Captain’s Log 19/10/19 11:50
I’m back on Lundy Island, delivering my poems for the residents. As I get off the boat, I stop to look at some baby seals with a lady called Annette, who is a marine wildlife expert and monitors different species here. She tells me she’s from Preston in Lancashire and, it turns out, she knows some of the anti-fracking crew I wrote a poem for last February, which seems a bit of a strange coincidence.
In fact, there’s been another strange coincidence since I was here 2 weeks ago. I’ve had a message from a lady called Trysha, who I met in the island’s pub. She went on my website and found out about my visit to Ian in Grantchester, a rock climbing instructor who asked for a poem about Extinction Rebellion. Not only does Trysha know Ian, he was the man who taught her rock climbing and recommended she went to Lundy in the first place. Grantchester is 290 miles away from here. What are the odds of that?
The first poem I’m dropping off is for a big group I met on a staff night out- Sue, Rob, Ash, Helen, Dean and Barry. I know Sue, Ash and Helen work in the island’s only shop, so I decide to try there first. Usually, I read out what I’ve got and then pass on a written copy. But, as I learned from my last visit, everyone who lives on Lundy works for The Landmark Trust and this is actually the busiest time of the week for them- they have a whole load of things to do as the visitors arrive, so I’m going to have to play it by ear.
As I step through the shop door, I notice I’m the only customer. I think I’ve beat the rush. I spot Helen at the counter.
“I heard you were back on the island,” she says, smiling. “Did you read any of your poems out on the boat?” I tell her I think this is a really cool idea. I’d love to do it, but I’m not sure if it’s fair to subject people to poetry without being asked first. “I see what you mean,” she says. “Well, I’d like to hear what you’ve brought anyway.”
I tell Helen I went with an idea we spoke about as a group, about what makes Lundy such a unique place. I read it out and pass her a copy. She seems pleased.
“I think you came at a really good point when you first visited,” she says. “We all work different hours, so we don’t always have a chance to get together like that.”
Customers start to filter in, a lady comes over asking for a cure for seasickness. I decide it’s probably time to let Helen get back to work. I give her a wave and head out the door.
Take me to an island that’s three miles long,
where there’s only one pub and there’s only one shop,
where at twelve every night the power’s turned off
and the stars are so bright.
Where the surf’s chewed by cliffs, sharp as shark’s teeth,
where cobblestone ruins are guarded by sheep,
where there’s only the roar of the wind on the heath
and no one in sight.
To a place where mobile signal
never even permeates,
where there’s no cars, or trains, or airplanes,
and you forget to care.
Where you watch baby seals learn to swim on the beach,
where pygmy shrews tickle your feet while you sleep,
where all that you need never seems out of reach.
Leave me there.
I’m tired of the rush, the shoving, the noise,
I’m sick of the scrolling, the sound of my voice,
and none of my choices feel like a choice
anymore, they feel like a cage.
Take me away to this small paradise,
where the turquoise sea blankets the fields on all sides,
and I’ll watch as it cradles the coming sunrise,
and I’ll stay.
I decide to walk to the pub and see if I can spot Joe and Tiina, the couple I wrote my second piece for. On the way, I bump into Sue. I tell her I’ve got a poem for her, that I’ve just read it to Helen in the shop.
“Come and read it in the pub as well,” she says. “You’ll have a nice audience there.”
Inside, it’s pretty busy. About 40 day-trippers are eating their dinner or waiting at the counter to order. I spot Joe by the till. I tell him I’m reading Sue’s poem out and mention I could read him his as well. It’s clearly not the best time, but he stops what he’s doing and takes a seat in the main room. Sue taps some pint glasses together and introduces me.
“We’ve got a man called Rowan here today, and I’m sure he’ll tell you more about it.”
I start off with the Lundy poem. Then I move on to Joe’s, explaining the conversation we had, about how the island would be a good place to hide in the zombie apocalypse. It’s a pretty mixed crowd. Most people do the sensible thing and pretend it isn’t happening- a couple carry on with their burgers, some teenagers finish a game of chess. All things considered, I decide to skip the encore.
Sue has to dash back to the shop to sort out a big delivery. I pass her a copy before she goes.
“To be honest,” she says. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But you got a lot of stuff in that we spoke about.” I pass Joe his poem too and manage to get in a quick picture with him before he runs back to the till.
The Zombie Apocalypse Will Probably Be Fine
I’ll make a sign for the door:
No Brains Inside.
I’ll shut all the windows,
do the front latch.
There’s a space I could hide
in the cupboard by the sink.
The zombie apocalypse will be fine,
A lot worse has happened,
I’m sure I’ll get by.
Yeah, I live on the ground floor,
I don’t have a car.
But I’ve got some tinned soup,
a few box sets in.
The zombie apocalypse will be fine,
there’s a lot we don’t know:
They might not be hungry,
they might be quite slow,
they might settle for Quorn,
or be open to bribes.
The zombie apocalypse will be fine.
it might be OK to get bitten.
You can choose your own hours,
you can work as a team,
bringing the human race to the brink.
The zombie apocalypse will be fine,
I’m about to leave the pub and get the ferry home. I’ve had a look for the rest of the residents. I spotted Rob and Barry, but they were right in the middle of moving a tractor full of luggage from the ferry. I decided to leave them to it.
As I’m putting on my coat, a lady in a multi-coloured woollen hat comes over.
“Are you the poet?” she asks. “I’ve heard you were reading some stuff out, would you do it again?” I tell her I’ve got to catch a ferry. “I’m getting the same one,” she says. “Maybe you could read them on the boat?”
It’s about halfway through the journey home and I’m stood on the deck at the back of the ferry. The sunset is breaking through the clouds behind me as I shout my poems above the roar of the Atlantic. I’m not going to lie, it is everything I hoped it would be.
Afterwards, I get chatting to one of the ship’s crew, Rob, who tells me he’s had a word with the captain to say it was a good form of entertainment for the passengers. I’m expecting a call from the MS Oldenburg anytime soon.
It feels like a good way to round off the trip. It’s a shame I didn’t get to read the poems to the rest of the residents. But I was prepared for the fact they’d be at work. And, despite this, Helen, Sue and Joe still found time out of their day to listen to what I’d brought. It really means a lot.
I’ve learned many things about Lundy in my two trips here. I’ve learned that it’s quite far away from Newcastle. I’ve learned that members of the public aren’t actually allowed to knock on doors. But I’ve also got an interesting insight into what it means to live and work in a place ran by The Landmark Trust.
There’s no question that the wildness of the island has been well preserved. But I’ve been surprised by the business model underlying it all, too. It seems a peculiarly modern phenomenon that this island now has a manager, and every resident has a uniform. But it’s safe to say I’d still move to Lundy in a heartbeat if I could. And if that’s what it takes to keep this place intact, you’ve got to say fair enough.
This trip and the subsequent blog post was generously funded by Apples and Snakes. Also, thanks to Annette Dutton @LoveMarineLife for the picture of me on the boat.