du Frioul and If in the foreground, minutes before landing. La Grande Bleue, plain and magic.

 

I shan’t forget such moments. Always a thrill from my humble seat inside the fuselage. This year, I reconvened with JJ and Monique, whom I had such pleasure sharing with again. JJ fell in love with my poetics and he is very sensitive to artists and poets. As a matter of fact, he invests in art as a benefactor. We shared beautiful conversations and he is becoming to know me much better now. Let’s see what is going to heave out of those moments of sharing. 🙂

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Ten days inside blue could be called a fantastic symphony. I reconvened with Les Huguenots, where life turns out immoveable, but also with relatives and my close friends from Pertuis, Isa and Michel, who hosted me for two days – sheer moments of pleasure.

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Two days with my lifelong friend and her clan, including her grand children. We had lots of fun jam-packed in and around their home. Moments of pleasure.

 

L’orage

Out of ten days, an afternoon tainted by grey and rain, as April strikes in any form. That heat heaved thunder and lightning in one afternoon.  Not surprising as the thermometer had soared a bit too quickly to my taste.

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The air turned more breathable, colours vanished and the whole of the sky blackened to unleash its madness. That palm tree and flowers suddenly yielded to its wrath and felt the weight of freak clocking rain.

It prompted a poem, entitled l’orage / the storm.

 

L’orage

 

En un éclair,

le ciel est devenu métal, nuages de

charbon et d’acier.

Fort de ton flash, ciel

photographe,

tous les oiseaux se sont cachés, entre les fleurs du cognassier.

Sous les tuiles je t’entends gronder,

glisser les gouttes de ta colère sur toutes

les feuilles de l’olivier.

Et sous le poids de ton humeur,

toutes les tulipes se sont courbées – robes d’or et

de rouge, leurs pétals protègent

le trésor…

Le vent fait frétiller les palmes toutes luisantes de la pluie;

nettoie ce ciel chargé de cendres,

décharne un peu plus le vieux chêne.

Tu montes le ton et vide

ton sac…

Et maintenant tu t’envenimes et te déchaînes!

Son et lumières, tes perles tombent

drues, s’écrasent sur tout

ce qu’elles touchent;

sacageur de bleu provençal, dans la maison

je trouve refuge, et me souviens

du mot  frisqué.

 

The Storm

 

This sky

turned metallic in a flash, with clouds tainted

charcoal and steel.

Fully charged

blitz,

photographer,

all the birds hid between the flowers of the quince.

Under that roof, Provençal tiles,

I hear rebuke land & heat;

let slide raindrops

from your own

wrath on

the

leaves of the olive tree.

Under the weight of your temper,

all tulips bowed to protect

the treasure clad inside gold and red petals.

The wind animates every palm of

the date tree

drumming snipe

style…

And wipes a sky

charged up with ash,

unloads the old oak of dead leaves.

Now, you raise your voice, spill the beans…

Unleash your wrath, torrential

style!

It felt epic, equatorial.

You, Provençal

blue

saboteur,

against my will, I seek shelter, and

remember that word,

frisqué*.

 

© Nat Hall 2017

 

Note:

frisqué (Provençal) meaning “chilly”/ “cold”)

 

 

All in all, nine and half blue days, moments of pleasure, and every time, that same feeling about where I really belong.

My trek back home – to my northern roost – proved even more epic. A story of mechanical failure miraculously took me home A LATER than scheduled, but am back hame, and am happy.

 

 

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world tales


On Top of the World



After the rain,

three herring gulls on

chimney pots;

now

sun’s blazing

Anderson’s slates.

In

between

two rounds of

showers,

blackbird voices,

raw

arc-en-ciel. 

young maa



out of wharf, ripples & ruffle,

it comes to dip among

brown kelp;

bobs

up

&

down

water surface

and finds solace amid

islands,

where clouds

harness silver edge

tides… Where wings wrangle

herring gull pride.

Where they

come to

feed

at

present.

The Edge

Look at the edge of your own world.
Free your heart & feet from tarmac,

where gutters offer

no relief.

Untie your boat, grab your

own oars.

Hear the call of the

waterline,

everlasting song of rollers

melts in white

sand –

some call it a desert

island,

but to my heart,

it is music.

Either side of the shining

edge,

we find our prints tied around kelp:

on the dry side of the mirror,

men have wandered among knives and

white broken

shells spewed offerings;

so few can listen to the wind,

the song of seasons inside wings

of a kingdom made of

lush Land,

where the sun rests

after crimson.
I hear you

say,

“you’re a dreamer” –

“time is money to all of us.”
I say “throw your coins to a sea, paper to oblivious

limpets..

The world you live feeds from

despair, liars and lice;

they gave you dreams as

tasty bait.

Tied to a tree inside concrete,

sea rockets smell so alien…

We imagine resolutions

and yet

shackles

locked around feet,

with their keys kept inside

boardrooms, between

the

hands of

their makers –

make no mistake,

they will not give them easily;

magpies like anything

shiny.

