Tag Archives: sea

September 20: L is for Lindisfarne

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A modern coble captured by Nigel Coates

Let’s go almost as far north as we can in England, to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. There are many stories of the early saints of Holy Island, and we can come back to Cuthbert, Aidan and their companions again. But today I’m retelling a cautionary tale of the last two centuries, from Richard Perry’s 1946 book A Naturalist on Lindisfarne. It is worth the telling because we need to take care of our earth and the seas that surround it.

The morning I wrote this piece there were fishermen on the radio convinced that Brexit would lead to greater catches for themselves with the European nations excluded from their grounds.

Perry suggests this is unlikely to happen.

He tells how over-fishing at the end of the nineteenth century led to the end of the herring industry. The fishermen took to catching white fish inshore, but

‘light trawling during the war of 1914-18 brought relief to over-trawled fishing and spawning grounds and allowed the white fish to increase to their immemorial millions at a time when inshore fishermen were beginning to suffer from the effects of this over-fishing. But within a few years of the end of the war the trawler fleets were again cleaning up the inshore grounds of both lobsters and white fish; just as the drifters had destroyed the inshore  herring fishing. By 1931 the catches of the ten Island cobles were only ten or twenty per cent of those taken before or after the war…

‘With the year 1945 at an end …events will no doubt conform to the post 1914-18 pattern, with seven  or ten good years inshore fishing, before the trawlers have swept the grounds clean of all marketable fish.’

Let us pray for wisdom all round as Britain and Europe’s leaders negotiate every aspect of their new relationship. May God’s earth, sea and air not be forgotten! And let us pray for all fishermen and all at peril on the Sea.

Laudato Si’.

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July 31, Inter-galactic encounters XXX: the wrong seats, II

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Ajax was telling the Director about something that had happened while the two Ossyrian researchers, disguised as Chihuahuas, had been staying with their friends, the Turnstones.

‘Abel had just had his birthday, so he’s now two. He and his parents came round while we were at Will’s, and when Will brought the tea tray into the front room, Abel pulled his mother off the armchair. He said, “Grandad chair, Grandad chair!’

‘He was quite agitated’, said Alfie, ‘as if the whole world depended on everyone being in the right place. He sat on his own little green chair when he’d got his grandparents sorted.

‘Mrs T was laughing, but Abel was too intent on getting things right to notice.’

‘What do we take from that?’ Pondered T, the Director. ‘An inborn desire for order, security, perhaps. But Abel does not always want a rigid routine. He also wants adventure. Remember when he went paddling in the pool last winter?’

‘Don’t remind us!’ said Alfie, ‘and don’t expect us to come swimming with you just because the air temperature is above 20° Celsius.’

‘He was wearing a ski suit and boots. But do I take it that you guys are ready to go back to pod life? I’m sure it could be arranged in a couple of earth months.’

The pseudo-chihuahuas buried their heads under their common blanket. There were thoughts they did not wish to share with the Director.

 

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Inter-galactic Explorations XXVI: The Black Dog.

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‘You heard that?’ said Alfie, as the dogs, T, Abel and Will walked back to the railway station. ‘Abel said bye bye, black dog.’

‘His language is coming on,’ remarked T, ‘but did you see him scream and kick? He is so pleased when he says something new, but he gets frustrated when he cannot make Will understand.’

‘Even though we can read his thoughts without words,’ flashed Ajax. ‘Why can’t humans just do that?’

‘Sometimes they can. Will knows when Abel is tired and needs picking up. But this afternoon Abel wanted to play on the lift at the gallery, and the gallery is closed. Abel likes the world to be predictable. When he comes to Margate he likes to eat fish and chips with Will, to play in the lift, and to splash in the pool on the beach. He’ll be working the lift at the station right now.’

T realised he was talking to himself. The chihuahuas had put a safe distance between themselves and the pool, and were no longer listening.

‘That was predictable,’ mused T. ‘I guess there’s predictable and predictable. We came to bring peace, but I’m not sure we knew what peace on earth would mean. Some Earthlings would go along with pod life, safely fed and entertained, no quarrels because there’s nothing to quarrel about.

‘Even though he likes working the lift, I don’t think Abel would enjoy being cared for by sensitive robots. But then we’ve not bred for centuries, which has stopped quarrels about mates; so what do we know about children?  It’s there in the libraries, how to love a child and share life with it. That would rock a few of our citizens.

