It is inevitable that the idea of living on a beautiful island, the adventure, would appeal to a great deal of people when vacancies arise. Nearly all advertised positions are met with many hundreds of hopefuls. It is also sad to say that not everyone – whatever their other qualities – can adapt to the realities of an island life. But I find it difficult to pinpoint the qualities that are important other than some generalisations.
The situation is an intense one – islanders live very much in each other’s pockets, as they are with each other at work and play. There is no luxury of going to another pub, for example. Tensions do arise, inevitably, and they can become very dramatic very quickly, but just as surely, they blow through and situations revert to normal. Life is just too short.
You have to know why you are there, and the reasons are always personal. I think visitors would like to believe that all the islanders are deeply in love with nature, history, or some other facet of Lundy. But reasons to live on the island are very different from reasons to visit. Some people live quite happily on the island without any interest in what’s around them ; no different from many people on the mainland. But they still know why they do it, that it works for them.
There is of course a shared perspective: everyone is involved in the Island effort, the job in hand. Everyone is, I believe, committed to the Islands needs, there is something that happens that makes you that way. Surprisingly, relatively few regular visitors take the opportunity to live there, however much they may love the Island. They have the wisdom to know that Lundy for them is an ideal: that to live there may tarnish it. Most, like me, had no real experience of Lundy, or indeed any history of living on islands. So it is an adventure.
As regards the personal qualities required: well, life isn’t as hard as mainlanders might think. As they contemplate life on the island, they focus on issues such as the electricity being off between midnight and 6 am; there is no doctor on the island; what about supermarket/ consumer shopping? But in actual fact, these things are just habits: life on the mainland, or on the island is always a matter of adaptation. Islanders do need to be perhaps a little more self-contained, maybe somewhat self-reliant, but life certainly isn’t as it was even 20 years ago. Life is nearly as comfortable as on the big island.
Most islanders have TV, DVD, CD, etc : a number have personal computers and broadband is knocking on the door, before many places in England. Internet shopping makes life easy: the quality of life on Lundy removes the need for the immediacy of the purchase, so no-one minds waiting for everything to turn up on the ship.
And so many of the visitors are regular "lundyites" - all with interesting memories of their times on the Island: this all builds to give a sense of a large community.
The reason I left was personal: there were issues on the mainland that I needed to attend to, and that is perhaps the only real hardship. When bad news arrives, it always seems to be just after the Oldenburg has left, and that is frustrating to say the least. From my own experience, I can say that what the islanders do seem to have is a sense of society, the understanding required to pull together and help whoever’s in that position. They were certainly good and supportive to me. I miss that – and them.