My hero without a novel, continues his wanderings by the sea, and begins to make very tentative plans…
The sea was out, far, far out, a mere silver sliver on the horizon beneath the clouds gathering round the setting sun. Gus surveyed it with a gloomy fatalism. He loved the sea, loved being beside the sea, but not this sea, this estuary flow of muddy salty water. He liked no he loved a clear sea, a bright sea, a moving sea, a sea which sang. He thought of the Antrim coast. The infinite variety of sea… blue, grey, black, soft, gentle, fierce angry, irate… he smiled. An irate sea, an amusing thought… but the humour died and he turned to plod across the damp sand.
The sea birds tonight had not settled, they were flying about, hither and thither, but silent apart from the odd squawk. Why did they not settle on the beach as they had the other night? A bee flew past, towards the sea and he called at it to come back, that it was going the wrong way.
He glanced around to see if anyone was near enough to hear his foolishness. The beach was deserted. he turned a full 360 degrees but there was no-one in sight and just as he was thinking how odd this was a couple with three dogs rounded the sea wall and a car moved into his line of vision.
Turning to trudge towards the yacht club he noticed another two couples walking across the sand. He sighed deeply and plodded on. Nothing was very interesting, the sky was a uniform grey, the clouds were just piles of fluff, the light was poor and the distant meadows fuzzy. It was not cold but there was mistiness in the air which was cold.
There were lights on in the yacht club tonight, and it had only been the other day that he had wondered whether anyone ever went there any more. He heard voices as he passed by, people chatting and laughing together.
He moved on and suddenly he was by the kissing gate. Somehow he had walked past the upturned dinghies, across the meadow, up the little bank, along the path by the river and here he was at the kissing gate. With no-one to kiss.
He stopped and looked across at the yachts in the boatyard. Some were on the bank of the river, ready to be launched, some were even moored in the river, and others were propped up in the yard. Would he like a boat? He didn’t think he could cope with all the ropes – sheets as they were properly called, and sails, and knots, and all the rest of the maritime gubbins.
To sit in a rowing boat and skull slowly somewhere, to paddle about in a canoe, to drift along in a put, yes how pleasant that would be… but a yacht… no, not for him.
A canal boat. Maybe he should sell up and buy a canal boat and live on that. It would be small, forcing him to sell or give away a lot of his junk. He would have to be neat, he would have to be tidy. He would live economically on baked beans and Worcestershire sauce. But he had met someone once who had lived on a canal boat. He had said it was cold and noisy…
Well, sometimes he was cold in his house by the rhyne, and quite often it was noisy. Maybe he would look up canal boats on the Internet and see how much they were… sell his house and become a water gypsy as his uncle called boat dwellers. He would have to pay mooring fees… and have to empty the toilet and buy water… but he did that already with rates, and refuse collection, and sewage and water rates… Yes, he would explore the possibilities.
He walked on with a more jaunty stride, knowing that really whatever investigation and research he did he would not do it… to sell his house would be making a decision, and the thought of trying to choose where, and how, and what… impossible.
In the pub, by chance one of the yachties, Jerry stood beside him at the bar and Gus asked him about the costs of a boat in the boatyard. Another Gerry joined in the conversation and the two men began to tell him about people who had lived on boats, it was not allowed apparently but they had some tales to tell, deviating off into other stories as they bought several rounds. Their girlfriends, partners as they were now called, Flip and Brenda joined them and they adjourned to a table and the talk turned to more general things and suddenly it was last orders.