Author Archives: kellyshaw2001

Richard ‘Dickie’ Grubb

Richard ‘Dickie’ Grubb

The Eulogy

‘Dying is a sad game, even if you perfect the idea. My name is Frank Robertson, I was a friend of his, the one there, lying in the casket, keeping me to my promise. But for Richard, death is an achievement. He and I played golf together twice a week for the last nineteen years, never missed, not once.  Richard’s goal was to die. In the main most don’t achieve it. Most flop around the idea, and flirt with an attempt here and there, and some, by pure accident, actually manage it. That’s why it’s a sad game. That’s why Richard’s suicide is nothing more than an achievement!

This is how I started my eulogy for Dickie. Naturally I I could see many in the congregation fidgeting uncomfortably, mostly those closest to ‘Dickie’s’ widow , Edith. A small, slight, sharp featured faced woman, dressed in the customary black dress, under a black full length coat, head covered, without tears, without trembling, and without children by her side. She and Richard childless after thirty-seven years of marriage. I continued.

‘Golf is a kind of communion. The place he and I would go to avoid reality. Dickie there, well he played the game better than most, not the game of golf, at which we were both exceedingly poor, but at playing along. That’s why he’s my hero. It’s much easier to talk about Dickie now he’s dead. I don’t have to make something of his manners, which were not perfect, or even acceptable. He farted freely, and without restraint. Richard also smoked a lot. He drank enough to be social and sometimes enough to be your best friend. The combination of which could be seen as a long-term attempt at suicide. Fear not, all you smokers and drinkers, none of these things killed Richard. No, no. His wife killed Richard.’

Ah yes, got there attention now. There was an audible gasp! The vicar started to rise, but I raised my arm in his direction, sitting the him back down in the chair, and carried on.

‘It appears some of you are uncomfortable, even a little queasy, but in his memory let us all be truthful this last time. Most of you understood Richard to be a wealthy man, not a tycoon, just an ordinary millionaire. He had guarded his money well, invested wisely, or not at all, and only bet on certainties. I know this because he and I would often have a little bet on the golf course. Richard was the kind of golfer who bet you wouldn’t make the next putt. It just happened the next putt was a forty-foot putt over a mound and steeply falling away to the right. It was the kind of bet that endeared me to Richard and like any fool I always accepted the challenge. The reason I did so was nothing to do with my confidence in holing the putt, but was to take that rarest of opportunities to see him burst himself with laughter, and call you for all you were worth. You see, the trick of Richard was that he knew people; he watched them, weighed them up, until he understood what chances they would take. Of course, being with him so much, made me the perfect foil. And, I might add, no greater pleasure was had by another living soul. Richard cared little for social graces, but learned them at the side of his wife. Murder was a constant thought in the life of Mrs. Edith Grubb.’

Edith, I recall, sitting in the front pews, raised her head, lifting her veil, and smiled. Several mourners coughed, others simply cleared their throats, one woman sobbed openly.I was undeterred.

‘Richard was a bastard, not literally, but generally speaking. Edith rarely spoke about her adventures into murderous thoughts, except to say something like: “I’ll bloody kill him.” Not exactly ambiguous, but always laughed at by those of us who knew Richard. Indeed it was only the ‘how’ that caused her to stumble from that chosen exit of a long marriage. While he slept in the chair, afternoon or evening, was always a good time to ‘run him through’ she told me, but that would only bring recriminations on herself. So for many years Edith, you should know, amused herself with inventive and intuitive ideas on how to end her husband’s life!’

It was at this point Edith’s smile developed a chuckle. Holding myself, chest quivering with amusement, I continued.

‘I came to Richard late in is life, in fact he’d achieved most of what he wanted to achieve. I’d retired from Virgin Atlantic as a senior captain, a widower. The fact is, with retirement, and the loss of my wife, came the idleness. Richard, on the other hand, working past retirement age, to avoid even greater time with his wife, was done enjoying a life together. In fact, running the business had almost done the job for his wife years earlier. I remember the first time we met. I retired to California looking to get away from family who believed I could never live without my darling wife. You see, they weren’t wrong. I had every idea of doing myself in, somewhere else, away from everything I knew.  Only a week after arriving in another country, and needing a beer, I happened into a bar.  Back then a person could enjoy a smoke at the bar. Richard was doing exactly that. We swapped a nodded greeting, then enjoyed the silence and supped on our beers. If I didn’t know better I’d swear he was blowing the cigarette smoke in my direction, just to make me respond with conversation. That was it with Richard, you could not dislike the man, impossible, unless, of course, you happened to be married to him!’

