Monday, 28 March 2011

The Fire

Image Above And Below: Burning Moorland
Location: View from the Isle Of Erraid, Mull, Scotland

The Fire, Sunday 27th March

By six o’clock the afternoon had lost its depth of colour and evening seemed more of a certainty. Over the bay thin ribbons of smoke trailed from patches of burning moor, rising to become indistinct from the low mass of grey cloud. The burning season is nearly at an end and there have been few days when the air has been still enough to ensure these fires remain a tool rather than a threat. The object of the burn is probably heather, as plants age they become woody and largely unpalatable to sheep, burning effectively prunes out the old growth leaving space for new, more nutritious shoots to regenerate. Maybe this is one of our oldest forms of land management, give a man a stick and he can beat out a piece of land from the jungle, add a flame to the end of it and the job becomes a little easier. It would be easy to congratulate or equally vilify ourselves on having discovered another use for fire if it wasn’t for the fact that the world burnt long before we ever got to strike a match. Some plant species like the American monterey pine are so keyed into fire being a natural part of the environment, their reproduction almost depends on it, with cones opening to release seed in the heat of a forest fire. Mankind does have a habit of overusing its magic tricks.

By seven o’clock an amber glow had just become visible as evening descended, at eight we worried a little. Before nine the rim of fire shone like a crack in the earth and I phoned a neighbour on the mainland. She asked about the baby, my youngest son, three weeks old and offered her congratulations. I asked about the fire and she said her husband was away up the hill to retrieve his tractor and help to get the blaze under control along with other volunteers.

By now headlights were moving around the bay as vehicles navigated the pitted road from Fionnphort. It became obvious that tying up the phone wasn’t the cleverest of ideas and I quickly thanked her and said goodbye. I walked the street back to the house feeling a little like Nero as the moor burnt.

By ten the glow had gone from the bay and with it the fire.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Return

Image Above: Reliance retuning to Erraid in the mist.
Location: Isle Of Erraid, Mull, Scotland

24th March

The Return

The cable is humming or buzzing or possibly vibrating on the edge audibility like the whining noise of an old television set. I wonder if it’s the breeze or the billions of electrons charged and crackling their way down the line. If it wasn’t for the high voltage I would be tempted to climb the post and place my ear against the wire to listen in on the world. If my hearing was better I could separate out the strands of noise into the conversations of power plant workers at the furthest reach of this piece of string.

Maybe the grid spans the country like a wed or metal brace on wayward teeth, soaking up waves as sounds cycle; snatched conversations, barking dogs, a school yard at break time, car alarm, ring tone, a gate on rusted hinges, a child muttering beneath his breath, or sheep pushing through tall moor land grasses. Every bird that lands or springs into flight from a line no matter how remote plucks a chord. Everything that vibrates adds something be it wave or particle even the last bolt of light from a dying star. Here, as the line crosses high over the sand onto the island the fog is condensing into droplets that tap like tiny glass hammers, the rattle of a cough escapes my chest but not the high wire.

I am stopped weighted to the spot with feet sunk into the soft sand listening to the cacophony. I have come home and in the silence of a drawn breath the wire and world are one.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Off Island

Image Above: Looking from the Island to Iona
Location: Isle of Erraid, Mull, Scotland

Off Island

There seems little point in ignoring the pull of the tide after all I am mostly water separated by membrane, a bubble wrap of cells hung on an unfortunate frame. Below me the Mersey basin is filling under a roar of water that tugs at the navigation buoys while the sandbanks slip beneath the waves like the long arching backs of whales. So I have made it far from the island and feel the disconnection keenly. Each movement here seems to fold up my memories and sense of the island like a piece of origami until I am left with something I could slip into my pocket.

As the tidal race subsides the roar begins to dissipate and the buoys relax against their chains like scrap yard dogs in the warmth of the afternoon sun. Although far from the island I am still within the reach of the sea but the separation of promenade, railings and green baizes of grassland are too much for me to out imagine, if I could only touch or wade in water.

There are no gaps here, the world has been improved, the paving slabs, back garden walls, street corners and factory roofs all meet up as individual visions in a collective consciousness. Even the river has been corseted its spine a little distorted by the contact. I suppose it is pointless to rail against it all, yesterday I realised that the green spaces in the shopping complex’s car park were the result of Astroturf rather than grass. I know I lack the faith to live here, I would have to believe in ready meals, fashion, television, pvc fascias and all the voices that tell me this is a reality. More importantly I lack the stories that could make it all work, so this is not my place, the stories I tell are of another place, they are no better or worse, just different.

Image above right: Doll’s House, Sudley House, Liverpool