And yet another excerpt:
A very successful first day on the water for Lillian’s new life as the inanimate protégé for Mr Sommers’ attention…and for Ruth and I. We spent the next few Saturday afternoons working with Lillian. We would not venture out if the weather was nasty as Mr Sommers felt our experience level was not commensurate with the expertise needed in a strong wind. No matter for me as I would spend that time helping Sommers at the shipyard maintaining Lillian. There was still much work to do on the interior. Ruth, when not at school, would come down and help. I looked forward to her presence with us as I found I was beginning to miss her when she was away. I was thinking of her all the time.
The next few years went by quickly. I had finished my forms at Dartmouth. I decided that the Navy life was not for me and as grateful as I was that the Royal Navy saved my life and instilled a sense of discipline and self worth and confidence into my psyche I could not see that kind of life for me. I declined the offer of a commission as an Officer Cadet or a rating. Seeing first hand what these young men had to put up with, my own upbringing, with its neglect and physical and verbal abuse, lack of love, instilled into my character a strong sense of independence and selfishness. My back would often rise and my temper flare at the slightest occurrence of an over bearing authority. Little did I realize at the time that the forbearance of love and of patience for me in my early life would become a dominant factor of my own personality in the way that I treated those for whom I felt were beneath me. Little did I know at the time that this would become an overriding determinant of my character in future years to come. But this was my survival instinct that I felt I needed in a world that I felt, unconsciously, was harsh, cruel and void of love. It was the only way I knew in handling relationships of a non carnal nature. The only way I knew of getting things done as most people had done with me. Mr Sommers was the exception. But that would manifest itself later and beget considerable loneliness. As a late blooming teenage boy I had no understanding of such things.
Ruth and I grew closer and closer as the months turned into years. Often times we would go out on the Dart in “Lilly” and explore the area stopping from time to time on a bank of cool grass upriver a way. We talked…erm…she talked of many things. She was a young woman now. Gone were the boyish locks. Her hair now fell to her shoulders, fashionably coifed with natural curls that were interspersed and intertwined within wave upon wave of strawberry blond tresses that were particularly radiant in the afterglow of a late afternoon sun. Her complexion was flawless and was all the more exotic and welcoming by just a hint of makeup. She was naturally beautiful. Well proportioned, athletic, strong. Her breasts were mature and full, not large, perfect for her physical size. She had her mother’s eyes I was told. Hazel green for the most part with the slightest touch of grey and an intimation of violet if the sunlight graced her features just so. You could almost detect the coloured hue of violet in a reflective measure of sunlight only to lose sight of it on closer inspection.
“Whaaaat” she would say, teasingly, as my gaze burrowed into her eyes.
“Your eyes Ruth.” I thought they to be green, hazel perhaps, but just then I could detect some violet. Violet, for heaven’s sake?”
“My eyes are green Nigel Filtness.” she laughed as if she needed to scold me, turn me straight. “Maybe a tad hazel but green predominantly.”
Predominantly…predominantly? She had a better way with words than I will ever have. Her diction was precise, flawless really, unlike the guttural slang that came out of my mouth. I was intimidated by her yet she never belittled me.
“I like you Nigel Filtness.” she would announce, as if she was my queen and I her peon…jester. “King….Nigel”, never the Queen. I may be female but I would be KING of all of England, and Wales, maybe Scotland, Ireland perhaps. No, no never Scotland as I can never understand the brogue there.” She giggled. “But Ireland? Ah the land of song, poetry, romance and tragedy. Suffering, tragic Ireland. The Emerald Isle.
“Ireland?” I would ask of her as I lay on my back, my eyes closed, the sun high in the sky but on with its western slide.
“Yes Ireland Nigel” she sat there, smiling, as if pleased with her own insight, sitting as she was with her legs flat out across the grass in front of her with her arms back and to her sides holding her up. “Yes Ireland Nigel, the land of Yeats, of Shaw, of Oscar Wilde…”
“Oh the “poofter” I interjected.
Not saying a word she looked down at me with a scorn that could mortally wound.
“Of Oscar Wilde, Joyce, Michael Collins…” she paused and sighed a long passionate sounding sigh…of the revolutionaries, 1916 Ireland with Padraigh Pearse…”
“Who?” I countered.
“Padraigh Pearse Nigel. Padraigh was an Irish romantic poet, scholar, barrister, revolutionary of the 1916 Irish Rebellion. He was a tragic figure – a naïve Irish ideologue hero. He was executed as one of the Irish rebels of the Easter Riots.”
“Oh, you don’t say” was about all I could say. I felt extremely low intellectually whenever I was with Ruth.
Nevertheless Ruth and I became inseparable. “Lilly” and “Lillian” were our common thread; our common bond; and our common love for sailing. Soon, the intricacies of Lillian’s unique gaff rig configuration became second nature to both of us. We knew Lillian’s quirks like the backs of our palms. It was not long before Mr Sommers had full confidence in both of us. And before long it was not an unusual sight for the Dartmouth and Kingswear sailing community to recognize us both for what we were: respected local seafarers. Lillian, and us, became synonymous with the regulars of the sailing community, particularly those members of the Royal Dartmouth Yacht Club, of which Mr Sommers was a lifetime member, as an icon of the Dart maritime environment. Even the Royal Naval College took note of us, particularly Petty Officer Brand.
“Nigel…Nigel.” Petty Officer Brand asked of me one day while about on the Hindostan.
“Yes Sir.” I was still part of the Royal Navy at Dartmouth but not for very much longer.
“We’re taking Mercury to Gibraltar in the spring. Would you be interested in joining us.”
“But I will be finished here Sir.”
“No matter Nigel. I can offer you an extension for the purposes of this trip. You will be released on return. I can have that in writing. It will be a great experience for you. Almost a direct sail down. We can take a frigate ride home. We intend to leave Mercury at our base there for use by the Garrison. – adventure training as it were.
“Let me think on that sir.”
“Fine Nigel, let me know. But soon. Oh and one other thing. You will be tasked as our principal navigator. A great opportunity for you.”
“What about kit?”
“That will all be taken care of. Sextants, tables, almanac everything. You will also have charge of your own watch.”
“Yes indeed.” was all I said, Yes indeedy” then left for Kingswear with a pronounced spring in my step.
I was so excited. I had to tell Ruth and Mr. Sommers.
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