Yesterday was the new year Ba' in Kirkwall. See this link for a proper explanation. In my view, it's just a grand excuse for half the county to gather in Kirkwall to tough out the weather while the toughest of the tough do battle, with considerable courage, over possession of a ball, which disappears into a mélée of brave and strong guys, and may or may not reappear ever again.
In other words – the Ba' is great fun – a bit strange, wild and simultaneously civilised (just like Orkney is), and an event not be missed.
I took a load of photos.
This was just before the throw-in
Here it comes
The mélée then surges to and fro as the teams try to take possession of the ba'. The onlookers do their onlooking just behind the players and the whole streetful rolls to and fro
as the action surges. Not too many get trampled. I only saw it happen to one person, who was ever so kindly and promptly helped up by onlookers and some players..
It's practically impossible to see anything much for any length of time, but some people know what to do about that.
Waiting for things to start. All shop windows and premises along the route of the game are barricaded to protect against the future crush. Of course they can be used for other purposes too. It's not like there are any rules, and the health-and-safety nazis (did I say nazis? Surely I meant nannies? Or did I?) have not yet found a way of spoiling this fun.
A surge in one direction.
And then in another. (This was the first time a noticed a strange phenomenon: I thought I had a smudge on my lens but then realised that haze above the centre of the melée is actually steam rising from the overheated gladiators. From then on, I knew how to tell where the centre of the action was.
The tough being tough
The action moves down Albert Street. You can see the steam rising by Boots the Chemist
Then surges to the other side of the road
One of the heros
And another. (And how wonderful that this is a game in which you take smoke breaks!)
And that's all I saw folks. The gladiators got stuck in one of the lanes where the battle continued invisibly for over an hour. Weakling that I am, I sneaked off home after 40 minutes' waiting for something to happen as my toes were freezing.
But I took some iPhone videos as well.
There's an excellent new documentary series about Orkney on BBC2 at the moment. The first in the series was yesterday.
For those with iPlayer, it's available for the next 28 days.
Screenshot only. Nothing to click here! Use the buttons above.
I like to take photos and am fond of clichés - so I'll say I find them to be worth a thousand words.