2 Oct Reykjavík, Iceland
3 Oct Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
4-5 Oct Suðuroy, Faroe Islands
6-9 Oct Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
10 Oct Queensferry, Lothian
11-12 Oct Fort William, Lochaber
13-15 Oct Plockton, Wester Ross
16 Oct Fortrose, Easter Ross
17-18 Oct Craigellachie, Banffshire
19-20 Oct Edinburgh, Lothian
21 Oct Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumbria
22 Oct Seahouses, Northumbria
23 Oct at sea, ex Newcastle
24-26 Oct Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Faroe Islands (Føroyar in the Faroese language) are an archipelago in the
North Atlantic Ocean, about 200 miles northwest of Scotland, 280 miles
southeast of Iceland. There is evidence of habitation as far back as the 5th
century, but the current population is descended mostly from Norse and
Norse-Gaels who settled from 800AD on, migrating mainly from Ireland and
the Scottish islands. Genetic studies suggest that 80% of DNA passed
through male lines is Nordic, the rest Gaelic; female-passed DNA is the
reverse. Føroyar was part of the Norwegian kingdom from the 11th century, but
the 1814 Treaty of Kiel, ending the Kalmar War, made it Danish territory,
along with Iceland and Greenland. Home rule was passed in 1948, and the
Faroes are a more-or-less autonomous country within the Danish kingdom, as is
Greenland. (Iceland became an independent republic in 1944; Føroyar has
scheduled a referendum on full independence for April of 2018.) Of roughly
50,000 residents, about 20,000 live in and around Tórshavn, the capital. The
rest are scattered over seventeen of the eighteen major islands. The people
speak Faroese, derived from Old West Norse (as is Icelandic), and Danish;
many speak English, as well. Currency is tied to the Danish krone.
Treeless, windy, and wet, the Faroe Islands present a starkly spectacular beauty to the few tourists who go there. They are a tiny remnant of the vast Thulean Plateau, a basaltic lava plain that once covered over a million square kilometers. Other surviving pieces are in eastern Greenland, western Norway, northwestern Iceland, Northern Ireland, the Hebridean Isles of Skye and Mull in Scotland, and other islands in the northeastern Atlantic. The fjords and valleys worn from the rock over the past fifty or sixty million years resemble chips struck off a flint arrowhead. It is to the edges of these chips that Faroese villages cling. The people traditionally fish, or graze sheep. The name Føroyar itself is believed to derive from Old Norse for "islands of sheep".
I first visited in 2001, was smitten with the place, and have wanted to return ever since. Transportation has always been the hang-up. There are daily flights from Copenhagen, and twice-weekly flights from Iceland, but service to the UK has been sporadic. The initiation of a direct flight to Edinburgh was all the motivation I needed. I spent the spring and summer planning my return, a week's stay at the end of September, at the front of my annual trip to Scotland. Meanwhile, Ron had plans of his own. Of course, we all know what Robert Burns said about the best-laid plans o' mice and men....
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Saturday 1 October 2016--Stuff happens. I might have called this year's journal The Year Of Medical Issues. Or maybe From Gout To Glaucoma. My annual trip across the Atlantic is, in some ways, a vacation from reality. Reality, alas, has a way of making sure you don't forget it. In planning my itinerary, I got several reminders of the uncertainties of life. One of my prospective hostesses was facing heart surgery; another was providing hospice care for her brother. Neither, needless to say, would be doing B&B this year. Another had eye surgery on her agenda, and wasn't sure.
About two weeks before my launch date of September 22, me dear old mum had a brief stay in the hospital. Once she was home again, I felt considerably relieved. When you have a 90-year-old housebound parent, you are naturally nervous about going away for a period of weeks. Fear for your vacation takes a back seat, of course, to concern for your parent's health, but it nonetheless exists. In this happenstance, it seemed as though the dreaded crisis had come and gone with good timing. Within a few days, however, it became clear that things were not right. Back to the hospital she went, for a longer stay. It ended up being a week, during which I cancelled my September 22 flight, and a week of Scotland. Once she was home again, for good this time, I rebooked for Reykjavik and the Faroe Islands, a week later than originally planned.
Five days before the new launch date, I suffered an attack of gout, which necessitated two visits to the doctor. I'd have been on my way to the Faroes from Iceland, had I been on the original schedule. Some would be tempted to say that Fate, or some other supernatural entity, had delayed me so that I wouldn't be on a remote archipelago in the North Atlantic when I was stricken. I think that would require Fate to have seriously twisted priorities, and perhaps a sick sense of humor, as well. Leave me dear old mum out of it next time, buddy.
I couldn't have thought about leaving Mom at home if it weren't for Lisa and Cathy, the two women who help look after her. Lisa has been especially important in managing her care. And today, she does extra duty, driving me to Framingham, Massachusetts, where I board a Logan Express bus for the airport in Boston. At Logan, I wander off to to Terminal C for a couple of pints at the Boston Beer Works, before returning to Terminal E for my flight. I've booked on WOW, Iceland's budget airline. It's a no-frills flight, which suits me fine. The price was not much more than I'd have paid Icelandair to change my original booking, and at the time I'd have had to do that, I wasn't sure when or if I'd be able to go at all. I ate at the airport, so don't mind the lack of food; and I have a novel to pass the time, so don't mind the lack of entertainment. The book is The Blood Strand by Chris Ould, a crime story set in the Faroes. I manage 150 pages, in between dozing. My head's in Føroyar already.