Rathlin Island HostelBlog 4: The Island Sometimes Known As Raghery

Week 6

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The sense of camaraderie at McCuaig’s, the sheer craic, and personal investment, coupled with beautiful landscape made my time on Rathlin second to none. Special mentions to the hostel-runners: Fergus and Tania; but especially Sean, Patsy and Rohan, who made me feel like a member of the family. How could I not take another
week? On my final day we spotted blue whales jumping in Mill Bay, right in front of the hostel.

Home 

DVD for Always Sunny in Philadelphia Series 1-2 arrives. Check out the box’s audience warning marks.

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Sean (McFaul) reckoned I’d experience culture shock on return to Belfast. At first, little things; then the rising noise of the traffic, the internalisation of city folk, and a return of claustrophobia. Still, Rathlin’s weather taught me to appreciate the colours and patterns closer to home.

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Enter, Sean Duffield, cartoonist of Paper Tiger Comix, who I’d invited to come from Brighton and be my guest in N. Ireland. Sean had one request.

Week 7

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Belfast to Ballycastle, often it’s needed to change buses at Ballymena. We discovered a small park five minutes from the station with these beautiful Four Seasons statues.

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Sean gets comfortable seal-spotting down at Rue Point, earning the nickname ‘Manimal’.

We take the round-island coach trip.
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Even saw a peregrine falcon at West Lighthouse. It’s a pleasure having Sean D around. His sticking to daily writing exercises provides the perfect context for professional practice myself. Sean is also an awesome cook. There’s not much pub time, as Sean wants to walk e v e r y w h e r e.

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We do make a visit to Yvonne Braithwaite’s Breakwater Arts Studio, hosting Rathlin’s first ever Culture Night. It’s an intimate evening of songs and stories from islanders, handed down through generations, as the sun goes down accompanied by deelish cheeses and warming wines.

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Watershed Cafe Suzie shows us around some caves.
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andy vs sean

And we’re introduced to a healing pool, legend having it that if you bottle this water and give it to a friend, it will clear foot ailments of all descript. Though you can’t use the water on yourself…

healing pool

…No. It really has no effect.

We set sail for home like every visitor to Rathlin, forever changed.

I’ll be returning this weekend (5th December), for a few drinks in the bar. You’re invited to join us.

If you’d like to keep a closer eye on Rathlin, there’s a host of stuff around the web, including the Rathlin Community Page, and the regularly rewarding Friends and Residents of Rathlin page on Facebook.

 

I swam with seals, this month

They just showed up, one, then another. I thought the third the same. Moira Morton and I were out in Mill Bay, a five minute walk from Rathlin’s harbour. Then there was a fourth, swimming to shore behind me. One popped up in front. That one and I decided we were too close to one another, maybe ten feet away, and took a bit of fright. I let my head bob on the waves, meeting eye level and we all smiled at one another. Yes, it was like whack-a-mole, but without the whacking. Sarah stayed on the shore and tried to grab some footage.

UPDATE: She took some beautiful photos, but not much with videos. Here’s a 6second blink-and-miss it of me swimming, Moira floating, a seal bobbing and a girl with a Tablet device in the water??

My snaps,

Rathlin July 1 Rathlin July 2

Later in McCuaig’s, a woman told me she’d been bitten on the leg. ‘They get very protective of their cubs’, she said. I spent a week out there. Day before leave, we took a trip with Damien McFaul’s ‘Miss B Haven’, which fits about 8-10, starting at 6. Damien offers a £10 trip to the stacks, Jenga chaos like pillars were birds roam with Jurassic Park style. A good spot to see puffins at the right time. He also does a £25 trip, seems expensive, but no. It’s two hours, right around the island and breath-takingly beautiful.

At Rue Point lighthouse, Rathlin East, we met a colony of twenty or so seals. Damien cut the engines. They were spread out, and we drifted in between them. Very friendly, no alarms. A few were but six feet from us.

Sean Duffield, editor of the acclaimed War: High Cost of Living graphic anthology, visits in September. We’ll be spending five days at the Rathlin hostel. It’s situated two minutes walk from the coast, close enough for an excellent view. The hostel is run by Sean and Fergus, and Sean’s wife Patsy. Built a few years ago, its open all year round. Tidy, comfortable and homely, still a bit of an awkward secret. In an unexpected turn of events, I got some drink in me and asked Sean and Patsy to consider me for the job of hostel assistant. Once they sobered up, they accepted. That’s where I’ll be spending August, my first month as a self-employed freelance author.

ELSEWHERE ON-LINE

The Guardian picks up on Absence: a comic about epilepsy

‘Flesh Mob’ epic opens The Orb’s Tense Situations anthology

“I think it’s terrific. Really impressive. A really nice easy flow to its movements.” – David Hughes on Sea Legs, available for free on WithPaintedWords.com

First writer’s retreat

Last September, I hurried together a trip to Rathlin. As per the objective, it was cheap, (£60 a head OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAall inclusive), and didn’t mean me stressing over a big group or cancellations. The six of us came from Belfast Writers Group, people I’d got to know over two years, and could depend on. The location was inspiring and the prepared content would be self-fuelled, in the barcamp ethos of everybody brings something. As it was only Alex prepared a presentation, the rest of us either ran out of time, or decided to ad lib. (An earlier draft of my plan made used of a timetabled plan for teaching, readings, private writing, group discussion and time set aside for leisure)

In many ways, the beautiful location worked against the order of things. Rathlin is wild and flourishing, enormous through it’s limits. It was short-sighted thinking this heart-winning location could coop six creatives in a bungalow. It took much buckling down to get us each to write one short piece from a set stimulus point. Once we’d done that,we agreed, post Doctor Who, to entertain one another with an evening lock-in, the compositions and a bottle of wine. There were alternate takes on my breakfast breakdown, observations of the beautiful environment and eerie descriptions of local myth. It was worth resisting the charms of the local pub to allow us to bond beyond friendships, as creatives working and evolving in a singular space.

1200px-Rathlin_Island_Northern_Ireland_17Rathlin Island Northern Ireland 17” by Brian O’NeillOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

(In defence of the pub, it gave inspiration for three of the tales in our canon. We got there after the group-session, and it was one of the prettiest night-skies I’ve ever seen)

On the logistical side of things, plans changed as they do. Lynda, our un-official leader, chef and driver had to drop out at short notice. Holly volunteers to provide wheels and everyone can take turns at breakfast and lunch prep. My food shop plan needed help, so Holly wheeled in there too.

We weren’t dependent on Lynda to fill a bunk as one person slept in over-flow accommodation. Alex signed up a few days before. A few people had dietary concerns. These posed little problem,  required I do an hour or two of research, which, in a perfect would be just common altruism.

I got a lot from this weekend, and am indebted to Holly, Alex, Ellie, Bruce and Philip for making it happen. Also for the inspiration, the Midwinter Comics Retreat crowd, led by the painfully missed wunderkind Debra Boyask.

Leaning Over Rathlin - by Ellie Rose McKee

Leaning Over Rathlin – by Ellie Rose McKee

I want to do another one of these soon. It’s proving a bit of a chore finding venues to accommodate more than six while keeping a low price. I think these things are worth chasing though, particularly in a time of mass unemployment.

If you’d like to be part of a N. Ireland Spring creator’s retreat, drop me a line. It’s safer than Facebook to use the comments function below.

And you can read the piece I wrote on Rathlin, an alternate take of the weekend at Skypen.