Total Pageviews

Monday, 31 August 2009

My plans for next summer

Now that I am back from Lundy and this years summer holiday, my thoughts have turned towards next year. It may seem a little premature, but having made up my mind to return to Iceland, and knowing that this can be an expensive country, it helps to have some idea of costs. To this end, this past week has been spent re-reading various guide books and deciding based on this years bus timetables what is and is not feasible.

I was pleased to discover that Iceland Express, the budget airline that flies to Iceland from the UK, as of this May changed their London base from Stansted to Gatwick. This is perfect for me, living as I do less than half an hour from the airport. It will cut down the journey time not to mention the cost, considerably. Since they fly on Sunday evenings it may be possible to fly out after a weekend at work, giving me an extra days holiday without actually taking a day off. On the other hand, it may be better for me to fly direct to Akureyri in the north of the country, which Iceland Express do each Monday. Decisions, decisions.

I had already decided that I wanted to visit Myvatn in the north of the country, so the Akureyi flight would be perfect, as I could use it to connect with a bus to Myvatn, which is around an hour by bus from Iceland's second city, and packed with attractions - abundant bird life, bubbling mud pools, hot springs, pseudo craters and of course the lake itself. The best hot springs are of course the ones at Landmannalaugar in the country's interior. Landmannalaugar can be accessed via several different bus routes - one of which goes to Myvatn three days a week. Landmannalaugar also lies on the Fjallabak route which runs to Skaftafell National Park in the south east. This is one of the few places in Iceland which I have never visited.

Initially I was torn between a visit to the park and a trip to the Westman Islands off the south coast, which I have visited before - several times. The islands are best known for the volcanic eruption in January 1973 which threatened the towns fishing harbour, but also for the island of Surtsey which rose from the sea bed in November 1963. The island is off limits to all except scientists, but it is possible to do a fly past, and the island can be seen from Heimaey, the largest of the Westman group on a good day.

In the end, because Skaftafell and Myvatn can be linked together by Landmannalaugar, I will probably visit the National Park, but until next years bus timetables are released it is impossible to make concrete plans. I relish the thought of long walks across the heath to admire the views across breathtaking glacial lakes, and hiking across the Icelandic interior, relaxing in a natural hot springs at the end of a long day. I get the feeling that next summer will be a good one!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Don't worry, be happy

Many of the spiritual books and websites that I have looked at over the years state that we come to Earth with a specific purpose to fulfil - this may be to work with the sick and dying, or at the opposite end of the scale, the very young; it may be to work with the Earth, with ley lines and vortexes, or it may be to work with animals or to create great works of art. These are all noble things, but in my opinion are nothing to do with what life is really about. What is life really about? The here and now.

I remember when I was new to the path back in the mid 90's. My first spiritual teacher, a mixed race woman who lived in Battersea, southwest London told us about a wonderful new medium that she had been to see at the college of Psychic Studies in London, who could tell us anything that we wanted to know, including our life purpose. I duly made an appointment, and went there on the train, all the way to Kensington on a blisteringly hot summers day.

I had not experienced anything like this before - I am not sure what I was expecting, but remember being surprised to find that the medium, who had a gift I seem to recall for communicating with animal as well as human spirits (I cannot recall her name beyond the fact that it was Annie), looked perfectly normal. When she asked me why I was there, I replied that I wanted to know my purpose. I was expecting some wonderful revelations along the lines that I was here to heal or to do something miraculous, and you could have knocked me sideways when she informed me that I was here to simply be happy!

To be happy, what a seemingly easy yet when you think about it very difficult thing. How many people do you know who are truly happy? I could count them on well, I couldn't, as I don't think there are any. I don't think I know one single person, including myself who could be considered to be truly happy - we all want something that we don't have - a better job, more money, a bigger house, Mr or Ms Right, three weeks on a Caribbean beach (or an Icelandic desert in my case). Of course what this really boils down to is that we do not want we already have - it equates to rejection of the now and of the present moment.

Our heads are perpetually filled with other stuff based in either the past or the future - what we did yesterday, what we need to buy at the supermarket, what time we need to pick up the kids, what to have for lunch, what time we need to be at work. None of this is anything to do with the present. The closest a woman probably gets to being in the present is on her wedding day, or possibly when giving birth as she has to do what her body tells her and these things can't be rushed, even then most women are probably concentrating on the outcome, of what their baby will be - boy or girl, and whether she or he will be healthy (I do not know for sure since I have never given birth myself and at 44 have probably left it a bit late).

