The Dawn Treader…

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The tide had receded even further, and the creel boats were leaning listlessly against one another, high and dry. Algy thought it would be fascinating to see the parts of the boats which were usually underwater, so he flew back to the fishermen’s pier and found a convenient perch on a strange object which was suspended against the side of the wharf. The boats looked surprisingly large close to; they towered above him, blocking out the bright sunlight and throwing deep black shadows onto the exposed sea bed. Standing beside the further boat, almost lost in the shadows, a friendly human was very busy doing something mysterious to the underneath of his vessel. Looking up for a moment, he greeted Algy kindly, remarking that it was a fine day, and when Algy returned the greeting and gazed at the boat above the man’s head, he noticed that it had an unusual name, which may be of interest to fans of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories…

Becalmed

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Algy was surprised to find a lone, flowering gorse bush growing out of the hard ground beside the strange man-made structures which stretched out across the still water, but it provided a comfortingly familiar perch in strange surroundings, so he settled upon it happily, ignoring the usual prickles to his tail feathers. The wind had dropped entirely for a moment and the harbour was completely still; the surface of the sea glimmered like a mirror, reflecting not only the brightly-painted buildings and the boats, but even the clouds, so that they floated serenely across the water as well as the sky. Such a calm was unusual on the wild west coast of Scotland, and Algy gazed in wonder at the translucent water and the clear reflections, thinking of a poem in his collected works of Longfellow, and wondering when the wind would start to blow again:

Becalmed upon the sea of Thought,
Still unattained the land it sought,
My mind, with loosely-hanging sails,
Lies waiting the auspicious gales.

On either side, behind, before,
The ocean stretches like a floor,–
A level floor of amethyst,
Crowned by a golden dome of mist.

Blow, breath of inspiration, blow!
Shake and uplift this golden glow!
And fill the canvas of the mind
With wafts of thy celestial wind.

Blow, breath of song! until I feel
The straining sail, the lifting keel,
The life of the awakening sea,
Its motion and its mystery!

[Algy is quoting the poem Becalmed by the 19th century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.]

Like a Mirror…

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As he continued to explore the harbour around the fishermen’s pier, Algy suddenly noticed a patch of what looked like spring flowers on the far side of the bay, where many smaller boats were floating in deeper water beside a strange, man-made structure. Flying across to investigate, Algy discovered something very odd. One of the boats, which had been washed up high onto the shore, was full of small daffodils. They were even crowding up through a wee hole at the end. Algy perched beside the flowers for a while, puzzling over this strange phenomenon. Was it possible that soil got thrown into stranded boats during the winter storms, and daffodils seeded themselves there? It hardly seemed likely…

But it was such a beautiful day that Algy decided not to worry his fluffy head too much about things he could not understand… The sun was shining, the sea was exceptionally calm, and the bay looked just like a deep blue mirror. So he leaned back among the flowers and gazed contentedly at the pretty scene, relaxing in the welcome spring sunshine…

Algy wishes you all a very happy Sunday, and hopes that you all have a chance to relax in beautiful surroundings today 😀

What Says the Clock?

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Algy hopped back down onto the beach, keen to try as many different kinds of perch as he could find in this exciting new environment. He noticed that the local birds seemed to be masters of all perches, but when he tested some of the more unusual options he discovered that some were a wee bit more challenging for a fluffy bird than others, requiring a high degree of acrobatic skill and an advanced sense of balance which he had not had a chance to develop adequately…

As he wobbled from side to side, trying not to look foolish – and above all, not to fall off – in full view of the cackling sea birds who were watching him from the water, a loud sound tolled out from behind him, with a deep, clear note. The repeated tone was mesmerizing, and with the tide crawling slowly out further beyond the beached boats, he was inevitably reminded of some verses by one of his favourite poets, which he had noted especially because he had feathers instead of hair…

Saddle and ride, I heard a man say,
Out of Ben Bulben and Knocknarea,
What says the Clock in the Great Clock Tower?
All those tragic characters ride
But turn from Rosses’ crawling tide,
The meet’s upon the mountain-side.
A slow low note and an iron bell.

