Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides PDF ↠ An

  • Hardcover
  • 256 pages
  • Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides
  • Adam Nicolson
  • English
  • 10 October 2014
  • 9780002571647

10 thoughts on “Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides

  1. Michael Michael says:

    This was a surprising pleasure to read by the author of “Why Homer Matters” I readily enjoyed its core as a sustained poetic reverie during his extended stays on a trio of remote islands in the Hebrides off northwest Scotland the Shiants These he received as an early inheritance from his father at age 18 Though only 500 acres of cliffs meadows and hardy vegetation devoid of trees the islands are also a major nesting site of many seabirds including puffins skuas gannets kittiwakes and geese For a number of years Nicholson was content to visit alone during summers via a sailboat trip from a Harris Island port 5 miles across the treacherous tidal channel called the Minch He retreated to a 19th century two room rock homestead without electricity and mediated on the vistas and on the violence of waves meeting cliffs We experience him pursuing amateur naturalist observations in his explorations reaping treasures and indelible visions For example I love his contrasting experience of puffins and the cormorant like shags Ludicrous and loveable puffins Their sociability is as stiff and predictable as an evening in Edwardian London Gestures of deference are reuired of any newcomer and a little accepting dance of acceptability is made by those already settled with cigars around the fender the are capable of looking embarrassed than any bird I have seen So polite is this world in fact that most of its members seem struck dumb by their sense of proprietyIf puffins and gannets are from different worlds the shags are from another universe Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the shag experience It is an all power meeting with an extraordinary ancient corrupt imperial angry dirty green eyed yellow gaped oil skinned iridescent rancid rock hole glory that is Phalacrocorax aristotlelis They are scandal and poetry chaos and individual rage archaic ancient beyond any sense of ancientness that other birds might convey There’s a fluster of rage resentment and clumsiness as the big black webbed feet stomp around the sticky white guanoed mayhem of kelp stalks and wrack branches that is its nest in the back of which creeping for the shadows you see the couple of young half formed embryonic creatures shag chicks rat birds serpentine leathery hideousNicholson has a facility of slipping about the timescales as his perception of the here and now reveals how small we are in the life of this realm For example the oldest fossils of shags are pegged at 60 million years which was not long after the dinosaurs met their cataclysmic extinction and ichthyosaurs still swam the seas Eventually the strange architecture of headlands of soaring dolomite columns sets him to pursuing knowledge of the geological history of the islands and shares his delights in how the frozen conformation is rendered into dynamic flux of magma flows and foldings in the minds of geologists who visit him there The mysteries of old foundations and walls on his tours of his land sets him to dwelling on the human communities who dwelled like him back into in the mists of historical time and the vast pre historical periods Nicholson give up his precious isolation to invite some archeologists to come do some digs and their discoveries at Stone Age Iron Age and Medieval sites helps him with a informed imagining of what life was like thereThe middens ie garbage piles dug up at different sites on the Shiants reveal evidence of times of famine as indicated by concentrations of limpet shells a meal of last resort Some modeling of available land resources for gardening versus grazing of sheep and cattle suggests that only a handful of families could ever be sustained on the island and that overpopulation with occupation by as few as 40 humans could tip the balance toward disaster and starvation I got the same sense of human adaptability and risks of life on the edge from Jared Diamond’s inuiries into the Viking settlement of Greenland for three centuries in his “Collapse How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” A particularly old artefact pulled off the bottom of the sea off the Shiants is a Bronze Age necklace or armband known as a torc which is elegant in the simplicity of twisted and fluted dual bands He imagines it cast into the sea as a tribute to the unknown forces at the edge of the known world Nicholson also tracks references to a visit of a prominent Roman to a resident in the Shiants Other records indicate mystics hung out there including early Christians The Vikings in their sojourns gifted their names to many headland and inlets The Hebrideans harbored a large population of Catholics much oppressed over long time periods Nicholson finds in his house a Medieval gravestone with a carved cross within a circle being used as a hearthstone by the later house builder But the cross was hidden on flip side suggesting resolute defiance of persecution Over the centuries political rebels sometimes hid out on the Shiants as apparently did pirates Murderous clans vied for territory in the Hebrides occasionally wiping out a whole family Gaelic names of various geographical sites on the island appear to reflect historical events of tragedy and mystery later blown up in oral tradition to mythical or miraculous proportions The name Shiants means hallowed or blessed from one angle haunted from another Consistent with that he finds in history excursions much evidence of priests and reclusive saints who found spiritual refuge on remote Hebridean outposts like this as well as records of myths about magical or evil presences Despite these extremes the archeological evidence points to residence in the Shiants mostly by ordinary farmers for many generations into the 16th century By the 17th century feudal lords and aristocratic landowners cleared off most of their peasant tenants from many properties in the Hebrides and used their estates for summer leisure activities Island like the Shiants changed from being places that were “empty and difficult for the Hebrideans” into sites that “became beautiful and empty for outsiders” One exception was one landowner of the Campbell clan who resided on the Shiants with his family in the 1860s commuting as needed to Harris or the mainland by boat and receiving suitors to his fair daughters by boat Through most the 18th and 19th centuries the Shiants largely became a site for temporary sheep grazing and fishing stations Nicholson kept the tradition of his father and predecessors of allowing sheep herders access to grazing on the island In a particularly fun section he details his participation with the shepherds in the fascinating and exhausting work of driving the sheep form many a rough spot to a beach and loading them on a barge to move them from one island to another One reason Nicholson’s account of this rocky place on the Atlantic appeals to me is because I feel the northeast coast of Maine where I live is like its mirror image split from the British islands by ancient shifts of the tectonic plates I am especially fond of hiking high cliffs facing the stormy sea and I marvel at the endurance of fishermen and admire a man a few miles down the peninsula who tends a flock of sheep Not so long ago sheep were similarly transported to small uninhabited islands for grazing We have one island offshore of my town where puffins thrive though nothing like the hundreds of thousands that nest in the Shiants We have a lot of eagles and ospreys yet I had to go north into New Brunswick to experience soaring gannets and their plummeting and deep dives into the sea for mackerel Nicholson’s account of sea eagles collosal and majestic nesting on the Shiants in earlier centuries and signs of their return in recent years was uplifting for meAt times it can seem he is making mountains out of molehills at others on the trail of wisdom expressed in the Leonard Cohen line “We are so small between the stars so large against the sky” In the following example I find a useful outlook while others may see purple patch Islands are made larger paradoxically by the scale of the sea that surrounds them the element which might reduce them has the opposite effect The sea elevates a few acres into something that could never be if hidden in the mass of the mainland The sea makes islands significant they are not sea within the sea standing against the sea’s chaos and massive power but framed by it enlightened by it In that way every island is an assertion in an ocean of denials the one positive gesture against an almost overwhelming bleakness The state of siege and an island in short is life set against death a life defined by the death that surrounds itThis combination of lyrical immersion in an austere but rich environment explorations of a special ecology and speculation on human affinities for remote island life conforms a subgenre of non fiction I admire which could be called “Biography of Place” Among the couple of dozen books I voted for on the Listopia list for this category are two I loved by Tim Robinson which are the most similar in scope and style to this one “Connemara” and “The Stones of Arran” I look forward to reading Nicholson’s recent book on sea birds as well as his book on Homer

