Saturday, 5 January 2008
The loneliness of the long-distance islet
Inside the head of the world's remotest outcrop. The following is an extract of the so-called "Rockall Diary", chronicling highs and lows of life as the world's remotest islet. It includes the innermost thoughts of the North Atlantic outcrop, as well as some profound philosophical revelations which attempt to answer the question surrounding the very nature of being: What the bloody hell am I doing here?
17 July 2003: Jesus H. Christ I am so fuc*king bored. Three years since the last ship crossed my path and just the same old shit from the albatrosses giving it all that about having spent the last six months in the Pacific. Out here we have 170 different words for "grey", but trust me once you've been watching the Atlantic from horizon to horizon for millions of years, one grey looks pretty much the same as any other.
18 July: To my absolute amazement and delight, a group of men approached this morning in a 40-ft yacht, manually inflated a tiny rubber raft and attempted a landing on my near-vertical shores. After several hilarious attempts to land the silly sods gave up and returned to whatever godforsaken place they came from. Shame, I was hoping we could do lunch and catch up on some gossip which did not come from a fuc*king albatross.
19 July: Spotted a distant whisky bottle bobbing gently on the swell. Thought immediately of yesterday's visitors but on closer inspection it turned out to contain nothing more than an "SOS to the World", apparently written by someone called "Sting". Bloody awful name.
3 September: Got shat on by three thousand migrating sea birds. Enjoyed that thoroughly. Really. Better than Wash'n'Go.
7 October: Did some solid work of eroding in today's tradewinds. I used to be 3000 metres tall, you know, and I can remember when it was all fields round here. Now there's just 25 metres of me left above the relentless monotony of the Atlantic. Each passing gust of wind and each wave carries a little bit more of me into oblivion. I calculate I will only have to put up with this view for another 3.2 million years before sinking heroically beneath the waves, which cheers me up immensely.
13 November: Tried to spot one of the outer Hebrides through a light drizzle. Then remembered I haven't laid eyes on another piece of land for millennia. Thought I saw the lights of St Kilda through the darkness, which got me musing on the terrible price one must pay to live on the edge of the world. Reminded of some Vikings who sailed by around 1,000 years back, heading West. Saw them again two years later, complaining about a "New World" and its crap food and shocking levels of gun crime.
19 November: Watched a sealion start a punch-up with a pack of belligerent orca over a herring. Sometimes the struggle for survival is an uneven one. And sometimes sealions — who aren't the sharpest chisel in the mammalian toolbox at the best of times — surpass even my world-weary expectations of stupidity. While they were going at it hammer-and-tongs, the herring made good its escape, eventually taunting the whole enraged group of belligerents from a safe distance with the most appalling language. God alone knows what Darwin would have made of it all.
24 December: Spent Christmas Eve playing spot-the-illegal-oil-exploration-vessel with a drifting iceberg. I won 27 to 24. Afterwards, the majestic floating ice castle asked me if I'd like to join him on a trip to the Equator. I said no, and strongly advised him against the plan. Of course, he ignored me. Ah, the impetuousness of youth.
7 January: Getting paranoid and lonely. Miss the old days. Even that lot from Greenpeace who came and gave me a big hug a few years back. I vaguely remember the British Navy visiting once. It was less of the hugging in those days — the buggers dynamited my top off and attached plaque claiming me for "Britain". God alone knows where that might be.
19 January: I'm old and tired and I need something to see me thorugh my retirement. So, finally signed a contract giving a bunch of drunks the rights to exploit my name for humorous purposes in perpetuity. In return I'll be the centre of world attention yet again. They also asked me if I happened to have a working Content Management System lying about, whatever that is. Said no, would could a gannet do the job instead?
9 February: It's good to be back in the public eye. Of course, there's a downside: boatloads of tourists coming for a nose with their digital camcorders and whining children. Worst still, got a call from Ryanair asking if I'd like to offer a €10m "incentive" for the airline to operate low-cost flights out to the North Atlantic. Politely declined. Clouds are gathering to the West, promising rain.
Coming soon Diary: My wild, wild youth as volcanic pre-Cambrian hot-head
Rockall was yesterday gripped by polemic fever as bewildered locals struggled to make sense of the latest nominations for the foremost conceptual art prize which will see a shed, a video of someone's granny, a room full of junk and some paintings battle it out or the top spot.
"It's not about whether it's art or not, it's designed to provoke debate about the very nature of art".
"So what do you think of this year's nominations" "I hear one of 'em's a bloody painting."
"Total arse," replied Leveret. "The whole lot of it's total arse except for the arse by that Gillian Carnegie. No-one minds a nice bit of arse hanging over the mantlepiece after a long day at the EU subsidy forms."
"Can't argue with that" enthused one young man taking a moment from pumping the Hirst's Helter-Skelter fruit machine. "The western art tradition is all for plenty of arse. Nothing like a rounded rump bent over the coal-effect fire to welcome you home after a hard day at the guano workings. Proper arse, like that Rubens bloke. He had a handle on arse, make no mistake."
"Who wants to come home to a conceptual German shed over the one-bar electric fire when you can sink yourself into a proper pair of buttocks while savouring your Pot Noodle?"
Dave's analysis met with a general roar of approval from the entire establishment which immediately prompted a reproduction of Carnegie's Turner-nominated backside from the Mail on Sunday.
"Doesn't look much like a sow's arse to me," commented the local vicar, supping a well-earned sherry following a demanding day attempting to convert cockle-pickers to Christianity "in the sure hope of resurrection in the hereafter, ie, about ten minutes after high tide".
"Jesus H. Christ he's right," spluttered our frutie-playing friend. "It's a fuc*king bloke's arse."
"A fuc*king bloke's arse you say?" thundered Leveret. "And they call that fuc*king art?"
...a picture of Rockall as photographed from space by the crew of Columbia during its last mission can be seen above. The second Blessed Isle is clearly visible in this stunning photograph and has an underground connection with Ireland, about halfway between that little bumpy protrusion of continental shelf and those weird disconnected islandy bits off to the upper left of Ireland. Good to know that NASA, is doing something useful but one wishes they'd used a somewhat longer lens.