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Islands of Inspiration (4) The Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, Fife

I confess that this was my first and only visit to the Isle of May, taking the ferry from Anstruther with friends, including author Hamish Brown. We did not realise how fortunate we were, because the following day was the last day trip to the island in 2022. The warden David Steel @Steelybird, who I follow on Twitter for his amazing photos, needed to shut the whole island down due to bird flu. Tragically, this has decimated the population of sea birds up and down the east coast of the British Isles, especially on nearby Bass Rock, famous for its gannet population.

I say that this is a confession. When walking the coastal path and writing The Healing Paths of Fife we walked most of the way between the Forth Rail Bridge and St Andrews, but there were a few wee sections which were purely in my imagination, alongside some timely research, and one of these was a trip to the Isle of May.

How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit

The boat trip over was a matter of mind over body as the boat rolled in the stormy waters. Hamish, however, was bobbing up and down, eating his sandwiches and pointing out various sightings of puffins, other sea birds and even seals. I was sooo relieved to be on terra firma and so was my husband!

We had brought a stick with us because we had to walk through a colony of nesting terns. The stick was not to thrash about, as it was explained to us; the birds go for the highest point and so an umbrella would do just as well. I was mighty glad not to have my head dive bombed, I can tell you.

Once we had safely navigated both of those assaults to our bodies, we set off at a pace following Hamish to a favourite spot he knew where the puffins hung out, called Bishop Cove. It was magical. They are such heart warming creatures. We sat among them watching them waddle to their burrows, peer out to sea or dive down to the water, skimming the surface in search of a place to fish. It was as if a calm had descended. We sat on the rocky ground eating out picnic, absorbing their world all around us, almost at eye level with them. They made us smile. They made us laugh. We hardly spoke as a silence crept over us. We certainly lived in the moment.

How I was inspired by the island

The Isle of May as a place of pilgrimage has always inspired me; its location at the mouth of the Firth of Forth en-route between Lindisfarne and St Andrews. One day, I believe, my writing will take on the direction of a pilgrimage in days gone by, just as it did in The Healing Paths of Fife; a personal fantasy memoir and pilgrimage describing when we first relocated from Bedfordshire to Fife including ‘meeting and talking with famous folks along the way. The lives of saints, whose unusual names have also intrigued me since moving to Scotland; St Mungo for example sounds like a perfect subject for fact/fiction. His name crops up in so many places we have visited and his birth is a legend in these parts.

Meanwhile, I am still searching for the direction my writing journey should take in the here and now; but I do believe I’m edging closer to feeling at peace in knowing the way I should take next.

On our journey home it was as still as a pond and I fell fast asleep. Unusual for me.

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Filed under Fife, Fife Fantasy, Inspiration, The Healing Paths of Fife, Writing

Islands of Inspiration (3) ~ Iona

I first visited the Scottish western island of Iona, off the coast of Mull, in my 30’s on a pilgrimage with Aylesbury, St Mary’s. It was an incredible Easter experience and we stayed at the Abbey for a week ~ the likes of which I have never enjoyed since. See my original post in my series:

Pilgrims, Paths and Personal Journeys

This was my fifth trip to the island in all and we were visiting with two friends from here in Kinghorn, Fife.

How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit

Staying in a pod, the only accommodation we could get, in the shadow on Dun I (Dun eeh) was as close to nature as we were going to get because Iona can feel like the end of the earth. And yet, to worship with the community at Iona Abbey, which we did both mornings, makes you truly grounded because addressing the suffering of the natural world and its people is at the heart of everything the community believes in.

You retreat from life in order to raise your awareness and live it in a more fruitful and fulfilling way.

We walked as much as we could, despite the rain, enjoying the wild north end of the island with its craggy shoreline and white sandy bays. We talked so much too; such a pleasure to be away with friends and to spend quality time with them. (and our visiting chickens!)

How I was inspired by the island of Iona

Like Tinos and Sifnos, the beauty of Iona could not help but stir my emotions and inspire me to describe the world around me in a deeper way. I was reminded of the social issues which drove me to write ‘MISSING, Past and Present’; homelessness, racial tension and injustice, and yet I have always been driven by the dichotomy of these issues – the positive relationships between refugee and foster carer, discovering mindfulness whilst wandering the lanes without a permanent home and racist attitudes that can just slip in unawares.

Above all, Iona made me think about the direction my writing would go in. So many projects begun but unfinished, mainly due to the events of the last two years. I have a glimmer of a direction now ~ watch this space …

Iona will always be close to my heart – a place where

‘the air between this world and the next is thin.’ ~ St Coumba

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Filed under MISSING Past and Present, Scotland, Writing

Islands of Inspiration (2) ~ Tinos 2022

Two ferries from Sifnos, via Mykanos, and we arrived on Tinos; our second island in the Cyclades, chosen because it didn’t have an airport. Yet again we had no idea what to expect. We were self catering this time and our host suggested we pause our taxi to stock up in Tinos town; valuable advice because the next day was Sunday.

There was another good reason, which dawned on us as we zig-zagged from Isternia down to Ormos Bay and our delightful accommodation.

The nearest shop now, was a mile away, winding back up the cliff!

We were relieved that our fridge was now full and our host reassured us that there were three tavernas and also a sandy beach in the bay.

How the island helped me in mind, body and spirit

With no car this could have been a frustrating location, but we soon relaxed, with the certainty that we were meant to be here, to unwind, to heal from the trauma of the last two years and learn ‘to be’ once more.

Ormos Bay

Most days we wandered down to the beach, had a swim, sat and absorbed the view, enjoyed a light lunch before an afternoon siesta in the shade of the veranda. This gave us time to read, to talk and think of life. What a relief it was to be on holiday in the sunshine.

Most evenings we enjoyed supper at one of the three tavernas, where we were welcomed and treated to mouth watering Greek cuisine.

It was a press the pause button on life; refreshing, calming and just wonderful!

How was I inspired by our visit to Tinos?

Ormos Bay

We only had two trips out ~ one to be dropped off at the top of the hill to enjoy the breathtaking views, an ice-cream and to wander down the winding path back to the bay The path was an amazing feat of engineering from between the world wars. Although I am sometimes scared of heights (why do I live in Scotland you may ask?), the path was wide enough so that I could breath easily. The men who built it were truly inspiring and I’m sure there are stories to tell of those times.

The second trip out was to visit the lovely village of Pyrgos, where carving in marble, a treasure still mined on Tinos, could be observed in awe.

I spoke to one of the craftsman and asked him how much one of the small seahorses on the wall cost. 45 euros was his reply and then he showed me a block of rock he would carve another from, the template and one partially carved. ‘Do you know how many hours one of these takes to make?’ he asked.

I had no idea.

About 80 hours,’ he said.

Wow, I thought and then I compared it to my craft of writing a novel.

  • Loosely planning ideas, beginning, middle and end
  • Several months to write the first draft
  • A couple of months for edits, beta readers and revisions.
  • Working with an editor until the manuscript is ready for publication.

Typically that’s at least six months.

Does the reader appreciate this hard graft?

Would I have appreciated the carver if I hadn’t watched him at work? If I had bought that seahorse in a gift shop?

By a craftsman in Pyrgos, Tinos

I gained much inspiration from Tinos; a beautiful island. I relaxed and felt ready to face the world again, but the greatest lesson I learnt was to value the work I do and to feel proud of it, as the master carver I met certainly does.

How much do you value your writing?

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Filed under Inspiration, Inspirational and Motivational Series, mind body and spirit, Writing, Writing a novel