A Peedie Nation

by Keith Savage · 15 comments

Orkney Serpent on the Window at Helgi's

A word haunted every map, sign, and food cart I saw on Orkney. Peedie. What the hell? There was the Peedie Chippie (which made excellent fish and chips, incidentally), the Peedie Sea, Peedie anthems, and so on.

“Peedie” isn’t English. I’m pretty sure it’s not Norse. It doesn’t sound much like Scots. Finally I asked an innocent woman working behind the counter at a gift shop across from St. Magnus Cathedral: “What does Peedie mean?”

She seemed a bit embarrassed answering the question, like it wasn’t meant for the ears of visitors or that she was English. “It means small, or little,” she said as I paid for the peedie pack of Orkney fudge I’d chosen for Sarah. Read more...

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The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Mainland, Scotland

I rolled off the ferry at Stromness and entered a world of memories. There was Julia’s Bistro and the food co-op where Sarah and I bought Tennent’s tallboys on our honeymoon. I passed a road on the way out of town that led up to Thira, a B&B we stayed at in 2006 and 2007 with wide views of Hoy. The Flattie Bar, the Ferry Inn – so little had changed.

Then, the Orkney countryside.

All soft rolling pasture land rife with sheep and scores of spindly lambs at this time of year. The old bones of stone crofts in various states of disrepair whistle in the relentless wind. Read more...

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North of the Water

by Keith Savage · 6 comments

Typical View of the Scottish Highlands

There’s a saying around this part of the Scottish highlands. It goes: “Are you from north of the water?”

It’s a colloquial and kind way of calling someone crazy. What’s the water being referenced? Does it matter? It’s a perfect barb lancing through two apparently different peoples.

My hosts, Chris and Stuart, shared the saying with me as we chatted away last night with some whisky before a blazing wood stove. I might have blushed at the story. After all, most folk I meet clearly think I’m from north of the water. Read more...

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The Newton Bridge in Sma' Glen, Central Scotland

We wended our way along a valley in the northeast corner of Scotland’s Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. Gargantuan swooshes of earth reared to the sky, barren save for orderly patches of conifers and maybe a little snow melting fast in the warm sun. Here and there at the feet of these towering hills were simple white houses where smoke curled from chimneys. The narrow road mirrored the meandering course of the River Dochart, and every slow curve unveiled another vista of ancient character.

If I squinted or focused in a certain way, almost like falling asleep when I ignore certain sounds and fade out, I could mistake this section of central Scotland for a different age. Read more...

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A Paean to Travel

by Keith Savage · 15 comments

Whale at the Vancouver Convention Centre

The 777 passes to the east. Forty thousand feet over the Canadian plains a turbulent tailwind rocks us all to sleep like babes in an industrial steel cradle. We are helpless as infants for all the power we have over our paths at this moment.

But I can’t sleep. Choosing to travel is choosing the path of transience, and I’m haunted by the souls who’ve invaded my airspace and gone: with hugs and affirmations; with nothing at all because we didn’t know that was the end; with casual disappearance into the night shadows.

Last night on Robson Street was filled with neon lights and open air bars. The scent of seaweed and colognes, nachos. Our merry band of travelers strung out over blocks and breaking apart in that special kind of fission unique to large groups of people. Read more...

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