Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Willful Walks of Russell C.J Duffy - Book 2 - The Whispering of Grass - Chapter 7 - ALL NEW

*Mud Larks, Moody's and the M.O.D*-* Unexploded Bombs*-*The Odd Beauty of Foulness Island* 

Had I looked properly at the Foulness page on Wikipedia I would have read the rules and regulations governing when you can and when you can't visit what is, although there are civilian residents living here, a military base. Sadly, I didn't.  This has caused the long delay in my visiting or at least trying to, the largest island off the coast of Essex. Not bad when all is considered.  The size of the island I mean, not the long delay.

I had intended to visit, along with my daughter Squid, the island back in October. On the day I drove up before parking outside the perimeter fence, the high wire finished off with a topping of barbed wire, I sat in the vehicle debating whether or not to sign into security. I bottled it. God's know why. Anyway, I hadn't taken Squid so told myself I'd return in November. Why November? You are only allowed onto Foulness, if not visiting family or delivering necessary goods, on the first Sunday of every month. 

I returned again a month later this time with Squid. Parking my vehicle outside the security office, I entered it prepared with my passport and driving license. I was greeted by four non-military types all wearing Hi-Vis jackets. I announced who I was and was asked the purpose of my visit. I told them I wanted to see the islands but also take photos of the old and now disused church. The men in yellow jackets chortled. It was not a shared laugh, not a laugh one has the includes all but one raised at my expense. 

"This is a military base sir, you can't take photos here unless you have family buried in the graveyard."

I said I hadn't. They said you couldn't, visit that is with the sole purpose of taking photos. Okay, I replied. I won't.Take any photos that is.

"You still can't enter, sir. You are only allowed on Foulness from April to October. It is now November, sir."

This I knew but thought it best not to enter into a conversation on that subject.

"Thanks,"  I said bidding the gents of fond farewell aware of eight eyeballs following me as I left the office. I swear I could hear their witty rejoinders. "Wanker." "What a cock." "This a military base too."

So then, unable to physically view the island's topography let alone its up-for-sale church, I returned to my vehicle, where Squid sat waiting, and drove away. This then is my thoughts on an island I lived near for nigh on forty years but have never seen.

From the point of view of the observer,  that is one who lives off the island, the appeal for joining this odd community with its military neighbours is the realisation of how safe you are from any form of crime. I mean who is able to break into your home when your home is guarded twenty-four seven by armed soldiers? Who can rob you? Who can assault you? The only people able to steal your car whilst it is parked on Foulness are those unable to drive off in it without first alerting the guards at the gate. I like this 'home security feature.' A bit extreme perhaps. I can't see it taking off in the commercial marketplace as it might not prove cost-effective having units of the British Army patrolling a housing estate. Still, it has appeal.

The church I had so wanted to see up close is now vacant, vacant and up for sale. Interestingly it is not the first church built on the island, not the original. The church as seen today was built in 1850. Its architect was William Hambley. The building bears the hallmarks of being gothic. That, of course, is a Victorian conceit. Quite why that era paid such respect, such homage to a time long before remains a mystery to me. I am very glad they did though for this church has an outstanding quality to it.

As I said, the church is empty now. It has been so for some years. More recently a property developer has purchased the place with the intention of building apartments within it. The following is from the website of Unique Property Agency...

"For Sale - Detailed Planning has been granted for a One/Two Bedroom Apartment over two floors with separate Entrance.  Detailed Planning has been gained but ALL works have still to be undertaken.

They applied for and were granted planning permission to create a fabulous one/two bedroom apartment over two floors (see the plans) in this beautiful old Church, offering unrestricted views overlooking farmland and out towards the River Crouch where the sailing boats are clearly visible. The proposed apartment would suit a writer, artist, celebrity or anyone who longs to get away for a few days at a time from the bright lights, to enjoy the peace and quiet with the bonus of the security and privacy which this project offers. Perhaps it would also appeal to the owner of a substantial house in London who just likes to get out of town."

I am always a little sceptical regarding what I perceive as encroachment onto unspoilt land. I am with this and yet, had I not chosen to give the vast bulk of my inheritance away, had I been unaccountably selfish and insisted my family home be sold, taken my fair slice of the of the properties worth, I could have easily afforded to move to Foulness and into the proposed apartment. Still, I am glad I chose to help my children. Who know's what the future holds? I may still find myself living there one day.

This church, vacant now, represents a large section of humankind's belief in a deity, faith in God. I see no problem with that. I no longer have any issues with people of faith. Nor do I subscribe as I once did to the belief that religion is the cause of wars. In the two thousand years since the birth of the Christian Messiah, there have 1,763 wars. A stupefying fact when you consider that in World War alone 35 million people died. Take into account how shortly after that dreadful war influenza killed a similar quantity of human beings taking the death toll to as near as dammit 70 million, the preciousness of life becomes all too apparent. Out of that 1,763 wars, 123 of them have been caused by religion. That is 7% of all wars. Religion is not the primary cause of war avarice is. All the other wars have either been caused by nations setting out to conquerer other nations thereby seizing their lands and its natural resources or when kingdoms related by their various monarchs have had a family falling out, a feud, and set about settling scores. 

Whether you believe in God as a deity, a father figure who created all known life within this vast universe or, like me the great unknowable, unnameable, everlasting, eternal then what point is their in falling out over who is right when all parties simply want to live and love in the way God/god designed us to. All life is precious. No matter how big or how small. With so many paths, each of them as true as the other, each of them leading to the same summit, what does it matter which path you follow?

In seeking the truth the ultimate goal has to be in letting go of perceived ideas. Primarily, one must seek to forget labels for that which is greater than us all has no label.  All such definitions are man-made therefore are not the thing they try to define. Science, a tool by which we understand the mechanism of how the universe and life within it functions, reveals that the building blocks of life are constant throughout existence. The same molecules connect all life even if that life is diverse. This is unassailable fact. Humankind is related to trees as much as the stars and other animals and to the oceans. We are truly one with all creation. 

Here on Foulness, that fact becomes plainly evident. You are surrounded by water with sea walls constructed to hold the tides at bay. The fauna and wildlife forge an inseparable link with the inhabitants that live here. In many ways, Foulness is very much like those Scottish islands far to the north. Remote and off itself. A lot warmer it has to be said yet the similarity is obvious.

Scattered about are the remnants of what and why the military use this island for. Shells left by the shore are clearly visible.

There is a sublime sense of isolation mixed paradoxically with a curious community feel. You are in a very controlled environment yet one that allows the inhabitants to live the lives they want whilst enjoying the benefits of what has to be the best security found anywhere. There is a single shop, the village general store. It also has a post office and a pub, The George and Dragon. Not very original but still your typical, Olde Worlde English public house. Then there's the wildlife. Wildfowl aplenty with a range of birds enough to make an ornithologist do triple backflips. There are red knot, bar-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, redshank, grey plover, curlew, avocet (the UK's second largest population), sandwich tern, dunlin, common tern, shelduck, little tern, hen harriers, ringed plover and... the list goes on. The very name Foulness owes its origins to the Old English fulga-naess which, when broken down means fowl, or wild birds (fulga) and promontory (naess).

It is turning colder now. November is moving leisurely from autumn to winter. Nature's time passes at a different rate to man's mechanical invention. I had planned writing these additions to my original walks within the framework of a single year. This hasn't happened largely because of my foolish lack of researching the facts of Foulness Island's visitor protocols. Nevermind. I shall attempt to squeeze the final four churches within my area into a single month - December.     

Next - Rochford

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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