Queen of the Sky, like any story, began with a stream of things converging. The idea for the piece as a ‘book’ began during a conversation with Rachael Misstear from The Western Mail.
I had emailed Rachael to talk with her about some paintings that were included in an exhibition at The Botanic Gardens of Wales. Now, as a reporter Rachael has to deal with some awful stories, truly terrible acts of violence, injustice, horror. This is what ‘news’ is, can be, and someone has to tell these stories, but to carry these all inside must be terrible. So, as I was talking about this story of a bird brought back to health and freedom by a friend she said, ‘this story is too good not to be shared. You should write a book about it.’
Afew days later on a journey to Birmingham with Matthew and Peter from Graffeg I discussed the idea and they both said yes. Let’s do it. This was november. How amazing that within those few short months we turned around the words and the images, with the help of Joana, the designer, and Nicola Davies who edited the text for me, making me really think about what I was saying, to a book that now waits to fly into the hands of readers.
Today Rachael came to visit, tired after the election. The sun shone. Voyages of Discovery had kept two places on the boat for us and we headed off to St Justinians to visit the site where the story really first began.
Hannah was just coming in from a trip. There were some changes of crew, then we headed off on what was to be one of the warmest trips I have done around Ramsey Island.
There were razorbills and guilemots, kittiwake and raven, chough and the terrible black backed gulls. There were seals in plenty, playing at the sea’s edge, at home in the water, rising and falling with the swell and the sway of the sea.
At the front of the boat Hannah ( not my daughter Hannah, but another, seems all the crew will be called Hannah this year!) Ffi and Rachael talked of the peregrine, life on the water, more. On the island the land was flushed pink by the thrift. Black tar lichen darkened the cliffs. It thrives on salt water so you can see by the photographs how high the sea will reach when the weather is rough.
Rachael loved everything about the trip. The wind, the salt on skin, the warm sun, beautiful island, birds, the learning, colours. At just the right time a peregrine came in to view.
As we came out from the cave Ffion pointed across the sea to where Hiss had landed on that fateful day. She had flown across the bay, low over the water and then into it. Had Ffion not been looking, not driven over in time, not reached into the sea to lift her up onto the boat there would have been no story. Peregrine. Pilgrim bird.
This was our pilgrimage to where Queen of the Sky began.
When Rachael asked Ffi where she thought Hiss might be now Ffi smiled, a sad smile. “She could be anywhere.” Our hope is that she is somewhere, in the wild, wide, wonderful world, up to fierce mischief.
( Thanks Ffi and Hannah for a brilliant trip, and Voyages of Discovery for finding spaces for us at such short notice. Do take a look at their website. Such beautiful photos. Every trip I have been on with them has been different.)