Friday, 5 August 2011

Time and Tide

There are seafarers in my blood, but so diluted with time, I can barely taste the salt.

Benjamin, buried in All Saints Churchyard, St Thomas, West Indies. Swallowed in a sickly squall of yellow fever, aged 28. His son John, Master of pilot's cutters, 'Deerhound' and 'Jessica'. Quoted as being "a sailor-man of the W.W.Jacobs type." "…affectionately known in port circles as ‘Old Jack…"

Do these characters hold the key to my affinity with the sea? From the shoreline, my eyes are set on the two blues of their horizon. My ears strain for a whisper of a tall tale, from somewhere beneath the shrieking of gulls.

Me and the Sea
(from 28th March, 2010 - above photograph, layers of Cornwall 2009, and Hayling Island 1950s)

For all the hours, my wide eyes scanned
The unfamiliar streets and signs
That led the way to what you’d planned
Against my huffs and puffs and whines.

Until, in time, a swollen blue
That grew with each new sweeping bend
And, colour-washed in summer hue,
A day I could not bear to end.

For all the sweet salt, glint and foam,
The well-worked spade and painted pail,
I rested all my thoughts of home
And felt my racing heart set sail.


  1. What a beautiful poem, matched by gorgeous images. I especially like that your whining reluctance ends in your heart "setting sail". I know people here in the North-East of Scotland who MUST live by the sea - as the rest of us must breathe air.

  2. Beautiful images and words!

    Even though I was born far from the sea, it is by the sea where I always feel most myself. Rome was close enough to the sea to feel the breeze (il ventolino) bring relieve in the late afternoon to the hot streets. And knowing that the sea was only a short metro ride away was enough.

  3. I love the rhythmic wave in this... and I'm partial to all poems about the sea... this one is at the top of my list!

  4. Beautiful, Martin!
    And the photos are just gorgeous, too! I love the sea!

  5. Beautiful post, Martin. I love the image of the child. I too have a deep affinity with the sea. I live slightly inland but grew up in Dublin close to it. My long term ambition is to live there again, I feel bereft if I havent seen the see in a week or so, my kids now are the same and they dont even mind the cold water.

  6. W.W.Jacobs! Now there's a name from the past to conjure with - do you remember The Monkey's Paw?

    The chemical composition of blood and sea water is curiously similar...

  7. You conjure up some wonderful memories.

    I too am currently reading Larsson and, much to my surprise, I am absolutely gripped.

  8. Lucky they had children when they were young, in the 'good old days' as they often died quite young - dying of yellow fever would be horrible. I especially love the 2nd photo - very dreamlike. Your poem is wonderful - I'm glad you came round to the sea :) - the last line 'And felt my racing heart set sail.' is just right.

  9. Christine - Thank you. Yes, it's a curious thing, our relationship with the sea. Perhaps it's because we are an 'island' people. There are definitely 'hot spots' along the coast, where I feel particularly connected.

    Merisi - The sea sends its calling card on an irresistible breeze.

    Laurie - Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Betsy - Thanks. I was lucky to snap those gulls in a whirling group.

    Brigid - I would also love to live nearer the sea. That photograph of me, layered on a more recent shot of Chapel Porth beach, is really wishful thinking.

    Christopher - As soon as I discovered W.W. Jacobs, 'The Lady of the Barge and Other Stories' found its way to my Kindle, very quickly. The Monkey's Paw is a favourite.

    Friko - Thank you. Larsson takes a little while to warm up but, like you, I am gripped now.

    Carrie - Thank you.

    Gabrielle - I often think of how Benjamin's widow wouldn't have received the news of his death for weeks, or most likely, months. In the 1861 census her recorded occupation is bonnet-maker, often a euphemism for prostitute. Goodness knows what her life must have been like. Benjamin's son, John, (my 2 x great grandfather) lived to the age of 92.

    Glad you enjoyed the poem.

  10. Lovely Martin - words and pictures!

  11. I love the image of the child and sandpail!

  12. I really enjoy reading your work. I need to stop in more often. Life gets too busy but I must try.

  13. Maybe she was a bonnet maker - sometimes a cigar is just a cigar - it would have been an incredibly difficult life, you'd do what you had to do to survive, especially with children. We never really know the truth about the past, I suppose - just glimmers of partial truths - all very fascinating.

  14. gabrielle - That is my dearest hope that Sarah was a bonnet-maker. But the family lived in the darkest quarter of the city, near the quayside and, according to the records, the place was swarming with criminals, seafarers and ladies of ill-repute.


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