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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Going across to Orkney feels like being on holiday, even though it’s only an hour away, and the landscape is very similar to Caithness.

I think it’s the ferry journey that makes it feel like I’m travelling to a mysterious and foreign land. And the culture in Orkney is very separate from that of mainland Scotland. The Orkney people tend to associate themselves more with Norway than Scotland, because of their deeply embedded history. Orcadians see themselves as Vikings!

But in this season of February it’s rarely ever smooth sailing in the north. This has often determined whether or not I can go over to visit and I have learned to be flexible.

I have a few reasons for going across the Pentland to these special isles. For one it is the adventure and getting that feeling of being on holiday within a matter of hours, and another reason is to see dear friends, two of which live on South Ronaldsay right outside of St. Margaret’s Hope.

However, just the other day they announced that they were moving away as soon as early March. It all seemed very sudden, though I always knew that a possible move was in the air. Still, the news hit me in a way that I did not anticipate, and I have been grieving since.

While my days were full, I decided that I must go see them in their home (while the spaces still reflected them), and before the house was empty and they were on their way.

I was planning to travel over on Friday, but the wind and weather were fierce. That combined with a delicate stomach might not have resulted in a pretty picture… so I decided to wait until Saturday when things were much calmer. All the while, I thought ‘The weather will be calm, but will I?’

I left on the morning ferry. The waters were relatively smooth and I anticipated a time of catching up with my friend over a cup of coffee and soup, though was aware that this also meant closure.

When I finally disembarked from the slightly extended journey, my friend was there to greet me in the usual way, with a smile and an open armed hug. I was all too aware that it would be the last time I arrived in St. Margaret’s Hope with her standing there to welcome me to these isles. It is an image that will stay etched in my mind, among many others.

She and I have shared a special friendship, a common ground, as we are both from North America living in a place where there are not many from Canada or the United States. We both have our own separate reasons for being in this beautiful northern part of Scotland, but have faced similar challenges when it comes to adjusting and living in a country that is not ours by birth or upbringing.

The wonderful thing is that when I see her we can pick up where we left off, despite how long ago that might have been, and this last visit was no different. Our conversation was free flowing and bittersweet too.

When I stepped back on the last returning ferry after having said good bye to them and their familiar home, I came back to mine with a sense of fulfilment and gladness for having taken that time to see her and her husband. And while they will not be just across the Pentland Firth anymore, they will not be too far away for me to make future visits, enabling us to pick up where we left off.

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Richard Everett
Richard Everett
14 feb 2023

Very touching, Monique. The art of friendship.

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