CYNFAS

Lois Elenid
5 December 2023

To the Sea with Me

Lois Elenid

5 December 2023 | Minute read

Aneurin: A man in his late twenties

I’ve never had to imagine what it would feel like to live away from the sea. I count myself lucky for that. I’ve never suffered enough here to think of leaving. Though I know people that had to move, to save themselves, to escape. I understand, and respect that, I have close friends who had to go. But it’s never happened to me, and probably never will.

My existence is tied to the sea. But not constrained. I’m not bound to it, a slave to it. She gives so much. I work on the sea, live by the sea, I have a lover and the sea is like a third person in the relationship, binding us closer.

I know other places exist, far prettier and more exciting places. The thing is, I’m perfectly content that I can holiday there anytime I like, not that I do, but knowing it’s there is comforting if I ever change my mind. If we decide to separate.

Not to be biased, I’m clearly happy here, and as I said, plenty feel differently.

For example my best friend, Steffan, says that living somewhere like this is dangerous for you. I understand where he’s coming from, fair play, he speaks from personal experience. He says it’s too peaceful a place, too quiet, that people lose it here. A perfect place to relax and retire after you’ve lived your life. He says people have too much time on their hands, too much time to think. That their minds are too free and start to fill the silence themselves, that their soundless surroundings makes them fill their heads with noise.

‘People’s main hobby here is the pub, alcohol, getting drunk, you can’t argue with that Aneurin, and that says all I need to know.’

He’s right, I can’t argue, ’cause I’ve seen it happen, I do it myself.

He says this place makes people feel like there’s something wrong with them. ‘It’s supposed to be this idyllic place to live, and we’re lucky to be here. So why is there so much suffering?’

Steffan would always say it was fine to move, that people didn’t have to stay and struggle, that moving away and realising the problem wasn’t you but where you were, was important.

Nothing wrong with that, this place doesn’t agree with everybody.

I’m a fisherman, by the way, don’t know if I mentioned that. First thing I tell people usually. Steffan would say it’s the most interesting thing about me.

I don’t mind, it is interesting.

I’m a fisherman, and always will be.

The first time I held a fish, as a boy before it became my living, was on Grandad’s blue boat.

I remember the line pulling, and an alien feeling of confidence and certainty washed over me, the first time in my life I felt sure of something. As if the fish was pulling me towards myself. I never wanted to be without my rod, it kept me safe, kept me certain, kept me me.

Some young boys find a rugby or football team, I found fishing and fishermen.

In summer I’d walk the rocks with my rod every morning, imagining to myself ‘this must be how a cowboy and his horse feels’. Fully independent, fully free. The fact I can just … do it … go, no help, no anybody, just me and the rod. I remember thinking, if disaster struck, if there was an emergency, I’d be fine, I could survive and feed myself and my family no problem. Obviously, I don’t wish for that anymore. Living is hard enough for people as it is.

Though there’s not many of us left, these days, we’re still here, the fishermen. A community of hardworking people, that back each other up. People that have suffered quietly in the darkness of their hovels for years, we’re still here ploughing on.

There’s a mutual respect between us, unspoken but seen, in the early morning nod across the water, in the neat row of wellingtons drying by the pub door.

There’s a crowd of us that launch from the same place, keep an eye on each other’s boats, make sure everybody’s seen coming home. It’s not an obvious thing, no rules you sign up to before becoming a fisherman. But we’re all aware of them, all there in the backs of our minds, the things we do to each other, to ourselves.

I’ve got other things in my life apart from fishing, before you ask. I’m not boring, still young.

I’ve got a pretty full life outside work, feels full to me anyway. I’ll go to the pub maybe twice a week? I know Steffan, I know.

I’m in the village choir, we practice regularly, and on top of that I’ve got Elis.

How do I describe Elis?

Elis is like a dream, like one of those people written for books. Sometimes I get nightmares he isn’t real, that my mind has imagined him. But I wake up and he’s there, sleeping happily, and I remember it’s all true and I love this guy and he loves me.