Finally, the first sniggers of happy recognition rose up from the congregation. Edith bit into her knuckles.

‘It didn’t matter what I said to him, anything would have won him his bet; a bet that I would indeed engage him in conversation. He needed someone who had some kind of intelligence, and he chose me. Well, thinking back I may have been the only person willing, I was certainly the only other person in the bar. But that is all bye and bye. We both hit seventy years of age in the same year. We had known each other ten years. Richard in that time had become the legend of stories and folklore at the golf club. We talked about death, discussed sermon and eulogies. It was very simple. If I were to go first, he would tell the truth of what he knew, what we’d become. Were he to go first, then it would be me should deliver his truth. We rehearsed frequently, until we’d perfected our eulogies. So this is his story. He was no hero, no fool, and dearly loved a woman who was hell-bent on killing him before the perfect suicide deprived her that success. This was his achievement and one that shouldn’t be taken away from him. Did I know Richard would do such a thing? Truthfully, not. Just as I know that Edith’s intentions came from her exhaustive efforts to protect him from heart disease, her efforts to love him, and keep him safe.’

It was hearing this that Edith’s smile changed, deepening to tears.

‘For some years ‘Dickie’ had stolen strokes off me. There was never a hope of someone like me beating our Richard. I’m the man he saved. Along the way he introduced me to some sad people, even mad people. He always told me, “If I get like that I’ll take the tablets!” Well, my hope is that you will enjoy Richard’s memory as I have done today. There’s pain here; there’s a life left our midst that touched us with its grumbling joy. Is there even one person here who can say that he didn’t touch you, anger you, frustrate you, do you a favor at the drop of a hat, or have you rolling in your armchair with his views on life?  Dickie Grubb brought me joy, broke my wallet, and saddened my heart. Whatever is true about courage in an ordinary world, Dickie exemplified it. Do not think me simply an observer, I’m just as responsible as the next fool in the achievement of Richard’s success. Dying is a sad game. But not when you’re as clever as my friend, Richard. So, in a few minutes, when we are all gathered at Dickie’s grave, don’t forget to ask him what the hell he can see from there? Tell him to raise his head a little. He’ll hate that.’

Edith Grubb looked up, winked, wiped her eyes, and with her lips, mouthed the words, thank you.

It was time to finish my the eulogy.

‘I did it, Dickie, I did it for you. Just as we wagered. Lying there, looking like you have a sun tan, you’ve won again. You win every bet, you bastard.’


Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Uncategorized


When hugs don’t cut it!

I’ve spent years telling myself that my children don’t ‘belong’ to me; that since the death of his younger brother and mother I’ve been charged with raising him, loving him, preparing him for the day he will leave me. In that time I’ve tried to set examples, show him humility, humbleness, and direction and I know in my heart that sometimes I’ve been lazy with this, knowing from birth it takes years to lose a child to the world. Then one day it’s done. Next month my son will lead a medical team on his second duty into Afghanistan, and the Helmand province.

Ten months he’ll be gone. I’ll be left here to pray for him, ten months in which I will be hoping he’s beyond harm. He just turned thirty-five years of age, but in truth I’ve only just let go of his hand, only just stopped the stern words about his school reports, only just explained what took me away all those times, when true courage would have been to stay home and love him. In ten months he will learn what fear can do to a man, what doubt can do for self-confidence. In less than a week I will shake his hand, hug him close, kiss him and weep for my son. I will be left to trust in him. To feel proud of the man I raised, a man who goes his own way in the world, the kind of man I always wanted to be.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Hair on Fire!

‘Sunday Stills prompt: Light my Fire. I don’t take photos worth a cent, but I was inspired to place this story written four years ago.

The Kiss of Caiaphas

I lay here sipping hot tea through a straw after an ‘incident’ while racing, and ponder what is it; what is the rush I get from racing cars. It began back when fixing up ‘bogeys’ to race in the street, using a plank of wood, some old pram wheels, found at the dump, the ‘Silver Cross’ model being the best, a wooden orange box taken from the back of Mr. Puddifoot’s grocery store, a few nails, a hammer, and hopefully, the day of the race, a fearless spirit. I always had this desire to light up my hair.

After coming out of surgery the surgeon told my wife I’d been lucky. Clearly he knew very little about my life, for he might have said, your husband continues to be lucky.

