Friday, January 1, 2010

Moon swallows

By G.E.T.

At a pier in freezing cold, wondrous sights can warm the heart.

I WILL do what you usually do. Don’t let my presence stop you from your normal activities,” I told my friend Clive, whom I was visiting. After all, what could be better than a spontaneous day at Lossiemouth in Scotland.

“Really?” he asked.

“Yes, really!”

“Okay. Let me check out some information on the Internet, and I’ll tell you what I normally like to do.”

Clive came back and said: “It’ll be high tide at 2pm today, so we’ll go fishing on the pier.”

“Fishing in winter! This sounds like fun!” I exclaimed!

“However, we’ll have to get the bait first,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes.

In Malaysia, bait means cacing or earthworms, which we can get easily at any pet fish shop.

“Let’s go get them then!” I said eagerly. I was soon to find out how wrong I was when he drove us, not to the shops, but the beach. Opening the boot of his car, he took out a shovel and a little container.

“What are we doing with these?”

“Getting some bait! I’ll show you.”

“Oh no! Don’t tell me we’re digging for earth worms?”

“No, we’re not digging. I am digging,” he said, stressing the “I”. “I dig. You pick them up. And they’re not earth worms. These are lug worms.”

“Me, pick up the worms? No way!”

“Hey, didn’t you say ‘I’ll do what you usually do’?” He seemed to take great enjoyment in reminding me about what I’d said. “This is what I usually do, and you wanted to be part of my normal activities. Come on, you’ll have to get the bait before we go fishing.”

“Oh well,” I thought. “Thank goodness I’ve got these gloves on. I surely won’t touch those grubby worms with my bare fingers!”


With the lug worms in the little container, we drove to the pier. It was freezing cold. The temperature was about 5°C, but with a 30km wind, it felt more like minus 20.

I soon realised my thin jacket was not going to keep me warm enough. My ears started turning blue and my teeth were chattering but I was not going to admit defeat. Clive looked from the corner of his eye and grinned like a Cheshire cat.

After an hour of tossing the line into the rough sea, he said, “I think you’re bad luck. I’ve always caught fish here. But today, there seems to be no fish.”

Trembling in the biting cold, I couldn’t retort: “Hey, if there’s no fish, why are there so many swallows dipping into the water?”

The wind was howling and all I could think of was, “I’m freezing cold and he thinks it’s fun.” I was beginning to wonder how long more he would fish.

Then, amazingly, the moon came up – at 3pm! What a sight! Dipping swallows and a full moon in the afternoon. I realised then that my name in Mandarin – Moon Swallow, a literal translation – made some sense at long last. I had always thought it didn’t have any relevance, unlike most other Chinese names.

Suddenly, out of the grey winter sea, a pair of dolphins flipped, jumped and twirled. It was a sight to behold. It was as if they knew they had an audience and were dancing just for me. For half an hour, I was charmed by their grace.

As I watched them, the cold didn’t seem to matter much any more. I was mesmerised. Clive remarked that he had been fishing at the pier for a long time and had never seen the dolphins.

Somehow, the joy they exuded in their dance rubbed off on me. I felt as if a ray of sunshine had beamed bright in my soul and warmed my heart. I will always remember that feeling.

Soon, the dolphins glided away. I finally decided that I could take the cold no more.

“I’m going for coffee in the cafe,” I yelled at Clive.

“Ha, ha, ha! Can’t take the cold?” he laughed, with a tinge of victory in his voice. “Go on. Maybe without you around, I might have more luck fishing.”

Walking into the cosy seaside cafe, I was greeted by the aroma of fresh brewing coffee. What a relief! I could feel the blood surging back to my fingers and ears. As I sat and sipped my coffee, all I could think about was the beautiful dolphins dancing in the sea.

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