Friends are here. Friends I haven’t seen for decades. One of them was a loyal and constant companion when the whale-watching business first began. Well, it didn’t actually ‘began’ all by itself. It was begun by us, by me and the sea dog who became known as the whale father. I remember a letter arriving back in the day when people actually wrote letters, addressed to ‘The man who looks after the whales, Scotland.’ That was all, and enough it seems to bring it to our door. How extraordinary it is to be old enough to remember a time when such a loose fit proved tailor made.
We have wandered down the lanes of memory together, these friends and I and there is a pride, a joy and a sadness in such wanderings because the whale father is gone. His presence peppers our conversations, our rememberings of old adventures lifted together into the light of the new life we now live. We visit the ‘old’ pier and the ‘new’ pier, both old now, ramshackle and holding on by a woodthread already compromised by the arched back of a repeating tidal march against the land. We stand and look out to where the boat had bobbed on her mooring, both boats, the old and the new, one gone to an old fisherman and northwards, the other to the bottom of the ocean. All our silence is loud. We stand together on the basalt rocks, watching geese, an osprey, oystercatchers, sandpipers and gulls and we remember. The bustle and shout of anticipation as offloaded passengers turn towards the vessel that will, they hope, they dream, encounter them with the shiny blowback of a whale, out there in the wild, working with the flip and toss of another tide, another wind, another sudden calm.
We see lichen on fallen limbs. Good air, I tell them, and they know it. We walk through what was the farmyard and on up to the big house, the one, the Tapselteerie of my life, now restored most beautifully to what she was when first she rose from the ground and on up and up and up. We only see her from a respectful distance. My friend does not remember her that way. In our day she was shabby (chic, I like to think) and mostly in need of a facelift, one she never got when we were her caregivers. I am happy for her now. She is respected and admired in a way the ancients (that’s before my time btw) would nod at, sagely, from behind their pipes and spinning wheels, I feel sure. You are doing the right thing, they might say and I agree with them.
We wander back through the old pines, past Lord and Lady Larch, whose son, I feel certain, has moved yet further away from his parents. About time, I think. You must be almost 100 by now. He doesn’t seem to mind my comment and just rustles a bit as I walk beneath his boyish boughs, as if quite chuffed with himself. Home again and we sit in the garden with cups of tea and chat. It thinks me. Decades since we sat together and yet the words between us flow as they did when we were young. I look into their eyes and see myself. We match as we did back then. The old and the new. How fluid we are, how easy it is to be, not who we were, but who we are now through connection to a time that impacted all our lives in ways we never anticipated. He remembered my sandwiches. I remembered his lion heart. I remembered them camping with their boys but they don’t. Who knows what part memory plays in memories! We laugh and it really doesn’t matter one jot.
Slainte Sea-Dog. We found you today, not that you are lost. It was a day of tide and talk, sea and memories, laughter and sharp poignance and you came too.