The Seabird and the Anchor Story 2

20160122_164722.jpgSo, a friend of mine is part of the Distington Knitters and Crocheters and they posted pictures of their lovely wares on facebook. I innocently asked could they make ‘sea birds and anchors’. ‘You’re ‘avin’ a larff’, my friend told me. They speak plainly up north. But then, she wrote, ‘I’ll ask but you’d better come up and tell us their story.’ See birds and anchor…oh, and something to do with being frozen underneath…I think…and sunshine too, late in the afternoon…So, what is the story of the seabird and the anchor…where does it begin? Who’d like to start?

Once upon a time, in a cave to the west lived, and died, a colony of seabirds. The anchor saw the seabird circling above the boat, looking up and away. ‘If only it would look over here and notice me…’ Just then, the seabird swooped low towards the anchor. ‘It’s coming! Cripes, what do I do..?’ But the greywhite seabird dashed by and perched on the high sand dunes, looking towards the sunset.

‘I’m an anchor. I sit grounded, solid, dependable but do I feel restless? Do I want to be free like the bird to twist and turn, and soar with the wind? I sit stationery, safe, trusting, solid and dependable and I watch the ocean. Do I want to be like the ocean, ebbing and flowing, sometimes gently sometimes not but always moving? From this place of static dependability, I feel safe but stifled, trapped and my creativity longs to be free, to soar with the birds, to go with the ebb and flow of the tide, to experience the wind, the wild places. It longs to be free !!!’

‘Maybe tomorrow then, I’ll do something.’ It was trying to catch the eye of the bird. The last of the daylight bounced off the gleaming edge of the anchor, catching the bird’s eye. It took flight and settled on the upright. ‘I’d like to tell you something…’

The anchor waited in anticipation to hear what the bird had to say. The bird preened its feathers and called loudly, buffeted by the sea breeze, from the edge of the anchor. The anchor waited in excitement for the bird to speak. At last the bird opened his beak and…

…breathed in the salty air. The gusts of wind, trailing lines in the sand, almost picked the bird up. The beach was empty now save for the sea bird and the anchor. The tide had retreated, leaving wavy ridges rippling the sand. Pools of sea water squatted, abandoned. Away, far out, stood an island, its jagged rocks defying you to ascend. Lofty mountain peaks rose behind.

‘Anchor, you know I’m here, don’t you? It’s feels good, solid. I like it. I seem to spend so much of my time riding the winds, wherever they take me. Just sometimes it feels…I feel it would be nice just to stay in one place for a time. Take time to look at what’s going on around me. Even to look closely at that patch of rust forming on your side, follow its lines, sink into its reddish hollows…and yet, you see, the wind…how hard it is for me to stay in one place. I need….I mean, have been looking for someone like you, Anchor. I’m wondering will you be my anchor?’

The anchor looked surprise. ‘That’s a whole big question you’re asking me there. I don’t know. I’ve been here so long. This is me, where I am, who I am…Tell you what, why don’t you settle yourself down in the sand, behind my blade, out of the wind. Get some sleep. See how we feel in the morning. You might have flown off again by then!’

Sea bird snuggled down, as invited, for the night. Bird and anchor fell asleep to the music of the wind and the waves.

The wind and the waves soothed bird and anchor and anchor dreamt of what it must be like to soar above the ocean and, as he dreamt, he saw his long steel blades slowly being pulled from their base and, one by one, they rose and anchor felt as if he was slowly rising and as he rose he looked fearfully down at the hole he’d left behind and felt afraid.

Morning came. ‘It’s time to wake up’, called the bird. ‘Can I call on you? Can I take you with me?’
‘I’d like to but couldn’t we wait for some more time..? Come back in a decade or two, I’ll be ready then.’     ‘What’s the matter? It’s a chance to go and see more people and places.’
‘Ok, let’s…’

It was the dawn. The tide was rushing in. Life was stirring.
‘Lift me.’
‘Lift you. I’m trying. You’re too heavy.’
‘Think light. You can do it. Think how light your anchor is now and we can go.’

Seabird tried to clear its mind and focus on raising the anchor beneath. ‘Think light yourself, anchor.’