You might remember the Silver Cross being an elegant piece of machinery, two large rear wheels, smaller ones in front, and that was how they would fit on the new bogey. I always had an unnatural talent for taking apart anything mechanical, and then assembling it in a different format; this time those wheels are attached to a half inch thick axle rod, and assembled onto a foot-wide, four-foot long plank of wood. The finishing touch was to paint flames on the side of the cockpit, ‘go faster flames’ we called them.

I recall thinking, half way down Haste Hill, this could end badly. Even so, there was something, some feeling. There were no brakes on my bogey, it was a racing bogey. Billy Harrison was looking at the back of my head; whatever happened at the bottom the hill was going to happen, but Billy would be second to finish. That was for sure.

That feeling never left me, never dimmed, never will.

In scorching steel, cocooned inside a roll cage, I live to experience the limits of hot rubber adhesion while in my mind I make unsought decisions on chance, and with lips of clay, I pass the green flag, turning into corners where ghosts applaud, telling me I’m not dead; that the thirst in my throat, the force against my body, the suffocating heat within the hideous heart of factory built precision, is an endurance examination, while the kiss of Caiaphas hangs in my slipstream. There’s no time to think about love; I think about rain, four-second wheel changes in a stone valley called pit lane; I think about the crystals of information, fuel, tire heat, angle of airfoil, and thousandth of seconds…not love, not compassion.

And so it is that the woman who owns my heart stands next to my bedside, and what she says is profound.

“I know you, and have loved you since you first appeared in my life. You can’t know how much you’ve guided my love, inspired my spirit, and calmed my soul —  you are my safe place. So please, I beg you. It’s time to promise me. Enough.”

And I looked at her a long time before I answered.

Kelly racing


Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


Uncle Jimmy…eccentric? Maybe…just a little.

I’ve been a thief. My excuse, typical if inexcusable: being always skint!

When Jack Rafferty–the island’s only policeman–came to our door, he took me aside, knelt down and told me about a place where they lock up ten year old thieves. I decided right then the building of a boat should no longer be a childhood dream, but a necessary means of escape. Jack did scare me, I’ll admit, removing his helmet and yet still ducking to come through our front door was somewhat terrifying, but it was seeing the tears roll down my mother’s face that left me with a memory I’ve never forgotten. I’d never steal anything ever again. That’s what I told myself. Never!

Before tourists, the island’s remoteness was its beauty. Life on Mull was anything but sentimental. We lived with the constant of a nor-easter, blizzard conditions in winter, sometimes in spring, and for many months we lived and worked under an iron-gray sky. There was nowhere to live on the island but between the mountain and the sea. The summer brought its warmth: the emerald greens, gold, orange, browns, pinks and blues that glowed, lighting up the mountain’s south side. In so many ways living on the island was easy, but then there was the real island, the real folk, the fishermen and the wives of the fishermen. There was suffering. I grew up hearing my mother cry on a regular basis, listened to her sobs in the next room, sleepless nights of anxiety about bills, and then those deeper sobs every time my father left the harbor, heading for the Minch or the Bering Sea.

Uncle Jimmy, was the most eccentric member of our family. I mean, trust me, he was eccentric from early on, but if I’m to shorten this tale, then let me begin when he was more than half way through his life. My father said it really began when his brother purchased the 1955 clinker built trawler, twin mast, near a hundred and forty tons, and half sunk! He paid fifty pounds for her scrap and was the laughing stock of the island. Four years later Jimmy, in his sixtieth year, restored her to be the finest vessel in Tobermoray’s harbor. Heartbreakingly, however, Sea-spray II, as he named her, was pushed aground in a storm that grew bigger and more bullish than that morning’s mischief implied she’d be. The grinding undertow had sucked her onto the submerged granite at the base of the mountain, a hundred yards offshore. Jimmy, then penniless and heartbroken, left the island for the mainland, returning on his seventy fourth birthday.

By the time he returned, I, too, had escaped the island, never becoming a fisherman, being just out of stomach, and having nothing else to leave out there. Sure, I’d wanted to follow my father, show others that I could be a ‘chip off the old block!’ But it wasn’t to be. I left home to join the Coastguard, my brain was then fully engaged. My only responsibility was to learn to fly helicopters, five years in flight school, and indeed, those years were to be some of the best years of my life. I was only twenty-five. I qualified my wings flying the HAR3 (Sea King). Seven years later my ‘patch’ was sectioned over the Outer Hebrides, Malin, Rockall and Bailey. I’d achieved my dream, to be working over my father’s head.

