Monday, 16 May 2011

Clam Diving

Image Above: RAF Helicopter, Taking off from the garden
Location: Isle Of Erraid, Mull, Scotland

There is the clatter as the flat surface of the front door makes contact with the wide granite jambs. I wait as the children fight to remove their wellington boots in the hallway before they rush the lounge waving giant scallop shells and buckets of things dredged from the ocean. Their voices join in a cacophony of questions and stories woven in excitement. From the live scallop Bea is waving in my face I gather they have bumped into the clam divers I had seen earlier in the sheltered waters between the island and its outer reefs and islets. The children, my neighbour’s and one from a little further down the street have been off island visiting school friends on Mull, their return must have coincided with divers unloading their haul.

I am used to them bringing me the things and in honesty as I can seldom interest any of the adults on the island in toads or wasps nests I rely on them to share my enthusiasm for poking sticks down holes and goading creepy crawlies. I have my moments of performing impromptu royal society lectures on natural history subjects and then I remember that kids are only interested it the bits that include pooh, death and eating. Celia, Bea and Isaac’s mother hasn’t made it through the front door, instead we hold a conversation through the living room window. Who is to cook and how? More importantly when and not least who is going to look after the kids?

I grab a cookbook and we head up the street to the last cottage in the row, which houses the communities’ kitchen and dining room. Phil is cooking risotto and luckily the kids have disappeared in search of a DVD player. I quickly knock up a sample of razor clam, fried in a bit of oil and garlic, it is hard to describe the taste and texture, maybe somewhere between squid and scallop and all good. With twelve adults and five children expected at the dinner table it is obvious that despite the generosity of the divers we might have to settle for a side dish, of flash fried scallops with an accompaniment of razor clams.

In the prep sink I am struck by the absurdity of it all, my life seams to be made up of random events that are only connected by my part in them. I suppose that is the nature of the island, its exposed shores welcome the flotsam and jetsam of experience as well as abandoned fishing gear, and plastic bottles.

Earlier in the week a RAF helicopter, shaped like a malformed double-decker bus landed in my front garden. It had come to collect a guest who had broken her arm and was unable to move due to an earlier injury. I told the injured party that despite the obvious pain she was in, her stay had managed to bring some excitement to the community.

On Friday I waved to a power glider on the wild side of the island, the plane tipped its wing back and forth in answer. Circling once it climbed out into the sound of Iona before banking away in the clear sky ahead of the dark thunderclouds marching in from the Atlantic. Last summer the same plane had flown low over the gardens signalling with its wings. A couple of days later its Dutch owner and pilot came on foot to visit the island where he had once stayed in the late seventies.

Occasionally on summer weekends he taxis on to a runway somewhere in Holland and takes off headed for the mountains, lochs and the small islands shooting the gaps in the rolling summer storm fronts. I had never thought to wave at planes until I came here, they had always seemed so far off and remote.

Image Above Right: Bea and the scallop.

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