Next morning I was awake bright and early, looking out of my window I saw a very strange coloured sky. Being more concerned with packing and moving on I took little notice until after breakfast when it began to rain. As it rained the fog came down so I decided to do something useful indoors and go and photograph the interiors of both the Methodist and Anglican churches. I spent time admiring a lovely and unusual window dedicated to Elizabeth of Hungary, the only one with such a dedication in the whole of Great Britain.
In the Methodist church I was fascinated by the mural in memory of John Wesley’s visit to the islands and by the beautiful stained glass window depicting the nativity.
All of this took me to coffee time but then I was faced with a dilemma, I’d vacated my room my cases were sitting in the hall ready to move on so I was at this point a bit homeless and rootless.
I know, I thought optimistically, I go and look at the Museum, by the time I’ve done that it will have stopped raining.
Two and a half hours and three circuits of the museum later I looked out of the door and if anything it was raining even harder than before. By now I was verging on becoming the armchair anorak on the shipwrecks of Scilly, the history of Sir Cloudesley Shovell and his hapless fleet of ships including HMS Association not to mention the Nancy, the Schiller, the Falkland which in 1889 actually hit the Bishop Rock Lighthouse and ran aground, the Thomas W Lawson and most famously the super tanker the Torrey Canyon which went aground on the Seven Stones rocks causing one of the biggest oil spills in British maritime history.
I read with interest about the lives of 2 pioneer photographers. I learned a lot about lighthouse keepers who in the early days had to do 2 months duty in a single stretch in often cramped conditions. There was no stepping outside for a break from your colleagues because basically outside was the sea. I also discovered that among the list of essential personal clothing for a lighthouse keeper’s tour of duty was 4 pairs of underpants (4 pairs for 2 months, this gave considerable pause for thought!) I took in ancient religious history of the islands, closely inspected the various rare birds and creatures in the glass display cases in the basement by which time I have to confess I was a little ‘museumed’ out! By now it was time for lunch and still raining.
Later that afternoon I made my way down to our flat at Spanish Ledge. In his book the life of a Scilly Sergeant Colin Taylor, who was until recently the Police Sergeant based on St Mary’s, describes the distant toll of the Spanish Ledge bell sounding across Hugh Town. The bell is inside a large cardinal buoy anchored a mile out to sea of Porthcressa Beach. The swell rocks it gently backwards and forwards the chime warning shipping of the reef beneath. As the rain came down and the fog set in I could hear the mournful chime of the bell. I wonder how Alan is getting on I thought to myself. I was soon to find out when a kind neighbour in the downstairs flat at Spanish Ledge and who I had got to know at Mincarlo brought me a message from Alan to say that all flights from Penzance had now been cancelled because of the fog.
Thus it was on the first night of our hols Alan spent the night in the Queen’s Hotel Penzance with a bag of chips on a wet seafront for supper. Whilst I trundled along to Dibble and Grub our favourite restaurant on Porthcressa for some tapas and a glass of red. I listened to a guitarist playing sunny Spanish melodies in an effort to raise customer’s spirits. Table for one watching the rain, Ah! The simple pleasures of a British summer!
On reflection however it did give us first-hand experience of the challenges and unpredictability of communication and travel when it comes to island life. Sometimes mobile phones and emails aren’t quite up to the task. On Sundays on Scilly the planes don’t fly, so Alan found himself boarding the passenger ferry Scillonian early next morning and arrived on St Mary’s at mid-day. You will be pleased to hear dear friends that I was there at the quay waiting to greet him, all very Onedin Line!