Traps of our own design

There are places where the veil of the past is thin, and they have power. We’re drawn to them, but we can only examine them superficially before we realise the truth: we can’t ever get back there, but nor can we ever be free of the yearning to.

Traps of our own design
Capital Thinking | Traps of our own design

Capital Thinking • Issue #279 • View online

I truly believed I’d be nine forever, just as I believed I’d be eight forever the year before. I adjusted this belief on a yearly basis, and I’m still doing it today.

It’s an eminently manageable process, as long as you don’t often cross paths with your own history.

I know that. I think everyone does.

-Matt Gemmell


Matt Gemmell:

I had a fishing net.

It was one of those cheap ones, on a long bamboo stick. It only cost a handful of change, but it was exactly the kind of net you’d want if you were a boy who had recently turned nine years old, and that’s just what I was.

My net was green.

I remember that my brother’s net was red, but I thought there was more chance of the green blending in with the algae and seaweed in the many rock pools along the coast. More chance of sneaking up on the interesting creatures that might be in there, and maybe catching a few.

My brother was only five-and-a-half, so it’s understandable that this sophisticated thought was mine alone.

The summer was endless. It was the late 1980s, and every day we had both doors of the caravan wide open, with bead curtains across to keep the bees outside.

It hadn’t rained in weeks, and that was just fine, thank you very much. We were on holiday for two whole months this time, and this was only the second week.

Our dog Bruce, an Alsatian mix who was quiet and civilised beyond any other dog I’d known, was always nearby.

He had no interest in the nets or the rock pools, but he followed us on our explorations and would sit patiently waiting (or basking on a large rock) no matter how long we trawled every nook and cranny of the shoreline.

I’d often glance over to check he was still there, and see him looking out to sea, motionless, as if contemplating larger things than barnacles and sea anemones.

He’d be looking so intently that I’d instinctively follow his gaze, trying to see what it was that so captivated his attention. I’d tell myself that I was making sure our pet hadn’t wandered off - but it was me who was comforted to see he was still by our side.

To my eyes, the view was only miles and miles of ocean waves, off over the horizon and eventually reaching the Arctic Circle. I’d soon shrug and go back to my trawling. Perhaps he saw something I couldn’t.

The warm breeze was salty and rich with the smell of the sea, and the receding waves flowed over a thousand worn-smooth beach pebbles with a sound like applause.

We’d been given hats to wear against sunburn, and we’d naturally discarded them as soon as we were out of sight of our mother.

Our haul so far was mostly algae, which was disgusting, or tangled bits of seaweed that snagged in the net. My brother had found a stick, though, and there was promise of anemones in a deeper pool out past the beach line.

We’d have to climb out over the large, black rocks, thrust upwards like the fingers of buried stone giants. We’d clambered around on them before, and been warned away just as many times.

But true danger is reserved for books and television, and everyone knows that little boys are invincible.

Much More =>

Nets — Matt Gemmell
Our nostalgia traps us.

*Featured post photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash