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  • I was doing a documentary project on remote and forgotten hebridean islands. And one I visited, which shall remain nameless, was profoundly moving.

    One amongst many many islands I visited that were charged with 'atmosphere' and which made stop, think and reflect.

    The sign said 'Keep Out! Dangerous Masonry" because the once-grand house was crumbling. Neglect and the wild atlantic weather were eating it away.

    First the roof leaked. Then the joists rotted. The roof collapsed. Then ceiling plaster soaked up water, became heavy. It collapsed. Floors tumbled, pulling furniture from the walls and eventually on the ground floor the avalanche came to a halt.

    The boatman who dropped me off told me stories about the island, the family, of aspirations, tragedies, alcoholism and lives that simply faded.

    I looked in the absent window. It was a kitchen. Once a fine kitchen. But no longer. Now it was a jumble of broken bits. Drawers, still filled with cutlery, collapsing. Food in jars and tins long shorn of labels now anonymous. A room once filled with warmth and nourishment, but no smells now, save mould, and salty air.

    The cold heart of a home.

    I ignored the Danger! sign and climbed in. Not something I did lightly. I moved cautiously, reverentially, as if I were walking through some sacred place. I found sheep droppings everywhere, floors collapsing.

    On hangers on a door were mouldy once-lovely clothes, straggling now, tatty and faded.

    And there in the middle of a room, sheep pellets all around, was a mouldering leather slipcase, open, papers spilling out. I gently slid a few out. Letters from a solicitor advising on finances, dated 1953. Letters about personal matters, dated later. And more, much more. Far too much more. All the paper soft with damp, powderysalt on my fingers.


    A whole life of letters dying.
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