When he came to the Islay Book Festival in 2018, Bernard MacLaverty recommended writing facing a blank wall to minimise distractions. Given my slow progress in developing this blog in the last two years I think he may have had a point: I blame the view.
This is Carraig Fhada lighthouse, located at the entrance to Port Ellen bay on the south-eastern tip of Islay, the southernmost island in the Hebrides archipelago.
In the background is the Mull of Kintyre and just around the corner, out of picture, Rathlin Island and the Antrim hills of Northern Ireland are easily visible on days like the one pictured.
I look out onto the lighthouse (from further away) as I’m writing this blog, either at the kitchen table in the annex at Beach Cottage, or from the upstairs bedroom in the main house.
On the day I first wrote this (in September, 2019) Kintyre was curtained off by a thick shroud of mist, tamped down by a water-sodden blanket of grey cloud.
In the Hebrides, on drab days like that, it can feel as if the sea is pulling the sky down into a slobbery, damp embrace and the sun will never regain the force to push the old lech away.
Yet in the shallows on our side of the lighthouse small puddles of sunlit sea will suddenly begin to appear then disappear as if the blanket had been nibbled by moths. Soon the bay’s ceiling will be more like a dirty linen tea cloth, its rough weave allowing shards of light through to oscillate on the waves like beads of water bouncing around a heated grill pan ready for a steak.
Heaven and earth seem closer here than they do in the city and at times it seems natural that faith in an omnipotent being directing the natural spectacle like an invisible puppetmaster retained such a powerful hold over these islands for centuries.
I’ve had to refile this blog to change it from a WordPress page to a post, so have taken the opportunity to add a couple of tweets illustrating the recent fine weather we’ve been enjoying in the second half of September (2020).
… and unseasonal gales at the end of August that underlined the way climate change is affecting our island. More to follow on this when have time.