“Go and do something with your youngest son, Norman. He barely knows you.”
I reckon I was eleven. “So Alexander, where do you want to go?” “I dunno.” “There must be somewhere you haven’t been on the island? We can go anywhere you want.” “I dunno.” “Let’s go to the point of Ayr. Have you been there? It’s the northernmost part of the island.” “Yeah I guess… *shrug* “
We get in the car. Up we go. I remember it well. A rare and long memory of time with my dad. Thinking about it now I’m crying suddenly. Dad’s been dead a long time. It never quite goes away.
A grey day as you’d expect from The Isle of Man. There’s a lighthouse. “Look, a lighthouse!” This wasn’t a day of amazing revelations. In many ways, it’s the mundanity of the day that makes it so hard to remember without grief. I’ve made sense of the swashbuckling playboy racer I knew as a kid. It’s memories like this one that bring back home to me that he was my dad as well.
We stood on a stoney beach and looked across the big grey sea. It wasn’t cold, nor was it hot. The wind on the island is a constant. “You see on the horizon? That’s Scotland. That’s where your daddy came from.”
We threw stones at the waves. He taught me to throw better. “They taught us with hand grenades,” he said. “That way you make sure it goes as far as possible.” “If I’m strong enough can I throw all the way to Scotland?” “You can try.”
In my memory we were on that grey beach for hours. In some ways we’ll be on that grey beach forever. Old father and young son. Not the only day we had just us, but one of only a few. I soaked them up like a sponge, those days. “Every seventh waves a big one,” he said, and without really thinking I said the same thing to Lou on the beach in Brighton last week. There’s something in it, although it’s not an exact science. We threw and skimmed and talked.
“It doesn’t point to Ayr, the point of Ayr. But that part of Scotland you can see – it’s part of Dumfries.”
And here I am, in Dumfries. In Ayr. I’m on the other side of the stonethrow. I can look out to a sea as grey as the one I knew back then, and if I look from the right place maybe I’ll be able to see the island. If I look very very closely perhaps there’ll be two little shadows on an empty beach. A boy looking at his future, a father looking at his past. Throwing stones into water.
For all his foibles he was my dad. He’d be glad I’m working on Extreme-E again. He’d probably know the grandfathers and fathers of some of the people I’m working with through his racing days in the fifties and sixties.
My first day and just orienting today. Tomorrow I’ll be off to Edinburgh and I’ll find out more about the shape of things to come. I’m happy to be part of this team again. It’s a good group, working hard to make something new and ethical – to sustain a beautiful idea and have fun at the same time. Season three. Race 2. Dumfries and Galloway. And the ghost of my dad is sitting with me tonight.
3 thoughts on “Throwing stones through time”
Beautiful yet simple writing
Thanks. Was strangely hard to write. I was remembering to grieve for him as I went. It’s an unusual form of weeping now. Almost a happy discovery of tears.
A very moving window into a whole father son relationship, both real and mundane and effortlessly a huge metaphor level too. As dense as a good poem, as vivid as photograph.