Our purpose has nothing to do with what we do, but more to do with what we feel. Eckhart Tolle in his wonderful book, "A New Earth", which I highly recommend, takes it one step further and says that whatever we are doing in any given moment (sitting at our computer, drinking a cup of tea, listening to music or whatever - I am doing all three) - is our purpose for that moment. Remember that there is no such thing as past and future as they are well, in the past and the future respectively and so do not as yet, or anymore exist. The only moment we have is now - this is our only chance to be happy, for when that moment is gone it is gone forever. Of course the beauty of it is that the present is infinite and never ending - so we have eternity in which to choose to be happy or not. I intend to seize that moment of eternity with both hands.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Life is fragile

It has been a strange day for me - I have been having weird dreams ever since I returned from Lundy with somewhat restless nights, and last night was no exception. I have also been waking up earlier and earlier each day, and when I do awake I have not felt refreshed, but extraordinarily tired. It is true that I have had a lot to deal with these past two weeks - and especially this week, with the village newsletter to prepare (it is finally done), but this is no ordinary tiredness, it feels like something much deeper.

I had the strangest day at work - I put down not one, but two pairs of rubber gloves while I moved my cleaning gear, mop and bucket from room to room, and one point also managed to mislay the hoover - it eventually turned up in the same place I thought I had left it in, but I know it wasn't there when I looked the first time! Most strange. The head housekeeper and I had a good laugh about it nevertheless, and so did the chef.

Just after I returned from my tea break I was told that one of the residents had died. She had been ill for some time, and had only recently come out of hospital, so it was not unexpected, still I was surprised at my reaction. I did not know the lady well, since her room was upstairs and I work mostly downstairs, but it seems to have triggered something in me, and I am not sure what. It reminds me I suppose of my own mothers death, which will be ten years ago this November, but also how fragile life is. The nurses and care workers of course took it all in their stride, as they are trained to do, but I am not used to this aspect of the job, and I found it difficult to concentrate on my work.

The door to her room was kept closed until the Doctor came after his morning surgery, to certify the death, and then closed again until the funeral directors came to remove the body, which was just as I was leaving. I suppose her family will come in the next day or so to collect her personal effects, we will clean the room ready for the next resident, and the funeral will all be arranged.

When I left work to return home, after the funeral directors called, I mentally pictured her surrounded by light being welcomed into the loving arms of her deceased husband and other relatives. This is the second death at the home within the last month (one of the male residents died while I was on holiday), and as things normally go in threes, I can't help wondering who will be next. Banish that thought.

Friday, 21 August 2009

I confess

Okay I confess, I am guilty of one of the greatest crimes in journalism - not checking my facts. The story I ran the day before last regarding the Dudley pigs was in fact over four years old - dating from May 2005, a lesson for me to check the dates.

The only accurate thing about that post was the information regarding my own pigs - I do indeed collect them and they indeed have names and family histories. Yesterday I managed to purchase a small pig which will act as Dimitri, Sergei's little one (Sergei is the latest arrival from Russia) - when they saw each other after I bought Dimitri home, they were as happy as pigs in mud! I still have to get an Anoushka (Sergei's wife or sow), but she will follow in due course. Dimitri after all, needs his mother like any growing young lad.

So, next time I promise to be more careful (honest) and check the dates of these articles that I use. I have no idea how the situation was resolved (I presume that it was), but it made interesting reading after all, and enabled me to introduce you to my porcine friends.

Ramadan incidentally starts today (one day later in North America) and will continue for 30 days until Saturday, the 19th of September. During this time Muslims (with certain exceptions - the young, the frail, pregnant women and so on) will abstain from food during the hours from sunrise to sunset. Rather them than me.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A load of hogwash ...

For some years now I have been a collector of soft toys in the form of pigs. My pigs, which all have names, and are formed into family groups of Mum, Dad and babies (porklets), have their own sties in the form of several shelves in our bedroom. They have their own individual lives, loves and careers much the same as humans, and their own family histories. It is part of an elaborate fantasy, which one day (perhaps quite soon), I may write a book about. It would make a wonderful cartoon.

