The Clyde at Rothesay Bay


Someone once told me that the sea remembers everything and that she never forgets. The sea keeps everything she wants deep and close to her, spitting out what she doesn't. She keeps the tears of emigrating peoples and the dying breaths of sailors and throws up, on beaches thousands of miles away, everything from plastic ducks to fishing boats, to remind us, we who live on the land, that she is everywhere.

I have lived beside the river Clyde all my life. I have lived beside the upper reaches, where the smell of oil and dying vegetation hangs over everything, where the deceptively slow river has rips and undertows that can suck and kill. Floating dogs, polystyrene cups and plastic bags dance lazily on its greasy surface. Now I live on Bute - an island near its mouth, where the water around us is clear and where seals and dolphins swim. Always, always, I have looked out on the water. I used to watch my husband sail past me, years ago, on his way to the wild Arctic Ocean - watch him until I could see him no more. I would wait for the bow-wave of the ship's wash to break upon the shore and only then turn for home.

As he left on the voyages that lasted months, I, as a fearful and hopeful bride, would go to the water's edge and give the sea a small sacrifice. A token. 'It has to be just enough to hurt,' I was told. And so, one by one, I gave her what was important to me then - a whole packet of cigarettes. And with each one I threw as far as I could into the black water I prayed; 'Let this be enough for you; let my husband return to me, safe and sound.' So I kept my bargain and she kept hers.

The windows of my house here in Rothesay, the main town on Bute, look out onto the sea that takes my man from me for the greater part of every year - and yet still brings him home. I watch the dawns and the seasons turn and I watch the sea, peaceful or wild. I watch the migrating flocks of geese that fly south in the autumn and I watch the tides.

We speak to each other; the sea and me - sometimes a whisper, sometimes a howl. And thus it has always been for the wives of sailors and fishermen. We watch her closely - she that might take him from us. We cannot go far. We are rooted on the shore. We live a jealous life.
My Favourite Place? Oh yes. My favourite, my only place.