Saturday, 23 August 2008

Back on Islandmore..

Not being especially controversial, this blog rarely attracts comments, and if there is some way of telling how often it’s read I don’t know of it; but at least three people – two friends and a stranger – told me during a recent trip to Fife that they check in every so often to see what’s happening on Islandmore, so I was quite chuffed.
Chuffed, and a little mortified that my posts are so sporadic. So – Trish, Moni, Kirsty (sp?), this long-overdue (and longer than usual) post is for you..
This year’s Pittenweem Arts Festival was Lynn’s 10th, so we served bubbly at the preview evening and got some coverage in the local press. Lynn always has the same exhibition space by the harbour of this most picturesque of fishing villages, and after nine days of standing in front of her own work (normally she shows in galleries and stays as far away as possible), she radiated the dull glow of satisfaction-tinged burnout that so characterises Pittenweem. She sold well as usual, but her work comes from a deep place and she is not normally called upon to talk about it to so many people. The festival attracts thirty thousand visitors to over a hundred venues and a good proportion seem to climb the stairs to Lynn’s space above the harbourmaster’s office, so it can be intense, there’s no doubt about it. On the other hand, we get to catch up with old friends from Edinburgh and elsewhere who know we will always be there for the first full week of August.
Waterstones had invited me to do a slide show and reading at the St.Andrews store during the festival, which went pretty well. I do as many of these events as possible as they help to maintain the currency of my book and give me a chance to thank individual booksellers. Waterstones have been very supportive over the last eighteen months, and any author will tell you that having a book properly displayed, face out on the shelves and for as long as possible, is key to keeping it in print; that, and the writer’s Holy Grail - word of mouth.

We arrived back late at night and I took this photo of the island fox the following morning. He mooched along the foreshore and hopped onto the picnic table – waiting for breakfast I suppose.

For the last few action-packed days we have had Geoff and Lynn’s sister Fiona, with Roy (12) and Tammy (11), staying on the island. The weather has been good, the fishing excellent and yesterday we even managed to get the boat stuck in the mud trying to approach the harbour in Killyleagh (to go for a late – in the event, very late – breakfast in Picnic Delicatessen), which provided high adventure, much hilarity and the private mortification, after Geoff and I had struggled unsuccessfully with the oars for a while, of a half-hour wait while the tide rose enough to give us some floatation, in front of a couple of hundred waterfront apartments whose occupants normally look out on the tranquil waters of the lough, or possibly the quiet, workmanlike comings and goings of yachtsmen and fishermen – not the flailings and rockings of The Stupid Family.
I will be off the island for longish stretches in the next few weeks but as time allows, I’m working on a potential glossy follow-up to The Blue Cabin, which will certainly include a Mud Is Thicker Than Water chapter; and Lynn, after a well-earned rest, is looking towards the various exhibitions coming up: The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, Aberfeldy Gallery, Frames Contemporary in Perth, The Royal Ulster Academy in Belfast, and at least two charity shows/auctions that I can think of.

We left this morning in fine weather to visit Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry (and incidentally returned in late afternoon to heavy rain and a strong southerly wind – i.e. a simultaneous soaking from above and below), and there are a couple of footnotes to earlier posts which arose from the trip: 1. The Blue Cabin is prominently displayed in the Exploris shop near the till, for which I’m grateful, and 2. There are some press cuttings on the notice board about the leatherback turtle which inexplicably appeared in Strangford Lough in February, and was subsequently found dead. The reports are interesting but fail to mention one of the more disturbing findings of the autopsy – that the turtle was found to have ingested a plastic bag or bags, which probably contributed to it’s death. Jellyfish are the leatherback’s staple, and these quite near-sighted creatures can mistake polythene for food. It was too early in the season for jellyfish, so the turtle might well have starved anyway, but at a time when the anti-carrier bag movement is gaining such momentum, maybe it's worth mentioning.
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