The latest addition to the porcine family is a Russian pig named Sergei, who was left on our doorstep the other night by our neighbours John and Marian. A note was attached to his box to say that Putin had exiled him from Russia, and that when he landed at Hogrow Airport, immigration officials had given Sergei our address. He is settling into his new sty nicely, and has been joined by his wife (sow) Anoushka and son (porklet) Dimitri. Anouskha and Dimitri exist for the moment as etheric pigs without physical form, forms for which we need to buy. This morning then I was surfing the net looking for some suitable piggy toys when I found an article which must be true (since it has featured in none other than The Sun) stating that in the town of Dudley, West Midlands, soft piggy toys and in fact anything porcine, have been banned for fear of offending Muslim employees in the run up to Ramadan.

I wondered at first whether this was all hogwash .... but no, it is very much true, these delightful cuddly animals have indeed been banned. Anything porcine - from soft toys to pigtures of pigs on calendars have been banned following a complaint from a Muslim employee. Even a tissue box bearing images of Winnie the Pooh has been forcibly removed.

The partner of one of the members of staff in the Ednam Road Department, who chose to remain anonymous, said: "It's caused a bit of an atmosphere in the office. The staff did comply but it's just crazy - things like ornaments that have been on desks for years have had to be removed."

Head of Finance at the Council, Mike Williams, said a decision will be made after Ramadan ends as to whether these items will be allowed back. When asked what reason the member of staff gave as to why he or she found these images so offensive, he said "It did not matter why it was considered offensive". He did however acknowledge that some members of the department had seen it as "political correctness gone barmy".

Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, a practising Muslim, backed the ban and said he agreed with the action taken. He also said: "If it is a request made by an individual and other officers can reason a compromise, it is a good thing. It is a tolerance and acceptance of their beliefs and understanding".

Well I am sorry Mahbubur but tolerance and understanding cut both ways - if we have to be tolerant of your ways then you also have to tolerate of ours - and not take life so damned seriously - this is indeed political correctness gone stark, raving mad. It reminds me of the case in Sudan a few years ago when a British school teacher was incarcerated for naming a teddy bear after the Prophet Mohammed. I mean for God's sake (no pun), it is just a bear (or a boar - in more ways than one) and it doesn't mean anything !

Putting up with things that we do not like is part of life - be it pigs, or anything else. As a vegetarian I don't particularly like handling meat in my job, neither do I like listening to other people's loud music or children, but I have to put up with it. No one as far as I know is suggesting that Muslims should eat pork, so I really don't see what the problem is. While there are undoubtedly some very good aspects to Islam (such as tithing) this sort of thing really does them no favours at all and reinforces the idea that it is controlling religion that wants everything their own way. I hasten to add that these are not my views - I have worked with several Muslims over the years, and for the most part, found them to be highly intelligent people that know their own minds, without trying to get you to change your own. Acceptance and tolerance are the key words.

Michael Mallin has a very interesting article about this on his website, with some fascinating facts about pigs that I encourage you to read. He also details some interesting facts about pigs.

I discovered some for myself, which are as follows:

Pigs are highly intelligent and fast learners. They rank fourth in animal intelligence after chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants. Piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called.

Contrary to popular opinion, pigs are very clean. They keep their toilets separate from their living or eating area. Piglets just a few hours old will leave the nest in order to relieve themselves.

Pigs have no sweat glands, hence the need to wallow, usually in mud, although if available, they prefer water. The layer of dried mud protects their skin from the sun. Pigs are also great swimmers.

Pigs have a great sense of smell. Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. They have a wide field of vision, as their eyes are on the sides of their heads.

Wild pigs are omnivorous, eating both meat and vegetables. Corn is considered the best domesticated pig food. It is illegal in Australia to feed commercial, farm or pet pigs any type of meat.

Pigs have also played an important role in many ancient cultures and feature prominently in mythology from around the world. The pig was seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity in ancient Britain and Ireland. Traces of this can be seen in the tradition of piggy banks, seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

In the Hindu tradition, the divine mother Varahi was the Earth Sow. In Egypt, the sow or female pig, was sacred to Isis, and sacrificed to Osiris. The infant, Zeus, King of the Greek gods, was nursed by a pig. In Ancient Egypt, the sky-goddess, Nut was depicted as a sow suckling or swallowing her piglets which became the sun and the stars.