‘Mind you, sharing among ourselves is changing those two, and maybe me as well.
‘Hey, who’s that Alfie’s talking to? I can’t pick up his vibes at all!’

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17 July: F is for Fishguard

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What is it about Docks and Ports? Dover, East End of London, and now Fishguard? Things happen there, as they do at railway stations.

Fishguard, one of the ports to go to Ireland, is tucked into this rocky Welsh shore, not far from St David’s. I introduced readers to the late John Byrne a year ago last month; he was a highly respected Irish railway modeller.

He was also a retired sea captain. When we were in Pembrokeshire I sent him a photo of the Ferry arriving in port; he recognised her at once, saying she was not built for the Irish Sea and the Atlantic swells, but for the enclosed Mediterranean  or the Baltic, and gave many a rough ride when the wind was up.

I wonder how it was for Saint Nôn and her son David, forced into exile when he was little, voyaging on a tiny boat across the very sea that John’s big ship was so ill-equipped for?

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Let us remember in our prayers all those in peril on the sea, especially those trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats. Like the one used to make the Lampedusa Cross. And remember, too, the crews who spend months at sea, rarely able to call home, ill-paid, forgotten by us consumers who depend on their hard work. crososososo1450655040

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July 16: Hog’s fennel.

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The old road passes along the top of Tankerton slope after running inland to skirt the Marshes. The sea wall with its promenade protects the slope from crumbling into the waters, and apart from rough grass there are green plants and bushes all the way. One rarity is hog’s fennel, which when we visited with Abel had filled a patch of land with mounds of lacy, dark green leaf. We got up close when chasing after an upwardly mobile toddler.

It is good to know that something so beautiful is being watched over, conserved.

Looking after one small corner of our shared home is a step towards saving the planet, so thanks are due to those looking after the slopes.

And Laudato Si’ !

Even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these, (Matthew 6: 29) though I can imagine William Morris enjoying the challenge of translating this into a textile design!

WT

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May 28, Inter-Galactic Explorations XXV: At High Tide.

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It was a neap tide, so even at high water T and the Chihuahuas could walk along the beach without getting their feet wet. The high tide line was always fascinating to the diminutive pseudo-dogs just as it was to the Turnstones, but having instinctively snapped up a sandhopper once, Ajax, and for that matter Alfie, was not keen to repeat the experience.

‘All salt and scales,’ Ajax said, ‘I don’t know how those birds eat them.’

There were other treasures. T once found a battered Maria Teresa piece-of-eight, but he was sure it was a nineteenth century minting. Still, keep on mooching, sniffing, looking … until there came an involuntary yelp from Alfie.

‘I’ve hurt my back foot’, he signalled. He had stood on a badly twisted beer can, hidden under seaweed and scraps of nylon netting.

T staunched the blood with clean tissues then picked up what people thought was his pet and made for the vet at the pet shop.

‘I’ll have to stitch his pad,’ said the vet. ‘He’ll need a local anæsthetic.’ She swabbed and sutured and bandaged, T holding Alfie’s paw and sweating beneath the lamp. ‘Keep the foot dry and we’ll have a look at it on the 20th.’

T here they were again on the appointed day. As she cut the dressing away, the vet exclaimed at the state of Alfie’s foot. ‘A remarkable recovery! What have you been eating, Alfie?’

While Alfie understood the question perfectly well, he could not break the Ossyrian discipline of earthly silence to tell her that T had accidentally bought a large sack of the StarStud Breeders’ Mix edition of their usual food. And he did not want to draw T’s attention to the mistake.

T’s reply to the vet reassured Alfie. ‘Just the usual Kanine Krunchies. And the odd whitebait and chips from Peter’s Fish Factory.’

‘Well he looks perfectly healthy to me. Not too much crunchy batter though. We don’t want you like those obese cocker spaniels that die before their time.’

‘No chance of that,’ beamed the 5,027 earth-years old Alfie.

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February 21: Inter-galactic Discoveries XXIV, It’s cold outside.

 

It was cold, too cold for pseudo-Chihuahuas to do more than put their noses outside the door but they were enjoying people watching from the bay window.

