Saturday, August 29, 2009

[change] and the fleeting connections we make

Via the Beeb is this sad story.

When you Google St Kilda, it brings up Melbourne, Australia although, after this news story, the British original might see a revival. The Beeb tells a tale of decline and final abandonment:

People had lived on St Kilda, the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides, since prehistoric times. In the 19th Century, tourists began to visit the archipelago and the St Kildans - known as the Hiortaich - became more dependent on the outside world.

In the 1850s, 42 of the islanders emigrated to Australia, half of them dying on the way. The winter of 1929 was particularly hard on the island and some of the remaining inhabitants died, many having already left.

The remaining 36 islanders wrote to the government asking to be taken off so they could lead new lives on the mainland. The island was abandoned the following year.

I'd think it would take a Scot a lot to abandon his homeland [not that these were exactly Scots] but when you think it through - very little peat, a rock covered lightly in grass, what could they do? What was their industry, apart from fishing?

I'm imagining living there on that rocky place in the ocean and am thinking that if they had their families and enough food to subsist, it might be worth continuing. Could they not have had potted gardens inside the houses they built with roofs which opened to the light? In summer it would have been sufficient - I've been to Iceland and there was enough summer light and heat.

Could they not have grazed stock, each household creating its own protected grass paddies, to be covered in winter? In Russia, in my early days there, there was a big to-do in summer of killing a cow, cutting it up and freezing the parts and also bottling berries, as well as veges and fruits. There were places you could get the jars and the metal seals and the rotating sealing device was mechanical and quite easy to use.

By the end of summer, everything was stored and ready and in autumn, the stock was brought into its own sheds, double stone walled. I can't help thinking that if the Russians could do it, the St Kildans could too. Maybe it was just too severe and too hard on available grain to keep the cattle there. Could they not have been put on an ark at the end of summer and taken south, to the borders area?

I suspect that when the tourists started coming in though that the islanders started that comparison thing of their own poor lot against the greener grass and that hastened the shift off the island. What the tourists might have brought is know-how in animal husbandry and crop growing. Why not?

It seems sad to me that things end like this. On that theme, Thud, Over the Water, also laments but his tale is about the British Pub [sorry to steal his pic below]. He writes:

With so many distractions available today it is easy to forget that a pub was for hundreds of years the centre of life (church too perhaps) for so many communities.

It's a snowballing effect over here. As numbers stop going, the pint gets dearer, more stop going, the smoking ban comes in and so on, you have to go further to a watering hole and the costs becomes prohibitive for more than once or twice a week.

Perhaps they will come back one day, these pubs but I suspect it will be more like the American diner replicas and the beer will be chemical lager. Revivalist movements are good but how authentic can they be? I hope he can start something over there.

Rocky islands are one thing and pubs another. People are something else again and why they drift away is a combination of non-proximity, disagreement, pressure of work and lifestyle and so on. Sometimes, a very strong minded person digs in and there it is.

I've lived in three separate countries for long enough to not only make friends but to have family there. As time has gone on, they were of the opinion that such things would always be but as I gained experience, I saw that people you had to leave behind, while making a great deal of effort to keep in touch for a while, slowly reduced that contact and I admit - so did I.

My ex-gf and I were never going to part, we swore that to each other but in the back of my mind, I saw it as two planets on different orbits which had, for a while, coincided. I wanted it not to be so but it was. It's now as if we loop back within range of one another every so often and that's pleasant but there's also a gulf there.

Plus we age and coming into a time when we need certainty, we find only uncertainty and fleeting connections. I don't wish it to be so but often it's out of my hands. I'm happy to continue and never see disagreements as final. Others may disagree.

They say you can never go back. Perhaps so. I believe one can and it can be more rewarding second time round.


YTSL said...

I first came to learn -- and get to see the sad beauty of -- St Kilda in a wonderful film called "Lost and Found". Believe it or not, it's a Hong Kong film about, among other things, deciding where home is.

xlbrl said...

Looks like an excellent setting for a penal colony; walls and wire completely unecessary. I'd like to claim if for America if nobody is going to use it. How may politicians do you think it could realistically hold?

dearieme said...

1) "[not that these were exactly Scots]": eh?
2) A large part of their diet was seabirds.

James Higham said...

YTSL - I'll look at and maybe run that film later on the blog. Welcome, by the way.

Xlbrl - you know, I really think I could live there if I could take earth, fertilizer, planking, seeds and livestock.

Dearieme - well what are they then? Scots or Hiortaich? I'm not up on Scottish heritage.

CherryPie said...

When people get on my nerves I often joke that I would like to live on a remote Island in a log cabin full of books. I would sit they curled up in front of an open fire reading.

Then I spoil the thought by saying it would have to have an internet connection. The two don't really go together do they? ;-)

dearieme said...

James, that's rather like asking "Are you a Scot or an Aberdonian?".

Mind you, replace "Aberdonian" by "Glaswegian" and it gets more interesting.

James Higham said...

Cherie - that's not really "in the garden" then, is it?

Dearieme - it would get more interesting.

CherryPie said...

Hmm! you have a point there.. Maybe I need a different version of the dream :-)