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Why do the plovers fly away? - Chapter 10

Updated: May 28, 2021

Mother’s father was an inshore fisherman.

Every day, except Sundays, sea and weather permitting,

he would drag his coble from the Staithes,

across the foreshore to the slipway

and launch her in the harbour.

He would row some three miles out,

first dropping his lobster creels and

crab pots a hundred yards away, on the

rocks off the Castle Headland,

his flags marking their spot.

When the land was a blur

he would chuck his long

lines with their hundreds of

baited hooks into the depths and

wait for the fish to strike.

Surrounded by screaming gulls above,

around, besides, attaching to the drifting boat,

hoping for a share, he would wait,

chewing on his tobacco quid, no fishermen of

his generation smoked at sea, too wet.

Gulls clouding round him he would

haul in the lines with their flopping

silver burdens, his short stocky figure in

kin-knitted navy gansy and thigh boots

seeming too small for such a turmoiled burden.

Those heavy, clinker built wooden boats

carrying the lines of the Viking longships,

broad bellied, high at bow and stern,

graceful and sturdy, demanded strength

to move them across currents, waves and tides.

As a young man he had sailed in square riggers

crossed the oceans, knew distant ports, their foreign

ways, had rounded The Cape and fought the

long storming fetch of the Roaring Forties,

before returning home to get a wife and a family,

settling for an easier life as his own boss.

He carried on that way for over fifty years, ended

ferrying trippers across the Harbour.

Now the boats, fibre glass with powerful

engines, range further but they, like the fish,

are fewer and the Life is still hard.

He, despite the changes, would know that.

Grandfather, by David Eade


Mam, Dad, and Lisa were listening to the shipping forecast while George played with his trains on the living room floor. Mel came downstairs in her heavy coat and hat, ready to go out. “Jackie’s picking me up in a few minutes,” she said. And then, when met with a look of confusion from Mam, “I told you I’m having dinner with her tonight, remember?”

Dad held up a finger for silence, but Mam said, “Alright, Mel. Just be back by nine.”


“It’s a school night.”

“Aye, but I don’t have class until noon tomorrow.”

“I said what I said.”

Mel sat down on the couch and let the jumble of numbers and directions wash over her. None of her family members were sailors, but listening to the shipping forecast was a comforting ritual, a routine that anchored the five of them in place. Mel couldn’t understand how her parents, who didn’t share a speck of her passion for the sea, could be so obsessed with this maritime tradition. How could people who loved the shipping forecast so much be so disparaging of her marine biology career? What did they even think about while they were listening to the broadcast? Did Dad dream himself back to the thirteenth century, battling Newcastle merchants for control of Tyneside’s ports? Did Mam imagine herself a pirate queen? Mel doubted it. Mel herself liked to imagine that she was listening from a research vessel high in the North Sea, waiting to hear whether conditions were safe for her team to continue their work.

Photo by Frans Ruiter on Unsplash

The broadcast ended. Mel cleared her throat.

“I’ve been accepted for an internship position,” she said.

“Oh that’s just wonderful! What sort of internship?” asked Mam.

“I’m helping with a shorebird study,” she said, trying her best to sound casual. “I figured that even though I’ve decided to study medicine, I can still do marine biology in my spare time. Just for fun.”

Mel had debated whether or not to tell them about her internship for the last two days. It was a risk, certainly. It might make them question her commitment to studying medicine. But there was also a good chance they would notice her being absent more often than usual, and there were only so many lies she could handle.

“That sounds interesting,” said Dad.

“Are they paying you?” asked Lisa.

Mel opened her mouth to answer, but just then, George began to scream.

“My WHEEL! My wheel is BROKEN!” George squealed.

He held up his favorite red engine, lips quivering. Indeed, they had a full-blown crisis on their hands. One of the wheels had snapped off from the body of the train.

“Calm down now, Georgie. This can be fixed,” said Lisa, trying to take the toy from her brother’s tiny fist.

George only cried harder. Outside, Mel could hear the wheezing of the Metro’s engine well before she heard Jackie honk.

“I have to go,” she said, slipping out the door as George continued to sob.

“Back by nine!” Mam shouted behind her. “And no hanging out with boys, you hear?”

Read on:

About the author: Ella Shively is an undergraduate studying natural resources and writing at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, USA. You can find her online at

About this chapter's featured poet: David was born in Scarborough. Both his grandfathers were fishermen, one a skipper of steam trawlers fishing the Dogger Bank, the other an inshore coble man. His father was the youngest of seventeen and though he did not become a fisherman all his older brothers and cousins went to sea. In the First World War One of David’s uncles was on trawlers that were sunk three times by the same U boat. One of David’s relatives currently volunteers to serve on the Scarborough lifeboat.

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