Sunday 30 August 2015

Sherkin folks

Any regular readers who imagined me slaving over the kitchen table to launch early morning posts at the beginning of the week would have been would have been mistaken.  I learned from the tech-savvy Dau.I that you can have the blogspot robots to get up in the morning and do the launching for you while Blob-the-author lies in the bed snoring or goes off-site.  I don't ever do lies-in-the-bed but I do occasionally go off-site; so this feature is going to be handy in future.  As I mentioned yest-yest, I was off on Sherkin [map] for two nights loafing about the island and getting some inside dope on how it ticks. Advice:
  • You shouldn't go uninvited to the Sherkin Marine Station. 
  • You should bring raingear. 
  • It's surprisingly warm in the sea. 
  • Lunch at the hotel might be uninspired and expensive (view from terrace compensates).  
  • The ferry trip is worth the fare even if you didn't step off onto the island.
  • Take the minibus from the dock - all the latest gossip.
On our way to and from the hotel for lunch, we passed the village school which looked impressively well resourced, the original stone building right on the edge of the bay which almost splits the island has been supplemented with two temporary classrooms; there is a tarmac playground and some neatly mown grass and a tree and a painted gate.  On the bus to the ferry on our last day, we asked how many children were enrolled because the total population of the island was rather less than 100 and most of those are artists, musicians, photographers all of a certain beyond-young-children age.  It turns out that the enrollment last year is two (2!) a brother and sister who live near their teacher in Skibereen.  They all catch the ferry-then-minibus every morning, have five hours of schooling and then go home to Skib in the evening.  There is a part time secreatary employed to cope with all the paper work: the tedious-and-difficult morning roll-call, letters to the parent, reading and implementing circulars from the Department of Education. There is a certain ambivalence on the island about this extravagant use of tax-money: if the school is ever struck from the register then it will never get reinstated; and many of the islanders think / believe / hope that children will someday again be raised on the island.  Seems like a better place for home-educators than school-educators but it must be hard to make a normal living and raise a family on the island itself; cripes, it must be hard to make even a weird living on the island.

 If that casts a rather negative light on the circumscribed world of island living, there are advantages.  While we were there, The House suffered a culinary embarrassment: they had promised some unexpected but welcome guests a particular dish that required coconut milk and then found that they were fresh out of it. They phoned the Gala store in Baltimore to ask if they might have any in stock . . . expecting the answer No. But there is a demand for such exotica among the yachties who come for the regatta season and the shop agreed to send over two tins on the next ferry.  Someone on the ferry was happy to deliver to the Sherkin shore two suitably addressed tins wrapped up neatly in brown paper. I like that immensely, it shows a sense of community. It's probably against the rules and lost someone some money but rules are there to serve the people rather than vice versa.

One of our fellow guests was an antique dealer from Oz. I've never met one of them before and could even have got snitty about whether anything in Australia would classify as an antique seeing as the country wasn't settled by Europeans until the day before yesterday. We think of Europe as stuffed with history, antiques and culture as a cake is full of currants. But I would be wrong and there is a distinctively Australian style of mid to late 19thC furniture.  The distinction is mainly in the use of Australian Red Cedar Toona ciliata rather than mahogany but there are more subtle differences visible the discerning and well-trained eye.  The dealer was saying that his trade was not as brisk as it had been in the past and it's only partly because all the antique escritoires and chiffoniers have reached their final destination.  Another significant issue is the Australians are now wider than their forebears. Nobody can believe that a nice side chair with finger-thick legs is going to support their enormous bottom and no couple sleeps in a bed 140cm wide any more, so there is much less demand for old, hand-made furniture.  That's kind of interesting - I'd never have found that out in The Institute; it pays to travel.

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