On December fourth, that first year of my command, I got word that Jimmy was sick, dying in fact. When I got to the hospice he was almost dead, gasping for breath beneath an oxygen tent. It was difficult to hear him; so soft, so lifeless was his voice. Three of his best pals were with him; Sid, Harry, and my father, Frank. We talked at Jimmy’s bedside, mostly about old times, thinking we were giving the old lad some joy, when I noticed a movement in his finger. Looking into his eyes, I saw he was building up the strength to speak.

“Have you never taken a risk in your life, lad?’ he spluttered, chest hardly drawing breath, as though it might rise just one more time. Jimmy was wearing an old woolen vest, and wheezing, while his hands, all veins and loose skin, lay perfectly still at his side. I responded that the risks I took, I hoped, were calculated ones. Jimmy beckoned me closer with a cobwebbed spiny finger. I felt uneasy, afraid of his weakness.

“Not one of us has ever taken a risk,” he said in a whisper, “there was a time when we were free men,” and he coughed, choked up bile, which hung from his lip, and said, “…see me right, lads, that’s all I ask.”

The nurse, wondering what the whispering was, used Jimmy’s coughing bout as a reason to come and stand close. “I should be taking that vest off you, Jimmy,” she said.

Jimmy mustered up half a lung of breath, and doing so spoke his last two words before his image, his breathing, his body, and the light of his day faded. The expression on the nurse’s face has never left me. Jimmy had managed to couch his anger with the merciless efficiency of a monofilament fishing line in just two words. The nurse, flushed of face, turned away, muttering under her breath, unaware that French was to be the last language Jimmy ever spoke. It was 11.20 P.M.

Less than two hours later I drove the old Dormobile van, headlights out, around the back of the hospice before leaping out and opening the rear doors. On the second floor of the hospice, a window grudgingly faltered open. Sid leaned out. I gave the all clear. My father, Harry and Sid lowered the netting with Jimmy’s wasted body wrapped in bed sheets. Jimmy must have choked blood; because it blossomed on the sack like a rose in the moonlight. I lay him on the grass and waited for the others to join me. We all four carried him to the van, sliding him irreverently into the back, closed the doors and drove directly to Tobermoray harbor. Sid and Harry remained in the van; father climbed out and went aboard the trawler, Nightshadow. Two minutes later the diesel engines smoked into life. We jumped out, opened up the rear doors. I remember we were immediately overcome by the smell of Jimmy’s old clay pipe, and something else, excrement and piss, and pulled him out.

“We’ll burn his pajamas later,” Sid said, piling belongings onto Jimmy’s chest, then grabbed him under his armpits, with me and Harry each holding a leg. We must have moved forward too quickly. Jimmy’s body folded, and what can only be described as one enormous fart came out. Sid stopped in his tracks, lowering Jimmy to the ground and knelt down at his head.

“Jimmy, if you’re still with us, I’ll bloody drown you myself!” He said, close to his ear, not fully understanding how the body empties air after death, and convinced Jimmy was still alive and having a last laugh.

Silhouetted against a wolf moon we lugged Jimmy up the slipway. It was then a stray dog came out from nowhere it seemed, and escorted us up the slipway. Harry flung a backward boot, the dog yelped, scampering back onto the quay.

“Hey lads,” my father just called from the wheelhouse, “Jimmy’s been feeding that mutt for over a year now, best let it on, eh?”

“Well, that just about sums Jimmy’s life up, right,” I recall saying. “The only congregation Jimmy’s going to have is a limping mutt!”

“He wasn’t limping till Harry kicked him,” Sid then chimed in. Which pissed Harry off no end.

“That’s, ridiculous, Sid,” Harry argued, and with good cause, “look at it;” he instructed, finger pointing, “it’s only got three legs to begin with, so of course it’s bloody limping!”

I looked back, it was true! The dog did indeed have only one hind leg. So typical of Jimmy, I remember thinking, keeping another desperate life close to his own.

The one thing about Uncle Jimmy most people on the island remember was how he almost killed Grandmother. She was ninety-two; Jimmy almost saw her off with a chili pepper! People have told the story so many times in the pubs, it has become folklore on the island.

