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Bardsey Island Observational Research Project

Return to Bardsey

This trip has been very much a spiritual journey for me. Grief and healing were at the top of my agenda. It was wonderful to return to Bardsey and find everything just as I’d left it two years previously. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d thought perhaps I had imagined the island and its delights. Last time I was here I was concentrating on observational research, infusing the arena, and with coming up with a film script based around it. It was entirely possible that fiction and reality had blurred, but as it was most of my recollections and observations were right on the money.

The rhythm of life that we had fallen into on our first visit, quickly reemerged once we were on the island. Waking up with the sun, walking, cooking and reading after finishing carrying buckets and a myriad of other domestic tasks in the morning, teatime in the afternoon, finishing up the daily chores before sunset, falling asleep to the sound of the Manx sheerwaters each night. All done without the aid of a watch, clock or other timepiece. Just living by nature and doing what needs doing. My youngest, who had only visited the island for one night previously, this time had to deal with the lack of plumbing and high speed internet for real. She managed it admirably.

 

The kids spent most of their time off exploring and having fun with the other young people on the island. My days were spent reading, having lonely walks along the cliffs, speaking my sorrows into the noise of the pounding surf, sitting in the chapel and in the abbey ruins, thinking and meditating. Bardsey without the pressure of having a project to write was a revelation. It seemed to spread its arms around me and soothe my mind.

2012 boathouse

Evenings were spent sitting together in the living room replaced sitting around the long dining table on this trip. The supply of firewood had been replaced by bags of coal and without fire lighters these were almost impossible to light. Each night I tried to get the coal to light, urging it with gathered kindling sticks and fuzz sticks carved from gorse roots I dried in front of the gas fire and punk wood I found on the mountain top, but nothing could ignite the black stones. If they were indeed coal they needed are far more intense burn to get them started than I was able to provide. So each night we ended up sitting around the gas burner in the living room, which we’d decorated with strings of battery powered LED fairy lights that made just enough glow to read by.

2012 meals

At times I resorted to watching the episodes of The Walking Dead on my iPad that I’d downloaded before leaving home. Watching video on the island was strangely confusing. The gang of survivors from the zombie apocalypse on my screen were living on a farm, and the sounds of the sheep and cows of Bardsey provided a stereophonic backdrop to each episode. This was more than a little unsettling and several nights I realised I had scared myself to the point that I was a little jumpy as I made my way out to the outhouse last thing at night. Eventually I gave up watching video as I realised it wasn’t being very mindful of my location on the island. It was as if the place was forcing me to calm my brain and shut out the things of the outside world that didn’t belong there.

2012 sheep

Each day I would do the rounds of my solar chargers, moving them around to follow the sun and swapping the power packs attached to them and moving round our various devices between them. I was pleased to have been able to power everyone’s phones, iPads, Kindles and the kids games for the entire time and we left with everything fully charged, including the battery packs. Of course I didn’t use the phone much. The few times I tried I couldn’t get signal, but with so much happening in life it was better to be able to put the outside world where it belonged – outside.

 

2012 Bardsey sunset

“I thank Bardsey for all that it has given me. I thank its people and its history for welcoming me and for subtly teaching me a better way of life. It’s not a life that I would wish to live all the time, but it is so important for me to dip into, to return on my pilgrimage and refill my cup. My cup runs over now. I am very happy. The sea in the distance, the wind whistling at the door.”

Leaving Bardsey was as tough as always, but as I stepped off the island onto Colin’s boat this time I knew I was leaving behind troubles and taking away peace. I was different from who I’d been when I had arrived.

As ever, Enlli did its magic.

2012 rainbow

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