Just a brief heads-up about two lovely related-yet-different pieces of media for you to consume if you have a spare hour or so this week.
Both are available as either an article or a radio show, whichever you may prefer. Or, you can enjoy both, as in both cases they complement each other wonderfully.
The first is a simple but very neatly edited audio report of a visit to the island. The second is rather more aurally impressive, with the use of field recordings and pacing to really set the scene.
First, Thomas Martienssen visits the most isolated inhabited island in the world:
It may be the most isolated inhabited place on earth. Palmerston Island in the South Pacific is visited by a few yachts each year and the occasional container ship. Otherwise, the 62 inhabitants are untroubled by the outside world.
Thomas Martienssen makes the 8-day yacht journey to meet the native Palmerstonians, who are all descendants of an Englishman, William Marsters, who settled on the island in the 19th century with his three Polynesian “wives”. He hears about the strong Christian faith of the islanders, listens to the ballad recounting the story of the community’s founder and learns how they regularly salvage the wreckage of boats which have come to grief on the coral reefs. And he hears how fishing, the island’s only source of commercial income, may now be threatened by over-exploitation of fish stocks. How long can the Palmerstonians continue to survive on their island at the end of the world?
And second, Robert Macfarlane visits the Cairngorms:
Robert Macfarlane takes inspiration from writer Nan Shepherd on a very special poetic pilgrimage to the Cairngorms.
Nan Shepherd believed that it was ‘a grand thing to get leave to live.’ She did this by spending every minute she could in her beloved Cairngorms. In her 88-years, she covered thousands of miles on foot and became minutely aware of the rhythms of these wild places.
She collected her thoughts in ‘The Living Mountain’. It’s a remarkable love letter to these dramatic landscapes, but convinced that readers didn’t want an “aimless, sensual exploration of the Cairngorms,” Nan tucked the manuscript away in a drawer and left it there for 30-years.
Four years before she died, her book finally saw the light of day. At just 80-pages, it’s small in size, but big in impact and has been described by The Guardian as “the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain”.
Robert Macfarlane agrees. He calls ‘The Living Mountain’ a “wry, beautiful hymn to ‘living all the way through'”. He thinks this book is hugely important as more and more of us experience less and less contact with the outside world; “We are, literally, losing touch.” Nan’s writing is the antithesis of this. She plunges readers right into the landscape.
Robert celebrates this intrepid literary spirit by embarking on a trip right into the heart of Nan’s favourite wild places.
And if you can’t decide between the Guardian article and the Radio 4 show, you can enjoy an audio slideshow of images at the Guardian website.