Entries in Telling the Sea (4)



We were on holiday in the little cottage that in 'Telling the Sea' I call Wren's Nest.  In the book, I wanted Owen - the local minister's son, who'd run away from home - to skin a rabbit.  However, I didn't know how to do this because I'd never seen it at first hand. I told a friend I didn't know how to do it and he said he'd set up a snare for me.  Before  he could, however, I awoke in the wee hours after midnight to find  stones rattling at my window and my friend with roadkill in his hands.  A rabbit, he called up, only recently deceased.

I remember wrapping myself up in my dressing-gown and going downstairs.  I let in my friend and we went through to the kitchen.  While I filled a bucket with water, he took a knife, chopped off the rabbit's head and ran a blade down its body, skinned it and cleaned out its innards. It's an extraordinary thing to see a body underneath its skin, and still warm too. I don't know what struck me more, horror, shock or fascination. My friend told me how to treat the skin with salt to preserve it, which I did and I still have that rabbit pelt to this day.  He said that in honour of the rabbit, I shouldn't throw away its body but, out of respect for the passing of its life, I should eat it.

And, next day, I did.  With the help of my husband and children, I made a fire in the cottage garden and we cooked the rabbit the way I guessed Owen would in 'Telling the Sea'.  Then we shared it between us.  It was burnt, but it tasted good.  

I've never forgotten that rabbit, its fur as soft as silk, its skin marked with a network of red veins shooting off in all direction like a road map. Thousands of animals get run over every year, but this one was special. Nor will I ever forget the friend who appeared in the darkness like a conjuror, producing a rabbit from a hat. In a lifetime writing books, this is one of the memories that most stands out.  It happened twenty years ago, but it still says something to me about the value of a life.  If you read 'Telling the Sea' perhaps you'll see why.   


Wild & Wonderful

Embedded on my website now.  For those of you who've missed it so far, enjoy. 

Wild and Wonderful from R & A Collaborations on Vimeo.



Wild & Wonderful - Connecting With the Sea

I'm interested in the way the sea makes us feel, the way it draws us to itself.  My mother grew up in a cottage by the sea.  There was never a moment when she couldn't hear it from her home.  She spent her childhood playing on the beach, climbing rocks, swimming.  It was in her blood.  At night, in the dark, she remembered her father walking up and down their little bay, captivated by the glossy black water. When tragedy struck in her family, she never returned, not as a child of the sea, only as a visitor from afar and that sense of displacement, that loss of what she'd grown up with - with what she'd once been - affected her for the rest of her life.

The first sea I ever remember was in Guernsey.  For me this golden stretch of sand, fringed with golden rocks and turquoise water was a place of extraordinary freedom. It was the polar opposite to my life in the suburbs of south London with their twitchy net curtains and hard concrete pavements.  Here in this wonderful wild place I didn't have to wear white socks, and bows in my hair, and be careful not to sit on the grass because I might get stains on my dress.  From morning to night I ran around the beach like a wild thing, exploring bay after bay, rock pool after rock pool, cave [and martello tower] after cave.  Consequently it seemed entirely natural to me - when I had children of my own - to return to the sea, taking them with me.

But it was a different sea we headed for this time.  Wild West Wales.  Pembrokeshire.  Every year we tumbled down the Welsh mountains and winding roads until we got there - a carload of children, parents, cricket bats, duvets, swimming gear, hiking gear and dogs.  How we packed ourselves and all our gear into one smallish car, I'll never know.  But the sea was always the same when we arrived there. Other things might change, like the garden in our much loved little cottage or the seaweed on the beach, but the waves were the waves, the sea was still the sea.  Nothing could change the way it broke on the shoreline, the way it ebbed and flowed, the way it sparkled in the sunlight, or lay like pewter in the mist or glistened in the dark like polished ebony.

And how I felt - feel - about the sea is how Nona felt about it in my novel, 'Telling the Sea'.  It comes out today in a newly edited format for the ebook market, published by Amazon Kindle. Nona's relationship with the sea was a dangerous one.  I, too, have had to learn that the sea is not my friend.  In some deep way I may feel as if it's a part of me, but I'm nothing to it, and this was the hard lesson that Nona, the heroine of 'Telling the Sea' had to learn at just thirteen.  She had to grow up quickly.  She had no choice.  

TELLING THE SEA is available on Amazon Kindle from today, priced £2.05

WILD AND WONDERFUL, a film about the writing of 'Telling the Sea' , filmed on location in Pembrokeshire, is available here for free.