Sunday, 6 September 2009

"Graham" the Gannent.

Northern Gannet on <span class=Helgoland" style="border: medium none ; display: block;" width="300" height="373">Image via Wikipedia

This is just a story I made up one night I was babysitting, and after mentioning it to "sashindoubutsu" who also has a great blog, she inspired me to write it in here. Just a story to keep you occupied until my next post on Wednesday, and one you can tell your children, or grandchildren on a cold winters night when you tuck them up in bed.

It is dedicated to my loving partner Pat, who I missed for 38 years until she came back into my life, making it possible to write the stories I now place on the Internet for all to read should they so wish.

Donald was so used to the various seabirds that flew around him when he was fishing that he never gave them much thought.
Sometimes some of the large hake Donald fished for in the summer months would escape from the net, and with the air in their bellies they would float on the surface allowing Donald and his crew to retrieve them after the net was hauled aboard.
Each fish counted, as being so large they were worth a lot of money, especially when the buyers from Spain and countries far away came to purchase them.
As soon as the big hake drifted clear of the net, the small fulmars would scurry round it, pecking at the belly to feed on the liver, and as one pierced the stomach, another would grab the liver, and gobble it down, costing Donald and his crew lots of money, because the big hake, having no air to keep it afloat would sink to the bottom before Donald could maneuver the boat close enough to rescue it.
Sometimes they could scare the fulmars away by shouting and waving their arms, but, the poor fulmars, being so hungry ignored the crew and more often than not the large expensive fish would sink from sight.
Being a kind hearted person Donald took the attitude of "live and let live" and would sometimes throw the insides of the fish he was gutting towards a sad looking fulmar swimming alone, all wet and hungry on the stormy sea that was whipped up by the strong summer breeze.

During the day as the fish came aboard it attracted the seagulls who snatched the food out of the fisherman's hands before they had time to release the guts into the water, or jump all over the deck, stealing fish here and there when the crew were otherwise engaged, or dived in flocks, pouncing on the guts that had the chance to hit the water.
The crew hated the seagulls as they were thieves who stole from them, but they had a soft spot for the little fulmars who tackled the large hake ten times the size of themselves, just to get a bit of food,all because the evil seagulls chased them away from the easy gotten food thrown away by the fishermen.

Another seabird was the graceful Gannet who flew around and around circling high above the boat when the net was being hauled, diving straight into the water at the speed of a bullet when they spied the small shiny fish swimming out of the net deep beneath the waves, catching their supper before the greedy seagulls could get them.

The Gannets have sharp eyes that can spot the fish clearly even though they are so high in the sky, and the fish are so deep in the water, but as they get old their eyes get damaged, owing to the speed they hit the water, and by keeping their eyes open as they swim deep down under the waves to catch their food, which eventually leads to blindness.

The Gannets came to nest on The Alisa Craig, an island in the middle of the waters Donald fished, and each day as the net came up the Gannets would dive deep to catch enough food to carry back to their babies tuck warmly in the nests high up on the cliff face, hungry mouths wide open waiting until their parents caught enough fish to return and feed them.
Every day each year during the summer months Donald witnessed this amazing sight, not realizing the damage the older birds were doing to their eyes, until one day he heard a thump on the mast high above the deck, and on turning round saw a Gannet landing in a clump right on top of a box of fish.
"Whats going on here" Donald said aloud as he walked cautiously towards the stunned Gannet, and thought he was hearing things when the Gannet spoke back to him saying, "please help me Donald, my name is Graham, I am old now and my eyesight is so bad that I failed to see the mast of your boat, and crashed into it." "I have two hungry children waiting to be fed, and I am all they have left." "My wife drowned only last week, caught up in a fishing net as she dived too close to the fish in the net, her eyesight failing her to." "This was to be our last year here before we flew south to a warmer climate where we planned to retire and reminisce about our happy memories of our life together up here in Scotland." "Alas it is not meant to be, but if I can only feed the children until they are old enough to look after their self, I can then fly south and spend my last days alone, happy in the knowledge that, at least I saw my little ones fly from the nest,strong enough to look after their self."

Donald, although amazed at the talking Gannet, understood, telling the Gannet that he too was retiring, in just two weeks time, and that he had a nice sixty foot motor cruiser all loaded up ready to take him south to a warmer climate where he could sail around the warmer parts of the ocean and enjoy his retirement, but he would feed the Gannet every day until he stopped working.

True to his word, Donald kept a look out for Graham the graceful dad, and grampa Gannet, making sure he had enough food for, not only his young ones but enough to feed himself too.
The day Donald retired Graham came to the boat one last time, and told Donald that the young had flown the nest, and the only food he would need was enough to give him the strength to fly south, giving him about six weeks to accomplish this.

It was then, Donald reminded Graham that this was his last day at the fishing and as early as next week he was taking off on his new adventures.
Graham, sad that he would never see Donald again, thanked him for all his help and flew back to Alisa Craig, and the empty nest vacated by his last two children, who were by now off hunting their own fish along with their older brothers and sisters, of whom, some had children of their own.
The large family were too busy foraging for food to feed their self and their young that they forgot all about their graceful dad, and grampa Graham.

Too blind and too old to catch much fish on his own Graham became quite weak, living on the few meagre scraps left behind once all the other birds had fed, until the day came when they all had to fly south before winter set in.

