A Hermit’s Life For Me (Public)

What a strange existence...

A Hermit’s Life For Me (Public)
Photo by Jan Zikán / Unsplash


I’m on St. Mary’s for the World Gig Championships. Men’s and women’s crews from across southern England, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, and beyond have been descending on Scilly to race against each other this weekend. I’ve been helping Andrew and Lucy (who have become members of the Inter-island Working Group that Phillip founded) design a layout for a daily newsletter they’re producing for the event. The first issue hit the streets today and the response has been positive. It’s nice to work on such high quality thing that’s being locally produced.

Nikki told me today that she and her boyfriend Nick were heading to St. Agnes tonight and would be sleeping in the shed at Elder, where I’ve been staying. I said, “Oh, OK—great.” I hope I didn’t leave any dirty underwear laying around. By the way, I can’t believe how many derivations of “Nick” having been appearing. I’ve come across three so far besides myself and these are little islands.

The championships have been fun. Though I don’t know how I didn’t think that a bunch of close-cropped, beer-and-bravado-fueled rowing types would show up. They did, of course. I missed out on all of the drunken sing-alongs down at the pub though since I was helping with the newsletter. I admit I felt a bit like a yearbook nerd, but oh well.


Gig racing final results: the women’s crew from St. Mary’s won the world championship in their class! The St. Agnes men’s crew rowed the Shah to 33rd place out of 70 in the their class.


I dreamt last night that I was designing a new album cover for Beth Orton. Zoe was helping me out. We had some computers set up on folding tables in the parking lot of the hotel my dad used to run in Illinois where Beth was staying tour. I think there were about eight of us total on the project. When Zoe found out what the project was I think she wanted to freshen up her image and appeared sporting a dark-burgundy afro with a strip missing down the middle, like a reverse mohawk.

Beth came across as you might expect, relaxed and quiet but interested in what we were doing. She had a negligee tattooed to her skin which fascinated me. Its simple shape was indicated only by the hems, seams and stitches, as well as by the small flowers and delicate vines that curled and snaked along its edges, simultaneously innocent and drop-dead sexy. I thought to myself, “Wow, so that’s what her tattoo looks like...”

She leaned on the table and looked at the monitors. Someone showed her what we had come up with. I can’t even remember what it looked like, but then again I don’t think the dream was really about the work.

The night before I had a dream in which I was driving a car from the backseat, a recurring theme. I was lucid enough to think, “It’s such a drag that I’m always in the backseat for these dreams.” When I awoke I wondered what it meant and why it’s such a popular dream theme for me.


Eden, Ellen and Bryce’s friend, was telling me the other day that wealthy landowners in the 18th century often built, as a feature in their massive gardens, fake ruins of buildings that never existed. Funny. Another popular feature? A hermit living in a small cottage. The hermit would spend most of his time reading or perhaps writing poetry. Having one was considered very fashionable. I thought “What a strange existence,” until this morning that is, when I found myself writing on a laptop, after having woken from a dream, in a small shed, in Hans and Jon’s garden.


My computer has just told me that I’ve written over 60,000 words since arriving last November. I find this absolutely staggering. Looking at books as a kid I always thought, “How could anyone possibly write all of this?” I still don’t have any idea.


Speaking to Hans over dinner this evening it seems that a small death is underway. Jon is on the mainland this week so it’s just me and Hans. I tend to push our conversation towards bigger themes, which I find easier than trying to have light chit-chat. It just doesn’t work with him—nothing comes out. So yes, a small death. It’s a familiar theme: the Duchy is obliged to earn money for the Crown at, what to some feels like, the expense of the community’s well-being. As the rents go up and more and more mainlanders come in, the more the solidarity of the community seems to erode, the more farming families seem to be under pressure. It appears the school will close. The threat is that the island turns from an integrated, interdependent, working community into a colony of independent second home owners that seem to not live in harmony with the land, that seem to want what’s best for themselves more than what’s best for the community. But that’s a global disease, everyone seems to want what’s best for themselves. Everything is driven by economic growth and standard of living. The environment and everyone else be damned. Funny—I always thought of myself as an optimist.

I asked him what his ideal vision of the islands would be. He said he didn’t have one, that he was a realist. Surely, I prodded, he must have some ideas on how things could be run differently. Eventually he offered, “Everyone working together and pulling their own weight.” I imagine that in his youth Hans must have been ambitious and idealistic, full of ideas. I see Jon in the same way now. I also imagine that Hans’s idealism has been blunted, dulled, and bent by the powers that be.

I did have a nice conversation with him over lunch, though, about raising kids. It’s strange but Hans talks so little that when I do get him going I usually hear what I perceive to be very meaningful things. He spoke about the freedom you can allow children in a place like this, the independence and self-assuredness that it fosters, about how you never know if you’ve done a good job as a parent until it’s far, far too late to do anything about it.

It meant a lot to me to talk with him today. I haven’t been able to do so in this way all winter. I perceive him as wise despite his fatalism (he’d call it realism). He offered many meaningful and heartfelt thoughts when asked. On a couple of occasions I felt my eyes grow soft and teary with the upwelling of some internal current, and saw the same in his.


My last couple of weeks are coming round. I’m starting to think about getting things in order for the sailing trip, for preparing to be absolutely out of contact, about learning to be a competent crew member, and finally about leaving here, about the new friends I’ll leave behind and all the things I’ve not yet done.