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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Coming Home

quay

The sea is in my veins. 

The flat sands of  the beaches of Aberdeen were my playground, scouring the rock pools for crab, or crouching between the boulders to collect a bucket-load of buckies, those little whelk-like crustaceans which we harvested home to then boil, and pull out to spear and eat straight from the shell with a pin. 

My friends and I scoured the coast to collect only the finest of pearlised seashells, and we sifted through the shingle strewn farthermost corners of the beach, to cherry-pick out the brightest marbled gems from the thousands of multi-coloured, glistening pebbles at our feet.  Often searching the shoreline  for smooth, sculpted driftwood, we’d gather up the finest of what the waves washed up, marking it for later transformation into a twisted sailing ship, a gnarly-faced dragon, a lop-sided lighthouse or whatever other creation the particular timber whispered into our ear.  

Coves and caves furnished a perfect backdrop to our many adventures with pirates, smugglers, mermaids, and those pesky huge, killer monster squids. Soft powdery sand was easily landscaped to furnish an ample moat protection around our dunes/castles, and we repelled many Evil English, countless one-eyed giants, and any other number of loathsome invaders who were either intent upon striking us down dead, ransacking our lands, or kidnapping our treasures.

I learned how to use seaweed as a weather barometer, how to recognise and name numerous species’ of seabird, and to spot (through dire experience) where and when the tides were most likely to cut us off and away from the shore.

Da was a trawler-man, hauling the cod all the way from Iceland and back, and by day Ma and all the other fish-wives filleted the fish down by the quay-side, exchanging banter and trading gossip, as they deftly and continuously sliced the freezing, wet flesh from the bone.

Ma’s knuckles were permanently raw and chafed, her ankles swollen.  Da was often gone on the boats for weeks at a time. Fishing being the only real mainstay of the town, this way of life was little different from those of our neighbours, they who were housed in the self same tenement buildings we called home.

Despite the necessity for most of our mothers to hold down a full time job, tending house and raising children still firmly remained  “women’s work”.  This is 1960’s working-class Scotland.  No decent woman would ever be seen entering a pub, the men drank and any (good) woman stayed home of a night.

If a man chose to beat his wife, what went on behind closed doors was nobody’s business but his own, there was no call to interfere.  Divorce being a scandal solely reserved for the gentry, once wed, you stayed wed.

Not that you had to necessarily stay living together, mind.  But, hell or high water, most did.  It took a man’s wage to raise a family, and few women could replace that on their own.  The days of equal pay lay decades ahead, and once the children arrived, my mother’s  generation couldn’t afford the luxury of walking out on a marriage, just cause or not.

Though Ma eventually did. 

We left the sea, the Country even.  Land-locked in England with all the funny accents, I missed my open playgrounds and hated the soot-blackened, crowded city with no sign of trees or a blade of grass.

Da eventually found us, but instead of taking us home as I'd hoped, he elected to stay where we’d moved, swapping the trawler boats for a steel factory.  A job he hated.

Years and years and years passed.  I grew up and left home, seeking my fame and fortune in London.  More years passed, and I found it.  Several more years down the line, I met my husband and we made a family all of our own.

But the sea is, always has been, in my veins, and still it called to me.

Until one day, almost ten years ago, I knew I could ignore it no more.  My family DID NOT want to move to this sleepy little island, but they came all the same.

It’s a happy ending.  

The beach became my children's own playground, they fought in coves and caves against pirates, and pesky giant monster squids, learned to forecast the weather from seaweed on the shore, sculpted their own masterpieces out of driftwood, and have built fortresses on the dunes.  They are older now, and have found other uses for the beach -  parties, barbeque's, the odd summer swim.

Where ever they may travel now, the sea is firmly in their veins, too.

My husband can’t wait to retire and live here on a permanent basis, for out of all of us, I think it is he who loves this place the best.

And as for me?

It is not my birthplace, not even my birth Country, but yes, I’ve finally found my way back home.

The sea is in my veins.

107 comments:

TechnoBabe said...

Odd thing, that, when you find your perfect place it does feel like "coming home". I am so happy for you and for your husband that you are at peace in your home.

