Michael Bloor talks about what inspired his flash fiction ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One.
The bones of the story of the Aberdeen kayak have been rattling round in my head for forty years. But I never wrote the story until, at the beginning of 2015, I set it down as one of the course exercises in the Open University’s creative writing module.
It really is the case that Aberdeen University has in its possession an antique kayak, and it also appears to be case that an Inuit man landed it on the Aberdeenshire coast at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Indeed, he may not have been the only Inuit to have made landfall in Scotland: there are stories of mysterious ‘Finnmen’ appearing in skin canoes in Orkney waters in the seventeenth century. When I first saw the kayak in the 1970s it was part of a jumble of assegais, head-dresses, wooden idols and the like, sent back to their old university by intrepid, nineteenth-century, Scottish missionaries and colonial administrators. The kayak stood out from the crowd. I was captivated by the thought that, just as Columbus and company were sailing westward, obscure Inuit were perhaps venturing into their unknown eastern Atlantic.
The kayak was an old discovery, but flash fiction is my new one. I love it. So I’ve been dusting off old stories and editing then down mercilessly until hopefully the sentences – a few of them at least – have a stark, stand-alone quality, like lines in a prose poem.