Sunday, 8 December 2019


How my father trusted the sea.  In the days
before plastic he harvested driftwood. The fire
sparked and spat in the grate.  Long planks

he saved in the shed.  He had been through the war,
flown Catalinas and Sunderlands down on the firth.
He knew about shortages, rationing, fending
for oneself, things that might come in useful.

The sea is the colour of his uniform.
He quarters the waves, searching for wreckage, cast-offs,
someone known unto God.

Mary Robinson © 2019

After three days of low cloud, drizzle and rain I need a fix of sea air.  So I go to Porth Dinllaen.  The waves batter the west side of the headland, heaving spray and foam against the rocks.  I want a bracing walk - and with a sixty mile an hour wind it certainly is.  Though there's nothing much to brace myself against on the path across the (deserted) golf course.  I resist the urge to go to the point, slightly nervous that I could be blown off my feet.

Instead, I drop down to the beach at the Ty Coch.  In the lee of the headland the sea is much calmer but earlier storms have brought in great heaps of seaweed.  In the past farmers would have come along the sand with horses and carts to collect the seaweed for the fields.   The powdery sandy cliffs are pockmarked with old nest holes made by sand martins.  Two jagged gaps show where there have been recent cliff collapses.

I walk down to the waves, dip my hand in the water and touch it to my face, as my mother always used to do.  A solitary shag swims parallel to the shore and does his disappearing-dive trick a couple of times.  Three fishermen are hopeful too.  They have set up their rods and tripods and are enduring a chilly wait for the tide to come in.

When I walk here I feel as if time is folding back on itself.  As a small child I stayed at Nefyn and some of my earliest memories are of walking this stretch of the coast with my parents,  sometimes with me on my father's shoulders.  At high water mark there is a little driftwood.  My father would have been pleased.

* This is a companion poem to 'Ceremony' which I published in my post of 25 April 2018.  'Creed' refers in part to my father's time on North Atlantic patrols in the RAF (based at Invergordon).  The last three words of the poem can be seen on the graves of unidentified merchant seamen.  My father's duties involved both reconnaissance and rescuing men from the sea, and sadly also the bodies of those who had not survived.

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