Son and the Sailor’s Warning: 2013 365 Challenge #340

Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning

Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning

We woke to a fiery red sky this morning. Spectacular colours to herald a stormy day (amazingly, one predicted by the forecast. It’s nice to have a heads up). My daughter came downstairs, went in to get her breakfast, didn’t bat an eyelid. My three-year-old son came down later and called me urgently from the hallway.

“Mummy, come, come see! The sky!”

He’s surprisingly in tune with nature, my son. I do try and make both my children aware of the beauties around them, calling their attention to birds, clouds, rainbows, pretty autumn leaves and so on.

My daughter doesn’t share my passion (although she shares my love of reading, so she’s forgiven!) but my son has picked up on it. Whether because he truly appreciates it, or because it makes me smile, I’m not sure. Who cares?

He often goes outside and, when he sees blue sky, says in a sing-song voice, “It’s a lovely sunny day, Mummy.” It warms my heart. So to see him hanging out the window, letting in the arctic air, admiring the dazzling display of nature across the fields, made me very proud. It also makes him yet more like a reincarnation of my father (a blessing and a curse!) My dad loved nature and I got my appreciation from him. His photo albums (like mine!) are full of snaps of sunsets, flowers and blurry distant birds. The camera never does nature justice but it doesn’t stop us trying.

Watching the Colourful Sunrise

Watching the Colourful Sunrise

When I miss my dad, I look at my son and know he isn’t very far away. My boy shares more than his grandpa’s name (my son’s middle name): he looks like him, laughs like him, has his temper and his sweetness of nature. Such a shame they never met. My father never met any of his grandchildren, but he lives on in them.

It reminds me of the lines in the Mike and the Mechanics song (in itself ironic as my father was both a Mike and a mechanic), In the Living Years: “I wasn’t there that morning when my father passed away” through to “I think I caught his spirit … in my baby’s new born tears.”

Makes me cry every. single. time.

Incidentally, I looked into the saying “Red sky at night, sailors’ (or shepherds’) delight, red sky in the morning, sailors’ warning,” and there is some truth to it. With a howling gale blowing us down the road on the school run – freezing hands and noses and swirling autumn winds round in endless eddies – it was certainly true today. I wouldn’t have wanted to be out in a boat!


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“Okay, Claire, I need you to call all the marching bands, confirm their running order and remind them we start an hour earlier this year. Then I want you to speak to the Fireworks people, make sure they know the signal to commence their display. After that, can you head down to Sandpit Field and help with the set up.”

Claire scribbled notes on the paper she’d borrowed from the secretary, when she’d realised what kind of meeting it was going to be. Looking round the table at the other volunteers, Claire’s heart sank. This wasn’t really her thing. She tried to catch Conor’s eye, to at least get a smile from him, but he had his head bent over his master list. When he looked up, it was to tell the next person round the table what their tasks were.

I’ve been in Swanage for forty-eight hours and Conor hasn’t so much as said hello and welcome.

It was obvious that he was busy with the Carnival, but Claire found herself searching her memory to try and discover if she had done or said something to incur his displeasure. Even the busiest person had time to smile.

A voice in the back of Claire’s mind reminded her that world war three could have broken out, when she had been face with an imminent deadline, and she would have shrugged it off as irrelevant. She was taking it all too personally. For once she hoped her watching voice was right.


Claire slumped, exhausted, onto the grass and hoped she had done enough. Two days of endless phone calls, of questions she couldn’t answer and complaints she didn’t understand, of running round town, climbing the stupid hill to the hostel, and grabbing sandwiches on the run, and she’d finally made it through her list of tasks.

She hadn’t seen Conor since the meeting on Friday and they’d only spoken on the phone to exchange information, like a verbal relay race. The actual start of the Carnival the day before had passed in a blur. She’d missed the firework display, after crashing on her bunk to close her eyes for a moment and waking up four hours later. Conor hadn’t asked why she wasn’t there.

I thought he was meant to like me? If you really like someone surely even work doesn’t get in the way of good manners?

Around her, the chatter of thousands of happy people rose like a swarm of flies. Somehow she hadn’t noticed the people filtering into town, until every verge and patch of beach was covered with them.  It was strange to see the quiet town full of colour and life; like seeing a familiar landscape under three feet of water. She wished they would go away.

Up ahead the sound of drumming drifted on the sea breeze. The chatter of the crowd dropped in anticipation and heads turned to catch their first glimpse of the parade. The rhythmic sound came nearer and there was something stirring about it. Realising she’d never actually watched a parade before, Claire rubbed the sleep from her eyes and sat forward, camera at the ready. At least if she got some snaps for the blog it wouldn’t be a completely wasted trip.

Claire had to blink her eyes again as the first marching band came into view. Striding through the crowd were two dozen Spidermen with full head coverings, some drumming on the traditional white military drums, others lined up behind playing brass instruments. The crowd chuckled and Claire joined in, appreciating the spectacle.

For the next few hours the show rolled in front of her like the toy TV she’d had as a child that turned with a dial and played plinky music. There were girls in blue with pompoms and girls in red throwing batons; there were cars and bikes and floats; there were carnival girls with costumes to rival Brazil, all feathers and fans and structure, towering over their heads.

The Carnival Queens walked by in red and salmon pink, beaming and waving at the crowd. Musketeers and movie makers, and all manner of fancy dress costumes sashayed past, all to the sound of music; military drums and Latin beats, Rock and Roll, Pop and the unmistakeable Caribbean kettle drums.

Claire found herself clapping and cheering and swaying her shoulders with the crowd. For two hours she forgot that her head hurt and her feet throbbed and her heart ached most of all.

Mid-afternoon, just as the last of the parade members were straggling past, the Red Arrows flew overhead with a roar that silenced the rising hubbub. Mesmerised, Claire watched their plumes of smoke in red, white and blue, as the red jets crossed in the sky in breath-taking formations, with the steely grey sea stretched out beneath them.

The sun had disappeared behind a veil of cloud, easing the heat and glare. Claire watched the end of the display without blinking, her brain whirling with the sensory input of the last few hours. And this was only the second day. There were still so many more events happening over the rest of the week.

Okay, so maybe Conor has had his hands full organising all this.

The thought rose like a bubble inside her, lifting some of the gloom that had been weighing her down. Determined to help him with his impossible task and not to mind his distraction, Claire pushed herself away from the grass bank, stretched cramped muscles, and went off in search of her boss.


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