Shoreline ~ a Poem of the seaside


the wind rages

share the shore

a few brave souls

from home

dogs or inner demons.

nod, curtly and pass,

heads down.

the sun shines,

waves are mild

I share (with bad grace)

strand with strangers,

by heat from streets,

themselves on the sand.

feel more alone now

when the gales and storms

the hordes at home.

Sea, she




Sea, she


The sea calls me.

Some days I answer,

Worship at the threshold

Like an awed neophyte.

Other days I resist,

Turn around to woods,

Walk away, fingers in ears

Refuse to hear the siren sound.

I return, of course:

Sit on shingle, skim a stone,

Watch the ever-changing moods

Never the same from one day to the next:

Storms and smiles,

Shimmers and shades.

Natural born killer

Provider of plenty

Endless, mysterious,

Yet fluidly simple.

No wonder they refer

To oceans as She!


At the eye of the hurricane

……there is said to be a centre of deep silence. Yesterday, much to my surprise, I was that deep silence.  An extraordinary Zen-like moment of stillness inside me radiating outwards into a force nine gale. Yes, really. I’m still reeling from it.

I am not talking about metaphorical or emotional or spiritual hurricanes but a physical one, albeit one generated in an environmental tank.

Yesterday afternoon I took some of my students to our local college, which was originally purely a maritime and boatbuilding college for an experience in the pool used for training rig workers, lifeboatment, pilots and so on in the basics of escape and rescue at sea. I know this seems a strange thing to take language students to, but I do what I am asked. I don’t always ask questions.

The pool is basically a very deep swimming pool, equipped with machinery to simulate extreme weather conditions. The students who were not going in stayed up on a gantry-style platform about 3 or 4 metres above the water. This not only kept them safely out of the way but kept them from getting soaked when the waves were in action.

My first concern was whether they would have a lifejacket to fit me. I am rather well-endowed and it did somewhat worry me that they would have to cast about to find one big enough… but I worried needlessly and before long, safety talks done, we trooped down to the pool and leaped in. It took me five minutes to get used to not needing to tread water and let the jacket do its work.

We arranged ourselves in a circle and the waves started. Big waves, crashing all over the place. That was rather fun, though I mistimed a few and swallowed a fair bit of water. Then out and back up onto the gantry. I totally bottled out of the 4m jump; truth to tell I wanted to try but my knees gave way when I looked down. About half of the students(some were English, from the college itself) did and then the instructor upped the odds and had the lights OFF for jumps.

I rejoined the pool the less scary way by leaping in off the side for the next exercise which was the life raft. Now when you see them in films, you kind of wonder what’s so hard about getting into one. Big round inflatable thing with a sort of pyramid/cone for cover, and handy little ropes hanging off it, what’s so difficult about that?  Eerrm, where do I start? The sheer effort required from upper body strength to heave a fully clothed body(did I mention we had to be dressed and shod for this? No. Well, we were in leggings, t-shirt and trainers over bathing suits) out of rough water, into a wet rubber thing, is enormous. No one managed it unaided, including the two fit lads who went in first. Then they helped haul the rest of us in. I did tell them to leave me for the sharks but they kindly refused and I lay soon gasping and floundering like a landed fish on the floor of the raft. I struggled to move out to the back of the raft because it was bucking like a demon possessed bronco. I elbowed a student in the face at some point. I think she’s forgiven me. Propped at the back, gripping some inner ropes I leaned against the wall of the raft and the last of our ten person crew flopped in and then everything changed again. The waves and the wind and the rain began and we were flung around like a cork in a whirlpool. Everyone was screaming, partly out of excitement and partly out of real fear. I wasn’t. I squealed once and then stopped.

The lights went out. Almost total darkness and the storm raged around us, flinging the raft around, whirling it like a leaf and artificial lightning leapt across the blackness. The screaming intensified. I went deeper into the quietness inside and became the silence. I seemed to be totally withdrawn from the emotional responses I had been feeling seconds before. I’d been close to total sensory overload and now, all was stillness. I was stillness and silence and utter peace. I didn’t understand why people were screaming. Could they not feel what I felt?