The pig is also there in Christian mythology, with the boar as a symbol for Christ, due to his strength and fearless passion.

The pig then far being unclean, should be highly revered as the sacred and special animal that he (or she) is and not banned from offices or anywhere else. Of course we should respect a Muslim's right not to eat pork, in the same way that my right not to eat meat at all should also be respected, but banning images of pigs altogether is taking things just too far, and as far as I know, is definitely not a part of this of this religion. If you choose to live in a country then you should do your best to fit in by honouring their traditions and their ways, as we are expected to honour their traditions and ways, by for example covering our shoulders and legs. Religion as Michael Mallin says, is a private freedom outside the public sphere. It should stay that way.

I do not write this to offend, but rather, to make people think. This is political correctness that has gone too far. The Muslims are not the only ones who are offended - I and many right minded British citizens (including no doubt many less radical Muslims themselves) are incensed by this stupidity, which is almost laughable. I would be taking it a step too far to say that I was actually offended, for this is a strong word, but it shows just how ridiculous this religious gravy train has become. So I say, bring back the Dudley Pigs - and save their bacon now!

Monday, 17 August 2009

A week in the life of June

It is hard to believe that it is only a week (and two days) since I returned from Lundy - it seems like a lifetime ago. Nine days ago I had just left Ilfracombe and was somewhere around Combe Martin along the A399 heading for home. Today I am sat at home sitting at this computer and wondering where the last week has gone.

There is no typical week in my life, but if there was it would go something like this. Three mornings a week (usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday) I go to the gym where I do what feels like ten rounds with Mike Tyson - seriously, it tends to be around 10 minutes each of cycling, cross training, rowing and walking (with a few minutes running when I can muster the energy) in no particular order, followed by some weights and stretches. At least once a week, after our trip to the gym, Coran and I go out for lunch - usually to our favourite tea shop, where we have a delicious cheese and potato pie or sometimes an omelette.

On the remaining mornings I go food shopping and potter around the house. Sometimes on a Friday I accompany Coran to the local computer club where he works as a volunteer teaching local residents how to use these machines.

The afternoons are spent pottering around at home on the computer, keeping up to date with the news in publishing, visiting one or two forums and doing some writing, perhaps for the newsletter that I edit or for one of the three blogs that I maintain. I usually have music on in the background - my favourites being jazz and classical - but sometimes dance, it depends on my mood.

If the weather is good I may saunter up to the viewpoint for a cup of tea to sit in the sun or go for a walk. If not, I may watch something on television. As a woman of simple tastes I do not waste my time by visiting the shops, but every couple of months I will go into Guildford to visit Lush and stock up on toiletries and have a browse in Marks and Spencer.

I work as a catering assistant four nights a week from 5 to 7pm (each week day apart from Wednesday), and a housekeeper at the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) from 8am to 2pm. Sometimes after work at the weekends we will pop next door for a cup of tea and a chat, and sometimes I have phone calls to make for the newsletter. Other than that our social life revolves around the weekly Inner Journey group that we go to on a Wednesday night and the bi-weekly meditation group at our local church, every other Monday afternoon. The evenings tend to be spent again on the computer, watching television, or in the bath. On the warm summer evenings I sometimes go up to the viewpoint to listen to the birds and sit in silence, or occasionally to watch just to watch the stars.

I do not then lead a particularly exciting life packed with activities. Most of it is quite boring, and I suspect that I am not alone. Financial concerns are always there in the background - to live the life I would really like I need to be earning around twice what I do, but I do not want to go back to that 3D world of sod you Jack (June in my case), I'm alright, I have been there and done that and there are easier ways of earning a living (or not). At certain times of the year I am able to supplement my income with exam invigilating work, which earns me a little extra, but it is still not enough and sacrifices have to be made. It is though my choice, and I am grateful for the fact that I can afford (just about) not to have to work full time.

All in all, Coran and I live a pretty good life. We own our own home, have (some) money in the bank and manage our finances surprisingly well. There are a lot of people far worse off than us.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

BOGOF's to be banned?

