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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Almost a Desert Island


The 'stateroom' in our tipi
We're back from our 'desert island' adventure. St George's is almost, but not quite uninhabited. As well as our tipi there were three houses. One was empty, and being repaired. The occupants of the second were away. That meant we shared the 22 acres of woods, grass and rocks, and an ocean of sky, with the warden and his partner – plus the handful of day visitors who make the fifteen-minute crossing to observe the colonies of gulls and cormorants whose home is barely a mile off the coat of Looe, in southern Cornwall.


I was in need of a break, even one that required an 800-mile round trip by car. From the moment we stepped off the Moonraker with our change of clothes, our sleeping bags and our four-day supply of food I undertook nothing more energetic than a twenty-minute morning work-out followed by a quick swim in a clear blue sea.


The rest of the time I walked around the island, which you can do in 25 minutes without breaking sweat; I lay under the trees and watched the sunlight shine through the leaves; or I lay in the long grass and listened to the insects.


Occasionally we looked down on the rocks to watch the parent gulls feeding their young – a ritual that involves said young tapping Mum’s beak and pouncing on the regurgitated fish (or, by way of a change, a chick she’s stolen from an absent-minded mallard). Sometimes we’d spot seals coming in on the tide. Other times a line of puffy clouds would grab my attention. Or a wheeling gull. Or I might doze.  

In four days I read not a word. I made not a single mark in my notebook. And I was never bored.

Now we’re back and I’m hard at it: the schedule from now till the autumn will be 1,000 words a day on Chasing Black Gold, the story of the black-marketeer, treasure-seeker, diver, smuggler, shipper, jailbird… you name it.

The struggle to get The Red House On The Niobrara ready for printing goes on. I may have cracked it; but I fear I may have fouled things up. More on that in my next post. But as a post-script to this brief sketch of our holiday isle, let me announce that I arrived home to find an email conforming that I have indeed been granted a residency with the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Three months, January to April next year, in Taos, New Mexico. Time then to have a go at converting the juiciest parts of a dozen western travel journals into a book of short stories.


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