It was six weeks since Donald had left, and as the other Gannets began to take off, bellies full of fish and enough strength to last them until they reached their destination in the warm climate of another country, Graham tried one more dive as he spotted through his misty eyes a fish swimming near the surface.
Sploosh! Straight into the water he went for one last meal before his long flight, but all he came up with was one small fish, not enough to give him the energy to fly all the way south, and the only hope he had now was to catch something on the way.
When he surfaced, through tear filled eyes, he watched the flocks disappear into the distance as he placed the little fish between his beak, saving it,knowing it would be needed later on during his long journey.

Owing to that last dive, all the other birds had flown far ahead of him leaving him to struggle on alone, thinking, "if only Donald had retired a few weeks later."

He was a brave Gannet though, and battled on south becoming weaker and weaker as the miles went past, until nearing the equator, with his little fish eaten days ago, and now on his last legs, he spied through tear covered eyes, blinding him even more, something shinning in the water beneath him. A fish he thought,if I can catch this I might just get enough energy to last me the final miles to retirement.
The sun was high in the bright clear sky over the equator, which made his target sparkle and shine so strongly that he thought he could not fail.

Woosh! he dived down at speed just like the old times, but on approaching the shiny object, realized that it wasn't a fish after all but the sun reflecting on the bald patch of a mans head, all too late though as he crashed onto the deck of a boat.

Stunned and dazed, as he slowly opened the hazy eyes that had failed him so often in these latter years, he thought they were now playing cruel tricks on him when the vision before him cleared.
It was Donald, he had landed on Donald's boat of all places, and no, his eyes were not playing tricks on him as he soon realized, because the familiar comforting voice of his old friend rang in his ears as he rallied once more on the deck of Donald's boat.

Donald recognized him right away, and speaking in a soft voice said "I think its time we cracked open a tin of sardines before you get any worse Graham."
Once again Donald had come to his rescue, and as the boat continued south, Graham became stronger with the tinned fish Donald fed him with. As the days passed, and Graham had recovered all his strength, Donald told him that although he was now strong enough he had not to go off on his own again, and that they could travel the rest of the way together, keeping each other company along the way.

One night a fierce storm blew up, with hurricane force winds screaming through the rigging, whipping up gigantic seas, but the skill of Donald kept them afloat as they dodged through the huge waves that crashed around them.
All of a sudden the sky went black as the light was hidden by an enormous wave that towered above them, "save yourself" Fly away" Donald shouted to Graham as the sea burst over the small craft smashing it to pieces, but Graham owing so much to Donald stayed with him until the bitter end.

End it was, Donald's body was found floating among the wreckage of his boat, with a dead Gannet drifting nearby on the by now calm sea two days later.

None of them had fulfilled the dream they had set out to achieve of retiring to a warmer climate, and both of them perished just a few days away from reaching their goal, both of them had kind hearts, but that never saved them from the stormy sea.
All these years battling against the elements, both Graham and Donald, only to perish so close to their dream by the cruel sea that gave Donald and Graham so much pleasure, and had been the source of sustenance throughout their lives.

They do say though, on a clear sunny day near the equator, when the Gannets, old and young, are flying south, a bright reflection can be see from the air, coming from what looks like a motor cruiser, and the smell of sardines floats across the sea as the old Gannets with fading eyesight dive for one last meal.

Maybe, just maybe, although Donald and Graham are dead and buried, their kind hearts are there to carry on watching over the good people of this world.

So if you are ever flying over the equator, or sailing near to it, on a clear sunny day, or floating through a sea of dreams anywhere in the world, watch out for a reflection in the water it might just be them looking out for you......... but only if you are good.

Don't think of this as a sad ending because when a good person dies it means there is another angel in heaven to watch over us.
That's where Donald and Graham are.
Donald is watching over us, while Graham the graceful Gannet is watching over the birds, especially the old Gannets with failing eyesight.

The last part was added for the sake of Tricia. Another touching blog.


  1. Absolutley lovely made me want to retire soon so I have time to savor the feeling of no work. What a great story so many lessons and feelings.

    Dorothy from grammology

  2. Whether it be fiction or non fiction, you certainly know how to tell a story!! I look forward as always to your next post my friend!!

  3. What an imagination! But did you have to make the ending so sad?

  4. Words are not necessary as usual for your great creative mind; I enjoyed this work and I always appreciate good writing.

  5. A great piece of writing. So sad at the end but somehow satisfying.

  6. Donald, my hanky is soaking wet. How can I write a comment as great as your post with tears blocking my eyesight the same way the waters hit blurry Graham's blinding senses of sight? SOB.. SOB.. LOL..

    I didn't expect it to have a sad ending. Why did you have to die? But that of course, would turn to remind the children and us, that there is someone watching over us. So perhaps it's not a sad ending after all. Good thing I'm good, Donald is surely watching over me.^^

    Your talent as an author covers readers from all walks of life. I'm sure that the kids you're babysitting were terribly amazed by your story. I can picture their faces and how they attentively listened to what happened to Donald and Graham. Your story was a mixture of humor and drama. I was smiling at one part and got serious on the next. That means you can hit your readers' emotions. And not very much people can do that.

    Your story offers wonderful lessons to learn. About faith, trust, perseverance, family, and, of course, friendship. Suitable for general patronage..^^

    Reading a post of yours is like reading a part of a book. I just can't help but get hooked and wait for the next page.. I mean, next post. Good job. Regards to Graham.. :)

  7. Donald,

    You are a phenomenal writer. I was a whirlwind of emotion, thank you so much for sharing. The way you shifted emotions so smoothly is amazing!

  8. An amazing piece of work, thanks for sharing.