 

‘Look down there! It’s little Abel on the sands. What is he doing?’ Alfie was half wrapped in his blanket which had become a shared blanket, as so much was shared, freely, by the Ossyrians in dogs’ clothing, almost without their realising it was happening.

T got out his binoculars and soon focussed on the toddler, clad in blue wellington boots and a warm all-in-one suit. ‘Very interesting. We should go join them.’

‘But what is he doing?’ demanded Ajax, who could read the amusement shaking T’s shoulders, but not the reason for it.

‘Come and see,’ said T, shaking the dog leads, and off they went, past the Waste Land shelter and along the prom. Just by the Jubilee Clock, the dogs yanked their leads from T’s hand, turned tail with one accord and refused to go on to greet Will, Abel and his mother. T had to follow. When something made Will look up he just caught a glimpse of the dogs mounting the steps to their front door, with the Director some yards in the rear. He did not realise they were avoiding Abel, and T never told him.

Indoors, Alfie shivered: ‘Abel was wading about in that cold water at the edge of the sea and splashing rocks and laughing! I’ll never understand humans. He was enjoying it and his mother and Will were letting him do it, and they were laughing too.’

‘They can’t help sharing his fun, and they aren’t the sort to stop him doing it completely. Sun, Sand and Sea. That’s why we came to Margate.’

‘But not Sun, Sand, Sea and Splash!’ grumbled Alfie.

‘Lighten up boys,’ said T. ‘Laughter is part of being human. Why the wife of Abraham, mother of the great religions, even laughed at God and called her son ‘laughter’ or Isaac. But I don’t think the humans totally understand it themselves.’

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Sunset over T and Alfie and Ajax’s house, Margate, January 2017.

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25 January: Break, break, break!

 

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The train’s dirty window enhanced the gloom: the person I was meant to be meeting was ‘in a bad place’; it was cold, grey and drizzling. The English Channel was cold and grey. Brrr.

Break, break, break: I thought of Tennyson’s lines.

Break, break, break,
On thy cold grey stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

The rest of the world gets on with life, but we may well feel speechless, heartbroken. Break, break, break!

And he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death; stay you here, and watch. And when he was gone forward a little, he fell flat on the ground; and he prayed, that if it might be, the hour might pass from him. And he saith: Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this chalice from me; but not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Mark 14:34-36.

Let’s remember the broken-hearted and remember, too, seafarers, far from home, and the Apostleship of the Sea who take care of them in port.

Wt.

 

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20 January: Inter-galactic Discoveries, XXI.

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10 January: Intergalactic Explorations XX: Land of Plenty.

fish-chips-margate1-360x640‘Do you ever’, asked Alfie, gulping another morsel of battered haddock from the fish and chip shop, ‘Do you ever miss the old menu popping through the hatch in the pod? Those six foods and the same old four drinks?’

‘Nothing as tasty as batter, fish and vinegar ever passed my lips in Ossyria’, replied Ajax.

‘Perhaps not’, beamed the Director, known to his human friends as ‘T’, ‘but there is no need to half-choke yourself eating so fast. There’s plenty here for the three of us, and no scientifically controlled portions either.’

‘There was always plenty back home, but scientific protein bangers and extruded bread sticks! If I may say so Boss, everything tasted grey.’

‘Of course it did, but creatures died to feed us here on earth, fish, wheat, potatoes. We cannot escape that, even if we go vegetarian.’

‘Never suggest that again! We have canine appetites along with our canine shapes,’ flashed Ajax.

‘Well I was thinking that come Lent in March next year, I might copy some of these humans and stop eating meat for a few weeks,’ said T, ‘And try to work out why they do it. If you care to join me …’

The chihuahuas made clear that T was on his own for this project. ‘It’s utterly uncanine, it’s unossyrian, it’s unnatural; dogs eat meat,’ asserted Ajax.

‘And sitting in a grey, submarine pod, watching arm-wrestling octopi on the screens, drinking a cocktail of two parts red juice and one of green with warm ice is natural? Come on boys, here in Margate we’re learning that we have appetites and appetites are natural, and all the better for being sharpened.’

‘And some appetites are sharper than others,’ growled Ajax.

Photo by NAIB3

MMB

The appetite for learning is sharpened when the appetite for food is satisfied. You can help Mary’s Meals feed schoolchildren in Africa if you follow this link here.

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