A Titanic Connection

Robert Hichens, the man at the helm of the SS Titanic when it made contact with the iceberg on its way to New York, was a Newlyn boy. In fact, there were five Newlyners aboard in total. They are there, these Cornish men born of salt, in so many of our stories about the sea. Hichens was one of those lucky rescued few, on Lifeboat 6, to be exact. After his near-death experience on the Titanic, Hichen’s life was not easy; other surviving passengers attested that he had refused to help rescue other people in the water, calling them ‘stiffs,’ a fact that he denied during the US inquiry. Despite these accusations and the traumatic nature of his experience, Hichens continued working on the sea for the rest of his life, dying of heart failure aboard the merchant ship English Trader in Scotland, when he was fifty-nine.

Dark, Salt, Clear: The Life of a Fishing Town, p. 171

Woe: Dark, Salt, Clear, p. 103

Each day at least four freighters are lost to the seas, their cargoes spilling out into the water to be dispersed by the waves and discovered on beaches years later — trainers, cogs from machines and plastic packaging mixing in with the seaweed and foam left by waves.

Locking Eyes . . . with a Shark

The action unfolds to the accompaniment of ‘Elvis with the Philharmonic Orchestra’ booming from speakers “at the back of the wheelhouse,” music selection made by Don, the Captain:

Andrew and Stevie fling the fish through the air into buckets. Every time they come across small sharks wriggling out of the pile and snapping their strong jaws, they fire them back into the sea like shot-puts. I lock eyes with one and see across its rubbery face an expression of utter disbelief as it flies right past the wheelhouse window.

Dark, Salt, Clear, p. 44

HA HA HA!

Bless her heart, Lamorna Ash makes being out at sea with these men feel like a grand adventure! Great description.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The “Fishwife Call”

If Lamorna Ash had written about nothing else except the pubs of Newlyn and the eight days on a fish trawler with six (or was it seven) Cornish fishermen, this book would have been worth the read. But we are only on p. 40, so one can only imagine what other Cornish memories lie in store!

So far, on this eight-day fishing trip, Ash has made reference to Moby Dick and something by Conrad, this interspersed with anecdotes about the crew (Kevin, a flaming redhead and the youngest of the crew is, naturally, the cook. First night’s dinner is “chicken burgers and lovely fucking peas.”)

Speaking of Moby Dick, self read that book for the first time in her first quarter as a Creative Writing Fellow at Stanford. Everyone else was reading Raymond Carver but, self being so obstreperous, she read Moby Dick. It took her, she thinks, something like three months, and she was in pain the whole time.

The trawler’s name is the Filadelfia –why? Next thing self knows, she is trolling her archives for pictures of Philadelphia, her favorite American city next to her own, the city where Dearest Mum attended Curtis (Dearest Mum was only 11 when admitted, and became super-famous, a famous like Britney Spears! For winning the New York Times International Piano Competition, at 14. Her teacher at Curtis was a Madame Mengerva, who told Dearest Mum she should never get married, which is why, when Dearest Mum was 21, she eloped and ended up having five children with Dear Departed Dad)

On p. 40, self reads about the Fishwife Call, that lovely seafaring tradition where “whoever is on watch puts the kettle on, makes mugs of coffee and then heads down to wake the snoozing crew for the next haul” with a hearty ‘Alrightfuckers!’

So interesting.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Eight Days on a Fishing Boat from Newlyn

Lamorna Ash is a beautiful writer. Self appreciates the precision in the following description, especially “they will repeat this performance over fifty times more in the week to come”:

Dressed in their oilskins, the men head out onto the uncovered deck to spread the nets ready for the first haul. They will repeat this performance over fifty times more in the week to come. The ancient, bird-like being heaves her wings back up, pulling the chainmail-clinking nets high up into the air above us, before dropping them down into the water with a smack. They break its surface and disappear beneath. The nets will remain sunken for the next few hours, stroking along the seabed, gathering fish into their cod-ends.

The salt-licked wind makes my eyes red . . .

Dark, Salt, Clear: The Life of a Fishing Town, p. 33

And since self has so many pictures from her own trip to Cornwall in 2019, she’ll just throw in one more, why not?

Quote of the Day: “just so bleeding tired”

Lamorna Ash’s first stop in Newlyn is, naturally, a pub:

“When you first come in,” . . . Nathan later tells me . . . “you literally do not know what to do with yourself. And you’re tired; you are just so bleeding tired that the easiest way out is to go to the pub and turn your brain right off.”

Seeking sanctuary in the pub becomes a way of numbing yourself within an environment that itself does not feel quite of the land, more an extension of your time at sea — filled with gumbooted men straight off their boats who retain the strong aroma of fish.

Dark, Salt, Clear, p. 18

Mousehole, 1595

Mousehole is a quaint fishing village in Cornwall, which features in a book called The Mousehole Cat that Lamorna Ash remembers her mother reading to her as a child.

In 1595 a Spanish naval squadron landed at Mousehole and sacked it, burning down almost every building, before continuing their violence upon the coast in Newlyn and Penzance.

Dark, Salt, Clear: The Life of a Fishing Town, p. 11

New Book: DARK, SALT, CLEAR

Finished A Promised Land. Self never thought she would say this about a Presidential memoir, but it was a lot of fun to read. For example, Sarah Palin’s energy policy summarized in one quote: “Drill, baby, drill!”

44 displays some mighty clear-eyed thinking about bin Laden and the decision he made to authorize the Navy Seal mission. He had choices: he could have ordered a drone strike. But with a drone strike, they could never be absolutely sure they had gotten their man. The identification of bin Laden, to 44’s thinking, was paramount. And he was right.

Yesterday, self began reading Dark, Salt, Clear, Lamorna Ash’s memoir of her year spent living in a small fishing village in Cornwall. Self has been itching to read this book since forever. She, too, has taken that same rail journey from Paddington. Unlike Ms. Ash, she did not continue all the way to Penzance, she got off at Par. The not-quite-a-week self spent in Cornwall, in May 2019, was her homage to Daphne du Maurier after reading Tatiana de Rosnay’s marvelous Manderley Forever.

The prologue to Dark, Salt, Clear describes a life drawing class in which the male model “did not curve his body self-consciously across some chaise lounge but looked at us head on, legs apart, arms outstretched as if to say: Here I Am!

  • His body bore the marks of a life lived hard — his arms strong and sinewy, his face cross-hatched by wrinkles, his back and biceps scribbled all over with dark blue tattoos.

He was a Cornish fisherman.

Below, the harbor at Fowey, Cornwall, May 2019.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Self Wishing She Could

frame p. 505 of A Promised Land because everything you need to know about Lindsey Graham is there in two paragraphs.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Next book: a young woman decides to spend a year in Cornwall after a life drawing class in which the model is a fifty-something fisherman. Self heard the woman writes pretty well, too: Dark, Salt, Clear: Life in a Cornish Fishing Town, by Lamorna Ash.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 90: DISTANCE

This week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge is DISTANCE.

These days, everyone’s talking about and hopefully practicing “Social Distancing”. Since it’s something we should all be doing, we thought a challenge focused on DISTANCE might be an appropriate reminder of its importance.

Self visited New Mexico over the holidays. The place still fascinates.

20191230_103658

Cranes in a field near Albuquerque, New Mexico: Late December 2019

Self loves London’s bridges. She loves the view, she loves the bustling river traffic.

DSCN9994

London, November 2019

Finally, self was fascinated by Cornwall, which she visited for the first time last May, to attend the Fowey Festival of the Arts (Traditionally held in May, the festival’s been postponed to late September),

DSCN0288

Sailboat near Fowey, Cornwall: May 2019

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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