Book No 5 (2015) : Sea Legs

sea legsThe Inner Hebridean Isle of Mull captivated me when we visited – the sea, the wildlife, the light, the people. The world is a vast place, there are opportunities to see so many different places, but I am always drawn back to Scotland. It was odd then, to read a book which begins with Guy Grieve describing his yearning to leave the place which makes my heart sing. Mull was cold, wet and dreary. Guy and his wife, Juliet, dreamt up a plan to buy a boat and sail the world ‘for a long time’ with their two young sons. I certainly have dreams like that, but the Grieves turned their kitchen table reverie into reality. Neither had more than a rudimentary knowledge of sea-sailing.  Undaunted, they re-mortgaged their house, bought ‘Forever‘ (a 41-ft Hans Christian sailboat) and collected her in Bonaire, Venezuela, planning to sail her back to Mull.

Despite my love of the sea and all things nautical (maybe its a Pisces thing), I am no sailor. I feel nauseous on a pedalo and have suffered from debilitating seasickness which honestly made me think I was going to die. So when Guy Grieve describes the ‘yellowness’ which reduces him to a snivelling, exhausted wreck, I was right there with him. His wife and children suffer too; Guy manages to overcome his low mood and push on through the waves. Accepting help and guidance from his more knowledgeable father-in-law and others, Guy learns to skipper ‘Forever‘ and discover the ways of the sea. After months exploring the Caribbean before heading up the East coast of America, Guy parts company with Juliet and the boys as he prepares to take the boat across the Atlantic Ocean to their Scottish home. The tension in the book increases as the prospect of this major voyage hangs over Guy and his chosen companion, a 70-year old diabetic with poor vision and a limp.

I like a man who can admit he has made mistakes, and throughout ‘Sea Legs‘, Guy acknowledges his errors, some of them grave and even life-threatening. He writes with an honesty which is all the more impressive given the author’s reputation as a real-life adventurer; he is not above being humbled by those with knowledge to share. Grieve’s willingness to listen and learn, his overwhelming instinct to protect his family, a keen sense of humour and descriptive powers which truly evoke the hardships and rewards of a major sea journey, made this a thoroughly enjoyable read. Plus, the beautiful cover is worth framing.

Incidentally, Guy and his wife now run a successful scallop-diving business on Mull; The Ethical Shellfish Company. He is clearly a man of action, but, unlike the real Action Man, Mr Grieve seems to be blessed with equal quantities of brain and brawn – with a healthy dose of humility thrown in!

Book No 34 (2014) : Island Wife

island wifeIf Judy Fairbairns were to watch me alighting from the ferry onto the Scottish island where she lives, she would be able to tell a lot about me – by looking at my shoes. Clarks they are, brown leather, strong elastic strap. Sensible shoes. But Judy knows. “I have met many women over the years with the dream dying in them. I know them instantly. They are sensibly clad in stout shoes..”

‘Island Wife’ is a personal journey of someone whose dream almost died as Judy cooked, cleaned, raised children, ran a working farm, hotel, holiday cottage business, recording studio and helped her husband found a still-successful whale-watching business. Her autobiography is moving, often funny but also searingly honest. Her husband’s dream was not always her own, but she signed up for marriage, was in for the long haul. Mixed with laugh-out-loud anecdotes involving children, mud and weather, are meaningful insights into how women become tamed, domesticated. An inspirational read. Uncomfortable maybe, but written with a deep understanding of the dilemmas faced by women.

Towards the end of the book, the author asserts that once we have an awakening, a realisation that we can be more than we have allowed ourselves to become, women will find themselves a guide. You heard it here first. When I write my first book, or sell my first photograph, Judy Fairbairns will be right there in the Acknowledgements.