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Bardsey Island Observational Research Project

Homeward Bound

Aug 15, 2010. Friday and Saturday were different, sadder. We knew we had to go home soon and yet before that we had visitors to prepare for. My husband and youngest daughter were coming across on the 7am boat from Porth Meudwy on Friday. This meant that there was lots to do both in preparation for them but also so that the cottage was clean for the next visitors. So we scrubbed, polished and baked. After having baked bread, cake and scones, and being half way through baking a blind pastry case to be a custard tart I remembered my husband doesn’t eat carbohydrates. How could I have forgotten that? And what other details of my normal life have I forgotten during this strange, immersive experience? Is this wonderful burst of creativity sapping my memory of vital information? Or is the burst of creativity BECAUSE I haven’t got this stuff clogging up my mind?

So when they finally arrived after a delay due to the weather and then a bumpy but exciting ride followed by the long walk up the path to our cottage I watched as they explored the house, opening the cupboards, noticing the lack of bathroom and lighting fixtures and yet somehow not actually taking it in so that later on my youngest daughter headed up the stairs to go to the bathroom, and my husband scrabbled around the wall for a light switch. These things are so ubiquitous in western life, so normal, taken for granted that we don’t remember when they are not there. I got to watch their reaction to the evening coming over us like a dark cloak, their surprise at the sudden darkness in the kitchen in the half hour before sunset that made it difficult to get things done and the sense of panic this inspires. They watched as we rushed around preparing candle holders and placing flashlights and matchboxes where they were most likely to be needed, boiling rainwater for doing the dishes, at lining up our shoes where we could find them ready to put on in the dark, and boiling yet more rainwater in preparedness for washing after visiting Ty Bach last thing at night. We had it down to a fine routine. They wondered how we had achieved this is in only a few days, truth be told though it had all fallen into place pretty quickly on the first night. Needs must.

The journey home on Saturday, closing up the cottage – neat and tidy for the next visitors – waiting patiently for the tractor to arrive to pick up our bags from the garden wall outside and the slow solemn trudge down the path to the Cafn where the boat sails from. All this was done in almost silence, with tear-streaked cheeks hidden behind dark glasses,. The journey back across the water was bumpy and wet, the salt spray mixing with my tears, stinging my lips. I held tight to my daughter, partly out of fear – it was fast and the sea was choppy – but also partly knowing that we had shared a special time there – our very first experience of Enlli. I know I will return to this place, but I do not know how it will feel to return to it. Will it be less scary? Will I be less fearful? And if so will that make it less of an experience? Will it be less magical because of it? Or will I take away my little niggling remaining fears and build them into something huge, that makes a return scarier, darker, more forbidding, and even less likely. The proof of the pudding after all is not whether people SAY they will return, but whether they DO. Will I return is still a question very much on my lips, despite my protestations that yes of course I will. I won’t really know until I am here again. And I find I am obsessed with wondering what that will be like. I realise this feeling is very strange and out of place when I am still only just speeding away from a place – a burning curiosity as to what my return will be like.

I also wonder if I will have left my creativity behind. I don’t think I hav

e managed to pinpoint what made it so credible, so tangible to be me, here on Bardsey. Perhaps the fact that everyone here accepts, because they are used to doing so, that I am a writer and that I am doing research for a project. They gets lots of writers and artists here, so one more is no great stretch. Whereas at home, sadly, there is always opposition. People who are uncomfortable with the idea of someone in their midst who is not bound to the nine to five or the salary cheque at the end of the month, don’t hold back from voicing their opinions. It’s not like it’s a proper job! Thankfully, I always say. I love what I do. And I love when I take a break from it, I love that I’m doing it right now while riding in a catamaran with two 135 horsepower engines plunging us across this slate blue sea. Most people can’t handle that thought – so much do they need that division between work and play, thinking and doing. So they criticise, comment and joke. You learn to ignore it, but sometimes this is hard. And there are a surprising number of people like this, and very often this kind of disbelief and jealousy can come from within the writing community itself. Because people can’t ever imagine in their own lives giving up the routine and rigidity of going out to work to become a full-time writer they can’t understand how I have already done this and have been making a good living at it for over ten years. (And what is more my husband does it too.) So people choose to reject, make snide remarks, disbelieve and undermine. Even while you’re trying to tell them, to inspire them, that they too could do the same thing if they wanted, they are busy dismantling what you are saying, reciting the reasons that they can’t do it. Really they are giving themselves reasons that they can’t write. As writers we spend a lot of time getting in our own way, and likewise getting in the way of fellow writers around us. And this is so sad. But it’s a constant battle and we mustn’t let it get in the way. Bonnie Friedman says “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.” And whether it’s friends or family, enemies or colleagues they are all sent to try us, to test our resolve. And ultimately the test, whether it’s writing or Bardsey, is whether we come back to it.

And like writing, my gut is feeling about Bardsey is that I won’t be able to stay away.

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