Ms. A said...

What a beautiful place to call home!

Sharon J said...

Such a beautiful piece of writing and the perfect place to call home. Your children are very lucky to be growing up there.

Leslie: said...

I understand exactly what you mean. When we moved to Ottawa (for a 3-year temporary stay), the first thing I noticed was that the air smelled "dead." No freshness, no sea breeze - just dead! I'm so glad I live near the ocean again and if I ever move again, it will have to be near some sort of sea!

texwisgirl said...

wow, that was really beautifully written. your simple seaside childhood, your mother's struggles (and your father's), your city life and back home to the sea. and now your children's seaside life. :)

Anthony Duce said...

The story is great. Finding the best things in a childhood and giving it to your children has to be rewarding. By the sea or big water, is good place to be..

Les Becker said...

Can't get the water out, ever, can you? In my case, it's the Great Lakes - I've not seen an ocean yet - but I've fought my share of pirates. Thanks for your memories, Shrink; now I'll spend my evening smiling over my own. :-)

mythopolis said...

I absolutely loved reading this. You painted so many pictures in my mind. The personal connection with the sea, the history behind it all, spanning your life, your parent's lives, and the lived of your children. A wonderful piece of writing that should be kept in the family treasure box forever.

dykewife said...

i've never lived near the sea or even seen the ocean. i'm a stubble jumper, a prairie girl down to the core of my being. being able to watch a lingering sunrise or equally lingering sunset,was something that i missed terribly and was part of the cause of my claustrophobia when we visited the mountains on our honeymoon. the prairies have a subtle beauty and stark elegance that other places don't have and many people miss when they describe the flatlands as "boring."

yeah, i can relate to your feelings about the sea. it's how i feel about the flatlands of north america.

Grayquill said...

Nice...Gotta love this post! Good one.

Fen said...

aaah the island is lovely and I definitely have sea in my veins too. My Dad is visiting in a few months, I wish I could come over with him, alas with a new job I won't have the leave available.

Shrinky said...

Hi TechnoBabe, I believe you yourself, also "came home" not so long ago, didn't you? Isn't it a good feeling!

Shrinky said...

Yeah Ms A, it sure is (smile)!

Shrinky said...

Sharon, I promised myself when we first moved here that I would never take this place for granted, and I haven't. I still get a high even when I do the school run..!

Shrinky said...

Ah Leslie, the sea is obviously in your blood too, eh? Yes, the air is very different in our cities, when I moved to the city as a child, there were no smoke emission laws in those days - factories belched out smoke 24/7, and everyone burned coal fires. The smog was so thick some days you couldn't see a hand in front of your face. Ugh.

Shrinky said...

Hi there Texwisgirl, aw, I am so glad you thought so, the sea has been a constant thread woven through the generations of my family (grin).

Shrinky said...

Hi Anthony, so good to see you in here! Yes, I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to relocate to this place - in many ways it's like stepping back 30 years in time - I like that.

Shrinky said...

Awww Les (hugs), you always wrap a smile around my heart! I'm glad you "get it", sounds like you also share that need for the water, huh?

Shrinky said...

Oh Dan, my toes curled in delight reading this! You know, when we hit publish on a new post, I think most of us are slightly hesitant about how it will be received by our peers, I certainly am. Thank you for affirming I got my message across, I knew what I wanted to say, but wasn't so sure I'd managed to quite convey it. But you "get it", and I'm so thrilled that you have! (x)

Shrinky said...

Ahhhhhhhh Dykewife, I hear exactly what you say, and you wrote it so elequently - sea, prairie, it makes no difference, it's what calls to your soul that actually counts, isn't it?

Shrinky said...

Cheers Gray Quill, and thank you for those kind words, it means a lot to me (grin).

Shrinky said...

Oh Fen - poo!! Darn it girl, so close and yet so far, eh? My header pic is taken literally yards away from your name sake, Fennella Beach, you know! I truly hope you can save some time off for a re-visit to your mum's birth place, when you do, I'll be here waving like a loony by the arrivals, to welcome you back!!

