70 – Travelblog: Rathlin

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It began to get light about 7am on Rathlin.

 

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Three hours free before the ferry, and Bruce’s Kitchen Cafe was closed, maybe related to a resident’s funeral.

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Above: a stone chair dedicated to the island, with a poem by Seamus Heaney.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wandered around the shoreline, taking photos and attracting the attention of a dog. The eponymous Rathlin became my companion for half an hour, bringing a stick for me to throw. yanking out tubed stem seaweed for me to throw, lifting a plank from a building yard and dragging it across the street, presumably to throw, and as an ailibi.  And when I washed the seaweed off in a little stream, Rathlin piled right into it, all four legs.

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And then, the money ran out. And I went home

 

 

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I’ll be back though. I’ve already twisted the arm of the Belfast Writer’s Group for a retreat out there, and Richard sent me this text earlier,

“Cheers 4 lovely postcard. Is just a place out a time up there – like a realm just slightly off the frequency. U know 4 yr bday there shud b a party up there. Out in the wilderness, us all imagining we’re the last remains of something, and we’re braced against the outside closing in”

Which sounds very tempting. My birthday is 70 days away,

 

 

Rathlin Island Evening Stroll

Reminder: https://andy-luke.com/shop/ has original arts from £10, and copies from just 30p.

So yeah, I was first inspired to Rathlin after reading about it in the graphic novel Troubled Souls by Ennis & McCrea years ago. The central character has himself in a bloody spot and thinks back to craic on the rock with friends, lighting fires and jumping on top of them in beer-fuel, trouser legs catching. For all it’s faults, (and I’m sorry John) McCrea’s paints (on his 1st book) are some of my favourite of his comicbook career. He brings out lovely greens and reds, there’s texture and beautiful flow – it’s a classical fine artist’s comic through and through. Romanticism, impressionism, it’s the painting on the wall to a child. The one page sequence with Rathlin housed the idea in my mind firmly, a grail place.

In 2000 Ennis got married and Warren Ellis was among those attending the stag on Rathlin Island. Check out  the audio file, Beer and the Garth Ennis stag party (5 mb, 5:09) for Warren’s re-telling of the event. It’s a pretty good description of Rathlin. (The text version is here)

So, I crossed the five currents of water-ways. The trip from Ballycastle was 25 minutes, with alternating services at 45 minutes transporting cars. Islanders or long stay visitors only. Jennifer McCurdy, a long-term resident, picked me up at the harbour and gave me a long tour around permanent facilities — the fabled McCuaig’s Bar & Bruce’s Kitchen Cafe, Emma’s Chip Ahoy, the decorated garden I’d seen from the boat:

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Soerneog View Hostel was about twenty minutes walk out, while the other accommodations and most houses were in the close proximity central street.  It was more a private rent-able accommodation than what I think of as a hostel. Check out my Marie Schrader bedclothes.

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Stepping outside, Rathlin impresses instantly.

Rue Lighthouse is one of three marking the seven mile island, away from the harbour and populace of a hundred. So I went that way.

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There’s the weird juxtaposition going on: the mass expanses of (BIG) country, fields and trees everywhere, but knowing that it’s limited. It seems to roll in front, but a mile over there….I could see Arkill Bay, Doon Bay (North Channel) the Sea of Moyle (Atlantic Ocean)

This is as close to wilderness as it comes. Halfway between the madness of Wuthering Height’s Heathcliff, sure to feature as a Game of Thrones location. Not a soul around yet though, and I began texting Mum eager that she and Dad take advantage of this Europe-sque outbound paradise. Halfway through, I jump at a hellish scream. Some weird fat partridge,pheasant or grouse bloodcurdling yell flies out away from under a dense hedge-row and across the field. In front of it, a brown hare, the bird pursues. Little bastards.

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That’s Ushet Lough there, halfway between the hostel and the shoreline. The walk takes an hour, except when I got there, large bulls and cows wandered about the shoreline, one giving me the evil eye. It was already dark, but as I told Judy, I could have taken it. In a fight, if we were to, which we wouldn’t, because the animals of Rathlin and I are such good friends we’d never fight.

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Halfway back, I saw people!
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At the hostel, I oven cooked my pizza, drank some lemonade and whiskey and at 9pm wandered back outside for a quick walk to the harbour. There were no streetlights, which made it a bit of a challenge, but I’d reviewed the road footage while inside and it was familiar. Then I banged my leg into the garden gate and the neighbours must have heard it. Oops.

