As slender as…

As slender as…

An unusual simile for slenderness, applied to an elliptical island in a river. ‘… an island as slender as a weaver’s shuttle divided the current amidstream.’   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts: On foot to Constantinople: from the...
Tissue-thin vulnerability

Tissue-thin vulnerability

Among other things, Sea Room is a study of human strategies for survival over millennia, of the fragility and tenacity of a culture built in a climate-pounded place of meagre resources.  These islands were inhabited from the Bronze Age until the population declined...
Crossing the long-haired sea

Crossing the long-haired sea

This poem by the seventh century Irish poet-monk Beccán mac Luigdech captures the ruggedness and exhilaration of crossing rampant seas in small boats to create new settlements or monasteries.  I love the ‘long-haired sea’ and its portrayal as ‘wild...
Spring-time welcome

Spring-time welcome

My heart also expands at the spring-time welcome of where I live and where I visit.  Here, the detail of Nicolson’s account roots the welcome in the Shiants, and I particularly revel in the ‘big, luscious chamomile’ and the ‘flowering cushions...
Appetite for the absolute

Appetite for the absolute

Perhaps the enduring attraction to island life isn’t just to get away from the rest of it, or to enjoy a dreamed of climate and lush fruit, but also a sense – real or imagined – of whittling down to essentials, as desert islanders whittle driftwood....
Rock-hole glory

Rock-hole glory

A memorable image of a glorious, dreadful creature hanging out in weather-gouged holes in rocks. ‘Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the shag experience.  It is an all-power meeting with an extraordinary, ancient, corrupt, imperial, angry, dirty,...
Many-legended island

Many-legended island

Are those legends still alive or did they die with the war, or with the people who told them?  And what if we made our own mental ‘many-legended island’ to retire to? ‘I slept in the village of Grein that night, just upstream from a wooded and...
Tree-tufted islands

Tree-tufted islands

Trees as tufts – trying to imagine how they would look.  I imagine wind-blown short trees, dwarfed and compacted by a harsh climate. ‘We sailed between tree-tufted islands.’   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books,...
Intimate with hugeness

Intimate with hugeness

A wonderful way to describe bobbing on the sea close to the sheer cliffs of the islands, and edging towards still, alien, unembraceable bodies.  And that perfect phrase, ‘intimate with hugeness’. ‘Afloat on the ink of the green sea, it is like being...

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