Sharon J said...

That's how I feel about Norway. There's so much I took for granted while I lived there that I desperately miss now. If I ever move back there, I swear I'll never take it for granted again.

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

being surrounded by miles and miles of Texas you'd think I'd be envious..but as much as I love the sea...I love my little town more..so I know how you feel.

Dee Newman said...

So well written . . . spanning three generation of both the evolution of your family and the culture and communities in which you have lived. You are a superb writer.

Shrinky said...

Hi Jackie, yup, home is truly where the heart is, isn't it?

Shrinky said...

Ah Dee, it a whole different world now from how it was forty years ago - much as we "oldies" might like to bemoan the values of today, it does well to recall how some things REALLY were back then. I am glad my children exist in this present time, it has a whole lot more going for it than we often give credit!

Dee, blogger is giving me a regular headache when I try to comment on certain sites, refusing to recognise my id. I'm afraid try as I might, I can't leave a comment on your wonderful bench post (for now), but I shall keep trying.

Margie said...

Loved this post!
You are "home" and how wonderful that is!
I love the sea as I grew by it and miss it so much!
We have beautiful mountains here in Colorado but the sea, how I love the sea!

Beautiful picture!

Shrinky said...

Hey there Margie, how wonderful to see you back in here again! Yes, you DO live in a beautiful place, but I know what you mean - there is something primeval about the sea that never lets go, isn't there?

Putz said...

well put, my dear

Barbara Shallue said...

Beautifully told - what a magical childhood and I'm so glad you were able to provide the same for your children. The sea calls to me, too, but I can only pacify it with a weekend or two to the coast each year.

Shammickite said...

I was born and brought up by the sea at the other end of the country.... in North Devon. I saw the sea and the beach everyday from my bedroom window. And now I live in the middle of North America many hundreds of miles from the sea. And I stay here because my children live here.... and now my grandchildren live here... and my soon-to-be-born grandchildren will be born here. But I'd love to be by the sea again.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

So beautifully written---I could see it all, and feel your comfort at being "home" with the Sea....Isn't it wonderful that your husband loves this place even more than you...! It so could have been another way. I dearly wished to see pictures of all your treasures---Especially, The Sea Shells. I always have loved the Sea...And going searching for treasures of Sea Shells---My very favoriye thing to do.

Brian Miller said...

nice. loved our years at the ocean...there is such a rhythm of the ocean that makes living easy...glad you found home again...

Sandy said...

What a talent for writing you have. You drew me in with the first paragraph and i didn't want it to end - like a good novel i wanted it to keep going.

loved reading this and glad you found you way to the sea...

Debra said...

Such a beautiful post, dear Shrinky. And I can so relate to your need to be by the sea, as I have found my way home as well. Being from New York and then migrating to California after college, I have always lived within a short drive to the ocean, first the Atlantic and now, the Pacific. As I write, I am listening to the waves gently rolling onto the shore at high tide. Looking up, I can see the water glistening in my yard and the sea breeze is causing the flowers to sway in the sunlight. I am home. Three years ago, after my beloved brother suddenly passed away at the age of 41, my husband and I made a very impulsive decision to purchase a home on the ocean. In so many ways, it saved my sanity. We still live 'full-time" in our family home which is only 20 minutes away, but I have been spending more and more time at our smaller home by the sea. It calls out to me when I am not here and when I am, I feel grounded. We plan on selling our family home in a few years when our youngest daughter is in college(she has one more year of high school) and then moving down here for good, but for now, this works.

I understand, my mermaid sister. Once you allow the sea water to run through your veins, the ocean will always call you home...

Thank you for sharing your lovely words.

Hugs,
Deb

Linda said...

This is beautifully and poignantly written, Shrinky. Just lovely.

TALON said...

Your header shot is absolutely breath-taking. And how lovely to come home again. It's a feeling unequalled. Sounds like a beautiful home-coming.

Shrinky said...

Hi again Sharon, oh Norway? Yes I can well understand how much you must miss such a beautiful place..

Shrinky said...

Cheers Putz!

Shrinky said...