The story is retold this way: The old girl was sat in the armchair, staring directly at the T.V. She had complained to Jimmy about being hungry. It so happened that in the last month the first Mexican take-away had come to the island. Jimmy thought it would be good for her to try something different. When he got back with the meal Grandma spied it curiously, pushing what she thought looked like meat around the plate before cautiously lifting up a green chili pepper on the fork, inspecting it for insects, and with mindless distraction stuffed the large chili into her mouth. Jimmy tells it that he jumped up in an attempt to stop her…but alas it was too late. The old girl sat in the chair, staring directly at him as she chewed on the green chili. A moment later her eyes went wild and piercing. He could sense the pain behind them as the ferocity of the chili pepper burned in her throat, sending violent thoughts to her withered brain. He watched in terrified awe as her weak hands gripped the armrests, teeth grinding, the floor shaking as she wobbled from side to side. By now she was whining slightly, her eyes rolled back in her head. Jimmy told that he was caught in two minds: whether to race for water or dive for the phone. He chose the latter, cursing his choice of Mexican food as he dialed the emergency services. The island only had one service, one vehicle, and one emergency telephone person, Mrs. Stokes. She was the island’s midwife, the island’s nurse, and the island’s foremost taxidermist.

“Ambulance please…what? No…ambulance…my grandmother, she’s eaten a chili pepper and now she’s choking to death…what…no it happened last week! You idiot, of course it just happened! Yes, Jimmy…yes the Jimmy that lives above the ‘In-A-Spin’ launderette…what do you mean twenty minutes, she’ll be dead in two! The best you can do…what does that mean, my grandmother is riding the lightning here! I understand…be quick…age?…I don’t know, anything between ninety and a hundred…she’s pretty damn old, just hurry, okay. Jimmy then slammed down the phone and turned to his grandmother, slumped in the armchair, her tongue licking out the side of her mouth.

“Oh my God, I’ve killed my grandmother with a chili pepper!” He blurted out, jumping over the coffee table to be at her side as she serenely slipped to the floor.

In the distance sirens could be heard approaching. Jimmy, after pacing up and down, gathered up grandmother into his arms, carrying her toward the door, unaware that a fork had dropped on the floor! He screamed, falling forward in agony, grandmother released somewhere between the coffee table and the T.V., just missing hitting her head on the corner of the stand. Emergency Ward 10 was just starting on the T.V. He grabbed her skeletal hand and tried feeling for a pulse. She lived, barely, only to die two weeks later of a heart attack! Jimmy was never held accountable.

Anyway, we finally put Jimmy down on the aft deck. I looked over the rail and called to the dog. It stood there, head lowered, eyes up.

“Anyone got a biscuit?” I ventured.

“Peanuts.” Replied Sid.

“Cough sweets,” said Harry

I grabbed one of Jimmy’s boots and went back down the gangway, first to await the order to cast off, and secondly to see if the smell of Jimmy’s boots would entice the dog to follow me back aboard.

“Cast off,” came the call from the wheelhouse.

The dog limped up the gangway.

The Perkins diesel droned us slowly out between the harbor walls, calm waters slapping against the bow.

We slipped Jimmy over the side. He was where he wanted to be. No fuss, no prayers, nobody but his pals knowing.

Early the next morning I remember we were raised from our beds by the sound of the door being beaten upon. It was Jack Rafferty. Fatter, graying, still with the policeman’s knack of allowing the rest of the world to see him as a ‘half-wit’. Near thirty-years later after my schoolboy scolding I finally understood the Dostoevskian character he was, hiding a bit of a saint. Jack enjoyed being the only policeman on the island, called upon to control pigeon fanciers, a poacher here and there, and kids scrumping apples from Docherty’s orchard. Jack relied more on instinct than police work.

‘Hello Jack,’ mum said, ‘this is an early hour to come knocking.’

‘Aye, There’s been a bit of a goings on, Peggy. I understand your lad is visiting. I’d like a bit of a word.’ He removed his helmet, being beckoned through the door, ducked and followed mother through to the kitchen.

‘Would you like a cup of tea, Jack? I hope it’s not trouble.’

‘Aye, lass, that’d be grand. I’ve got a couple of questions for your boy. I understand he’s based over there in Oban. Nice having the lad close by, I’m sure…’

I entered as my mother ran the kettle under the tap.

‘Morning Jack, this is a fine time to visit!’ I said, still groggy from no sleep.

‘Aye, ‘tis that, lad, business I’m afraid.’


‘Jimmy McCloud has disappeared.’

‘Disappeared…?’ Mother gasped, setting his teacup down on the table.

‘How can that be, Jack. He was close to death at the hospice last night.’ I said.

‘Aye, ‘tis what we thought, but when the nurses went to tend to him this early morn’ they reported him gone, not dead you understand, gone out the window! I looked over the scene, seems he left via the second floor! This a grand cuppa, Peggy.’ He said, sipping at the hot brew.

