My thanks to Ellen Grieve for sharing her extraordinary experience in this guest blog:
It was just an ordinary Friday night in November for this 61-year-old, senior medicines management pharmacy technician from the small Island of Rousay in Orkney.
As I finished work for the week at the Balfour hospital in Kirkwall, the Southerly wind was travelling swiftly up through Scapa Flow, accelerating exponentially around the curved wall of our beautifully ergonomic, carbon neutral, newly built hospital building.
There is a point as you leave the front door that the wind instantly hits, stops you in your tracks and momentarily pushes you backwards, the force of the biting cold air causing a gulping, temporary state of hypoxia.
I wonder if the architects foresaw this phenomenon as they drew the gracefully flowing lines, perhaps secretly laughing at the distance that would need to be travelled from the front door to the sanctuary of my car, exactly 479 wind-challenged and rain drenched paces away!
My car was called Seabiscuit, we had uneventfully travelled almost 70,000 miles together on our precious ten years of shared adventures.
This was about to change………
By night and weekends, I transform into a student at the University of the Highlands and Islands, 9 years studying applied music and now in my second year of a Music and the Environment Master’s degree.
One of my creative tutors at UHI is Peter Noble who suggested that I read a book ‘How to Read Water’ by Tristan Gooley, as inspiration for my impending degree project. Peter is a proven fountain of fascinating knowledge, so I excitedly ordered and received the book!
It was a good day.
This was also about to change……
As Robert Burns ominously wrote in his great poem Tam O’ Shanter:
“The wind blew as ‘twad blawn its last;
The rattling show’rs rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow’d;
Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellow’d:
That night, a child might understand,
The Deil had business on his hand.”
My daily commute to and from work, for over 20 years, has been a two mile drive to the pier on Rousay, followed by a half hour ferry crossing and then a twenty minute drive from the Tingwall pier to the hospital in Kirkwall,
An enjoyable journey, in variable weather, through amazing land and seascapes. A time for peaceful reflection on the working day and a welcoming portal to my creative thoughts.
The light is particularly entrancing in Orkney, creating a vivid, ever altering canvas to take inspiration from.
That night, there was a very abrupt interruption to my peaceful routine…….
I described the event in this message that I sent to Peter Noble………………
” Remember the book you recommended to me about water?
I very enthusiastically ordered a copy, it came home.
The next day I took it with me to work to read on the ferry. THEN……. I picked up Michael my Grandson after work to come out to Rousay with me for the night.
It was a rough night weatherwise, but I am used to that in Orkney, however, there was a lot of rain falling. My car hit a deep river of surface water on the road, in the dark, aquaplaned totally out of control for ever, crashed through what felt like endless undergrowth and gracefully glided sideways into a horrendously deep ditch flowing full of water.
Trapped and trying to convince myself that I wasn’t living through my worst nightmare as water poured into the car in the pitch dark, I shouted to 8-year-old Michael to get out if he could and sit on the top of the car which was in fact now the passenger door, as I was worried the water might go over his head.
This was no longer a good day!!!
Heroically, he got out, but the heavy Volvo door fell back, closed on his small fingers and he screamed loudly. Adrenaline surging, I instantly freed myself and shot up through the car to free him.
We ended up standing, shivering in the dark, soaked through, in shock and despair at the side of the road, watching my beloved Volvo steadily fill with water, sinking in the ancient peat, at which point the air bags exploded causing devastating damage,
The sight of something sitting underwater that does not naturally belong there is very eerie and confusing to the senses. They become heightened and every image and obscure sound becomes etched in the mind, latently waiting to come back to life every time that you try to get to sleep for the foreseeable future.
Eventually Seabiscuit was unceremoniously dragged out of the ditch by the breakdown truck and taken away to the great scrapyard in the sky.
The water book survived (after three weeks in the airing cupboard drying out), but now has wrinkled pages and peaty water stains.
I am about to start again in my attempt to read it, to banish the trauma of almost drowning with it. Slightly disappointed in myself that I didn’t manage to record the water whooshing dramatically into the car on my phone though.
The ultimate immersive experience!
Please don’t recommend any earthquake books!!!! “
I have a new Seabiscuit, who is twelve years old, and we are looking forward to lots of adventures together. Michael and I have recovered, and I am happily reading about the ‘Signs of water’ by Tristan Gooley with a slightly different, more immersive based perspective than originally planned.
Link to Ellen’s blog on Enchantment and wonder:
Peter Noble’s link to his album, inspired by the same book, How to Read Water: