Get a cup of tea. This blog post is about to break ALL the rules of blogging. It’s long. You will need refreshment along the way. But that’s what some rules are for, to be broken.
Last weekend saw the relaunch of The Seal Children, republished in a beautiful hardback edition by Otter-Barry Books. This is the first book to be released by Janetta Otter-Barry. Years ago it was the first book I wrote AND illustrated. A few weeks ago Ffion Rees, of Queen of the Sky fame, put her first boat on the water for her new venture, Falcon Boats.
People talk about a ‘perfect storm’. The coming together of these events formed a ‘perfect calm’. Why not launch book, publishing house and boat in one event? This for me was made all the sweeter by the fact that the girl in The Seal Children was named after Ffion and the book is dedicated to Hannah ( my daughter), who crewed Ffion’s boat, Atlantic Storm, and Tom ( my son) and Robin ( my poor long suffering partner), whose idea it was to link up all three events.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything. The whole day would be weather dependent, wildlife don’t work to schedule and nerves leading up to the day were somewhat fractured at times as Anna and Ffion tried to organise everything. ( At the time of planning the event the boat had no seats, paperwork needed sorting, insurance etc…..)
Well, on the day everything came together to make for a perfect day. For those who couldn’t be with us here is an attempt to record the day. I wish I could add to it the smell of the salt sea and the cold wind and the sunshine. I’ll do my best. So, if you have your tea at the ready come aboard.
We had two trips going around the island. The day before it had looked as if we might have to call the whole thing off, with a force 6 rising 7 northerly wind and a 2 metre swell it looked as if boarding would be impossible. But Ffi got up early to check conditions and all seemed well. We had planned to take the boat around the back, the north side of St Davids Head, to the seaward side of Maes y Mynydd. This was out of the question with the wind direction, but we would still make it out to the island to see seals.
After the safelty talk Ffi crossed the Sound. It began to rain and we sheltered a while in a cave, talked about The Queen of the Sky. A seal swam in the cave as we sat, waiting for the rain to cease.
We talked about Queen of the Sky and why it is that Falcon Boats is called Falcon Boats, and Ffi talked a little about what it was like to take this wild bird she had rescued from a watery grave, build back her strength and then set her free, back to her home in the sky. There couldn’t be a better environment for talking about this.
Next we travelled down the coast and out across to look for porpoise feeding on the ebb tide. So lucky, we saw so many. It was cold out on the water, but the air felt beautiful. Karin got a great shot of a porpoise rising.
Next we went in search of seals.
Beautiful Atlantic Grey Seals.
How wonderful to sit offshore reading The Seal Children while seals swam around us.
I loved seeing the golden seal who looks like the seal straight out of Song of the Golden Hare.
Working with Ffion and Hannah was a great pleasure.
We saw peregrines on both trips, and oystercatchers, gannets, chough, raven, so many seals both in the water and hauled out. Soon the small sea birds, the razorbills and guillimots will be back, and the kittiwakes.
Although we weren’t able to go around to the seaward side of Maes y Mynydd we seemed to have 2 boatloads of happy passengers as we returned to shore each time. I loved the feel of the salt on my skin, in my hair, the taste of it on my lips, and the wind blown wildness of the day. It was the first time I had been out on two consecutive trips and it astonished me how the water changed so fast. Ffion had talked about how high the waves can reach at the back of the island, with the fetch of the waves across the ocean, and now how the tide had turned while we had been out and we witnessed the wind against tide as it whipped up the waves. When she talks about the sea it is like listening to a wonderful language of sea poetry.
Light, wildlife, water, time, tide all conspired to make the very perfect way to launch this book.
Had we been able to get around the head we would have been able to see Maes y Mynydd from the sea, the selkie’s element. On an evening trip, a few days before, we had taken the boat out to see just how much of the village we could see.
It was the most beautiful evening. St Davids Head looks so different rising from the ceiling of the sea. As we sat offshore from the old Quaker village one or two shearwaters skimmed past us, effortless in their beautiful flight. Soon there will be thousands flying past on the evening run to their burrows on Skomer.
Looking back to the land, these are the paths I walk, have walked, so often with cats and with dogs. In the photo above the highest rock on the left side is where I wrote much of The Ice Bear while ravens circled. And you can see, if you click on the image to make it larger, the field systems of Maes y Mynydd. Astonishing. To be on the water off this coast where I have walked for 24 years, to see it from this different viewpoint, the light, the water, the land, the smells, everything.
In the evening both boatloads of people reconvened at Solva Woollen Mill for supper. Walking in to the mill on a book launch day is always magical, and this time Anna had tables set beautifully with flowers and food and everything just looked so perfect.
I had taken sketchbooks and book proofs and was talking about the old village and the book, and after a wonderful supper of cawl made by Joy I read from the books I am working on now. I have 5 books coming out this year.
The food, the company, the sea, the seals, the porpoise and the weather, all combined to make a wonderful day. My thanks to Robin, for being clever enough to think of something so magical, Ffi and Hannah from Falcon Boats, Anna and all at the Mill for a wonderful end to the day and to all who made the journey, some from the far away land of England. Also thanks to Janetta, for reprinting this book. It’s a real heartsong, soulsong of a book for me and it’s great to see it given such a beautiful makeover. Thanks Gail for making sure the books arrived, and Nicky too.
Ffion has some great plans for other events on boats so keep an eye on her website. You can hire the boat if you have plans of your own and I would recommend to all artists to get out there and take a look at Pembrokeshire from a different angle. You can order signed copies of The Seal Children, and all of my other books in print from Anna at Solva Woollen Mill, and even add a dedication if you wish. And Joy has a wonderful restaurant that can be booked for private parties, The Other End of the Rainbow. Have a look at her facebook page for details.
So, if I have broken the blogging rules, I am sorry, but sometimes one requires mor ethan the recommended number of words and images. And if I have used the word ‘perfect’ too often, then I refuse to apologise. I have had a few weeks of feeling so downhearted and disillusioned with books, publishing, everything, struggling to work and pull myself together. I stepped off the boat on Saturday feeling like something magical had just happened. It hadn’t ‘just happened’. It took a lot of work to organise. Thank you my friends. You are the best.