And the sand budged. Grain by grain, the bird was able to lift up the old, tired anchor till it hovered a few feet over the shore. ‘You’re not that heavy, you know. You seem really light to me now.’
‘Well, now you got me up here, where we going? Just don’t drop me. Remember I’m more a depth’s person than a height’s.’
‘Ok, hang on, let’s go…’


(The Seabird and the Anchor Story 2 is a collaborative piece, written by Flo, Elspeth, Maureen P. and me, originally on facebook over a week or so. Thanks everyone, writers and readers/supporters. It was great fun, flying and anchoring with you all.)


The Sea Bird and the Anchor Story 1

20160116_140305.jpgIn a world whirring, changing, how do you raise chicks? Buy a house, go to work? Or travel abroad? Use public transport? You have money worries…lack of parental support or maybe too much parental support… And what about keeping your friends and social networks..? It’s a big ask.

‘Why are you carrying an anchor?’, she asked him. ‘Isn’t it heavy? Where did you get it?’   ‘I need it. It keeps me sane. In one place’                                                       ‘Mine’s smaller than yours!’             ‘Mine? My anchor..? I don’t have one.’ ‘But you’re holding it now. I can see it and it’s bigger than mine.’                           ‘Where?’

He didn’t see his own anchor but she clearly held one. Could she be right? ‘Nonsense’, he dismissed the idea.

Yet her anchor seemed over the year to get lighter. It didn’t seem to hold her back. She put it down where she needed to and pulled it up when she wanted to get going. He could see she carried it, like a weight of iron.

He approached her one day to ask ‘Can I hold your anchor?’ ‘Not till you hold your own.’                    ‘I haven’t got one.’                          ‘No? It’s on the floor. There. Right beneath you. I’m surprised you can hardly move.’

He looked down. A metallic flash shot up into his eyes. He felt the cold, rough metal he was dragging. His anchor. How come he hadn’t seen it before? He thought he’d just been putting on weight.

‘Bye. I have to fly’, she said.                       ‘For how long? Will you be back?’         ‘I don’t know. I’ll see you. I need to fly. ‘Bye!’                                                               And with that she took off.

One day, he took up his anchor and started walking till he came to a park. He sat down next to a homeless man on a bench, hoping he wouldn’t see he was carrying an anchor.  ‘See you’re holding your anchor.’                ‘You noticed?’                                                 ‘Yes, I’ve got mine here. It’s good, buried deep in the ground. It keeps me here, keeps me sane. My world, you see, here.’                                                                ‘But how can you..?’                         ‘I’ve tried but I can’t carry my anchor any further…I got as far as here and here to drop. Suppose I’ll die here.’

But he didn’t want to die here. He shared his sandwich and drink with the homeless man and picked up his anchor and walked on. How heavy it felt. He groaned.

He came to a town centre. Many people were struggling, rushing from one place to the next. Overhead, others still were flying, balancing their anchors as if they were made of aluminium or inflatable, even. He thought he saw his partner, flickeringly, but perhaps not. He felt lonely. He missed her. Funny how he’d missed their anchors growing. Should he keep his? It actually felt part of him. He looked carefully at it. The weather had worn the edges round. Rust had got a grip at the bottom…not unattractively. The chain around his neck chafed his skin. He tried to take it off but he couldn’t.

He carried on till he came to a beach, dragging his anchor round and round on the sand, forming a shell. Exhausted, his legs gave way and he found himself sitting in the centre for how long, he didn’t know. He fell into a deep sleep.

Someone was singing to him. He heard her voice. ‘Are you ok?’ He lifted an eye lid. There she was, stood, floating in the shimmering light of the sun. ‘Come with me.’ ‘I can’t. I have this anchor. It’s too heavy. I can’t do any more.’ ‘But look, I have my anchor too.’ And she started laughing, started dancing. ‘Why isn’t it heavy?’ It looks so light.’ ‘Oh, it can be heavy, when I need it to be. But if it was heavy all the time, I would hate it. How would I live? How would I be free?’

‘It’s not that easy. I can’t lift this.’ ‘Here, let me help you. Come on, your hand. Stand up.’ He struggled to his feet. ‘Would it be ok if I held your anchor for you?’ ‘Would you? Yes..!’ She picked it up. It seemed to float on her palm. He felt its lightness. He moved slowly, his movement freer without the anchor’s weight.

