No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
The words of John Donne, an Elizabethan Poet, came to mind recently, Islands have figured in my thoughts and my horizons both metaphorically and literally. My Island wanderings kicked off on Saturday afternoon, I crossed a footbridge over the Thames to Eel Pie Island, I dont know if you have heard of it, but for those of you who aren’t aware Eel Pie Island is smack in the middle of the River Thames at Twickenham, reached by boat or a little footbridge, the Island is “Private” as the signs say, it is home to some hundred souls, twenty-six Artists studios, a Boatyard, a Rowing Club and at either end two nature reserves.
I find it a fascinating place, its history dates back centuries, Henry the 8th was known to be a visitor, Charles Dickens liked a drink or two at the Hotel that used to stand on the Island, back in the 60’s a hippy commune and music resounded around the place, Bowie, The Stones, Black Sabbath, Genesis, The Who, King Crimson all played here and a lot of LSD was consumed along the way. These days its a more sedate place, but there’s something about it, it feels like it has a Soul this little Island, as the light faded and the lights and lamps twinkled away I enjoyed wandering through the Studios talking to some of the Artists about their work and being on the Island, and I must admit taking a crafty snoop and peering through a few windows at the little houses.
Twice a year the Island has an open house for the Studios, once in summer once in December. Go take a look, its worth the trip.
My little Island trip where I crossed the paths covered by amongst others Ozzy Osbourne and Dickens got me thinking of an Island as a simplistic metaphor for the human condition, the Island features so often in music and in film and story, Simon & Garfunkel’s song I am a rock, I am an Island, or Papillon, Robinson Crusoe, three examples of many.
We all construct our lives as an Island home, we decide how our Island will look, who we allow to share it, sometimes we put up ” No Visitors Allowed, Private” signs, we keep the World Away, or we welcome others, we can make our Islands a Paradise, or we can make them our own private hell, a place of comfort or quiet, of noise and bussle, of tranquility and reflection, a place of creativity and freedom or our own self made prison, each to their own, each as they will.
For me this year started rather like Robinson Crusoe, My Island home was after my own personal shipwreck, (but minus a Man-Friday). When like Crusoe I realised I was alone on my Island I was frankly rather scared, I missed and craved affection and attention, I hunted it out, but in time I realised that on my island I didnt want or need any connection, I wanted a deeper and more meaningful connection, I wanted something different to what I had before.
Six months after my ship went down I have found some sort of contentment and a new visison. I think that at some point a little while ago, I finally realised that its ok to be on my own, the world will not end, in fact its a perfectly fine place to be at the moment, its where I need to be. But I want to travel to other Islands and ultimately I want to relate and to share.
I suppose that I have open eyes now, I but one man on my Island amongst an Ocean of others, as Crusoe says
“From this moment I began to conclude in my mind that it is possible for me to be more happy in this solitary condition………. and with this thought I was going to give thanks to God for bringing me to this place.”
Had you told me six months ago that I needed to be shipwrecked I would have thought you were mad, now I would say you were right.