Aside

Daffodils and Spring

(Unfortunately you have to zoom in to see them in profusion further along the path)

As Most have already observed, spring has definitely arrived. There are some who would claim that it began on February 1st – but that is for the purists.

 Here spring is for daffodils and there are millions of them, Wordsworth’s ‘Host of Golden Daffodils’ is in evidence where ever I look. Because they were grown commercially (until it became cheaper to import them) the paths and cliff-tops have an abundance of them growing wild. They are literally everywhere, field boundaries, central reservations, hedgerows…

They make for a bright and cheerful start to any day. 

I love their bright profusion and wish only that there were more of other, more native, species to go with them such as the wonderful primrose, which is also in profusion but further north in Cumbria.

 There, in the Lake District, they echo the footfalls of the poets: the Wordsworths (William and Dorothy) Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott…

 I think I’m getting restless again, getting itchy feet. I should like to visit Wast Water and find myself ankle deep in primroses before the season is gone.

Daffodils and Spring

Mist on the River

It was eerily quiet down on the estuary this morning; visibility was low with a curtain of early-morning mist struggling to maintain its grip in the face of the merest breath of a south-westerly, wave after wave of gossamer obliterating everything. The temperature hovered a couple of degrees above freezing and it was the sort of damp-cold that seems to penetrate through to your very bones, a cold that keeps most people indoors and, work permitting, in bed. 

But in weather such as this there is precious time alone, perfect peace in which to think and plan. The idea for the book came to me on just such a walk, the story growing and gaining substance each time I set out to walk the cliff-top path. 

This morning the tide was fairly high, with the river perhaps in the first sixth of the ebb, just beginning to show the very edge of the flats. With not another soul around to disturb my peace, I could hear a curlew somewhere out in the mist and just down where a brook runs through the farm fields to join the river, a pair of Dunlin scurried out of my way. There is a large patch of reeds where I fancied that I caught sight of Teal or Widgeon but I can’t be sure – and I am no naturalist anyway. But I do love it down there, especially when the weather is wet or cold and the faint-hearted stay warm abed. 

I stopped halfway through my walk to sit on an old log, take my flask from my pack and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. I was warming my hands on the mug when I saw her, just an outline in the fog at first, her hull low on the water. She was about twenty-seven feet, not counting her bowsprit, a gaff-rigged cutter, tan sails limp and wet, hull barely moving the water but to me she was beautiful. 

She’s an ex-shrimper, wide in the beam with a shallow draft, ideal for mooching around in rivers and coastal waters. Converted in the 1970’s with a four-berth cabin added and a low coach roof she still has a powerful engine and I know (she’s a local boat) that her owner and his wife still take her out beyond the bar and up the coast for a bit of dredging for shrimp in the season.

 She was struggling to make it back to her berth under sail with the tide turning against her, but her owners were obviously unwilling to spoil the peace of the morning by starting her engine. I sat for a few moments after I had finished my coffee, and the boat had drifted back into the mist, and watched a heron dip her head and pull out a wriggling half-pound of silver that she struggled to swallow – but she seemed pleased with herself once she had got it down. 

I moved on then, carried on toward the path that skirts the lighthouse and takes me back to my car. I had just reached the start of the path when from up river, where it narrows in a bottleneck and the tide is at its most fierce, I heard the cough of a diesel as it fired into life. 

Back at my car, I still had energy left over so I broke my journey home for a stroll along the canal towpath. There are several narrow boats here that have people living onboard all year round. A Narrow boat can be seventy feet long but they are usually only six feet-six inches wide so they are sort of cosy. Still, bright paintwork with decorated buckets and brass and copper jugs perched on the cabin roof make for a cheerful and welcoming sight. 

The morning was getting on but I caught the smell of frying bacon from somebody’s breakfast mixing with the wood-smoke from the stoves – even the thickest fog can’t hide the appetizing smell of frying bacon. 

In one of the boats, and there are about three that are lived in, I could see through the cabin window a guy sat at the tiny dining table with his laptop, pounding away at the keys, books open around him. It could have just been someone working from home but I know that in one of the boats lives a chap who is a writer and poet in residence for a local borough council. It’s a terribly grand title but it just means that he does the odd thing for the council as well as visiting local writing groups at the various libraries. The job brings in any expenses he incurs but he will never make a living at it – still, I envy him for some reason. 

Perhaps I am just getting restless; maybe I need some time away. I don’t want to go to France and the usual cottage in Scotland doesn’t appeal. I think I need to do something a bit more adventurous, a bit more demanding. Now, a tent in the rain alongside the river Etive in the Great Glen or maybe at the foot of Suilven with the freedom to roam – that does appeal. 

However, sitting here at my desk, about to carry on with my book, I’m happy enough. There is a feeling now that I am starting to get somewhere. A feeling that I have finally parted with procrastination and that my life is moving again toward the goals that I have set myself.

My Poems

Ice Ditty

(This particular poem was written while I was in the navy and service in Submarines took me up into the Arctic Ocean)

Iridescence dances on a slate-sea stage

to the tinkling of ice in the air,

Growlers play bass backed by glacial pack

and the wind keeps time in its lair.

 

The show only stops when fading light

shows the north that the gods are bored,

then the sky turns bright with aurora’s light

and the flash of Odin’s sword.

 

The gods, enthralled, watch the show of lights

till dawn brings a short-lived day

In the dull-grey light a distant drum

signals time for Thor to play.

 

Thor’s-hammer pounds and frightened clouds

race across the sky

ripples disturb the sea’s flat calm

as the northwind starts to fly.

 

growlers and icebergs jostle for space

and the pack is torn and tossed

while iridescence hides her blue-white light

and weeps for harmony lost

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A Writer’s Dilemma

 

How do I catch it ?

This will-o-the-wisp that eludes my grasp,

This seed of a beginning that tantalises me with a brief glimpse,

teases me with promises of blossoming,

Then disappears into the depths of lost ideas.

How do I catch it, nurture it, watch it grow,

When I have no knowledge of what it is,

where it is or how it came to be.

What is this thing that haunts me,

that keeps me staring at a screen, a sheet of paper, a blank wall.

Is it what I need, what I’m searching for,

Is it the key? But the key to what?

How do I catch it?

When every time I try I drive it deeper,

Deeper into me, into the black infertile depths of long dead memories to be forgotten to be mourned.

How do I bring it into the light of my consciousness,

give it air, give it food, give it life, grant it a beginning.

How do I catch it?

——————————————————————————

Tell me, what is the shelf life of the seed of an idea?

How long before the seed case hardens and wrinkles,

before the soft kernel dries and dies?

How long before germination is impossible, before the chance is gone?

How large a void is the storage for ideas,

How small is the seed of inspiration.

How long before the distant, pinpoint light of promise is extinguished?

How will I find it then?