t r a n s i t

990419.2317 tamarisk farm , st agnes

it is now ten weeks since i established myself in this house . in some sense i cannot credit the time has flown so fast . in another i feel i have been here forever , and ten weeks seems far too small a measure .

in any case , i must turn my thoughts to packing once more and prepare to move . although i have until the end of the month , i must venture to the capital ( by which i mean to say london , not hugh town . my perspective is not yet quite so local ) as i have school business next week . few days remain when that is accounted .

it seems my next move shall be to a still more remote situation , a prospect which thrills me . this island of st agnes , most remote of the scilly group , is partnered by an islet called gugh ( pronounced nowadays to rhyme with < few > , but in former centuries as < goo > ) to which it is connected at low tide by a bar of shifting sand . this land was uninhabited between the neolithic period and the 1920s , in which decade a mad scotch farmer leased it from the duchy and determined to bring it to productivity . he built a house and a barn , both with aerofoil-shaped roofs of reinforced concrete to deflect the prodigious winds . he kept cattle and pigs and fowl and planted shelter belts as a prelude to cropping . but the soil is poor and i think it was not a great success .

the barn is now converted as a house , inhabited by rhondda wraith and alan reekie . the old house itself is rarely habited . indeed alan is most of the time required at his boat yard in faversham , on the east coast of britain . so rhondda lives there for long stretches on here own and seems very happy , for twelve hours each day cut off from the rest of the world . she has invited me to stay there awhile , as she has engagements on the mainland and the cats and garden must be tended . the only possibility for greater remoteness than this lies five miles away , standing one hundred and eighty feet tall on the bishop rock , a light to mark the western extent of the archipelago . johann was telling me that a bbc reporter spent a month there in the late 1940s and had to be brought off in a straight-jacket having gone quite mad . in those days there was a crew of three to keep him company . now it is unmanned . but with a satellite phone , a laptop and several month’s supplies …

yesterday conditions were favourable to the year’s first expedition under sail . johann and i took out joffy’s customised silhouette for a sedate potter round smith sound in the light breeze . i loved every second of it but felt terribly rusty and clumsy . i cannot wait for the next chance .

from the water i spied a white undulating mass in the water against some rocks . by this morning it had been deposited by the high tides just outside tim and sue hicks’ campsite at troytown , the decomposing remains of a pilot whale . fifteen feet of greyish-white flesh with ribs sticking out and a few teeth still left in its mouth . tim stood over it looking rather wistful , steeling himself for the task of towing the stinking putrefying mass back out to sea and hoping it would wash up on someone else’s island .

today it is cold , wet and windy . the sea has got big again and i spent several delighted hours on the rocks with apocolyptic geysers and plumes of spray filling the air around me .

oh , and last night i put together an introductory site for the digital workshop . nothing much to it yet . http://www.scillonia.org.uk if you’d like to see a handful of photos from february and march .

: cH

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