The moment passed and the storm, controlled by the instructor waned and stopped and we all flopped out, swam to shore and the next group got the perfect storm while we stood and dripped. We were asked to climb a rope wall from the tank, which is unbelievably hard. I tried twice and fell off twice; my arms simply not strong enough to haul my sodden (and let’s be honest, bulky) body out of the water on a ladder that swung and slipped and took the skin off the palms of your hand. We all had a chance to be winched out, which was quite fun and then it was over.

Back in the changing room I reflected first on the fact that at sea I would have died, probably from cold, because I wasn’t strong enough to climb out alone and then on where that peace had come from. It was a totally awesome moment, using the word in its truest sense and not the slang meaning.

I didn’t sleep much last night. Aching muscles and an over active mind saw to that. I’ve got through a hard day today on about three hour’s kip but I keep returning to that still silence at the eye of the hurricane. 

At the eye of the storm is a point of peace; how often can I become that point of peace in a troubled world?

Synchronous Fish

I walk along our stretch of beach a couple of times a week and have done in all weathers for the last three years. It’s never the same twice, and that’s why I love it. There’s hardly anyone there, often utterly deserted, or with a few fishermen with lines out to sea. Dogwalkers are often the only people you see and as the weather deepens into winter, only the really hardy venture out. The wind comes in off the North Sea tasting of Siberia and the waves are wild and high, even when there’s no storm.

It’s interesting to see what washes up or is thrown up but anything edible, from stranded fish to discarded sandwiches the fishermen leave behind is gobbled up by the ravening hordes of sea birds that patrol the shoreline incessantly. I’ve been seeking to find a photograph of a fish out of water, to illustrate a novel I wrote a few years ago but in the three years I’ve been here, I have never come across a stranded and unmutilated  fish. Apart from a few pipefish, which hardly look like fish at all, I’ve never seen a fish lying on the shore. I’ve found lobsters, and crabs and even a young seal but never an intact fish. Of course, I could always have found a photo somewhere, but that didn’t feel right.

Today in sunshine and brisk winds, I reached the shore and after  few moments, I saw it.  About six or eight inches long, black eyes staring sightlessly up at me, this discard from the fisherman nearby, lay a silvery fish. Cursing that for once I had forgotten my camera, I whipped out my phone and took a snap with that and as I bent closer, the lower jaw of the fish moved and I knew it wasn’t dead at all. I picked it up and put in carefully back in the sea and when nothing floated belly-up in the surf, I realised I had found it in time and it had swam away.

We use the term Fish Out Of Water when we mean we are out of our element, out of our true and natural setting and feeling uncomfortable about it. The truth of it is that a fish out of water is very soon a dead fish. Today, with so many things whirling round my mind, I had a sign that not only was I to be returned to my natural element and be revived but also that some of my plans are heading in the right direction. I can’t explain any more than this because there are so many other factors involved but this incident felt so very numinous and powerful beyond measure.

I think the fish might be quite pleased too….


Viv's drawings and paintings 029

I did the above mandala a few years back and looking at it now it seems a very hopeful image of what was presumably inside me at the time. I’ve been intending to post it for ages but spurred on by Robert’s posts at I thought I’d finally do it.

A lovely blog


I added this blog to my blogroll a while back but I’d like to recommend it now, for all to see. It’s a nature blog written by a very talented lady, who sees beauty and wonder in things and has a fine knack of capturing the mood of a scene on camera as well as the simple images.

It helps that some of the places she photographs and writes about are places I’m very fond of, but even if you’ve never been there, the beauty is there to see. Go and expand your horizons!

I don’t think so, somehow…

 I saw this sign today on my walk back from the beach. It’s been a few degrees above freezing, with a lazy wind.

I am told that this special beach is used all year round, but I never go that far, and turn back before my dog encounters someone who is not expecting a cold wet nose somewhere usually hidden….