Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Kitchen Par. Eastern side of Bryher, towards the north end but sheltered from the strong wind that is unrelenting. A tiny cove of soft pale sand, granite pebbles and dark, lichen covered granite boulders. The coast to my right rises steeply up from the waters edge, yellow gorse and bottle green pittisporum, mingle with the dead brown bracken, soon to be fresh and green once more.
Not my usual swimming ground so a thrill of anticipation to be exploring new waters raises the pulse a little. The soft sand becomes more gritty on the soles of my feet as I near the water, still its fluid greens and blues. With a sense of exhilaration I dive down into the glassy green and swim out into the little bay. A pause for air and to take in my surroundings, the looming rocks of Hangman’s island seem even larger from my seal’s eye view. The brown, sea stained granite stacks, with their yellow lichen covered backs, rise up from the water like great sea monsters awakening.
Out a little bit further, I venture, down to the seabed, through the murky water. Suddenly out of the gloom, right before my eyes, a large granite boulder. Studded with limpets and purple top shells, surrounded by waves of egg wrack and bladder wrack. If I could breathe I would have caught my breath in fright, instead I try to let the initial feeling of panic subside and study the rock for what it is, harmless and beautiful.
During the summer months, this cove is home to the little fishing fleet of Bryher, and their pink and orange mooring buoys bob in the channel awaiting the boats return from their winters rest. Large wooden crates called carbs line the shore. These hold lobster and crab out to sea, once caught, ready for bringing back to land. The sea-worn silvered wood, covered in remnants of seaweeds, shells, now sandblasted from the winter gales, wait patiently to be returned to the sea. They remind me of a day not long after we had moved to Bryher.
We had been at Hillside for about ten days, just started to get to meet the locals, and find our way around. It comes as a bit of a surprise to some of our guests that many doors on Bryher remain unlocked for most of their lives. I’m not sure we even have a key for our door. Not having a key was not a shock to us, however I was taken aback when I walked into the kitchen one afternoon to find a huge beast of a lobster in our kitchen sink! Only just fitting into the sink, it hissed and thrashed angrily about, squirting bubbles of salty water from around its deep blue armor plated body.
Once again, being moorland folk and never having eaten, let alone cooked, a lobster, I was at a total loss as to what to do with it. We felt we should try to cook him, it was obviously a welcome gift from a local fisherman, so I endeavored to find the biggest pan I could. A rather traumatic time ensued, obviously more so for poor Mr Lobster. The squeaking and hissing death calls, were torturous as he was boiled pink. I did eat him because I felt I owed it to him after cooking him, but in hind-site I wish we had released him back into his watery world and I haven’t eaten lobster since.
In our culture of political correctness and disclaimers I have to add this is by no means a poor reflection on our wonderful shell fishermen of Bryher, in fact the opposite of it being such a kind gift. Nor an argument for or against the Vegan battle. It is solely a wonderful little tale of island life, and the fact you never quite know what you may find left in your kitchen sink.