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


  1. Anonymous6:46 am

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  3. We met Anne and Ronald on Ahe in the Tuamotos in
    1987, where we sailed on our own boat. They were
    delightfully eccentric, and always so hospital to everyone who passed their way. I wondered what became of them and so look forward to reading their book.

  4. I have never thought of myself as either a hero or a jerk; eccentric and marginal perhaps could fit as a society classification. I think I am a normal guy who has had the good fortune to do his own thing. Often when we criticise it reflects more our personal problem than the subject addressed. Ron Falconer.

  5. Dear Ron,
    It seems 'Anonymous' hasn't the temerity to reveal him/herself nor enter in to a conversation about their opinions. I think your theory that 'it reflects (his/her) personal problems' may be on the ball.
    F xx

  6. Anonymous6:47 am

    I really enjoyed the book. It was just what the doctor ordered as I get tired of the life in the US. I can't think of another book that I have read lately that I have enjoyed this much and I have read a lot. I don't understand why someone's personality is important when they author a book. Is the book enjoyable or not?

    Robert Spencer

  7. Ron Falconer2:22 am

    Your policy of posting anonymous defamatory comments without control would seem to me somewhat irresponsible. There are many users of internet who find amusement in posting derogatory remarks of all kinds on various sites. If they posted their identity it could possibly be considered acceptable as a valued contribution. To post anonymous derogatory comments on a sincere subject is simply giving support to the weirdo’s in our community, which I have to believe is not the purpose of your site.

  8. Ron - one 'defamatory' comment & a few glowing reports, whether anonymous or not, should be accepted and respected. I think you are lucky to receive such lovely comments & a glowing review of your book - your book has obviously touched quite a few people. I wonder why you made the decision to write this comment now, when you had already responded to the (one) negative comment of months ago? The other 'anonymous' person (who gave a lovely review of your book) has a name - it is Robert Spencer. I resent your recent misguided comment on my blog but I'm posting it anyway - it's called freedom of speech.

  9. Ron Falconer8:31 pm

    I decided to comment again as each time I check out your site this comment annoys me and continues to make the focal point of:-“Was Ron a jerk or not?” My book is what it is and I do sincerely appreciate you taking time to read it and making your highly observant and valued comments.
    Where does freedom of speech begin and end? If a real misguided ‘anonymous’ blithely remarked that the editor was a paedophile, would you seriously post it?

  10. OK - if it annoys - I take off. I would rather you were happy & enjoying the comments rather than consistently upset by my blog. Point taken.

  11. Ron Falconer8:25 pm

    I talked this over with my daughter who also has a blog and she agrees with you that comments on a blog no matter what, are acceptable.
    I take the view that hopefully we are all aiming at quality and meaningful values in our intellectual lives.
    Apologies that my counter comments upset you I was genuinely upset and thank you for your modifications.

    1. Aloha Ron,
      Once upon a time in 1998? I visited with you on Moorea. I forget how we met, but of course we had common interests... coconut islands. Since that time I have moved to Thailand, and written a book... 'SECRETS IN THE COCONUT', which describes many aspects of the nut a-z. I am coming to Moorea this June 2012 for photos, and wondering if you might have any photos of coconut palms overhanging the lagoon or coconuts crabs on Caroline. Best to You, Raja Tamaran

  12. When I sailed from French Polynesia to Hawaii, we stopped and visited Caroline Atoll and the Falconers for 3 days. I would like to contact them if anyone knows how to do so, I would be most appreciative. I am named in the acknowledgements section with Jo and Aileen aboard "Shanakie." (All names spelled as in the book.) My email address is kenboche@yahoo.com.