Intrepid Explorers by Michael Kerins



Michael Kerins

shopping, window, widow, free, flounder


Words for 17th May 2021 cooperation ticket decision  light definite

Words for 7th June 2021 trepidation, raincoat, fork, elegant, sycamore, de ja vu

Intrepid Explorers

The young widow Mrs. McGurk went shopping for fresh fish. In particular she loved flat fish - flounder, lemon sole and John Dorey. These were her particular favourites. Buying her fish from the harbour was her first choice and she liked the early catch around five thirty or six in the morning.  The harbour is at its busiest then, some people are preoccupied with getting their catch unloaded whereas others are just setting out for daytime fishing. She had no sense of trepidation or concern about meeting people there. These were workers, no shoppers or folk out for a friendly chat. Certainly there were no “nosey parkers” either. Once or twice she had bought frozen fish from the local CO-OP store and it never really was what she wanted.  Her outward movements were free and easy going, but internally she was trapped. Her lack of direction was because she and her writing were going nowhere. Five years, she still missed Ronnie.

Her need to write was overwhelming and the plot and characters of her latest novel were rumbling about her head as she walked down the hill towards the shops. There was a sense of deja vu about this book. Its landscape was populated by the same old, same old. The plot was more or less cliché and there was no sense of life. Just like the village before the shops open. An urban space with parked cars and no movement or interest. As opportunistic as they are, the seagulls knew where to hang out. They too were at the harbour for none of the shops were open yet. Island life is very different, the newspapers wouldn’t arrive on the island until at least ten o’clock, and that was always weather and roads dependent.

She passed the red telephone kiosk as she had virtually every day since she was two or three years old. When her late parents moved up the hill.

What struck her was a big sign that read “ WET PAINT”.

It was tied on the bulky hinge of the door, a further two smaller signs were stuck to the window - one nearest the door handle and the second on the adjacent kiosk panel.

Nowadays everyone had mobile phones. She was certain that no one had used this contraption for a long time, and here were the authorities painting it.

Although it was early May she was still wearing her winter coat and in her rucksack were two notebooks. One for ideas and plot changes in her novel that was going nowhere, and the other for her poems. She used the back of the poetry notebook to capture other flying thoughts. Inside her left coat pocket was a string bag, she hated plastic bags and had opted out of their purchase years before David Cameron’s famous 5p carrier bag tax. Her decision to use and reuse Granny Findlayson’s string bag was based on the huge number of plastic bags she saw on the beach every single day. She kept one bag for that purpose. She had a habit of bringing litter back from the beach, one item on the first of the month, two on the second, three on the third and so on.  She always segregated the rubbish before proper disposal.

After she had bought the fish, and once again deflected the advances of Erchie McMurdo, she went round the back of the harbor wall and looked out across the Loch and blew silent kisses to her never to return husband Ronnie.

That particular morning the wind, instead of hurtling the kisses back to her face, showed great cooperation and carried the kisses in a whirl up and away out towards the ocean where Ronnie was.

With her book of poems open and a bus ticket as a place marker she closed the book and…

I love you she said and as she looked from behind the harbour wall onto the beach. She saw the remains of the wee sandcastle she had built a day or two previously.

Their initials…



…clearly visible despite most of the heart-shaped boundary having been scuffed by the four or five tides that had ebbed and flowed from the beach since she built that little shrine for his birthday.  She repaired the sandwalls and tided the heart shaped mound in the middle.

She closed her eyes and blew kisses to the air mouthing “I love you”.

She walked purposefully down onto the beach. When she reached the high water mark she removed a heavy duty plastic bag from her rucksack. It was a very robust item from a ladies clothes shop in New York. It read “Sycamore Designs” 555 West Burlington Avenue New York 10144. This was a quality item, with fine elegant script, two shades of brown ink on a cream background. This bag, probably unlike the garments for sale at Sycamore Designs, would last for one hundred years. She put it to good use, and used it as her store for the day’s haul.

She started collecting the first of her seventeen pieces of litter.

The dark clouds had vanished but she knew they would reappear soon.

Bright sunshine, ah the vagaries of Scottish weather.

She sang softly to herself, changing Bonnie to Ronnie.

My Ronnie lies over the ocean
My Ronnie lies over the sea
Well, my Ronnie lies over the ocean
Yeah, bring back my Ronnie to me

Yeah, bring back, ah, bring back
Oh, bring back my Ronnie to me, to me
Ah, bring, oh, bring back, ah, bring back
Oh, bring back my Ronnie to me

Soft silent tears slid down her cheeks and dripped on her coat.

In the distance behind her she heard the klaxon of the distillery as at eight o’clock the night shift started their break. Several handfuls of smokers gaggled together outside in the morning light. They were silhouetted in groups of five or six and she could make out the definite shape of his father. Not many men are over six feet six inches tall. 

She blinked, turned away and closed her book, and headed to The CO-OP for bread and cheese.

Just to make sure she was avoiding everybody and anybody, she browsed the adverts on the community noticeboard on the outside wall:

Golden Chat for the Over 60’s - £3 or £5 for a double ticket, Whist Drive, tea provided - bring own cup.

School play – old curtains and bedding required for costumes – Miss Gilmour, P4 – Bowmore Primary School.

Church Services.

Traveller’s Tales – Dr Murdo MacLeod, local retired GP, on his trip Up The Ganges.

The Samaritans.

Coffee morning in aid of Guide Dogs For The Blind.

Bottle Stall requires stock – RNLI.

Fork and Spoon Game, The Brownies, Tuesday 7th @ 6:30 pm, Yurbost Church Hall. Miss McNiven (Brown Owl) call Yurbost 12 (01496 414612) - all welcome.

Miss McNiven’s late aunt - also Miss McNiven - was, in her day, a firebrand and campaigned against STD (subscriber trunk dialing) for she objected to her phone number of Yurbost 12 becoming some anonymous nine digit arithmetical code. A local councillor, she stood for Parliament and almost won, causing national upset as a cabinet minister lost his seat.

Young Mum’s Club Breast is Best, 2pm (creche provided).

Knit and Knatter – UF Church hall, Friday 2pm.

Mobile Library, First Thursday of the Month – excludes public holidays.

Lunch Club – Food Bank – Book Club – Discussion Group.

All life is there. And people say that there is nothing to do on the island.

She needed to be in and out and to make sure she could avoid people.

Head bowed, hood up and a quick dash to the self-service checkout and freedom filled her lungs.

Within five minutes she was heading back to the beach to wish for Ronnie to return. There were four more items to be harvested for recycling or landfill.

A vast blue sky with tiny white puffy clouds in the distance and yet here in Bowmore there was hail. Cold winds now hurled towards here and hail was battering her coat. Her books were safe in her rucksack, her fish, bread and cheese in the string bag were crumpled together and stuffed into her bag.

There she saw her new novel – in a flash the whole thing was complete.

The plot and the title. Everything came in that one glimpse.

Who despite the wind and hail, an old man taking his granddaughter to the beach for her very first seaside experience. These were people, real people who just got on with it. Whatever it was they got on with it.

Intrepid Explorers would win the Booker prize and the screenplay would be nominated for an Academy Award.



© 2021 Michael Kerins PWG

Photo Credit Rachel Kerins (C)


author’s note

Partick Writers’ Group meets on the first and third Mondays of the month. Each attendee offers one word in random order and these words are incorporated into new texts. Intrepid Explorers is the result of this process. Michael Kerins - author storyteller June 2021.