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.