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lusk14, originally uploaded by Janey M.

Wednesday saw us once more donning our sea legs, and heading out with Hamish Taylor and Lady Catherine to visit the island of Sgarabhaigh in the Sound of Harris. Hamish was dropping off and picking up from Rodel, so we waited on the pier until the low drone of the engine, and then the boat itself rounded the coastline into the harbour. It was a busy day for Rodel.

Hamish was great - the fount of all local and nautical knowledge. We saw the cliffs tinged red with iron, and a flock of shearwaters who sheared across the water as we approached.

Sgarabhaigh was wonderful - absolutely deserted except for a flock of sheep, nesting cormorants and iindignant oystercatchers. It's a strange experience, being dropped off there, scrambing up the rocks as the boat dips away beneath you, and watching as Hamish steers away again, into the Sound of Harris. There is always that thought in the back of your mind - what if he doesn't come back?

But he did, a couple of hours later, with a party of two women and their two children who had been out fishing. Perched on a plastic tub, Simon didn't realise what was inside until the lid slipped, nearly pitching him in, to reveal the shocked silver faces of dead fish, dark eyes blank, and one - the largest - still alive, mouth still sporadically gaping.

"Please don't die," the little girl - the older of the two children - whispered to the crate after it had been secured again "I'm going to set you free as soon as I can."

I wish I could have helped her. It was a horrible position to be in, and made for an deeply uncomfortable journey back, during which the fish were gutted, sharp knife slicing through cold flesh, the bloody bucket defly sluiced, and their entrails thrown to the following gulls. The boy wanted to play with the guts. The girl pressed her face into her mother's breast. We were offered part of the catch, with genuine generosity.

Back on dry land, we wandered round the church at Rodel, and as the sun was setting, made an unplanned detour to Luskentyre, to watch the sun set behind Taransay. The beach at Luskentyre, I can't describe. But there is the sand, and the sea, and the sky - and that is all. Go there some day.

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June 2013

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