The lifeboat.


The lifeboat


The thudding double booms of the Maroons broke in the night sky. The flares accompanying them lighting the thunderous sky. June shook me awake before turning over and falling back to sleep, she felt warm and comfortable but I wouldn't be again tonight.

I had signed up for the coastguard service whilst still a boy, I was a good sailor and thought to do something useful with my life. I was birthed and raised in a town such as this on the west coast of Scotland.  I knew the seas, tides and currents well, having worked on the lobster boats as a boy neglecting schoolwork in favour of a pound or two and the odd lobster dinner.  


In barely seen twilight, I pulled on my gear, neoprene, wetsuit, thick and warm clothes and gloves, the official boots that had soft soles that gained purchase on even the most slippery of decks. I rushed to the bathroom and splashed my face with freezing water to rouse me, before running to the car and racing at well over the speed limit to the lifeboat.


Billy was drawing up as I arrived looking even more tried and unkempt than me, his hair plastered to his skull in the rain; steady monotonous and heavy. Thunder was already rumbling and the forked lightening lit the sky with staccato blasts.  I nodded to Billy as we grew ready; equipped and able to face the storm and help whatever poor soul was not able to cope with it.


Already a few people had gathered, despite the late hour, this was not unusual when the maroons called the lifeboat out in a small fishing town. Everyone knew everyone, most were related or knew someone that was related to the crew.


Those drowning could be your husbands or children, brothers, lovers or friends. I shouted to Billy over the rain and crash of the tide against the old Pier, "who is it?  He just shook his head; he was still pulling boots, jumpers and oilskins from the boot of his car. The lights went on and the boat began to shine like a Christmas tree. I heard the engine surge, smelled diesel, the brilliant orange lifeboat was now festooned with lights everywhere and straining at its tether. Billy and I pulled the ropes free as we jumped on board. The boat surged, rocking us, stumbling back, towards the keel in its urgency to gain the slavering sea. The waves were heavy and pummelling but the boat was designed to compete with everything that could be thrown at it.

It had regularly been pushed to its limits; high seas, high winds, ship killers and we were still here to talk about it, and hopefully would still be tomorrow.


The full fury of the wind hit us like a hammer as we left the shelter of the loch, entered the open sea, and the hunt was on, but not for that long as we soon we saw old Shaw's boat capsized with him hanging to the side of it.


The captain drew us round and we anchored ourselves with ropes to the lifeboat before jumping to the upturned lobster boat. I made the prow, where the old wooden boat was steady but Billy, perhaps due to tiredness, made only the weed covered, and slippery edge and plunged into the sea.  We always tie ourselves on and so even though it would not be pleasant for Billy, cold and miserable, I would get him out. I grabbed his rope and it pulled back through my hands with no weight on it. I stood there even with old Shaw to save and just looked into the water in disbelief.


This is the coastguard service; many people pledge a lot of money and give much time to get us the best of boats, the best of ropes, this does not happen. The captain blew a blast and shook me back to life and I dragged Old Shaw on board. His lungs were filled with water but he wasn't done yet. The old bastard had sailed these seas for tens of tears, many more than me and would for a few more yet, I thought, as I pulled him into a harness and had him dragged spluttering through the waves to the boat.

















It were de voices in ma head, Dey told me to do it and I could’na  not stop them, they made me mama, they made me do it.

I didna want to, I didna mama, but they made me mama, they made me.

They tole me to do it, and I did as I was tole, you tole me mama to always do as I was tole and I did mama, I did.

I did as I was tole.

I wrote it just like they said mama, the voices, I wrote it mama.

Got a sheet of paper and did just as you said.

I did what you said, mama and did as I was tole. You told me to listen to my elders and do as I was tole, well I did as I was tole mama, I did as you said,  and they are so old, the voices, much older than you mama and I did as I was told by my elders.

I didna mean to hurt you mama, but they tole me to and you told me to listen to my elders and they are so old mama,

So very old mama, so I did as you said and listened, you always said I was not listening but I was, to my elders and I did as I was told mama, I did what you told me to.

I love you mama but I was only doin what I was tole, I tole you too as you bent to kiss me and hug me dat I love you, An I do mama. I love you so much but you tole to me to listen the old ones, “Listen to my elders” and I did mama, I listened to them. But they are old mama, old and grey, old and dark, old and scary, I only took your eyes cause they told me to mama and you told me to do what my elders told me to do.

They are so very old mama.



Why are you not moving?

I love you Mama.