Rubber-suited whale

Rubber-suited whale

Puffins are lovable partly for their curiosity and quirkiness. Here Nicolson imagines them trying to figure out what manner of fish he is. ‘They are not frightened. They gather around you, swimming up to you, looking curiously sideways at this new kind of...
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...
Wind-besieged islands

Wind-besieged islands

The North Sea is full of such islands and Nicolson finds in a place of ‘sun-trap warmth’, sheltered from the wind-siege, a possible site for the church of the seventh century Irish poet-monk Beccan. ‘So is this, in its sun-trap warmth on these...
All-power meeting

All-power meeting

I had no idea how awful but interesting this bird is, even its name lacks euphony.  I’m in no hurry to take one on in an ‘all-power meeting’ I’d be sure to lose. ‘Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the shag experience.  It...
Sea-battered island

Sea-battered island

A perfect spot for a hermit, even more so in the seventh century. ‘… a hermit living on a sea-battered island in the Hebrides in the seventh century.’   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....
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...
Don’t stand in my way

Don’t stand in my way

I love these passing human vignettes which an author could easily edit out for not being central to the story, though they provide much of its texture and richness.  Sometimes a few lines mentioning or quoting an individual become the only written record of them...
Heard it on the radio

Heard it on the radio

This sweeping and damning judgement of England, found entirely wanting, is contrasted with the simplicity of the source, the radio.   ‘Where do you stay?’ she said. ‘Coit do’n bein sibh?’, ‘Where do you belong to?’...

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