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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

What to do for the best

It is hard to believe that this time last week my partner and I were tucked up in our cottage on Lundy, the island that I retreat to in the middle of the Bristol Channel two to three times a year. I have been going to the island on my own now for fourteen years and this was my twenty-seventh visit, the first when I had been accompanied by someone else. It was a strange feeling, and challenging for both of us to say the least.

The trip was precipitated by the overwhelming need I have been experiencing of late to spend more time on the island, and possibly move there on a permanent basis. It has caused much heartache and despair for both of us. Although outwardly the trip was a success (it was a minor miracle that he agreed to go in the first place), it has brought many things up to the surface to be looked at, which have been indescribably painful for both of us.

My partner was feeling ill for most of the journey down to Barnstaple the night before. I did all the driving for two reasons, firstly that I knew the route having been many times before, but more importantly perhaps, because he needed to rest. All his fears about being confined were coming to the surface - confined not just in the car, but also on the helicopter on the way over, and on the island itself, since once there, the next scheduled flight would be the one we would be leaving on. If he did not like it, leaving and returning home was therefore not an option.

On the morning of the actual flight we arose early after a restless night. I went to get some breakfast in the nearby petrol garage while he worked out whether he still wanted to go. After much deliberation he told me that he wanted to go home, upon which I am almost ashamed to say, I got very emotional, and told him that I did not think it fair to put me in that position, of having to make a choice between the two things I love the most; him and Lundy. I have often wondered hypothetically that if I was forced to choose between the two, which choice would I make. I always thought I would choose him, and so was shocked at the reaction I had and the strength of my feelings. I honestly did not realise the island meant that much to me. In the moment that I expressed that which was in my heart, he knew that he had to see this through, so we quickly walked to the car and drove to the heliport at Hartland, from where flying was due to begin at 11am.

Thankfully because we were the first to arrive (before the Landmark staff even), we were on the first flight over. Even so, the waiting around was difficult. We got to the island around 11.20am and made our way to the cottage which was thankfully ready, having been uninhabited the week before. Lunch in the pub soon followed and my partner began to feel a little better. I knew that he needed to rest and recuperate, so I went for a walk on my own to give him the space that he needed.

The rest of the trip was a mixture of weather and different experiences. On Tuesday we had mist and drizzle for most of the day, and so didn't venture far. Wednesday was the best day, when we walked all the way to the North End, and for a few brief moments my partner managed to feel the illusive Lundy magic. Thursday was a mixture of sun and cloud, we went for a short walk together and I went for a longer one on my own in the afternoon, followed by a walk to the beach after dark to look at the stars. He followed me all the way down the hill with his torch from the doorway of the house to make sure I was safe - bless him.

The journey home was as challenging as the one down, and now we are home we are both left wondering what it was all about. The craving that I have to spend a lengthy time on the island recuperating has not gone away, if anything the need has intensified. I spoke to one of the islanders while I was there, who works in the shop, and she informed me that there will be both permanent and temporary seasonal jobs soon in the Tavern and housekeeping. My partner though has no wish to return, and so if I was to take this opportunity it would mean leaving him behind.

I oscillate from day to day as to what I want to do, one day I feel that I should contact the Island Manager and apply for a seasonal job, the next I think I should sit it out here and do my best to get another dead end job at home. What to do? There is no easy solution. It would be easy were there not such love between the two of us - we are soul mates in every sense of the word, and I wish it were possible to have both, or there was some form of compromise, but if there is, at the moment, neither of us can see it.

One thing I do know is that I cannot continue to work for what my partner's client Caroline refers to as "emotional imbeciles" who are devoid of logic or compassion and have not a spiritual bone in their body, making money for others and slowly dying inside. I cannot face another 20 years of this. The situation at my last job and the way in which it ended has obviously affected me more than I realised (there is still no news of when my own grievances will be dealt with), but if you knew the full picture (there is much that I chose not to write about on here), you would understand why. It feels as if the soul has been ripped from my body leaving nothing but a shell, hollow and empty with no spark left.

Lundy would be the ideal place to rest and regain my strength, not least because of its familiarity. The island feels like a different dimension, where time does not exist and one can live completely in the moment with nothing to intrude upon your peace of mind. It is a small self contained community where residents and visitors alike understand what really matters - friendship and understanding. The reasons for being there are clear and the boundaries well defined. I would have no worries about accommodation or bills, since these are paid for as part of the job - there is nothing to spend money on once you are there, since there are no nightclubs and casinos, and I would have no need for a car. The only things to worry about would be food and maybe phone and Internet. It could also be a very good opportunity to save and replenish my funds, while having some much needed down time and recuperation.

Having said all this, I am aware that working on the island would be vastly different to being on holiday. I would get two days off each week, but in the summer season the hours would be very long and arduous. On the other hand, what a wonderful opportunity to meet people, and share common interests. I have this desperate need to be on the island, but am aware that if I decide to go for this, and it goes horribly wrong, then I could lose everything. What then to do?

The best solution would all things considered, be to volunteer for a week or so either before or after my next trip out alone in March, and see if working there really does match my expectations. If it does, then a seasonal job would be the best option, for seven months and see how things pan out. It will be hard for both of us, but we are strong and will get through this. I have booked a reading with a friend for the 19th, so hopefully things will be clearer then.

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