‘A miracle!’ Mother declared, crossing her heart.

‘You’ve got to be kidding, Jack. Jimmy McCloud slipped his death bed?’

‘Ethel Stewart swears that when she left for the night there were four people at Jimmy’s bedside. That would be around 11.30. Harry Spokes, Sid Cullen, you and your father.

‘That’s right, Jack. We left soon after.’

‘The night shift nurse reported seeing you leave, lad. No one else.’

‘Possibly, Jack. I’d parked in the front car park. Sid had left his car out back, I’m pretty certain they left by the rear entrance.’

Jack Rafferty was no fool, though sometimes he liked to use that image of himself. There had been times down the years when he appeared to be in favor of some criminal act, weeding an admission out of the unsuspecting culprit, and then, bang, the charges were made. Another case closed. How he thought that Ferguson’s dogs were a menace and only a person serving the community would go out and shoot them, he told Findlay Robertson, who in his drunkenness confessed, asking Jack to keep his secret. Jack, of course, had him by the collar and in the town’s only cell within ten minutes.

‘Och, I’ll no be accusin’ anyone, lad, just trying to fathom Jimmy’s whereabouts. Truth is, when I heard Agnes Mortimer explaining how Social Services had removed him from his house, damp they said, and how they were going to move him to the mainland, into one of those care facilities, with no view, then whomever moved Jimmy was doing him a favor.’

‘You think Jimmy’s here, Jack?’ I said.

‘I know your father and his brother were real close. I’m sure he wouldn’t do anything so reckless as to move him. Though I’d understand it, you see what I’m saying?’

I knew exactly what Jack was implying, and what he’d do if I were to say anything remotely close to agreeing.

‘Now you know that’s absurd, Jack. The truth is, between them, there were years of bickering and argument, even the occasional fisty-cuffs. I think the only thing they all had in common was worshiping the same God. We were there paying our respects, Jack.’

‘Aye. All thee same, lad, if he were helped out of that place, I’ll be thinking it right.’

‘Sure you would, Jack. You were a good friend to Jimmy, save the time he hit Alec McKay over the head with a mooring buoy, and you put him in the cell overnight.’

‘Alec had it comin’ sure enough,’ replied Jack, ‘but Jimmy cannot be taking the law into his own hands, that’s for me to do.’

‘Right enough, Jack. It’s all to do with the law.’

‘Well, I’ll be getting along. Thanks for the tea, Peggy. Maybe Sid or Harry saw something when they left. You say they left via the back door?’

‘I said I left via the front, and assumed they left by the back, Jack.’

‘Aye, right enough, that is what you said, lad. Well, I’ll be saying good morning to you.’

Jack left, putting his helmet on as he reached the gate.

‘What do you make of that, son?’ Mother asked.

‘Not sure. Jimmy suddenly finding his feet. A miracle I’d say.’

‘So… you’ll be thinking he’ll show up?’ Mother said, her lips smiling.

‘Jimmy always shows up, Mother. If he doesn’t it’s because he found somewhere better to live out his days. Right enough, don’t you think?’

‘You think Jack will go see Harry and Sid?’

‘When they come back. I forgot to mention that father was short-handed, took them with him. They’ll be gone a week or so, for sure.’

‘Your father took Harry fishing? The man mends bicycles, son!’

‘Sure, mother, when he’s not fishing! You know that!’

Jack trawled the town for informative gossip over the next several days.

The local rag reported a kidnapping from the hospice. Biggest news in Tobermoray since Gwyneth Bryant, the vicars daughter, got pregnant by Dickie ‘the raven’ Grubb!

So you see, I grew up among sea folk where rules are made according to wants, and social workers don’t always know what’s best. The pub to this day still rings with rumor. Harry and Sid, and sadly my father have all since been laid to rest, their ashes spread on the waters off Malin Head, taking their truth with them. Jack, no longer the only policeman on the island, still gives me the odd wink, his old rheumy eyes seeing everything, but going to his grave someday with one unsolved mystery.

old man on shoreline


Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


A Salad sort of Day

I’d taken the meandering road over the hill because it seemed a more interesting route. I was heading nowhere in particular and the evening light was falling down golden, bleeding mixtures of greens and blues through the trees, when I decided to look for somewhere to stay. I often take-off for the weekend, leaving the city in search of tranquility, greenness, space, clean air, and to be alone with my thoughts.

