Fried Sweetcorn and Tai Chi

I struggle with the return.

I struggle with the return.

’11am Glasgow Sunday 29th March 2015

I am home.  Or rather, in my house.

Being back is wonderful and even better, having a day to just be, just exist, with no requirements, expectations or pressures is so exactly what I needed.

My mind is alive, my spirit content, my heart awakened and my stomach full.  My mind is groggy, but that is just the weariness of travel.

All in all, it was a very decent trip.

There are several things to mention.

The first, before I forget.  Before I lose the sense of it – Halong Bay.  I hadn’t finished yet.

Dining on board the cruise was rather exciting.  I felt so incredibly posh.

My vegetarian options seemed to be never ending, their fish options the same.  At one point, I was served fried sweetcorn.

Really?  Fried sweetcorn?  It felt a bit wrong.

On the second day, I woke at 6am, showered, washed my hair and headed to the upper deck for a 30 minute Tai Chi class.

The upper deck was also like something out of a movie.  Fake grass, deck chairs to the rear of the boat, a bar in the middle.  Tall sails tied back – not needed with the running motor.

It dawns on me how being at sea is such a simple privilege.

It reminds me of a one time sailing lesson I had up at Loch Tay.

It was magic.  It was terrifying.

Quite apart from being scared of being hit (and thrown off the boat) by the boom, having sole control of direction and list was quite scary.  The wind, it does what it wants to.  And I?  I am but its humble servant.

‘Are you doing the Tai Chi?’ I ask.  ‘One minute’ he says and then disappears below deck.

The air is cool, it throws my hair back and whistles past my ears, past the nape of my neck.

This morning, those large limestone formations are much easier to see.

They are covered by vegetation.  The water mark is low just now and above it you can see where the waves have licked away at the crumbly rock.  It is special limestone, it does not weather so well.

Our guide, Peter, tells L and I that there is also schist.

L being the Geologist tells me that this means there is metamorphic rock also – not so easy to weather.

When we lived together in Edinburgh, we lived in this pokey little Marchmont flat, with high ceilings, beautiful cornicing and not enough insulation.  In fact, the walls were so porous the frequent occurrence of mice was accepted as norm – though it put me off beautiful old builds for the rest of my life.

In that house we had no living room and a teeny tiny kitchen.  Our bedrooms were therefore our social scene.

Holding the door open (a sign of, ‘Come in, please bother me’) near the old cranky Economy 7 storage heater (how we have grown riding around Halong Bay on a beautiful boat I think) was a rock – Moyne Schist.

I did not really know what it was, but every once in a while things start to fit together like a jigsaw piece in a giant puzzle of life.

A book – At the Loch of the Green Corrie – a beautiful poetic read of a simple, or not so simple, fishing trip describes the origins of Moyne Schist in some detail.  I may have to go back and re-read it, bedtime stories always happen half asleep.  But I smile to myself – from Edinburgh to Halong Bay – what a weird continuity?  What a weird thing to remember and hold of some significance.  Maybe I was a Geologist in a former life, or maybe it is the Civil Engineer in me wanting to find the perfect rock for my home.

Tai Chi was good.  Slow, purposeful movements.  The morning sprays of wet between my toes – fake grass has its place.

One move in particular I remember liking.  A circular movement around your head, and then stretched outwards as if gathering your mental cobwebs and banishing them to sea.  First right, and then left.

It would be great if we could start every day like that – would it not?

And now that I am back, it is the sea I miss the most.  That rumble in my stomach, that freshness on my face, that gentle lilting sway – a waltz with no music.  She commands me and I follow.’

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Chris Deegan

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