Hi Barbara, my old home town is barely recognisable from how it was back then - North Sea Oil struck, and Aberdeen became a boom town shortly after I left!

Shrinky said...

Ah Shamickite, yes, that's a long, long way away from your beautiful Devon, but you obviously have put down deep roots in your adoptive town - it's family above anything else that truly makes the place you live in home, isn't it?

Shrinky said...

Hello Lady of the Hills, I must pull out some of my childrens treasures to photograph (why didn't I think of that?)!! Yes, poor hubby, he literally had to look this place up on the map to find out where we were moving to (giggle). And yes, thank goodness he did fall in love with the place!

Shrinky said...

Hi Brian, yes, there is a different pace to living by the coast, I believe that's true.

Shrinky said...

Sandy, what a lovely thing to say, thank you for that, it's made my day!

Shrinky said...

Oh Deb, what a gorgeous picture you paint of your place by the sea, it sounds as though you've found a true piece of heaven on earth there. I am obviously preaching to the converted here, you know all about the healing properties of living by the ocean, it's a theraputic bandage for the soul, isn't it? I felt I was dying in the city, there was no option left but to move - I can honestly say since then I have never regretted one single day!

Shrinky said...

Hello Linda, I am so glad you liked it, I feel quite passionate about my adoptive isle (smile).

Shrinky said...

Hi Talon, The header shot is of Peel beach, with the castle in the background - I took it whilst doing the "ghost walk" last summer. I hope to do another one this year, maybe in Douglas, it's good because it takes you down some back streets and to the out of the way places that you wouldn't ordinarily go - and it's a good excuse to take the camera along (grin).

ladyfi said...

Wonderful post... it#s a beautiful place.

laughingwolf said...

you truly can't go home again... the only constant being change....

Cricket said...

Lovely remembrance, very well written. I'm torn, myself - I have fond memories of my grandmother's seaside house, and yet a strange love for decaying factories and real city noise. Hard for me to sleep without sirens and traffic, and there it is.

I guess my blood is half seawater, half diesel, which probably explains something.

Akelamalu said...

I so enjoyed reading this Shrinky. I would love to live by the sea.

Bijoux said...

Great post and I love the photo, Shrinky!!! This reminds me of books I've read, but not something I've ever lived, that's for sure!

X. Dell said...

(1) I find it fascinating that the sea--not a town, not a nation, nor even a house--is what you identify most as home. In other narratives it could be the range, the plains, the steel jungle, or any other environment that gets under your skin and changes you forever.

(2) By the same token, you seem to have given that sense of home to your children. In a metaphoric way, it's as though they're living in the house where you grew up.

(3) In your mom's case, it would seem personal scandal was steeped more in economic realities than in anything else. I could really sense the feeling of helplessness of women trapped into loveless and/or violent marriages because every other alternative seemed worse.

Shrinky said...

It is indeed, LadyFi, thank you.

Shrinky said...

Yes Laughing Wolf, I speak only metaphorically, the thought of actually returning back to my own childhood is something I'd never wish for.

Shrinky said...

Hi there Akelamalu, there were many years I never dared hope to return to the sea, it took a lot of defiance and going against the odds to eventually make it into a reality (grin).

Shrinky said...

Ha, Bijeaux - I have truly lived a rich and very full life - if not all of it by choice! My children may one day trip over this blog of mine, so I self-edit much of what I post in here. Ohhhhhhhhh, the stories I have left untold..!!

Shrinky said...

Yes Cricket, I do hesr what you say, the bustle of the cities do offer much that a small community like this is unable to sustain, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the varied cultural and cosmopolitan make-up I used to take for granted. It can get a little chlostrophobic here at times - but I am doubly blessed in that we still keep a house in London (since my husband lives there half of the time), and so when the need grabs me, I can also dip my toe back into the hurly burly of "the action" of the metropolitan life too. The best of both worlds (smile).

Shrinky said...

My goodness X-Dell, you are so chillingly astute, talk about cut to the chase!

