At seven-thirty the mid-summer sun is already well up, its white light reflected in a blindingly bright sea, as I tap these words sitting at the window of Bramble Villa on the island of Lundy. It is my fourth visit, and over the past two years I have felt that I have sampled a good proportion of what Lundy has to offer. I’d come by sea and air in summer and winter, visited all 23 Landmarks, slept in the silent blackness of three and cleaned nine as part of the housekeeping team (the last time I saw my digs this week was shuffling out the door backwards on my knees pushing a bag of dirty linen behind me). I’d traversed the island, north to south, east to west, seen puffins and dolphins, seals and shearwaters. I’d been taken through all the stages of Lundy’s rubbish disposal process, the three generators, the five water tanks, seen the carpentry workshop, the laundry, the game larder, the emergency station. But though the island is only three miles long and half-a-mile wide, when presented with the extended family tree of material on the new Lundy sections of our website I realised my list was risible.
I had had an inkling of this during my autumn visit when a group of irrepressible scientists had invited me over for a post dinner drink. Under sparkly skies I tripped down the path to Government House, and when the door was opened was presented with an unexpected sight. On the dining room table, spread out like a banquet, was a smorgasbord of petri dishes and pipettes, electro-microscopes and sample trays, their contents diving beetles and waxcaps, single cell water creatures and hair-like mushrooms. This scientific feast was their research. They explained, as we drank large whiskies in front of the fire, that they practiced the key scientific art of observation, and I realised that Lundy was not what it seemed.
Clicking through the new website, past sections on abseiling and rock climbing, carnivorous plants and sea anemones and advice on landing light aircraft on the island, I realise that the ticks on my list can never compete with all the things on Lundy that I will never do. But I now feel this shouldn’t worry me. As I see the divers almost dancing down the path towards the shining water and watch a rabbit, silhouetted against the silver sea, nibbling a precious plant of which I still do not know the name, I am reassured by their scientists’ reverence for observation. The borrowed pleasure of experiencing this impossibly complex little kingdom, in part in person and in part through knowing that others know it as I never will, is enough. Thanks to the new website I can now enjoy that from my desk, and warmed by this knowledge, and with the sun climbing, the time has come to clamber up through the bracken in search of breakfast.
11 June 2014