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.
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
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
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
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!