Giants at the quay of the river Scheldt

We walk along giants from the past. There is colour in the row of 12, but they do better in black and white, in the heavy iron and immeasurable power of construction and technological ingenuity. Monumental and industrial, you feel dwarfed in their shadows.

Year after year, they were pivotal in the harbour’s activity. They came alive with freezing dock water. They nodded and toiled, the water forced through the undergound city veins and reached the harbour cranes’ limbs, prompting them into action. Electric cranes came on, but until 1974 they proudly held their ground. Now they point and nod to the new harbour further along. Technology has outrun them.

The colossuses have numbers, no names. It makes no difference for the history buffs; there is admiration, even love for these museological showpieces. The 20th century action and liveliness has completely died down and all is quiet now.

 

Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse

To the lighthouse

Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse

The Hogath Press, 1927

What does one send to the Lighthouse? It opened doors in one’s mind […]

Woolf set her story about the holidaying Ramsay family on the isle of Skye. The Scottish island setting is distinctive – the weather, the sense of isolation, the sea, the vast and often inhospitable landscape – but there are no clearly recognisable landmarks. And the lighthouse is not a distinct Skye lighthouse, but was inspired by her own childhood memories of Godvery beach n Cornwall. Fans have no locations to trace.

So much has already been written about this gem of a novel; people have obtained their doctorate with a dissertation on its structure, symbols, hidden meanings. And when you take the time, To the Lighthouse will capture you and transport you the island of all childhood summers.

I first read it when I was still in high school, where the modernist classic was considered essential reading (meaning obligatory). As a teenager I was taken by the allure of the lightly connected sentences that seemed to mean much more than I could understand. Nothing was too obvious, it was all so inconclusive. The characters seemed very old-fashioned and vague. All that ado about not going to the lighthouse, and then going after all.

Thirty years later, for my visit to Skye this year, I read the book for a second time and it was like reaching a new destination. I now understood the lighthouse to be a symbol of unfulfilled desire, an unreachable destination. The quiet, profound love of Mr and Mrs Ramsay’s marriage says it all.

This novel about a family holiday to a far away island, in a time when not many people had the privilege to go on vacation, is essentially a group psychoanalysis of familie ties, braching off at friends, memories, time and death.

Read more about about  Skye on 2Islomaniacs.

 

 

The best view of the Bréhat archipelago

The west coast of Île de Bréhat

To enjoy the best view of an island it’s usually best not to actually live on it. At least that was Eugène Schueller’s opinion. Therefore the French pharmacist, founder of the l’Oréal empire and inventor of colouring shampoo, had his summer house built on the mainland coast of Brittany, at Pointe de l’Arcouest. From which he had fabulous views of the archipelago of Bréhat, a group of small islands at only 10 minutes from the Breton north coast.

La Chambre, Île de Bréhat. Fishing port and landing place of pleasure yachts

Rugged bays, small and tiny islands, water in a hundred shades of shimmering blue, bobbing sailboats, a craggy coastline of granite rocks and a tidal range of 12 metres minimum. All these elements made up Eugène  Schueller’s view when he opened his curtains in the morning. On a clear day he could even spot the ‘en pierre’ houses on Île de Bréhat, the largest island of the archipelago and its name giver. His daughter Liliane de Bettencourt inherited the holiday villa at Pointe de l’Arcouest. Until late in her life, the wealthiest woman of France would come in summer to enjoy the view and to swim in her private swimming pool, filled with seawater.

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Elmley, bird sanctuary in the Thames estuary

At first sight, it’s not a spectacular destination. It’s a lowland in toned down colours. You hear birds sing and whoop; a paradise for lapwings and redshanks. It’s a very quiet place in a densley populated part of England. In the distance you spot the Sheppey Crossing over The Swale, lorries coming and going. London is only an hour away.

Elmley is an island estate in the Thames, part of the Isle of Sheppey. This national nature reserve is privately owned and managed by the Fulton family from Kingshill Farm, watching over 3300 acres of apparent emptiness. Farming goes hand in hand with nature and bird conservation. Elmley is marshy territory, a seasonal tide-land. Livestock is essential to keep the grass cropped. To optimally utilise the rainwater, ditches and leats are connected to flow pipes. In all decisions, nature seems to be given priority.

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