22 Postcards for Utopias Bach: card seven.

Fate (or: the Necessary Angel)

‘Seeking and celebrating diversity and difference, and appreciating what we each bring to the collective experience. Aspiring to give a platform to people and issues which may often be ignored or insufficiently recognised’.


Rebecca Solnit writes: ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live…’. (The Faraway Nearby p. 3). In 1940 my paternal grandparents left Kent for the Isle of Skye to avoid living under the flight path of the German bombers bound for London that sometimes jettisoned their cargo into the woods around their home. My father’s diary from 1945 tells us he visited his parents there with his first wife, Monica, on leave between January 15th and 27th. (On December 9th later that same year my mother would write her phone number and address into that same diary). In Scotland in late childhood and adolescence I heard my father tell the same four stories about Skye countless times.

One was about an accident when my grandparents were looking for a house to rent. My grandfather ran the near-side front wheel of his car into a ditch and left my grandmother there while he went to get help. This happened on a Sunday when decent people on Skye did no work, but a local woman passed my grandmother a cup of tea from behind a wall so as not to be seen, which would have resulted in the censure of her neighbours for “breaking the Sabbath”. 

The other stories all involved the uncanny. After a day’s climbing in the Cuillin, my father and his guide reached the road that would take them home in late afternoon as the light was fading. The guide then said he’d be returning the way they’d come rather than pass the standing stones by the road after nightfall. The last two stories concerned Kirstie, who my father called a “witch”. Whenever Kirstie needed an item of clothing she’d look for it on local washing lines. She’d then look at it until its owner, made anxious by the attention, appeared. Kirstie then praised it extravagantly until, fearing that all the goodness was being withdrawn from it, it was offered to her. More serious forms of “overlooking” were recorded by Robert Kirk,who writes that a man in his parish killed both his own cow and a hare ‘with his eyes’; the first by ‘commending its fatness’ and the second ‘having praised its swiftness’. (The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies p. 72).  

Isle of Skye