We’ve both had lovers in the past, but looking back, those relationships all felt like a fleeting idea compared to this.

We’ve been together over three years now. I wouldn’t say we’re the ‘marrying type’ but if we did I suppose we’d invite most of the work crew and some from the pub.

For a while we’d go to the Lamb on Friday to see Elis’s school friends. That crowd wouldn’t be allowed within five miles of our imaginary wedding.

You know the type, men who run themselves into the ground every day and think it’s reason enough to treat other people like shit. The type of men to ruin somebody’s night with one sentence.

Little boys in men’s bodies, that’s what people call them.

You wouldn’t want men like that with you on a fishing boat.

Men who’d stop and think before jumping in.

Elis is a fisherman too, but on another boat, with another crew.

We were mates first, close friends, trusted each other. Like me and Steffan. That’s how this started, I think. The two of us had been working as fishermen for a couple of years and he’d always nod and smile at me as we washed the boat.

He had a kind smile, and eyes full of hope and enthusiasm. One the sexiest things about him now that we’re together. His enthusiasm and appetite.

We were good friends for ages, going to the pub, sharing a can on the beach after work in summer. One night we’d been drinking with the others for hours and we started walking home, him to his house and me to mine, and a bit drunk by now he invited me in for a cuppa.

I’m laughing.

I was used to popping in at the end of a night, usually for another bottle, not a cup of tea.

We both drag our feet over the doorstep.

Elis goes over to the counter to brew the tea, with me supervising in case he burns himself. We sit on the sofa, he’s looking tired and I know he’ll take one sip of his tea and fall asleep. We sit side by side, sunk deep into the sofa clutching our warm mugs, Elis staring into nothing as I stare at him, he sighs deeply, rests his head on my shoulder, takes my hand and holds it on his thigh, and falls asleep.

No grand reveal, no nerves, no confusion.

That’s where we both slept till morning, under a blanket on the sofa settling into each other’s warmth.

We wake up in the morning, still holding hands, we smile at each other, he runs his hand through my hair and rests it on my cheek for a second as he looks me up and down. He looks into my eyes for a few seconds before resting his forehead on mine, and through our closed eyes I feel him smiling.

‘Morning’

‘Morning’

I get up to make another cuppa.

Looking back, that night cemented everything.

‘Us’

It made so much sense, it felt right.

We were careful with each other, it sounds odd, but we loved each other already so all this was something extra, new to us both. We discovered something together every day.

The first time I fell asleep in Elis’s arms reminded me of the first time I held a fish. Full of confidence, contentment, utterly at peace. That’s how Elis makes me feel.

I said earlier that I love Elis and he loves me, and we do, but we’ve never said it, not out loud. We don’t need to, somehow. We say it in other ways – having a paned ready on the table before the other gets home, ironing the other’s clothes without him having to ask, or buying Blue Riband in the shop instead of Hobnobs ’cause those are the ones he likes.

In winter he gets up early to make breakfast and a paned for the two of us. He says it’s to make sure we both have a good start to the day, but I know it’s his way of making sure I get at least one square meal a day during the bad times, ’cause he knows how the dark days can hit me. I wouldn’t say we’re romantic, we just like looking after each other. Making sure the other one’s ok.

Sometimes I feel like this land has a consciousness, somebody or something that’s protecting us people. When I’m ill, low, not feeling myself, I’ll go to sea naked, at night. There’s something in her waves, the strength of her flow that tears a layer off me, to uncover a new layer, untouched by the day’s worries. There’s hope there. That the sea is always there to help us, if we need her.

At the end of long June days we’ll both head to the beach to swim. The sky almost black and the beach dead. We both claim the water for ourselves, a private moment hidden from everybody, and she holds us tight. He holds me tight.

In time we farewell, dry off with our towels and head home to warm up. Our bodies adapting and relaxing to the perfect air, cups in hand, and contentment filling every inch of our haven.


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