Monday, 13 September 2010
Living On An Island
View Across Strood Channel to Wigborough Hill ~ Pastel on paper
"He who has never seen himself surrounded on all sides by the sea can never possess an idea of the world, and of his relation to it." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
We've been getting some pretty big tides this week and of course the Strood has been getting covered for a time each day and as a consequence we're getting all the usual questions in the shop from curious visitors to the island, who have found themselves marooned for an hour or so. From the "how on earth do you all put up with it?" and "how long until we can get across?" to (almost unbelievably) "should we find a place to stay until it goes down?". And yesterday a nice couple visiting from Scotland, with a view to a move down south to Mersea, asked me "as a local, how do you feel about getting caught by the tide?". This, I think is a very interesting question that raises a couple of wider questions, like, how do any of us feel about living on this relatively small, muddy island and do we possess an island mentality? after all we are, in Britain, all islanders in a broader sense.
After briefly trawling the Internet for references to island mentality it quickly becomes apparent most views of this are negative, which it seems is in part due to the fact that most uses of the term island mentality seem to refer to the cultural, moral, ideological isolation of island life, whilst this may be true for some, small isolated, islands (probably not for a heavily populated place like Mersea, only a spitting distance from the mainland) it still doesn't satisfy the question of whether there is a deeper feeling or state of mind associated with living on a small lump of land, surrounded on all sides by water, or mostly mud in our case! I'm not entirely sure myself, but I, like others have a deep affinity with this place, that seems to get stronger as I get older. There is also some comfort for me in living such a geographically defined place as an island, as opposed to a sprawling suburb say.
One of the positive aspects of getting caught by the tide here is that it can be spectacularly beautiful when the salt marsh is covered. For an hour or two we are truly isolated and have our timetable set by nature again, and are reminded that we are not actually in control of everything. I'm sure there are many who live here and have been caught by the tide on a summer's night on the Colchester side of the Strood and like me have got out of the car, rolled up their trousers and paddled around on the footpath under the stars to the sound of the seabirds, until the water has receded.
I think for the couple from Scotland contemplating a move to an island like ours, if you are seriously concerned about the tide covering the road a few times a month, then, maybe you should look elsewhere.