He threw his salt-making machine overboard

The older I become the more I believe that there are two types of people.

People that visit the seaside in the summer, and those that visit in the winter.

I don’t know which type is “better”, I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that humans are funny things, we like what we like, often without realising why we like it. And for all the times we sit back and ask “Why?” there are a fair few times that we let things develop without ever wondering what makes them the way they are. I’m currently reading Lani Taylor’s ‘Smoke & Bone’ trilogy. In the books there are two moons, Nitid and Ellai. Nitid is the larger and is worshipped by everybody. Everybody save assassins and secret lovers, who are the property of the smaller moon, Ellai. It’s an exclusivity that’s both poignant and bitter, and it plays out accordingly throughout the course of the story.

I grew up around the ocean. I know technically the UK is surrounded by “sea”, given the fact that it shares much of its coastline with Ireland and Europe. But to me it’s always been the ocean. If you can’t see the other side = it’s an ocean.


First with my grandfather, as a child, then as an undergraduate, now as a postgraduate. It’s oddly comforting, and according to a friend, it generates something called “End of the Line” syndrome. People, often on the margins (for whatever reason) gravitate to the sea. The evidence is twofold; either they remember the good times of their lives, family holidays and such, that often involved the sea, and they hope by returning to these places life can be sweeter. Or the fact that as these towns literally the terminal stop, people can get washed like flotsam because they can go no further. The interesting side-effects of living on an island. It explains why places like Blackpool, Bournemouth, Plymouth all have an underclass that doesn’t fit with the ‘happy jolly’ angle the advertisers want to push.


I don’t think that’s the reason why I’m here. Though given as the country’s currently in the grip of winter, and the sea’s like this:



It has more to do with the raw magic that’s evoked during this time, which is unique. Also an impressive ability to stick 50% of the beach in the road. No, seriously (crazy weather).


I came back to Aber for reasons I’m not sure I still fully comprehend. The course I’m doing is good, no question, but Bath Spa also does a Creative Writing course and theirs is a hell of lot closer than rural west Wales.

So why?

I think it’s to grow. And because I have a support network in the town that’s very special. I didn’t understand it back in the day. Being young you don’t, everything’s so new. Now, having spent hours up to my armpits in gore (that’s both a metaphor and… disturbingly, a literal situation) I see the workings behind things. But there’s still enough wonder in my life that I don’t become jaded. Although the weather right now is testing me on the last point.


It’s the little things, but it’s also the magic of the ordinary. One of the reasons why I came back is that, in my absence, the town generated friends to a level I didn’t know existed. It’s the same with my friends in London, it seems I gain more friends the further I travel away from people. I’m not sure if there’s a reason for that, why exactly does absence = life-long friendship?

But it’s nice, especially when the inclusion of alter egos is not considered a hindrance.

Everyone I know here lives in one of the larger estates in the town. Bolted to the mountainside, a collection of 200+ homes, all braced against the weather, but mercifully off the valley floor which flooded a few years ago. Ha! Take that, upper middle-class professionals!

Nicknamed “The Bronx” by all who love it. It’s a warren of cut-throughs and footpaths. Some legal, most not. Clean but grubby, honest and legit, and yet always on the lookout for an edge.

Kael loves it.

It soothes the soul of my foulmouthed alter ego.

She was named after my obsession with The Invisibles. And it made sense given my alternative lifestyle, and those of everyone in question. We’re not out to change the world, we just want a fair crack at it. Which is bullshit because we all know life is about as unfair as humanly possible.


And yet I don’t think it’s “alternative” as everyone suspects. It’s just life that isn’t linear. Life has served up curveballs, and in trying to catch or avoid them the situations that have been created, none of us have experienced the sort of stuff they stick on UK soap drama.

Except maybe Brookside, during the ‘body under the patio’ years.

But in closing this is why I like my life right now. Walking through doors marked “Private: Employees Only”, because you know the manager. Or talking to other nurses about the strange stuff the public dumps on us, everyone shaking their heads at the fact that no matter how much you think you’ve seen, you can always see more, and always be surprised.


I think this is why a lot of my writing is either outsider fiction, or ensemble fiction, or often a mixture of the two.

TV shows like ‘Angel’, ‘Generation Kill’, ‘OITNB’ they all tell stories about people flung together by fate, and having to make the best of it. Often with hilarious, but also emotional consequences. It’s life, it’s messy, and it’s awesome.

Myself and my friends, we all see more of ourselves in Ellai than Nitid, I think. You walk off the path and you find more things of interest. The burn of the brine and the salt in the air, the wind and the spray and the churning life that roars day and night for everyone to see, or everyone to ignore.

I remember in Lord of the Rings when Hugo Weaving utters some declaration about ‘The Sea calling us home’ or whatever. And I always thought it didn’t seem right that someone so moralistic and upright should be drawn to such a powerful thing. Like Midian calls out to monsters, the sea gives its heart to the lost, the unsure, the alter.

It is something we can never repay.



2 thoughts on “He threw his salt-making machine overboard

  1. I love this. Having also grown up by the sea I feel completely drawn into your narrative. Suddenly awash with the crisp, salty air and the sound of the waves. I’m a winter-goer.

    I also really like your description of the homes braced against the weather together, it makes me think of being huddled together with friends, guarding ourselves against the bitter cold breeze.

    Very nice. I shall keep reading 🙂

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