Saturday, October 22, 2011
“All over the world, remote rural areas attract weirdos, transient or permanent.”
On the day before I left West Cork I drove to Cool Mountain to see what, if anything, was left of the community that had been established there by English refugees in the nineteen-eighties; folk bent on escaping the ovine ambition of the British electorate to live in a state of inescapable uniformity.
As with the majority of idealistically inspired communities that mushroomed with post-war prosperity that began to blossom through the late sixties and early seventies, that at Cool Mountain failed to endure. At one time as many as eighty people were living on the mountain. By 2007 this had dropped to around twenty-five.
The present population of Cool Mountain live in an eclectic collection of dwellings more or less hidden within the luxuriously thick woodland that clothes the lower slopes of the mountain.
The place wore a mantle of sadness, of somewhere that had been but now was not; or perhaps, somewhere that never really became the Nivana those who came here hoped it might become. All around glimpses of abandoned vehicles, derelict sheds, shacks and caravans bear witness to the abandonment of an ideal.
At Cool Mountain it would not have been possible to take photographs without imposing on residents’ privacy. As one who does I, probably more than most, understand how precious is the privacy of folk who choose to live in remote rural places. Even if I were sufficiently thick-skinned, or just plain thick enough, to value my want of snapshots above peoples’ rights to privacy, the luxuriance of plant life that presently surrounds the dwellings of Cool Mountain residents would have precluded my taking any meaningful photographs.
The Cool Mountain dream of the eighties has, along with many beautiful but ultimately fictive ideas - swinging-sixties, Prague springs, flower-power - passed into a mythology which every Tom, Thomassina, Dick, Richardine, Harry or Harriet, can interpret as they may. That there are presently in West Cork so many independent, established and successful crafts-people may, I like to believe, be something of a legacy of the Cool Mountain dream.
I stole the title of this post from a book ; “Eating Scenery”, by Alannah Hopkin, published by The Collins Press (2008) “Eating Scenery” is a book which, in common with most writing, says much about its author. M/s Hopkin has, it seems, little or no understanding of why folk she somewhat generally refers to as “impecunious good-lifers”, rather giving their lives to wage slavery, might prefer to live free, simple, independent lives in elysian surroundings. Furthermore she gives the impression that she believes only those in want of shoes would ever walk bare-foot; poor sad Alannnah!