BOGOF's (buy one, get one free) could soon be banned from the supermarket in a series of guidelines that will no doubt please suppliers, who currently pay a heavily penalty for such offers, as in the book world, subsidising deals by being asked to provide deeper discounts. The move has been designed by Government watchdogs in an effort to cut food waste, which has reached criminal records. There may be an obesity epidemic in the west, but in the third world people continue to starve.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is demanding that retailers agree to a series of tough measures designed to cut such waste, or face legislation that forces them to make savings. These may include measures such as ditching buy one get one free in favour of half price deals (a move that would not offer improved terms for suppliers, in fact possibly worse), and different sizes of products designed to cater for smaller households as well as families. This is a move that I would certainly welcome, as it is increasingly hard to find such items without relying on over priced and over packaged convenience food, most of which I cannot eat anyway, as it is swimming in additives and hidden wheat.

The series of reports - called Food 2030 – has been welcomed by food specialists. DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency are also said to be preparing new guidelines to reduce confusion over best before labels.

The difficulties of a travelling (almost) vegetarian

As a pescatarian (someone who eats fish but not meat) of limited tastes, who is also wheat intolerant, I expect and usually have problems when eating out, which is why Coran and I tend to stick to the same places - the Pizza Hut salad bar, our local tea shop and for special occasions, The Riverside Vegetaria in nearby Kingston upon Thames. Of course when I am on the road driving to Ilfracombe as I was recently, you do not have this luxury and have to either bring your own food (impossible if you want something hot) or are forced to rely on motorway service areas.

The Little Chefs are not too bad, but the portions are not what they used to be and the food is not particularly tasty, but they are usually willing to substitute bread rolls which come with their veggie burgers for fried eggs and that sort of thing. For this reason, and also the fact that they are so accessible, I tend to use them, most of the time. On my visit to Ilfracombe at the end of July however, for some reason I missed the entrance to the last Little Chef before the M5, and so had to use the Moto service station instead at Taunton Deane. The tale I am about to tell will no doubt be familiar to others with the same dietary needs as myself.

Taunton Deane is a fairly large service station situated at Junction 26 of the M5, the motorway which links Birmingham to Exeter and also the A303 to the A361, which is the main route into North Devon. It is then extremely busy and well used, and you would think would understand the importance of catering to different needs. Not a bit of it!

Most caterers I have found, have trouble enough understanding the difference between vegetarian and vegan without adding pescatarian to the mix, so when I travel, I tend to describe myself as vegetarian, as it so much easier. As I entered the car park, there was a big sign up proclaiming "2 meals for £10". This is no doubt a very good offer, given the high price of motorway food in general, but I was travelling alone, so this was no use to me. So I walked into the main food area and read the list of meals that was on offer - cod and chips was one of them (covered in batter made from wheat), but there was not one meal that was suitable for vegetarians - not even lasagna (other vegetarians will know what I mean).

So, I asked a member of staff who was standing behind the servery what they could offer me - the answer - pasta. I told her I was wheat intolerant and her response was to confirm what I (and anyone with an ounce of sense) already knows - that pasta is made from wheat. She then somewhat predictably asked me what I eat at home - answer - everything except meat and wheat. I have learnt through experience that when a caterer asks you this it is because they have no imagination and no idea as to what they can cook for you - they are in effect asking you to tell them what you would like. In this case, because the girl seemed so helpful and friendly, I told her that I ate a lot of rice, upon which she offered me a bowl of rice - the problem was that there nothing to go with it - except chilli made from minced cow!

I ended up with the ubiquitous jacket potato with cheese and beans - I didn't dare ask if the cheese was vegetarian! I thanked her for her time and and patience, paid for the food (which cost almost £8 with a cup of tea - ridiculously overpriced) and ate. Very nice it was too.

