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Monday, 7 July 2008

Homeward Bound

Sunday 6th July

That was Friday and this is Sunday. I am back now, and the island feels a million miles away. Tomorrow it is back to work, and it will all seem like a dream. Is the time that we take away from it all an illusion, or is life itself an illusion? Is there a difference? I think the answer to both is yes, it is all illusion, every single moment of our lives, as we give all the meaning to everything, investing time and energy in constructing stories about our lives, based on the past and the future, but never the present moment, when the present moment is the only thing that we have got. That is the one thing that these last 2 weeks has given me; an ability to live in and for the moment. I just hope that I will be able to continue this in my ‘normal’ life and not slip back into my old ego centred ways of worrying what other people do, think and say, when it is none of my business, and none of it really matters.

It has been as usual then, one hell of an adventure, an adventure that was cut short by around five hours. On Friday afternoon, the wind changed direction from south westerly to south east, and a gale warning was also in place. Now in the good old days this would have meant an extra night on the island, as when the wind blew into the bay, before the jetty was built, the boat would have unable to dock. Now that the jetty is there, it is still difficult, but not impossible. Still, with the weather set to get worse, as it stood on Friday night, there was a distinct possibility of being helicoptered off.

Part of me hoped that this would happen, as one look at the sea convinced me that I did not want to be out there on that boat, for any amount of time. When the man came though to collect the luggage just after 9am, he informed me that we would indeed be sailing, but at 12 noon instead of 5pm, and that we had to be on the beach for 11.30am, half hour before sailing as usual.

I didn’t bother trying to clean the cottage then, but said goodbye to it, and closed the door behind and just walked to the Tavern as quickly as I could. It was a struggle in places walking down the track, the wind was so fierce, although I have seen worse, but once there, the news was confirmed. It was time then for a cup of tea and to pay my shop and Tavern bills, and say goodbye to the islanders plus my friends Peter and Pat, and then walk down to the beach.

I always like to get there a little early to spend time pottering along the beach as a way to say goodbye properly. It somehow seems fitting that I should do this, say goodbye to the island on my own on the beach, as this is where I arrive, and so in a sense, where it ends as well as begins. I also like to have a paddle in the sea to feel the cold water on my feet and the sand between my toes.

As I rolled my socks up though and put on my shoes, it began to rain, and well, it did not stop raining for most of the 7 hours that we were on that boat. It was quite possibly the worst crossing I have had, and I have had some pretty awful ones in my times (14 hours overnight to Shetland, 4 hours in an open fishing boat to Fair Isle and so on). We sailed for an hour and a half to Clovelly, where we dropped anchor and had to wait a further three hours for the tide to change, so that we could then sail up the River Torridge to Bideford.

When we got on board, the Captain announced that he didn’t need to tell us the conditions were rough, and he was right, it was rough with a capital R! The winds tossed the ship back and forth and the waves came over the side and pretty soon the decks were drenched, and not just with sea water! There was a party of school kids travelling back from the island, and they were really suffering. I didn’t fare much better, but what made it worse was having breakfast so early in the cottage, meant that there nothing in my stomach, and so I was heaving on an empty stomach and just acid was coming out, leaving a horrible taste in the mouth. I am sorry to be so graphic, but well, there is no point in pulling any punches.

By the time we dropped anchor, and the queue for the buffet had subsided enough for me to think about joining it, they had run out of veggie pasties completely (I am supposed to be wheat free, but in certain situations you just have to sod it, and eat what you can). The only other hot food on the menu was bacon sandwiches and sausage rolls, and so I had to content myself with a mug of cup a soup and bag of crisps, and that was all I had during the entire 7 hour journey (plus a cup of tea and a cereal bar very kindly bought for me by another passenger).

By the time I finally got off the boat in Bideford just before 7pm, I was soaked to the skin, shivering all over and starving hungry, so I got my bags, walked back to the car, and then went to the nearest fish and chip shop I could find. It was some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life. Back at the hotel where I was staying, an hour later, it was a hot shower and a phone call home and then bed.

How nice it was to fling back the curtains at 8am this morning to blue skies and to see the island on the horizon once again. It was almost as if she was saying to me, ‘yes I am still here, and I will always be here when you need me’, and so she will be. An hour and a half later I was on my way home. The journey was uneventful, and just after 3.15 I walked through the door. It is good to be back with the man I love and be in familiar surroundings once again. The pictures are brilliant, some of which you can see here, and the memories shall sustain me through the months to come until I am back on the island once again.

It sounds mad after that sea crossing, and only another Lundy lover would understand, but if I could get back on that boat right now and sail back, and not have to worry about work, or any of that, then I would do it in a heartbeat.

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