January 2017 Club

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

An outrun is a rough patch of land on the edges of the author’s family farm which projects onto the rugged cliffs of western Orkney. It’s a place of extremes, where odd things happen like shipwrecks and the echoes of odd booming soundwaves. Amy has grown up in house of extremes: her father has manic episodes whilst her mother is a devout born-again Christian. A longing to escape island life for the glitz and glamour of London draws the author to the bright lights of Hackney, where she spends ten years of her life in an alcoholic haze of lost love, embarrassment, violence and job loss. Having lost all self-respect, she finally signs up to AA in a bid to get sober.

You can feel her one-day-at-a-time approach seeping through the pages. It dawns on her that she needs to leave London and return to Orkney if she’s to have any hope of staying sober. As days turn to months, she gets sucked into the detail of nature on Orkney – helping out with lambing, participating in a corncrake survey and eventually moving to the peedie pink house on the tiny island of Papay Westray, where she takes up wild swimming, as a form of self-medication.

There is an intense sense of place throughout the book and I love the contrast between the wild city nights and the wild windy island nights. Amy uses the Internet to drill down deeper into natural phenomenon such as noctilucent cloud and Fata Morgana, which was fascinating.

It feels like a book of extremes with a vulnerable author fluctuating from the extreme of the highs that artificial substances bring to the natural highs that nature can bring. One way or another, she seeks sensation and wants to live life to the extreme.

“I’ve washed up on this island again, nine months sober, worn down and scrubbed clean, like a pebble. I’m back home, at the end of a rough year, in the winds that shaped me and where the sea salt left me raw.”

Colourway inspiration

There was so much inspiration in this book – not so much in the London scenes, but the pages were infused with rich depictions of the natural beauty of Orkney.

From descriptions of the Merry Dancers to the many forms of birdlife, the choice was vast and made it quite daunting to choose just a few colours.

For the semi-solid colourway, I opted for a watery teal and called it Scapa Flow.

For the variegated colourway, I took the teal and added a few shades of green and lichen and a muted purple, leaving some bits of the original grey yarn base to peep through on some of the skeins to represent the landscape, but in a bit more of a folklore/magical way than a straightforward interpretation. The colours represent aquamarine bays, the green island vegetation and rogue thistles.

It’s called Simmer Dim - the time between sunset and sunrise.

Tweedore as the yarn base reflects the gritty, wild, hardy nature of the landscape - a sheepy Blue Faced Leicester with Donegal neps, which refuse to let any dye penetrate their darkness