I was invited by a friend to visit Holy Island to have lunch with another friend in a tower a hundred yards across the dunes from the sea.
The last time I was on Holy Island was when I was sixteen, two generations and a universe ago. I have a photo somewhere of me sitting on a beach in a red anorak, the harsh wind blowing my hair into greater tangles.
I was there on a ‘pilgrimage’ from my church. Not that we walked the eighty or so miles. There was a church bus, if I remember rightly. But we did walk across the Causeway, which is only accessible if the tide is right. I think I loved it. but really I was too full of my own adolescent concerns properly to appreciate this extraordinary place.
This time it was different. The day was bright and the wind was soft; the isolation was healing. We sat for a while in the top of the round tower which has small square windows cut into three foot thick walls at all the points of the compass – towards the Causeway in one direction, towards the sea in another.
Three of us – all writers – considered the possibilities of writing about this separate, isolated uniquely spiritual place, this meeting place of wild nature and the spiritual universe. The island landscape has inspired films, poetry, historical and more meditative writing but not, we thought, fiction. Somehow the spiritual depth of the place, did not lend itself to the rough trade of contrived narrative. I thought that perhaps it might lend itself to fable, to a fabulous weaving of inspiration and vision -- like the ancient magical tales that thrived here before advent of writing.
I sat for a while and drew the marram grass in the dunes that holds the island together just as the stories of saints, their writings and their journeys, hold together the myth of Lindisfarne in our imaginations.
I think I have to go again and stay. And write.