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Blowing in the Wind


Yesterday I was reminded of the refrain in Bob Dylan's song ‘The Answer is Blowing in the Wind’ but my experience required a slight adjustment to the lyric to more correctly fit the situation.

Let me explain.

Last autumn, on a visit to Worms Head we were to invited to shelter from the severe wind in the Coastwatch lookout and there I got to learn a little bit more about the duties of the Coastwatch team. As a result of that I was tempted to apply to join this band of volunteers and was soon attending their training course at Southgate village hall. The course was run thrice monthly which may strike a note of curiosity in your mind Dear Reader until I tell you that on the second Monday of the month the room is busy hosting the local gardening club. I shall resist adding that the situation amounted to a ‘blooming nuisance’. Ooops, sorry!

Anyway we spent our time busily plotting. No, not the subversive kind but plotting the positions of imaginary ships, boats and errant tree trunks in our part of the sea. I learnt to work out the course and position of a drifting boat or floating log under different tidal conditions. I learned about neap tides, spring tides and the phases of the moon. We learned about the etiquette of communicating with the Swansea coastguard over the radio. All very challenging but extremely interesting.

Anyway the day came for me to start my ‘on the job’ training and yesterday was my third day on the roster. I opened my curtains to a sunny, promising day and decided that it would be superfluous to wear my fleece. I drove to the pre-arranged meeting point where I met Frank, my trainer for the day, and we set off to start our watch. It was when we walked the last few hundred yards to the lookout hut that I realised that my meteorological assumption was a mistake and when I was writing up the weather report in the log book the reality was confirmed. Although the outside temperature was 8 degrees the wind chill made it feel like -5, anyway once we had the fire going everything was fine. The visibility at the time was good, the horizon was clearly visible but going outside to assess the cloud cover I was aware of a mounting anxiety on seeing a rather dark and unfriendly specimen busily releasing black rain on the sea and heading unerringly in our direction. I returned to the warmth of the hut and saw that a seagull had very kindly left us a welcome message on the window in front of my seat. Quite rightly it would be my task to clear that!

I phoned up the coastguard to tell them that we were open and that we will be asking for a radio check shortly.

The AIS told us that there was shipping in the channel but by the time we had completed the opening up procedure that black cloud that I mentioned was racing towards us. We watched its progress with fascination as it bore down upon us and the world quickly became very noisy as the roof and the windows dutifuly defended us. With great pleasure I saw the seagull’s message slowly dim until it was no more – as they say ‘It’s an ill wind ...’ and all that!

Our radio training had taught us that a radio conversation ends with simply ‘Out’ and that ‘Over and Out’ only happens in the unreal world of movies and the like. In fact ‘Over and Out’ is definitely considered naff!

So the time arrived to perform the radio check which, quite simply involves calling up the Swansea coastguard who will either tell you that you are rather faint (as they did on my second watch because I was holding the microphone to my ear like a mobile phone – why am I telling you this!) or as in this instance that you are coming through loud and clear. That having been ascertained all that remains is to thank the coastguard and terminate the conversation, unfortunately instead of saying ‘out’ I said ‘over’ and realising that what I had said did not terminate the conversation added ‘and out’. I released the call button, groaned and bowed my head in abject shame. Friends, I am naff!

But one must move on from life’s troubles and as the rain had now passed and the sun was shining brightly it was time for me to do my walkabout to make sure that the cliffs and surrounding area are all clear of bodies. This involves wearing a high visibility jacket over my uniform, carrying a walkie talkie and swinging a pair of binoculars from my neck. At last my chance to look like a pillar of the community and a responsible person to boot! So out I go, walking to the right of the lookout first and checking the ledges where the fishermen go – all clear. Proceeding in a southerly direction now my eyes are streaming in the wind and I look down at the old boathouse at Kitchen Corner – all clear there too. I am now almost alongside the lookout again but not only are my eyes streaming but I feel the need to blow my nose. Out comes my hankie but on its journey twixt pocket and nose I am attacked by a ferocious gust of wind and the hankie becomes airborne. One minute it is up in the air then down on the ground, I chase after it (much to the amusement of spectators I am sure!), I reach down but within inches a gust has it up in the air again. I need hardly tell you that no onlooker is going to assist in retrieving anyone’s hankie so I was on my own. I ran and ran and each time I attempted a grab it was off again. It must have been quite a spectacle but no-one applauded my eventual success How unjust!

So as Bob Dylan might have said – ‘The hankie is blowing in the wind’

Dare I say it - Over and Out!



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