It was a few years ago now that I watched “My family’s crazy gap year” on the television, where Nikki McClement goes off to some of the most remote parts of the world. I was not surprised when she admitted that this made her question her own life back in England, I know that conditioning well.
How I long to be once more alone on my boat sailing over the horizon. I can not begin to describe the joy and wonder one feels sitting at the helm on a moonlit night the skies an endless black velvet veil sprinkled with stars, like a field of shining diamonds. That magical time alone in your own thoughts whilst the boat, driven fast on white wings, white as white can be in the moon’s light, her bow cleaving the water, pushing up a phosphorescence bow-wave as she does so.
My heroes at that time were Bernard Montessori 1925 – 1994, he was a French national born and raised in Vietnam, then part of French Indochina, Montessori was a world renounce ocean voyager and author. From an early age, he had his own boat, but since he was too young to hold the post of captain, he had to employ one. Much of his knowledge and experience he acquired during his time at sea with the fishermen of the Gulf of Siam, Montessori had a very simple outlook on life.
“I dream of the day when a country of the modern world has an intensely simply government and barefoot ministers, I’d ask for citizenship right away. Christ and the Apostles were barefoot vagabonds and I’m sure it helped then work miracles. They were remarkably simple too, just like Buddha and all the saints. And our times have never seen a man as great as Gandhi at the head of a nation.
The automobile manufactures and munitions makers will call it an outrage to freedom and everything we hold sacred when they hear our anthem but our earth would find herself again, and men as well. Just men, with no capital letters. Our nation would not collect gold medals at the Olympics, but the gold medal supermen would listen to our anthem. And they would seek citizenship so as not to be superior any more. Then the manufacturers of cars and oil and supergiant planes and bombs and generals and all-the-rest would gradually begin to feel that the turning had been finally taken. That it is a thousand times truer to have men guided by heart and instinct than the twisted gimmicks of money and politics.”
A very Far Eastern ideology and very much steeped in my hippy past. When I hear songs like “Imagine” by John Lennon, or “A man’s a man for a’ that” by Burns, I hear echoes of Montessori. Yes, I would be asking for citizenship too.
What, Simpson, what’s that they’re singing bellow,
What – repeat, please,
A man’s a man for a’ that’…
There will be none of that Jacobinry on this ship.
Tell them, find better words.
May be king or beggar, Simpson,
It’s better so, every man locked in his place in the great music of society.
It was thus from the beginning of things.
A man’s a man for a’ that
On this ship a man is a sailor
And Simpson, I am the skipper.
By George Mackay Brown
Bernard Montessori, called his boat “Joshua”, after his hero Joshua Slocum, who was the first man ever to sail his boat “Spray”, single-handed around the world.
And it just so happens that Joshua Slocum was the other of my heroes. Slocum’s book of that adventure is both entertaining and humorous, after catching, cooking and eating a turtle, he tells us that the crew were happy with the cook, which of course were one in the same. And fun and game as he outfoxed the North African pirates. If you love good sea yarn this is one you should not overlook.
The days grow shorter now, however, our Tim is keen to be up and out no matter the light and I find myself begin roused when all around is telling me to go back to sleep. He is, however, a persistent soul and will paw, paw, paw at me till I show some resemblance of life. Pretending to be asleep will only increase his endeavours not to fail in his duty as my self appointed alarm clock. A sharp word and turning over whilst drawing the covers over one’s head will send Tim to lie by my feet, alas this little victory will be short-lived for Tim will groom and fidget there indefinitely, I may have won a small victory but Tim has won the day.
It is still dark as I drag a weary body into the land of the living and we head for the shore, yet even before we arrive my spirits are lifted by the sheer emptiness of this beautiful place. No matter that the sea roars noisily onto the rocks or whispers up the shingle of the beach, its majesty never fails to lift my spirit.
By the time of our return the sun has already sent magical rays across the open waters, exploding onto the land, a million colours, a trillion hues, such light as only the soft autumn morning light can produce, colours once hidden in the brightness of the summers sun now bursts forth on every rock, blade of grass and gable wall, setting fire to the windows of the little cottages strung out along the bay. At such a time I wish I had the talent of an artist to capture such beauty or the elegance of a poet to tell of such wonders. For our little bay has all the colour of an impressionists canvas, only now, in real-time.
One Autumn Morning,
I awake to the bawl,
Of the wood pigeon’s ceaseless call,
As night falls into day,
Tim now wide awake,
Though a bleary eye I still do shake,
We head down onto the shore.
The wind blows strong from south and east,
White-capped waves an endless feast,
Break hard upon the shore,
Crows along the water line,
With their strong beaks the seaweed mine,
To dine on natures fare.
Leaves fall fast from the sycamore trees,
Lie deep now, high as wee Tim’s Knees,
I can’t resist, in them to play,
Kicking the leaves in a boyish shuffling way,
Squadron’s of geese do fly,
Black lines across a pale morning sky,
Onto the Tay’s sweet waters, nearby.