Three Bridges to Mill Island

tea break from writing

The first bridge is made of stone. Wood the second one. And then there is the third one, the biggest of them all, made of metal. It leads to the Riverwalk.

I discover Mill Island on my second evening in Birr. It is dark and I am half blind for I have taken out my contacts and forgot to bring my glasses. I feel oddly at home. I like the trees and the sound of water. I like the autumn air. The rain has intensified any smell and I breathe in the  sharp turf smoke that reminds me of my childhood in East Germany. I grew up with an oven that my mother had to fire up each morning with old newspaper and coal. It is only fitting that I have brought a manuscript here whose main topic is exactly that: childhood. And to be honest: What else is there to write about? Everything leads back to childhood in the end. At least when it comes to my writing.

I stay at Tin Jug Studio, in the Grey Room. I write at the little table in the middle of the cozy room. I drink tea and I feast of mandarins, almonds and dates. In the morning I slip into the silk gown that I found hanging in a cupboard. I enjoy the porridge and coffee in the morning. I enjoy sitting in the drawing room by the fire. And I enjoy my host Rosalind who reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor and who is so beautifully connected to this town and this place. I have always sought out such a connection by proxy, for lack of a childhood place to go back to. My country does not exist anymore. I have found substitutes. But in the end my thoughts and longing always return to my hometown of Halle in Germany. The familiar landscape of the Peißnitz, a big green island surrounded by the river Saale, where I have spent a lot of time at.

This is what this community is all about. Inside jokes. Inside stories. Shared memories. Little legends like the one with Kubrick and the phone call or Charlotte Bronte and the pistol.

Conclusion: Worked on manuscript. Started a new short story that includes a speaking fish (Lough Derg trout). Would have loved to read some stories to the community. Met some incredibly kind and entertaining people. Ate too many croissants from Nutmeg bakery. Missed out on Wild Mary’s Beech Liquor due to my pregnancy, but bought two bottles nonetheless. Visited Mill Island every day. Used all three bridges. Picked up a chestnut. Keep it in my pocket.

(This text is part of the report for the Offally Arts Council writer’s residency in Birr)

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