It was that time of day when the second smell of milk was in the air and the fields were strangely empty. The road wound on through hill and nook leading me passed broken gates and lilac bushes. I could smell the barn before seeing it, the warm smell of manure preceding its shape. Coming round the bend I witnessed the face of a little darling, standing on the grass verge with a stick in her hand. The yellow bonnet nestling on her head held her wheat coloured locks; some of which fell to her shoulders passed the azure gaze.

I raised my hand and smiled. The lick of happiness that happened on her face returned a burn of pleasure that reached right through the day and touched me. I watched her in my mirror, her hand raised, not in goodbye but hello, before the bend swallowed her.

What sights we see unexpectedly in the countryside. For the next was a shiny pair of oversized buttocks belonging to a growly faced farmer, patting his blubber-bodied terrier in the middle of the single track road. It seemed the approach of a car was a rare thing as he appeared startled, up-righting himself, blood pouring into his fact cheeks while his dog yapped and yipped and generally tried to bite the rubber from the wheels of my car. The farmer stood looking vexed. Both eventually disappeared in the suns distortions.

I had seeped into the valley with no sure direction but that which the winding road commanded. I had seen no signposts, no roads joining or leaving the one on which I traveled. Winter’s would be difficult out here but now, under the transparent stretch of sky, the evening light had seemed thrown across the hills in a beautiful patchwork quilt before the monochrome of moonlight dripped down between the hills and the trees and quieted the birds. I’d given up hope of finding somewhere to stay. I considered myself lost. It was that perfect.


1 Comment

Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


Concrete and footprints…

The liquid sunlight mixes with the morning mist above the hills along the coastline. Inexhaustible waves bring new objects for a tail-wagging Lucy, and an ageing Jonty to run with; their paw prints soon erased by the incoming tide this early morning. I’m grateful my footprints were never left in concrete. I’d be ashamed to see all those places left; the loves voiced, and the goodbyes never spoken.

Now, sitting on this rock, Jonty panting at my feet,  belly wet with salt water,  tail limp and no longer brushing the sand, we watch a youthful Lucy…run…run…run.

I am completely at peace within myself. No more the horror of midnights, the whisperings of the celestial tide bringing me those five minutes of uncertainty. God nor gold could move me from this place, north or south. So here I remain; the wanderer, the adventurer, the gypsy in me spent. No more inns with their green doors, harbors left, or ponies ridden on the carousel.

I’ve become the helper, the helping hand, just a man walking with his dogs along the shore, treading ever onward from all those places left.

border collie on shore

1 Comment

Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Meeting…

Settling down for my morning cup of tea, looking out from the window, I see the shoreline, see the birds spiraling, darting, squabbling, and the waves coming ashore, shallow, and shouldered with linen. I might turn away, pay attention to the kettle’s whistle, were it not for the child. I watch him dance, jump, unable to take my eyes off his joy. I feel a strong urge to go join him, this child dancing alone, enjoying my beach. The steaming kettle continues to demand attention, but I resist, transfixed by this boy who dances at the edge of the ocean, running wildly along its ragged waves. I remember how much I loved the sea when so young, its aloneness, wildness, hugeness, its mystery, and how I told myself I’d never leave its shores.

Think earlier, what about earlier? Think…God…think…born…living, people going away, a child, unnamed, running across the shore, being picked up by the tides and weather; weather so sweet it turns me sad because I know it won’t always stay. Think. Living, lives, a mother, a father, a tinker’s caravan set up camp, and this boy who comes running by the tide alone, perhaps in need of company, or strangers. Hair blown wild, blue of eye, needing a holocaust of attention. He might have been born on this very day, he looks so new and fresh, dancing and laughing to the sounds of the mandolin, a boy, a beach and the universe and the rarest wind I ever heard.  I quiet the kettle, pull on my oldest and most loved sweater, the one with holes in the elbow, mended, and holed again.

I walk toward the boy and the first thing he says to me is laughter. He’s glad to be alive and announces this by the very sounds he makes. I laugh in turn, for his spirit is catching. He shoves at me his salty-wet, sandy, hand. I hesitate. He gestures impatiently to take hold of it. ‘Com’on, there isn’t much time.’ Such a boy, I think, I would have liked as a son.

We are running hand-in-hand, headlong to where?  When he finally stops my heart is beating up the inside of my chest. I gasp my question. ‘Why is there so little time?’ He doesn’t answer, just runs off hell for leather along the shore. When I catch him we tumble into the sand, boy and man, playing. I pin him down. He gasps, and as he does so I jolt backward, as if my wet hands had been plunged into an electrical socket. The boy is me!

‘What do they call you, boy?’   I ask, still out of breath and wild.

