A few months ago when I was walking from the barren northernmost point of the Isle of Man at the Point of Ayre back towards some sort of civilisation along the lonely cold beaches, with only unrecognised seabirds and the very real risk of rock falls to keep me company – small chunks of cliff would keep rolling towards me forcing me onto the uncomfortable line of pebbles that masked the high-tide – I came across a 70s-style cylindrical Nescafe jar with its brown oh-so-seventies screw-top lid.
It would normally have stopped me in my tracks, but it was far too cold in September for that and I was racing the tide times, so I grabbed the jar in numb fingers and pulled out the small damp manila envelope about the size of a credit card it contained.
Online searches suggest finding a message in bottle is a surprisingly common occurrence, and I had always dreamt of finding one, having launched my own off the coast of Senegal while Encircling Africa.
The message inside the manila envelope didn’t date to 1787 as I had hoped, but to just a couple of months before. Once I’d managed to decipher the faded writing in blue biro, I found it sketched out the story of how it had ended up in front of me on a solitary beach in the middle of the Irish Sea.
The envelope reads:
Please accept this small gift as a present from the artist. I launched this ‘Message in a Bottle’ into Dublin’s river Liffey as part of an arts project on 31st July 2015. I would be delighted to hear when, where and how you found it.”
Inside the envelope was a small piece of cardboard with a fingerprint in what I hope is red paint. I contacted the artist sender since it would have been fantastic to learn where the other messages he’d sent out turned up. He hasn’t replied. But even so it makes me wonder about the life of my own message in a bottle, and the journey it may have taken since I dispatched it in late 2011. It could be almost anywhere.