I Do And I Don't Even Try

My life has inadvertently been involved with the sea. My natural mother was a young trawlerman's widow from Lossiemouth, by the sea, her husband had been killed I think, possibly drowned. My natural dad was at the RAF base. He may have been the cleaner for all I know, but an RAF pilot is kinda cool.

She went to her sister's in a village on the Clyde Coast where I was born. I was adopted and my dad worked in Harland & Wolfe. I caught the tail end of the famous Clyde Steamers and began my love affair with steam. The Jeanie, Waverley, Talisman, Caledonia and of course the real, original Queen Mary, built for Williamson-Buchanan Turbine Steam Syndicate in 1933 and still with us. We emigrated to the opposite side of Scotland to a quaint wee village on The Forth, next stop Norway or Denmark as the craw flies. The family still have a workshop, about 200 yds from the sea and nearly at sea level. The commute can be breathtakingly beautiful, especially at night with the moon setting over the Forth Bridges or rising in the North Sea. A nice tempest that lashes sea spray over the roof tops and sends wheelie bins scurrying for cover is a strange and wonderous joy about 2 or 3 a.m. I am alone and prisoner to its rage, captive and captivated.

One of my jobs is working in the West, on a ship, during her winter lay up. I feel I am one of a privelidged few and take quiet pride in my work.

Unfortunately, here in landlocked Derbys, we are as far as possible away from the sea as you can be in the UK. The answer is 75 miles and the River Trent, at Victoria Embankment, Nottingham, not too far from me, is 60 feet above sea level. But my commute to work is up a river side, albeit non tidal, and my work is about a 1/4 mile from it.

However we got seaguls. The wee scavenging buggers are well urbanised and get everywhere like foxes. Some one, a closet poacher and ferret smuggler, caught one. He must have had a meal in mind, but was sorely dissapointed. I'm told that ' the bugger were all air wiv no meat and the missus damn near lamped me one and threw aht the ahse on me arse. '  Put that into goole translate. I dare ye.

I have always had a thing about Deep Dark Cauld Wattur. Even as a wee bairn, I had a dread of it. Not that it stopped me swimming, which I loved, in pools or in the sea at Portobello with my pals in our school hols. You were generally ok if you kept away from the toilet paper. But dark rivers, still deep water and water falls would awake a dormant dread. I've taken a wee boat up & down Windermere, a beautiful wee carvel built vintage thing with a Stewart Turner 3 hp engine. But crossing White Cross Bay, by the cross, the wind flew down the hill and scooped up the lake into 2 foot waves. Not actually worrysome, but the darkness and cold just echoed some horror, like a termination to a previous existance maybe.

When some friends got drowned in Gladhouse reservoir 2wks ago, it rekindled memories of my dread and I can feel the very choking of my friends as they struggled and fought and feared and panicked and then, hopefully an inner peace may have prevailed. Trust me it is not a pleasant way to go.

One odd thing that folk may not realise about the sea is the smell. It differs. On the west around the Clyde there is a distinct tang. Its salty, and is there almost constantly. On the East, its a rarer. Somehow, St. Andrews or Pittenweem or even Edinburgh, with a couple of nice beaches, just don't seem to have it. Its there, but only on a few days a year.

Fresh water sounds different from sea water too. Sailing up the Clyde, usually around the Erskine Bridge ( - statute- mile post 10 from Glasgow Bridge, nearly the tidal limit ) the wash will take on a different hiss and be decidedly frothier. In the lower bar of certain ships, with the aid of some high strength supplies from The Scotch Whisky Society,  its even possible to gauge the depth of water below the keel at low tide by the sound of the wash alone. And this is in an enclosed space. Actually that's bolloks. You can do it on a cup of tea and somewhere to sit your arse by the hull. But they charge 2 quid for a cuppa.

Fresh water also has a distinct reek to it.The Clyde is Class IV drinking water. This means you'll live and the hunk of your dreams and orientation may well resussitate you. The River Trent, by  the weir at Trent Lock is particularly pungent. Its the same freshwater reek as the Clyde, but much stronger. I do not like it, and you'll be resussited with a  vacuum cleaner by a monosyllabic hulk of unfathomable species or inclination wearing ill fitting dentures. That has no appeal to me whatsoever.I've stood below the weir and the smell and the roar and the deep cold dark waters around are almost terrifying. Brum, Venice of the Black Country, is built on canals, and Gas Street Basin is a veritable hotch potch of life and merriment and Boddingtons Ale. But its not by the sea or on a tidal river, so doesn't count. Its just a nice place to go on the ****.

So there you go. Living by the sea. And if you don't, but live in low lying areas, just stick around for a while.
Pa1nsMcmurdo Pa1nsMcmurdo
41-45, M
Sep 26, 2012