‘Come with me’, she said. ‘When was the last time you kicked your feet in the sea?’ ‘Oh, that’s such a long time ago…I don’t remember.’ ‘Then, come on. I’ll take both our anchors for now. It’s quite simple, once you get the hang of it.’

She took his hand and they walked into the surf. He noticed how beautiful his anchor shone in the daylight and how colourful was the chain of flowers joining her to her anchor. He looked down at his own chain. One link was broken and a bud was forming.

Chess Peaces

20151119_083318.jpg‘Fancy a game of chess?’ ‘I’m not very good.’ ‘That’s ok, then, neither am I.’ And so we’d play and one of us would win and one of us would lose. Does it really matter who?

Years ago, I was in the sixth form, I was at my mate, Mark’s, house and we were playing chess. I wasn’t very good and neither was he. He had to go sort something out and his younger brother asked if he could take over. Yes, of course. I sniggered and playfully humoured the youngster as I devoured his pieces…except it didn’t turn out that way, as somehow he beat me. I felt humiliated. Simon loved it and shouted out his victory all over the house and repeated it every time I visited. Funny thing, too, it put me off playing chess for ages.

When I turned 40, I asked for a chess set for my birthday, one of the Viking warriors, discovered on Maes How on Orkney. It came with a beautiful wooden board. It stayed in its box for a long time till my youngest son grew old enough and interested enough to play. I’ll teach him all I know, ha! And we played and you know how it is, you want your children to grow and progress and to learn how to win and to lose, yet, playing chess, despite many times starting out with the intention of letting him win, it seems I just couldn’t do it. I could at football, at pool…even at badminton but not chess. Partly, it was just more difficult to conceal a losing strategem. It’s not like I was any good at it…then, suddenly I would see a three or four move sequence multi-move and I was onto it. I won game after game but it did get closer. One day, my son would beat me and that would be ok, I told myself.

That day looked to have arrived when I was fighting for my life with only my king, my knight and a couple of pawns still standing. Joe was obliterating me and I was merely switching between the sides of the board, awaiting the final blow. Till he placed his Queen, corner to corner, next to my pawn. I looked up at him. He was oblivious to the move, doobydoobydoobying to himself. I shook my head, starting to smile. He looked at me, uncertainly, unexpectantly. He followed my glance and I watched his brow furrow, his cheek crease while he realises his mistake. ‘Can I take that one again?’ ‘Is your hand still on the piece? Is your hand? Er, no, it isn’t, then, quite clearly, by the rules of the game, you can’t.’ I slowly reached across to pick up my pawn and dashed his queen to the floor. Victory was mine, snatched from! Except it wasn’t, he reminded me recently. We played out a drawer yet it felt like a victory.

Thing was, after that, Joe didn’t want to play chess with me again. We didn’t play for ages. I lost my playing buddy.

Most weekday mornings, nowadays I settle in my chair in the study for 20-30 minutes of what I call ‘breathing prayer’. It helps me centre down and prepare for the day. The chess set just happens to be set up in front of the chair. I couldn’t help myself. I started playing myself. Just one move on each side each day…long games. And I noticed I began to take on myself as a challenge. Right brain against left. Left ear against right. One hand against the other. Who was I playing? What was this thing about winning? Did I want to beat myself?

And the pieces, the chess pieces, they didn’t look so happy either. Some cast off to the side, others hunted down or bearing down on their enemies, they looked in need of a break, as all Vikings must. A feast, a celebration…introduce music and stories. Well, why not? And I looked again at the pieces and aligned the kings and queens to face one another. What if, instead of fighting, they were…dancing? What if all the pieces were clapping and singing and joining in the dance too? I brought the others in to the circle and waited. Immediately, the mood lightened and they seemed brighter.

I move pieces round each morning in the dance. They’re still dancing now. And we can still play chess. I’m waiting for Joe to come round, so he can whoop my ass! And who cares? Meanwhile, the pawn is dancing with the queen, the king with the castle and everyone is joining in the dance. And I’m right there too…in the middle.