Total Pageviews

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment