Somewhere Out At Sea


Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about understanding by Joseph Hunter.

Joseph Hunter is a fiction writer and postgraduate researcher at the University of Manchester. Originally from the midlands he moved to Manchester for the climate after a decade in London. He writes about masculinity, loss, and nature.

‘Somewhere Out At Sea’ follows a man considering his relationship with his father.



Seen from a boat, approaching the island through cold, choppy, white-flecked seas, the island of Staffa looks like a dense grey forest of rock off the western coast of Scotland. Columns of basalt push up and then flower out into a puffy, cloud-like summit on top of which the plantlife of the island grows, a rolling plain of grass and heather and machair whipped by the sea-wind. The island is made of very ancient rock, but is so strange-looking and so dynamic that you have to tell yourself, repeatedly, that it has been here for a long, long time, such a long time that the best guesses of humankind as to its age can only approximate a range of years that could encompass, with ease, every meaningful incident of human civilisation.

The columns of rock were created by cooling lava. The island has many folds and inlets, with spectacular caves that were favourites of the gentlemen and -women visitors of the nineteenth century, who’d come in their frock coats and dresses to nod approvingly at the pretty show nature had put on for them.

Staffa is interesting not just from a geological perspective, but also for the various birds that nest and feed on top of it. It’s the latter that makes Staffa significant to me, because puffins nest on the island in summer, and my dad loved puffins.

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