1. a) Escaping to the beach provided a happy refuge for me from a troubled home life, and, b) Having moved around as a child so many times from one Country to another, I held little affiliation to any of the towns I happened to pass through

2. This observation hit me like a sack of bricks! We inherited a nonsensical house name when we bought this house, and opted to change it. I left the beach, and Aberdeen when I was only 8, the house we lived in back then was called Bramble Brae. Um, guess what name I re-christened our new home with??

3. Yes, economics held a huge sway over the power structure within the family back then, but it was also twinned by the prevailing culture of the time. Even should a woman be fortunate enough to have the means to willingly exit from an unhappy marriage, she would always carry around a badge of shame, and be mostly excluded from any "decent" society.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Theere's no place like home-- Once you figure out what it is. So glad you have yours and the family loves it as much, or more, as you. That's a real joy.

And really!?!?! Seaweed as a weather barometer???

xo jj

Shrinky said...

Yup, jj, from live seaweed you can predict rain or sun from the level of bloating in the air pockets there!

Skunkfeathers said...

Home's where you're happy ;-)

Jeaux said...

You've compressed so much into this little memento which nonetheless breathes and shimmers.

I share your love of the sea. I'm OK with being landlocked in a metropolis (which are generally near water anyway), but elsewhere a water feature, if only a stream, is important to my well being.

"the particular timber whispered into our ear." Nice.

Pat Tillett said...

A great story and a happy ending so far! I'm glad you are happy where you are...
Have a good week!

WhisperingWriter said...

Beautiful area!

simon said...

Aberdeen....where I met Dr Jim fowler, his students and spent the most amazing part of my life heading to shetland. I love Aberdeen.. where everything is grey and beautiful

Shrinky said...

'Tis so very true, dear Skunk!

Shrinky said...

Ah Jeaux, I love your visits! I think I understand exactly what you mean, even during my many years living in London, I bought a house located right by the river Thames - actually, it also was the starting point for the annual Putney Boat Race (Cambridge v Oxford)- I loved the carnival atmosphere, and oogling all those fit, muscular oarsmen row past.. (blush) ohhh, such a wonderful guilty pleasure!!

Shrinky said...

Hi there Pat, yeah it's turned out well - though I did take a couple of years to switch from my city mentality - over here no one beeps at the lights if the car in front is slow to pull away, you do NOT cut people up, and if the person in front being served in the shop chooses to have a long conversation with the clerk about their great aunt Maude, you don't check your watch, tut or sigh!

Shrinky said...

Hi WW, it is in the summer, the entire island comes alive - but the winters can be pretty wet and relentless - guess that's why it is so green and verdant, eh?

Shrinky said...

Oh Simon, I am thrilled you have such fond memories of The Granite City with Jim - it has changed much from my childhood years, but it's essence is still much the same (smile).

Out on the prairie said...

Even a middle country lad like myself feels the passion for the sea. It is in almost every vacation I take.

Shrinky said...

Oh, you also live in a magical place, right out there on the prairie, I think many would envy you such an idyllic spot!

Nancy said...

What a terrific post! So much here, layer upon layer. I have been landlocked most of my life, but I am never happier then when next to the sea.

The Blue Zoo said...

I just love the way you write... =)

Shrinky said...

Hi Nancy, I do tend to ramble a bit once I start (grin), but I did try to come back on topic in the end!

Shrinky said...

Aw Stephanie, thanks for that!

imbeingheldhostage said...

What a rich, beautiful history you have-- and are equally making for your children.
This was a lush read today Shrinky, thank you!

Hilary said...

There are many worse places one could settle.. but not too many finer. Lovley. And that image.. beautiful!

Rock Chef said...

Now old on there a minute! I must object to your "evil English" comment! What did the English ever do to get that reputation?

Oh I know there was a bit of killing, repression, stealing of land, suppression of language, stealing of oil...

:-)

Suldog said...

Magnificent prose, Shrinky. As one who has lived somewhat near an ocean for his entire life, I can fully understand and appreciate what you've written about home. When you've inhaled salt air for years, it becomes a part of your soul.

Shrinky said...

Hi i'mbeingheldahostage, "a lush read"? Ooooooh, thank you bonny lass, I LOOOVE that, see my big, cheesy grin?

