In the calm of the ocean sound and the birds calling to each other, I think of you.

The church in Papa Westlay

In the calm of the ocean sound and the birds calling to each other, I think of you.


I couldn’t be much closer to paradise than I am right now on the Island of Papa Westlay.

It feels as though I’ve been here all my life; the people are warm and inviting and the surroundings are serene.

I was introduced to how the Islanders here purchase their groceries. In a store, called the community store that is connected to the hostel where I’m staying, has shelves and freezers full of almost every thing anyone could want. I stocked up a bit.

And then, last night, the Island, with a population of 75, held their weekly “Pub Night” in the community room of the hostel.

Margaret, a woman around my age, wearing a head scarf and coat, played the acordian, her grandsons accompanied her, one on the drums, and one on the guitar. Then there were two other guitar players and a man on the mandarin. They ‘oom pa pa ed’ until the wee hours of the night. But before they gave up the night, one other gentleman joined the group with a jews harp that twanged away.

This Sunday morning I got up at 6 a.m. to write the blog. I sat like a pretzel near the telephone, where one of the teenaged girls from last night told me the wifi was the strongest.

I had a hard time posting photos, but got the text down okay.

So after I woke up again around 10 a.m., I said goodbye to the nice Scot I met on the plane coming over, who was also hoping to make the shortest booked flight, and didn’t. He left later today, and since the sky is blue, it’s no doubt he accomplished his goal.

I took a slow walk, actually more like a stroll, to the water’s edge, past the church, primary school, and the combination craft store and post office. I’ll go see that tomorrow.

I also walked near the Angus cows and Shetland horses I took a photo of yesterday, and found some happy looking chickens that didn’t seem to mind posing for the stranger.

While I sat on a stone, in the peace and quiet, I thought about growing up and how my family took nature trips into the Colorado mountains. How Jack would have loved to see this place.

A man from Paris, Andre Boudic walked up the road as I sat quietly and we talked for awhile. He had just come back from finding a secluded beach and went swimming. I’d think it would be cold, but he didn’t mind. “If it’s what you want to do, you’ll find a way,” he said, about swimming and everything else.

He works in theater as a technician, with backgrounds, sets, and anything related to the theater, and has opportunities to travel near and far for his job. But, now he is enjoying his second time in Papa Westlay.

“I found it a peaceful place when I was here last time, and knew I wanted to return. It’s a great place to get away from city life,” he said.

Two German ladies, both loving archeology, were thrilled with the activities they’ve found on the Orkney Islands, and Papa Westlay, in particular. They took a boat out to the Holm of Papay, an uninhabited Island that has a 5,000 year old tomb.

I plan to hire a boat to take me there, as well.

When I first went on my walk, and observed the church, I was welcomed in and told to go in and take a photo if I wanted, and also to come back to the church at 2 o’clock service. That I did.

I met Margaret again and she gave me a brief idea on what life was like growing up on the Island. “We didn’t have television until the 60s,” she said. And it wasn’t until 1980 that electricity came to the Island. Up until then, they used generators for power, and they used coal to heat their houses. “A lot has changed,” she reminisced.

But, change comes slow as children attend primary school, then the next step is on the Island of Westlay where they take a boat. High school transportation is the airplane.

At the church service, I felt part of the community, as they waited for the Pastor to arrive from Westlay on a boat. By the way, the church has a space designated for a doctor and surgery.

End of life




5 Responses to In the calm of the ocean sound and the birds calling to each other, I think of you.

  1. Laureen, I’m curious about the name “Papa Westlay”. Does the “Papa” mean father? I thought the island is smaller than Westlay, so father seems odd?

  2. Laureen, good post, it makes me want to be there. As a knitter I’m very interested in traditional patterns from Scotland and the islands. Have you come across any interesting sweaters? Each area would have their own pattern of stitches and cables which acted as a form of identification for the fishermen. Are there spinners, knitters, and weavers apparent? mgb- – oneseashell

    • I learned about the sweaters in Ireland. Every family had their own pattern, so that when a fisherman died at sea and his body was swept to shore, he was recognized by the pattern of the family.

      I don’t know about the Scottish patterns. Perhaps a reader will know.

      Thanks for your comment one seashell!

  3. Laureen…I also wondered on about the word Papa in the town name…..
    And ..your last photo…..End of Life………I like the way you see things !

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