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Islands and Ideas

For World Book Day, Eloise Williams tells us about what inspired her to write her story Elen's Island.  The beautiful photographs and painting are by Eloise's husband Guy Manning.

Islands and Ideas

My husband is an artist and when he asked me if I’d like to go to stay on Caldey Island so he could photograph landscapes I jumped at the chance. 

I’d been to islands before on holidays to far off places but never to the one which was so close to my new home. I could see it, just across the water, calling me to its sandy shores, its lighthouse beaming at me across the sparkling sea. It made me think of Kirren Island in Enid Blyton’s books. It made me think of pirates and treasure. It made me feel a sense of adventure and mystery. 

I wasn’t disappointed. 

We got on a tiny boat as night gave way to a beautiful peach dawn, the turquoise sea slapped the bow in waves which sent glittering droplets of water high into the air. By about half way there I was starting to get seasick while pretending I wasn’t! We watched cormorants fly low over the surface of the water, gannets diving for fish, seagulls raucously screeched from their cliff-side balconies as we alighted on the small jetty. 

I looked back over the Sound and the tiny houses made any problems or worries I had seem so far away. I had already started to create ‘Elen’s Island’ in my head. 

We were picked up in a jeep by a monk (a real monk! I’d never seen one before) and taken to the old School House, which was nothing at all like Gran’s Shack. It was like a beautiful gingerbread house and there wasn’t even a hint of cheesy sock smell.

The days that followed were filled with so many wonderful things. Daisies that slept curled up in their pink edges, raindrops which hung in the trees like crystal chandeliers, the darkest night I’ve ever seen (or not seen) and arches of stars which made me feel like a tiny part of something incredibly special. 

Add to that the smooth beaches and the golden dunes, the forest walks and the scramble to the caves, the stories of pirate ghosts and the clifftop paths. I didn’t really need to make up too much for my story – it was all there and I wanted desperately to share it!

What would it be like to come somewhere so magical as a nine year old? What if the circumstances meant that you didn’t want to be there? Would you fall in love with the island just like I did?

Since then I’ve also been to Skomer where I saw puffins digging out their burrows and landing haphazardly in the water. A beach that was actually completely covered with seals, when one rolled all the others had to roll to make room. And we genuinely saw a jellyfish the size of a dustbin lid!

I’ve mixed the Pembrokeshire islands together, along with the beaches where my dog Watson walks and jumps and some of the interesting local people I’ve met to create ‘Elen’s Island’. I hope that everyone will have the opportunity to visit this beautiful part of the world but if they don’t there’s a tiny bit of it between these gorgeous covers!

Click here to find out more about the book and read an extract.