Now that I have grown old and feeble (well, physically anyway), I am sometimes nervous about going places, especially if there are many people in a small place.

Actually I have always been disposed to be like this.   I once looked at the crush of people on Oxford Street (London) and just decided on the spot I could stand it no longer, and went and booked my passage home.   When I told my employer I was leaving him (I was paid handsomely for doing virtually no work at all, and I  never did grasp what he was meant to be doing either), he couldn’t understand my reasons.   I can’t stand so many people any longer, I told him.

If my pill coverage is below par, then even passing a group of people can make me stumble and freeze – the very thing I most want to avoid.   So, people would be reasonable to assume I was of a nervous disposition.

But there is one circumstance where I am always myself surprised at how lacking in anxiety I am, and that is the prospect of a voyage on water.   (I am no great swimmer either.)

We arrived last year for the ferry crossing to Arran, a journey of about an hour from Ardrossan to Brodick.   We drove up to Largs, John’s old haunt and the place he first took me out;  where his grandfather took him to buy a ice-cream (a knickerbocker glory, no less) and he has brought many grandchildren himself since.   These days Nardini’s, the ice cream parlour, is Nardini’s in name only, and can only offer an apology for a knickerbocker glory, yet John keeps calling forlornly in the hope of recapturing its former glories.   I have never seen the water at Largs as wild as it was in the wake of hurricane Katia.   The waves were smashing along the promenade and occasionally the spray was landing on the windows of Nardini’s itself.    The sea was boiling like a witch’s cauldron, black and noxious and spray rising out of it as if some foul spell were being brewed.

We stay the night at Seamills Hydro, and next day we make our way along to the ferry point at Ardrossan.    People who know anything about the island ferries understand that on days like today, the timetable and booking arrangements go overboard as it were.    The ferry if at all possible will make one crossing each way, but the captain presumably keeps his experienced eye on the sea and the weather, and when he gets a ‘window’, it’s all hands on deck to load the boat in a tremendous rush.   If you’re ready, and get on, good; if you’re not, there will be no other sailing and you’ll be left cooling your heels on the Ayrshire coast (not one of the places I’d choose to loiter) for another day.   We know about this, so we’re ready, watching the boat come in.

I am slightly taken aback at the captain’s breakneck approach to the harbour through the storms.   At the entrance he executes a ship’s equivalent of a handbrake turn, squeaks in an inch from the harbour wall and comes shuddering to a halt in the berth.    It’s breathtakingly competent and you get a slight feeling that the captain is saying, Thought I wouldn’t make it, did you?   Hah!

The doors open and the cargo of cars is ejected with great speed and small ceremony and the next load hurried on.   He’s exiting the harbour practically before we’ve left the car deck.   Actually, once we climb the mountain of wild water out of the harbour and get on the open water, things are a lot calmer.   The crossing takes less than an hour, so we can’t do our usual act in stormy weather at sea, of having a three course meal in an empty restaurant while other passengers are being sick over the side.

Perhaps my comfort on the water is because every day I walk to the bottom of our garden where we keep a large blue pot full of clear water, to which I have given the somewhat grandiose appellation, The Pool of Neptune.   I have a bamboo ladle that we brought back from Japan , and I solemnly pour a libation to the  guardian of the oceans, and remember my father, that priest of Neptune and guardian of his temple (a well shed and beautiful nine ringed well on his fields.)

Or maybe it’s  because our island forbears, who probably arrived on Viking longships, looked at the land and thought, This’ll do.

Whatever the reason, I always feel easy on the water, however wild.

PS  I wrote the above in September 2011.   Things move on.

I am happy to report that Nardini’s has got its act together and a knickerbocker glory there is once again the gross overindulgence it is supposed to be.

The show-off captain of the Arran ferry performed the handbrake  turn once too often, and when we returned in February 2012 we travelled in a horribly overcrowded vessel reclaimed out of mothballs, presumably because Jack the Lad on the boat had miscalculated and hit the dock.

And I walk my small grand-daughters to ‘the Pool of Neptune’ , hand them a Japanese ladle, show them how to pour a libation, and as they make the offering I tell them, say a little prayer.   A few days later I am reclining on the seat swing when they ask Joanna to hand them down the ladle.    Assuming the proper dignity, they carefully go through the entire ritual, but I am amused to hear them speak as they pour out the water, ‘Say a little prayer.’


About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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