It is now three years since I had to say goodbye to my dear husband, Tony, and I spent a little bit of yesterday evening looking through a box that came out of his study – our room for dumping stuff in. I was delighted to find a folder in my hands that brought back some very special memories that I am going to share with you:
At the end of July 1984, our friends Valerie and Graham joined Tony and me on an adventure. I can’t recall how I first heard about St. George’s Island, which is about one mile from Looe Harbour in Cornwall, but it was probably through the media, and then my College friend Val bought me the book We Bought an Island, which was written by Miss Evelyn Atkins, one of the two sisters who then owned and occupied the property, which they treasured as a nature reserve. They welcomed paying guests if they were prepared to do voluntary work for at least a week in return for sharing this sanctuary, or their island “experience”.
When our week was almost at an end, the four of us decided to write a poem for the Visitors’ Book. I was appointed scribe, and I still have the hand written original (no lap tops or tablets) in those days, and I smiled with pleasure as I reread the page, recalling the creative fun we had, and Graham’s literary contribution seems to particularly linger in my mind. I’ve reproduced it in full below, and you can read more about Looe Island and the sisters on the Internet via my link.
I also recall that I was a “right bossy-boots” in the kitchen of the shack that we inhabited. Spring water was rationed, and used only for drinking and cooking. Rainwater was also in short supply; so washing up was done in the sea by our fellows as they balanced on the rocky foreshore. I then insisted all implements were rinsed in boiled rainwater. Valerie was just as fussy about the area in the “Craft Centre” where we were required to produce sandwiches for sale. She spring-cleaned it from top to bottom, and we all survived the primitive environment without any maladies.
One of my happiest memories is of sitting (or hiding) on the soft, sun-warmed sand amongst the raspberry canes, probably telling Val (who was then new to gardening) about how they should be pruned, and discussing how useful it was to be able to use seaweed as a mulch in this vegetable area of the garden.
From St George’s Islands Visitors’ Book:
Four helpers set out from East Looe
Convinced there’d be little to do
But Bab’s daily chat
Soon put paid to that
By deploying those helpers from Looe.
Those naïve four helpers from Looe
Soon found there was plenty to do
And ’twixt café and fields
And increasing their yields
It “shagged” those four helpers from Looe.
Those tired four helpers from Looe
Rolled barrels from breakfast ’til two,
“Champed” fields and humped coal,
But failed to seal holes,
Those gifted four helpers from Looe.
Those experienced helpers from Looe
May return in a year, maybe two,
But in the meanwhile,
God bless this rock pile,
And good luck to Attie’s book two.
Notes: The machine that Tony and Graham managed between them as they mowed up and down the daffodil fields was an Alan Champion – hence the exhausting task “champing”.
I can’t remember what the holes were in that we failed to fill in.