I dropped my children, Paddy (18) and Liv (16) to the sailing club to start their new jobs as sailing instructors. It was a grey day but I had been sketching in a 5km radius, or less, for many months, and wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. The arrangement of the boats was serendipitous, as I doubt the pleasing composition was deliberate. I showed the sketch to my husband Marcel when I got home.
“Look at the state of it,” he said. “It’s a mess. But a boatyard like that is exactly the way I like it. It’s a treasure trove.”
As I sketched, a bedraggled young man emerged from one of the yachts, followed by a scruffy springer spaniel. I’m told he lives in the boat. It’s something to do with the patch of land the boat is on being owned by nobody, apparently – not the council, not privately, no one. I’ve seen him many times strolling along the shore, hands in pockets, greeting passers-by. I watched him the other day, having just got up, going to fetch water. His dog followed. The young man turned and looked at the dog. He didn’t say or do anything other than cast a brief glance. The dog stopped dead, frozen in its gait. It fixed its master in its gaze as he walked away, and only moved away slightly, under the boats in the sketch, when its master was out of sight. Now, I have an amazing dog. He’s really responsive and wants to do what he can to please me (well, I think it might be chance that our wishes coincide, but anyway). But he doesn’t freeze with paw in mid-air when I shoot him a glance. I clearly have work to do.
Once, the tide was low and the sun was shining as I rounded the bend towards the club. I had no sketching gear with me. I resolved never to let that happen again. A few days later the sun was out again and this time I had my kit. Or so I thought: I was missing brushes and water. Bah! I would have to make it one of those line-drawing-only sketches. Then I had a more thorough search in my bag: one synthetic little water brush was lurking in the gloom at the bottom, and I fished it out, delighted to have it. A water brush would never be my first choice, but I was delighted to have something, anything, to scratch my sketching itch. As for water container – I had a plastic lid of something and all the seawater a body could want, and off I set.
Nothing disturbed the peace, nothing broke the silence until I heard the clear peal of my daughter’s voice. “Guys!” she sang out. “I want you in a circle! A socially-distanced circle!” We tease my daughter about her voice, which is piercing. As an amateur actor in primary school, her Wicked Stepmother reached every square inch of the community hall, her diction impeccable. I tell her she is a loss to the stage (she avows severe stage fright). “No,” she says, “it comes in very useful as a sailor.” She crews a 420 dinghy with her partner Isabella and they need to exchange strategy with each other. They’ve done very well over the last few years (on their way to the Worlds in Italy this October, just saying) so she is clearly doing something right.
The figure on the slip turned out to be a man who had dropped his wedding ring there. His wife has departed from the world, and he spent a long time searching. I hope he found it.
I’m out of lockdown, and I’m free. Soon I will be spreading my wings a little further. I had better make the most of my freedom: it might not last.