The Orkney Spring of Bradley Driver – 1990

This is a true story – bowdlerised to protect the innocent.

The Orkney Spring of Bradley Driver – 1990

needing time and space,
peace and freedom from city stress
to eke a long-blocked novel
threatening to be my best
I rang the number of an Orcadienne,
a widow – so she claimed,
advertising ‘room to let’

weeks of correspondence
induced an element of flirtation
the game was on –
cheap board and free bawd –
if my luck was in

the train north was unremarkable
aside from a chance encounter
with a mystic, Jorda,
who drew an Evian pentagram
on my forehead, went into a half-trance
and uttered a prophecy for me

“at the turn of the moon
you will stand in the centre
of The Ring of Brodgar and find
out who you really are…”

I did not get the rest,
the train pulled into Ardgay,
Jorda exited the carriage, calling,

“come for tea next time you’re passing”

from the deck of the Orkney ferry
I waved at the Old Man of Hoy –
he ignored me.

I met the ‘intended’ as arranged,
on the green outside St Magnus.
first impressions of her and the cathedral?

she wore a toxic pink windcheater
patched inaccurately at the back,
and clashing terylene slacks.
her hair was a fright of untamed curls,
moiling like snake charmers’ cobras
St Magnus? macabre,
a motif of skulls and bones – overdone
good for a séance on a wet afternoon –
it wouldn’t wash in Leytonstone
a second ferry to her isle
and a hike to her cottage beside a burn
where a dozen cats patrolled the door
lacking TV or electric light
she passed me a torch in lieu
to read her only book;
a coffee table special
detailing Danish peat bog burials
she had a taste for single malt,
and was not ashamed to show it
while she slumped into a stupor,
I stayed stone-cold sober,
attention fixed on my page-turner
“Bond-women five shall follow him,
And eight of my thralls, well-born are they,
Children with me, and mine they were.
As gifts that Budhli his…”
my torch died then
the rest would have to wait for dawn
I stretched and yawned,
“bedtime for Bonzo.”
she jerked awake,
“do I get a kissss?”
I suppressed a retch,
“well, a goodnight peck”
“isss that all?”
ignoring whisky breath
tight-shut eyes and puckered lips
I landed a quick peck
on a gooseberry cheek
and scurried the passage to my retreat
On Good Friday she confessed –
(it came as no surprise to me)
her virginity, which she offered like
a cherry bakewell off a plate,
“I’m flattered but think we ought to wait”
while she drank an excise-free
bottle of Old Pulteney
raging that her maidenhood
would not be breached by me
I boned up on ‘Tollund Man’,
weighing my chances
of eluding her advances
and escaping the island
scrotally intacta
Saturday night,
fired with frustration
she rat-a-tatted,
on my bedroom door
access denied!
Easter Sunday bright and early
she was nowhere to be seen
I packed my bags
and hotfooted to the harbour
ducking behind dry stone walls
at each approaching car
the quayside was silent
I knocked on a door,
“what time does the ferry leave?”
“no ferries on Sundays!! and Easter too!! shame on you!!”
welcome to Chthonia.
I took a bed at a cheap hostel,
the ‘widow’ found me easily
begged me to go back with her,
“we can build a life together.”
I shook my head
she walked away wailing –
a hideous screeching
I crept into a barn,
and stacked bales of hay
for a wall against night chills
and the eyes of a baleful
virgin still
I heard her Monday morning
slamming the hostel door
sad without her Lochinvar
I will never go back to Orkney
one dose of The Wicker Man
meets The Thirty-Nine Steps
meets Misery
proved more than enough for me.

© coolhermit 2023
Views: 336
critique and comments welcome.
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This has put me off visiting Orkney.

The descriptions of the “widow” and St Magnus are brilliant.

May the chthonic never catch up with you.



I love it. But you should go back there’s so much more than unwanted lust.

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