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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.