A few years back (okay, quite a number of years back) I found myself driving down a ramp into the sea, in a remote corner of the Irish Coast in Mayo.
This was not intentional. Nor had I had any alcohol, although it was approaching midnight.
Luckily, I realised my error in time, and reversed before I reached the water. The big sign with a ramp and a car and a line through it was a bit of a clue that perhaps this wasn't the way to my youth hostel.
I had decided to track down the island where four mythical swans who formed a major plot point in one of my stories, were said to have spent their last three hundred years. Inish Glora. Driving to the island was not my plan, and in the end, the closest I got was a distant view of silver flatness in an un-still sea. The manager of a golf course overlooking it having been kind enough to take me over the dunes in the golf buggy. (It was a place of great kindness, there was also the man at the petrol station who, when I admitted to being hopelessly lost and having driven for eight hours from Shannon, (I swear it looked like two on the map) made me a cup of tea, told me to wait a few minutes until he finished his shift and then follow him back as he lived just down the road from the hostel.
That was the trip I took to research a book I'm still mulling over, re-writing and playing with. My journey to Inish Glora (almost) was not my longest. After much research and deliberation, I decided that the magical chalice at the heart of the story needed to be found on… St Kilda. St Kilda being suitably remote, majestic and bird-ed. (I had considered Orkney - but they were too flat and not quite as bird-ful).
Reaching St Kilda (the islands, rather than the seaside suburb of my home town) involved flying across several seas, catching a bus, a ferry, a bus, another ferry, walking two kilometre with a heavy back pack and then traveling eight seasick-y hours by yacht.
After one brief, magical day on the island, scrambling along cliff faces and looking down vast drops, we learnt a gale was heading straight towards us and rather than staying the five days we had intended we needed to leave for safer harbour on the nearby and uninhabited Monarch Islands off Benbecula.
The story? I'm still ruminating. The plot is there.
Drafts one two theree up to seven are written, but I think I might need to start from scratch and re-write. I don't think I've caught the wild magic I see in my head, I haven't captured the isle, the sea or the myth the way I wanted, the majesty of the plot, the intensity of the characters.
My biggest regret of the trip? Not leaving my camera charger at my grandparents house, just outside Glasgow, although it was lowering to travel all that way and return with distressingly few photos, but that I didn't swim in the bay we were anchored in all those gale-bound days. I didn't swim in that arctic cold bay with the gale at our back and metres from the curve of sand covered in seals singing with their pups.
I was remembering that time on St Kilda as I came across this video on pinterest recently and was catapulted back.
I know I am not the only one to travel far and run seemingly bizarre experiments in the name of research. I'd love to read other people's stories.
(In other writing news, I am ridiculously behind on my self imposed deadlines, but just as I thought we were free of the grippe my Sprocket started running a high fever - also my Beloved's intern applications are due in and my editing has been focused on cvs and cover letters.)
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