Review: ‘The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor’, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Story of a Shipwrecked SailorThe Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a moving story, and Garcia Marquez’s words make it come real — and yet, I feel as if this reality was enhanced by me having experienced an unending sea and the (fearful?) knowledge that the closest shore is not close enough. Would someone who has not been to sea be able to know the same emotions? I cannot say… Indeed, the philosophical musings one might wish to endeavour upon with this work are numerous, and I will refrain from others — the reader can decide these for themselves.

What I would note is that the way this story draws to a close reinforces one’s humanity; even if one has no passion for the sea, this makes the book worthy of a read.

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The Motivation for Writing

Why does anyone write?

What do they want to express? Who do they want to be? What is it worth writing about publicly?

I’ve had the wish to continue writing actively for a long time — ever since I stopped in 2014 (Goodreads’ reviews don’t count), but I never found the time as it’s so easy to make excuses. And, I think in the time I could have been writing, I was reading. So, perhaps I’ll write better now? Who knows…

But, earlier on this year someone (no disclosure, you know who you are) said that they enjoyed reading what I wrote and asked me whether I was still going at it. The answer, to be accurate, would have been a “no”, but I phrased it as a “maybe” — and it definitely kicked me into motion faster than otherwise. Still, it has taken me two months and 19 days to get this far, but I am here. Which is a start.

What has changed? My (probably) favourite answer to this comes from the film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ where Salah ad-Din so graciously says “Nothing. Everything” to a different question.

The one thing I have enjoyed writing about in all the time I haven’t made actual blog posts has been books, and my reviews for things on Goodreads have at least kept that alive. I also think it’s quite interesting to see how various people review books, but that’s a topic for another time. I feel that what is worth writing about is the cultures we experience and what the thoughts they bring up in us are. Hence it might entirely be I’ll take a step back over the last three years and look back at some places which come up again and again in my mind.

But, to end where I began, I will answer the question I began this by: I write for myself, but there’s more of a reason to “write out loud” when someone else is also interested in those selfsame thoughts. At least that is how I feel right now. Times change. And yet, the more they change the more they stay the same.

Opinion: On the Prevalence of Nelson

Nelson. He always comes up as the first name, and I don’t think he should. Now, let me say that I am a great admirer of Nelson for the victories he won and for the mindset he carried on (of decisive close combat). ‘Nelson’s Patent Bridge for Boarding First Rates’ is a definitive example of a brilliant mind that adapted to situations in a quick and comprehensive manner. Victories at the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar are similarly choreographed — any naval lord would have been happy to win them. But it was not anyone who did — it was Horatio Nelson. Continue reading “Opinion: On the Prevalence of Nelson”

Swimming

It is very rarely that I write of sports but that should not be confused with the fact that I don’t think of them. I do admit to being a lazy person all round; the best I can probably imagine from a week of being sportive would be cycling, walking, and swimming. The highlight there being the last word: swimming.

I had the chance yesterday to go and swim for a bit — not too long, for I haven’t swam in ages; and not too far, for I have probably lost out on the skills I once had; but just enough to get myself into the feeling again that swimming is what people are meant to do.

Can one imagine being at sea, with water around you to the horizon in every direction, and all of it unswimmable? And by unswimmable, I mean that, yes, in theory people can swim in it. But it would be rather cold, and against all rules and regulations (which is, I guess, the point for all these rules and regulations).

So, how does a soul satisfy a wish to swim if it cannot be done at sea? Unfortunately, this had to wait for my return to dry land, and my subsequent healing process from a variety of illnesses caused by my own self. That done, off to the pool. And about time!

Unfortunately, the pool wasn’t as deep as it could have been (a measly meter-and-a-half). It wasn’t as cold as it could have been for that feeling of ‘I’m-actually-doing-more-than-just-hovering-in-water’. But it was there. And I don’t think my body minded the warmer water after all that time. For there’s plenty of time in the future for a colder swim that is more sportive in every way. Yesterday, all that mattered was for my body to feel the water and how it moves around a limb in the water.