This world I love has its

pure gems.
© Nat Hall 2017

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quantum leap & back flip

That tunnel ride across mountains, under water (as I once left Måløy on the first time…) has left a mark indelible, and illustrates how I feel at the start of 2017.


2016 proved to be one of those truly extra-ordinary years, tainted with hues of paradoxical emotions on the the principle of the kaleidoscope. So much happened in those twelve months.

Here, the highlights back in limelight.

On the making and soft release of Compass Head, joint editing with Nordland lead to let this first solo collection fly at a time dear to my heart, 30 March.


From winter into spring, as I rolled back in Provence for a short while, bringing Compass Head to the last survivor of that trio of women to whom the book is dedicated. Symbolic journey in itself… However, there was another reunion as important with a lifelong friend, artist and Art restorative Artisan, Isabelle Foriat, who took me to Manosque to meet with Jean Giono’s surviving daughter, Sylvie. Marvellous encounter.

Prior to that trip to the foot of Le Lubéron, a night at the Library to meet with Liz Lochead, Scotland’s former makar; and a much cherished reunion with a friend and fellow poet, Emma van Woerkom, who will pen, among others, an eloquent review of my peerie book of verse.

20 May 2016, launch of Compass Head at the Shetland Library. Full house, for a memorable night I will treasure all my life. I really felt humble and touched.

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Mid-June, my first crossing across the sea with a close friend to be reunited with da Norskie Clan.

A dream come true for the first time. I knew this was my early gateway to Vestlandet. Unforgettable and tattooed in my heart forever.

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Throughout summer, wrestled with a boiler without a suit. That techno-joust cost two plumbers who worked wonders, though at some cost I cannot regret…

July, with an event at the Peerie Shop Café for the purpose of a mag launch by Shetland Create. Great fun and pleasure to share selected verse from Compass Head in a place where I come to write. 🙂

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Summer, spent around those wild islands with the world, come rain or shine. I love its magic and blue nights; that sense of freedom, colour saturation and overgrowth… And in between May and July, friends & fellow writers – Marsali Taylor and Laureen Johnson – will pen their respective & eloquent reviews for the Shetland Times and the New Shetlander. Both are trilingual like me. A blessing.

August, invited to read at Sumburgh Head, as part of a unique project, Extreme Light North, led by Carol Duffy. Friend, playwright and Shetland Library Book Champion Jacqui Clark is a magician! I will share verse broadcasted to the whole world via the Internet from the great height of my favourite headland that first made me dream some 19 years ago… Tout un symbole et une histoire, from which Compass Head derives and was born.

jacquis balloon writing 18 june 2016

Whereas mid-August rhymes with a return to class and school bells, September reminds us of a slow return to darkness and a trade of wings, as avian visitors perform that orchestrated seasonal ballet…

But by October, the deal is struck. Winter visitors found around, and I would marvel at those Norwegian White-tailed sea eagles again around Kvinnherad and Fanafjorden! What none expected was a twist of fate from the sky! Crystalline, diamond blue, with only one hour of rain, as I set foot in Krokeide… Out of this world!

from-the-slate-table

Reunited with some of my Norskie kinsfolk for my October break. Magical, ethereal, as we had so much to share. All would also provide me that space to write, develop what I started in June – namely, that second collection of poetry. Furthermore, François took me further afield, across mountains, the Sognefjord to Vågsøy and Måløy, Viking country, where friendship grows so beautifully since 2010 and a certain encounter with the NYBAKK . La boucle est bouclée. Full circle, past-present and future sealed in one stone.

November, Lerwick Book Festival, and, on a less happy note, saying goodbye to [another] close friend resettling in Glasgow at the final Open Mic Night Chris Grant co-hosted with passion with friend & artiste Lisa Ward. What I did not know would be the taking part in a creative project with Chris and his two musical buddies, Andy Kinnear and Cho Johnson before the end of the year. That was great fun. Chris recorded me inside his tiny office at the Anderson High School on his final day…

Yule – stormy and filled with lights, Compass Head has a readership on both side of the Atlantic AND the North Sea, in Scandinavia. Chuffed 🙂

December, and a final accolade for the poet, as Compass Head features in the annual review of the Shetland Times, the long printed island newspaper. In addition, and on the last Wednesday of December, a special Singer/Songwriter “Cabaret style” event takes place at Mareel. My verse has a new home. It was warmly welcome by both organisers and the audience present that night. Magic within the great vessel of glass continues. 🙂

compass-in-st-dec-2016

Thank You all for a marvellous 2016, both in Shetland, the UK and Norway. It has been a fantastic journey, and I can only wish 2017 to be a year of growth. Storms may be raging round my hut and my island, there is so much to look ahead, on either side of the North Sea.

Very best wishes to YOU all from my breezy 60N latitude! 🙂

sumburgh light

 

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fluttering [5]


I love amuse-bouche. Either at appéritif or any other time. 

Here, here, as appetite is awaken, let me offer you, dear reader, two of them, as conceived and produced by Nordland. 

And I do hope you too will find both enticing.


When asked to select snippets from Compass Head, some of my favourite lines literally jumped to mind. Here, above, two from some favourite poems you find in this first solo collection. 

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