Shrinky said...

Hello Hilary, from what I have gleaned from your wonderful photographic documentation of your own neighbourhood, it looks like I am not the only one who has found her little piece of heaven on earth!

Shrinky said...

Haha, oh RC, if I thought they were evil before, that was waaay before I married an Englishman, and had four English children to contend with. It's confirmed ALL my worst suspicions..!

Shrinky said...

Doesn't it just, Jim? (Grin)

mrsnesbitt said...

I fully understand this feeling - I too was brought up with the beach on our doorstep and when my first teaching job took me to Nottingham it was the seaside I missed so much. Now I am home again and spend many happy days on the beach with Freida. One poem always sums it up for me...
maggie and milly and molly and may
By e.e. cummings


maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles; and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
That last line says it all eh?

See you soon - off to pack me bags! lol!

Shrinky said...

What a lovely poem Denise, I've never heard that one before, and yes, it's so apt, isn't it? (Smile) I look forward to seeing you and Jon very soon, the kettle will be on!

Postman said...

I'm a landlubber and the word "beachcombing" always brings hairbrushes to my mind, but I think I know what you're talking about. There's something about the sea, and where the sea meets land, that gets under your skin (in a very good way).

Excellent and evocative post.

Shrinky said...

Hey there Postman, how great to see you back in here again. Haaaaaa, a hairbrush? Yup, you're a landlubber, sure enough! Still, it's good to see even a landlubber like yourself knows of the pull that the sea can cast over a soul..

Sabi Sunshine said...

wow cool place to go ..... One day will go with my love to visit..

Love
Sabi Sunshine

Tag said...

Though I've never been to your part of the globe a week of binge reading Iain Banks and now your post has left me feeling as if I had grown up there with you. Well Done.

Shrinky said...

Aw, now wouldn't that be nice, eh sabi?

Scott from Oregon said...

That's not the sea. Methinks it's the salt from too many Margaritas...

Middle Child said...

This is just a beautiful story - and I understand it - the lichen covered boulders and mountains near my mum and dad's home at the base of the great dividing ranges in NSW - have my heart - and here I am living on a dead flat flood plain - it is very beautiful but I miss those raw winters and deep valleys as you missed the seashore

Shrinky said...

Ahem (blush), who's been talking, Scott??

Shrinky said...

Ah Therese, you can take the girl outta' the mountain, but never the mountain outta' the girl, eh? Yes, I can understand that (smile)..

Shrinky said...

Hi there Tag, thanks for stopping by! Oooh, I love Iain Banks, yes reading him, you definitely qualify as an honorary Brit - welcome aboard, my friend!

#1Nana said...

I have a river in my backyard, but I long for an ocean. How lucky you are to have an island!

Shrinky said...

Hi #1 Nana, ha, we also have a river flowing through our back garden, with trout and salmon in it - the previous owner was a keen fisherman and installed a boulder "drop" (it goes from shallow to very deep). I have a few friends who like to fish there, but I'm happy just to be left with the BBQ duties, I've never caught a fish there yet!

Casdok said...

Glad for the happy ending :)

Shrinky said...

Me too, Casdok! (Smile)

foam said...

Beautiful!!
You know .. along our coasts the folks who are from there feel more a connection with folks from other coasts regardless of where that coast is geographically. inlanders are a different species .. :-)
i'm glad you found your way home.

Tag said...

Thank you for the fine welcome.

Jayne said...

Oh Shrinky, what a gorgeous, lush memoir! I could see you turning this into a book.("fish-wives"-ha!)
I loved reading this post--so peaceful and full of contentment. You're lucky you've found your way back home. I'm still stuck in the suburbs, but someday... ;)

secret agent woman said...

Mine, too, since I grew up in a Navy family. I love the mountains here, but I sure miss the ocean.

365 Attempts (At Life) said...

This was a beautifully written piece, stained with genuine appreciation. Your descriptions were so vivid, I was there too. And it's so lovely there. ;-) Send this to piece to be published in a travel mag! Had I read it on the plane, I'd have asked the pilot to redirect his course. Tanya