Warm, five o’clock, Scottish, June sunshine bathes my old ripening skin as I sit here by the Harbour Cottage Art Gallery, overlooking the deep muddied channel of the river. A faint smell of diesel is in the air. Fishing boats are queued up, blue and white, some a little rusted, moored and waiting.
Empty lobster pots are stacked alongside the neatly cut grass the other side of the chain railings which enclose a small park. The inevitable ‘anchor statue’ graces this park. The one which really tugs at the heart strings is the carved oak sculpture of two female figures clinging desperately to each other, representing family awaiting the return of a loved one lost at sea; shows the true emotions connected with such a perilous occupation.
Going back is never a good thing. Better to have the memory. The insulting sanitisation and gentrification of such hardship and honourable work is too much, for the likes of us, to bear. We had work, we had pride in ourselves; we slept from exhaustion, driven by the next day of expectation. It wasn’t a bad life!
Times change you see. Should I feel guilty, now, about what I was doing then? I was merely earning my living. Cold unpleasant work it was. My sons feel the guilt, not me! For me it was blood, sweat and tears. I saw terrible things, a man with his legs ripped off him, caught in the capstan; he never worked again.
They were long hours on board ship, in all weathers, in shocking conditions, you wouldn’t want a dog to experience. I had two littl’uns at home, but I never saw much of the little buggers! They were ‘mummy’s boys’, they hardly knew me.
Looking back, it wasn’t a good thing, killing those beautiful animals. It was barbaric and a truly life-changing experience, but, I’m glad I did it…and the money was good especially if you got a job on the Norwegian factory ships! Paid no dues to any governments yer see. Could be away for 4-5 months on those damn ships, had to travel further afield when the stocks got low.
It was work… and you just got on with it! You could warm yer frozen hands in the blood of a freshly killed whale, but a dead’un, a week old and stinking… boy, you wouldn’t want to be there!
So you see, when I sit here and look at these ‘namby pamby’ tourists drinking their Pinot Grigot and eating their fancy scallops in that garlic and ginger, I get a peculiar feeling in me belly. Very nice life they have, very nice! Soft hands and Nancy shirts, they don’t know what real work is; the horrors I’ve seen. They see these cute fisherman’s cottages all prettied and painted up, think nothing of paying the mad rents and they thinks they’re in Fairyland?
This is an empty, pale ghost of a town haunted by the dead whaling men who didn’t make it back home. I keeps me own thoughts to meself, like. Got big emotions and profound memories of what this place has meant to me over the years. It’s not the place I remember now…I won’t be stayin’ long and I won’t be comin’ back!