  2. Ashley Thomas Ashley Thomas says:

    A disclaimer I bought this book in a tiny bookstorepost office while on a trip to the Isle of Skye off the Northwest coast of Scotland and read the first few chapters while sitting on a log at the edge of the tiny harbor in Port Righ just before sunset So I might be a little biased as to its uality or significanceIf you've never had a chance to travel to the outer islands off the coast of Scotland then you should most definitely read this book It does for the Hebrides what Frances Mayes' books have done for Tuscany only it includes a lot less people and a lot sheep puffins and sealsThere is something undeniably haunting about the Scottish isles The extremes of weather and situation that exist there make life an endless struggle and as Nicolson notes in his book many of the islands are now uninhabited for that very reason The book spends uite a bit of time on the history of the islands and the various groups of people and animals who have attempted to sustain life there Nicolson is a historian so he's in his element here Yet to me the book's best moments are found in the descriptions of the islands themselves and their wild austerity If you ever do have the chance to visit the islands off the coast of Scotland you'll see what Nicolson means when he discusses the fascination and repulsion they generate They're so breathtakingly beautiful that you feel you must experience life among them but they offer little softness or respite to those who make the attempt This is a great book to read while traveling and take my word for it if you ever actually visit the islands you should most definitely take this along and read it while in the background fishermen shout to each other in Gaelic as they dock their boats for the night

  3. Bettie Bettie says:

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  4. Ron Ron says:

