Adrift in the Irish Sea

It was strange to fly into the Isle of Man yesterday.  Last here in 1968 with the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra.  They talked a lot about birching then.  I vowed never to return.  So here we are.

Actually my heart softened a bit because over the summer I re-read Jonathan Raban’s lovely book ‘Coasting’.  Coasting expressed his attitude to life and his journey round the British Isles in Gosfield Maid.  A wonderful book for armchair sailors – Amazon has it for 1 p.  In his early navigational struggles in the Irish Sea, he describes searching for the Isle of Man to starboard – only to find it steaming by on his port bow.   That’s rather how it seems to be – centre of the British Isles but not quite sure where it is.  Beautiful day yesterday – but this morning there was the cloak of mist called the Simmerdim which is reputed to hide the island from invaders.

Sorry – forgot to say why I am here.  Meeting of the Celtic Bishops.  Like the Walrus and the Carpenter, we talk of many things.  I am interested in testing whether there might be a common Celtic approach to the issues of the day.  We are not England, nor America nor anywhere else.  But of course that doesn’t mean that we know who we are or indeed where we are.


  1. Knowing what one is not is sometimes a useful starting point – a sort of Conan Doyle approach to ecclesiology.

  2. As long as you have an inkling of why you are, you’re probably doing OK!

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