That sensation, the feeling of a stream of water in water, of a body slithering through water: that is what I’ve been after. And I’m very pleased to have found it again yesterday. I definitely know that the next time is not as far off as this one was from the previous…

Swimming

I haven’t been able or willing or un-lazy enough to post much of late, and I am somewhat sorry about that. I have had a fair few thoughts that probably deserved their time here, but I am sure they’ll visit me again. Until they do, I’d like to say a few words on swimming.

I really like it. I can’t even tell why any more, I always have as far as I can remember and I do hope I always will. It’s not that I am willing to swim anywhere, quite the opposite. But whenever I do decide it is time to go for a swim, there is purpose behind it.

I was remembering the good days back ages ago when I used to go swimming with a friend of mine. That didn’t last very long, probably because we took it up far too late, and there just wasn’t any time left but it was good while it lasted. And I’ve been back to that pool once after, which was before a rather important event and it allowed me to relax and rest.

Because I think that is what swimming does. In a way it allows me to rest. I might go so far as to say that the rest I get is of a better type than the rest I get from sleeping. But maybe I’m trying to delude myself there.

In any case, I want to swim. And I think that at the present, that means I will swim when I see the opportunity to do so. And I might post something again then. But hopefully, also before that time.

At Sea

I didn’t think beforehand how I would respond to being at sea. Now I know that I possibly could not have guessed — for I am not entirely sure even now, and if six weeks cannot tell me something, then how would I be able to guess it beforehand?

I remember asking whether different seas looked different… as in if the colours of the waters change, and if the feeling it gives is different. The answer I got was a ‘no’. I was unsure if to believe the person or not.

Now, weeks later, I can say that he was wrong or he lacked the perception needed. As I have seen them, there is a great difference to the sea depending on which sea one is steaming on. Character, power, emotion — all different. And that is an inherent brilliance.

Life on the Coast

Merede tuules on päikest ja liiva…

I was yesterday surprised when a person I know said that living by the sea had become disappointing/boring for him… and when I managed to think about it for a few seconds, I understood that that might be the only feeling that the average British coastline can give to a person on the average day.  The beaches I’ve been to have both been windy. Well, not both, I did climb down the wonderful hill in Slapton so I could theoretically say that I’ve been to four — Thurlestone/Buckland, Slapton Ley, Hunstanton, and Sea Palling/Happisburgh. Original count gave me three since I considered the Norfolk ones together — they did look rather similar. On all of these counts it was windy — given, Thurlestone was rather warm as well but that only seemed to exacerbate the wind… All of the rest can be summed up as windy and overcast (admittedly, the larger frequency of visits to the Slapton Ley one means that I was there during non-windy times as well).

However, that is nearly irrelevant — just wanted to demonstrate that I know little of the variety most definitely present around here. Nevertheless, I am well acquainted by now with the weather of the finest location in the United Kingdom — an average of two more hours of sunlight per week than the rest of this realm. And, if I picture any beach that I know of in such conditions as that claim suggests, I shudder. Living on one or near one would mean that seeing the sea at its worst is far easier than the opposite.

For some reason, the image of two long seawalls extending far into the sea side-by-side under an overcast — the one where you know that it will rain soon, and it would not surprise you in the least if thunder accompanied the rain — sky… not thoroughly overcast, if you turn around in the end of the seawall and look back at the land, you can see the sun far away. The knowledge remains, it will still rain. The best and worst of a city by the sea.

Added to that the sense of supervision, a look from above at the same place frozen in the darkness of the winter, the sun now in the height of its wintery ascent — the sea glistening under the light, a near-perfection if there can be something like that.

What remains to be described is the third option — a southern sea under a mild breeze that lets you know that the season of monsoons has not yet come or is past already. The sun slowly moving to hide beyond the horizon, with darkness crawling over the setting day. The branches of the palms and tropical trees swinging slowly in that evening wind.

There are other images present as well but I will leave them without a description. I have said what was the important part, and I do believe — the right mind-set will allow even a bleak day by the sea to be better than a fine day away from it. Agree to disagree,..

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