Summer in Swansea

My Uncle Frank’s first water color:
the Mumbles Lighthouse from Limeslade

              … but it’s watch out for the dog, for the dog gets everywhere because he’s on holiday too and everybody’s on holiday in this little sea side town and the cousins have come down from London with their cockney accents, born within the sound of Bow Bells, though they’re half Welsh by blood, though you wouldn’t believe it with those incredible accents which nobody can understand … and they’ve never seen the sea, though their mother was born here, beside my mother, beside this self-same sea which has never left and which still flows in and out, even now, and it still flows through my bones and “Look at all the water!” my youngest cousin cries and then he really cries because London, the capital of England, is concrete and tarmac and all petrol smell and smog and fumes and busses and he’s never ever seen the sea, the sea’s open spaces, the wide open arms of the bay held out to embrace you with Swansea Docks on the left, a working area of ships and shipyards where my grandfather labours and takes me on workdays, even in summer, and shows me the ships and his friends and everyone is happy and laughing because it’s summer and it’s hot and there’s lots of employment and the banana boats are lining up in the bay, at low tide, waiting for high tide, when they can enter harbour and be unloaded and this happens all year round, but it’s really in summer, when the sun is as yellow as the bananas, that the banana boats become significant and we show them to my cousin who has never seen the sea nor the banana boats, though he knows what a banana is and where to buy them and what they cost, but he never knew they came in on these boats, these great white summer boats, from Africa and the Caribbean,  with their funnels all yellow and their bright stripe of blue, Elder and Fyffe, and the boats all lined up in the bay and look: to the right there’s the Mumbles and the Mumbles has a pier and a playground and you can go out and walk on the pier and at the end there’s the life boat and the life boat has a slipway for the life-boat to run down into the sea to rescue people who are shipwrecked, but only in winter because in summer the sea is calm and shiny and it runs in and out twice a day, like an obedient dog, and why is the beach wet? Because the sea weed … and the pier is a world full of wonders, with its peep shows and its games and the old men fishing off the end, chatting and gossiping, and not ever worrying about whether or not they catch the fish which many of them throw back anyway, so they can catch them again tomorrow  …

Kingsbrae 2.2


Kingsbrae 2.2
2 June 2017

The Red Room

Carlos makes music on his flute.
He lives in the Green Room,
an open door opposite mine.

He creates the highest note of all
and it floats before me in the air,
a trapeze artist caught in a sunbeam,
suspended between the hands
that fling and those that catch.

His musical rhythms are different.
I try to follow his fingering.

In the space between notes,
hummingbirds flash their ruby
throats as they flit between flowers.

With a whirring of wings, all music
stops, save for the robin’s song
refreshing the early summer
with the sound of his eternal joy.

Journal: As I unpack my bags and start to settle in and arrange the room to my own liking, Carlos who will stay in the room opposite mine, starts to play his flute. I listen to the notes and, as I am listening, a robin joins in the song. I rest for a moment and sit at the small writing desk by one of the windows. From here I can see white clouds floating their ice-berg shapes across a sea-blue sky. Beneath them, Passamaquoddy Bay sparkles and crackles with filtered sunshine.

My mind goes back to another, more desperate time, two years ago, when I sat by the hospice window in Moncton and looked out at the car park. My car sat out there, abandoned, lonely, waiting to take me home for the welcome respite of a weekend free from radiation and treatments. Now, looking out of the window towards Minister Island, I feel as if I belong, as if this place had been waiting a long time for me to arrive and bear witness to it. I feel deep inside me the joy I feel when I walk in the door and enter the warmth of my own family and home.