I spent a few days in Llandudno recently, a trip I’d booked as soon as I returned from my last visit to Wales to stay with Louise and Phil in their beautiful country cottage. I’m finding lately that going away is preferable to coming home, a big change for sure – I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with “getting out there” than staying in my comfort zone of routine and habit, which is entirely as it should be.
I’d never been to Llandudno before, but fell in love with the place as soon as I got there, perhaps it was the sea air switching on and sparking dormant synapses – it was also a moment when I realised that something had been missing from my life for many years, viz the constant, gentle sussurations of the sea. I lived in Swansea for three years as a student, and the ocean was a constant companion; getting to stay out on the coast for a few days brought back a lot of memories, of nights spent on the beach reading poems, getting drunk and smoking, and always the waves, the ceaseless barrage of the waves against the shore.
So here I was again, a different place – but sometimes places are made up of things we carry within ourselves. In any case, I had a great time, climbed the Little Orme, went up Great Orme on the Victorian Tramway, walked for miles, and also visited Conwy, where I managed to get out on a boat and out onto my beloved ocean, as well as venturing into the maginificent medieval castle.
You would expect that I had many things to inspire me, and indeed I started a number of poems which will bear fruit, but one poem demanded to be written, and came from an unexpected source. Walking along Llandudno promenade, I came across a stone set on the paving just by the beach, with a sprig of flowers held in place by a pile of pebbles. The stone was a memorial to five friends who had died in a speedboat accident off the coast, on the 25th August 1992 – almost to the day, which was why I assume there were fresh flowers there. The names and the ages of the dead – all in their late teens and early twenties, struck a deep chord of pathos within me, as did the fact two of them had been engaged to be married. I did not know the circumstances of the accident, but the memorial stone and its words struck me very deeply, the tragedy of young lives cut short – and so I will let my poem speak for them and my feelings.
Only The Tide
Only the tide is certain to return to shore
Memorial stone on Llandudno promenade
A stone commemorates close
To where exhilaration killed them,
Fresh flowers here tonight
As I walk with their voices
Carrying on wind and wave.
Imagination paints faces under
Cold depth and air escaping
Giving way to water as eyes turn
To pebble, hair to seaweed before
Their flotsam bodies lay to rest.
My tears mingle with spindrift
And the countless weepings here
In dark with a mother’s grief
Or a father’s rage and the waves’
Eternal echo of unfinished lives.
What joy as they sped before their dark,
Sun in their hair, laughter-kissed hearts,
Becoming the velocity they sought,
Quick and alive until that second
When the end sent broken bodies to shore.
Fresh flowers, a stone to anchor memory,
Allowing pain its tides, but nothing can ever
Undo their joy or scrub their quick spirits
From time; in the thankful dark I pay my respects
To five beautiful dead who did not fear to live.