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Lost opportunities

29 July 2005

Yesterday's vessels: they are sailing, sailing into the east and leaving us, all crewed with missed opportunities...

Oh, I'm sorry. Itís the mood I'm in, Iíve come over all rhetorical. What I mean to say is this: that we've had the Tall Ships in town all week, so the town has been quite full of young persons (Iím thinking sailor-boys here, can you tell?) cut adrift, footloose in a foreign city, needing nothing so much as a little local guidance - and I have seen nothing of them, and they have seen nothing of me, and it's all been such a sorry waste. Partly I've been busy, and partly Iíve been ill, and partly I've been just too gloomy to go out in search of fun & frolics in incompatible languages. Ah, it was all so different last time they were here, twelve years ago...

But anyway, whenever they come, wherever they go, the last day is always a great Parade of Sail, with 100-plus sailing vessels departing in single file and full fig, flying every scrap of canvas that they can, with all the crew up in the tops to wave a fond farewell. Last time was a grand day, both banks of the Tyne lined from Newcastle to the coast, half a million people or more turned out in the sunshine to watch. I was with friends, we got drunk, we had a lovely time.

This year they were hoping to beat that. So what happened? It rained, is what happened. More specifically, it rained coldly on an easterly wind, so we had a grand Parade of Rigging as the ships motored or were tugged along the Tyne, their masts empty of sail and crew both. And a lot of people did turn out regardless, including, to some extent, myself. I went down to the quayside in the early morning to watch the first boats leaving, so that I had at least had some sight of them close-up in all their masty loveliness, a symphony of boy and rope and order. Well, all right, girl too, but Iím myopic, which means Iím allowed to see what I want to see.

Then I jumped a metro to the coast, where a couple of friends of mine inhabit an old lighthouse, and we watched through a window and had lunch in the warm. And did go out into the rain afterwards, to walk down to the pier and see if we could see anything of the race away to Norway - but no, we couldn't, we just got wet.

And so damply home, to dry clothes and a demanding cat, a little desultory work and not much focus, until at last an e-mail from the States. My editor is generally happy with the rewrite on Selling Water; there is still work to do, but that's okay, I can encompass that, amid the great project of restoration that faces me now. I have to rebuild my confidence, several relationships, my reputation, my finances and my career. A wise man would probably put his finances first, but I never could prioritise; any novelist is a synthesist by nature, and I want to do it all at once, in the same package, not so much several birds with one stone as a whole blast of buckshot. But it ain't going to happen like that. It's going to be slow and difficult and painful, like all this year has been; but I am perhaps not despairing any more.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.