    Ah what a fine book this is Reading it is like spending time with a new friend Nicholson has a sharp and curious mind and a generous spirit You may not think you can be much interested in a group of three little islands in the Outer Hebrides the Shiants their climate wildlife prehistory geology archeology socio economics agriculture shepherding folk literature the sea currents around them and the host of other topics covered in this book but Nicholson draws you in Soon you are immersed in whatever there is to be known about what amounts to less than a suare mile of rock cliffs beach and meadowThe book is organized around the turn of the year beginning with Nicholson's first journey to the islands in his own boat in the spring and ending with the first gusty wet weather of autumn as he sits at the window in a two room cottage writing Into this annual cycle he interweaves story upon story often speculative of how the islands came to be how they came to be what they are and the people over thousands of years who have lived hereAs the year passes Nicholson sketches in the broad sweep of recorded history from St Columba to the present noting the several hands through which the islands have passed including his father's and his own A team of archeologists identifies the remains of Iron and Bronze Age settlements and spends a summer uncovering a long abandoned farmstead The discovery of a buried cobblestone with an ancient inscription sends him on one of many attempts to unravel mysteries that he uncoversThe book is based on considerable research and Nicholson pieces together a previously unwritten history of the islands with references drawn from many old documents and interviews with historians and other experts He helpfully illustrates his text with many photographs drawings and mapsThis book is for anyone who feels the magical pull of islands You will not regard them uite the same way again

  5. Leif Leif says:

    What happens when an aristocrat inherits a beautiful severe historic and largely uninhabited Hebridean island? Best case scenario this book Nicolson clearly loves and cares for the Shiants as is reflected here but his work is marred by his feud with the local Scots who uarrel with an Englishman's sole ownership of the isles a right and proper complaint as Nicholson himself notes as is their complaint against sole ownership of land but also and grievously by his egotism and casual but deeply ingrained sexism The water is masculine the land feminine? All boating is a man's world; all domestication a woman's? Rubbish This reeks of personal history poorly thought out assumptions and badly read history which is all the startling given Nicolson's own wonderful readings of archaeology within this book Instead his sexism seems to reflect his own domestic uarrels with his first wife and second as well as with the women who have either lived on the island or who have refused to travel thereBut what is good about Sea Room? It is passionate and resourceful enlivening even the dullest moments of archaeological history with a thrilling and deeply imagined vision of the lives of the Shiant islanders throughout the isles' existence Nicolson tells three stories essentially the frame narrative is one of his commissioning and use of a small Viking era personal boat from a local craftsman to get to and from the isles The second stories is of his commissioning of an archaeological study of the isles this makes up the bulk of the text although Nicolson frames it as a deep history of the isles instead of the result of his commissioned study And the third narrative running through the text is one of Nicolson's ownership of the isles his relationship with his son who inherited the island with his father who gave the isles to him with the neighbours who think it unjust that he owns them and with the local stewards sheep herders whom he works with to house sheep on the islandTogether these strands of passion make up a richly imagined albeit marred vision of a place in the world that would otherwise go largely unnoticed and that is a prize worth the effort No uestion What should be uestioned is why such a beautiful task can only be accomplished by an aristocrat with a personal history of wealth and connections and whose primary relationship to the island as much as he hides it from himself and from this book is pecuniary his money pays for it pays for the studies pays for the boat pays for the stewards services all revolve around Nicholson's social privilege and inherited capital which is indelibly tied to the patriarchal structures of wealth and patronizing visions of others And that is a shame because this kind of beautiful imagination is common property to all as should be the land that is brought to life through history in this fashion

  6. Amanda Brookfield Amanda Brookfield says:

    Amanda Brookfield's Reviews Sea Room An Island Life in the HebridesSea Room by Adam NicolsonSea Room An Island Life in the Hebrides by Adam Nicolson 25327464Amanda Brookfield's review Jul 24 14 · edit5 of 5 starsRead from June 30 to July 24 2014This is not my usual type of read Memoirs style descriptions of remote Scottish islands the Shiants populated by puffinsrats and sometimes sheep which have to be transported to and from the mainland by boatnope not my bag at all But a friend recommended it to me A good friend one of those whose tastes you can trust absolutely I was out of my comfort zone a lot of the time It meant I had to concentrate a bit like when one is trying a new and scary type of food This was made easy however by Adam Nicolson's mesmeric and powerful narrative style He writes like a poet with an extraordinary eye for ordinary detail and a lyrical natural turn of phrase that draws you in I like books that tell stories In the case of An Island Life the 'story' operates on two levels First there is the fascinating history of the islands themselves which Nicolson tracks back over the centuries deploying the skills of a forensic scientist as well as a poet in the process Then there is the account of what the islands have meant to his own family legal owners for a hundred years Beueathed to him by his father when he was twenty one Adam Nicolson is fast approaching the same milestone with his own son It is a poignant tradition plainly not about the handing on of an 'asset' so much as granting the next generation privileged access the opportunity to connect with and learn from a small beautiful and truly wild part of the worldI could not envisage managing the journey let alone the harsh existence on the Shiants islands myself but thanks to Adam Nicolson I feel I have been there anyway But that's what a good book does takes you somewhere other and then brings you safely home

