||[Nov. 11th, 2015|10:06 pm]
Inevitably, I thought of sovay when I read this:
The Sound of Shiant is also known as Sruth na Fear Gorm, the Stream of the Blue Men, or more exactly the Blue-Green Men. The adjective in Gaelic describes that dark half-colour which is the colout of deep sea water at the foot of a black cliff. These Blue-Green Men are strange, dripping, semi-human creatures who comr aboard and sit alongside you in the sternsheets, sing a verse or two of a complex song and, if you are unable to continue in the same metre and with the same rhyme, sink your boat and drown your crew.
That's Adam Nicholson, in Sea Room, part of that book-haul I was so triumphant about at the time. It turns out to be a very good sort of book to pick up when you hace a wretched cold that won't go away, and you aren't sleeping well, and you want to take a break in the afternoon but you don't want to get too deep into anything. And if you drift off to sleep among thoughts of islands, there's no harm done.
Wikipedia knows these 'Blue men of the Minch', though its account lacks the charm of Nicolson's: they are kelpies, it says, if not Picts, or possibly Touareg.
If the weather had been more encouraging while we were in the Western Isles, we might have tried to find a cruise to the Shiant Islands: we did consider it, once we had worked out that the islands are the only place in the Hebrides where you see puffins. (See! puffins!) Puffins like it there, it seems, because they return year after year: puffins ringed on the Shiants in 1975 and 1977 were found there again in 2009 (and reported to be Europe's oldest puffins, though an Icelandic puffin site claims that the oldest puffin on record is one ringed in the Westman Islands which was 38 years old when recovered).
Now, the Westman Islands really are on my must-see list...