The Kyle of Tongue

I know this place.  I remember the many days along the edges of the Kyle.  I remember scrambling at low tide to the feathery eider nests on Talmine Island while nervous mothers sat tight; the night a pod of dolphins performed aquatic ballet in Tongue Bay, between Midtown and Scullomie; the dunes as high as water towers with sand so soft you could run down their steep faces, safe in the arms of gravity; the day on Rabbit Islands in the company of seals and the nervous wait on the shore – would the fisherman remember us; spinning off the rocks near the causeway as oystercatchers, in faithful pairs, skimmed the fast running tide near inquisitive selkies, heads bobbing in the water, watching our every move; the sad sight of the lone grebe, too exhausted to fly from its watery grave beneath Ard Skinid; the evening walks to the little that remained of Port Vasgo and the abandoned boats along the shoreline at Talmine; the busy otter, scurrying across the sands at low tide beneath Tongue Lodge, late, so late for a very important date; catching a first brown trout on Loch a Mhuilinn – a fish so young, it knew no better than to rise to my inexpert fly; always, a harem of seals sunning on the sandbar.  All this, and the reminder of how fragile we are – the beautifully sculpted, poignant headstone at Melness cemetery.

The young man had memories like mine and more.  Staying out too long for one last cast across inhospitable waters, he never made landfall again.

Melness graveyard ...Tongue Causeway and Bridge ...Memorial to a fisherman ...

The text is an extract from Golf in the Wild – Going Home – the sequel to the first book.

(as most will know, the film excerpts are from Local Hero – the appearance of the helicopter, like a rising moon, and its subsequent arrival on the beach at Camusdarach is one of cinema’s great moments).

Closer to the edge – 10

Somewhere between Barcelona and Gibraltar I finally succumbed to the Arcadia Cough, a slightly more vicious beast than I had imagined.  This resulted in a late slow start which combined with only a half day port call meant we saw precious little of The Rock.  With good intent we walked Main Street to the cable car and then realised that the journey up and down would make us late for the 13:00 departure time; I was in no fit state to run.

What we did see felt like a theme park based on an English high street.  There are the extras dressed up as English bobbies, street furniture which is an exact copy of Hexham’s, red postboxes, red phone booths of a type which have long ceased to exist at home and all the usual stores: Marks and Spencer, Next, BHS and perhaps most perversely of all, a branch of the Newcastle Building Society.  The inaccuracy is that it is absolutely thriving with not charity shop nor a boarded up window in sight; this is what English high streets would be but for disproportionate business rates, and more significantly, the rise and rise of supermarkets.  The Gibraltarians remain defiantly British:

Queen of Gibraltar

On the way back from the cable car and close to the Southport Gates is the quiet and subdued Trafalgar Cemetery which is the final resting place for a small number of casualties from the great sea battle. An old man, I like to think a sailor, stood in front of this grave and slowly read the inscription.  He then placed his hand reassuringly on the headstone as though upon the shoulder of Thomas Norman.  Not in vain, not forgotten.

Trafalgar headstone

So now we are heading back to Southampton after days under blue un-Christmas skies and mostly flat calm seas, we are even promised a gentle crossing of the Bay of Biscay.