The Isle of Arran: Community and Readers


Do you sometimes wish you could recapture some of the values of times past while continuing to live in the modern world?

“In the country, you walk into someone’s kitchen, they are cleaning the floor, so you grab a scrubbing brush and help out.”

My friend George, born in 1927, was talking about the countryside in Buckinghamshire now covered over by Milton Keynes. I don’t think that anyone today goes down on hands and knees to clean the floor in Milton Keynes.

Staying on The Isle of  Arran in the house where George died, I am reminded of the things that he believed in and taught. George looked to the future, preparing the next generation for their adulthood, teaching them to read, to love books and to write, but continuing to nurture what was best from the past.

The Isle of Arran

We met some beaders,  a group set up by Jude. While threading the tiny, coloured stones, they still managed to talk a lot. They recommended The Sandwich Station, a shockingly tiny place next to the coast at Lochranza, right where the ferry runs to Claonaig.

The Sandwich Station promised, “Everything is made with love and there is always a wee blether thrown in free of charge. ” I’m sure we got the love: we heard that  the delivery van had missed the ferry from the Mainland and the next ferry was already fully booked, so they gave us specially thick slices of smoked salmon in our sandwiches. Great sandwiches, eaten next to the castle overlooking the loch. Sheer bliss.

Jude, in her eighties, calls herself, “The local band’s roadie”. Every Sunday, the musicians pile their electronic gear and some instruments into her car and she drives the stuff down to the local inn. They walk. There isn’t enough room in her car for the drum kit, so the drummer has to take some of it in a wheelbarrow. That’s the lot of a drummer.

Jude has  set up several groups on Arran. Each week the study group follows Classics of British Literature. They  take their evening meal together and then they watch a DVD, discussing it afterwards. We watched and talked about Professor John Sutherland’s lucid lecture on James Joyce’s Ulysses and the poetry of W. B. Yeats. My only contribution was to suggest that the excerpts deserved to be read in an Irish accent. Sutherland’s reading is unmusical. Next morning, over breakfast, Jude was holding forth on Josephine Tay’s brilliant book, The Daughter of Time.

When Jude needed a new car, her friends researched her needs and collected a low mileage Skoda for her from Mansfield on the Mainland. When she fell and broke her leg in several places, she was taken to the hospital in Glasgow by a friend. She was much visited. On The Isle of Arran there is community, which in turn breeds reciprocity.

Community in Fiction

Is it because I include so many thrillers and crime novels in my reading diet that I can’t think of any positive elements of community in the fiction I’ve devoured recently? Authors who create remote groups living together draw weird, embittered and downright nasty characters  you wouldn’t want living within fifty miles of your home. The conflict creates drama and provides motivation for murder, but if we always neglect cooperation, believing it to be dull or sentimental, are we missing a chance to provide something heart-warming and not necessarily far from the truth? In a small community such as The Isle of Arran, people know one another and some at least work together!

Now  watch this video advertising a vacancy for a GP to join the team at the local medical centre. Scroll down to “Join The AMG Team”, click on the arrow and see whether you could live on the beautiful Isle of Arran: Join The AMG Team

Robert Blanchett

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