For some reason there are two things indelibly imprinted in my memory, both of them connected with the sea. One is the Admiral Benbow Inn at which, at the turning of a page, I came to in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island when I was about twelve. The other is an image in romantic poetry. The poet Robert Browning speaks of “magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas in faerie lands forlorn”. I would have discovered those marvellous lines a few years later, still in boarding school.
Why remember these things now? Because I was going through “stuff”. Do you go through stuff? I hope you do. Certainly you will some day. Stuff remembered can be simply wonderful. What I have recently discovered is an ancient restaurant bill from another wonderful old inn, this time quite real on Whitby Island.
As I handle the slightly yellowing receipt I find myself looking out from the dining room of the Captain Whitby Inn to where I can see a succession of vistas. First of all, without even leaving the dining room, there is the large beautifully carved windjammer on the mantelpiece. Then just beyond the large verandah there is a clump of small trees bent over from the frequent winds. Out beyond them there is a sailboat tugging at its mornings on the choppy water, and far beyond that is the glorious distant symmetry of Mount Baker.
I let my mind go, across the dining room, out on to the verandah, down the long garden to the wharf, across the water to the moored sailboat. Out on the white caps we move into the channel, turning from Mount Baker toward the west and the open sea.
I am of course going nowhere. I am an ancient gentleman comfortable after a pleasant lunch. And yet, and yet, the old wooden sign of the Admiral Benbow swings in the wind and I prepare for "perilous seas in faerie lands forlorn".
I hope I shall be able to do this until voyaging ends. I hope you will too.