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Bardsey Island Observational Research Project

Not home yet

Aug 20, 2010. I am sitting facing the sea. I am scrabbling for phone signal on a cliff. I am surrounded by swooping gulls, bobbing seed heads, waves pounding on rocks, rockpools bubbling with life. And yet it’s a different cliff, some seventy miles from Bardsey. I haven’t quite made it home yet. I’m still on my journey. Home seems like too much hustle and bustle. I want more of this creativity and I have found I can have it off the island.

I have rented a little cottage by the sea. It’s the house my late brother built and it was always too infused with his memory and sadness to stay here before. But now I feel like it is my only hope. Creativity is not as intense as on Bardsey because my sense of purpose is more diffuse, I am part of the real-world, I have work to attend to and children to raise. These things cannot be shut out like on Bardsey where my purpose constantly called out to me in the dark like the Sheerwaters. But I am able to sit and look and be and write. I am not tied to an office or a computer. I am free.

It is good.

Unfortunately it is also bad for my course. The phone line has not yet been installed, despite waiting three weeks. The engineer never showed. Apparently he can’t figure out where ‘here’ is – at least in terms of connecting it to the phone line and the exchange that lead to the world and the Internet. So I am not managing to log into the forum as much as I would like. But I’m getting lots of reading and writing and thinking done, which is great. I have no TV or at least I have a TV that is only connected to a DVD player. Thanks to my course nearly everything I watch has subtitles. This is new for me! Anyone listening from outside might think that I only speak Russian or French!

I have no phone signal – and hence no 3G and no Interwebs – unless again I stand on a cliff. Although I do on occasion steal wifi from next door. I have placed a very rickety chair and a very rickety table where the signal is. It is just above the beach so I can look down on the waves. At least when it is dry. I am cut off when it rains as getting it wet would invalidate my iPad’s warranty. But weather permitting I can connect a little, at least enough to sync my writing with the cloud server so I don’t risk losing my work.

In many ways I don’t want to have a connection to the outside world. I don’t want to be dragged away by urgent phone calls. I don’t want Lolcatz to intrude on my train of thought. I don’t want Facebook distracting my flow. I don’t want CNN encroaching on my creative bliss. Maybe this reticence about the phone line is why BT is having such a hard time at installing it. Maybe I should tell the universe that yes I really do want a phone line and that I will turn off the wifi at every opportunity. Perhaps that will work.

Here’s a little bit that I wrote earlier. I didn’t write it on Bardsey but it’s made me think more about my story.

Two crows fly from mountain calling to each other left and right back and forth then they each turn outwards and fly Back toward the mountain. The sound of their wing beats is heard as they fly away. How did they both know to do that? Did they communicate it??

Bee flies left to right. Swallow swoops down. Finch chirps in tree ahead. Hen and cow in distance. Waves. Wind. Then jet clear and bright in miniature in sky. Two beats sound of jet is heard.

It’s all about place. My story is very simple. It’s about being there. In the moment. Experiencing it. Not recording it – that comes later. Just being there.

In short it’s the story of a family like so many I saw on the island four generations visiting Bardsey as they’ve always done. This time a teenage great granddaughter is with them. It is her first visit. She is angry and sad at leaving her boyfriend behind. She doesn’t want to be there. She spends every waking moment trying to contact him on her phone. Her great-grandmother is blind but vividly remembers her first visit to the island which she relives through flashbacks. Despite having felt the same way as her great-granddaughter when she arrives the memories she created were so strong so vivid that she is able to see and experience the island today. We see both girls going through the same surroundings, through very similar experiences (remember no electricity, no plumbing, earth toilets, no way off the island). 1930s girls is writing a letter, which we hear as a voiceover, 2010 girl is fighting with technology. As they both begin to stop fighting the island and start enjoying its magic, unlike 1930s girl, the frustration of the 2010 girl only grows as she tries to use technology to ‘bring’ her boyfriend with her so that she can share the experience with him. So much so that she realises that the technology is getting in the way. She isn’t really being in the moment.

I have no idea if this is possible. I think I have made a horrendous task for myself. We were warned against flashbacks during the residential and yet I can’t see any other way to do it. I have no idea how to write them. I know I can’t give directions because that steps on the director’s toes. I could set the past in black and white – but that would detract from the richness of the experience that the 1930s girl (the great-grandmother) is having/reliving. And I’m sure it would be pretentious to put the 2010 girl’s experiences in monochrome. Although I do like the idea of the view finder that she’s looking through, complete with flashing battery icon etc, narrowing down the view of what she can see. Also the hiss of the audio might work too. Or again would that be stepping on the director’s toes??

I don’t know. Gah! I have no answers. Only questions!!

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