Looking back I realise I was drawn to the Island because of its size.
Or lack of it.
I needed to be free but I needed to be contained too.
Without containment I might get on my bicycle and just keep cycling. (This is what happened when bicycling across France a few years previously. Promising I would regard every Saturday and Sunday as rest days, I couldn’t help myself and ended up cycling on those days too.)
A small Island would do the trick. The sea would put a halt to my gallop.
Plus a small Island would surely be a place of small happenings with few distractions (I could get a bit of writing and painting done too)
No large heroic adventures would be found there.
Just the simple, the ordinary.
And yet I found as the days went on the happenings on the island invited better attention to things that would elsewhere be passed over as mundane.
I was becoming absorbed in my examination of every simple ordinary mundane detail.
My daily visit to the boulangerie, was as captivating as any play by O’ Casey or John B Keane or Beckett
I could write a novel about the people waiting for the supermarket to open.
Each lace curtained, coloured shuttered window, each winding sandy lane, each neatly rowed cauliflower-ed field, had the makings of a story, a poem, a work of art.
And to pay heed to it all I found that walking became my correct pace.
Cycling my upright slow bicycle was now going too fast.
I feared I might miss things travelling in that manner.
I would still bring it with me, but push it along like a sort of work horse for carrying my drawing materials, my picnic, my towel and swim suit and most importantly my bottle of wine.
And I did cycle it every now and again up those hills. (I needed to continue working off those pain au raisin and Pet de Nonne’s).
The sign at the end of the ‘wild beach’ to the west of the Island shows a symbols of a bicycle within a round circle and a red line through it.
Anxious to obey the rules of the Island (there is no Gendarme here and I don’t want to be the reason for one arriving) I lean the yellow bike against the nearby fence (no need for a bicycle lock) and stuffing my picnic into the front basket, I lift it off my handle bars and proceed up the path on foot.
The trail is of sand over a layer of soft turf and is gentle on my feet with a slight bouncy feel to it.
Not so kind the gorse, which snags my ankles every now and again.
But I’m used to that from following such trails in the west of Ireland and this place is very reminiscence of there.
After a while, the trail forks, one path turning inland and up a steep slope.
Always curious as to what lies at the top of a hill or around a corner, I take that one.
I peer inside.
A large stone fireplace lies at one end of the single room and the man who once warmed his toes at the fire was Balidar, the Famous or Infamous Corsair (Depending on whether you were French or English!)
I know the house was once an old customs shelter built around 1711 but am not able to find much information about Balidar on the island.
Not having internet access either to do my own research, I imagined him to be a swashbuckling type, dark and handsome with perhaps a dashing moustache, swinging across masts and tangled sails, a poignard between his teeth, boarding the deck of the enemy ship and taking the captain by surprise.
Below is a shortened and translated from the french version of what I found about him when I got home
Balidar was born in Portugal and from an early age was engaged in the Portuguese regiments of Oporto.
At one point he was taken prisoner and deported to France. Blaming English politics for his demise he joined the Corsairs of the channel.
He obtained a ship and crew (probably other Portuguese deportee’s)and this he lay at the ready downwind off the island.
And when his watchman, observing the seas from the north shore, for enemy ships, signalled him, he would slip anchor and sail swiftly, cross wind and catch his prey by surprise off Ile de Batz. He tackled and scuppered many an English ship and sold his ‘catch’ to Roscoff or Morlaix.
What interested me more than the Career of Balidar was the fact that due to the lack of timber on the island, wood was a precious commodity.
So much so that the islanders would steal any bit of timber they could lay their hands on and a door or window frame of an unoccupied house was very tempting (The roof of this house had no roofing timbers and was built solely from stone).
The only way the owners of such houses i.e The french authorities, could deal with this was by removing the windows, shutters and doors, when the occupants were leaving and any new officials or guards would have to bring their own door, two sets of windows and shutters with them.
Further along where the path runs down to the sea I pass a lane, its way barely marked by the old crumbling walls.
Was this the road along which Balidars servants (I imagine, due to his success at sea, he was becoming quite rich) pulled the cart, containing the door etc?
Oh and here is the wild sea he thrived on.
Further along the coast and east of the Corsairs house I come to Le Trou Du Serpent
The story goes that in early christian times there was a great Serpent/dragon on the Island causing havoc and mayhem, terrorizing the inhabitants and devouring the women and livestock as dragons do.
In the 6th century Paul Aurélien, a christian monk from Wales who was evangelizing Brittany at the time happened to arrive in the area and was offered the whole Island if he could get rid of the beast.
Walking up to the raging serpent he calmly put his stole around its neck and led it to the western tip of the Island where he ordered it into the sea.
Although it was never seen again it is said the noise of the pounding sea at the huge rocks where it entered the water sounds like its hissing breath.
But Paul (St Paul de Leon) wasn’t satisfied with just dealing with the dragon. He also ordered a well to appear on the island which has the cure for blindness.
Tomorrow I will go in search of it but for now my ordinary mundane day of Privateers on the high sea’s and Monks fighting dragons has left me quite hungry.
I sit on the cliff top looking out to sea enjoying my baguette and cheese without fear of monsters from the deep and in a while retrieve the yellow bicycle and cycle swiftly home to my house of the blue shutters before anything else exciting happens.
To be continued…….