Friday 14 March 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

A good choice of post title? Almost worth writing a book? Ahem, back to reality...

After 3 months of living in Orkney, steeped in its many layers of history, it is probably time to reflect upon the subtle differences between where we used to live and where we currently reside.

Milton Keynes (1990-2013)

Milton Keynes has always called itself a city, though it doesn't have a cathedral, so in the strict, traditional definition of a city, it's a town. However, the original designation, in 1967, used the word 'city' and MK's inhabitants have mostly always seen it as such. Bizarrely, however, there have been several bids to formalise the city status through applications to the reigning monarch, all unsuccessful. It's now a county, apparently.

Kirkwall (2013-present)

Technically, we do not live in Kirkwall, but in the parish of Holm (pronounced 'Ham'). However for the purposes of this blogpost, I will use Kirkwall, as it is the largest settlement in Orkney. It isn't a city either, despite having the wonderful St Magnus Cathedral at its centre. No, Kirkwall is a Royal Burgh.

So, neither town is a city, yet its signage would have you believe otherwise.

Pedantry aside (and it is very difficult to put pedantry aside, believe me), both are fantastic places to live, but in very different ways. MK is not yet 50 years old, whilst Kirkwall has almost a millennium to its name. There are probably more trees in any one Milton Keynes housing estate than in the whole of Orkney. Both have living, breathing farm animals grazing within a stone's throw of the city centre, though MK probably clinches it by several yards (this slightly makes up for the concrete cows... just). Many of the grid roads that allow residents to traverse from one side of Milton Keynes to the other, in fairly short order, are dual carriageways. I haven't found a dual carriageway on Orkney, yet. Kirkwall's centre is full of independent shops, with only the occasion national chain in evidence. 'the centre:mk' (sic) is full of national chains, with barely a mention for local or independent retail outlets. Horses for courses, I guess (though neither has a race course).

If you're wondering why I haven't included a photo from Milton Keynes in this blogpost, it's because I have. That first picture isn't taken from inside a Neolithic burial chamber on Orkney. It's taken from inside the cafe at the Waitrose supermarket in MK. Tea and cake, anyone?

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