When his mother died, he was all for selling Prospect Cottage. Ann stopped him. She said they should tart it up and rent it out in the summer season. He told her she was mad. Gwiddon needed new lifting gear and her engine was a bugger to start. And without his boat how would he earn a living? But she’s right. Visitors pay silly money. It’s fully booked from Easter to October. They love the beams that were hidden under wallpaper until Ann got at them with a steam machine; they marvel at the stone bench carved into the side of the hearth. But they can’t see his mother there like he can, sitting stiff-backed, a pile of darning untouched at her feet, night after night, her ears stretched towards the booming sea and the wind howling in the rafters, praying, like every other wife and mother, sister and aunt and afraid to sleep in case they let go of the invisible rope that tethers the men to their hearts.
They weren’t there fifteen years ago when he and Glyn had to tell her that her husband of forty years had been dragged off the deck of the Merlin when he caught his foot in a tangle of rope. How they had watched helplessly as his skull smashed repeatedly against the hull like an egg, until the sea took pity and dragged him down. Owen can see him still, that look of disbelief and resignation as he went under, once in fact, again and again and again in his dreams. These strangers can’t know that his mother didn’t cry. She opened her arms as wide as the bay and folded her sons to her like a hen does her chicks although they were both grizzled men twice her height and girth. They had wept like babbies until she looked at them and said, “He wasn’t the first. He won’t be the last.”