This will be a tale, like I said, which is sadly all too familiar to others with similar needs. I really do not understand why in this day and age it should be so difficult to get decent vegetarian food - almost 10 percent of the population are now vegetarian, with more and more people making the change each week - many meat eaters like to eat vegetarian food when travelling, as they know that they trust where it has come from, and also know that it is safer, since most cases of food poisoning can be traced to meat and other animal products. This is not to mention the thousands of Jews and Muslims who have to eat vegetarian when travelling, since catering establishments do not offer Kosher or Halal meals. It is in everyone's interests to offer a range of good quality vegetarian food since everyone can eat this regardless of faith, allergies or lifestyle choices. It makes sense all round. I wish that caterers would take note, but don't hold out much hope.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Life goes on

I finally got to talk to my boss this morning, and have been reassured that my job is not in danger and no one has been talking about me behind my back - I do tend to get a bit paranoid. The decision was made after careful discussion with the Directors, and is simply to give me more time to get to know the whys and the wherefores of them job, settle in completely and complete my training manual.

We also discussed the kitchen job which I have been doing in the evenings, and have agreed that I will take it on a permanent basis starting next week four nights a week - every week day except Wednesday, which is the one day of the week when we go out - to the Inner Journey group run by our friend. It will be a relief not to have to rush home, as I finish work at 7 and the group starts just half an hour later. It will also be nice to know that I have one day a week which is totally mine and make a big difference to my stress levels, knowing that this extra source of income is now guaranteed.

So, all is well that ends well, and as usual, I was over reacting. In its own way this has though been a great gift, for it has enabled me to have an open and honest discussion and to see just how far I have come in the eight months since I left my previous job. A discussion such as this would have been unthinkable with my former boss, whom I thought at the time I had a good relationship with. When I look at what I have here, I realise that this was not the case at all - yes we could talk about certain things, but not the things that really mattered. There was always something that made me hesitate and be unsure as to how much I could really trust him (perhaps because I overheard too many of his conversations with other Managers), but I know that I can trust my current boss implicitly (as much as you can any boss) to always be honest and to tell me the truth rather than what she thinks I want to hear. She has even agreed to change the wording of the standard letter that they send out. Life goes on, as they say!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Back from Lundy and down to earth with a bump

I got back from Lundy very late on Saturday (9.45pm - remind me not to drive back on the same day again) after two eventful weeks of long walks and exhilerating sunsets, with also a few tears. The weeks leading up to my departure had been stressful with the pressure of work, problems with my sister and various other issues to deal with. The thought was also at the back of mind as what I would find and how I would feel when I returned, following the events of March, where I applied for and was turned down for a seasonal job. This only added to the pressure.

I wondered at times whether it was right for me to return at all, whether that experience had changed my perception of the island so completely that it would never be the same - to an extent that was always going to be the case, yet as I said to my friend who works in the island shop, it is not the island that has changed, but me. This is in fact not strictly true, for it is more my perception of island life that has changed, and the pain has come from the shattering of those illusions and the death of a fantasy held for so long.

Still I am glad that I made the choice I did, for I did not really have a choice - again not really true, for we always have a choice. I knew though that I had to see this through and had to take that chance wherever it led me, for if I did not, I would spend the rest of my life wondering what may have been. It is better as they say to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Sometimes when I visit the island and look at the way in which the sun catches the landscape, I feel the breath catch in my throat and it feels like falling in love all over again. The love I have for the island is different of course to the love I have for Coran, yet in some ways the feeling is the same - a feeling of such intensity and such yearning that it sometimes hurts, in the best possible way.

I started the journey this time with three nights in the Laston House Hotel in Ilfracombe, a hotel that I would definitely recommend, and ably run by Hilary and Robin. I have stayed there several times before, although not in recent years, mostly because I have sailed from Bideford which is the other side of Barnstaple, the main town in North Devon.

When I arrived I was very stressed for all the reasons stated above and did not feel as if I wanted to socialise at all. I walked into town looking and feeling very dejected, but as the hours passed the cloud gradually drifted away, and by the end of the second day, which I spent on Saunton Sands walking up and down the three mile stretch of sands, I was much more relaxed.

On the third day I drove to Clovelly and spent the day pottering around there - again walking on the beach and having lunch in one of the two pubs. It was a good place to spend the day, even if I did think I had lost my purse. When I arrived at the Visitor Centre and took my rucksack out of the car, everything tumbled out, as I had not done it up, it was then that I noticed my purse was missing. In panic I started to drive back to Barnstaple thinking I had left it at the petrol station, but after a few miles I realised that it was probably still on the ground in the car park at Clovelly, so I turned round and went back. I asked the car park attendant, who had it in his little hut, much to my relief. Lesson - make sure your bags are done up!