  7. Helen Helen says:

    Loved this Adam Nicolson inherited the Shiant Islands in the Hebrides from his father Nigel Nicolson at the age of 21 bought at the behest of Nigel's mother Vita Sackville West The islands had long been uninhabited although there is a usable house there and life there is pretty primitive rats no toilets This is not uite what you imagine the holiday home of a Bloomsberry to be in other words Adam Nicolson is sensitive to all the possible accusations of being a posh English landowner with a plaything meets them all head on and provides here what must be a definitive history of the islands every aspect of them Fantastic

  8. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    This concerned a subject the author describing the isolated Hebridean Shaint Islands and those who have lived on it about which I would've professed an interest In the end though it made for a slightly over long read slightly over dwelling on aspects of less interest to me slightly over doing the romanticism and like I have felt of the likes of Robert Macfarlane leaving me somehow both envious of them and irritated in a 'it's alright for you nipping to your wild paradise to write poetically about it whilst normal people have to earn a proper living' mannerNicholson writes well and tries very hard to be fair and complete and thorough Had I read this at a leisurely pace in snatches rather than cover to cover in a few days I may well have got enjoyment from it As it happened it just came over a little repetitive in places there is only so much one can say about a limited geographical area and perhaps as a conseuence I found the historical detail a bit much overall There were plenty of bits that were witty and interesting and stimulated further interest but there was a lot in between that wasn't so compelling I didn't feel completely satisfied either with the balance of all of the discussions of tenants and landowners and farmers and fishermen the social history of it all

  9. Catherine Catherine says:

    35 starsThere were places where I really liked this book and they were in some of Adam's descriptions of the islands and the peoples His love of the Shiants is clear However I was thrown off a little by his conversational style Two lines into a story about someone or something and Adam would veer off into an aside that sometimes felt longer than the story itself It made the narrative a little choppyI found my attention wandering a little throughout and I am not sure if I was in the mood to read this book when I began it Unfortunately for me and the book I was reading from a library loan so I could not afford to put it to one side a return to it when I felt like it

  10. Patrick Carroll Patrick Carroll says:

    I found this book inconsistent some sections were really interesting but some diversions simply failed to hold my interest I did find the initial self justification a bit irritating because this is ultimately a rich man owns islands book and whilst there is a lot of excellent prose and diversions into the local history there was always little socialist voice in my head saying He just traveled up from London for the summer Whilst I appreciate the whole authentic sailing boat thing I rather think the locals are using highly powered metal skiffs and ribs to eek a living from the sea and land but it's all so romanticAdam Nicholson is a very good writer some truly lovely prose but I didn't warm to the author

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Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides❰Ebook❯ ➩ Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides Author Adam Nicolson – In 1937 Adam Nicolson’s father answered a newspaper ad—“Uninhabited islands for sale Outer Hebrides 600 acres Puffins and seals Apply ”In this radiant and powerful book Adam describes and reli An Island PDF/EPUB ✓ In Adam Nicolson’s father answered a newspaper ad—“Uninhabited islands for sale Outer Hebrides acres Puffins and seals Apply ”In this radiant and powerful book Adam describes and relives his love affair with this enchantingly beautiful property which he inherited when he was twenty one As the islands grew Room: An Island Life in eBook Ç to become the most important thing in his life they began Sea Room: PDF or to offer him than escape giving him “sea room”—a sailing term Nicolson uses to mean “the sense of enlargement that island life can give you”The Shiants—the name means holy or enchanted islands—lie east of the Isle of Lewis in a treacherous sea once known as the “stream of blue men” after the legendary water spirits who menaced sailors there Crowned with five Room: An Island MOBI ï hundred foot cliffs of black basalt and surrounded by tidal rips teeming in the summer with thousands of sea birds they are wild dangerous and dramatic—with a long haunting past For millennia the Shiants were a haven for those seeking solitude—an eighth century hermit the twentieth century novelist Compton Mackenzie—but their rich sometimes violent history of human habitation includes much Since the Room: An Island Life in eBook Ç Stone Age families have dwelled on the islands and sailors have perished on their shores The landscape is soaked in centuries old tales of restless ghosts and ancient treasure cradling the heritage of a once productive world of farmers and fishermenIn passionate keenly precise prose Nicolson evokes the paradoxes of island life cut off from the mainland yet intricately bound to it austere yet fertile unforgiving yet bewitchingly beautiful Sea Room does than celebrate and praise this extraordinary place It shares with us the greatest gift an island can bestow a deep revelatory engagement with the natural world.

About the Author: Adam Nicolson

An Island PDF/EPUB ✓ Adam Nicolson writes a celebrated column for The Sunday Telegraph His books include Sissinghurst God’s Secretaries When God Spoke English Wetland Life in the Somerset Levels Perch Hill Restoration and the acclaimed Gentry He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives on a Room: An Island Life in eBook Ç farm in Sussex.