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Give me an island and some books…

If you have ever had the desire to be marooned on an isolated island, you should have spent the weekend with us.

On Saturday, we drove to Skomer Island, on the western coast of Wales. Our enthusiastic birding friends, H&F drove us six hours from their house to get to the island. We managed to make it in the very nick of time for the last boat at 12 pm. That hair-raising and heart stopping drive is another story in itself! A short boat ride later, we, along with some 15 other tourists scrambled up the island.

Skomer Island is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. An independent island surrounded by clear aquamarine waters, this island is cut off from the mainland. The only sign of human life is a wardens house. For company, the warden has hundreds of Manx shearwater (35% of the world’s population of this bird is here), puffins, gulls, seals, rabbits and other creatures roaming the approximate 750 acres that make up the Reserve.

We spent the day looking out and identifying the various birds, taking pictures against the gorgeous views and trying to stay warm. It rained a lot throughout the weekend and the island offered no shelter. Other than that, I would have happily stayed there if they had let me. The last boat back was at 4.30 pm though and there was no choice but to leave.

There is something about the sheer ‘solitariness’ of an island that appeals to something deep in me. I’d be quite happy there, I think. Just give me an internet connection, lots of books and paper to write on and some chocolate.

Imagine walking into a town and seeing streets full of bookstores. Every book lovers dream, Hay-on-Wye is a little town, on the border of Wales and England, that has only bookshops lining its narrow streets. There are one or two other shops with clothes and shoes, but that’s it. There are book shops catering to every subject, budget and taste. From a bookshop selling every book (and they mean ‘every’) for £1, to bookshops specialising in antique and old books (saw some for £750 or more), the streets are heaven for bookoholics like us. There are speciality shops for books on gardening, birds, cookery related and even an entire shop dedicated to jigsaw puzzles! The absence of national book chains is welcoming and one is tempted to make plans to spend the rest of one’s life there.

They even have ‘honesty’ bookshops, where shelves lined with books are left without a caretaker and if you want a book you can leave your money in a slot provided. Most people do. The concept of ‘honesty’ goods is used in churches where newspapers, postcards and other items can be picked up and paid for without someone to keep an eye on you. It’s a concept that reinforces values of trust, honesty and in the inherent goodness of man. It seems to work most of the time here in churches and in bookshops like the ones mentioned, but may not in most other places.

Mr.R picked up some books on music at bargain prices – most shops sell their books at 1/2 price. (How they make a profit is beyond me – maybe the sheer volume of sales makes up for the discount.) I picked up the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2005 which is traditionally supposed to be the Writer’s Bible with thousands of markets listed. At half price, this was an investment I could not resist.

Mr.R and I wrapped up the weekend driving back through a storm. Not funny, especially on the motorway. As if to make up for the bad visibility through out the 3 hour drive, we got to see a double rainbow over Oxford! We even got to see a plane drop six parachutes over a field while we were driving the other way on Friday, at around the same place. Rainbows and parachutes – good company for a long drive.


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