What brought them there so far from their home.
Cuchulain that fought night long with the foam,
What says the Clock in the Great Clock Tower?
Niamh that rode on it; lad and lass
That sat so still and played at the chess?
What but heroic wantonness?
A slow low note and an iron bell.

Aleel, his Countess; Hanrahan
That seemed but a wild wenching man;
What says the Clock in the Great Clock Tower?
And all alone comes riding there
The King that could make his people stare,
Because he had feathers instead of hair.
A slow low note and an iron bell.

[Algy is quoting the Song for the Severed Head from the play The King of the Great Clock Tower by the 20th century Irish poet William Butler Yeats.]

Life’s Ladder

As Algy explored the harbour at low tide, he found many unusual perches, of which some were better adapted to the needs of a fluffy bird than others… He was particularly interested to discover that, at intervals along the great wall which contained the sea when the tide came in, wooden structures with multiple perches had been provided – presumably to suit the different levels the water might reach – and he wondered how the humans could make use of them. For fluffy birds, at least, they only provided a moderate level of comfort, but as Algy perched on one of the lower levels of such a structure, he found that a poem he had once read came to mind, and he wondered whether it might perhaps provide an explanation:

Unto each mortal who comes to earth
A ladder is given by God at birth,
And up this ladder the soul must go,
Step by step, from the valley below;
Step by step to the center of space
On this ladder of lives to the starting place.

In time departed, which yet endures,
I shaped my ladder and you shaped yours,
Whatever they are, they are what we made,
A ladder of light or a ladder of shade;
A ladder of love or a hateful thing,
A ladder of strength or a wavering string,
A ladder of gold or a ladder of straw –

If toil and trouble and pain are found
Twisted and corded to form each round,
If rusted iron or moldering wood
Is the fragile frame, you must make it good
You must build it over and fashion it strong,
Though the task be as hard as your life is long;
For up this ladder the pathway leads
To earthly pleasures and spirit needs,
For all that may come in another way
Shall be but illusion and will not stay.

[Algy is quoting parts of the poem Life’s Ladder by the late 19th/early 20th century American writer Ella Wheeler Wilcox.}

Low Tide…

When he had had a good long rest, Algy hopped up onto the edge of the boat and perched there looking at the spectacle of the harbour at low tide. Bunches of stranded seaweed trailed from all the ropes which were secured to the harbour walls, and the beached boats listed aimlessly to one side, as though they were not feeling quite well, deserted by the sea. The tide was still running out, and the surface of the sea bed shimmered with a thin coating of water that had not quite drained away, and possibly never would…

Messing About in Boats…

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Algy was enchanted by the world he found at the foot of the harbour wall; at high tide this world simply did not exist. Of course elements of it were there at all times, glimpsed beneath the surface of the water when the tide was in, but when the tide ran out, strange things began to happen. Objects which had been floating became grounded on the shingle beach, and those which had been partly submerged were fully revealed, in many cases turning out to be very much larger than Algy had imagined. And, as the water receded, it left behind a miniature landscape of seaweed, coloured pebbles and sea shells, with many other things to discover besides, which the harbour birds swooped upon joyfully, shouting with pleasure.

Close to the wall, a stranded boat was reclining in an inviting manner, and Algy decided to recline for a while too. Tucking himself into one corner, on what seemed to be a perch specially provided for the purpose, he studied the jumble of bits and pieces in front of him. The scene reminded him of something in a story he had read:

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing—about—in—boats; messing—”

Someone had certainly been messing about in this one…

Algy lent back lazily, and dreamed of messing about in a boat of his own, bobbing across the water without a care in the world – happy in the knowledge that in reality the boat was firmly grounded on the beach 😀

If you are on holiday today, Algy hopes you are having a safe and happy time, messing about in boats, or doing something equally relaxing…

[Algy is of course quoting a passage from Chapter 1 of The Wind in the Willowsby the early 20th century English author Kenneth Grahame.]