Letter from Lundy
AS I write this letter, on December 21, the mainland stands proud on the horizon with some of the best visibility I ve seen all year. In the north there are crisp winter views of Wales from Pembrokeshire in the west stretching east up the Bristol Channel
AS I write this letter, on December 21, the mainland stands proud on the horizon with some of the best visibility I've seen all year.
In the north there are crisp winter views of Wales from Pembrokeshire in the west stretching east up the Bristol Channel towards Swansea. In the south the Cornish coast falls away from our visibility, but travelling east Morwenstow looks a mere stone's throw away and beyond Woolacombe we can see the snow-topped peaks of the Exmoor hills. It is a wonderful winter's day and the views are truly spectacular!!
The snow is a reminder that Christmas is nearly upon us and Lundy is beginning to feel festive. Our Christmas visitors will arrive on Lundy by helicopter tomorrow and will be greeted in the Tavern with mulled wine and mince pies.
The 21st of December may seem a little late to be starting to think about Christmas, but without the mainland stimulation, the Christmas lights and the advertising, we are completely lacking in the pre-Christmas hype. Christmas on Lundy has a habit of creeping up on us unaware.
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This is part of its charm and in many respects it makes the day's celebrations all that more special. In the lead up to Christmas the islanders go about their day to day jobs without the stresses and pressures of the Christmas preparations.
My first inkling that Christmas was upon us was on Thursday 17th, when some of the staff gathered in the Tavern to decorate the tree, the fire was roaring and there was much joviality. I could hear the laughter filtering up the stairs to my office and I couldn't resist a peek. I sneaked down the back stairs to take a look; And there it was, our Christmas had arrived, the tavern transformed into a beautifully traditional den of festivity, albeit modest.
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The Lundy way of life is modest, and compared to the mainland it often seems as if you have stepped back to simpler times gone by, but life on Lundy today is far more comfortable and reliable than it once was. We do still get stranded, with rough weather and strong winds preventing boat sailings and helicopters, but these occurrences are few and far between these days and can often cause delight and excitement as opposed to hardship.
In 1961, it was a different story! The weather leading up to Christmas was particularly bad and there had been no mail brought to the island for over a week and they found themselves without gifts or turkey.
One islander said "it looked certain that Christmas Dinner would be tinned Sausages". But the BBC and RAF Chivenor felt the plight of the stranded islanders and joined forces to mount a relief expedition on Christmas Day.
There is an account from Felix Gade, the island manager at the time; "The weather was atrocious, the wind due east, and gale force, with ten-tenths low cloud cover, so one 'chopper' brought the mails and turkey, and another came to help in case of accident"
I have found no account of the islanders' reaction, but having lived on Lundy now for four years and having experienced the trepidation of waiting for the weather to turn to enable a sailing or helicopter's arrival, I can imagine the excitement of such a unique and delightful Christmas delivery that would equal that of Father Christmas himself. Indeed, maybe it was his intervention that bought such charitable relief!
Fifty years on we are not expecting such drama, Christmas lunch will take place in the traditional Lundy fashion, visitors will gather for lunch in the Tavern and all the staff will muck in together. The chef, Tom, will by busy in the kitchen with all the Tavern staff, Grant the barman will be serving drinks and we might find a maintenance man posing as a wine waiter for the day and a housekeeper or possibly a warden as a waitress!?
After a hard day's work all the staff come together to wash dishes and clean up as the visitor retire to their holiday properties. Christmases have always been communal on the island, it is the chance for all the staff to come together as a family and celebrate, and with the Tavern closed to visitors for just this one night of the year, our Christmas party will finally begin.
By the time this letter reaches your doorsteps the Christmas festivities will be drawing to a close and we will all be looking to the New Year and the start of a new decade.
So with Christmas now passed for another year, we all wish you a Happy New Year and a wonderful start to 2010
"All the very Best"