Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Ann stands on the hollow rolling cobbles of the beach and watches the Gwiddon as she sails into the soft curve of the harbour. From this distance there is nothing but the angle of the cabin roof, the push of her through the waves to distinguish her from the other vessels on the sea but, after decades of watching, Ann knows her husband’s boat. She would know her even without looking: the ratchety sound of the engine, the stuttering exhaust; the Gwiddon needs money they don’t have.

They’d be better off if they scrapped the thing: the price of fuel, the endless repairs; it brings in no money. But Owen shouts whenever she suggests it; whenever there’s a bill to pay.

She can hear him shouting now. His voice rolls out across the heaving waves, the wind whipping the words away, leaving just the sound. And the Gwiddon: silent suddenly, no longer pushing on across the grey water but drifting, the tide dragging her swiftly back out into the bay as a burst of black smoke surges from her exhaust and Owen’s voice rises, dark across the swilling seas.

Ann imagines the tourists on the slatted bench seats which line the sides of the boat. Huddling against the wind, gripping their children’s arms as the engine fails. The splutter and fall of the engine and then nothing but the slap of the waves; the call of the gulls above as Owen, his temper freed, whacks his wrench against the engine.

Ten seconds, twenty: then the engine catches with a bang and the Gwiddon lurches forward again, cutting hard against the waves. Ann hears, from all this distance away, a ripple of voices, cheering; the belch and pull of the engine.

If she leaves now she’ll be at the harbourside to meet them when they get in, as she always is. To take the passengers’ money before they leave, to show them how to climb the algaed ladders which line the vertical harbour walls. To drag Owen out from the cabin where he waits for the last of them to leave. He’ll still be swearing.

Ann turns. Stares out across the ocean, and up into the sky. Watches a vapour-trail from a plane thin and disperse and imagines herself leaving here as easily, melting away into nothing against the dove-grey sky.

Jane Smith


douglas.bruton said...

I like the picture of the huddled tourists on the boat. And I like that final image of the thinning vapour trail and Ann wanting to be gone from Greyling.

Springtime beckons and I am sure Greyling will breathe a lighter air then.

Love the project.



Love the gentle assonance.

Jane Smith said...

Douglas, thank you. You too, Nicola.

I feel I should issue a warning: there's going to be a change in the weather at Greyling Bay when Nicola's piece appears. That woman certainly knows how to take a new direction!