b l o w

990414.2237 old town , st mary’s

greetings from the the lock , stock and barrel , in whose restaurant i sit , writing by a candle , the only customer . eurotrash is projected on a big screen in the main bar . the handful of customers laughs dutifully at each saucy gag .

990415.1339 watermill , st mary’s

sitting outside gaz and button’s wooden cabin in the sun , surrounded by bluebells and snowdrops . i hear birdsong , the wind in the trees , the woody chatter of bamboo wind-chimes . this is the far northern end of st mary’s , an intimidating distance of two and a half miles from hugh town . this end of the island , in fact almost anywhere outside town , is referred to as < up country > , the term used to suggest somewhere vaguely but prohibitively distant .

.1533 hugh town , st mary’s

perched on a mooring weight on the quay , awaiting a boat back to agnes . the wind has dropped after several days of gales . my friends christian and james were down from london over the weekend and we had an entertaining trip over to st mary’s on monday . we squeezed onto the lyonesse lady , the sturdy steel vessel which conveys freight and supplies between the islands . the channel between agnes and st mary’s is deeper and more exposed than those between the other islands . so once we left the lee of the island we were exposed to the huge grey rollers sweeping in from the open ocean , each one high enough to obscure all sight of the surrounding land as we sank into its trough . the lady , surely handled , shook and leapt as she pushed onward , spray flying across the deck . the three of us spent most of the trip grinning like idiots as we braced ourselves against the bulkheads . james’ little waterproof camera finally came into its own .

everything seems rather quiet now after two successive weekends of visitors . first my parents and caroline over easter , then christian and james last weekend . these were all first time visitors to agnes , though my parents have been to the islands before . it’s been a delight to see everyone and show them round .

on sunday the first fully-fledged seaweed experiment was undertaken . we harvested a quantity of delicate green sheets of sea lettuce from cove vean , steamed it for several minutes and combined it with sea spinach , chopped flowers and stems of wild garlic , steamed alexander stems and walnuts . christian took over for the final stages and deftly produced a pasta sauce . the seaweed contributed a delicate tang which i find hard to relate to any other flavour . the whole ensemble was quite delicious , all the better for knowing that most of its components had been picked with our own hands just a few hours before .

this meal followed the previous day’s feast of two grey mullet caught by kitt legg , baked with lemon and olive oil , to my mind the finest fish taken from these waters .

990416.1524 tamarisk farm , st agnes

i’ve just help johann drag joffy’s heavily-customised silhouette from the life-boat shed ( where we dragged it with christian and james’ help at the weekend ) to the bottom of the quay , from which the rising tide will lift it over the next hour . the technology for accomplishing this is simple : a plank underneath the boat’s centre keel with a loop of rope at one end by which it can be dragged slowly by tractor , with hands supporting both sides to keep the bilge keels from scraping the ground .

today the water is totally still and flat . it’s almost as if the week’s storms never happened .

: cH

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