‘Kelly, sir, Kelly Shaw.’

‘Okay, Kelly Shaw, let’s do a bit of walking. I’m an old man, my legs won’t carry me so far with you.’

I cannot tell him he is me all those years ago, or that I am him all these years later. Am I being shown my life, or is this boy playing with his destiny?

We walk the shore, and that’s all there is: the simplest thing of us upon that shore and the building of castles or climbing the sand dunes to fight our wars amongst the soft mounds, but mostly it is walking, our arms about each other as if we’ll never be cut free by knife or lightning. I sleep beside him and we talk and laugh till the new dawn. As I lay at his side, I wonder if this is in fact his choice; that he is wanting to know his destiny, the kind of man he will become.

Does he know, and has known since that first moment, we are in fact not strangers? He knows very well who I am: his spirit grown older, and how well he is dealing with it. A boy meeting his destiny and playing with it as though his best friend. Has he brought me to him knowing I’m dying? God, I bathe in his laughter as he bathes in mine, and this laughter and friendship and acceptance slaughters the agony of it all.

All day the weather is blue and gold, no clouds, no rain, and a breeze that smells of apples; a boy’s wild breath. Toward evening he sleeps, the sound of the sea in his ears. I wondered how long the flesh might resist its death. Will he like the man he’s grown into? A lifetime later he’ll be standing on this shore looking at himself. Will he love the boy, respect the man he is to become? I’ll never ask him, scared of his honesty.

Who will he tell…who can he tell…of this day on a beach shared with his destiny? A boy and a man together, the same heart, the same dreams, together on the shore, walking tangled in each others arms and lives. I know the women he will love, the woman he is walking toward, the woman he will die in front of, the things he will tell her, the things he never did, the anger, the love, the complications, the lies, the laughter. The promises, there’s the rub, the promises in our lives, these are the things, for if I can change one thing for him it will be to make each of them come true. That his life with her is as perfect as the letter ‘O’ and that they’ll live forever and never die and be good friends.

Why had I dared to say such a thing when life is sometimes agonized, mad, and crazy wild? Is it the parts left unsaid that make a life so short? Am I being given the magic seven days? Am I drunk? Am I dead?  No, I must live and the boy must grow old. I feel foolish. I want to change his destiny. But I’m dying for him, a cruel trick, to be his friend and not have made it better for him; to have loved the people he will love and not been true, ride the machines he will ride, see the things he will see, and when the time is right kill him. I will take him, grudgingly, to that never returning time, through a life of detours; taken just for the hell of it, which is the best reason in the world to do anything when you’re young, and for what, to bring him here, to this point, this shore, to die having lived for what?  For love?

And yet he sleeps.  Is this it? He’s just a boy on a beach, living the golden peace of innocence. Can’t I make his death more reasonable? Should I end his before other lives, deaths, carve his heart open with their presence and then with their absence? I look at the boy sleeping; his dreams becoming real in his head. Am I supposed to tell him how to handle a life of new starts, every beginning coming to an end? Is ‘hello’ the first word, or just a word we use before ‘goodbye’?

Secrets he’ll never be able to let go, even long after midnight, because the sea will not let him; because the boy will be here forever and the man hardly at all. It is good to think of this boy stomping the sand like a raging bull, the taste of salt on his lips, yelling out of sheer joy, and daring the universe to put him down. It is everything to think of a world where a boy can love this hard. I know what the boy is dreaming, I want to tell him his life will go on just as far as the ocean goes, which is very far. But it won’t. One day ahead this boy will be stood at the grave of his loved ones, needing just a little human talk, weeping.  The heartache of a man who has not been told he is going to die; just doing it, slamming out his life regardless of consequences, and this boy will be stood there, grown older, muttering his own home made prayer.

They say that everything is better in the morning, tell that to a woman fresh out of love, or a father standing at the grave of a son.

He’s just a boy, how can I tell him that my stories will become his stories; and that the love of which I speak is the very love he will suffer, know its beauty, its madness, its loss. Look at him, with his youth, and my life almost over. He will have need to write, to meet himself here on the page. He will think himself  clumsy, inarticulate with the spoken word, but when his keyboard starts to dance his world comes alive, it is the place he will want to be, for he never learns that real pleasure is in ‘the art of being lost’.

I hear her calling, this woman he will love, not his first, but he will no longer be alone. He will have the company of a lifetime. After years of waking up in a cold sweat, he will once again be at home on a shoreline writing his love to the world.

boy on shorelinep


Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Uncategorized