We’re All Human

It’s a year ago this month since Johnny and I visited Orkney. 

This weekend I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings programme with Clare Balding and she is in Orkney, on the west coast, experiencing high winds and snowy conditions.  The roar of the wind sounded ferocious, and she and her guide were sheltering behind a stone wall.  They decided their rambling was not going to happen. 

We had glorious spring weather on Orkney.  We got talking to someone who told us about newcomers settling in during the summer, only to decide to move back to the mainland after their second winter on the islands.   But we loved our week on Orkney and very few places in the world puts you in touch with human existence as Orkney does. It is a place that encourages you to think about who we are and how we survived thousands of years ago.

We visited Broch of Gurness, an Iron Age broch village, one beautiful sunny afternoon and we were stunned at the wonderful coastal location of this underground community.  Set in stone, the settlement would have had a 10 foot stone tower or broch, whose interior was divided into sections by upright slabs of stone and two skins of dry-stone walls with stone floored galleries in between, accessed by steps.  It is possible that a second storey would have been made of timber with a thatched roof.  

The broch looks out across the blue water of Eynhallow Sound, to the surrounding hills and grasslands, 15 miles northeast of Kirkwall.  It was idyllic, peaceful, and calm.  We breathed the fresh air and in the warm sun pondered on the lives of early man, woman, and child.

We were full of admiration at their ingenuity, perseverance, and strength.  And that was thinking of them in the nice weather, goodness knows how they managed in the bad weather. Life would have been hard back then.

Back then was sometime between 500 and 200 BC.  Homo sapiens have been on the earth between 40,000 to 15,000 years ago.  So, Iron Age person living only 2,000 years ago doesn’t seem that far away. Heading north out of Africa to Orkney obviously took time even when 3,000 years ago the North Sea did not exist.  Then it was fertile prairie from Europe to Orkney, fit enough for Stone Age hunter gatherers to walk.

Later we watched Michael MacIntyre’s The Wheel (I love the Wheel it’s so chaotic) and learned from one of the questions that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.  Human life is just a blip in the grand scheme of things and it does make you feel small.  Following the Wheel, we watched Professor Brian Cox’s programme ‘The Universe’ which had us equally enthralled and feeling even smaller against the story of the universe. 

This reminded us of a Chinese saying, apparently, when someone was asked for their opinion of the French Revolution (in late 18th century) they said it was too early to call/comment. Blip.

When we think of all the issues that make life hard for people today, the cost-of-living crisis, depletion of energy resources, the destruction of the natural world, the impact of climate change, the ever-present problems of war and poverty, and political ideology that works against human harmony and free movement.  Why can’t we ever learn to be nice to one another and consider where people will be and how they will live in the next 2000 years.