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In bloody Orkney [Jun. 17th, 2008|09:01 pm]
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The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre at Lyness is primarily a collection of material relating to the rôle of Orkney as a naval base in both world wars. durham_rambler and I had visited it before, and enjoyed it, but the sun was shining and our plan was to make the most of this outdoors. We just dropped in to see what information we could pick up about where to go, what to see (and maybe where to buy a picnic lunch, too). The centre is housed in the pump house from which the fleet was supplied with fuel, and the objects and photographs on display are arranged around the original mechanisms, all freshly painted, the brasswork gleaming. Without meaning to, we were drawn into this documentation of times when this beautiful and empty island was home to a large population, most of whom were, at least at times, not entirely happy to be there.

The friendly custodian abandoned her lawnmower to make sure we had all we needed, pointed us to the café (under the enamelled sign reading "Church Army Rest Hut" and encouraged us to look inside the - newly cleaned and restored - oil tank before we left. Dutifully, we entered the huge cylindrical space, just to be able say that we'd done so - and admired the variety of items (the reflector from Cantick Head lighthouse, a yole, a boat used by the free Norwegian forces) dispersed around a central cinema space. Our comments resonated around us, and durham_rambler clapped his hands so that we could admire the echo (and yes, I have tried the famous echo in the British Museum Reading Room; this was better). On our way out, we met the custodian, and remarked on it, and she told us that the skipper of one of the Scapa Flow diving boats was a trained opera singer, and that whenever she was at Lyness she would stand under the center of the tank and sing. It had also served as the venue for a midsummer music event by a group specialising in place specific music.