The Oldenburg didn't sail until 3pm on the Saturday, so I spent the morning pottering around town, climbing Capstone Hill for the view and having an early lunch of crab salad. I then walked back to the hotel to wait for the taxi to take me down to the pier. Ordinarily I would walked, but with the amount of luggage I had (an extra bag of wheat free food plus my normal wheelie bag and netbook computer), this was not possible. We had to wait for the Balmoral to get out of the way before we could depart, and so set sail around 10 minutes late. The sea conditions were moderate, and I felt a bit rough, but have done it enough times to know what awaits me at the end, and so stuck it out. We landed just after 5pm and I walked straight to the cottage to wait for my bags, and phoned Coran to let him know I was there.

That first week we had pretty grim weather of fog, rain and high winds with several cancelled boats. I think Monday afternoon and Thursday were about the only decent days we had, so I didn't get to do my usual amount of walking. The second week though more than made up for it, with wall to wall sunshine on every day bar one.

When I first arrived I felt a bit embarrassed and awkward to go into the Tavern, and couldn't bring myself to at all until halfway through the first week. At the end of the first week I was coming out of the Tavern when who should I bump into to than the Island Manager himself - I wanted to punch him in the guts, but needless to say, was polite and passed the time of day. I will give him him dues though, as he didn't have to stop and ask how I was and whether my perception of the island had changed. I was honest and told him I did not appreciate the three week wait for the outcome of my application, and my perception had indeed changed - it couldn't not have done. I think in his own way he understood - he was visiting the island himself for many years before he got his job, and probably does understand a bit of how I feel. Whether the other islanders do I am not so sure, as they live in their own little world, and if they were not aware of how their actions impacted on me while I was there as one of them, then they would certainly not understand now. In the end I came to realise that it doesn't matter, as the job was not right for me anyway, and it would never have worked. I wanted it for all the wrong reasons and expected it to fill my void, when the only thing that could really do was me.

A day or so later, I walked down to the Landing Beach and stood at the water's edge throwing stones in the water. Each stone represented something of those memories which I was letting go of. I did this a few times while I was there on the island, and it did seem to help.

It is difficult to remember exactly what I did during the two weeks, but I remember most of all the thrill of finding and eating fresh parasol mushrooms, scrambling around ledges and the cliffs to inaccessible places, sitting on the Pyramid in the wind, watching the seals at Brazen Ward and Gannets Combe, the sound of the sea on the Landing Beach, and the coolness of the water on my feet, the wonderful people I met on the boat home plus the little boy Robert who was staying there with his Gran and whose ancestor bought Lundy in 1333. I also remember watching the climbers, the baked potatoes in the Tavern, being almost kicked by a Lundy pony (I got out of the way in time), the wonderful sunsets and on the last day being awoken by an equally wonderful sunrise. I remember the company of the one or two islanders that I consider to be friends, and I remember seeing Nigel, the shop Manager in his element, talking to a BBC film crew, making a documentary for local television, I remember the sound of the wind and the rain, and the South Light fog horn, I remember sitting on the wall of the South Light in the sun, and walking across the South West Field in the Full Moon, taking pictures of the deer and the standing stones.

Leaving the island had an extra poignancy this time around, as I do not know when I will be back - it may not be for a few years. Visiting the island has become a habit, an addiction even, that needs to be broken - it is time to step back from this and start exploring other places and seeing new things. I know that when the time is right, she will be there for me again, beckoning me back with her usual warmth and embrace.

Now though I am home, and as always it feels a millions miles away. The journey back took an hour longer than it should have done as the A303 was closed at Long Barrow roundabout with a ten mile tailback and diversions around Stonehenge. I got home to find a letter from my boss to say that my probationary period at work has been extended by 2 months to 1st October, following "lengthy discussions" which I know nothing about. Why she could not have waited until my return to discuss this with me in person I do not know, as when I tried to telephone her I was told she is not in until tomorrow. C'est la vie.

I try not to dwell on this, but the mind goes back into overdrive imagining all these reasons and scenarios. I should also have been given a written statement of main terms of employment by now, which has not been forthcoming, so need to discuss this with her as well. It will have to wait until tomorrow, and there is nothing I can do, except look back on those pictures and wonder when or even if, I will be back.