Travelblog finishes tomorrow.

Travelblog : Ballycastle

I’d managed to book Rathlin for Monday sailing and an overnight, miscalculating that I’d three nights before that was happening. The Backpackers Hostel on the Promenade looked tacky outside but Ann-Marie kept a homely comfortable place that felt like mine. Sophie’s advice about hosteling with private rooms was bang on. (German pyro-eejit, out of sight) Realising I might be exceeding reasonable chips and ice cream cone portions, it was time to move on. I booked a night twenty minutes along the coast, in Ballintoy before Rathlin, and thirty minutes along the coast in Portrush after. Here’s a short story I wrote before leaving….

Ballycastle

 

The outdoor gym is crawling with weans; the age abandoned allocated play park. Besides them, striped shirt hairy man writes, pound-saver bargain book resting on a round grey granite table. So smoothly sculpted from the rock, his fingernails are left with no scratch as they move under the pen. The people saunter. It’s a holiday and he wouldn’t mind some sex. Under 500 words ought to allow him the quickie he desires, but no. He wants time with the reader, the return of communications. He doesn’t know, despite experience, if the book will reach multitudes. He sensually caresses hyper-narrative.

From the park’s edge, Andy looks out over the final green hump. The two ginger boys are still playing, now joined by a man. They’re in matching navy coats, they could be twins. Sand trivia chucks have become a mound, brittle sticks waving battlement’s pains. The man with them doesn’t get involved, merely contemplates, his body stretching light. After a while he walks to the sea and the boys follow him. There’s a log he is sitting at, like a storyteller with the boys on the camel grains at his read. The footprints of book woman are blown across now by a wind, niggling, really niggling we are to see it. It’s barely traced. It’s there, in the vast expanse of the Irish sea. Invisible everywhere, down to the sliding breakers, roars hugging, turning over, to a loopy line shape, curtains drawing on the shore. Man, boy, skimmer stone.

Forty yards and the shore curves to an inlet; lagoon’s edge: eleven children air sail rocks. They’re back and forward but not enough for me to know their stories. A woman eyes me as she walks past. I wonder if she thinks I’m a paedo. Someone needs to do a survey about that psychic terror shit. Her partner looks back as well. Most people are over forty here. There’s no sun in the sky and I notice on the way to telling you it’s warm, that there hasn’t been all day.

A mother with nice books takes a pink kart to the far end of the park. They have a motor fountain, eight jets shooting from the ground, and kiddies scream in the middle. Jogger runs past them. Tribes of pram pushers stroll far. An aunt sits middle on the wall. Little bastard! There was a wasp in my bag, okay? Just when the black and white bounder dog pissed on a seat and the woman twirled like no-one saw. A kid plays nearby, a jack-o-lantern smile, freckles, bush hair in front of big teeth. The wasp might still be circling. Why are we culling badgers when we could slay wasps? Scientist may testify.

The stream of people are less, but it’s not dawning time. They’re behind me, a family of about twenty. The jogger is nowhere to be seen. There’s not a ginger around. I have a remarkable view but time were left to someone else. Passing, I smile.

Blog: Fuzzy

Previously on http://andy-luke.com

Fearing a breakdown on his 40th birthday, the author resolved to create and share one new piece with the web every day. This has produced Oxford Zombies, a giraffe lighthouse, MPs with penises on their heads (as they do), a slew of flash-fic and a travel comic. But at the halfway mark Andrew’s discontent grows. And now the continuation…

Hello Blogobbler,

A while ago I got an idea into my head. With my travel saver card I could bus to cheap hostels around Northern Ireland.  I’m not sure how this got in. I’m too old for hostels, and promised myself to try and leave Northern Ireland in 2015. But I’m going to have a go. I was due to leave yesterday but had run out of tablets. An emergency perscription was sorted out and I took the time to think beyond me staring at a timetable and taking the next bus to go.

So, this morning I’m beginning my mystery holiday by going to Ballycastle and if I’m lucky, Rathlin Island afterwards. I’ll blog and photograph, but as Rathlin is very remote I’d be surprised if I can get wi-fi access there.

 I’m still not sure why this particular expression of rest. A mission of tolerance seeking redemption for Northern Ireland and hostels in general? Either way, I’ve exhausted myself and need a rest. 

FuzzyInspired by Grant Lee Buffalo’s 1992 song, Fuzzy.

UPDATE

I’ve just gotten into Ballycastle, greeted by:

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Still waiting for a reply to my email from Rathlin, so we’ll see…