11 August 2009

Dead Close to Nature 4: Ron Falconer

Text Colour"...I toss and turn that night in bed. I feel the presence of the outside world closing in on what has been our domain. A cold breeze seems to move through the hut and a deep shiver touches my anxious body."

As a teenager I remember poring over Thor Heyerdahl’s famous studies of the Polynesian people and their supposed migratory habits – his tales of tribal emigration from South America to Easter Island and the long- and short-eared peoples, his immersion in Pacific island culture and his ability to see beyond the daily grind have stayed with me over the years and informed my view of our world history and scarred culture ever since.

I was thus pleased to meet Ron Falconer, a Scot who was affected by similar tales of derring-do as a young man, and even happier to discover he has published a memoir charting his time as the ‘guardian’ of a Pacific atoll named Caroline, later to be made famous as renamed ‘Millenium Island’, the first place to be hit by the year 2000. Falconer was delighted that I described him as 'socially eccentric', but he is purely normal in his own way, of course, with a very clear method to his 'madness'. "I'm on my own path", he told me, and not many men can say that with conviction.

Falconer’s book, with the tagline ‘escaping to a life in paradise’, may appear to some as just another travelogue, another excuse to fill readers’ heads with impossibly perfect places and actions as we languish in our cityscapes, not daring to question the ongoing slog. Falconer is a pleasing guide, however, and his book is realised with a well-drawn mix of perception and strong-headedness, not to mention a tragic ending, that lends it gravitas in a field overladen with well-meaning hippies armed with a pair of clogs and no common sense.

Like my hero Thor Heyerdahl, Falconer is straightforward in his quest, although he mostly puts aside science and academia for a comfortably personal quest, to leave behind the chattering classes and move with his small family (wife Anne and two small children Alexandre and Anais) to the Caroline Atoll. His boat, the Fleur d’Ecosse, he built himself. Falconer’s use of the present tense makes for quick and witty writing – although he is wont to go off on tangential light philosophical musings, these do not deaden the pace of what is a constant battle for survival.

I love Falconer’s honest portrayal of this beautiful place, and the proof that he presents us that our wasteful society continues to wreak irreparable damage on the planet – Falconer is able to escape the most obvious trappings of this for a while, but in the end even the Caroline Atoll is affected by the shrinking planet and he is forced to leave – the tragedy I wrote of earlier.

It is a tragedy, and although Falconer would not be so trite as to catalogue his deep sadness, the time, love and philosophy he puts into this small corner of the world must have left him with a feeling of frustration and powerlessness.

This book is a must-read for all of those who have any understanding of the importance of man’s interaction with and respect for nature, and who have any time at all for a single man’s dream, which these days is so easily swallowed up in a dream created by society, a dream that we no longer control. Falconer is one of life’s true originals and this book is important, sadly, as a memoir of a disappearing world.

Sad, but true.

'Together Alone' by Ron Falconer is published by Bantam

09 August 2009

Club Jolene

Heads up for any 'heads' who might read this blog. I have metamorphosed from poetry-guzzling power ranger into fizzy deejay for one night only with my pals down in London - and here's the info.

I think you ought to come.

I really do.


06 August 2009

Claudia Massie @ The Flaubert in Edinburgh

Friend of this blog Claudia Massie charges onto the Edinburgh art scene yet again with a joint exhibition alongside the excellent Camilla Watson (at the Flaubert Gallery in Stockbridge). They are showing from tomorrow the 6th August their 'Highland/Lowland' exhibition and Claudia will also be painting up a storm at the highly anticipated 'go-reborn' project in the Venue Studios on Calton Road.