Wednesday, 15 April 2009


Image left: Collecting and cleaning mussels in the bay

Wednesday 15th April

So the sea is flat, and I make it through Tinkers Hole to meet the ocean and swell. I was here last night and for a moment I saw what I thought was outlying rock in the wrong position. It turned out to be the arch of a whale’s back; what the swell had revealed it quickly swallowed. I come out here to get wrapped in ocean, to be held by an intangible vastness. Some days the ocean is benign and the boat sits like a feather on water, buffeted by the gentle talk of the gods. There is no certainty and Tinkers Hole is more often a gateway to the maelstrom, a place to turn back from. As the granite walls open up a single swallow rises on the updraft of a swell; things are on the move.

I take the boat to Hell’s Kitchen and find my favourite fishing mark by following the line of a fault through the island and into the depths. The swell is confused by the skerries making the boat pivot on every axis. I drop some lures over the side and gently nod them up and down in the knowledge it is probably too early for fishing; never mind.

This is the end of my holiday, I never went anywhere in particularly, it came to me. Two of my sisters arrived a few days apart and brought my son with them. The weather improved for Easter we collected mussels, oysters and in the evening drank whisky while singing Dolly Parton songs. My son, Louis, ran feral with the rest of children on the island, he appeared at intervals either damp, dirty or just hungry. Occasionally we managed to persuade him to join in with our more ‘constructive’ pursuits but this is an island. It is almost traditional for children to go a little wild, there are no cars or ‘strangers’. Even the lighthouse keepers’ children had a reputation which often made it into the Northern Lighthouse Board’s official records and the island’s history. Coal must be thrown and garden walls must by walked on; adults who grew up on the island often follow these patterns of behaviour on subsequent visits. On Easter Monday most of the island’s residents and guests made it out to Easter Island for our annual picnic and barbeque. The island is named after the event rather than as a reference to any primitively carved monoliths. We hunched down in patch of grass amongst the primroses and granite boulders like a troop of mountain gorillas. A small fire powered the kettle, coffee pot and two frying pans of sausages. In the afternoon the tide dropped low enough to expose an almost pure white beach from the turquoise waters.

Today the sun is still trying to break out of the low clouds as I push on beyond the outer islands into pure swell. Above skeins of geese are moving north maybe in search of an artic summer and its unending light. Soon the mackerel will return to the sound and fishing will cease to be a sport and become a harvest.

Image right: Easter island

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