But leaving a place doesn't sever everything. I'm left with a stack of memories and experiences, some good friends which, due to the wonders of the InterWebz I'm in contact with, and what has turned out to be a massive archive of my four and a half years of living on a 3 mile by 2 mile island.
Flicking through boxes of the archive was a good reminder of lots of things, but I'm going to need several weeks to go through it all, and some kind of methodology. What I've got includes:
- Between 1,000 and 1,500 press cuttings (heck, and a lot of those are entertaining and/or not the kind of thing you'd read in a mainland newspaper).
- Several hundred pictures, in digital and print form.
- Several file boxes full of random and/or bizarre stuff. Seriously random and seriously bizarre.
- Minutes of meetings, which are a lot more entertaining than you may think.
- Emails. Good grief; 16,079(!) of them in my Berneray and Outer Hebrides folders. I'm surprised I ever got out of the house.
- Several audio recordings, including a ceilidh, people gossiping at a meeting, seals, more gossiping, an infamous tourist (I'd forgotten about her, but suspect no landlady ever will), and the nice policeman from Lochmaddy.
- About 11 hours of video footage, taken with a video camera with an awesome zoom-in lens that I had for my last year then. This meant I could sit on top of Borve Hill and video (nearly) anything or anyone moving elsewhere on the island. Viewing some of this, it does show that Berneray is quite an industrious place.
I've no clear idea yet of what to do with this stuff. It does represent nearly half a decade of life in an interesting, and oft-misunderstood place, that also oddly reminded me of the village and area I grew up in. For now, I'm recataloguing the ephemera, backing up the digital stuff and putting it into the storage unit. Something for another day (or month) to go through.
It's strange looking back with a detached perspective on Berneray. The island had changed, evolved, as places do before we moved there (in the 1990s with the causeway connection) and while we there (with the introduction of sort-of broadband to a few places). It's arguably the Internet that has changed the place the most of late. In 2004 there was hardly anything, apart from all the Prince-Charles-as-visitor stuff, about Berneray online. Now there's a ton of stuff; many thousands of web pages, sites, pictures, videos, stories and anecdotes, added online with many e.g. tourists and visitors writing about, or reviewing, the island, services and residents.
The population didn't change much overall, though the demographics did (in the last few months, the school generation who grew up have left for mainland colleges and further afield, Australia in one case). The future looks unclear (as it always does), with the dire state of island council finances making savage cuts to schools and transport links seemingly inevitable, and an array of other factors such as rising sea levels and cuts in fishing quotas not helping.
Oh, and also in the archive, I discovered the reason I moved to Berneray and the Outer Hebrides. I'd managed to forget somehow, but it was a reminder that very soon I have to make a return trip back to Scalpay, off Harris. More on that another time. But to finish, here's a picture of part of Berneray in the February 2008 snow which I took from the side of Borve Hill: