Picture by Ric, in Herm February 2010.
Let me tell you about the island on which I was born and on which I have lived on now for nineteen years. The sea beats against the sand and the cliffs, we have infrequent precipitation and the things that we keep outside have no way of resisting water. And so when it rains we bring everything inside. Huge warehouses were built to accommodate all the stuff and as the inside became bigger, the outside became less so. The balance is now exactly right. At the first sign of rain we run to drag in all the lampposts and hedges and trees and post boxes and dustbins and telegraph poles. It ends with the roads being rolled in behind us and then we all sit tight until such time as we hear the rain stop and everything can be returned.
Sometimes it rains for hours and hours. I like that. But it only takes people a couple of days to forget that it ever happened.
We are a precise people. We count and measure everything incessantly, or at least there are a great number of people who are paid to do these things on our island. The precise angles of everything are measured and recorded and if you wish to make any permanent amendments to these then you must apply for position. I had a very careful childhood, as all childhoods are spent here. When it rained I was entrusted with minor items. Whilst my father was moving roads and farms in from the wet, I would help my mother bundle in the back garden. The bulging fruit bushes, the washing line, the spindly palm trees like hat stands wearing wigs.
Obviously we cannot leave the island by the sea. To us the moon seems closer than other lands.
The summer I was seventeen I was one of only two people my age on the island. We spent the summer driving around in her car, listening to punk rock and living on a diet of cake, apples and emmenthal cheese. I found that I could adopt a fake kind of cigarette insouciance by holding my apple with a certain air of detachment and leaning out of the window. We sat on the beach and hatched plans across maps of the world weighed down by dead crabs that had been stranded by the tide and which were fresh for picking. Our imagined travels were marked on the map with tendrils of a vine and sellotaped on. In the autumn we made frequent trips to Frank Allsabite’s underground book depository and read our way through the cities we had marked on our path. We dredged up local murder mystery novels, romances and paid particular attention to the cool books with punk rock people living in their modern punk rock cities. In between we would read about trains and canals and motorways, whichever way we needed to travel.
At the spring tides of my nineteenth birthday I bundled some maps and belongings into a rucksack and thought about leaving. I thought about running out into the waves, waves which were approaching higher than any other time of the year. I thought about taking my chances.
And then everything came out of the sky and blew and lashed and seemed to strike the whole island off into the sea unmoored. And everyone was out and desperately gathering our very anything in. The whole island was disappearing, pulled from the surface of the earth and into our deep, dark storage. Our terrifying security.