That kind, clever ship is alive, breathing and sailing on a voyage with no homecoming.
Loch Ard was an iron-hulled clipper famously wrecked in 1878 on the coast of Victoria, Australia. Of the fifty-four people aboard only two lived: passenger Eva Carmichael and apprentice Tom Pearce, both aged 19, who survived the winter night together in a beach cave. Prurient Victorian sentiment was fascinated and hoped for romance to flourish between them, but they went their separate ways.
Did they or didn't they? No one ever knew. But I ran across something Tom's sister once said, that Eva and Tom wrote letters to each other for the rest of their lives. So whatever happened between them on that tragic night, the outcome was trust and affection and an enduring connection. Loch Ard Lullaby began as an attempt to write a shipwreck, then touched on the power of yearning and the guilt that might follow if a salvation fantasy became real.
I once met someone like the man in this story but sadly, the delightful interlude is imaginary. Even more sadly, I never became as wise and as prudent as the woman.
For a Women's Weekly competition (unsuccessful), a light rummage through my preoccupations of single motherhood, old houses and ships.
Every word is true.
We never forget our first dogs. Mine was Basil, part-cattle dog, part-spaniel, with long black ears and blue heeler colouring. He was hit by a car when I was eleven. Many decades and many kilometres later I moved to a small Gippsland town, Korumburra, which has a ten-acre Botanic Park first planted in 1910. Not a garden, it's just an extraordinary collection of old handsome trees, many European, in a rolling grassy landscape. A local competition for a 500-word story (unsuccessful) entangled the threads. I don't think Basil ever had any offspring, but for a moment here he is once more.