Do you have a special place where you go… to contemplate… to get space… to remember… to appreciate beauty…to gain perspective? It’s funny how places change with time and experience, collecting together memories and growing older.
In this short story Brindley, a farmer near Manaccan, recalls his memories of Frenchman’s creek. From 45 years ago, 40 years back, 35 years, 25, 10, 5, ‘to one beautiful Septembers Day’ this year.
A Beautiful September Day
The last day of September and the mist have hung around all morning, after dinner it clears and turns into a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky. I walk down to see the in-calf heifers, across the roadway field, over the stile, down across the long hill and into the creek field. They are all there basking in the sun and Tiny, The largest heifer, comes up to have her ears scratched. I duly oblige and she wanders off content with the human contact, swishing her tail at the flies. Two choices, shall I walk back home or go down creek. Make the most of it Brin, it will soon be winter. I hop over the gate, down through the path in the woods to the creek. Take a look at the ash tree where my father carved his initials. BH 1955. That ash tree is a wish looking specimen, still only has a 30 inch girth, too much shade I suppose. The grass of the quay is still a bit damp but I sit down regardless. (You`ll get piles, you silly boy).
Is it special because of the book or is it special in spite of the book?
I sit there for several minutes savoring the silence, there is a slight hum from the insects in the trees and in the distance a curlew calls and I get a snatch of conversation from two walkers on the path the other side. Some of the trees on the banks have already shed their leaves and the others are starting to change colour from greens to yellows and then on towards brown, preparing them selves for the winter to come.
I notice how the quay has eroded over the years, we were going to rebuild it when we had the time and the money but unfortunately are still waiting for both. My mind drifts back forty-five years (I know, I don`t look that old.) We took a trip in the boat one evening, my father, my uncle, my brother and myself. Flos was left on the quay barking, she decided to jump in and swim after the boat, we pulled her in and she came too. Out to the end of the creek and then out towards the mouth of the river, fishing for mackerel with brightly coloured feathers. Near the mouth coming across the rubber boon stretched out from bank to bank trying to stop the oil from the Torrey Canyon coming in and desecrating the river and then back home getting out of the boat, stiff with the cold. Forty years ago, walking down creek one fine April day and deciding to have a swim, no trunks, swam in my pants, dried in my vest and then walked home chafing in all the wrong places. Thirty five years ago coming down to the creek field to dig up horse thistles with a pick and then when finished, hot and sweating going down for a swim. With my trunks this time. With age comes experience.
The tide is coming in by now and I can see the grey mullet swimming lazily along, just below the surface. We could never catch them, even tried shooting them on one occasion. Never ever caught even one. My mind drifts back twenty five years. Coming home from the Ferryboat Inn one night, my brother, my sister, my wife and myself walking up the path in the pitch dark, holding hands so as not to lose the way, tripping over a tree stump and going down like a row of dominoes and then laughing until we cried. Ten years ago taking my children down creek with a raft they had built out of four five gallon drums and a pallet. Surprisingly it worked and they had a very good evening getting wet and starting their own memories of the place.
Five years ago and not such a happy memory, a gentleman decided that Frenchman`s Creek was the right place to take his own life with a cocktail of whisky and sleeping pills. Thankfully he was found in time and we carried him semi comatose up through the woods to a waiting ambulance, thanking God that my problems had never seemed so big that suicide was the only option.
I wish that pontoon from Helford were not parked in the middle of the creek for the winter; it spoils the ambiance of the place to a man of my sensibilities.
My mind drifts back to last Christmas Day. I went out at 4 `o` clock to check the sheep and went down creek afterwards. It was bitterly cold, the tide was out and sheets of ice were lying on the mud flats waiting for the tide to come in and float them off again.
My mind comes back to the present as I feel the damp seeping through my jeans so I get to my feet and having had my fix, head back home refreshed.