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In 2011 I was forced to head off for more days than could be deemed conceivably comfortable in the direction of Western Ireland. Actually, I mean Aran: somewhere between Ireland and Ameriky for want of a geographical context but, in truth, nowhere that civilised man or woman might be familiar with; nor want to be. Weeks before I left I’d done the research which had lead me  to write “following a trail of men who, in turn, have followed each other, appears fraught with difficulties …the wilderness boys enjoy the apparent catharsis achieved by sailing the roughest of seas in a boat the size of a thimble. Even the ferry trip from Galway will not suffice unless we’ve been blown along in a force ten, accompanied by more cormorants than even Ackroyd could cope with’.  It didn’t bode well.

I look at my notebook tonight and understand the importance of writing what you see and what you feel at the time. However, it’s now two years later that I choose to revisit the words I wrote and the pictures I captured. Last evening, I finally saw the 1934 film, Man of Aran, which was accompanied by the soundtrack performed by a band called British Sea Power. Little seemed to have changed in the last 80 years – certainly not in terms of topography. It was as alienating – no, as god-awful – as ever. In my journal, on 8 May, I write ‘today’s biscuit is a Wagon Wheel’ as if this small comfort will recompense for the constant trudging around the sea-battered rocks that the day holds in store.aran 032

Avoiding the path trodden uphill by the others, by virtue of the fact that it is uphill, I find the seagull protecting memorial and its matching cemetery and write:

‘It takes me some minutes to work out in which direction the seagull is pointing. Suddenly, I realise that, of course, the bird is not looking out to sea but to Kilronnan; to home. And I hear the roll call of the dead; and the accompanying pragmatism: ‘well, those that pass cannot feed those that remain’.

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And as I am weeping – and I did weep for all sorts of reasons – around the corner comes a vision of unexpected joy: it’s lovely Laura on a bicycle she has rented and we travel together until we reach Watership Down

Desperation and desolation – but inspiration in listening to the music and watching this cinematographic gem; even if you’re in the relative safety of the theatre at the end of Bournemouth Pier.


One thought on “Desolation

  1. Lovely post. My next novel, you know, is going to be about Aran and an intrepid band of MA students, and perhaps a murder…

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