It’s that time of year when you see egrets wade in numbers greater than one, and when beloved swallows fly out for jollies, tracing spirals in the sky then swooping down across the grey green water. At lunch today a blackbird cautiously stole mouthfuls of cake left just out of our reach, trying to pick up every last crumb in an already packed mouth before speeding away to its nest. The stupid swans from the boatyard next door parade their gorgeous fluffy grey cygnets round the boats, ever ready to nip your shoes, that “piss off” look in their eyes as they wait for you to feed them. No. You piss off.
I’m starting to accept again that this is happening, and feeling at ease at last. I’d been jittering again right up to my last day of work at the council, and then was so nervous about the play and particularly all the saying “goodbye” that by the time I came home I was determined to run the tension away no matter how poorly my lungs would fare. But as luck would have it, I was greeted in the marina by the familiar faces of our neighbour, Rachel, and her fantastic dog Gryn. I’d not seen her for a year or two as she’s been living away from her boat, so a run was quickly replaced by a cider and a cheeky cigarette on deck. In her enthusiasm, experience and gentle understanding my nerves eased, and talk of her solo voyages and the sunshine to come brought out a hopeful joy that I know well. The preview performance of the opera went incredibly well, and by the next day, heading off to Millbrook to do my lesson plan, several weights seemed to have lifted.
We spent yesterday afternoon with my sister and her husband, and my nephew who has sprung from a burbling toddler into a clever and funny little boy. I had worried that saying goodbye to them would be hard, and there were moments then and since when I’ve anticipated the pang of missing their visits and his next steps of learning and playing, the words that he’d pick up and use while we threw stones into the sea if only I was around. At the time, though, it was just “bye bye”. We’ll Skype. See you soon.
Gwen’s doing well. Last weekend we took her up the neighbouring slip and scraped her, washed her and put on a coat of antifoul in grizzly weather. Working against the tidal clock we dramatically raised the water line and with mild alarm crumbled off some bits of paint that didn’t stick so well the first time round. I spent much of it robed in my oversized yellow “banana coat”, and enjoyed spraying a thin water jet at a hull full of mud like a proper Ghostbuster, even in occasional hail. Today in the sun we finally got the coach roof bolted on, a job that has been on “to do” list after “to do” list since Rich built the thing however many moons ago. It got lashed to the boom and the peak halliard and hoisted with a handy billy, and I scrubbed its residue away before Rich drilled holes, dropped it and bolted it tight.
Now we’re clearing the deck, the shed and the container, and finding spaces inside Gwen to store what we want to keep. We’ll be out of the marina the morning after the first and last public performance of my opera on Tuesday night, two days from now*. Then there’s the send-off, and perhaps then a second lot of antifouling, and then… off.
There’s so much unknown to look forward to, and it’s still impossible to process how much there is to leave behind. I’ve been catching things that I often notice with new determined observation. The sounds of the days: Monday’s test siren at the dockyard over the Tamar, Tuesday’s bell ringing practice at the church where my grandparents are buried up on the hill, Thursdays thunderous helicopters telling me the war games are on out at sea, the weekend’s football shouts from the village behind whispered on the water. There is an excitement about spring in the shire, stirred up in long pub evenings and bursts of cycling and walking in our blazing beautiful countryside. The rolling glow of sunsets emanating from Whitsand Bay, the steady thuds of bands rehearsing in decrepit buildings, gossip giggled over coffees outside the Honey Rooms. I’m ready to remember them all.
Then there are the people. I don’t yet feel like I’m leaving them. It’s just “bye bye, see you soon”, right?
“So, are you excited?” “Yeah, yeah, alright. I am.”
*I wrote this a couple of days ago, but have only been able to publish it today. That’s going to be the way of things from now on, I suspect.